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Joe Part II

Joe is everyman, and everyman is Joe. We have all been Joe, and we run the distinct possibility of being Joe again in the future.

To this end, here is the road map of red flags, when taking stock of one’s own heart, to see if love of (*) is leading you down the path of Joedom. Don’t go that way, beloveds. That way lies madness.

  1. The Degree to Which You Like Someone Depends on Their Affiliation with (*). If someone is WAY into (*), they are instantly your best friend. If they are not, they are non grata. Yes, it’s understandable to gravitate towards like minded people, but it’s not always laudable. In a world of tribes and cliques, Love of Humans should transcend love of (*).
  2. If Someone doesn’t like (*), it bothers you. A lot. You lose sleep over it. You try to talk them into it, only to be met with frustration. You finally realize that you can’t even with them, because they don’t love (*). How can you trust someone who doesn’t love (*)? It’s basic human decency to be on the side of (*). Right?
  3. (*) puts you in conflict with others. They feel that (*) gets in the way of your relationship with them, and you are frustrated because (*) is such a big part of who you are that a rejection of (*) feels like a rejection of you. How hurtful is that, that they don’t empathize and identify with (*) when it’s that important to you?

In conclusion, (*) will never matter as much as relationships. If and when it does, (*) has reached the status of a false god, a god that cannot redeem you or love you or give you what you actually need. Sure, love (*), but no more than it deserves–it deserves the love of all non-human, non-Salvific things. It deserves the same love as a Big Mac, or a pair of shoes you know you’ll outgrow. It’s something that will pass away, and become irrelevant.

The End

 

 

(*)=  Political Affiliation, School of Thought, Worldview, or MLM of your choice

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The Story of Joe

Disclaimer: This is not an indictment of (*). I enjoy (*), and most people, I think, also do.

Once upon a time, there was bright, zealous, well meaning church member named Joe. Whether by upbringing, or by discovery as an adult, s/he became involved in (*).

There was truth to be had in (*). Lots of truth. It was easy to tie it back to Gospel Truth. The truth in (*) made Joe feel good, grounded, part of something exciting and real. As Joe progressed in their knowledge and involvement in (*), it also made them feel important. Joe began to make a name for themselves, in real life, and especially online. The writings of Joe came to be admired, championed as pioneering thoughts on the matter of (*).  Before Joe knew it, they were making money, and then a living preaching the gospel of (*).  Can you believe it–Joe became so good at (*) they could build a career on it? Extraordinary, and so exciting.

Joe rose through the ranks of (*), meeting the heads of the field, experts and dignitaries, and, inspired by their greatness, and their glorious condescension in mentoring Joe, Joe threw themselves into the work of (*) with renewed fervor. The glorious, heady high was wonderful, but Joe felt a stirring within him.   It was unfair to keep this light under a bushel. Selfish, even. Sure, there were people who naturally flocked to Joe because they had an interest in (*). But that wasn’t enough.

Joe handpicked people to recruit and mentor, sometimes invoking the spirit when explaining to prospective mentees the gravity and importance of what they were offering. Joe wished all to come unto the Gospel of (*), but also formed a special, insular club around himself of specially recruited adherents they had personally vetted and trained. They could be trusted to hold the proper reverence due to something as important as (*).

There were problems, yes. Sometimes Joe’s spouse or offspring became withdrawn or resentful because of the time, attention, and money that went into (*). Sometimes they didn’t appreciate the importance of what Joe was doing, when Joe bent the whole family’s lifestyle around the tenants of (*). Sometimes, Fellow church members, or even church leadership expressed concern or frustration with the way that (*) worked its way into every  testimony Joe bore, every lesson they taught, every comment they made in class. Sometimes, sometimes.

Joe had seen it happen. Divorces and excommunications where the haters blamed (*). That wasn’t really the problem. (*) was the truth and the light.

The real problem is, people just DIDN’T. Understand. How. Important. (*). Is.

They didn’t understand how (*) is really the Gospel, and how the Gospel is (*).

Joe read this blog post, and meant to write a long reply about how it doesn’t apply and/or how this is blasephemy against (*), but then thought better of it. There is no time for that, because Joe’s time is needed for (*), not for haters who just don’t understand.

 

*(Essential Oils/ Feminism/ Crossfit/ Homeopathy/ Political Worldview or MLM of Your Choice)

Why My Facebook Account is Mostly Inactive (or, Calm Down, I Didn’t Unfriend You)

It has to be said. So here it is.

