You may be irreverent, but you’re no thug

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

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Ancient Jewish Parallels and Mormon Scripture

In my research at the University of Utah I have mainly focused on Hebrew and Jewish studies, but have had the opportunity of taking a good sampling of courses on Mormon history, text, and practice as well. Both in and out of class I have read many studies that seek to understand Mormon scripture better in its own context, and in so doing have read works that study Mormon scripture devotionally, defend Mormon scripture apologetically, attack Mormon scripture antagonistically, or just simply find Mormon scripture fascinating for understanding western religious traditions. I would like to comment on a trend that I have seen from the side of defending Mormon scripture and offer what I think might be a more appropriate way of discussing the issues. I do not mean to suggest that my way is the only way or even best way to do it, but I would like to point out something that I view as a major flaw that can easily be remedied. I also do not mean to either defend or attack. I am simply proposing that if anyone is going to compare Mormon scripture with past historical documents and cultures that one should be careful to watch for this, in my opinion, fatal flaw. I would also point out that I am not the first to bring this up. It has been discussed for decades in wider biblical studies (and is therefore not simply an issue within Mormon studies), at least since Samuel Sandmel’s 1962 article in Journal of Biblical Literature entitled, “Parallelomania,”[1] and has been discussed in a Mormon context a little over a decade ago by Douglas F. Salmon.[2] The reason I would like to discuss this now is that I am still hearing that many members of the church, even in academic institutions, continue to simply draw parallels between the past and something Joseph Smith translated or taught, ask how he could have known, and then simply leave it at that without providing any further insight into the matter.[3]...

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Be ye therefore emotional

I was asked to do an “emotional kick off” for my relief society this week. I’d had my own emotional meltdown the night before giving my 20 minute workshop so I figured that made me a perfect candidate for teaching the concepts that I needed to use. And I felt a little bit like a hypocrite at the same time. So, as introverted as I’m learning myself to be, I walked myself through my words and my shame and my guilt and my thoughts about my feelings. I noticed that we have really strange feelings and beliefs about strong, overwhelming, emotions – in the LDS Church and humanity in general.  We treat them with distance and only agree to engage them when it’s “most proper” – especially when they are sad or weak emotions…. angry emotions too.  It’s like we feel that we aren’t supposed to be too                                    ,  whatever word(s) might fill that blank. We’re supposed to be happy on the balance of life. More happy than not and more often than not. As I continued to walk my way through me, I saw that of course, as always, in His eternal and ever understanding way, it was in my greatest moment of need that I was given myriad inspiration from my Father that I was able to share with my sisters. That felt good. — ”Adam fell that men might be and men are that they might have joy.” 2 Nephi 2:25 This was the scripture of the day from my favorite “get your scriptures in today” widget on the day that I gave my workshop.  I thought alot about joy because it’s an emotion.  A quick search says that there are 95 references to joy in the Old Testamant, 61 in the New Testament, 120 in the Book of Mormon, 33 in the Doctrine and Covenants, and 7 in the Pearl of Great Price.  Joy takes on renditions like joy-ful and re-joice. It is consistently paired with fullness, too!...

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There are Save but Two Churches Only

For as long as I can remember there has been a part of me that tenses up when I hear someone bear testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true church. Even as a youth who never doubted the validity of the statement, hearing those words made me uncomfortable. What had I done in my life to merit membership in this one true Church? Why was I so special? As I became older and was exposed to both secular and religious experience outside my own tradition I found myself becoming increasingly wary of this statement. Observing Catholic Mass, reading Surahs of the Quran, and participating in Samatha meditation has sometimes left me with a sense of holy envy. I have experienced truth outside of my own tradition. My experience does not necessarily have to negate a belief that the LDS Church is the only true Church. Concepts such as the light of Christ enable a belief that other religious institutions and individuals have been touched by the divine and have a part of the truth. This is a common belief among Latter-Day Saints but is always followed with the injunction that the LDS Church has the fullness of the truth.   However, historic events and changing policy indicate that the Church does not contain a fullness of the truth. Further, statements from leaders have indicated that the Church does not have a monopoly on truth and that the Church is still learning and doctrine still unfolding. For example, Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s famous comment that followed the policy change for Priesthood ordination was to, “Forget everything that I have said, or what President Brigham Young or President George Q. Cannon or whomsoever has said in days past that is contrary to the present revelation. We spoke with a limited understanding and without the light and knowledge that now has come into the world. We get our truth and our light line upon line and precept upon precept. We have...

