Tuesday, February 28

Why I don't tell my mom anything

This is a story about something that happened to me. It has no theological, or philosophical implications. I can't think of any way to make it more than just something that happened to me. So even though this is technically off-topic for this blog, it's my blog so I'll post it anyways. Complaints, if any, may be submitted below.

My brother got married when I was 13. His wife was tall, athletic and pretty. She had two younger sisters, who were both older than me. They too, were tall, athletic and beautiful. Her dad was a career Marine, he was big, loud and scary. Her mom was one of those pushy women that have a way of making anyone feel like they're five years old. They were all new and unfamiliar to me, we first met on the day before their wedding.

They got married in Colorado because it was the halfway point between where her family and my family lived. After the wedding we all drove to Missouri for their first reception.

About halfway through the reception I started to feel funny. I went to the bathroom and was shocked to see that I had started to menstruate for the first time. Menarche.

I had already gone through several years of sex ed, and knew exactly what was happening, but I didn't know what to do about it. I went and got my mom. I didn't want to tell her there in the cultural hall, so I made her come with me into the bathroom. When I told her, she asked to see my underwear. I didn't want to show her my panties, but knew better than her argue with her. She looked at them and said "Yep, that's it. Just put some toilet paper there and you'll be fine." She left me there, saying that she needed to get back to the receiving line.

Before I went back out I looked at myself in the mirror. "So," I thought, "I'm a woman now, huh?" I didn't feel like a woman. I felt like a short, flat chested 13 year old with goofy hair and wads of toilet paper in her drawers. I had expected to feel pretty. To be tall. To be cool.

When I entered the cultural hall again, my mom was most definitely not in the recieving line. She was standing in a circle of people, including my dad, brother, new sister-in-law, both of her sisters, and her parents. They all turned to me with knowing smiles, my mom had told them all.

I went over to her with intentions of telling her that what she had just done was not cool. As I approached the others wafted away into their own little groups. I asked my mom "Why did you tell them? I didn't want them to know." She made her angry face, and said "It's very special, they deserved to know."

Dad? Sure. My brother? Maybe. His wife? probably not. Her sisters, and Mom? No. Her dad? Heck no!

I was furious, and went to my sisters at the refreshment table to complain. They too got mad at me, and told me that mom is just that way and I shouldn't have expected anything else. That was one of the last times I told my mom anything personal. Every other time I told her something personal I regretted it later, just like I regretted this.

Thursday, February 23


This last weekend, (as mentioned earlier) we visited my parents. Their Stake has a Spanish speaking branch, which was having an activity while we were there. Since my Dad fancies himself a Spanish speaker (he is rather good) we went to this activity. It was disappointing. The main appeal to the activity was that there were going to be people who had learned traditional dances from the Spanish speaking counties in central and south America performing. The next most exiting thing was vocal performances of traditional songs. The thing that nobody knew was coming, that largely ruined the activity was a half hour long slide show about the book of mormon and its promises to the descendants of the Lamanites. And the part that really made me uncomfortable was how I didn't feel like a guest at their activity, I felt like a tourist being performed for.

I guess it partly matters why one thinks that a Spanish-speaking branch should exist. I think Spanish speaking branches exist so that native speakers can hear the words of God and be taught in the language they are most familiar with, and so that they can be comforted and buoyed up by the members of the branch who share a similar cultural background. It seems that the branch president believes Spanish branches exist for members who can't speak English, and as a missionary tool for others who prefer Spanish.

My Dad said he has served with the man who is the branch president in other capacities and noted that he was unwilling to have any activity that didn't have a specific "Priesthood Purpose." In terms of this activity I would say the priesthood purpose should have been building comraderie among the branch members, and inviting the gringos to learn about the culture. But no. The Priesthood Purpose was pseduo-mormon doctrine 101. The slide show was a complete disaster. The only thing it didn't mention about the Lamanites was how when they were righteous their skin turned white. It did mention that their skin turned dark because of wickedness. While the slide show was narrated in Spanish, the words on the slides were all English, and the pictures were hardly visible through the words. Call me crazy but it might not be a good thing to tell people that their ancestors were horribly wicked people, and were cursed with dark skin because of it.

