Here in the 14th installment of the “Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist” series Brian and Laurel talk with Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife about managing pornography viewing and balancing a marriage between two people with different levels of desire wherein the woman is the high desire partner.
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.
If you have a question for the good doctor you can comment below OR send an email to email@example.com
Music: Sugar Blues (Pubic Domain)]]>
This is the motivation I see behind the Rainbow Mormon Initiative. This movement has been organized because we have siblings in our fold who are suffering. We have the opportunity—the responsibility—to reach out to these people and let them know that their pain is our pain. They stand in need of comfort, and we have covenanted to provide it. We must “let them know [we] can provide a safe, non-judgmental space and that [we] support them unconditionally.”
The Rainbow Mormon Initiative Launches Sunday, June 5th. You can participate by wearing a rainbow ribbon, wherever you are. Learn more and RSVP HERE.]]>
Why is it anyone’s business to talk about what underwear one is wearing or not wearing? Why do they care so much? Why would anyone actually ask me about my underwear?!
I have heard these questions of frustration from so many people who are all over the church membership spectrum. I get it. It IS, at it’s most basic level, underwear.
But it seems like everyone also forgot that garments are actually so much more than just underwear for Mormons. Do you really wonder why people ask you about them?
I feel like there is some kind of lack of understanding. Or maybe people are trying to reduce their meaning. For some people they no longer have meaning to them personally and they try to communicate that by saying they are “just underwear”. Sure, that’s for you. But if you ever were a member, you at least kind of get it, right?
To laugh about garment checking in forums (which physically invading a person to check for garments is quite silly and VERY intrusive), or be appalled that your mother had a sit down with you and began with, “I noticed you’re not wearing your garments…” just seems, well, weird.
For those who went to the temple and received the garment when you received your endowment, you DO remember the part when they talk about the garments meaning, that they are sacred and a physical reminder of the covenants you made in the temple, right? You were instructed on how to treat and wear the garment and are reminded of it’s importance and meaning every time you do an endowment session. It was kind of a big deal.
It’s one thing to reduce the garment to just underwear for you personally. That’s fine. But to not be understanding of why devout members of the church would ask you about your garments I feel is simply not fair.
And herein lies the problem of garments.
Garments are a physical, visible marker of ones faith.
And they shouldn’t be.
By wearing them, you are making a physical, visible showing of your commitment to your faith.
By not wearing them, to many devout members, you are essentially saying that you are not living in accordance to your temple covenants.
Not wearing the visible marker of faithfulness can have big implications. Consider how not wearing that visible marker can effect family relationships and even in some people’s employment.
We can talk all day about how we would never judge someone who is or is not wearing garments. And for the most part I don’t think we do.
However, we talk about those people. We wonder in our minds and whisper about what’s going on with them. Some people may even have the gall to personally interrogate and scold someone they barely know (or even someone they know well) over their apparent lack of commitment/loss of faith.
The bottom line should be that it’s no ones’ business. How you wear your garments SHOULD be between you and God only.
However, the visibility of them makes it impossible for ones wearing of them to remain between that person and God.
Why does our personal commitment to God and this church have to be “discreetly” on display?
For those ready and willing to go further down the rabbit hole you avail yourselves with this very interesting article detailing the history of the LDS garment.]]>
It seems that just about everyone these days has a friend, a cousin, a spouse, or a child who is either considering leaving the Church or has already left. Every situation is different, but there are some general principles that apply in a wide variety of situations.
We’ll start with the easy stuff–what NOT to say:
You might not be meaning to, but you are essentially blaming the person’s struggles on them. When someone tells you they have cancer, you don’t ask them if they’ve been eating right. “Oh, well, yeah. You’ve been eating way too many potato chips lately. So I guess I can see where the cancer came from.” That’s neither empathetic nor loving. The same is true for people struggling with their testimony.
Some well-meaning members will say things like “it all hinges on X: if you don’t obey X commandment, why obey any of them?” or “Either Y is 100% true or the entire Church is a lie.” We like to draw these lines in the sand because it makes things very simple. Black or white. True or false. Either the thing I believe is 100% true, or it’s 100% false. Well-meaning members think these sand lines will draw the person back into the fold by using the person’s remaining beliefs to convince them that X or Y is also true. But the well-meaning Mormon is actively driving sheep from the fold.
We know what the Savior does when even one sheep leaves the fold for whatever reason, and it involves leaving the ninety and nine. We’re just creating a lot more work for Him when we encourage people to stop coming. The best smell at an LDS sacrament meeting is cigarette smoke. The best look is jeans and a t-shirt on someone who hasn’t come for six months. The best sound is someone asking the hard questions or struggling with the uncomfortable truth. It’s supposed to be a hospital, right? The people you think are the sickest are the ones you should make feel the most welcome.
This one makes so much sense until you think about it. What if I told you to just choose to believe that Hillary would be the best president. Or Trump. Look–just choose to believe. Just have the desire to believe and you will. The problem here is simple: do the research into psychology and persuasion. That’s not how human beings work. It just isn’t.
Desire can lead to faith in Christ, but it can’t shoehorn someone into believing something they don’t believe. So when you pretend it can, you’re driving a wedge between you and your friend. You’re telling them “I have no idea what you’re going through, and you can tell that because I’m giving you overly-simplistic advice that wouldn’t work for me if our places were switched, but I haven’t tried putting myself in your shoes, so I don’t know that.”
If we attack entire information sources as anti-Mormon, we’re painting ourselves into a corner when some of those information sources spout information that is factually correct. We’re essentially telling people “the truth is anti-Mormon if it comes from the unapproved sources.” That’s a fairly dangerous realm to enter. Do we really want to send that message?
