An Open Letter to Conservative Mormons

Oct 01, 15 An Open Letter to Conservative Mormons

Posted by in Charity, Featured, Politics, unity

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I do not share your political views. This does not mean that I am not an “active,” “faithful,” committed Mormon. It does not mean that I have failed to sustain the prophet or that I no longer believe the Church is true. It simply means that, in applying what I have been taught in church my whole life – love one another, pray always, follow Christ, study the scriptures, choose the right, feed His sheep, hearken to the Spirit, etc. – I have come to a different set of political conclusions than you have. Since our separate politics are grounded in a shared faith, don’t be surprised that I sometimes interpret our faith differently than you do. It’s not because I am trying to bend Mormonism to fit liberalism any more than you are consciously bending Mormonism to fit your conservatism. Which is to say, we both probably do this from time to time because we are imperfect people striving for a clearer view. I’ll assume you’re doing your best in good faith; please learn to do the same for me. By now I’ve had a lifetime of practice dealing with Mormons who see politics differently than me. I’ve adjusted to being a political minority in a conservative faith and learned some things about communicating across partisan lines. Since the internet may be exposing you to liberal Mormon views for the first time or with much greater frequency, may I offer some practical tips for this cross-partisan communication?   1. Just because you disagree with something someone posted – or feel like you recognize yourself in their comments – understand that 99% of the time this is not meant as an attack on you. Just like all those messages you post “in defense of traditional families” that you claim aren’t meant as an attack on gay people or their political allies. Learn not to take liberal posts personally. 2. Learn to appreciate when people share things...

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Time Machine to the Past

Sep 29, 15 Time Machine to the Past

Posted by in Featured, Feminism, Mental Health, Temple

I’ve at times posited to myself what I’d do if I had one moment to go back in time. Most times the overwhelming answer has been one that I’m not necessarily proud of. If I could turn back the clock, or visit myself as a 20-year-old bride to be… what are the words of wisdom that I’d speak? I can tell you that I would unequivocally tell myself to stop. I would plead and advocate for and hope that the younger, more naïve, more faithful and “innocent” version of me would open my eyes. I would hope that I could persuade myself not to be married in the temple, and not to be married to “the man of my dreams.” I met my husband 14 years ago in the usual way, through a good friend of mine. We in no way “hit it off” but in the two weeks that we dated we both had unusual experiences that led us to believe we should be married. So many moments come flooding into my mind as I look back on my rash decision to marry this man I’d known barely 3 months. Somehow I felt Heavenly Father had made it clear to me that this was the man for me, so I moved forward with preparations boldly. I imagine kneeling across the altar I remember that my fiancé couldn’t even look me in the eyes. Something kept him from seeing me, and to this day he doesn’t look me in the eyes with love and devotion. Love, interest, care, curiosity, desire…these were all looks I’d seen in the men that I had dated previously so I waited in earnest for them to show up on the face of my betrothed. He held my hand and I remember hearing the words “unto your husband” and being cut to the core. In that moment, my inequality was cemented physically, emotionally and spiritually. Mine was to be a fate of blind devotion to a man that neither heard...

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On Yom Kippur

With today being Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year in the Hebrew calendar, I would like to reflect on a very sacred experience that I had, and one that is very unique within Mormonism, although I was actually not yet a member of the Church when I had this experience. That said, this experience restored my faith in Christ and led to my belief in Joseph Smith as a prophet. My Jewish husband and I shared this sacred experience a year before we were married and a couple years prior to me joining the LDS church in 2010. Please forgive me if the details are sketchy, as it is never easy- and deeply personal- to recount spiritual experiences. This sacred experience would mark the beginning of my journey into the Sacred Feminine and my love for Heavenly Mother. I share these stories as I experienced them. I believe they happened because of my need at that particular time in my life – and God’s love.  Whether you believe me or not, please respect them as my sacred stories. Nevertheless, I do testify these sacred experiences are true. On this particular day in 2007, my husband and I were in the mountains of North Carolina. We were not yet married, and my husband later admitted he was about to break off the relationship since we have a significant age difference and there were just too many complications. That same day, he made it clear he had no intentions of getting married. Frustrated, I went off by myself and “yelled” at God – “You have GOT to fix this!” We drove on, and came to this beautiful waterfall called Hooker Falls in Pisgah National Forest. Shortly after we arrived, three mysterious women appeared. One was middle aged, one was a younger mother and the other a child. They all looked Hispanic. As the child splashed around in the water, middle-aged woman spoke with my husband at length, while the young mother kept me occupied....

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What Doth a Prophecy Profit?

Sep 21, 15 What Doth a Prophecy Profit?

Posted by in Featured, prophecy

If I predict an event and it happens, there are several possible explanations. The first explanation is pure chance, it will either happen or it won’t, I have a 50/ 50 chance of getting it right. It could also be because I caused it to happen. “The garage shall be clean today!” and then I cleaned it. Another possibility is that I just follow a logical course. The sun has risen every day of my life so I can safely predict that it will rise tomorrow. Perhaps the most commonly used explanation is that I’ve tapped into a supernatural, universal information source; God, spirits, demons or what have you. There have been many people, throughout human history, who have claimed the ability to predict future events, with varying degrees of accuracy. Most have predicted disasters and other bad stuff but even when they’ve gotten it right, what good does it do? Nostradamus is one of the most famous. He wrote cryptic little four line poems, (quatrains) which, he claimed, predicted future disasters. Despite their publication and wide distribution, he refuted the idea that he was a prophet, and though much has been made of his writings, they are too vague to be concretely proven. Many have seen connections between his ambiguous descriptions and events that have already occurred, but what good is a prophecy that has passed? From a secular perspective, knowledge of future events can help us prepare and make decisions that will ensure the best possible outcome, that’s why we have meteorologists. They predict tornadoes, hurricanes, sunny days and severe storms but they’re not prophets, are they? They study trends and patterns and make educated guesses based on past events. Financial planners and consultants do pretty much the same thing, studying markets and consumer behavior and giving advice based on their best guesses. Neither profession has a perfect track record, but we still listen to them because they are our best hope for having the information we need when the bad (and...

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You may be irreverent, but you’re no thug

You may be irreverent, but you are no thug. … and you already know this, but it hasn’t stopped ignorant behavior in the last two weeks on social media. It hasn’t stopped lots of Mormons who should know better but act like they don’t and instead want myself, and other MOCs (Mormons of Color) to “just lighten up!” Since there is no lightening up – neither here nor in the afterlife nor on the way to glory (and I don’t care what your parents told you about brown people turning white based on righteousness) – let me stand straight in this crooked room for a bit and take a break from my normal writing focus. Here’s my open letter (of sorts) full of random commentary to all of the LDS folks flashing #thugmormon on social media in these last 2 weeks, You’re. Not. Thugs. Y’all. For real. How did this happen? I have so many questions! Fill me in, is this another Restoration thing? Did I miss the memo? You know we Mormons love to restore stuff and tell people the real meaning of a regularly (or not) recurring phenomena… like baptism, the Trinity, the Godhead, masonry, temples, who can give blessings, how to translate ancient writings, etc. And now, you want to redefine thug for the rest of us? You realize that we’re the folks whose lives are marginalized  by the word “thug” in mainstream and conservative Republican media, and you want to own it as if it’s a cute accessory to wear? For how long, just until you get bored of the attention and need something else to stay on the radar? Are you trying to be funny? Is my favorite Mormon funny man calling himself a thug? Who’s responsible for this mess? Who thought this was a good idea? Virtuous? Lovely? Good report? Praiseworthy? This is what we’re seeking after? Thug Mormons? Is this a thing? Or is it a joke, you know, like what we Mormons usually are to the...

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Wandering in the Wilderness

It has now been 9 years since I first listened to the Mormon Stories podcast with Darius Gray and Margaret Young on blacks and the priesthood and temple ban.  In it they put the priesthood ban into context of the surrounding culture.  I learned that in the beginning, there was no ban, not while Joseph Smith was alive.  I learned that the ban started under Brigham Young and came in increments.  I learned we are really missing any smoking gun revelation from God instructing that it be so.  I learned that many justifications that I grew up hearing, namely a curse as descendants of  Cain, in my isolated whiter than white small Idaho hometown were related to the same folklore white protestants used to justify slavery and then adapted to the priesthood ban.  It was a revelation to me.  For the very first time I had an answer that made the slightest bit of sense to THE question about the church that had always most bothered me.   Two years ago, much of this same information was put into the chapter heading of Official Declaration 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants and a year later went even further in the essay on the website.  That podcast was wonderful and terrible at the same time.  It gave me answers and opened my eyes and simultaneously shook the foundations of my idea of prophets, revelation and divine direction of the Church right to the core.  It launched a whole new faith journey in which old understandings were torn apart and new ones had to be built up in their place.  Never again could I accept the model of everything the Prophet says as being inspired.  Never again could it be as simple as God’s mouth to the prophets ear.  As I have mentioned before, I am able to say I came through this journey remaining a believer.  I can honestly say I think I have a deeper and richer faith.  However, it has been a monumental task to square the idea of a church...

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A Response to John Dominic Crossan, ‘How to Read the Bible and Still be a Christian’

I was invited to respond to John Dominic Crossan a few weeks ago at a book event at Writ & Vision in Provo, Utah. I was honored to spend the time getting to know Dom, and greatly respect his honesty, scholarship, and kindness in allowing me to share a few of my thoughts with him and the audience about his book. The following were my remarks that night in response to his book. –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– The first session that I attended at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature was titled “Use, Misuse, and Impact of the Bible,” and its theme was “Biblical Genocide in Biblical Scholarship.” The session experienced a lively debate, especially between two of the four panelists, Eric Seibert and Hector Avalos on the topic of the conquest of Canaan by the Israelites. Dr. Seibert is a Professor of Old Testament at Messiah College and identifies as a believing Evangelical Christian. Dr. Avalos is a Professor of Religious Studies at Iowa State University and is no longer an Evangelical Christian, and identifies as an atheist. Seibert wanted to make clear that the genocide of the Canaanites and the conquest of Israel/Palestine in the Book of Joshua were morally reprehensible events, and something that the God of the Bible would not have commanded. Avalos agreed that this was not something a god would command, but for very different reasons. While Seibert walks the line of calling into question the authority of the Bible and being a traditional believing Christian, Avalos concluded that god does not exist and that we should discard texts that teach divine violence like the Book of Joshua. Although I use the example of these two scholars I do not mean to portray that there are only two paths in approaching how to understand divine violence in the Bible, or that either of those two paths is a better one over the other. John Dominic Crossan’s new book is an example of creating a different path, that I...

