Monthly Archives: November 2012

Mormon Diversity?

In thinking back over my posts regarding Mormonism, I do not believe I have accurately portrayed the kind of diversity that I have witnessed within the Mormon community as I have been learning these past few months. To that end, I thought perhaps the easiest and best way to share this diversity with all of you would be to share a paper that I recently wrote for my class. We were assigned the task of finding Mormon blogs, identifying the issues that Mormons are discussing, and write about what we find. Here is what I wrote…

It did not take long in my research for this paper to come across a multitude of issues being discussed on Mormon blog sites. After reading only three different blog sites, I have found seven+ (depending on how you count them) issues in deep discussion within the Mormon community (as well as between interfaith communities), including personal relationships, women/sexuality, religion and science, homosexuality, liturgical year (or lack thereof), frugality (as portrayed by Mitt Romney), and the general public reputation of Mormonism. Due to the brevity of this paper, I will only discuss the first three in detail. I will walk through each briefly and examine how the comments that I read are similar or different from the comments I would see within my own community.

Personal Relationships. There are two blog posts that I consider to be commentaries on personal relationships. The first is a beautiful, personal eulogy of sorts for a man, Richard Cracroft, a leader within the Mormon community in many ways, including as a professor at Brigham Young University.[1] The blog’s author knew this man as a professor and eventually a friend, but also as the man who would determine the results of her “temple recommend” after her divorce, the approval or disapproval of her entry into the temple. In this article, I was struck not only by Mr. Cracroft’s gentle nature (described by the author as his gentling), but also by how this gentling portrayed itself in an official act of the Mormon church. At the end of the temple recommend interview, Mr. Cracroft asks a question that I understand is always asked, “Do you consider yourself worthy in every way to enter the temple?” My understanding is that the answer to this question needs to be, “Yes,” and yet, the author answered with a tear-filled, “No.” Any church who sees things as black and white would have seen this as a checkbox that must be left unchecked, resulting in a recommendation of no entry. Yet, Mr. Cracroft saw through the black and white nature of a church institution’s policies, and responded, “Margaret, you need the blessings of the temple.” He saw that sometimes, it is precisely the people who do not feel worthy who most need the inclusion, the temple, and the love of the community and God.

The second blog article that helps me understand personal relationships among Mormons is about a man who was recently reconciled with two other men he had previously, “treated… as enemies.”[2] To be honest, I was a bit taken aback that a Mormon was speaking about feeling this kind of enmity at all! All of my interactions with Mormons in the past have always been filled with an incredible sense of community and harmony. I suppose I knew that Mormons would, of course, disagree at times, but I thought they either worked it out, or repressed the more angry feelings in their attempt to be more… well, Mormon.  As I think back on this now, I realize how ridiculous this is, not to mention how unhealthy it would be, but it took reading this blog entry for me to gain a better understanding. Of course, Mormons, just like the rest of us, experience anger, bitterness, and yes, even enmity. And, just like I try to do within my own life, Mormons make efforts towards reconciliation. This blog entry is about a successful attempt towards reconciliation, but I imagine they are not always successful. The point, though, is in the author’s last sentence when Brad explains that, through this experience of reconciliation, he has seen, “the best of what Mormonism, and religion generally, is capable of.”

Women/Sexuality. I greatly enjoyed reading an article by a woman, Rebecca J, who was a young girl in the Mormon Church, now a mother, who is obviously struggling with the way women are viewed, taught, and included in the Mormon Church.[3] I found her post to be an interesting portrayal of herself. She calls herself “a mild-mannered Mormon housewife who actually shares the positively Neanderthal view that men really are much more susceptible to visual stimulation than are women,” and yet she is expressing frustrations that many would probably consider to be feminist. I consider part of the identity of being Lutheran to often hold tensions of seemingly opposing forces or concepts together within one understanding. This is difficult for many people, and definitely different from the more black and white view that many prefer to grasp. Yet, I sense this tension-holding in Rebecca J as she struggles with her identification in the more traditional housewife role, while also feeling frustrated with how women are perceived and treated. I greatly appreciate this ability for people within the Mormon church to hold these tensions.