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Mar 15, 14 #doublestandard

Posted by in Featured, Modesty, Mormon Humor, Mormonism

  BYU recently held it’s Pro Day where NFL scouts come to watch players. It looks like things started out well, but eventually all hell broke loose and we had football players in underwear. I mean sports attire. I’m not sure what they were thinking posting those pictures. They know that women and kids would see these pictures of men in form fitting and almost no clothing.  And these aren’t just any men, but very attractive men. We women didn’t even stand a chance when these images assulted us in our Facebook feeds. These images may stay with us for years and could even lead to bigger problems like pornography addiction. Seeing extremely attractive and fit men leaving nothing to the imagination is a mere stepping stone into that dark and dangerous world. These men need to try harder for us because we just cannot control how we feel when we see them dressed like this. #impurethoughtsabound    #leavingeverythingtotheimagination #mormonpornforthemodest #livingrightonthefield #ryangoslingtomodestmormongirls #allmenaresupposedtobebeautiful #lustingafterhim #womencanthelpit #nomatterwhatyouwear   #wearingashirtisnotunreasonableforparticipation #orshorts #strippingimeanstriplingwarrior #askingforit #hairlust #mormonporn   #wearingashirtIStotallyunreasonable #shortstoo #mengetthewomentheydressfor #makingmesin #noselfrespect #avertthineeyes #hemakesittoohardtostrivetobepure #cannotunsee #entertainingthethought #thoughtsareseedsforactions #notjustaskingforit #demandingit #garmentfriendly #couldtakemetothetemple #leavinglittletotheimaginationthough #formfitting #thebodyismeanttobeattractive #thankyouforhighlightingthatwithyourpants #totallyleavinghimanoteinthelibrary #notestingcenteruntilhechanges #exercisepantsmustbeloosefitting #wanttotouchthehiney #modestishottest #itakethatback #thisishotter #runningporn #toosexyformyshirt #tryingtoseehimasachildofgod #singingassistersinzion #singingmakesthebadthoughtsgoaway #notouchdownsplz #dressingforthekindofwomanhewants #Idontknowwheretolook #bareshoulders #sexualshoulders #havemercy #largeinstature #toeingtheline #byunipples #pleasedontchafeandruinthisforme #Icantcontrolmythoughtsaroundhim #noticingeverythingabouthim #totallynormalforwomentodo #protectingmyvirtue #tacklingmodesty #eldercallistershomeboy #proofthatyoucanreasonablydothisactivitywithmodestclothing #iwouldtackle #imsurehehasbeautifuleyes #andasweetspirit #imagininghisthighsimeaneyes #tryingtokeepmepure #baremidriff #helloabs #whereiseldercallister #byufootballmademegay #thankgoodnesshehasgloveson #priesthoodpower #BYUfootballmakescougarsroar #meow #winkface #riseandshoutthecougarsareout #greatandspaciousbuild #toobeautiful #freegame #bromance #byumendosportsinunderwear #halfwaymodest #soclose #icantbelieveheworethat #noshortsnoproblem #notheyaresportsattire #mayaswellbewearingunderwear All pictures  used were found on BYU’s Football Facebook...

