Multiple Tellings of a Story

This is a repost from my old site with an added addendum explaining the real problem. 

The Repost (from Dec 15, 2013)

There are four accounts of Joseph Smith Jr’s first vision story, the story where he saw God that started him on the path of restoring the Gospel of Jesus Christ which is how you got us Mormons in the world.  You can read more about first visions with links to each of the accounts over here: lang=eng

I’ve read them before and I did so again and the differences have never bothered me. I have decided that it was time to articulate why it never bothered me and it all comes down to personal experience. The kind of experience where I am sure if you were to stop and think about it in your own life you would be able to relate to it.

I am going to use a spiritually moving dream I had (without actually telling you the dream because that’s not the point of this post) as an example because it covers all the bases. When telling this dream to different people I tell it differently. To some I emphasize different points in the dream, some more in the beginning, or the middle or the end. I’ll emphasize the points differently, or be more or less animated. I’ll use different metaphors to describe the same things. 

With some people I’ll end up crying, and some not, and with one person in particular I was very mechanical in the telling and actually felt that it was a mistake to tell that person at that time. With some people I’ve left entire sections out because I felt those sections would be meaningless to them. I usually leave out details altogether no matter who I’m telling. I wrote the dream down, but needless to say the way I wrote it down is not exactly the same way I tell it. It’s thinner because details are missing. Since I’ve had the dream I also reflect upon it differently because I am at a different place in my life than I was before and sometimes I share such reflections which changes how I tell the dream. Not once in any telling did I ever lie.

I could use many more examples but I will refrain to avoid writing a novel.
How many times do we do this with other regular mundane life things as well? Do we tell everyone all the details that lead up to the really funny thing that our child did out on the playground? Do we all not edit the little stories of our lives depending on who our audience is? Do we not all sometimes tell only the gist of an event and then wait to reveal another part until we feel safe doing so or until when we feel it’s appropriate or relevant to add the part we held back? Even in a personal journal we know that there’s a possibility that someone may pick it up and read it and thus we may not even feel safe writing every personal thought or feeling down. I know I’ve felt that before and that it’s affected my journal entries.

So, when I read the first vision accounts and that’s what I see in them. They seem humanly consistent to me. I wonder what my spiritual experiences would look like if all my retellings over the years got written down and shown to the world. Perhaps I would look like a liar too.

The real problem is that the church hid these differing accounts. They were unacknowledged for a long long time. That's not okay. It's such a simple thing to explain why there would be different versions. I have often wondered, what if there was more to the vision not revealed? What if he saw Heavenly Mother? Only later did he speak about Her, but maybe Joseph Smith saw her from the beginning and didn't feel safe to speak on it. 

Whatever the case, it would have been a simple thing to talk about the different tellings for different audiences, at different ages, etc. The church could have fostered faith building experiences by talking about the different versions openly. Instead, the church hid the truth and thus fostered confusion and doubt, the very thing they were trying to avoid.

"Maybe I will get to be a Bishop some day."

I remember when I was nine or ten years old, living in the Dry Creek ward (congregation) of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), smiling at Bishop Hartung from afar, greeting people who needed to talk to him. (Bishops are more like pastors in the Mormon church.) I knew he had a good and righteous role of helping people. I loved that.

So there I was, looking from afar, smiling, and feeling good, filled with light, and I said to my mom, "Maybe I will get to be a Bishop someday."

And that's when the anvil dropped.

That's when my mother explained to me that you have to have the Priesthood in order to become the Bishop, that only men held the Priesthood, so therefore I cannot ever be a Bishop because I'm a girl.

All that light and goodness I was feeling went out, and I don't remember what I said beyond "Oh." I remember internalizing that women are naturally more spiritual and men needed the Priesthood to be closer to God. I remember internalizing the Priesthood can only be exercised righteously which confused me because my paternal parent was not acting righteously.

I remember, sweeping that whole experience I had looking at Bishop Hartung with all this light and love and wanting to be a part of that all under the rug because it wasn't for me. It was a hardline no.

I'm writing about this now, because I am doing Mel Robbins #BestDecadeEver free program thing. And in it she has us writing our dreams, our big dreams, and while listening to her talk this came up. And it hurts. I feel sick to my stomach. I feel anxiety, shallower breathing, pain building in my head as my heart rate jumps, and it's this big thing of YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED. NO GIRLS ALLOWED. And then it gets worse. YOU ARE UNWORTHY. Unworthy why? Because I don't have a penis.

