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, 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.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Finding Faith in Jesus Christ -- January 10th lesson

When you think about how Howard W. Hunter lost his job about seven months after getting married and then how and his wife buried a child early on in their marriage, how he graduated third in his class from law school but still could not get full time work for five years and the other hardships he went through, what does this statement mean to you?

 “If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong.”


A prominent theme in President Howard W. Hunter’s teachings is that true peace, healing, and happiness come only as a person strives to know and follow Jesus Christ. President Hunter taught that:
“Christ’s way is not only the right way, but ultimately the only way to hope and joy.”  
 “As an ordained Apostle and special witness of Christ, I give to you my solemn witness that Jesus Christ is in fact the Son of God,” he declared. “He is the Messiah prophetically anticipated by Old Testament prophets. He is the Hope of Israel, for whose coming the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had prayed during the long centuries of prescribed worship. …  
“It is by the power of the Holy Ghost that I bear my witness. I know of Christ’s reality as if I had seen with my eyes and heard with my ears. I know also that the Holy Spirit will confirm the truthfulness of my witness in the hearts of all those who listen with an ear of faith. 

  • What did he mean here?


 … How often do we think of the Savior? How deeply and how gratefully and how adoringly do we reflect on his life? How central to our lives do we know him to be? For example, how much of a normal day, a working week, or a fleeting month is devoted to “Jesus, the very thought of thee”? 
Perhaps for some of us, not enough. Unless we pay more attention to the thoughts of our hearts, I wonder what hope we have to claim that greater joy, that sweeter prize: someday his loving “face to see / And in [his] presence rest.” 

  •  How do we pay more attention to Christ? 
  •  What can we do to remember to remember Christ and to reflect on Christ in our lives?


 Contrition is costly—it costs us our pride and our insensitivity, but it especially costs us our sins. For, as King Lamoni’s father knew twenty centuries ago, this is the price of true hope. “O God,” he cried, “wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee … that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day.” (Alma 22:18.) When we, too, are willing to give away all our sins to know him and follow him, we, too, will be filled with the joy of eternal life. 

  • What is contrition? 
  • How can we give our sins away?


 And what of the meek? In a world too preoccupied with winning through intimidation and seeking to be number one, no large crowd of folk is standing in line to buy books that call for mere meekness. 

  • What is meekness? 
  • How do we find meekness? 
  • How do we make that part of our lives? 
  • Why isn’t meekness easier?


gentleness is better than brutality, that kindness is greater than coercion, that the soft voice turneth away wrath. In the end, and sooner than that whenever possible, we must be more like him. … 

  • How hard is it to be gentle? 
  • How hard is it to not attempt to coerce and control others? 
  • How easy is it to think that we are gentle when we are not? 
  • How easy is it to think that we are kind when we are really just trying to control others? 
  • How much control do we really have, other than the control over our own lives to choose to follow Christ?


… May we be more devoted and disciplined followers of Christ. May we cherish him in our thoughts and speak his name with love. May we kneel before him with meekness and mercy. May we bless and serve others that they may do the same. 

  •  How do we do that?


We are in a world where there is at the same time both a growing hunger to hear more of Jesus Christ and a continued drift by many into what is referred to as a post-religious or post-Christian world. In addressing both, President Hunter said:

 In great simplicity the Master taught the principles of life eternal and lessons that bring happiness to those with the faith to believe. It doesn’t seem reasonable to assume the necessity of modernizing these teachings of the Master. 
His message concerned principles that are eternal. In this age, as in every age before us and in every age that will follow, the greatest need in all the world is an active and sincere faith in the basic teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, the living Son of the living God. Because many reject those teachings, that is all the more reason why sincere believers in the gospel of Jesus Christ should proclaim its truth and show by example the power and peace of a righteous, gentle life. …
How are we supposed to act when we are offended, misunderstood, unfairly or unkindly treated, or sinned against? What are we supposed to do if we are hurt by those we love, or passed over for promotion, or are falsely accused, or have our motives unfairly assailed? 

  • So, how do we proclaim the truth by the way we act?


