"Let all evil speaking be put away from you"

My husband went to do a visit with the missionaries. They visited a less active sister, and I cannot begin to say how angry I am about what happened to this woman.

She told them everything. The rumors people in my ward started about her and her kids. The names they've called her. What I heard was so vile, it doesn't bear repeating.

I am beyond incensed. I remember when this woman stopped coming to church. She went from being at church almost every Sunday to completely disappearing. I don't socialize much at church, so I never heard any of the rumors. But I am ashamed to associate with anyone who would talk about a single mother like that. 

I'm angry enough that I can't sleep. My heart is broken.

There's one thing my husband repeated to me that I just can't get out of my mind.

"I didn't stop coming to church because I don't have a testimony. I stopped coming to church because I got tired of fake people being fake."

How many people who don't come to church anymore fit that description? They love the Lord. They love the restored gospel. They believe everything they've been taught to be true. They just can't take being abused and bullied by the people who have every reason to know better, who promised before all the hosts of Heaven to do better.

I honestly don't know how to go and sit in those pews on Sunday. I don't know how to occupy a space where the way people behave is so completely incongruent with what we profess to believe. I don't know how to show my face in Relief Society. All I want to do is stand up and demand the truth. 

Who said those things about her? Why? How could you? How dare you?!

This woman doesn't need visiting teachers coming with a plate of cookies and some obnoxious shallow message. She needs the women responsible for this to go to her, to her children, and apologize. That's what she deserves. I'm not going to listen to one more sermon about home and visiting teaching without stating that fact as plainly as my language and emotional restraint will allow. 

This woman deserves to be in the Church. She deserves to live the life of faith she envisioned for herself when she was baptized. She deserves a friend. The only thing I know how to do with what I feel is to tell her I will be her friend, and the seat next me is always hers.

It doesn't feel like enough. It feels like such a shriveled offering that is coming years too late. I want to rain down fire and destruction on every person that did this to her. Part of me feels like that's the only way I could ever make this right. The rational part of my brain tells me the flipping tables is best left to Jesus. But it doesn't stop me from concocting every imaginary testimony and Sunday School comment my brain can concoct. 

I won't tell you where I started. But for now, this is all I could probably say without going into fisticuffs and Hulk-tearing the Relief Society lace tablecloth: 

Don't say anything behind anyone's back you don't intend to repeat to the Savior's face

ALL Families are Ordained of God, Not Just Yours

My family isn't anything like what Mormons would consider to be the ideal family. The way we talk about families as these loving places of safety, let alone the literal manifestation of God's providence? That's not my family's narrative. It never has been. 

 It has made me think a lot about what we could say and do differently to avoid making people feel excluded, or like God somehow made a mistake with their family. 

One thing that will help with this is to get rid of blanket statements that lump all families together. Never assume the person in front of you at church has had a life anything like yours. "We all understand" or "we all know" or "anyone in this room" statements have got to go.

Another is for those with loving families to be more aware of how they talk about their families in our meetings. I don't have a problem with people who come from loving, functional households expressing the love and gratitude they feel for their families. But no family in the Church is more valuable than any other, and a relationship with the Church doesn't guarantee that family won't still be dysfunctional. Dysfunctional families don't get that way because the people in them have done anything wrong, or are guilty of some glaring moral failure that has disqualified them from God's love. That's not how divine love and moral agency works.

I come from three generations of divorced women who have survived every kind of challenge imaginable. The women in my family are the strongest women I have ever known. They are not failures. They have triumphed over human suffering with courage, grace, and grit. Anyone would be privileged to know them. 

I've heard people thank God for allowing them to be born into families with the restored gospel. I've heard them refer to their parents and family members as the choicest spirits of heaven. But members of the church don't have a monopoly on that. I'm grateful I was born into a family that isn't part of the church. I'm grateful for the choice spirits Heavenly Father has sent to my family, to heal generations of pain and suffering. They were also called and chosen to do a great work, one that many members of the Church would never volunteer for.
I'm grateful that God cares enough about my family to reclaim and redeem them, with the exact vision to make us equal in stature to any other person born in the covenant. I'm grateful that Christ sees no ultimate difference between me and anyone else.
My family may not be perfect. But that family has given me my grandmother, who is the most Christ-like person I have ever known. I wouldn't trade her for the most perfect of all functional Mormon families that has ever existed. She doesn't just love people when it is easy, when people do what is right. She has loved people through the worst they could do to themselves and to those she loves. She doesn't judge. She never takes their pictures down in her house. The way I see it, the Church can only reward her. There's nothing they could do to improve her incredible soul.
God doesn't give us the families we "deserve" or "earn." He gives us the families where we can do the most good and grow the most through our associations with them. For most of the human race, that means being born outside of the Church. That is not a mistake or misfortune. It's the wisdom of God, who ultimately doesn't need his children to be born into a single religious community to have meaningful relationships with them.

Sit Down, Daniel C. Peterson

Where to even begin with this? It's one thing to have men in the Church invalidate your concerns. It's quite another to have those men use you as a puppet as they do so.

I have served faithfully in the temple for the entire duration of my membership. The form that service has taken in my life for almost three years now is as a female ordinance worker in my local temple. Daniel Peterson does not speak for me and my experience. He is not a female ordinance worker. He has never encountered the blatant sexism, disrespect, and inequality that exists in that service. He will never understand what it means to metabolize those mortal frailties together with the supernal goodness of God.

There is so much more to the criticism he is dismissing than holding towels. And it isn't coming from women outside of those temple spaces. It also comes from within, as it has done in my case. His post represents the worst in LDS men and their inability to understand sexism in the Church: their tendency to speak over women and their own experiences as he does so.

