Friday, August 15, 2014

When the Levee Breaks

"The levees holding back the doubts of thousands of Mormons are starting to burst." In my latest Rational Faiths post, I talk about the gravity of faith transitions and the support and peace that can be found as we heal our wounded and rebuild in the flood plains. This post is a great reference for anyone who has gone through a faith crisis or transition, whose spouse is, or who is simply in need of resources to help a friend.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Being Courted Out of Mormonism; The Big Tent is Shrinking

 "This is the big tent of Mormonism and Kate Kelly and John Dehlin are holding the hammers and stakes to extend the tent further. I realized today that the church is much more invested in protecting its authoritarian control than to make room for those who are seeking to expand the walls of Mormonism. Today is the day I realized that the institution of Mormonism is unrecognizable to me."

Six months ago, I was the first woman in the world to report being extended an invitation for an official disciplinary court for supporting OW. In this post, I tell that story and how it began a friendship with John Dehlin and Kate Kelly, who are currently being summoned for respective Courts of Love for apostasy.

Something that I really loved about this post was this comment left over at rational faiths. Many mormons question my motives and dislike what I write about. I want them to know that THIS is why I write:
"Hope you don’t mind me sharing. I have been reading and following many of the articles and comments by you, Mr. Volluz, and Mr. Barker for a little more than half a year now. I was a member of the church that could no longer reconcile what I truly felt, with what was going on and what was being taught. I did not know how to find the strength or faith to remain a part, and advocate for change from within. Largely because of the insight, compassion, and wit the three of you bloggers have shown I started to develop hope. Started to consider that maybe the choice I had made is wrong, and I could be a part of it and advocate for change from within.

I recently started attending church services again. Something I haven’t done in about 8 years. I have often wanted to contact any of you 3, just to ask questions, but never knew how to, and never raised the courage to make the attempt, because I was afraid you guys would do something crazy like say even more stuff that made complete sense, and then I’d have to act on it and give faith another shot. Much like the work of Ms. Kelly, and Mr. Dehlin, you guys here at rationalfaiths have helped revive something inside me I believed was long dead and buried. Faith, and hope. It saddens me greatly to see what is happening right now, but also makes me firmly believe that a drastic time for change is quickly approaching. Perhaps now is the time to stand together. Perhaps the people are the instrument the Lord is trying to use to bring forth change. I don’t know where things will go from here, but wherever they do I just want to thank you for your articles, and helping restore some hope for me personally. And thank Mr. Volluz, and Mr. Barker as well for the same."

Friday, May 16, 2014

Mormon adults are treated like children and vice versa

"...There is definitely wisdom in the adages of "not casting pearls before swine" or "no meat before milk", but when it comes to complicated topics in mormonism, the church chooses to hold off on serving "meat" completely if at all possible...." --- In this month's post, I wonder why the Mormon church treats adults like children and children like adults.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Perspective on Peter

In my Easter weekend essay for Rational Faiths, I examine the story of Peter's life and offer possible faithful reasons for Peter's denial of Christ and how we can apply this in our own lives when choosing how to view people who aren't acting the way you'd expect a true believer to act.
When it comes to standing by Christ when it mattered, have you always viewed Peter as one who failed or as one who succeeded?

Friday, March 21, 2014

"Why Aren't the Women Included?"

"Why Aren't the Women Included?"

I was amazed when I first read this incredibly candid, honest interview with former 1st Counselor of the General Relief Society Presidency Chieko Okazaki about the struggles she faced being a woman in a leadership position in the church. It's seriously the best thing I've ever read by a General Women's Auxiliary leader.I am so happy to have had this opportunity to share her story and insight!

For instance, when she was presented with the finished Proclamation to the Family in 1995, her response was as follows:
"Sometimes I think they get so busy that they forget that we are there."

If even a member of the General Relief Society Presidency has felt left out of the important discussions and meetings, what does that mean for women in the church as a whole?

Friday, February 21, 2014

When it Comes to Equality, What Side of History Are You On?

Here's my first Rational Faiths essay, published on February 21, 2014.

