Thursday, June 30, 2005 

Do The Math

I could make the blanket statement, “NO. I do not think tithing is a burden.” However, not being active in church and not actually paying tithing, I’m afraid that is a very hypocritical statement and I would feel somewhat like a politician.

I try never to feel like a politician.

The truth of the matter is this: I am very blessed. Even though money can be an interesting subject at times, I have everything that I NEED. (Just for the record, I do not have everything that I WANT, but that’s my job to remember the difference.) Knowing how blessed I truly am, I try to give back whenever I can but I don’t delude myself to thinking that I am actually paying tithing when I donate to charities or help children in need or other such things.

“Because I have been given much, I too must give.”

I have been given so much and all that is asked of me is 10%, right? It should be easy. It should be a “no-brainer” and money should freely flow from your checkbook. But like Carrie Ann said, if you don’t have a testimony of tithing (and, well…go to church, that does help) then yes, it will be a burden. Paying tithing is a very personal decision and it really is no one else’s business. It’s between you and the Lord…paying or not. The choice is very much yours.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 

Your 10% Tithe at Work

A couple of months ago my brother got married in the temple. We went there to be with them when they came out and take pictures, etc. My fiance hadn't been on the temple grounds before and suggested that they put some signs around to make sure people really knew where the money came from for all of the things there.

I am not a good manager of money, so anything that deals with that area of my life is a burden. When I was in high school... this wasn't such a big deal. I didn't have expenses to speak of that would be neglected if I forgot to pay tithing one month and had to catch up later on.

In college, it was a different story. I tried hard to remember, but I just didn't sometimes and when I had to try to catch up, it was pretty painful. My senior year of college, I had to record that I had not paid a full tithe for the first time in my life. I remember being mortified and horrified by having to check that box when I went into tithing settlement with the bishop. I remember trying to think of a way to get the money before I went to tithing settlement so that I wouldn't be a partial tithe payer anymore, but there was just no where to get the couple of hundred dollars I needed to catch up.

Tithing was always a bit of a burden for me. Since I didn't really manage or pay that much attention to the money I had, I didn't really notice how much was actually going (or not going) to tithing.

I always knew that paying tithing was a good thing because it was a simple rule to follow that made all of the wonderful things we did in the church possible. I liked the simplicity of it and how you could easily know if you were following that commandment.

There were people who took it further than I did, though (I always paid 10% of my gross income). I knew a guy in my home ward who estimated what 10% of his birthday presents would be and paid that in tithing, too, since the commandment refers to your "increase."

There are some things that haven't changed about me. I am still terrible at money management, but at least if I don't remember to pay for the cable one month I'm not breaking a commandment (okay... I probably am... but I would have less guilt about it).

Monday, June 27, 2005 

To Tithe or Not to Tithe...

Just to be clear…the LDS church considers a proper tithing to be 10% of all your increase.

So is tithing a burden?

Yes and no.

No, it’s not a burden if you don’t have a testimony of it and you don’t pay it.

Yes, it’s a burden if you know you should pay it and you don’t.

No, it’s not a burden if you have a testimony of it and pay it.

Tithing is one of those things…you know, that frustrating sort of faith thing: if you do it, you gain a testimony of doing it, if you don’t do it, it’s a thorn in your paw.

There was an article in a local publication called “City Weekly” that stated that Utahans have a super high rate of bankruptcy, and the article tried to imply that the problem was that we paid 10% of our income to the Church. This is true AND false. It is true because we DO pay 10% of our earnings to the church, and it is false because the REASON people in Utah area going bankrupt is because they are buying huge new houses, boats, and RV’s and getting loans based on their gross income instead of already figuring out the 10% as “untouchable” income. This has to do with the fact that most people are financial idiots, and not because paying tithing makes you poor.

In fact…I have a magic box…a magic money box…which has come in handy as the perfect object lesson for years as I was a missionary and as I have taught primary…

My Tithing Box

It looks innocent enough, but let me explain. When I was a young adult, I used this box as my bank. I was in school full time and working part time as a server in TWO restaurants. I got paid a paltry $2.17/hr + tips. Every evening when I came home, I would count my vast take of single one dollar bills, take out 10%, put the 10% in the tithing drawer (the middle left), and put the rest in another drawer (the middle right). As long as there was an honest amount in the left drawer, there was always money in the right drawer. I never missed a rent payment. I never went hungry. And I always had something for the weekend. (I loved that my tithing envelopes were fat! I mean really…who pays in cash?)

This is a little simplistic, I know. But seriously, that box was “magic.” Even now, as Todd and I struggle to make it on one income while trying to maintain our rock-n-roll lifestyle, we have been blessed by having just what we needed, when we needed it. This is not to say that we don’t have months of extreme lean; months when we eat all the old stuff in the cupboard that we bought before there was such thing as “Sugar Busters” and “South Beach.”

I mean to say that we have a testimony of tithing. I seriously feel that life is precarious; finances are precarious…and it is only by the grace of God that Todd’s company has survived for 3 ½ years, that I was able to have such a sweet design gig (in Utah!), that we have a roof over our heads, that we have clothes on our backs, and that we have food on our table.

A huge part of having a testimony of tithing is gratitude. I have seen all those things I mentioned above yanked out from under people’s feet. As long as I am being blessed by God, I will return to him what is rightfully His, and more! This is not to say that just because I pay tithing nothing devastating will ever happen to me (us). Bad things happen to good people; people who pay their tithing. I mean that paying my tithing helps me to separate myself from material things (my biggest false idol) and to rely on the arm of God. I have faith that if something catastrophic happened tomorrow, if I continue to pay my tithing we will be OK.

Side note: here in Utah in the service industry we have a little joke…Utahans are notoriously bad tippers, and the reason is because they can only figure out 10%. I even had an old crotchety man tell me not to complain about my tip because if he had to give 10% to the Lord he sure as hell wasn’t going to give me more.

Saturday, June 25, 2005 

Why can’t I be you?

They say variety is the spice of life. You get yummy spices like visiting different places, meeting different people, exploring new horizons and you get not-so-pleasant spices like bigotry, segregation, sectarianism, fear, hatred and so on. In my dandy youth I was all into being different, dressing different, listening to different music, doing different things. My friends were all on that wavelength. We were the cats sitting in school making sheep noises at the conformists, acting like they are beneath us because we were different and different was better.

Later I realized we really weren’t different, that we had more similarities than differences. It’s a funny thing about outcasts, especially those that stress individuality like we did; often those are the most exclusive cliques and subcultures you will find. To join up you have to be different; and the moment you try to be different, that isn’t any different than trying to be the same. If trying to be different is just like trying to be the same, is there any individuality?

I’ve long had an arm-chair interest in Buddhism and Hinduism and similar eastern religions and philosophies. But for a long time I was vexed by the idea that “successful” practice of such religions was (in simple terms) to have the self swallowed up and become one with the universe, all of that individuality lost in the attainment of enlightenment. This is very similar to the scripture mentioned by Carrie Ann, from somewhere in the New Testament, “He who seeketh his life shall lose it, and he that loseth his life, for My sake, shall find it.”

It’s been difficult for me to accept the loss of “me.” I grew up hearing that unique is good, that uniqueness has worth; uniqueness and individuality get stressed to the point that one can base all of their self-worth on individuality. Those differences, that stuff that makes me me, it’s mine, it’s me, but does it really matter? Our worth doesn’t come from our individuality. Our worth doesn’t come from anywhere, it just Is. If that wasn’t the case, I’d still be in a terrible state after encountering people I found to be better versions of myself; similar looks, interests and attitudes, but more motivated, smarter, kinder, more fit, etc. etc. Better than me at being me. Scary.

For some time now, I’ve been coming to the conclusion that individuality doesn’t matter, that it is a red herring in the search for happiness or salvation or whatever. To me, much of Mormonism works to strip away individuality. We have the same baptism, we dress the same (well the boys dress the same. You don’t have to step back very far before the general authorities turn into attack of the clones. Girls, lucky ducks, have a lot more leeway.) And the temple, I’ve often thought, looking around at others in the temple, that the temple is the great equalizer, everyone exalted to the same level, everyone the same.