I’ve had people tell me that a particular historical fact is anti-Mormon. Here’s the problem with that: the historical fact happened. It’s documented. It’s there in history. We know it happened. So, if you tell me that it’s anti-Mormon, what message does that send? That facts are anti-Mormon? Nobody wants to send that message. So stop sending it.
You first. If you want your friend to focus only on the Core Gospel Truths (which, I’ve found, isn’t a very concrete term to begin with) stop telling pioneer stories. Stop interpreting the Book of Mormon to back up your political opinions. Stop telling people that fellow members who think differently than you on non-central issues are chaff, led by Satan, and out to destroy the Church. Stop caring when people crack irreverent Mormon jokes or line up outside during Priesthood Session or decide to not go on a mission. Stop defending BYU’s honor code as if it were Perfect Eternal Truth From the Mouth of God. Stop fuming when Mormons support legalizing marriage equality.
See, it’s not that easy. Don’t make your friend do it if you’re not willing to.
Think of a respected friend who tells you she doesn’t like broccoli. You can tell her all you want “but you liked it two weeks ago, remember?” You can even tell her “you’re being prideful, you need to sustain the cook.” But will that make her like broccoli today? It might make her try it, but what if she actually doesn’t like it? People change. No amount of telling someone they used to like a food, or telling them that you like the food, or telling them they are prideful for not liking the food, will make them like the food. It might, in fact, make them start hiding their real likes/dislikes from you. But, you can’t talk someone into liking a food. The same is true for religion. We all know this–no missionary converts people to the Church. Nobody talks someone else into a testimony.
“Okay, so now what,” you might be saying. “This isn’t fair–you’ve just taken every single arrow from my quiver. You’re telling me there’s nothing I can say to help someone come back to the Church. You sound pretty evil to me, you anti-missionary.”
And to answer your question: yes. I am saying that you can’t argue someone back into the Church. But maybe that shouldn’t be your number-one priority. We’ve all spoken with someone whose primary goal is to make us believe that they are right. We’ve all spoken with someone who is not willing to be wrong. It’s not fun. It feels like they care more about being right than about being friends.
Here are six things to say when your friend leaves the Church:
Many (most?) people take this decision very seriously–assume your friend did as well. It’s easy to think that a person hasn’t been very thoughtful if they come to a different conclusion than we have. But it means a lot when we express trust in our friend’s thoughtfulness. We send them a clear message: “I’m friends with you, not your testimony.”
Expressing doubt about a core tenet of a community is one of the quickest ways for someone to feel they no longer have any place in that community. If you’re able to show that you’d still like to spend time with your friend, that you don’t think they have modern-day religious leprosy, your relationship will be that much stronger. BONUS: if you both have kids, make it clear that your kids will still be spending time with their kids. Do the opposite, and you’re kicking the sheep on its way out of the fold.
Members of a tight-knit community focused on converting others are often untrained in the art of listening. Put aside your inner Preach My Gospel, or at least turn it to the section about listening. Ask a lot of open-ended questions. Let your friend talk, and don’t try to poke holes in their arguments or take a Bold Stand For Truth And Righteousness. Right now, your friend needs to be heard and loved, not convinced.
Disagreeing with your friend’s opinion but still respecting it is one of the most valuable gifts you can give. It is very likely that few people in your friend’s ward will be able to do this. If you are, you will strengthen your relationship immeasurably.
Sometimes we let our personal preconceived notions fill in blanks differently than our friend would. Maybe if you thought X or Y weren’t true, you would immediately get drunk at a brothel. So when your friend loses their testimony in X or Y, it’s easy to assume drunken brothel time is just around the corner. But that’s almost never a fair assumption. Ask. Listen.
This one demands a lot from you, so I’ll include a PS to your friend below. It requires the incredibly hard action of turning the other cheek. But that means you might get hit on both cheeks.
Your friend is likely hurting right now. He or she might lash out in one way or another at the Church, the ward, your Bishop, the prophet, the Book of Mormon, the Temple. Lashing out is not okay, so the worst thing you can do is to lash out back.
PS: to friends who leave the church: try not to lash out. You’re hurt, you’re in pain. It sucks. But try not to speak angrily about the Church to other members. You’ll end up self-fulfilling your prophecy of rejection if you’re mean to Mormons. They’ll stop wanting to be around you. Can you blame them? Nobody feels comfortable around people who angrily attack their beliefs.
The above 12 suggestions are just that: suggestions. Situations differ. People change. What is appropriate to say at one time might be insulting three weeks later. You know your friend. Focus on your friendship, send the message that you care about your friend as a person just as much as you cared about them as a Mormon.
We can’t expect to convince people to come back, but we can bring people closer to Christ insofar as we act toward them the way Christ would act.
 the 9th Article of Faith teaches that still have a lot of great and important things to learn. Might one of those new revelations help us more fully understand X or Y, or maybe even completely overturn X or Y?
 Come, Join With Us. President Uchtdorf. October 2013 General Conference. Quote: “One might ask, “If the gospel is so wonderful, why would anyone leave?” Sometimes we assume it is because they have been offended or lazy or sinful. Actually, it is not that simple. In fact, there is not just one reason that applies to the variety of situations. Some of our dear members struggle for years with the question whether they should separate themselves from the Church.”
 Read these if you’re going through a faith crisis/transition/heterodox experience/whatever you want to call it:
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN YOU ARE EXPECTING A FAITH CRISIS (p.s. IT SUCKS)
To those in a faith crisis and their loved ones
When the Levee Breaks
Shouldn’t we rather seek the wisdom to apply the information we have gained and declare; “I understand”?
“Wisdom is the right use of knowledge. To know is not to be wise. Many men know a great deal, and are all the greater fools for it. There is no fool so great a fool as a knowing fool. But to know how to use knowledge is to have wisdom.”
