Saturday, January 31, 2009

On Being Perfect...but Not Really

Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect. – Matthew 5:48

So how many Latter-day Saints hate this scripture? (*gasp* did she say hate?) Anyone?

Is anybody willing to admit that despite numerous pats on the back, the admonition here still stings? Be perfect – like Heavenly Father.

These words spoken by the Savior come after the first bit of the Sermon on the Mount, and our leaders like to tell us “nonono. It’s totally unrealistic to attain perfection in this life. Christ must mean to strive for perfection.”

To which we all breathe a heavy sigh of relief and go about our day. Until we screw up. Or think we're not good enough because Brother X always does his home teaching.

So how do we “strive for perfection?” My leaders have taught me that it’s important to focus on what is realistic. We can be perfect in not swearing (oops), in our Sabbath keeping (or at least our church attendance), we can be perfect in our observation of the Word of Wisdom, our visiting and home teaching, etc.

But what if we struggle here, too? I suppose that’s where the “strive” comes from – but we’re talking about a realistic expectation to be perfect in these things. And this idea that we can be perfect in some things makes us feel good that we can be perfect in these things.

But can we?

What if we’re perfect in our visiting teaching as far as numbers go. I distinctly remember an Ensign article some years ago which praised a sister for never missing a month of her visiting teaching in a substantial period of time. This is obviously meant to motivate the rest of the membership to reach such a goal, but beyond numbers…would that make us perfect, or just the illusion of perfect?

What if we didn’t care about those we visited? We just wanted our numbers. What if that woman didn’t necessarily visit each of her sisters, but just made sure to call them or send them a letter. Let’s face it: us girls get by really easily when it comes to this. We can say “we tried to contact” and it’ll go down in our favor.

But even for the home teachers: what if a guy visits his homes every month but he doesn’t necessarily care?

Does that make him perfect in his home teaching?

As for swearing, while I understand why we shouldn't make a practice of it, I thought it mattered what was in the heart. And besides, I went for a long time under a fairly strict swearing moratorium (with the exception of the Mormon friendly “crap”) but I happen to think the cheesy substitutes are just as bad as the words themselves. The intention was just as bad. Is my friend who says "fetch" more perfect than anyone else who uses the real word?


As for the Word of Wisdom, I know I’ve gone here a few times over the past month or so, but seriously. This is such a sketchy issue: letter or spirit, and if spirit where is the line? Depends on who you are and who you talk with.

The Sabbath. This one is also sketchy. Some consider strictness the only safe route to go. I already touched on this a little yesterday regarding the Superbowl, but what if you’re “perfect” in keeping the Sabbath but ignore your family? What if you keep the Sabbath so holy in deed but in your heart you can’t help but pity those poor, heathen folks who are taking their boats to the lake?

And what if you screw up? There’s always repentance, yes, but this goal of perfection really seems to make us miss that mark, to miss the grace that is in repentance.

I submit that perfection is more about what’s in the heart than what the eyes, mouth, legs, and arms do.

A quick review of Matthew 5:

1. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. (v. 3)
2. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. (4)
3. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. (5)
4. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. (6)
5. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (7)
6. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. (8)
7. Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God. (9)

8. Verse 16 does speak about works. I shall ignore this one, too. There is virtue in being an example, but only for the others until they get to know you to know if your heart is pure. Being an example is not directly beneficial for the exemplar.

9. This one is interesting. Verse 20: For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Look up Pharisee in your Topical Guide. Look at my quote to the right. Pharisees don’t care about the heart, they care about the image.

10. Verse 21-22 deals with the unrighteousness that is anger, but more the source of the anger.

11. Verse 28 deals with adultery not just being in the act, but in the premeditation, in just the looking upon another in lust.

12. Verse 38-44 deals with loving those who revile us, to love our enemy, to pray for others, that this is how we will be children of God. I love verse 46: For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not the publicans even the same?

How many of us do that? Only show love and charity to fellow Saints? How many are there who fear hanging out with apostates and raucous non-members (or *any* non-member for that matter) or liberal members of the church for fear that their heretical example and light will be contagious?

How many of us only love those who love us? I’m just as guilty.

As I understand it, we are to strive to change our hearts to this perfection. I think, though, we put too much emphasis on the “perfection” part and not in the refinement process that will perhaps one day get us there.

Let me say this though, perfection seems boring to me. I like learning, I like knowing that when I mess up I can get up and be better. I can always be better. There’s something lively and hopeful about that, and I don’t necessarily want to ever lose the chance at progression. Charity is something I’ll never perfect, but it’s something I think I’m willing to chase.

I don’t care about perfection in the minutia of life anymore. I don’t want to place that burden on my children that they should always do what will make them perfect or temple worthy. Ouch, I know, but Christ cares more about the heart so that’s what I want to care more about. I don’t, not nearly enough as I’m reminded all the time.

There is little connection between works and the heart. I can be of service to people all day long and never ever become truly charitable. It is true that service can help us become more compassionate and I do intend to help my kids learn the real benefits of service (besides outside blessings). The thing I want to focus on more than swearing and strict obedience according to wavering rules (they do change over time) is the one thing that never changes: motivation and the heart of people. I’m finding more and more that learning and getting to know about where we live, who we are and who others are only helps us develop a more Christ-like attitude.

This doesn’t mean I’m going to stop trying, but I want to brush the guilt from my shoulders and try to be a better person rather than just look and sound like one. That feels much better, and much more approachable and real too.
And he called the multitude, and said unto them, Hear, and understand: Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man, but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man...And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man...
- Matthew 15:10-11; 16-20

Yeah. It’s the stuff that makes up what is in our heart that Christ is concerned with. We like to attribute this to why we shouldn't curse, but that would say that cursing makes us unworthy. That's certainly an argument, but Christ doesn't seem to be talking about cursing. He's talking about something deeper than the words that spill from our mouth. He doesn't care how pious we are or what our VT/HT numbers are. Quality, not quantity. While he does care about our obedience, he talks an awful lot more about charity – and that of the heart.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Superbowl Sunday!

Oy, everytime I post something about MoCul I worry I'm the only one again who has dealt with stupid crap. It is an understood thing here that good Saints do not watch football on Sunday. They don't watch anything on Sunday except for church movies, Disney movies (cartoons), Mary Poppins, or perhaps Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Anything else will shoo dat Spirit away *snap* Like that.

But let me tell you something: being the wife of a man who barely made it through Church because he hadn't slept much the Saturday before and only managed an hour before Church (worked nights), with three young kids...Sundays sucked. Capital S. SUCKED.

I tried. I played Legacy and the kids really enjoyed The Restoration and we'd play some children's hymns and I'd try to read the scriptures (haha good joke, Lis) and do all the things we're allowed to do on a Sunday. For a while I did genealogy indexing and research. I actually really enjoy that, even still. I love doing research and know that when I learn about my family and the place I live, I have a greater love and appreciation for it. Then I lost my password and I'm lazy.

I tried to make Saturday cleaning day so I wouldn't go out of my mind on Sunday. It didn't always work. I often forgot to unload the dishwasher and in my fury to ensure I didn't go insane on Sunday I'd unload that puppy at 10 o'clock at night.

Slowly, though, I tired of trying so hard. Then I noticed that Mondays sucked because I had a really messed up kitchen and probably a few hundred loads of laundry to do. Saturdays sucked because of all the cleaning. Life kinda sucked anyway because I was alone so often, but this stuff didn't help.

I tried buying paper plates/cups/etc for Sundays. That helped a little, but some weeks we were strapped too much to worry about that.

I resented so much the worry over what I could or couldn't do, and trust me I'd calmed down over the years. Before I married, my stepdad offered to change the oil in my car for me, but the only day he could manage was Sunday. I saw this as a temptation of Satan (er, the Adversary) and a test of my faithfulness. When I was pregnant and not eating, Eric wanted me to try McDonalds or something - anything - but it was Sunday and certainly lightning would strike.

I learned quickly lightning didn't strike, but that doesn't mean I don't worry I'll be asked to account for my many Sunday-sins in the afterlife. Hellllllo guilt. Even now. Guilt. Always something to worry about.

If anyone says "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard," I will go insane. I hate that line. It's certainly not true. Not all the time.

