More COVID-19 Mutations are Coming

Y'all remember when I said back in February 2020 that you need to start masking and self-isolating, and there was a group of folks on Twitter (whose names I still remember) that tried to tell me I was wrong, that my advice was going to kill people, and it wasn't necessary to mask?

They weren't alone. I've been making fun of my husband for years now for not believing me. When I told him I thought we should start masking in March 2020 he said, and I quote, "You have a better chance of being killed by Lori Vallow than dying from corona virus in Idaho."

Well, I'm here to bring you a similar warning that is going to be equally unpopular that no one wants to hear. And before you reject it outright, remember that just because nobody believed Cassandra didn't make her wrong.

If you haven't been following what's going on in China with COVID-19 currently, here's what you need to know.

There are new variants of COVID-19 going around in China that are going to spread, infect, and kill people faster than any of the COVID-19 variants we've seen so far. With Omicron, the cases were doubling about every 3 days. With these new variants, the cases are doubling after only a few hours.

They're expecting these variants to spread to 10% of the global population by March 2023.

Depending on the sources you read, you'll get all kinds of contradictory explanations as to why it's only going to be that bad in China, but the rest of the world will be fine. They're already trying to blame China's zero-COVID response because even though the Chinese have some of the highest vaccination rates in the world, they don't have sufficient immunity from becoming infected. Nevermind that we've already determined over and over again already that infection doesn't provide lasting immunity anyway, and reinfection comes with increasing risks of serious illness the more times it happens.

At the same time China is telling the world they have zero COVID deaths, they have hearses lining up outside crematoriums in Beijing.

With hospitals already brimming to overflowing with kids with RSV, there is no room for what COVID-19 is about to unleash on the world. Health care systems are going to be overwhelmed, with fewer nurses than we had the last time this happened. And all we know so far is that the vaccines they've been receiving in China aren't protecting people from it.

So if you have any kind of travel plans, cancel them. If you have holiday plans to visit with anyone or have anyone at your house, don't. If your kids have the option of going remote at school again, do it. If not, make sure they're masking and social distancing as best they can at school. If you're not masking in public, you need to get your hands on the best quality masks you can find and wear them, without exception. If you have the ability to self-isolate again, do it now. Update your vaccines if you haven't yet. And for the love of God, stay home from church.

Things are about to get really dark. There are going to be a lot of conflicting messages because public officials are going to conceal, lie about, and minimize all of this. The same folks who lied to us and said that masking wasn't necessary in 2020 because of the PPE shortage are going to be the same ones minimizing the impact of this wave of COVID-19 and the precautions we need to take to protect ourselves from it. Use your own best judgment to take as many precautions as possible.

Racism in the Student Body at BYU-Idaho

In 2002, BYU-Hawaii celebrated the second largest graduating class in the school's history. The Church News wrote a story about that day. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland spoke, saying "This should be one of the greatest days of your life. But take time to remember again what so many have sacrificed and done for you in order that you could be here today."

One of the graduates featured was Bernard Balibuno, from the Republic of Congo, with his wife Yaya and their son, Steven. Steven was an infant at the time. They are pictured in the article, which I've included here for a very specific reason. Photos like this are why the Church tries so hard to engage in educational outreach across its global membership. Church leadership wants to be able to point to photos like this as an accomplishment and say to the world, to themselves, and eventually to the Lord, "this is what we did with what we had."

And to be clear: I don't think there's anything wrong with celebrating the inclusion and diversity in education that Brigham Young University campuses, especially when the point is to highlight the excellence of black, indigenous, and other non-white international students. But a necessary part of that is also how these campuses engage in racial justice when these students are made to feel unsafe and unwelcome in these settings. The Church can't have the former without having tangible plans in handling the latter.

Where is Steven Balibuno today?

He's a student at BYU-Idaho. And two days ago, he shared a story with the BYU Idaho Scroll about the racism he is experiencing on that campus.

Steven Balibuno, a BYU-Idaho student studying computer science, was walking down the street toward Broulim’s when he heard monkey noises. He was confused but assumed someone was just joking around with a friend. He didn’t want to believe that those noises were being made at him.

Balibuno continued his journey, but the monkey sounds didn’t stop. Still puzzled, he looked up to find himself face-to-face with a white boy who was in the window of the NorthPoint apartments.

The stranger and Balibuno looked at each other for a moment. He put the pieces together and knew those noises were being directed at him.

Balibuno shouted at the boy in the window to stop it.

The boy in the window continued with the monkey noises while still looking directly at Balibuno.

Balibuno was not happy. He changed his course and went back to his apartment to tell his roommates what had happened to him. He was determined to find this boy.

After Balibuno and his roommates knocked on three doors, they were able to find the boy from the window. Before anything was said to him, the boy began to apologize. Balibuno asked why he chose to make monkey noises at a black man who was passing and did not stop when told to.