In this article were also the women’s issues themselves, which I found very interesting. As much as I respect the tension-holding in Rebecca, I also wanted her to stop apologizing for her feminist side. I agree with her that the Box Social, an event where women cook the dinner, men bring dessert and then bid on which dinner (and woman) they would (innocently) enjoy for the event is demeaning and unfair to women. Yet, Rebecca acquiesces after speaking with her husband that it is probably “sweet and harmless.” Perhaps the intention is sweet and harmless, but the activity is portraying certain gender-specific roles to everyone involved, not to mention giving all the power to the men. Rebecca also described a fireside on “practical and spiritual strategies against pornography” that she attended with her daughter. She again recognizes the gender roles that this activity reinforces in the “Warriors of Virtue” for girls involved and the “Warriors for Christ” for the boys, but also again calls the activity “harmless.” Rebecca and her daughter attend, despite her misgivings, and she tries to keep an open mind. It is her daughter who, partway through the event, turned to her mother and asked to leave. The fact that her daughter was confident enough to 1) want to go, and 2) ask to leave, was impressive to me. This shows that Rebecca and her daughter have conversations about women in the Mormon Church, which was also evidenced by other conversations that Rebecca mentions in the end of her blog. The women are not simply accepting the habits and traditions of the Mormon Church, but they are challenging them, even if the challenge is currently a more internal, private one. I expect there are some more public challenges, as well.[4]

Religion & Science. One issue that has caught my attention during the assigned readings for this class has been the Mormon stance on Creationism vs. Evolutionism. I was very interested, therefore, to read a blog post by a British blogger (RJH) who was contacted by a fellow Mormon who was concerned by a BBC program’s depiction of evolution as part of human (pre)history. The friend responded with a letter, and posted the letter as his blog. I greatly enjoyed the letter, probably mostly because I very much agree with it. However, the most interesting part of the blog is the comments. In the very first comment, the author posts a link to the “counter-view” whose author concludes with, “it is very difficult for me to reconcile the doctrine of man’s premortal spirit (as taught by the Church today) with current theories of human evolution.”[5] Following that link to the counter-view, a conversation ensues in the comments where some people weigh in with their own opinions. It is clear from these interactions that, again, Mormons are not simply accepting what may be the official Mormon Church position. People are having the conversation, and many people disagree with the Church while still calling themselves Mormon. I especially respect how the author put forth his own view, while also inviting his readers to consider the counter-argument, as well, enabling each person to decide for him/herself.

The “Science vs. Religion” debate is also referenced in a blog about petitionary prayer.[6] I particularly appreciate how this blog entry ends. There is no real resolution, but rather an acknowledgment that the debate exists, and that we all probably hold some of that debate within us. As much as we all may know cerebrally that intercessory prayer will not actually change the science of an illness, we all often, deep down, have those prayers inside of us anyway.[7] At the end, the author calls for the “caricatures of science” to stop “scowling at the caricatures of religion.” I feel this advice could go both ways. This debate is ongoing within many arenas of Christianity, and I often feel that if we could all stop debating and accept the tension (there’s my Lutheranism again) of the two, perhaps we could focus our energies on more productive solutions that bring healing. This is exactly how the author concludes.

A pattern has been developing as each blog was read and absorbed; a pattern that continued with the blog posts that I have not discussed of homosexuality,[8] liturgical year (or lack thereof), [9] frugality (as portrayed by Mitt Romney), [10] and the general public reputation of Mormonism.[11] Every blog has expressed opinions that are not necessarily aligned with the official teachings of the Mormon Church. Every blog has discussed some potentially divisive issue, and showed that there are many sides to be discussed. And every blog has touched on an issue that is also being discussed within my own church. These are not Mormon issues, they are not Lutheran issues, they are not even Christian issues; they are human issues. Unfortunately, in life, we humans tend to categorize and put people and faith into buckets. In reality, we are all just people who are using our own personal experiences and deep, personal beliefs to make the best of the world we see and feel. Some align more closely with one religion, and some align more closely with another. Some do not align with any. All, though, are much more complex and rich to be bucketized and stereotyped. Every religion and faith deserves more than that.