Anyway. Back to can/can't do lists. I was never able to VT on a Sunday - I'm not bringing three children to some poor woman's house. There's no reason for it, really. I won't be able to talk with the woman because I'll be too concerned about what my kids are doing. They're sneaky. It's just not fair. I know many of you probably take your kids with you, but I never wanted to. Honestly it bugged me when a girl I actually wanted to get to know *had* to bring her kids with her. Her kids often ran rampant - this was back when I felt uncomfortable around kids - and I never felt like I could talk to her. I was too busy making sure her older kids weren't running Abbie over. She didn't seem to realize, and perhaps I was too touchy, but still. No kids. I try to avoid bringing the kids. If that means I don't visit someone that month, than so be it.

I know, but what about the numbers? We must visit teach so we can have the best numbers!

Tangent? Back to Sunday.

How many of us watch general TV on Sunday? BYU TV only? Disney? Anything we want? Kinda goes along with what kind of music we'll listen to on Sunday (or to the temple). My SIL's husband figures if it's not appropriate for Sunday it's probably not appropriate for any day of the week -

but wait. he means this in a more level headed kind of way. Yes we'll have leaders who preach nothing other than classical and/or Church music ever but he figures 80s hair rock is just as good on Sunday as it is any other day.

And the end of January brings us to the Superbowl. Every churchgoer has this issue - you've perhaps seen those sitcoms where the guy sneaks in a radio and discrete earbuds so he can listen to the game during the sermon? Yeah. Since my baptism, I've been taught it's not appropriate to watch the Superbowl on Sunday. TiVo it. Record it. Deal with it.

The Superbowl hasn't interested me in yeeears. I grew up a 49ers fan, a Joe Montana fan. Back when they weren't good, but *amazing.* Since they went down the path of suck, I stopped watching football.

But my four-year-old son loves football. It started during one night of mindless channel flipping when we heard


Dude wanted to watch some football. My squirmy dude sat through an hour of football.

So yes, we are having a football thing this Sunday for my boy. I refuse to kill myself on Sunday in the name of doing only "righteous" things.

I hate hating Sunday. I used to love it, but that was before kids. Anymore it just sucks. We'll take our kids out for a bike ride. If we happen to need something for dinner lest we eat bread and water, we will go to the store. I worry enough. Some Sundays we'll ditch church and go on a picnic. If it is the only day out of the entire week we can see one another, we will make it fun. Family first right?


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Typographical errors...oh, and this, too.

Want to know one of the things I loved about this Church as an investigator?

We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God. (Articles of Faith, no 8)

We use the King James Version, not because it is a perfect translation but the closest to perfect. Joseph Smith spent some time reworking the Bible as evidenced in the Joseph Smith Translation and his revised, if you’ll pardon the term, version of The Gospel of Matthew.

I’ve never taken issue with this. It’s only truth that over time a work can change – we all know the grapevine rule. The first whispers that his mother got a new job and by the time the twentieth person has heard it, the news has changed to some lady was murdered. An exaggerated example, but the idea is there.

The Book of Mormon, however, is supposed to be pure, the most correct book on the Earth. I’ve always understood the book has no need for further translation.

It appears I am wrong, and on some fronts I can accept this. After all, Joseph Smith and his scribes couldn’t exactly spell and when they could, capitalization and other spelling rules differ. The grammar of the time also varies widely from the grammar of today. There are typographical errors and clarifications to be made, as well as a translation of the original handwriting (handwriting can be difficult to understand).

A few years back, my mom gave me a 1920 edition of the Book of Mormon she discovered at an estate sale. I thought “Oh, cool. I wonder what the differences are,” but I didn’t consider anything huge to have happened. I didn’t study it either, but I figured it was all grammatical and placed it on my bookshelf. It is cool after all. I’d kill for an 1830 edition, too, just for the historical value. I never really thought I’d ever have reason to reference this older edition.

So when I ran across an article last night which discussed a major word change from the 1920 edition to the 1981 edition, I double checked and sure enough…

1920 Edition 2 Nephi 30:6

And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white and delightsome people.

1981 Edition, 2 Nephi 30:6

And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a pure and a delightsome people.

It’s not that difficult to catch, though I do find it interesting that other passages within the Book of Mormon were not changed:

2 Nephi 5:21 (1981 Ed.)

And he had caused the cursing to come upon them, yea, even a sore cursing, because of their iniquity. For behold, they had hardened their hearts against him, that they had become like unto a flint; wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

Listen, as an investigator I knew about the accusations of racism directed at the Church. Everyone – at least most – knows of the ban of Blacks and the Priesthood. I still remember sitting in my college library, reading the scriptures in an effort to figure this out. I knew of the passages in the Book of Mormon which used the word “white” and concluded it must be metaphorical. After all, white generally signifies purity because white is devoid of all color. Easy enough, and upon some research I’m hardly the first to come to such a conclusion.

But I didn’t know about these quotes. I already mentioned this one in a previous entry, but I’ll repost it anyway:

Think of the Negro, cursed as to the priesthood…. This negro, who, in the pre-existence lived the type of life which justified the Lord in sending him to the earth in the lineage of Cain with a black skin, and possibly being born in darkest Africa—if that negro is willing when he hears the gospel to accept it, he may have many of the blessings of the gospel. In spite of all he did in the pre-existent life, the Lord is willing, if the Negro accepts the gospel with real, sincere faith, and is really converted, to give him the blessings of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost. If that Negro is faithful all his days, he can and will enter the celestial kingdom. He will go there as a servant, but he will get celestial glory.

- Race Problems—As They Affect The Church, Address by Mark E. Petersen at the Convention of Teachers of Religion on the College Level, delivered at Brigham Young University, Provo, Utah, August 27, 1954. Emphasis added.

That one is bad enough. As a church we like to dismiss such horrible words as the words of an Apostle speaking as a man. Surely this isn’t doctrine, surely these words spawn from a horribly racist culture of the 1950s.

And yet…

I saw a striking contrast in the progress of the Indian people today as against that of only fifteen years ago. Truly the scales of darkness are falling from their eyes, and they are fast becoming a white and delightsome people. . . .

The day of the Lamanites is nigh. For years they have been growing delightsome, and they are now becoming white and delightsome, as they were promised. In this picture of the twenty Lamanite missionaries, fifteen of the twenty were as light as Anglos; five were darker but equally delightsome. The children in the home placement program in Utah are often lighter than their brothers and sisters in the hogans on the reservation.

At one meeting a father and mother and their sixteen-year-old daughter were present, the little member girl—sixteen—sitting between the dark father and mother, and it was evident she was several shades lighter than her parents—on the same reservation, in the same hogan, subject to the same sun and wind and weather. There was the doctor in a Utah city who for two years had had an Indian boy in his home who stated that he was some shades lighter than the younger brother just coming into the program from the reservation. These young members of the Church are changing to whiteness and to delightsomeness. One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated. (Spencer W. Kimball, General Conference, October 1960; See also Improvement Era, Dec.1960, pp. 922-923)

Have we taught that the Lamanite people, even the African-American, the Asian, etc. people have darker skins than us due to their less-than-valiant work in the pre-existence? Before finding this discrepancy between Book of Mormon editions, I might've squeezed a “probably not” from my lips. I couldn't say that now.

And it continues in the 2006 Doubleday Edition of the Book of Mormon. For anyone who is unaware, the Doubleday edition is a "commerical" edition of the Book of Mormon meant so anyone who wanted to get a copy could get one without contacting the Church.

1981 Official LDS Version, 2 Nephi 5 (chapter summary)
Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cursed, receive a skin of blackness, and become a scourge unto the Nephites.

2006 Doubleday Edition, 2 Nephi 5 (chapter summary)
Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites are cut off from the presence of the Lord, are cursed, and become a scourge unto the Nephites. (original emphasis)

1981, Official LDS Version, Mormon 5 (chapter summary)
The Lamanites shall be a dark, filthy, and loathsome people. (original emphasis)

2006 Doubleday Edition, Mormon 5 (chapter summary)
Because of their unbelief, the Lamanites will be scattered, and the Spirit will cease to strive with them. (original emphasis) (all from Lamanite Curse, FAIRwiki)

Much more PC, eh?

Look, I appreciate the changes, but I don’t appreciate our silence and inability to just apologize for crap said and basically condoned by Church leadership. We explain it away as if it doesn’t matter, but it does matter. The Church explained the change thusly,

The Prophet himself attempted to correct some of these kinds of errors, but his many duties prevented him from completing the project; and even so, some of his corrections seem to have disappeared again in later editions. For example, the 1830 and 1837 printings of the Book of Mormon contained a prophecy that the Lamanites would one day become ‘a white and delightsome people’ (2 Ne. 30:6)

In the 1840 printing, which the Prophet edited, this passage was changed to read ‘pure and delightsome people,’ but for some reason later printings reverted to the original wording.

