I won’t be Tenchi

August 20th, 2014

In recent conversations I’ve had about sex, particularly among Mormons, I’m reminded of a phenomenon I’ve noticed in some Japanese anime series, most particularly Tenchi Muyo. Tenchi Muyo tells the story of 20-something Tenchi Masaki, who lives with his grandfather and a group of extra-terrestrial women, all of whom pursue him romantically. That is, they fight over him, and who “gets” him, on an ongoing basis. However, if he ever gives any indication that, at any point in the future, in any kind of context (like, after marriage), he has any interest in having sex with any of them, he is declared to be a “pervert,” and, usually, slapped.

Now, I am not the object of romantic rivalry between any number of women, let alone extra-terrestrial women. But I do find myself being treated with suspicion and accusation for wanting to talk about sex. I’ve not yet been slapped for it, or openly called a pervert (which is good — I will not hesitate to refer anyone slapping me for assault charges), but I’m not willing to let this suspicion and accusation issue go unchallenged.

In a Mormon context, sex is a very important thing. Sex with anyone other than a heterosexually married spouse violates the Law of Chastity, which is seen as among the most serious of sins (sometimes, second only to murder in severity). I don’t disagree with the standards of the Law of Chastity, although I do think the ways in which the subject is treated among Mormons can become unhealthy. Laura Brotherson, a Mormon therapist, has written a book on the subject titled And They Were Not Ashamed — Strengthening Marriage through Sexual Fulfillment that discusses the importance of a healthy sexual relationship in marriage from a Mormon perspective. Interest in sex is normal, and a good thing. Discussion about it isn’t necessarily inappropriate. Sexual conversations, of course, can be inappropriate. But where the purpose of the conversation isn’t to encourage people to inappropriate sexual behavior, there is some room for conversation.

My positions on some Mormon questions.

June 25th, 2014

It has occurred to me that some folks might be interested in/concerned about where I stand on some key questions about Mormonism, particularly when I’m speaking up for people who are being accused of apostasy. This will kinda be a wordy version of what could be nicely handled by a Mormon Geek Code if such a thing existed and was widely understood.

The Church is true?
Yes. But I’m not entirely certain what “true” means. But my Yes is solid and unequivocal.
The Book of Mormon is true?
Yes, solidly and unequivocally also. Again uncertain about “true” and reasonably certain that the explanation of who and where it describes that I was taught as a child is not literally true. I’m okay with the legendary descriptions of how it was translated not being literally true, and I’m also not bothered by horses, iron, swords, concrete, etc.
Prophets are fallible men inspired by God.
Yes. So stories about their frailties, mistakes and bad choices don’t blow me away – I’m interested in those stories, but they don’t impact the first question at all.
Plural marriage
Also doesn’t blow me away, even the post-Manifesto stuff. Don’t expect to practice it in my lifetime.
Book of Abraham
My position is a hybrid of the Catalyst Theory and the Missing Papyrus Theory. The papyri we have were not written by Abraham and do not contain the text of the BoA. However, there might be missing papyri which contain that text and could possibly have been written by Abraham (but I doubt that last part). The text is the word of God, and I’m not bothered if it is not literally connected to the Abraham Papyri.
Ordaining women
I don’t know. I’m not persuaded that this is necessary, or that it would be good. OTOH, I strongly support the ability to ask for this, on the grounds that it’s always okay to ask for what you want, as long as you will gracefully take “no” for an answer. I don’t accept that that answer has been given yet.

We Never Walk Alone — Sacrament Meeting Talk

January 13th, 2014

We Never Walk Alone

12 Jan 2014

Arlington Third Ward.

There is nothing in this world quite like a simple, clear, obvious, undeniably true statement with which no reasonable person can disagree. I have become convinced that there is absolutely nothing like it – there is no such thing. Through my life, I have come to see that there is much truth to be found in challenging what seems to be obviously true. One of the first times I remember noticing that phenomenon was the first time I read the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus taught that we should reward those who take from us by giving more, those who strike us by giving them a chance to strike us again, and that we should actually love our enemies. It seems obviously true that we should punish those who take from us, defend ourselves from those who hit is, and hate our enemies. Left to ourselves, we do such things, in point of fact. But the Savior challenges us to return good for evil. To do something that, at first blush, seems to contradict reason.

There is a term for a situation where two things seem to be mutually exclusive, but are both true, and that is a dialectic. Where simple logic seems to dictate black and white, either/or thinking, dialectic describes shades of gray and yes/and thinking. Rather than good people on one side and bad people on the other, dialectic shows us just people, children of God, our brothers and sisters who are and do both good and bad on all sides of a question – and there are usually more than two sides to any story. Where simple logic seems to dictate that good people receive good things that make them happy, and bad people receive bad things that make them unhappy, dialectic, life and the gospel show us that people can receive bad things in their lives despite making good choices, and can receive pleasant things in their lives despite making bad choices. I believe that dialectics exist due to reality being more complex than our language and minds can totally comprehend. Read the rest of this entry »

Some More Thoughts on Gun Control and Mass Shootings

December 14th, 2013

Another excerpt of comments from a conversation.