 

  • I don’t like being that available. I resisted getting a cell phone until after I was a married adult, halfway through college, in 2006. I didn’t text anyone regularly until 2014, and I didn’t get a smart phone until 2015. I have no regrets, and wish I was more of a Luddite. Having my Facebook profile mostly inactive is a way of carving out that autonomy in a hyperconnected world.
  • I like being surprised by our in person conversations. When I ask how you’ve been, or answer when you ask, I want there to be that lovely spark of interest and newness to the situation. When I tell you about my compound fracture from having been trampled by an elephant, I would rather you say, “WHAT?!” rather than, “oh yeah, I saw your post.”

 

 

  • On that note, I miss the realness of more personal communication. I used to hate texting, but frankly, compared to getting a “like” on a social media status, texting feels personal, mindful, and real. I am here for you, I like you, and I think you’re awesome, even if I’m not reading, “reacting to,” or commenting on your social media. Social media relationships are cheap, easy, prolific, and all to easily slide into good or evil flavors of superficiality. Text, call, write a letter, or visit. I want us to be friends, rather than having our frienship being filtered through our online personas.
  • Because an online persona is impossible to avoid. Online personas are, admittedly, somewhat necessary. It’s not appropriate to share everything with everyone, and because of this, we develop our online “brand,” either consciously or otherwise. I’d rather know you from what I’ve seen of you when we’re together in person. I’d rather not be preconditioned, for better or worse, by my impressions of your online brand. And I’d rather you see me for me, rather than my brand.
  • Because sometimes, I’m creeped out. It has happened on two separate occasions with two separate people–the individual unfriended me, then casually photographed me (not the group type photo you expect to show up on social media), then posted it to Facebook without my knowledge or consent and tagged our mutual friends. Since I’m not in the habit of scrolling the pages of people who’ve unfriended me, the discovery of these came in a roundabout, after the fact way, and was somewhat unsettling both times. People, don’t do this. If you’re unfriendly enough with someone to unfriend them, maybe you aren’t on intimate enough terms with that someone to post photos of them without their knowledge and consent? (Maybe you should always ask?) Just maybe.
  • Because social media can create weird little corners of voyeruism and exhibitionism, including, but not limited to, point no. 5. When I realize I’m accustomed to reading the daily update of someone I only sort of know, passively taking in the dramatic narrative of his/ her life without actually interacting with him/ her, that’s just… no. When I realize I am also supplying this for other people, it’s also, just…. NO. See point no. 2.
  • Social media makes people weird, depressed, pessimistic about world events, and insecure. Science says so! I have no doubt that you’re the exception. But I’m definitely not.
  • I have a love/ hate relationship with attention. I’m a middle child. This sort of dysfunction is my jam. Getting attention is my drug, but going unnoticed and underestimated is my SUPERPOWER. I say that without an ounce of irony. There are many, many advantages to obscurity, and I revel in them. These days, I’m all about playing to my strengths.
  • I only have so much time and energy. And I’ve been getting careful about where it goes. Even when Facebook doesn’t take up much time, it can take a lot of brainspace–thinking about what everyone has to say, turning ideas and new and commentary over in my head, posing arguments or wondering if they’ve considered (x, y, z), even if I don’t even respond–can be a habit that drains energy that’s better spent elsewhere. I’ve got 5 homeschooling kids, several church callings, community work, and a writing life, that are all (on paper) bigger priorities for my thoughts and passion. I really shouldn’t be spending my energy debating the merits and pitfalls of unvaccinated vs. vaccinated undocumented endangered fruitbat circumcision healthcare coverage, not even in my head. It’s OK that that’s your cause, but I’m quite certain, compelling as this topic is, that it shouldn’t be a priority for me right now. I’ve got witch burnings to write about.
  • In conclusion, I love you, I didn’t unfriend you, and if you happen to be a relation and/ or dear friend, please don’t be afraid to reach out. Because seriously, you are the best, and I mean that even though I totally missed the docudrama of how delicious your Chipotle burrito was last Wednesday. I’m on Twitter (for professional reasons) and Instagram (I don’t know why, I’ll quit if it becomes a habit and/or gains an actual following–see point 8). You’re free to connect there, for, you know, pictures of my zinnias.

 

 

On King Noah, Blackface, and the Book of Mormon Musical

Ok. So.