We might gain some perspective by discussing the possible definitions and contextual meanings of “Knowledge” and “Knowing” but that is not my purpose here. If believing we know something halts progress, how should we think about it instead? How do we continue to move forward in our spiritual quest?
Traditionally, organized religion seems to encourage a process of accumulating answers, answers readily supplied by religion’s various authorities. But according to the logic of damnation, those kinds of leaders are just leading folks down dead-end roads. Granted, this theory depends on my understanding of mortality’s purpose which is that it provides opportunities for us to evolve into nobler spiritual beings, to progress towards Godhood. So, in the interest of continual spiritual progress, shouldn’t we expect religious leaders to help us seek understanding and guide us to ask fruitful questions?
With that in mind, I’ve searched the scriptures for questions. Specifically, questions asked by Jesus himself, the ultimate religious/ not religious leader. I used only books that contain personal accounts of his life. Since the Gospels are largely repetitive, most of the questions I found there come from Matthew. I also included the record of Christ’s visit to the Nephites in 3rd Nephi and the Doctrine and Covenants, which contains personal communication, as if from Jesus. I have also taken a little license, including only questions that might relate to our personal, spiritual journeys. Here they are.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
4 And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts?
5 For whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk?
3 But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him;
4 How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?
5 Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless?
11 And he said unto them, What man shall there be among you, that shall have one sheep, and if it fall into a pit on the sabbath day, will he not lay hold on it, and lift it out?
12 How much then is a man better than a sheep? Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath days.
26 And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand?
27 And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out?
34 O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things?
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?
3 But he answered and said unto them, Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?
3…can ye not discern the signs of the times?
8… O ye of little faith, why reason ye among yourselves, because ye have brought no bread?
9 Do ye not yet understand, neither remember the five loaves of the five thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
10 Neither the seven loaves of the four thousand, and how many baskets ye took up?
11 How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees?
13 ¶When Jesus came into the coasts of Cæsarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?
14 And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets.
15 He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am?
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
17 Then Jesus answered and said, O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?…
12 How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray?
17 And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good?
32 And Jesus stood still, and called them, and said, What will ye that I shall do unto you?
25 The baptism of John, whence was it? from heaven, or of men? And they reasoned with themselves, saying, If we shall say, From heaven; he will say unto us, Why did ye not then believe him?
18 But Jesus perceived their wickedness, and said, Why tempt ye me, ye hypocrites?
17 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gold, or the temple that sanctifieth the gold?
19 Ye fools and blind: for whether is greater, the gift, or the altar that sanctifieth the gift?
33 Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?
10 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them, Why trouble ye the woman?…
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
53 Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?
54 But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled, that thus it must be?
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
15 ¶So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.
16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
3 NE 23:
11 And Jesus said unto them: How be it that ye have not written this thing, that many saints did arise and appear unto many and did minister unto them?
3 NE 27:
2 And Jesus again showed himself unto them, for they were praying unto the Father in his name; and Jesus came and stood in the midst of them, and said unto them: What will ye that I shall give unto you?
4 And the Lord said unto them: Verily, verily, I say unto you, why is it that the people should murmur and dispute because of this thing?
1 And it came to pass when Jesus had said these words, he spake unto his disciples, one by one, saying unto them: What is it that ye desire of me, after that I am gone to the Father?
23 Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?
24 And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth have you not received a witness?
39 Behold, canst thou read this without rejoicing and lifting up thy heart for gladness?
40 Or canst thou run about longer as a blind guide?
49 And, again, I say unto you, that whoso having knowledge, have I not commanded to repent?
22 Wherefore, hear my voice and follow me, and you shall be a free people, and ye shall have no laws but my laws when I come, for I am your lawgiver, and what can stay my hand?
26 For what man among you having twelve sons, and is no respecter of them, and they serve him obediently, and he saith unto the one: Be thou clothed in robes and sit thou here; and to the other: Be thou clothed in rags and sit thou there—and looketh upon his sons and saith I am just?
13 Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?
17 Verily I say unto you, he that is ordained of me and sent forth to preach the word of truth by the Comforter, in the Spirit of truth, doth he preach it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
19 And again, he that receiveth the word of truth, doth he receive it by the Spirit of truth or some other way?
31 Who am I, saith the Lord, that have promised and have not fulfilled?
109 Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand?
6 For have I not the fowls of heaven, and also the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the mountains? Have I not made the earth? Do I not hold the destinies of all the armies of the nations of the earth?
7 Therefore, will I not make solitary places to bud and to blossom, and to bring forth in abundance?
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
37 And again, verily I say unto you, how shall your washings be acceptable unto me, except ye perform them in a house which you have built to my name?
9 Will I accept of an offering, saith the Lord, that is not made in my name?
10 Or will I receive at your hands that which I have not appointed?
11 And will I appoint unto you, saith the Lord, except it be by law, even as I and my Father ordained unto you, before the world was?
I’ve found this exercise to be quite inspiring. I imagine that Jesus is asking these questions of me and it has changed the way I think about some important issues like authority and faith, but more than anything, it has left me with more questions…]]>
Being called “Pastor” sure felt good. Something about it felt right. After all, I did study in (non-LDS) seminary and certainly have the educational background to be ordained. But realistically, that goal will never be realized because as a Mormon convert, Patriarchy stands in the way, and in the LDS church the men alone have the Priesthood and the keys to the Celestial Kingdom.
But here’s the question I would like to ask. Are there other ways to express our Priesthood as women that perhaps have not been explored?
Two years ago, my Jewish (non-member) husband ordered me a Star of David necklace from Israel. This is a rare necklace that for me symbolizes the Levitical Priesthood of Aaron. Encased within the star are twelve individual stones representing the Twelve Tribes of Israel (see picture). Sometimes I wear this necklace to church because it reminds me of Aaron, the High Priest’s breastplate- a symbol of Priesthood. Every time I wear it, I feel I have a share in the Priesthood.
