Monday, February 29, 2016

Lately, I've been all about the law. Counting all the steps and measuring the inches. Claiming my right to all the eye balls and hands.

At the same time, I've been all about the Hamilton soundtrack.

Weird, right? Constant mathematics, collectible body parts, hip-hop musicals, founding fathers. It's a lot to keep in control.

Lin-Manuel Miranda's Hamilton wanted control and so he wrote it. He wrote himself out of debt and into love. He wrote himself into and out of trouble on the regular, and when he claimed that God couldn't offer it, he'll promised to write his own redemption.

I can't write my own redemption. I mean, obviously. You know that. Look around.

And furthermore, I don't want to. I still want my redemption to come from God.

But I do want to write my way out of my absolute adoration for and trust in the wrong law. I'm a little lost but I think it's gotta be time for me to move from justice to mercy, right? Time to move from hardness to softness, from head to heart?

Or in the words of Hamilton, forgiveness, can you imagine?

Maybe you can help me find my way there and we can write our way up and out together.

Monday, November 09, 2015

Myers-Briggs has promised me I have one of the rarest personalities.1

The thing about me, if Buzzfeed personality tests are to be believed2, is that I am a lover of the ideal. But I'm also pragmatic so I'm pretty convinced the ideal is impossible.

So basically I'm always in a state of frustration.

Zion has been on my mind.

I just finished The Boys In The Boat by Daniel James Brown. It's about the University of Washington's 1936 crew team, their national triumphs, and their performance at the Olympics in Berlin that same year.

The heart of the book is Joe Rantz, who overcomes unthinkable circumstances in his childhood to find a sense of success and self in crew. But the wisdom in the book comes from George Pocock. He was the builder of the crew's shells. (In fact, he built the most sought-after shells in the entire country.) Pocock provided unmatched technical advice for the university's rowing crews and coaches over the years... but he also had appreciation for the heart and the very soul of the sport. Rowing was about working together in unity, not to make everyone the same in personality or to make everyone acquire the same strengths but to appreciate how victory comes when a crew's differences are brought together to work in harmony. This harmony was heaven.

...he came to understand how these almost mystical bonds of trust and affection, if nurtured correctly, might lift a crew above the ordinary sphere, transport it to a place where nine boys somehow became one thing -- a thing that could not quite be defined, a thing that was so in tune with the water and the earth and the sky above that, as they rowed, effort was replaced by ecstasy. It was a rare thing, a sacred thing, a thing devoutly to be hoped for.3

It was Zion.

Joseph Smith believed in Zion. The early Saints sought to build it as a literal city, although now we seek to establish it in our wards and stakes.

We say that "anyplace where the Saints gather is Zion, which every righteous man will build up for a place of safety for his children."4

But lately it hasn't felt like Zion where we live. In our ward there has been a lot of discord and contention. And we are a part of it. And others are a part of it. And it feels terrible to feel terrible going to church.

And the Church just updated its handbooks and there has been a lot of resulting discord and contention. And I can feel it. And others can feel it. And it feels terrible to feel terrible about church.

Sometimes I read a comment on an internet thread5 and I wonder how the commenter and I could be coming from the same place of origin, our church, with our viewpoints being so wildly different. We can't both possibly be right. (Although I do believe it's possible for us both to be wrong.)

And it's in those moments... whether it's in my own chapel of late or on the internet... that I lose hope for Zion.

It's not a practical endeavor. It can't be accomplished. Let's just save our energy for something else.

And then, it may be no more than a moment later that I push that thought out of my head.

I won't give up on Zion.

Zion takes me and my ever-bleeding heart and confessional blog posts, and it also takes him, that guy on the internet who maybe thinks handbook changes are the absolute bomb. He probably has something else to offer Zion besides his opinions on handbook changes and I hopefully have something to offer besides my ever-bleeding heart.

I still believe in forgiveness and empathy and mourning with those who mourn and stinking at it a bunch of the time and sometimes, through the grace of God, getting it right.

And I still believe in the hope that those sometimes are worth it, even if they're only a moment, because coming together in perfect unity is a rare thing, a sacred thing, a thing devoutly to be hoped for and because "Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty, God hath shined". (Psalm 50:2)

Or maybe I just love to be frustrated.

1 Spoiler alert: So do you.
2 Always. Come on.
3 This quote is in the book.
4 Actually we don't say this. Joseph Smith said it, according to Martha Jane Knowlton Coray. I can't believe you keep expecting me to have legit footnotes. Just Google the quote.
5 It's my own damn fault for reading the comments.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

I have a new favorite song. It combines Primary music (love) with Christmas music (SO MUCH LOVE).

It is The Shepherd's Carol and I don't ever remember hearing before last Sunday but it was love at first listen.

Mary, Mary, hush, see the Child. 
Joseph, Joseph, look, see how mild!
This is Jesus; this is our King. 
This is our Savior; his praises we sing.

All God's children, come to adore, 
Bringing gifts of love evermore.
This is Jesus; this is our King. 
This is our Savior; his praises we sing.

I love This is Jesus; this is our King, but there were a couple of other words especially catching my ear that morning. They were look and see.

Our Savior came to light the darkness, give sight to the blind. The scriptures are replete with references to our need to refine our sense of sight and to Christ's role in that endeavor.

Recently I was reading the Sermon on the Mount, specifically the discourse on the mote and the beam. Because I am a not-very-smart writer of a very stupid blog it has taken me a long time, and many readings, to realize that I've always stopped short in the application of the mote/beam concept.

I must have thought the point was to remove my beam and examine it.

And examine it.

And examine it.

And examine it.

Man, my beam is freaking huge. I'm a really terrible person. I can't stop talking, thinking, obsessing over my ridiculous beam.

Look at me and my beam!

