Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Daughters of Perdition

26 Mar 1903 - Joseph F. Smith told the Apostles "there would be no daughters of perdition" in the final judgment.

You may think it is a sign of my complete depravity that I am put out because women cannot become Sons of Perdition. But give me some time to explain, and you may see why.

Mormon doctrine teaches that those who are "sons of perdition" are those who had a sure and perfect knowledge of the truth, then voluntarily turned from it and committed the "sin unto death." The first requirement, then, to become part of this group is to have been members of the LDS Church, then to have the truth revealed to them with such sureness and clarity that there would be no doubt in their minds about the truthfulness of the Mormon gospel. Speaking of the sons of perdition, Joseph Fielding Smith taught that "before a man can sink to this bitterness of soul, he must first know and understand the truth with a clearness of vision wherein there is no doubt" (Doctrine of Salvation 1:49). Such clarity requires a confirming vision from heaven. Joseph Smith taught that to become a son of perdition, a person must "have the heavens opened unto him, and know God....He has got to say that the sun does not shine while he sees it; he has got to deny Jesus Christ when the heavens have been opened unto him, and to deny the plan of salvation with his eyes open to the truth of it" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.358).

After potential sons of perdition have had this sure knowledge manifested to them, they would then have to turn away from the Mormon Church, deny the truth, and commit the "unpardonable sin."

So why can't women become Sons (Daughters) of Perdition? Is there something about not having the Priesthood that makes a woman less able to have this sure knowledge of Christ? After all, in D&C 13:1 we learn that the Aaronic Priesthood holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and in D&C 84:19 we are told that the Melchizedek Priesthood contains the keys to the mysteries of the kingdom and the knowledge of God.

I'm just as positive as can be that many Mormon women will be pleased not to have the opportunity to become Daughters of Perdition. Our women leaders have assured us that we can partake of every blessing that is available to priesthood holders. But if this is true, then why is the converse not possible?

(I was going to write more on this topic, but a post just went up on Main Street Plaza on this subject, so I thought I'd get my ideas out there and we can continue the discussion in the comments. Have at it!)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

FLDS Pregnancies or Incendiary Tactics?

This post is to those of you who are shocked by the headlines you are reading today saying that 31 of 53 of the YFZ girls abducted by Texas CPS ages 14 to 17 have children, are pregnant, or both. Attorneys on the scene are warning that the numbers are extremely unreliable and that those interested in the case should remain cautious about believing these media reports. The tally of women and children has changed almost daily over the past three weeks. Amanda Chisholm, who works for TRLA, said she would be surprised if the actual number of teenage girls who are pregnant or mothers is "anywhere near that high."

Child Protective Services spokesman Darrell Azar admitted that the age of the girls was determined by their attorneys or by looking at the women. "I have seen them myself," he said, "and I don't see any that look like an adult to me."

"My clients told us they were put in a line and looked at," said attorney Julie Balovich. "So I know that is how some of the numbers happened."

Azar also did not know how many girls were pregnant, but acknowledged that it is a small number. In earlier reports, CPS said that three teenagers are pregnant. Salt Lake attorney Rod Parker, a spokesman for the FLDS, said that of the three, one teenager refused to take a pregnancy test, one is 18 and the other is 17.

One problem in determining the ages of the girls is that some women may be claiming to be minors in order to stay with their children. TRLA attorney Julie Balovich said one woman now deemed to be a teenager is a 24-year-old woman who is pregnant. FLDS member Willie Jessop contends the state's tally also includes a 28-year-old whom the state has listed as being 17.

Another problem in these tallies is that the state is using a list which has been compiled of 20 minors and young women who conceived their first child between the ages of 13 and 16. The list includes women who had children ten or more years ago. For example, one woman was 13 when she conceived a child who was born in 1997! Another woman was 14 when she conceived a child born in 2000--eight years ago. Some of the women conceived children in other states, or before the change in Texas law regarding the age of consent. An interesting point to me would be how the age of pregnancy of the FLDS has changed over time, or since the arrest of Warren Jeffs. Is the sect attempting to comply with the laws of the state?

A final consideration for many is the number that was released regarding the teenaged boys in custody. The media is reporting that while there are 53 girls between those ages there are only 17 boys. I am wondering why they are not including or mentioning the 25 adolescent boys who were taken away from the main group very early in this raid and placed on a boys' ranch. Perhaps there are other boys who are away working and are not "lost." This is another example of half-truths intended to mislead the public.

I am really getting so annoyed with this media hype, playing on the concern of Americans for abused children. I prefer to look at this in the light of a wider world view. Throughout the world and over time and cultures, girls who begin menarche are considered women. They begin to marry and bear children. It has been in the past 100 years only that we have decided that young girls should have more choice and should put off childbearing until later. As a feminist, I believe this is a good thing. But who is to say that it is the only true and proper choice? Some studies have shown that childbearing at younger ages is healthier and more optimal for infant and mother. I believe in the right of this group to choose their family patterns and customs. Teaching their children to submit is not abuse, it is a different lifestyle choice. There are many tenets of this faith which are clearly healthier and more moral than mainstream teachings.

Ever since this case began, I have felt that persecution has been rampant. This is not the way to solve problems or difficulties within the religion. True believers will only cling to their faith more adamantly, seek to withdraw and hide from society and bear wounds from this forced separation for generations.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

When DH Calls Me Out of the Grave, Will I Answer?

Whereas: DH never calls me by name any more, he now calls me "your mother." As in: "Where is your mother?" and "Did your mother make dinner yet?"


Whereas: I don't understand why men should be the ones to learn the power of resurrection and call people forth out of their graves, even if their wives are more interested in physics and chemistry and they are more interested in watching the Utah Jazz...