One Sunday I was asked to pray in Sacrament Meeting. I almost turned down the request, due to the fact that when I pray, I address Heavenly Mother too, and I had been admonished by my former Bishop not to pray out loud if I was going to pray to Her – so I just don’t pray in church if asked. Driving to church that Sunday, I came so close to bailing out. However, something told me to go through with it, and the right words came to me.
So, instead of addressing Heavenly Father, I began my prayer with “God, Most High,” (gender neutral, and yes, the Melchizedek greeting; see Genesis 14:18-20) and then ended the prayer with “May Thou bless and keep us and make Thy face shine upon us, be gracious to us, lift Thy countenance upon us and give us peace. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.”
In short, I was giving the Aaronic blessing – the High Priestly blessing – to the whole congregation (see Numbers 6:22-27). To my surprise, the response was positive!
I had completely forgotten I was wearing my Star of David necklace. I only realized that much later when I was driving home.
Recently I have been reading Margaret Barker’s Temple Mysticism for my doctoral studies. Just this past week I read that in Second Temple Judaism, the congregation was forbidden to read the Aaronic blessing for themselves. This was eye-opening. Apparently I had just delved into “forbidden” territory and did not even realize it!
The Mishnah, collected about 200 CE, preserves the traditions and customs of the late second temple period. Among them are listed the passages of canonical scripture forbidden for public reading or for public explanation. Some were scandalous passages, for example the story of Reuben taking his father’s concubine (Genesis 35.22), the story of Tamar seducing her father-in-law (Genesis 38.13-19), and the story of David and Bathsheba (2 Sam. 11.2-17). Others were forbidden for another reason; they were temple texts about the holy of holies: Ezekiel’s vision of the chariot throne (Ezek. 1:4-28), the story of the beginning of creation (Gen. 1:1-3), and even the high priestly blessing which prayed for the Lord’s presence to shine forth (Num. 6:24-26). The Aramaic translation of Numbers sometimes left these verses in the original Hebrew, because the people were not to know about them.
I will confess I am a mystic at heart. To say I’ve had incredible spiritual experiences without having been to the Temple would be an understatement. But even with my strong testimony of the Book of Mormon and Joseph Smith and my longing to make sacred covenants, I just don’t have “what it takes” to get to the Temple.
But who is to say I don’t have “the Priesthood?” Or can’t exercise the keys I believe I have been given? I think my experience with the prayer I prayed last year proves otherwise. Maybe as women we just have to find different, more subtle, avenues through which to express our Priesthood until further revelation is given.
 Margaret Barker. Temple Mysticism: An Introduction (London: The Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2011: 16-17).]]>
I’ve always had an excellent memory. This is both a blessing and a curse. Some of my earliest memories are feelings of frustration, inferiority, and wanting to be someone different that I was. I learned very young that I didn’t fit in to my family. There are seven people in my family – dad, mom, 3 brothers, 1 sister, and me. I was the only one with a birth defect. I am left-handed. To many, this is no big deal. To my dad, it was a HUGE deal. He was bound and determined to change me, make me normal, to conform and fit in like I was supposed to. Like all my other siblings did. In his eyes, it was a weakness he saw in me and he demanded perfection from his children. But I was born left-handed. It wasn’t something I chose, nor could I change it.
So at the ages of 3, 4, and 5 – as I was starting to color, draw and learn to write – it became obvious to my parents that I was favoring my left hand. It seemed rational to my dad that if he stopped it early enough, he could change my “handedness”. He was insistent that I become right-handed. He said if I just worked hard enough, I could change. I doubt it ever crossed his mind that it couldn’t be changed.
As I started school, I came to realize that the world as a whole was made for right-handed people. And if you’re left-handed . . . well, you just had to make do the best you could. And pretend that simple, daily activities weren’t a struggle for you. The school desks were made for right-handed people. Spiral bound pads of paper and 3-ring binders were nearly impossible to write in since the rings were in the way of your hand. There were rarely any left-handed scissors to use. To use a computer mouse, you use your right hand. There are countless more examples I could give you. Convenience is taken for granted if you are right-handed. If you’re left-handed, it’s much tougher. These new realizations seemed to echo my dad’s feelings and validate his desire for me to be normal and fit in – by being right-handed.
So I went through about a decade of being forced to do everything right-handed. Throughout these years low self-esteem, deep frustration, and a perceived loss of love and acceptance became deeply instilled in me. More damaging still is that these feelings came from my dad, who I completely idolized and wanted to please.
My dad would show me old dictionaries that defined left-handed as “evil, conniving and sinister”. I remember thinking, “Is this true? Is this how my dad sees me?” Often, my dad and I used to read scriptures together. One night, he read me every verse in all four standard works that says the righteous are on the right hand of God and the wicked are on the left hand of God. Then he said, “Try harder, Wendy. We want you with us on the right hand of God.” This hurt the deepest. Not only had my dad led me to believe I was evil, sinister, and conniving; but I was also wicked, unworthy of God’s love and wouldn’t be with my family in Heaven. All because one hand worked better than another. I always wore a sock on my left hand when I did homework so I wouldn’t be tempted to use it. But then I would get poor grades for sloppy penmanship. So frustrating, so disheartening. I remember having feelings of guilt and shame when I would sneak and use my left hand because it was so much faster and easier for me. But when I did that, I felt like I was sinning.
