Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Did I just read that?

This one, from's home page today, was a doozy of grammatical vagueness:
"With days to live, hospital hosts wedding for father of the bride"

So the hospital is about to die, and the father of the bride is getting married....too? Instead?

I'm so confused.

Wednesday, September 06, 2017

Did I just read that?

From the Washington Post tonight: "Andrea Pujols, 26, who lives in Guaynabo, a suburb of the Puerto Rico's capital, San Juan, spoke to The Washington Post on Tuesday night as she and her 55-year-old father, Edwin, raced to the airport to retrieve her mother, who was returning home from a trip to Pittsburgh ahead of the storm, having refused to let her family ride out Irma without her. The three will be holed up at home with Pujols’s grandmother and dog, Lady." (

So...her grandmother is a dog?

Monday, August 28, 2017

Did he just read that?

Someone forgot to teach this computer that "ph" says "ffff".

Friday, August 04, 2017

Pioneer Trek Women's Pull

My son was at Trek this week and I had a crisis over the pictures of the part of the trek called the Women's Pull. I've spent a lot of time thinking, researching, talking to people about it and I need to write down what I've learned so I don't forget.

Here are my problems with the Women's Pull portion of trek:

1. It is often based on historical lies.

Many stakes are still using the Mormon Battalion and men called on missions as the reasons justifying making the women pull the handcarts alone. These are lies. The Mormon Battalion ended before any but Brigham Young's vanguard pioneer company left (of the official pioneer companies--there was one independent one that left in 1846, but ended up overwintering in Pueblo, CO, and didn't make it to Utah until after the Mormon Battalion was released).  That was ten years before any handcarts left. And, while many missionaries traveled home from their missions with the handcart companies, the handcart men were not called on missions from the handcart treks. The families were largely immigrants, still trying to get to Utah. They were not known by the leadership in Utah who were calling people on missions. I have found zero evidence of any family on a handcart trek being divided by missions.

Also, the women are usually forced to pull through a difficult, sandy, uphill track because "that's what the pioneers did." But we have documentary evidence from the women there that pulled alone showing that when they reached difficult, sandy spots, they went off the trail to pull on the harder ground around the sandy worn places because it was easier. Remember, these women were ON the treks because they were problem-solvers, trying to make a better life for themselves and their families. They didn't do things the hard way when an easier way was clearly evident. We should not be telling people they did and therefore we must do it the hard way, too. Sometimes we have to, thanks to the rules of the landowners letting us use the land, but we shouldn't say the pioneers did when there is first-person evidence saying they didn't.

There are valid reasons to have the women pull alone. Many women pulled handcarts without adult men in their group. Overwhelmingly, the women who pulled alone planned it that way. Additionally, there were a decent number of women whose husbands died during the treks of the Willie and Martin companies, so that could be a reason (although there were also men whose wives died--so why not do a men's pull?).  Also, there was a great deal of "sprawl" on the actual treks, so a group could find itself facing a tough part with no help unless they waited for someone to catch up or for the company to notice they were missing and send rescuers.  I can't find any other valid reasons to stage a women's pull, though.

Why does this matter? Because if people have a highly emotional experience, they're likely to remember it. And a lot of people cite the women's pull as a time they learned a lot. If people have intense learning experiences and later find out they were centered around a narrative that was a lie, it can be faith-shaking or even faith-shattering. Plus the Holy Ghost can't testify of untruths. So why take the risks? Also, the church has put out a trek handbook that specifically says to not use the Mormon Battalion as justification for an optional women's pull. So we ought to follow the instructions.

2. We don't teach people to do right things by forcing them to do wrong things to see how it feels.

Often, for the women's pull, they purposely set the women up to have a very difficult time, and purposely line the men along the track to watch but forbid them to help. The most common thing I've heard about the women's pull is that the boys learned so much by being forbidden to help when they knew they should, and feeling so sad watching the women suffer and not helping.

I'm sure it's a powerful lesson. Just like having the boys rob a bank and take the consequences to know that robbing a bank is a bad idea.

There must be a better way of teaching them to notice when people are struggling and step in to help than by forcing them to do a wrong thing so they realize it's wrong.  We don't force people to do wrong in order to show them it's wrong.