Whereas: I prefer to picture the Morning of the First Resurrection as Joseph Smith described it in our new Joseph Smith manual--"When we lie down we contemplate how we may rise in the morning; and it is pleasing for friends to lie down together, locked in the arms of love, to sleep and wake in each other’s embrace and renew their conversation."--rather than a familiar voice calling, "Is your mother ready to get up yet???"


Whereas: This seems to be a church teaching that is going the way of Kolob and one really doesn't hear it taught much any more...

When DH calls me out of the grave, will I answer?

(I really don't know whether I am more bothered by the teaching on LDS husbands calling their wives out of the grave, or by the disturbing feeling that doctrines I've been taught as a young person are now fading away and being lost in the mists of time. Alas! I find myself conflicted once more.)

Saturday, April 26, 2008

What Does the Spirit Tell You?

On one of my posts about the plight of the FLDS at Yearning For Zion Ranch, I included a link to the song written by Warren Jeffs after which the ranch is named. Several people wrote that they "felt the Spirit" when they listened to the song, and wondered what it meant. Today I came across a montage of photos of the FLDS children, and as I was viewing it, I felt the Spirit. Please try an experiment with an open mind and watch this clip. Tell us in the comments what the Spirit says to you as you watch.

There were several things I learned as I saw these snapshots of the children. Remember they were taken before any publicity occurred. Look into the eyes of the men and women pictured. Contrary to many of the news reports, I observed:

  • The children were shown at desks, in a school setting

  • A child was finger painting

  • Men and women alike were involved in raising and teaching the children

  • Children were pictured in the water of a lake or pond

  • The children were learning life skills as well as scholastic endeavors

  • The children seemed secure and well-loved

  • Children were playing

  • The children were extremely clean and well cared for

  • The children were HAPPY.

Here on my blog, I've discussed the legal aspects of this case, and we have bandied about our opinions. I know it won't make any difference in what the courts will decide, and it probably won't change anyone's opinion, but what is the Spirit telling us about these children?

Friday, April 25, 2008

Mormon Feminist Blogging

Recently I was asked a few questions about Mormon feminist blogging, so I wrote down the following thoughts.

Mormon feminism has traditionally never had a place to go. We see quite a few feminists in the early Utah years, those who wrote in the Women's Exponent, agitated for women's right to vote, and staunchly defended the practice of polygamy. But these voices seemed to cease with the passage of the Edmunds-Tucker Act and the turn of the century. Until the 1950's Mormon women seemed satisfied with traditional roles as mothers and homemakers, giving their energies to service in the Church. The first public instance we see of feminism in the twentieth century was when many women rallied around Sonia Johnson to support the ERA. This ended badly for all concerned, since the Church took a firm stance against the ERA, thus putting feminism outside the pale of faithful Church membership. Sonia's fight turned into a personal battle, she was excommunicated and became involved in additional activities inconsistent with Church standards. Unfortunately, during that period, Mormon feminism was associated with Sonia, so Mormon women felt constrained to stay away from both feminism and activism. Feminist activism continued to remain underground for many years, manifesting itself occasionally during all-women retreats where, for example, a sympathetic priesthood holder might be persuaded to bless the sacrament on Sunday morning and women would pass it to each other. (How daring!) (That was sarcasm, by the way!) But feminists who spoke out continued to be excommunicated from the Church well into the '90's when the September Six incident occurred. The excommunication of Maxine Hanks was a particular blow for Mormon feminism. She is a feminist theologian who compiled and edited the book Women and Authority: Re-emerging Mormon Feminism (1992). She was excommunicated Sept. 19, 1993, ostensibly for this work (as was fellow contributor, Michael Quinn). Also particularly discouraging to Mormon feminists was the excommunication of Lavina Fielding Anderson, a feminist who did much work on exposing ecclesiastical abuse against women. The later excommunication of Margaret Toscano, who was also a well-known feminist and scholar on women's issues reinforced the stance of Church leadership against feminism. Because these excommunications were said to have been influenced not by local leadership, but by higher-ranking LDS leaders, the disciplinary actions were viewed as a strong message that feminism, and especially feminist activism was unacceptable for women who wished to maintain their Church standing.

I bring up all this history because I think it helps to explain the phenomenon of Mormon feminist blogging. In August of 2004 Lisa B* started the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives as a way to release her tensions over faithful Church membership and feminism. Ten years had gone by since the excommunications and very little feminist activism had been seen. But, because of this, the Church had not felt the need to take any public stances against it. The slate was clean.

Blogging proved to be the perfect medium to discuss feminist issues. First, the computer medium drew in younger women who were unaware of the past history of Mormon feminism and the possible danger of expressing their opinions. Second, women who may have hesitated to declare themselves as feminists felt comfortable participating in an anonymous venue. Finally, more liberal-minded women who were scattered among the wards and stakes of a worldwide church could at last exchange ideas and communicate with each other. Almost four years have passed, and now there are several blogs which can be said to embrace feminist Mormon issues, especially Feminist Mormon Housewives, Zelophehad's Daughters and the Exponent Blog. So far, the Church has not chosen to discourage this exchange of liberal ideas. Lisa and other feminist bloggers have slowly revealed their true identities by participating in Sunstone Symposia and giving public speeches, and have felt no repercussions. This is a major step for feminism in the Church.

As far as concrete, measurable things that feminist Mormon blogging has accomplished: I don't think blogging has affected Church policy in any way. Not yet. I am very skeptical that grass-roots movements are able to make any changes on such a strongly hierarchically-organized system as we have in the LDS Church. Additionally, I think that leaders at the top have only very, very recently become aware of the blogs and the subjects which are discussed here. I think the major way that blogging has supported feminists in the Mormon Church is the solidarity it gives them for thinking about ideas which have traditionally been discouraged in the Church. More LDS women are working outside of the home, which has happened independently of blogging. But blogging gives support and encouragement to these women when they do not feel it in the wards.