Strive to build a personal testimony of Jesus Christ and the atonement. A study of the life of Christ and a testimony of his reality is something each of us should seek. As we come to understand his mission, and the atonement which he wrought, we will desire to live more like him. 

  • How do we do this? 
  • Feel free to ask the person next to you what has worked for them in building a testimony of Jesus Christ and of the atonement or to share what has worked for you – or to do both.


There is a serious application to this lesson. All of us have seen some sudden storms in our lives. A few of them … can be violent and frightening and potentially destructive. As individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, even as a church, we have had sudden squalls arise which have made us ask one way or another, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” [Mark 4:38.] And one way or another we always hear in the stillness after the storm, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” [Mark 4:40.] 
 None of us would like to think we have no faith, but I suppose the Lord’s gentle rebuke here is largely deserved. 
We will all have some adversity in our lives. I think we can be reasonably sure of that. Some of it will have the potential to be violent and damaging and destructive. Some of it may even strain our faith in a loving God who has the power to administer relief in our behalf. 

  • Are we ever surprised by adversity? 
  • How does Christ help us in our adversity?


 Jesus said, “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33.) Sure, there are plenty of things to worry about—some of them very serious things—but that is why we speak in gospel terms of faith, and hope, and charity. 
As Latter-day Saints, ours is “the abundant life,” and we try to emphasize our blessings and opportunities while we minimize our disappointments and worries. “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing,” the scripture says, “and all things shall work together for your good” (D&C 90:24). I want to remind you of that promise. …  
 Please remember this one thing. If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right. …  
We all struggle with health problems occasionally—others do so constantly. Illness and disease are part of the burden of mortality. Have faith and be positive. The power of the priesthood is real, and there is so much that is good in life, even if we struggle physically. It is a joy to know that there will be no injury or disease in the Resurrection.


 Some of our concerns may come in the form of temptations. Others may be difficult decisions pertaining to education or career or money or marriage. Whatever your burden is, you will find the strength you need in Christ. Jesus Christ is Alpha and Omega, literally the beginning and the end. He is with us from start to finish, and as such is more than a spectator in our lives. … If the yoke under which we struggle is sin itself, the message is the same. 
Christ knows the full weight of our sins, for he carried it first. If our burden is not sin nor temptation, but illness or poverty or rejection, it’s the same. He knows. … He suffered so much more than our sins. He whom Isaiah called the “man of sorrows” (Isaiah 53:3; Mosiah 14:3) knows perfectly every problem through which we pass because he chose to bear the full weight of all our troubles and our pains. …  
 Brothers and sisters, you have and will have worries and challenges of many kinds, but embrace life joyfully and full of faith. Study the scriptures regularly. Pray fervently. Obey the voice of the Spirit and the prophets. Do all that you can to help others. You will find great happiness in such a course. Some glorious day all your worries will be turned to joys.


 As Joseph Smith wrote to the struggling Saints from his cell in Liberty Jail: 
Let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed [D&C 123:17; emphasis added]. 
[In the words of the Lord to the Prophet Joseph Smith:] Fear not, little flock; do good; let earth and hell combine against you, for if ye are built upon my rock, they cannot prevail. … Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not. Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven [D&C 6:34–37]. 

  • What is in our power? 
  • What can we do?


  • What do you think we can do to turn more to Christ and to feel the peace of his message in our hearts in times of trouble?


Sunday, January 03, 2016

On the passing of my father-in-law

In the end it comes to three things.

Did we accept that we needed a Savior?

Did we believe the things Jesus told us?

Did we act on those tools he gave us to encompass godliness?

Many people think they have accepted the need for a savior, but really have not.  While Christ came to save and redeem all of us, those people believe that they are among those who “need no repentance.”  They believe that repentance, change and redemption are for other people.

To accept that you need a savior is to accept that repentance, change and redemption are for you first, something you need rather than something you need to throw in other people’s direction.  To do otherwise you become one with those who have rejected Christ in their hearts and have rejected belief in a savior for all humanity. 

If you have accepted that you need Jesus Christ (rather than believe that the savior is for others who lack your superior virtue), then do you believe what God said.