The boy in the window had no explanation beyond saying, “I only do it when the sun sets.”

The cached article, written by Candy Zillale, is linked here because the original is currently unavailable. I encourage everyone to read the experiences of Steven and other students on the BYU-Idaho campus who have also been on the receiving end of racial slurs and prejudice in Rexburg, Idaho. This isn't something that should ever be swept under the rug.

I only knew to go looking for this article from the Scroll because of appeals from BYU's Black Menaces page on Instagram. In a video whose intent is to bring attention to issues of racism at BYU-Idaho, there is a clip of two white students brazenly filming themselves saying the N-word racial slur. Sebastian from Black Menaces is asking for help from the student body to identify the students so they can be reported and held accountable by the Honor Code office and university administrators.

BYU-Idaho is a small campus. It won't be difficult to identify the two students in the video if students, faculty, and church members make the effort to identify these individuals. Anyone with information is encouraged to report these, and any other students engaging in racist behavior, to the Student Honor office at 270 Kimball Building, Rexburg, ID 83460-1686. Their phone number is (208) 496-9300, email address at

As Candy Zillale stated in her article for the Scroll, "No one, regardless of their race, deserves to feel unsafe in their own community."

If these are the values we want to uphold, we need to hold accountable any student who introduces animosity to students of color on campus, regardless of whether the intention was to cause harm or not. Nothing that is harmful can ever be funny when an inclusive, diverse community is what we're striving to create.

My Spotify Wrapped for 2022

You can tell a lot about a person and what they're going through by what's on their Spotify Wrapped at the end of the year.

Me? I was surrounded by large numbers of toxic people who viewed it as their personal mission to tear me down. At work, at church, on the internet, and in my personal life. The lesson for this year has been to change the things I can no longer accept. And if I can't? Then those people don't deserve to be in my presence. It truly is that simple.

So if you ever find yourself in a similar position, this one's for you!

Being Denied the Sacrament During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Year Later

Those of you who follow me on Twitter will be familiar with the saga of when my former bishop rescinded access to sacrament administration for those social distancing from Church at home. Since that was a year ago and Twitter is on the brink of functional collapse, I wanted to pull those screenshots and tweets from Twitter for the sake of historical preservation.

There will come a time when church historians will document the COVID-19 response of the Church. The apologists, as they always do, will try to paint the experience in rosy colors, as if ordinance administration wasn't a genuine source of conflict between members and leadership, that the tactics used by leadership were always respectful and never resorted to manipulation. That simply isn't true.

I also shared my feelings on this experience as it was happening on The Cultural Hall podcast, link here for those who are interested.

31 Oct 2021: 

Email sent from my former bishop rescinding home administration of the sacrament.



3 Nov 2021

The challenging of my wording, "denied" vs "limited"

This distinction became a source of contention between my husband and I because I fully believed and understood that we were being handed an ultimatum to either return to church in person or go without sacrament administration. He was choosing a more generous interpretation that implied that we would simply have to request permission for sacrament administration each week from now on.

From that same thread:

Anyone who would try to coerce me back to church through the outright manipulation of an ultimatum has the audacity to just say "No."


4 Nov 2021

From the attending thread: "Nothing. This response gives me absolutely nothing in terms of a workable solution. Just a patronizing pat on the head before slamming the door right in my face."

7 Nov 2021

"Update: Husband took the more diplomatic approach and asked nicely if he could administer the sacrament at home today. No response. You know, because there was never any intention of giving us an alternative. That's how ultimatums work."
From the same thread:
"Being in the Church is such an emotional roller coaster. What am even supposed to do with a group of people whose capacity for incredible love and terrifying indifference is so all over the place?" 

9 Nov 2021


20 Nov 2021

"At this point, I feel like I'm documenting something that a church leader in the future is going to try to claim never happened."

My response:

"For a church that had the stones to tell me to my face, without flinching, that the most Christ-like woman I have ever met wouldn't be allowed to come to my sealing, they sure are full of moral cowardice when it comes to enforcing COVID-19 restrictions."

10 Dec 2021

11 Jan 2022

"Update from my Bishop: As it turns out, using ultimatums to force three wards back into a petri dish of a church building full of unvaccinated, unmasked people is *checks watch* killing people right on schedule."

15 Jan 2022

"Thou hast played a stupid game, by which thou shalt win a stupid prize. COVID 19:22"

3 Mar 2022

"Update: I reached out to my Bishop when the crisis standards of care were activated *for the second time* in Idaho hospitals to try and get Sacrament Meeting authorization in my home. I also changed my tack and tried to help him see me as a person."

That last paragraph where I'm randomly talking about boats are in reference to the ward themes they've been using during the pandemic.
This was the email I received weeks later, after the crisis standards of care had already been lifted, which only happens once enough people in our state have died to reduce the number of people in our hospitals to make room.

