On Elder Renlund's Stethoscope

Having witnessed the outcry that followed this talk, the fact that Elder Renlund's reaction to his wife putting his stethoscope into a shadow box is such a surprise makes me think a lot of folks having those reactions haven't worked with many doctors.


In the time I spent working as a nurse in veterinary medicine, I worked with six different doctors as their nurse, in both exam rooms and in surgery. Doctors are some of the most neurotic, chronically particular people you could ever work with.

As a nurse, my job was to anticipate the needs of doctors and bring them the things before they would ask for them. To do that, it often meant knowing where they left their stuff, going and collecting it, and bringing it back to them. Or knowing exactly where their stuff was and leaving it there. Which was the right choice depended entirely on the doctor and their preferences.

Stethoscopes, otoscopes, charts, pens, medicines, the list goes on forever. It was my job to know where they were at all times and make them instantly accessible at a moment's notice. It's the most important skill a nurse ever learns, and it's a thing that can't really be taught. The better you get at it, the harder it becomes for anyone else to ever take your place. There is no other relationship like the wavelength of a doctor and a nurse who have been working together for many years, the way they can communicate without even having to speak.

There are doctors whose stethoscopes you just don't touch. I worked for doctors whose stethoscopes I never touched. I worked for other doctors whose stethoscopes I repeatedly took back to their desks a half a dozen times every day. Doctors having access to people who are paid to be attuned to their needs and preferences like this breaks their ability to be normal with other people where this relationship doesn't exist.

As soon as I read details of the story about his wife putting his stethoscope into a shadow box without asking first, I winced immediately and thought to myself "that was a mistake." But I would think that because I was a good nurse. 

Sometimes, you do things for your spouse in a desire to help or to make them happy that just falls flat because you didn't understand them or the situation well enough to know how to help them. My husband is an engineer and a tinkerer. I don't touch or move any of his things without asking first because I don't know what I could be interrupting, what I might break or lose. And I also learned that lesson by making that mistake. 

To view this story as a public shaming of Sister Renlund presupposes that what she did was a moral failure of some kind, that Elder Renlund presented it as a moral failure when it was a misunderstanding at best. If you've managed to be married for any appreciable amount of time without having what you intended to be a nice gesture go completely wrong... I dunno, tell us your secret? Because I'm confident that's not the life the rest of us are living.
My husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this year. There are still things about him that baffle me entirely. Eternity scared me at an earlier stage of my life because it seemed like it would get boring eventually. The idea that decades from now I could still be just as baffled by something he does is an exciting prospect, if I'm honest. There's no room for boredom when you marry an engineer. That's what I've gathered so far.

P.S. In case Sister Renlund somehow sees this: you're a saint and an angel for being married to a doctor. I could never and I'm endlessly amazed by those who can!
[The follow-up posts two days later after extensive conversation with many different perspectives.]
I get that we've landed on "avoid telling public stories about a spouse's mistakes without making it crystal clear that they've okayed everything you're going to say." But I'm still concerned how many of you are fine touching your spouse's stuff without asking.
Maybe it's because my marriage includes at least one ADHD weirdo with no object permanence, as well as a large collection of all manner of hobbies. But the fastest (and pretty much the only) way to start a fight in my house is to move something without giving a heads up.
My husband sews. I know not to use his fabric scissors for anything other than fabric. He works on mechanical watches. I don't move any of those projects at all because the pieces on some of them are smaller than you can possibly imagine.
I knit. He knows to be extremely careful about moving any knitting projects because if he drops even a single stitch, my reaction will be angry, immediate, and disproportional to the situation.
Don't create a household where it's normal for anyone in it to assign ongoing value or utility to other people's stuff, where it can disappear without their consent. It's not a good way to show respect for the people you love. I say that as someone who grew up in such a house. The stress I still feel in my body when I can't find something, the sheer panic from having things I treasured disappear, has never left me.
This is not how you make for a responsible adult who "knows better than to just leave their things around." It's how you make yourself unsafe to someone you care about, who will never fully feel safe in your presence because you don't respect the things they care about.
Respecting my husband's possessions isn't patriarchy. It's the courtesy we each would show to any other person if we were left unattended with their belongings. 
The idea that this somehow disappears because we're married to each other is just...
Bring that one up in therapy.   

"I could never be a convert" and Other Lies I've Heard

In response to me telling literally any story from my formative years as a member of the Church, I get a response that I'd like to unpack and dismantle, so no one ever feels the need to say it again:

"Wow. You're so strong. I could never be a convert."

I'm not here to turn whether being a convert to the Church is harder than being born into it. That is not the conversation we're having. There are no pissing contests here, so let's just not with all of that.

Much of what was hard about joining the Church as a teenager to me were not obstacles that the Church created. They were obstacles my family created to my participation in the Church. There are people who would blame the Church for that, but I don't.

