The Sacredness of Informality

Went to the sacrament meeting service at my mother-in-law's nursing home. Our services in general already exist at a weird intersection between the formal and the informal. The service at the nursing home is homemade and fully embraces the informal in a way typical church services do not, but perhaps they should.

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

I was thinking about this as I was watching a father who was trying to run the meeting with his young daughter in tow. She, having been through one set of meetings today, was unprepared to be still any longer and was hanging on his leg. The pianist was out of town, so they were using the pre-recorded hymns. The tempo is faster on those than most people sing, and the effect is compounded when people are elderly. 

Some people might say it was cudgeled together. A mess. Not fitting for the sacred nature of the ordinance. And on and on.

I personally like it better this way. No ornamentation. No pretenses. No illusion that the meeting is anything other than what it is.

As I took the sacrament today, I thought about which I thought was more important to God: the attempt to do something good, or actually accomplishing it.

There are times when getting things exactly right is worth the continued effort. Things like figuring out how to lift people out of poverty, conquering prejudice, and making amends for deep wrongs. They're worth sticking with until we get them right.

But for most other things, especially the things in religion that are purely stylistic, these things can easily distract from worship and become the Church experience. 

What clothes someone wears, the way they pray, the mechanics of how someone traverses their presence in the shared space of Church. All of that is fundamentally inessential. It may be a reflection of worship, but it is not in and of itself worship.

There is value in honoring the attempt, rather than what is accomplished. People may never fully accomplish what they intended to do. But the effort has value. 

I'm realizing that's what I liked about Mormonism. It wasn't accomplishment. It was the aspiration of becoming holy.

The Nature of Change

Here's an unpopular opinion I'm attempting to address. 

When you're at an impasse in your relationship with the Church, you have two choices: stay and fix their problems or leave and fix your own

Both choices are valid. Both choices are necessary. But we really need to keep it straight that choosing the second doesn't have any of the same impact of the first. People who leave don't "change anything" at church. Only people who stay can do that.

When I left, nothing changed. I didn't expect it to. That wasn't the point of why I left. I left to completely separate my problems from the Church's problems because their problems were all consuming and crushing me. 

To say people who leave have this ability also implies they have some obligation to be making the Church better. If pushing some Sisyphean rock up the hill for eternity is how you cope with your life, go for it. But don't expect anyone else to join you.

 * * *

Upon further reflection and discussion, I would like to amend this position. Whether you stay and try to fix the Church from within, or leave and move on from it, both are so full of unintended, unforeseeable consequences that there's truly no way of knowing what your impact will be.

So whether you say "I left because my efforts to change things made no difference" or "I stay because I'm making a positive difference," both are unknowable because we're all part of a story that has no ending, no final resolution.

We are all unfinished beings, dealing with the intended and unintended consequences of what we've chosen. We are all trying to find the combination of consequences we can live with.

Maybe all we can do is assume people are doing their best with their impact, whether they stay or go. We all have different reasons we've lost or kept hope. Honoring each other in the struggle either way may be the only choice that actually heals and brings peace to anyone.

Church Finances: Then, Now, and in the Future

This week, people are responding to the leak regarding the Church's finances. I also see some people who are deeply upset, so I thought I would provide a jumping off point for processing those feelings. If this is something you care about, you need to check out the work of D. Michael Quinn has done on the subject of the Church's finances.

He wrote the book on this subject, exploring the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and its finances. In this three-volume collection, Quinn details the history of the Church, including how the organization went from nearly going bankrupt to becoming one of the richest corporations in the world. To my knowledge, there is no other resource as well-researched and comprehensive as his.

Mormon Stories and the Salt Lake Tribune have done interviews with him discussing what he found. They should be required listening for every person who has ever felt some type of way about paying tithing.

Here's the big takeaway I learned from Quinn:

The Church is not financially solvent in any country outside of North America. The tithing/monies members pay in their own countries would not be enough to support their basic operations in almost every country where the Church has a presence. By investing the money they receive in North America, the Church is able to multiply it before distributing it to other nations throughout the world.

With the unprecedented access that Quinn received into the Church's financial records, past and present, he makes the case that without these investments, the global church wouldn't exist the way we know it today.

The Cost of Temple Operations

I've seen a lot of criticism on Twitter from people about what the Church spends on its facilities, and particularly its temples. I want to provide some insight into this for others who have never had any personal experiences with this aspect the Church's facility management.

My last calling in the Church was as an ordinance worker. I saw parts of the temple most other people never see. I saw the work that went into cleaning and maintaining the building. I participated in it on multiple occasions. The Church uses quality materials in its temple construction because the wear and active use on those facilities is very high. Even with spending that kind of money, the wear on the furniture, the fixtures, the molding, the carpets, etc is tremendous. Sure, you can use cheaper materials. That means they would wear out and break faster and need to be replaced more often. Using cheaper materials would ultimately be a waste of money.

Now, you may think temples themselves are a waste of money because the services that take place in them are unimportant or irrelevant to you. That you feel that way is totally valid. But you need to understand it's not going to change the lived experience of anyone else. There will always be people who go to the temple and find value in that experience. They will do it at a high cost to themselves, if that's what it takes.

The Church's efforts to alleviate that burden? That's not a bad thing.

Now, here's the rock and the hard place regarding facility management in other countries. How do you balance using quality materials that don't constantly have to be replaced vs. building an extravagant facility that is out of place in the local community? 

What are the implications of building cheaper, lower quality buildings in other countries, just because the members in those countries don't have as many resources to support their operations? Are people in Ghana undeserving of a temple as nice as the people in Draper, Utah? 

How does racism play into the narrative of what we believe is "too nice for some people"? 

If the Church clearly has enough money to feed people and build temples... why get mad at them when they choose to do both?

