Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lesson 12, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

Chapter 12: “Seek the Spirit in All You Do”
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 156–66

“We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives.”

When we act, we need to be able to distinguish between just whatever pops into our heads as a result of our own bias, prejudice and random thoughts from what God would have us do.
In order to do that, we need to realize that it often takes effort.



When President Ezra Taft Benson counseled other General Authorities about serving in the Church, he often said, “Remember, Brethren, in this work it is the Spirit that counts.”1 

The lesson manual gives us the following example:

“After praying, interviewing, studying, and praying again, Elder Benson asked if I knew who the new president would be. I said I had not received that inspiration yet. He looked at me for a long time and replied he hadn’t either. However, we were inspired to ask three worthy priesthood holders to speak in the Saturday evening session of conference. Moments after the third speaker began, the Spirit prompted me that he should be the new stake president. I looked over at President Benson and saw tears streaming down his face. Revelation had been given to both of us—but only by continuing to seek our Heavenly Father’s will as we moved forward in faith.”3

          How does this example illustrate the principle of both being open to the Spirit and that seeking the Spirit requires active involvement on our part?





President Benson shared the following counsel:
“I have said so many times to my brethren that the Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit and magnifying your call, you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field. Without the Spirit you will never succeed regardless of your talent and ability.

“You will receive excellent instruction in the next three days. Handbooks will be distributed, responsibilities and procedures will be discussed, policies will be analyzed, and all this will be most helpful to you. But the greatest help you will ever receive as a mission president will not be from handbooks or manuals. Your greatest help will come from the Lord Himself as you supplicate and plead with Him in humble prayer. As you are driven to your knees again and again, asking Him for divine help in administering your mission, you will feel the Spirit, you will get your answer from above, your mission will prosper spiritually because of your dependence and your reliance on Him.”4

President Benson extended this counsel to all members of the Church, including young children.5 He said: “In this work it is the Spirit that counts—wherever we serve. I know I must rely on the Spirit. Let us obtain that Spirit and be faithful members of the Church, devoted children and parents, effective home teachers, edifying instructors, inspired ward and stake leaders.”6

How do we apply this?

“How do we obtain the Spirit? ‘By the prayer of faith,’ says the Lord.”
One sure way we can determine whether we are on the strait and narrow path is that we will possess the Spirit of the Lord in our lives.
Having the Holy Ghost brings forth certain fruits.
The Apostle Paul said that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” (Gal. 5:22–23.)

How often do we look at ourselves and ask:
·        How gentle am I with others?
·        How meek am I with others.
·        How kind am I?
·        How do I define peace and longsuffering?






This relates to true spirituality.

The most important thing in our lives is the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives. … These promptings most often come when we are not under the pressure of appointments and when we are not caught up in the worries of day-to-day life.8

Spirituality—being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord—is the greatest need we all have. We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives. When we have the Spirit, we will love to serve, we will love the Lord, and we will love those with whom we serve, and those whom we serve.
Several years after Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young. Hear his message:

“Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.” …
How do we find time to be open and how do we keep our hearts open?

One reason we are on this earth is to discern between truth and error. This discernment comes by the Holy Ghost, not just our intellectual faculties.
Is it important to seek the Spirit and not just rely on our own thoughts in the assumption that whatever we feel or think must be what the Spirit tells us?
When we earnestly and honestly seek for the truth, this beautiful promise finds fulfillment: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:26.)10
2
If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings.
How do we know if we are humble and not prideful?  How do we earnestly seek the Spirit rather than our own will?




Ponder matters that you do not understand. As the Lord commanded Oliver Cowdery: “Study it out in your mind; then … ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8, italics added.)

Did you notice that last phrase? “You shall feel that it is right.”

We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings. That is why spiritual promptings move us on occasion to great joy, sometimes to tears. Many times my emotions have been made tender and my feelings very sensitive when touched by the Spirit.
The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we become increasingly more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things more clearly.12
3

How important is humility?

How do we tell if we are humble or if we are proud?

How do we tell if we are tender?  Does it relate to being kind?