My mom spent a long time processing the feeling that she just wanted me to be Catholic and I was just never going to be. All parents want things for their kids they're not going to get. This one was hers.

This played out in so many different variations of the same conversation: 

Me: I'm going to Church.
Mom: No you're not, because I'm not taking you there.
Me: Fine, I don't need you to take me, I'll find my own way there.
Mom: Whatever. [goes back to sleep]

There was one Sunday, however, where this was different. My family was getting together to pick crabs (it's a Maryland thing) on a Sunday and I was expected to forego attending Church to be with them. Had my mom just asked or invited me like a normal person, it would've been fine. Instead I got "Come with us on Sunday or I'll know who is really most important to you and I'll never speak to you again."

At that stage of my life, I didn't like crab. I didn't like the smell. I didn't like getting my hands dirty. The Old Bay seasoning, like lemon juice on a paper cut, finds and sears every open wound without apology.

At 16-17 years old, I'm having to navigate my mother's insecurities around something truly important to me in such a way that she wouldn't take it from me. I wasn't thinking about that Sunday. I was thinking about every Sunday after it, how she would treat me, and how to prevent this power struggle from becoming a pattern in our interactions with one another.

So I missed Church. I sat there, not eating, just to make her happy.  

I'm not the one who turned one Sunday away from Church into some existential crisis. With very few exceptions most members are reasonable enough to say "It's family time. That's not a big deal. There's always next week." The Church and its members didn't do this. My mother did.

So to the extent that I sat there feeling guilty and anxious about the week to come, it wasn't from some extremist or fundamentalist dread of divine retribution for missing one Sunday at Church. It was wondering what the fallout of this power struggle would be, and if God could help me navigate it effectively. 

That's what I prayed for that Sunday. That somehow, this situation which had gotten completely out of control, could find some peace to it.

I had a notebook with me and I think I was taking notes for the family tree I was starting to build. My grandfather's sister, my great aunt, was there that day. She noticed what I was doing and invited us back to her house afterwards. A cousin of hers had sent her an exhaustive family history for her side of the family. It had been sitting in a box with all her things for years, and did I want it?

Yes. Yes, I did.

The younger version of myself saw it as a miracle, that God could bless me wherever I was, even when I wasn't at Church. That extreme and exact obedience about going to Church no matter what would've cost me this opportunity. And best believe I bring out this story every time any person in any lesson tries to teach that version of extreme, exacting obedience. To view the world that inflexibly is contradicted every day by the real situations members of the Church have to live in.

But as I'm getting older and I think about that story more, I'm realizing something important. The prayer I said for my family, for us to have peace with each other, was the only reason I was able to think such a thought. In every moment of that interaction, I wanted to be bitter and spiteful, ill-tempered and mean as only teenagers can be. I was in a moment in which my maturity and my instincts were not sufficient for my needs. Had I been left to my own devices, I wouldn't have done the right things in that moment. It wouldn't have turned out for the better the way it did. I would've made sure of that because I was angry and hurt about being manipulated the way I was.

The prayer for peace I said for my family mattered more than anything else I might've accomplished that day. Prayer, that moment I took check myself, is why that situation turned out the way it did. 

I'm only doing the same thing that members of the Church do constantly when they find themselves out of their element and backed against the wall by life. I prayed for help and tried to do the best I could with the insight and correction God gave me.

So could any member of the Church do what I did in that moment? 


They do it every time they pray. 

I, and the converts whose stories you learn about in your family histories, are not superheroes possessing some deeper, magical connection to God that is fundamentally different from yours. Converts aren't inherently more spiritual or filled with greater faith than other members of the Church by virtue of being first. That's not how this works.

I am who and what I am today because I've had a lot of help from people who weren't converts. My community, made of disciples of every kind and experience, is the reason I still try with my family after all this time. The help and wisdom they have given me is part of that miracle. I couldn't do this without them.

Remember that as we enter the Ancestral Worship portion of the LDS liturgical calendar. 

Pioneers were regular people who narrowly avoided pushing people into horse manure by prayer and the grace of God.

 Converts are human just like you. And if you were in their shoes, that's exactly what you would continue to be.

Prayer in the Time of Gun Violence

I hate every impact that Christian Nationalism has had on society. The one that I hate most, as a deeply religious person, is what Christian Nationalism has done to prayer.

Because "thoughts and prayers" is such a powerless, meaningless phrase coming from them—because all prayer requires real intent and action to be sincere—it has led an entire generation of people to believe that all prayer is powerless and meaningless.

I don't want the people around me to hesitate to pray for me when tragedy strikes. I love prayer! I love the way communal prayer is supposed to deepen our love, our commitments to each other as a community. Sincere prayer brings peace to me and to others in many faiths, which does have a positive impact on the world. Sincere prayer has power to change the world for the better.

