83: Memory

83: Memory Posted by on Nov 28, 2015

Bible Scholarship

78: The Intertestamental Period

78: The Intertestamental Period Posted by on Oct 17, 2015

Ask the Mormon Sex Therapist

83: Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist Part 12

83: Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist Part 12 Posted by on Nov 21, 2015


One in Us

One in Us Posted by on Nov 25, 2015


80: Top Ten Books on Mormon History – The Angel and The Beehive...

80: Top Ten Books on Mormon History – The Angel and The Beehive Posted by on Oct 24, 2015

Why I Am Mormon

One in Us

One in Us Posted by on Nov 25, 2015

Recent Posts

83: Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist Part 12 Podcast: Play in new window | Download Subscribe: iTunes | Android | RSS And now for something completely different! In this 12th installment of the “Ask a Mormon Sex Therapist” series Brian and Laurel talk with  Dr. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife about the cultural anxiety surrounding oral sex in a married relationship, and in the second question we discuss objectification and appropriate lust. Also look forward to and make plans to contribute to our fundraiser for the Liahona Children’s Foundation that will be released here on Rational Faiths and on our indiegogo campaign page. This year we have an ambitious goal to raise $10,000 for the LCF. Woot Woot!!! In order help make that a reality some wonderful LDS artists, authors, and our very own Jennifer Finlayson-Fife have offered their work(s) as prizes/perks for contributing to the LCF fundraising campaign. So head over and check out the cool stuff available for being a charitable person. In regard to the question of oral sex I suggest reading a post called “Prophetic Counsel About Sex Within Marriage: A Brief History.” Here I’ll offer my own summary and analysis of the 1982 question, “Is oral moral?” During the presidency of Spencer Kimball an increased concern over members sexual behavior emerged which impacted the way members and leaders thought about all sexual activities. Specific temple recommend interview guidance for priesthood leaders was issued from the First Presidency on Jan 5, 1982, which on the second page indicates oral sex as an “unnatural, impure, and unholy” act. Following the initial advice, another letter came out ten months later on Oct 15, 1982 seemingly correcting interviewers who had asked too personal of questions regarding the couple’s specific sexual activities. I have looked around the web for old news articles and asked older bloggernacle folks what went down to provoke the October correction. (Unfortunately the Salt Lake Tribune’s digital archives only go back to 1991 and I doubt the Deseret News covered this story so I didn’t bother looking there.) I have found nothing but a rumor of a letter...

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Where Is the Book of Mormon?

Nov 19, 15 Where Is the Book of Mormon?

Posted by in Book of Mormon, Featured, scripture, Temple

In 1832, with the infant church barely two years old, the Lord announced to Joseph Smith that it stood condemned for not taking seriously the things which had been written, especially in the “new covenant,” the Book of Mormon.[1] One hundred and fifty four years later, President Ezra Taft Benson taught that the Church once more risked such condemnation.[2] Now I fear we again face that danger. Of course, the Book of Mormon remains central to our religious identity. It is the keystone of our missionary efforts. We continue to encourage converts and youth to read it and pray to know whether it is true. But the actual details of what the Book of Mormon says are conspicuously absent from much of our practice and discussions. Instead, we seem to have reduced it to a mere artifact, a sign that Joseph Smith was a prophet and that the Church is true. Such behavior cannot be pleasing to the Lord, who described the Book of Mormon as containing the “fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[3] Joseph Smith said that we “would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book.”[4] To do so, however, we must actually follow what is written in its pages, not just rely on the fact of its existence. Our regard for the actual words of the Book of Mormon is especially crucial at this time of turmoil within the Church.[5] As we collectively wrestle with what it means to be Mormon – how we should live our lives and run our Church – we would be well-served to return to the principles of the “new covenant.” Let us consider some of what that encompasses and what it does not.[6] Perhaps surprisingly, the Book of Mormon does not include: Eternal Families. There is no promise of celestial marriage or eternal families in the entire book. Instead, even when the Book of Mormon does talk about families, the focus remains firmly on individual salvation, supported by family, church,...