[1] Margaret Blair Young, “By Common Consent, A Mormon Blog: Richard Cracoft, Go Gentle,” By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/25/richard-cracroft-go-gentle/ (accessed October 3, 2012).

[2] Brad, “A Mormon Blog: Enmity, Estrangement, and Reconciliation,“ By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/26/enmity-estrangement-and-reconciliation/#more-38863 (accessed 10/3/2012).

[3] Rebecca J, “A Mormon Blog: The Radical Notion that Women are People: part three of a million parts,” By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/28/the-radical-notion-that-women-are-people-part-three-of-a-million-parts/#more-38902 (accessed 10/3/2012).

[4] This is not to say that all women are challenging these issues within the church. In the blog referenced earlier about Mr. Cracroft (“Richard Cracoft, Go Gentle”), the author tells a story where it seems Mr. Cracroft was thanking the author for her sacrifice of marrying a professor who was in need of finding a wife in order to continue teaching at BYU. It struck me as reinforcing a notion that the women are there to make sacrifices for the men. I wondered, “But isn’t she in love with this man who she is marrying?” I acknowledge, though, that I may be misunderstanding what was said and intended.

[5] R Gary, “No Death Before the Fall: Evolution and the premortal spirit of man, conclusion: The body is the clothing of and looks like the spirit,” No Death Before the Fall, http://ndbf.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/looks-like.html (accessed 10/3/2012).

[6] Sam MB, “A Mormon Blog: Religion, Science, and the Problem of Petitionary Prayer,” By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/30/religion-science-and-the-problem-of-petitionary-prayer/ (accessed 10/3/2012).

[7] The author also points out how prayer can be healing in other ways.

[8] Josh Weed, “Club Unicorn: In which I come out of the closet on our ten year anniversary,” The Weed, http://www.joshweed.com/2012/06/club-unicorn-in-which-i-come-out-of.html (accessed 10/3/2012).

[9] RJH, “Liturgical Year,” By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/10/03/liturgal-year/#more-38925 (accessed 10/3/2012).

[10] Russell Arben Fox, “Mocking Romney’s Mormon Self-Sufficiency, and What That Misses,” By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/10/02/mocking-romneys-mormon-self-sufficiency-and-what-that-misses/ (accessed 10/3/2012).

[11] Sam MB, “By Common Consent, A Mormon Blog: Religion, Science, and the Problem of Petitionary Prayer,” By Common Consent, http://bycommonconsent.com/2012/09/30/religion-science-and-the-problem-of-petitionary-prayer/ (accessed 10/3/2012).

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It’s my birthday…

Today is my birthday. Many of you know this, as you graciously wished me a very happy birthday on Facebook. Thank you for that. I know that it probably doesn’t seem very personal, and may feel like you are just adding to the crowd, but I enjoy reading all the birthday wishes. It’s great how they are spread out across the day, allowing me to feel the good wishes every hour.

From the outside looking in, today seemed like a great day. Everyone in my dorm remembered my birthday, and greeted me with warm wishes in class, in the hallways, and in the kitchen. People are so warm and welcoming here… it’s as though they are always happy to see me. I suppose that comes naturally when you are a student in seminary, surrounded by other seminary students. Pastoral care abounds.

