Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Did I just read that?

"Mythbusters to end with final season"

Sad as that news might be, it's a funny headline.  If it's the final season and it didn't end, doesn't that mean it's not the final season? So...uh...yes. Of course it will end with the final season. All shows end with the final season. That's the definition of final season.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Messy House Doctrine

The idea that cleanliness of your house is next to godliness has resurfaced in our lives again--this time one of the kids heard it in a church class.

The "doctrine" has morphed. No longer is it, "You cannot feel the Spirit in a messy home."  Now it is, "You can feel the Spirit in a messy home, but it's not as easy."

Nice change. Still not true.

The idea that you can do things that make it harder to understand the Spirit rings true to me. I know if I don't go to church, even if I have a good reason, it's harder for me to get answers to my prayers--they come slower and quieter. I also find it harder to understand (I hesitate to use "feel the Spirit" because it is so often warped into this idea that emotions are driven by the Spirit, which is not true) the Spirit when I don't sleep enough, or when I eat only junk food. Or when I'm depressed or having anxiety. Or when I am feeling stubbornly resolved to my will or when I want something so badly that I'm not sure I could accept a "no" answer from God.

While I do believe there are things that hamper each person's ability to understand the Spirit, and I do believe there are universal things that hamper everyone's understanding (like sin), I think it's a mistake to take my own list and impose it on everyone else. Perhaps lack of sleep doesn't affect you the same way it does me, for example.

Saying that I can't understand the Spirit because my floor is messy is imposing your list on me.  It would be okay to say, "While you can feel the Spirit in a messy house, it's not as easy for me to feel the Spirit in a messy place as it is in a clean place."

Besides, who is to say what constitutes "clean" or "messy" when we're talking houses?  Everyone has a different level of chaos tolerance. Personally, I think a low level of chaos tolerance is a handicap, not a sign of greater spirituality and righteousness. If you can't think when there are things on the floor, it seems to me like something is wrong with you. It seems like it might hamper your ability to feel the Spirit if you compulsively MUST pick up before you can get answers to your prayers or concentrate on the scriptures, or if you can't feel the Spirit in a slum.

This "cleanliness doctrine" really falls apart upon closer examination anyway. What you're saying is:
   --mothers of young children
   --people with disabilities (including the invisible ones like ADHD or fibro)
  --people who have just lived through a disaster (floods and fires are messy)
  --people who have chronic illness
  --single parents
  --people who are stuck in abject poverty
  --people who are struggling through mental illness like depression
  --people who are random
  --missionaries who are teaching in a messy environment, like a slum
  --everyone who lives in countries that are "third world" in your eyes
  --people who have at-home children all the time (toddlers and babies, homeschoolers, people with sick children) because there is no break from mess-making
  --people with a lot of small children
  --caretakers of the disabled, elderly, mentally ill
have less ability to understand the Spirit than you who have the luxury of easily having clean floors do.

Not only that, but somewhat perversely, you are saying that men who abuse their wives and force them to clean the floors to white-glove-test cleanliness have the best ability to feel the Spirit, thanks to their wife's efforts and none of their own. And child abusers who have spotless houses thanks to the slave labor of their children have an easier time feeling the Spirit.

Besides, who defines how clean is clean enough for the Spirit?

It is a mistake to conflate clean houses with righteousness. And its a mistake to judge other people's spirituality, especially based entirely on the condition of their house or car.

What helps us have a better chance of understanding the Spirit? A clean HEART. A clean soul. Clean thoughts. And practice listening to and obeying the Spirit--the more you do it, the easier it becomes. Even in slums.

I can't find any scriptures that actually say, "Clean your house." Individuals might get that as an answer to prayer. I even have--it's easier to live in a cleaner house, quite frankly. But let that be enough reason--you don't have to make it a commandment or a sign of your spirituality. (And how would a messy person get the inspiration to clean up if they can't feel the Spirit in a messy environment?)

And, in fact, even in conference women have said, "The answer was to clean less and do scripture study/family home evening more."