As the Church continues to build more temples, the distribution of the costs of operating them will continue to shift, pulling from smaller and smaller groups of people who likely can't support the costs on their own.

So, why not stick with the Hinckley mini-temple? Surely those provide the best of both worlds? Nope! And I can tell you from personal experience why that doesn't work. Each temple, no matter its size, has a minimum number of people required to staff it every day. That's five days with (typically) three shifts each day. When you have smaller temples, you have to provide the same number of workers to serve fewer patrons. It's ideal only in some circumstances.

Mini temples created situations in many rural areas where all the people who might've attended the temple as a patron have to staff it, and there aren't enough people who actively go to sustain attendance to justify the building and its operation costs. I watched that process play out when the Meridian temple was built, the Boise temple district was broken up, and the impact that had on our staff and patrons.


Carving from the outside of the Meridian Idaho Temple during construction.

All of this is actively monitored and calculated into the decision to build a temple. No temple is ever built without financial allotments for how the building will be constructed, but also how it will be maintained deep into the future.

How could the Church improve its financial transparency?

Let's speak to the heart of the concern people have: $100 billion seems like a bananapants number when you look at it completely divorced from any context. A reasonable person would say, "Okay, so let's be informed and not ignore the context for it." Money is a necessary part of running any organization, especially a global one. We all understand that. My criticism, based on what I know, has nothing to do with the $100 billion number. It's the fact that contextualizing it is impossible because transparency from the Church about its own finances is nonexistent.
I've seen people recalling toxic moments they have had in paying tithing, largely due to the insensitivity of local leadership. Let me be clear: those experiences are also part of the context for this number. We should be honoring and learning from that pain, not ignoring or minimizing it.

There will always be calls for the Church to be fully public with all of its financial operations. I'm not going to hold my breath for that to happen. For as long as those decision remain private and privileged, we will likely continue to gain access to the bulk of that information only through leaks, lawsuits, and legislation.
So what does a more realistic, achievable form of change look like on this front?
The thing that immediately comes to mind is to open up ward and stake financial clerk positions to women. Make is so any person within the Church, regardless of their gender, can see, be familiar with, and control the execution of financial policy and procedure on the local level.
Did you know the ward clerk has greater authority over how local funds are distributed than the bishop does? I didn't know that until my husband served in that position. I never would've known it if he hadn't because I'm a woman. It's also because I'm a woman in the US. If lived in Hong Kong, there are many leadership and administrative positions in the Church that would be open to me. So let's not pretend there's any necessary relationship between priesthood ordination and financial capability if the Church is already training women to serve effectively in these roles.

Moral of the story: People who criticize and exonerate without information are usually both wrong. Also, it's like a week before Christmas. If you don't have the energy for this outrage, feel free to let this one go.

No More Church Ladies Hugging Me Without My Consent 2020

"I'm just going to hug you."

That's literally what she said, y'all. Then did it before I even knew who it was or why someone was touching me. 

If my husband wasn't with me, I probably would've screamed in the middle of the Walmart. This is the second person from my ward who has hugged me from behind without my consent. The last time it happened, I was at church for the first time in months and I actually did scream. Right in the middle of the prelude music.

Let's talk about personal space.

You need permission to enter someone else's personal space. Especially if you don't know them that well. Knowing someone from church is NOT implied consent to be able to touch them.

If you want to hug someone, ask first. Be okay with hearing "No thanks" as an answer without taking it personally. It doesn't mean someone doesn't like you. It just means they don't want to be touched.

I struggle with this with the people in my ward. They are big on hugging, handshakes, and not asking before they touch me. They do it at church. They do it in public. I realize it's well-intended. But that doesn't make it okay.

My PTSD makes it very hard for me to be in public. I'm always on edge in large rooms with lots of people, especially when I can't see behind me. I get deeply stressed just by being at church or at the grocery store. If people gave me the choice, I would almost always say no to a hug in those settings.

If you don't know someone well enough to be sure if they have these kinds of issues or not, you don't know them well enough to be touching them without permission. 

So, just don't do it.

That Time BYU-Idaho Tried (and Failed) to Get Rid of Medicaid

Well, I'm awake now because menstruation is The Absolute Worst. Let's talk about the reason BYU-I has given for cutting off their students on Medicaid.

Now, they've said they're concerned about 'overwhelming' the surrounding medical community. What does that mean? As someone who has worked in medical billing in the past, I'm gonna tell you.

The Broken American Healthcare System

When I was a student at BYU, part of how I afforded my tuition was working for an LDS family I knew who had a private physical therapy practice in the suburbs of Baltimore. Their patients were primarily blue collar workman's compensation patients from factories and industrial settings.

The structure of their practice (which will become relevant in a second) is that they partnered with a couple of doctors who pulled in most of these patients. These doctors would then refer the patients to physical therapy, which was in the practice where I worked right across the hall. Anyone in private practice will tell you this is a dream situation. The physical therapist I worked for never had to think about where his patients were coming from. As long as the demands of capitalism kept hurting working class workers doing manual labor, they would never run out of patients.

So, let's talk about how medical bills work. When you go to see a medical professional, everything they do for you the second they start to treat you has a billing code. Each code is associated with a reimbursement rate that insurance companies have to/agree to pay. These reimbursement rates are set by something called fee schedules. Each state has their own fee schedule that control the maximum a medical professional can be paid for their services.

There are multiple billing codes for everything. If this is a game about making money, the billing codes are the pieces. How you use them will determine what the insurance company will pay for and how much you get. So, the physical therapists see a patient. They treat the patients and lay out the services they provided. There was someone whose job it was to draft the bill and submit it to the insurance company the first time.

At this point, it hadn't even reached my desk.