It was as though even God was in on wishing me a happy birthday. The sun was shining today, allowing me to wear one of my favorite sundresses as I strolled outside, taking in the beautiful scenery and sun rays. A close friend here took me out to get a manicure and pedicure as a little birthday treat. My husband was wonderful, too, sending me a gorgeous arrangement of flowers on Saturday, which are proudly displayed on my bookshelf by the window where they can soak up the sun. I received a couple of e-cards – one from my husband and one from my mother-in-law – as well as phone calls from family. In fact, one family member, my sister, came to celebrate my birthday with me in person. She was here with other students from Humboldt State, and she managed to convince the group to hang out for a few hours while she came to see me and celebrate with me. While she was here, we went to a local brewery for drinks and dinner, and many of my dorm mates joined us. When I got back, the dorm gathered in the basement with a home-baked cake. It’s been a good day.

So why do I feel so down? (“My heart should be wildly rejoicing. Oh, what’s the matter with me?” fills my head accompanied by Richard Rodgers music – anyone know the reference?) The day has been filled with blessings, and yet I struggle to feel the joy that surrounds me. I hate to think of how I would feel if my day had not been so wonderful. I think I’m disappointed that my husband and I were not able to arrange a time for him to come visit, or for me to go home. We did just spend a week together during our mid-term break, but… it’s my birthday. I feel a bit like that spoiled brat who gets everything she wants except one thing, and instead of being grateful for all that she has, she can’t let go of the one thing she doesn’t have. And so I start to beat myself up for feeling down…

My Ministry & Theological Integration class that I took last year at Seattle University taught me something that is useful here, though. They taught me to stop judging my feelings and emotions, and to start welcoming them. Perhaps what I’m feeling is a bit ungrateful, but that doesn’t make the emotions any less real or valid. I need to remember to allow myself to grieve – even when the grieving seems like a “first world problem.” I know that I will be ok, but right now, I need to grieve. (Now Leslie Gore is running through my head.)Maybe that’s the only way for me to get past this.

This may be my first real “personal” post on this blog. I hesitate to post it, especially since I feel pretty lame about it. However, I said at the beginning of the year that this blog was going to be about what it’s like to be away at school… at seminary. Well, this is part of that experience – the good and the bad. And so I share it with all of you. I simply miss my husband, my dogs, my cat… I miss my home.

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Do Mormons Want a Mormon President?

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Two nights ago, my class on Mormonism talked politics. We asked the question, “Would the election of Mitt Romney as President of the United States help or hurt the Mormon church?”

I say “church” and not “faith” purposefully; there is a valid argument that faith is something internal, which hopefully would not be impacted by the results of an election. The church, though, has plenty to be gained or lost: reputation, understanding, and civic influence (influence of the church on the world, and the world on the church).

Two Mormon students in my class did some research regarding this question, and their initial answer was… neither. They believe that most of the change that the church would experience has already been experienced as a result of Mitt Romney’s campaign. They explained that the campaign has brought a spotlight to Mormonism, and there has been a good amount of positive exposure as a result. Only ten years ago, they remember when Evangelical clergy would accuse Mormons of being of the devil, evil influences who must, at all cost, be avoided. There are still some Evangelical clergy who feel this way, but the sentiment is not nearly as widespread, and most certainly not as vocalized. They feel this is one impact of Mitt Romney’s candidacy.

Having Mitt Romney as the Republican candidate for President has put a face to Mormonism. These students explained that, before Romney’s campaign, any man who would “come out” as Mormon would immediately be stereotyped as some crazy guy who had many wives. When people see Mitt Romney and his family, the stereotype begins to fade. But it is more than that. It is easy to visualize a person as the enemy, as a villain who is absolute evil, when there are no personal experiences to pull from, only accusations and misrepresentations. However, when you see a person giving speeches, being interviewed, debating, and especially joking around with others, you begin to realize that this person is… well… a person. He (or she) has qualities you like as well as qualities you don’t. There are strengths and weaknesses to be considered – just like with any of us.