Another major accomplishment of feminist Mormon blogging is that it has strengthened other activist causes. For example, being "green" is often discussed on feminist Mormon sites, and many of the readers have been motivated to start living a more ecologically-based lifestyle. This is something which has never received Church-wide emphasis. A concrete example is Lisa's post "Who Needs a Toddler" on FMH where she says, "See, I keep a mason jar on the washer and I fill it with the lint, so I can compost it, because Artemis tells me I should, and sometimes I do try to live up to her shiny example." So a lot of us are composting and hearing about it and getting tips from our blogging. There's another recent post called "Eco-Friendliness: Cloth Napkins" by Artemis on FMH. Just one more instance of saving the planet I can recall at FMH is all the encouragement to use cloth bags when grocery shopping. The post "January C3 challenge" has comments showing the development of a consciousness of this issue on the part of feminist Mormon housewives!

One of the best examples I can give you is the October 07 peace march which FMH participated in. I think, if you want to know where feminist Mormon blogging is headed, this will give you an idea. As time passes, feminists are connecting through the blogs and getting together to support causes. One post describes a planned FMH quilt effort : "We will auction (ebay?) the quilt and 100% of the proceeds will be used to invest in Kiva microloans." And this year in her annual fund raising post, Lisa explained, "In the past I’ve taken down the button as soon as we’ve made enough to pay our server fees. This year I’m going to leave it up all day and any extra will be put into our fMh Kiva microloans."

I've concluded that blogging has given Mormon feminists a place to go. Our most radical ideas are not exactly welcome in Relief Society, and church leaders often feel uncomfortable with us and our causes. We're too few and far apart to make a difference without this unique way of communicating and coming together. We've just started to discover what blogging can mean to this demographic.

So, feminist Mormon bloggers, do you think the "blog" forum has accomplished anything? Has it made any difference in the Church or in the lives of Mormon women? What future do you see for feminism in the Church? Will blogging play a role?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

For the Blog Addict

Since I discovered blogging, I've been reading any Mormon blog I can find, and have discovered a diversity that fascinates and thrills me. The Mormons in the wards I've attended have seemed so homogeneous and disapproving that I've often felt compelled to cover up my honest feelings and toe the LDS line. Here on my blog I've opened up with some of my ambivalence and inconsistency. And I can peek in on the lives of fellow Saints who have their own opinions and eccentricities.

That's why I recommend to you DH's new solo blog aggregator: Mormon Blogosphere. Here you can get a taste of some of the array of Mormon individual blogs that are out there. You'll read the name of the blog, and a snippet of their latest post, to whet your appetite. At a glance (and a couple of scroll-downs), you can see what people are writing about and there's a quick link to the blog if you want to read more.

DH has written here about his motivations for starting this project. He is willing to add your solo blog if you post about Mormon themes. Email him at mormon-blogs@hotmail . Please put one of his cute little buttons on your blog by following these directions:

Copy and paste the following code into your HTML/JavaScript widget, then take out the # signs:
<#a href=""><#img src=""/><#/a>

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Searching for Sarah

Texas authorities have been stymied by their inability to find the elusive "Sarah," an alleged 16-year-old girl whose phone call initiated the FLDS fiasco. In an effort to find Sarah, girls from the ranch were physically and verbally examined. A witness described how one of the girl with a name similar to that of the girl in the search warrant was grilled for hours by investigators. "You are this girl," they insisted. "Why don't you want our help?" Refusing to accept her self-identification, and demanding compliance, they subjected the girl to the same treatment that opponents of the FLDS object to.

Followers of this case are aware that there is reason to suspect that the call came from an outsider, and that the young abused girl does not exist. Marleigh Meisner, spokeswoman with the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, is scrambling to justify the raid and essentially the kidnapping of more than 400 FLDS children on the strength of this one phone call.

Meisner has now described Sarah as a metaphor.
"I do believe that Sarah exists," she says. "If you listen to the testimony, there were many Sarahs. We received information there were young Sarahs who were pregnant, Sarahs who were mothers. Just because perhaps someone else phoned that in really doesn't change the investigation."

If we are to consider Sarah a symbol of pregnant young girls, let us take a look at some statistics which Mark IV provided at the Messenger and Advocate:

Some background of teenage pregnancies in Texas:

The non-Hispanic white rate is 60 per 1,000, the black rate is 130 per 1,000 and the Hispanic rate is 145 per 1,000.

The rate at YFZ seems to be 45 per 1,000, 20 percent lower than the rate for other Texas girls in the polygamous girls’ demographic cohort and more than 60 percent lower than among Hispanic girls in Texas.

That seems to indicate that underage girls at YFZ are 20 percent less likely to have sex than other white girls across the state and 60 percent less likely to have sex than Hispanic girls across the state.

Further, the rate of teen pregnancy at YFZ is lower than the rate of teen pregnancy in more than three-quarters of Texas counties.

The best thing the state can do now is apologize. If they are sincere in wanting to protect teenaged women from getting pregnant, they ought to take lessons from YFZ, because they are doing a better job of it that the state as a whole.

Yes, Texas, there is a "Sarah."
She walks the halls of your local high school. She goes to the Baptist services. She grew up in the Texas foster-care system. Yes, we all need to search for Sarah, wherever she may be found. If there are girls who need and want our help on the YFZ compound, we should be there to help them. But let us not force our attentions upon those who have a better track record for caring for their own than the rest of the state.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Both Sides Now---Legal Ramifications of YFZ Case

Photo by Trent Head

So many things I could have done---but worry over the YFZ Ranch got in the way. Now that this case is in court, I've been looking the issue from two legal points of view:

The Fourth Amendment

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized. See also the Fifth Amendment on Due Process.

Is this case based on a fraudulent phone call to authorities? One commenter said:
If these kids are actually being abused the government has stepped on their dicks so badly they won't be able to do anything about it.