How do we obtain the Spirit? “By the prayer of faith,” says the Lord [D&C 42:14]. Therefore, we must pray with sincerity and real intent. We must pray for increased faith and pray for the Spirit to accompany our teaching. We should ask the Lord for forgiveness.

Our prayers must be offered in the same spirit and with the same fervor as were the prayers of Enos in the Book of Mormon. Most are familiar with that inspiring story, so I will not repeat the background. I only want to draw your attention to these words. Enos testified: “I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.” He clarified that wrestle with God. Note the fervor in his petition:

“My soul hungered.”
“I kneeled down before my Maker.”
“I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul.
“All day long did I cry unto him.”
Then Enos testified, “There came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. … Wherefore, my guilt was swept away.” When he inquired of the Lord how this had been accomplished, the Lord answered him: “Because of thy faith in Christ … thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Enos 1:2, 4–8; italics added.).

How often do we believe that we really need to repent? Can we find the Spirit if we do not believe that we need to repent?

If you want to get the spirit of your office and calling … try fasting for a period. I don’t mean just missing one meal, then eating twice as much the next meal. I mean really fasting, and praying during that period. It will do more to give you the real spirit of your office and calling and permit the Spirit to operate through you than anything I know.14
How does fasting fit into seeking the Spirit?







Take time to meditate. Meditation on a passage of scripture—James 1:5—led a young boy into a grove of trees to commune with his Heavenly Father. That is what opened the heavens in this dispensation.

Meditation on a passage of scripture from the book of John in the New Testament brought forth the great revelation on the three degrees of glory [see John 5:29;D&C 76].

Meditation on another passage of scripture from the Epistle of Peter opened the heavens to President Joseph F. Smith, and he saw the spirit world. That revelation, known as the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, is now a part of the Doctrine and Covenants[see 1 Peter 3:18–204:6D&C 138].

Ponder the significance of the responsibility the Lord has given to us. The Lord has counseled, “Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34.) You cannot do that when your minds are preoccupied with the cares of the world.

Read and study the scriptures. The scriptures should be studied in the home with fathers and mothers taking the lead and setting the example. The scriptures are to be comprehended by the power of the Holy Ghost, for the Lord has given this promise to His faithful and obedient: “Thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things.” (D&C 42:61.)
How does meditating and thinking on scripture occur if we do not study the scriptures?  How does it work if we do?  How should we study?
The following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball illustrates how we may develop more spirituality in our lives:
“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.” …
That is great counsel which I know by experience to be true.
The more familiar you are with the scriptures, the closer you become to the mind and will of the Lord and the closer you become as husband and wife and children. You will find that by reading the scriptures the truths of eternity will rest on your minds.16

The adversary does not want scripture study to take place in our homes, and so he will create problems if he can. But we must persist.17
We cannot know God and Jesus without studying about them and then doing their will. This course leads to additional revealed knowledge which, if obeyed, will eventually lead us to furthertruths. If we follow this pattern, we will receive further light and joy, eventually leading into God’s presence, where we, with Him, will have a fulness.18




Let me talk about obedience. You’re learning now to keep all the commandments of the Lord. As you do so, you will have His Spirit to be with you. You’ll feel good about yourselves. You can’t do wrong and feel right. It’s impossible!20

The temporal promise for obedience [to the Word of Wisdom] is: They “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; … [they] shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:18, 20.)

I have always felt, however, that the greater blessing of obedience to the Word of Wisdom and all other commandments is spiritual.

Listen to the spiritual promise: “All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, … shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:18, 19; italics added.)


Some have thought this promise was contingent on just keeping the provisions of the Word of Wisdom. But you will notice we must walk in obedience to all the commandments. Then we shall receive specific spiritual promises. This means we must obey the law of tithing, keep the Sabbath day holy, keep morally clean and chaste, and obey all other commandments. When we do all this, the promise is: They “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:19.)

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Working on a rough draft

Changes.