But religion is about the only thing I have in common with most of the members of my ward. Just a couple of days ago VL was remarking that beyond religion, she just doesn’t have much in common with the other ladies at church, just isn’t interested in the conversations, the social events. I’m the same way. We gravitate to people like us, people who like the similar things and so have experienced similar things and most of those people usually are not members of the church. Be the same, be different, I don’t know that it matters. Just Be.

Friday, June 24, 2005 

The Tool

I didn't do an introductory post last week because it was early in the morning and I wasn't thinking. This week's topic seems more suited to introductions in any case so I am trying to accommodate both needs here.

My ancestors joined the church in the 1910's or so in Northern Florida. My great grandfather heard about a meeting being given by a couple of missionaries and attended. When the local KKK stopped the meeting, threatening to kill and beat the missionaries and those who attended, my great-grandfather followed them to someone's house to hear more. When he got home that night and tried to tell her about it, she shut him up quick and said, "We don't need a new religion. We need to live the one we've got." Nonetheless, they both eventually joined the church and raised their family in it in the rural south.

One of their daughters met a non-member. Well, technically, he was dating her sister. But he and her sister grew tired of each other and my grandmother knew a good thing when she saw it. They got married fairly soon thereafter and, as far as I can tell, lovingly bickered their way through the next 50 or so years. One of their daughters was my mom.

My mom was staying at a boarding house on Jacksonville Beach in the early 60's. The house was owned by Pearl Lucas. My mom had grown up in the church and went out to BYU for college. She was determined that she was going to go, even though her father refused to pay for it. So, she worked her way through, occasionally stooping to making weak tomato soup out of free ketchup packets pilfered from the then version of the Cougareat. She met a guy, they got married, they then got divorced a couple of months later and my mom's love of the church dimmed. She moved back to Florida, went to college in Tallahassee, and eventually moved for a time into Pearl Lucas's boarding house on Jacksonville Beach. Pearl Lucas mentioned that she had a son coming in to stay for a bit, who was in the Air Force. Mom saw Dad when he arrived and fell in love again. Pearl never really forgave Mom for it.

A couple of years after I was born, my Dad retired from the Air Force and we moved back to Jacksonville because all of our family was there (very unusual for a military family). I grew up surrounded by my family. I am a middle child of the peacemaker mold, growing up slightly resentful of my older brother's confidence and my younger sister's ability to get anything she wanted. I was truly the Jan. My attempts to stand out had to do with fitting in, sorta. I was self-aware enough to understand that the cliques were a bunch of people trying to be different by acting the same as each other. But, I desperately wanted attention so I have integrated into about a dozen different cliques. I had a lot of acquaintances, but very few friends (I still mostly operate in this way (but I am getting better)).

My grandfather joined the church after 30 years of marriage and a little later, my Mom returned to activity. So, my grandfather baptized me and my uncle confirmed me. My dad watched. He has never been resentful about the role the church has played in our lives. He thinks it has been a good thing for us, although he thinks it has had a bad effect on others. He seems to have come to accept being on the outside looking in regarding our religion.

Anyhoo, I grew up marked as the Mormon. All my friends (acquaintances) knew me, at least partially, because of that. I got dates due to it. I was asked about it all the time. I tried to make it seem reasonable and normal. But it wasn't; they knew it and I knew it, but we played out a fiction where my religion wasn't really important when we interacted so that they could do more than stare and point. Yes, I grew up with kind of a complex about it.

So, I went to BYU. Suddenly surrounded by Mormons, I faced a crisis. I didn't really know who I was. I was living in an apartment with my brother, his friend, and some random guy named Loren who served a mission in Korea and spent all his time macking on Korean girls in search of a green card. It wasn't the most spiritual environment. Our student ward was run by Bishop Dick (actual name) who, since it wasn't a freshman ward, spent all of his time encouraging everyone else to get married. As someone who was planning on going on a mission (aka unmarriageable), I didn't even register on his radar and when I quit going to church, he didn't seem to notice or care.

I didn't actually quit. I'd go if someone I liked was speaking or if the football games on TV were uninteresting. I had never been a big fan of the actual experience of church and the prospect of skipping droning sermons and stupefying lessons was welcome. I still believed and still read the scriptures as often as it occurred to me. I just became a model of "less-activeness". I didn't care enough about church to bother.

I went home, sent in my papers, eventually got my call and prepared to leave. Or I thought I did.

In the MTC, I met Elder Post. He was from San Jose, CA, an athletic kid with a goofy smile and an eagerness usually only encountered in puppies. He was always excited, in particular about the mission. He was kind of like the stereotypical time-release seminary teacher, where they are just always so darn happy that it has to be a sham, except it wasn't with him. Post was genuinely excited about the mission field in a way that I simply wasn't. I was immediately jealous of this. I learned the language and memorized the discussions quicker, but I already knew that Post was going to be the "better" missionary. I simply didn't have my fires stoked as high as he did.

In the mission, there is more pressure to conform than I have experienced in any other aspect of church life (except, possibly, in the temple). We all dress pretty much the same. We all talk about pretty much the same things (we used to joke that the KGB agents who tapped our phones had to have the most boring job in existence). We all read from the same manuals everyday that told us to behave in these time-tested and spirit-approved ways. We were all supposed to be the perfect, eager, sincere, loving, optimistic, faithful, and hard-working missionary. We were all supposed to be Elder Post. But I wasn't Elder Post. And I was hardly ever all of those things at once and rarely more than one or two. But, I kept trying, thinking that if I prayed, fasted, thought, read, or worked hard enough, I would develop the genuine love of mission work that Post had. I never really did.

Missionary work is hard and rewarding, but usually terribly depressing. So many people stop caring (or never care) about things that you hold very close to your heart. It is frustrating, soul-wrenching stuff (although, to be fair, there are extreme highs involved that more than compensate for the more common lows). After a while, although I tried to be a sincere missionary who genuinely cared for the people I taught (and usually did), I came to realize that I was on one of those missions that was more about me than about the people (you know, the kind they don't let missionaries go on anymore). I was on my mission to change me for the better. Any help that I gave anyone else occurred strictly by accident and divine providence.

I thought that I knew what I was supposed to learn, too: I was supposed to become Elder Post. I was supposed to develop the ability to love people at first glance, to convince quickly and sincerely that the Gospel was important (necessary, even) for others, to smile at all times and in all places. The problem being that, try as I might, I never really got good at those things. I was good at other things and I could feel the Spirit working with me, but I never seemed to improve much in the things that I thought that I should be improving in. It was (and actually still is) confusing and disturbing. What was I doing wrong?

Then came a talk given by an AP on a Zone Conference (you can tell that I am an active Mormon because I have good things to say about the APs in my mission). Elder Livingstone quoted Alma 17:11, the promise of God to the sons of Mosiah as they began their mission to the Lamanites. Here it is:
And the Lord said unto them also: Go forth among the Lamanites, thy brethren, and establish my word; yet ye shall be patient in long-suffering and afflictions, that ye may show forth good examples unto them in me, and I will make an instrument of thee in my hands unto the salvation of many souls.

Livingstone went on to point out that instrument in this passage meant a tool, like a hammer or a sickle. Imagine that God is a handyman and he needs to fix the people in the world. Everyone has their own problems, a few have screws loose, a few need their frames adjusted, a few need to be refinished, etc. Imagine a handyman who, when there was a problem that needed fixing, just took a hammer and banged away at it, partly because he only had hammers in his toolbox. Every time and every problem, he tried to fix with a hammer. Is that a good handyman? Compare him to the handyman who has several tools at his disposal and always chooses the right one to fix the problem, to fill the gap, to remove the dent, etc. Which is the better handyman? Which one do you think God would like to be? God doesn't need 1,000 hammers. He needs all the tools that he can get so he can fix as many people as he can. Stop trying to all be the same!

I am somewhat embarrassed to say that this was the first time I realized that God didn't need me to be Elder Post as he already had one of those. From me he needed to have an Elder Crawford and that was all he needed. It made the rest of the mission (and the life) go a lot smoother.