I also find it grossly unfair to women to say that everyone can feel the Spirit more easily in a clean house. Why? Because by and large, women are still the ones responsible for the home environment, even in homes where two parents work. So when we teach that the house has to be clean for anyone inside to be able to feel the Spirit, what we're telling people is that the woman in the house is responsible for everyone's ability to understand the Spirit, and that's not fair. That's worse that the flap all the feminists get into when we teach modesty and they say it's unfair that we are putting responsibility on girls for boys' bad thoughts. It is certainly not my fault if you can't understand answers to your prayers.

By making housekeeping a righteousness issue instead of something more mundane, we're also degrading the work of mothering, making it lesser than (or equating it) with housekeeping, as if a woman's sole value was in her ability to clean up messes. Mothering is not cleaning. Period. They're not even related. You can hire someone else to do all the cleaning and not lose any speck of your mothering ability. In fact, housekeeping interferes with most women's ability to mother the way they want, and if we make housekeeping the greater importance, women lose. And so do children.  If you have to choose between a clean floor and reading the scriptures with your children, and most moms of young babies do, it's unfair to try to equate them spiritually.

How many moms end up overwhelmed and depressed because the pressure to keep the house clean and still do everything else is overwhelming? How much better is it for a family to have a happy, functional mom and a messy floor? A lot. Immeasurably better. It's completely unfair to a mom to say that her whole family's spirituality requires her to be overworked and miserable. That sounds an awful lot like God hates women, and I know He doesn't. Nor does He require anything of a woman in order for her husband to be able to more or less easily feel the Spirit. Your ability to understand the Spirit is on you and you alone. That's not anyone else's responsibility, and it's unfair to everyone to make it seem otherwise.

This is not to degrade the work women do in their homes. Every single thing women do to make their homes a comfortable, safe, happy sanctuary for their families is vital and valued. It's all part of the important mission of women, and women need to be told that because it always seems like the drudgery of housework is not important. But it is.

But can't it be enough that it's important because it's healthier, more convenient, and comfortable? Do we have to make it a matter of our spiritual health? Can't we make righteousness the focus of our spiritual health instead?

I know of so, so many women who were beating themselves up because they couldn't keep up with the work who prayed or got blessings that said, "Don't focus so much on the floor. It doesn't matter if the house is clean as much as it matters that you are doing scripture study and drawing your children close instead of pushing them away so you can clean."  If you have to neglect or yell at the kids so you can clean, there's a problem.

And many of us have to choose between teaching our children, making good memories, developing their talents, and staying sane and keeping the house spotless, and those are not fair choices to inject "by the way, keeping the house clean is righteousness" into--especially since the others are actually more important, and most of us (admit it) can't do both at any given moment.

Most women get the balance better than I do and manage to keep their houses at least passably tidy. And everyone has to deal with their "this must be cleaned up because I can't live like this" point--wherever it falls on the cleanness spectrum.

But let's let it be what it is and not make it something else.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Please read this....

Please read this. Having been in and out (but more in) crisis mode for 10 years (pretty much straight, either for me, or my husband, or other people we love, without a break of any longer than a couple of days in a row that I can remember since 2008), I can attest to every word in here.


This should be required reading for every person who wants to love or serve people in crisis. Or who ever might meet someone in crisis.

Now go hold someone's hand.

And for every single person who I was trying to help and I did it wrong: I'm sorry. I am so so sorry.

Sunday, October 11, 2015


Ether 12:27: 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.

This is a well-known scripture. We often interpret it to mean that we all have weaknesses and they are there to make us humble, and if we trust God, He will turn our weaknesses into strengths.

And from this verse, we tend to extrapolate the idea that we each have weaknesses and strengths, and we should spend our lives rooting out our weaknesses. It's almost as if we believe that we are a giant computer code, and if we can find all the bugs and eliminate them, then we will be perfect. So we're supposed to search and destroy--identify our bits of bad code and rewrite them or cut them out entirely--until we are perfect humans.

After all, how could it be wrong to work on self-improvement?