"I have a long history of reaching into heaven and pulling what I need out of thin air. I can make my own miracles. John the Baptist lived on honey and locusts in the wilderness and so can I. But that doesn't mean my deprivation was holy, Bishop Cutler.
Depriving me of what was my right to receive is not God's work. You will stand accountable before God for how you sent me away hungry and thirsty from the Feast that isn't yours to deny. May God be merciful to you in that day, Ryan. You will need it."

28 Aug 2022


"This tweet brought to you by the letter P, the number 3, and the fact that the worst bishop I've ever had just got released."

A Year Later

I've been in the Church for sixteen years. That's officially half of my life in the Church this year. From here on out, I will have been a part of it longer than I ever lived without the Church in my life. And if you had told my younger self that I'd be in a situation like this, I wouldn't have believed you. In those days of my tiny branch who went out of their way to show me so much love and support, I frankly would've found it impossible to believe that members of the Church could be capable of this kind of mean-spirited, self-defeating behavior.

As a result, I have just sent my new bishop the following ultimatum of my own. If putting people into unrealistic, unreasonable positions based on a personal refusal to be flexible is the new normal in the Church because of COVID-19, then so be it.

This is the email I just sent to my current bishop, requesting either home sacrament administration authorization or a boundary exception to return to our previous ward:

Hello Bishop Firkins,

You and I haven't had the opportunity to become acquainted yet. My husband and I moved into the ward in the midst of COVID-19 lock downs last year and have been social distancing at home. I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce myself, since this is likely the only kind of interaction we're likely to have for some time.

My name is Heather Collins. I'm a convert to the church and I'm actually hitting a major milestone this year. I'm passing my 16th year as a member of the Church, which was how old I was when I joined. From here on out, I will have been in the Church longer than I was ever out of it as a non-member.

I've been through a lot in my experience in the Church. I was the only member in my family to join the Church. They didn't support my decision to be baptized. I went to BYU against their wishes. I served a mission without their support. I got married in the temple without them being there. And now I live on the other side of the country from my whole extended family.

Being a member of the Church has been a difficult, lonely thing for me. I put on a brave face for a lot of people, but it's seldom that I ever speak to anyone who understands what my life has been like. I don't regret one second of it, you understand. However, there are plenty of times when I have wished that it could've been easier, or at the very least that the people around me could've appreciated the ways I struggle more than they have ever had to do to keep the Church in my life. I do it because I love my Savior. I do it because I love this community. But it's always deeply frustrating to me when my journey of discipleship has already been more difficult than some people could possibly imagine, and yet they still don't see the ways that they've made the journey harder for reasons I can't pretend to understand.

Bishop Cutler and I had several heated disagreements about home sacrament administration. It has been a year since he officially rescinded home sacrament administration for us, or it will be as of tomorrow. He gave us an ultimatum to either come back in person or to go without the sacrament, which has been the most malicious and harmful interaction with a bishop I have ever had in my sixteen years of church membership. He said and did several things that have hurt me deeply, for which he has never taken any ownership or made any attempt to apologize. It has been a struggle to hold onto my faith without the support of the ward family who was supposed to be there for me, and quite frankly, hasn't been.

We were previously in the Boise Idaho stake in the Castle Park ward, just on the other side of the river. I have had more loving contact and support from the members of my previous ward over the past year, even when I'm out of sight and presumably out of mind, than I've ever had from anyone in the Winstead Ward. At several point when my prayers needed answering, when I needed the reminder that God still knows me and cares about me, it has been them, not anyone from the Winstead Ward, who has shown up for me. Whenever I run into them in public, they tell me how much they miss me and appreciated me, even though they haven't seen me for several years now. They never miss an opportunity to remind me that I'm still a part of their ward family, even though they don't see me anymore.

So here is my request: something in this situation needs to change. Either you rescind this ultimatum for home sacrament administration for those of us who are still social distancing at home, or give my family the boundary exception to return to the ward that knows we exist and still cares about us, who will take care of us in ways the Winstead Ward never has. Either let us receive the blessings we are worthy to receive or let us go back to the ward family who already knows us and will take care of us.

We've been punished for not returning to Church in person for long enough. We are not going to expose ourselves to COVID-19 to receive the sacrament. It's inappropriate and abusive for anyone to put us in that position, to have to choose between our physical and spiritual health that way. If you're firm in the same resolve as your predecessor to continue putting us in that position, just let us go back to our previous ward. We certainly have no opportunity to bless others, or to be blessed, in this current arrangement, so it is unlikely we would even be missed.

Thank you for your time in reading this email. I look forward to receiving your response.

Best wishes,
Heather Collins

15 Nov 2022

I received a phone call from my bishop in which he genuinely wanted to connect with me and have a conversation about how to best support us. He approached me with genuine concern and a desire to be helpful. I almost forgot what that felt like, it had been so long.