I returned home, went back to BYU, met the most stubborn, pig-headed, beautiful woman in the world, somehow slipped through her defenses and convinced her to marry me, finished school, went east for a few years to continue school, got the two best kids on the planet (apologies to JP), and am now back in Utah, finishing my schooling and trolling for work.

I've never really questioned the reality of God or the truth of the Book of Mormon. In spite of coming from a part-member family, knowing the Church was true was always a part of me. It will probably always will be. So remember kids, the moral is: It's good to be a tool, as long as you know which one you are.

Thursday, June 23, 2005 

Yet Another Post Where I Talk About My Children...

I have two little girls who are so incredibly different, it amazes me they both have the same parents. When looking at the two of them standing together, there are similarities…but boy do they look different, too. I knew the minute I found out I was pregnant with the second one that these two children would have differences that I could never fully comprehend. I KNEW that each would challenge me in different ways. I KNEW that they would learn differently and that as a parent, I would need to learn how to teach and guide the two of them differently.

I KNEW that I would love those two little miracles more than I could ever imagine. That I would love one just as much as I loved the other…but that I would love them differently because they are different beings. I have never expected them to act the same way because they are two different people and I DO NOT expect perfection from them either. I do expect them to DO THEIR BEST and NEVER GIVE UP…but I KNOW that they will make mistakes and yes, there will be times that they let me down.

But I will ALWAYS love them.

I believe that Heavenly Father knows each of us by name and is amazed by our differences. When He sees us standing together, He sees our similarities but boy, are we all so different. He knew in the very instant that we were created that our differences would incredible and that each challenge He sent our way was handled so differently. He knows that we all learn things differently and at a different pace. He knows how to teach and guide us with our differences, it is just a matter of us paying attention. I believe that Heavenly Father looks on us as His own little miracles and that his love for us is more than we can fathom. I truly believe He loves me just as much as He loves all of you even though He may love us differently because we are so different.

As I commented yesterday, STRIVING for perfection gives us focus on how we want to be. I’d like to say that I’m a PERFECT accountant…but let’s be honest: I’m not. I’d like to say that I’m a perfect mom…alas, I am not. We are not perfect…but striving for perfection gives us a goal to work toward. Striving for perfection does not make us robots or clone-ish. It means we have the same goal in sight…but very different ideas on how to reach that goal. Maybe our differences are key to reaching that goal.

Either way, I think Arby’s had it right all along…different IS good.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005 

"Different" isn't "Christlike"

I can't seem to get the words out for how I feel about this topic: Is being different good?

On one hand, I want to scream that OF COURSE IT IS!!! Because my whole life I've loved having my own quirks and I've loved others for thier quirks and I like being surprised by people.

But on the other hand, I feel like although the Church always said that we as "Mormons" should be different and set ourselves apart from the rest of society, within the church we are all striving for the same thing... perfection.

In order to attain perfection, you have to work hard at following commandments--the same commandments that everyone else is also striving to follow. Essentially, the goal of the church is for all of it's members to act the same way. The goal is for all people to be Christlike.

To be "Christlike" is the ultimate definition of "good." But if everyone is trying to be like that, then being different isn't good. Being the same is good, so long as you're the same as Christ.

Granted, you can be Christlike and still be different than others in some ways. It is constantly mentioned by church leaders that we each have different talents and should seek to develop them and use them to better ourselves and others (this is also Christlike).

But these talents are not of primary importance to your salvation. You can be the best High Councilman Speaker EVER and still not be Christlike if you aren't kind to your neighbors. The most important thing to a Christian is to be like Christ.

So, if we're speaking in ultimates, being different is bad because we all should be like Christ. If we're speaking in reality, we can't help but each be unique in our own personal history, experiences, talents, family, strengths, weaknesses, likes, dislikes and personality.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005 

Be Your Own Kind Of Beautiful

I grew up in a small town, small ward, small life. In that kind of setting, different on any scale stood out like a neon sign at a church. During my youth, the only thing I wanted was to NOT be different, but to be delightfully the same as those who surrounded me and who I judged myself against without any mercy whatsoever. I grew up brown in a white school, ward, etc. and even worse than that, I was severely over weight and my parents did a pretty poor job teaching me what I like to call "normal social behavior." I was loud, brazen and obnoxious. Needless to stay, I was the neon sign at church in my neighborhood. I hated every moment of my pre and early teen years because of this. I just wanted to be like everyone else. I wanted to be thin, and pretty, and happy. I didn't want to have the home life I had, the family I had, the life that was mine but not at all what I wanted. I wanted two actively Mormon parents who loved and encouraged me, I wanted to not shop at the "old lady" stores for clothing that fit, I wanted to have boys like me instead of be scared and disgusted by me. But those things that I wanted didn't come until much after my adolescence had passed me by.

I had a few people in my life who loved me just as I was. Who were able to look past the abrasive behavior, the extra flesh, the sad faces and angry outbursts to see the person who lived underneath it all. There was the occasional friend or teacher or church leader who championed my individuality, who believed in me and looked past the things I found so hideous, so un-normal, and loved me very much in spite of me. It wasn't until I was in my 20's that I realized my situation was anything but unique. I was not the only one who felt painfully different from others growing up. I was not alone in the desire to be made invisible by normalcy. I spoke with people who had been popular, people who seemed so pulled together, so perfect in every way, and discovered they harbored the same fears I had growing up. I realized I wasn't so different after all. John Irving wrote that adolescence is when we believe we have have a secret we must hide so people will love us. I was shocked to discover my secret was just the same as everyone else's.

I believe in individuality, but I also know that we are all more the same than we can even fathom. I honestly believe that the advasary uses the feelings of "I'm the only one who has ever felt like this" or "No one else has ever had this experience" to isolate us from those who can draw our beauty out and put us in our best light, so the things that make us different become the things that make us beautiful instead of ugly and ashamed. I have been profoundly blessed to have people in my life who were willing to look past the things I was so ashamed of, and find beauty in things I wanted so much to hide. I have had a "mirror" held up to me, I have been shown that what I see is often so wrong, and what others see of me is much kinder, much more loving than what I see in myself. It's why Heavenly Father gave us families, and friends, and internet buddies. So we could be beautiful, a beautiful of our very own.

Monday, June 20, 2005 

Individuality: is different good?

Individulaity: is different good?


We Mormons are a peculiar people.

And while sometimes the “odd; eccentric” definition definitely applies, we choose to claim the “distinct and particular” and the “belonging exclusively to one group or person” definitions.

I bring this up because it seems like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? If we follow all the commandments and try to do what’s right, aren’t we all doing the same thing? Aren’t we denying some sort of individuality by “conforming”? Isn’t religion a placebo for the masses of sheep, the unnumbered multitude clamoring for meaning in a meaningless existence?

Not really, and that’s the beauty of it all. But I’ll get to that in a second…

I think we struggle with the quest for individuality at various stages in life. As a child (number three of seven) I strove to be different, unique, and noticed. The greatest compliment anyone could have paid me was, “you’re so weird.”

As a youth, I wanted to be noticed for my accomplishments, as mediocre as they were. I tried to set myself apart by joining clubs and participating and excelling in extracurricular activities.

As a young adult, I wanted to be different from “all the other girls you’ve dated.” I wanted my sense of humor, my sharp wit and repartee (as well as my stunningly good looks) to raise me above the sea of homogenized coeds.

I am more content now to just be me. I am not concerned that everyone thinks I’m delightful or charming,. I find it just as satisfactory, and I am way more patient, to let people get to know me. After all, they might get to know me and discover that I’m neither delightful nor charming. Let’s not rush that discovery! Let them be fooled for as long as possible!

Back to the beauty of conforming to religion; in particular, the Mormon religion (because I can’t speak for any other at this point).

We are taught that if we lose ourselves (let go of our will and embrace the will of God), we will find ourselves (Matt. 10:39). This is really tough to do. If ever you had a chance to step off a cliff into the dark unknown, this is it. “Give up my will? Are you nuts?! Give up the thing that makes me me? Give up the gift we were given as a symbol of our mortal life?”