"I grew up thinking that with a handful of scripture references and General Conference talks in my pocket, I could always feel 'right' about hard issues. After allowing myself to truly listen to people and face the facts, I realized that there are multiple ways to be on the Lord's side.
In this post, I share the stories, struggles, and statistical data that led me from being homophobic to becoming an LGBT ally.
Where do you stand on LGBT equality and why?"

 When it Comes to Equality, What Side of History Are You On?

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Permablogger at Rational Faiths

I was asked to join the team of permabloggers at

I will be writing the 3rd Friday of every month. I'll post links to my posts from here in case anyone who follows here would like to keep up on my big posts over there.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

We finally have an official retraction of racism in mormon doctrine!!!

     The church is finally making attempts to own up to aspects of their troubled history, so this is pretty epic and wonderful in my opinion. I am so glad that they are candidly and openly admitting that the church taught, supported, and practiced extremely racist precepts in the past and that they now officially (in 2013) are disavowing all racism past and present.

     If I myself were to commit a grievous error, it is taught that admission of guilt is only part of the repentance process. It is not complete until you ask for forgiveness and issue an apology. On that premise, I submit that this official statement is missing an apology for the hurt and pain that these past doctrines caused. For the black men and women who were not allowed to attend the temple to be sealed as families during their time here on earth and who were taught that blessings of the priesthood did not apply to them in the way it did for those of white skin color. If the leadership does not see fit to issue an apology then that is up to their judgment, but I think an official apology would do wonders to heal those wounds.
     Furthermore, this quote from their announcement is troubling: "Today, the Church disavows the theories advanced in the past that black skin is a sign of divine disfavor or curse,"
     These "theories" were very solid "doctrine" when they were originally stated. For instance, on July 17th, 1947 a letter from the first presidency stated:
 "From the days of the Prophet Joseph even until now, it has been the doctrine of the Church, never questioned by any of the Church leaders, that the Negroes are not entitled to the full blessings of the Gospel. Furthermore, your ideas, as we understand them, appear to contemplate the intermarriage of the Negro and White races, a concept which has heretofore been most repugnant to most normal-minded people from the ancient patriarchs till now. God's rule for Israel, His Chosen People, has been endogamous. Modern Israel has been similarly directed. We are not unmindful of the fact that there is growing tendency, particularly among some educators, as it manifests itself in this area, toward the breaking down of race barriers in the matter of intermarriage between whites and blacks, but it does not have the sanction of the Church and is contrary to Church doctrine."

     There are TONS of other places where these racist "theories" were taught by prophets and apostles as incontrovertible doctrine. I won't even quote them all here because they make me want to puke. Calling it a theory now makes my mind bend a bit, but I suppose that works because they are stating it is NOT doctrine now.
     Also, if the church is going to be pro-active in disavowing racism, the following scriptures from the Book of Mormon (and even more in the bible) would need to be disavowed as well, or at least specifically footnoted as incorrect doctrine so that no one can ever read the scriptures and infer that skin color is or ever has been a curse or blessing from god:

2 Nephi 5:21: “And he had caused the cursing to come upon them…wherefore as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome…the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.”

Jacob 3:8: “O my brethren, I fear that unless ye shall repent of your sins that their skins will be whiter than yours, when ye shall be brought with them before the throne of God.”

3 Nephi 2:15: "And their curse was taken from them, and their skin became white like unto the Nephites."

And from the Pearl of Great Price:
Moses 7:22: "And Enoch also beheld the residue of the people which were the sons of Adam; and they were a mixture of all the seed of Adam save it was the seed of Cain, for the seed of Cain were black, and had not place among them." 

    I absolutely praise the church for coming forward and finally disavowing all of these past principals that the church perpetuated for over 150 years of their 180 year existence. Hooray for modern revelation that paves the way for a better future! I hope that equality for women in the church and support for LGBT people will have comparable clarity applied in the future. That, of course, will be up to the brethren to reveal if so dictated, but my hope is there for that outcome.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How and why to be an LGBT ally