If it is a Spanish-speaking branch then it should be Spanish speaking. Everything said that night was said twice. The MC was a guy who served a mission in Mexico. He would announce the next number in Spanish, and then again in English. The only thing that was halfway good (other than the dancing and traditional songs) was the guy that sang "Oh, that I were an Angel!" in Spanish. Except halfway through he switched back to English. I found myself wondering, how much of their Sunday meetings were like this?

As I was sitting there watching I also wondered "why on earth are all of the people in charge here gringos?" I'm sure that all of the leaders served spanish speaking missions, and love the people dearly, but is there *any* reason that the branch president can't be a native Spanish speaker? I understand the need for the BP to be able to converse with the Stake Presidency, but surely there is a worthy man who speaks English well enough to do that? Wouldn't it mean so much to the children to see someone like them as their leader?

That activity was a fully traditional activity. The dances were traditional, the songs were traditional, the clothing was traditional, the pushy semi-racist missionary message was traditional, and the power structure was traditional too. Sometimes I hate tradition.

Thursday, February 16

Innocence and Naivete

Due to a thread at FMH I was recently disillusioned (not that thread, this one). I had a friend in my younger years who, out of the blue one day began to call himself 'Winky the One-Eyed Wonder Weasel.' I had no idea what he meant by this, or where it came from. I just thought it was clever alliteration, and a play at his rougish nature (weasels are rougish right?). And, no, he wasn't LDS if you are wondering. When I learned that his pseudonym meant more than I originally understood, I was completely caught off guard and more than a little embarrassed.

First, so many things that just seemed a little bit off suddenly made sense. He often questioned my stance on sexual morality, and made many references to the idea that he thought I was a bit of a fraud. I remember him joking about whether or not I really would be able to wear a white dress on my wedding day. I see now that it wasn't anything I had really done, or lies he had heard that led him to believe this about me. It was my participation with him in joking and use of double entendres that I didn't understand. I called him Winky, he assumed I knew what it meant, I assumed it meant nothing.

I'm not stupid. I may be best at mathematics, but I have a solid command of English. I get puns very quickly, and I can banter with the best of them. He had good reason to believe I knew what his nickname meant. He didn't understand that I just don't think that way.

So here's the question, was it innocence, or naivete? Was I naive to think that a teenage boy could think about something other than what his hormones dictated? Did I have an innocent mind that didn't know someone could be so preoccupied? Is there really a difference between the two?

What about the time last year where I accidentally inferred that one of my classmates masturbated because he had an EMF flashlight? Should I have known better? Probably. But is it really a bad thing that I am that naive?

Is it really possible for a person to not be naive, but still maintain basic innocence and faith in the innocence of others. The old addage that 'it takes one to know one' says otherwise. Is it true that I have to have a dirty mind just to recognize, and most importantly, not repeat the dirtiness around me?

Wednesday, February 15

The Pauli Exclusion Principle

Disclaimer: After writing this I noticed that I might come across as being vain, and in love with my own intelligence. I'm not vain (I hope), and I never was the smartest person in any of my schools. For some reason many of my friends tended to be people that struggled with school. For some of them, their parents were the pushy sort that demand good grades from their kids and push them to be "above average." Others of my friends had mild learning disabilities like dyslexia. The thing that held me back was my disposition towards school. I could do well without studying, so I never studied.

In first grade we were assigned a project. A picture of a bear was copied onto two pieces of paper, and we were to cut it out, glue it together, color it, and then write a few sentences about bears. When I got it back there was a note from the teacher. I took it home to my mom, and asked her what it was about. Aparently, while my classmates had written things like: "Bears are funny. They ride bikes in the circus." and "I love bears. They are soft and cuddly." I had written, "I hate bears. They are mean and scary. They will eat you if you go in the woods alone." According to the note I was the *only* kid who had said that they disliked bears. I vaguely remember thinking, "What's wrong with them, don't they realize how dangerous bears are?" Being the only kid who hated bears didn't make me funny, special, or cute. It made me different. And in grade school, different is bad.

