Monthly Archives: March 2010

Ask Mormon Girl: I no longer keep the Word of Wisdom. Should I tell my spouse?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl: I grew up in the church, served a mission, married in the temple, and so forth, but now I guess you could call me “disaffected.” I do attend church, but I don’t believe that the Word of Wisdom is compulsory from God’s perspective and I do not follow it to the letter. In my wife’s eyes, there’s no wiggle room. My wife is aware of my feelings of disaffection but not that I don’t follow the Word of Widsom. Should I tell her? I don’t want to hurt her.

ML in CA

Ah, the Word of Widsom. A “principle with promise,” it’s true. But scratch your family history, and you may very well find stories of Mormon great-great grandfathers who drank a little beer or great-grandmothers who kept coffee pots on their stoves. Strict observance of the Word of Wisdom did not become a requirement for temple attendance until the 1920s under Church president Heber J. Grant.

Still, it’s undeniable that for observant LDS Church members in the late twentieth and twenty-first centuries, the Word of Wisdom has become a major boundary separating the inside from the outside, us from them, safe from scary. You already know that the fact that you’ve crossed that boundary may make your wife feel worried, afraid, angry, or disappointed, and you want to keep it secret to protect her feelings and maybe yours too.

It seems to me, then, that your question isn’t really about the Word of Wisdom. Your question is really about how to preserve your marriage during a major transition in the nature of your religious faith. I get the feeling that you love your wife, and you care deeply about your marriage. You wouldn’t be writing to a complete stranger for advice if you didn’t.

To get an additional perspective, I shared your question with a woman friend of mine whose marriage has survived a major faith transition. Both husband and wife attend church together; she remains a highly observant member, while he no longer keeps the Word of Wisdom nor believes as he once did. She stressed how important it is to be honest with your spouse, even if you’re afraid that what you have to say will hurt her. In her experience, honesty even in difficult circumstances leads to greater understanding and intimacy. My friend also recommended that your wife check out Faces East, an on-line network for Mormons married to “differently believing” spouses. I think that’s great advice.

I’d just add that I hope you will be gentle with yourself and your wife as you go through this together. Facing a faith transition can be very scary. I hope you’ll do whatever you can to affirm your love for her even as the ground shifts underneath you both.

Maybe you will permanently join the ranks of those many, many Mormons who over the last 175 years loved the faith and still drank the coffee. Or, maybe, sometime down the road, you may find that the pleasure of the occasional glass of wine matters less than the opportunity to demonstrate your solidarity with your wife and the Mormon tradition. In the long run, I am hopeful that if you are honest, gentle, and patient with yourself and your spouse, everything will be okay.

Readers, it’s your turn. And please be gentle. What encouragement or perspective do you have to share?


Filed under faith transition, Love, word of wisdom

Ask Mormon Girl hits the road: The Our Voices, Our Visions Tour

This week, I’m putting the Ask Mormon Girl column on vacation while I set out for adventure in the Book-of-Mormon Belt.

The Our Voices, Our Visions Mormon Women’s Literary Tour is hitting the road.  It’s the first ever literary tour by and for Mormon women, featuring eighteen Mormon women writers– younger and older, new and prize-winning, unorthodox and orthodox—giving readings at five universities from Claremont University to the University of Utah.

And it all began yesterday when Susan Scott, a fifth-generation RLDS / Community of Christ woman writer, arrived at the San Diego airport from her home in Ontario, Canada.

“I have a confession to make,” I told Susan as she climbed into my car.  “I’ve never really talked with an RLDS woman before.”

“And I’ve never really talked with an LDS woman before either.  Isn’t it amazing?”

Throughout an afternoon walking with my daughters on the shores near La Jolla—Susan is, after all, from wintry Canada; she needs to see some beach—we trade questions about the larger Mormon tradition we share.

“For us, Independence, Missouri is the center of everything,” she tells me.

“That’s kind of true for us too, actually,” I tell her.  “I grew up expecting to go back to Missouri some day. Did you grow up with the Second Coming?”


“Is it like our Second Coming? With the end times, then Christ’s return, then the millennium, then Satan being loosed again, before the final judgment?”


Susan tells me that when she was 18, she eloped with the cute musician from RLDS church camp to an RLDS commune in North Carolina.  It was called Zion’s Depot.

“You had RLDS communes?” I ask, jealous.

“It was the 1970s.  And I was very dedicated.  Wasn’t that what we were supposed to be doing? Giving away all our worldly possessions and living the faith?”

It’s dinnertime now. The sun is setting behind my flowering nectarine tree, and my daughters are drawing with colored chalk on our patio.

“You have blessed oil, do you?” she asks.

“Yes, we call it consecrated oil.”

“At the commune, one of the big debates was using blessed oil to heal the cattle.”

“We definitely have blessing cattle stories!”

Tonight, joined by poet Elisa Pulido and fiction writer Lisa Van Orman Hadley, we’ll start with a reading at Claremont Graduate University hosted by Claudia Bushman.  Tomorrow, we’ll drive across the desert to ASU.