We have been approved for sacrament administration in our home for second and fourth Sundays. He expressed a greater desire to have us embraced and loved as part of the community, since that's clearly not the experience we've had. He validated my feelings and never once made me feel like a burden, or like I was being difficult. The best in Mormonism always seems to boil down to a "how can I help?" attitude, and that's what I found in my new bishop throughout that conversation.

I'll be the first one to admit that I'm a person who instinctively matches and magnifies energy. If you come at me with love, kindness, graciousness, and concern for my well-being, I will match it and magnify it tenfold. Likewise, if you come at me sideways with an agenda of inconsideration, inflexibility, manipulation, and animosity, I will also match it and magnify it. I have been the mirror for many people who never figured out that the reason they don't get along with me is because they don't like the aspects of themselves they see me reflecting back at them.

Because second Sunday just happened, I can look forward to taking the sacrament again next weekend. I can finally put this unpleasantness behind me and move on from this, which is all I've wanted this entire time. And it was such a relief to have a meeting of the minds with someone who has the exact same objective.

Lessons from the Silk Industry in Utah

Why do I have such an easy time being vaguely indifferent to things most church leaders say, regardless of who they are or what they want from me? 

That's a fun story so I'll tell it to you.

I was in Young Women as a teenager when the Personal Progress value projects were still a thing, while at the same time the curriculum du jour for adults was to study the life of a dead prophet. I already had this nagging sense that it was weird that we only studied the lives of LDS men in this kind of detail. I also had a fixation at the same time with the history of women's suffrage, thanks almost entirely to the movie Iron Jawed Angels.

I arrived at the intersection between women's suffrage and Utah spontaneously while falling down a Wikipedia rabbit hole. I decided this was something I was already going to dedicate at least 10 more hours of my life to and called it a value project. Along the way, I bumped into the history of the silk industry in Utah.

Silk Culture, 1895. Photography by George Edward Anderson. Courtesy of the Church History Catalog

What the failure of the bank in Kirtland was to Joseph Smith, the silk industry was to Brigham Young. Namely, a colossal waste of time and money.

Brigham Young decided, based on I still don't know what, that a good use of the time and limited resources of the women still trying to figure out how to survive in Utah should be dedicated to hand raising silk worms for the creation of silk. If you don't know anything about silk creation, it's ridiculously labor intensive. It relies entirely on your ability to meet the dietary/environmental demands of a bunch of worms whose constitutions are incredibly delicate. These worms are just waiting to yeet themselves off the mortal coil at the slightest offense.

And that's before any fiber has been produced. 

All for a task the women were not choosing to do themselves. Most notably, Zina D. H. Young, wife of Brigham Young who was appointed by him to oversee the silk production, hated the silk worms sufficiently that they gave her nightmares.

The silk industry in Utah was a colossal failure. They couldn't get the machines to process the silk. What they were able to produce had no market outside of Utah and was frequently sold at a loss to the producers.

Brigham Young said he wanted his coffin to be lined with pink Relief Society silk. There was more than one woman in Utah who probably heard that and thought to themselves "if that geezer wants silk in his coffin, let him come down here and make it himself."

As a convert who was reading about all of this on 2007 dial up internet, totally unsupervised, I had the space to come to my own conclusions about what I was reading. The lesson I took from it was this: Men in the Church would rather waste women's time and the Church's money on something they can see is a failure, rather than admit they were wrong. And God is 100% willing to let them embarrass themselves like that.

I went into my adulthood as a member of the Church knowing this was a thing that could happen, largely because it had already happened. It planted the seed in me not to automatically prioritize anything, just because a man in the Church with a title was telling me to do something, because they're still mortal men capable of misleading me. They can have me spending resources on something that will never succeed.

I had a brain with the ability to judge for myself, a mouth with the ability to say "No," and a God who was teaching me early to use them both.

It's an important lesson if you don't want to be raising silk worms in the desert, asking yourself repeatedly "how did I get here?

Epilogue: Proposition 8 happened the following year. If you even thought for half a second of suggesting those two experiences are unrelated, no you didn't.


Tatuí is a city in Brazil that I served in with two Brazilian companions and an Argentinian I was training. It is in my top 5 of the most beautiful places I've ever seen.

I would live there in a heartbeat. There's not an ugly inch of it anywhere.

Well, there shouldn't have been. The only ugly inch of it was me. I was (Biblically speaking) ass-deep in what I can only call a colonizer's mentality. All I cared about was baptizing people, and I was becoming frustrated and depressed that it wasn't happening for us.

The congregation there was a tiny unit of some of the most dedicated church members I've ever seen. They basically took turns rotating the callings around between the same 4 or 5 families. They were so generous and loving. I cannot overstate that. It was not an insignificant sacrifice for some of them to feed the missionaries. There were times we used our allowance to buy the food that we and the families we were eating with would eat that day. There were also days where we just didn't eat at all.