Unworthy doubly because it's better to be dead than to be raped according to the lessons I received at church.  Unworthy because I was a licked cupcake that no  one wants except the person who licked the cupcake. I was unworthy because somehow I wasn't modest enough, nor good enough, to stop it from happening.

And to top it all off. I was unrighteously desiring power, no one should ever want to be a Bishop, so I felt horrible for my unrighteous desire, and doubly horrible because I wanted to kill my paternal parent, because I wasn't forgiving him, and I have to forgive in order to get into the highest degree of Heaven, celestial glory.

Weirdly enough, the idea of a fairy tale Temple marriage to a righteous man helped me have hope. My spiritual experiences helped me have hope. Our belief that Eve made the right choice in Eden was powerful to me. The idea of personal revelation and continuing revelation, and the articles of faith, and all that, were all so helpful to me.

But my soul was still crushed. Because to be a Bishop was a secret dream. A dream I can never have because my own church finds me unfit for it because I'm a woman. This, along with being taught we shouldn't desire such power, made it harder for me to believe Jesus when  he said that we would do greater miracles than he. Because who am I? A woman? To think that I could be greater than Jesus Christ?

(John 14:12 "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." KJV)

But maybe,  maybe that "he" doesn't mean all of us this time?

Typing this all out, I feel ill, because the indoctrination is strong. I am unrighteous for wanting to be a Bishop.

But O God, I want to be a Bishop.

But I'm unrighteous for that, which means I am evil because only evil wants what they should not want, that's how Lucifer became Satan according to church mythos.

But O God, I want to be a Stake President.

And I look at Pope Francis, so humble compared to the rest, and I think I want that. But not with the Catholic church, I want that in my own.

But no. It is unrighteous to want more than I want.
Even the prophetesses in the Bible don't get the Priesthood. They are just special witnesses. And oh, even though we are endowed with the holy garment so fhte Priesthood in the Temple it's not the same as what the men have.

I should not want.

But I do. I want to truly walk as Jesus walked, and more. I want that promise Jesus made, to do greater things than he.

I want to serve. I want to help families be stronger families, no matter what they look like. I want to help people feel the Spirit, to know they are loved. I want to be that trusted religious authority who  does it right like Pope Francis, and that person who despite that position isn't afraid to say I'm so sorry I was wrong, to say I'm human just like you, You have equal authority in your life, more so than I really. That it's not "power over" but "power with".

To stand for truth and righteousness in all times and in all things and in all places. To have faith in the people. To help them not be so reliant on me, but on themselves and their own spiritual experiences and that it's okay to make mistakes. That mistakes aren't sins. That you aren't a bad person when bad things happen to you. Just like how Joseph Smith talked about fostering in the early church.

I know that I am valued. I bear the Gift of Discernment, nay, the Spirit of Discernment for the gift has grown, through study and practice by the Spirit of God. I believe in the direction I receive from my Heavenly Parents. I know they will not and have not led me astray.

But somehow. Somehow, I still feel evil, because despite doing what I do as guided by God, I am still that little girl that believes she is evil for wanting to be a Bishop.

Note: I did not edit this at all.

Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 3: In the LDS Church (yes, really)

I first wrote this back in the beginning of 2018. It is still relevent, so here it is in its entirety:

This is part three in a planned 3 part series. In part one, Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 1: The Story of Lot , we discuss the idea that extreme normalization of rape, where you could demand to rape someone's guests. In part two,  Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 2: In the World. we discuss why religious leaders saying that we are becoming more like those cities is true.

And now for the uncomfortable part. Looking at my/our own church. We often speak of the vilest of sins happening out in the world, as if sexual abuse and rape were rare among Mormons, as if leaders never take sexual advantage of our children, as if abuse doesn't happen, among our members, but it happens in our own church too.

Back in 2009 we had a LDS semninary teacher raping a student.   The nice thing about this case is that at least he got 5 years in jail for it. A small victory.