In an ideal world, when you submit a bill to an insurance company, they would pay what they owe in a timely fashion. They would do it without any hassle because we live in civilized society and it's the right thing to do, right?


Insurance companies don't pay for anything the first time a provider submit a bill. Or the second time. Or the third time. They don't pay for anything until you have hassled someone every other day for at least two weeks. That was my job. I sat on the phone calling insurance companies for outstanding cases. Mostly talking to voicemail. Their job was to hold onto the insurance company's money for as long as possible. Mine was to annoy them until they finally relented and paid what they owed us.

If you talk to any medical professional who has ever touched their own billing (which is mostly private practice people because hospitals have entire departments who do this for their doctors, who have often never even touched a bill) this the most aggravating part of what they do. For every hour they spend treating patients, they spend at least 2-3 hours trying to get paid. Paying additional staff to make sure they get paid. Hiring idiots like me to relieve their qualified staff, so they end up spending even more money trying to get paid.

Here's where Medicaid comes in

Not every service provider can just take in Medicaid patients. You have to see a Medicaid-approved physician. To become approved, it's an expensive, largely bureaucratic process that I won't pretend to understand.

Here's what you need to know.

Medicaid patients, through no fault of their own because they are pawns in a broken system, are a loss to most of the physicians who see them. That practice I worked at was losing money when they saw Medicaid (and to some extent, Medicare) patients. This is because Medicaid functions on a completely different fee schedule than private insurance companies. They reimburse very little money to the physicians for the care they provide. Far below anything that would cover operational costs, let alone be considered fair market value.

The physical therapist I worked for would had to have seen three or four of Medicaid patients simultaneously to make what he would've gotten by seeing one private insurance patient. That's why many private practice doctors don't bother to accept Medicaid patients. The physical therapist I worked for expressed to me that the practice only took Medicaid patients because it was a form of charity and giving back. The income they got from private insurance patients subsidized the care of their Medicaid patients. Without enough private insurance patients, they wouldn't have been able to do this financially. The reimbursement from Medicaid wouldn't have been enough to operate their practice.

THIS problem is why BYU-I is refusing to recognize Medicaid as an insurance provider for its students.

Here are my questions...

Why are the financial insolvencies of accepting Medicaid patients in private practice in the surrounding communities of eastern Idaho any of BYU-Idaho's problem?

Why do they think putting that cost back on poor students is the solution?

Off the top of my head, here's what they could be doing instead:
  • Advocate for updating the Medicaid fee schedule in Idaho so treating these patients isn't a financial loss anymore.
  • Make their student health insurance ACA compliant so it qualifies for subsidies.

It's worth noting that Medicaid insolvency in the first scenario goes away under a single payer system because healthy and/or wealthy people pay for sick people. Sure, this happens already. But it removes the bloated tick that is private insurance from the equation, freeing up the money being spent on making them pay their claims and do their jobs. But BYU-Idaho isn't going to support single payer healthcare because socialism? And of course, the requirements ACA compliance for their own health care plans would necessitate including comprehensive reproductive health coverage. Namely, contraception and abortion care. So BYU-Idaho doesn't want to do that either.

I don't know who the health care administrators are who are setting health care policy at BYU-Idaho, Deseret Mutual Benefit Administrators, or the Church Education System in general. But those are the people we should be looking for. Those are the people who are in control of this situation.

This policy reeks of the bureaucratic, paper-pushing, "please resubmit" (even though your claim is sitting on my desk), inhumane, callous indifference I dealt with on a daily basis until my head nearly exploded with rage and fear for the future.

Having Healthier Conversations about Fertility in the Church

If you're Mormon or Mormon adjacent, never underestimate how important it is to have healthy conversations about fertility with your kids.

I've known since I was a teenager that I would have fertility issues. My PCOS was still undiagnosed at that time, but the symptoms were already affecting my health. I suspected something might be up. Then it came up one day as I was studying my patriarchal blessing. As a result, I've known from the time I was 16 years old that I would have fertility issues.

I went through my Young Women lessons and my BYU dating experience already knowing this about myself. I dreaded the thought of getting married because I knew anyone who married me would probably miss out on parenthood. Thinking back over that point in my life, there was one person who had an open conversation with me about infertility that prepared me to be an infertile woman in the Church.

It wasn't a general authority, a bishop, a doctor, or a parent.

It was a girl from my freshman ward.

Her sister was already married and also in a student ward. She told me how her sister hadn't been able to get pregnant while she watched everyone else around her have babies. "She goes to church and listens to people go on and on in testimony meeting about how grateful they are that Heavenly Father trusts them with his children," she was explaining to me. "And she just sits there in silence thinking 'What's wrong with me? When is God going to trust me enough to parent?'"

Those words didn't fix my problem. But they prepared me to live in a community that has no healthy, compassionate discourse surrounding infertility and reproductive health. It prepared me to be bullied and misunderstood by the people in my own church.

Fast forward several years. I'm in my bishop's office. I asked him for a blessing because leaving my PCOS untreated for the sake of trying to conceive was unbearable. I'd spent my whole life being sick, and I wanted to know what it felt like to get better. To be normal. I wasn't willing to live on frustrated hopes anymore for something that wasn't going to happen. God was either going to cure my PCOS and allow me to conceive, or I was done giving any more of myself to the prospect of having kids.

Did I give God an ultimatum?

Yes, I did.

That blessing was the day I demanded a response from God because I needed one. And I got one. It was the same answer he'd been giving to me since I was 16 years old. Nothing had changed.

So, I let go of any hope or expectation that I would ever have kids. I stopped living my life in constant anguish over what I didn't and couldn't have. I started rebuilding and redefining happiness out of different materials than everyone else.

And you know what? There has never been a shortage of people in the Church who have found all kinds of reasons and occasions to tell me my life is wrong. That I'm doing happiness wrong. That my life should look more like theirs, that I should explain to them why it's different.