Yes, that. But here comes the beauty. If we give ourselves over to God, he makes us the best we can be. He draws out (not “gives us” not “shows us” not “hands us on a silver platter”…) our true potential. I’ll repeat for unnecessary emphasis: He draws out our true potential. Draws it out because it takes time and effort. Draws it out because it takes experience; trial and error. Draws it out because the task is arduous for both He and us. It can be excruciating and laborious; it can be tedious with many set backs and diversions. But as we find Him, we find out exactly who we are.

Now, even though we may be following (or not following) the very same commandments, our individual spirits, genetics, biologics, and experiences will create a unique and untrodden path for our return to Heavenly Father.

I don’t remember the specifics, but I remember a STRONG spiritual manifestation that occurred while on my mission as we were talking with an older gentleman that, for all outward appearances, was not really on the straight and narrow. But I had the very distinct impression that his path was not my path. That our journeys home are not single file on one road; there are as many paths as people. The road map to my own path is the Holy Ghost (along with a healthy and regular dose of anti-self-delusion…).

I have experienced a change recently ( I say recently, because in “spiritual years” it was two seconds ago, but in earthly years it has been a long time…). I have desired, nay yearned, to submit my will to God’s will. It is hard. I am a HUGE know-it-all who often thinks I know what’s best. I am also fiercely independent; someone who prizes my individuality. But I have noticed a difference. It is subtle. I am more true to me, I am discovering more about my strengths and weaknesses. I feel more than ever that God is at the helm of my dingy of an existence, that I am totally unique in this world, and that He knows me.

I want to be distinct and particular and my individual choices make me so. And even though those choices may be the same as some of your choices, we are not sheep; we are not clones. My path home is not your path home even though some of the streets might have the same names.

Saturday, June 18, 2005 

how hot is hot?

My father has a rarely acknowledged gift of the Spirit, a gift handed down from his forefathers that allows him to create a magical barrier blocking all caffeinated beverages from entering the house. As a child I was instructed as to the evils of coffee addiction, the addicts losing their jobs and families, the kids failing at school, so overcome with the caffeine jitters they were unable to color inside the lines. The broken lives, the poor health, the husbands and fathers enslaved by Starbucks; grandfathers dying young, coffee pouring out of their ears; mothers unable to function without diet coke, all very sad.

A few years ago my parents drove out to visit us, arriving late at night. My dad said, “I had to stop and buy a Dr. Pepper to help me stay awake.” He didn’t drink it, he just sort of held onto it while driving. Okay, I’m kidding, being totally ridiculous. But my dad did drink a Dr. Pepper to stay awake, once, about six years ago, so it must be okay.

That’s the kind of house I grew up in. I had a short stint in my wayward years where I drank a few cups of coffee, just started to like it, and then I stopped the practice. I’ve been not drinking [black] tea and coffee for so long that it’s not really an issue. It’s just become a part of me, I guess.

And that means I end up giving an awkward introduction to Mormonism whenever someone asks me about coffee:

“I’m going for coffee. You want one?"
“Uh, no, that’s okay.”
“Come on, I’m buying.”
“Uuuh, I’ll have a hot chocolate. With whipped cream.”
“A hot chocolate with whipped cream? What are we in the first grade here? This place makes the best coffee.”
“I don’t drink coffee.”
“What, this late in the afternoon? It’s only two?”
“I don’t drink it ever.”
“Uhhh, it’s a religious thing.”
“Get out. What religion says ‘no’ to coffee?”
“The Mormons.”
“The Mormons? You’re serious? You’re a Mormon?”
“Yes—it’s part of this health code thing, no tea, no coffee, well, herbal tea is okay.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“I know. It’s a religious thing. If it made sense, everybody would be doing it.”

The hot drinks, the cold drinks, I don’t get it. It’s religion, what’s there to get? It seems there are 101 ways to interpret, “No hot drinks, meaning no tea or coffee. Or Ovaltine.” Some say it’s the caffeine that’s bad, others say, no no, decaf is bad as well; some say no tea, some say herbal tea. If herbal tea is okay, does that mean marijuana is okay? I mean, a joint is an herbal cigarette, really. I’ve some acquaintances that would readily join a church that permitted herbal cigarettes. They’d probably give up alcohol for it.

I am intrigued by Carrie Ann’s java ice-cream confession. Isn’t it part of the word of wisdom that Mormons have to eat ice-cream? Even my mom eats coffee ice cream on rare occasion. I was shocked to see her do it, and still can’t shake my own guilt-complex to try it myself, but there it is, coffee ice-cream, the best of both worlds.

So here are my two questions:

1) Coffee ice-cream, is it against the Word of Wisdom? Any general authority anywhere backing that one? One doesn’t drink ice-cream so I wouldn’t be drinking coffee unless I had a shake and I promise not to have any coffee shakes.

2) Fresh coffee grounds, is it okay to love the smell of freshly ground coffee beans and to indulge in the scent whenever possible?

Advice, please! My life is in your hands.

Friday, June 17, 2005 

Stewing in my juices

Hello all. Thanks for the opportunity. Let's just get to it, shall we?

I have a confession to make. I am a Mormon mudblood. My mother is fourth-generation Mormon; my father has not yet joined the fold (and, for that matter, may not in this life). So, I grew up with coffee and tea. I drank a sip here or there (iced tea is a fixture in the South), but generally abstained. My experimentation with all such ended as I entered adolescence.

I have never really been a hard-core Word of Wisdom guy. I have never smoked, drank any of the proscribed beverages, or stuck things into myself. However, I love Coke (classic), hate Pepsi, and swill copious amounts of hot chocolate whenever the temperature drops below 50. My Word of Wisdom great-heartedness, however, never extended to herbal teas. I was certain that they were some sort of "gateway beverage" into the hard stuff.

Now, I admit it's irrational, but it came from my festering persecution complex. Occasionally, I would be invited to parties with my friends were the only beverage served was iced tea. Sometimes people seemed to be trying to slip me iced tea, as if to spare me from the hell my mother was putting me through. Once I really realized that I wasn't supposed to drink iced tea, I got angrier about the injustice of it all. "All I want is a cold beverage on a hot Florida day, why must you tempt me with tea?!?"

So, I fought against tea or anything like unto it. This quickly extended itself to all herbal teas. It said tea right on the box after all. Celestial Seasonings was anything but.

Then I went on a mission to the rather tea-intensive country of Russia, where I was told that I would drink herbal teas by my mission president. In part, this is because the water in Russia is universally horrible and not to be trusted until it has been boiled. In part it is because tea is such a part of the culture that a visit for tea lasts hours and involves several courses. I wasn't given an option regarding this; I was to drink (herbal) tea or die trying.

So, I did. But initially, I only drank peppermint tea, because that was the only kind I could imagine stomaching. All the members and all of our investigators thought that I was sick for the first 4 or 5 months of my mission, because the only time they drank mint tea was when they had a cold. I was resentful of the tea, of the amounts I had to drink, and of the frequency with which I went to the bathroom.

And then, I let it all go. I became a kind of tea junkie. I stopped putting sugar and jam in the tea and drank it straight. I found the best herbal tea of all (rosehip, made fresh). I came to love the variety of herbal teas (people kept thinking we were sick all the time though). I don't think that there was a particular moment when this happened. I just woke up one day and went with it. If it wasn't an instance of grace, I don't know what is.



We at VSoM are proud to announce the latest addition to our group... John C. from Faith Promoting Rumor. His "Historical Mormon Smackdown" won the hearts of our VSoM crew. We'll let him introduce himself when he gets a chance.

We'd also like to say "Thank you" to the others that wrote us with your interest and kind words. To you and to other readers who may be interested, any time you see a weekly topic of interest to you, we would love to have you guestblog in the Sunday slot.

