I always told myself that if I ever stopped going to Church, I wouldn't linger. I wouldn't haunt any of the spaces of my former life. I would leave, simply and suddenly, like a face melting into a crowd.

It happened with so little fanfare, even I barely noticed it. And despite every life experience that told me disappearing from the Church would be difficult, it was remarkably easy. No one followed me. No one chased after me. They just let me go and eventually forgot about me. That may sound harsh. I don't mean it to be. Of all the possible reactions I could have received, that was the best one I could've gotten. The last thing on earth I need right now is to feel like I'm being pursued by anyone or anything else.

Don't ask me how I ended up at the ward Christmas party. I'm chalking it up to morbid curiosity on my part. It was my first time confronting "the new normal," as I've started calling it in my head. It was also the first time I would see what other people's reactions would be.

I walked into a room where I didn't recognize two thirds of the people in it. I should've expected that. Of the third I knew, I was hoping to avoid any kind of real conversation with most of them. People who don't notice when you disappear usually don't deserve an explanation as to why. 

And despite having spoken to almost no one, and having avoided or cut short most conversations I did have, it never ceases to amaze me how Mormons can fit in a good cajoling into almost any conversation. 

"You should be in the choir." How, sir, would you know?

I sought out and spoke with the one person I needed to speak to. He wept when he saw me. He was the only person I told where I'd been and why. He was also the only person I told that despite everything, I still want to come back.

The Christmas party had been a stark reminder of two things: how little the Church felt like my home anymore, and how desperately I wanted it to be again. How badly I needed it, and how incomplete I would always feel without it.

I need Church to be a place where I can simply exist and reconnect with God, without expecting anything from me. I have absolutely nothing left to give to anyone. And I feel like I could say that until I'm blue in the face, and no one would hear it. I would be at Church tomorrow if it weren't for the endless ways we take advantage of each other. The ways we measure people not in terms of how much we love them, or even what they need most, but what jobs they can do for us.

My idea of a perfect church experience right now would be if I could show up and be completely and totally invisible. No one can ask you for anything if they don't see you. The thought occurs to me that I could achieve something remarkably close if I hung out in the bathroom. I know that has to sound really unusual. It's not if you know something about PTSD. I need a church experience that is way less people-y than anyone is ever going to allow it to be, unless I'm brutally and forcefully honest with them about what my life looks like.

When I first joined the Church at 16, I showed up every week to sacrament meeting, took everything in, and outwardly bawled my eyes out. The sacrament was the highlight of my week. And people just left me alone. They didn't expect me to act less broken entirely for their benefit.

I can't imagine that happening now. I don't want tissues. I don't want sympathetic expressions. I don't want people coming to my house to see if I need help. I don't want small talk. I don't want a calling. I want nothing from anyone, and I want them to want nothing from me. It took me a long time to realize it, but my relationship with God has slowly, but surely been replaced with people and what they expect from me. I got to a miserable place where I could no longer separate God from the exhausting interactions I was having with his people.

But to call it quits and walk away? I see now, with perfect clarity, that I can't do that. Too much of who I am, what I genuinely believe in the very best places of my heart and soul, is connected to being a believer. I couldn't stop or walk away from that if I tried. 

Having PTSD means that my brain hijacks my attention at unexpected moments and forces me to confront what I fear most. My worst nightmares have become a measurement for how much stress I'm under. And no matter how well I think I'm doing, I'm realizing I have no control over it. What I've also seen, in my conscious and unconscious responses to that fear, is that God is constantly who I instinctively reach for. It's not a habit that I can break. It's an expression of who I am and what I genuinely believe. It's real, no matter how much I try to ignore it.

So I have the difficult experience ahead of me of untangling God from the messes that my relationships with other people have become. I have to figure out what that looks like, and learn how to say "No" to endless numbers of things that don't serve me anymore.

For twelve years, my convert's heart couldn't understand why anyone would want to walk away from the Church. I was one of those well-intentioned, but very mistaken people that thought the right thing to do was to chase people, that love could always bring them back and make them belong. I've seen, through my own experience, that walking away is the best choice many people will ever make. It's a valid choice. Especially when the Church and your own health and happiness become incompatible with each other. That choice belongs to them, not to me or anyone else. 

It's not my place to decide for others whether they stay in the Church. I can only decide that for myself. And from being inactive for the first time, I've learned the only thing harder for me than being in the Church is staying away. 

Now I have to find a way to live with that.

Repentance and Forgiveness in Sexual Abuse Cases

My biggest frustration with being Mormon at the moment is how little the people who surround me understand the conditions of repentance, and how different that is from receiving divine forgiveness.

Repentance is the process through which a person makes an honest moral reckoning of their own actions and takes full responsibility for those actions. Not just before God, but openly with others as well.

Forgiveness is the absolution of sins by God, in exchange for full and sincere repentance. That is the condition upon which you receive repentance from God.

God does not forgive people for heinous sins when their repentance is unreal or unfinished. He has no obligation to do so.

Let's talk about this in the context of sexual assault and rape. Because "how can God possibly forgive rapists and sexual predators in a way that would ever be fair and just to their victims?" is a question I've lived with my entire life, long before I ever had the words.