3. It's not okay to teach people to stand by and watch people struggle or suffer without offering to help.

When we are participating in a simulation, we are practicing behaviors. That's why we do driving simulations in driver's ed. That's why we role play to teach kids behaviors we want them to have. The pioneer trek is a simulation.

When we line all the boys up and have the girls pull carts through a very hard part down the gauntlet of boys, what are they practicing? Watching people suffer and not helping. They are practicing telling themselves things like, "I can't help that person because it might offend them," and they're practicing wanting to help and seeing that it turns out okay without their help, so they don't really need to follow that urge to help.

I have been the one struggling and had people tell me they had the urge to help but figured I had it all together, or they'd seen me pull through before and figured I'd be okay. It was devastating. I had actually needed help.

We do not want to train our youth to suppress the urge to help. This is inexcusable. No matter how many words you use to justify it, or what you think you are teaching them, the thing they practiced and rehearsed doing was the wrong thing.

4. The risk of emotional manipulation is huge. 

The women's pull deliberately sets up a highly emotionally charged situation--that is fake--and then tries to use those strong emotions to teach a lesson. I have a serious concern about deliberately setting up a highly emotional situation and then telling the kids it was profoundly spiritual. Maybe it was for some people, but the risk is huge that as a result, kids will learn that huge emotional reactions are the Spirit, or that they aren't hearing the still small voice if it isn't big and loud. Remember, the scriptures state explicitly that the voice of God was not in the whirlwind. The voice of God is still and small but pierces to the center. When we are emotionally manipulating people by setting up situations that are inherently emotionally powerful as part of our lesson, we actually risk confusing people about the nature of God's voice and how to hear and obey Him, or even how to identify Him.

This is not to say people have powerful spiritual experiences doing the women's pull. Who am I to say what's going on in their hearts?  But it's awfully hard to distinguish between highly spiritual experiences and highly emotional experiences for most of us, and it's very risky to teach the youth that the voice of God is in the emotional whirlwind, when for many of us the emotional whirlwind has to blow away before we can hear the voice of God at all.

Also, setting up emotional situations to try to force people to feel the way you want them to feel (sad, strong, excited, etc) may be effective, but it's also manipulation. Some people don't mind--they love being made to feel things, and it helps them remember. But some people hate being manipulated and feel very bitter and angry about it. Any time you are deliberately trying to create emotion, that's a manipulation and needs to be done cautiously (if at all) because it can turn people away from the lesson you are trying to teach, or even away from the gospel.

Emotional manipulation from someone in charge to prove a point potentially damages trust, and is not a tool that should be in a teacher's tool box as a matter of course, but it is often a huge part of people's trek experiences (burying flour babies, or being attacked by mobs, for example).

5. There is a huge risk of accidentally teaching that women really are weak and always need help.

My son came away from the women's pull saying, "They had it. They were fine. They didn't need our help." That's the right lesson. When the girls have to run a gauntlet of boys while doing something difficult, we are reinforcing to the boys that women are weak, even if they succeeded at the end. What they see is that women just need help. What they don't see is that men just need help, too. It reinforces the men are strong, women are weak narrative. The reality is men are strong and weak, and women are strong and weak.

I would be much more comfortable if everyone had to pull through that section short-handed, with too few people on the carts, even if we gender segregate them (historically, there were as many carts pulled by small groups of men as there were by small groups of women). That way everyone learns that they should help everyone else because they all felt how hard it was to go through a bad experience with no help. We learn to help by needing help, not by watching someone else need help and practicing not helping.

6. We should never make a spectacle of people who are struggling. People, in the midst of trials, are not object lessons.

Having women run a gauntlet of able-bodied people who are declining to help when they could use a hand is just cruel. Making them work hard is great. Making them work hard and struggle while people gawk is horrible. And in appropriate.  We recognize this in real life: we don't have women labor to give birth in front of an audience, we have people get help for poverty in private, we don't make people deal with the flu in front of the whole congregation while they sit and stare. I mean, who even thinks this is okay?