The trouble is it doesn't work. And it can't. Why?

Several reasons, many of which add up to "What makes you think you're smart enough to do that?": 

1. We are not actually capable of seeing all our weaknesses. Some of them, like pride, actually change the way we see altogether, making it impossible for us to spot them.

2. What we define as weaknesses might not actually be weaknesses. For years I was ashamed that I was so strong-willed. But then I stumbled upon my mom's journal and found one of the few entries she made was my baby blessing, where she recorded that I was blessed with a strong will. Had I rooted that out of my soul, I would have been getting rid of a blessing. And an essential part of who I am.

3. What we see as weaknesses are so intertwined with so many, many things that we can't see the results of our efforts. So many things are, as my mom used to say, "Double-edged swords." If you excise one thing, you might accidentally destroy something you like.

4. Looking for and eliminating our weaknesses is entirely the wrong focus. It leaves us looking inward instead of outward. The purpose of life is NOT to watch ourselves and focus on ourselves. The purpose is to take care of ourselves specifically so we can serve the people around us and love others. It's not supposed to be all about you, and focusing on getting rid of your weaknesses makes it all about you.

5. How do you know what is a weakness without comparing yourself to others?  Comparison is not healthy and, by its nature is embedded in pride, which is a sin.

and, most importantly, 6. We can't actually do that. Many of our "weaknesses" are embedded in our biological makeup. Without Jesus, we can't actually get rid of them.

But it turns out that's not what the scripture says, anyway. You notice, it doesn't say that we have weaknesses to keep us humble or that we are supposed to find and eliminate our weaknesses, as if there was a checklist for perfection. 

Let's read it again: 

Ether 12:27: 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.

First of all, the scripture does not say we have weaknesses. It says we are weak. There is a big difference there. We are weak and incapable, not for any one thing we can find and get rid of but because we are human. We are weak, especially compared to God. And really, that's a comforting idea. Like a baby can't do all things (or even many things) because of lack of strength, we can't either and that is not a condemnation of us. It is a simple statement of reality.

We are weak, therefore we can't do a lot of things and we fail a lot and that makes us humble (if we let it). So if we go unto God, He will show us that we are weak. But His grace is sufficient for us if we humble ourselves.  And then it is never our job to make ourselves strong--you notice that in the verse? It is our job to become humble before him (not before men, which is actually another form of pride) and to have faith in him, and then He takes care of it, making weak things become strong. 

Moroni was comforted by these words, and I am, too. It is not a call to self-improvement. It is a statement from a loving God that yes, you are weak, and that's just fine. It's no condemnation to you if you are weak, only if you are proud. 

When I'm working on a car, and I can't get a bolt off, I can get mad at myself and feel furious and frustrated and miserable because I'm not strong enough. Or I can acknowledge that I'm not strong enough and ask for help. I have learned that I'm too weak physically to get the bolts out of car parts, and if I ask Tim he can usually do it with little trouble. He is stronger than I am.  It's easier for all of us if I don't bother to be stubborn and keep trying myself when I actually am too weak for that and just ask for help. 

I'm the kind of person who usually feels really bad when I fail at things. I like to succeed, and I like to think that if I just try harder, I will always find a way to succeed.  So then it's kind of devastating when I try my hardest and still fail.

But that's where this scripture becomes comforting to me. It's good to be reminded that I'm not just dumb, and I'm not a failure, and I'm not all full of weaknesses that I have yet to find and correct. No--I'm just weak. I just actually can't do it myself. I am like a baby to God, and babies not only can't do a lot of things, the things they can do are done awkwardly and poorly, imperfectly and weakly. And we rejoice at their efforts. God has no misconceptions of how weak I am--only I do. And no doubt he rejoices at my efforts and cheers for my awkward, poorly executed, imperfect results. And if I am willing to see myself as weak, we're both happier for it because then I let God help me, and am more willing to let go and let Him help, and trust what He's doing. 

