Michael Barker

Ponderize THIS!!!

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who sold doves.  He said to them, “It is written: ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a den of robbers.” (Matthew 21:13) What was the sin that the Gospel writer was pointing out through this act of Jesus? Some historical context will help: “According to Exodus 30:11-16, every adult male Israelite was to pay half a shekel annually to the sanctuary.  In the period of the Second Temple this tax was paid at Passover; to assist pilgrims to Jerusalem, money changers apparently functioned within the large open area known as the ‘Court of the Gentiles’ or in the porticoes that framed the Temple closure, converting to the proper payment different currencies or those that were religiously offensive because of portraits on coins…rabbinic sources provide some evidence for complaints about profiteering by money changers, who charged as much as eight percent for their service.”1 According to another source: “Money changers converted foreign currency into Tyrian shekels, high-quality silver coinage accepted by the temple.”2 The sin was that the money changers were profiting on people’s spiritual experiences.  Were the money changers fulfilling a needed and good role?  Yes.  Offering help to pilgrims and offering animal sacrifices to Yaweh were good things. MODERN MONEY CHANGERS Brother Devin G. Durrant of the Sunday School General Presidency, during the October 4, 2015 Sunday afternoon session of General Conference, introduced the world of Mormonism to a neologism: PONDERIZE Yep.  Ponderize. Brother Durrant said: “The word ‘ponderize’ is not found in the dictionary, but it has found a place in my heart…So what does it mean to ponderize? I like to say it’s a combination of 80 percent extended pondering and 20 percent memorization.” Mormon social media went completely nuts. And I thought George W. Bush was the only authorized American neologist....

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What Does My Mormonism Demand of Me?

Sep 17, 15 What Does My Mormonism Demand of Me?

Posted by in Featured, Feminism, Homosexuality, Racism

I am writing from a place of privilege.  I am straight.  I am male. I am happily married. I have a good job. I have healthy children. For all intents and purposes, I am white. I am not writing this so as to say, “It’s so hard as a white, straight male. Woe is me.” No one wants to read that. I am not writing this so as to receive accolades from my friends who are LGBTQ, or people of color, or female.  That is exhausting work for an oppressed person to do. I am writing this to my white, male, straight, married, privileged friends. I was home sick from church a few weeks ago. I had a computer in front of me and was examining some of my privileges. I have many friends and some family members that have left the Church for various and very valid reasons. Sometimes the reasons have to do with the treatment of gays, the institutional racism, the institutional gender inequality. I think all those observations are true. I live in a conservative part of Oregon. Most people that live outside of Oregon view the North West as a liberal haven. This is not true. Most of the population of Oregon lives within what is called the Willamette Valley. It is a narrow strip that runs from Portland down to Eugene. This part of Oregon is liberal and controls most of the politics of Oregon. Outside of that, the state politics are different. Specifically here in Southern Oregon, where I live, the politics are conservative, with the exception of Ashland, which is a wonderfully odd liberal haven. I also work in a surgical speciality that is male dominant. It’s work that is physically demanding and intellectually demanding. Because of the culture of orthopedic surgery, there just aren’t many women. Because of that, things can be a bit sexist. I have sat with non-LDS surgeons that are quick to point out the patriarchy of my LDS tradition, but lack the ability to see their...

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For the Cause of Righteousness: A Global History of Blacks and Mormonism 1830-2013

