Monthly Archives: June 2014

for all of the sad angry anxious righteously indignant fearful brave ones. on all sides of the story.

Invocation / Benediction

Father, Mother, help me piece together the contradictions of my life:
White cotton, red satin, brown polka dot; torn Sunday dress, Navajo rug, frayed baby blanket.
Make me insistent on every lonely shred, willing to sacrifice no one.
Where there is no pattern, God, give me courage to organize a fearsome beauty.
Where there is unraveling, let me draw broad blanket stitches of sturdy blue yarn.

Mother, Father, give me vision.
Give me strength to work hours past my daughters’ bedtime.
Give me an incandescent all-night garage with a quorum of thimble-thumbed
grandmothers sitting on borrowed folding chairs.
We will gather all the lost scraps and stitch them together;
A quilt big enough to warm all our generations: all the lost, found, rich, poor, good, bad, in, out, old, new, country, city, dusty, shiny ones;
A quilt big enough to cover all the alfalfa fields in the Great Basin.
Bigger. We are piecing together a quilt with no edges.
God, make me brave enough to love my people.
How wonderful it is to have a people to love.

This poem I wrote was originally published in Exponent 2. For forty years, Exponent 2 has been the print chronicle of Mormon feminism. After the excommunications of 1993, women stopped subscribing out of fear. Let it be different this time. Please subscribe: http://www.exponentii.org.

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The real Mormon moment is now.

The real Mormon moment is now.

The facts are now established: at least a dozen Mormons in the U.S. have faced or are facing discipline for expressing criticisms of the Church or support for same-sex marriage or women’s ordination on-line, on Facebook, on Twitter, even in anonymous chat rooms.

The implications of the facts are even more troubling. They suggest that the LDS Church supports what must be a substantial enterprise monitoring the on-line activity of its members in the United States, if not worldwide.

Of course, this is not a surprise to progressive Mormons who have populated those Facbook groups and web forums.

We have in fact been waiting for this moment—waiting to see whether our religion could survive the insularity, militancy, and suspiciousness engendered by its nineteenth-century persecutions, and outgrow as well the highly centralized and controlling corporate-bureaucratic style of the twentieth-century LDS Church, to adapt to the new realities of the internet era, including greater openness among Mormons with doubts or concerns about controversial aspects of our history and doctrine.

We hoped this day would not come. Because we know that excommunication courts are a nineteenth-century Mormon solution to twenty-first century Mormon problems. Exiling and shaming a dozen, two dozen, one hundred, one thousand heterdox Mormons won’t close the book on women’s issues, or LGBT issues, or historical controversies in Mormonism. You could rid the church of an entire generation of querulous bloggers and grassroots organizers and another will rise and take its place. Because these controversies are not private and individual. They are not personal problems. They are the product of Mormon history, Mormon doctrine, and Mormon culture. We didn’t invent them. We inherited them, as will the generations to follow, each taking its turn in the search for truth. Because that is what Mormonism means.

We had hoped it wouldn’t turn out this way. Maybe it still won’t. Maybe the highest profile excommunication court—that scheduled this Sunday in Virginia for Kate Kelly, a believing Mormon woman and one of the founders of the web-based Ordain Women campaign—will end without Sister Kelly having her baptism and marriage nullified, her membership in a Church she served as a full-time missionary expunged.

Over the last decade of on-line blogging and organizing, Mormon progressives have found many reasons to hope for more openness in our Church. We noted every year we put between us and the high-profile excommunications of Mormon feminists and historians in the 1990s. We noted that the hunger for excommunication on doctrinal controversy seemed to have ceased. We used the internet to regroup and grow in numbers. The Church even developed its own web-based resources to acknowledge and address its own controversies—historic and contemporary.

This, we thought, was a good sign. A sign that we might not need to fear losing our membership, our place, in a cherished tradition, just for having and voicing questions, doubts, and differences, even sharing them with others, even organizing on-line forums where other Mormons who could not speak their questions at church could find support, answers, resolution, a reason to keep trying, and a way to express their continuing fidelity to a religion that asks so much of them.

We told ourselves to not to be afraid. Even when we were. We just kept on writing. Even when we knew we were being monitored.

But already knowing that we were being monitored makes it no less shameful to see the facts in print.

