Showing posts with label Liberation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Liberation. Show all posts

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.

A Prayer of Deliverance for Queer Church Members


After reports of bullying on BYU's campus towards Sarah Coyne, a professor who mentioned her transgender child in class, let's not have any confusion about what thay bullying represents and where it comes from.

You cannot teach the pure love of Christ for the LGBTQ+ community at the same time you exclude them from church fellowship.

You cannot talk out of both sides of your mouth and expect anything but cruelty, bullying, and ugliness to follow.

You do not reap grapes of thorns or figs from thistles.

Those who sow in hatred reap in violence.

A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Matthew 7:18-19

LGBTQ+ exclusion is an evil fruit from the corrupt tree of exclusionary church policies. Those policies are good for nothing but to be hewn down and cast into the fire.

We have been divided against our own at the behest of evangelical Christianity for long enough. Anyone who insists we do this to our own is no friends to us.

We are the house that cannot stand when it is divided.

How many more of our people, our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our friends and neighbors, our family members in Christ have to suffer and die before we see the error of our ways?

How many more will it take for the error to become apparent?

I plead that deliverance comes quickly.

Lord, thy people perish. 

Give us the courage and strength to run the hatred of strangers from our midst.

Let words of unkindness and violence turn to ash in the mouths of those who speak them. 

May all the inner vessels of those who have steeped malice be scoured clean. 

May those who have made the cups of others bitter be forced to drink to the dregs themselves.

Bring all conspiracies, all tyranny, all oppression into the light where all may see plainly.

Let those who deal in secret have their names be known and spoken in truth from the rooftops in the light of day.

Let there be no peace in Zion until all may rest therein.

That is my prayer today and always. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

How to Address Domestic Violence in the Church

Source: World Bank
From a domestic violence survivor: take all of the outrage you feel for what Michael Haight did to his ex-wife and children, and direct it into helping the people around you who are in that exact same precarious position.

Every community, every congregation, every class in every school, every neighborhood, every group of people you have ever been a part of has had victims of domestic violence in them. No one ever wants to acknowledge that. But that's the truth.

I'm not telling you not to be angry. Be furious! But don't just express your disapproval on social media and expect anything to change. Be the safe place a family like Tausha's could've gone to. Then go find the Tausha near you and help her.

I had people around me in my community who did that, over and over again. They pulled me out of the toxic environments my parents had created. Make sure the people around you know they can come to you if they're in trouble.

The most important thing I could ever tell you as a survivor is this: never assume that anyone you know is immune to abuse, that "if she was really in trouble, she'd tell me." Never assume that to be true. Never think you'd be able to spot them if you weren't actively seeking them out.

No matter how safe and happy things appear in the intimate relationships around you, all it takes is one phrase to let people know you're a safe person to them.

"If that ever changes, you can come here." 

That's all you have to say. Say it explicitly to anyone you care enough about to want to save them if they found themselves in real danger with nowhere else to go.

In a church setting, take advantage of opportunities to plant seeds in lessons, at activities, during talks you might give, Family Home Evenings, or any other gatherings in your home. Quote the section about abuse from the Family Proclamation. Teach those around you what it means and why it matters.
We warn that individuals who... abuse spouse or offspring, or who fail to fulfill family responsibilities will one day stand accountable before God.
Share the Church's resources about abuse and where to find them in Gospel Library. Make sure those with whom you serve are familiar with those resources and their content. Wherever you serve or worship in the Church, be prepared to help families who are in these situations.