But because we've been placed in the ridiculous position of trying to stop bullets with prayers alone, "thoughts and prayers" has become a ridiculous thing to offer in any situation because the people saying that have no intention of offering sincere prayers backed by action.

Prayer has become a casualty of gun violence in my country. The thing that many of us need most to face that violence has become an object of mockery and scorn. What a loss that is.

Christian Nationalism did that. Christian violence did that. Christian hypocrisy did that. And I can't even blame people for feeling that way. If I didn't already treasure prayer the way I do, I might feel the same exact way.

Mormon Feminism and Me

I'm finally getting around to reading Mormon Feminism and I've made an important discovery.

Claudia Bushman was the bishop's wife over what eventually became the units I attended in the stake where I was baptized. The Elkton Ward was in my hometown. Doug and Susan Taber were the very first people I met when I was in the Neward 2nd ward as a teenager.

This is the ground where my discipleship began.

Claudia Bushman assembled women in dignity, dedicated to making the Church a more equal place everywhere she went. That's where I was baptized. The ripples of her presence are still felt there.
The sexism and deprioritization of women and their contributions I have experienced in other corners of the Church never happened to me there. Claudia Bushman and so many of the women she knew were the reasons why. It was a garden they tended carefully where women could grow.
I just bought a copy of Susan Taber's book, Mormon Lives: a Year in the Elkton Ward. Flipping through the index, I see so many names I recognize. These are the people who gave me my foundations as a member of the Church. They were the people who taught me the gospel, baptized me, and gave me the foundations I needed to walk through the Church expecting to be treated like an equal.

I'm going to end up getting similarly derailed with a lot of the writers, works, and projects that get mentioned in passing in Mormon Feminism. It'll probably take me a long time to finish because of that. I don't mind though.
As it turns out, my reflexive reaction of "this would never happen to me back home" wasn't just wishful thinking. It wasn't an accident or a fluke. It's the legacy of Mormon women who came before me who did the work to make the Church a better place. And if there's anything to take away from a book called Mormon Feminism, surely that is it.

Why Supporting Gender Affirming Care in the Church is Important

A bot asked me on Twitter if I support gender affirming care for minorsno doubt to stir the pot with the people who were already in my comments. Thing is, I don't need help to stir the pot. So lets talk about it.

Under the umbrella of gender affirming care are all kinds of treatments for both queer folks and non-queer folks of every age. Let's talk about some of the ones I use and receive.

I have a chronic illness called PCOS that affects the natural balance of male/female hormones in my body. I am a cisgender woman with male hormones in my body that I don't want. I take medication to remove those excess androgens from my body. That is gender affirming care. I receive it to make the hormonal composition of my body match my gender. Without that medication, I would have male pattern baldness, I would grow a beard, and that testosterone would create chaos inside of my body.
My condition is genetic. My paternal grandmother and her mother both had some version of it. My great grandmother had a lot of the same unwanted hair growth. My grandmother struggled with her fertility ended up having a hysterectomy before she could finish having children.
I was born with this condition. I had it as a teenager. I didn't get any kind of healthcare for my condition as a teenager. I needed gender affirming care that I didn't get because my mother didn't think it was important. I live with the consequences of those decisions every day of my life.  
There is no cure for my condition. I will be managing this circus, which was allowed to progress unchecked for decades because of conservative attitudes towards women's healthcare, for the rest of my life. I am sick all the time and I'm never going to get better.
Between my Catholic mother, BYU, and my mission, I didn't get any real treatment for my condition (because the first step is usually using birth control as hormone therapy) until I was in my early twenties and already married. That allowed my disease to progress to a point where I will never have children without spending $20-30k on fertility treatments.
This is what denying me gender affirming care has done to my life. 

So do I support withholding gender affirming care from underage people? 
 No. Not at all. I had that decision made for me in the best interest of others and their agendas, not what was best for me, and I will be dealing with those consequences for the rest of my life. Children and young adults deserve to receive the healthcare they need, not the healthcare that strangers in churches think they should be receiving. Especially when folks in those churches don't know the first thing about the people they're restricting treatment from.
Russell M. Nelson is a doctor. Nevertheless, he is not MY doctor. He is a surgeon, not an endocrinologist. He doesn't know the first thing about my health, my needs, or the treatments for my conditions. No one in a medical setting would let him anywhere near my case because he's unqualified to practice this type of medicine. So why should I, or anyone else, be comfortable with him or anyone else in the Church, being allowed to interfere in these decisions for church members through policy changes and church discipline?
Nothing about an ecclesiastical office qualifies someone to make my medical decisions for me. Conservative folks with a Twitter account, a cable package that includes Fox News, and the email addresses of politicians aren't qualified to treat my medical issues. 
The same way that preventable suffering during miscarriages and pregnancy losses are the consequences we're now living with because of anti-abortion legislation, the same thing will happen with bans against gender affirming care. The collateral damage goes far beyond underage transgender people. Conservative folks are so determined to punish transgender kids and their parents for being different, they're willing to destroy the lives of anyone and everyone else as collateral damage along the way.
Why? Because punishing trans people never was ultimately what this was about.
Remember: all culture wars, moral panics, and identity politics are the cheap Party City disguises for class warfare. When rich people in power can keep our lives in shambles, we're easier to control. They want you to hate me so we won't ever organize against them.