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Lessons from my Mission President

I was strongly influenced by my Mission President, Halvor Clegg, in my understanding of how the Holy Ghost speaks to humans. First I share an edited list of instructions he gave us about getting answers to questions we had as missionaries. Second some examples of how he lived the teachings. Third some thoughts for how I muddle on through the confusion of current events. Pray for Inspiration Continue with the duties of the day, but meditate on the question. Make a list of the things that come to mind. They can come from many different sources. [You have to do your homework.] Follow every impression. [Try to overcome your assumptions about what the answer will be.] Confirm what you receive. Choose the most logical decision. Create a relevant yes or no question based on that decision. [Simple, binary answers are the easiest to understand. Remember, this answer is only to the specific question you asked as you asked it. You can’t assume it is generalizable.] Ask the question: “Is this the answer to my original question?” This method works for almost all applications Talks Lessons Missionary Discussions Presentations Conversations Don’t forget Free Agency When another person is involved, remember the Principle of Three. There must be agreement between you, the other person, and God to get a correct answer. [If all parties aren’t edified, the Spirit isn’t working.] Develop the Gift of Discernment It is a gift of the Holy Ghost. It permits one to understand the truth of what others say and also their motivations. [The homework here requires really paying attention to the other person.] Knowing the truth and other’s motivations, one can respond correctly. Be Careful with the Spirit You must stay focused when you ask a question. If your mind wanders, you may receive an answer, but to whatever you are thinking about in that moment–not your original question. This list was primarily a reminder of things he taught us both repeatedly in meetings and by example, so I’d like...

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The Church Is Yours. Take It Back.

In the wake of the terrorists attacks in Paris, there is a call for Muslims worldwide to purge the violence and extremism out of Islam. I agree that they should, but I realize it is difficult task, that would be like asking all Christian Faiths to unite and get rid extreme Christian sects like Westboro, as much as we’d like to. But as a Mormon community we can personally and collectively bring Mormonism much closer to Christ’s truths which are undeniably a ‘good news’ centered around his greatest commandment—LOVE. Presently in Mormonism there is a feeling among Mormons that individual members have no say in their church or how it is practiced here on earth. I assert that that the church is yours. You have a right to speak up for what you know to be truth within your church. In fact, you have a duty. Many would say “No, the church belongs to Christ”.  Those are people who have a poor understanding of Christ’s life. Christ was tried and crucified because he alienated his ecclesiastical leaders due to their obsession with power, control, obedience and ritual. Jesus created a church for his followers and he gave it to them. He never encouraged blind obedience. He encouraged active engagement. It was a church for them, for their community. It was a church that embraced the lowest of the low. It embraced the slaves and the despised. It was a church that recognized the divinity in each of us. It was a church that taught people to exercise their spiritual gifts. Joseph Smith also set a similar example. He too was forced to question the authorities of his time. He used the same spiritual gifts that are promised to each of us, to find out God’s will for him.  He then set up the church with these guiding principles—that “all things must be done in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith.” Common consent doesn’t not mean rubber stamping every...

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OxyMormons #3

Nov 15, 15 OxyMormons #3

Posted by in Featured, Mormon Humor, OxyMormons

A weekly ‘political cartoon’ about Mormonism (or bi-weekly…or monthly…). Click on comic to see it in full size....

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First, let me start this blog post by saying that I am an active LDS man who is in full fellowship with the Church and I have concerns. On November 5, 2015 many Mormons  found out about recent changes to Book 1 of the LDS Church’s Handbook of Instructions regarding homosexuals that are in same-sex cohabitational relationships and their children.  The changes were largely condemned by progressive Mormons and also raised concern for more traditionally conservative Mormons.1  Handbook 1 is used by bishops and stake presidents to help lead their congregations.  It is not usually publicly available, but upon request, a local bishop will show you the handbook.  On more than one occasion I have asked my bishop if I could view something in Handbook 1 and he had no problem showing me the handbook.  I did this again after I learned about the new policy changes and he immediately showed me what the online version of the Handbook said; I wanted to make sure that the pdf versions I was reading online were correct.  With that background, I will state that I don’t believe these changes were done clandestinely.  It is an instructional document for the world-wide LDS leadership. On November 6, 2015, Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles was interviewed by Michael Otterson of the LDS Church’s Public Relations Department. Per Brother Ottersson: “The Church quickly responded to many of those concerns with a video interview with Elder D. Todd Christofferson, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. By the end of the weekend, that interview had been viewed by millions.” (click here to read Otterson’s complete statement) The interview offered no clarifications. It made matters worse. It seemed rather that Elder Christ0fferson had  taken notes from the FAIR blog and from the blog Well-Behaved Mormon Woman, on how to defend this egregious policy change. Today I learned of a letter, from the First Presidency, that is meant to clarify the new policy change. Word had been buzzing around the Mormon internet...