I don't want yet another reason to sit in a chair on my temple shift. To me, this does not represent real change.

I want men to listen to me/believe me when I speak.

I want a real answer about why the exception to women officiating over initiatories and endowments without ordination doesn't also apply to performing baptisms and sealings.

I want to know why my matron and her assistants honestly don't believe they have real priesthood authority. I want to know why they feel like they have to give deference to the presidency and the sealers. I want to know who told them this.

I want to know why even though the female general presidents just issued a letter to stake leadership about not restricting menstruating Young Women from participating in the baptistry, local leaders and parents are not being trained to stop doing this.

I want to know why Heavenly Mother isn't in the temple films. She participated in the creation of the Earth and is the literal mother to the human race. But she's completely absent from those representations in our worship. It makes no sense.

As a female temple worker, I already spend a good portion of my day sitting in chairs and standing in hallways. I already struggle to find value in that work, especially now that we literally don't have enough brothers to fill the schedule.

There are so many other ways we could (and should) be improving temple service and worship for women in the church. Giving them another reason to sit in a chair and expecting them to be happy about it is not even close to the most important item we need to address.

Healing Political Divisions Through Temple Worship

We had stake conference this weekend. The topic was the blessings of temple attendance. The context is the new Meridian temple has caused attendance in Boise to drop off a cliff, across all days and times. Sessions are canceled daily, if not multiple times day.

Many of the messages addressed the idea that attending the temple will diminish the power of evil in our lives. Nothing all that unusual there. Lots of emphasis on Malachi, "lest I smite the earth with a curse" language. For Mormons, Malachi is about as fire and brimstone as we get. Nothing unusual there either.

But then, a member of the stake presidency gave his talk. He equated the curse in Malachi with "the political division in our country," and I nearly had a heart attack. It was one of those moments where I find myself thinking "I don't know where you're going with this, but I will walk out if you get crazy."

He went on at length about Russians buying Facebook ads to create international conflict between different groups of people. I'm not sure how, but he tied this back to the temple and said that attending the temple is how we will heal the divisions he's talking about.

I don't know what I expected to happen. I live in the most progressive section of Boise, so they honestly know better than to take political sides in a church meeting. But I'm also trying to parse out exactly what he was getting at because it wasn't entirely clear. Was this a warning that the political contention we're currently experiencing is being manufactured, at least in part, by outside agents? Because even though that's probably true, it's by no means the dominant source of that division.

As a progressive person of faith, the source of that division for me is the blatant, deliberate abuse of power against the disadvantaged by a narrow conservative majority. That is not something you can pawn off on the Russians. But I thought seriously about what he was trying to say, and it occurred to me that his feelings and mine may not actually be that dissimilar.

Was he, as a conservative person, trying to address the toxic ignorance on which many of those actions and policies rest? The more I thought about it, the more sense that made. I know this man and like him pretty well. I don't think he was making thinly veiled statements against progressives as the source of all evil in the world, which is what I was afraid of.

Instead, I think he was trying to address that fear and suspicion itself.

The more I think about it, the more I believe it was a caution about the narratives we choose to believe about people, regardless of what our persuasions are. And the idea that the temple can heal that spirit of suspicion and fear, that it can heal the relationships damaged by forces at work in society, that is an interesting proposition. Taken in view of other counsel they offered, to spend less time on things that don't matter so we have more time to worship in the temple, that thought is really compelling.

Imagine if people watching pundits on the news, or sharing toxic messages on Facebook, spent that time at the temple instead?

And even myself, as much as I try to only share accurate information about stories that truly matter. How many times have I needed peace because of the unfair world we live in, and not found it out here anywhere?

The more I thought about his remarks, the more I realized he was doing something I no longer thought was possible. A conservative person was using his moral authority to undo some of this damage, instead of denying it exists or passing it off on someone else. He also made me confront my own learned defensiveness, and to think about how I need to create space in my own mind for conservative people not to be villains, to contribute to this healing we all need so much.

My husband and I are not politically similar at all. He didn't vote for Trump, but the fallout in Congress and society at large has still directly affected our ability to talk to each other in a serious way. But this talk in stake conference shifted something in each of us, and we were able to talk about having a real political common ground for the first time in over a year. It was like a wall had finally come down. I can't describe what that meant to me.

I can trust conservative people to care as much about what matters to me as I do. I can trust them to respond to suffering with a desire to help and make a difference. Getting past this animosity matters to all of us, not just to me. Conservative people want that reconciliation. And yes, I'll be honest that I didn't believe this anymore. But I'm seeing now that this lack of trust is something I need to change if the conversations around me are ever going to.

If my conservative friends and church family are finding strength and clarity to change, to imagine people differently because of the temple, I can join them in doing the same. 

Considering Temple Ordinances when You're the Child of the Incarcerated

I don't talk about this very much, because it comes from a painful place where all of my secrets are kept. But I felt I needed to talk about this today. So here we go.

My father was a deeply flawed human being, whose lifetime of behavior was deeply influenced by three things:

  1. He believed he had been wronged or failed by every person in authority in his life 
  2. He believed he was accountable to no one 
  3. He couldn't handle any loss of control 

These are based on what I heard him say about himself, what I've learned about him from people who knew him, and what I saw in him for myself as his daughter.

I don't know the full extent of what my father's criminal history was like. I know it went on for years through addiction, domestic violence, and a general vindictiveness that at times that overtook his rational behavior. Cops came and went powerlessly through my life. My father was what they called "Teflon." They could never make any charges stick to him, could never get a conviction.