Introduction
There have been four changes in the Church in the last fifty years that seem to have altered the shape of the modern church and its direction.  They are:
  1. A move from the Church as a single tribe "the blood of Israel" or a large family to a collection of super families or affiliated tribal groups.
  2. A move from blue collar ethos to white collar professional standards (with a change in image and expenditures that make sense to white collar professionals and that alienate blue collar members).
  3. A loss of Church centered social organizations and programs -- so that if your family organization or tribe does not provide them, the Church offers no social connection for you (which also works to drive members who are not part of a tribe away from the Church).
  4. A move from being mostly Democrats to mostly Republican.

The Blood of Israel
In the 1960s and 1970s, as Dr. Shipps has noted, the Church acted like an ethnic group or tribe you could join rather than be born into. Every where you went you had people who treated you and acted like extended family.  They shared culture and background and, honestly, often generational roots and ethnic heritage.
Now it is much more important to be part of a large family in the Church.  People are often told that as converts they are not really suitable as marriage candidates.  General authorities as a class come from a group of elite family groups.
Many Church employees and Church related businesses (e.g. Temple Clothing, etc.) are tied into the kinship groups.  In many places (though not all) the Church is not so much one extended family as a collection of tribes or clans with outliers no longer able to join just by joining the Church.

The Blue Collar Divide
The Church also had a working class, blue collar ethos and was proud of it. Under David O. McKay, with the financial issues, general authorities served a great financial sacrifice. The Church presented as being run by a lay clergy and volunteers and the lack of compensation and frugality was part of the ethos and public presentation of the Church.
People could drive by President Kimball's small plaster house. It looked like a 1200 square foot three bedroom, one car garage home.
Now, the image of the Church is tied to that of white collar professionals -- successful white collar professionals.  We look at Romney and Cannon for our role models.  
Mission Presidents are expected to present as successful professionals.  Mission homes are residences suitable for professionals to live in (and, honestly, testing has shown that presenting to the public this way has a positive impact on missionary work).  They have allowances for decoration to both improve the presentation and to give comfort to the families living in them.

Loss of Community
It used to be that a "Mormon Church" was a community center.  A common by-word was that you could tell the LDS chapel because it was in constant use every night of the week.  Members expected the road shows and dance festivals and athletic leagues and steady dinners and other activities to provide a community core that embraced them.
That has ceased.  Social needs are no longer expected to be met by the Church (with the goal that members by going out into the community will bring the community back to the Church).
Thus rather than the Church being a community -- one that met social and emotional needs -- it has gone to a Church that serves a basic, simplified ration of religious training, and encourages the members to find service opportunities on their own.  To find social opportunities on their own.  To study and learn the gospel on their own.

Political Change
David O. McKay and his sons were all Democrats.  Utah governors were always Democrats.  That has really changed.  The Church has gone from a more liberal Church in many ways to one that is more conservative politically.

Taken Together
The changes can be seen in many places. Rather than general authorities flying coach (as they did in an era when there were no frequent flyer miles at all), they now fly enough that they generally get free upgrades for all their flights (like just about any professional who flies a lot). No one is surprised to see them in first class.
Rather than staying in member's homes and eating with them, they stay at hotels and buy meals (and are much healthier in spite of being older -- this has been a major health improvement for general authorities). Not only do they stay at hotels, they stay at hotels that have the marker "white collar successful" and they dress not as "blue collar, Sunday go to meeting clothes" but as "successful white collar professional dress."
White collar members take pride in this.  Many blue collar members are alienated by this change. 
Church families are broken down into groups of extended kinship groups (which often works to exclude those who do not have large families). That is also reflected in who is called as a general authority and who serves on the general boards of the Church. It impacts who interacts with general authorities (as they no longer stay in homes and have a social circle created by family and friends, not their local ward).
Inclusive social events like road shows, relief society dinners, dance festival and the like are all distant memories (and now the domain of Mega Churches) -- making the extended tribes even more important.  More and more people who leave the Church do so without any social ties to bring them back.

Counter Forces
There are counter forces. The new service to refugees under the direction of the Relief Society may well grow into something serious. Like the Pope, the LDS Church is now seen as successful enough that voluntary financial restraint by leaders may well become a marker for service and sacrifice that will not alienate the target group the Church is aligned with.  In fact, a move towards austerity may well be the sort of thing that creates a positive image.
Instead of staying at Motel 6 being seen as proof of failure, it edges on becoming a marker of humility and proof of the humanity of leaders.
While there does not seem to be an inclusiveness in leadership (to the extent that there has been too much in the way of judgmental scorn heaped on some people over their appearance), that may change as well.

