Tuesday, April 25


My parents have lived in their house for nearly 40 years. While many important things have happened in that house, the fact remains that it is old. It was considered old even when they bought it. As an old house in a rural area it is especially suceptible to penetration by bugs. Ants, spiders, mosquitos, may flies, june bugs and many others frequented our floors and walls. One morning my sister found that she was showering with a tarantula. Once my brother found, and caught a black widow spider that had a thorax with a diameter the size of a nickle That spider lived in a jar forgotten in his room while he was on his mission, and was still alive when he came back. Bugs don't bother me. I'll pick up a daddy long leg with my bare hands. I'll stomp on crunchy bugs, and kill scary poisonous spiders without trepidation. This non-fear of bugs proved useful many times. In junior high when boys would try to scare me with insects, in college when my roommate would come unglued at even the tiniest spider, in showing my husband that I'm a reasonable cool headed person worth marrying. My achilles heel, however, is cockroaches.
The climate that I grew up in just wasn't condusive for roaches. I was 22 before I'd seen a real roach without plexiglass between us. My fear of roaches borders on paranoia, which completely bewilders my husband. He grew up in a city where roaches just were. It wasn't unusual to leave a bag of trash on the ground outside overnight and have it be covered with roaches in the morning. To him, they are just another pest, like ants. To me they are a symbol of all that is unwholesome in this world.
I think I trace my paranoia back to my sister. She served part of her mission in Yuma AZ. Between the heat, the farms, and her crappy apartment there were a lot of roaches in her life. This particular sister is the sort that does freak out about bugs. So the roaches, like most any bug, were horrific to her. Combine that with the fact that there was a lot of them, and she came unglued. She has some great stories about talking to the Elders on the phone, seeing a roach, screaming bloody murder and hanging up midconversation, which was unsettling to the Elders.
I heard these stories at a young, impressionable age. And so roaches became the uber-pest. The undefeatable foe of cleanliness. Roaches were indicitive of filth, disease, and rot. So one can imagine my horror at seeing a roach in my kitchen. I'm convinced that if I opened the walls there would be piles and piles of them, spilling out onto the floor. A tidal wave of roachy filth. When I shower or wash my hands I glance furtively at the drain pipes, certain that the second I turn the water off the invasion will begin and roaches will come streaming up from the plumbing. My first thought when I saw a roach in my kitchen was that we needed to move. The apartment was lost to the roaches and could never be reclaimed.
So, consider this; If a teacher were to say that some sin to was like a roach infestation of the soul, it would mean something drastically different to me than it would to my husband. To me, it would nearly mean that the person's soul is lost forever, and would mean that Christ's atonement is a true miracle to get rid of such a pervasive and horrible menace. To my husband, it would make the repentance process a simple, but ongoing process, requiring constance vigilance. I wonder how aware we are of the many ways that analogies can be recieved, and how those meanings can change. Also, can we, in our modern world, really understand what it means to leave 99 sheep to look for one? Does burying treasure in a field still mean what it once did? Was the change in understanding somewhat planned? In other words, was Christ aware of how people in our time would percieve those analogies, and is our percieved meaning more correct for us?

Friday, April 21

V for Vendetta, and C for Charlotte

Long before the popular film V for Vendetta came out, there was another Vendetta, from Making Fiends by Amy Winfrey. But I don't want to talk about her. I want to talk about Charlotte, the smiley girl in the picture. Some dialogue from the episode in question:
Charlotte: And I also have this. It's a rock. But it's no ordinary rock. It's a pretty rock with pretty speckles. Vendetta gave it to me!
Vendetta: I threw it at you!
Charlotte: Vendetta is sooo nice!
The cartoon series is rather funny, (and may be on Nickelodeon soon) and has the constant theme of Vendetta's endless mean-ness and Charlottes endless optimism. It's more than a little sad that endless optimism seems tied to childish naivite and stupidness.
The other day I was reading through my Patriarchal Blessing. I was a little suprised when I came across a section where I was described as "uplifting, out-going and cheerful." I gave a little laugh and thought, "pfsh, that doesn't describe me anymore." I had no problem admitting that I once was cheerful, but I believed that bad experiences with friends and boyfriends who took advantage of my trusting nature had beaten it out of me. That same section of my blessing goes on to say that I will be a great influence on those that are around me, and those that I will have the opportunity to teach, because of my cheerful nature, to the point where people will seek me out later in life to thank me for my influence. In thinking about this, I let go of my cheerfulness, it wasn't taken from me. If I choose not to be cheerful again I may be missing out on great blessings.
There is a woman who I'll just call Sister Leavitt. In her younger years she travelled around the state and gave firesides and seminars on happiness, and cheerfulness. My parents attended her firesides everytime she gave one, and it had a great influence on them. In speaking of her my dad gets teary eyed. When my family came to my ward for Nils' blessing, my parents were shocked and thrilled to see that Sister Leavitt was a member of my ward. (I hadn't known that she was the Sister Leavitt, or I would have said something.) My parents tearily went up to her and thanked her profusely for her influence on them. She didn't know who they were, and merely said "Oh thank you! I didn't think anyone remembered!"
This woman, now in her 90's, has lived out something that I have the potential to do. She claimed, by virtue of her cheerful disposition, the right to have a great influence on many many people. Her attitude was more powerful than any office she may have held. Now she is, by far, the kindest, happiest, most beautiful old woman I've met. And I want to be just like her.