I’ve got no particular problem with the kinds of things Will was talking about (background checks, mental health requirements, and license requirements), but I return to my previous point, and will add another — they aren’t going to work until their enforcement is funded, and they’re not going to really stop horrible things from happening. There are enough guns in circulation that nothing is going to stop someone who really wants a gun from getting it. If we can’t keep weapons and drugs out of prisons, we’re not going to be able to keep them from people outside prisons.

But passing laws to attempt to change the behavior of people who won’t obey laws is ridiculous on its face. It’s like trying to stop people from speeding by reducing the speed limit.

To the notion of strengthening regulation, and reducing the number of guns:

Reduce the numbers how? There are about 300 million guns in the country. If you got rid of 90% of them, there’d still be 30 million — enough to have a reenactment of WWII. And there’s no way you’ll get more than 10% of that in real terms in an environment where you can’t pass a ban on assault-styled hunting rifles.

And how are you going to strengthen those regulations without *funding their enforcement?* That’s the Achilles’ Heel of nearly every gun control scheme floating around — no one has made any serious effort to fund the existing laws. Without that, regulations have no strength at all — they are virtually meaningless.

I think the best idea is to pay attention to the realities of the situation. School and other mass shootings scare the hell out of us and piss us off, but they’re exceptionally rare events, and reducing their frequency by any kind of government effort is extremely unlikely — they tend to happen in gun-free zones, for one thing. Accidental shootings are more dangerous and quite preventable with gun safety education. The NRA has Eddie Eagle curriculum for gun safety classes for pre-schoolers that they make available for free to anybody who wants to use it. That doesn’t take any change in law — just people willing to stand up and do it. Why every school in the country isn’t doing this is beyond me. Well, except the part about how folks hate the NRA, and assume the curriculum would be brainwashing kids about how cool guns are. Which it doesn’t: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wIEBrb_wRYc. That’s not sexy, but it could really be effective.

Pants Day is Coming!

November 29th, 2013

I was not, originally, a fan of Pants Day last year.  I was thinking “Oh, those wacky Mormon feminists (that I love — let’s be clear) are just picking a fight they don’t need to pick, and this is a bad idea.”  But I love Mormon feminists, so I paid attention to what they were saying, and I found they weren’t being as wacky as I originally thought.  Things I learned by listening:

  • This wasn’t a protest.
  • This wasn’t violating policy — pants have been approved for women to wear to Church for decades.
  • The point was to help Mormon feminists (and fellow travelers, like me) to identify each other, and to provide a time when those who haven’t had as much contact with the Church of late could come and find people who might be able to help them find a place within the Church.
  • Wearing of pants wasn’t required to participate.  Wearing purple would do.

So, nobody was being disobedient or rebellious, and people were coming to Church who hadn’t in a long time.  Looked like all up-side to me.

And then I went to the Salt Lake Tribune’s website, and looked at the discussion on an article about the event, and was, frankly, disgusted.  Not by the rebellious, garment-burning feminists, but by the out-of-control reaction of their opponents.  Threats of violence and death — this is not an exaggeration.  Ugliness and verbal abuse all over the place by people who clearly prided themselves on being “good” Mormons, but who clearly had a shaky grip on the notion of how a Christian is supposed to behave.

That was when I decided I was going to participate and support this.  Not because I think women wearing pants to Church is very important — I don’t.  But because I wanted to do what I could to show that the hateful and disgusting rhetoric of those idiots on the discussion board do not represent all Mormons.

I wore a purple shirt and a tie with purple in it that day.  I didn’t see any women in my ward in pants, but I did see a sister wearing purple and her husband said to me “Oh, yeah.  We were supposed to wear purple today!”  He was wearing a white shirt, which he usually didn’t.  But the mission was accomplished — I had identified myself as a participant to those in the know, and had connected with folks who were open to things on the less-than-orthodox side of Mormonism, like me.

I’m going to do the same thing this year.  I’m no more feminist than I was last year (and no less, either).  I don’t think I’m going to be any more “out” because of it.  But I want to join with my feminist friends in making a space within the Church where those who feel like they don’t fit in can feel welcome.  The Church needs Mormons of all kinds, with all kinds of labels and perspectives and relationships with the institutional Church, until we all come in the unity of faith.  Not unity of opinion — unity of faith.  Those who are more drawn to notions of social justice, equality, and voting for Democrats are necessary to the Church reaching its potential, just as those drawn to notions of traditional values, hard work and voting for Republicans are.  Like 1 Cor 12 says, all kinds are needed — a body needs eyes, feet, hands, and a spleen. Even a butt-hole (try running a body without one for a while and see how that works for you), so there’s room for me.