Thursday, June 16, 2005 

To a Tea

The other day, Sarah and I were talking about a Mormon friend's "accidental" drinking of a Starbuck's concoction that he "didn't know" had coffee in it. She remarked that although this probably wasn't as "accidental" as he claimed, she was flabbergasted by people who said that they had "a cup of hot chocolate to relax," when hot chocolate was loaded with caffiene.

After a brief Google search, I found this site which said that an espresso shot has about 100 mg of caffiene while a hot cocoa packet has just 5 mg of caffiene. (The more popular caffienated sodas ranged from 55-30 mgs.) Although this clears up the caffiene content of our discussion, it brought up something else I've always wondered about.

D&C 89 clearly states that we're supposed to stay away from "hot drinks" because they "are not for the body or the belly." Later it was specified that this statement referred to coffee and tea, but what if hot liquids really aren't good for you? I've always felt a little wierd about hot chocolate being allowed, but coffee ruled out. Maybe that's just because I burned my tongue too often growing up.

Another mystifying portion... perhaps one of the hotbeds of controversy in Mormondom today... is where herbal tea falls. My parents, always rule followers, did not have herbal tea in the house, and they told us that when it comes to commandments that people were interpreting, it was better to be safe than sorry. They said that some people might have herbal tea, but we weren't going to because tea was specified, so how could anyone justify herbal tea?

That argument always made sense to me, but a good portion of Mormons drink herbal tea with a clear conscience. Apparently (which I am able to say because of another Google search) this is because of Doctrine and Covenants 89:10 ("all wholesome herbs God hath ordained for the Constitution, nature, and use of man").

Frankly, I still find the whole thing confusing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005 

Help Wanted

As site administrator, I apologize for not updating this week's topic early enough for Carrie Ann and Sarah to post in a timely manner. We are starting our new category "OxyMormons" (things about Mormons that don't make sense to outsiders) this week and I hope it is successful.

In addition, we've sadly lost one of our regular writers, Cameron, to the non-blogging world. We would like to, therefore, announce a vacancy. If you're interested, here's what we're looking for:
Help Wanted
Mormon Blogger. Preferably a strong member of the church. Preferably male, since we don't want JLS outnumbered 5 to 1. Preferably with a personal blog that we can check out beforehand. Preferably with a high tolerance for the opinions of others and a consistantly respectful attitude towards fellow bloggers. If interested, send a short description of yourself and the URL of your current blog to:
We would like to announce the new writer this Friday, so email us quickly. Thanks for reading!
*That email address should actually work. Thanks for the heads up adrianne!

Sunday, June 12, 2005 

Give them a calling?

This topic was very interesting to me. I emailed my sister about it, in fact. Which is how I ended up here. First off, I do not consider my self LDS any more. I do not attend church, of any kind. I am in daily contact with God, however. I talk to him all the time. Second, I realize that we are all human, made of flesh and blood, and as so we make mistakes. Third, I know there is two sides to evey story, but the following is mine.

I have read the Book of Mormon several times. I have never truely had a true testament of the Church. I think some of the values that are taught are fantastic, and can be a useful guide in one's life. As a teenager, I struggled with different things. Mostly, my inability to believe the Church was true. I told my Bishop at the time, and several weeks later I recieved my first calling. It's funny, I think this calling was suppose to help me grow didn't. I tried really hard to gain my testimony, but it never came.

When I was a Senior in highschool, I had a job in women's retail clothing. I worked with a girl who always had these mysterious bruises. It turned out that her boyfriend beat her.....often. She finally moved home. I went with her to pick up the last of her things from her boyfriends house. A week later she was dead. Her boyfriend had killed her. This event in my life made me become very passionate against vile scum who hurt women, and those who in a position to help people like my friend and then don't.

Not to long after this event in my life, a LDS friend came to me in desperate need of help. Her father was sexually abusing her and her siblings. She couldn't take it anymore. I wanted to tell my parents. Mostly, because I was pretty sure my dad would beat the living crap out of that waste of human flesh. She wanted to go to the Bishop. I agreed with a promise not to tell. I sat with her while she poured her heart and soul out to the father of our ward. He wanted to talk with my friend alone, and I left the room. She came out saying the Bishop was going to handle it. I was relieved for my friend. I was seriously pissed, two Sundays later, when the man recieved a calling in the Church. The only place he should have gone was to prison. Apparently, the Bishop felt this was a better path for this family. My friend has never been the same, and the abuse continued till her mother had the courage to walk away with her children. My friend has never been the same.

In my early 20's, a friend of mine was beaten severely by her "good" LDS husband. I was stunned into outraged silence, because another Bishop told her that she should forgive her husband. She went back to him, and he beat her again. Her husband also recieved a calling. She just recieved bruises, and the miscarriage of a very much wanted child. She left him, and the Church.

It's funny, I was taught that a calling came from God, and that you had to be worthy. Technically, I was doing the right things, but I didn't believe in the Gospel. Nobody can honestly say those men, who did these horrible things were worthy. So, it seems to me the priesthood really messed up. These are the worst of my examples granted, but I have a hard time following leadership that is so terribly flawed. I believe in God with all my heart and soul. I do not believe in any man's Church. Just as man is flawed, so are their Church's.

Thanks for letting me Guest Blog!

Posted By Ms. JC

Saturday, June 11, 2005 

vicar in a tutu

This is longer and in parts way goofier than planned; I start by stealing Carrie Ann’s quotation:

“Hugh could not be disillusioned by the actions of the Church leaders because he was never illusioned to begin with. He knew they were human.”

I used to be quite illusioned by church leaders. I still am a little. I say and do stupid things but I just expect church leaders, especially the general authorities, to be less stupid than I am. That tendency is just ingrained in me and I don’t know if I’ll ever shake it. And should I? When I do something stupid, it’s just me doing something stupid. I can apologize and make amends and people can say, “Ah, don’t worry about it, you’re just kind of stupid.” But when an Apostle says something stupid church culture is such that it’s like scripture. You really strike out on your own if you disagree with the authorities, even should they say something stupid.

I’ve never faced any major differences with church leaders, nothing like what Kaycee or JP mentioned. I never had anything pierced, no tattoos so I didn’t face what Sarah faced though my wife, VL, did remove her extra piercings and though I wish she wasn't, she is now way too ashamed of the small tattoos that she picked up before joining the church.

Recently, VL started renting Eddie Izzard videos. I’m in love with the guy, not literally; though I am literally in love with his clothes—he wears women’s clothes, right? And they’re great, men never get to wear anything good, it’s all so boring, suits and ties, all stuffy like Richard Nixon or Bill Clinton in their suits and ties, the Enron guys, wearing all their suits and ties. Wearing a suit and tie, it’s as if you are destined to be a national criminal or a general authority. That’s like a 50/50 shot, barely better than Las Vegas odds and since we aren’t supposed to gamble why not shoot the middle and dress like Eddie Izzard? He’s got a fantastic wardrobe. Can you go home teaching dressed in women’s clothes? Probably best that I never know, so that’s out the window but it’s good daydream material for when I’m in a sleepy daze at church.

I’m the king of passive-aggressive behavior and used to handle concerns with church leaders by not discovering that I have any. The key is this, stay up really really late Saturday night. Really late. Get no more than four hours of sleep. Three and a half is optimal. The lack of sleep will leave you in such a daze that you won’t be aware of much of what is done or said at church while you slip in and out of Eddie Izzard daydreams. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Ah, but my idyllic life did not last; as my faith waned I came to pay attention more and started noticing things. I tend to see a lot of contradiction, maybe I’m looking for it, I don’t know. I think of the Garden of Eden story, maybe I read it wrong, but it seems Adam and Eve were faced with contradiction: go forth and multiply and don’t eat the fruit; but to go forth and multiply, you need to eat the fruit. Did Eve do the wrong thing? I don’t think so; it seems the church teaches that she used her agency and did the necessary thing. In making that choice she initiated a move from naivety and stagnation to responsibility and action.