Nor does it diminish the pain of seeing a religion characterized by beautiful audacity in its doctrines and daring in its difference manifest such a want of courage, a smallness of spirit, and fearful rigidity when it comes to its own heterodox members.

Nor does it diminish the fear and despair this new wave of disciplinary actions is inciting among progressive Mormons who have anxiously wondered over this past week whether a letter or a meeting request might be on the way for them too.

Over the past few days, I have been getting Facebook messages and phone calls from rank-and-file Mormons not interviewed by the New York Times relaying that they too have been accosted or called in by their bishops for voicing support for greater equality for women in the church, or same-sex civil marriage rights.

“I’m really a nobody,” wrote one woman. “Just a stay at home mom who doesn’t particularly go out of her way to take up too much space on the internet.”

Church officials deny high-level coordination of the pushback against progressive and heterodox Mormons. But it is also being reported that at least one high-ranking leader has instructed local LDS clergy that support for women’s ordination should be viewed as apostasy—a serious charge in Mormonism. Without question, that instruction and the national news of Kate Kelly’s court has created a climate wherein local Church leaders now feel obliged or empowered to call in and even take disciplinary action against less orthodox members of their own congregations.

It is Friday. Kate Kelly’s court is scheduled for Sunday, as are many more informal disciplinary conversations between local leaders and heterodox Mormons. There is still time for a different kind of signal to go out, from Salt Lake City—a signal that could empower a different kind of action, a standing down on all sides, a putting away of defensiveness and fearfulness, a putting to rest of Mormonism’s nineteenth-century ghosts and twentieth-century control issues.

It is Friday and we hear nothing from our religious leaders in Salt Lake City. We hear only from the Public Relations department, which seems to be doing the best it can to get grips on a situation that has outgrown its control, a situation that makes Mormons appear once again in the public eye as the insular, suspicious, dogmatic, simple-minded, intolerant, and spiritually violent Mormon caricatures that once populated nineteenth-century magazines.

It is Friday. We talk amongst ourselves: the men tasked with the heavy burden of convening an excommunication court this Sunday in Virginia, and the Mormon men and women who will convene simultaneously at candlelight vigils scheduled nationwide.

I dream that a voice from Salt Lake City (if not somewhere even more exalted) will say, in the words of a cherished Mormon hymn, “All is well. All is well”—not because it is right now, but because faith means holding to the hope that it will be. A signal of peace for every one of us who agonizes—while the outside world watches mutely or wonders aloud why we even bother—over how our beloved faith will respond to the pressures of the twenty-first century.

Forget Mitt Romney. Forget the Book of Mormon musical. Forget—yes, forget—the LDS Church’s multi-million dollar “I’m a Mormon” campaign designed to rebrand contemporary Mormonism as diverse and welcoming.

This painful, pivotal time is the real Mormon moment.

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Room for All in this Church

(Friends, please take a moment to read and share this statement, released today by a number of Mormon bloggers and podcasters, about the threatened excommunications of Kate Kelly and John Dehlin.)

Room for All in this Church

We face a difficult and pivotal moment in Mormonism as LDS leaders and church members wrestle more openly with complicated aspects of our faith, its doctrine, and its history—often in spaces afforded by the Internet. In light of possible disciplinary action against prominent voices among us, we the undersigned Mormon bloggers and podcasters affirm the value of the conversations that take place in the LDS “Bloggernacle” and express our hopes for greater understanding and compassion from all of us involved in current tensions.

May we all remember, as scripture teaches, the intricate intertwining of mercy and justice. May we all follow the admonition to seek understanding before judgment, even as we address matters that can be difficult to talk about.

Scripture and tradition teach us that excommunication is one way of maintaining the boundaries of a religious community. But we believe that excommunication is not the best way to address conflict over doctrine, policy, or tradition. We ask our leaders to consider other ways of maintaining boundaries, strengthening Church members, and encouraging them to grow spiritually within Mormonism’s large and embracing community without the fear and despair the threat of excommunication sows not only in those threatened but in their families, friends, and those who share similar concerns about LDS Church doctrine or history—even those who do so silently. We are deeply encouraged by the recent news about the prospect of de-escalation in at least one of the current cases and pray for positive steps towards reconciliation.