I have heard several stories from women who have had Bishops ignore them when it comes to spousal rape. Most of those stories were shared in confidence so I cannot relate further details, but there is one where spousal rape threat was evident in a violently abusive marriage, but the Bishops this woman talked to over the years were unhelpful. Early signs of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
After the Porter incident this article came out about how many women were told to stay in physically and sexually abusive marriages. This is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

In the Handbook given to Bishops a disciplinary council is NOT mandatory in cases of rape, sexual abuse, spousal abuse, and other abuses. Here is a screenshot. Note the #MormonMeToo  hashtag. This a policy that breeds Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

Our worthiness interviews given by Bishops to our youth are often sexually explicit. While on the surface it seems reasonable, but in reality what you have is an older man, alone with a child, asking sexual questions. Children are taught to trust these leaders and to go along with it, and thus we have grooming patterns begin, making it easier for children to become victims of sexual predators and pedophiles. There is a movement to end this called Protect LDS Children. These sexually explicit interviews are early signs of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

One of the most egregious things I have heard in the news, however, is the story of McKenna Denson who was raped by her MTC President, Joseph L Bishop. This man admitted in an interview (you can listen to it here) that he was a sex addict and would prey on young women in the MTC. He said that if the church knew of all he had done he would be the Harvey Weinstein of the church. And in case you don't know who he is, read up on Wikipedia (that's what I had to do since I wasn't familiar with that reference).

Despite the confession, I have seen people excuse the behavior, or blame McKenna for what happened. Why should she be blamed? She was groomed to trust her male leaders completely. Not only that he CONFESSED. There should be no debate here. This is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.
McKenna described a secret basement room in the MTC, with a bed and TV, which the Church denied existed, but a former MTC employee testified of its existence. Why on Earth deny something like that? You can easily verify it's veracity. Not being willing to investigate is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

Some people said well, why did she wait so long to talk about it? The answer is, she didn't and the Church repeatedly failed McKenna. She has been trying to seek justice for years. She reported it to her Bishop, Bishop Leavitt and did all that she could, but found no recourse. Here is an interview of Bishop Leavitt who decided that her story wasn't worth believing and couldn't sully a man's reputation over "something like this". This is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

In a press conference, it is revealed that the Church knew about previous sexual issues that Mr Bishop had supposedly repented of, and yet he was still approved by the First Presidency to be the MTC President. That's like asking a recovering alcoholic to start bartending. To approve of putting him in that position of authority (assuming Mr Bishop had actually repented) put Mr Bishop in a position to relapse which he did. (Again assuming he was once sincere. I personally doubt it due to the cavalier way he confessed.) Not only that, putting someone at risk of a relapse put the women of the MTC in danger. The leaders who called Mr Bishop, and the following approval engaged in Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

I have heard reports from people that in their ward (congregation) that there are men who are known sex offenders being called to sensitive positions, such as the Bishopric, which needs approval from The First Presidency, even after this story of McKenna came out!  Some people were successful in convincing their Bishops to release these sex offenders. These reports were given in confidence, so I have no link, however, here is a related newsstory. To allow such people to have authority over our children is unconscionable and is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.  Even after they have repented since relapses happen and some repent only to gain trust to have access to easy victims.

Now, one would think that ultimately the church would act honorably. That's what our members are trained to think. This is Christ's church. Jesus Christ is the Head of the Church. So, of course the Church will do the right thing and excommunicate Mr Bishop. But no, instead, the Church dug up dirt on McKenna, which sends a message that if any victim speaks out dirt will be dug. To engage in any kind of character assassination against a victim of rape is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. Especially since there was a confession from her rapist!

You would think that with such an obvious confession, and with how Mr Bishop had previously repented of sexual abuse sin, but continued in sex abuse sins afterward, deceiving everyone, he would be excommunicated forthwith. But no. That has not happened. A known serial rapist, who has admitted to his crimes, has NOT been excommunicated. Instead, what we got only two of sentences in a talk in General Conference last April  I quote "It is commendable that nonconsensual immorality has been exposed and denounced.19 Such nonconsensual immorality is against the laws of God and of society" (referencing the #MeToo movement according to the footnote).

Aside from the issues of refusing to call rape, rape, and sexual assault, sexual assault, you put your money where your mouth is. If you really believe it is "commendable" to "denounce" and to "oppose" such things, then you will follow that up with action such as, this is why Joseph L Bishop has been excommunicated, this is why we are changing how we do worthiness interviews - we're going to change how we train Bishops, and tell men to be men, and don't allow rape or any other form of sexual violence or sexual harassment to happen on your watch, etc.

But no, that has not happened. To refuse to do so is the worst kind of pride, the kind that perpetuates and allows these things to continue when you have the power to change it, and that, is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

So yes, here is my Church, the one that gave me so much truth, engaging in Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. I am convinced that if these male sex offenders were women, they would be ex'd fast. I am convinced that if these male sex offenders were hurting boys or young men they would be ex'd so fast. But no, it's male sex offenders against women, and we have a church culture that tells women that WE are responsible for the sexual actions of men by the way we dress and act. Elder Holland in a talk discusses how incorrect that is, so incorrect that it makes him want to throw up! Here is a link to where that section starts, and it lasts for about 5 minutes, but the throw up line comes up within the first minute.  This kind of thinking, that women control men's morality by how we dress and behave, is a precursor to Sodom and Gomorrah thinking, and oh, how we are paying the price.