It's also important to prepare you children in age appropriate ways how to respond to these situations appropriately. Teach them that preventing domestic violence begins in their own choices in how to treat others. Teach them how they can help friends, teammates, and classmates if another child confides in them that they're being abused. Don't wait until after that confidence has already been placed in them by someone else.
Be a safe, discreet person who can be trusted with these kinds of confidences, whose goal is to empower others to make the choices that will keep themselves and their children safe.
I'll give you an example from my own life.
I taught in Young Women for many years in my last ward. During that time, a family who lived near us had their youngest daughters take the missionary discussions in our home. The oldest daughter was indifferent, if not outwardly hostile to any kind of religious messaging. She was disruptive during lessons. She was the type of teenager that someone could've looked at and thought "I can't wait until you leave my class and never come back." I didn't treat her any differently. I could see real pain inside of her and treated her with kindness, no matter what she said or did. I refused to give her the reaction she was looking for. I treated her with the love she deserved, rather than matching the energy she was putting out.
At 10 p.m. on a week night, she showed up at my house. She and her father had gotten into a fight. She asked if she could stay the night. I didn't hesitate. I brought her inside. I made up the guest bedroom, set out towels and toiletries in our guest bathroom. I made her some chamomile tea. We talked for a little while. Her father guessed at where she was. My husband spoke to him outside while I continued talking to her. We kept everyone separate until they both were calmer. I asked her privately if she felt safe going home. She said she did. That was the only time I pressed her for the truth. 
I told her if she ever needed to come back, she knew where to find us. She wasn't the only one from that Young Women group who reached out to me when they were in dire straits. 
That's what this looked like for me because I was serving in Young Women. For you, it might be relatives in your own extended family, the friends or teammates of your children, coworkers, or anyone else around you going through divorce. Divorce always has the potential to be dangerous, especially in the first year.
I had a person I worked with at my first veterinary clinic who filed for divorce while I was working there. I checked in on her repeatedly to make sure she was okay. It didn't matter that we weren't that close. We didn't have to be for me to care about what happened to her.

When you do these things from a place of love, or even just concern, it won't be weird or awkward. You're making it clear that there's space in your life for them if they need it. They'll come to you if that need arises. 
All you have to do when that happens is say, "Come over."

Becoming Found Family within the Church

Growing up in an unstable home environment with parents who struggled with a host of issues that included poverty, addiction, alcoholism, domestic violence, and racial violence, one of the skills I learned early on in my life is gathering and assembling found family. I had so many adopted mothers, tied to so many different communities who cared for and about me.

The reason I made it out of poverty and avoided becoming a statistic was because of the support and mentoring I received from people who were my chosen family, rather than being limited to the support my biological family could provide.

While the Church is not the only group capable of forming these kinds of relationships, it's especially important for members of the Church to know how to do this, and know the meaningful distinction between found family and "ward family" or "church family."

Let's start off by talking about that distinction.


Not All Church Family is Found Family

I've been in the Church as a convert for almost seventeen years now. I joined as a teenager, the only member in my family. I've been in enough congregations to know the difference between ward family and found family.

Ward family is conditional. It exists within the shared identity of being members of the Church, and therefore only fully extends to members of the Church. Those who aren't members and are unlikely to ever become members, or who were formerly members and are no longer fully engaged with the Church, are often seen as being unworthy or undeserving of that network of help and loving care. The reason for this is because with church membership comes the expectation of reciprocation. In this line of thinking, the church member will pay it forward at a future time through ongoing service through the Church. The issue is not that people are receiving benefits to which they have not previously contributed. Rather, it's the boundary setting that happens with those who have no intentions of paying it forward through the same network of finite resources.

Church family also often centers around the formal administration overseen by local leadership on the ward council. It may or may not be facilitated through delegated assignments, volunteered service, or shared resources extended through church social networks. Because no one person has total control over this council and the causes it chooses to undertake and how, the help that is given through it is shaped by the personal beliefs and life experiences of many different people. Because of that, mileage and results will vary wildly based on geographic location and the cultures (and politics) of the surrounding areas.

Anyone who is familiar with the concept of found family, or comes into the church with the expectation that church family will function like found family, is going to be confused by what they see happening in many places. And because it's important for church members to understand the difference, to be willing and capable of doing both kinds of giving, this comes with acknowledging those differences honestly.