I think this is an accurate summation of the legal problems in the case. If law enforcement searches, seizes, or incarcerates a person under false pretenses, it doesn't matter what is found after the fact, it is inadmissable. It now appears that the phone call upon which this is all based is fraudulent. If so, the only way the children can be taken away from their parents will blatantly violate the rights of U.S. citizens. It will set a dangerous precedent for many groups including Mormons, Muslims, homeschoolers, and the Amish (who have a very isolated lifestyle and the practice of young marriages).

  1. No complaining victims exist and the original abuse allegations were fraudulent, pumped up in the media by anti-polygamist activists.

  2. No pregnant girls were found at the YFZ Ranch who were under 16 (the legal marriage age in Texas, with parental consent).

  3. 10 women between the ages of 16 and 19 were listed as married to older men. Five were listed as having children.

  4. Angie Voss from the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services has testified that the supposition that abuse may happen some day in the future justifies the removal of over 400 children of both sexes and all ages from their environment.
If this doesn't bother you, will you please explain what you will do when your neighbor reports you to CPS because they don't like your religion, and your children are removed from your home, along with every child from every family in your ward?? What will you say if they discover that a former Bishop or Sunday School teacher is a sex offender or viewer of pornography?

Read More:
In Distressed About the FLDS Situation, J. Max Wilson writes about his experiences reporting abuse to CPS in Texas and being told that "unless there is physical evidence of abuse, the chances of getting abused children removed from their parents into the safety of state care are practically nil." He questions why his experience was so different from what happened to the FLDS, and wonders what the implications may be for homeschoolers.

D and E Grounds

The court may order termination of the parent-child relationship if the court finds by clear and convincing evidence: (1 that the parent has:(D knowingly placed or knowingly allowed the child to remain in conditions or surroundings which endanger the physical or emotional well-being of the child; (E) engaged in conduct or knowingly placed the child with persons who engaged in conduct which endangers the physical or emotional well-being of the child.
See also Texas Family Code, Chap. 262.

Ron in Houston puts it this way:
There was once a good mother. She loved her kids. She took pretty good care of them and they loved her. She was by no means was a perfect mother, but then again, who among us is the "perfect" parent?

Mom's only flaw as a parent was that she allowed older men around her 14 [let's change this to read 16, since we have no evidence of 14-year-old YFZ brides] year old daughter who wanted to have sex with her daughter. She was so addicted to the approval of these older men that she would forget about her daughter to obtain the approval of these men she admired.

Mom went before a judge who said that since she was so dependent on the approval of these older men that she could not protect her child and therefore her children needed to be placed in foster care.

The judge never knew what the mother's religion was. The judge just acted on the facts of the case.

Ron's parable will appeal to those who see sex between 16-19 year old girls and much older men as just plain wrong no matter what religious views might dictate. Since the plural marriages are unrecognized by the state, these relationships can be labeled statutory rape, regardless of whether or not the parents supported the union. Those who take this view will likely agree that the younger children on the compound should be removed from a home and religion that will teach these principles.

Now, I've got some leading questions to ask you. I'd love to hear the opinions of some of our Bloggernacle lawyers!

--Is it legally justified to remove ALL women and ALL children from their homes based on a warrant for the arrest of ONE man and in looking for ONE young woman described by the 9-1-1 caller as an abused vicitm?
--Do you think that the that the sealed affidavit that triggered the investigation at the ranch listed sufficient evidence to search "each and every residence, structure, school, vehicle, place of business, temple or other facility" of an "unincorporated city or neighborhood of 300 to 400 residents that includes single and multiple family homes, a doctor's office, a cheese manufacturing plant, a cement plant and other buildings spread over 1,691 acres"?
--Is it legally justified to order DNA evidence from all families based on one allegation?
--Do the Fourth Amendment rights will override the D and E statute and the Texas Family Code? Or does it not apply since this is a civil and not a criminal case?
--Do you think the religion of the parents should be taken into account in this case?
--Is religious indoctrination currently a legal justification for removal of a child from a family?
--Do you think the families are being presumed guilty until proven innocent?

*Please attempt to confine your remarks here to your thoughts on the legal issues, and refrain from expressing your personal moral outrage on either side of the question.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


Tagged by J-GW!
Here are the instructions.

1. Pick up the nearest book (at least 123 pages).
2. Turn to page 123.
3. Find the 5th sentence
4. Post the 5th sentence on your blog.
5. Tag 5 people.

Here's the sentence that results from following steps 1 - 4:

"Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying, Earth has no sorrow that heav'n cannot cure."

This sentence comes from the Hymnbook, which I am using as a mousepad. Page 123 has the Hymn "Come Ye Disconsolate" #115, of which this is the fifth sentence.

I tag the last 5 commenters on my blog:
LifeonaPlate, (let's see if his closest book is the Journal of Discourses)
Non Arab-Arab, (I bet 5 bucks his closest book is Tim Weiner's history of the CIA "Legacy of Ashes.")

You can answer here or on your own blog. But leave me a link so everyone can see what you're reading!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Bloggernacle Personalities

I was reading the most fascinating post over at American Scholar. There's a site where you can go and make each side of your face perfectly symmetrical. When Heidi did it to her face, the two different sides looked like they had completely different personalities. I thought it might be interesting to see what some of our Mormon bloggers might be hiding deep inside! Just take a look at these:

Kevin Barney, scholar

Kevin Barney, weight-lifter

Blake Ostler, SLC lawyer

Blake Ostler, Mormon apologist (check out the Joseph Smith hair)

Ronan, friendly Euro broadcaster

Ronan, fundy polygamist

Rosalynde, wholesome Mormon Mom

Rosalynde, Wiccan graduate student

Nerd Clay

Jock Clay

Deseret News Em Jensen, outgoing

Em Jensen, shy

Adam Greenwood, sanctimonius

Adam Greenwood, snarky

Here's me, BiV--with stopwatch earrings

...and looking a little crosseyed!

and finally--

new daguerrotypes found!!