I tried so hard for so long to find happiness in the Church as a childless person. As a woman whose worth comes myself rather than external circumstances and conformity to everyone else's expectations. I tried until I had nothing left to give.

Being at Church felt like being held underwater. The environment wasn't made for me. To be in it, I had to hold my breath and find snatches of oxygen wherever I could. Take a gulp of air, serve in Primary. Take a gulp of air, sub in Nursery. Take a gulp of air, teach Young Women. A babysitter. That's what I felt like. A babysitter for other people's kids. Those were the jobs I was given to do because that's how the Church sees me as a women. Good to be a babysitter and not much else.

Part of why I served in the temple as an ordinance worker was because it was one of the few spaces in the Church where I wouldn't have to see any children. Even then, the workers and patrons were constantly asking me "Why are you a temple worker?" (i.e. Where are your kids?)

"How often could you have possibly been asked that question? Surely you're exaggerating."

My record was three times in one shift. I got good at pretending it didn't hurt, but that day I went home early and cried.

The idea of a compassionate, empathetic God is comforting. It does not, however, make it easier to live and worship among people who are, as a collective, very bad at this. You reach a point where you get tired of shedding tears because the people around you keep hurting you.

So, do we need Young Men and Young Women lessons on infertility and reproductive health? Yes. Because without them, they will grow into one of two kinds of adults:

  • The adults who hurt people because they don't know any better.
  • The adults who get kicked in the teeth when infertility happens to them.

If you never talk to your kids about the fact that infertility is normal and something that can happen to them, even when they "do everything right," you will send them into the experience thinking they did something wrong and it's their fault.
Infertility is not a personal failure. It's not a punishment. It's not a curse. It's not a reason for people to babysit your kids, or to have more responsibilities at church. It's not your narrative. You don't get to assign meaning and value to it.

For me in my life, I decided that infertility was a blessing. A gift. The road less traveled. The opportunity to lay aside everything old and ill-fitting from the way I saw God and the world around me. Infertility has given me freedom and independence from the constraints I would have as a parent. My time belongs to me, and I get the rare gift of deciding for myself how I want to spend it.

If someone, just one person, had been able to talk about infertility as an opportunity instead of a tragedy, the last ten years of my life could've been so different. 

Infertile people deserve that in all their interactions, but especially at church.

Observations on Intersectionality

I've seen criticism from people that members of the Church who stay don't do enough to confront the harmful treatment of LGBTQ+ folks, both inside and outside of the Church.

Some food for thought who find themselves asking why church members don't do more to improve the situation for LGBTQ+ people.

Most of the people I know, myself included, who care enough to be outraged by the Church's treatment of LGBTQ+ people are women. 

What institutional influence do they imagine women have in the Church that they're not already using on behalf of LGBTQ+ people?

I used to think I could stay and change things. Then I realized the Church is a very big place, with most of the power concentrated in the hands of a very few men. The only thing I could do, the only power afforded to most women, is to reason with people who choose to ignore me.

I don't say this to belittle the struggle with LGBTQ+ members. I say this bluntly because it's true. Women in the Church can't give something they don't have. All we can do is talk to our husbands privately and hope they listen. Just because you don't see these conversations taking place doesn't mean they don't happen. But I cannot stress to you enough how little what we say matters at all. There's no position of strength for us to lift from.

Every woman I've ever seen try has been ostracized, has ultimately left the Church, has been excommunicated, or lives with the ongoing anxiety that they will be.

If you know how to convince the average man in a leadership position to listen and do the right thing, please tell me your secret. I'll go back to church this Sunday and duke it out with my bishop, without hesitation. I've yet to find anything he's listened to me about, but maybe this will be different.

The trouble I'm finding with withdrawing my support completely from the Church (because that is essentially what I've done for now) is it doesn't make anything better for anyone else except for me. 

I was never the one in any danger, so I'm questioning who benefits from my absence.

You want to know where the heart of the average church member is, who has enough of a conscience to mourn and lament over the horrible treatment of LGBTQ+ people? That's pretty much it.

Interestingly, I've never seen anyone ask queer men why they're not doing anything to change the institutional church for disenfranchised women.

But the answer to that is probably because if intersectional institutional change was easy, we'd be doing it together already.

Exploring the New Temple Recommend Interview Questions

Temple recommend interviews are among my least favorite experiences in the Church. I would rather show up early on a Saturday morning and clean toilets than do a temple recommend interview. They make me nervous, I hate the feeling of being judge and scrutinized on elements of my personal life, and I can never wait for them to just be over with. For the overly anxious people who were averse to getting in trouble at school, the experience can feel a lot like getting pulled into the principle's office and interrogated about personal conduct.

I know I'm not alone in that. And there were many ways that these struggles came to the forefront when the new temple recommend questions were released.

When Sustaining Church Leadership is HARD

I recently had a conversation with someone who was having hard time sustaining an individual church leader. It was leaving them in a place where they were unsure of how to proceed, knowing that they have these feelings.

To sustain someone does not mean to agree with or uphold everything a person says or does. It's a commitment to help someone be successful in their service to God and keeping the commandments. Vehemently disagreeing with them when they're out of line is sometimes the only way to actually do that.

If you genuinely believe a church leader can do better in their calling, I don't think that feeling is a problem in and of itself.

If you find yourself genuinely hating that person, wishing harm on them, or no longer believing they've been divinely called, I'd say that's where the line is.

If it were me speaking for myself, I'd probably explain I have no problem with the idea that apostles exist and they're called through the Church by Jesus Christ, since that what the question asks. No where in the question does that mean I have to agree with everything they say and do.  