I remember very clearly one particular dinner. I was five years old. We were eating spaghetti (a hard thing for a kid to eat anyway). My dad would take the fork out of my left hand and put it in my right hand, making me eat right-handed. Inevitably, I would spill spaghetti all over myself. Frustrated, I would put the fork back in my left hand so I could eat. He would change it back. Over and over this happened. I was trying SO hard, but still making a huge mess. Tears of frustration came to my eyes. I just couldn’t make my right hand work right! I distinctly remember looking around the dinner table at all the other members of my family and thinking, “How come their right hands work and mine is broken?” I kept hoping someone would come to my defense, help me, or tell my dad to leave me alone. No one did. Maybe they thought my dad was right in forcing me to be right handed? I don’t know. At the end of this awful meal, I made a promise to myself that I was going to MAKE my right hand work and I would be PERFECT with it so that my dad would love me and be proud of me. I was a very determined child and had no doubt that I could do this. That decision, made as a five year old, still impacts me today. More on that later.
From kindergarten to about my sophomore year in high school, I would do my regular homework – all right-handed, of course. Then I would practice my writing some more. I would write three pages of each letter in the alphabet every day; and every week I would show them to my dad so he could see my improvement. I would say things like, “Look how much better my “S” is! The “M” still needs some work, but I’ll get there.” I was so anxious for his approval of me. I wanted to feel like he was proud of me and I wasn’t an embarrassment to him anymore.
Over the years, I became ashamed of being left-handed, and tried to hide it from people. I didn’t want them to think I was broken, too. I got pretty good at doing things right-handed – eating, writing, brushing my hair and teeth, playing sports, etc. But even after all these years of trying, I hadn’t really changed. My comfort zone and where I longed to be everyday was using my left hand – free from criticism and disapproval. Through the years of forced practice and an untold number of tears, I became ambidextrous. I play sports right-handed now. I have never even used a pair of left-handed scissors.
This decision made 32 years ago as a wounded, but determined five year old still affects me to this day. Because I thought my dad expected a PERFECT daughter, I became a perfectionist, and not just in areas related to my “handedness”, but in all areas of my life. Sometimes this is a good thing. But so often I give myself undue stress trying to be perfect. In some ways, I’m still seeking his approval and wanting to feel “good enough” for him.
I worried a great deal over writing this story. I wasn’t sure how detailed I should be over how this experience made me feel because I didn’t want to hurt my dad. Please do not get the wrong idea about him. He was (and still is) a loving, wonderful father. He honestly felt like my life would be harder as a left-handed person. He was trying to help me. He thought I might be teased. He worried how school would be for me – never any left-handed scissors, the desks were made for right-handed people, and no one would want to eat lunch next to me because we would bump elbows. He said left-handed people have awful, slanted handwriting. Baseball mitts and racquetball gloves were twice as expensive for a left-hander than for a right-hander, etc.
The reason I share this experience with you (and in such detail) is to illustrate the impossibility of changing core parts of who you are. I am 5’5”. I have hazel eyes. I’m a brunette. I am left-handed. None of these attributes did I choose for myself, nor can I change them. I have felt first-hand the pain, frustration, and alienation that come when you try to change the unchangeable in yourself. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like to grow up feeling completely loved, accepted, and maybe even celebrated, for my differences. Would I still be a perfectionist? Would I still feel the need to prove I’m “good enough”? I can’t answer these questions, but I am genuinely grateful for this experience. I am grateful because even though this example is so small compared to what a gay child may go through, I understand some of their feelings. I have an extra level of empathy and compassion for my son, as well as other gay men and women. I won’t EVER try to make him something he is not. In fact, some of my most favorite things about my son are probably characteristics he has BECAUSE he is gay! If he changed his sexual orientation, then HE would change. And I love him EXACTLY the way he is!
Spend an hour (or a whole day if you’re really brave!) only using your off hand. How does that feel? What can’t you do as well, or as fast? What can’t you do at all? How comfortable is it? Now imagine a decade of that. That was me.
Now multiply that by a thousand and imagine a LIFETIME of that. Welcome to the life of a gay man or woman.
Be compassionate. Be kind. Be accepting. Love as the Savior loved. That’s it. He asks nothing more of us.]]>
“I shouldn’t!” I replied. Having grown up in a Mormon family in the Intermountain West, I had plenty of friends and peers in the Church and knew I would do fine outside of a Church school. He agreed. We talked a bit more about other aspects of the school and he counseled me to attend one of the small liberal arts schools I was pursuing. He still recommended me and I was accepted with a scholarship. I didn’t attend and appreciated his frankness with me.
I have never had a problem paying tithing. Considering all the Church has provided for me, my family, and others I love, giving back seemed reasonable. Yes, the temples are expensive but they’re also spiritually meaningful to me. Yes, there are occasional signs of extravagance, but also buildings in areas where local members would never be able to afford them. I served a mission that cost more than what my parents paid. I rejoice in the good the Church does with fast offering and humanitarian funds, even as I sometimes worry that this makes it too easy to pat ourselves on the back or let us individually off the hook. I wish there was greater transparency in the handling of funds and more independence for the Relief Society and other auxiliaries, as they enjoyed in the past. But I also understand that running a multinational corporation is complicated and that transparency isn’t always clarity.
I’ve also never really had a problem with the fact that some of that tithing money went to BYU. Though it wasn’t the school for me, I have plenty of my friends and in-laws who attended and had a good experience. Keeping the cost low opened educational doors that might otherwise have been closed. I value education (I’m a teacher with the PhD) and understand that there are many people who would benefit from the atmosphere of a church school. Basically, I imagined funding the kind of place that would be a great strength to that hypothetical Georgian convert my bishop had introduced me to.
But now I wonder, What if that hypothetical convert was a woman who was victimized?
I picture her arriving at BYU, excited about her new faith and the prospect of attending with so many thousands of fellow Mormons, more than she’d ever seen in her life. She signs the Honor Code with a mixture of pride and reverence, glad to be attending this place that is now her spiritual and educational home.
