Sunday, February 25, 2007

Peace Vigil

Readers and Friends, a few concerned citizens would like to announce a peace vigil to be held Sunday, March 4, 2007. We are concerned at the escalating tensions in the Middle East and desire to send positive energy into the universe toward this situation. If you would like to participate, we urge you to pray, fast, or meditate that American and world leaders will be directed to work in peaceful ways for the solutions to political tensions. We hope that many of you will feel directed to write blog posts announcing the vigil and calling for peace and positive solutions.

Book Meme

I found that I had read many of the books on this book meme. I have read the ones in bold, and the ones in italics I read with my book club in Houston (I miss them!)
Which ones have you read? Am I missing anything important?

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown)
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell)
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (J.R.R. Tolkien)
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (J.R.R. Tolkien)
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (J.R.R. Tolkien)
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery)
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon)
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry)
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (J.K. Rowling)
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown)
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (J.K. Rowling)
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving)
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden)
16. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (J.K. Rowling)
17. Fall on Your Knees (Ann-Marie MacDonald)
18. The Stand (Stephen King)
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (J.K. Rowling)
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)
21. The Hobbit (J.R.R. Tolkien)
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger)
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott)
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold)
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel)
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams)
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte)
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis)
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck)
30. Tuesdays with Morrie(Mitch Albom)
31. Dune (Frank Herbert)
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks)
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand)
34. 1984 (George Orwell)
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley)
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett)
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay)
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb)
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant)
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel)
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini)
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella)
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom)
45. Bible
46. Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas)
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt)
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck)
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb)
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver)
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Charles Dickens)
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card)
54. Great Expectations (Charles Dickens)
55. The Great Gatsby (Scott Fitzgerald)
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence)
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (J.K. Rowling)
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough)
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood)
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger)
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand)
63. War and Peace (Tolsoy)
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice)
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davies)
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares)
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller)
69. Les Miserables (Victor Hugo)
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Helen Fielding)
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Gabriel Garcia Marquez)
73. Shogun (James Clavell)
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje)
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett)
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay)
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith)
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving)
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence)
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White)
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley)
82. Of Mice And Men (John Steinbeck)
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier)
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind)
85. Emma (Jane Austen)
86. Watership Down (Richard Adams)
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley)
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields)
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago)
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer)
91. In the Skin of a Lion (Michael Ondaatje)
92. Lord of the Flies (William Golding)
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck)
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd)
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum)
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch)
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford)
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield)
100. Ulysses (James Joyce)

Friday, February 23, 2007

On Temple Rolls Today

I have been most disturbed about rumors of impending war in Iran. I believe in actively working for peace and finding other solutions to war. Yes, I love my family, home, and country, but if defending them means taking the lives of others, the price to pay is too large. If we truly believe that America is a Promised Land and a Divine Democracy, can’t we trust that the Lord will safeguard this country when our efforts are righteous and focused toward bringing peace?

Wednesday marked the deadline for Iran’s government to suspend their nuclear development plans in compliance with the U.N.’s demand. Now that this sanction has not been met, U.S. and world leaders are considering further measures. Tension in the Arabian Gulf has reached a point where any action by either side could trigger a major escalation of military activities. In his blog, John Dehlin stated, “When I pray, I pray that this won’t happen.” It made me think of my own prayers. I often pray for peace in the world. My own little private rebellion is that when I hear my fellow Church members praying for the troops, I will not add my “Amen” to that prayer. This does not mean that I do not wish for the safety and protection of each individual man and woman who serves in the military. Rather, I cannot in good conscience pray for the success of Americans as military units who are using mortal force to achieve their ends. I’ve especially been bothered when I hear this rhetoric in prayer circles in the temple. Only once have I heard someone pray for peace among the nations. Usually they are praying for the safety and success of our troops.

I’m not always confident of the effectiveness of prayer. It’s one of the things I ponder deeply and continue to practice. Today I plan to go to the temple and write on the prayer roll. This is what I will write, “I pray for peace in Iran and that American leaders will be directed to work in peaceful ways for the solutions to political tensions.” It comforts me to know that if it is aligned with the Lord’s will, the faith of many people will be directed to this prayer as it lies upon the altar of the temple today. Perhaps this isn’t a very large activist gesture. I’ll continue to look for ways to do more. But if prayer really works, who knows what could happen?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Best Two Years

On Friday, Steve asked if the Mormon Mission was the "Best Two Years" or "A Waste of Time." I was interested to read Mark's response and spent a lot of time today thumbing through old missionary journals of my own.

I have the fondest memories of my mission. I was extremely idealistic. We were able to do many worthwhile projects such as teach English lessons, help build chapels, and give personal service to those in need. Yes, there was plenty of tracting, but I don't think of it as a waste of time. It helped me become disciplined and do tough work for a cause larger than myself.

