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.

Prophetic Fallability

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is led by prophets, apostles, and presidencies. They are instruments in the Lord's hands, but in no way does that imply that they're anything less than human. They may have an uncommon responsibility, but they're still just as human as anyone else in the Church.

The way they approach things is not always the way Christ would do it, even when they're speaking in his name, or bearing the message he told them to give. They make mistakes, are subject to bias, and can even fall into apostasy. (See D&C 118)

This doesn't bother me because I worship the Lord Jesus Christ, not the servants he has sent. "No influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood." This applies to everyone in the Church, no matter who you are. The offices they hold do not make them superior to anyone else.

How many times have the scriptures taught that cursed is man who puts his trust in the arm of flesh? That doesn't just apply to people outside of the Church. It applies to putting trust in any person, no matter who they are, above God. You cannot show me any scriptural mandate to put that kind of trust in mortal, fallible people. I know you won't find it because it doesn't exist.

I love my leaders. I sustain them in their callings, knowing that the path they walk is not any easy one. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt. But this cannot mean treating them better or worse than anyone else. I do not believe they are superior to me in any way. They are superior to no one. I am their equal, and they are mine. They give me correction as my equals, and I expect to be able to do the same. I do this as much out of a love for the Lord, and a concern for their souls, as they do. I also hold them to the same moral standards I would hold for anyone else. I expect them to teach difficult topics in a spirit of love. I don't make exceptions for their mistakes because of who they are.

When it comes to faith, we all reap what we sow. And I have never planted blind deference and had it bear good fruit. So I'm not going to do it, no matter what anyone says. That expectation in evangelical Christianity was the reason I left it. The questioning, independent spirit of Mormonism is why I joined. The unflinching ability to question, experiment, and examine for myself every inch of my religion, and the fact that this is encouraged, is why I belong here. It's the only thing like it I've ever found.

That is the spirit in which all converts are baptized. That ability to ask of God, without fear of repercussions from members of the Church, is what we expect. Not just when we're investigators, but always. Ask of God, because the first half of the promise in James 1:5 is that he gives to men and women liberally. The second half is that he upbraideth not.

God promises to sincere seekers of truth that he does not scold or chastise them for having to ask questions, for seeking witnesses and instruction independent of the mortal leaders he has sent. God has never broken that promise to me, or sent anyone else to do so.

So if you ever find yourself chastising someone because they hold a more critical position of something a church leader has done than you do, ask yourself a few questions:

  • What would loyalty to Christ and what he taught look like in this situation? Does it match what church leadership is saying and doing? 
  • Does it match what I'm saying and doing?
  • Is it the time or place for me to be suggesting deference to prophetic authority? 
  • Is it my place to offer this chastisement?

Performing Temple Baptisms During Menstruation

A letter was just issued to temple and stake leadership from the female general presidencies. The purpose of the letter is to instruct that excluding temple patrons from proxy baptism because of their menstrual cycle is "inappropriate."

Image courtesy of: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

It said temple workers, leaders, and parents are not to inquire if youth patrons are menstruating. They are not to exclude them from performing baptisms. It clarifies that whether they participate in baptisms, confirmations, or chooses to observe only, no one is to question or pressure them to serve differently than they want to do.

It asks local leadership to review these items with parents. While it's frustrating we have to say this,, I'm glad we are saying it to people who need to be corrected.

The letter was dated 8 September 2017, and I would invite you to discuss it with your local temple matron if you have any questions.

When I was in Young Women, I always seemed to be on my cycle when we had group trips to the Washington DC temple. It was really hard for me. My tender little heart was afraid it kept happening because I wasn't worthy, or God didn't want me there. Nothing could have been further from the truth. And I don't want anyone to feel this way, especially not my little sisters in Young Women. They deserve better.

So if anyone has ever made you feel unworthy to serve in the temple because of your menstrual cycle, even if the person was you, please know you haven't done anything wrong. And if you see or hear youth leaders or temple workers doing this, please be brave and tell them to stop. Have conversations about it with the youth in your family. Make sure they haven't misunderstood or internalized negative messages about their bodies and temple worship. 

Reading this letter today, it took me back more than a decade to feelings in my life I never should have had. And it warmed my heart to see the institution I love trying to stretch itself to do better.

The Family Proclamation is NOT Scripture

The only way to think it is comes from not being familiar enough with the procedure by which past writings have (or have not) become scripture.

Not everything prophets and apostles do is instantly canonized as scripture. They and their positions are not the ones who determine what becomes scripture and what doesn't.

For something to become actual canonized scripture, it has to be presented to the Church for a sustaining vote for that clearly stated purpose. Reading it in general conference is not enough. Putting it in a manual is not enough. Even printing it inside a triple or quadruple combination isn't enough. That's why the Lectures on Faith used to be published with the Doctrine and Covenants and they aren't anymore. The Lectures on Faith never received a sustaining vote.

The Family Proclamation wasn't submitted for a sustaining vote when it was read for the first time in general conference. It wasn't even written in consultation with the female leadership of the Church. The general Relief Society presidency were not included in the drafting of this belief statement. They, and by extension the women of the Church, had no representation or input into its content.  