Found Family is Unconditional

Found family is an ongoing, personal relationship between individuals that isn't bound by shared identity, social networks, or life experiences. It's a much closer relationship than a casual acquaintance at Church. It's a friendship where a person is fully integrated into a family's embrace as one of their own. The exchange of love and gratitude is mutual, flows in both directions, and exists solely within the individual family. There's no expectation for anyone else outside of that relationship to be benefiting from it. So while two different communities may be coming together and sharing in a mutual space with one another, there is no expectation that their communities will directly benefit from that exchange.

For example, if an LDS family decided to sponsor a family of refugees and developed a found family relationship with them, there would be no expectation for the refugee family to join the Church. If an LDS family took in a queer person who was also a former member of the Church, there would be no expectation for them to come back to church because of that association, or in exchange for resources. The relationship itself is the reward, not anything monetary or otherwise valuable that the relationship could be used for.

Found family relationships often materialize spontaneously through already existing friendships. But through my own reflection, I'm realizing they exist when people create space in their families, their homes, and their lives for those relationships to materialize.  It's one where the jump has been made together from acquaintance or casual friendship to actual family. Those relationships are grown, nourished, and are sincerely cherished on both sides.

Not every relationship in the Church should be one of found family. I'm not suggesting it should be. But recognizing the ways that God works through found family is an important one for people of faith to understand and embrace. There is a kind of good that only be accomplished through found family relationships and in no other way, including by the a church or ward family. There are families who have space in their lives at different seasons to create found family relationships, and some who don't. It's important to be able to assess situations impartially and to understand which is needed.

In Psalms 68:6, David taught that "God setteth the solitary in families: he bringeth out those which are bound with chains." I've seen that ministry work through my own life in the Church. The trajectory of my life changed completely because members of the Church facilitated both found family and church family relationships. Knowing how to do both is good discipleship and allows those who belief in Christ to follow his example in moments where it can do the greatest good.

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.

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."

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.

On Women Being Absent from Scripture

I read this post from The Exponent this morning, and I related so profoundly to what the author was describing in how we teach a male-centric view of scripture in the Church. From that place of frustration, I went to the scriptures on my own in search of women and their stories. 

Women are present in the scriptures, especially in the Old Testament. Women are not named in scripture at the same frequency as men. That's isn't the same issue as the women not being present, or being actors in the stories, especially in stories where men in those collectives also aren't named. The Book of Mormon especially is a text that focuses primarily on community impact and reactions. Women are present in every story that it tells of crowds, tribes, multitudes, and factions

We could blame these factors for why don't talk about or study women in any detail at Church, at least not to the same depth or degree that we have studied the lives of male prophets, living and dead. But when you realize the multitude of women whose lives and experiences are recorded in scripture, that's not enough of an explanation. The women's lives and experiences are there. So the questions we have to ask ourselves are: 

  • Who taught us to look at a collective of people in scripture and assume the audience is dominated by men, or that men are the actors in the stories and women are passive? 
  • Why aren't we teaching from the lives and experiences of women in the scriptures that do exist? 

There are answers about men becoming the default, specific moments in time we can point to that has had this impact, regardless of what the Church's intent was. The Topical Guide and footnote references for the 1981 edition of the scriptures were created by a mostly (if not all) male team of returned missionaries under the direction of Bruce R. McConkie. These are the same references in use today. The perspective they teach from is ignorant of, if not hostile to, the spiritual needs of women. Any woman who has ever seen the Topical Guide entries for Birth Control and Interracial Marriage, or has gone looking for an entry on Infertility, has felt that hostility.

We project what our lived experiences are in church onto the scriptures we read. We also view our scriptures through the examples we use and emphasize to teach various principles. There are plenty of scriptures featuring women that get no play time in church for teaching the principles they represent. Sometimes, this is because a man's story gets emphasized for that same principle instead.