Tuesday, April 18

Being a question

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, erm, I mean Wikipedia has this to say about answers:
According to the Hitchhiker's Guide, researchers from a pan-dimensional, hyper-intelligent race of beings, construct Deep Thought, the second greatest computer of all time and space, to calculate the Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything. After seven and a half million years of pondering the question, Deep Thought provides the answer: "forty-two."
Some dialogue from the book will clarify a bit more:
"Forty-two!" yelled Loonquawl. "Is that all you've got to show for seven and a half million years' work?"
"I checked it very thoroughly," said the computer, "and that quite definitely is the answer. I think the problem, to be quite honest with you, is that you've never actually known what the question is."
I have this to say about questions:
Questions are a highly valuable part of human discourse. The strict definition of a question is this: "A sentence worded or expressed so as to elicit information." In our society, however, a question indicates a lack of information. One only asks a question when they don't understand, or don't have an answer. To us, however, being the one with all the answers is a mark of prestige. Being the one with all the questions makes one needy, unwise, foolish, or most often a suck up.

I would like to propose that a question need not indicate a lack of knowledge, and, in fact, those that do not lack knowledge are the ones who ask the best questions. An example to illustrate my point. In many classes the teacher will often ask the class "Any questions?" At a certain point I came to understand that if the call for questions remains unanswered that it is a very bad sign. The lack of questions didn't indicate that all the students understood the material. Instead, it indicated that the students didn't understand enough to know what they didn't understand. Often the smartest student in the class, (the one who reads the chapters, and starts the homework ahead of time) would ask a question none of the rest of us realized could be asked. This question would lead the teacher to explain something more in-depth, and the whole class would learn.

I eventually came to the conclusion, that the most efficient way to teach a class is to have two experts, one who poses a question and the other to answer it. This call-and-response style would utilize the full intelligence of both professors, and bring their experience into the questions that are asked. As a person who has deep experience with the subject at hand they would know to ask questions that have useful and practical applications, especially if the person asking the question already knows the answer.

Take, for example, a forum that is often strictly Q&A a witness being examined in court(these might be leading questions, I don't know, I'm not a lawyer). The lawyer can control the information by asking specific questions, questions worded just so that the mitigating explanations don't fit in the answer. "Did you remove a cookie from this jar?" "Yes" "Did your Dad say you could eat that cookie?" "No." If the lawyer doesn't ask "Did your Mom say you could eat that cookie?" (to which the answer is yes) then one may come away with the impression that the kid is a cookie thief. A questioner can have great levels of control over the information revealed, and this control is hightened when the questioner knows what the response will be.

Feminists critique the common habit of girls and women phrasing information that they already know in the form of a question (I'll take "Nature of God" for 100 Alec). This critique takes the assumption that being the questioner indicates a lack, and is therefore a subordinate or weak position. If however, one believes that to be a good questioner one must have just as thorough knowledge of the subject as the answerer then being a questioner has no negative connotations. In this way being a questioner can be feminine, and being an answerer can be masculine, and men and women can fill fully complimentary roles that are equally valuable. While I do not doubt that many women do speak in questions to appear less threatening, I maintain that the question format is not to blame. No one doubts an attorney's power as they cross examine a witness, and I can believe that women can ask questions that would unnerve even the stalwart.
A question is a powerful tool, one that may clarify why the answer to life the universe and everything is 42. If only we knew what it was.

Friday, April 14


I have a confession. I never prayed about my choice to be a stay at home mom. It is what the prophets say to do, so since I didn't have a problem with it I didn't see a reason to pray to about it. I suppose if someone had suggested pray about it specifically, I would have done so, but the thought never occurred to me that it might not be what the Lord wanted me to do. I feel now, that my struggles with being at home may have been made much easier if I already had a testimony, as opposed to intellectual understanding, that it was what the Lord wanted me to do.

This brings up the question of how much do we need to pray about things that we are commanded to do? Everyone knows that we should pray if we feel we are an exception to the rule (ie, if I wanted to work instead of stay home then I should pray to be sure it's right). But what about things that we already understand and have a basic testimony of? In my case, I have a testimony that the men who counselled women to be SAHMs were prophets of God. I have a testimony that mothering is important work that has been entrusted to women. What I didn't have was a testimony that the Lord wanted me to be a mother who didn't work outside the home, and that what I would be doing is greatly important. I had a testimony of the principle, but not of it's specific application to my situation.

