Imagining Different Temple Recommend Questions

If I could make any changes of my own to the temple recommend questions, what would they be?

  • Change the language from referencing God, the Eternal Father to Heavenly Parents.
  • Ask specifically if the individual sustains the female leadership and membership of the Church.
  • Rewords questions 6 and 7, and ask if the person strives to follow the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, rather than the teachings of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • Return to the original practice of making the Word of Wisdom optional. 
  • Add unresolved criminal conduct that should be reported to legal authorities, especially in relation to appropriate physical conduct towards children and minors to question 14.
  • Remove any understanding that the Law of Chastity limits marriage on the basis of sex or gender. We would hold the same standard of monogamy and premarital sex for everyone, regardless of their sexuality or gender.

While the idea of having no questions at all is appealing to me on the surface, the idea of setting people up for failure when they're making covenants during the endowment does not. I don't think the problem is in being strict. It's in being strict about the wrong things.

As the questions read now, they measure compliance with and conformity to the Church and its leadership. I've always felt that was inappropriate. That is not the defining feature of what makes me a moral person worthy of God's presence.

The emphasis, in my mind, should be on how we strive to follow the perfect example of Jesus Christ. That is the only standard by which we should measure ourselves, or submit to be measured by anyone else.


I'm grateful for my brother-in-law, who is Very Gay and still came to the temple on our wedding day, despite all the emotional complications that come with waiting outside, just because he loves his mother and brother that much. And I am pissed beyond measure that I probably won't get to be there for his wedding because of COVID-19. 

I want to show the same loving, unconditional support to him and his husband he showed to us. But I honestly don't know what to give him that even begins to compare. I don't have anything, no gesture I can even think of to offer, that compares in what that cost him. Nothing in my relationship with him comes at that kind of price for me. 

And I didn't even have the decency to understand that at the time. 

I do now though.

I'm grateful for every person, especially every LGBTQ+ person, who shows up for their family with the dignity and grace that they're so often denied. 

Sometimes, the rest of us are lucky enough to have you, to be changed by your goodness.


President Nelson's Gratitude Challenge

I've been listening to all kinds of perspectives about President Nelson's #GiveThanks challenge. It seems to me like the Church's energy could've been spent much better on a campaign about humility instead of gratitude.

The pandemic is the closest thing to divine retribution, where those who dug a pit for their neighbors have fallen in themselves, as I've ever seen in my lifetime. To focus on positivity in this moment, I feel, misses the point of what God has always communicated through disease. Plagues and diseases in scripture are the great equalizers in society, where those with with, power, and position are finally forced onto equal footing with everyone else, experiencing the same devastation that their money can't protect them from.

Like famines and droughts, they cease only when there is a humbling of spirit, a reckoning with the moral failure within one's own soul. When selfishness and indifference to our neighbor's suffering is confronted, challenged, and finally eliminated.

I find it interesting that what this situation calls for most—submission to the empirical knowledge of secular authorities in the wearing of masks, and the solitude and reflection of social distancing—are acts that require humility particularly from religious individuals. 

Like many of the policies from this administration, how we respond to COVID-19 and the restrictions that attend to it reveal his much we really value ourselves and our neighbor. We're all collectively witnessing this in families, in employments, and in society as a whole.

When we reach the end of this, we will know who the villains are who surround us. We will see the private evils in the businesses we have our money to, the schools that teach our children, the organizations we supports, and the institutions that claim to care for us.

We have a choice. 

We can look the truth in the face, accept the facts as they have always existed around us, and rise to the challenge we've been given.

Or we can look away, hide our faces in shame, and maintain the status quo as it existed before all of this began. 

A necessary component of what will allow us to make the right choice is not gratitude alone. It will be humility that heals us, and ultimately asked us to go forth from this moment changed and bettered by the experience.

Confronting the Refusal to Mask with Church Members

If you need help making sense out of COVID-19 getting worse by the day, I found something that might help.

Whenever natural disasters happen, the official response, despite generations of evidence to the contrary, is to assume two things: 

  1. The public is going to panic.
  2. The only way to control that public panic is an outpouring of violence.

In reality, the ingrained public response is compassion, a desire to help, and the decision to mobilize without being asked. Laypeople in communities come together to start putting their lives back together as a natural response to disaster almost immediately. The biggest obstacle the public faces in those efforts tends to be officials purposefully getting in their way. Officials panicking, and assuming the public will panic if they see the truth for themselves, ends up causing the very panic they're trying to avoid.

