Leah Marie Silverman

Leah Marie has lived all over the country, and currently resides in Virginia, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains. She earned a BA in Political Science at BYU, and a Masters in Public Administration at Boise State. She is currently working towards her PhD in Public Policy through Walden University. She is wife to an English professor, and mother to 3 beautiful boys.

The Problem with Beauty

Nov 13, 15 The Problem with Beauty

Posted by in Featured, Feminism

I don’t really want to talk about lipstick and sexist jokes. It seems like a distraction from bigger and more pressing problems. But it is still an issue that needs addressing, and out standards of beauty are creating pressing problems. I’ve often tried to explain why it is so harmful, and it frustrates me that so many people can’t understand. They keep saying, “It was just a joke about lipstick.” But it wasn’t just a joke. Nothing ever is just a joke. There is context and subtext and cultural awareness that provide the cues for people to laugh at the joke. And this is where the problems lie. What you have to understand before you can laugh at a sexist joke about putting on lipstick to attract a man is the patriarchal standard of beauty that rules women’s lives. You have to understand the social stigma that women face when they don’t wear makeup. You have to be steeped in the prejudice that only women displaying a proper amount of femininity are seen as attractive in our society. You have to understand the stigma of being a single woman. You have to buy into the belief that single women are not complete humans. You have to buy into the belief that if a woman can’t attract a man, that is her onus—that means there is something wrong with her. If you understand all that, then you can chuckle at a joke about how attracting a man is just as simple as putting on lipstick. Let’s keep in mind that in church women are taught from birth that the _most_ important thing they can do with their lives is have children. We are taught that we were put on the earth to be mothers. This is the goal. This is what we live for. But we can’t do it without attracting a man. And so in our culture being attractive to men gets tied into our righteousness. The value of physical beauty trumps all else...

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9 Facts About the Church’s New Policy Changes

Fact #1: The policy changes punish children. In any other circumstance, with a parent’s approval, a minor age 8 or older can be baptized into the church. Unless it is a child of a same-sex couple. In this case, even if the parents approve the child cannot be baptized. It would seem that some are dismissing the approval of same-sex parents because it is questionable—since they are rejecting the gospel. This is bigotry. There is a lot more to this gospel than whatever definition of marriage you ascribe to it (polygamy anyone?) and to say that someone who is gay is rejecting the gospel just because they are married is a farce. They can—and many do—still have a testimony of the Savior and many other principles of the gospel. You are not allowed to define their relationship to the gospel entirely by their sexual orientation. People also argue against fact #1 by turning it on its head and claiming it protects children. This is some of the finest mental gymnastics I’ve ever seen. Except it would hold more water if these children were actually in danger of something. Or even if we applied it to every situation where the children were taught one thing at home and another at church. Or where there were divorced parents with different beliefs and custody issues. But we’re actually just applying this policy to children of same-sex couples. And that is because it is not about protection at all. And, God help me, “this is for your own good” is just exactly the thing abusers say. This punishment is, in fact, spiritual abuse. Also please tell me in what universe it is not a punishment to deny someone saving ordinances at any point in their life?  In Primary, we go on and on about preparing 8-year-olds for baptism and we tell them how much they need it and how much it will mean to them NOW.  Are we changing our stance on that?  Are we now claiming that...

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The Untouchables

There was a message behind these healings, and it sounded throughout all of Galilee, Judea, and the known parts of the world: When God became human, when he wrapped himself in our blood and skin and bones, his first order of business was to touch the ones that we would not touch, to fellowship in our sufferings, and to declare once and for all that purity is found not in the body, but in the heart. – Rachel Held Evans, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, p. 169 Lepers, menstruating women, foreigners, the dead. Within the context of the New Testament, these were the untouchables. They were unclean, and physical contact spread the uncleanliness. But Christ healed the lepers, the woman with the issue of blood, He communed with foreigners, and He raised the dead. When I was reading Evans’s book, these words jumped out to me: “His first order of business was to touch the ones that we would not touch.” We don’t alienate the untouchables of the New Testament now. However, we have created new ones. I think we need to start asking ourselves—no, not ourselves… We need to start asking the Lord, what would Jesus do if He were on the earth now. Whom would he embrace? You know what leapt out at me? It was the many LGBT members of the church that we have scared—some to the point of death—with our version of who is unclean. I’m not even sure the most pervasive problem is outright hatred and homophobia. I think maybe the more pervasive problem is the fallacy that we can love the sinner and hate the sin. I think maybe the problem is that we keep trying to convince ourselves and everyone else that it is just homosexual acts we disapprove of. I think maybe the real, pervasive problem is that, for some reason, any relationship that is not heteronormative makes us forget Who we follow. Remember that the untouchables of the New Testament were not sinners. These...