For whatever reason, where I'm from, being a serial abuser, an addict, and incarcerated wasn't enough to terminate his custody. My mother tried numerous times. Every time she tried, she opened herself instead to scrutiny about whether she was a fit mother.

His self destruction continued to tear through my family's private life until we each put an end to it through forced separation. At 15 years old, the first and only time he was ever incarcerated, I told my father to stay out of my life. It was a request he never fully respected. 

Because I'm from a small town, I lived in constant fear of running into him. This happened several times throughout my life, most commonly at the library. But I believed, rightly or not, that he stalked me without my knowledge throughout my life. He showed up uninvited to my high school graduation and caused a scene. He took a day that was about me, and made it about himself and his needs. It was the pattern I had come to expect after eighteen years.

I attended college at BYU primarily because I wanted to put as much distance between myself, my father, and the community in which I was raised, as my money could buy. I was home for the summer from BYU after my freshman year. He was homeless, living in a van behind the church my grandmother attended. He had already ruined his ability to stay with her because he kept bringing drugs into her apartment. 

I was at work on the other side of the state. My mother showed up and told me that my father was dead. She kept looking at me expectantly, waiting for my reaction. I truly didn't have one. What was I supposed to feel? In a lot of ways, in relation to my father, I'm still sitting in that moment, trying to figure out what my reaction should be to his life, and its place within the context of my own.

I don't love him. I don't even like him. After years of trying to force myself to feel differently out of guilt, I managed to achieve a kind of indifference towards him. To me, he's a stranger. Someone I don't know anymore, and I have no desire to know.

When the Ties that Bind Aren't Blessed

The reason I bring all of this up is because this history is a strange backdrop that, seemingly by design, never really leaves me in my worship as an active, practicing Mormon.

His death was on the front page of the newspaper in my hometown, made headlines across the state. In all the stories I every saw, except his actual obituary, my relationship to him was never mentioned. But it didn't matter. The church rumor mill had already gotten a hold of it. All I wanted was to be left alone. People I went to church with were all so sorry. Really sorry. Didn't I want to know how sorry they were?

This bothered me, but I could have put up with it. Yes, thank you. Your concern and sympathy are duly noted. (Please stop.) Thank you. (why am I thanking them?) Yes, it was sad. (I feel like I'm handing out participation trophies at the sympathy awards.) 

But then they started bearing testimony. They didn't know my family, but they sure as hell thought they had my family and God's plan for it all figured out. They knew there was no pain like losing a parent (that's not why I'm hurting) and that families would be forever (God, if you're listening, I'd like to negotiate my contract) and I would see him again.

Do you want to see him? Would you be saying this of he had killed someone else? Why do you think I want to see him, then? 

"He will always be your father." (Jesus, come get your people. I'm about to use my hands instead of my words.)

Getting through my father's temple ordinances, especially as we progress through the check boxes, is getting harder. He's overdue to be sealed to his parents, which then puts him into final position to be sealed to me. And I am not okay.

I get through life in a "family-oriented" faith by pretending my father doesn't exist. When we say families are forever, I hear indistinct buzzing noises. When tuning it out doesn't work, I just think to myself "that doesn't apply to me yet."

This is a huge part of why I'm a temple worker at a young age. Because God needs me to want something that is completely incompatible with my own desires. My eternal progression depends on this. That's what everyone keeps telling me. And every conversation I have with God on this subject has sounded like: "Why are you making me do this?" followed by silence.

I know God can change me. I know God can fix my father. I know everything I need to know to feel differently about his situation. It hasn't helped because this isn't a situation that can be changed by what I do or don't know. I don't want to feel differently. I want justice. And I disagree that forcing me to reconcile with my abuser for the sake of an ordinance is what I deserve.

Am I cutting off my nose to spite my own face? Maybe. Am I the one who has to deal with that? Yes. But there is no recognition for people like me at church, no narrative that helps us through experiences we just don't want to be having.

I am not going to be able to do the ordinances for my father and his family without listening to people talk about how happy they are for me. They don't understand. They don't understand me. They don't understand how I feel. They don't understand my situation. And listening to people who will never understand what I feel is exhausting.

The way some women felt about polygamy? Like it completely erased them, in exchange for exaltation in some future moment?

That's how I feel about this.

The Lesson I would give in Church for Confronting Racism

I've been thinking about the challenge of how to address racism with a primarily white audience in a church setting. How do you discuss inappropriate behavior with a group of people who either doesn't understand how, or disagrees that, their own behavior could be problematic or offensive. In discussing what racism looks like, sounds like, on either an individual or systemic level, it's bound to leave people feeling called out for language and behavior they may have used before.

When people talk about racism, there are barriers that can prevent meaningful conversation and mutual understanding from taking place. A few to consider: 

  • Abstraction: the refusal to call racist language, behaviors, and attitudes what they are, or to reinterpret them as something else. 
  • Projection: when folks who do engage in racism avoid confronting their own behaviors by focusing on the problematic behavior of others. 
  • Diversion: where people attempt to deflect sincere or earnest conversation through humor, distractions, or minimizing the importance or relevance of the subject.
  • Eruption: an emotional outburst, usually intended to usurp victims of racial violence by concocting a narrative in which they are the real victims.

The goal is to have people reexamine and reinterpret their own life experiences, identify their own biases, confront them, and replace them with truth. A lesson on racism is ultimately a lesson on repentance and reflection. It requires honest self-examination. It requires silence, in which the Spirit can testify and reach hearts.