Even if I found myself in a place where I believe a particular leader is so bad at their calling, much of what they say and do is a reflection of themselves, rather than the office they hold, there's nothing in the temple recommend question that prevents me from holding that view. At that point, sustaining that person can simply mean committing to minimize the harm they might do, while praying for them so they can do better.

If that's the only kind of sustaining someone can provide, I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Sometimes, that's all the faith a person has to offer, and no one can ever ask more than that.

Dissent and Disagreement

The questions regarding the teachings, practices, and doctrines of the Church is one that always makes me nervous because I instantly start overthinking it.

Something that has helped me is realizing that this question doesn't ask if I agree with all the leadership the Church has ever had, past or present. 

Rather, it asks if I agree with the Church, and I am the Church. (See 1 Cor. 12) My definition of the Church when answering this question has to include what I think, not just what various individual church leaders think. Which is convenient, because there are plenty of times when church leaders throughout the history of the Church have disagreed and contradicted each other.

If there is room for church leaders to disagree with each other, there certainly has to be room for me when I respectfully disagree with them on various issues.

Familial Conduct

The great thing about openly discussing these questions in a family setting is getting to hear the perspectives of our loved ones in how they approach these questions. It can help us to see them in ways we couldn't on our own.

My husband pointed out that there's absolutely no way to say "yes" to the question about having Christ-like conduct in your family relationships if you've ever kicked an LGBTQ+ kid out of your house.

Because, you know, how can you consider yourself worthy to enter the temple when you hate your own kids? I've never thought of it that way and I'm genuinely obsessed with that now. 

He also reminded me tonight of the time Jesus taught how it would be better for those who harm children to have millstones hung around their necks and to be cast into the sea. I never stopped to think before about that applying to LGBTQ+ kids either, and I'm equally obsessed with that too.

Mary and Martha of Bethany

Jesus at the Home of Mary and Martha, Minerva Teichert

What if the reason Jesus told Martha to stop bossing her sister around wasn't just for Mary's benefit?

What if he was also fed up with Martha cooking and cleaning up after a bunch of men who clearly didn't help at all?

Think about it. 

What if Martha's real issue isn't just that she's trying to passive aggressively enlist her sister into helping her through someone else? 

What if Mary choosing "the better part" is because she refuses to enable learned helplessness in grown men?

Writing Down My Prayers

I don't remember who it was, but someone on Twitter was asking about prayer when your relationship to the Church falls apart, and the reflection I did in response was really helpful. I haven't prayed in a long time because my trust with God is very damaged.

I know the only way to fix that is to start praying again, but it's hard to get the words out. So I started writing out my prayers instead. It has been helpful, one of the only things that has helped me so far, so I'm going to keep doing it. Right now, they're all written in pencil in a tiny notebook. But every time I pick it up, I remember a suggestion someone made to me years ago that suddenly has new relevance.

We were visiting my stepfather's family (they're all practicing Catholics), and their tradition was to have the youngest person say the prayer before holiday meals. Because that lot fell on my younger sister who isn't religious, I volunteered to do it instead. My stepfather's stepmother told me I should write my prayers down into a book, which made me laugh out loud because I was awkward and I didn't understand this is a thing Catholics do.

It's a good idea. I find reading and hearing the prayers of other people deeply instructional. It helps me to imagine new things to ask for, to see new ways of speaking to God about what matters to me. So, I'm going to start working on a poetry collection inspired by my prayers.

Part of what attracted me to patriarchal blessings in the first place was because it's one of the only religious spaces we have that isn't directly under the control of someone else. It's a personal space where we have total interpretive freedom, if we allow ourselves to have it. Prayer is like that, too. And I think there's a lot of value in challenging the idea that there are forbidden subjects I shouldn't or can't talk about with God, and letting go of the fear that I will ask for things that are wrong. That's what I need to explore for myself. 

What if prayer was an unconditional space where I could say whatever I wanted and God still had to listen to me?

I don't have an answer to that, but I'm about to find out.


As you all can plainly see, I don't put "ally" anywhere on my social media pages. My reasoning for this isn't because I don't want to be one. It's because I don't think that call is up to me.

Being an ally is an individual experience that I would share with each individual BIPOC or LGBTQ+ person. It will look different with each and every person. And with each person, being his/her/their ally is different. I need to treat it like an individual experience.

There are individuals in those communities to whom I will never be an ally. They will never feel safe with me because I'm not who they need. It's not for me to feel rejected by that. The most respectful thing I can do is accept it and move on. 

A black woman who is so tired of white feminism that she just doesn't want any interactions with any white or mixed race women, regardless of their intentions. The best thing I can do there is to respect her space and leave her alone.

An LGBTQ+ person who wants full-time commitment to LGBTQ+ rights from anyone they call an ally in their lives. There's nothing wrong with that person asking for that much, and me recognizing that just isn't me.

Some people have clearly defined who their allies are. It would be absurd for me to go to them and say "I'm your ally" when they've made it clear that I'm not. It's not up to me to make people reinterpret the allies they want to suit my level of engagement and commitment.

So, how do I approach allyship? I do my best to be generally informed about what bad allyship looks like by listening to many different kinds of voices. I listen to what people say they want, make improvements where I can, and self-sort my way into or out of their orbit. I accept that I need to learn, and there is no better time to embrace those lessons than when someone says "you can do better." I may not ultimately turn into the ally they want. But I'll be better than I was when I went into the conversation.

Aspiring to be an ally to everyone, individually, while being mature enough to recognize I won't make the cut for some is what allyship means to me. I'm not perfect, but this is how I try to treat every person who comes across my path.

Prophetic Infallibility

At a recent devotional at BYU, President Russell M. Nelson taught: "Prophets are rarely popular. But we will always teach the truth!"