Victims of sexual abuse live with the consequences of those actions for a lifetime. The idea that their abusers could apologize to God once and be forgiven is a farce. That's not justice. That's not repentance.
How is repentance measured then? How does God measure the sincerity of someone else's repentance? 
One word: Restitution

To whatever degree their victims suffer, abusers have to personally give that degree of restitution to their victims if their repentance is going to be real and just. That's before forgiveness, whether from God or from the institutional church, can even be on the table as an option.
God is not stupid. He is not mocked by abusers who care more about avoiding the consequences of their actions than the harm they've done. Abusers who are repentant don't deny the harm they've done. They don't expect cheap forgiveness because repentance is not a cheap experience—not for Christ who made it possible, and not the innocent person he suffered for.
If you advocate for easy forgiveness and repentance for rapists and perpetrators of sexual assault, you've imagined a God who would allow mercy to rob justice. Such a God wouldn't be worth the price of the paper his name is printed on.
There are a lot of bishops, stakes presidents, and abusers who are going to be in for a rude awakening when they see God turn away countless men who were formally "forgiven" by the Church for abuse. God is not bound to accept fake apologies and shoddy repentance, just because a church leader declared a predator to be in good standing. There is no power in that declaration except what God will accept, and he does not accept liars into his kingdom.
Repentance and forgiveness are two of the great Christian imperatives. We cheapen them at our own peril. We lift up counterfeits to them to the detriment of our own souls.


Have you ever find yourself sitting alone in church, and it's only in a moment of honest self-reflection that you realize what you must look like to other people?

I am in a deeply painful, vulnerable, and sensitive place with my own faith right now. I don't like the place/role that has been decided for me as a woman. And the anguish on my face, I realized for the first time, was visible to everyone else.

They can see that I'm not okay, that I'm not happy, even if they don't understand why. My anguish is not a secret.

It takes a lot for me to even go to church anymore. It comes with so much labor with other people and the stupid things they say and do. I can't deal with listening to the youth make gay jokes. I can't listen to the high councilman say that pain isn't real and that there's "no such thing" as being damaged. I can't listen to the sheltered ramblings of privileged people.

I can't do the labor of reinterpreting, recontextualizing, and trying to forgive anymore. I'm tired of giving correction for people who never engage in meaningful self-examination of their own behavior, because they're so obsessed with everyone else's sinfulness.

I feel like every time I show up, it's like sticking my hand in a blender, and I have no choice but to wait and see if someone else is going to turn it on this week.

I'm tired and sad, and everything I've internalized keeps telling me to just go, to just keep trying to make things work. And every time I leave because of some nonsense, I just end up more sad and angry.

I don't know what I need. I just know I don't have the strength to get myself out of where I am. I've been waiting on God, and he's just not showing up. The answer is always the same. 

"Just keep going. You're where you're supposed to be."

Needless to say, God and I have a very different interpretation of what is a livable and doable for me. And I'm tired of him and everyone else making that choice for me.

"Either help me or go away."

That was where I was during the sacrament today.

We talk so much about why we should never disappoint God with our words and actions. I was never taught what to do when God disappoints you.

And at this point, I don't know that I care to learn.

Understanding Sexual Abuse Cases in the Church

Listened to this interview early this morning. If you don't know who Tim Kosnoff is, and you have children in the Church, you really need to hear what he has to say about our sexual abuse reporting process

He's an attorney who has handled criminal cases of sexual assault victims, specifically when those cases involve the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its members. He has also done litigation for victims whose cases involve the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America.

Tim Kosnoff has been representing sexual assault victims for decades. He has, out of necessity, had to work against the Church for most of that time. His experiences are reasoned and measured, and unapologetically honest.

I can't hope to summarize his entire message and all of his experiences in a thread. But what I wanted to share today was what I learned about the sexual abuse reporting process in the Church, and how I intend to handle myself in response to it from now on.

When accusations of abuse or sexual assault is brought to the attention of local leadership, they are taught by policy not to contact police. Even when local laws mandate the report of sexual assault to law enforcement by clergy. The Church, by policy, doesn't respect those laws. Instead, local leaders are instructed to contact a Church hotline for sexual assault, which they claim will field them to mental health professionals and legal counsel, to know how best to help the victims. 

However, the process doesn't focus on victims at all. Not one bit. 

Instead, the hotline exists solely to determine and mitigate the legal liability of the Church in these cases. And with the victims Tim Kosnoff has represented, the Church's priority has been to protect and defend the perpetrator, as a means of legally defending themselves.

The real salient message here from Tim Kosnoff is that the Church cares so much about protecting themselves and their capacity of forgiving and atoning for predatory men, there is no victim they will not throw under the bus in the process. He has observed, having worked cases involving both institutions, that the LDS church is no different from the Catholic Church in its issues with sexual assault. If anything, he suggests we're worse because our power is more consolidated into a single governing entity. 

The only place Kosnoff shows unjustifiable bias is against the general membership of the Church. Many church members don't understand the magnitude of this problem, and wouldn't have the institutional access to address it if they did. He underestimates how much many of us would care if we only knew, how much we would want to change things if we could.

I don't have kids in the Church and may never have that experience. But knowing what I know now, I still gotta look out for me first. Which I suppose is the first take-away message. Don't assume the institutional Church has your best interest at heart on this issue.

Secondly, the last person on earth I would go to if my kid told me someone molested them is the bishop. Not for all the money in the world. I would go directly to the police myself because the Church just isn't going to do that reliably. Period.

Lastly, the most important thing I can do to confront and stop this kind of behavior in the Church is not through internal messaging or pressure on Church leaders, or external confrontations in court. That simply doesn't work. It hasn't worked for decades now.

What would make a huge difference would be to change the mandatory reporting laws in states like Utah and Idaho, where they're ridiculously lax. Those are the laws the Church uses to avoid being fully legally accountable for their actions, which Kosnoff details in-depth. Clergy in Utah and Idaho are not legally required to report sexual abuse, even when it involves children. This is not normal, and many states have much stricter laws than that. And even when there are laws, there need to be stricter punishments for institutions who break them.