The issues in Mormon doctrine, history, and practice highlighted by those facing church discipline are much larger than any one individual. It is not only unavoidable that these issues will continue to be discussed; such discussion is good for the health of our religious community and faithful to the truth-seeking spirit of the Latter-day Saint Restoration. As bloggers, podcasters, and passionate contributors to good, healthy online discussion, we affirm our commitment to continue speaking openly and publicly, and encouraging others to do so as well. We will continue to use online spaces to grow in knowledge and faith, to attempt to present and see many sides of each issue, and to reach out to those expressing pain, heartache, and loneliness. It is our experience that these conversations can bear good fruit as Latter-day Saints mourn with those who mourn and reflect on, deepen, and renew their faith.

We are grateful for our membership in this Church and for the unique opportunities the Internet has provided us to share our Mormon experiences, questions, and hopes. We pray that a spirit of clemency will guide the words and actions of everyone—especially those who bear the heavy responsibility of ecclesiastical discipline of Church members—and that the words of President Uchtdorf will hold sway: “Regardless of your circumstances, your personal history, or the strength of your testimony, there is room for you in this Church.”

Signed:

Dan Wotherspoon, Mormon Matters podcast
Jana Riess, Flunking Sainthood blog (Religion News Service)
Natasha Helfer Parker, The Mormon Therapist blog
Paul Barker, Rational Faiths blog and podcast
Michael Barker, Rational Faiths blog and podcast
Mark Crego, A Thoughtful Faith Support Group (Facebook)
Lisa Butterworth, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Joanna Brooks, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Gina Colvin, KiwiMormon blog
Lindsay Park, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Jared Anderson, Mormon Sunday School podcast
Daniel Parkinson, No More Strangers blog
Bill McGee, Sunstone
Mary Ellen Robertson, Sunstone
Stephen Carter, Sunstone
Michael Stevens, Sunstone
Chelsea Shields Strayer, LDS WAVE
Tresa Edmunds, LDS WAVE
Chelsea Robarge Fife, Mormon Feminist Cooperative
Kalani Tonga Tukaufu, Feminist Mormon Housewives
David Landrith, Mormon Mentality
Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, Mormon Matters podcast
Jerilyn Hassell Pool, Rational Faiths blog
Spencer Lake, Clean Cut blog
Brittany Morin-Mezzadri, TheLadyMo blog
Katie Langston, Feminist Mormon Housewives blog
Hannah Wheelwright, Young Mormon Feminists blog
Erin Moore, Young Mormon Feminists blog
Kimberly Lewis, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Nikki Hunter, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Nancy Ross, Nickel on the ‘Nacle blog
Mark Brown, The Mormon Hub (Facebook)
Alicia Jones, LDS Left (Facebook)
Elise Villescaz, LDS Left (Facebook)
Emily Summerhays, Feminist Mormon Housewives
Mindy Farmer, The Inquisitive Mom blog
Jeff Krey, A Thoughtful Faith Support Group (Facebook)
Lori Burkman, Rational Faiths blog
Laura Compton, Mormons for Marriage
Alison Moore Smith, Mormon Momma blog
Heather Olsen Beal, Doves and Serpents blog
Brent Beal, Doves and Serpents blog
Ed Snow, Doves and Serpents blog
Erin Hill, Doves and Serpents blog
Meghan Raynes, Exponent blog
Aimee Hickman, Exponent blog
Rachel Hunt, Exponent blog
Liz Johnson, Exponent blog
Libby Potter Boss, Exponent blog
Heather Moore-Farley, Exponent blog
April Young Bennett, Exponent blog
Deborah Farmer Kris, Exponent blog
Jessica Oberan Steed, Exponent blog
Carolyn Kline, Exponent blog
April Carlson, Exponent blog
Sariah Anne Kell, Exponent blog
Chelsea Sue, Exponent blog
Emily Clyde Curtis, Exponent blog
Emily Updegraff, Exponent blog
Dayna Patterson, Doves and Serpents blog
Cheryl Bruno, Worlds Without End blog
Katie Evans, Zelophehad’s Daughters blog
Kristy Benton, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Lori LeVar Pierce, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Rebecca Reid Linford, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Paula Goodfellow, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Cheryl McGuire, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Kay Gaisford, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Lorlalie Pallotta, All Are Alike Unto God blog
Wendy Reynolds, All Are Alike Unto God blog

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