-Bruce T. Harper, The Church Publishes a New Triple Combination, The Ensign, October 1981.

What are the other changes made? Here are two examples from that article, representative of the whole:

(1) 1920 Ed, Alma 16:5 - To know whether the Lord would that they should go into the wilderness…

1981 Ed., Alma 16:5 - To know wither the Lord would they should go into the wilderness

(2) 1920 Edition, 2 Nephi 29:4 - Do they remember the travels and the labors, and the pains of the Jews…

1981 Ed., 2 Nephi 29:4 - Do they remember the travails, and the labors, and the pains of the Jews…

Simple enough. Understandable enough.

But from “white” to “pure”? Someone’s idea got in the way here, and we’d have to question at a motive. Why would anyone change it either way?

The Utah Lighthouse Ministry – admittedly not a fan of the church – has responded to the Church’s explanation. I don’t post this lightly. I know some, if not many, will stop listening right here but please keep with me. I’m not trying to disprove anyone but offer other arguments for discussion:

It should be noted that Church leaders are unable to produce any documentary evidence to support their claim that this was merely a correction by Joseph Smith of a typographical error. There were originally two handwritten manuscripts for the Book of Mormon—a copy which was written by Joseph Smith's scribes as he dictated it and a second "emended" copy that was prepared for the printer. Unfortunately, most of the first manuscript was destroyed through water damage. The Mormon scholar Stanley R. Larson informs us that this manuscript "does not exist for this section of the text. . . ." ("A Study of Some Textual Variations in the Book of Mormon Comparing the Original and the Printer's Manuscripts and the 1830, the 1837, and the 1840 Editions," Unpublished M.A. thesis, Brigham Young University, April 1974, page 283)

Fortunately, the second handwritten manuscript—the copy given to the printer to use to set the type for the first printing of the Book of Mormon—was preserved by Book of Mormon witness Oliver Cowdery and is still in excellent shape. This handwritten manuscript does contain the portion printed as 2 Nephi 30:6. It uses the word "white," and therefore does not support the claim that Joseph Smith was only correcting a typographical error (see Restoration Scriptures, by Richard P. Howard, Independence, Missouri, 1969, p. 49). It should be remembered also that both the first two editions of the Book of Mormon (1830 and 1837) used the word "white." It is especially significant that the 1837 edition retained this reading because the preface to this edition stated that "the whole has been carefully reexamined and compared with the original manuscripts, by elder Joseph Smith, Jr., the translator of the book of Mormon, assisted by the present printer, brother O. Cowdery, . . ." (Book of Mormon, 1837 Edition, Preface, as cited in The Ensign, September 1976, page 79)

- Utah Lighthouse Ministry, Salt Lake City Messenger, A White Pure and Delightsome People, Issue # 46, October 1981.

Many will trust the Church on the basis they don’t believe the Church, its leaders, or its doctrine to be racist – at least not today. As other passages in the Book of Mormon continue to use the word “white” in much the same way it is used in 2 Nephi 30:6 in the current edition, it’s difficult to really know. You’d think each ambiguous use of the word (not easily dismissed as metaphorical) would have changed as well in the 1981 edition.

What also baffles me is that, through my own research, I remain unconvinced that Joseph Smith was racist. His political platform dealt with the freedom of the slaves and I understand he baptized at least two black men.

It is curious. I’m unsure who to believe and it is due mainly to the many racist comments made by church authorities over the years – comments which have been dismissed and explained away rather than apologized for and recognized as patently disgusting (after all, we don’t criticize our leaders, even if that criticism is justified). It’s become more obvious to me the doctrine regarding people of dark skin being less valiant in the pre-existence was taught and can be linked to such scriptures as the ones I’ve mentioned here.

In a semi-related issue, there is also the rumor that Joseph Smith taught that polygamy would be necessary to mix the blood of the white people with that of the darker-skinned people as to help expedite the “whitening” process. This is an easy enough teaching to dismiss; however, when compared with then Elder Kimball’s General Conference remark, “One white elder jokingly said that he and his companion were donating blood regularly to the hospital in the hope that the process might be accelerated” it’s a more difficult an idea to reject.

I also understand that if one wants to, one can find evidence sufficient to support any claim. After viewing what I am able, I happen to lean to the side which states the original handwritten copy edited by Joseph Smith used the word “white” instead of “pure.” The LDS sources I’m able to view are short and rather vague while the other sources are much more thorough and cite other sources as well. When I compare and contrast, this is the conclusion I find myself coming to. I know many will undoubtedly gasp in horror and shock at such words (sarcasm), but the links are there for individual viewing and conclusion. I’m interested, if anyone finds the time, for other points of view.

Any thoughts?

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Homey G's

Hahahahahaa. Okay, bad title? Anyone get it?


Calm down. I'm not going to desecrate anything or give away meanings of things. This is strictly...well, hell. I guess cultural AND doctrinal. We need to make up a term for this stuff, there's so much of it. It's difficult to combine two words that end the same way, though. Ideas?

To begin, I'm so glad the washing and anointing ceremony changed. I remember my mom asking me if we were bathed in the temple, and I totally knew where she was coming from on that but I had to tell her "not exactly."

See, I had little problem going back to the temple for the endowment ceremony (though I totally preferred the baptisms) or even sealings, but I could *not* go back to do washing and anointing for anyone. I hated that ordinance. Whatever happened to modesty? I get that we're all girls here and whatnot, but after so much talk about modesty, shocked me. Shortly after it changed I went back no problem.

So there's issue #1, but it's been resolved. I do have to admit I'm happy to have been through at least one change in the temple. I imagine it will be the last change I ever experience, but there you go. You hear rumors and stories about past changes in the temple, but it's difficult to know who's exaggerating and who's not. This one I know from memory. I have read stories about what it was like back in the 1800s and 1900s, and I'd love to speak with anyone whose experienced it because...eek.


The garments themselves shocked me because I thought (remember: ex-Molly here) they were a bit more immodest than they should be. Hell, I could show a little cleavage. It might be a pain, but I could. The bottoms always seemed a little nuts to me, going down to my knees and all but perhaps that's due to my short stature ;) Not much leg left. I appear even shorter in long skirts. It's wonderful, really.

With the possible exception of the washing and anointing ceremony none of this...none of his got to me as much as the bra situation. Girls, you hear me right? Guys, if you're married (or do moms run around the house like this?) you probably know what I'm talking about.

It's like Robo-woman. I know the garment is intended to stay as close to our skin as possible but for us *cough*well-endowed*cough* girls, the bra works much better beneath the top. I used nursing as an excuse forever, but after that I just said screw it. I couldn't take myself seriously like that and besides, hello turnoff.

It's no wonder some take this whole thing to an extreme. I worried about periods, could I wear underwear beneath my bottoms? I could? Oh good. *wipes forehead*

Let's not even get into the subject of sex and garments. I've already been there and everyone had hilarious and unbelievable stories to tell - members who reject lingerie (or wear their garments beneath them - I'll admit I thought the same at first) even about those who are scared to bathe with their garments off as if something might happen while showering (you hear the stories of people who die in car accidents and the parts of them covered with the garments are untouched while the accident mangled the rest of the person). What if you die in the shower?! Will we be judged on how diligent we are in our garment wearing? Talk about labor intensive.

(again, of whom? Joseph Smith or President Monson/Hinckley/Hunter...who?!? I thought it was supposed to be Christ. I've been taught both - another entry? okay)

"President, I'm so righteous I even make love to my wife with my garments on. Sex is so holy." (ahahaha, pun!)

Speaking of holy, what the crap is up with the mesh garments? They're cooler in warm weather regions? Yes, I've heard that. But my husband, who served in the midwest of the US, related a story to me about a mission companion who would strut around their apartment in mesh garments.

Ewwwwww is right, folks.

Got a lot of fathers who wear the mesh garments.

Ewwwwww is right, folks.

I don't care how studly, hot, or ripped you are, mesh garments are not sexy. I understand the purpose of the garment is more than just promoting modesty, it's there to also help us remember covenants we've made in the temple, but promotion of modesty IS a large part of it. We're told that if we have to adjust our garments to accommodate our clothing than we need to choose more modest clothing.

So what's up with mesh garments?