I would begin by inviting the class to privately reflect on their thoughts, language, and behavior around people of color. What would Jesus ask you to change about those interactions? I would start with a pen and paper activity for 5-10 minutes, letting them know ahead of time that they won't have to share afterwards.

Then I would review the fundamentals of repentance: acknowledging the sin, resolve to change behavior and making restitution, asking God for forgiveness, and making the commitment not to repeat the sinful behavior. Supplement with scriptures. Some good ones to consider:

  • 2 Nephi 26:23-33
  • Matthew 12:36; 15:11
  • Acts 11:5-9
  • Ephesians 4:29-32
  • D&C 18:10-11
  • D&C 38:25-27

I love a good chalkboard list, so I would open the discussion to the group to brainstorm what resolving to change our behavior looks like in the context of dismantling racism? If the group can't come up with any, here are some to get them started:

  • When you hear other people making racist jokes or judgments, even when there's only white people around, do not passively accept it. Challenge it or walk away.
  • When you see someone being belittled because of their race or nationality, say something. Defend that person, or help to remove them from the situation.
  • Identifying news sources or media that demonize or devalue people of color, turning them off, and not engaging with them anymore. Connect with Lehi's vision. Mockery and dehumanization based on race is a voice from the great and spacious building, a form of apostasy.
  • Talk to your children about being sensitive to people of color and their cultures. Help them to understand what racism is, that it isn't acceptable. (Not using racial slurs, blackface, etc.)
  • Change the stories you tell yourself about people of color by seeking out their stories and histories.
  • Make space for people of color in whatever spaces you occupy, especially in hobbies.
  • If a person of color in the church tells you they've experienced racism in the church, believe them. Let them know you value them, want them there. Show them love.

Managing the discussion effectively to be respectful is essential. If there are people of color in the class, prioritize their voices and comments the highest. It doesn't matter when they raised their hand. Go to them first if they have something to share. Prevent others from interrupting them or correcting them when they speak.

Have a video to end the discussion if it becomes derailed. Suggestions here, here, here, and here.

Testimony. Closing Prayer. Done.

Having conversations and lessons about race in the Church doesn't need to be intimidating or hard. They just need to be happening. That's the only way they will ever get any easier.

Truth Eternal Tells Me I've a Mother There

Without further ado, let's do a scriptural deep-dive on Heavenly Mother. I've put a lot of thought into the best way to create a long form version of my thread on Twitter, and to add new material to it. I've decided the most coherent way to organize my thoughts is through the same series of questions I used to study out these topics on my own. Enjoy!

Who is Heavenly Mother?

To Latter-day Saints, we believe God to be our literal Father in Heaven. We lived with him as spirit children before we were born on earth. As we have a Father in Heaven, we believe we also have a Mother in Heaven. When Psalms speaks of us being "children of the Most High," she is included in that description. When Paul's epistle of the Romans calls us "children of God," "heirs of God, and joint heirs of Christ," we know we are literal children of divine parents. We receive our divine purpose and potential as their offspring, having been created in their image. We will become as they are, and inherit all they have, as we embrace the plan of happiness they have created for our lives. (See Psalms 82:6 and Romans 8:16-18)

What is her relationship to our salvation and exaltation? 

The Creation

Like many mothers here on earth who love and care for their children, our Heavenly Mother wanted to see us grow, develop, and succeed. She participated with our Father in Heaven and Jesus Christ to make this possible for all of us. She participated in the creation of the earth, in all of its beauty and goodness. When God (which is a title, not a person) said "Let us make man in our image, after our likeness," this was the voice of our heavenly parents, speaking in unison. They decided together to create this world for us, and to bring each and every one of us into existence, beginning with Adam and Eve. On earth, creating human life is impossible without the male and the female. This eternal archetype reveals our divine heritage as children of both a Divine Father and Divine Mother. (See Genesis 1:26-27, 2:24 and Abraham 4:26-31, 5:7, 15-16)

Jesus Christ and His Atonement

We believe Jesus Christ to be the Son of God. His birth was foretold by prophets for centuries, but his life also began long before he came to earth. He volunteered to come to earth and take upon himself all of the sins and suffering of the entire human family. He gives us the grace and power to overcome our sins and challenges in life. Without Jesus Christ, we would have no hope of ever seeing our Heavenly Parents again. We rely "wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save." (See 2 Nephi 31:19)

Where does Jesus receive the power to be the Messiah, the Savior of every soul who has ever lived? Book of Mormon prophets speak of the divine influence our Heavenly Father would have upon our Savior, to make him equal to his task. (See 2 Nephi 2:8 and Mosiah 14) Jesus himself testified of his total reliance upon our Father in Heaven for the power and authority to perform his mortal ministry. (See Matthew 19:17 and John 5:17-23, 30)

The scriptures also testify of the role our Mother in Heaven has had in preparing her Son to save and exalt the human family. Before Mary, who "was the mother of the Son of God, after the manner of the flesh," our Heavenly Mother was his mother after the manner of the spirit. As prophesied by both Isaiah and Nephi, "the Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name." She was present for, and instrumental to, his divine preparation for the role he would play. (See 1 Nephi 11:18, 21:1)

Jesus "received all power, both in heaven and on earth, and the glory of the Father was with him, for he dwelt in him." (See D&C 93:17) This isn't possible without an equal influence of the Divine Feminine upon him. He could not take upon himself the experience and wisdom of women from anyone but a woman. In doing so, he becomes the perfect champion and advocate for their advancement. The enmity between Satan and "the woman," before it was ever with Eve, was first with our Mother in Heaven--between his seed and "her seed," who is Christ. But because Jesus has access to her power, he will destroy Satan and all evil upon the face of the earth. (See Genesis 3:15)

Without our Mother in Heaven, we wouldn't have a Savior. There would be no Messiah without her.