We need now more than ever that kind of intense no nonsense attitude Elder Holland had in that talk linked above. We need Elder Holland, Elder Uchtdorf, and the others to stand up and say no more, and to repent as a church, to make public apologies, and to make the necessary changes in order to remedy this awful thing of Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. Otherwise the soul of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will die while still living on, like an insect infected with a parasite that takes over the host's mind (1, 2). And if that happens, the Church as in institution will be as Samson from the story of Samson and Delilah, where Samson was given great blessings and promises of doing great things and saving many souls that will not bear fruit due to the egregious erroneous choices he made that prevented him from fulfilling that life's mission.

The Prophet and Apostles can choose, now, to do the hard thing, the brave thing, the right thing. I ask the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to choose be true men of faith, to be true men of virtue.

Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 2: In the World

I first wrote this back in the beginning of 2018. It is still relevent, so here it is in its entirety:

In part one we looked only at the story of Lot in relation to why Sodom and Gomorrah was destroyed. It had a whole lot to do with rape.  Here is the link to that: Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 1: The Story of Lot

In 2001, Gordon B Hinckley, Prophet and President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at the time, said: " All of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah haunt our society. Our young people have never faced a greater challenge. We have never seen more clearly the lecherous face of evil." (Living in the Fullness of Times, Oct 2001, General Conference)

Mr Hinckley, I do agree with you.  We have evidence in our news of people raping and sexually assaulting others, many of them getting away with it. Here are a few specific cases that are a drop in the bucket.

We have the Steubinville case  where a girl was gang raped repeatedly by a some members of the football team and the coach tried to hide it, and some news outlets even spoke about how awful it is that the lives of the boys were ruined, ignoring the longterm effects on the poor girl. Yeah, no joke, the football program was more important than the crime. (about the case: 1,2, 3)

We have Brock Turner, who raped an incapacitated woman. She was rescued by two good men. The names of those good men are Carl-Fredrik Arndt and Peter Jonsson. Modern day heroes whom every man needs to emulate.  (more about those awesome men, thank you, we love you, we need more men like you) Yet, despite the fact that we have two witnesses, we have a rape degraded to "20  minutes of action" (ugh - spoken by his dad, now we see where he got it from)  and the victim was asked questions as if she were the criminal (her letter).  What makes it worse is that he only got 6 months in jail. Scratch that. That's his sentencing. He actually served only half that (sigh).  (more on the case)

We have an assistant high school soccer coach sexually assaulting students. (link)

We have a 14 year old girl who was pimped out by her parents to make car payments and also for drugs. The media would call it sex, which it isn't, it's human trafficking and rape. And one media outlet almost got it right by calling it pimping but they put the word pimp in quotes as if it weren't really pimping, oh wait, human trafficking. (couple articles: 1 2 3).  Crazily, that ain't the only incidence of such things. A Florida Mom did the same (O-O) Older kids pimping out younger kids. (I can't even)

Three officers finger raped a woman on camera, and were not disciplined for it, despite no warrant and no real cause for it. (I have no words)

We have the whole "incel" movement, a group of men who say they are involuntarily celibate and want to force women, particularly pretty women, to have sex with them (this would be called rape). There is a lot of info on this and I particularly appreciate this blog post about it.

Then we have the ENTIRE #metoo movement! Nearly 18 million women have reported sexual assault since 1998, and that's only the reported stuff.   As RAINN points out (link below) about 54%  of cases go unreported. Kinda hard to say something when you get burned by the fourth degree which is what makes the #metoo movement so powerful.

The rape and sexual assault statistics provided by RAINN don't even include sexual harassment. And often these statistics LEAVE OUT, child sexual abuse! Which is prevalent. One in five girls and one in twenty boys will be a victim of child sexual abuse, over 90% will be sexually abused by someone they know and are related to.

So yes, we live in a culture where rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment is common and little justice is done. In the story of Lot, rape and incestual rape was prevalent in Sodom and Gomorrah.