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Young Women – Please Help My Sons Stay Clean & Pure

Oct 23, 13 Young Women – Please Help My Sons Stay Clean & Pure

Posted by in Featured, Modesty

I want to take a moment on behalf of all men to personally thank the virtuous women who dress modestly so that we can keep our thoughts pure and clean. I am so grateful for the virtuous women throughout my life that dressed modestly so I wouldn’t have bad thoughts. Those righteous girls I dated in high school and college helped me stay worthy and pure so that I could serve a mission. In fact, my wife would like to personally “thank you for helping me remain worthy to fulfill my priesthood duty to serve an honorable mission, marry in the temple and be a worthy father” (Elaine Dalton, “Be Not Moved!”, General Conference, April 2013 – italics added by me). Now, to all those women that helped me become the person I am today, and to all other virtuous, modest women everywhere, I have just a couple of favors to ask: First, I am now a father of four boys and I’m really going to need your help again. I need you to raise your daughters to help my boys be worthy priesthood holders so one day they can serve missions and marry in the temple. Please teach your daughters to cover their shoulders, wear long shorts, and please tell them to avoid tight-fitting clothing (as instructed in the “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlet). Thank you so much! I know by doing this you will help my boys stay pure, clean and on the right path. Apparently BYU did not get the modesty memo about helping young men like my sons keep their thoughts clean and pure. I thought BYU was the Church’s school! What happened to the honor code? Didn’t our Prophet and the Quorum of the Twelve write the honor code? My second favor is actually not exclusive to the virtuous and modest women, but is a call to action for everyone. I would like to start a letter-writing campaign to BYU to stop immodesty! What will my boys think when they see the...

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Chocolate Chip Cookies, Snicker Doodles, and the Current State of Dating at BYU

Sep 18, 13 Chocolate Chip Cookies, Snicker Doodles, and the Current State of Dating at BYU

Posted by in Featured, Mormonism, Sexuality

It’s the beginning of a new semester at BYU.  This means that it is, once again, time for “the talk.”  While we were given a couple of weeks to sow some wild oats (and by this I mean stay out of our apartments a little past midnight), the devotional this week was meant to bring that to an end. The speaker for the devotional was Elder Lynn G. Robbins, of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  Elder Robbins began his talk with a chocolate chip cookie analogy. The analogy goes something like this.  Imagine walking into a room where there is a freshly baked batch of gooey, moist chocolate chip cookies.  This will undoubtedly trigger a chemical reaction in the brain which lights up the pleasure center of your brain.  While you may try to refrain from eating these cookies, hoping not to ruin your dieting regiment, you are a lot less likely to avoid the temptation because you are too close to these cookies. The meaning of the analogy was then explained by Elder Robbins, in case we hadn’t picked it up already.  Just as it is hard to resist cookies when you get too close, it is hard to avoid sexual sin when you get too close. He then started “the talk.” He began by mentioning that sexual transgression is scripturally the sin next to murder.  However, he also wanted students to understand that sexuality done right is a beautiful act which can express love and caring.  The problem with sexual transgression, he reminded, is that you are turning something good and beautiful into something wrong and dirty.  The rest of the talk focused on the wrong and dirty side. Elder Robbins then began to classify types of sexual transgression.  Pornography was first on the list.  He used For the Strength of Youth to highlight this problem: “Avoid pornography at all costs. It is a poison that weakens your self-control, destroys your feelings of self-worth, and changes the way you see others....