I would personally love to see state laws that revoke the tax exempt status for any institution who habitually and knowingly endangers children through failures to report and punish abusers.

Punishments for covering up sexual assault need to go beyond writing a check and making victims sign NDAs so they can never tell their stories again. Of all the heinous activity that goes into this, that's the one that bothers me the most. Perpetuating the silence of sexual assault victims through NDAs is wrong. It is an act fully devoid of compassion. It is moral and institutional cowardice. And I'm openly ashamed to know my church engages in that behavior.

So if you care about this, add it to the pile of letters y'all write to your elected officials. Contact your state-level legislators about how to get the laws changed in your state. We are not powerless to protect our kids from abuse. We can hold our own institutions responsible.

On Dissent, Criticism, and Correction

I love how so many of the beliefs about dissent, criticism, and correction of leadership are based in the language of scripture and the temple regarding "evil speaking of the Lord's anointed."

Where did we get the idea that this phrase only applies to leadership?

"Evil speaking" is defined so narrowly in our community, more so than the scriptures ever defined it. 

Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:

And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

Eph. 4:31-32

These were universal instructions that applied to all members of the Church, independent of any position they might have held.

And see that there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each other, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking;

And see that the church meet together often, and also see that all the members do their duty.

D&C 20:54-55

This behavior doesn't become acceptable just because a church leader, or someone attempting to defend a church leader, engages in it. But who is holding them accountable when they do this behind closed doors? It still happens because it shields leadership from scrutiny and indemnifies their "evil speaking" against others. It has created a culture that perpetuates abuse and prevents repentance in our leadership.

Every single person that has ever passed through the temple has been anointed. It is just as wrong for church leadership to speak evil and spread misinformation about other members as it is for us to do it to them.

The fact is, I have also been anointed by God. I don't need a leadership position in the Church for that to be true. But how easy it would be for one all-male council in this church to completely destroy my name and credibility. 

It bothers me that this doesn't bother more people.

Doubt at Brigham Young University

Years ago, I took English 251 from a professor at Brigham Young University who was getting ready to quit. He also visibly didn't care anymore, which worked out to my benefit. I was working early morning cleaning jobs and was still barely getting by financially. I got high marks on all of my papers in a class I either didn't show up for or slept through every time I went.

His reading list was largely comprised of books I read in high school, plus films I'd already seen. Like many educators, he assigned films when he didn't feel like grading papers, almost always as a weekend assignment with follow-up, in-class discussion. One week he picked Doubt (2008), starring Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Amy Adams. I had already seen it several times.

In case you haven't seen it, it's a film set in a Catholic community in 1960's Bronx. The story centers around a Catholic school, the nuns who run it, and a priest that may or may not be grooming and molesting a black male student who attends the school. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep) is the principal, and the crux of the film is basically set up to make you choose sides: either with Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) as a victim of false suspicion, or Streep's character as the ignored and powerless voice of warning in a patriarchal church.

Because my family was Catholic in a predominantly Catholic city during the period covered by the film, that influenced my perspective watching the film. It seemed obvious to me that Streep was supposed to be the film's protagonist, and justified in her actions in investigating the priest. It never even occurred to me that anyone could be so unaware of the Catholic Church's history with sexual abuse, so blind to the patriarchy portrayed openly in the film, as to side with the priest. 

 But that's exactly what happened in our class discussion, to my shock and disbelief.

You can't fully appreciate how bizarre this scene is if you haven't seen the film. But imagine a room full of Mormon students at BYU, defending a Catholic priest accused of sexually abusing a child. I realize we're talking about fictional characters. But the history and gender bias those characters represent is very real. Listening to people I went to school with openly admit they would side with a man in a position of authority over a woman, regardless of the circumstances, was an eye-opening experience to me. They willingly dumped on a woman for attempting to protect a child from sexual abuse because it came at the expense of a man's reputation.

The professor was somewhat taken aback by the responses was getting. He asked for someone to argue the other side. I gladly volunteered. I still can't believe how coherent my answer was, considering I'd been living off of three hours of sleep a night for four months. All I did was point out what was plainly in the film. In my view, the film is only ambiguous if you don't believe any of the women in the films or trust their motivations, even when they are plain in their every action and showing no deception.

Have you ever said something that was making an entire room full of people deeply uncomfortable? And you can see it in their faces? Yeah. That was me.

I'll never forget the question a male student asked me, pointedly, about how I could have this interpretation of the film in light of the final line. In that line, Sister Aloysius was talking to Sister James (Amy Adams) after everything is over, saying through tears, "I have such doubts."

It honestly never occurred to me that someone could interpret that line to mean Streep's character had doubts about what she had done. As in, remorse for what she had 'done to' the priest. 

"She doesn't feel doubt about investigating the priest," I said. "She has doubts about how to continue in a church that would allow someone like that to even be a priest, and whether the God she believes in can actually save or redeem someone like that."

The whole room went silent. No one knew what to say. 

In that awkward silence, I realized I had done something that several people in that room had been unprepared to experience. At a church-sponsored school, I had forced them to confront the false perceptions in their own minds of male church leadership as perfect men who would never hurt anyone and could do no wrong. They were realizing that the film was showing them how ready they were to be blind to abuse within their own religious community, to demonize those who tell the truth if the person doing so happens to be a woman.

They were not okay sitting with that truth about themselves. It honestly felt like I'd just told a class of Primary kids that Santa wasn't real. Except instead of something harmless like the reality of Santa, they were realizing not all men in positions of authority within the church are good, trustworthy people.