Meanwhile, I'm sitting there thinking of no less than half a dozen instances I've documented in patriarchal blessings alone where that just isn't true. To say nothing of Jonah, Eli, Jacob/Israel, Balaam, or even Joseph Smith. Prophets are not immune to lackluster performances, or even outright failures in their callings. There are multiple instances in scripture where this is the exact lesson that God was teaching.

To my friends who remain at church, I need you to understand that this is what teaching prophetic infallibility looks like. How many times have we all heard, or even said, "the Church is a hospital for the sick and the imperfect," especially in relation to moments when prophets fall short of who we expect them to be?

Problem is, that's not what President Nelson believes about himself. That's literally what he just said. The rest of us will be imperfect. But he's not. He'll never say anything false. That's what he believes about himself.

So, while the Church is a hospital for the rest of us to mend our ways, be healed from our illnesses, and confront the limitations of our own mortality,apparently the Church for him is a luxury hotel where everyone knows his name and he can do no wrong.

So those of you who stay in the Church, I have no beef with you. If you can show up there and still be fed, I'm genuinely happy for you. If you have the energy to stay and deal with everything that comes with that territory, I respect you. I want that for you if you're happy. You and I both know that President Nelson thinking this about himself isn't something you can control or change. Unless you know him personally and have that kind of access to him, I can't lay that on you. And please understand I don't. That's his job, not yours.

But y'all who're still at Church cannot have any illusions about the situation we're in together. We're being led by a mortal, imperfect man who doesn't believe he or any other prophet is fallible, or has to own up to any mistakes they make. Don't come here trying to paint that situation into something that it's not. Don't try to twist his words into something more comfortable for yourselves, thinking that'll help anyone else.

Trust people to read and see with their own eyes. You owe us that, at the very least.

Believe what you want, but stop making apologies and excuses for unacceptable statements, beliefs, and behavior. Those of you looking for how to navigate relationships with those on the margins and outskirts of the Church in your life, refusing to defend the indefensible is a great place to start.

Seeking, and Not Finding, Healing at Church

There's a tension worth exploring between two ideas about healing I've heard at opposite ends of Mormonism's attendance spectrum:

  1. The Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints, which is Dear Abby's variation of Luke 5:30-31: "they that are whole need not a physician, but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance."
  2. You cannot heal in the same environment that made you sick.

How much I believe either statement depends on the nature of the sickness being addressed. Part of what allowed me to ignore so many things for so long in the Church was because I was going in and out of YSA units so fast, it didn't matter if someone bothered me. Chances were great either they would leave or I would. But once I got married, all of that changed. I couldn't bank on another move, another semester removing crappy people and situations from my life. I had to accept that people are who they are, they very seldomly decide to change, and I would have to find a way to live with that.

I've been thinking a lot about the sacrament meeting I went to at the nursing home. The speaker, for all his other faults, pointed out that we come to church to be edified. We go because it's supposed to feed us and help us. If that's not happening, it's a waste of time. It was an acknowledgement that not everyone who comes to church seeking healing ends up finding it.

I think I like the analogy of eating together a little better than the idea of labeling people in the congregation as being "sick." Sickness is something that happens against your will, in response to illnesses we can't always see or confront directly.

People at church aren't racist, sexist, and full of malice towards the marginalized because they're "sick." They're like that because they can be, and there's very little that prohibits or punishes that behavior at church. It's a potluck and that's what they choose to bring.

So my way of looking at it is "Am I putting my time and energy to make something that took time, energy, effort, and quality ingredients to this potluck, and the only thing there for me to eat is what I brought?" At that point, that's a crap potluck. Plain and simple.

I can stay at my own house and eat what I was going to bring. Why do I need to go somewhere else to do that? The only answer to that I've come up with so far is "the hope it'll be different this time." When I'm in the mood to let my curiosity override my past experience.     

Talking to God

Part of the impediment to me wanting to pray has come from an intense dislike of who I've understood God to be up until this point in my life. It's a relationship largely defined by me making apologies and excuses for him to justify terrible behavior from those who believe in him.

I'm just not willing to do that anymore.

Without trust, he and I have absolutely nothing to talk about. And I've realized that I can't trust a God who doesn't treat me like an equal. That trust is broken, and he and I are fully aware that's the only thing I have to say to him.

I trusted him to be my protector, to be the only one in my life who would never hurt me or abandon me. It's the trust of a child in a parent, where the parent already knows that relationship is completely unsustainable into adult life.

God has hurt me more profoundly than anyone else in my life, in all the times and places I needed him and he wasn't there. For the sake of me becoming an adult, he left me alone. The "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" approach to parenting.

Well, if adulthood is going to be defined by God constantly walking out on me when I need him most and learning how to live without him, what exactly do I need him for?

Maybe there's wisdom in this, in having a relationship with God that isn't based as much on need as mine was with him. But it's a profound loss of closeness and trust I haven't figured out how to overcome. And for now, I can't imagine a time where it's ever going to hurt less.

I wish I had the answer. The closest thing I have to that, perhaps, is the God who truly steps away when I tell him "if this is the kind of half-assed help you're offering, I don't want your help." 

Right now, I feel like that's all I know about God anymore.

I went to church yesterday

That experience came with a lot of complicated emotions and difficult decisions for me. I think it would be helpful for me to retrace my steps through the experience so I can metabolize it all.

It started with someone I've never met. Someone from a podcast I listen to. He's Mormon and his girlfriend isn't. But he asked her to go to church with him anyway because he doesn't like to go alone. It's left me thinking about the value of showing up for someone else. I realized I never stopped to think about what my absence from church has meant for my husband. It means he goes alone now. His church experienced is now shaped by everything that comes with that.

How could I not notice that?