Read Chieko Okazaki's comments on this some time if you don't believe me. She was in the general Relief Society presidency at the time and didn't like the way the situation was handled at all. Had they been consulted, she said, the Family Proclamation would look very different than it does. It was presented in the Relief Society general session, which was somehow supposed to make up for their exclusion. But reading something in a Relief Society meeting doesn't compensate for the lost value of what their contributions would have been.

Having something like the Family Proclamation is important enough to do it right. Part of that process has to include consulting with and receiving input from the female leadership of the Church. They receive revelation in their stewardship that male leadership will never be able to access.

"Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man in the Lord." 

Do we really believe this, as much for our leadership as we do for our families?

When God gives scripture to the Church, it will be given to the entire church. Not shoehorned into a Relief Society meeting against their will to provide legal standing for a court case in Hawaii.

So what do I think about the Family Proclamation?

It's a really good example of how it's not a perfect, errorless thing to speak for God in the Church. Those who do it make mistakes. They have agendas. They also change and grow with time and experience, which allows them (and those who come after them) to see old words with new eyes. A separation of distance and time gives us the opportunity, as a church, to see the fruits of a piece of writing before we decide together to canonize it.

I don't think the Family Proclamation will survive that process, the same way other pieces of writing have not. I don't see that as a bad thing. Whether people want to admit it or not, the Family Proclamation has a significant body count, in terms of LGBTQ+ members who have been rejected, disowned, murdered, and committed suicide because of it. As more and more of the original authors of the Family Proclamation pass away, that body count is going to become harder to ignore.

If we're going to attempt to the scriptural canon, I simple believe that with the power and access we have to Jesus Christ, we can do better.

What "Shaking at the Appearance of Sin" Means

I can't sleep because menstruation is terrible. Let's play with complex ideas until I give up on ever sleeping again.

I've always found that last question in 2 Ne 4:31 to be very brave. I've asked it many times in my prayers, and I'm never prepared for the answers I get.

In hindsight, I realize I thought I would be reinforced with a comfortable feeling of superiority over those who didn't keep the commandments. The joy of the moral high ground. I didn't realize I was asking for my heart to shake at ALL sin, with no knowledge of who my teachers would be.

It's one thing to look upon someone who isn't on a level playing field with me, and congratulate myself on my performance for living the commandments. It's another to receive that correction from people on their territory, where I was at the disadvantage.

Twitter has played a very big part in this. 

I would learn about the sins of racism from Saints of color. Learning to shake at racism meant engaging with people I used to avoid.

I would learn to shake at the sin of sexism by engaging with women I once had no respect for. I listened to their stories, and realized I had judged them falsely. 

I would shake at the sin of prejudice by engaging with LGBTQ+ Mormons. The first time I ever spoke to a transgender Mormon was on Twitter.

I prayed to shake at the sight of sin because I thought it meant the sins of other people. I didn't realize I was asking to shake at the sins in my own heart. Racism, sexism, and all forms of prejudice are sins. I didn't realize they were there inside of me. But God did and has given me opportunities to change. My prayers were answered, not in the way I expected, but in the ways I needed most.

Reflecting on this has made me reconsider how I interpret verse 32, and leaves me with questions I can't answer. If shaking at the appearance of sin is about MY sins, and not someone else's, what does it mean to be strict in the plain road?

I realized that my understanding of being strict always seemed to involve correcting, controlling, or avoiding other people whose lives were different than mine. I asked for the blessing of correction, and I got it. I lost respect for the person I used to be. I am now changing myself, with the hope of being able to say one day that I have changed.

My heart grew to love different people. Now I can't bring myself to make anything else about their lives any harder. Especially not their religious lives, which were big enough to include me long before I could do the same. I'm not interested in being the person who aggressively, and with personal knowledge of my own hypocrisy, points out the flaws in my neighbor and threatens them with the view of damnation.

Being strict in the plain road, to me, doesn't mean being exacting or demanding of the people around me anymore. That's not who I want to be. I don't want to see this in myself anymore. The nearest I can come to making sense of it is only being strict with myself. To be consistently true to my own values in all the ways they change and grow. I'm also not interested in the messages of any person who tries to entice me to act in any way that resembles this person. Her behavior is inconsistent with my values. I won't do it anymore.

It's absolutely no coincidence that I'm reading this chapter right now and getting this from Nephi. I'm in a very similar emotional place. For years, he has felt physically, emotionally, and spiritually responsible for leading his older brothers. This is his recognition that it's coming to an end and he can let it go. I feel this same way about breaking with my old ways, and conservative elements in my own faith that want me to continue in it.

I need to make peace with myself about how my conscience is breaking with some in my own faith. I need to let my desires carry me into my work and purpose. It's not my job to live the gospel the way others want me to live it, or to live it for others. I need to be secure enough in my own heart to let God work in it, whatever that looks like.

Whatever goodness springs forth from my heart, God is in it. That's what I learned from Nephi today. And I don't need to concern myself with how other people would do it differently. Their experiences and advice are for them. Mine are for me. And they don't have to be the same for us to both be right.

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