Full disclosure: These come out looking better if you are holding your head perfectly straight. Go on, everyone--try this by going to Did it tell you anything about your personality?? Give me a link when you post your pics!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

FLDS Petition--Something I Can Do

Since reading of the most recent developments in Texas, I have been wishing there was something I could do! Thank you, Connor, for putting together this petition where we can sign our names against the violations which are now taking place in separating these small children from their mothers. It's just one little thing I can do to possibly make a difference. None of us wants to see child abuse, but the way the Texas authorities are handling this is wrong. The men at the ranch have offered to leave if the children and mothers are allowed to return home. If you feel you can support this effort, please go to

Free the Innocent FLDS sponsored by Connor Boyack.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Brainstorming Circumcision

This is a different word than the one in my last post, so beware! Studying the OT with Seminary students really puts my brain in a strange place, so forgive me for this post. But this year I've been wondering what the symbolism of circumcision could be. We know that circumcision is the sign of the Abrahamic covenant, but why this particular procedure? Why was it chosen, and what symbolism could it contain? I tend to see just about everything in the OT as symbolic, but this one has been difficult. So I thought we could brainstorm.

You know the rules of brainstorming, don't you? Anything goes. It doesn't have to make sense. Your ideas could be serious, funny, off-the-wall. I'll start us off with a few thoughts:

1. Romans 4:9-12 connects circumcision and the Abrahamic covenant with Abraham being the father of all who believe. It makes sense that the male reproductive organ would be representative of fatherhood and Abraham's descendants. But why the removal of the foreskin?

2. Does this special sign necessitate all women before the time of Christ being completely left out of any covenant relationship with God? Why, after the Savior's coming, are women encouraged to make a covenant through baptism? What has changed?

3. One of the suggestions I got for teaching what circumcision was to Seminary students was to hold a magic marker up in front of the class, announcing, "uncircumcised." Then, take off the top of the marker and say, "circumcised." (not in the manual, use at your own risk).

Please, please, if you are reading this post, make a comment! I'll be so very depressed if no one helps out. Leave a question, an observation, a scripture. Have you heard this expounded by anyone else? Let's brainstorm!

Sunday, April 13, 2008

All Truth Can Be Circumscribed Into One Great Whole

Do you ever feel that, as a Mormon, you tend to compartmentalize truth? I know I do. Things just seem to work best when the Church paradigm (Adam was a real person who lived in Jackson County, MO) is held separately from the secular/scientific paradigm (the earth evolved over a period of millions of years).

Although I do find myself, FARMS-like, attempting to reconcile the often fantastic claims of my religion with what I can observe with my physical senses and what I can reason out with my human brain, generally I fall short in this endeavor. But something I wear daily reminds me that all the pieces of truth I can garner will one day fit neatly into a big picture. There is a way to break through the paradigms of human existence and see Truth as it really exists. This implies that I shouldn't be satisfied with two bits of knowledge that contradict each other. Either one or both is false, or I haven't found a way of observing them which will reconcile the two.

Chiam Potok suggested that there are four possible responses to conflict between sacred and secular thought systems. First, the lockout approach: one can simply dodge the conflict by erecting impenetrable barriers between the sacred and the secular and then remaining in just one system. We see this in religious enclaves and communes, hidden away from "the world," but just as much in a closed-minded secular society which admits no transcendent experience. The second response is compartmentalization: one creates separate categories of thought that coexist in a "tenuous peace." Most of the mainstream Mormons I know have responded in this way. Third, ambiguity: take down most if not all walls and accept a multitude of questions without intending to resolve them. I see this approach to a certain extent in the Bloggernacle. I know, not everyone takes down walls, and we do give lip service to trying to resolve issues. In practice, however, a multitude of questions abound, and not much resolution takes place. Potok's fourth response is to take down all walls and allow complete fusion in which the sacred and secular cultures freely feed each other, perhaps leading to a "radically new seminal culture." I'm not sure, but I think what he advocates here is a removal, or at least a recognition of paradigm, political correctness, an acceptance of everyone's perception of the "elephant."

What we are taught in the Temple provides a fifth possibility--the circumscribing of truth into one great whole. This view gives us faith that indeed there does exist an absolute truth. Here we accept objective and subjective reality from both the sacred and the secular thought systems in the pursuit of the construction of an eternal "whole." In order to distinguish this state from Potok's fourth approach, there would have to be identification of "truth" and some type of blocking or rejection of evil or falsehood. Complete acceptance of everything would cause confusion and conflict. The problem lies in our inability to recognize pure Truth. Misuse of this approach brings us right back to Potok's first response.

What is our responsibility to search out and discover Truth? Is it immoral to plunk ourselves squarely into one of Potok's four constructs? We've all heard the advice to those who are confronted with ambiguity: to put our questions "on the shelf" awaiting the eternal day when all will become clear. Or does the undeviating course leading to eternal life necessitate striving to discover the truth of all things?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Beds and Temples

"Officials have completed removing all 416 children from the ranch and have won custody of all of them," say the latest reports on the Texas FLDS incident. I'm completely flummoxed at how the Yearning for Zion group is being treated. I believe their civil rights are being violated on the strength of an anonymous phone call by a girl they have yet to identify. News reports are extremely slanted. For example, look at the report of "marriage" beds found in their temple. Does it surprise you to know that we have beds in our temples also? Several years ago when I was pregnant, I felt some vertigo during a session, and was taken to an area in the temple for medical attention and to lie down!