I invite others to join me in this.  Be you eye, hand, or NOM or ex-Mo or non-Mo.  Put on some pants or trousers or purple and show up and you may find yourself in the presence of brothers and sisters you never knew you had.  I am surrounded by brothers and sisters that I see as such, who don’t see anything like that in me.  15 Dec.  LDS.org can help you find a meetinghouse close to you, or the congregation that you live within.

Getting stuff done.

October 24th, 2013

As my vacation winds to a close (with a little bump yesterday — 7 hours on the floor), I am pleased with what I got done.  Not everything I intended to, but a bunch of important things.

With the help of the girls (and the boy-in-law), we finished processing four baskets, three produce bags, and a box of apples into pie filling, applesauce (spiced and strawberry) and apple butter (with only the first batch overdone) and canned them, with only two jars not sealing.  Many of the jars were popping within minutes of being taken out of the canner, and I had several popping while still in the canner (I think that means that they were boiled longer than they needed to be).

I went to two medical appointments, and have three appointments scheduled for follow-up.  These are resulting in better management of my depression (steady as she goes with the Zoloft for another month, with the option of upping the dose at any time), diabetes (I can has fast insulin and test strips?  I can!), and whatever the firetruck is wrong with my shoulders (including x-rays on the left shoulder, which is a lot worse).

The diabetes management is throwing complications into my day (I remembered to take fast insulin before breakfast, but, fifteen minutes later, was busy doing something else and didn’t get any breakfast, so I’m feeling a little hypo right now), but I’m rolling with it, and I’m promising to test way more often (before each meal) and to take the fast insulin before each meal and slow insulin at night, before bed.  I think I’m enough in the world of day-time people that I can possibly make that routine work when I’m getting up for work, too.  It’s going to take a while to make it routine.

Freakanomics Podcast — Weird Recycling

September 7th, 2013

This is really reusing, at least as much as it is recycling, but it’s about not just throwing things away.  And about challenging our preconceptions.

Dr. Francis Collins on Why We Need New Drugs, a TED Talk

September 2nd, 2013

Today we know the molecular cause of 4,000 diseases, but treatments are available for only 250 of them. So what’s taking so long? Geneticist and physician Francis Collins explains why systematic drug discovery is imperative, even for rare and complex diseases, and offers a few solutions — like teaching old drugs new tricks.

Letting Go Some More

August 5th, 2013

God,
Grant me the Serenity to accept the things I can not change,
Courage to change the things I can, and
Wisdom to know the difference.

We all need all of those things every day, even on good days. When the days aren’t so good, we need them more. Letting go of our desires and wishes and wants and needs and letting God drive the bus is hard. I remember days when it felt like the sun would not rise if I forgot to get out there and push to make it happen. Realizing that making my knuckles white was accomplishing little to nothing, and might actually be working against what was best was very hard. The best thing about hitting yourself in the face with a hammer over and over is that it feels so good when you stop.

My contribution to the world is small — a very small drop in a very large ocean. It will not accomplish what I want it to accomplish. It will not earn the gratitude and attention I would like to receive from it in my neediness. But it is mine to contribute, and enough drops in the ocean can make things different. If I do what God wants with it, then it will be made best use of. If I can let go of those wants, desires, expectations and even needs (hardest to justify, but not the hardest to let go of), and allow God to direct me, my needs are taken care of, and things work out for the best.

I just wish it wasn’t so hard.

Divorce and Remarriage an Abomination for Mormons? Answering a Christian Friend.

July 26th, 2013

This is a response to some questions from a friend who has been in a number of abusive relationships and marriages, and is a devout mainstream Christian. Her questions sprang from a vow she made as a small child to marry once and forever. Looking at that in the light of some of the statements found in the Bible regarding, divorce, women and remarriage, she wondered if she was now destined to be single forever because she had broken this vow and the rules shown in these statements. My response is closely tied to the questions you’re not seeing, but I tried to put enough context in that you could see basically what I was responding to.

Yeah. Many have made such vows to marry once and forever, and lots of clean and pretty young Mormons with a couple or three small children and a few years into the process look down their noses at those who were not able to make it work. Life has a way of teaching us that there is more to it than we understand. I can’t speak too much to the Catholic perspective. I respect it, but I don’t understand or share all of it that I do understand.

Yeah, I know some folks get hung up on that notion of “wife forever” in a coercive way. I am not a biblical inerrantist, so hanging on a few proof-texts really isn’t my style. My personal theology includes the notion that God is not a jerk. He’s not going to force someone to be miserable through eternity for things not their fault or for bad choices they have repented of. There is a Mormon notion that God doesn’t function through compulsory means, and that individual choice is eternally protected. By “notion” I mean “core doctrine,” in this case. So, there isn’t really much doctrinal support for the notion of wives-as-chattel, and strong (IMO) doctrinal opposition to it. Read the rest of this entry »