But more often than not, I think the male default in curriculum happens year after year because the stories starring women make men uncomfortable. In many cases, they exist to detail the disrespect and violence that men have shown to women throughout time, and how God rejects and punishes men who abuse women. Some of these stories are graphic in nature, featuring sexual violence against women as a key feature. It would be impossible to study these stories without confronting those elements. 

So if you don't know that there is a story in the Old Testament where God nearly destroyed the entire house of Israel because men in the tribe of Benjamin brutally raped and murdered one woman, there's a reason for that. (See Judges 19-21)

The Levite of Ephraim, Alexandre-François Caminade

Stories featuring women in scripture often exist, at least in part, to condemn the selfish, inexcusable behavior of men. That's why men don't tell those stories. In many cases, they've never heard of them. The ones they have heard of, such as David and Bathsheba, they've grossly misinterpreted. They've been raised on a steady diet of church instruction that emphasizes the stories that entrench their own roles instead. That's all they know.

When you sit down with the standard works and read them through the lens of actively searching for women, you start to see them everywhere. They're not absent. There's a filter over the scriptures and how we've been taught to read them that makes women disappear that has to be dismantled.

The Good Shepherd

Let's talk about sheep.

Jesus taught that we are his flock of sheep. And the likes of Greg Olsen have made that sentiment way more endearing than I think it was intended to be. When you actually know something about animal husbandry, his meaning changes from the way we typically understand it.

If you had to describe sheep, here are several words and phrases you could use:
  • helpless 
  • vulnerable 
  • fragile 
  • able to be injured or killed remarkably easily, especially by accident
I'm learning animal husbandry for my certification as a veterinary nurse. Sheep scare the shit out of me. Handle them wrong and you can literally snap their necks. Their skeletons are fragile. They can't regulate their body temperatures much beyond 50°F. If you handle them roughly, you can break their back legs. You can't grab them by the fleece because you can permanently ruin their skin. They can't jump especially well. They have no natural defenses of any kind. If you remove a baby from its mother before she can bond with it, even to save its life, she will abandon it entirely. Touch them wrong and you could do irreparable harm to them.
There's no such thing as a little "oops" with sheep. Every sheep has to be treated like the slightest injury is a big deal. There's no such thing as being too sensitive or too careful with sheep. Their feelings matter because they are incapable of withstanding any kind of violence. There is no place for violence in a sheep herd. 
The shepherd's biggest worry for the sheep isn't just that a predator could come and wipe them all out. It's also that he could literally kill them by accident through bad husbandry.  
If you fancy yourself any kind of shepherd like Jesus Christ was, in any kind of ministering capacity, you need to recognize that one of the greatest threats to its survival isn't wolves. 
It's you. 
Specifically, you assuming you know what you're doing whenever do not. Because in that scenario, it's not a question of if you will do irreparable harm to some of the sheep in your care. It's when and how.
To be a good shepherd is to love sheep in all of their "I'm allergic to tap water" glory. To care enough to know how to handle them with love, meeting all their needs, no matter what they are.
When we talk about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, that's what that means.

The Racism of Brad and Debi Wilcox

Brad Wilcox has been alive long enough to know better than to say the words that (update: repeatedly) came out of his mouth. 

So has his wife, Debi Wilcox, who posted these comments defending the talks on Facebook. To my knowledge, she has not yet apologized.

They aren't doing better because they haven't ever taken the time to confront and dismantle their own racism, and it shows.

I won't say it's impossible to be white and not racist in America. But it's certainly impossible if you've never taken the time to confront, reflect, reject, and dismantle attitudes that we all passively absorb throughout our lives.

If you've never put any effort into not being racist, then it's not for you to decide whether anything you say, think, or do is racist or not. You wouldn't know. You've never taken the time to examine your own soul through that lens.

The problem with that omission is that God will not make that same mistake.

Let Brother and Sister Wilcox be the object lessons for why you don't want to wait until too late in life to start making those efforts.

Not All Men... But Maybe You

Here is some gentle instruction for our mutual edification, directed at bishops and other men who have the responsibility in their callings to edify, uphold the voices of, and respect women.