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Apparently 18 Is the New Age of Accountability

Premise: Nothing can stand in the way of Jesus’s saving power. If a physical ordinance is needed to connect a person with this saving power, it must be available to anyone who needs it: which is everyone past the age of accountability. Since the Church will not baptize children of same-sex married couples until those children reach the age of majority, move out of their parents’ household, and disavow same-sex marriage, one of two things must be true: Either getting baptized into the Mormon Church at age 8 is not necessary to salvation (or even important to it), or the LDS Church is not the only institution that has the power to bestow ordinances that connect one with the saving power of Christ. Assuming that the LDS Church is the only authorized institution to perform baptism, it seems that nothing spiritually important is gained from baptism until the age of majority. Otherwise, the LDS Church could not be the only purveyor of this saving ordinance since it must be available to everyone who needs it. Using the same line of reasoning, since the Church also denies these children confirmation and the gift of the Holy Ghost, the light of Christ must be perfectly well suited to guiding a person through the first 18 years of life. Therefore, 18 must now be the age of accountability, at least in the United States, because that is when the Church is willing to offer baptism to everyone....

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Why Should I Trust the Church?

So, how about this new policy? Haha. So today Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm drew my attention to a heated battle of words that was being waged over all this. I’m sure we’re all witnessing the same spectacle. The following comments in particular caught my attention: There is a lot to unpack here.  I notice that many tend to conflate disagreement with this monstrous policy as support for homosexuality or same sex marriage, which I would caution against.  But the aspect of the comment that really concerns me is the statement, “And eventually they will realize…they were dead wrong.” I have seen a lot of doomsday comments along these lines coming from those defending the policy. Many seem to relish in this idea of people supportive of gay marriage or otherwise treating gays with decency being proven wrong. What is the basis for this attitude? The comments continued along these lines, invoking the classic call to follow the prophet: This is the classic circular argument. You’re wrong. Why? Because follow the prophets. They can do no wrong it seems, except, as Bill Reel points out, all those times they got it wrong. If we were in the 1940’s would all the people who are defending this policy also be saying the same things to defend the racist priesthood ban that the church now disavows? Or would they have the courage to stand up and oppose the leaders, like Lowry Nelson? Here’s my basic question: Why should I trust the leaders on this issue? Why should I trust their judgement when it comes to anything that has to do with homosexuality or LGBT issues? Thus far the church has been proven wrong on every single position it has taken with respect to homosexuality and gay marriage. What has it gotten right? Seriously, can somebody name something for me? I started out trusting the church on this issue until time after time, after I started meeting and knowing gay people both in and out of the church, I...

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The Problem with Beauty

Nov 13, 15 The Problem with Beauty

Posted by in Featured, Feminism

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

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The Good Son

Nov 12, 15 The Good Son

Posted by in Featured, Policy

Don’t worry. All is well. I’m sorry if I caused you any undue anxiety. I know there have been many voices speaking ill of the anointed. This last weekend these voices rose to a crescendo unlike anything I’ve ever seen. But you can rest easy, for my voice will not join theirs. I know what is expected of me. I know the price that must be paid to build the Kingdom. I must be the Good Son. The Good Son of my family, but especially the Good Son of my Church. I must stand with the prophets no matter how my own spirit wrenches my heart and cries out in torment at injustice. Wait. Especially then. Only then. What good is an effortless prophetic loyalty? No, I yearn for them to demand the last drop of my blood. I beg that they will require of me to sacrifice even my own children on that blessed altar of loyalty. Only then can I prove my faithfulness. Only then can I demonstrate to everyone’s satisfaction what I am really made of. Only then can I truly be the Good Son. I feel sorry for other so-called “disciples” for whom the path is bright and free of thorns and for whom All is Eternally Well in Zion. They happily “follow” the prophets, but in reality do not know true discipleship. They are weak. Laughable, even. More than pathetic. Is there anything more effortless, any tautology more redundant than to agree to that with which one is always already in agreement? It is no different to say that you follow your stomach to the refrigerator. You are hardly worthy to be called Good Sons and Daughters. No, give me the impossible road, the son on the altar without the ram, an unconscious Laban in the alley without a prickly Spirit. I will stab my son through the heart, Lord. I will cut off Laban’s head, my God, and I’ll do it without Nephi’s cowardly spiritual hesitation marks. He...