Moral of the story for LDS parents: don't forget to talk to your kids about abuse in churchthat it exists, what it looks like, and how important it is to listen to and believe women. If you don't, someone else will have to explain it to them, perhaps after they've already reached adulthood. And it will not be an easy experience for them.

Through the Storm

I've spent a lot of time reflecting on who I used to be, how secure and at home I used to feel in my faith. And for years now, I've been looking back and comparing myself to who I was then, as if she was a better person because she was doing more of the "right things."

I have to constantly remind myself that I keep my covenants, same as she did. I wasn't better then because I read my scriptures for hours on end, or said more prayers, or went to church even when I was ill or suffering. Those things are nothing more than labor. And laboring differently now does not make me worse than I was when I did those things more consistently.

I think about it now like a fishing boat. When the weather is good and the water is calm, it's easy to see the external results of my labor. But during a storm, things are different. That productivity changes. It becomes about doing the labor that keeps you from sinking, crashing, and minimizing losses. It's a different mentality because the labor is different.

Neither type of labor has more value than the other. They both sustain life. And comparing myself to who I was when things were more peaceful doesn't help me to navigate the waters now that they're not.

My number one job right now is to make it through the storm. That labor has value. And it's making me a better person than I was then, not worse. Where I am and what I'm doing is not a mistake. It feels that way because of what I value, which God is inviting me to change.

I can embrace who I'm becoming, without feeling like I'm worse off because it doesn't look like who I've been in the past. I may be different, but I like myself more. And that should definitely count for something.

Let's Just Stop Saying "Worthy" and "Worthiness"

Many years ago, my mother was alone with another adult female member of the church. And she took that opportunity to ask this woman, an actively practicing Mormon, why she (my mother) wouldn't be allowed in the temple on my wedding day.

Think about the heartfelt nature of this question. It doesn't help that you don't know my mother. But for her to even ask this was not vindictive. It came from a personal place of profound pain.

Imagine someone trusted you enough to invite you to sit in their pain with them for a moment, to speak to it. Coming from my mother, that's what this was. She knew I couldn't do it because then she'd have to sit with mine. So she went to someone else.

And this person, completely unprepared for this moment, looked at her and said the only people who are allowed in the temple are the ones who are worthy to be there. My mother came to an average Mormon with an honest question. And thanks to the obsolete, insensitive language we use so casually in the Church, she told my mother she wasn't worthy of God or his presence. Whether she intended to or not, that was the message she sent with the language she used.

I cannot adequately express to anyone the pain in my mother's face when she told me this. You'd have to know her to fully appreciate it. My mother and I have a complicated history, and the church has been at the center of that for more than a decade. But I cannot describe to you how angry I was when she finally told me this. It seemed impossible to me that anyone could be that insensitive or careless.

I come to my point. The "let's be as Mormon as possible so the non-members will think we're good people and want to join the church" mentality. The habit of leaning into our own exactness, our obtuse insistence in doing things our way, even when it hurts people, and calling that a virtue. This refusal to demonstrate any kind of humanity didn't entice my mother to join the Church. I don't know where people born into the Church got the impression that this is what makes people gets baptized, but that's not how this works. That's not how anything works.

My mother is not a person whose favor is easily won, but it is very easily lost. She has no patience for posturing or pretense. And I realized, after hearing this story, that the church would have to be a very different place before she would ever feel at home in it.

That day, I excised the words "worthy" and "worthiness" from my vocabulary. They have no place in what it means to be a Latter-day Saint to me anymore. There are few words that cause me more emotional and spiritual discomfort. I understand that there is a layer of judgment to them that is inappropriate for me to use because I'm not God. If what I mean to say is prepared, ready, observant, dedicated, devout, or any other words that would be more precise, then I should just say that.

Who are we, as Christians or as Saints, to attempt to measure the faith and devotion to God in another person's heart? And to use such feeble measurements, like the length of a hemline or cups of coffee, to quantify that relationship? Our rulers and measuring sticks will mean very little to God when he sees the ways we used them to punish each other for the universal imperfections that affect us all.

God is good. The thing I can't wait for each and every person to discover about him is how much he cares about us individually. The way all labels and judgments disappear in his eyes and we are finally seen for who we truly are.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.

1 Cor. 13:12

We are all deeply flawed beings, struggling to understand and cope with what it means to be human. Let's all remember that a little more often.


I want to own up to something so I can dispel it as a way of thinking. Because it has taken me a long time to realize how wrong I was about people who walk away from my church, or take breaks, or interact with it on their own terms/without a set schedule of appearances.

I used to think that people who left the Church did so because they came into contact with other people who have. Like doubt was somehow contagious, and contact with people who walk away was a negative force that escalates people's feelings of dissatisfaction with the church. There are a lot of problems with this thinking. It makes the assumption that people can't be trusted to know their own minds, hearts, and motivations in relation to their own relationship with God. It assumes they are unreliable narrators in their own story.

I thought that way because it served me. It exonerated me from having to care about or address the complex and varied reasons why people walk away from my faith community. It allowed me to place blame on someone else instead of looking at myself and my behavior. It wasn't until I was invited to comb through the details of my own life that I realized doubt doesn't work like this. It isn't something you catch from someone else. It's a natural and valid response to prolonged inconsistency between expectations and reality.

I didn't wake up one day and find myself unhappy with my faith community. That disillusionment is a logical, justified response to hundreds of incidents of pain, exclusion, ignorance, loneliness, rejection, and being devalued for who I am and what I think over many years.