Heavenly Mother is an exalted woman, and she empowers others to also become exalted. Her soul has been redeemed, and she has been crowned with glory. (See D&C 88:17-20) She helped to author the plan by which all of us could become as she is, and have everything she has. In coming to mortality, we forgot all of our experiences with her. This is a necessarily part of the test we each are undertaking throughout our mortal lives: "we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them." (See Abraham 3:25) In addition to the Savior's words, these are also her words and her will. She has complete confidence in our ability to make our own choices and succeed valiantly in the cause of Christ.

To be saved from sin and death is a free gift from Jesus Christ, given to all of God's children regardless of how they live. But to receive an increase, to include all our Father and Mother have, we must meet the requirements they have established. The lesson at the heart of this test is to choose our Heavenly Parents and their plan, whenever an alternative is placed before us. To do this is to receive the joy and fullness we were born to experience. We cannot have a fullness of joy without our Heavenly Parents in our lives. Being separated from them is to be in an incomplete state, contrary to our nature. (See D&C 93:22-34)

To understand exaltation is to understand the life our Heavenly Mother lives, and the destiny of every woman in the Church:

They shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a [sic]fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever.

Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them.

D&C 132:19-20

What is she like?

Heavenly Mother is powerful, talented, intelligent, and has all of the same accomplishments of our Father in Heaven. She has been held to the same standards, abides by the same laws, and has received all of the same rewards for her faithfulness. (See D&C 76:50-70) Together, they have given no commandment to us that they do not also observe. (See D&C 88:11-13) There is no blessing or ability she does not possess and use in the work of salvation. (See D&C 88:40-41, 67)

Her role in this plan is not simply to bear children. She is in full possession of herself and her personhood. Her work takes many forms, and uses all of the talents in her possession. The woman who best typifies this in scripture is the woman from Proverbs 31:10-31. An inventory of the virtues possessed by this wisest of all women shows her using all of her faculties, inside and outside the home. She runs a household and owns a business. She creates using skills she has developed through work and practice. She is a leader and an employer, dealing with everyone around her in kindness and fairness. She abstains from evil and idleness. In everything she does, she exemplifies ability, intelligence, and wisdom. She balances many kinds of labor, because her life is full of responsibilities outside of caring for children. And among all of the activities she is balancing, all of it shows evidence that she still prioritizes herself.

Nothing makes me more excited to be exalted than to realize the Celestial Kingdom prioritizes everything women have to offer. My Heavenly Mother is not a one-dimensional woman whose sole eternal labor is having and taking care of children. I've never seen a place that empowers and embraces women without hesitation, but I can't wait to see what it's like. Realizing the Celestial Kingdom is that place motivates me more than anything else to make it there.

Is she equal to our Father in Heaven?

Heavenly Mother is equal to our Father in Heaven in every way. By virtue of living in his presence, this must be true. (See D&C 88:107) She is equal in power, influence, intellect, responsibility, and choice. (See D&C 76:92-95) Unlike us, she has already been exalted and does not require any power or virtue of his to complete her. Instead, they magnify each other in total harmony and perfect fairness. (See Ephesians 5:21-33)

Harmony and fairness might suggest to the imperfect mind that this would only be possible by sacrificing independent thought and action. This is false. Just as Heavenly Mother cannot be compelled, she is not absorbed into the being and will of our Father in Heaven. "All truth is independent in that sphere in which God has placed it, to act for itself, as all intelligence also; otherwise there is no existence." (See D&C 93:30) As an intelligent being, this principle also applies to her. She maintains her distinct identity and capacity for independent thought.

How this is possible is beyond mortal comprehension, and is yet another experience of the Celestial Kingdom that likely must be experienced to be fully understood.

How do we develop a personal relationship with her?

To answer this, it's important to first emphasize that Mormons are not trinitarian Christians. We do not believe that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost make up a single being. They are each distinct beings who play different roles in our worship. We love, revere, honor, and obey each of them. But in the strictest sense, we worship only God the Father. This is why we pray only to him. We pray in the name of Christ without ever praying to him, as a reflection of that total loyalty to the Father. (See Exodus 20:2-3, Matthew 4:10, and Moses 1:15)

We do not pray to our Heavenly Mother, for the same reason we do not pray to Jesus Christ. But this doesn't mean we are separated from her, in the same way we are not separated from Jesus Christ in this arrangement. As Paul testified to the Romans that no earthly force "shall be able to separate us from the love of God," this also refers to her love and influence. (See Romans 8:38-39) Living in mortality has not removed or diminished her influence upon our lives in any way. In every gift and blessing we receive and associate with our Heavenly Father, she has also extended her loving hands to her children. (Genesis 49:25 and D&C 130:20-21)

As in all of these other relationships, the first step to strengthening our relationship with her is to have faith in her. Seeing her impact upon our lives is only possible when we believe in her. (See Ether 12:6-12) We study the scriptures in search of her. We confront the assumption that ignorance of her presence is the same thing as absence or silence. Instead of being content not to know her, we pray for experiences to help us to know her better, believing we will receive an answer. (See 3 Nephi 18:20) We listen for communication directly from her to us.

If I've learned anything in my spiritual life, it's that a lack of revelation on any subject stems primarily from a lack of curiosity and imagination. Nowhere in the church is this more true than on the subject of our Mother in Heaven. Somehow, she is both one of our most revolutionary principles, and the least explored. And the assertion that she speaks is probably the most radical thing I could say on the subject.