     John Dehlin is such a hero of mine. This particular video is from an active mormon's POV on how to be an LGBT ally, but I think most any traditionally christian could relate with it. This video's message is just SO important.
     People ask me how I became an outspoken LGBT ally, which is rare (and frowned upon) in mormonism, when no one in my direct family or close friends at the time were LGBT. My answer is that I didn't need to be gay myself or to have a gay sibling or child for it to matter to me. I saw the hurt that my church's attitude and political actions were causing and decided to take it to the Lord myself. I chose to step out of the box of the culture I'd been raised in and objectively look at the issue attempting to see it through the eyes of a loving God. Then to try to see it through the eyes of a loving society. Then I went out of my way to listen, learn, and love without bias and my entire attitude changed about 4 years ago and I became an active ally about 2 years ago. When I wondered if it was wise to go against my church's stance on the topic, I only needed to look at our own history to see that mistakes have been made in what leadership has advised in the past in this and many other issues that were considered eternal and unalterable. Happily, most of those errors have been rectified, but they usually happened about 10-20+ years after the rest of society had changed for the better. I simply chose to be an ally now rather than later. I want my kids to know that I stood up for what was right from the get go. I want them to know that I did what I could to help make the world a better place for everyone.

     If people choose to take the hard line that Elder Oaks and other church leaders suggest, I understand why you would do that and I love you anyway. I do urge everyone however to listen to John Dehlin's talk, then look at the mormon's church's history concerning homosexual practices in this link, then ask yourself what your next step should be.
     I think that it is clear that church leadership and mormon culture as a whole have made mistakes on this subject. As such, I infer that they could very easily still be out of line. Line upon line, precept upon precept... it is changing for the better. For me, I'm choosing to be part of the solution right now.
     Something John didn't have time to touch on in his amazing TED presentation is HOW we can be an ally. Here are some of my suggestions:

  • If you meet and befriend someone who is gay, allow that friendship to grow and be incorporated authentically into your life on all levels, without discrimination or fear.
  • Never tell someone else that who they innately are is a sin in the eyes of God. Leave that up to God to tell to them on jugment day if that is indeed the case. Just tell people you love them, wish for their happiness, and that you know that God has a beautiful plan for them.
  • Remember that sharing the Proclamation to the Family with someone who is gay might be belittling and hurtful. Be VERY prayerful and careful when attempting to "share god's plan" with someone who doesn't currently fit into that plan as currently stated.
  • Respect someone else's claims that God is okay with who they are and how they live their life. It is never up to you to receive revelation on someone else's behalf. 
  • Consider the articles of faith. The 11th states: ""We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may." The 12th article of faith states: "We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law." I submit that in these confines we should be free to openly support those who seek civil marriage equality. No, being gay or lesbian is not a religion, but many gays and lesbians feel completely confident that their union is approved of by God. Who are we to tell them they are wrong according to the 11th AoF? Also, those who do not believe in God are still deserving of the right to civilly marry, according to the constitution and also specific laws in a growing number of states. No, we do not have to perform gay marriages in our temples, but we should respect the rights of others to be civilly married. Mormons themselves were the first to ask for special marrying rights to fulfill our doctrine of polygamy. Who are we, of ALL people, to tell homosexuals that they cannot create a civil marriage?
  • Teach your children that families come in all shapes and sizes and that we should celebrate each type of family as long as love, support, and dedication to helping and uplifting all members of the family is at the core of their purpose.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Women and the Priesthood: past, present, and future

  “I want women to know that they are valuable, but not from someone telling them. I want them to feel and see it. Images are very important to me, and when I look on the stand, I want to see women. When I hear people talk, I want to hear women. Functionally, there is no person that can tell me I am equal. I know I am equal, I know I am a daughter of God, I know he loves me … I feel that when I pray and when I go to the temple—I just think that needs to be reflected in the institution, in the everyday practice of the gospel I love.” –Kate Kelly

