If Gender is Essential, Why Are We Pushing It?

Image result for pushing genderI have often said that the gender roles described in the Proclamation are unnecessary because either they are descriptive (meaning people naturally behave this way, so who cares) or prescriptive (meaning, people should behave this way, but if it’s not natural to them, they won’t anyway and you can’t make them). This perspective neutralizes the power of gender roles whichever way you look at it. But what if gender roles can’t be neutral? What if telling a group of people that their kind behave a certain way actually changes behavior from its natural course? Is this influence ameliorative or detrimental? As a social experiment, what are its fruits? [Read more…]

Naming the Dead

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The site of the Ebensee concentration camp today

Several weeks ago I visited the site of the Ebensee concentration camp, part of the network of forced labor camps managed from the more notorious Mauthausen camp. In less than two years of operation, which ended when American troops liberated the camp, 8,412 known inmates were murdered or died in the course of digging tunnels into the nearby mountains to shield armaments production from Allied bombing.

Today little remains of the site. Walking through what has become a leafy neighborhood of single family dwellings nestled peacefully in a scenic alpine valley on a sunny morning, it’s hard to imagine the suffering the camp’s inmates once experienced—the present feels far from the past, even when standing upon the very place where the bones of those who perished rest—if one can say such a thing about the remains of the victims of such gross injustice. In fact, it would be easy to imagine that nothing out of the ordinary had ever happened here at all. But for those who venture off the beaten path and follow the signs to a parking lot that might fit ten vehicles in a pinch, a memorial reminds us that something did. [Read more…]

And There Was No Sick Among Them

“And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.”  D&C 52:40

I remember the day – 10 years ago this month –  I first realized that government-sponsored healthcare might not be inherently evil.

A British friend and I were engaged in an impromptu debate on social policy.  I started lecturing him on the defects of British healthcare compared to true red-state and Mormon principles of self-reliance.  Any form of welfare, especially government-sponsored healthcare, perpetuated a cycle of dependence.  If an individual legitimately needed help, family, friends, and nonprofits should step in.  Government involvement was wasteful, anti-capitalistic, and coercive –  it could never heal society.

He offered a pithy response: “I can think of nothing more barbaric about America than that you let people die because they can’t afford healthcare.”

“Barbaric” hit me with a jolt. What an absurd word!  And yet, one with truth. [Read more…]

The Thermostat Wars

There’s one thing that’s driving a wedge between men and women in the church every single week, that creates discomfort and distrust for both. Is it polygamy? Gender roles in the proclamation? No. It’s the Gospel Doctrine Thermostat Wars. Every week the drama plays out again in my Arizona ward: the men want the AC cranked up, and the women are shivering under pashminas and cardigans. It’s largely because of the ridiculous dress code at church in which women (who are often colder anyway) have bare legs and feet in sandals and short sleeves while the men (who are often warmer anyway) are wearing socks, closed shoes, heavy pants, jackets, long sleeved shirts buttoned to the neck.

I would say this is a heated argument, but not from where I’m sitting. [Read more…]

Financial Planning for Children With Disabilities

Hoffer family pictureWe’re honored to have a guest post from Stephanie Hoffer. Stephanie is a professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. She is an educator, a scholar, and an advocate, and arguably the preeminent authority on the ABLE Act. We’re excited that she’s agreed to introduce us to this important new law.

My son George is a bright shining star. He is almost five, and he loves to read out loud, play the harmonica, and paint. He also happens to have Down Syndrome. He is smart, funny, and loving, and I can’t imagine life without him. I am grateful every day for the privilege of being his mom. And like any other mom of any other child, I worry every day about his future.

Our life with George hasn’t always been easy. On the day that he was born, a social worker came to our hospital room and told me that we should do two things right away: apply for Medicaid and write George out of our will. I was stunned. I choked back the inevitable tears and asked why. “Because,” she replied, “they are really expensive.” Stung by the label “they,” and hurt by the thought of not being able to save for my precious baby’s future, I asked her to please leave.  [Read more…]

Authenticity: Will the Real Me Please Stand Up?

It’s a common claim among participants of Mormon internet groups that people feel they cannot be themselves at church or can’t say what they think for fear of being ostracized.  They feel they are discouraged from being honest or authentic, that they would be rejected if they disagreed with the party line or articulated a non-conforming viewpoint.  Certainly many examples have been given of individuals who were viewed suspiciously for sharing unpopular opinions openly.  These are complaints that they feel they must be inauthentic to be accepted. [Read more…]

Survey on Marital Quality and Belief Changes

A topic often under discussion in the bloggernacle is how to navigate marriages when one spouse experiences a change in belief.  If this describes your marriage, please follow the link to participate.  Eligibility requirements are below.

https://iu.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6tYdXEwogQ9PKK1

[Read more…]

Global Toilets I Have Known: A Memoir

This toilet no longer scares me.  I would use this in a heartbeat.