But how can we hear a voice if we never stop to listen for it? In a world where no one is listening for her, how can any of us say with certainty that she does not speak?

* * *

In my efforts to establish my relationship with my Mother in Heaven, I've learned so much about myself already. I didn't know my personal and spiritual development was incomplete without this knowledge of her. But how could it not be? I am a woman. She is the image of everything to which I aspire as a woman of God. And for most of my life, I knew absolutely nothing about her. It's like I've been trying to put a puzzle together, when I have no idea what it's supposed to look like. I cannot achieve my divine purpose, or understand my divine potential, without a better understand of who she is. And unbeknownst to me, I've had the tools and resources to obtain this knowledge all along.

I'm still learning how to listen when she speaks. The first thing I ever heard her say made me fall in love with her instantly. How many times have I called the Plan of Salvation my Heavenly Father's plan? But it's not just his plan. It's her plan, too. It's her work, and her glory "to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (See Moses 1:39) She told me that herself. I know she is watching over me, and is reaching out to me in this season of my life. And based on many of the struggles and decisions I'm currently experiencing, her timing couldn't be more perfect.

I'm also becoming aware that I couldn't know her, or have any of these experiences with her, without Jesus Christ. He is the one who is bringing me closer to her. (See John 14:6-7) He is the one who makes it possible for me to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, the Comforter. Without him, I would have no chance to hear her voice on earth. I couldn't have this experience without my Savior's grace and mercy. I can never say enough of all the good he does for me.

The greatest hope of my life is to be able to see him one day, and thank him myself.

I'm Burned Out on Service

I have a love-hate relationship with the service-oriented culture of my own faith. 

How can that be, you may ask? How can doing good things for others ever be a bad thing?

Because we go too far. We've given so much value to external actions in the lives of other people, we glorify how it erases and diminishes our personal needs.

I don't know if anyone else remembers the general conference talk with the story of the woman who was dying from cancer. She was experiencing fear, depression, and the heavy reality of her own death. She confided in her husband the heaviness of her load.

His response to her was "we need to find someone to serve."

I didn't find this at all valuable. It filled me with an anger that it has taken me some time to finally articulate.

He ignored her feelings, which were completely valid, and tried to replace them with the ever-present compulsion to do away with anything unpleasant or unsightly. It's an act of emotional dishonesty that exists to avoid confronting reality.

When you hold up a woman dying of cancer, in the throes of chemotherapy, and tell her to think of someone else? I don't think there's anything wrong with her. I think she was someone who was in need of service and was asking for it, and instead was told to go help someone else. I find myself looking at this and asking what is wrong with all of us. How did we get here? 

How did we give casseroles and everything else on the half dozen other sign-up sheets in Relief Society this kind of mythos? Not every person, in the deepest garbage pits of the human experience, will find their burdens magically lighter by making casseroles or tying quilts.

Serving others is important. It's what keeps us from only thinking of ourselves. But if we go too far with this, leaving balance and logic by the wayside, we put ourselves into a position where it's never okay to think of ourselves and our own needs. That's not a virtue. 

No one at church ever asks if there's is space in your mind or your life before they ask for your time. They just expect you to give it to them willingly, with no thought to yourself. And I've seen in my own life how irresponsible and dangerous this is. The number of times my mental health has been sent careening over the edge by something on a sign-up sheet is too high to count. I am not endless wishing well of time that leaders can draw from whenever and however they like. These are not joys to me, to be perfectly honest with you, and they never will be. They are items in the scenery of my own personal introvert hellscape.

The most meaningful service I have ever been given by someone at church was the time I confided someone close to me that I have severe and debilitating PTSD from being a sexual assault survivor, and that I wasn't okay. We were sitting on the stairs leading up to the stage, in the dark. I was crying. She said nothing. She let me cry and held me. That was all I wanted and needed.  

No sign up sheet in the Church could do for me what I needed most. And this is what frustrates me to no end. Because in all the ways we count and track service, this moment counts for nothing because it can't be measured. She wasn't my visiting teacher. She wasn't in a leadership position. My need wasn't on some ward council list. But I was suffering. I needed help. And because God is good, she was there.

Service can do a lot. It can even do miracles. But it is not some snake oil cure-all for every ailment. It's no substitute for medicine and mental health treatment. And I wish we didn't talk and teach about it as if it were.

Exploring Anti-Racism through my Patriarchal Blessing

Fast and testimony meeting hasn't been my jam for a long time. I usually try to find something else to do. Today, I studied my patriarchal blessing.

How does my patriarchal blessing equip me to confront racism in my life and in the Church? That was the question I set out to explore.

Let me tell you, it was like drinking from a fire hose. I could barely keep up with all the thoughts coming into my mind. And there are some of them I'd like to share, because I think they bear repeating.

I can't become the person my Heavenly Parents want me to be if I harbor any kind of racism in my heart. I cannot live with them if I'm unwilling to confront this within myself. Racism resists the Holy Spirit of God. It is the spirit of apostasy and enmity against God and his children. To overcome racism is a commandment. A failure to do so is a violation of every covenant I have made in the Church.
I've also come to understand that this is my only way forward in the Church. Staying for me means, out of my own personal necessity, to confront and teach against racism in my community. I cannot silently tolerate racism in my church. I cannot leave it alone, or let it be someone else's problem. I will lose respect for my community and myself if I do this. I cannot stay if I do what some of my brothers and sisters expect me to do.
That wasn't my conclusion. That was a warning directly from the Spirit to me. The only way forward for me to stay in the Church is to follow my Savior, to join him in what he is doing to bring anti-racism to the Church.
I need to more fully engage in the work of being a real advocate for people of color. I've had many invitations and experiences to prepare me for this, and I've never followed through on them to their logical conclusion. But many of the promises in my blessing depend on that advocacy. I will fall short of my divine potential if I fail. And this will directly affect many people outside of myself.
I saw new ways to interpret the promises and gifts I've been given, how they apply to this endeavor. I foresaw opportunities and experiences I've not yet had. I learned new things about myself and my future from asking these questions, and turning to my patriarchal blessing for answers.
I'm glad I did this with my patriarchal blessing. I never cease to be amazed at what the Lord can teach me when I ask in faith to be taught.