Much of my mission was a cycle between killing myself working and keeping rules overzealously, then relaxing and letting standards drop, then repenting and another pendulum swing back to zealousness. One of my most shocking entries comes when I was in what was fondly known as "The Red Light District."

"Saturday was the Rev's last P-Day. (Note: we all had nicknames, mine was Tabitha. I forget why.) So we decided to spend the whole day together. We got up and went to the Elders' at 7:30 for a District breakfast of crepes. Then we all got on one bed and covered up with the sleeping bag and talked. It gradually turned into a pillow fight which was worse than our infamous football game. We later went into the country with an investigator, Pierrette, and her roommate. We were going to chop down a Christmas tree. While we were there, Tae (Elder Taetafa) and I were fooling around on a frozen lake. Well, you guessed it, the ice broke and we fell in. Can you imagine? Tae only got his legs wet but I fell all the way in and the Rev had to pull me out. So OK we went back and I put on Prince's jeans and sweater. Then we decorated the tree with the investigators.

For dinner we went to eat at I.P. Looneys. All the elders like to go there on their last P-Day because if you are wearing a tie the waitresses will come around and cut them off. We got there at 6:00 and they told us the wait was about 2 hours. So we thought we would go window shopping in the mall. Rev got in a shopping cart and Sister Fleming and I got in on top of him and the other Elders pushed. Then we went inside and sang Christmas carols in 4-part harmony to all the shoppers. As we walked back to the restaurant the Rev did a Fred Astaire dance up the side of the wall and when he came down he wiped out. He was in pain so the other Elders carried him back to the restaurant. The waitresses helped him to the table--one on each arm. We ordered dinner and finished eating around 12 pm.

The investigators took us back to our car. Then the Rev thought he'd better go to the hospital to get his leg checked. So we're sitting in the hospital at 1 am. Tae and Leggs are sleeping on the couch. Prince is in there with the Rev. Me and Elder Wood are sitting on another couch, talking about how to spiritually change the very material we are made of so we won't be burned as straw in the refiner's fire in the last days. The Rev ended up with crutches and a cast on his broken leg. We got home at 3am.

Then up for Church this morning--it was really strange. The Elders and us both overslept, but their phone rang at 8:00. They called us to see if it was us, and woke us up. We all would have missed Church! After Church we had a District DA (Dinner Appointment) at Tolley's, then back to Church for Brand & Brown's baptism. Brand, Wood and I sang "Look Inside." She was so beautiful and the Spirit was so strong. She was so fresh and pure when she came out of the water. After the baptism RL District stayed at the chapel and played the piano and sang songs until 12:30. I'm tired. Rev goes home tomorrow (with a cast!)"

The next several pages I am so ashamed of myself, I quit talking in English, will only speak in French (anybody remember SYLing?) and refuse to let myself open letters from home during the week (only on P-Day). I write a letter of confession to the Mission President and the ZL's come out to interview us!

My two oldest daughters just left on missions recently. One went to Korea in October and the other just left in January for Italy Rome. I'm glad they decided to serve missions. I have such happy memories of my 18 months, I wish I just had enjoyed the crazy times instead of feeling so much guilt. I felt like I did have opportunities to serve the Lord and my fellow man. The above journal entry to the contrary, I didn't feel it was a waste of time.

The Red Light District singing--Rev with his crutches

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

More on Valentinus

AmyB at Exponent 2 put up a post this morning entitled "What If?" which introduced me to a fascinating character named Valentinus, a man who narrowly missed being elected Pope in the second century AD. Eminently worthy of Valentine's Day sentiments, he strove for a unification of the Gnostic approach and the message of Christ. I was attracted to his theology by AmyB's statement that he taught that the deity was a dyad consisting of God the Father and God the Mother. My view of the Godhead is similar to this in that I picture an "Elohim" figure composed of unified male and female elements in addition to a Christ and Holy Spirit.

Stephen A. Hoeller writes of Valentinus' world view as the position that

"something is wrong. Somewhere, somehow, the fabric of being at the existential
level of human functioning has lost its integrity. We live in a system which is
lacking in essential integrity, and thus is defective. So-called orthodox
Christians as well as Jews recognize that there is a certain "wrongness" in
human existence, but they account for it chiefly in terms of the effects of
human sin, original or other. Jews and Christians hold that whatever is wrong
with the world and human existence is the result of human disobedience to the
creator. This means, that all evil, discomfort, and terror in our lives and in
history are somehow our fault. A great cosmic statement of "Mea Culpa" runs
through this world view, which permanently affixes to the human psyche an
element of titanic guilt. Valentinus, in opposition to this guilt-ridden view of
life, held that the above-noted defect is not the result of our wrongdoing, but
is inherent in the system of existence wherein we live and move and have our
being. Moreover, by postulating that creation itself is lacking in integrity,
Valentinus not only removes the weight of personal and collective guilt from our
shoulders but also points to the redemptive potential resident in the soul of
every human being."