In third grade I was taken to a room and given a test. No one really explained why. After I took that test I was taken back to that room once a week for a class that none of my friends were in. All the kids in there dressed funny, and seemed socially inept. I wondered if I was in special-ed. The special-ed kids did meet in that room, and no one had told me why I was in that class or how I had done on the test that obviously put me in the class. Finally my worry grew too great and I asked my mom. She told me I was in a class called "New Horizons," and it was a class for gifted students. That didn't mean that much to me. After all "gifted" and "special" seemed to be pretty similar words. I eventually figured out that they put me in that class because they thought I was smart, and needed more stimulation even though none of the stuff we did was really that challenging for me. When I relievedly shared this with one of my friends she asked me how I got in, because she wanted in too. I was suprised by the competetive way she said this, and felt uncomfortable with her from then on.

In ninth grade I had biology with a girl who was in my ward. She was the only other girl my age so we were de-facto friends. I was getting an A and she was barely passing so her mom suggested that she ask me for help. We went to her house one day after school and I went through much of the course work with her. She was flipping through her notes asking me to explain all the things she didn't understand. I gave her analogies to help her remember important concepts, like comparing molecules in a solution to kids jumping on a trampoline. When we were done she still felt confused and was obviously frustrated by the material. She asked, "How do remember all this stuff? Do you just study all day?" I didn't know how to tell her that I didn't really study at all, so I let the question go and wished her luck on the test.

My dad spent a few years in the Navy, and was always fascinated by boats and science and navigation. He really liked the idea of knowing the sky, and navigating by the stars. He loved pointing out constellations and I was the only child he could get to listen to him. He pronounced a lot of names wrong, and wasn't especially good at explaning how to find the star he was looking at. But he had books, lots of books. I loved looking through his books, though it felt like I wasn't supposed to. Perhaps if I had felt like he wouldn't have minded me looking at his books, it wouldn't have been so much fun.

My junior year in high school we took more standardized tests than I can remember. I hated them all, except for one. I had been looking forward to that one ever since my sister took it six years before. The ASVAB exam. The Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery exam. I remember joking on the way to the testing area with my friend just what "Battery" meant in this context. Were they going to beat us if we cheated? Looking at the grumpy looking men in uniform I wondered just how wrong our guess was. I took the test and a week later we got the results. Just like all standardized tests the scores were enigmatic and hard to decipher. I had a vague understanding that my scores were "good." When we filled out the chart that showed us what sorts of careers we have an aptitude for I was hoping for an epiphany, but didn't get one. I had images in my head of looking at the chart and seeing the name of a career and feeling "yes! That is what I want to do with my life!" When I filled out the chart, it turned out I had an aptitude for just about everything. The only thing that it looked like I was especially good at was mechanical and spacial reasoning. But I didn't know what that really implied. I didn't want to be a mechanic, I thought. While I was staring at my chart, vaguely disappointed, my friend looked over my shoulder and said "Wow! looks like you'd be good at everything." He went on to say that his chart said he might be a good dancer. He struck a flamenco pose and said "Ole! What do you think?" I laughed, because we both knew he wouldn't be a good dancer.

So I went to college with no idea what I wanted to major in or do with my life. I declared myself as an English major. I was pretty certain that I didn't really want to major in English, but I knew all the classes I would take as an English major would count towards the university wide liberal studies requirements for graduation. I took Calculus I my first semester. My professor, who was a woman tried to get me to join the math club. She asked what my major was, convinced that participation in math club would help me get scholarships. When I said "English." She looked agast and asked "What on earth are you taking this class for?" I said "I don't know."

Second sememster my advisor encouraged me to take a class that would count towards the Laboratory Science requirement. I looked through the listing and found Astronomy 101 and the once a week observational Lab. I decided to take it. When I got to class the first time there were three people from my singles ward there. I sat with them, though it quickly became clear that they were already friends. Though I was welcome in their group, they had known eachother for a long time, and I was sort of an outsider. For the first test they invited me to study with them at the library. They were being nice and inclusive of me, so I went. We started going over the material, and it quickly became obvious that I understood nearly all of it better than my friends. This time was different though. They were paying attention to what I said. They told me that I explained it better than the teacher had. They were glad I was there, they were I glad I understood, and they liked me because I was smart. I was addicted. Astronomy became my favorite class. It didn't matter that it the degree was mostly physics and math classes, and looked horribly hard. I knew I was smart enough to do it, and do it well.