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Art, Nudity, and Modesty

Sep 09, 13 Art, Nudity, and Modesty

Posted by in Featured, Modesty, Sexuality

One of my former wards met in an old prayer house in downtown Provo – it was incredibly unique. I have very fond memories of both the building and the people. The foyer was located in the center of the building and the hallways shot out from it. In that small foyer in the middle of the building other people’s conversations were easily (and mostly unintentionally) overheard. For a brief time an artist from Chile, whose works were featured in many church publications, was attending our ward. I overheard a conversation this man was having regarding his son who was also an artist. He was worried because his son was painting nudes and so he was encouraging his son to paint other things. I flashed back to memories of studying many nude paintings and sculptures while at Ricks and at BYU. Even though I left the conversation before it was over, it lingered in my mind. What would you do if you were the father? What would you tell your son if he wanted to paint nudes? I came across a wonderful blog post by J. Kirk Richards that addresses this issue from an artist’s perspective. He has graciously agreed to let us repost his essay here. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!  (The original post is linked here. You can view his artwork here.) WHY ARE YOU PAINTING THOSE NAKED LADIES? Or, What makes me think I can go to a nude drawing session on Saturday and then go to church on Sunday? Michelango’s Creation of Adam, modest-ified. I received this message this morning: “Brother Richards, 
I just love most all of your marvelous work.
 But if I might ask, why in blazes do you paint nude women? Are you perhaps trying to get attention from the secular world? Where is your head at?”   Here’s another similar message from a few months back, after I posted a photo of what I felt was an innocuous figure painting: “Hey,...

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Sexual Assault in Mormon Patriarchy

Aug 28, 13 Sexual Assault in Mormon Patriarchy

Posted by in Featured, Sexuality

The views expressed in this document are the author’s and do not reflect the opinions of the Department of the Air Force, the Department of Defense or the Federal Government. I Paul Barker, am posting this essay that was written by a friend of mine (Atticus). Due to his position in the military I will keep his real name anonymous. “The most sexually restrictive cultures have strong double standards for male and female behavior. Women and men are supposed to act in prescribed ways, with men allowed more leeway and freedom in many cases. For example, a woman is often blamed when she is raped.” (Darrel Ray, ED.D, Sex & God) As a lawyer, I review and analyze sexual assault cases on a daily basis. I have interviewed and talked with victims; heard their stories first hand. I have briefed people in leadership positions on the problem, developed trial strategy, and helped people see how their cultural biases are affecting their objectivity when analyzing a case. Currently, most of my work-day is spent overseeing and coordinating the prevention, investigation and prosecution of sexual assaults within my organization. I’ve learned it’s very hard for people to analyze sexual assaults because of our cultural biases. We live in a patriarchy with a Judeo-Christian background. Those biases exist in greater quantity in conservative cultures like Mormonism. This conservative and patriarchal culture creates both the incentive to sexually assault women and the landscape where perpetrators can more freely operate without fear of punishment. Consider the following fictional fact pattern. It’s created as a composite from what I’ve seen in my professional work but adapted to Mormonism. I choose Mormonism because I am a Mormon and want to help improve my own culture, the culture my children, especially my daughter, will inherit. Imagine a BYUI coed. I’ll call her Jane. She is cute, very cute; dresses sexy; is in great shape; and is known as a flirt. In the past, she’s had to refrain from taking the sacrament because...

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If your pants are too tight…

Recently in the news we got a little taste of a “Mormon moment” when on Valentine’s Day a male BYU student passed a note to a female student declaring that she was immodestly dressed and should think about how her appearance was affecting others. I’m sure he was just trying to do his duty as stated in the BYU Honor Code to “encourage others in their commitment to comply with the Honor Code”. Right? Well, she took a picture of the note he wrote along with a picture of what she was wearing at the time (you will love the floral print), and the story caught fire and even ended up on the home page of Yahoo. Why did it cause such a stir? Because there was nothing scandalous about her attire. At all.  Just months ago we had another “Mormon moment” at the BYUI testing center over skinny jeans (that weren’t really skinny jeans) where a testing center employee (an employed student) told a female student that she couldn’t take a test because her pants were too tight. Read about that one here. In both incidents it is important to point out that it wasn’t BYU imposing judgment, but students. Let’s try to get a sense of where the complainants are coming from. First, the testing center flier posted in the testing center at BYUI: “If your pants are tight enough for us to see the shape of your leg, your pants are too tight. If we can see the shape of your belly button, your top is too tight.” It goes on about “form fitting clothes” and blah, blah, blah (read the whole thing here). Toward the end you get to the really good stuff where they invite students to go home and pray about it and “recommit yourself to be a true disciple and abide by the Honor Code that defines your commitment to be a disciple” – a real gem there! Next let’s look at the precious Valentine’s Day note...

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