      Feminism in Mormonism is a really beautiful thing that doesn't wish to strip anything from men. It does point out that some women feel stripped of their divine rights and talents or ability to serve, but this in no way wishes to diminish what men are already contributing or entrusted to do. Sure there are some whack-job men haters out there but that is not me nor is it the majority of mormon feminists. Honestly though, the fact that the term “Mormon Feminist” sounds like a complete oxymormon is, to me, a very real example of why we are so needed.
     I would like to point out that the “wear pants to church” movement was misunderstood by most outsiders. There are many, many women who would prefer to wear dress pants to church and yet were formally or informally asked not to, either by Relief Society leaders or Priesthood leaders, in many different instances when the attempt was made. There are other women who would never dream of wearing dress pants to church because being different is just intimidating in our culture and often labeled as unacceptable. The purpose of the pants movement was to ensure that all women and men everywhere should feel comfortable coming to church in whatever Sunday wear they deem to be appropriate without fear of public notice or rebuke. Also, missionary women should be allowed to wear dress pants if they feel it will help them be more warm in winter or when riding bikes or doing service projects. This is not asking that all women should wear pants to church or as a missionary. If you love wearing a dress, then yay! Dress or skirt it up! It was solely an effort to point out that women feel ostracized when they do want to wear dress pants. Some woman may have had other motives than that, but that was the general reasoning from all that I have understood in the forums I follow. It was also an effort to point out just how many things in our religion are cultural norms vs doctrine.
     Speaking of doctrine vs. cultural norms, when Joseph Smith adopted the already existing and autonomous Relief Society into the official organization of the church; it remained autonomous and he spoke and wrote of a future of “priests and priestesses” on a number of occasions. Relief Society lost its autonomy and control of its own programs and finances over the next hundred years. Did God want this? Or were cultural norms and preconceptions of the era part of the driving force? I think that is a worthy debate and that both sides would have plenty of backed up evidence to support their claims. That in and of itself is another post entirely but I wanted to briefly touch upon it here because it relates to the overall theme of what I want to cover.
     Although I respect and support the Ordain Women movement, it is not my personal crusade at this time. I will advocate for their cause because I think it is amazing and would add SO much to the church, but for personal reasons I have yet to add my own profile to I have met with them, wiped their tears, listened to their heartfelt testimonies, and I have concluded that they are among the most amazing, strong, brave, and spiritual leaders in the church. I am so grateful for my association with them; I have learned so much. For anyone to imply in any way that they don't understand the gospel or are apostates is really abhorrent to me.
     As I detailed in my previous post, there are many ways in which equality can be improved in the church with men continuing to be the sole holders of the Priesthood. I would not find it unprecedented if God did choose to extend it to women though; the exclusive nature and earthly sanctions of the Priesthood have changed considerably over time. We're robed in the priesthood in the temple and it is our mantle in the afterlife; it is part of our divine potential. Women were prophets, apostles, and leaders in the bible (There are at least 6 prophetesses mentioned in the OT and Junia the apostle/leader is female as mentioned in Romans 16:7, this is empirically proven in the greek writing and historical references surrounding it) and  Mormon women used to wash, anoint with oil, and lay hands on the sick in the restored church until 1946. When questioned about the propriety of women laying hands on the sick to heal, what do you think Joseph Smith’s response was?
“someone apparently reported to Joseph that the women were laying their hands on the sick and blessing them. His reply to the question of the propriety of such acts was simple. He told the women in the next meeting “there could be no evil in it, if God gave his sanction by healing.., there could be no more sin in any female laying hands on the sick than in wetting the face with water.” He also indicated that there were sisters who were ordained to heal the sick and it was their privilege to do so. “If the sisters should have faith to heal,” he said, “let all hold their tongues.”
Additionally, Brigham Young said to mothers,
“It is the privilege of a mother to have faith and to administer to her child; this she can do herself, as well as sending for the Elders to have the benefit of their faith.”
See more on this here.
     This right was only removed from them because it became inconvenient and confusing when teaching the responsibilities of the priesthood so they decided that men would take over that responsibility as well. There was no "thus saith the lord" speak or official revelation involved in the ending of the practice.
     Also, the Priesthood has been confined and extended repeatedly in history. In the Old Testament, the Priesthood was only held by the Levites exclusively. Additionally, for the first 150 years of the restored church it was withheld from people with dark skin. The church claims there was no official revelation that removed the gift of the Priesthood from African Americans, but they do claim that it was through deep prayer and supplication to the Lord that this ban was removed. Many saints petitioned and plead for the change to be made. I personally think that such demonstrations and requests for change are appreciated by the Lord. How could it not be? Was it ever God in the first place that didn’t want a certain race to hold the priesthood? I personally would submit that that was never the case, I virtually see no evidence that would support that it was. Also, I think it would make sense that the Lord would wait until his daughters were asking and proving they are ready for the gift before he would extend it. That is what many mormon feminists and members of OW are doing. Even here in Matthew, a gentile woman asks Jesus for a blessing for her child, but he tells her she is not deserving of it and even calls her a dog, because she is a gentile. When she asks repeatedly, he congratulates her for her faith and grants her plea:

 22 And, behold, a woman of Canaan came out of the same coasts, and cried unto him, saying, Have mercy on me, O Lord, thou Son of David; my daughter is grievously vexed with a devil.
 23 But he answered her not a word. And his disciples came and besought him, saying, Send her away; for she crieth after us.
 24 But he answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
 25 Then came she and worshipped him, saying, Lord, help me.
 26 But he answered and said, It is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast it to dogs.
 27 And she said, Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.
 28 Then Jesus answered and said unto her, O woman, great is thy faith: be it unto thee even as thou wilt. And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.
     The first time a woman was allowed to give the opening or closing prayer in General Conference was just last year in 2012. This was the result of an online petition to the brethren to review this aspect of our practices with the Lord. When the church leaders brought it before the Lord, they were informed that this should change and so it did. These examples lead me to conclude that perhaps there are things that happen in the church that continue on simply because no one stopped to ask the Lord if this is truly 100% what He continues to wish for the temporal church. The fact that we CAN receive direct answers from the Lord and implement needed changes in the affairs of the church through a living prophet is one of the things that makes our church so wonderful in the first place.
      I think it would benefit the general church, men and women individually, and families overall immensely if the priesthood was extended further. Women would be able to not only advise councils of priesthood-holding brethren, but instead would be active and equal parts of them. Women, if they held the priesthood, would be the bottom line deciders in what happens in their organizations. Does this mean all women HAVE to have the Priesthood if God extended it to women? No. It simply means that those who feel God is calling them to it would be extended the privilege and responsibility.
     It is not a sin to ask God for things or to ask "the brethren" to petition the lord, especially when the spirit is speaking loudly to so many women that this is exactly what they should respectfully do. Again, bringing things to the Lord and asking for approval for change is how MANY things came to be in our religion and much of what has made it great. I do not think it is heresy or an sign or a showing of a lack of respect for our current leaders to ask the Lord for this blessing; to repeatedly show him we are willing and ready should he choose to make this change. The women of OW are feeling prompted to lay this path.
     The majority of women feel totally equal at church and do not see a need for change. Awesome! I’m glad that they feel that way. I’m glad that they are finding fulfillment in their callings and that their portrayal in the church architecture suits their perception of themselves in God’s kingdom. There are many women (granted this is a minority) who do not though; they feel hurt, limited, belittled, stifled, and eternally not as important. There is a juxtaposition between how they feel God’s love and purpose for them internally vs how the church teaches and models their role to them. They also feel they are treated in a condescending manner routinely by their leaders and feel spiritually burdened by the scarcity of assignments in which women are allowed to lead without males approving all of their decisions on a higher level. Many of these amazing women feel that there is no place in the church for them and are made to feel unworthy or unfaithful for even thinking or feeling that they are not equal. Many of them feel that to even admit that they feel this way would be a sin. I plead with you to look at the Doves and Serpants blog's series of "Equality isn't a feeling" when consider what equality means in regards to women in the church. 

    “Perhaps there was a time when the dominant patterns of economic and family life and the infrastructural demands of growing a worldwide church made it very pragmatic to map the entire administration of the church onto a gendered division of labor. But surely that time is past. Gendered divisions of labor make less and less sense in the context of emerging twenty-first century patterns of economic and family life. All around me I see working Mormon women—wage stagnation (and increased corporate profit-taking) since the 1970s makes the two income family basic reality for all but more affluent LDS people. And all around me I see Mormon men profoundly involved in the parenting and nurture of their children.  Some men are outstanding nurturers, in fact, and some women are not; some women are incredible analysts and administrators and some men are not.  Why should these capacities not all be honored as sacred and useful, regardless of gender? Put-your-shoulder-to-the-wheel egalitarianism in Church administration and leadership seems more in keeping with the pragmatic spirit of Mormonism than a biological essentialism-driven folk doctrine that would prioritize the performance of nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Euro-American gender roles over the work of salvation.”
    -Joanna Brooks

Here are additional helpful links on the topic of feminism and mormonism: