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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L. Tom Perry and Family First Weddings

Sep 30, 15 L. Tom Perry and Family First Weddings

Posted by in Featured, Temple

Everyone seems to have their favorite apostle, some might even have a story of “the one time I met Elder so and so”.  I don’t know if I had a favorite at this particular time in my life, but I do have three moments I have shared with Elder L. Tom Perry. These are the stories.  I hope you enjoy them! The first has no real meaning. I was in at an art show on the top floor of Zions Bank in downtown Salt Lake. I was to meet a client there. While I was waiting and looking at the different art pieces I noticed a rather tall elderly man. I recognized him as soon as I saw his face, it was Elder Perry. Some people were stopping to say hi. I quickly thought to myself should I ask him a question? I decided it wasn’t the place to press him with any questions. So I decided just to say hi. He shook my hand and said “It is good to see you”. I said something stupid like, “it’s good to be seen”.  It was dumb, but I doubt he heard me. The second time I came across Elder L. Tom Perry I was flipping through the channels late one night and settled for Sixteen Candles while I brushed my teeth and got ready for bed.  While brushing and I couldn’t believe my eyes! There he was in the movie! I never knew he was an actor. But alas when I told my friends about it, they quickly told me that it wasn’t him, but an actor named Max Showalter. The third time, had much more meaning. This story requires a little more background… Family First Weddings was started by my brother Mike and I about 2 years ago with a mission to separate the temple sealing ceremony from the civil wedding. The civil wedding and sealing are combined in only a few countries like the USA and Canada, but in the majority of the...

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Keep Calm and Don’t Be Gay

What follows is a retelling of this meridian magazine article. I’m pretty sure that everyone, from those who think homosexual relationships make God angry, to those who are happy to accept that they were born homosexual, can agree on one thing, which I know is a truth: It would be nice to have a choice. As much as we’ve gone out of our way as a society to accommodate gay people, from not beating them for being gay to finally granting them equal rights, they’ll still be denied some privileges of hetero couples. Hetero couples can have kids… except those who can’t. Homosexual couples could never mix their DNA in a test tube and implant the egg fertilized from their mutual DNA into one of them or into a surrogate. Also, they can’t have a relationship that lasts into the eternities, because our leaders said that they can’t. So sure, we can be kind to them, but we can’t enucleate eggs to then implant a different mix of DNA. It’s not like it’s being done in animals and could be less than a decade or so away for humans. Gays can’t even hope for having biological kids. And as a child of someone who was adopted, I can say that raising your own biological children is the greatest privilege possible in marriage and really the only reason we have marriage. When a young person understands (as well as is possible with their limited experience) the ramifications of this, they’ll never choose a barren partner, or a partner of the same sex, because science can’t fix that right this instant.   We’ve made things so easy for gay people, that now the ones being raised in a conservative religious home have some social pressure to not be the kind of person that all of their family and entire social group expect them to be. What I’m saying is that we should make it more attractive for gays to want to sleep with someone they’re not attracted to. Just because they are attracted to...

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Helping our Children be Themselves

Sep 29, 15 Helping our Children be Themselves

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality

This essay was originally published here. There’s a pretty toxic article floating around from Meridian that I hope, by the time I publish this, gets taken down by the magazine’s editors.  I’ve known them to be reasonable before, which is why I was particularly shocked to see an article by someone claiming to be a fellow therapist (I’m a psychologist) lamenting the disadvantages of being gay and explaining what she feels parents can do to encourage their kids to be heterosexual. As if that were even possible.   I remember that special day in my childhood I chose to be heterosexual…as one does.   Don’t you? The LDS church this magazine centers around has made it clear that being gay is not a choice, so why in God’s green earth would this person try to dispute that?  States are already beginning to make conversion therapy for gay kids illegal, so therapists claiming they can change sexual orientation do so at the risk of their own license.   Here’s another reason why this article is so harmful.  Utah (probably the largest clientele population for this magazine) ranks #1 in death by suicide rates.  I wrote my dissertation on Utah suicide prevention, and in my studies saw the impact these feelings had on at-risk youth and young adults: of feeling rejected, of not measuring up, that there was something fundamentally wrong with them.  This article will contribute to those feelings for gay youth and adults, who are made to feel yet again that they are inherently less than their heterosexual friends, whose futures will be more glorious because they can procreate with someone of the opposite gender, because that’s God’s will.  That they are a glitch in God’s plan is something no child should ever hear.   This is why I founded a portal for Happily Ever After Stories of Gay Mormons.  Smiling faces of couples in same-sex relationships/marriages beam back at you from the site along with their stories of how they met, how happy they are...