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It’s not the America I Thought it Was

Jul 06, 15 It’s not the America I Thought it Was

Posted by in Featured, History

With the celebration of Independence Day this weekend, I found myself reminiscing about how I used to feel about this holiday.  In my early adulthood, I was wildly patriotic, having grown up in a culture that values this kind of zealotry for the motherland. I celebrated with reverence the story I was told about a people seeking religious freedom and men who founded this nation on their knees and in accordance with God’s will. I was so naive. The problem I eventually encountered was that my love for the history of my nation led me to research it to learn more about it.  And then I learned the difference between myth and reality and had to let go of the stories I’d been told about religious freedom and the promised land.  Now when the fourth of July rolls around, and I am left pondering how we celebrate the birth of a nation that was born and built on the backs of slaves.  Not to mention the way we shoved the people already living here right out of the way. God’s will?  I refuse to believe it. And now, once a year when “I’m Proud to Be an American” becomes a popular tune, I struggle to figure out what it is I’m supposed to be so proud of. Our health care is abysmal compared to similar nations. Our obsession with guns is embarrassing.  You can basically only get a good education if you’re white and rich. And no, you can’t get rich here.  The American Dream is extinct if it ever existed. And the truth is, things are even worse than that.  Because as frustrated as I am with America, I don’t even live in the same America as people of color do.  The America they live in is frightening and brutal. For every obstacle I see, I am granted white privilege in dealing with it. I could come up with a list of benefits about being American, but I’m disenchanted with the idea because...

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Going to See Mad Max is Like Going to the Temple

And I don’t really mean that in a good way. It’s not that the movie was bad.  It was a bit absurd for me, but still a great action flick. I’ve decided they just had an excellent PR team.  Because they knew that if you say something enough times, and give it enough buzz, people will believe it.  Like telling a child that a red drink is yummier than an orange drink, and so it never matters what flavor the drinks actually are the child always wants the red one more. So before Mad Max hit theaters there was all this buzz about how it was a feminist action movie unlike any other feminist action movie.  And the Feminists were excited and Men’s Rights Activists were calling for boycotts and before anyone actually saw the movie we’d all decided it was a feminist movie. But it’s not. And after seeing it I can’t figure out why everyone thinks it is. I mean, maybe because it has a female lead? It kind of does, although the story is much more Max’s than it is Furiosa’s.  But either way, it is so far from being the first action movie with a female lead.  Maybe it was because the storyline is about women escaping a cartoonishly misogynistic overlord?  Perhaps, but since they are saved by the men in the movie, it isn’t exactly an empowering storyline.  This movie didn’t actually portray women in a much different light than most action movies do. But none-the-less, my Facebook feed is all full of people seeing the movie and coming away about how awesomely feminist it is.  And each time I see it I feel confused.  And disappointed, because movies that pretend to be feminist but actually aren’t are going to hurt the cause of equality more than help it. Somewhere along the way I realized how familiar the confusion and disappointment felt.  And then a friend posted on Facebook about her recent temple trip and how happy it made...

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Being Barren on Mother’s Day

May 01, 15 Being Barren on Mother’s Day

Posted by in Featured, Infertility

Mother’s Day is approaching, and for me this means an annual pilgrimage through memories of past Mother’s Days. I’ve never really been able to grasp the celebration of the day, because all I can remember is how painful it once was, and how painful it is for many other women that I know and love. When my husband and I first decided to have a baby, I just assumed I’d have as much control over it as I had over NOT having a baby. Birth control is a misleading name for contraception. There is actually very little control you have over the timing on when you will give birth. The first year was the hardest. And not just because that year included the first miscarriage (which was the hardest thing of all). But because I was still so full of hope. Every. Month. In the following years, I was still full of hope, but it was a more reasonable hope. A tempered hope that helped me hold on to my sanity on the days when my period started. But Mother’s Day was never easy. The rest of the time, I managed to dull the ache and only exert my energy over tears when I had the energy to spare. But then this day to honor mothers would roll around, and it was just a reminder of all of my longing and pain. On Mother’s Day, there was no dull in the ache. It is just a raw open wound. The worst was when they would pass out flowers (or some other cheap gift–never enough chocolate) to mothers at church, and they’d always give them to married women who weren’t mothers. I knew it was supposed to be a kind gesture, and it was meant to make me not feel left out. But I was left out, and there was just no getting around that. And that flower just became a symbol of that to me. I still don’t like getting that flower at church...