So, this all sounds like I think the activity should be cancelled permanently. I don't. As a designer-of-educational-experiences, though, I think it needs to be restructured and carefully designed to teach the good things people learn, to stick firmly with the truth, and to avoid the bad lessons that come from the structure of the activity and the habit people have of just doing what the previous people did. My own son didn't seem to have trouble with it, thanks to his perception that the girls weren't struggling at all to pull up the hill, and also his ability to laugh off the historical errors they introduced with the activity. But I really think you can influence more people for good if you design things that stick to truth so the Holy Ghost can testify of truth, and design things in a way that teach only good and light and right messages.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Three Dreams About Sin

Last week some time, I had three nightmares in a row, and I understood that they were about sin. Later, I thought I should share them with my family. Since my kids refer back to this blog like a family journal, I'm going to post each dream with the moral here so they can find them again if they need them.

Here were the three dreams and the messages from each:

1.  I dreamed I needed a shower, and I wanted desperately to get clean, but I had to undress to get clean. So I took my shirt off, but there was another shirt underneath. I pulled that off, but there was another. I pulled three off at once, but there were three more. The harder I tried to get undressed, the more shirts there were to take off. 

The moral: We cannot remove our own sins to clean ourselves. We have to use Jesus for that.

2. I dreamed that Mom was a vampire because she’d caught a vampire disease. Every once in a while, she would suddenly turn into a vampire and come after me, blood dripping from fangs. I chastised her once, and she stopped. But it happened again, so I invoked Jesus and admonished her to use Jesus, and she stopped. But it happened again, and I put my hand on her forehead to hold her off and invoked Jesus again. She stopped. 

The moral: We cannot impose Jesus on someone else and have them healed. We can use Jesus to protect ourselves from the effects of other people’s sins, but we cannot make Him cleanse others from their sins. That’s between them and him.

3 I dreamed I was trying to escape the crazy city with too many shirts on everyone and random vampire attacks. It was full and crowded and crazy and somewhat Escher-esque. I searched and found a glass door leading outside. My brother Jon was standing there with his daughter Eve, but he had no head. He opened the door for me, and I walked outside and only then I could see not only his head, but the beautiful gardens outside and that there were many people, going and coming and doing business. They were relaxed and happy (especially compared to the city where everyone was wearing too many shirts, and everything was crowded and nonsensical, and there were vampires).  Before I walked out, though, I couldn't see his head or hear anything he might have been saying. This was scary, but I knew it was Jon, even if I couldn't see his head, and I trusted Jon, and Eve stepped forward to take my hand and reassure me. After I joined him, then I could see his head, and also hear what he was saying to me. There were no vampires and nobody wearing too many shirts out there. It was fresh and clean and you could see the sky.

This last dream had two morals. 

The first moral (which follows the other two dreams' morals nicely): You don't fix sin or just work harder to stop or take it off while living in it, you get up and leave it behind. (I'm not sure how to elaborate on this, but it was a very clear message that it was a moral of this dream.)

The second moral (I'll try to explain; this makes perfect sense to me simply from the imagery, but it's hard to verbalize): We cannot always see how the prophets/faithful members of the church are thinking--their thoughts don’t always seem to make sense, or even appear to be there at all (thus Jon’s missing head), but we have to step into their world first before we can understand (vs what most people want: to understand both viewpoints and then choose). For example, if we are caught in a social/intellectual world where women seem entitled to the priesthood or Joseph Smith is a jerk, any other ways of thinking make no sense--especially since everyone standing around us, whose heads we see and whose voices we hear and understand, agrees (darn echo chambers!). To understand how other people could possibly accept the "other" way (women not needing the priesthood, etc), you have to leave behind the wrong ideas first, even without understanding what to replace them with, and move toward the right ideas even if you can't see or hear them at all at first. After you step through the door, then you can see their heads and that they aren’t brainless, stupid ideas. But until you leave behind the other ideas and walk away from them, you can't see the heads of the people outside, or that there are lots of them out there (meaning, of course, that their ideas don't make sense and you can't even really "hear" what they're saying, even if you process and can repeat the words back.)

So. Three dreams about sin. You can't take it off yourself (you need Jesus), you can't take it off other people (they need Jesus but you can't force the issue on them), and you just have to leave it behind (rather than living in it and expecting things to change). Also, people following the prophets sometimes seem to have no head, but if you go toward them, you can see and understand. But you can't see or understand if you hang back (even if it's because headless people rightfully seem quite scary).

Tuesday, May 02, 2017


Caleb (15 yo) was one of the stars in the school play tonight, and he sang a beautiful solo as Mufasa (in The Lion King). It was amazing. His voice was just gorgeous. His teachers both told me it moved them to tears.