It was one of those Not Eating days. We were knocking doors simply to have something to do, to pass the time not thinking about how empty our stomachs were. It was later in the day, well past the almoço meal time.

We were walking past a building that was under construction when a little red car pulled up to us. A woman we didn't recognize called out to us. She was the sister of a member visiting from the city. She said she had been looking for us. She had something to give us.

She handed us a whole rotisserie chicken.

We thanked her profusely.

She didn't know us. She didn't know our almoço had fallen through for that day. She couldn't have known that we were hungry. She didn't even know how to find us and drove around the town for hours, looking for us.

She drove away and I never saw her again.

We went back to our apartment and ate that entire chicken between the two of us. That night in my prayers, with a belly full of chicken, I asked for every single good thing I could think of to happen to her. It was all I had to give.

People looked at me and my plastic rectangle and plucky determination thought that's what made me an angel. But there were so many times where I just wanted to shout from the rooftops:


The angel, to me, is the woman who drives for three hours with a rotisserie chicken, looking for someone she doesn't know and then, through the power of her own prayers and determination, finds them.

These were the seemingly ordinary acts of kindness I witnessed in the lives of regular members of the church as they took care of us and each other, guided by something I can only call providence because nothing else seems to fit.

Whenever I find myself needing hope, I remember her. I remember how that chicken didn't solve all my problems, but it was what I needed. Hope is a lot less frustrating and disappointing when it's invested in the things I need, rather than the things I want. The Brazilian people I met made me a better person because of how well they understood this. The art of constructing happiness out of inadequate materials is to meet the needs you can with what you have, and to be satisfied with whatever the result looks like, without complaint.

What I want is the solutions and cures that probably don't exist for a lot of problems.

What I need is the garlic bread my husband just handed to me.

There's the angel and the miracle.

It's enough. 

Cruelty and Violence in Mormonism: Online Harassment

I'm currently working on a series about rejecting the influence that violence and cruelty have in Mormonism, past and present. This post is inspired by my recent interactions with DezNat. The influences that invite that cruelty are many. For now, I will address one.

Because The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has local lay ministry, there is a certain degree of influence guaranteed to each member in the lives of their fellow congregants. We are positioned intentionally to teach each other. We are taught to accept the offerings that others give to us, to see the holiness in them, no matter how helpful or unhelpful they are, based purely on the good intentions of the person who is offering them to us.

Younger generations are increasingly unwilling to participate in this relationship when it is one-sided, or even actively harmful. There is no more getting credit for trying for the sake of keeping up appearances. If what someone says, even in the spirit of trying to be helpful or preserving faith, relies on anything that appeals to the rejection of another person's human dignity, we're not going to politely say "thank you."

We're going to reject that offering.

This upends the status quo of lay ministry in the Church. People who have "waited their turns" are not getting the power and influence they were promised because an entire generation of people were taught to say "No" and mean it. And they're furious about it.

The social signifiers attached to the illusions of the Perfect Family, the Perfect Leadership, the Perfect Congregation, and the Perfect Church Member are falling apart. Why? Because members can no longer get away with harmful messaging and behavior that was previously considered eye roll worthy, at most.

Our refusals and rejections make them "look bad," in a community where, in some families, appearances and reputations are the only things they care about. Conveniently, they've forgotten that we were all taught better than that, and that's exactly how we intend to carry ourselves as adults.

And since an entire generation is leaving the Church, they no longer have the ability to shame them back into submission in person, as happened to their generation. So they're trying to do it online. This is misguided for a few reasons. It doesn't work. It didn't work then. It doesn't work now. You can't generate love and loyalty to Christ by being the exact opposite of everything he represented.

That, and people who aren't LDS can see it happening in real time. What DezNat and other conservative members of the Church forget, if they ever properly understood it, is the internet is forever. And they are actively harming the reputation of the Church more than any disaffected member ever could.

If what you want to be judged for are your "best," most active, most loyal members, rather than your "worst," most angry, most jaded forget affiliates... what does it say when the "best" are engaging in online harassment against all but a small cohort of like-minded anonymous accounts?

I'm saying this as a believing, practicing member of the Church. You cannot cannibalize people and expect to have a healthy community that lives long into the future. The cruelty of church members is a form of apostasy that has the potential to destroy the Church.

When people have a positive view of the Church, it's because of the uncommon, unexpected ways that we love, help, and serve our neighbors. That's what the bulk of my experience has been with both current and disaffected members. I may be willing to bounce back from that cruelty because I fully acknowledge that it doesn't make up the bulk of my church experience. Many others do not have that same patience.

So why does this need to be said?

Because I'm seeing a greater degree of cruelty from active Saints, particularly the ones who genuinely believe they have a license from their leaders to be cruel to LGBTQ+ people and the people who support them. This used to be relegated to the random uncle who would commandeer a portion of testimony meeting every month, and even good-natured conservative folks would roll their eyes.