And here's the thing I only recently realized: the people I once feared, the ones who doubt... they are not a threat to my faith. They aren't waiting in the wings to stifle out the last candle. My experience has been quite the opposite. My friends across the faith spectrum have lifted me up. They can see I'm trying to stay, to renegotiate my place with my faith, and they respect that. They listen. They empathize. They give me the language and tools to keep my faith in God alive.

They save me from myself. Their hands, outstretched to me when I was drowning, became the familiar hands of God.

I would have lost myself completely had it not been for the people I once thought so little of. And I realized they deserved so much more credit than I was giving them.

Don't be afraid of people who distance themselves intentionally from the Church. Don't assume they want to hurt you, or that you fundamentally understand the Church better because you have stayed after they have gone.

Listen. Empathize. Learn. Embrace. 

They may just be the ones who save you someday, too.


This is not a post advocating for female ordination within the church. However, I can't stop you from going there if you choose to do so because this is a post about why motherhood is a poor substitute for real institutional impact within the Church.

It's no secret to most people within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that we have couched a lot of our doctrine in complementarian gender roles. Women raise and care for children. Men hold the majority of the ecclesiastical responsibility.


Source: Creation of Eve, Rose Datoc Dall

While men can venture into our so-called territory with child-rearing (male Primary leaders, gender neutral parenting), women do not have the same ability to cross into ecclesiastical/administrative territory within the institutional church. The only way for me, as a woman, to achieve that kind of ecclesiastical influence is to be invited to serve there by a man in leadership, or to be married to a man who is given that kind of responsibility.

And here are my issues with my side of that complementary coin: 

  1. At no point did I choose to have my influence limited like this. It has been chosen and perpetuated for me by the male leaders of my church. 
  2. Motherhood gives me no real institutional or ecclesiastical influence within the church, outside of taking care of other people's kids.
  3. It leaves me with nothing of real substance to do when it turns out I can't have children of my own, except to take care of other people's kids. I'm tired of it.

Complementary gender roles, and our resulting eroded institutional influence, do not serve all women within the Church. They only serve women who are married with children. And to be perfectly honest, I don't know how well this institutional structure serves them and their needs either.

As a woman in this church under the institutional structure we have now, there is no calling or position I can hold where I will be truly equal with my bishop. He will always have an influence over me and my membership I will never hold over him. The same thing can be said of other members of the bishopric, the stake presidency, seventies, the Quorum of the Twelve and the First Presidency. They do not have female counterparts with the same institutional access they have.

If you have the ability to exercise influence over my life that I have absolutely no chance of exercising over yours, that is the definition of inequality. It doesn't matter if the men in those positions are trustworthy and benevolent. I have no ability to be a real equal to them.

Imagine what the Church would be like if women had the same ability as men to oversee the financial functions of our wards and stakes. We give our money willingly to the church in tithes and offerings. We have no institutional influence to determine how it is spent.

Imagine if men were accountable to women in disciplinary hearings, the same way we are to them. How many predatory men wouldn't be in the Church today if women had that kind of institutional influence?
Imagine if women could issue callings in the Church, without every decision about who is "available" and "off limits" being run through a single man! Imagine if women had the same ability to say "No" and have it make a difference in ecclesiastical outcomes.

Imagine what meetings would be like in the Church if they were run by women instead of men. What ideas would be heard? What names would be remembered? Whose voices would be elevated above the din of blowhards who insist on hearing themselves talk?

Imagine if having children didn't automatically disqualify smart, capable women from the administrative positions in the church. Imagine if they could decide for themselves what their service in the church should look like.

Imagine if motherhood wasn't lifted up as some kind of consolation prize for unmarried, childless women. Imagine if the good they could do was reason enough to give them opportunities

Like I said, I think the discussion of female ordination can be separate from the kind of institutional changes I'm talking about. I don't care if I'm ever ordained to the priesthood. I've already seen from administering temple ordinances that I don't need it to participate in God's work.

But that lack of ordination is no excuse for the administrative functions that are withheld from women in the Church because of their gender. The lack of male accountability to us is unacceptable. It's a breeding ground for unrighteous dominion, which too many of us experience.

It is not asking to much to be treated as an equal in my church. It is not wrong to point to the organizational structure, a man-made creation, and say it isn't enough. It is no sin to say I want more from my church membership than this.

I believe women in this church have power and potential to do many amazing things to build the kingdom. And until men make spaces for us at the table, they will never see it. 


Because ability is useless without opportunity to use it.      


I want to talk about the conversation I had with my Relief Society president today. She dropped by because she wanted to hear more about the testimony I bore on Sunday, which I haven't talked about in great detail here yet. And now that I've talked to her, I feel better doing so.

As part of that testimony of being inclusive, I talked about how profoundly unwelcome I've been made to feel by other members of the church. I told them I've had members of the church tell me in no uncertain terms that I don't belong, largely because of labels they put on me. I told them how careful we need to be with the labels we put on people, whether because of politics or social issues. I said I'm not alone in feeling that way, and how deep I've had to dig within myself to find the testimony that will let me stay.

"I know we say the church is true in this meeting. But because of where I am emotionally right now, the best I can do is to say I know the church is more true than what we do to it sometimes."

Who wouldn't say that in front of a member of the stake presidency, right? 

And here's the thing. I have a lot of respect in my ward, including among older members. I could see in their faces that they were shocked at what I was saying. They couldn't fathom why anyone would say that about me. But that's because they don't really know me. And I had a small train of people come over and hug me, assuring me that I do belong.

I turned to my friend sitting next to me and said, "I want to believe them. I really do. But would they still be saying this if they knew I supported gay marriage?"