As for the necessity for something cooler, hell I know this. Here in July we're graced with 110 degree weather and it is no time for an extra layer of cotton-polys. Winter it's fine, I welcome it, but I've known people who ditch them in the summer 'lest they melt into a puddle. My very obedient friend ditched them during her pregnancy in the summer for her tank tops. Her bishop wasn't impressed, but she got her recommend anyway.

My idea back then was that if we're righteous enough we suffer through it. After all, Christ suffered all things - so we should shut up about a little heat, right? Maybe, I can't say, but are we missing the idea here? Are we worried about things we oughtn't worry so much about?


I wonder if our garment fetishes have much to do with our messed up attitudes toward sex and sexuality and perhaps our bodies. I understand it's good to have a reminder of sacred things, but it's a lot like when I had a CTR ring my friend gave me. Sure it serves as a reminder for a while, but in time it's just another article of clothing even if you do attend the temple. Am I wrong? I can see how I could be wrong, but the thought has crossed my mind.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Visiting Teaching: Overshooting the Mark?

I'm going to take a break from normality for a spell. It's fun and affirming, but it's also exhausting. This is chilled by far compared to the last post, but I hope you'll find it worthy of discussion.

First, a little background:

My initial exposure with the Church was through my Institute. It's a small building: one classroom, one game room, a small kitchen, an office, bathroom, and library. It didn't need to be much - it was for the local community college. I loved it there - I gained many friends and *gasp* somewhat of a social life. The Institute Director, Bro S., became somewhat a father figure to me. We didn't agree on much, but I loved him despite some zealous insanity.

Much of what I knew and much of my perceptions about the Church began with Bro. S. While most reject (some of) his dogma, many of his conservative views are largely held in my stake.

One of Bro. S' lessons led him to speak about visiting and home teaching. At this point, I worked with a good friend of mine, Sister J. She was awesome - she didn't worry about what anyone thought; she just did what she felt was right. Though I don't agree with her now, I really did love her confidence. She was genuine in all she did.

Anyway, Sister J. was very by-the-book. We would meet beforehand and have a prayer before we arrived at the house. She dressed up in her Sunday best and so did I. We talked about the lesson. We had a prayer with the girls afterward. The thing that saved her is that she wasn't crazy but rather had an innate unassuming nature.

In time, though, I wondered what the deal was with dressing up for visiting teaching. As I understand it, visiting teaching is a program designed for the women of the ward to look after one another. We're to befriend (or try our damndest) and help each other out. That said and in my experience, these meetings often couldn't be awkward enough. You show up at 9 in the morning dressed up like it's Sunday and the girl you're visiting is still in her jammies or casually dressed. She doesn't know you, you don't know her. Dressing up consistently struck me as presumptuous, haughty even. I didn't like it. An Institute class I attended clarified that we should dress up whenever we're representing the Lord, and indeed we are while visiting teaching.

Ugh, right? Well, I kept going with Sister J. the way she always had. It seemed to work quite well for her, and I did bask in her glow. She was awesome.

Once I moved from the ward, though, I found myself with a new...less serious companion. I wasn't sure if I should dress up when we did our "rounds." To avoid any embarrassment, I threw on a skirt for our first meeting. She was in slacks and a nice shirt - looked like she'd just gotten off work and was visiting a friend. Oy.

It took me a little while to get off the whole Sunday best thing while visiting teaching - mostly because of the guilt - but after a while I'd just go as is. It felt much more equal that way. After all, do I seriously have any authority over these women? I would hate it if a friend came over all dressed up and, giving a lesson about how wonderful it is to be a mom or a woman or something and end it with a generic and stoic "Is there anything we can do for you?" I'm good thanks.

Friendships are built. I like the lesson as a "crap we've nothing to talk about" ice breaker, but even then it's scripted. "Boy I sure liked this part where Sister so-and-so said that we should follow the Prophet. It's so true, can't you feel the spirit?"

I had one woman, Sarah*, I visited who was my age and a hoot. As I didn't have a partner at this time, I felt more at ease. This girl lived in an apartment much like one I used to live in and she struck me as very approachable. I remember looking around the apartment for clues about what she liked because I HATED awkwardness. A fun discussion of Harry Potter came from that, and we became not strangers or ward members, but acquaintances.

Like I said, I'm not good at this stuff. She was social; I am not. Often I will want to be a person's friend, but I feel rushed by time and stumble with most things. I'm a social idiot. I also dealt with a lot back then and felt better at home alone. Now I think I might be better at socializing but it would still take some effort. The comfort level has to be relatively high, no weirdness on the phone. I don't want to feel as if I have to entertain anyone. Just come here and be.

I hate this stuff: " to get together? Oh, you're busy. Okay. Um. Hm. Okay, sorry to bug you. Yeah maybe next week. I'll have to see, my schedule is always up in the air." Yeah, I'm a gem on the phone with a new person I want to get to know. There are exceptions, but aren't there always?

Back to Sarah and visiting teaching. I knew to not ask her if there was anything I could do for her. It's like asking "How're you?" Of course the answer is going to be "Fine" or "Good." Rarely is someone honest, and why should we be? I'm sure most who read this understand: If there's something we can do, we ought to know or at least suspect because we (a) listen to her and (b) remember things she's said, what's going on in her life.

We just do it or snoop around a bit for help by talking with her husband or other friends. We make sure she's having a baby shower. We keep in touch enough (preferably more than once a month and the passing "heys" in the chapel foyer) to know if she or her husband is sick or her baby is in the hospital. We just do it. And if we don't know what's going on, the greatest compliment comes when and if she asks us for help.

The standard "Can I do anything for you" is met with "No, I'm good" for a reason. Many girls don't get this.

When my youngest went into the hospital this past Christmas for pneumonia and RSV, my SIL freaked out. I love her more than she knows, but she wanted to help so bad she didn't want to see we were fine. She wanted to bring us dinner - but Eric was off on break. Granted, this was our first year where he had no school AND no work for three weeks straight, but still. I had Eric. She offered to call my RS President and alert my visiting teacher. I told her I didn't know who my VT was (which is fine) and there was no need to call the RS president. Joseph was home. It was an overnight stay. Getting the RS involved would've made my insides writhe. I hate being doted over for no good reason by people I don't know who only know because someone else told them. Dig?

Really, in times like that, offer to babysit. I'm sure she would have, too, but I don't like asking in times like that when I don't *really* need it. I know her intentions were golden and full of love and probably full of memories of times past when we were in the hospital with a very sick kid for a long time (and our VT/HT/RS didn't know. our fault). There are times when I really do need intervention during quiet times of desperation and a maddening week of active children when I may well explode without a couple hours to myself. Slight exaggeration.

The best service I ever received was from a girl who was not my visiting teacher in my last ward/stake. She had a daughter Abbie's age and a son just a month younger than Joseph. Poor Jason, always stuck in the middle with no guys his age - we need to fix that. Anyway. K offered one day to take the kids - all three of them - for me once a week for about three hours.

This, people, is service. As a person who couldn't bring herself to ask for help, she suspected the same of me and knew to just offer it. I needed this so badly and she taught me so much. Though we never really became friends, this was the most helpful act of service I've ever recieved.

Not from my visiting teacher. From a friendly, attentive person. If a person is new in the ward, be a friend don't "visit teach" them.

I know the home teaching program is slightly different, but the ideas are still the same. I am not going to confess any issues I might have in my personal or spiritual life to a person just because she is my visiting teacher or he is my home teacher. There's a fabulous chance I wouldn't even share these things with a friend. There are few people I entrust with my secrets, hopes, and fears. I won't share them to a couple girls or a couple guys from church because they've been assigned to me, I don't care how "inspired" it's claimed to be (if ever).

I think the idea of the VT/HT program is a good one and full of potential as many have experienced, but we need to focus less on numbers and more on the relationships - and really, it bugged the hell out of me that just as I'd be really getting to know a girl, I'd get reassigned. Frustrating. We can't establish a repetoire with people if we aren't with them consistently and for a long time. I really do think that's the key.

By the way, Bro. S was also my home teacher (and member of my ward). As a man who knew me well, he served as my home teacher better than anyone else ever could have...even if he did overstep his bounds sometimes. I'm grateful for him, too.

*Name changed. I tire of using only initials :)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Piercings, Beards, and other Pharisaical “Encouragements”

Yes, the damn piercings. Again. I know. I’ve been simmering for a good rant, and I’ll warn you right now: it’s a rant. Offense may happen. Unpleasant language. I could get rid of it, but at the moment I really don't want to. Some may also find it negative - I do. I also criticise a leader.