But
All of these shifts mark changes that are slowly spreading out from the center. In parts of the world where the church is inclusive and brings everyone in, with charity and kindness it is still an extended family much like an ethnic group and not devolved into tribalism. In places where it is becoming a playground for quasi-elites (people who want a better quality of member and who socially exclude those who are too poor or otherwise socially lacking), there is a lot of exclusion -- and the church is shedding half of its members or more because that many are rejected. (Pro tip.  50% of any group will be in the bottom half).
In similar fashion, because historically when the Church has mission presidents who share the local poverty, missionary success falls and when the mission presidents present as white collar professionals, missionary success increases there are changes which are reflected in the stipends and the allowances for things such as clothing and decorating and cars that create a gap with many who do not share a white collar professional ethos. The Church's image has improved enough that it may well be able to endure a more fiscally conservative approach (or it may not -- I don't know).

Bottom Line
Those elements all reflect the changes that have come over the Church in the last 40-50 years:
1. A move from one large family to affiliated super family, clan or tribal groups.
2. A move from blue collar ethos to white collar professional standards (with a change in expenditures that make sense to white collar professionals and that alienate blue collar members).
3. A loss of social organizations and programs -- so that if your family organization or tribe does not provide them, the Church offers no social connection for you (which also works to drive members who are not part of a tribe away from the Church).
4. A change in the political flavor of the prevalent members of the Church.
Those are the changes the Church has undergone. Who knows which changes it will face in the future.

The big question

  • What do you think?
  • What have I missed?
  • Where do you think the Church will go in the next 30-40 or even 50 years?


And, what do you think I can do to make this rough draft better?

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Lesson Eight -- Overcoming the Walls of our Minds.

“The purpose of the gospel of Jesus Christ is to bring about love, unity, and brotherhood of the highest order,” he said.

        When you think about church on Sunday, what do you expect out of your meetings?


In the message of the gospel, the entire human race is one family descended from a single God. All men and women have not only a physical lineage leading back to Adam and Eve, their first earthly parents, but also a spiritual heritage leading back to God the Eternal Father. Thus, all persons on earth are literally brothers and sisters in the family of God.

          How often do you feel like you are with family at church?  How often do you feel like you are with family with other people?





This is a message of life and love that strikes squarely against all stifling traditions based on race, language, economic or political standing, educational rank, or cultural background, for we are all of the same spiritual descent. We have a divine pedigree; every person is a spiritual child of God.

          What does that mean?
          Does that change anything about how you feel you should deal with other people?




In this gospel view there is no room for a contracted, narrow, or prejudicial view. The Prophet Joseph Smith said: “Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race”

          What does that make you think?
          Why?
          When you hear of earthquakes or storms or tragedy or war, what does this mean we should think or do?




“Based upon ancient and modern revelation, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gladly teaches and declares the Christian doctrine that all men and women are brothers and sisters, not only by blood relationship from common mortal progenitors but also as literal spirit children of an Eternal Father”

As members of the Lord’s church, we need to lift our vision beyond personal prejudices. We need to discover the supreme truth that indeed our Father is no respecter of persons. Sometimes we unduly offend brothers and sisters of other nations by assigning exclusiveness to one nationality of people over another. …

          Is it hard to not think of ourselves as better and more special than anyone else?
          What can we do to be free from that mindset?



Do you imagine our Heavenly Father loving one nationality of his offspring more exclusively than others? As members of the Church, we need to be reminded of Nephi’s challenging question: “Know ye not that there are more nations than one?”

          How do we bring ourselves to think this way?




As members of the Church of Jesus Christ, we seek to bring all truth together. We seek to enlarge the circle of love and understanding among all the people of the earth. Thus we strive to establish peace and happiness, not only within Christianity but among all mankind. …

Any time we experience the blessings of the Atonement in our lives, we cannot help but have a concern for the welfare of [others].

