Category Archives: Opinion Pieces

Pants Day is Coming!

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.

Letting Go Some More

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.

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

s/(Priesthood Ban)/Temple and $1/gi

A podcast I was listening to yesterday pointed out that what I’ve been calling the Priesthood Ban was also a ban on black women entering the Temple.  This was not a product of them not having the priesthood, since non-black women don’t hold the priesthood either, but were not barred from the Temple.  So I think the proper label for that is the Temple and Priesthood Ban, and I wish every place you’ve ever seen me use the former term to be considered to be the latter.  Thus, the title of this post (which will probably make no sense to people not familiar with regular expressions — sorry).

 

Gridlock is a Feature, Not a Bug.

I am guardedly optimistic about the process we’re going through right now, wrt the Sequester <tm>.  The part of policy-making which is so annoying is the part where the process is working — the part where there is weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth, because those darn other-siders won’t just get out of the way and let us have our way!  Nobody is supposed to get their own way all the way — that’s not what pluralism and democratic institutions are about.  We are supposed to hammer out workable compromises, making concessions in return for concessions on the other side that give us some of what we want.  And what we’re facing right now is a very abrupt change in the way we’ve done things, and that’s really what’s causing the frustration.

Previously, the way we greased the gears of compromise was to give people on each side something they wanted to get — an increase in spending here or there, or a tax break, etc.  And the way those played out tended to be things that increased the deficit.  Now, we’re in a situation where increasing the deficit isn’t available.  We can’t give people what they want that same way anymore.  We’re going to have to give up things we want — everybody is.  And this is hard, because every dollar spent, and every dollar  brought in through taxes (maybe even every dollar borrowed — thinking about that) has a constituency who don’t want to lose what they’ve got.  And the more dollars, the more powerful the constituency.  So, there are loud voices (money and power buy volume) proclaiming that the sky is falling — recall the doom-and-gloom about the Sequester two weeks ago, and how now the word is “We never said all of this was going to happen in a day or a week.” Continue reading Gridlock is a Feature, Not a Bug.

BSA policy on gay scouts and leaders, Mormon style

Okay, so I just spent a while in a thread about the proposed change in BSA policy regarding gay youth and leaders on Deseret News, and it was my daily dip in the part of Mormon Culture that drives me up the walls — the smug, self-righteous, never questioned confidence that “we” are right about everything, know everything, and those who disagree are sad, stupid, unrighteous people that we will deign to pray for God to enlighten. Makes me want to swear like the Rodeo Song (it’s gotta be 40 below somewhere).

In what way is a policy that denies men participation in this program who have not violated the Law of Chastity compatible with the teachings of the Gospel? There seems to be this idea that this policy change is being driven through by NAMBLA as a way of “recruiting” lots more gay youth they can have sex with. Because, presumably, there are tons of young men out there thinking “I just can’t decide if I want to have sex with boys or girls,” and, if they can only listen to a promotional video where someone extols the highlights of choosing the gay lifestyle (it’s just a non-stop orgy, donchaknow, until God kills you with the AIDS, because he hates fags), they’ll instantly be drawn into the clutches of these evil perverts.

Sorry, but that’s just pathetic nonsense. Continue reading BSA policy on gay scouts and leaders, Mormon style

The Ongoing Fiscal Crisis, and Democratic Processes

Everybody elected works for the people in about the same proportion.  They were all sent there representing a constituency, and all of those people deserve to have their voices involved in the process, even when they are wrong.  The purpose is not to come up with the optimal outcome — it’s to come up with an outcome that most people can accept.  Fighting and maneuvering and compromising is an important part of the process.  It’s annoying to watch, but it’s designed into the system, and it’s a feature, not a bug.

And it’s the only way we’re going to get this deficit problem solved.  We’ve tried all kinds of commissions, and passing laws to limit how much can be spent and how much can be taxed, and they have clearly and abjectly failed.  Now, we’re disturbingly near the point where we can’t maintain the illusion that we can ever pay back those we have borrowed from, so borrowing more is becoming less and less possible, and that’s the only reason we might be able to fix the problem.

We can’t do it all by cutting government spending, because every dollar spent has a constituency who have a narrative about why they should get at least triple more than they do, and why anybody who wants to cut it is stupid, evil, short-sighted and, probably, greedy.  We can’t do it all by increasing taxes because every dollar taxed has a constituency who have a narrative about why they should not be the ones paying as much as they do, and why somebody else should pay more (and someone is probably greedy there, too).  So the solution is to get all those constituencies together in one large dialogue where the rules are that, when it’s done, the deficit has to go down reliably and consistently in real terms (no more gimmicks like leaving all the unspecified spending cuts for 2 to 120 months down the road).  It has to go down this year, and next year, and drop to zero in less than a decade, and not go back up.