Consider yourselves forewarned and please keep the comments thereof private. Again: This is a rant. Thanks.

I have to get this out. I’ve had more than one person suggest this isn’t so much doctrine as it is encouragement if not expectation of our leaders. But this is, as I’ll show in a minute, not just some off the cuff remark because back in the day girls just didn’t wear more than one earring (and certainly no where but the ear) and boys – well, that’s just…weird.

To the uninformed,

Sister Bednar and I are acquainted with a returned missionary who had dated a special young woman for a period of time. He cared for her very much, and he was desirous of making his relationship with her more serious. He was considering and hoping for engagement and marriage. This relationship was developing during the time that President Hinckley counseled the Relief Society sisters and young women of the Church to wear only one earring in each ear.

The young man waited patiently over a period of time for the young woman to remove her extra earrings, but she did not take them out. This was a valuable piece of information for this young man, and he felt unsettled about her nonresponsiveness to a prophet’s pleading. For this and other reasons, he ultimately stopped dating the young woman, because he was looking for an eternal companion who had the courage to promptly and quietly obey the counsel of the prophet in all things and at all times. The young man was quick to observe that the young woman was not quick to observe.

- Elder David A. Bednar, Quick to Observe, December 2006 Ensign.

To anyone who does not consider themselves Molly or Peter (or to the non-member), this is ridiculous. To a newly zealous member or reinvigorated member, this is wise counsel. This is a faith-promoting story. Do the piercings matter? Noooo. But following the prophet at all times does.

*hits head on desk*

Sorry, but if these ears could hold piercings without infection and I had three or four, I’d keep them. It would be of no disrespect to President Hinckley, but I hardly believe God cares if I have two earrings in one ear. For that matter, I used to want to pierce my eyebrow. If that was still something I wanted, such a story would propel me to get the piercing. This kind of petty stuff serves only to encourage rebelliousness and guilt to those who feel the way I do. "Geez, would I take mine out? What would Elder Bednar think?"

Because it's not about the piercing, is it?

I presume that some of you might have difficulty with my last example. You may believe the young man was too judgmental or that basing an eternally important decision, even in part, upon such a supposedly minor issue is silly or fanatical. Perhaps you are bothered because the example focuses upon a young woman who failed to respond to prophetic counsel instead of upon a young man. I simply invite you to consider and ponder the power of being quick to observe and what was actually observed in the case I just described. The issue was not earrings! (continued from article cited above)

Yes, I believe the young man was too judgmental and I would indeed add fanatical. I might even call Elder Bednar slightly fanatical for bringing it up along with other stories he speaks of in the same talk. We are worrying about the stupidest things. It’s an earring!

If I were that young woman’s friend, I would quickly tell her how lucky she is that her guy showed his true colors before they married. Can you imagine? What if she took a few extra steps on a Sunday? Okay, okay. Hyperbole. But how's this: What if she…now sit down…had an energy drink? *gasp*

I at least hoped this guy talked to the girl beforehand. Oy vey. “Sorry honey, it’s me or the earring.”

Now before anyone throws a fit, I get it. I really, really do and I really, really resent the implied guilt trip pointed at anyone who is doing everything they can – reading the scriptures, attending meetings, honest, chaste, true, benevolent, etc, etc -- and yet has an extra earring. Nothing, nothing is mentioned about this girl's character. Just her unwillingness to take out an earring.

Are we really this nitpicky? What really matters here?

I think the thing that bothers me most about this is that Elder Bednar spoke about it, and not just in the Ensign. This was originally spoken of at a BYU Devotional. Many consider the Ensign to be Scripture when an authority is the author. These little anecdotes only feed the Molly and Peter fires that take the general membership away from the message of CHRIST. For heaven’s sake, can’t we puh-lease talk about Christ instead of these stupid earrings or even the Prophet?

It is because of talks like these that young men and women (and grown men and women) are judged not on their character or heart but on a fucking earring. As an apostle, I would hope Elder Bednar would rather speak of how we can become more charitable. I would rather he spoke about Christ.


And don’t even get me started on beards. Someone suggested this is a BYU thing – well, not exactly. It’s not necessarily church wide, but I can't seem to remember ever seeing a General Authority sporting a good beard, at least not in the last thirty to forty years. In my stake, any male being extended a leadership call (boy scouts, YM, EQ, etc) are asked “How attached are you to that beard?”

My SIL, a very active faithful member, bristles when she tells this story. Nobody asked her, she says. It’s part in jest, but she likes her husband’s beard. Her husband, a laid back guy, doesn’t care. Out comes the razor. Heaven forbid a boy see his leader with a goatee, especially if he's aware - what does it say? What will others think?

I have a good idea of what he'll think: he'll grow up thinking anyone who has a beard is somehow unworthy.

I get that the outside should reflect the inside and we often assume it does – and most times we’re *wrong*. Lest I’m misunderstood, though, I get that it’s important to be clean. I get the importance in dressing nicely when we’re representing the Church (because we understand that when we represent the Church, we are effectively representing Christ. At least that’s how it’s been explained to me). It all makes sense, but if the beard is clean and the earrings aren’t ridiculous than who cares.

Moving on. Deep breath.

Tattoos. Many of our members sport a good tattoo (I'd like to know more who do!). I am curious to know if we have any members - men and women - who have tat sleeves. Are they called to leadership positions? Oh sure as long as it’s covered, but again: women. Would we ever have a Relief Society president who sported a couple tats on her arm (inked before her conversion), tats impossible to cover up? Would we insist on long sleeves each Sunday regardless of weather?

I’m not being facetious; this is for real. We are not to be robots. We’re not to be stepford children of God, there to emit the impression of perfection. We have this weird preoccupation of striving for perfection in a futile journey to be just like Christ in this life. If we were supposed to look the same, it would probably have showed up in scripture somewhere.

And this, I think, is where some of the “avoid the appearance of evil” crap comes from.

Enough with perfection! Should we go nuts? No! But allow a person some self-expression. Allow a person a tattoo if it helps them remember something that is important to them (watch Miami or LAInk if you don’t know what I’m talking about. TLC). Allow a person an earring for heaven’s sake without having to question their loyalty to…who again? The prophet?

I’m sorry, but I think our focus is a little skewed. We talk about the churchchurchchurch. We are to give all we can to the effing church, not to Him whom this Church is supposed to represent.

If you look hard enough, Christ is in all of us. Piercings, beards, tats and all.

It's stuff like this that makes me wonder why I have any hair left at all.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Second Kingdom, Baby!

If I'm worthy and do all the "right" things, I will attain the highest degree of the Celestial Kingdom.

...but not only that! I'll get to be a goddess and with my godlike husband have lots of little spirit children and create worlds without end.

All sorts of good stuff!

If I pay my tithing, I get blessings!

If I do my visiting teaching, I get blessings!

And so on, and so forth.

My feelings don't discriminate either. I felt the same way at my father's church and others I attended. Everything was met with a "reward" of some sort. I even had a youth group activity where all the kids sat in the chapel waiting for two of their counterparts - "angels" - to come and select them at random. This was death. If you went to heaven, you got cookies. If you went to hell, well...

At least at the end of the activity the demon spawn from hell (one of whom was me) were escorted to heaven to partake of the cookies.

Oy, that's a whole other post.

I could give up the Celestial Kingdom entirely...if it weren't for that whole eternal marriage bit. I like my husband. A lot. No matter how much I question or flat out reject some teachings, this...I still feel this one wrapped around my ankle.

It is a romantic notion. Together forever - and I do want that. Will it really be taken away from me? I don't know. I have to admit, I'm leaning more agnostic these days but I still have a hope in Christ, if that makes sense.

While I recognize real doctrinal issues, I have left the door cracked. I can't not do that.

But I will not be bribed. Don't tell me to do my visiting teaching because I will be blessed; don't tell me to follow the commandments because I will be blessed; don't tell me to do everything I'm told because obedience begets my own kingdom and people to govern.

Tell me it's because God loves me and this is the way. Tell me it's because it will help others (understood is the fact that in helping others we help ourselves). Tell me its because it's the right thing to do.

I've heard more than once someone telling me that we're blessed because of what we do. Does that not imply a revocation of blessings for failing to do? Often we tell others we don't believe we fall on hard times because of failure to pay tithing or attend the temple, but we do attribute good times to the good things we do.

Anyone else see the disconnect?

I want to have as pure a motivation as is possible. I don't believe God asks these things of us so we can plead our case. "Hey, look at all I've done. Please, then, help me to do X, Y, and Z."