I wonder then, how many other things we should be praying about, perhaps not only to confirm that we are an exception to the rule, but also to confirm that we aren't an exception to the rule. Sure we'll pray about them when it gets tough, but might we be able to avoid some of the tough times be gaining a pre-emptive testimony?

I know that we are commanded to pray about everything. But does that mean that I should pray about which pen to use on my to do list? There are times when such a thing might concievably change my day and alter the course of my life. But 99% of the time stuff like that won't matter. Where does the line get drawn? Are there any guidelines. All that I could find is this:

30 But know this, it shall be given you what you shall ask; and as ye are appointed to the head, the spirits shall be subject unto you.

But how can one apply that in their day to day life?

Tuesday, April 11


Three years ago I got an email from my sister. My siblings and I rarely communicate so I knew that the email contained something big, and I was right. My sister was pregnant. She wasn't married, and had been sort of engaged to the father for a few years. I'm glad she emailed me, because my very first thought was, "Oh no! What will she do now?" It was no secret that most of my siblings didn't like her fiancé, and had been trying to talk my sister out of marrying him since they started dating. I didn't really like him either, but had been trying desperately to be nice to him and to convince the rest of my family to be nice to him too. I knew that if we were mean and gossip-y it would create an "us v. them" mentality in my sister's mind and she would be more inclined to marry him just to spite us than for any other good reason. I don't remember exactly what I said to her in my response, but it expressed positive excitement for the baby and questions about her plans for it. Her response nearly made me cry. She said that I was the first person she told, and she chose me because she knew I wouldn't judge her, and would be happy for the baby. She was afraid to tell my parents and siblings.

In her situation I and most of my family knew exactly what was going on. There are only a few reasons why engagements last for years in the LDS church, and normally it's because they want to go to the temple but can't stay worthy long enough. However the fact that she was pregnant offered proof of our suspicions and provided a chance to condemn her behavior. I think that if we were going to condemn her it shouldn't be when she got pregnant. There is no difference between what a woman does at conception and what she's been doing (if she's sexually active). Condemning illegtitimate sex only at pregnancy doesn't sufficiently condemn the sex, but instead condemns being pregnant.

When I was pregnant and preparing to graduate I had a nearly pathological fear that my classmates would think that my baby was an accident. At every chance I got I made it clear that I was married, the baby was planned, and I wasn't a skank. I'm not completely sure if my fear of judgement by my classmates was something specific to me, or if it's an LDS thing, or if it is just part of our culture.

I recently read this article (registration requred) about illegal abortions in El Salvador and the women who have them. In El Salvador *all* abortions are illegal and punished by jailtime. Even cases of ectopic pregnancy doctors must wait until the uterus perforates and the baby is already dead putting the mother at great risk and nearly sterilizing her.

A major pro-life (anti-abortion whatever you want to call it) arguement is that 'Indiscriminate sex is wrong. When you don't do it, you won't get pregnant and it won't be an issue. If you don't want a baby don't have sex.' A major pro-choice (pro-abortion) arguement basically says that 'Sometimes a pregnancy literally ruins a womans life, health, sanity etc. and she shouldn't be forced to have a baby that will kill or ruin her regardless of what she has done before.' I don't like the idea of anyone having an abortion. I fully recognize that there are times when abortions are necessary, and believe that women should be able to have the proceedure done in a clean safe environment. I don't want to argue about abortion legislation.

Instead I want to discuss the idea of becoming pro-pregnancy. In the anti-abortion camp pregnancy is arhetorical punishment for bad behavior, and abortion is an attempt to escape the consequences of your actions. The major problem I have with this is that the consequences fall disproportionately on the women who get pregnant. Their partners aren't condemned, and their non-pregnant counterparts aren't condemned either though they are all doing the exact same thing.

We know that it is largely futile to believe that we could police indiscriminate sex. What we can do is make it so that a pregnancy, though proof of sex, is not something that ruins a woman's life. We are so convinced that bad actions always bear bad fruit, that we feel that finding joy in an illegitimate pregnancy is condoning the illegitimate sex that lead to it. Pregnant teens are kicked out of their parent's houses. Pregnant women risk losing their jobs during maternity leave. Having a baby is nearly impossible to afford, even if the baby is given up for adoption. And there are countless intangible punishments for getting pregnant; the judgement from friends and coworkers, the stigma of being a single mom, and the culture-wide paranoia of the pain of labor.

I would hope that having a baby would never be viewed as punishment. If it isn't punishment then the average person wouldn't want to escape it. I would hope that pregnancy can always be met with joy and rejoicing regardless of how the child was concieved.

