The Case for Not Celebrating Pioneer Day at Church

Something I've noticed, having sat through enough Pioneer Day rigamarole in my time at Church, is that many average Mormon folks go out of their way to paint their ancestors in a good light on that day with respect to native tribes in Utah. 

That's... not accurate.

In case no one has ever told you and y'all just didn't know: there was no such thing as a white settler in the Utah Territory who was good for the survival of native tribes. Every single one of them was highly disruptive to the ecosystem, causing starvation and violence.

Read this. Internalize it. Be different because of it. 

I've had a bishop in Idaho who once brought the peace pipe to sacrament meeting that allegedly belonged to whatever tribesman his ancestors had fed and preserved good dealings with during the colonizer period. The part he left out of the story is that feeding tribes was only necessary because his family was there.

In a very literal, biological sense, white colonizers to the native territories of the Intermountain West were an invasive species. They had a permanent ecological impact that was negative then, continues to be negative now, and isn't anything worth celebrating. Especially not at church.

And just in case it needs to be said to the folks who will show up here when church is over. I thank God every day I was not born and raised in the Church. I have no heritage from the Utah occupation. I have no loyalty to these myths and stories y'all want to tell. This is what happens when you convert and baptize people who don't share the same identities and origins as you. Your traditions, as much as you love them, mean nothing to us.

And I'll just go ahead and say it. If my descendants acted a damn fool the way some Mormons do about their folks who joined the Church in the 1800s, glorifying so much of the suffering that is still part of being a convert, I would haunt every single one of them.

Don't celebrate the hardships, costs, and sacrifices that come with being a convert to the Church. Deal with the cultural baggage and trauma that still makes being a convert so hard.  

The Online Harassment and Violence of Matthew Cicotte


I'm not saying I want Matthias Cicotte kicked out of the Church. 

I don't want anyone to ever have to get kicked out, to be honest. Excommunication is a violence of its own. I don't know if we can correct violence with more violence. 

But clearly, doing nothing about #DezNat isn't working. Not giving any meaningful correction isn't working. Punishing all the wrong people isn't working.

I just want consistency. If what the September Six did was worthy of Church discipline, why isn't racism, sexism, antisemitism, and white supremacy? 

Why isn't actual violence and harassment of anyone, especially other members of the Church, considered apostasy?

Why is saying you love Heavenly Mother enough to pray to her a sin, but instigating actual physical violence and harassment against other church members is... fine?

Prejudice is a sin. So why aren't we treating it like one? 

Tolerance as a Christ-like Attribute

The Hand of God, YongSung Kim
Because I'm in a new ward and I just met my new bishop on Sunday, I'm anticipating having the opportunity to speak in church soon. I haven't spoken in church since my faith transition. Even introducing myself feels endlessly fraught and complicated now.

I'm realizing though that I've had talk on Tolerance formulating in my head for the past two weeks. So if I get the chance to speak, it will probably be about that. What put me on that path was something I heard the Elder's Quorum President say. He was quoting President Monson out of context to caution about the risks of being too tolerant. It made me realize that a mistrust of tolerance has been going on in LDS discourse for a long time.

It's only in recent years that a false dichotomy has been drawn between being loyal to God/the institutional Church and being tolerant to social change in our discourse. Before that, it was seen as a virtue. An attribute of Christ. A hallmark of discipleship.

Tolerance is not a weakness or a moral failure. That may be how it's presented in the Republican party. But that's an attitude with no place in the Church. 

Tolerance is a skill, a talent, and a spiritual gift given by God to facilitate compassion. Tolerance is how we exercise patience with others. It's how we are challenged to see issues from more than one perspective. It's how we learn to admit that our way of looking at the world is not the only way to see it. Exercising tolerance with people who are different from us gives us opportunities to receive correction and repent. It's a necessary part of being in a Church that believes in continuing revelation.

We live in an environment where it is rare that we are given the full, objective truth about anyone or anything. There are hidden actors behind algorithms trying to further their own agendas by influencing what we think about literally everything. Their goal is to catch us unaware and uninformed because that's when we're most susceptible to being manipulated. Social media platforms operate to prioritize engagement. They figured out years ago that generating conflict and feeding insecurities are the best ways to do that.

Who we trust. Who we mistrust. Who we love. Who we dehumanize. How we see those around us—it's all being fed to us by machines, programmed by people we don't know and will never meet. These same forces are at work within the Church. We are not immune to those influences. The confrontations at play within our society are at play within the Church. Deepening mistrust and the normalization of disrespect based entirely on political ideologies and social issues have taught us to withhold our compassion from each other.

I've seen those campaigns at work. I've watched as members of the Church have done real harm to others because of how they've been radicalized online. I've been on the receiving end of those attacks more than once.

Exercising tolerance is an opportunity for us to develop the gift of discernment—to recognize and reject that manipulation. Committing to exercise tolerance will protect us from the campaigns at work trying to spread racism, sexism, hatred, prejudice, and violence.

In overcoming these influences, we have a perfect example in Jesus Christ—the one who ate with tax collectors and sex workers. The one who saved the adulteress from being stoned in the street because he could see the predatory guilt in her accusers.

Jesus Christ is the perfect example of tolerance. It's the single most important example he ever set. Why do I say that? Because his compassion is what we love most about him. It's what allows him to be our Savior. He saves us from the cruelty of this world.