So I go case by case and find the way through. I have trouble thinking that the Spirit would direct me to disobey prophetic counsel, but I also have trouble with wack, pseudo-commandments and other silly behavior. For me, the necessary thing is to not follow some of that counsel, ignore the silly behavior. Fortunately, my dilemmas are mostly personal and I’m able to work around them without drawing attention. I don’t know how I’d respond were I in the position of Sarah Marinara with her earring, or the unfortunate situation of Kaycee’s parents. Should something like that ever happen to me I hope I handle it as excellently.

Friday, June 10, 2005 

My Final Post

This is my final post on VSOM, due to time constraints, work requirements, the new condo, and personal items, I am ending my time at VSOM, and as a blogger in general. I have enjoyed my time here, I love sharing my testimony of the gospel, and the church. I love the church and the truths it teaches. I love the fact that it takes imperfect people and shows them how to become perfect. Many people are called into leadership positions every week in the church. These people are imperfect, they are going to say things and do things that not everyone will agree with it. The funny thing about it is that I say things and do things that people would not agree with. If I find fault with something that someone says that is in a leadership position I think it is important that the first thing I ask myself is if I am finding fault with this person on a personal level, or am I genuinely concerned with their words or actions. If it’s a personal deal, then I force myself to rise above a petty squabble, and move on with my life. It’s like the burr under the horse’s saddle, if it stays there, it will rub and rub until it becomes an irritation that is unbearable. I heard a great man in my ward once tell the story of several people who had found fault with some things he had said while in a leadership position, and had left the church because of this grudge. I have known this man my whole life. Never have I felt the spirit of the Lord stronger then when in his classes. I remember thinking at the time how sad it was that these people had taken offense to something this spiritual giant had said. I do not know what was said, and maybe it truly was offensive. But how sad that these people gave up the greatest blessing they could have in their lives, all to suffer a little bit of pride. If I find true fault in something a priesthood leader says or does, I hope I am smart enough to share my feelings with the person, and try to resolve it, instead of taking the easy way out that so may people do in the church. Once again I say that the church is perfect, the members are not, that’s why we are members, to become perfect. I love the scripture in Matthew about seeing the beam in your own eye before worrying about the mote in my brother’s eye. I have so many things to worry about in my own life, and in the life’s of those around me that I love, that I do not want to waste my time looking for chances to “take fault” in a priesthood leader. The time and effort that these people put into their callings is incredible, how can I fault them for trying.

That’s all I have to say on the matter, and so I end my time here at VSOM. I love you all, and wish for the best for you. I hope and pray for those of you who have left the church, and I pray for those who are not members. I pray that you will have the desire to seek the TRUE happiness that the gospel brings. There are so many things here on this earth to distract us from the simple plan of the gospel, the simple plan to teach us who we are, where we came from and where we are going. God lives, and loves us, and if you are afraid of such a though, then all you have to do is pray and ask, you will get an answer.

And now I leave with the words my grandma said to me every time I left her house before she passed away, “Be Good” and I add, Be Happy!

Thursday, June 09, 2005 

Why Michael McLean's Songs Make Me Nuts

For a child that pretty much did whatever she was told growing up, there aren’t really any instances that I really found fault with any priesthood leaders. I never looked at them as perfect, but I was pretty darn good at doing what I was told. It pained me (when I was younger) to “buck the system” and be rebellious. It wouldn’t be until I was 19, unmarried and pregnant that I would really have experience with how a priesthood leader handled my “tough” situation.

I happened to be called into the Bishop’s office the day after I found out I was pregnant. Ironically enough, it was to give me a calling to be the Primary pianist. I had the weird experience of shocking the hell out of the bishop by telling him that I was pregnant before accepting my musical calling with the children. I did, however, have to give up the “calling” that I had with the youth dances. While I TOTALLY understand why I was not the best person for that job, I also wished that this bishop would have actually TOLD me about that instead of the Young Women’s leader asking my mom why the bishop had told her that I could no longer do the job and to find someone else and me finding out that way.

Looking back, it seems that I was one of, if not the first, teen pregnancies that this particular bishop had dealt with. He called me and Hubby back into his office to help “counsel” us with our choices. The main thing I remember was the wonderfully acted, not cheesy at all, church videos telling two different stories of teenage pregnancies. One who was able to work things out and start a life with the baby’s father and keep the baby and the other girl that chose to give the baby up for adoption with Michael McLean’s “From God’s Arms, to My Arms, to Yours” playing in the background. I can safely say that these videos DID NOT help me in my struggles and decisions, but I could understand how they might help…the bishop. I continued to feel scared, awkward, unsure, scared, like a sinner who should be wearing the scarlet letter and scared. While his intentions were good, the “counsel” the bishop provided just didn’t apply to me, I felt. Like I had just been given a “text book” answer and that was supposed to be good enough. But was it?

I think the answer to that question for each of us, in any touchy situation is never an easy one. It took me a long time to realize that the answers I needed were right with me all along. The Priesthood leaders are yes, there to lead. But they are not there to tell you what to do (even though some do try) and tell you how your life should be and they are certainly not perfect. I’m sure that due to my “leave of absence” from the church for the past eight years that I view church leadership a lot different. Not negatively, just differently. Each person has to rely on their faith to get the answers they need. That faith may or may not lead you to following the direction from Priesthood leaders…but that is the beauty of free agency. I think that is where the true test begins.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005 

Bishop Boot Camp

While I was away at college, something happened between my home ward bishop and my parents. I think it originated with the bishop disagreeing with my dad, the scoutmaster, about some scouting requirements. Then there was some bad blood that spilled over and one day, in ward council, my mom was asked to turn in all of her keys and materials for her calling.

My mom was extremely upset at this and viewed it as an attack on her integrity. She couldn't bring herself to even face the bishop because she was so hurt and angry by the incident. My dad was so offended, he refused to be in the same building and stopped attending church altogether.

Over the course of the next year or two, my mom eventually forgave the bishop and my dad went back to church. There was a long time, though, where I would hear with every phone call home that there was some crisis or incident that continued to rub salt in the wound.

One thing my parents taught us well, by example, was to have integrity. My parents are strong, amazing people who keep their covenants and work hard in their callings, but when that core value was attacked by a person in direct spiritual authority over them... they experienced a crisis.

I remember trying to talk to them during this time about how they might deal with the situation, but the root of the problem was that they didn't trust the bishop anymore because of the way he treated them. I sometimes think that there ought to be some sort of Bishop Boot Camp that these priesthood authorities should go through so that they understand the human element of who they are dealing with.

When I was in my senior year of college in a BYU ward, I asked my bishop if I could take my endowments out at the temple. He explained the church's position (which I knew) that it was not recommended, and then brought up an incident I had previously talked to him about as an example of why it would not be recommended for me, personally. I was disappointed by the meeting... but mostly because since I felt I'd been forgiven for that incident, I didn't think that it should have been a reason for me to have opportunities withheld.

I understand that priesthood leaders are human beings and as such will make mistakes... but their mistakes certainly do seem to count for more than the mistakes I might make. The direct spiritual implications are huge. My parents felt betrayed by their priesthood leader. I felt that my bishop betrayed my confidence in the confessional and forgiveness process.

I'm not really sure what to do when these types of things occur. Although I happen to have examples to share, I can happily say that these are the only examples of this type of thing that I've experienced.

Just to be sure, though... they really should look into that "Bishop Boot Camp."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005 

You Must Be Stonger Than Me

I have been thinking about this topic and trying to figure out what I wanted to say about it for a week. Carrie Ann said just about everything I wanted to say. I love that she talked about the humanness of church leaders. I think we have a tendency to escalate people to perfection long before they are anywhere close to such a thing. I know I am more than guilty of such practices. When I think of people in leadership positions in the church, I tend to think of them as perfect and wonderful and good at all times and in all things and in all places. And I'm not just talking about people who are prophets, or general authorities, or stake presidents. I even thought such things of Relief Society Presidents and Sunday School Teachers. Then I lived with a series of RS Presidents and was a Sunday School teacher for 8 years of my life. In all of this, there is one thing I have learned... No one is perfect. No one is 100% all of the time. People falter, people fail, but it's the atonement of Jesus Christ that allows us to be forgiven our trespasses - small, medium, or super sized - and be the best we can. It is difficult for me to find fault with others when I have so many shortcomings myself. It might sound naive, but I honestly believe that most people really are trying to do their best. Sure, some will screw up, some will say the wrong thing, do something contrary to what we believe is correct, and so on, but I cannot fault someone for making a mistake when I have made so very many of my own.