Celebrating Pride Month at Church in 2023

We've made the decision to start going back to Church in-person. For the long, ridiculous saga of what has kept us away for so long, all of that is here.

Since this decision coincides with Pride month, I bought myself something in preparation.

Image Courtesy of KerspiffityPins on Etsy

In my voyages across the internet, I saw a queer person say that the corporate, sanitized message of Love is Love needs an update for our current moment.

They suggested "Queer People are in Danger."

It has never been more important for allies to make themselves visible. Not just for the sake of queer folks knowing where the safe ports are in the storm, but to willingly put ourselves in the gap between them and those who would do them harm.

If someone has a problem with queer visibility in my congregation, let them express it to me, the person who is least affected by that expression. Let me be the one to say, without hesitation, "It's a shame that when y'all taught that families are forever, you didn't mean mine."

Let me be the one to ask, "Who made you the judge of my sister, my brothers-in-law, and many of my friends? When exactly did Jesus Christ put you in that position?" 

Let me be the one to drop whatever I'm doing and sing "Jesus Said Love Everyone" like the choir kid I am. Admittedly, I still don't know the words. I was never in Primary because I'm a convert. But for my queer friends and family, for those in hiding in the pews next to me, it's a small thing I can do to make the people around me a little safer.

Whether we can admit it or not, whether we like it or not, our congregations are overwhelmingly not safe places for queer people to approach God or find rest to their souls.

We cannot change what we won't acknowledge, so acknowledging it openly is the place to start.

Note: This was originally posted on Twitter. Within hours, my friends wiped out much of the seller's stock. I then posted follow ups with other products LDS folks could consider to show their Pride support. Here are the links to those:

By the next day, there were all kinds of people being foolish in my mentions, interrogating me about how I can support queer LDS people and still follow the prophets. You know, because those two things have to be mutually exclusive. Here was my response:

I find it endlessly fascinating that whenever a dude tries to confront me about treating queer people with dignity and respect at Church, they always question/accuse me of not following the prophets. Not Christ. The prophets, specifically.

If you think the leadership of the Church have given you an open license to bully and exclude queer people and those who love them from the Church, it's because you don't have the scriptural literacy or moral rectitude to know any better.

I've been in the Church for seventeen years. 

I've lived through the tenure of enough church leadership to know one thing for certain: they agree on absolutely nothing, including this. 

Those who look to church leadership for an absolute, unchanging consensus on any issue are going to be disappointed.

That is the one thing they have never been able to produce because they are human.

I didn't join this church for the sycophantic fan club of prophets, whose reverence for church leadership borders on idolatry. 

There are LDS folks who criticize Catholics for the way they revere Saints, when the way y'all treat church leadership isn't that different.

I joined the Church to worship Jesus Christ, not the servants he employs. It is his example I care about most. His teachings are the foundation of my life. His voice is the one I seek. His radical compassion, empathy, and love is what I am striving to emulate in my life.

Jesus Christ was kind in ways that many of our leaders were not and are not. Thank God for that. It would be a real shame if an omnipotent God's access to any of us was frustrated because of some guy named checks notes Dallin. 

Some of y'all want so badly for the Church to be a country club of the comfortably like-minded, you forget the example of the Savior, who never once vaulted himself above anyone, who had no use for wealth or status, who never once preached uniformity as a virtue. It is Christ who conquered death and the grave. It is Jesus who has risen, who will be my judge in the last day. It is to him I will answer for how I spent my life and my time.

Not to the prophets and not to any of you.

If the moral choice of my age is whether to love queer people and make the Church safer for them, or to allow rich people and paid actors on Fox News to convince me to dehumanize and exterminate my own siblings in Christ, I'll be honest: I'm taking my chances on love. 

I've spent way too much of my life being entrusted to teach Latter-day Saints their own beliefs, scriptures, and the words of your own prophets for "but what about the prophets?" to be the question I'm being asked right now. I've been every kind of teacher I can be in the Church. Every age and gender, in multiple countries and languages, called and set apart by every priesthood leader I've ever had.

If that thought perturbs you, maybe it's you who needs to work on your testimony of the priesthood. Not me.

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