Would they still feel this way if they knew I didn't vote for Donald Trump? 

If they knew I thought Prop 8 was the worst mistake the church has ever made? If they knew I felt like the leaders who supported that policy will have to answer to God for it someday?

Some of them probably would. But there are people in that room with me every Sunday who wouldn't. They would call me a "demoncrat" (even though I'm not registered to either party) and tell me I don't deserve my temple recommend.

I left feeling better than I had at church for a long time, mostly because I respected myself more for making myself visible, to the extent that I felt able to do that. I felt like I'd staked a claim and made a space for myself, and it brought back that feeling of belonging.

I didn't expect a knock on my door. And I probably should have, honestly. But my Relief Society president and I have a really good relationship. I respect her and regard her as a safe person to talk to. She does the labor to listen, which is what she came to do today. So I told her about my life. I told her things about me that no one else in my ward knows. I told her about the experiences I've had with marginalized members of the Church, and the ways I'm trying to learn what it means to be a real ally to them and to actually do it. 

I talked for a long time. It all sort of just spilled out of me. I can't begin to hope to remember everything I said. But she listened intently, without ever telling me I was wrong. She validated everything I said--including how I wished the church could be safer for all of us. We do too much for the sake of keeping people comfortable who are already safe in our community, when the people who need to feel safe will never be comfortable sitting with us until we make room for them.

That really struck her. I could see it in her face.

She thanked me for sharing my feelings and experiences with her. She said it gave her a lot to think about. She came in a spirit of listening and wanting to understand, not correction. And I'll never forget her for that.

This experience made me realize I can do this. I have the privilege and social influence to make other people visible and encourage change. I don't have to apologize for loving people and wanting to make space for them. If anything, I need to let that desire work in me even more.



I can't change the entire church. I can't change policies. I can't change the minds of the general leadership. But I can make the spots on either side of me in the pews a safer place for everyone. And I can be a voice to show others how to do that.

I'm sure this looks ordinary how I'm describing it, but it was a life changing experience for me. It was an answer to my prayers to find my place again in the community I've gave my heart to, when that hasn't been an easy thing to do. It was a reminder of the hearts that beat beside mine, all yearning for the same thing: to love, to be loved, and to do good for someone in need. 

That is the church I joined. And in many ways, that is the church I'm trying to rediscover from where I stand now.    

Time Deserts

You know those times in your life when you're basically free falling through your problems, and the only control you feel like you have is trying not to collide into too many passing objects? Sometimes it works and sometimes it just doesn't? I've felt that way for a long time.

I'm trying to make my way towards wellness because I can feel the sum total of stress and mental illness robbing me of my precious time that I will never get back.

I'm unwell because it's so hard to take care of myself. But because I'm not taking care of myself, I can't get well. It's a cycle I've lived with it for so long. But it's different now because I now have even more people I take care of who depend on me.

I've gotten really good at positive self talk, which has been really helpful. I can find success in the most seemingly inconsequential moments of living. And it is making all the difference in feeling like I'm regaining some control.

Much of how I feel has come through the gradual erosion of my choices, until finally I felt powerless and overwhelmed by everything I couldn't change about my own life. Like all my choices were taken away from me. But I don't have to go on believing that. Throughout my day are moments I didn't choose and can't control. I can't do anything to change them. But surrounding those moments is always time that I can choose what to do with. That time still belongs to me, and I can decide how to use it.

I have enough appointments and daily/weekly tasks that every day feels overwhelming. I've been avoiding calendaring/scheduling it out because I am afraid of what seeing it all spelled out on paper is going to do to me. I'm realizing living that way is making it worse, not better.

I'm missing opportunities to accomplish what matters to me because I treat myself like an endless supply of time and resources that are available to anyone at any time. Nothing that matters to me is ever important enough to take my time away from someone else. The thing I've been avoiding is exactly what I need. If I'm not scheduling the things I wish I didn't have to do, I'm never going to make time for myself and my goals. It just won't happen.

If I want my life to be different, I need to see and treat myself differently. I can't change my circumstances. But I can change how I respond to them. And I need to believe I'm important enough to do that. Because nothing is ever going to get better in my head if I don't.

Esteemed as Dross: A Meditation on Injustice from Alma 32

Alma 32 is the reason I got baptized. It was part of my Come to Jesus, burning bush, ask and ye shall receive, if any man lack wisdom let him ask of God moment. It was my first meaningful experience with the Book of Mormon. An answer to prayer.

Relevant to this is how uncomfortable I've felt at church recently. I don't feel heard or recognized, and that bothers me. But I'm also aware that people of color and LGBTQ+ communities have had it so much worse. I'm at my wit's end with marginalization. And once again, this chapter has been an answer to my prayers. It provides so much clarity into behavior I can't accept anymore, the pressure to be sensitive to the insensitive. It gives language to what I find so abhorrent, which up until now I haven't been able to express.

The background to this chapter is Alma, the prophet, is approaching a multitude of men, women, and children who have been excluded from religious fellowship because of their poverty. The record makes clear in verse 5 that the priests, analogous for bishops today, were especially guilty of perpetuating this exclusion from the synagogues. It was both a failure of policy in the local leadership, as well as social exclusion by lay members of the church.

"They were not permitted to enter into their synagogues to worship God, being esteemed as filthiness; therefore they were poor; yea, they were esteemed by their brethren as dross." Alma 32:3

Here we see the dehumanization upon which these policies and practices of exclusion rest: the reduction of the divine nature of another human being as "filthiness," their standing in the church reduced to "dross," the waste product discarded during the purification of metals. In the vision of these church leaders of a "holy" and "clean" society, there was no room for the poor and disadvantaged. They were seen as expendable to that vision, collateral damage in the fight against all that was "unpure."