(Yes, people have said this is something they've done.)

Aren't we all supposed to be eternally indebted to God for Christ? Indebted to Christ? Why then do we think we have any claim on any blessings because of what we do or don't do?

I like to think instead blessings come because God loves us, not because we're doing what he asked. Perhaps some will say we do this with our own kids: we want them to do what we ask and we reward them when they're good.

Sometimes I do this. Then I realize my kids covet only the reward, and I prefer they do what is right because it is right and they see what it reaps in others. I want them to do good simply because it is good. Shouldn't that be reward enough?

This is supposed to be a gospel of grace and faith manifest in works. I'm starting to see why other churches refuse to place any emphasis at all on works.

Some may submit that some blessings are natural, much like some consequences come naturally. I stub my toe, it hurts like hell. Am I being punished for stubbing my toe? No, but I'll watch out next time, that's for sure.

But is there any implicit blessing for my kid cleaning up her toys in the living room for me? It'll bring me much happiness; I've enough to do. I'll love the room being clean, and it really isn't my job to play maid.

But for her - what will it do for her? Should I reward her each and every single time she "obeys"? I don't think so.

If she decides to "disobey," however, there will probably be repercussions in the form of a time out so that she'll learn to help. I should also help her see the good in what she is doing - how nice the room looks, how much easier it is to relax, how much she's helping Mommy and what a big girl that makes her. It's part of being a grown up, and I'm helping her to realize that. That said, she must rely at least somewhat on herself for motivation. I will not bribe my child - with the exception of desperate times :)

Does this mean that perhaps a person who refuses to pay their tithing will in some way miss out on blessings? I know of someone whose mother rags on her inactive son: "You'd have a job if you would pay your tithing!"

Would God truly bribe us this way? Where is our heart when we do what we're told we're supposed to do?

On the flip side, I know of an inactive member who has worked very hard to get where he is in life, unlike his active, RM, temple married brother who has had Mom and Dad bail him and his wife out time and again.

Granted, there are outside influences, such as the son who seemingly quits every job when the going gets annoying or the Mom and Dad who are the ones "punishing" their inactive son by tossing him out in the cold to fend for himself (and well has he done!). I wonder how this fits into the equation of things.

Perhaps we don't know, but it is food for thought. If you'd like more, Mormon Heretic quotes a Sunstone article that deals with this very subject entitled Using Fear, Pride, and Greed to pay Tithing

All interesting thoughts. Anyone else?

I'm very, very proud today. Welcome, President Obama!

Thanks to the Dallas Morning News, here is the transcript of President Obama's Inauguration speech this morning.

Once you're done reading, please visit Renew America - USA Service. This is a fantastic site where we can all find something to do for our community and our country - for our fellow (wo)man

Today is a happy day!

* * *

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.

That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost; jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.

These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics. Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg; Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous, powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions - that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.

For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day - because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort - even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today, just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages. We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies. It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism - these things are old. These things are true.
They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."

America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue, let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely to future generations.

- President Barack Hussein Obama, January 20, 2009.

Monday, January 19, 2009

A Plate of Cookies

Lately I've wondered much about the Church's humanitarian efforts.

It's true, we're there when the hurricanes hit, the tsunamis flood, and the earthquakes roar; it's true we have a fast offering fund for those in need (though it bothers me some that we're quicker to help fellow ward members than those outside the church). If there's any question as to the Church's humanitarian efforts, all one must do is visit the Church's newsroom. We like to talk about it.

But what about locally? In all the time I've been in the Church, local community efforts are wanting. I do want to recognize my old Institute for adopting a highway (but how does that work? do the people who adopt do the work or merely pay for someone to do the work?), and my last ward did make blankets for pre-term babies. It does happen and now that I'm forced to think about it, I'm grateful and slightly humbled.

But do we try to reach beyond our walls more than we stay within? And while it's a nice thought to make cookies for the local firemen, does that really help? It's nice, but does it help?

I suppose another question could be, does it matter?

Perhaps I'm projecting (oh I'll admit it, I am), but I wonder how much easier it is to make cookies than it is for us to get to know people we're uncomfortable around.

We'd rather make cookies than hang out with our coarse neighbor while he smokes and has a beer. I know some members who would rather hang out with this guy than their EQ president, and I have to say I admire them. I have found that showing our neighbor that he is more important than his vices will impact him more than cookies ever will, I don't care how good they are. And these are oft the most interesting people.

Sometimes I think we need to dismount our high horse, our rameumptum, even. I'm tired of telling others that we're fighting against them because we love them. That doesn't work. First we must show love - really show it, to the specific people - and then they will be more apt to love us. That doesn't mean there will ever be an agreement, but compassion can change even our Church (gasp at the suggestion, I know). I fear we're not nearly as compassionate as we like to think.

And yes, I'm talking about the gay community but this could really be for anyone. Would an actively gay couple feel comfortable in our wards? Do you ever see any? I haven't (that said, I live in a conservative community and rarely see gay couples). They don't feel welcome, and if this is about Christ than it should be about Christ first and sexuality last. Christ first, cigarette breath last.

We have a president now (er, tomorrow!) whose entire campaign was based on change and doing something. It's not just up to him or other people. This was a grassroots campaign and so it must remain. No matter who you voted for or how much you can't stand that President-Elect Obama won, we have to start serving each other.

President Hinckley once said that all converts need three things: A friend, a responsibility, and nurturing with the good word of God. I propose that everyone, regardless of who they are or where they are need these three things...and not to get them to become converts, either.

I hate how we perform service in the hopes that those will see our light and come running to the baptismal font. Service should not be a means to an end.

Forgive me if I've said this before, but I was told once that we should only pray for that which we're willing to do ourselves. "Heavenly Father, please feed those in need" = We should donate some food to a local shelter, give something to the guy on the corner. "Please bless that those who are sick will get better" = stopping by with some chicken soup and to do a load of dishes (or whatever they need). Going by the store to grab some meds, etc.

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves...Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:22, 26)

I'm going to refrain from interpreting that last bit.

Just because we're Latter-day Saints doesn't mean jack. Just because someone else may be Buddhist or holy-roller Protestant, Catholic or Atheist doesn't and shouldn't mean jack. In the end we're all children of God - and if you don't subscribe to that, in the end we're all human and we're all doing the very best we know how. That's all that matters. Blankets don't. Cookies don't. Real interest in each other matters because sincerity breeds hope, and hope is everything.

I want to start putting my money where my mouth is, so to speak, and help out my community. I've been complaining loads about it, which means I should probably do something. I'm going to start looking for opportunity. This is not an aspect of life I'm comfortable with or fluent in, so it will take some effort, but I feel I must try.

Let's do something for our local communities. If anyone knows a good way to discover how to do this, please leave a comment. There's always something we can do, but often we don't know how. We trust in our local Relief Society to come up with something, but other organizations and churches perform good works and I'm sure we'd be invited to help.

And if it would make us feel better, we can always bring cookies to the event.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Judas, Satan, Eve, and "Transgressions"

First, a caveat: This entry is bound to offend somebody. I suppose most things are bound to offend somebody, but this one particularly harbors some potential and probable offense. If you find it, know I'm not out to blaspheme. These are genuine thoughts from a genuine person. This has crossed my mind more than once, and I thought I'd dare post them to see if I'm completely off my rocker or not. My husband assures me the Church has already addressed these issues but he isn't sure how. I'm very interested and ask that you please be respectful in your feedback. Thanks.

From an Ensign article regarding the Fall of Adam:

Truths restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith bring Adam and Eve out of obscurity and into marvelous light, revealing they were noble and great forebears who “fell that men might be” (2 Ne. 2:25)....

Our Father in Heaven knew Adam and Eve would fall. In fact, the Prophet Joseph Smith taught that Adam “was made to open the way of the world” (Teachings, 12). Lehi tells us, “Adam fell that man might be; and men are, that they might have joy” (2 Ne. 2:25). Modern scripture makes it clear that it was the will of the Father, as part of his plan, that Adam and Eve transgress and thus be moved out of Eden. Satan thus unwittingly furthered the plan, “for he knew not the mind of God” (Moses 4:6).

- Arthur A. Bailey, What Modern Revelation Teaches about Adam, January 1998 Ensign.

Again, perhaps my logic is flawed. If you see it, let me know. These are merely thoughts, not statements of fact.