by Mike Barker Ah, yes. Race. We’ve all heard the aphorism, “Two things you never want to discuss are religion and politics.”  For many whites, we want to add a third thing, “Don’t talk about issues of race.”  But to be honest, we must. Especially those of us born into white privilege. It’s a discussion where us whites need to do a lot more listening to your Black and Latino brothers and sisters and do a lot more talking amongst our white-selves. But it’s hard work. To be honest, it seems most progressive and post-Mormons don’t want to talk about it unless it is to shame the Church. Often the converse is true for traditional believing Mormons –  race is only discussed when trying to defend past racist policies and ongoing institutional racism.  The white American LDS Church just hasn’t figured out how to talk about race and racism as it is reflected in our individual lives; that is just too painful. With that being said, Russell Stevenson’s opening preface to, For the Cause of Righteousness,  is a self-examination of his own white privilege.  In his opening paragraph he states: “One of the tragic luxuries of living a white narrative is the ability to entertain the delusion that non-white populations and their struggles are, at best, irrelevant.” Later in his preface, Stevenson sets up the boundaries of how he is going to approach the global history of Blacks and Mormonism when he states: “Religion is made on the ground as well as it is revealed from Mount Sinai.” That is, Mormonism’s racial attitudes descended from leadership, but also came up from the grass roots.  This is a controversial view for some, as it puts some of the blame on the Mormons that are not in high leadership positions.  Or to be even more explicit, some have called Stevenson’s view, “victim blaming.”  As Stevenson constructs his approach, he presents a complicated and compelling argument of why/how “leadership” doesn’t always lead. CHAPTER ONE In chapter one, Stevenson weaves the well known story...

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Posted by in Featured, Sunstone Sypmosium

Every year my family makes the obligatory Mormon-Hajj from the mission field to Zion.  We usually make it a point to meet with a few of our permabloggers and if possible, to make it to the summer Sunstone Symposium.   Here is a photo-journal of our visit to the Promised Land:   PART I: CHILLIN’ WITH THE PERMAS                               PART II: AUTHOR SIGNING AND PANEL DISCUSSION WITH JOHN DOMINIC CROSSAN AT WRIT AND VISION                     “You can’t pitch your tent on the middle of an interstate and then say God is punishing you. There are consequences!” John Dominic Crossan       PART III: SUNSTONE SYMPOSIUM 2015 “It’s like a mix between a family reunion and a rock concert!” – Gwen Hutchings                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ...

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Moses, The Sound of Music, and Storm Troopers

As the lights dimmed in North Medford High School’s Sjolund Auditorium, my nine year daughter put her little hand in mine and with my other I held my wife’s hand. Captain von Trapp blew his whistle for the youngest to step forward. “I’m Gretel!” My daughter looked up and with her smile whispered, “She’s so cute!” I smiled and rubbed the back of her hand on my beard and she laid her head on my shoulder.  More whispers came later: A gasp from my daughter “Do you think they really kissed?” “Yes.” “Ew.” “But what if they are married?” “They aren’t.  They are just teenagers.” “What? But they look so old!” Later a giggle as she looked up at me. “What’s so funny?” I asked. With her smile she whispered, “They said Storm Troopers!” “Oh. Yea.  Star Wars got that name from the Germans.” “Oh.” she replied. During the first act I thought, “We should buy this movie.” About two days prior to this event my wife had mentioned that one of our high schools was doing a performance of the Rodgers and Hammerstein’s, The Sound of Music.  She thought it would be fun to go with our daughters and I agreed.  It was the 50 year anniversary of the movie after all.  Now, this might not sound all that interesting, but let me give you the backstory. I grew up with all boys with exception of my sister who was born right before my mission.  I didn’t like musicals – which probably isn’t much different than most boys.  To be honest, I still don’t like musicals.  I’m just not a cultured dude. I had seen The Sound of Music when I was young.  I also saw West Side Story after reading the script for my freshman English class. And to be honest, I kind of like making fun of those two musicals.   I’ve been known to break out singing, “I am sixteen, going on seventeen. Innocent as a rose,” while in the operating room. I mean, that’s just funny.  And who doesn’t like...