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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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What is the Temple?

Sep 24, 15 What is the Temple?

Posted by in Family, Featured, Mormonism, Temple

The following is a talk which my wife gave in our ward last month. I went to the temple last night. As I sat in the celestial room, it struck me how empty and quiet it was. It had been a very chaotic day. My morning had started with the sounds of screaming children pounding down the hall, followed by being jumped on in my bed by a toddler in a princess dress and a poopy diaper. I stepped on toys and books and small clothes. I heard the word “Mommy” somewhere in the neighborhood of a billion times. Our house is still in shambles from moving, mixed with the general chaos of children. Everywhere I looked there were endless signs of “people.” I had been inundated by sights, sounds, smells, animals, and moving bodies all day. By the time I got to the temple, I was completely overwhelmed. So it stands to reason that the celestial room would feel like heaven. While it was a welcome respite for a couple minutes, again, what struck me was how empty and quiet it was. In that moment, the idea that the celestial kingdom would be like that seemed as ridiculous as angels playing harps on clouds. God’s kingdom is about his family, and where there are many children, there is a lot of motion and sound and color, even when those children are adults. Some people have the advantage of being able to go to the temple with their whole family, and maybe it feels differently to them. My family was at home, and I realized that I actually wanted to go back to my messy house to be with people I love rather than spend more than a few moments by myself on an empty sofa in a silent, empty room that is supposed to reflect eternity. What makes a place feel to me like what we’re ultimately aiming for is not a chandelier and a nice floral arrangement, but being with the people...

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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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Reflections on Discovering the “Lost Mormon Cave”

Introduction Earlier this month, my friend Greg Pavone and I lead an initiative to locate and excavate a cave located in Miner’s Hill, in Manchester New York. This project was the culmination of over a year’s worth of exploring, research, and coordination.  After a great deal of hard work, tenacity, and a few strokes of good fortune, we finally found the time to meet back up in New York, and were successful in finding and unearthing the cave. It was was truly a remarkable and unforgettable experience. According to some sources, the cave we found was manually dug into the hill by Joseph Smith and/or his father in the early 1820s, and may have been the setting for some of the Book of Mormon’s pre-publication activities. The full story of regarding the discovery, digging, history and religious significance of the cave can be read here: In this post, I discuss some personal reflections and thoughts relating to the experience. Buried Treasure and Amateur Archaeology I have often felt like one of Dr. Jones’ students in this scene.   “X” doesn’t mark the spot, there are no lost religious relics waiting to be reclaimed, and everything to be found has already been discovered, so I should just abandon all fantasies of romantic quests through the rabbit hole of history in hopes of discovering anything of historical value.  Everything there is to be known about any subject is already neatly presented in a volume produced by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, HarperCollins, or CES. But as Mark Twin once put it, “There comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure.” (The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Chapter 25)  As it was with Tom Sawyer, so it was with me.  When I first learned of the possibility of a forgotten cave associated with early Mormon history, I felt an increasing sense of urgency to prove or disprove its existence once and for all.  The fact that no one had gotten to it yet–but that someone might yet beat me to it–further...

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Growing Doubt

Sep 18, 15 Growing Doubt

Posted by in Faith Crisis, Featured, Poetry, Truth

I was once told. . . 2002 by Jonathan G. Cannon I was once told there’s danger in a question— Faith and doubt cannot live in one mind, And doubt leads men to shun the truth and fight Their God—so I was told. I also learned Truth shines eternal in the Son, and that is All the light we need—straight from the source— But I’ve seen mortal eyes fixed on the sun Now following his brightness filtered through Closed eyelids, doing good and seeing the world As this light tells them it must look. Then when Night comes they work to morning, filling their call And telling those who stand in darkness what The sun is like—the joys of fixing on his light. They have forgotten that the child of night Is not the child of darkness. There is truth At night. The moon and wandering stars reflect That same sun closed eyes preach, but no closed eyes Will find these lights; and stars we cannot see Give still more light than the sun that leads the blind. I was told I’d built a tower to see the heavens, And the Lord would cast it down and show The foolishness of men. Maybe it is so, But truth is good and light, and I will love...

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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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