That's not what this is anymore.

The message we bear to the world is that Jesus of Nazareth is a loving, caring Savior who is a champion of the oppressed, the deliverer of those who experience cruelty because they've been devalued by society.

We do not help him when we become what people need to be saved from.

The Harm of Perfectionism in LDS Parenting

There are few subjects I find more exhausting than LDS parents who decide, while their children are still young, to go to war with the very notion of those children ever having any real autonomy of their own. I've seen and heard parents in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concoct the terms by which their children will lose everything from holiday participation to financial support if their children don't grow into the exact adults they want their children to become.

It's one thing when these people express these expectations of their children in their own home, or even in church settings where they're bound to find some amount of like-minded support. It's another when they're bold enough to outline their plans for anyone on the internet to see.

Which is what Matthew P. Watkins, an LDS blogger and podcast creator decided to do, using his four year old daughter as the character in the scenario he's concocting.

There are plenty of people in the world who can explain why what Matthew P. Watkins is saying isn't as loving or mature of an approach as he thinks it is. Several people, including those outside the Church, already have. But because this is a Mormon parent whose thinking is carefully constructed on the foundations of LDS beliefs on marriage and family, I won't use that approach. I think it's important to refute the approach he's defending and advocating with the language of the faith he believes in. That way, those who might be tempted to adopt it in their own families will understand why it's the wrong approach to be using.

What qualifies me to tell Watkins and those who think like him that this kind of parenting is trash? Because I'm just a convert who has spent an inordinate amount of my own time in the Church explaining to parents that this kind of behavior is abusive. It relies on coercion as a teaching tactic, which God has condemned. And at the time God was condemning it in the scriptures, he wasn't talking about all the non-Mormon parents out in The World. He was talking about people like Matthew Watkins.

One of the most oft-quoted scriptures in any LDS setting is from D&C 121:34-46, which most church members recognize as the "unrighteous dominion" section. It's where God defines, in plain language, what religious abuse is and outlines for members of the Church what they should be doing instead.

Persuasion. Long-suffering. Gentleness. Meekness. Love unfeigned. This is the kind of spiritual leadership and parenting God teaches should be happening within the Church.

Sometimes, I just want to sit these parents down, slap these verses down in front of them, and say "Point to which one you think means coercion, force, manipulation, and ongoing punishment into adulthood." Because honestly, if they've reached adulthood in the Church while thinking this is the behavior God has given them license to engage in, I have to think it's because their problem is one of scriptural literacy.

But like anyone else who has served in the Church as a Sunday School teacher as many times as I have, I can already hear the defensive response I would get back from such a maneuver.

"But Sister Collins. What about reproving betimes with sharpness?"

That's another part of the section I've linked to above. That's the part of that section LDS parents use in their moral licensing to believe they get to reject whoever I want, however they want, with no filter, tact, or respect for anyone's boundaries.

But like I said before: I've clocked so many parents like this already. I already know how to respond.

"How exactly do you think you're going to act like that, then show an increase of love afterwards? Hmm? How? You can't. Because you've already proven your faithfulness isn't stronger than death. Your faithfulness to your children is non-existent when you treat them like this." 

When LDS parents treat random people at church with more kindness, tolerance, and respect than their own children, just because of ideological similarities and reputation curation, that's the definition of hypocrisy. That's not what being a good parent looks like. It's not even what being a good person looks like, to say nothing of being a good Christian.

And the thing is, it doesn't matter that I think that. What matters is when children see their parents doing this and come to that conclusion on their own. Whether parents like it or not, their children will grow up and begin passing their own judgment on their parents as representations of the principles and values they've attempted to teach. Once those children start seeing and recognizing the hypocrisy in their parents' discipleship, the disconnect between how their parents behave towards them and what Jesus taught, they lose all moral authority in the eyes of their children.

The most glaring form of this hypocrisy is centered on the temple. Many LDS families use the standards for entering the temple as a justification to distance themselves from anyone and everything that deviates from that standard. The trouble with that, of course, is that a family's home is NOT a temple. Ostracizing and showing favoritism based on religious devotion is deeply inappropriate. It's exactly the kind of self-righteous behavior Jesus taught against when he was on earth.

You don't have to take my word on that. It's in the Sermon on the Mount. God never intended for Latter-day Saints to only surround themselves with people who think and act exactly like they do.

Matt. 5:46-48

When God commanded us to "be perfect," it was only in the grace we show to others when they fall short of our expectations. This graciousness, not the performance of outward observances of law, is what make God perfect. It's the only way to become like our Heavenly Parents, and to receive that same quality of mercy from them.

I have given this same warning over and over again to these kinds of parents. They rarely listen. They don't even begin to see the wisdom in what I've told them until it is far too late to change the outcome. The damage they do to their relationships with their children becomes the teacher they have to learn the lesson from.