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Apostle Wish-List

Apr 24, 15 Apostle Wish-List

Posted by in Featured, Mormon Humor

Though Mormons don’t like to outright say it, it’s pretty clear that it won’t be too long before we’ll have some new apostles among the 12. While it is a futile effort to try and guess with any accuracy who will be selected to fill any vacancies, a few of us here at Rational Faiths (Laurel, Leah Marie, and Thomas) thought we would ask the question: If the various Mormon contingencies could present possible candidates for apostleship, who would they choose?   Baby Boomers:   TBMs:   Cultural Mormons:   Progressive Mormons: Pragmatic Heterodoxical Slightly Agnostic New Order Mormons   Extreme Right Wing Mormons:     EFY Youth:   FAIR Mormon:   Ordain Women: Why would they choose 20th-century feminist figures for apostleship instead of modern women? Because they understand that the church is usually about 90 years behind.   Mormon Women Stand:   Nerd Mormons:   Exmos:   Nursery Kids:   Ogden 26th Ward Beehive...

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Upon The Cross

The cross has a long history in religious culture. Even before Christianity, variations of the cross were used as a symbol of life and consecration. The cross became a popular symbol among Christians a few hundred years after Christ’s death. It has become a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice and the Atonement. Mormons don’t use the cross. If you ask a handful of Mormons why that is, you’re likely to get a handful of answers. Because it is a symbol of death, because we focus on Christ’s life, because it is idolatry, etc., etc. None of that is true. The truth is that David O. McKay was trying to separate Mormons from the rest of Christianity, especial Catholics, and so eliminated the use of the cross from Mormon worship. Before then, Mormons happily adorned themselves and their homes with crosses. Since I have the desire lately to distance myself further from Mormon social mores and customs that make us more like Pharisees than faithful disciples, this Easter I have been focusing on what the cross means to me. Associating it with the death of Christ doesn’t make sense to me anymore. It makes more sense to associate with what came next, and what that makes possible for me. The Resurrection is what matters. In Matthew 10, Christ directed us to take up the cross and follow Him. He carried The Cross on His shoulders as part of the ultimate sacrifice and has asked that I do the same in my life. To serve Him, to become like Him, I must learn to live, love, and give as He did. The cross reminds me of Christ’s willingness to die for me, and his admonition that I love others as He does. But, He hasn’t called on me to lay down my life, but to raise my life up to Him. The cross isn’t a symbol of death to me because it is a symbol of the life I should be living to honor Him. In other...

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Learning to Write my Name

I have this memory nestled into the recesses of my brain that pops up every now and again. It is from when I was about four years old, which is remarkable; my memories from early childhood are few and far between. I don’t know why this one stands out, but it is fairly clear. I’m sitting at the coffee table in our living room, with pencil in hand, a sheet of wide ruled paper in front of me. My mom is sitting with me, teaching me how to write my name. And I was pretty mad about it. I don’t remember what I was doing just before, but I do know that my mom had pulled me away from doing it to sit me down and make me trace out these hieroglyphics for some godforsaken reason, and I saw the whole exercise as pretty futile. “Why would I ever need to do this?!” I know my mom must have been losing patience with me. I was feeling so frustrated about this waste of time, that, unless I was an infinitely more patient person at the age of four than I am now, there was pretty much no way I wasn’t being obstinate. Since I knew the alphabet, but wasn’t yet reading, lining up the letters L – E – A – H meant little to me, and I had no interest in doing it over and over. I remember my mom explaining that I was starting kindergarten soon and that I would need to know how to write my name at school. I vaguely remember her saying something about learning to read, and then understanding it all better, but I was like, “WHATEVER. I don’t want to do this and I don’t need it and I don’t understand why we’re even talking about this.” It goes without saying, mom was right. She was right because she could see way, way past what I was seeing. She knew so much better than I did what the...

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I Am The Little Drummer Boy

My favorite Christmas song has, for years, been “The Little Drummer Boy.” It is the one which most closely resembles my relationship to my Savior. There are probably other choices that would seem more obvious. “O Holy Night”? “Oh Come All Ye Faithful”? “Joy to the World”? Those are all songs I love, and they to speak to me. But none hits as close to home as “The Little Drummer Boy.” Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum We begin the song with a testimony of Jesus Christ and who He is. It is my testimony that He is my King and my Savior. Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, So to honor Him, pa rum pum pum pum, When we come. This verse is about our need to worship Him. It is about offering Him the best part of ourselves. Even more, we can only offer the very best part of ourselves, because to offer anything else would be a disgrace. It would not be a worthy offering; nothing but the finest gift will honor Him. Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum That’s fit to give the King, pa rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum, And here is the part of the song that resonates in my soul and makes my heart ache. I am inadequate. I am unworthy. I don’t know that anything, or any part of me, is enough of an offering to the one who provides the Grace I need to be anything at all. I am so base and so flawed, what gift do I have that is fit for Him? Shall I play for...

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