My completely unsolicited opinion is that authorities should open up channels of communication whereby girls and women who would like to voluntarily leave this group can receive some support in doing so. Other than this, children should not be removed from their homes. "Indoctrination" which takes place among the FLDS is no worse, in my view, than children as young as 13 who are exposed to sex and violence through media, or given birth control at home or in school! What is happening in this case sets a dangerous precedent. Now read what a former FLDS member has to say about this situation:


I left the FLDS three years ago when I was 23. I had a very happy childhood free from television, drugs, and abuse. These are some of the things I personally witnessed:

When a girl thought she was ready to get married, she would tell her father that she was ready to move on. Her father would turn her over to the prophet (Rulon or Warren Jeffs) to be placed in marriage. I saw Rulon many times tell the girl that she needed to be 18 before she was married, and I saw some girls ask to be married anyway, and sometimes he would give in to their request. It was not a common thing to see a girl younger than 15 get married, but if they did, it was always the result of her father putting a lot of pressure on Rulon or Warren to do something about their daughter. No one was ever forced. I saw several girls tell the prophet that she didn't want to marry so and so and that was the end of it (I know this because word really got around). Rulon and Warren always asked a girl if she had anyone in mind before she was placed with someone. Sometimes they would ask for an older guy with several wives already.

You've got to realize that the only thing these girls really lived for was getting married and having children. They do not have the same mindset as your typical teenage girl. Some were rebellious and wild teenagers sure, but 90% of the girls I grew up with only wanted to get married and have children. At the same time, 90% of the men didn't want their daughters to leave home and were very protective of them. My father wept when my older sister got married (she was 19) but he knew it would make her happy.

As for the men. 95% of the men I knew were honorable and trustworthy. They had beautiful families that loved them and would do anything for them. "by their fruits you shall know them". I challenge anyone to look at those children in Texas and honestly say "they are a product of pedophiles and immorality". An example of immorality would be someone that advertises their body by wearing next to nothing, uses foul language, uses drugs and exhibits no self control. You will not find that with these people. Sex is not even in their vocabulary. Literally.

I personally know every man on that Ranch in Texas. Search the world over, you will not find men more dedicated, more committed, and more focused on living in Peace and living their religion than within that group. They do not care what anyone else does, they only want to live their religion.

You should also note, half of the children raised within the FLDS, end up leaving on their own free will and choice. 95% of them you will never hear from again. 5% seem to spread rumor and false accusations everywhere they turn either because they are lonely and need someone or something to blame, or because they really were hurt or abused and somehow think it's the church's fault.

As for this raid in Texas here are some interesting facts:

1)There is only one Dale Barlow over the age of 40 within the FLDS. This man was convicted of fathering a child with a 16 year old two years ago. He has been on probation ever since and is not allowed to leave the state of Arizona except to report to his probation officer in St. George, UT. Authorities know where he is and he has not yet been arrested. (There is another member whose name is spelled Dell but he is in his late 60's)

2)There is absolutely no physical evidence that this 16 year old who supposedly called in to report abuse even exists. Anyone could have made that call.

3)Anyone that thinks there is something wrong with having a bed in a temple that has disturbed linen and a female hair, is assuming WAY too much.

4)If I was a four year old child and I was taken away from my loving mother and father, I would be confused and hurt and would probably find a way of seeing how it was my fault.

5)The media keeps saying that 100 something women left on their own? They simply refuse to let their children go without them.

6)There are three sides to every news story and so far, everyone is getting only two. People that have left and are bitter, and people that are jumping to conclusions. I would like to be the third because I know these people, I am a product of these people and I believe they should be understood and left alone.

I left on my own accord because I was standing in the way. I wasn't ready to give up material things and I didn't believe Warren Jeffs was a prophet. I drew my own conclusion, and every member of that church is fully capable of doing the same if they so choose."

I was touched as I read of the men who knelt outside their temple and prayed and wept as it was desecrated. Someone has sent me a link to the song Warren Jeffs wrote, and after which the compound is named. Go here and listen. It's a haunting piece, and the twang in the voice of the vocalist recalls the long-braided, home-sewn dresses in the pictures we've been seeing. However much we may wish to distance ourselves, this is our tradition. The words and sentiments are our own, and these people are being treated exactly as we were 150 years ago.
Yearning for Zion
by Warren Jeffs

Heavenly beings have come to direct the work of the fulness of times:
To bring to pass Zion, the Lord’s pure in heart, a people perfected in Christ.
Who will be Zion, filled with his love, laboring now with the hope
Of a glorious day, when Zion shall rise, and the words of the prophets unfold.
When Zion shall flourish upon the hills, the wilderness blossoming fair as the rose,
When Zion comes singing with songs of great joy
With praise and thanksgiving assembles to worship our Lord

Oh, Zion!
Put on thy beautiful garments,
Which are the powers and gifts of his Spirit in you,
Draw from the heavens the almighty power to build and redeem again Zion!
Oh, hearken all Israel!
Live for the promise of God.
Our Savior shall dwell in our midst
For the household of faith he will stretch forth his arm
And bring forth the redemption of Zion.

Imagine the people of Enoch of old, trained in the order of heaven
A beautiful city the Lord called his own and forever made his abode
Coming to join with the Zion on earth when finally the earth finds its rest
A kingdom established in celestial laws, a people the Lord can accept
A New Jerusalem it will be, a land of refuge, a city of peace
Upon every dwelling the Lord shall create
A cloud for a covering, a flaming

Symbolically, the song cuts off here.
Oh, Zion!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

GoodReads and Me

I must admit, when I got my first invitation to join GoodReads, I was hesitant. Since I've been in Saudi, my reading has been...eclectic. I blame it on not having the access to books to which I am accustomed. I know there is a public library here in Riyadh, but I'm not sure if expats are allowed to check out books. And since I don't have a car or driving privileges, logistics of how to get there are complicated. I don't have a reliable post office address, so I haven't ordered any books on line for the entire 8 months we have been here! Books in most stores are written in Arabic, and at the bookstore the books in English are quite expensive. I have, however, tapped in to the active book exchanging that happens among the faculty at our university. But it means that I am at the mercy of reading whatever passes into my hands, from classics to pulp fiction.

It's OK for me--I truly can read anything that comes my way. But I didn't know if I wanted all my highbrow friends to see what I was reading. The first friend I added had written this about The Time-Traveler's Wife:

Getting through the foul language and the sexual references in this book was not enjoyable. It had been highly recommended to me but to be honest, I found very little to recommend in this book.

No way! I loved that book! I read it a few years ago, but...there was foul language in it? Oh well, guess I didn't notice that part...

Well, I've finally broken down and joined up. GoodReads is a great way to encourage reading and to discuss books. (Did I mention I love discussing books?) You just sign up, add your friends, and then put books you have read or want to read up on your account. I decided I didn't want to go back and add every single book I have ever read. (Too much work!) So I'll just review my books as I read them. And I'll stop trying to impress my friends with my choice of reading material.

If you would like to join my friends list, just send me your email here or at clbruno at hotmail.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Nearer to Kolob

Hieing to Kolob has now moved to a new address. Please update your sidebars and feeders!

I sure hope to see all my old friends over there, and many new ones, too!

Sunday, April 6, 2008

The New Me

I've taken a big step, and gone to new Blogger. The reasons I was so reluctant to switch are very revealing:

  • I was so comfortable where I was.

  • I'm afraid of change.

  • My blog would have to look different than it always has.

  • My friends might not be able to find me.

  • It took a lot of time and effort to do it the old way--people who do it the new way have things much too easy.

I'm worried that I will not be able to add my old posts to this new blog. But I've been brave and here I am! Please change your links and enjoy the new me!

Yearning for Zion and the Texas Polygamists

It sure is a good thing they changed that Temple Recommend Question--you know the one I'm talking about: Do you affiliate with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? They used to ask you if you sympathized with such groups, and I always had to answer "yes." (Never kept me from getting my recommend, btw.)

I do sympathize with fundamentalist groups, now let me tell you why.

  1. Joseph Smith and the early leaders of the Church taught the doctrine of plural marriage, which they called "celestial marriage." When we read certain passages in the D&C discussing the new and everlasting covenant of marriage, we should understand that this was referring to plural marriage. Thus members of the early Church were taught that in order to enter into the highest degree of celestial glory, they must live "The Principle."

  2. I've always felt a warm spot in my heart for those who wish to separate themselves from "the world." I often wondered if I had not joined the Church, if I might not have gone to live on "The Farm," a commune in Tennessee; or a kibbutz in Israel.

  3. Within the fundamentalist groups I have seen a religious fervor and zeal which I admire and imagine existed in the early LDS Church. Those who stand up for their beliefs against great persecution are admirable. The Prophet Joseph taught that "a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things, never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation."

Now, don't get me wrong! I believe in a living prophet today, and I follow the standard Mormon teachings on this subject. But that doesn't stop me from understanding where fundamentalist Mormons are coming from, and sympathizing with their position.

That's why I've followed with interest the building of the YFZ (Yearning for Zion) compound in Eldorado, Texas. (Pics here.) Even the name of the place breaks my heart. It's taken from a song written by FLDS leader Warren Jeffs. I am disposed to believe that this is a group of people who yearns for Zion. They are willing to put their earthly lives and interests on the line for their religious beliefs. One member writes:

"I wonder why people think Plural Marriage is a sin. I know for myself that it is a correct principle and must be lived to attain the highest degree of glory in the Celestial Kingdom. I also know that most people I have known that enter the principle, do not live it correctly. So it is not for everyone. So why is it so bad to some people, for a man to claim two women as wives, take care of them and treat them as wives in every sense of the word, and for some reason it is not quite as bad for a man to have a wife and a mistress? Or is it? To me, THAT is awful."

And another polygamist muses:
"I don't know of a better reason, to live it, than that it is a commandment of God. If is was not a commandment of God, and that was my desire (to keep the commandments of God) then I am sure I would not choose to. I believe that every person must live according to the light and knowlege they have, in order to come to God at the Judgment day and have no regrets."

This morning I read the news reports that 137 children were removed from the compound by Texas Child Protective Services in an effort to determine if they are "at risk." 46 women were also bused from the compound and are being cared for by local churches. The operation came in response to claims that a 16-year-old girl had been abused. The Deseret News has reported that a 16-year-old girl who lives on the compound called Child Protective Services on Monday to report the incident. Some accounts identify her with a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry 50-year-old Dale Barlow. Records show that she bore a child 8 months ago, at age 15. Dale Barlow is in Arizona, according to his probation officer, and he claims he doesn't know who made the report. Nobody can say who the girl is that reported abuse, and they have yet to find her. Teams are now searching the compound for this girl. Reports indicated that the SWAT team has entered the YFZ Temple under protest from FLDS faithful. I am so sorry to hear about this situation. It is a tense one for all involved.

These marriages between older men and young women certainly merit concern. But, as when I am answering the Temple Recommend questions, my sympathies are aroused. As Latter-Day Saints, we pressure our 8-year-old children to enter an important covenant. I myself have indoctrinated my children to do this because of my firm belief in certain religious precepts. My stay in the country of Saudi Arabia has acquainted me with girls who have been pressured into arranged marriages to older men. Some of the girls I teach in the university are under 21 years of age and have children 4 and 5 years old. They proudly show me their children's pictures on their cell phones. This is a cultural practice I disagree with, but it is not unlike that practiced by the FLDS. Some of you who have visited my blog have taken issue with those who would "export our values and culture to places that already have their own."

As you read the rant of an anonymous FLDS member you can see how they feel about 137 of their small children being removed from their homes:
"You have been fed a steady diet of bull puckey for long enough, why don't you try something else, your taste buds would enjoy it I'm sure. A strong mind is one that thinks for itself, not believes every malcontent filthy liar and every bit of media spin. Nobody, and I mean nobody is being raped!! I promise you that the 6 month old babies aren't being raped. I know of one 14 year old marriage, but in general the girls are older than that, you can keep bringing that up for your purpose of sensationalism as long as you'd like, it still doesn't make it the truth. I also know that every person is given a choice or asked if they are willing, they are not forced into the marriages, and you can go ahead and give us your drivel about brainwashing all you want to, I know I've been there, I wasn't brain washed, I loved what I lived... I made a choice, I was asked and I made that choice, so you will say I was brainwashed. Hogwash. Free will and choice, and a beautiful choice at that, I would way rather be married to a wonderful man that has matured and mellowed, than a young know it all buck... The people of the United States are the ones who are brain washed, with all the TV, sports... Only the Lord God of Heaven has the right to judge us, you don't and I don't have the right to judge you. The United States of America is supposed to be where you can practice what you believe..."

What do you think? If you truly believed it would help her gain celestial glory, would you encourage your 15-year-old daughter to marry an older man? Did your LDS forebears do this very thing? What about our revered Prophets of the Latter days?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

BiV's Blog of the Month

My pick for Blog of the Month for the month of March is one that has only been around for three months:

Temple Study.

I'm really happy when I can highlight a newer blog or a solo blog, and this fits the bill for both. But Bryce Haymond is an exceptional example of a solo blogger. In the month of March, he posted every day, and his posts were meaty and interesting. On his about page we read that he is a conservative TBM and an admirer of Hugh Nibley. In fact, the theme of Temple Study fits the following quote by Nibley, "Latter-day Saints believe that their temple ordinances are as old as the human race and represent a primordial revealed religion that has passed through alternate phases of apostasy and restoration which have left the world littered with the scattered fragments of the original structure, some more and some less recognizable, but all badly damaged and out of proper context..."

I have been fascinated to read Bryce's posts as he presents some of these "scattered fragments." In Early Christian Textile Markings from Fayum Egypt, he blogs about some plain linen burial clothes found in Egyptian tombs which have some interesting markings. In another post he discusses the Tallit Katan - The Sacred Undergarment of Judaism. Don't miss the 6-part series The Genesis of the Round Dance. The visuals on this blog are absolutely breathtaking. They add to the historicity of each post, give just the right touch to the posts and are beautiful aesthetically.

Bryce shows on his blog that he has an artist's soul. Just read this sonnet he wrote in response to Shakespeare's Sonnet 18; and notice how well it fits the theme of his blog.

Look for Bryce as he begins his new post permablogging with Millennial Star. He promises that most of his blogging will still be at Temple Study, and to me that is great news.

BiV's Blog of the Month

My pick for Blog of the Month for the month of March is one that has only been around for three months:

Temple Study.

I'm really happy when I can highlight a newer blog or a solo blog, and this fits the bill for both. But Bryce Haymond is an exceptional example of a solo blogger. In the month of March, he posted every day, and his posts were meaty and interesting. On his about page we read that he is a conservative TBM and an admirer of Hugh Nibley. In fact, the theme of Temple Study fits the following quote by Nibley, "Latter-day Saints believe that their temple ordinances are as old as the human race and represent a primordial revealed religion that has passed through alternate phases of apostasy and restoration which have left the world littered with the scattered fragments of the original structure, some more and some less recognizable, but all badly damaged and out of proper context..."

I have been fascinated to read Bryce's posts as he presents some of these "scattered fragments." In Early Christian Textile Markings from Fayum Egypt, he blogs about some plain linen burial clothes found in Egyptian tombs which have some interesting markings. In another post he discusses the Tallit Katan - The Sacred Undergarment of Judaism. Don't miss the 6-part series The Genesis of the Round Dance. The visuals on this blog are absolutely breathtaking. They add to the historicity of each post, give just the right touch to the posts and are beautiful aesthetically.

Bryce shows on his blog that he has an artist's soul. Just read this sonnet he wrote in response to Shakespeare's Sonnet 18; and notice how well it fits the theme of his blog.

Look for Bryce as he begins his new post permablogging with Millennial Star. He promises that most of his blogging will still be at Temple Study, and to me that is great news.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

How Julie Beck Introduced Me To Blogging

It was April 2, 2006 and I was listening to General Conference. Julie B. Beck, first counselor in the YW General Presidency was the token female speaker. She gave a talk titled An Outpouring of Blessings. It was the first I'd ever heard her speak. As I listened, I began to crawl out of my skin with frustration. Julie's thesis statement was that "through the blessings of the priesthood, we are all given equal partnership, gifts, and blessings." She developed this idea by saying that all faithful members are equally blessed by the priesthood. All babies, whether male or female, can be given a name and a blessing. Girls and boys both can be baptized. Women and men alike partake of the sacrament, receive priesthood blessings, patriarchal blessings, and the higher blessings of temple endowments. She went on and on in this vein and concluded that "through the infinite fairness and love of God, all men and women were given equal partnership, gifts, blessings, and potential."

What she carefully stepped around and never mentioned, was that MEN ARE THE ONES GIVING THESE PRIESTHOOD BLESSINGS. WOMEN ARE PROHIBITED FROM HOLDING THE PRIESTHOOD. What was with all the "equality" talk??

I continued to stew all that day and the next. I had to talk to someone about my feelings, but I knew no one in my Vernal ward would have the least clue of why the talk might be upsetting. I was aware that blogs and chat rooms and internet groups were out there, but I didn't know if I could find anyone discussing this particular subject. I googled around for a while but all I could discover was a small thread on Dave's Mormon Inquiry about the Priesthood Session. Not knowing what a threadjack was, I made my first ever comment. Bored in Vernal was born.

OK, a little embarrassing, it wasn't exactly the greatest place to find someone with whom to commiserate. (I never did find anyone to discuss that particular talk with me!) But I just thought all my readers would be interested to know that you have Julie Beck to thank for my presence here exactly two years and many posts and comments later!