"If your temple cosplay is more important to you than having a relationship with your adult children, I have news for you: you won't have a relationship with them. Or their spouses. Or your grandchildren. That's the road you're walking on, and that's where it leads. And when you arrive at that place, the only person you will have to blame is yourself."

"I'm deconstructing and my spouse is not. What do we do now?"

Here's another toxic cultural thing I absorbed from the Mormon zealotry that I'm letting go of: the idea that if you married in the Church and one of you leaves, it's the end of the world and the only way to resolve it is to get divorced. I don't know when I absorbed this, but I did. And it has done a lot of damage to me over the years.

At the root of this belief is the idea that only the Church can hold your marriage together. Your shared orthodoxy is your marriage, so there is no real or lasting love without it. If the only thing holding a marriage together is religious observance and obligations to the institutional church, that's not much of a marriage. I didn't understand this until I distanced myself from the institutional church and saw my marriage was largely unchanged. My husband and I have an entire shared world together: history, dimensions, shared interests, experiences, and common values that still exist independent of our religious lives. I didn't stop loving him just because I can't get through a sacrament meeting anymore. Those two things are unrelated. There's no reason they should be. He understood that long before I did and has given me the space to figure that out.

I love my husband because of who he is, not because of who he is in or to the Church. That's not how I measure his worth as a person. There's so much more to him than that. That perspective has been life-changing for me. It took stepping away for me to realize that what my happiness looks like in my own marriage was being dictated to me by strangers. And they were very bad at knowing where and how I would find my own happiness. Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your marriage is to remove the casual observers and all the people from the cheap seats who only show up to throw things at you. Don't let people like that decide how happy you get to be

A good marriage is not dependent on shared religious beliefs. A good marriage comes from shared values and respect. Building each other up, cherishing similarities and differences wherever they exist. This isn't impossible. From my perspective, largely because my husband is also my best friend, it isn't even hard.

That's not to say that modifying something that is foundational to a relationship is easy. It has to be done in a spirit of mutual love and respect. No one ever thinks how valuable that love and respect for change is until they find themselves in the position of needing to receive it. I know I never did until I was in that position myself. And as the one who was asking for space and grace, I knew how important it was for the mutual respect I was asking for to start with me.

Through several conversations over a long period of time, I repeatedly made the commitment that I would respect his decision to stay, to be a safe person to him in his desire to believe, and honor this part of who he is. I would not ask him to give up this part of his life. I said that and I had to mean it. If I wanted him to respect my decisions to separate myself from attending church, I needed to respect his decision to stay.

And that's what we did for many years.

When he had responsibilities for his calling, I didn't stop him. When he would go to the temple, I wouldn't complain about it. When he would have meetings to go to, I didn't object. He had the freedom to live his faith without my interference.

I'm not going to sit here and pretend like that was easy for either of us. It was hard. It was work. But we did it because we love each other and we're committed to staying together. To having a relationship that would grow with us through every stage of our lives.

When I found out that the women at church were pestering him, constantly asking him where I was, telling him how much they missed me, making his worship time about my absence, I communicated my frustration with that to the Relief Society president. I accepted that these interactions with the organization I was distancing myself from were going to continue because some of these boundaries were mine to enforce. Not his.

He showed me equal respect for my desire for that distance. He listened to me as I lamented the parts of me that were changing. He didn't always understand, but he tried. He stretched himself to have compassion for what he couldn't understand.

Even when we would have disagreements, there was never a moment where I felt like he was making my struggle about himself. And we had some truly uncomfortable conversations where all I asked him to do was to listen to my perspective. There were times when that was tremendously uncomfortable for him. But he went to that place with me anyway.

He became the cheerleader at my wrestling matches, even when the one I was wrestling with was God. That image to him has always been funny. I let him laugh. It's okay with me that he sees the absurdity in my situation. It helps me to see it too, to laugh at myself. I need that. It keeps me from being overtaken by despair.

Wrestling with God is a holy thing. It's a sacred activity in a sacred space that not everyone is called to. But I am. The person he loves, who pursues holiness and honors the sacred, is still here. It just looks different now. And I view my challenge as making sure that no matter what he chooses to be, that he's a good one. If he's going to be a Mormon, he's going to be a good one. He's going to honor the covenants he made to treat all people with dignity and respect.

Occupying that space with him has given me the space I needed to heal, to find clarity on what consumes without illuminating, to remove those aspects of Mormonism from my life. I have a healthier relationship with my religion now, in large part, because of my husband.

Folks who stay need to do a better job of honoring the callings their family members and loved ones receive to wrestle with God. If you trust God as much as you say you do, that shouldn't be a scary place for you to be.

And for those who truly can't understand why their loved ones would ever choose to wrestle with God, let me provide insight from someone who has been there: there comes a point where there are no other enemies left and it's the only way left to grow.