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The New Testament Made Harder

The New Testament Made Harder: Scripture Study Questions, by James E. Faulconer, has already been well reviewed in several places. I can’t do a better job of telling you what’s in it than other reviews, and I’m not qualified to give an academic critique, so instead I’ll share a personal story of scripture study and show you a little of how The New Testament Made Harder (henceforth NTMH) affected me when I was offered the chance to review it for Rational Faiths. NTMH Description The New Testament Made Harder is part of a series of books written by James E. Faulconer intended as a study aid for Gospel Doctrine classes. The chapters examine texts assigned for each adult Sunday School class. Faulconer gives a little background, typically in the form of some basic history behind the text, then starts offering the reader questions. The questions are often accompanied by references to related scriptural texts or other information that may guide the student toward deeper or more informed answers without dictating what those answers should be. My Scripture Study Before NTMH When my older brother went on a mission, I wanted to follow his example. So as a Sophomore in high school I committed to read from the scriptures every day. It wasn’t always much, but it got me through the Book of Mormon a couple of times, the New Testament, and almost all of the Old Testament. My Mom had helped me through the Doctrine and Covenants as a Freshman. I read every day with a handful of exceptions for the following 18 years. As a missionary the study increased to at least 30 minutes a day, and afterward continued with 20-30 minutes a day until I was 33. My mission president encouraged us to go beyond the scriptures as part of our study, but to keep the scriptures and the core of our study. Then my wife and I had our first child. With the intense disruption of my patterns brought about by fatherhood,...

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72: Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist Part 10 Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS In this episode of “Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist” Brian and Laurel talk with  Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife about how to raise children, particularly our daughters, to own their sexuality; the second question is in concern of worthiness interviews with a Bishop, either with a young person or with an adult female. I mentioned this video of Julia Sweeney’s experience having “The Talk” with her daughter. Jennifer suggested Your Body Belongs to You as guidance for young kids. Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is a psychotherapist who focuses on issues surrounding female sexuality and feminism within the LDS framework. She holds a PhD in Counseling Psychology from Boston College where she wrote her dissertation on LDS women and sexuality. She has taught college-level classes on human sexuality and currently has a private therapy practice in Chicago. In her private practice, she primarily works with LDS couples on sexuality and relationship issues. She also teaches online courses to LDS couples on these issues. She is married, has three kids, and is an active member of the LDS church. Be Sure to check out Dr. Finlayson-Fife’s site for upcoming workshops on How to talk to your (LDS) kids about sex: Fostering healthy development in a sex-saturated age as well as her other online courses. If you have a question for the good doctor you can comment below OR send an email to Music: Sugar Blues (Pubic...

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Are Children Supposed to Enjoy Church?

Sep 03, 15 Are Children Supposed to Enjoy Church?

Posted by in Family, Featured, Mormonism, Uncategorized

It’s 1993, I’m six years old, and I’m sitting in the pews listening to a speaker in Sacrament meeting. I’m not sure I can take it anymore. My parents have made it very clear that I must sit still. My attention span ran out about 10 minutes in (my adult attention span is not much longer). I look over and see my friend Sam in the pew next to us, playing with Ninja Turtles. Why have I not thought of this? After church I tell my mom that I am going to bring my Ninja Turtles next week. She says, “No. We need to be good and pay attention during church.” Great. I can’t wait until next Sunday. Not. It’s 2015, I’m sitting in the pews listening to a speaker in Sacrament meeting. I’m not sure I can take it anymore. My three year old son is alternating between kicking the pews and attempting to escape under them. I grab his leg as he is crawling under, he extends his arm as far as it will go and grabs a piece of Captain Crunch that appears to be from the time of the Pioneers. I grab his arm to stop him but I’m too slow; he sticks it in his mouth. He turns to his Mom and yells, “MOM! CAN I PLAY ANGRY BIRDS?!?” She says, “Shhh!!! We have to be quiet!” He repeats back in a loud whisper, “MOM! CAN I PLAY ANGRY BIRDS?!?” She says, “No. We need to be good and pay attention during church.” He begins kicking the pews again. My wife can’t take it anymore, and she turns to me and asks for my tablet. She opens up a kids app that prevents him from getting into other parts of the tablet. She hands it to our son and he presses the Angry Birds app. It begins blaring the Angry Birds theme music. She grabs it back and begins pressing the volume buttons but the kids app prevents changes...

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