But here we go: God knew Eve would succumb to the serpent's words and temptation. He knew Adam, obedient, wonderful Adam, would follow his wife as commanded (think temple).

Adam and Eve had to partake of the fruit. They had to disobey God's explicit command to leave the stupid fruit alone, 'else we would have no reason to exist today.

Hell, according to doctrine we would not exist today without Eve.

We love Eve. We love women.


But this is doctrine. Agreed? Everyone happy? Okay.


We equate Judas with betrayal. He sold our Savior to Caiaphas and Pilate, to those who hated him and demanded His crucifixion, the very crucifixion which led to his death?

Would it be fair to suggest that without Judas we wouldn't have the Atonement?

I understand we believe the actual atoning of sins to have taken place in the Garden of Gethsemane, prior to the betrayal of Judas. Without Christ's death, however, the Atonement would be in vain. It is in the Atonement, we teach, that Christ took on all our sins, all of them. He had to die with those sins on his shoulders and overcome death so that we may, too.


Some may contend God could have had a plan for Christ to die without Judas' help. This may be true - God's omnipotence would demand it; however, the same could be said for Adam and Eve.


We make the distinction that Eve committed not a sin, but a mere transgression in doing what she had to do, what God wanted her to do.

Could the same be said of Judas?


If you've been to the temple, think back. While I'm told most things are ok-ay to relate outside the temple, I want to be careful here for various reasons.

But perhaps I can circumvent that through simple explanation.

We're taught, as has been explained before, that God knew of the inevitable "Fall of Adam" (apparently his fall is the only one that matters? ugh, who cares). In order for Adam to fall, a few things had to be available:

1) The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil
2) The Tree of (Eternal) Life
3) The very innocent and pure Adam and Eve
4) A Tempter: Satan/Serpent

Each are equally important in what we learn to be God's purpose for us: "To bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of Man." (Moses 1:39)

Without the tree, there could be no possibility, according to the Gospel, that God's children would ever know good versus evil. This is vital to free agency.

The Tree of Eternal Life is a bit different in that Adam and Eve were not forbidden to partake of that fruit. Nothing stopped them from going there and remaining in their perfect, innocent state. It would be of interest to discuss this, but for today's purposes let's just remember that God placed Cherubim to guard it after Adam and Eve ate the fruit so they would not partake of this particular tree and remain forever in their sins.

I think the importance of Adam and Eve are fairly well understood for this purpose today.

The tempter.

Now there's something interesting. My husband tells me there are some who believe that, in the end, Satan will basically receive forgiveness and attain his own bit of glory. Remember the temple here and how Satan responds to God's inquiries of what he's doing around Adam and Eve.

Oh hell I'll just write it. My stepFIL is a temple worker and says it's fine to talk about pretty much everything - pretty much. I'm just in no hurry to get called in.

Remember how Satan/Lucifer responds that he's doing only what has been done in other worlds? Interestingly enough everything but this part is mentioned almost word for word in the Book of Moses. Hm.

I never understood why this time was different. It always seemed to me that God needed Satan's part in order to "bring to pass" his purposes for us, so that we could one day become like him. What good is it to know only the good? Where is the choice when you don't know the good for the evil?

Where is the choice indeed.

Was Satan rebuked in like manner during the other times? It's like telling your kid something needs to be done, and when he does it, sending him to his room. "I know it was important and a righteous means to an end, but dammit! You shouldn't have done it!"

Is that it? Did God have a different plan, or was he just waiting for Lucifer to inadvertently help him out?

So if Eve is to be revered for her actions in disobeying God - being the first to do so - why don't we then also revere Judas and even recognize Satan's part in all of this?

Would Eve have partaken of the fruit without Satan telling her all the cool stuff that would happen if she did?

Was there a different way for Christ to be crucified or was Judas an essential part of that plan, too?

Before anyone says "we're not to know all the mysteries of God" let me say I know. But I think this deserves some attention. It's been on my mind for some years, and I hardly think I'm so original as to be the first to think of such things.

Please, discuss.

Why I May Not Be in Church This Sunday

I believe it's this Sunday, at least.

Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, Chapter 27: The Bitter Fruits of Apostasy.


To the dictionary, the word is benign: the renunciation of a religious or political belief or allegiance

To the Church, it's betrayal of God.

The second paragraph in the lesson begins thusly:

As that year wore on, a spirit of apostasy grew among some of the Saints in Kirtland. Some members became proud, greedy, and disobedient to the commandments... Sister Eliza R. Snow recalled: 'Many who had been humble and faithful to the performance of every duty - ready to go and come at every call of the Priesthood - were getting haughty in their spirits, and lifted up in the pride of their hearts.' (p. 317)
Too often, far too often, we shun those who no longer agree with all or some of the tenants of the church as prideful, haughty, greedy and worldly apostates. Indeed when one disagrees, some jump at the chance to suggest the apostate is looking for the approval of the world as opposed to that of God. As Latter-day Saints we are in the world, but not of the world. Apostates, on the other hand, fit both bills.

This lesson doesn't help that.

...Brigham Young...remembered a meeting at which some Church members were discussing how to depose the Prophet Joseph: 'I rose up, and in a plain and forcible manner told them that Joseph was a Prophet and I knew it, and that they might rail and slander him as much as they pleased, [but] they could not destroy the appointment of the Prophet of God; they could only destroy their own authority, cut the thread that bound them to the Prophet and to God, and sink themselves to hell. (p. 317, emphasis added)

Elder Dallin H. Oaks has mentioned it's inappropriate for anyone to criticise Church leaders, even when it is justified. And why? The lesson explains:

"Losing confidence in Church leaders, criticizing them, and neglecting any duty required by God lead to apostasy" (p. 318)


It's never about anything else, either.

[Brigham Young] then remarked that any man, any elder in this Church and kingdom who pursued a course whereby he would ignore or, in other words, refuse to obey any known law or commandment or duty - whenever a man did this, neglected any duty God required at his hand in attending meetings, filling missions, or obeying counsel, he laid a foundation to lead him to apostasy and this was the reason those men had fallen. (p. 319, emphasis added)

I understand that it's wrong to complain just to complain. We all do it, we probably shouldn't. Sustaining our leaders, teachers, etc. includes buoying them up. Supporting them. Raising our hand in class, preparing for class, etc.

"As long as my brethren stand by me and encourage me, I can combat the prejudices of the world, and can bear the contumely [harsh treatment] and abuse with joy..." (Joseph Smith, p. 320)

Of course. We all need support in our work, our leaders especially. This isn't easy stuff, and there is a world of people against them. They've much to combat.

But to suggest justified criticism is wrong because it's a stepping stone to apostasy...? Is this shit for real?

It gets worse.

"From apostates the faithful have received the severest persecutions. Judas was rebuked and immediately betrayed his Lord into the hands of His enemies, because Satan entered into him" (p. 321)

Ahh, yes. Apostates of the Church today = Judas.

Judas. Who betrayed Christ to his death.

"Who, among all the Saints in these last days, can consider himself as good as our Lord? Who is as perfect? Who is as pure? Who is as holy as He was?" (p. 321)

I get it! The Church isn't perfect, neither are the servants of the Lord. I get it! But I propose those who leave don't consider themselves perfect. We don't ask for a perfect church. We don't ask for perfect leaders...necessarily. I'll admit I do hope for better in my leaders. It's important to realize they're human too and will fail at times. We need to realize such about anybody. Respect is tantamount, but respect must be given and earned and isn't always even by our leaders. The benefit of the doubt is also vital, for both leader and follower alike. Sometimes we just don't know. I get all of this. I don't think "apostates" necessarily began with criticising present leaders as much as they may criticise past leaders' opinions as well as current church stances. There is a difference.

The lesson basically accuses "apostates" of biting the hand that fed them, and indeed perhaps some do. One such example MAY be Ed Decker (thank you, Equality, for the correction. Oy!). His work is unbelievably ridiculous. My mom had me watch his movie The Godmakers as an investigator and I laughed. Horrible. Fear mongering and exaggerations at its worst.

But are we much better sometimes?

This lesson encompasses the reason so many find difficulty in leaving. Many stay because they believe in certain tenets of the faith. Many stay because they feel a connection to God here. Many do stay because they cannot go anywhere else because their discriminatory beliefs in God are rejected in many other churches (though I hear many choose to attend the Unitarian churches).

But many don't leave because they're scared to death of abandonment and venom. If they haven't already, they know the accusations will fly. Gossip will hush behind their backs. They are going to hell. They are covenant breakers, and if you've been to the temple, you may recall the consequences of breaking those covenants, though they sound more like general threats of the wrath of God...