Accept the calling to be a cheerleader. Be in the front row seats when you're invited to show up. Make sure that person in your life knows that you're there to support them. It doesn't need to be more complicated than that.

It's easy to read 1 Cor. 7:12-17. It's harder to actually do it.

Maybe that's part of what God is teaching you if this is the situation in which you've found yourselves.

Addressing Mental Health and Prayer with LDS Youth

Coming from someone who was in Young Men/Young Women adjacent callings for years in my previous ward: the most important thing I ever said to a room full of teenagers is that mental illness doesn't mean that God has given up on you.

Even if your family is no longer in the Church, do yourself a favor. Go say those exact words to the Mormon/Mormon-adjacent kids and teens in your life.

How did we get to the place where we have to say that? I have theories based on the youth I taught. The group who needed this the most were the teenage boys. Hands down. No question. And I think how we get here isn't necessarily through "mental health treatment doesn't work" messaging. The youth I had weren't sequestered from getting real professional help. 

What I think goes wrong here is the idea that prayer helps in every situation.

People with mental illness have a very different relationship with prayer than those without it. Prayer does not cure, or even improve, mental illness. I will go so far as to say the best messaging is that prayer has no impact on mental illness.

Kids in religious households need to hear this very explicitly. They need to hear it from the adults they love and trust. The first person saying it to them should not be their Sunday School teacher when they're 14 and 15 years old. (Ask me how I know.)

What happens if they don't hear that? The following logical progression: I am depressed, anxious, struggling with an illness in my brain. I prayed for help. I can't "feel" the answer. I'm too broken for God. God doesn't love me anymore. 

They will go to this place on their own, independent of the example you've set for them in pursuing mental health treatment in your own life. They need someone they know and trust to help them contextualize religious devotion through the lens of mental illness.

I would also add to this: There isn't anything wrong with teaching young children that they can feel answers to their prayers. There's a lot wrong with that messaging if it doesn't evolve with them as they grow up and mature into adulthood. 

As a religious person with mental illness, God isn't someone I interact with through my feelings, especially when I'm in crisis. God is the one teaching me to reach out, ask for help, and to keep asking until I get the help I need. God is the one in that situation telling me not to give up on myself, and to take care of myself. 

When I'm in crisis, there is very little else God is going to be saying to me. Why? Because God knows better than I do that Prozac is better than prayer for me in that moment. It can make religious people uncomfortable to say this because they feel like it's admitting failure in God.

To me, it's like purposefully having a conversation in a loud room and making the person I'm with scream at me, when I already know they don't like to yell.

I take my medicine because it quiets most of the noise from my mental illness most of the time. Then when I pray, it's less of a struggle to hear and interact with God. That's just the nature of being me. There's nothing wrong with that. And it doesn't mean God doesn't love me.

Our teens struggle more with their mental health than other teenagers because they're getting very different messaging about God's direct, granular involvement in their lives than most other teenagers, with no corollary for mental illness. So they go from "God is in every detail of my life" to "God is nowhere to be found." 

That's not good! It's enough to make any mental illness worse because our youth feel like the most loving, most selfless part of their support system abandons them when they need it most.  

If you're going to raise your children in a religious environment, there needs to be a healthy understanding that God isn't a magic gumball machine who takes away every problem just because they pray. How we talk about mental illness needs to be a part of that.

Maybe Don't Advocate for the Church's Version of "Health Care"

I recently saw a take that the Church shouldn't be building more temples in Utah when they've never built or operated medical clinics in foreign countries.

As a woman who was forced into using the BYU health center, women deserve better than what church-sponsored health care looks like.

My PCOS went undiagnosed and untreated for the entire time I was at BYU because the only doctors I had access to were dogmatically opposed to women receiving treatment for ovarian cysts. 


Because the treatment is birth control pills. Those doctors don't prescribe birth control pills and the Church-sponsored insurance plan doesn't cover them, even when they're being used as hormone therapy instead of contraception.

Religious dogma does real harm when it combines with medicine, especially since that intersection inevitably passes through denial of care to the detriment of patients. 

We should want to see less of this in medicine. Not more.

We're all going to be much happier if the Church sticks to what they know.

Marginalizing the Poor, the Widow, the Fatherless, and the Stranger

If you have ever uttered the phrase "welfare queen" or "welfare state" in a derogatory manner about actual human beings, you have reason to repent.

Whoso mocketh the poor reproacheth his Maker: and he that is glad at calamities shall not be unpunished.

Prov. 17:5

Reopen yourself to compassion about whether people have basic safety in their lives.

Set yourself free.

16 And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

17 Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—

18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

Mosiah 4:16-18

In fact, let's Mormonize it for a little bit.

And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.

Zech. 7:10

If you can see the filth and offensiveness in the language of four letter words, but not in dehumanizing the poor, widow, fatherless, and marginalized in this language, your moralizing on "clean" language doesn't amount to much.

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