If I'm being honest, it's a mix of a lack of emotional awareness on my part, still not fully understanding these things because I wasn't raised in this culture, and (the biggest one of all) He has never made my absence at church a problem. He doesn't nag. He doesn't scold. He doesn't treat me like this part of my experience is a problem for him to solve. I'm not something broken that needs to be fixed. And at the risk of sounding somewhat dense, I've never stopped to think about how fortunate I am to have that respect.

He has allowed this part of my life to be my private space. My inner world. The sacred space where I am free to be myself and feel exactly what I feel, with no interference from anyone. He has never once tried to take that away from me. He has given me the gift of unconditional love while I was undergoing fundamental changes he doesn't understand. I don't have to wonder if he only loves me because I signed onto the social contracts underpinning Mormonism with him. I now know it transcends all that.

He has done that for me while my process of self-discovery has been long, tiresome, and the fodder for gossip and public consumption in the spaces he still occupies. He has navigated that experience with honesty, devotion, and respect for me first. Always. Every time.

It took me until a few days ago to realize how I've been on the receiving end of all of this emotional labor. Labor I haven't acknowledged, appreciated, or fully reciprocated. Which, of course, is unacceptable. So when my husband asked if I would go to church with him and his mom at her nursing facility for her birthday, it was an easy decision to make. I would do that for him, and also to show gratitude to my mother-in-law. Because, as I realized in that moment, I have her to thank for this.

Who taught him to be sensitive and keenly aware that being separated from the Church is a complicated emotional and spiritual space worthy of respect at all times? To not make other people's religious struggles about himself and his feelings? 

She did.

I've been so focused for so long one everything we do in managing her memory care, I was completely blind to what she has done for me. This beautiful person she brought into this world and raised into the amazing man he is. She did that. And I benefit from it every day. I also thought about my brother-in-law, who wants very little to do with the Church anymore. But that hasn't stopped him from showing up for the people in his life, even when the Church is involved. I realized today this is something I can learn from.

So I went. I went to church, not because of what I expected to get out of it, but because of what my presence would mean to the people I care about. This may sound obvious to some. But I've never had this experience before. This is all completely new territory for me.

Now, the more orthodox members in this audience want to hear a happy ending to this story. The stillness of prayer and the spirit of worship touching my heart the way it once did, and that being enough to silence the tempests of doubt in my own mind. Hell, I won't lie to you. I'll be the first one to tell you that this is exactly what I want to happen. Even after all this time, and everything I've learned, I still yearn in my soul for it to be this simple.

That's what I was thinking about when I took the sacrament today. How much my body still remembers this entire experience. The yearning to take the sacrament because it has always been such a source of nourishment to my soul. Seeing that this hasn't changed or faded away. But in that same meeting where I witnessed all the reasons I desperately want to come back, I also witnessed the same toxic messaging that keeps me away. The reminder that being in the Church means having to take the good with the bad, and I'm just not prepared to do that anymore.

Now, my husband warned me to check my expectations with the speaker. He'd heard him speak enough times to know he wouldn't be the type to resonate with me. The kind of person who ruins perfectly good talks by choosing to focus on errant topics that aren't Christ. And that's exactly what happened. Smack dab in the middle of a beautiful message about "why do we bother coming to church?"⁠—something I've been asking myself endlessly for the past 2 years⁠—he took a sudden left turn into "why did Paul tell women to be silent in church?"

The problem, he assured us, wasn't that women were speaking. That's a mistranslation, you see. In actuality, it should read that women shouldn't rule in church. What Paul meant to say there was that women can participate in church, so long as they're not in charge.

After telling a rambling anecdote about how he uses "WOMAN" as a joking pejorative with his wife (think Fro-zone and the super suit), he got to the point he thought would tie a nice bow on all of this. The fact of the matter is, ladies and gentlemen, that if men weren't in charge at church, they probably wouldn't show up at all. They're fundamentally lazy, you see, and already only minimally invested. And if women held the priesthood, well, they'd be running everything. "And doing it better" was the unspoken implication of this entire thing.

Now, I'm sure you're asking yourselves: "How does any of this help the target audience of seniors in a nursing facility who live in a state of diminishing physical capacities and the complexities of aging in a health care system that devalues their continuing existence?"

I have no idea.

But I can tell you who it also didn't help. His daughter and the other young girls in that room who just listened to this man say this to them. About them. And their mothers. And me. And every woman they know at church. "We tolerate mediocrity in men to make sure they have a place, even at the expense of women who are more talented and qualified" is just about the most toxic thing you could say to anyone. Absolutely no one is uplifted or edified by that message.

This is why I don't like going to church anymore. I'm tired of trying to build a relationship with Christ in a minefield of ignorance, prejudice, and toxicity. I show up searching for Christ and any positive gains I make are ruined by our collective inability to improve upon silence. 

Before the emotional labor I did this morning, I would've just been privately angry, tired, hurt, and sad in relation to all this. But when my husband and I shared in the experience of rejecting everything he said, together, that was different too. I saw that my discomfort, irritation, and frustration in response to all of this, I wasn't alone in it. I realized my husband saw this experience I was having, could see what it was doing to me, without me having to say a word.

And in thinking about this experience from his perspective, I can imagine him being frustrated with that guy. "SHE FINALLY COMES TO CHURCH AND THIS IS WHAT YOU DO TO HER." Because, as I've only just articulated today, he also wants better for me than this. So, even though this entire thing was a bit of a shit show, I left feeling closer to my husband through it. Despite of it. Maybe even because of it.

Everything I hate about going to Church is still there. Nothing about the circumstances have fundamentally changed. I'm beginning to question if they can change, and if they ever will. What I also took from today is that everyone I love is still there. And I have a deeper appreciation for them and how they've been navigating this nonsense for longer than I've been alive. And I realized today I'm still holding onto that because it's worth holding onto.                             