How we accomplish that will require serious negotiations in good faith, and the people in power have no real experience in doing that.  Word on the street is that the President is particularly bad at it, for example, but his Vice President is pretty good at it.  But they can only go as fast as the electorate are willing to go, and that’s where the growing-up I mentioned before needs to take place.  Less with the dismissive rhetoric, more with the listening respectfully, and more with the doing the homework it takes to understand the process.

On Gun Control

Much of the problem is that the rational folks on both sides of the issue often ignore each other in favor of pointing to the crazies on the other side and saying “That’s just crazy!” They also tend to ignore the crazies on their own side, and focus on the other rational folks on their side. Thus, they function in a paradigm where all the crazy people are on the other side, and all the rational people are on their own side. It’s a false paradigm. Until that falseness is widely recognized, the issue is unresolvable.

What rational folks on the gun control side need to hear and understand that the pro-gun folks understand:

  1.  Semi-automatic is not machine gun. You get one round fired each time you pull the trigger. You just don’t have to work a bolt action or lever action to load the next round.
  2. Semi-automatic rifles are useful for hunting and target shooting. They are used for these things far more often than they are used to kill children in movie theaters, by many orders of magnitude.
  3. There are millions and millions of firearms owned by lawful and responsible people which never cause a problem for any lawful person or society. Owning a gun and carrying a gun does not prove that a person is unstable or dangerous.
  4. Most hideous gun events involve the violation of multiple existing gun laws. Like mass shootings in gun-free areas.
  5. Changing gun laws doesn’t change gun realities. Only law-abiding people change their behavior in response to changes in law (obvious to anyone who has driven a public road or freeway). Changes in law will not stop those who disregard the law, but it can turn safe and honest people into unintentional technical criminals.


What folks on the pro-gun side need to hear and understand that the gun control folks understand:

  1. Many people have never had any contact with a firearm of any kind. What they know of them, they have learned through TV, movies and books, where they are used to kill and injure people hundreds of times a day. They find guns scary, and don’t understand why any sane person would want them to exist.
  2.  While they might like to think of a world without weapons and violence of any kind, they don’t really think it’s reasonable or useful to talk about taking all guns away. Reasonable regulation is not necessarily the camel’s nose that leads to full registration and forced disarmament.
  3. It does make sense that people who own guns use and store them responsibly, and that they be trained to use them safely and effectively. Nobody wins when people use and store their guns irresponsibly. These things will probably not be legislated, but it’s good to advocate them at every turn, to show the gun control folks that the goal is not to produce a fantasy wild-west scenario.


A little assurance from each side that their goal is not what the other side fears can go a long way to calming people down. After that, constructive dialogue can follow. It’s not as much fun at pointing at the crazies on the other side and laughing at them. It requires more thought and consideration. That’s why it rarely happens. But it is possible.

Ether 12:27

I wrote this as a contribution to the Mormon Stories Sunday School blog, so it could be included in the Mormon Stories Sunday School podcast. 

During a difficult part of my life, while dealing with addictive and compulsive behaviors, I discovered Ether 12:27, and found it a great help in changing my life.  I had read it many times, quoted it not a few, and liked it prior to that point, but I didn’t discover its meaning until I was in that place.

Before, it was a nice, kinda gauzey scripture about how God will make weak things strong, with the emphasis on the strength.  But, when I looked at it more closely, I noticed there was much more to it than that.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.”

This seems counterintuitive.  If we come to God, we won’t get a pat on the back, we will be shown our weakness.  That doesn’t sound very pleasant.

“I give unto men weakness that they may be humble;”

This does not say that God gives us specific weaknesses — it says he gives us the state of being weak.  I think this is the most misread part of the verse — I know I read it the other way for a long time.

He gives us this state of being weak to give us the opportunity to be humble.  This implies that, without being inherently weak, we would not be able to be humble — very compatible with King Benjamin’s formulation that “the natural man is an enemy to God.”  Out of the box, left to ourselves, we aren’t friends to God, but, because of this gift of weakness, we have a chance to be humble and rebuild our relationship with God.

“and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me;”

And if we humble ourselves before God, then, and only then, is his grace sufficient for us.  God’s grace truly is amazing, but we have to prepare ourselves to receive it through this process of humbling ourselves before him if we are to receive it.