And if I'm failing because I'm weak, and I turn to Him for help, and He doesn't fix it for me, then I need to trust whatever He is doing even if I don't understand it. And chances are I don't because I'm weak and He's strong; I have limited vision and He can see everything.

This is not to say we don't have to try to do right and keep the commandments and follow God's rules because we're too weak. He expects us to do our very, very best in our weakness. We still have to work, and He makes us do all the parts we can ourselves. It's not an excuse to do nothing.

But it is much nicer to look at life as me being a weak thing that God loves and will help than as a strong thing that is full of faults and failed. We can't try harder to be strong and perfect ourselves. We can just try harder to be humble and have faith that God knows what He's doing, and He is strong.

Doctrinal Porn

The church recently released a really good video for kids about what to do if you see porn.  (You can see it here:  I showed it to all my kids.

One of my greatest fears is that my kids will become addicted to porn and not be able to get free, and that it will ruin their marriages.

Why is porn so scary to me?

Many reasons, including:
 --It takes something sacred and twists it so that the sacred seems dull and the twisted version seems normal, warping a person's ability to enjoy and benefit from the sacred, natural version.

--It dulls natural sensations and emotions

--It redefines love into something selfish and unhealthy

--It objectifies an entire class of people

--It's progressive, leading you further and further from reality while simultaneously making reality more and more boring and distasteful

--It convinces you that what you do alone doesn't affect anyone else

--It's a secret, done in secret, kept in secret, and secrets aren't really healthy

--It destroys a person's ability to have normal, healthy relationships (both intimate and casual)

--It hampers a person's ability to handle stress, unhappiness, problems, and interpersonal interactions (especially the unpleasant ones) in healthy ways

--It blurs the lines between reality and fantasy, making it hard for people to live and function in reality

--It is addicting. Like the video says, we happen upon it and it feels wrong but it also makes us curious and makes us want to see more.

In short, pornography interferes with a person's ability to interact with other people, to be in tune with their own emotions, and to live a healthy, connected life.

So you know I have also been concerned for a long time about the doctrines that are becoming ever more prevalent and open in the world among my peers--especially feminism and intellectual/ progressive mormonism.  I've talked before about feminism being like a virus that infects your soul and changes your ability to see clearly.

While I think that is still an apt comparison, I'm starting to see a great comparison between these feminist and intellectual approaches to mormonism and porn.  I know this seems like a completely exaggerated and unfair comparison, but hear me out.

These progressive and intellectual mormon doctrines--the ones I wanted to just call apostasy outright in my last blog post--often feel wrong at first glance, but they make us curious and make us want to read more and hear more.  (You can see my brother's take on this here:

They are something we usually indulge in privately and don't like to tell those we love that we just spent time on them.

They are addicting. People go back for more again and again, even without being able to say why.

The doctrines (and blog posts espousing them) blur the lines between the gospel and flat-out apostasy, making it hard to tell where the truth ends and the lies begin.

They hamper a person's ability to deal with stress, interpersonal troubles, and unhappiness in the ways the Lord has recommended that He says will help. Somehow these doctrines make it harder for people to access the atonement and find the peace the Spirit is supposed to bring. And they make it harder to deal with the frailties, faults, and downright stupidities of local leaders in the church.

Somehow, these doctrines hamper a person's ability to have normal, healthy relationships with God. This is especially sad when a person is already struggling and their faith is already stretched to its limit.

The doctrines are progressive. Nobody jumps from the gospel into apostasy in one big leap. It's through little, progressive doctrines instead. One step at a time.

Where porn redefines love into something selfish, these intellectual and feminist versions of Mormonism redefine our relationship with God into something selfish, where we define for Him how things are going to go and how they work and what we believe is right instead of letting Him define it all.

These doctrines dull natural spiritual sensations and emotions, making them harder to feel and understand.

And, ultimately, like porn, these doctrines take something sacred and twists it into something else, making it harder for people to access the natural, healthy, sacred version of spirituality, the gospel, and our relationships with God and Jesus.