Without diminishing the importance of Jesus, Valentinus reverences Christ's role as

"indeed Saviour, but the term needs to be understood in the meaning of the
original Greek word, used by orthodox and Gnostic Christian alike. This word is
soter, meaning healer, or bestower of health. From this is derived the word
today translated as salvation, i.e., soteria, which originally meant
healthiness, deliverance from imperfection, becoming whole, and preserving one's

My heart goes out to those I've spoken to recently who hate Valentine's Day. Those who may not get a card, a hug, or a kiss today. For those who live in defective relationships I invoke Valentinus' belief in redemptive potential and strivings toward unification. Beginning this day and continuing through the years, may we combat fear, hate, worldly and unauthentic thinking.

May we be facilitators of wholeness, to bring Gnosis and healing to all we encounter.

Biblical Knowledge Quiz

You know the Bible 100%!

Wow! You are awesome! You are a true Biblical scholar, not just a hearer but a personal reader! The books, the characters, the events, the verses - you know it all! You are fantastic!

Ultimate Bible Quiz
Create MySpace Quizzes

(Don't I just wish I knew the Bible 100%!!)

But I can answer 42 questions like this:

35. In Jesus' parable, who stopped to help a man in need?
Donald Trump
Donald Duck
Don Knotts
a Samaritan

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

feeding the rss

and now my rss takes my words to a place where they are
not wanted
scorned, mocked, analyzed
shreds of my soul
shaken and stepped on by heavy feet
found wanting i am
breathing bearing bleeding

and now i write knowing all is judged and
scathed scalded i clutch keyboard
holding the words
girdled to my chest
but they pour forth wildly
what is not there

and now again come words of sharpness
slicing searing spears
i cower

in the day
i cover pain with clothes
and smiles
work nurture serve
my mouth makes sounds

in the night
my skin must match my
inner wounds i press
the blade close
breathing bleeding blessed

Thursday, February 1, 2007

BYU Blondes

This was originally posted at The Cultural Hall. Go there for comments.
My daughter went off for her first semester at BYU and called me a week later, very upset. She couldn’t really articulate the cause of her agitation. The only explanation she had was that “all the girls here are blonde.”
“Surely,” I replied, “not all the girls are blonde.” Even when I was at BYU years ago there were different ethnicities represented at BYU.
“Yes,” she insisted, “everyone is blonde.”

I later learned that my daughter was reacting to the homogeneity of thought that one often encounters among large Mormon populations. This daughter had attended a very large high school with very few Mormon students. She had developed her own ideas, politics, and moral code while remaining true to LDS standards. When she went to BYU she discovered that it is difficult to be perceived as righteous if you are not wearing the “right” style of clothing, for example. Or if you don’t belong to the “right” political party. (pun intended)

These things that I believe are completely non-essential to being a believing Latter-Day Saint are emphasized to a greater or lesser extent within the stakes and wards of the Church. While still in a student ward, I had two children ages 1 and 2 and one on the way. I was perceived as being a thoroughly faithful TBM while others who were pursuing graduate degrees and had postponed their families were suspect. (little did they know I was clandestinely studying early Mormon history and post-Manifesto polygamy!)

For a while I believed this situation was improving in the Church. The word “diversity” was beginning to be mentioned in many Relief Society settings in a positive way. In a 1991 General RS meeting, for example, Chieko Okasaki, herself one of the few examples of racial diversity in the governing bodies of the Church said: look around the room you are in. Do you see women of different ages, races, or different backgrounds in the Church? Of different educational, marital, and professional experiences? Women with children? Women without children? Women of vigorous health and those who are limited by chronic illness or handicaps? Rejoice in the diversity of our sisterhood! At the time, my daughter was 6 years old. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s there were several strong voices celebrating diversity in the Church.

But there soon came a retrenchment in thought regarding diversity. In 1996 in a news article announcing that more than half of Church members now lived outside the United States, Dallin H. Oaks was quoted as saying that that the growing diversity among the members is simply a condition, not a Church goal. The real goal is unity, not diversity, he wrote.
Boyd K. Packer said in 2003: If they throw the word diversity at you, grab hold of it and say, “I am already diverse, and I intend to stay diverse.” If the word is tolerance, grab that one, too. After the turn of the century (2000), one is hard pressed to find a positive mention of the word diversity in talks by Church leaders. The sole example I could find (in an admittedly quick search) was by Gordon B. Hinckley in CR May 2006 where he emphasizes the need for greater kindness in “accommodating” diversity and specifically mentions racial diversity. However, in almost the same breath, he lambastes men who will not go to work and force their wives to have a career to support the family.

By the time my child went off to BYU, there was perhaps greater actual racial diversity than I encountered there in the early ‘80’s, but less tolerance for other areas of diversity. Thus her perception of all the BYU coeds as being blonde.

I appreciate the efforts of John Dehlin and the “NOM movement” to legitimize those who diverge in a wide range of areas. There are those who believe that diversity can strengthen the Church, and those who fear it, especially when it manifests itself in religious thought. I have come to no certain conclusions about the matter. I only hope that I and my daughter have a place in this Church, for we are both brunettes.