Let’s say, once upon a time, some creators looked at a group of people who had a history of being stripped of their basic rights, beaten, and oppressed and said,

“By Golly, let’s take people who do not belong to this group, dress them up as gaudy caricatures of this group, and make them do silly, silly things for the entertainment of the masses! It’ll be fun!”

And the rest of the people were so classy, and so unwilling to make a mocking, degrading spectacle of their fellowman, especially one with whom there is already historical trauma, that they were like, “BRUH. NO.”

Right?……

 

Right?

 

 

 

blackface

Yeah, that wasn’t OK.

But then things happened. The Civil Rights movement happened. Social Justice Movements happened. And we got WOKE. And we were not going to stand for this!

Minority groups in this country, minorities who have been  discriminated against, raped, shot, lynched by angry mobs, and misrepresented again and again and again, were not going to be exaggerated props for our entertainment and voyeurism. They deserved protection.

We got totally WOKE and we are not going to stand for minorities being made into gaudy, crude caricatures for us to laugh at.

It’s dehumanizing.

It’s cruel.

It’s the HIGHEST GROSSING BROADWAY MUSICAL! GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!

 

 

MORMON-jumbo.jpg

But hold on, you say, That’s not entirely fair. It’s just a joke. Can’t you take a joke?

Sure I can. But I also believe in internal consistency.  Would you be comfortable making not just one joke, but a WHOLE MUSICAL of jokes about a minority group? If you aren’t comfortable laughing at a blackface gag, why is this okay to you?

Matt Stone himself (one of the musical’s creator’s) asserted that, “We obviously all have fun at the expense of religion and — the Book of Mormon, it’s just silly; it’s silly and there’s a lot of good comedy there. And the story of Joseph Smith, the way it’s told, is silly too.”

So what does this make the African converts in your charming tale?

Stone and Parker manage to achieve both religious blackface and plain old blackface too, so we can sample all the flavors.

He goes on to slather on the buttery diplomacy, about the niceness of Mormons, and how the whole thing is really pro-religion, etc. There are people who also will argue that pornography is pro-love, because nakedness and oxytocin. You can tell that to the children of broken marriages, to the suicidal wives, to the congenital syphillis. Nope, nope, extra nope.

But wait, wait. Your church is even in on the joke. They bought advertising space in the Playbill!

They sure did. In related matters, God sent Abinadi into King Noah’s court. God did not send Abinadi in there because the lechery, demagoguery, and priestcraft were the swellest thing since leopardskin loincloths, he sent him because every fine-twined whore monger in there also happened to be a beloved child of God, in desperate need of education and grace. He sent Abinadi because children in every state of wayward, cruel ignorance are always, always worth every effort.

I heard people ended up getting baptized from having seen the musical.

As did Alma, the erstwhile whoremongering-priestcrafting sinner turned prophet. It doesn’t make past whoremongering and priestcraft morally okay, but speaks solely to the Grace of God. Which is big enough to handle bigotry-riddled pasts.

And…and a mission president had his missionaries go see it!

My dears, when calling-dropping becomes integral to your argument, the whole thing starts to crumble. Let’s assume for a moment that this one is, in fact true, and not urban legend.

First, leaders sometimes make really stupid decisions. This is no secret. We have records of this happening from the Old Testament onwards.

Second, let’s assume that it happened and that it was a divinely inspired thing (these are both big assumptions). Still doesn’t mean the musical itself is exonerated. It could easily mean that God felt it necessary for missionaries to have the cultural literacy to deal with the hullaballoo that invariably happens when things with “Mormon” attached to them become pop culture phenomena. The first time Mitt Romney ran for president, I cannot tell you how many people legitimately thought he was the leader of our church. It’s good to be somewhat informed about Mormon-related goings on that are being broadly consumed by the people around you. Which is why I made a point of reading up on the musical (and came away feeling wildly violated by the experience).

Speaking of violation, it could be that I am biased against this musical because the first time I had a conversation with someone about it, that someone was my OB/GYN when he instigated a personal cross examination and criticism of my response to the musical WHILE HE WAS PERFORMING MY PELVIC EXAM.

Friends, both religion and vaginas are personal, sacred spaces. The arrogance and coarseness necessary to do what this doctor did is precisely the arrogance and coarseness I see leaching out from all the cultural corners surrounding this musical. If it smells like blackface, throw it out. It’s past date, and was toxic even when it was fresh.

(And no, I never went to that Gyno again.)

This is not a call to arms, or a condemnation of those who have paid hundreds of dollars to watch people mock my faith. It’s just a frank analysis of a bigotry that even, sometimes especially, the most open-minded among us seem loathe to acknowledge.