All the other times in my childhood being smart made me different, and weird. To many of my friends I was the competition. I often set the curve, so their ability to get a good grade depended on me not doing too well. With astronomy, I wasn't something people felt threatened by. When I was an Astronomy major people wanted to ask me questions that they'd always wondered. The people in my classes were like me. I had found a place where I fit. I had found something to do that didn't cut me off from the people around me. I found something that made me happy.

Monday, February 13

It's all lies.

There is a fairly common format for a riddle in which you are faced with two people, one who always tells the truth, and another who always lies, but you don't know which is which. (warning: riddle spoiler ahead!) You are then required to determine the answer to some question by asking only one of them only one question. The solution is always to ask "what would the other guy say that the answer is?" Thereby guaranteeing that the answer is false and you can then assume that the opposite is true. Lies are a tricky thing, which will lead to all sorts of logical problems. Take this statement for example, "This statement is false." Or "Everything I say is a lie." If those statements are true, then they are false, which renders them true again.

I'm not sure what any of that has to do with the rest of this post. We know that we're surrounded by people who lie. I'm most curious about Broken covenants though. If I promise that I will love my husband forever, then five years later find that I can't (or maybe won't) love him, does that make my original promise a lie?

It would seem that in the given situation I would have two choices, acting so that my original statement becomes a lie, or acting so that my original statement remains a truth. So if I'm the sort of person that values honesty, then I will do everything I can to make what I said true. If I'm not the sort of person who values honesty then I won't mind my original promise becoming a lie. If that is true than that makes the dynamics about covenant making much more different that it seems.

Normally when one makes a promise of that sort they think about their desires to do whatever it is they're promising to do. When people get married they are thinking about their spouse, wondering if that is the sort of person they would like to be married to for their whole life.

Perhaps when we make promises we should be focused more on ourselves, and the seriousness that we give to our word of honor. It's less about whether or not my spouse is lovable, and is more about whether or not I'm the kind of person who will make myself stick to it even when it's not nice anymore. It's not about whether or not the guy loves you, it's about him being the type of person to keep his promises.

We all know that in the Temple ceremony we make covenants. I was suprised that at the beginning of the ceremony we're told that we can choose to leave now rather than make the covenenants that will be asked of us. I thought it was silly to say that at the beginning, because we didn't even know what the covenants were. At that moment you are essentially agreeing to make and keep all of the covenants without even knowing what they are, and what they will entail. I stayed because I had faith that I wouldn't be asked to do anything unreasonable or crazy (and I was right, just for the record). But at that moment I should have been searching my soul, asking myself "Am I the sort of person that will keep my promises no matter what?"

Monday, February 6


My husband told me a story while we were planning to have our first child. I had told him a concern that I had about maybe not being able to have children (my sister has had problems along those lines, but we had no trouble having a baby despite my concerns). He said that one of his leaders growing up used to live in Utah, and early in their marriage they did have quite a bit of trouble concieving. They didn't keep it a secret, so a few people in the ward knew that they were trying, but weren't having success. During a lesson in relief society the topic of child discipline came up. The wife mentioned that she didn't think spanking was a good idea, and that she didn't plan on spanking her children. An older lady in the ward spoke up and said, "Well, maybe when you correct your views on child rearing then the Lord will open your womb." I understand that after that the couple seriously questioned whether or not they wanted to keep going to church there.
Besides making me ill that someone would actually say that, it bothered me more that no-one else spoke up. I hoped that if I had been there I would have been willing to call that lady up on the carpet and rebuke her.
This discussion at FMH, and Annegb's response to my comment made me think. All of the loud-mouthed women I've ever met at church were more like the thoughtless cruel woman in the story than like Annegb. Why is it that the loud women are normally the sort to tell you what a bad mother you are, how ugly you look, how you're life would be better if you were more righteous, how anyone who disagrees with them is a sinner? What is worse, is because these women are loud and bossy, they get noticed, and are often given callings like RS president.
Why aren't there more women that will counteract these mean women? Why aren't there women who will speak up for fairness, and good treatment? It seems clear to me that we need them desperately. Women who will speak up, but still be nice. Women who will defend the Gospel when the culture threatens it. Women who won't be shamed into silence. Women who will dissent when dissent is needed. Women who have respect because they earn it, and demand it. Not women who have respect based in fear.
Our world seems to teach us that if you're a woman you must be nice, or loud but not both. I'm making it a personal goal to have the Moxy, the Chutzpah, the Huevos* to say the things that need to be said.