I imagine the impact is greater for those who are in the Republican Party. This person who they now see on television and the Internet every single day represents them: their ideals, their positions, their morals. Yes, of course it is rare to find someone whose positions match on all counts, but the point is that we tend to vote for the person with whom we most identify. For most Republicans, this Mormon is that person. When you identify with someone, you no longer consider them to be “the enemy.” Granted, Mitt Romney is just one Mormon, but it is when we become more familiar with one person that we begin to realize the whole group of people might not be so bad. Just in the past 20 years, I have seen this happen with many communities: African-Americans, Native Americans, homosexuals. It is when we meet someone from that community that the barriers begin to come down and the stereotypes become less powerful.

And so, the students argued that, win or lose, the Mormon church is not likely to feel much of an impact at this point. They were careful, though, to not use absolutes. They believe that some of the impact that is being felt now is likely to continue should Mitt Romney be elected. For example, they have already noticed a difference in the recognition of Mormonism as a Christian faith. Although there are still many who would not consider Mormons to be “Christian,” people generally speaking now understand that Mormons do, indeed, believe in Jesus as divine. This recognition also extends to people who previously did not even know that Mormonism WAS a faith. Many missionaries who travel internationally have been met with quizzical looks when introducing themselves as Mormons. People did not know Mormonism existed. This is more rare now, and the students expect it would become even more rare if Mitt Romney is elected. This is exciting for the Mormon church, since it potentially means more successful missions, which is a huge part of their faith and calling.

Now, with this said, depending on how a Mitt Romney presidency would fare, success for Romney could also hurt the Mormon reputation. I don’t know any presidents who come away from their presidential term unscathed. There are always criticisms, finger-pointings, and mistakes to be long remembered. Any decision, statement, or act that Mitt Romney as President would make would be associated with Mormonism, whether it should be or not. If Mitt Romney loses, Mormonism will no longer be in the spotlight. If he wins, Mormonism will continue to gain our attention, for good and for bad alike.

But this is all about how Mitt Romney’s run for presidency impacts the Mormon church; how about how Romney’s Mormon faith impacts Romney’s run for presidency? I have been surprised to see that it doesn’t seem to be all that impactful. I was not alive for President Kennedy’s campaign, but I understand that his Catholicism was a topic that could not be avoided. It was a huge focus, and many people would not vote for Kennedy because they were fearful that the Pope would run our country. Although there was an initial “shock” regarding Mitt Romney’s run, there really hasn’t been much said since he received the nomination. Perhaps this is because Mitt Romney seems to avoid the topic. He presents himself as a person who is running for President and happens to be Mormon, not as a Mormon running for President (see 3:40 of this video).

To be honest, I’m a bit disappointed. Despite the fact that I did not vote for Romney (mail ballot), I originally felt defensive for him. I do not believe that someone’s faith should determine whether that person is elected, and I was worried this would happen. However, as the campaigns unfolded and Romney’s faith was not a topic of conversation, I realized that I DID want to hear about how Romney’s faith impacts him as a leader. I have many of the same questions that are outlined in this article, but are left unanswered. I am particularly interested in this topic because there are many positions that Mitt Romney takes that are NOT the Mormon church’s positions (immigration and social issues in general). Let me be clear, I am not faulting Romney for sometimes disagreeing with his church. I simply would like to better understand how Mitt Romney’s faith has helped form who he is and how he considers issues of civic responsibility (especially regarding the poor).

In fact, because of these differences, I asked whether the Mormons in the room believed that most Mormons are supportive of Mitt Romney for President, and they said, “Yes.” Even though many Mormons disagree with some (many?) of Romney’s positions, they are, generally speaking, excited by the idea of a Mormon in the White House. The Mormon representatives in the room believe that most Mormons (but not all – there is a more liberal contingent) will vote for Mitt Romney. Of course, this is not the first time we have seen this phenomena (Catholics for Kennedy, Blacks for Obama). And, for the record, I do not blame them. If a woman was running for President who I thought was capable, but maintained some positions where I disagreed, I just might vote for her anyway. Of course… it would depend on the positions.

In the end, the impression I walked away with is that Mormons are excited. Having one of their own running for President in a close race makes the election more personal for them… and makes them seem a bit more personable for the rest of us, too.

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