When Racism is on the Missionaries' Dinner Calendar

We had the missionaries over for dinner last night. We have a Polynesian elder now and it was our first time meeting with him. Because my husband and I both served missions, we both enjoy asking about their work, sharing stories, and getting a sense of how best to support the missionaries in our care.

This elder told us just about the most heartbreaking story of racism I've ever heard.

He went to a dinner appointment with an active family in another area here in Boise.

They greeted his companion, but not him. They refused to shake his hand.

They made him serve up his dinner first. They asked him if he was going to eat more, removed the serving spoon he touched, and got a new one for themselves.

When he asked what was wrong, they said "That was your spoon."

By now, my jaw is on the floor.

"Oh, it gets worse," he warned.

So he got through the meal. They invited his companion to give the message.

The parents, children, and his companion filled up the couch, the loveseat, and the chair in their sitting room. When he offered to grab a chair, they said "that's okay."

So they made him sit on the floor by himself.

"WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE WOULD DO THIS TO YOU?" By now, I'm hollering I'm so mad.

"The Elder's Quorum President," he answered.

* * *

This happened to him about six months ago. The year of our Lord two thousand and seventeen, in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, by one of the leaders serving in a local congregation.

He didn't tell his mission president. And honestly, why would he? I can't envision anything good coming from the sit down between any combination of the mission president, the stake president, the bishop, and the elder's quorum president, and neither could he.

We are not done with racism in the Church.

We have not rooted out this evil from among us.

No child of God should ever be treated like this anywhere, for any reason. Especially not in a church we present to the world as being restored by Jesus Christ himself.


I didn't say "No." But kicking, screaming, crying, and shoving you off of me doesn't mean "Yes."

I didn't tell anyone that my high school boyfriend raped me. Not because I was afraid they wouldn't believe me, but because I knew they would. No one, and I truly mean no one, in my life liked this boy. He was arrogant and conceited. I was questioned by everyone, told repeatedly, and warned to stay away from him.

But I was fourteen years old. I didn't listen to anyone. And then they were right. They had all been right, all along. Every adult in my life lined up to give me the classic "I told you so." I had been manipulated and coerced so many times, I barely saw myself as a person anymore. My self esteem was completely destroyed. And the adults in my life were too busy congratulating themselves on being right to question how much damage he had done.

So I never told anyone. 

I carried that burden invisibly for more than a decade. 

I didn't have to face it until I was married, when having sex with my husband was giving me panic attacks. 

I was a child when this happened to me. I didn't understand what rape was. I didn't understand consent. And it was only looking back as an adult that I realized how vulnerable I had been to an older person who wanted to take advantage of me. Had I understood what consent was, I would have recognized rape for what it was. I would have told the adults in my life what had happened to me. And they would have believed me.

You can have the best support system in the world and still suffer in silence because of rape. You cannot rely on a support system if you don't understand that you need it. 

Regardless of your feelings on how sex should or shouldn't be taught, in or out of a religious context, everyone needs to be educated about the importance of consent. Teaching abstinence does not excuse anyone from teaching about consent. And since the refusal to give consent is at the heart of choosing abstinence, you cannot teach abstinence without effectively teaching about consent. It's a knowledge and skill set every child needs. 

 Every person, especially those who are religious and conservative, should care about consent. It's the only moral choice there is, regardless of who you are.

Be One

I was thinking about D&C 38:27 while I did the dishes earlier. I learned something really important from the Spirit today.

D&C 38:24-27
The injunction from Christ to "be one" is probably my favorite in all of scripture. If I had to sum up the gospel of Jesus Christ in two words, I don't think I could choose two better ones.

What the Spirit told me today is that the injunction to be one is not an injunction to be the same. That's not how we create unity. I realize, in hindsight, that I thought they were the same for a long time. I would belong and experience unity only when I could make myself acceptable, and acceptance came easiest with sameness.

But this isn't what God needs or wants because it's nothing but a pretense. It isn't real. He doesn't want me to pretend to be someone I'm not. He wants me to be visible and feel loved as I am. 

Real unity happens when we don't expect others to be like us before we will accept them. That's what Christ taught. That's what he wants. 

I felt that profoundly in my kitchen today. I'm not sure why. But it meant the world to me and spoke to my heart.

Am I a Feminist?

But first, a story. It's the earliest memory I have. I'm about three or four years old and my parents ask me, whenever they're in mixed company, "Who's the boss, man or woman?" 

Without hesitation, I scream "WOMAN" at the top of my lungs.

My parents would laugh, and so would the other adults around them. I didn't understand what was so funny. I wasn't joking. From the time I was very young, I have never questioned that women are powerful beyond measure.

I don't call myself a feminist. I've never had to. People have been calling me that all of my life, usually as they're laughing at me for saying something I believe. They say it with an eye roll or a shrug as they criticize a book I'm reading, a statement I've made, or for refusing to laugh at a sexist statement because "it was only a joke."