*if you really need to know you can email me.

Friday, February 3

Genuine People Personalities: How I've Dealt with the Temple Part III

Those of you who have seen heard or read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams will know what the phrase "Genuine People Personalities" means. For those of you who haven't I will explain. A company call the Sirius Cybernetics corporation produces robots, whom they describe as "Your plastic pal, who's fun to be with." These robots, and other automated devices are given genuine people personalities, or GPP for short. Having a product with GPP basically means that your robot, or automatic door, or coffee maker has a personality. In the story of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy there is a robot, named Marvin who has a GPP prototype. He is very very depressed. Marvin works on a ship with a cheerful main computer, and automated doors that open and close with a sigh of satisfaction in a job well done. Marvin is beyond intelligent, but is utterly miserable and bored all the time. He is a great comic device because his existence makes no sense. Why would the Sirius Cybernetics Corp. make a devastatingly intelligent robot that is programmed to be miserable for it's entire exisitence? Why? Because they're stupid, and it's funny.
This last installment of my series shares the conclusions I was given or have come to. It all focuses on this sentence, "That they may fill the measure of their creation, and have joy therein." First, consider the phrase "measure of [my] creation. " What is the measure of my creation? I would say that it means 'everything I was designed to do.' So what was I designed to do, and how can I tell if I was designed to do it?

When someone is designing something they start with a list of things that they want it to do. A popular notion is the idea that the more features a thing has, the better. This is false and leads to poor design and execution. A cell phone with a camera in it will never take art-quality pictures because it is a cell phone. If you want good pictures, get a real camera. A printer with a scanner and fax machine and copy machine all combined will never make very good copies. Also if the printing funtion breaks then you end up with a very large not so great scanner. So if we make a robot, it is designed well when it has as few 'features' as possible so as to maximize the quality of its main function.

Now lets add the idea of intelligence. Lets say we make a robot, and give it intelligence. In so doing we risk having the robot learn enough that it decides it doesn't want to do the things we want it to do, or it could take over and do much more than we want it to do. Therefore one would have to walk a careful line of giving it just enough intelligence to do what we want.

Now lets add desires and emotion. If we could give a robot desires to do something then we could make it want to do what we are building it for. We could make doors that want to open and close for people. Alternately it would be foolish to allow the robot to have desires other than what it is designed for. Giving doors a desire to read novels would be foolish. Doors are not able to read, and the door would begrudge those that ask it to open and shut for them. A door with a desire to read novels would be miserable.

In summary, a well designed robot would have a specific purpose to ensure highest quality. It would have *only* the intelligence it needs to do its tasks well. And it would have the desire to do what we ask of it. In short, a well designed robot would be happy if it is put to it's full use, and it would be unhappy if it is unable to do what it is designed for. Therefore filling the measure of our creation and having joy therein means doing what we were made to do because it will make us happy.

Heavenly Father is a smart designer. I believe he originally gave every creature on the earth only what it needed to do its job well, and he gave us desires to do what he wants us to do. Because this is a fallen world many of us aren't given the chance to do everything he designed us for. So how does this apply to my worries about the Temple?

I have a brain that makes me capable of doing everything my husband is capapble of doing. If Heavenly Father never meant for me to use my brain as much as my husband uses his, then He wouldn't have given me such a great brain. If He didn't intend for me for me to be anything more than a 'good pal' to my husband then He wouldn't have given me righteous desires to do more. If He didn't intend for me to be equal to my husband He wouldn't have made me able to feel that the current arrangement is unfair. The sentence I keep saying to myself is; "It feels unfair because it *is* unfair, and I know it is unfair beacuse I can feel it. "

An unspoken (until now) assumption here is that my feelings of unfairness, and my desires for 'more' are not the result of wickedness and temptation. I believe that this is not the case because I felt the spirit bearing witness of the truth of this while the thoughts came to me. Also I believe that it isn't wickedness because this understanding has allowed me to feel joy during the Temple Ceremony and at other times too.

The question now becomes "So it's unfair, how do we fix it?" My answer is this, I'm not sure we can, or are even supposed to fix it yet. Yeah, "men are that they might have joy," but you'll note that it doesn't say "men are that they might have joy on earth." Right now I'm content with knowing that the things that bothered me are not eternal truths, and that things will be fair soon enough.