“for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them”

If we add faith in God (the first principle of the Gospel) to this humbleness before God, then he will make “weak things” become strong unto us.  That’s the first time in the verse we have plural weak things, rather than the state of being weak.  Might this mean that our individual weaknesses (in the sense of Dorcas Lane’s “one weakness”)?  Or are other people in our lives “weak things?”  I don’t know, but I think this part, for all that it’s the part people seem to notice in the verse, is the least important part of the formulation.  We don’t need to understand in detail exactly what will be made strong, because the payload is more to be found in the previous clause.

If we humble ourselves before God, his grace is sufficient for us, and we also need to have faith in him.  Humility is understanding our own lowness, and his greatness.  Faith in him is trusting that he is there, that he loves us, that he wishes to help us and heal us, and that he will do so if we will allow him to.  This became my plan for recovery, and, over a period of years, it helped me through quite a bit of healing and growth.

What a twisted line of reasoning!

Anti-McKenna Ad

This ad has been bugging me for several weeks now.  In the world of half-truths and distortions which is political advertising, this really stands out as using really tortured logic.

The text, taken from the website of the organization sponsoring it, is as follows:

Republican Rob McKenna claims he’s a moderate.  But it turns out the National Republican Agenda would make abortion illegal, restrict access to contraception, cut education, essentially end medicare, and deny nearly 13 million women access to cancer screenings.  (2012 Republican Party Platform; CBS News, 8/1/2012; Us News & World Report, 3/2/2011; Wall Street Journal, 4/4/2011; White House Council on Women and Girls 4/2012)

Rob McKenna is definitely not who he says he is.

Okay, let’s Just look at the claims here:

1. Republican Rob McKenna claims he’s a moderate.

Evidence for this claim — none given.

It probably is true that he has claimed this. McKenna has stated that he is no longer opposed to the Affordable Care Act and doesn’t want to see it repealed.

Oh, but that’s evidence that he actually is a moderate. Whoops!

Moving on:

2. But it turns out the National Republican Agenda would make abortion illegal, restrict access to contraception, cut education, essentially end medicare, and deny nearly 13 million women access to cancer screenings.

Evidence for this claim: (2012 Republican Party Platform; CBS News, 8/1/2012; Us News & World Report, 3/2/2011; Wall Street Journal, 4/4/2011; White House Council on Women and Girls 4/2012)

The evidence supports the claim, although the terminology used to characterize what that evidence says is arguable and selected to make McKenna look as bad as possible.  Par for the course in political advertising.

Now, the whopper:

3.  Rob McKenna is definitely not who he says he is.

Evidence for this claim:  Nothing at all.

For claim 1 and 2 to justify claim 3, you would need to show some connection between things Rob McKenna has said about himself and some selected excerpts from the RNC Platform.  Evidence that he supported or endorsed the Platform would be a start, but you’d really want to show that he supported those particular sections as written and characterized here.  But none is given, or even seriously hinted at.

So, what you’d have to believe is that McKenna supports all of those things just because he’s a Republican, and all Republicans must slavishly follow every item of the RNC Platform.  So, when he says he’s a moderate, he’s really just trying to trick you because there is no such thing as a moderate Republican, and everybody knows that.

This is one of a series of ads.  Another has the same structure, but the 2nd claim this time has to do with McKenna supporting the campaigns of current and former Republican candidates.  Once again, the only way that fact has anything to do with a conclusion is if you accept that supporting a Republican candidate in any way is proof that you’re not a moderate and must, by implication, be an extremist.

These ads aren’t being put out by McKenna’s opponent.  They’re being put together by a list of usual suspects:  Our Washington, PO Box 9100 Seattle WA 98109. Jason Bennett, treasurer.
Top five contributors: Democratic Governors Association, Washington Education Association PAC, National Education Association Advocacy Fund, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Justice for All PAC.  Essentially, a Super-PAC funded by the people who have claimed outrage over the Citizens United decision that made the Super-PAC possible.

Full disclosure:  I’ll be voting for McKenna, because he’s the last remaining Republican in the race, and he’s not obviously unqualified to do the job.  I don’t think he’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, but I think he’s good enough to support.  I recognize that he’s not as nice looking as his opponent, and that he’s much more likely to have received some wedgies and noogies back in school.  But he’s not this evil, deceiving woman-hater these folks are using such insultingly stupid logic to make him appear to be.  I’m looking for people who support his opponent to distance themselves from this grossly misleading advertising as a way of showing they have more character than this.