Then, one way or another, things go awry. She gets caught in a place she shouldn’t be at a time she shouldn’t be or in violation – or potential violation – of some other portion of the Honor Code. And in that moment, a man abuses her. He rapes her or sexually assaults her or abuses her in some other way. And because of her fear of leaving this place – this place she believed was safe – she doesn’t report what has happened to her. A document she thought was part of what made BYU special instead becomes part of what imprisons her. She becomes, because of how BYU chooses to handle such situations, a double victim – of both her attacker and her school.
As the recent Salt Lake Tribune coverage makes clear, this isn’t just hypothetical. All the worst parts have come true for BYU’s students.
So, for the first time in my life, paying tithing is giving me pause. Can I continue to contribute to an institution that does this to my sisters? That does this to children of God while simultaneously claiming to be run by His Church in accordance with His standards? Recognizing that there are no perfect earthly institutions, how should I weigh the good the Church does against the damage this Church school is doing to it’s own students? My part in the school’s budget is small, but then so is my part in the good of temples, missions, fast offering funds, and humanitarian aid.
If I’m supposed to be giving this money (back) to God, can I entrust it to the Church that operates BYU? How do I decide? How do you?]]>
In this interview Laurel and Thomas talk with John about his life in association with the LDS church as a LGBT person. John shares profound spiritual revelations that were important in guiding John in the directions he took his life. At the end of the interview, we talk with John’s husband Goran.
Bonus: if you listen to the end you’ll know what in the world this image is.
Mormonism began as such a radical, non-traditional Christian movement, it’s strange now that evangelical scholars are showing Latter-day Saints how to appropriate critical scholarship; but they are. In recent years, many evangelical scholars (who have in the past, typically approached the Bible far more conservatively than Latter-day Saints) have come to accept the consensus that Isaiah 40-66 is not a prophecy given by the historical Isaiah. For example, in his recent work, Kenton Sparks informs his readers that “a sober and serious reading of Isaiah will easily suggest to readers that large potions of this prophetic collection were not written by an eighth-century prophet whose name was Isaiah” (God’s Word In Human Words: An Evangelical Appropriation of Critical Biblical Scholarship, p. 108).
Note the word “easily.”
We might wonder how is it possible that Sparks can write to an evangelical audience and express such confidence in the accuracy of the mainstream scholarly perspective concerning Deutero-Isaiah. Perhaps it is because the evidence for the mainstream view is so compelling. And this evidence simply has to be accomodated for by people of faith, including Latter-day Saints. While there are many compelling reasons for the mainstream view, I’ll discuss four.
The historical Isaiah prophesied in Jerusalem during the second half of the eighth century BCE. His prophetic call narrative (Isaiah 6) dates the experience to the year king Uzziah died, i.e. sometime during the 740’s. At this time, the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah were both in existence, although the north was destroyed by the Assyrians in the later part of Isaiah’s prophetic career. As a result, the Assyrians are the only enemy mentioned in his oracles (7:17, 20; 8:4, 7; 10:5,12; the prophecy against Babylon in chapter 13 is a later addition). During Isaiah’s ministry, the Babylonians had not yet become a significant world power. For Isaiah, it was Assyria that Yahweh had chosen as “the rod of his anger” to afflict the covenant people for their wickedness (10:5).
Even though Isaiah predicted judgment against his people, he held fast to a view scholars refer to as “the inviolability of Jerusalem.” Isaiah believed that Jerusalem was a sacred place that could not be annihilated by its enemies. This view is expressed in Is. 31:5-9:
(31:5) Like the birds that fly, even so will the Lord of Hosts shield Jerusalem and saving, protecting and rescuing. . . (8) Then Assyria shall fall, Not by the sword of man; A sword not of humans shall devour him. He shall shrivel before the sword, And his young men pine away. (9) His rock shall melt with terror, And his officers shall collapse from weakness — Declares the LORD, who has a fire in Zion, Who has an oven in Jerusalem.
Isaiah’s belief concerning Jerusalem makes sense in light of his view concerning the significance of Yahweh’s temple and its future role in the eschaton (Isaiah 2). It also makes sense in light of promises that we see concerning Jerusalem and the royal Davidic monarchy in other parts of the Hebrew Bible:
(Psalm 2:1) Why do nations assemble, and peoples plot vain things; (2) kings of the earth take their stand, and regents intrigue together against the LORD and against His anointed?. . . (5) Then He speaks to them in anger, terrifying them in His rage, (6) ‘But I have installed My king on Zion, My holy mountain!’ (7) Let me tell of the decree: the LORD said to me, ‘You are My son, I have fathered you this day. (8) Ask it of Me, and I will make the nations your domain; your estate, the limits of the earth. (9) You can smash them with an iron mace, shatter them like potter’s ware.’”
This belief in the sanctity of Zion is in reality quite ancient. Even before the Davidic acquisition of Jerusalem there existed a belief that Mount Zion was the mountain of God (Zion theology), the home of El, the high god of the Jebusites who occupied the region. Later, Judeans came to believe that Yahweh promised David an eternal house and Jerusalem was its location (2 Samuel 7). Isaiah believed in these promises. He believed in the “inviolability of Jerusalem.”
In contrast to this perspective, Isaiah 40 begins as a message of comfort to the Judean people since Jerusalem had been destroyed. But this was not something that the historical Isaiah believed would happen. Surely, if his theology switched so drastically we would expect some sort of statement that explained how he came to know that his earlier oracles were incorrect. In reality, chapters 40-66 never speak of the Babylonian period as a distant future reality, as if someone were prophesying about it. Instead, the Babylonian period is described as the present, historical condition. Isaiah 1-39 concludes with a focus on Hezekiah’s day, while chapter 40 presents an abrupt transition to the exilic community in the sixth century. The evidence is clear: the historical Isaiah of the earlier period would not have believed that this comfort was necessary since Jerusalem from his perspective was God’s holy city that would never be destroyed.