I'm not talking about the formal disciplinary processes of being disfellowshipped or excommunicated, although these are also relevant. Neither of those is a reason to ever remove someone from the Church. (See 3 Nephi 18:22-34 and 2 Nephi 26:23-33) I'm talking about making someone's presence at church so unbearable, through bullying and ostracizing, that it literally chases someone away from even attending church anymore. I'm talking about bishops and bishoprics "inviting" someone who is LGBTQ+ not to attend a congregation anymore because their presence there is making other people "uncomfortable."

I've spoken to people who've had these experiences. I believe them. It shouldn't happen. But it does.

Alma is speaking to people who have been dehumanized by church leaders, who benefit from their labor, subjugation, and systematic oppression. And he speaks to that experience directly in a sermon I've never fully appreciated until today.

It would be easy to confound Alma's language of "it is well that ye are cast out of your synagogues" with praise for the oppressors who did this to them. That is not the message here. He is praising their faithfulness in God in the face of this injustice. He separates their divine worth from their mortal conditions, teaching them to view their present state with an eternal perspective. God is not responsible for what happened to them, but he will help them to overcome it. He is trying, with what language he has, to find meaning in what would otherwise be meaningless violence against them.

He also shows them how God honors suffering and sacrifice, in beatitudes and promises for them specifically:Verse 12 uses the word "necessary" for this experience they're having, "necessary that ye should learn wisdom." That wisdom encompasses a lot which he doesn't mention by name, but includes of course the recognition of hypocrisy in leadership.
He praises them for their humility repeatedly. There is no other group of people in scripture who are praised this much for being humble. It says something about the souls to whom Alma was sent.

And rather than minimizing the relevance of their poverty to their present circumstances to make the church look better, Alma speaks in honesty to how they've been treated. He doesn't try to manipulate their narrative in order to give glib responses to their struggles. Poverty is undesirable for many reasons. But it is defined by the erosion of choice. Their ability to shape their own lives has been taken from them by those who rely upon/benefit most from their systemic oppression.

Alma presents the gospel of Jesus Christ in its most fundamental terms: a choice to elevate themselves, regardless of their earthly circumstances. Distinct from the prosperity gospel, he doesn't promise them money. He promises salvation: the ability to transcend their mortal condition. He promises them freedom, esteem, and equality in the presence of God. It's a choice that costs nothing, and exists independent of the conditions imposed upon them by anyone else. For once, they got to feel the dignity of people who choose the outcomes of their own lives. That's what the gospel of Jesus Christ represented to these people. A choice no one could take away from them.

Without choice, there can be no Dignity

For that reason, Alma makes a necessary observation about compulsion. It is not the mode by which God operates. Faith, not compulsion, is what he desires from his children. And no amount of certainty can cover that compulsion, wherever it exists. Much of how we treat LGBTQ+ members depends upon compulsion: compulsion that they should be celibate before they can join with us. Compulsion to comply with the narratives straight Mormon leadership create for them. Compulsion to act exactly how the church wants them to act, or to risk being removed from their families eternally. Compulsion to choose between their identities as children of God and who they can be in their healthiest, happiest state.

I've heard many times that certainty is the opposite of faith. But I disagree. Faith and knowledge must coexist together as separate stages in the process of learning, as outlined in this chapter. What I learned this morning is the opposite of faith is compulsion, for these two states cannot coexist together. In every way the church or its people rely upon compulsion to dehumanize and ostracize anyone, God will hold us accountable.

Why? Because when we challenge and remove anyone's choice to be themselves, we erode at that person's dignity. That is not what God asked us to do. And he doesn't sanction us when we try to respond to any problem that way. 

Temple Attendance as a Personal Choice

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

Mormons. Can we talk about the temple? And how it's none of y'all's business how often someone else is or isn't going there?

I went back to the temple today for the first time since January when I was released as a temple worker. Yeah, I know it has been a while. I also know it's literally no one else's business but mine.

If you need a break from the temple, that's okay.

If the thought of adding one more thing to your day, week, month, or year is causing you actual emotional distress, and scaling back on temple worship is something you need to do for yourself, that's okay. 

You are enough. 

The temple can be a great place to find quiet time away from problems, to regain perspective, and to commune with God. 

 It can also be a place where pain and frustration with certain parts of church culture and social pressure are more keenly felt. 

For some people, it is both.

Some people don't have the energy or emotional space to parse out the good from the bad in their temple experience, especially when they're already struggling. Don't see their absence from the temple as a failure. Don't make their problems about you and your perceptions.

Knowing that my absence was felt, that I brought something tangible to people's lives by my presence there that they miss, was a beautiful gift. Hearing that my absence was unacceptable in no way adds to that gift. In fact, I daresay it tarnished it somewhat.

When I was a temple worker, it was appropriate for other people and their needs to be my primary focus while serving in the temple. It was appropriate for me to be attuned to their needs and desires above my own. That is no longer appropriate now that I've been released.
How often I attend the temple, where and when I draw from that well of living water, is between me and the Lord now. 
Because my focus is now right where it should be: on me and my personal relationship with God. 
What that should look like is for us to decide together, without input or interference from anyone else.
God knows and respects my limits. He sees and knows the burdens I have carried in my personal life throughout this hiatus. He has carried me through them with tenderness, without ever resorting to guilt or manipulation to get me to do more than I could manage. If what I have done with my time over these past months is acceptable to God, no one else's opinions should matter at all. If it wasn't enough for him, wouldn't it stand to reason that I would be the first he would tell, not someone else?
And, as always, be careful of the criticism you offer. It may just be the criticism you take from someone else someday.