There are few things we take for granted more than personal waste elimination.  The assumptions many Americans share about bathroom habits may include things like: public toilets are a right, privacy (being in “the privy”) is an expectation, we flush pretty much all things – even when cautioned not to do so, we require at least a square or a ply – probably more, and so forth.  As an American who has traveled throughout Europe and lived in Asia for 2 1/2 years, my toilet assumptions have been examined, re-examined, and in some cases flushed away.  I have become multi-toilet-lingual, able to find comfort, nay relief, in a variety of toilet situations. [Read more…]

Purity, Rules and Allergies

Childhood allergies like hay fever are linked to an absence of contact with fecal matter in their early years. [1]  In other words, their houses were too clean for them to develop immunity. [2] When antibodies have no real threats to fight off, they’ll pick the next best thing – dust, pet dander, and pollen. [3]  I’m pretty sure it would make my mother proud that my hay fever is a byproduct of her obsessive cleanliness.  Perhaps this phenomenon also explains why Mormons are prone to creating extra rules on top of our already high standards.  Let me explain. [Read more…]

Toeing the Line

It is a matter of undisputed fact that breaking a toe is the most painful thing a mortal can experience in this life. [1] [Read more…]

Monday Morning Theological Poll: “Reproductive Wrongs?” Edition

Two polls this time. Answer both please.

Please justify your comments below. I promise I won’t turn you in to the bishop for anything you say. [Read more…]

Mom Activism: Citizenship in the Community, Citizenship in the World

Whenever a child in Utah is born with PKU, an inherited (genetic) metabolic disorder where the body cannot process the amino acid phenylalanine, the health department (with the permission of the parents), notifies my friend Amy Oliver so she can step in to help.  Phenylalanine or “phe” is found in every type of food, and the higher the protein content, the higher the phe content.  If phe is allowed to build up in the body of a person with PKU, it causes irreversible brain damage and results in severe mental retardation.  People with untreated PKU are unable to function on their own and end up living in institutions.  PKU occurs in about 1 in every 15,000 births.    [Read more…]

Reader Question Box #1: “is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom”

Welcome to a new series! The WordPress.com software that runs BCC tabulates detailed statistics on traffic to this site. One thing it shows is what search queries led readers to BCC each day. Aside from the usual top traffic terms (“bycommonconsent” “by common consent” etc), there are always miscellaneous surprises. Sometimes, these search queries can spark ideas for a post, because they afford a window onto the topics our readers are wondering about and what questions they have. For example, here is an issue that one of our readers needs guidance on:

is arby’s jamocha shake against word of wisdom

[Read more…]

“It’s up to you”

My son Scott was baptized on Saturday. A year ago I did not expect this to happen. Scott has autism, and although he has many good skills–mowing the lawn, making French toast, playing Joe Danger–his ability to understand abstract concepts and motivations is limited. At eight years old he still does not ask “Why?” questions, and he can’t answer them, either. He communicates mostly in rote phrases, which don’t necessarily indicate anything substantive about what he is trying to express. They are just the phrases he knows. You can usually tell by his tone of voice whether or not he means them literally or whether he is frustrated (about what is not always clear) or just feels like making conversation, and these are the words that are easiest for him to access. When he was seven, I thought that unless he made a huge developmental leap, there was no way we were going to have him baptized the next year. What would be the point? Even if he understood what he was doing, how would we know that? He wouldn’t be able to tell us. [Read more…]

For R* in Miserable Days

As a close friend has suffered a particularly difficult miscarriage recently, I want to pause from the usual vocations of life to express solidarity to and love for the many women who have similarly suffered. [Read more…]

BCC Zeitcast 46: A Very Special Zeitcast

After a two week hiatus, BCC’s Zeitcast returns with a Very Special Episode, in which Scott B. hosts a multitude of guests, including Amri Brown, Sir Ronan, and the reigning Bloggernacle Commenter of the Year, Bridget Jack Meyers MikeInWeHo. [Read more…]

The Biggest Loser Makes Me Cry

Every time. It’s embarrassing. I only ever see it at the gym, so I’ll be galumphing along on the treadmill with tears streaming down my face. I suspect this is mostly leftover ugly-kid-jr.-high-school trauma, but there might be a Mormon element, too, in the stark conflict between the “natural man” and the will. The communal aspect of the struggle resonates somehow, too–a small (er, in numbers) band of the righteous fighting together against the powers of evil and donuts, casting out the wicked from their midst as necessary (but afterwards showing forth an increase of love!).

I’ve probably overthought this. But it’s Friday–seems like a good day to talk about TV if you want to.
[Read more…]

Don’t believe the (happiness) hype

Will Wilkinson, commenting on Catherine Rampell’s “The Happiest States of America” article on the NYTimes’ Economix blog, suspects “a skoche of culture-driven upward inflation” is at play in the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which puts Utah at the top of states reporting a general sense of happiness (HT: Greg). More specifically, he states:

I’ll vouch for the fact that Utahns are exceptionally chipper. Though perhaps it should be noted that some Mormons are almost ideological about the idea that they ought to be happy.