I think was is even harder for me, is following council that I don't personally agree with. In 2000 I was experiencing some serious difficulty in my professional life that had seeped over into my private life. It was not a pretty time in my life. I honestly did not think I was going to make it through that period of my life unharmed. But, as the darkness began to recede (as it always does) and I began to see the light at the end of the tunnel, I made a choice that I wanted to remember this time in my life; I wanted to remember that I was stronger than the forces that seemed to conspire against me. So, I walked into Wild Bill's with every intention of getting a tattoo. Nothing big, and nothing anyone could see when I was fully (or even partitally really) clothed. But, I couldn't find a design I was willing to commit to. So, instead of a tattoo I got the upper cartilage of my left ear pierced. I picked out the perfect hoop, and had a burley looking man who was inked up and down his arms shove a needle through my ear and create something that for me was a symbol of my strength. I loved that earring. I constantly fiddled with it through my long days and sleepless nights. Just putting my fingers to the metal somehow made me feel able to endure the trials in my path. Later that year I sat next to my mother as President Gordon B. Hinkley addressed the women of the church and told us that we should only have one set of earrings in our ears. My hand flew up to my ear and at the same moment my heart became a bit hard. How DARE someone tell ME what I can or cannot do with MY body!?!?! My mother leaned over to me and whispered, "You better take that thing out." To which I responded, "Over my dead body!" There was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to remove my symbol of strength. It was mine and no one else, not even a prophet of God, could tell me what to do with it.

A few months later I sat with a dear friend at a young single adult fireside. I had defended my choice to keep my earring in to many of my church friends as well as some of my singles ward leadership. It was MY choice, and I was making it MY way. The speaker at the fireside was talking to us about faith, about faith not only in God, but in those who have been called to lead us. He mentioned the earring issue and I felt my heart grow even stonier. He then posed and answered the following question, "Will a piece of metal in your ear keep you out of the Kingdom of God? Absolutely not." I smiled. But that smile disappeared with his next question and answer. "But, will willful disobedience to a prophet of god keep you out of the Kingdom of God? You bet it will." Suddenly, it was painfully clear to me that I had been seriously disobedient about something that was trite at best. I reached my hand up to my ear and felt the metal hoop there. It didn't feel the same now, it didn't hold the same strength I thought it did. Suddenly, it seemed like a sign of my weakness rather than my strength. I took the hoop out when I got home and placed it in my memory box. I wanted to remember what it was like to choose the right, choose what deep down I knew was what I should have been doing all along.

I still have issues with some of the things we are counseled to do. It's part of being a seriously bleeding heart liberal. I don't believe in the death penalty, I support a woman's right to choose an abortion, I think gays should be able to marry, etc. etc. etc. I have my own reasons for these beliefs, my own testimony if you will, of what I believe to be right and wrong. When I sit in a meeting and those beliefs are challenged it can be extremely difficult for me to keep my heart soft and open to the Spirit. But I also know that the Lord has given us agency for a reason, that he had given us our minds and hearts to make choices with, to love others with, to be right and wrong with. I am so glad I get to make my own choices, so glad I can choose to follow the council of the Lord, so glad for leaders both locally and globally who have the best of intentions for the members of this church, even if they fall short. But most of all I am grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, who knows each of us well, who guides us, challenges us, and helps us become life Him through trials and joys.

Monday, June 06, 2005 

Read Doctrine and Covenants 121

"When you find fault with local priesthood leaders, how do you handle it?"

I generally try to not partake in finding fault with local priesthood leaders. I don’t have a general problem with authority figures, so unless something is glaringly wrong, I don’t go looking for trouble.

Have I ever personally had “issues” with either a priesthood leader or something they said or did? Of course, doesn’t everyone at some point, isn’t that part of AGENCY? So how did I handle it? With my usual panache…I either followed their counsel because the Spirit witnessed to me that I should because it was the right thing to do, I pondered the counsel a little first and tried to gain a testimony of it if it didn’t come “naturally”, I didn’t follow the counsel and did my own thing fully knowing and accepting the consequences. (I am never an exception to the rules.)

Basically, I try to do what the Spirit encourages me to do. I try to listen and be receptive to its counsel. I’m not always in the position in my life to do so. There have been times in my life when I was avoiding the Spirit like the plague (and it was definitely avoiding me) because my actions where not in line to receive that sort if personal revelation or direction. It seems to me that those times were probably the times when I was most resistant to priesthood counsel as well, including that of my own father.

Fortunately, I have never had the experience of a priesthood leader asking me to do something that was contrary to the Spirit. I have disagreed with counsel on a personal level, a cultural level, or a personality level, but never on a doctrinal/spiritual level. I mean it happens, I don’t deny it. Occasionally, people, humans, put in leadership positions have personal struggles and do bad stuff. Hopefully, the people being led have enough sense to recognize it and do something about it, like tactfully take the issue to the proper “authorities”.

I read something recently in the biography of Hugh Nibley that really resonated with me and my personal view of Church leaders:

“Hugh’s testimony of contemporary Church leaders has been a result of his personal association with them from an early age, beginning with his grandfather…[who] frequently visited Hugh’s family…usually accompanied by other Church leaders. During those visits Hugh witnessed first-hand their imperfections: how they would sometimes cheat at golf, how their political beliefs occasionally overruled their religious duties, and how they sometimes disagreed with one another. Hugh could not be disillusioned by the actions of the Church leaders because he was never illusioned to begin with. He knew they were human.” (Boyd J. Petersen, Hugh Nibley: A Consecrated Life, pg 127)

Let me reiterate: “Hugh could not be disillusioned by the actions of the Church leaders because he was never illusioned to begin with. He knew they were human.”

I listened to one of my favorite radio shows yesterday, This American Life. A woman wittily detailed her decline in faith, from believer to total non-believer, as it unfolded starting with a chance visit from two Mormon missionaries. She went from “God is there, he loves me, and is my friend” to “there is no one there, I am totally alone, and there is no life after death…” While this sounds depressing, she made (or attempted to make) it funny, or at very least bitter sweet.

What irritated me was that she became more and more disillusioned with the Bible as she read it because she read it like a story; like one of Aesop’s fables, expecting some great and obvious moral statement at the end. She tried to apply her sense of modern ethics, civility, and manners on men and women who lived thousands of years ago.

If we read the Bible with that sort of literal attitude, the attitude of “just lay it all out for me so that I don’t have to think about it or make a personal judgment call using the Spirit on my own…just give me a list of stuff to do and not do”, all you’re going to get out of it is the feeling that it’s one MESSED UP story.

You have to see past the murder and the incest of the Old Testament to understand the layers and layers of teachings that are contained in those often strange stories. It takes faith to understand how it can possibly be applied to your “modern” life; faith and a healthy does of the Holy Ghost which cannot be present if you are not inviting him, nor relevant if you don’t listen to him or know how to.

Following priesthood leadership is sometimes similar. You have to see past the limps, the seemingly inhuman façade of unemotional mechanics, the speech impediments, the cultures, the accents, the schizophrenic wives who beat their grandchildren out in front of the chapel where the whole world is driving by, the criers, the bad joke tellers, the singers, the cursers, the verbal diarrhea-ers, the ones who look like Dick Tracy, your dad, and use the Spirit to understand the leadership beyond the packaging.

I have been blessed to have been associated with some great leaders and with the ability to accept the counsel of those who rightly preside over me. I can recognize this if and when I am in tune with the Spirit. If you’re not “rightfully presiding over me” then you’d better step off, because I know it, and I’m not gonna do it…good luck all.