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The Pain of Orthodoxy

Nov 12, 15 The Pain of Orthodoxy

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality

What are we to do? This week, every nerve of our social and moral sensitivity has been frayed, our temperaments rattled, and our hearts pulled in every direction. Questions pulse through every limb, leaving our spirits shocked, lost, and alone. Sometimes, it seems as though a nihilism looms over this fallen world of ours. How else can it be, as C.S. Lewis asked? But “what do we get by evasions,” he asked. “We are under the harrow and can’t escape.” Now we wonder if, as C.S. Lewis considered it, it is all a “vile practical joke” on a cosmic scale.  How could God ask such things of us, to place such a restriction on the boundaries of the kingdom? Finding comfort and stability when our very moral systems are cut to the quick by this policy demands more than dismissal, more than rage, and more than complacence. Those who feel comfortable shrugging their shoulders at the state of affairs enjoy a pristine privilege. As Brent L. Top relates, such are like the fortunate students who “know the answers,” but have never “had to ask the questions.” Now, we all must. I have enjoyed profound spiritual experiences that testify to the beauty of the principles that Mormonism has brought into my life—intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally. I have had the opportunity to meet with my share of church leaders, and in my experience, they strike me as humane and moral men. I would not be a man of integrity if I were to deny it. So while we all yearn for and crave more information, we do not need it in order to bear one another’s burdens, to cry with those who cry, and lend a hand to those in pain. In chez Stevenson, we have long celebrated our commitment to mobilize the forces and circle the ranks to protect those most vulnerable among us. And if we resort to the vile and hurtful tactics that social media is so prone to bring out in people, we...

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Did You Keep Your Baptismal Covenants this Week?

As my Sunday school teacher said, this is the time when God is sorting the wheat from the tares, when we find out who’s on the Lord’s side, when Christ’s followers step forward. He couldn’t be more right. The Saints’ duty was cut and dried this week the way it rarely is. Our obligation was brightly defined. Our baptismal covenants were put to the test. The question is, how did you respond? At the Waters of Mormon, when Alma’s followers expressed their desire to come unto Christ, he asked them a few simple questions: Are you willing to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light? Are you willing to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort? Are you willing to stand as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places? (Mosiah 18:9) And then, the baptismal covenant itself: that “ye will serve [God] and keep his commandments, that he may pour his spirit more abundantly upon you.” (Mosiah 18:10) What are the commandments we’re supposed to keep? Jesus outlined the two most important ones: the ones that take precedence over any other. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matthew 22:37–40) An intense wave of pain is passing through many members of our church—our sisters and brothers. It doesn’t matter where that pain comes from; it doesn’t matter why they’re feeling it. The pain is real and it is public. Anyone with an Internet connection knows about it. Did you fulfill your baptismal covenants this week? Did you mourn with those that mourn? Did you comfort those that stand in need of comfort? Did you love your neighbor as yourself? Because that’s your one job....

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How Mormon Music Changed My Life

Nov 11, 15 How Mormon Music Changed My Life

Posted by in art, Featured, harmony, Music, spirituality

My earliest memories are of my mother singing. She is an excellent pianist and vocalist, and she loves playing and singing. She sang a wide range of songs, but many of them were church-related. She sang Primary songs, she sang hymns, and various solo arrangements for special musical numbers. She was (is) often the ward organist. She often gathered my siblings and I around the piano to sing songs. I remember learning “Who’s on the Lord’s Side, Who?” and singing it to my grandmother. I am a very analytical person, and not very emotional. I have to be in the mood and let myself go to enjoy music. “His Hands” is one of the sappiest Mormon songs I am aware of, but it always makes me tear up because it makes me think of my mother. Singing in Special Musical Numbers Because of the importance of music in my family, I was often “encouraged” to participate in many musical productions at church. I participated in several Stake-level youth choirs. But most of all, we performed as a family in Sacrament meeting and Stake meetings. I have no idea what other Mormons in our area thought, but looking back on it, we must have been “that” family that everyone was sick of. We must have done some kind of musical number 4 times a year. Of course I was mostly annoyed by having to sing in front of everyone and having to learn all of the songs. But that’s what teenagers do. They get annoyed. Sometimes doing things you don’t think you want to do isn’t so bad. I always enjoyed the musical numbers; singing in a small group in harmony can be wonderful. “Rock and Roll” Church vs The Mormons In college I started to notice that our Sacrament hymns are a little bit…tired. The hymns are old, the organists are slow, and the congregation is less than engaged. I let my non-emotional self take control and take the emotional part out of singing...