          How does the message of the gospel relate to the Atonement?
          How does the Atonement teach us to have the love of Christ that extends to all others?


“As ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
“Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life” (Mosiah 18:8–9).
         
          Did you think of being baptized this way?
          What about when you were ordained?
          Can you think of others in this ward who you feel would morn with you?
          Can you think of others you would morn with?  That you have comforted?
          What else can you do for others?




May the Lord bless us that the walls of our minds may not obstruct us from the blessings that can be ours.

          This is the core of this lesson.
          That God can overcome the walls of our minds so that we can share the love of Christ with others.
          What walls prevent you from helping others?
         


          Group Discussion:

          What barriers do you see to your being able to help others?

          What ways do you think you can overcome those?


Saturday, April 09, 2016

Memory, Simplification and Lies

I realized recently that by the standards of some people who insist that all simplification is a lie that I am a gross fraud and liar.

After all, I have said many times that my wife and I buried three children in a five year span.  That is a lie.  It was really four and a half years.  That isn't even true.  It was from January 26, 1993 to August 31, 1997. Which isn't accurate. It was late at night on the 26th, early in the morning on the 31st.

Which isn't even accurate, since the funerals followed the deaths and I don't really have strong memories of when the funerals were by date.  Except by the time Robin died, we didn't have a funeral, we just had a grave-side service, we couldn't take a funeral.

And though I've been asked to write on the topic, I've not included all the details.  Like what it felt to attempt CPR on someone too dead for it to have any effect.  Or the autopsy they did on Robin that was so botched a police officer launched a desecration of a human corpse investigation.

=============================

I obviously disagree that all simplification is a lie.  Sometimes we simplify because the details are not ones that add to the discussion.  Sometimes because the message is enough from the simplification. Sometimes because the details are enough.

=============================

And when we get to memory, memory is about lessons learned, rather than facts, and for most people it is a matter of labels rather than pictures (all the more for me since I lack visual memory for the most part).
  • Every time you use a memory, it changes.
    • Turns out your memory is a lot like the telephone game, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study. Every time you remember an event from the past, your brain networks change in ways that can alter the later recall of the event. Thus, the next time you remember it, you might recall not the original event but what you remembered the previous time. 
    • The Northwestern study is the first to show this. “A memory is not simply an image produced by time traveling back to the original event -- it can be an image that is somewhat distorted because of the prior times you remembered it,” said Donna Bridge, a postdoctoral fellow at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and lead author of the paper on the study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience. “Your memory of an event can grow less precise even to the point of being totally false with each retrieval.” 
  • Memories are edited every time we share them.
    • One implication of Schiller’s work is that memory isn’t like a file in our brain but more like a story that is edited every time we tell it. To each re-telling there are attached emotional details. 
    • So when the story is altered feelings are also reshaped. Schiller says, “My conclusion is that memory is what you are now. Not in pictures, not in recordings. Your memory is who you are now.” So if we tell our stories differently, the emotions that are elicited will also differ. An altered story is also an altered interior life.
  • Memories are physical as well as mental.

=============================
A simplified memory may be more accurate, especially if it is a label used to avoid recalling and editing the detailed memory in order to preserve that memory unaltered.

Or a simplified story might be as much as an audience really has time or energy to hear -- or more importantly, since memory is the lesson learned and not the fact -- it may capture the lesson better than other things would.

But it is not necessarily a lie to simplify a story or to limit the details shared about it.


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rough Draft Interview of Jerilyn Hassell Pool