Listening and Learning in Progressive Mormon Spaces

I realize there are conservative Mormons who engage with me because they're "here to learn and listen." 

Can we talk about what learning and listening does and doesn't look like?

Be Honest with Yourself 

Why are you here? No, really. Why are you seeking out progressive people to talk to? Is it really to challenge your own views? Or to challenge us to arguments whenever you feel like it?

Do you randomly go up to people in the street and start arguments with them? I sincerely hope not. If so, you need to get that looked at. 

If you would never do that in real life, why do you think it's okay to do it online?

If you're here to listen and learn, that means you shouldn't be doing the majority of the talking. You should be observing, taking in, thinking, probing yourself about what you see and hear, not asking people here to do that for you.

Some of you aren't here to "listen and learn." You're here to teach, and I don't remember signing up for your class. And guess what? My platform is my classroom, not yours. You're in my space because I'm allowing you to be in it. But that doesn't make you entitled to my time, space, and energy. You are not entitled to ask me whatever questions you want, whenever you want. 


Because unlike a professional educator, I'm not being paid to teach you.

Be Genuine

Now, some of you genuinely do want to "listen and learn," but only because you think it'll give you some kind of magic bullet insight to save me from myself and bring me around to your way of thinking.

Take your knight in shining tin foil armor somewhere else.

Some of you show up in conversations with me with this very odd "marketplace of ideas" economy in your own minds, where you think if you're willing to concede to how I think, I am under some obligation to do so in return.

To quote Shakespeare, I will eat your heart in the marketplace. 

If I concede that I'm wrong about something, or that someone else has a better way of thinking, it will be based on the merit of their position and nothing else. Don't expect bad arguments and untenable positions to win friends and influence people.

It's Not About You

If you're going to be here, don't expect the spaces you enter to be about you and serve you and your agenda. If you want that, go to church. Heavens knows you already get that there in ways many of us don't. That's how we ended up in online faith communities. That's why those spaces exist. 

Now, because many of us were once like you, we do make space and allowance for you to make mistakes while you're here. We know you're going to say and do hurtful things here unintentionally that you don't fully understand. We're not perfect, but many of us volunteer to help you in those moments.

If that happens, don't get mad. Say thank you. If this happens, it means someone saw you in that situation and decided to believe in you. They took their time and gave it to you freely to teach you something.

Most people only give you that chance once, so don't waste it.

Settling Down

Being at the cusp of 30 is giving me a lot of "what am I doing with my life, this isn't what I wanted, what am I going to do, oh no" energy. I'm going to talk about it, because there's a very good chance I'm not the only one.

The hardest part about infertility for me has nothing to do with not being able to produce offspring anymore. I've been emotionally confronting that for all of my adult life. I made my peace with that a long time ago. The hardest part for me has been the irreconcilable, unavoidable, and the unanswerable question of "what do I do now?"

I had invested a lot of myself into something that I had on good authority would never happen. That was my purpose, my ambition, my dream, my aspiration in life: to be a good parent. To me, that was what what my image of happiness, success, and fulfillment looked like. I had to accept that life isn't obligated to give me the things I want, just because I want them. I also learned, from watching a lot of people, that even if I had gotten what I said I wanted, there's still no guarantee it would've made me happy.

Happiness and satisfaction with life is not about getting what I want. It's not about making my life match up with the exact vision I had as a younger, more naive version of myself. Younger me was an idiot! Like, guys. Why on earth am I letting the half-baked ambitions I had when I was 18 determine the sense of accomplishment I'm allowed to feel at this stage of my life? She didn't even know how to do her own laundry! She had no sense of what she truly wanted, what would've made her happy, or what was achievable with the resources at her disposal. In fact, if she could see where I am today and everything I have now, I think she'd be pretty stunned, to be honest.

First of all, I got married. Marriage is forming a partnership with another person. My sense of self didn't disappear. My dreams and ambitions didn't cease to be important. But they exist together with the life of someone else now. How to go about those things with another person became part of how I go through life and look at the world. 

In the experience I've had so far, it works best when I have the ability to think outside of myself. Everything I'm doing doing can't just be about one person (whether it's me or him) getting what we want all the time. We're not building His life and Her life, like matching towels. We're building our life together. And for each of us, that has meant giving up things we both wanted for the sake of our combined happiness.

There are times in marriage where we want things that are the exact opposite of one another. Like, completely irreconcilable. And in those moments, I have a choice. 

  • He gets what he wants. 
  • I get what I want. 
  • We come up with a new solution for us, together. 

Now, if we choose the third enough times, we'll eventually wake up one day and realize we've created a life together that neither one of us envisioned for ourselves. A life we've both sacrificed to create. We've both have given up stuff we wanted, or at least getting it in the way we imagined. But neither of us should be desperately unhappy. After all, we made those compromises together.

It may not be the life I planned for. But it's the life I chose. And if I can look at it still say "You know what? This is pretty effing sweet. Especially since this person I adore is still in it with me," I'm recognizing I have everything I need to be happy. 


Because happiness is more than just an emotion I feel, or a condition imposed upon me by my circumstances. Happiness comes from how I respond to whatever I have to work with. If I wake up every day and can start my day with a "Hell yeah!" Even if I have to dig really deep to find it, then I am successful! Others may consider my life to be "ordinary." It may look nothing like what I thought it would when I was young. 

 But is that a problem?

What if life isn't mean to be this constant experience of constantly achieving something else, something more, something greater than what I already have?

What if incremental improvement throughout the vicissitudes of life is it? Because if it is, that means I can let go of so much needless stress and pressure to constantly become what I wanted to be when I grew up. 

I can let myself be happy exactly where I am.

 And really, what better gift can I give myself for my 30th than that?

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