Be Careful Who You Shun in the Name of the Lord

ATHENA: As General Conference weekend spins up, I find myself dreading the fallout even more than I usually do. This past year has been a rough one for people on the margins of Mormondom, and I am one of those people. I tried for a very long time to maintain a position in the center, to belong to the in-crowd, until I just couldn’t anymore. The LDS church was hurting me in very specific ways, and because of that, I grew to understand how much pain church membership was causing other people for whom I cared deeply. I guess you could say my empathy chip finally activated.

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To Bind Up The Broken Hearts: An Open Letter to the Brethren on Heavenly Mother

READER POST: The first religious value I remember being taught was obedience. Obedience to authority, to the priesthood, to adults, to parents, and to God. I learned about a God who tested His children. A God who gave and took at His mysterious will, according to a metric that made no sense from my mortal perspective.

He gave Abraham and Sarah a son, and then asked them to give up their child’s life in sacrifice…a test that only ended when He was confident Abraham would obey. I learned about Mary consenting to be the handmaid of the Lord and that it was an honor to be chosen to do so. I learned about a God that gave multiple wives to powerful men, who in turn gave children to their husbands. I learned about a God who commanded Emma to support her husband as he took more wives, and that she would face condemnation if she didn’t comply. I learned that (for at least one woman) the promised blessing of giving herself to the Prophet in marriage was exaltation, but the punishment for her refusal, a fiery sword.

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LDS Women Testify of Heavenly Mother

SISTERS QUORUM: Every six months, as General Conference approaches, members of the LDS Church discuss their hopes about what will come from the pulpit. This go-round, however, LDS women are talking about their fears rather than their hopes. Leaks are coming from stake training meetings and other sources, suggesting this General Conference will be used to quash independent, spiritual pursuit of Heavenly Mother. When SQ asked LDS women to share their personal experiences with Heavenly Mother and their reactions to the possibility SLC will attempt to silence Her–and them–once again, twelve women gave us glimpses into their intimate, spiritual experiences. We were moved and think you will be, too.

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Can You Care about My Trans Son Now that He’s Denied His Spot on the Team that’s Been His Lifeline?

TW: Transphobia

READER POST: A couple days ago, as I was heading out the door, I received an email from the high school tennis coach requesting a meeting to discuss my trans son’s eligibility to play. I knew, I just knew, what was going to happen next. I drove to my medical appointment fighting back tears and mentally repeating, Put it in a box. Just for a minute. It’s got to go in a box right now. I live in Texas and, for those unaware, the state legislature signed HB25 into law last October after several failed attempts with other, similar legislation, and a commitment from Governor Abbott to continue calling special session after special session until one of the anti-trans measures passed. 

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BYU Chooses Fealty Over Ethics by Denying Voice Therapy to Trans Community

BRANDY: When my child came out to my husband and I as trans just a hair over two years ago, we were offered counseling through LDS social services. We refused. Adamantly. While I am sure that there are compassionate, sensitive, professionals within their ranks, the fact of the matter is I didn’t trust their commitment to professional codes of ethics to be stronger than their adherence to the parameters set for them by their employer, the LDS Church. In that moment, we recognized that their professional credibility was affected by the policies and attitudes of men completely outside of their professional sphere, men who have no affiliation or association to any of the professional psychological organizations or bodies that issue evidence-based standards of care or codes of ethics.

I wasn’t willing to take that chance with my son’s mental health. Instead, we sought counseling that we could be confident would not struggle between evidence-based therapeutic treatment and religious dogma. Recently, BYU announced that its speech therapy department, which gives student therapists the experience of treating patients, would no longer offer services to trans individuals, proving that professional ethics falls second to an ever-changing LDS church policy handbook (see section 38.6.23).  Once again, it’s policy over people.

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Not GOSPEL, but CRINGE

SERENA: Bro. Wilcox, I’m a temple recommend-holding Latter-day Saint woman who attends Church every week. I have teenagers. I also have something to say after watching your recent Alpine, Utah youth fireside. G O S P E L—what a clever use of acronym. Here’s my acronym for your talk: C R I N G E.  Let me spell it out for you. 

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Now I Know Him

JUNE: Driving across the country with my kids in the back seat, I had a lot of time to think. On a particularly long stretch of interstate, somewhere on Route 66, a thought came to me: Now you know Him.

Over the years, I’ve learned so much through my healing from abuse and betrayal. One of my favorite resources; The Betrayal Trauma Recovery Podcast has helped me throughout my healing journey. Betrayal Trauma Recovery has helped me deconstruct so many words or concepts that haunted me for years.

One such concept was “forgiveness.”

Growing up in the church, I never fully comprehended the Lord or the Atonement. I remember learning that Christ experienced all things. I always wondered how—how in the Garden of Gethsemane did He feel what I’ve felt? How could He understand what it feels like to be betrayed so completely by a spouse? And how could He feel such pain and still forgive those who betrayed Him? How could I? The thought of it hurt my heart, like a dagger stabbed through it. I had suffered profound abuse and betrayal—trauma that could break a person ten times over. Could I forgive?

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The Discernment Myth

DEBORAH: In LDS theology, discernment is a God-given ability of priesthood leaders that allows them a type of spiritual eyes with which to judge people under their stewardship. Discernment is at play when a stake president selects a new bishop, or a bishop calls his ward’s auxiliary presidents, but discernment is also alleged to help leaders spiritually sense when someone isn’t living the commandments or is in need of specific, divine guidance he alone can voice for them. It’s a lofty idea but also a dangerous one.

The idea of discernment took a few solid blows to the chops last week when news broke that two bishops, one in Idaho and one in  Utah, currently stand accused of serious sexual misconduct. Here in our little quorum of sisters there have been incidents where discernment failed us. Pilar’s story comes to mind (read here and here). Several of our SQ readers have shared their personal experiences in which the discernment of priesthood leaders was absent when they needed it present. As examples, both SQ readers Jane and Verlyne shared that, after being raped, their bishops held disciplinary councils against them on the grounds of fornication and exacted punishment, even disfellowshipment (read Jane’s story here and Verlyne’s here). There’s no end to the pain caused when discernment fails.

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More Candid Talk about Periods and Garments

SERENA: A recent New York Times article about LDS women, garments, and periods really got me pondering the 38 years of my 49 year life that I have been a menstruating Mormon. I am one of the lucky ones who not only started pretty early (age 11) but also was blessed with a very heavy menstrual cycle that hasn’t relented as I’ve aged. Blood. Gushing blood. Oh, the joys of being a high level swimmer with the regular monthly visitor! And then the delight of heavy periods with garments! Let’s face it, garments just aren’t conducive to wearing period protection.

Even before I was an endowed, garment-wearing LDS woman, I still experienced problems surrounding menstruation and my status as an unmarried woman. I mean, tampons. How can a girl be a virgin and wear tampons? (This was an actual question posed by a friend’s mother to my mother.) When I was a student at BYU, I was asked the same question by a few roommates who had still never used a tampon and didn’t plan to do so until marriage. I was made to feel guilty about touching my “area” to insert the tampon. Tell me, how is that different from touching my area to wipe after I pee? Alas, at the time I was way too compliant. It didn’t occur to me that we had an unhealthy obsession with female virginity. I worried.

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I Have Words, too, Elder Holland

READER POST: I have a flag that sits atop a silver flag pole which is mounted on the deck of my home, overlooking a peaceful blue pond, with mountains and a green field where deer come out in the evening to graze. The flag has shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and unfurls pretty in the wind as it flies high.

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