We’re hitting the road, hoping to learn more about the tradition we call home, and looking forward to meeting you along the way.

For full details on where to see the Our Voices, Our Visions Tour this week, visit


Filed under literature, Women

Glenn Beck is acting up again; is Mormonism to blame?

Unless you’ve managed to craft a mass-media-free universe for yourself, you’ve probably heard that conservative media heavyweight Glenn Beck (who is Mormon) recently urged his listeners to “run” from any church that preached “social justice” or “economic justice.”  In response, some church groups have pushed back against Beck, calling for public dialogues, apologies, and even boycotts.

Last week, the following email arrived in the Ask Mormon Girl inbox from a fellow religion writer.

I’ve been following the latest Glenn Beck “social justice” controversy.  Is there a Mormon angle here?


Well, JD, Several Mormons have stepped up in the national media to say that Beck’s comments on social justice are not in keeping with the spirit of Mormon belief and practice.  Yesterday, Mormon author Jana Riess published an especially powerful rejoinder to Brother Beck, recalling from the Book of Mormon the beautiful words of that social justice crusader King Benjamin in Mosiah 4 (see especially verses 16 – 26).

I’ve even seen it reported that LDS Church leaders called progressive evangelical leader the Rev. Jim Wallis to apologize for Beck’s comments.

Which makes me sad.

Sad to think that the brethren felt even a twinge of responsibility for the former morning zoo radio shock jock who once made a living cavorting with Zippy the Chimp and who now makes a living by comparing do-gooder churches to the likes of Stalin and Hitler.

The fact is that while Mormons may not use the exact words “social justice” (the phrase has Catholic origins), humanitarian service and social welfare programs, including, yes, experiments in wealth redistribution, have a profound place in Mormon history, life, and values.

And although we are the most conservative religion in America, 49% of Mormons polled by the Pew Foundation recently said the government should do more for the needy; 42% disagreed.

If there is a Mormon angle to this story, it is the way that the flaws and missteps of public figures known to be Mormon sometimes get connected back to our much misunderstood Church.

Mormons take credit for lots and lots of things, like the invention of television and the women’s one-piece bathing suit. Heck, last Friday when I took the kids to the new Mormon Battalion Visitors Center here in San Diego, I learned that we even take credit for the Gadsden Purchase.  But should we take responsibility for Glenn Beck?

I have argued elsewhere that after his 1999 conversion Glenn Beck borrowed some ideological and rhetorical elements from Mormon culture for his on-air repertoire.  But Mormonism is not the source of Glenn Beck’s latest antics. (And while we’re at it:  a special note to Bill Maher, Joseph F. Smith is not the reason Mitt Romney got into a dust-up with a fourth-rate rapper on Air Canada.)

The source of Glenn Beck’s latest antics is Glenn Beck’s genius for generating controversy.  After all, Beck didn’t get where he is because he chose a life dedicated to service.  Nope.  Beck is all about building market share and has been since his beginnings back at the morning zoo.

So, readers, what shall we do the next time Glenn Beck acts up?  Apologize?  Hold him accountable?  Ignore him altogether?  Or, perhaps, circulate this little You Tube gem, featuring Glenn and his buddy Zippy the Chimp?

What do you think?

Send your queries to, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.


Filed under glenn Beck, politics

We’re struggling to give our kids the best of Mormonism: Help?

Readers, from the traffic in my inbox this week and other regions of the bloggernacle, the universe seems to be signalling that it’s time to talk about parenthood:

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:


My wife and I are smack dab in the middle of a crisis of faith.  We are struggling to give our kids the best of Mormonism.  But we do not want our kids being taught things that we feel are untrue or things that we feel will restrict them in their journey to discover themselves and their true potential. And I have nightmares of my daughter going away to BYU marrying a “I’m the head of the household” priesthood holder and before you know it her husband will not allow our grandchildren to see us because we are a bad influence. Did I mention my daughter is only 7?  Yeah, maybe we need to relax a little. I am curious if you share similar concerns?  Deep down do you really think it is possible to raise your children in the church on your terms and if so how?




Vegas New Order Mormons

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Filed under family, parenting

Why do Mormon girls rule the blogosphere?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:


What is your take on Mormon women’s domination of the blogworld? (I’m thinking about Dooce, Nienie, and Taza and a few others…) I find myself totally addicted to their blogs as well for reasons I can’t quite articulate.



It’s true, JJZ, that Mormon girls are dominating, well, if not the whole blogworld, at least the 25 – 34 college-educated white female demographic. Salt Lake City-based Heather Armstrong’s tell-all gets at least 50,000 visitors a day; a jaw-dropping 1.6 million people follow Dooce on Twitter.  Arizona-based Stephanie Nielson, mother of four, near-fatal plane crash survivor, also pulls heavy traffic on her site Nienie Dialogues, as does Washington D.C.-based ingénue newlywed fashionista Naomi Megan who blogs at Rockstar Diaries.
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Filed under homemaking, mommy blogs, Women