In the Sermon on the Mount in Matt.5:44-48, Jesus gave the commandment for us to be perfect like our Heavenly Parents. He didn't say that the route to that perfection would be obedience to law. When we read those verses in context, Jesus taught it would be in our capacity to love our enemies, to pray for them, and to tolerate the people who are different from us that we become perfect. Tolerance is the pathway to becoming Christ-like.

That is the single most important skill we will ever learn. It's the entire purpose of coming to mortality—to learn to encounter and embrace differences when it's not an easy thing to do. That is the only way we will ever develop the capacity for the universal, unconditional love our Heavenly Parents have for all of their children.
One of my favorite sacrament hymns is "In Humility, Our Savior." It's short. It's a beautiful use of alto voices. It was written by a woman. And it brought us this gem:
"Fill our hearts with sweet forgiving, Teach us tolerance and love."
Tolerance brings the healing and peace of Christ to those who embrace it. I know I need it. My church needs it. My country needs it. This world we share needs it.

The Virtues of Asking for Help

Today, the youth speaker was asked to talk about what faith in Christ means to her. She talked about what she learned from the example of Captain Moroni. She really admires the way he took care of others. She's the third youth speaker I've heard in this ward talk about self-reliance. Maybe that's their theme for this month?

She said made me think about an attribute of self-reliance I've never thought about before.

Self-reliance isn't about being so capable and prepared for life that you never need anyone else's help. It's recognizing when you need help and being secure enough to ask for it. That's what Captain Moroni does in that story. (See Alma 43)

He doesn't arm his people by himself. He doesn't construct fortifications, build cities, gather intelligence through reconnaissance, or even seek divine guidance by himself. There's no Lone Rugged Frontiersman™ Americans love so much. An honest reading of this story doesn't lend itself to that.

People who never ask for help, even when they need it, are not self-reliant. They usually end up spreading their frustration with their inability to do everything themselves onto those around them in the form of emotional contagion.

Every person I've ever met who refuses to ask for help expects others to do their emotional regulating for them. Usually in the form of concealing any form of disagreement or difference for the sake of that person's ego.
Real self-reliance requires having the awareness, humility, and confidence to ask for help. To accept that your independence exists with the help of a collective who gives their labor to you for free, even if you don't ask. 
None of us are an island, even when we try.

Setting Boundaries in a New Ward

Now that we're in a new ward, I've been practicing and rehearsing all the weird boundary conversations I get to have with the folks around me.

"It's not that I'm unwilling to serve in a calling. It's that if you're asking for anything that takes more than an hour on a Sunday to do, the answer is No. I don't have the time or energy for that."

"For the sake of clarity from the outset. I don't have kids. Yes, it's because I can't have them. Yes, it does mean I don't particularly enjoy being around your children. Do not ask me for free babysitting or callings in Primary."

"Do not ask my husband about my infertility (or anything else about me) behind my back. He will tell me. It will upset me. Talk to ME about me, please. Thank you."

"I am perfectly willing to say 'No' to you if you ask me for something I don't want to do. This is not an invitation to convince me. It means my decision has been made."

"If you ask me what I think about something, you're going to get an honest answer from me. That's the way God made me. Deal with it."

"If you want a good relationship with me, don't assume that because I've served a mission and been a temple worker that I am an endless reservoir of time and talent for you to pull from. That is not my life anymore."

When Blessings of Healing and Comfort were Performed by Women

I was at distribution to get some more Jesus Jammies yesterday. We always like looking at the artwork. I was being flippant about White Jesus when my husband showed me this one. My heart caught in my throat.

Relief Society Healing, Anthony Sweat

I stood there looking at it, speechless, for a long time. The contradiction between the way things were for women in the Church and the way things are, after more than a century of losses in autonomy and ability, made plain for everyone to sit with. Right before my eyes.

I pushed back tears because this comes so close to what is painful for me about being a woman in the Church. To be loved continually, but not trusted to accomplish the calling God has given to me with all the tools available to me in my religious community. It hurts so much.

I discovered that I have a gift to heal others through my prayers of faith and through my (artificially limited) access to God's power. That's part of how I decided to become a veterinary nurse. What the Church won't allow me to do with consecrated oil, I will do with medicine and prayer. 

I have a gift. I can use it to benefit the Church in its fullness, or I can go elsewhere with it. Either way, I will not hold it under a bushel or bury it in the ground. That was never an option. 

Those are the words that caught in my throat yesterday and I needed to get them out.

[UPDATE: I need every middle-aged Mormon on Twitter yelling at me because I call my garments Jesus Jammies to: 

  1. Back all the way up. 
  2. Sit all the way down. 
  3. Realize what I do is not up to you.

Garments are not inherently sacred objects that will make me spontaneously combust if I handle or speak about them differently from you. This isn't the ark of the covenant. You're picking fights with a stranger on the internet over fabric. Get a grip.

My garments go through my actual life with me. They're stained from my period blood and vaginal discharge. They have sweat stains and smell like dog half the time because I work in a vet clinic. Be precious with yours if that's your life. Don't get pissy with me because I don't.

I know the covenant I made in the temple in relation to the garment. I've performed the ordinances in which they are given. At no point did I vow to be a humorless scold in relation to how other people choose to wear or relate to them. I promised to wear them. Period.

When y'all get the opportunity to return to the Temple, take some time to reflect on the fact that no where in those covenants is a license to police anyone else about anything.]

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