For, as Isaiah prophesied (in Isaiah Chapter 55):

1 Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.

 2 Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread? and your labour for that which satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness.

 3 Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David.

 4 Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people, a leader and commander to the people.

 5 Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the Lord thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee.

 6 ¶Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near:

 7 Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.

 8 ¶For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.

 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

 10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater:

 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

 12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

Do you believe God when he states that the salvation of Christ is promised “without money and without price?” Do you believe that it is not only something you need, but something you can obtain, that the burden is light?

Or, as Nephi said in 2 Nephi 26:

24 He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation.

 25 Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price.

 26 Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay.

 27 Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance.

 28 Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.

The world tells us that it is difficult if not impossible for us to meet the requirements that God has set for us.  The world teaches that salvation is not for everyone, and that many are forbidden.  To the contrary, Nephi pointed out that salvation is free for all men. And Christ said in the eleventh Chapter of Matthew:

28 ¶Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

          I was inspired to write this because of George Wallace, my father-in-law, who believed in Christ.  He believed that repentance, a need for change and a need for redemption applied to all men and to himself.

          He accepted that he was weak and that he needed salvation.

          And in Christ he had  hope, and in Christ’s grace.

          Though he has died, as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf preached in April conference:

Because of the sacrifice of our beloved Redeemer, death has no sting, the grave has no victory, Satan has no lasting power, and we are “begotten … again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

President Uchtdorf went on to say:

I marvel to think that the Son of God would condescend to save us, as imperfect, impure, mistake-prone, and ungrateful as we often are. I have tried to understand the Savior’s Atonement with my finite mind, and the only explanation I can come up with is this: God loves us deeply, perfectly, and everlastingly. I cannot even begin to estimate “the breadth, and length, and depth, and height … [of] the love of Christ.”

A powerful expression of that love is what the scriptures often call the grace of God—the divine assistance and endowment of strength by which we grow from the flawed and limited beings we are now into exalted beings of “truth and light, until [we are] glorified in truth and [know] all things.”
Salvation cannot be bought with the currency of obedience; it is purchased by the blood of the Son of God. Thinking that we can trade our good works for salvation is like buying a plane ticket and then supposing we own the airline. Or thinking that after paying rent for our home, we now hold title to the entire planet earth.

As I remember George Wallace, I also remember that he believed in his need for a Christ and that he believed in the words of Christ.  I remember that he understood his own need for the salvation of God, the condescension of God that is Christ, and that he understood and believed that the salvation of Christ came without money and without price.

Finally, I come to the third point, acting to embrace godliness.  Or, as the Apostle Peter put it, to partake of the divine nature.

As Peter (and Ezra Taft Benson) both said:

“And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge;

“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness;

“And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity” (2 Peter 1:5–7).

To quote President Ezra Taft Benson speaking on Peter’s words:

To our temperance we are to add patience. …Patience is another form of self-control. It is the ability to postpone gratification and to bridle one’s passions. … A patient man is understanding of others’ faults.

A patient man also waits on the Lord. We sometimes read or hear of people who seek a blessing from the Lord, then grow impatient when it does not come swiftly. Part of the divine nature is to trust in the Lord enough to “be still and know that [he is] God” (D&C 101:16).

A [person] who is patient will be tolerant of the mistakes and failings of his loved ones. Because he loves them, he will not find fault nor criticize nor blame.

Another attribute mentioned by Peter is kindness. … One who is kind is sympathetic and gentle with others. He is considerate of others’ feelings and courteous in his behavior. He has a helpful nature. Kindness pardons others’ weaknesses and faults. Kindness is extended to all—to the aged and the young, to animals, to those low of station as well as the high

These three things:
·        accepting that we need a savior,
·        believing in God’s promises that Jesus Christ can save us, and;
·        being able to partake in the divine nature in this life by being kind, patient and tolerant,

Those three things allow us to find charity; that we are not left without consolation or comfort.  For Christ promised us that “I will not leave you comfortless. …”

The comfort we are promised will allow us to believe int, recognize and accept Christ in our lives that we may find joy, with brother Wallace, in the resurrection and salvation of our Lord.

This is my prayer and my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.