Wednesday, February 1

Surrender: How I've Dealt with the Temple Part II

I've been putting off writing this one because this is the hardest one. The veil was the first issue I had to deal with because it was physical, and tangible. The other issues were less connected to my immediate experience and so were pushed to the back burners. However, after I had dealt with the veil I had nothing left to distract me. The issues I had were the following: The Hearken Covenant, Queens and Preistesses to your husbands (as opposed to Kings and Priests to the Most High God), The divine role of women as encouraged by the church, Nearly all of 1 Corinthians 11, Moses 4 (especially verse 22), and finally the conspicuous absence of Heavenly Mother. I'm not going to go into great detail about why these things bother me. If you're curious about some of them let me know and I'll explain, but I also want to avoid turning this into a "yeah, that's why I can't stand the Temple too!" discussion. I'm sure that if you look around a little bit, you can find many discussions about why these things bother many women.

Besides coming to grips with the veil I had gone through some huge changes in my life. Over the course of three months my husband and I graduated from college, moved, and had a baby. I went from being a full time student, full time employee, (who made most of the money in our relationship) in a city where I knew lots of people, to being a stay at home mom with no car and nothing else to do but repeatedly clean the apartment and watch after a very easy to take care of baby. Also the move was to a large city where my husband had grown up, but I had only ever visited. He knew the area, and had family nearby. I was often lost and my small town driving skills were nearly useless in the huge freeway laden place that we lived.

After my busy beyond busy life in college I was drastically underwhelmed by stay at home motherhood. I had felt that having a baby would give my life a depth and meaning that I was uncapable of comprehending before it happened. I felt cheated. All the talks I read spoke of motherhood as divine, and the most worthwhile thing a woman could do. I felt that motherhood was unpaid maid service. And referring to motherhood as a divinely appointed role meant that I was a divinely appointed maid to my husband and children. I began to wonder if divinely appointed implied eternally true. Would I be asked to care for the physical needs of my husband and children for mortality and immortality?

I started to ponder about what I would be asked to do in the afterlife. It was very easy to imagine things that my husband would be doing, he would be doing the sorts of things we imagine Heavenly Father to do. Would my husband be off creating worlds and attending meetings at the mansions of his Father while I was left at the mansion of my husband doing laundry and caring for our numberless concourses of spirit children by myself, or even worse, with the other women that were 'given unto him'? Is that supposed to be heaven?

So I was at an junction. There were a few options. Either the church is true, and everything it says and implies about women and men is eternal truth. Or the church could still be true and parts of what it teaches and implies is false and temporary because of the fallen state of the world and the limitations of mortals. Or the church could be false and nearly everything it teaches is untrue. Obviously it was the second answer (obvious to me anyways). The trick is *which* parts are eternal truths, and which parts are due to the fallen world? The Celestial Kingdom isn't going to be what I want it to be just because I want it to be that way. I needed to know if this was a place I really wanted to be. I needed to know if the 'father presides in the home' part or the 'men and women are equal partners' part was the eternal truth, because they certainly can't both be eternal truths. I wrestled with the very real possiblilty that women really are second class citizens now and forever by divine design, and that the 'equal partners' stuff is part of the fallen world incorrectness.

I pushed and fought. I tried to force the words that I knew so well to contort themselves into what I wanted them to be. One day I put my baby down for nap, and literally went into my closet to pray prepared to be in there for hours if I needed to. What I said was along these lines: I don't want to be worth less than my husband, or worth less than men in general. I don't want to only be valued as a maid. I don't want for it to be true now, and I don't want for it to be true in the eternities. I don't want it, but if You want to give it to me then I will take it. I will accept it with both hands and I will not complain.

After that prayer I felt nothing. I didn't feel peace, but I didn't feel the pain and misery I had been feeling. A few days later I understood, and I was at peace. I'll explain most of what I came to understand in part III. I later realized that what had changed was my willingness to accept whatever Heavenly Father was going to give me. It's easy to accept a gentle loving God, it's much harder to accept a cruel, cold and unyeilding God. I think of Aslan, and the constant warning that he is not a tame lion. We must be willing to accept that God has claws and teeth, and might choose to use them on us. We must have faith that being eaten by Aslan is better than refusing to meet him.