This is called "elite panic," and it's a well-studied trauma response from people in leadership. The ones who panic in a situation, and who end up doing the most damage through their panicking, are wealthy elites who don't know how to respond to chaos and misfortune.

This not only explains why the immediate reaction to COVID-19 was so bad, it also explains why the response for so many isn't getting any better after almost a year passing. Anyone who studies human resiliency will tell you that's not normal. 

I have a theory that our hunkering down and trying to protect ourselves through isolation is part of why this is happening. In a situation where we all want to naturally come together and comfort each other, we just can't do that in-person. For the generation of folks who don't understand how to use the tools to come together virtually, their circumstances have placed them into a situation where not being able to help means they can't heal. 

Am I suggesting we throw caution to the wind and come together and risk infecting one another? Absolutely not. But we need to find other ways of helping each other. Instead of focusing on everyone else we believe to be the problem, we need to become part of the solution.

At the risk of sounding Very Mormon, the people in our lives who are refusing to mask up and take this seriously need someone to serve. If they're ever going to get out of the selfish feedback loops from watching too much Fox News and spending too much time on Facebook, they need to be helping to make things better. 

The next time you see our hear one of your relatives complaining about wearing masks, don't fight with them. Don't accuse them of not caring or being the problem. Ask them what they've done to help someone else. Challenge them to do it. Our friends, family members, and neighbors may be Republicans who have been taken in by the most corrupt incarnation of the GOP that has ever existed, but they're still Mormons. They need reminding of what that means, what that looks like.

In hurricane cleanup, it meant going into people's yards to remove fallen trees, tarping roofs, and giving people needed supplies. Those needs are no less dire now that record numbers of people are unemployed or underemployed, people are running out of money, and more will die.

The best time to have gotten the COVID-19 response right would've been a year ago when it first landed in our country. The second best time is now. It's not too late to start doing better with masking and social distancing. It's not too late to do the right thing. Part of doing the right thing is honoring the long standing tradition of finding someone to help—especially if they're having a worse time of things than you are.

If the Mormons in your life have forgotten that tradition, don't be afraid to remind them.  

Gendered Service in the Church


What men refuse to do in the Church makes me more angry than what they don't allow me to do as a woman. Especially because the biggest example is cooking and feeding people.

Cooking for families in need is something everyone can do. You don't need a uterus to do it. These are the moments when I realize my eternal progression is being frustrated by men whose learned helplessness means they can't even handle making dinner.

The list of callings I can't have does bother me. But every moment where I have to confront how truly incapable some of these men are, how they can't even feed themselves but they alone get to make so many decisions that shape my church experience, that's what pisses me off. 

My husband, who has always been a better cook than I will ever be, doesn't get the chance to use those skills and talents. The only service opportunities he gets is to help people move because he's a man. They call me because I'm the woman in our household, and the assumption is I'm the one who cooks.

Make it make sense. Oh, wait. You can't. Because the whole thing is nonsensical.

Taking the Lord's Name in Vain: Beyond OMG

Now that Trump has lost the election, I feel it's important to start revisiting some of the fundamentals of basic human decency that he has destroyed over the past 4 years.

I'm starting with the ten commandments for myself. One jumped out to me especially.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain. Let's talk about what this means and what it doesn't mean.

To take the Lord's name in "vain" doesn't just refer to invoking the divine for no reason, or in an epithet like OMG with no purpose, as in the second definition. It also means using God's name to aggrandize oneself, to harm others, and to generally being a self-righteous bully.

For people who value having a relationship with Christ, and who choose to develop that relationship through association with a Church, that doesn't give us a license to use our supposed proximity to God as a weapon against other people.

Remember the Zoramites in Alma 31. The way I've been taught about this story, you'd think that all the people repeating the exact same prayer was the only thing that made this prayer vain. The Zoramites based their entire identity on the belief that they were superior to other people. It was apparent in their words, their actions, their appearance, and their desires. This self-righteous attitude from the Zoramites is a key political strife that carries on through the Book of Mormon and leads to the destruction of the civilizations described in it.

Why does Mormon tell this story? It was a crucial turning point in their history, bending them towards destruction.