The material in Deutero-Isaiah was highly influenced by the book of Jeremiah, a prophet who lived after the time period of the historical Isaiah. Many examples of Jeremiah’s influence on this material could be cited, but the following is especially helpful. Jeremiah presents the Lord’s judgment against the kingdom of Judah in the following manner:
“I noted: Because Rebel Israel had committed adultery, I cast her off and handed her a bill of divorce; yet her sister, Faithless Judah, was not afraid — she too went and whored” (Jer 2:8).
The author of Isaiah 50:1 knew this text and in his message of comfort to the exilic community he specifically reversed this judgment:
“Thus said the LORD: Where is the bill of divorce of your mother whom I dismissed? And which of My creditors was it To whom I sold you off? You were only sold off for your sins, and your mother dismissed for your crimes.”
Based only upon this example, it could be argued, of course, that it is just as likely that Jeremiah was influenced in his choice of words by the historical Isaiah as that Deutero-Isaiah knew Jeremiah. It is clear, however, that Jeremiah didn’t know the material in Deutero-Isaiah. During the sixth century, the prophet Jeremiah entered into a heated debate with other Judean prophets concerning the fate of Jerusalem because they, like the historical Isaiah, believed in the inviolability of Jerusalem. In opposition to this view, Jeremiah went to the Jerusalem temple and prophesied that the Babylonians would destroy the city if the people did not repent (Jer 26). The account states:
“The priests, the prophets and all the people heard Jeremiah speak these words in the house of the Lord. But as soon as Jeremiah finished telling all the people everything the Lord had commanded him to say, the priests, the prophets and all the people seized him and said, ‘You must die! Why do you prophesy in the Lord’s name that this house will be like Shiloh and this city will be desolate and deserted?’” (vv. 7-9).
These are the same people who would have preserved and had access to the book of Isaiah. Why didn’t they know that Isaiah had provided a detailed prophecy that supported Jeremiah’s claims—the material in Isaiah 40-66? Perhaps even more telling, if the book of Isaiah existed in any form with its prophecies concerning the exile and restoration of the doomed city then Jeremiah would have had prophetic material that he could have used to support his own prophecy.
Jeremiah was from a priestly family. He was active in Jerusalem (Judah’s primary scribal and archival center) during the seventh and early sixth centuries BCE. Surely he would have known of the amazing prophecies of Isaiah, which would have been preserved and transmitted by Judean scribes for well over a century if these prophecies existed. Jeremiah was well-educated. We know that he knew a form of Deuteronomy. If any of the second half of Isaiah had existed during Jeremiah’s day, why didn’t he cite this material as evidence that Judah would be defeated by Babylon, go into captivity, and eventually be delivered by the Persian king Cyrus? Jeremiah knew the book of Isaiah or at least some of the oracles attributed to Isaiah (compare Isaiah 5:1-4/Jeremiah 2:21), but he shows no sign of having known Isaiah 40-66, which would have significantly helped his cause. If he had known it, then surely he would have used it the way Abinadi did in the Book of Mormon.
Therefore, if the authors of Isaiah 40-66 knew Jeremiah but Jeremiah shows no signs of knowing this material, it is clear that the material in Deutero-Isaiah was written after Jeremiah.
But the writings of Jeremiah are not the only biblical material known to Deutero-Isaiah. Deutero-Isaiah was also familiar with the book of Lamentations, which contains exilic poems that mourn the destruction of Jerusalem. And Deutero-Isaiah did the same thing with Lamentations it did with Jeremiah. It intentionally reversed the theme that opens the work. Concerning the kingdom of Judah, Lamentation 1:2-3 reads:
“Bitterly she weeps in the night, Her cheek wet with tears. There is none to comfort her. . . Judah has gone into exile Because of misery and harsh oppression.”
This same lament appears as a central theme in the first two chapters: “With none to comfort her” (1:9,17) “Far from me is any comforter” (1:16) “There was none to comfort me” (1:21) “What can I match with you to comfort you” (2:13).
The authors of the material in Deutero-Isaiah used this motif from Lamentations as a central theme throughout their work. In fact, chapter 40 opens up as a direct response to this lament: “Comfort, comfort, My people!” (40:1). And this is only one of many connections between the two literary works. Consider the fact that Isaiah 62:6-7 replaces the sad song sung by the walls of Jerusalem in Lamentation 2:18-19 with a joyous hymn:
“Their heart cried out to the Lord. O wall of Fair Zion, Shed tears like a torrent Day and night! Give yourself no respite, Your eyes no rest. Arise, cry out in the night At the beginning of the watches, Pour out your heart like water In the presence of the Lord! Lift up your hands to Him For the life of your infants, Who faint for hunger At every street corner” (Lam 2:18-19).
“Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen, Who shall never be silent By day or by night. O you, the LORD’s remembrancers, Take no rest and give no rest to Him, Until He establish Jerusalem And make her renowned on earth” (Isaiah 62:6-7).
