Saturday, June 30, 2007

What Would You Have Done?

S.L., from one of the most important blogs I read, "The Observant Woman," had a personal experience with a victim of domestic abuse recently. She's interested in knowing what others would have done in the same situation. Would you have reported the abuse? What about if the abuser was a friend, or a member of your ward? I'd like to know how others would have handled this situation, too. Read the story here, and go here to air your views.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Blog Ratings

Online Dating

This rating was determined based on the presence of the following words:

* missionary (6x)
* dead (2x)
* pain (1x)

Now, I don't disagree that my blog might deserve an R rating. However, it certainly shouldn't receive an "R" for the use of the word "missionary" 6 times, or the words "dead" and "pain" one time each.

I don't trust the American Film Rating Board any more than I trust the computerized site which gave my blog it's rating. Do you know that films are rated by a group of parents--men and women just like you? They are part of a specially designed committee called the film rating board of the Classification and Rating Administration. As a group they view each film and, after a group discussion, vote on its rating, making an educated estimate as to which rating most American parents would consider the most appropriate. Theme, language, violence, nudity, sex and drug use are among those content areas considered in the decision-making process. Also assessed is how each of these elements is employed in the context of each individual film. The rating board places no special emphasis on any of these elements; all are considered and examined before a rating is given.

Film ratings can be changed. The rules permit movie producers to re-submit their films in hopes of receiving another rating. Producers may also appeal a rating decision to the Rating Appeals Board, which is composed of men and women from the industry organizations that sponsor the rating system. A two-thirds secret ballot vote of those present on the Appeals Board may overturn a rating board decision.

In light of this information, I find it extremely arbitrary that members of the Church are given the counsel not to view R rated movies. There are several problems with this approach.

1. Although members are told that movies with G or PG ratings might also be inappropriate for viewing, The "R cutoff" is applied to all members of the Church, giving implied approval of G and PG movies regardless of age, maturity level, or life experience. For example, I find myself as a parent quite likely to ask my children the rating of a movie they are planning to see. If the movie is G or PG I send them off without a qualm and without viewing the movie myself first to ascertain if it is indeed appropriate. I freely admit that this is my failing as a parent, however it is exacerbated by the Church's emphasis on the R rating as a cut-off point.

2. Rather than using our own intelligence and discernment to decide if a movie should be viewed, we mindlessly follow the nameless and faceless "American Film Rating Board." Where a film such as "Schindler's List," "Passion of the Christ," or "The Patriot" might be tasteful and valuable--even educational, the R rating will preclude most LDS members from watching. (In my children's Houston high school "The Patriot" was regularly shown in American History classes. Mormon students were well-known for bringing in notes exempting them from watching the film due to its R rating.)

3. In spite of advice to simply walk out of a movie if it is found to be offensive, some members will continue to watch, simply because the movie has gained the desired G or PG rating. This label gives it legitimacy that its subject matter might not if we were using our own brains to judge it.

4. Obedience to this inconstant "standard" is sometimes used as a determiner of personal righteousness. Members may view themselves or others as more or less righteous based on their adherence to the R-rated movie standard.

With this post, I am not suggesting that members lower their standards or participate in the viewing of violence, gratuitous sex, or banal and debasing themes. On the contrary, we should be discerning what is appropriate for ourselves and our families. We might use ratings as part of our decision-making, as well as reading reviews and using our good judgment and common sense to determine which movies we will see.

For the interest of inquiring minds, I give you the electronic ratings for some popular blogs in the Bloggernacle:

FMH--Rated PG
T&S--Rated PG13
BCC--Rated PG13
The Cultural Hall--Rated G
Exponent Blog--Rated G
Mormanity--Rated PG
Tales From the Crib--Rated PG
Straight and Narrow by Jettboy--Rated NC17


Saturday, June 23, 2007

If This is You...

If this is you, and your wife decides to run her first triathlon when she is 47 years old--and if she is one of the oldest people there and the only one with a ghetto Walmart bike--if you decide to come and pick her up and you happen to see her finish at a pitiful 2 hours and 34 minutes--then don't even THINK about telling her that two people passed her on the way into the stadium for her last lap.

And if your wife goes over to congratulate someone she knows, then please don't yell at her for making you stand in the hot sun. And whatever you do, don't get in your car angry and tell her to ride her bike home. If this is you and your wife has just completed a half mile swim, a 13 mile bike up the side of a mountain, and a 5K run, then she will be very tired if she has to bike home for 7 more miles. And the heavens will watch as she rides and she cries and cries and the wind dries salt tear tracks down her face.

If this is you.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Coming to Terms With Polygamy--A Response

In this post I respond to Caroline's questions at Exponent2 blog regarding how I have come to terms with polygamy.

I have several different thoughts. First, I believe that the Church continues to practice polygamy today. Because sealings to multiple wives continue to be practiced in the Temple, and because we believe in an afterlife, polygyny is something we must come to terms with as Latter-day Saints.

In the early days of the Church many leaders declared that polygyny was necessary in order to be exalted. However, Melvin J. Ballard refuted this idea in (I think) 1912 when he said that a man sealed to one wife could be exalted. Thus, my thinking is that polygamy is not necessary. (You just have to convince your husband not to be sealed to another wife after you die!) There are many women who are repulsed by the doctrine (how much of this is cultural conditioning we do not know), and imo they will not be forced to live it. Other families have been sealed into the principle. There is no evidence to suggest that these sealings will be dissolved. My opinion is that they will continue in the next life. Whether or not we personally contract into a polygamous union, it remains so much a part of our doctrine that I doubt any of us will not be personally affected in some way.

I'm not against polygamy myself. But I've had different experiences than many of you. My parents were involved in polygyny from the time I was age 12. It had nothing to do with Mormonism or religion, it was a lifestyle choice. I did not agree with my parents' choice to bring another wife into the family. The choice had many negative repercussions regarding the four children's relationships with our mom and dad. Nonetheless, I saw that it was a viable lifestyle. There was little, if any jealousy. The three adults usually acted as a cohesive unit (much to our dismay as children!) Living closely as a family made it impossible to hide any problems or tensions. I must admit that they were very few and usually solved with patience, tolerance, and love. Both women lived in our home and had separate bedrooms. (I have No Idea what the sexual arrangements were--and I don't want to think about it! Please! They're my parents!) Both women were employed full-time (the youngest child was already school age). Both women had feminist inclinations. Both women as well as my dad shared household responsibilities. All three were very happy with the arrangements, and seemed close and emotionally connected. Thus my personal experience has convinced me that polygyny is a lifestyle that can be lived in love and satisfaction for all parties.

In addition, I have always had very close female relationships. Always. Until I came to Vernal I always had female friends I could rely on emotionally. A woman will listen to you hash the same experience out umpteen million times. A man will (usually) listen to it once. Then he will want you to solve it or get over it. (Yes, I know I'm generalizing a bit!) But there are many reasons that I find a woman to be better "best friend" material than a man.

I can imagine retaining my feminist sensibilities in a polygynist relationship. In fact, I can picture myself in a coterie of chattering females, discussing a book we've read until 3 in the morning, while polygamist hubby waits alone and cold in the upstairs bedroom!

The last point I wish to make is the "obedience" issue. I read two posts at FMH dealing with this issue (See #1 and #2). It interests me that Mormon women who are traditional in every way state that they would rather give up their exaltation than live polygamy. I wonder at statements that if polygamy was reinstated they would "flatly refuse" to obey prophetic counsel. I am often taken to task on this blog for some of the stances I take. Conventional believers would have me adhere more closely to prophetic counsel. Yet it seems acceptable, on the blogs and in wards in which I've lived, to rebel against this one principle.

As I wrote this post, I asked my husband if he would ever want to live polygamy, and he was emphatically negative. He doesn't feel up to dealing with multiple females. I guess most of that is my fault! I think he finds me emotionally taxing. So perhaps I will never have to face this issue head on. I'm not like my parents; I don't believe polygamy is something to be entered into without the specific instructions of the living Prophet of God. But I like to think that if "The Principle" was required of us once again, I would see it as a fascinating and fulfilling adventure.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

My Dad, The Dreamer

Me and my Dad

(Dad is reading one of his textbooks for his Master's Degree in Philosophy and Religion at the University of Chicago. The future blogger is working on her keyboarding skills!)

My dad has always been a dreamer. He is one of the only people I know who has retained his idealism despite the hard knocks of life. When Dad was about 50 years old, he decided he wanted to live to be 150 years old. He figured with all the advances in medical science, it might be possible. He thought, "If I want to live 100 more years, I will have to age only one year for every two years I live from now on." And if you saw him, you would believe he has done it. He is now 71 and he looks and moves like someone who is barely 60. He exercises a little bit, eats whatever he wants moderately, and simply doesn't stress out about anything.

My favorite memory from my youth is when we were on a car trip to visit my grandparents in Ohio. We drove one of those old station wagons with the faux wood panel on the side. As dusk fell, my dad suddenly swerved onto the side of the road and stopped. He jumped out of the car and we all looked out at the open field before us. There were thousands of fireflies lighting up the night. Dad rummaged in the trunk and found two glass jars. We spent a couple of hours romping in the field catching fireflies.

Our family wasn't LDS, but every night at our home was family home evening. After dinner we always did something together, and it wasn't TV. We played lots of card games--Pit was one of our favorites. We played board games--Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders gave way to Chess, Monopoly and Battleship as we got older. Outside on summer nights we played Hide and Go Seek and Kick the Can, or we went to the community pool for the 5-7pm Family Swim. In the winter, we went ice skating on a homemade rink in the back yard, then came in for steaming mugs of hot chocolate.

My dad dreamed of having the same kind of family he grew up with. His was a "Leave It To Beaver" family--His father had the same job at General Motors his whole life, his mom was a part-time Kindergarten teacher, and there were two boys. There were many things which occurred in the 1960's and '70s that stretched our family and pulled it in different directions. There were "family secrets" we had to deal with. The times were changing. But through it all, our dad loved his family and had fun with us.

My wish for you this Father's Day is that you will remember all the happy times with your dad, and that you will take the time to make memories with your children that they will treasure.

I love my Dad. Happy Father's Day!

Friday, June 8, 2007

What Advice Would You Give This Missionary?

This is a leaf taken from my Missionary Journal from Thursday, 27 August 19xx in Beloeil, Quebec, Canada. It was one of my very first District Meetings.

Today we had a District Meeting to set goals for September. It was really hard because I couldn't understand why we were setting goals for baptisms, etc, if it didn't depend on us, it depended on the free agency of the person. We finally figured out that the only way it made any sense is if this was the number of baptisms the Lord would give us if we did all we were supposed to, taking into account the people that would fall through, etc.

Sister R. and I came up with the number of 4 Baptisms for our area. This is really scary because it means at the end of the month if we don't get 4 Baptisms it is because of something we did wrong, or OUR lack of faith. We are really stepping out in faith, something I haven't really tried before. If we don't make our goal, the District will say, "Why didn't it work, Sister L.?" I was so sure of it before, but fear has crept in a little bit.

I want to call down the powers of heaven by doing all the things I'm supposed to do, so that by obedience to the law, the Lord will be bound to give me the blessings. What I just don't know are all the things I must do to gain the blessing of baptizing. What is the law upon which it is predicated? I have tried to make an exhaustive list, and I am determined to follow them. If this works out, it will add a great deal to my faith. And I want so badly to be able to develop my faith!

Here are some of my questions:
Do missionaries still make monthly baptismal goals?
How do you think such goals fit with free agency?
When the goals are not met, is it the fault of the missionary?
How does D&C 130:21 apply to missionary goals?
Do you think attributing not meeting our goals to our own sin is doctrinal? Is it healthy?

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Effects of Prophetic Endorsement

One of our late-night conversations at the Retreat has been on my mind ever since returning home. We were discussing the response of Latter-day Saints to the Prophet's admonition that women wear only one pair of earrings. I have seen a huge response to this all over the United States. Many women have not only removed their extra earrings, but have borne their testimonies about it! An address given by Elder Bednar has reinforced the teaching with the story of a young man who was considering marriage with a girl who had multiple piercings. When President Hinckley asked women to wear only one set of earrings, he patiently waited for her to remove them. She did not, so he stopped dating her. She had failed to respond to prophetic counsel.

In our discussion, we marveled at the general obedience in the Church to this teaching. Then one woman wondered what would happen if, at the next Conference, President Hinckley approached the stand and said, "Brothers and Sisters, I've been thinking about this, and I think we should all recycle!"

Can you imagine what a difference the Prophet's endorsement of this would make in our world? I've noticed that in Vernal and in other places in Utah, it is very difficult to recycle. There are not accessible places to bring your recyclables. In Boston, where my sister lives, everyone recycles, because on trash day, there is a day for the pickup of your glass, a day for your plastics, and a day for your paper. Table scraps and yard detritus are placed in a compost bin or pile. I'm thinking that if the Prophet told us to recycle, a similar program might suddenly find support in Utah.