We are leaving the administration of a president who has convinced millions of people in this country that it doesn't matter who they hurt, so long as they get theirs. Many of them have justified that belief the same way the Zoramites did—through pride and self-righteousness. Church didn't save the Zoramites, and it won't save anyone else out here trying to pull these same stunts.

Your relatives and the people around you can claim there's no sin in that—as long as they go to Church, they're still in with God and it'll all work out in the end. They're in for a rude awakening when they meet God face to face and they realize She's a stranger to them.

Holy Envy: Valarie Kaur and Revolutionary Love

Seeing a lot of white folks in the zeitgeist talking about people on the right calling for civility and forgiveness now that Trump has lost, and the visceral rejection of any possibility of forgiveness. We need to talk about this, because this is going to be a crucial turning point for us all.

I'm going to be quoting Valarie Kaur's interview with Baratunde Thurston on his podcast, How to Citizen. Valarie Kaur is a Sikh activist who has been in the long fight for racial justice since 9/11. She has a pedigree in activism that is truly remarkable. She knows what she's talking about when she says giving up on people isn't the way to real change. Her book, See No Stranger: a Memoir and Manifesto of Revolutionary Love, is all about her work in reclaiming people from the other side of the political divide, and how to labor in a way that preserves her strength, moral clarity, and dignity.

The fact that so many of us just reached the end of four years of being occupied by a hostile administration and we're absolutely exhausted? She knows all about that. She had to recover from that herself. We're doing it wrong and she shares her wisdom in how to do it better.

If we, as white people, give up on collecting and reclaiming our own, that doesn't make the problem go away. It just outsources the problem to black and brown people, who are most in danger from making that attempt. Where we can make that labor, that's our role in this fight.

To be an effective agent of change, she says we all need three kinds of love: 

  1. Love for our opponents
  2. Love for ourselves
  3. Love for others

When we burn out, it's because we haven't achieved a balance between the three in our activism. "Loving just our opponents, that's self-loathing. Loving just ourselves, that's escapism. Loving just others, that's ineffective." That's what she has learned from the long labor of trying to make a difference in this country. This comes from a woman who has labored with white supremacists. I don't need to learn the hard way what she has already figured out.

"I choose to see [my opponent's] humanity in order to preserve my own. Laboring to love my opponents is also how I love myself." Why? Because hate comes at an enormous cost that we shouldn't be willing to pay.

She compares the labor to reclaim the United States as giving birth. The darkness we've been in for the past four years was a tomb. It's also the womb, the place where all new things are born. If we imagine giving birth to new change in this country without labor, we're imagining something that has never existed. The arduous labor of changing minds and hearts is the only place where change has ever come from.

So, in her words, "breathe and push."

From My Own Experience

I know what it is to be in toxic relationships, struggling with the entire act of forgiveness for someone I feel doesn't deserve it. That's has been my cross to bear my entire life. I am an expert on that.

Here's what I know.

Forgiveness doesn't need to be immediate or instantaneous. If you need time, take time. Don't try and accomplish the hardest thing you may ever do from a wounded, exhausted place. That's not Christianity. That's madness.

Also, don't go through this alone! Reach out. Get help. Have a support system as you do this work. Study those who have gone before you down these same roads. Learn from them.

Saving space in your mind and heart for a different future doesn't have to mean pretending everything is fine, or being in denial about where things stand right now. Set whatever boundaries you need. Maintain them and adjust them as things may change.

Hope for change is not a betrayal to what we've been through. Allowing for healing and change is the ultimately way to honor our pain—by valuing our lives, the survival we fought for, sufficiently to not allow hatred and bitterness to destroy it. That's what you deserve.

The most transformative experience I've had in my Christian life was when I read the verse AFTER D&C 64:10. You know, the one that says "of you it is required to forgive all men"? 

Read the next verse:

And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.
If you don't want the corrosive, soul-destroying task of getting revenge and doling out punishment, God has already made you free from it. It's not your problem. If that's the best you can do for right now, that is enough! Refuse to believe in a God who cares more about reclaiming the injurer than rescuing the injured.

We will get through this together. Don't try to go through this alone. And if you're concerned about never being able to forgive out of agony of spirit, believe me. I've been there. It gets better. There is healing ahead for you. You can do this. I know you can.

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