Yet Lamentations isn’t the only poetic material known to the authors of Isaiah 40-66. These authors also show awareness of postexilic psalms, including Psalm 107 (a text that shows signs of late biblical Hebrew). Verses 1-2 probably influenced Isaiah 62:12, but what’s even more telling, Deutero-Isaiah actually cites Psalm 107:35:
“He turns the wilderness into pools, Parched land into springs” (Ps 107:35)
“I will turn the wilderness into pools, Parched lands into springs” (Is 41:18)
Unlike what we find in the first half of the book of Isaiah, Aramaic has heavily influenced the language in Isaiah 40-66. Not only does this fact provide compelling proof that the material in 40-66 was written by other authors, it shows that these authors were living in a time when Jews were speaking Aramaic. Aramaic became the international language used by the Assyrians to govern their empire in the eighth century. But Jews living in Jerusalem during the time of the historical Isaiah spoke Hebrew. This explains why Hezekiah’s envoy pleaded with the Assyrians to make terms in Aramaic so that the people listening would not understand what was said (2 Kings 18). It also explains why we do not see any Aramaic influence in the material connected with the historical Isaiah.
All of this changed, however, in the exile after 586 BCE. Aramaic became the language spoken by the Jews. This is why the current Hebrew Bible uses the Aramaic square script instead of the original Paleo-Hebrew alphabet. This explains why the postexilic book of Daniel contains Aramaic chapters. It also explains why there is a strong Aramaic influence on the material in Isaiah 40-66. I’ll simply present two examples (though many, many more could be provided).
In Aramaic, the term ’orach carries the meaning “shackle.” In Hebrew, the word means “path.” Notice how the word appears in Isaiah 41:3:
“He pursues them, he goes on unscathed; No shackle (’orach) is placed on his feet.”
Now, witness how the word is used in the first half of the book via the famous oracle in Isaiah 2:3:
“And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths (’orach): for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”
Only in Deutero-Isaiah do we find this word used according to its Aramaic meaning of “shackle.”
Here’s another illustration: Isaiah 45:14 contains the line, “And Sabeans bearing tribute.” Though in the past, this statement was often interpreted as “giant in stature,” this now dated-reading does not fit the context. The term midah “tribute/tax” is in reality a loanword from Akkadian mandattu “tribute” via Aramaic. Significantly, we find the same exact nuance in other postexilic texts such as Ezra 4:20: “And tribute (midah), poll tax, and land tax,” and Nehemiah 5:4: “We have borrowed money. . . to pay the king’s tax (midah).”
Dozens of examples of the strong Aramaic influence on the material in Isaiah 40-66 could be provided. This presents compelling evidence that these oracles were composed during the postexilic era when Jews were speaking Aramaic.
This is a complicated issue that is difficult to explain in a simple blog post. Suffice it to say that all languages evolve over time. The texts of the Hebrew Bible were composed over a thousand year period. Scholars can therefore date material based upon the type of Hebrew that appears in the text. Unlike what we encounter in the historical oracles of Isaiah, the material in Isaiah 40-66 contains many, many examples of Hebrew words and phrases that appear solely in the exilic and postexilic periods (or at minimum, are only sporadically attested in Classical Hebrew). It’s difficult to explain these grammatical issues in a simple blog post. Just to provide one illustration of many, many examples that help date this material, Deutero-Isaiah features the root byn in the hip’il verbal structure as a transitive verb “to teach.” These types of observations help scholars date 40-66 to the exilic and postexilic eras. For a list of examples, I would recommend Shalom M. Paul’s outstanding study, Isaiah 40-66: A Commentary (The Eerdmans Critical Commentary) published in 2012 (see especially pp. 43-44).
There are several compelling reasons for why Isaiah 40-66 is not a prophecy given by the historical Isaiah: 1. Deutero-Isaiah provides a polemical response to the Cyrus Cylinder (see post no 1). 2. Isaiah believed in the inviolability of Jerusalem and the authors of 40-66 present a message of comfort to the Judean exiles that directly counters Isaiah’s theological conviction. 3. The authors of 40-55 know Jeremiah, but Jeremiah does not know these prophecies. 4. The authors of 40-66 knew exilic and postexilic material including Lamentations. 5. Deutero-Isaiah shows signs of Aramaic influence (but we don’t see this in the oracles of the historical Isaiah). 6. Deutero-Isaiah shows signs of Post-Exilic Hebrew (but again, we don’t see this in the oracles of the historical Isaiah).
Any one of these issues would be enough to convince biblical scholars that Isaiah 40-66 is postexilic material added to Isaiah proper. All of them together provide undeniable evidence for the scholarly consensus. Unfortunately, Jackson’s essay fails to mention, let alone address any of these points. Of course he does discuss and ultimately reject other reasons. (1) That First Isaiah mentions Isaiah son of Amoz and provides biographical material regarding him and others of his time whereas the material in Second and Third Isaiah makes no mention of his name, (2) That the historical setting of Second and Third Isaiah is different than First Isaiah, (3) That the theological focus in 1-39 is judgment, whereas the focus in 40-66 is forgiveness and reconciliation, and (4) that the literary style of chapters 40-66 differs significantly from that of the earlier chapters. But when Jackson’s points are added to the evidence I cited in this post, it is easy to understand why Duke University professor Marc Zvi Brettler can write: “Exactly how and why someone attached these oracles [40-66] to those of an earlier prophet is unknown, scholars are certain, however that 40-66 does not reflect the work of the eighth century Isaiah son of Amoz” (in How to Read the Bible, p. 201; emphasis added).
So what is a believing Latter-day Saint to do? Is there an effective apologetic approach given the weight of this evidence? I believe that there is (maybe are). I believe that an effective apologetic argument would state, “I do not know why there is postexilic material in the Book of Mormon, but I do know that I feel connected with God through the book. I therefore believe, even though I do not have an answer. “
Another way of approaching this topic would be for Latter-day Saints to recognize that the Book of Mormon is a revelatory work that comes to us through Joseph Smith. The prophet didn’t sit down and work his way through ancient script line upon line. Shouldn’t Latter-day Saints therefore expect that the work would contain inspired prophetic, midrashic use of material known to Joseph Smith, including the material in Isaiah 40-66?]]>