When you witness a woman expressing their frustration with how they haven't been or aren't being shown the respect they deserve in their LDS congregations or their homes, you don't have a responsibility to contradict them. Your responsibility is not to defend the Church by saying that "Not all men" engage in bad behavior, or "Not all women" are experiencing that pain.

You have a responsibility to listen.

What do y'all think the value is to a woman who is telling you she is hurting and struggling in hearing that some unknowable number of other women throughout the Church are just fine? How does it help to consider there are women in the Church who are not hurting or struggling? How does reminding her that there are women who are having their needs met help her at all? 

To me, all this has ever done is reinforce that the pain and frustration I'm experiencing shouldn't be happening because men in the Church are obviously capable of doing better. It reinforces to me that my expectations are not unreasonable.

1 Corinthians 12:26 reminds us that we all are a part of the body of Christ. If any one of us is in pain, we are all supposed to suffer with them. It is our duty to care, to alleviate pain, to correct the harm that is being done. Not to minimize it, to say it doesn't matter, or to pretend it's not happening.

I don't care where you are in the Church. Not every woman around you is happy, well-taken care of, listened to, respected, and treated with the dignity she deserves. If you think your leadership is perfect on this front, it's because you aren't being trusted with the way women actually feel.

If you're more worried about The Church and its reputation than you are about acknowledging the real harm that has come to women through their Church membership, you aren't going to be "one of the good ones." 

Know that. Sit with that.

To be "one of the good ones," an ally to women in the Church, that's not something you can claim for yourself. That has to be earned, given to you by the women you have helped. And just because you do that with your female relatives doesn't mean you can use them against every other woman in the Church to minimize their struggles. Treating a handful of women with respect is not currency, so don't try to use it against women who don't know you.

If this behavior has to be explained to you, let's just go ahead and say that it may not be all men, but it's definitely you.

Lamentations and Betrayal

To all the men who said to me that I was overreacting when I said Roe v. Wade, my constitutional right to self-determination, was in jeopardy: I hope the thing you fear most happens to you. I wish threefold suffering upon you. Full offense intended.

Except I don't have to wish. I won't have to wait long. The betrayal you have chosen for all women everywhere will find it's way back to you through the suffering of the women you care about most.

The miscarriages, the criminal prosecutions of the innocent, the usurpation of dogma over science, the infiltration of medicine with violence and fear, the loss of life of the women and children you don't know how to live without. 

That is the price you will pay.

Every man who views the women in his life as nothing more than incubators, I pray they suffer. I hope they are undone in grief. I pray for a scourge upon this land that will not cease until every living, breathing person has full bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom.

The suffering and uncertainty you have imposed upon women through your machinations, through your silence, through your refusals to act. May they fall upon you all in full measure without mercy, for you deserve none.

Why do I feel safe invoking death and destruction on men in this fashion?
Because that's what their conspiracy against women means for me. My life is in danger because of what you all have done. You have turned any pregnancy I may have into a death sentence.
You wanted to practice medicine without a license? You wanted to set yourselves up as the supreme authorities over reproductive health, despite being wholly unqualified? 
May every life you extinguish follow you to the judgment bar of God. May their blood cry against you from their ground for justice. 

The Racism of Kristy Glass

Hey y'all. Gonna make you aware of a situation involving a white Latter-day Saint creator and influencer in the knitting, crocheting, and fiber arts community who just got called out on her racism. You know, in case she tries to galvanize white supporters from this community to defend her when it goes down.

Some of y'all might remember Kristy Glass from the I'm a Mormon campaign. Her video made it through the "We Don't Say Mormon Anymore" rebrand and you'll find it here.

She has a popular Youtube channel where she interviews makers all over the yarn crafting industry. Pattern designers, yarn dyers, shop owners, everyone who's anyone in a global, multi-million dollar industry. Those of you who knit likely already know her name.