Saturday, June 04, 2005 

burn down the disco

When I saw the topic for this week I thought, “Of course, of course music affects who I am,” but something Kaycee said has me changing my mind a bit. What she said was this:

“I don't think that music affects who I am, but it can affect HOW I am….Maybe who you are is just a function of how you are…”

That got me thinking, if music affects who I am, does that give credence to the idea that music makes people do bad things? When Marilyn Manson comes on the radio do I suddenly think it’s a good idea to eat live puppies and throw small children from moving vehicles? And if I listen to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir do I suddenly want to gather the family together for an impromptu devotional and testimony meeting? No way! I grew up listening to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and I can’t stand it—I’d rather tear my arms out of their sockets or listen to Marilyn Manson and I can’t stand Marilyn Manson. Though Mr. Manson is wildly misunderstood by his detractors his “I’m here to shock you” game wore off long ago. He’s like a clown now; I expect him to start juggling or do some sort of mime bit.

Music is like some nifty powerful emotional tool. It does alter emotions, definitely can intensify them. Parents worried about their kids listening to Marilyn Manson, Marilyn Manson didn’t go looking for their kids; their kids went looking for him. If anything is wrong with kids that listen to Marilyn Manson (and there usually isn't) it didn't come from Marilyn Manson, it came from the kids.

I don’t know if music it made me who I am but it definitely helped me get where I am. Currently I’m the middle of a love affair with bossa nova, the old stuff from the 60’s mostly, though I like what Bebel Gilberto is doing these days. For years I’d been looking for just the perfect music and bossa nova was it. Lucky for me VL (that’s my wife) digs the bossa nova just as much as I do. I hope this love affair lasts a lifetime. It just sucks when the people you love don’t like the music you love.

Friday, June 03, 2005 

Sorry I am late, I did not realize it was friday!

So I just ahd the most glorious revelation, it’s Friday!! I had no idea, and I was so excited, but then remembered that it’s my day to blog, and I felt pretty bad. I was actually on my way home, and decided that its only 3:46 on the west coast, so I could still get something out. OK now its nearly 5 MST, and I swear I will finish this.

Music, I love it. I have a radio in my bathroom that turns on when the light goes on, I will turn on music upstairs, I will turn on a light in the bathroom, then I will go down and turn on a radio downstairs. I love it, maybe its because I live alone, and I get lonely by myself, sniffle, sniffle. However, I would not say music affects who I am. I am not saying that it does not affect some people, but…. It does not make me who I am.

I can think of several times in my life when music has affected my attitude, which in result may have affected who I am, but it was more of an indirect relation. There was the time that Ms. X as we will call her, shot me down my sophomore year (several people who read this know her, so the name will not change.) at a school dance. I was a nerdy little 16 year old, there by myself because that stupid Brent had to work at Sizzler that night, and I was truly saddened. SO I got in my car and drove up to Sundance. As fate would have it, Pink Floyd was in the tape player, and it was incredibly depressing. I had some very bad thoughts come into my head. (I had to eject the tape and turn it to KJQ and luckily the B-52’s were on singing some peppy song.) Music definitely affected my mood, and attitude, but ultimately it was me that made the decisions. There was another time a few years ago where I was coming out of a bad time in my life, and things were not going so well for me. My dad and I went up to Sundance on a Saturday morning, after a pretty good snow fall. We started skiing about an hour before the lifts opened, and had the whole place to ourselves. I had my mini disk player with me, and as luck would have it again, I had U2 “all that you can’t leave behind” in. Beautiful Day came on, as I stood at the top of the mountain with my dad next to me, the sun and just popped up over the Uintah Mountains, and the sky was as blue as I have ever seen. The new snow was pure white, and glittered in the morning light. It was a near perfect skiing as you could hope for. For the first time I heard the words of that song, and I nearly cried, notice I said nearly! Here I was in the midst of all my problems, but yet the music, and sites, and being with my dad made me realize that it was not so bad, and that here was a beautiful day, and I could not let it, or any more get by.

I still stick to my guns that the music does not make me who I am. Who I am is always inside of me. The music may make me see that a little more clearly, but still I am who I am, unless of course we are talking about “Annie” cause it’s a hard knock life for us!!

Have a great weekend, sorry I am so late, its that darned memorial day that has me all messed up this week.

Love ya all

Thursday, June 02, 2005 

I Just Can't Get Enough

Music is very prevalent in my life. It always has been. I think I sang before I could even talk and many of my early memories have a soundtrack attached to it. It’s just a part of who I am. I grew up in a fairly musical environment. My maternal grandfather was a very talented pianist and it was important to my parents that we had that same opportunity and the three of us took lessons. I love to sing and was involved in (mostly) church choirs, but would often sing with my dearest of friends at church meetings, firesides, etc. (Sarah, do you NOT remember our Young Womanhood Recognition where at the end of my talk we BELTED out “Taking It Home with Me” with Rachel and Jaimee? GOOD TIMES. LOL)

My parents LOVE good music and I think my love of a variety of music started with them. I can never listen to Carly Simon, Carol King or James Taylor without thinking of my mom. And then, not surprising, my dad was a huge Beatles Buff. At a very early age I could sing along to most of the NUMEROUS albums he had/has.

On family road trips, our soundtrack was extensive. Sesame Street sing-a-longs were ALWAYS a hit when we were younger. (“Let’s take a ride in an automobile” or Ernie’s version of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” were two of our favorites.) But then we’d move on to ANY Disney song…then to all the Beatles’ songs we could think of and THEN we moved passed all that to Don McClean’s “American Pie” which no road trip is complete without it. There are so many memories attached to all of those songs, it’s a wonder they even fit into my pea-brain.

I think now that I have kids, music is one of my favorite “traditions” I’ve carried on with my girls. Even on the shortest of trips to the store, there is ALWAYS music playing that we all sing along to. True, my collection now consist of more Hillary Duff, Kelly Clarkson any other Disney (or American Idol, I guess) prodigy than I thought possible, it is so much fun to sing along with those girls!!! (For those of you who were worried, I expose them to just as much Green Day, U2, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s Hits, Usher, Gwen Stefani, etc to balance out the Bubble Gum Pop. Abby, who’s 3, singing Green Day or Hubastank is PRICELESS.) I love the new memories I’m making with those girls as we blast the stereo, or dance around the living room having the time of our lives. I’d like to think that I’m starting the soundtrack for their young lives that, when they look back, it will be with much fondness like I do mine.

I really think music brings “it all” together. Music has always been a huge part of my life and continues to be. I would go so far as to say that it truly affects who I am because music fits into so many aspects of my life. (And that’s not even mentioning that “rock star” husband of mine!) You see, I love every minute of my life’s soundtrack and ALL the memories that go with it. Because when it comes right down to it, I have been so blessed in my life and the soundtrack to my life totally rocks and the good memories outweigh the bad. That’s something to dance about.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005 

No Rythym for Your Big Bootie

My parents paid for me to have piano lessons for 3 years. I finally was able to tell them a couple of things about why I wasn't exactly a good student.
  1. I have no rythym. I can't even clap on beat when everyone else in the room is clapping on beat.
  2. I can't sight read well at all. My brain breaks the notes up into the wrong size chunks.
  3. If I'm not good at it.... I don't have fun with it.
Because of my natural ineptitude for music, I've never felt the kind of love that some people feel for it. That isn't to say that I hated everything. I liked plenty of songs, but mostly songs with lyrics that are clearly intelligible and make some sort of sense.

Maybe it's because I never had that music-worshiping connection that I never bought into the reccomendations given by church leaders against listening to certain kinds of music. I know the reason why "Baby got back" wasn't played at our stake dances, but it didn't stop me from singing every word whenever it played on the radio (which.... 1991 was about every other minute).

I don't think that music affects who I am, but it can affect HOW I am. I know that if I listen to certain songs when I'm sleepy or a little sad that I'll perk right up. I rarely listen to sad songs because they make me sad.

Maybe who you are is just a function of how you are, anyhow and I just try to convince myself otherwise.

One thing, I do know for sure: "I like big butts and I can not lie, you other brothers can't deny, that when a girl walks in with an itty bitty waist and a round thing in your face, you get sprung," isn't actually who I am. But I like it anyways.

This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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