And to have a link to send to the next gynocologist who harasses me about the musical.

-Fin

 

 

 

 

 

Everything I Need to Know About Sex, I Learned in Gospel Doctrine

Once in high school, a friend pointed out that if you add “in bed” to the end of any fortune cookie missive, it becomes a dirty joke. Yes, yes, innuendo, hawhawhaw.

In the years ensuing, I have heard dozens of people blame lack of sex ed in religious communities, and or Church Teachings themselves, on their failed/ miserable/ dysfunctional sex lives. This is tragic to me. Every–and I mean EVERY– good thing in my marriage has come from the two of us internalizing and applying gospel doctrine.

When people mentally separate or compartmentalize sex from church, they miss out on hours of beautiful sex education. In case you have done this, please reread these teachings of the prophets, keeping in mind that “healthy sexual relationship” is, excepting illness, disability, death, etc, an integral part of “marriage.” In short, take the sniggering immaturity of teenagers with fortune cookies and put it to work on something that’s actually true and useful.

1. “Marriage is a relationship that cannot survive selfishness, impatience, domineering, inequality, and lack of respect. Marriage is a relationship that thrives on acceptance, equality, sharing, giving, helping, doing one’s part, learning together, enjoying humor.” David O. McKay    

True Doctrine, which, if properly followed, eliminates the need to watch British police videos about serving tea. Build your relationship by embracing equality, sharing, giving, helping, doing one’s part, learning together, and enjoying humor. In bed.

2. “A good marriage requires time. It requires effort. You have to work at it. You have to cultivate it. You have to forgive and forget. You have to be absolutely loyal one to another.” Gordon B. Hinckley

One of the nastiest lies around is that “some people are just [intimately] compatible, and some aren’t.” Excepting the above mentioned exceptions, if you love each other and are willing to learn, grow, and communicate, the mystical caprices of nebulous ‘incompatibility’ are laughable. We are sentient beings, capable of learning, and as such, we can grow and change. A marriage relationship isn’t a cute accessory that you wear when it suits you and throw out when it no longer pleases. It’s a dynamic, living thing, something greater than both its participants, something that takes time and effort to nurture.

3. “The secret of a happy marriage is to serve God and each other. The goal of marriage is unity and oneness, as well as self-development. Paradoxically, the more we serve one another, the greater is our spiritual and emotional growth.” Ezra Taft Benson

If both parties are more interested in serving one another than seeing to their own gratification, consent is a non-issue. Because when we are service oriented, we choose to put other’s needs above our own carnal appetites. When we’re concerned with the needs of others (and we all practice the gospel principles of honesty and candor), all the fretting and hand-wringing about how to not accidentally rape someone becomes, well, silly. When both parties strive for honor, unity, and service in the relationship, all the nuances of consent are as basic and instinctive as breathing.

4. “Marriage is a gift from God to us; the quality of our marriages is a gift from us to Him.” L. Whitney Clayton

Men (and women) are that they might have joy. God gave us our bodies, instituted marriage, and established the church, and he did not do those things so we could go moping around blaming the church for our complicated feelings. He did those things so that we could apply gospel principles, get married, and find happiness together. Misery is complicated. Joy is not. Happiness comes from true doctrine, consistently and earnestly applied, in every facet of our lives.

5. “Marriage was ordained of God. It is a righteous principle when in holiness it is received and practiced. If men and women today would enter into this covenant in the spirit of humility, love and faith, as they are commanded to do, walking righteously in the ways of eternal life, there would be no divorce, no broken homes; but a happiness, a joy, beyond expression.” Joseph Fielding Smith

When I read this, I see Joseph F. Smith dropping the mic at the end. Teachings of the prophets are sexy, friends.

 

The End

 

Homeschool Resources, Part I

Because you asked. At least, a number of people have asked in the past, and every time there’s a school shooting, more friends write to ask about homeschooling. Below is a short list of resources we’ve used. None of them are affiliate links, so save yourself some money and check them out from the library, or buy them used or whatever.

General Homeschooling

The Well-Trained Mind 

Better proselyting material for the gospel of Classical Education doesn’t exist. Do you  want to give your children a well-rounded education in the humanities, in particular western civilization? Is appreciating great works of art and literature important to you? Poetry memorization, Latin, good handwriting? This is the starting place.

Bonus Points: It has lists and lists of recommended resources, books, and materials for carrying out the ultimate classical education.

