A Story of Christmas Charity and the Gift of Humiliation

READER SUBMISSION: My young family lived in poverty for years, but we attended church in a very wealthy area in Arizona. Our church arranges for everyone in the congregation to receive member ministers whose purpose is to make monthly in-home visits. These visits are both a well-being check and an opportunity to share a spiritual message. One day close to Christmas, my visiting minister (who lived much more comfortably than we did) called and asked if she could stop by. On her visit earlier in the month, she’d noticed our “Christmas tree” had been cut out of cardboard I found in a dumpster and taped to the wall, its ornaments drawn on with crayons. Our stockings were made out of old shirts, sewed together with yarn.

She brought her three grandchildren with her on this extra monthly visit—and a truck full of gifts for my toddlers. One of the grandchildren looked around our apartment in awe and asked, “Is this a hotel room?” We lived in a small, two bedroom apartment, but it was a normal apartment and didn’t look like a hotel. He certainly wasn’t to blame for his naive comment, but it was obvious he had never been inside an apartment before. Continue reading “A Story of Christmas Charity and the Gift of Humiliation”

Not Thin Enough for the Celestial Kingdom

TW: Anorexia, eating disorders, domestic bullying

ATHENA: One Thanksgiving when I was about fourteen-years-old, beloved relatives came to share the day with my family and brought treats I’d never seen before. I took small helpings of each. When I reached for a second helping, my older brother said, “Don’t eat that; you’ll end up looking like <insert name of non-svelte teenage girl in our ward> and no one will want to date you.” Continue reading “Not Thin Enough for the Celestial Kingdom”

Female Body Weight and the LDS Culture

TW: discussion of body shaming, polygamy

DEBORAH: Immediately after being called as a Young Women’s president, a mother expressed she was pleased by my call, saying, “They usually don’t let bigger women be YW presidents. The girls need to learn their value isn’t tied to their weight.” Needless to say, I was taken aback.  I still am, though more than twenty years have passed.
Continue reading “Female Body Weight and the LDS Culture”

A Trans Teen, a Church, and the Absence of Pastoral Care

DEBORAH: She’d invited me to meet her at a favorite restaurant, one of our usual dives, even though its undergoing renovation. Sometimes we talked about our kids and school, or our husbands and the quirks of marriage, and occasionally about our own ambitions. Always, somehow, our lives as Latter-day Saints colored our conversations. To be honest, being a Latter-day Saint has become increasingly challenging for us both, largely for the disharmony between what the Church offers straight and queer populations. Yet neither of us imagined we’d be having this conversation—the one in which she agonizes over the just-made revelation that her son is her daughter, that he says he always has been and that he’s so, so sorry, can she forgive him? Sometimes hearts break over queso. Continue reading “A Trans Teen, a Church, and the Absence of Pastoral Care”

On Eternal Families, Sad Heaven, and My Beloved Son

DEBORAH: A few years back, one of my adult children had had enough of Mormonism. He’d always participated at church, attending with us each Sunday, going to Mutual and stake dances, attaining his Eagle award, even choosing to attend a church university. He’d not given us much grief in terms of rebellion, but inside—and without me realizing it—he was struggling because, try as he might, he couldn’t receive the testimony I’d promised him would come. After a great deal of angst and a fall into depression, he finally told me he would leave the church. He asked me how to go about it. Explaining the process was probably the most difficult thing I’ve been asked to do by a child. But, because I love him and because I could see his mental health was dwindling, I did. Continue reading “On Eternal Families, Sad Heaven, and My Beloved Son”

Let’s Hear It for the Boys! (and Other Shout-outs Re: the Temple Changes)

DEBORAH: Changes have been made to the temple ceremonies, and, having not yet witnessed them, I rely on reports that every single thing feminist-leaning Latter-day Saint women have been protesting has been corrected. Finally. A step forward that is adult-sized. Of course, the entire topic of the temple falls into most members’ Too Sacred for Words file, so I won’t go there. Instead, I’d like to give a few shout outs. Continue reading “Let’s Hear It for the Boys! (and Other Shout-outs Re: the Temple Changes)”

Addendum to The Slack in the New Missionary Dress Code

DEBORAH: When I wrote my last post on the new missionary dress code, I had only the public announcement made by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In a comment, an SQ reader supplied the official wording, as it landed in the hands of our female missionaries. I’d like to say that the additional information demonstrated a greater mindfulness and care for the young women who serve. However, what it did was confirm that sexism—an inconsideration for the additional burdens the formal Church places on women—is alive and well. Continue reading “Addendum to The Slack in the New Missionary Dress Code”

The Slack in the New Sister Missionary Dress Code

DEBORAH: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has released an announcement that all female missionaries may wear pants. Sometimes. Depending. Not in the temple, not at missionary conferences or various other mission- or church-specific meetings, and, of course, not during any Sunday meetings. Online rejoicing abounds. But not me. I can’t rejoice. Continue reading “The Slack in the New Sister Missionary Dress Code”

Women, How Will You Travel the Covenant Path?

DEBORAH: I hear with different ears than those I heard with in my youth. As a new convert, then a wife and young mother, I heard the men at the General Conference podium through ears of hope and expectation. I relished their promises that following their counsel—being a wife devoted to the betterment of my husband in both career and church, being a sacrificing mother intent on raising my children in a new, exciting gospel—would result in a happiness unmatched outside the reach of the gospel. Every inch of my soul longed to please God and, with my whole heart, I trusted the men called to speak for Him.

I’m at the other end of life now. I’ve raised my children and am watching them raise theirs. I’ve lived as is prescribed for Mormon women. I earned an education—a bachelor’s before marriage and a master’s degree in midlife—but I’ve not had paying, full-time employment since my first child was born. I ensured my children learned the gospel; we attended our meetings, held callings, and lived an existence centered around the church and gospel.

When I listened to General Conference last weekend, I listened with the ears of an experienced Mormon woman and with eyes wide-opened by time. While most of General Conference was uplifting, some of it rang as a sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal. Certain things said leave me wondering if some of the men who lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints understand women at all. Continue reading “Women, How Will You Travel the Covenant Path?”

Robert Kirby: Victim of Misandry?

DEBORAH: Last week’s column by Robert Kirby landed him in a field of cat vomit and dog poo, or so he described the aftermath. The column focused on McKenna Denson and her trip to a fast and testimony pulpit in the Arizona ward of the self-admitted sexual predator who molested her while he was the MTC president and she, a missionary-in-training. In Kirby’s effort to clean up the figurative cat vomit and dog poo, he failed woefully, letting ferment in the light of day the misogynistic, rape culture attitudes that created a church system that assures McKenna Denson can receive no justice. Continue reading “Robert Kirby: Victim of Misandry?”