After all these years I guess I finally finished the sentence in verse 5.The point was not to see myself more clearly (although this is desirable generally) but to see the other most clearly of all. To see another's pain. To see another's needs. To see another's soul.

Not for the correction but for the understanding.

I see your pain. I'm not going to tell you how to get rid of it; I'm going to mourn with you over it.

I see your needs. I'm not going to tell you how to meet them; I'm going to give you what you need.

I see your soul. And I can't help but love you for the beauty of it.

I'm not there yet. This is mostly a hope I have in my heart. Something I'm only capable of executing in mere moments-at-a-time.

But in those precious, gifted moments of ethereal empathy I finally, finally see that this is Jesus; this is our King.

This is my Savior; His praises I sing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

I keep hearing about this and I want to read it...

 But I decided I first needed to read the book that came before it...

So I did and it's beautiful and deep, and it has other people likewise enthralled because they, too, have gone back to it with the publication of Lila and all I can think of is ways to force people to participate in my sad, little, defunct online book club that worked a little, but not a lot.

So, dear sisters, mothers, and known and unknown friends, I'm coming for you this Thanksgiving looking for a commitment to read and discuss Gilead. Just one more discussion. For me. And a sad, little, not quite dead book club.

If you say nothing then I'll know you want to. See you next week.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Journey back with me, if you will, to last year and a drive to soccer practice with my then-12-year-old daughter. Her history class was covering ancient civilizations and she was expressing her absolute, unwavering disgust and horror at two Aztec practices: human sacrifice and polygamy.

I said, well, I've got some good news for you.

Mormons have never practiced human sacrifice.

This is the day my daughter first found out about our church's history with polygamy. I talked mostly about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, including some uncomfortable and confusing aspects like the young age of some of the wives and polyandry. From there, I let the conversation go wherever Grace wanted to take it. She was mostly concerned with Emma. How did she react? How did she feel?

As a few mainstream news sources picked up the church's release of its essays on polygamy, the buzz in the bloggernacle has turned to whether or not members have a right to be upset/ruffled/utterly-confounded by something they could/should have already known.

I guess?

All I can say is what happened to me.

Growing up in New England, polygamy was probably the first thing someone brought up when they found out I was a Mormon. How many wives does your dad have, har, har? I was a kid in New England, in case you couldn't tell. I didn't really know anything about it and I didn't really want to. It seemed so embarrassing.

On my mission we were asked about polygamy at least daily. Our canned answers included pointing out that less than 1% of the population practiced polygamy, that it came about as an effort to care for the widowed poor, and most emphatically, an assurance that it was strictly against current policy. (It is important to note that these were the answers suggested for us to give.)

As you can see I had spent my life to this point a jumble of willful ignorance, naiveté and misinformation.

I was in pretty good company, though, with a large group of sister missionaries from all kinds of families and homelands across the globe. If any of my fellow sisters knew more than I did about polygamy, they weren't talking.

The "widowed poor" reasoning always made me bristle. It didn't seem right. And it wasn't. But even this bristling feeling wasn't enough to prompt me to do any real research on the matter.

In my own (very poor) defense, however, I couldn't have imagined what I would one day find.

Polygamy to me meant simply* "multiple wives."

I never dreamed that it also meant begrudging consent, emotional threats regarding eternal salvation, teenage brides, and deceit (as in the case of Emma).

Is the fact that these details came as a surprise on me? On the church? Maybe... both?

Despite what you may infer from this stupid blog, my life wasn't all Simpsons and Andy Gibb.**

I studied the scriptures, listened to General Conference, read books by general authorities, took religion courses, and attended church. Just like you, I suspect.

The angel and the sword just... never came up.

My 15-year-old has been studying the Doctrine & Covenants in seminary this year. I have been meaning to have a heart to heart with him about what he is (or possibly is not) learning.

Last night I brought up the essays, how and why I believed they were created and published, and how they were recently picked up by the news.

He did not share his sister's emotional response. He simply agreed that we need to talk more about these things, be upfront with them. Let's talk about it, he said.

There's a lot of difference of opinion about whose responsibility it is to teach the church's history.

Certainly we can't cover it all in church. But we can't ignore it there either since our historical narrative is also tied up in our doctrines and practices, things we talk about every week.

Chatting with a history buff of a friend recently, I shared that my hope for the church and its approach to its own history hinges on two words: wisdom and integrity.

Whether in our homes or in the prickly-coated walls of our chapels, our history is ideally taught with both. The wisdom to know what to reveal, to whom and when. And the integrity to face the bad with the good and not be tempted to obscure, even when there are no easy answers.

There seems to be every indication that this is exactly where we are headed.

And it's a very hopeful and good thing.

But, please, consider granting a little grace to us ignorant, naive fools who have been (and continue to be) jarred by these things. We were good kids, even if we did dream about 70s pop icons just a little too much.***

**Oh that it were.
***Just kidding. No such thing.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

In an effort to be encouraging, adults are always touting the fun of making new friends but this is a lie. Making new friends is awkward and painful. The first encounter is simple enough, except where I likely forget your name. But I can generally fake normal pretty well in this stage.

It's every encounter after that that wrecks me. I have to be enough of myself to see if there is potential for us to ever move beyond talk of how much we hate our bodies, but I can't be so much myself that I give you an anecdote to share at the next park day. It's a delicate balance that I usually flub.

I think I can save us all some time here. If you think this is funny, will you come find me? I want to sit next to you at whatever social function I am being awkward at.

The I-can't-seem-to-get-the-video-to-post-so-go-to-this-link link.

Thank you for you consideration.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Do me a favor and swing by The Mormon Misfit Podcast where you can listen in as two funny friends allow me to ramble and never make me feel bad about it (Episode 10).

 You will find out that I believe this is true:
 And also this:

But one of those things you already knew.