Monday, April 10


Nils has started being much more mobile and coordinated. He can pull himself up and stand at the couch, and cruise a little bit too. With this increased coordination comes an increased incidence of pain. He falls over, and pinches his fingers, bonks his head and all sorts of other things. I recognize his "I'm hurt!" cry and go to comfort him. I really like being able to comfort him.

Last night something really startled him (I think he had some static electricity and shocked himself). He cried longer than normal, and was content to let me hold him on my lap and rock him. While I was holding him I was thinking to myself how nice it felt. When I hold him while he's happy he sqirms, grabs at my hair and glasses, arches his back, whacks at my face, and wants down. He just isn't content to sit with me. When he's scared or hurt and wants comfort he'll just 'melt' into my arms and stay as long as I'll keep holding him.

It is an immensely gratifying feeling. It makes me feel loved and needed, important and special to my son. I don't like that he is in pain, but I love that he seeks me out when he is. I love to comfort him, and enjoy sitting with him in my arms.

I wondered if we aren't like that in God's eyes. When we're happy we're difficult to deal with. We want our way, and think we can do everything on our own. We don't want to be 'held.' When we need comfort from him we're much more 'still' we seek him out and listen carefully. I wondered if Heavenly Father doesn't get similar feelings of gratification when we seek out his help and comfort. Obviously God doesn't need me to make him feel important or loved, but at the same time I wonder if he doesn't feel it a little more strongly when I admit that I need him.

Tuesday, April 4


(This is also posted at PoF)
In every class I’ve had where the teacher covers ‘The Big Bang’ theory one student inevitably raises their hand and asks the followup question, “But what happened before the Big Bang?” or some variation thereof. Every teacher has their own way of handling it, some answering, “I don’t know,” some venturing into theology and others saying “there was simply nothing.” With the student’s minds sufficiently blown the teacher then moves on to other topics.

The classic human question is “Why are we here?” Our church has a pretty good answer to that; to gain a body and to “prove [our]selves herewith…”(exactly what that means may be up for debate). Some people ask the followup question, “Where were we before?” Very few, however ask this question, “Why did God do it at all?” I’ve found an answer to that question, “A continuing association in this life, as well as in the next, with those we love, should be the great desire of every person. It is the ulitmate. It is the great purpose of mortality. (Elder Elray L. Christiansen, Three Important Questions, Ensign, May 1974, 25)” We exist to build relationships, to learn to love people, and live so we can be with the ones we love.

The reason why we are here is to love people, and the reason why we need to love people is so we can enjoy their company in the eternities. Just to further solidify the point I’ll quote some scriptures. Among the very first things God said about the condition of man is that “It is not good that the man should be alone.” Ecclesiates tells us that the strength of two together is better than one. In Matthew 18 Jesus states that “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Showing that having a friend or two with you gives more benefits than pleasant company. Now lets address the other questions of, who, what, when and how?

Who? Everyone knows that we are supposed to have love in our hearts for all mankind. In the condensed version of the commandments we are told to love our neighbors as ourselves, and are further instructed that our ‘neighbor’ is just about anyone we see. However considering the plight of Job, his friends were often not a comfort to him. Proverbs counsels that we “make no friendship with an angry man.” And gives as a warning “Lest thou learn his ways, and get a snare to thy soul.” Which gives the idea that we will pick up the habits of our friends, and should choose as friends those that will lift us up.

What? What does a friend do? Some of Job’s good friends came to mourn with him. And Proverbs (again) says that “A friend loveth at all times.” A good friend will be honest with you, and will treat you with respect.

When? As an aspiring scientist I really like the idea of having something named after me. Like Fermat’s Theorem, Snell’s Law etc etc. For now I have what I call Starfoxy’s Paradox(TM). The paradox is that God will sometimes give commandments to us that we are not able to keep. (No matter what Nephi says!) Therefore there are many people saying something like this: “I want a friend. I’ve been commanded to have a friend. I’m trying to have friends. Through circumstances beyond my control, I am not able to have friends at this time.” The circumstances could be language barriers, lack of suitible canidates, or situations that require large amounts of time alone. (Starfoxy’s Paradox(TM) also applies to marriage: I want to be married, I’ve been commanded to get married, I’m trying, but I’m not able to be married right now.)
Which leads us to the really big questions, how? How on earth does one go about finding, and being the high quality friend and companion that we want and need? I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t feel qualified to tell anyone how to make or be a friend. I’ve had many bad experiences with friends, and the people that I get along with best are often not my peers. (I get along well with people who are on average 10-15 years older than me.) I’ve noticed recently that I rely too heavily on the social structure provided by the church to make my friends. I’ve also noticed that I am inept at interacting with people when I am not forced to by an external force (a job, a class, etc). So now I’m pushing this question on to you, how do you make friends?