President Nelson's Tithing Messaging in the Developing World

On his global tour that included stops in Nairobi, Kenya, President Russell M. Nelson made a statement that then made the rounds on Twitter.

“We preach tithing to the poor people of the world because the poor people of the world have had cycles of poverty, generation after generation... That same poverty continues from one generation to another, until people pay their tithing.”

I could see saying this about fast offerings. Setting aside and saving a little to help others, no matter how little you have, is how communities thrive and flourish. It's a principle of kindness and sacrifice where the end goal is visible.

This? I'm not sure what to make of this.

I grew up poor. I've gone hungry many times throughout my life, including during years when I paid my tithing. Tithing isn't some magic bullet for poverty and hunger. It's a commandment with a blessing, and the blessing isn't always wealth, financial prosperity, comfort, or ease.

God didn't institute tithing because he needs, or even particularly values, money. Jesus taught that lesson to Peter when he pulled a coin from the fish's mouth. He has only ever needed faith from his disciples to change their circumstances. I hope our leaders remember that, and the African Saints will learn that lesson in their own way, independent of what any leader of the Church says to them.

No matter what, teaching tithing to financially disadvantaged people will always have bad optics. It was one of my least favorite lessons to teach in São Paulo, Brazil for exactly this reason. The knowledge that it wasn't me asking was the only way I could do it some days.

President Nelson has the ability to promise nations that if members pay their tithing, their burdens and cycles of poverty will cease. That would be preferable over this prescriptive language, in which those who don't even know about tithing are being condemned for not paying it. Given that some of the wealthiest nations on earth are full of people who also don't pay tithing, this message just isn't going to land in any way that is logical.

I'm sure President Nelson is doing his best. I'll be praying for him, as I will for the Saints in Africa. Most people are doing the best they know how with what they have. And I hope God will look upon all people with mercy, as he has ever done.

What would I do if my husband couldn't be happy without having children?

Something is currently knocking around in my head that I realize I should probably shake loose.

Someone recently asked me what I, an infertile woman, would do if my husband couldn't be happy without having children.

My husband and I would never be in the position where we would be having that conversation because our relationship and personal satisfaction in life doesn't rest upon us being able to conceive. His mother had to receive fertility treatments to even bring him into this world, so he knows better than that. He also doesn't expect me to be responsible for his feelings and emotions. But if through some cartoonish series of events he was hypothetically coming to me with such a dilemma, there is only one thing I could say at that point.

"That sounds like a You problem."

It is not my job to make my husband happy. It is not the job of me and my body parts, such as they function, to fulfill every expectation he has in life. He's an adult who is responsible for his own feelings, emotions, disappointments, and the redirections we each get handed by life. He still has to wake up and do those things for himself every day if we never end up having any children.

If I can wake up every day and confront the reality of what infertility means for my life, my health, and my ongoing happiness, so can he.

It is not my responsibility to shield him from the effects and consequences of the health conditions I've had for all of my life. 

I'm still trying to figure out exactly how I was supposed to answer this question. Be okay with him divorcing me? Allowing him to take a mistress? Stealing a baby from the Walmart parking lot? 

What was I supposed to say?

You are not entitled to have children!

Your spouse is not responsible for giving them to you. And if you find yourself in a marriage where you haven't gotten your way on children because of infertility, let me tell you a secret: 

Your spouse still has it worse than you. 

Infertility is hard for spouses with healthy fertility. No one is disputing that. 

It's still harder for the one experiencing the infertility, especially when the infertility is related to a chronic illness. 

Feel your pain. Feel your loss. Feel whatever you need to feel. But be half as strong as your spouse is by not taking that pain out on them. 

Do not make this devastating situation any worse by making it all about you.


For the first time in 12 years, I'm not looking forward to general conference.
I don't know how to take instruction on how to be a better disciple of Christ from leaders who just paid their lawyers to dig up dirt on a sexual assault victim.
I don't know how to sit next to people in a pew who voted overwhelmingly for, and continue to support, a presidential candidate who admitted to being a rapist.
I don't know how to contain the disgust and disappointment I feel every time I see members of the Church engage in blatant prejudice. I'm tired of correcting racism because my leaders won't. I'm tired of correcting sexism because my leaders won't.
I'm tired of anyone who doesn't perfectly conform to every norm and standard being bullied and harassed until they're chased out. I'm tired of trying to put broken pieces back together from the messes other people make when they destroy someone else's life. 
I'm so tired of hearing the gospel is perfect, even if the Church and the people are not. Because from where I'm standing, there is absolutely no point in having a church if no one is actually going to bother using the gospel. That perfect gospel, at its heart, means repentance. It is a reconciling to God AND to or neighbor for the wrongs that we've done. If we are not a people who repent, we are not a people who follow Christ.
Where is the repentance for the racism perpetuated by our church and the people in it? Where is the repentance for the sexual violence that has been done to women and children by lay leaders in our church? Where is the repentance for the collective shrugging off of LGBTQ+ members?
The gospel Jesus Christ is supposed to mean change. I don't see change. I see excuses. I see lukewarmness that Jesus would spit from his mouth. I see injustice. I see anguish from too many good people who are attacked for daring to challenge oppression and for speaking the truth.
Any person who defends the Church, its leaders, or its people in doing evil is no brother or sister of mine. They have no authority that I am bound to recognize. And out of the love and respect I have for myself, I will not allow myself to be led into sin by it.

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