A couple years back, the entire community had a moment of reckoning for how it treats black, indigenous, and LGBTQ+ consumers and creators. It's an ongoing conversation that white people have tried to silence so they can "get back to knitting. When that didn't work, a new approach emerged. Rather than pretending black makers and crafters don't exist or belong, white creators tried exploiting and make money off of their presence to show how "woke" they are. That's what Kristy Glass has being accused of doing.

In the words of Adella Colvin, who blew up Kristy's spot on Instagram today, there is a brand of white social media influencer in maker communities who collect black and indigenous people "like Pokemon." They don't care about inclusivity or diversity. Just clout.

Here's the link so you can hear what Adella has to say in her own words. I've followed Adella for years. If she says something is a problem, I trust her implicitly. She doesn't say stuff like this to cause trouble. She does it to invite change. Adella shared her own experience of when Kristy tried to do this to her. She also has firsthand experience of watching her do it to other black people. Specifically, she's calling out Kristy's business model of targeting newer BIPOC creators and having them pay her for exposure.

You know what's worse than expecting someone to work for free, because "exposure" doesn't pay anybody's bills? Charging black and brown people to work for you while they supply you with content. Adella called that exploitation and I agree with her.

"That sounds like a Yarn Folks problem. What you want us to do about that?"

As I said in the beginning, do not let her weaponize her whiteness or her connections to the LDS community if she tries. Based on how these conversations have gone down in the past with other creators, that's on the table. It's another opportunity for us, as Mormon and Mormon adjacent folks, to reckon with the community that taught us it's okay to exploit the labor of BIPOC while providing entirely hypothetical value in return.

Our economy runs on money, not "exposure." Exposure doesn't pay bills or buy food. Pay people a fair price for the value they provide for you in money. And if you get caught not doing that with black and brown people, expect it to blow up in your face.

Adella isn't calling for anyone to unfollow Kristy Glass. But I will. Don't follow someone or give support to them when they treat people like this. If she wants to have a brand that is inclusive and genuinely celebrates diversity, her heart needs to be in it. Not just her pockets.

* * *

UPDATE: As predicted, Kristy decided to act brand new about this entire situation. Adella, who is not having it, took her to task in public because Kristy chose not act right in private.

This total disregard for black people and their experiences, their boundaries, and their patience for how openly disrespectful she is to them on a regular basis. It has been going on with Kristy Glass for years.

Do y'all have any idea how wrong you gotta be to get a black woman to publicly cuss you out while wearing her bonnet? 

Viewing Kristy's response to the situation, she seems to think the only thing she has to apologize for are the out of pocket comments she made about Michelle Obama's cover on Vogue Knitting magazine.

By the time a black person in America is publicly calling out a white person for being racist, it's because they've already amassed an entire collection of receipts as evidence and they're exhausted by ongoing behavior they never should've had to tolerate at all.

"Pray to the racist white God you believe in and thank them that I'm not petty. Because if I was, I would post all the messages and screen shots I've received from other people about you" is a paraphrase that is not far off from what Adella said, and is 100% about Kristy being Mormon.

Which is to say, I now have the perfect comeback for the next person who gets uppity about me still calling myself Mormon. "I don't actually know if God is offended when I call myself Mormon. It's never come up. But I know he's offended every time you say Jesus is white."  

You may not think Kristy's religion is relevant to this conversation about her racism. I've been Mormon for fifteen years. I know it's relevant. There is real white supremacy in my church that needs to be rejected and dismantled. These conversations are how we do that.

I respect Adella immensely. I believe her. I trust her. Do not come into my space and disrespect her or any of the BIPOC makers who have been affected by this. I am here to dismantle white supremacy in my religious community. I'm not going to stop just because you don't want to acknowledge it in fiber world. This is what "doing the work" in anti-racism looks like. This is what BIPOC are constantly asking us to do. You can be part of that work, or you can move along. But do not interrupt what is taking place here with white lady tears or confused bird noises. Learn something.

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