The Read-Aloud Handbook

This one  probably belongs under language arts, but I’m putting it here. It should be required reading for anyone who has anything to do with children. Even if you already understand the importance of reading to children, buy it and read it.

Bonus Points: It also contains a goldmine of book lists for every level, from preschool through high school.

The Core Knowledge Series

Not to be confused with Common Core, this series is really awesome for providing a skeleton of what to cover in each grade level, in order to give a solid foundation of cultural literacy and general knowledge in every subject. Having googled it just now, it looks like it has expanded into a full blown school program. If you don’t want to spend a fortune, you can just check out “What your [insert grade level] Grader Needs to Know” from the library to get a feel for what it is. They’re lovely. My Mom made us memorize poems from these Walt Whitman and Langston Hughes from these books, and I’m so happy she did.

Sonlight

This is whole Christian curriculum program that lots of Protestant families love and use. I love and use the booklists in the catalog. Maybe it’s a dirty trick, but after having purchased their used materials online, I’ve found that they’re hit and miss for us, especially in the religion sector. The earliest materials emphasize the Nicene Creed, and just a touch too much Calvinism. Sorry friends. Mormons gonna Morm.

Protip: If you want to try out Sonlight and don’t have several hundred dollars lying around, go to homeschoolclassifieds.com. They’re like a delightful cross between Fight Club (being clandestine and scrappy) and Craigslist (being online and secondhand). What could go wrong?

Fluent Forever

This, like Core Knowledge, started with a book and ended in all sorts of fun stuff. Polyglot language nerd Opera singer Gabriel Wyner applies the methods of SLR, or spaced repetition learning, to the rapid acquisition of languages. The method is fascinating, and can be applied to a lot of stuff besides foreign language. It’s worth checking out!

 

That is the short list of general homeschool reference books. One of the hardest things in homeschooling is deciding what you won’t do. There’s so much to do, and it’s OK not to do it all. At least, that’s what I frequently tell myself. Good luck!

 

Should I Homeschool? An Addendum

7. Academics

This is the one is also a toss-up. Homeschooling children usually are “ahead” of their public school peers. They score much higher on standardized tests, etc., etc., but those aren’t entirely fair comparisons, because a homeschooling parent is usually deeply involved in the child’s education, and stable and privileged enough to be so. The same parent would see to it that homework gets done and studying happens in traditional school, I think. Public school children run the gamut, from children with involved parents to children in group foster homes to abused and neglected children. So all the studies comparing homeschooled children (usually upper- or middle-class kids with educated parents) to the whole of public school  put homeschooled children in a very idealistic light, both academically and behaviorally.

The truth of it is, no education is perfect or comprehensive. The primary characteristic of homeschooling is that you can do more in less time. Both parent-teacher and child have more control and initiative in the process. At some point, this brings us to a crossroads, where we can either do the whole “school experience” of middle school, high school, etc., or just graduate at 14 and get on with college. There’s a benefit and cost to both.

This is where we are with our oldest. She has applied to a school. It’s a nice school, with small classrooms and watchful teachers. She is friends with several of the kids there and they have a French program that is  on par with her skills. The opportunity cost is that math and language arts will be an entire year (maybe even two years) of review for her, and much of history and science will be, too; we’ve already covered human anatomy and Ancient Egypt. She will get to experience richer Physical Education and Art and Drama programs, but she will be learning very little in her core subjects. She will be somewhere where predatory children or teachers have ample opportunity to give her grief. She could fall prey to the nastiness of gossip, cliques, and all the various ways middle schoolers try to distinguish, and therefore socially stratify, themselves.

She’s a reasonable, level-headed young lady, and my faith is in her rather than the vigilance and honor of the faculty and students I do not know. She has been in semi-weekly extracurriculars, in classrooms without me, since kindergarten, and they’ve gone well. They could go well here. Or they could not. There’s only way to find out.

Blessedly, she is pretty philosophical about this. Either she’s not telling us what she really wants, or we’ve spent so much time discussing opportunity cost that she doesn’t know–she likes the idea of going to this school but she also likes the idea of finishing high school early so she can get to her dream job as a NASA mathematician faster. No, I’m not sure how I managed to produce an aspiring mathematician–probably has something to do with my physicist husband.

In the end, the planning and decision making for this is an ongoing council process between me, child, husband, and God. And, as with every other major decision in life, “naught but the Spirit’s divinest tuition can give us the wisdom to truly succeed.”