I've been called a feminist for most of my life by men who have no sense of what it means. They say it as an insult or a slur, for no other reason than for looking them in the eye when I speak to them.

I was called a feminist by Elders on my mission because I didn't diminish my intelligence to make them feel more comfortable around me. They didn't know how to interact with a female peer as an equal, and they tried to silence me through ridicule and isolation so I would stop trying to be one.

I've never wanted anything to do with the label of feminist or feminism because it wasn't an identity that gave me power. I didn't need a label for that. Men wanted me to take that label so they could ignore and discredit me. They wanted to watch me trip over it, and laugh in my face. To this day, I still don't associate anything positive with calling myself a feminist. It's not a label I want. I'd much rather be called a person and an equal, and be done with it.

But I'm beginning to see that the feminist label, regardless of your relationship to it, is one you don't get to choose for yourself. Other people choose it for you. Because I match what other people think a feminist is, for good or for bad, that is probably how I will continue to be labeled.

The part of me that would have chosen that identity for myself just can't reconcile the label with all of the crap things people have said and done to me because of it. The label is an instrument that people have used/will use to rewrite my story in whatever image they want. I really don't have the words to express how much that bothers me. 

Then I saw this video and learned what intersectional feminism is. That's the only kind of feminism I would be interested in. And understanding it made me realize why claiming this label for myself feels so fraught.

If I call myself a feminist, those who don't respect me for it will treat themselves to confirmation bias, and completely disengage with me on sight. Additionally, it seems like those who have already claimed that label will constantly be watching me to slip up, to tell me that I'm not really a feminist. I'm not interested in another culture war about whether I have or haven't "earned" the right to be called a feminist. I don't have the time or mental space for that in my life. At all.

What other people think of me isn't what matters to me. What matters most to me is what I think of myself. What does it look like to have my own respect? And how do I maintain that self-respect and a sense of purpose when I'm trying to inspire change you know will only come slowly, if at all?

I'm realizing my question has never been about whether I am or am not a feminist. I've been a feminist since I was little. There has never been a moment in my conscious life where I wasn't a feminist. But what kind of feminist am I? And I'm realizing that the kind of feminist I am is one who doesn't care about labels.

Let other people continue to argue about what this word is and what it means and who deserves it. I'd rather just go on being one, doing the work that no one else wants to do. I'm not a feminist because of what I call myself or what other people call me, how they want to see and define me. I'm a feminist because of the values I hold and the actions they inspire.

Today, what that looks like is confronting the neglect I've witnessed with vulnerable seniors where I live. Tomorrow, it will probably be something else. Because being a feminist isn't about getting or waiting for permission from anyone else to call yourself that. I've never needed or wanted permission from anyone to be myself, no matter what that has looked like in my life.

Why would being a feminist be any different?

You just are, so be a good one.

Remembering to Collect and Donate Feminine Hygiene Products

The next time my ward collects items for homeless people, I'm donating feminine hygiene products.


It never occurred to me that feminine hygiene products are such dire need items for the vulnerable. But thinking about what I go through to buy them, how could they not be?

This becomes increasingly frustrating when you realize that feminine hygiene products are taxed, but Viagra isn't. Prescription medication isn't subject to taxes because it's considered a biological necessity, and it's not the time for the government to be making money. Feminine hygiene should have that same protected status. They are a public health necessity. There shouldn't be any distinctions between them and prescription medication.

Where I live in Idaho, the sales tax is 6%. In certain municipalities, total sales tax is as high as 9%. This is very common in larger cities and areas with high costs of living. Pads and tampons are not tax exempt,  are not covered by public assistance funds like SNAP/food stamps, and are legally classified as luxuries, not needs. My state government is not only choosing to make money off of menstruation, it's forcing the full cost onto individuals and families, regardless of their socioeconomic status.


No one should ever have to make a pad out of a rag, a napkin, or an old shirt. But that's what menstruation looks like for those who can't access what they need to be safe, clean, and happy.

When you donate this holiday season, don't forget feminine hygiene products. And if you still have it in you to write to your elected officials, maybe tack this into your next letter, email, or mass-fax.

The Best Testimony Meeting I've Ever Been To

I just came from testimony meeting. It was the most powerful experience I've had in sacrament meeting for a long time.

The bishop called out racism from the pulpit and called for divisiveness to cease, for inclusion from all of us. He specifically called for us to stand with those who feel alone, especially when they stand for what is right, regardless of what their political persuasions are. He called out Republicans and Democrats alike for isolating themselves only with those who think like themselves, to be better neighbors to everyone.

The next speaker talked about someone close to him who left the Church because he disagreed with the racial priesthood restriction. He bore his testimony that all wrongs and sufferings will be made right in Jesus Christ.

Another bore his testimony that music has the power to transcend boundaries, how his job has allowed him to meet and understand people from different countries and backgrounds.

I shared my testimony of female leadership, the power and authority they have to make the Church a better place, and how serving in the temple has allowed me to see that.

It was the most welcome at church I have felt in so long. It reminded me why I go, why these are my people, why this is my home.

I can't tell you how badly I needed this, and how much I appreciate the bishop and the ward council for making it happen with the remarks he shared. 

We're better together, and this is what happens when we listen to the Lord and each other. We teach pure doctrine and heal those who are present. By far, the best testimony meeting I've ever been to.

More Posts from Me

The Unimpressive Origins of Anti-Queerness in the LDS Church

"Sister Collins, why don't you believe being queer is a sin like the rest of the righteous, obedient Mormons?" Because despite...