Welcome to the interview series Ms. Jerilyn Hassell Pool. You are famous in some circles and others haven’t ever heard of you. Can you give our readers a quick thumbnail of how you came to be LDS (your short family history) and how that affected where you are now?
I was born to a Mormon father and a former Catholic mother who converted to Mormonism a couple of years before I was born. I’m the oldest of 8 kids. I was baptized at the age of 8. My father was a CES employee until his retirement a couple of years ago, so my family has alway been very deeply committed to the Mormon church. I grew up with a nuanced view of the church, I believe. My father, being a CES man, knew a lot of the church history that people now find so troubling, and so I grew up knowing a lot of it, which I think has helped me remain a believing, active member.
I did, however, marry a convert who has always been sort of a hellion and who breaks every Mormon male norm possible. We did not get married in the temple, and that was scandalous to a lot of people. From that point on, I gained a growing understood what it was like to be marginalized in the Mormon church and since then, I have worked to raise awareness to many of the issues that marginalize people in the church. Oh, and that hellion I married? We just celebrated 25 years of marriage.
Tell us about your recent projects that have involved you in the Bloggernacle and other areas.
After the terrific work of Stephanie Lauritzen, I took over Wear Pants to Church Day with Nancy Ross, so every December, I start bugging every Mormon I know to wear pants to church as a sign of inclusion for marginalized people.
I’m a sometimes blogger for Feminist Mormon Housewives and Rational Faiths. I moderate the Facebook groups for FMH and for The Mormon Hub. I do comedy presentations for Sunstone (Mormon Food and the upcoming Mormon Internet Habits).
Most recently, I planned and executed a family Christmas retreat for LGBTQ Mormons and I am currently working on more than 400 care packages for even more.
I am devoted to learning about what I can do to eliminate systems of oppression and sometimes I post things online that make a lot of white, straight cishet people cry their white, straight cishet tears. No regrets.
How did those projects grab your attention?
I have a brother who is gay, and who has also recently resigned from the church. A lot of what I do now is the kinds of things I wish had been done for him many years ago. I don’t fault him for leaving the church, especially after the Exclusion Policy announcement, but I wonder what his relationship with the church would look like now if he had found affirming Mormons who wished for his health and well-being instead of a commitment to extreme celibacy.
As my circle of friends widens, I have become increasingly aware of the intersections between the oppression of women, the oppression of the LGBTQ community and the oppression of people of color and those have informed my course of study and activism.
In another interview [link] you mention your testimony of the gospel and Joseph Smith. Could you share that with our readers?
I am one of those weirdo Progressive Mormons who loves Joseph Smith. I don’t think he was perfect—I actually revel in his imperfections. If I believe he was a prophet of God (and I do) then I also love hearing about all the weird things he did, because I am also greatly flawed. If God could work with someone who was as flawed as Joseph, then there is hope for me, too. I’m not saying I aspire to be a Prophet, but I am prayerful about the kind of activism with which I get involved and I believe God uses my willingness to serve marginalized people as a conduit for His/Her love.
I love the plain truths of the gospel. I try to stick to the basics and avoid all of the things we can’t possibly know. Fiona Givens once told me that instead of thinking of putting things on a shelf that can be broken, put them on a target. Determine what is at the center of your target (which for me is Jesus Christ) and then as other things come to my attention, I can move them closer and farther away from my target. However, one day, God and Jesus and Joseph Smith and I will have a chat and I’ll ask them to explain a lot of stuff on my target.
I also love the scriptures. They’re so weird and fun and angry and dramatic. I love reading about all the times God chastised the prophets for their mistakes. I work hard to love those 15 white dudes in Salt Lake City, and I really want to believe are doing the best they can. I think they miss the mark sometimes, but even the disciples who legit hung out with Jesus himself made some mistakes. I wish we had a record of the current leadership having a Come to Jesus Meeting with, uh, Jesus.
What is the question that you wish interviewers would ask that you haven’t been asked yet?
My address, so they can send me money and Cheetos.
What is next for you?
I have over 400 care packages to send to LGBTQ Mormons. One hundred of them are needed immediately. There is so much triage that has to be done. There is more info on how to sign up to get a care package and how to donate to the cause on the website I hastily built, www.safeSpaces.us. It is my hope to expand what we're doing to include a safeXmas 2.0, a safeReunion for anyone who wants an old-fashioned yet affirming family reunion this summer, and also materials for people who are wiling to take to their bishops/stake presidents that works to create safeSpaces in our wards and stakes.
I can’t make the Exclusion Policy go away, but I can put all of my effort into making sure there are pockets and spaces in Mormonism where LGBTQ Mormons who wish to remain involved can feel loved and supported just as they are.