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Here Is Our Apology

Feb 02, 15 Here Is Our Apology

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality, Repentance

Dear Queer Mormons, We are So So Sorry. We realize that it is not within our stewardship to apologize for or in behalf of the institution that is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however institutions are cold things bogged down in bureaucracy. Our Mormonism is not cold or distant, it is alive inside each of us, it dwells in our hearts, and informs our choices every day. We love the Gospel. We love our Mormon culture and people. Mormonism is our home, our family. And we know that our queer siblings do not feel the love and belonging that we owe them as a Mormon family. This last week has felt like a family disaster, like our dear sweet grandpas, who we’re used to saying old-fashioned biased things at family gatherings, just took a microphone and told the world that the whole family feels the way they feel. We disagree. We believe that our queer family deserves a sincere and heart-felt apology. . On behalf of our Mormonism, we can apologize. We are so sorry that you don’t feel safe and welcome at church. We are so sorry that you have been taught that there is something sinful about who you are. We are so sorry for the pain and rejection you have felt from your Mormon family. We are so sorry for all the practices both cultural and institutional that othered you, marginalized you, and made you feel lesser. Dear Queer Mormon family, we want you to know what we believe: We believe you are worthy of love and belonging. We believe that you are whole and perfect and exactly as our Heavenly Parents intended you to be. We believe that our Heavenly Parents want you to experience love and intimacy and have families of your own. We believe that Church should be a safe haven, where you feel loved and welcomed to come unto Christ. And we know that these are not the messages that you have received at...

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How to Teach About Mother in Heaven and Not Be Excommunicated.

Jan 29, 15 How to Teach About Mother in Heaven and Not Be Excommunicated.

Posted by in Featured, Mother in Heaven

How Can I Learn to See Heavenly Father’s Our Heavenly Parents’ Hands in All Things? Note: First, I want to acknowledge that I totally ripped-off my post’s title from Kevin Barney’s amazing Dialogue article entitled, “How to Worship Our Mother in Heaven (Without Being Excommunicate).” These are the notes from a lesson I gave to all the youth on the last Sunday of January 2015. I wanted to do two things with this lesson: Show how the LDS understanding of Deity has evolved and have a reasonable explanation for why this is. Have one spot where all the Hebrew scriptures that talk about Lady Wisdom (Mother in Heaven) appear. This blog post is a little bit longer than what I normally write for a few reasons: It contains questions as well as plausible answers to the questions in order to direct the conversation in a certain direction It contains entire chunks of scripture, as opposed to just citations, in order to help the discussion move along quicker; what I am saying is that the kids didn’t have to look up scripture as the scriptures are right here in the hand-out.  What I handed out to the youth in my ward was a trimmed-down version of my notes. Because of time constraints, I ended up skipping the first part of my lesson (which builds a doctrinal foundation that leads up to Mother in Heaven) and instead just jumped right in where the lesson starts discussing our Heavenly Mother. Lastly, the featured image is entitled,“The Tree of LIfe” and was painted by Gala Dara Smith. The Painting is used with her permission and as you read it will become apparent why I chose her painting. Creeds:  Are there Three Persons and one God or Three Persons and Three Gods? What is a creed? A statement of the basic beliefs of a religion An idea or set of beliefs that guides the actions of a person or group From Joseph Smith History 1:19 19 I was answered that I must join none of them,...

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The Curse of the Amish and Mormonism’s Tool Box

The other day my wife asked me to do some, um, manly things around the house. First on the list was to tighten up the p-trap under the utility sink in the garage.  I loosened up the p-trap, lined up the threads of the tightening nut, and hand tightened it.   To make sure that things wouldn’t leak, I then grabbed my channel locks and gave it a final good tightening.    I filled up the sink with water, pulled the plug so all the water would rush into the p-trap at the same time, and like magic – the p-trap didn’t leak. Next, my wife asked me to change a light bulb.   I brought in my toolbox, took a look around and decided to use the channel locks again.  I mean, what the heck, they worked for the p-trap, right?   I grabbed the light bulb, and it broke.  Not my fault.  Not the fault of the tool I was using of course. I needed to hang some pictures.  I brought in my toolbox, looked around.  There were the allen wrenches; nope, wrong tool.   There were the screwdrivers; nope wrong tool.  There was the hammer; it would probably work.  But there she was, my channel locks again. I pulled out the channel locks, grabbed a picture-nail, and swung away.  I missed the nail a lot.   I made some marks and dents in the wall.  No biggie though, those would all be covered with the picture anyway.   I finally got the nail driven into the wall and hung the picture. MORMONS DRIVING BUGGIES? Dr. Terryl Givens tells the story of when he was invited to New York City to deliver a paper at Bonneville Communications Conference. Dr. Givens’ task was to speak about how Mormons have been represented in the public sphere. At one point, Dr. Givens made the observation that in 1893, a kind of devil’s compromise had been reached between the LDS Church and the rest of America. The...