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Polygamy Baggage vs Same Sex Marriage

Nov 10, 15 Polygamy Baggage vs Same Sex Marriage

Posted by in Featured, Homosexuality, Policy

As part of the new policy changes affecting gay LDS church members a restriction was put in place which denies children of parents in a same sex relationships access to naming and blessing ceremonies, baptism, and priesthood ordinances. A portion of the updated policy reads as follows: “A mission president or a stake president may request approval from the Office of the First Presidency to baptize and confirm, ordain, or recommend missionary service for a child of a parent who has lived or is living in a same-gender relationship when he is satisfied by personal interviews that both of the following requirements are met: (1) The child accepts and is committed to live the teachings and doctrine of the Church, and specifically disavows the practice of same-gender cohabitation and marriage. (2) The child is of legal age and does not live with a parent who has lived or currently lives in a same-gender cohabitation relationship or marriage.” ( The policy does not specify a child’s living conditions as affecting their eligibility for baptism. Having a parent in a same gender relationship, no matter the status of contact with their children, is apparently enough to trigger this new policy. Theoretically, it is possible for children who have no contact with their parent in a same sex relationship having this restriction enforced since living conditions are not addressed. One of the common arguments in support of this policy points out that the church has had similar long standing rules for families who have been involved in polygamy in the past. As both polygamy and same sex marriage involve familial relationships classified as sinful by the church many assume they should have similar restrictions on membership. However, once the church’s long and complicated history with polygamy is taken into consideration it becomes easier to understand why those restrictions were originally put in place and the comparison to same sex marriage falls apart. Polygamy has been part of the church since shortly after it’s restoration. According to,...

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Dear Elder Christofferson, On November 5, 2015 I read the Church’s new policy regarding children of gay parents. My initial reaction, which I shared with friends, was, “Wow. They are treating these children the same way they treat the children of polygamists.” You confirmed my assessment yesterday in your interview. But we shouldn’t treat the children of gay parents the same way we treat the children of polygamists and here are the reasons why: We started polygamy. We did not start gay marriage. We had to disavow polygamy. We never embraced gay marriage so we do not have to disavow it. We have canonized polygamy in Doctrine and Covenants section 132. Um, yeah, gay marriage has never been canonized. Most of the Mormon fundamentalist converts come from the mainstream LDS Church. Homosexuals do not recruit from anywhere, let alone our very conservative church. When the minor child of a polygamist family is attending church, and wants to  be baptized, the ward family is usually unaware that the child’s parents are polygamists.  These minor children aren’t coming from the more isolated groups such as the FLDS church where polygamy is openly practiced, but rather these children are coming from families that are clandestinely practicing polygamy. At times the different sister-wives live in different homes and the father will come and visit his different wives at the wives’ homes.  These mothers are sometimes seen as single mothers by their wards.  This way of practicing polygamy is common among the Kingston group.  On occasion, the polygamist families will all live together, but the practice is secret. This will occasionally happen with the Centennial Park and the Apostolic United Brethren groups.1  The polygamist, Anne Wilde, has openly discussed how she clandestinely practiced polygamy while she and her family attended the LDS Church.2   So, with the majority of polygamist children who desire to be baptized, the local ecclesiastical leaders see no problem with it because they have no idea that these children are coming from polygamist families.  This is different though for minor children who...

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Pain and Suffering

Nov 09, 15 Pain and Suffering

Posted by in Featured

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl I chose to become inactive a little more than a year ago. It was a good choice. It has brought me a great deal of freedom and happiness. Lately, most of my spiritual experiences have been within a Zen Buddhist context. That said, there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t thought about Mormonism. I watch Mormonism from the sidelines as I suspect many others do. I see the struggle for equality. I know more than a few who agitate for change within the Church and they suffer as the fight wages on. I often wonder if the Brethren are listening. I’m sure they hear the cries of the Saints as they plead for relief but I don’t think they are actively listening. I sometimes wonder why these good people don’t just walk away from the Church as I did? Their participation is voluntary and so is their suffering. Why not simply choose to distance themselves from the source of their pain? I groan within myself and scream, “Just leave! Be done with it all!” Pain is mandatory but suffering is optional. Suffering within the Church is definitely optional. Just choose to leave and the suffering will end.  Why not? Why? Why? Why?!?! For more than a year I struggled to find answers to these questions. None came…until this week. When the changes to the Church Handbook were leaked I was driving to dinner with a friend. From the passenger seat he read the changes aloud. I felt like I had been kicked in the heart. I masked most of my emotions. The friends we had dinner with that night are all involved in Mormon Studies in some form or another so it was natural for us to talk about the changes. Our discussion was mostly cerebral. I don’t think any of us were...

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