Elder Bednar says that the earring issue might seem minor, trivial, or silly, but that in following the prophet we learn to become "quick to observe." My question is why can't we learn the same lesson and meanwhile accomplish something positive and make a difference in the world?

Monday, June 4, 2007

The Scarlet "S"

One of the most interesting things discussed last weekend was that of singleness in the Church. Suzette and Julie, our speakers at the Retreat, are both returned missionaries in their late 30's. Several topics were brought up that I thought were pertinent. Foremost in my mind was the comment that a single person lacks legitimacy in a married Church. We do have a coming-of-age ritual in the form of a mission. But even after serving a mission, in the Mormon society one is not fully grown and a member of the "adult" class until they have been married. This results in strange behaviors, such as speakers who will come into singles wards and talk down to them as a group, though several of his audience may actually be older than he.

In our discussion, one woman mentioned that she has noticed that married couples without children also struggle with lack of legitimacy.

Singles in married wards are often treated like teenagers, and seldom receive leadership callings. They are sometimes asked to babysit instead of joining in the activities that married couples are attending without their children. Julie spoke of some notable exceptions she has seen, such as a Boston singles ward which was given much responsibility in the Temple. They also were called upon to organize and lead a Youth Conference. In addition, Julie had two single Relief Society Presidents in her family ward in Northern Utah. These things lift the entire Church as we utilize the now-dormant strengths of many additional adult members.

I know that Sister Barbara Thompson, newly called Second Counselor of the General RS Presidency is a single woman. I wonder if she will have an influence in being a role model for women or effect any change in the status quo for singles. I don't hold my breath, since our last General RS had quite a low visibility in the Church.

Suzette said that marrieds might have an image of singles as having a wild and crazy social life, playing Ultimate Frisbee every afternoon with a group of cute guys. This makes them reluctant to invite singles to socialize or join them in their comparatively boring activities. "I'm in my late 30's, and I like to do things that other people my age do," she pointed out. Unfortunately, there is usually a "Great Divide" among the single and married members of a ward. Suzette observed that since the predominant culture in the Church is a "family," it is incumbent upon the married members to open a way to integrate the singles.

Our two presenters gave married members several suggestions to help integrate singles into the culture. One of the most poignant was their plea not to try to "fix" singles as if something were broken. Many church members feel a vast discomfort with single members and sense the ambiguity with our doctrine which necessitates marriage for progression and Godhood. They try to probe the psyche and discover what is wrong. The single member must be gay, or too picky, or too intimidating.

In what ways have you seen the Church making efforts to integrate singles? Where do you stand on the "Singles Wards versus Married Wards" controversy? If you've experienced time as an adult single member of the Church, please share any insights you have gained.

The "Real" DAM Women

The first DAM Women were the Denver Area Mormon Women (no relation to the DAMU), who 15 years ago started a Retreat in the mountains of Colorado. This year about 40 women gathered to congregate, share their stories, and learn about Mormon women bloggers. FMH Lisa gave a fabulous presentation on blogging and women's issues, and graciously showed everyone around the Bloggernacle. Several women bloggers attended the Retreat, including one of the DAM founders, Paula of the Cultural Hall and several email groups; myself (Bored in Vernal); IdahoSpud; Amelia, Caroline, and Brooke of Exponent Blog; and Lisa and Emily of Feminist Mormon Housewives.

Male Bloggers whose names were used in vain at the Retreat were John Dehlin (we're waiting on your pink Stories!) John Remy (collective sighs all around, and inspection and approval of your pic!) DMI Dave (tour of your blog) and The Snarker (sorry, no sighs, pics, or tour of your blog.)

Also featured on the Retreat Program were a panel of women with "Unequally Yoked" stories based on last year's Sunstone Panel "For Better, For Worse," and two presenters speaking to a "married Church" culture on integrating Singles.

I have several blog posts worth of material from my weekend away, but I need to recover a little first. I hate to miss anything, so I'm always the last to go to bed and the first to rise. For some reason I felt compelled to prove that a woman of a certain age could still do the splits. I was nervous at meeting so many new people, so I was way too animated, shrill, and consumed too much chocolate and Diet Dr. Pepper. Thus the five hour drive home was rough, and I'm going to go crash now. Here are some pictures to pique your interest. Check back for more fascinating updates!