Just some Mormons, Will? Happiness is inherent in our ideology. [Read more…]

50 Conversations About One Thing, Part III (Updated)

This is Part III of three. Part I of this conversation, including a brief introduction, is here. Part II is here.

32. I just wanted to mention what I think is the most striking aspect of this conversation: [Read more…]

50 Conversations About One Thing, Part II

Part I of this conversation, including a brief introduction, is here.

17. There seems to be a generational shift at play. [Read more…]

50 Conversations About One Thing, Part I

A few of us had the pleasure of overhearing an internet conversation the other day. Here are 50 of the more interesting things we heard, which we have boiled down and made anonymous for presentation purposes. Note that this discussion is for mature audiences, and will appear in three parts. Certain words may appear a little funny as we attempt to keep the original wording intact but permit those with internet filters to enjoy the conversation — the post requires images and may not read well in RSS feeds. Comments are closed on these posts; we encourage you to talk about this conversation with your families and on your own websites and blogs. Please email us with any questions. [Read more…]

Nothing to fear (but a glass of water)

As someone who routinely pours 200-400ml of sterile salt water into people’s lungs without any significant side effects, I am often struck by how strange it is to be assured, with the insuperable certainty of folk wisdom, that I could drown on (or is it in?) a cup of water. [Read more…]

Who I’m voting for (and why)

If you’ve been waiting for someone at BCC to post an opinion of the current election, here it is. [Read more…]

Opening Day

Like Annie Savoy (played by Susan Sarandon in her best role) in the movie Bull Durham, I believe in the church of baseball.

[Read more…]

Why there wasn’t much kissing in polygamy

The Victorians (and their neo-heirs) on both sides of the Mormon divide have long fussed about the sensuality of Mormon polygamy. There is some evidence to support both views, and I suspect most people who have read a lot on the subject feel that there was some sensuality associated with a practice whose basis was far from simply sensual. I believe, though, that I have cracked the case, discovering irrefutable evidence that there wasn’t much kissing in polygamy. [Read more…]

Mormon Culture Tournament – Elite Eight

Our final winners from the Sweet Sixteen were:
1. Angel Moroni, 3. CTR Rings, 5. Large Families, and 11. Scripture Marking. Dan, NOW YOU KNOW MY PAIN!

Stiff upper lip, people! We must persevere:
[Read more…]

Honoring Parents in a Post-Therapeutic Age

Two old posts from the Feminacle, unrelated except in my mind, and a recent visit from my parents have got me thinking.

Over at FMH, Emily S. posted one of my favorite poems, about the austere and lonely “offices of love” which even the least skilled or emotionally savvy parents often perform for their children. Meanwhile, in the trenches of the mommy wars, a a guest poster and several commenters seem very certain of their superiority to their parents in terms of commitment to marriage and the ability to make it work. Naturally, I hope they are right. Divorce stinks, especially for kids, and we wouldn’t be human if we didn’t aspire to atone for the sins of the last generation and make a better world for our children. Still, perhaps because of my advancing age (:)), and my pained awareness of the thousand ways I fail my children despite my best efforts, I feel a great deal of sympathy for the parents whose children describe their failures so starkly.

It seems to me that we have lost something in our sophisticated understanding of our parents and our “dysfunctional families of origin.” [Read more…]

Mormons and Mental Illness: Demonic Possession

Many people believe that the demonic possessions described in the Bible were, in fact, mental illnesses. Eric Russell wonders whether, on occasion, what we call mental illnesses are, in fact, demonic possessions.

When people ask me what my greatest fear is, I tell them it’s Satan. People often chuckle, thinking it’s a cute answer. I usually let them think it is, but it’s not. My greatest fear in this world is encountering — perhaps not Satan himself — but a spirit enslaved to him, possessing the body of human being. Though the very idea is an archaic one in today’s enlightened world, I believe it happens. And I think it’s one possible cause of behavior we usually attribute to a mental illness. [Read more…]

Mormons and Mental Illness: The Pain of Depression

Hannah submitted this guest post on her struggle with depression. It illustrates the pain and desperation that seems to accompany mental illness, and reminds us of the dark cloud of misery many people live under. A poem by Sarebear follows. Again, please: anyone suffering out there need not suffer alone.

I am a woman in my early twenties and have been diagnosed with both major depression and general anxiety disorder. I have been on and off of medication and in and out of counseling. [Read more…]

Mormons and Mental Illness: The Gender of Addiction

There are ghettos in Mormon discourse. There is the ghetto of pornography and addiction where men alone reside and there is the ghetto reserved for the women. Illustratively, talks about addiction are given in the Priesthood Session of General Conference. The women’s quarter is a discourse on self-esteem and depression. Perhaps, these districts are not as disparate as would be suggested by our rhetoric and we might better understand LDS women’s challenges through their relation to addictive behaviours. [Read more…]