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Two Crosses

It was not a friendship I would have expected– She, black. Me, not black. She, a PhD and now attending Divinity School. Me, not an academic. She, a woman. Me, a dork. But the friendship and the call came when I needed it most. She called as I was driving home one day shortly after the news had come. The news was shocking to many of us: church discipline for two prominent progressives. But why? “How are you doing, Michael?” I pulled over to talk. I was in the poorer part of town, the part of town that I drove through as I headed home from the hospital. About two years before, a Lutheran Church in that neighborhood had burned down. It was arson and this part of town was known, not only for the poverty of its residents, but for its gang and drug activities. The church was a beautiful. Small. Stain-glass windows. The priest’s living quarters were adjacent to the chapel – small and unpretentious. There it was, or wasn’t. Burnt down. I had never attended services there, but I imagined that it provided a place of worship for the truly downtrodden. Six months later, the church was rebuilt. Small and beautiful. Stain glass windows and two crosses. My youngest daughter always asks me about one of those crosses that sits out in front of the Lutheran Church. “How are you doing, Michael?” When I came to a stop at the curb and put my truck into park, I let go. I cried. No, I wept. I felt hot. I couldn’t speak. “Well, you sound worse off than I am,” she said with surprise. We spoke for a few minutes as I sat in my truck. “I can’t abide this Michael. I can’t abide this type of violence. I can’t allow my children to be part of an institution that does this,” she also cried. We both drew deep breaths. And then we cried more and spoke more. “Yes, I understand. I...

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A Christmas Search for the Divine Feminine

http://media.blubrry.com/rationalfaiths/p/rationalfaiths.com/podcast/MikesChristmasTestimony.mp3 Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS By Michael Barker Note: This is an expansion of a testimony I gave at my Fast and Testimony Meeting on December 7, 2014   Scripture is male-centric. That is a fact. It is that way because it was written by men. History, in general, has been written by men, so it too is male-centric. That is a fact. As a father of two daughters, this requires me to glean the scriptures and history looking for bread-crumbs of powerful and influential women to which I can feed my daughters as examples of what they can be. I point out to them wherever Mother in Heaven appears – whether that be Her represented as an olive tree or in the female personification of Wisdom in the Wisdom Literature of the Hebrew Bible.1   It’s unfortunate that is takes so much work, but it does. The stories we tell and names are imbued with meaning.  Meaning that goes beyond the sounds of the stories or the names. My youngest daughter’s middle name is Marie.  This is to remind her of her great-grandmother, Maria, or as we call her, “abuelita.”  Abuelita was the first woman to graduate from Medical School in Guatemala.  Because of the time in which she lived, she was never allowed to practice medicine as a physician. She was also  one of the early converts to the Mormon faith, south of Mexico.   The name Marie, is a reminder to my eight year of her amazing abuelita. My oldest daughter’s middle name is Noel.  She was born around the Christmas season.  But her middle name isn’t just to remind her of that, it is to remind her of the blessing the Christ Child is to all of us. Names and stories have truth that go beyond words we say. In our living room, we have two statuettes of Jesus.  On the piano is the Cristus.  It represents Jesus’ Godhood.  It represents His majesty....

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