I was so impressed.

When we came home, Emmeline was asleep and everyone was tired. I left her in her car seat while I unloaded my arm of stuff we'd taken to the show. When I came back out, the star of the show, just off from being praised to the moon for a gorgeous solo in a fantastic performance, had come back out to the car and was very gently untangling his baby sister from her car seat, trying to bring her in the house without waking her. Without being asked. And despite being exhausted.

What everyone else saw tonight was a great actor and singer in the making. What I saw was a great man in the making.

The best stuff happens off stage, away from the limelights, in the dark when nobody is looking.

Monday, May 01, 2017

The "Weakness" Scripture

I'm pretty sure some people are questioning my interpretation of the Weakness Scripture in Ether that I discussed in my talk, so I'm going to explain it a little more here.

"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness."

Traditionally, this has been viewed as a scripture about finding and rooting out individual weaknesses in your personality or soul.

I got a blessing one year that said, "Notice, that scripture doesn't say weaknesses? It says weakness." 

That hit me hard. I had been spending a lot of time focusing on the reality that I have specific weaknesses, and they hold me back, and fretting about how to fix that. And I was using that scripture as a justification for my misplaced focus. Doesn't Ether say we have to find our weaknesses and turn them into strengths?

NO.  That verse in Ether does not say that.

And if we use it to mean that, we are forcing into scripture an unhealthy (and unscriptural, and potentially prideful) focus on ourselves. Focusing on us, whether to celebrate our own strengths or to bemoan our own weaknesses, is Pride. And pride is a sin in both the Fake Glory form and the Fake Humility form.

The reality is that we don't actually have the perspective to find and eliminate our own weaknesses. And focusing on our weaknesses is not psychologically healthy. It is depressing and discouraging, and ultimately worthless because focusing on them actually reinforces them instead of eliminating them.  It's an unproductive and unhealthy focus on me me me.

At least, it was for me.

Of course when we realize we have bad habits, we should work to eliminate those. And when we have sins we should repent. And if we have handicaps or mental illnesses that make righteousness more difficult, we should seek treatment. But weaknesses in our makeup are much harder to address (and often impossible) and focusing on them isn't helpful. Working with and around our weaknesses is often necessary.

But if you read the actual words in that scripture, and not the social constructs we've place around it, it's not talking about a propensity to tell things a little rosier than they actually are, or an inability to remember names, or bad fashion sense. It is talking about our inherent state of being weak, especially compared to God. 

Searching for weaknesses in your soul and trying to root them out is a me-focused activity. Coming before God with a fuller understanding that, actually, you can't do it yourself (succeed at life, overcome your afflictions, change your heart, etc) is the reality of humility. Humility is not putting yourself down. It's putting yourself in your proper place in relation to God (and, in the process, other people). 

Here is it again:
"And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness."

Recognizing our weakness requires us to come to God because we don't have the perspective to see that actually, in reality, we're powerless. (We like to think that we're strong. Our society teaches us to think that we're strong, and to be strong, and to focus on our strengths, etc.) Recognizing our inherent and absolute weakness requires understanding and perspective shared from Him. If we were powerful, we would not rely on God. We wouldn't need to trust and believe Him (not just believe in Him, but believe Him). We wouldn't be motivated to get, cling to, and practice faith, hope, and charity.

According to this verse, weakness is not something we are supposed to find and get rid of. Weakness is a blessing that God gave us so that we would do the things that are required to get back to Him, and to let Him help us, and to rely on Jesus.

Life is so difficult if we focus on our weaknesses and failures. But life becomes so beautiful when we accept our weakness and let God make that a strength--not eliminate it, but use it to help us succeed at the things that matter to Him (making us more like Him, bringing us back to Him). Our inability to do it on our own becomes a strength when we learn to rely on Jesus and use the Priesthood to get through life. Because of agency, we have to let Him help us. We have to let Him heal us. We have to invite Him in. Recognizing and embracing the reality that we are weak helps us do that. It opens the door to many wonderful blessings, and to an amazing relationship with Jesus and our Father in Heaven. So many, many doors are opened (the windows of heaven, even) if we can recognize our weakness.

And we miss that if we are too busy finding our flaws and busying ourselves making lists about how to fix them.