In short, doctrinal pornography interferes with a person's ability to interact with God and righteous people, to be in tune with their own emotions and the way the Holy Ghost speaks to them, and to live a healthy, connected-with-God kind of life.

I have not taken the time to figure out HOW the "doctrinal porn" does all these things. I'm just seeing a parallel between how pornography affects human emotion, relationships, and sexuality and how doctrinal porn affects human emotion, relationships, and spirituality. Porn messes up men's ability to interact with women and feel love. Doctrinal porn messes with people's ability to interact with God and feel the Spirit, as far as I can tell.

This doctrinal porn is really hard to identify. It's often mixed in with other things. I know on my mission they told us to just not watch "The Godmakers" (an anti-mormon film that was produced in my  mission), just like they tell people to just not look at porn in the first place. But certainly The Godmakers isn't the only stuff out there we should not be indulging in.

So what exactly counts as doctrinal porn, as opposed to legitimate scholarly work or honest curiosity or harmless but deeply-held belief?

I honestly don't know. It's harder to define, even, than what constitutes porn (vs art, scholarly work, etc). I'm sure it's all mixed in. But, like porn, it's becoming more prevalent in our society and more widely-seen. It's less secret, less likely to be only found if you go looking.

And I can't even tell someone what to avoid, except to say it seems it would be wise to pray for the gift of discernment so that, like porn, you know it when you see it.

And what you do with it is up to you.

Wednesday, October 07, 2015

Complaining about the apostles

Still seeing articles, purporting to be compassionate acknowlegments of the "pain" of other people and the "aggressions" of the leadership of the church (those are both catchphrases that have more meanings than you might think).

At what point do we get to start calling a spade a spade? At what point do we get to start labeling these carefully-worded "compassionate" complaints against the Church as what they are: apostacy? Not to punish the speakers, but to protect the vulnerable and easily deluded--especially the feminists and intellectuals themselves, who might choose to continue in their "Jesus is stupid" path, but they might choose to re-examine their beliefs and change?

It bothers me a lot how aggressively they are pushing their doctrine and trying to lead others astray. And succeeding at it. Perhaps there aren't enough voices standing up and saying, "The apostles are called of Christ, not by a committee who are interested only in maintaining their power and keeping the people crushed under their feet." Perhaps we don't need to label it apostacy, but perhaps it's time that we all stand up and fearlessly speak the truth.

Perhaps they aren't leading anyone astray. Maybe they're all talking to their echo chambers, and the lovers of truth can see through the nonsense or just don't even listen, like the righteous did to Korihor.

But calling it what it is seems like an important first step, even if we don't say it out loud.

For the record: Apostles are called by God and Jesus. And if they choose white men, so be it.

Sunday, October 04, 2015

Protesters. Sigh.

Conference is only half over and people are already coming out to protest.

There are the usual parties: feminists and intellectuals.

The feminists (not all of them--the Ordain Women crew again) are out putting on little skits of how women ought to be involved, showing little girls preparing the sacrament, without any clue that what they are doing is highly offensive to most members, mocking things many of us find sacred. And still without any clue to the irony of their position: completely denigrating the priesthood while begging for it.

Despite their protests to the contrary, it appears that these feminists are looking for more power for themselves in the church.

The intellectuals are out in force on social media, complaining about the new apostles being white. They are sure the church would be better served by someone who is not of European descent, and it appears they want someone from Africa.

Despite their protests to the contrary, it appears that these intellectuals are looking for the church to become socially acceptable.

Neither group is asking the pertinent question: Is this Jesus Christ's church or not? Is Jesus in charge of the church, or not?

That is the main question.

Also, I'm seeing that if you set out to watch conference to find mistakes and errors, you will find them. And that's a shame--not because errors exist, but because if you're looking for problems, you're not looking for answers or enrichment or to be taught and edified at the feet of Apostles of God.

It seems especially sad to me because this Saturday Conference, the Brethren actually did address the issues and the attitudes of many of these protesting parties. And they were too busy looking for grammatical errors and misquotations to actually hear the answers they say they are searching for.

It is truly their loss. But what a loss.