And it doesn't matter what dissenters say about their good feelings toward the Church despite their disaffection. This lesson also covers that.

When the Prophet had ended telling how he had been treated, Brother Behunin remarked: 'If I should leave this Church I would not do as those men have done: I would go to some remote place where Mormonism had never been heard of, settle down, and no one would ever learn that I knew anything about it.'

The great Seer immediately replied: 'Brother Behunin, you don't know what you would do. No doubt these men once thought as you do. Before you joined this Church you stood on neutral ground. When the gospel was preached, good and evil were set before you. You could choose either or neither. There were two opposite masters inviting you to serve them. When you joined this Church you enlisted to serve God. When you did that you left the neutral ground, and you never can get back on to it. Should you forsake the Master you enlisted to serve, it will be by the instigation of the evil one, and you will follow his dictation and be his servant (p.324)

That's right.

The lesson ends on a higher note, I think, stating that the majority of the prophets and apostles will never lead us astray. Quite a change from "The Prophet will never lead you astray" but I suppose most things don't get through the Quorum until a majority rules, correct? Ahh, I don't know.

I don't believe the apostles and the Prophet to be imposters. I don't hate the Church; I'm grateful for it and will always be.

There are apostates, but not necessarily betrayers of God. Though I certainly understand why the Church would think so, many simply find another way to God (and many turn agnostic at best and athiest at "worst"). Some in the Church accept this and treat sincere dissenters with respect, but most hear lessons like this and choose to shun, choose to believe anyone who would leave (and generally these are the once very active and zealous) to be a fallen people, a prideful people, a worldly people.

This simply isn't true, not all of the time. I understand the Church wants to protect its people, wants to ensure its people stay faithful, but to suggest it's God or Satan, I think, is counterproductive. Some readers might find it to be a truthful statement. Such black and white teaching and thinking only serves to push more people away. I won't have anything to do with it.

I still haven't decided if I want to go or not. Upon my first reading of this lesson my anxieties kicked in. Guilt set in. I developed a migraine.

Many would say this is because "the guilty taketh the truth to be hard."

And I just might hit the next person who suggests such a thing. Guilt isn't always a reaction to uninvited truth, but to indoctrination.

I just don't know. I don't know how I'd react at Church. I already know what people will say, I just want to know what I would say. I couldn't go and remain quiet. That wouldn't be right, but it sure will pique some curiosities regarding where I stand. Eh.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Out of the Closet

When we moved back (to our hometown) this past August, our bishopric wasted little time in extending callings to my husband and I. No big deal; we knew the drill. First they stopped by our home as a "get to know you" type meeting - the type I like the most. There's something about when you have a leader take the time to stop by your home that feels more genuine. A past Relief Society president did that, and I loved her for it. She was amazing.

Anyway, within a few weeks we both received that phone call. Brother J asked Eric if he'd like to be a Sunday School teacher for the 16-17 year olds, and of course Eric said yes. He liked the idea - not time consuming, no meetings, kids, cool. Then, because I was otherwise occupied, Bro. J told Eric he wanted to call me to be the fourth Sunday Relief Society teacher.

I'd never taught before, not really - and never in church. I don't count the two times I substituted for the Sunbeams class. I did have some experience as an English tutor and I do enjoy giving talks during Sacrament meeting, so I accepted, knowing the potential of the challenge due to my faith issues. But I understand the deal: stay within what's accepted, keep my opinions to myself, etc.

November's lesson went much better than expected. Even two weeks later I had sisters complimenting me. I wish I remembered what I did. I know I gave them opportunity to discuss and I did little reading...but I also know my preparation lacked severely. Apparently I did well though, which propelled me to December's lesson.

Oh boy. This lesson was based off Elder Uchtdorf's talk The Infinite Power of Hope and Sister Dalton's A Return to Virtue.

This lesson didn't go all. I found I struggled greatly in keeping within the approved lines. I couldn't handle the dialogue, the difficulty I found in asking questions which didn't lead to the standard Primary answers. I could hear Sister Dalton's voice in my head, and it screeched like nails on a chalkboard. A return to virtue? Yes I know the world has a different idea of virtue at times, but I tire quickly of the intonations, the vocabulary, the insinuations, the complete lack of feeling someone is relating to me.

Say I'm making much out of something small, and you'd probably be right. I do have some anger right now. I'm annoyed. But I tried.

I extended the lesson on virtue to that of charity. One woman in the room recognized that charity is much, much more than just bringing a new mom a casserole: it's what's in the heart. Yay!

Someone else related a story which reminded me of one of my own. In short, two friends of mine and I went to a Giants game in San Fransisco some years ago. A man rifled through the dumpsters in the parking lot. While I did all I could to avoid this person, my friend ran back to the car to get some food for him. As she handed him her twinkies, another man approached and handed the transient a beer.

My first reaction, I said, was "Oh, geez, a beer?" but then I remembered and understood this man's charity matched my friend's and far exceeded my own. I learned a few lessons that day I'll never forget.

When I mentioned the beer in class, however, one woman sighed with disapproval. A beer.

I'll admit nervousness and little preparation for this lesson, but I felt it all lost in this one story. I could be wrong, perhaps the women believed I wanted to make a point regarding twinkies versus beer in charity. I don't know. My driving point as a teacher, though, has been to help people know that we're not alone in our righteousness, that good, even amazing people really do exist outside this church. Even virtuous people.

Suffice it to say the lesson bombed. I knew on one level I could recover from it; after all, everyone suffers bad lessons, especially as novices. My issue came with the fact that I harbor a special irritation with the talks. Come to Zion, Our Hearts are Knit as One, O Ye That Embark.

For real. I don't get why we're still stuck in the pioneer age.

Last week put the last nail in the coffin for me, though. I substituted for Eric's Sunday School class. I had four boys and one girl, and all of them didn't want to be there. All of them complained. All of them liked to harp on other churches, on their hypocracy. "Do you see them smoking pot?" "Yeah, they get drunk all the time, too."

It didn't occur to me until after class that these kids harbored a jealousy over their non-member friends. These kids are angry. I asked for their honesty, and honestly, they just don't care. They don't get it. They don't believe in it, and they don't really want to. They don't have a reason to.

I couldn't teach the lesson because...well, I couldn't. Not in good faith, so we just talked. Their attitudes, lack of respect, and anger truly astounded me - and it's nothing I haven't run into before with our youth. But I was good. I didn't let any of my feelings through. Just let them talk.

I understand my heart may be "hardened" right now. I also know I shouldn't be teaching like this, so I called my bishop. Of course he wanted to know why, so I told him.

I'm out. At least to my bishop. He wanted to know what exactly was bothering me, but I couldn't figure out how to put it into words. I know I write here like crazy about it, and I know I talk with my husband about it to death and I've other people online I've vented to, but I still don't know how to tell my bishop. I don't know how to say it. My writing and incessant talking is all in an effort to figure out what exactly I'm feeling, believing and thinking and how to say it.

I need an Aaron.

I respect my bishop. He's a good man. He understood my need for time. That'll help; it already has. Perhaps I've mentioned it before, but my previous bishop counseled me to watch more BYU-TV. Gee, thanks.

Yesterday was a hard day. I was a mess. Today I feel I could talk with him. I hated asking for a release so soon after my call, but I didn't feel I could teach in good faith anymore. I don't know. I need to talk with him again, if only to get this all off my chest. I don't expect much to change, I don't expect my bishop to understand, but he gave me my space yesterday. He's been a good man that way.

I think that's why I hesitate to tell him exactly what's on my mind. I don't want to disappoint, and I fear my emotions are getting the better of my otherwise level head. I don't want to give the impression, as some have commented, that I'm throwing the baby (doctrine) out with the bathwater (the culture). I do take issue with some core doctrine, but it's easier to harp on the culture. Less frightening. More people tend to agree the culture needs help whereas doctrinal issues may prompt a spiritual intervention. The look on a close, once best friend's face when the topic of gay marriage comes up breaks my heart. She's scared. She wants to save me despite everything I've said.

It's very difficult to say what is going on in my head out loud. It's like stepping into the dark, and before anyone says that the dark is no place we want to be, let me assure you joining the church was like stepping into the dark. When Joseph Smith prayed, there was a period of darkness before the light. There is often darkness before the light. This I know. I've experienced it.

I'm still a little afraid of it, though.