So I would say, yes. Yes Mr Hinckley, we absolutely do have a Sodom and Gomorrah problem in our society. And yes, absolutely we need to teach our youth to stand up for women and boys who are being sexually harassed, assaulted, and raped. Because we have cases of rape happening and no one doing anything. Another grim example, a girl in Richmond was gang raped outside of homecoming dance and there were bystanders watching the whole thing. There was no hero to say NO. No hero to call the police and report they are witnessing a crime. (1 2)

We need to teach our young men to say, NO, NOT ON OUR WATCH.

And we need to teach our young women to speak up and fight alongside the young men. The young men who are harmed by this culture of rape need women and young women to believe them just as much as women and young women need men and young men to believe us. To combat the lecherous evils surrounding us we need to watch each other's backs with forthrightness and honor, like the Stripling Warriors, like Captain America, like Abish and the wife of Nephi, like Wonder Woman and Superman.

We need to teach our children how to be heroes.

Sodom and Gomorrah Thinking Part 1: The Story of Lot

I first wrote this back in the beginning of 2018. It is still relevent, so here it is in its entirety:

For this first segment (there will be at least three parts) I am going to discuss the story of Lot and his escape from Sodom and Gomorrah. I understand that very often people quote other scripture about the horrible sins of these cities, sins such as lasciviousness and not taking care of the poor and needy. People particularly love to quote Ezekiel 16:48–50 in regards to Sodom and Gomorrah but there are several scriptures about those cities throughout the Bible (Isaiah, Lamentations, Amos, Jeremiah,  and several others including the New Testament).

But I am not going to discuss those scriptures. Googling "the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah" will get you a wealth of discourse on those scriptures. No, today, I am going to speak only to the evidence presented in the actual story preceding the destruction of Sodom where Lot lived.

At church (I go to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) we often think of Lot as a prophet of God, which is kinda funny considering we believe his brother Abraham to be a prophet of God. I'm not so sure that Lot was actually a prophet, but perhaps. If so, it is a story of a prophet who got screwed over.

Lot and Abraham (Abram at the time) separated ways because they had grown so wealthy  that if they stayed together there would not be enough for all their flocks to eat. So Abram said, hey, let's split up so no one dies, and you can choose which direction you want to go to and I'll go in the other direction.  Lot agrees, and chooses his direction. Their parting was amiable.

Lot settles over in Sodom and pitches his tent toward Sodom, meaning his tent opening faced the city which is symbolic of him accepting the culture of Sodom instead of pitching his tent toward God, at least this is how we discuss this at church, though he was probably trying to be the nice new neighbor in town. (This is in Genesis 13)

Then there's some drama where Lot is essentially in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets caught by a bunch of kings fighting each other,  and Abram saves him. Abram and Sarai deal with infertility, etc. Then Abram, now called Abraham, gets a warning from three angels (or holy men) that Sodom and Gomorrah will be destroyed. Abraham pleads with the Lord not to destroy the cities for the sake of the righteous and the Lord agrees that if there were ten righteous people living in them, then the cities will be spared. Unfortunately for those cities there weren't even ten decent human beings among them.  (Genesis 14-18)

Now we come to Lot (Chapter 19). Lot also has angels visit; holy men, we often call them at church, probably because people could see them with their naked eye. In the King James Version it says two, in the Joseph Smith translation it says three. Heck, maybe they're the same ones who visited Abraham. Either way, Lot gets warned, but unfortunately some people in Sodom noticed that Lot had some visitors who were different from the standard fair. (I wonder if  they saw the shining goodness in those holy peeps and being evil people they wanted to do something awful to force the light to dim.)

These men of Sodom went to Lot's home, pounded on the door until it almost broke, and  demanded that they be given Lot's guests to rape them. Now, this verse is often used at church to talk about the evils of homosexuality.  However, there was nothing consensual about this interaction. These people thought it was okay to bang on someone's door and demand to rape the people visiting. Whatever your feelings on homosexuality, this is not about homosexual sex, this is clearly a rape issue, and rape is all about power and control, the kind that does harm instead of good.

In the King James Version of the Bible we get Lot saying, no no, not these holy men, but here rape my daughters instead! Now, if this is the correct version, what does that say? It says Lot has been adversely affected by the evil culture of Sodom. No true prophet of God would ever offer up his daughters to such a heinous act. To do so is Sodom and Gomorrah thinking. To find justifications for Lot doing such an evil though is also Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

However, in the Joseph Smith Translation, this is NOT what Lot does. In this rendition Lot does the opposite,. When he says, no way, I am not turning over my guests to you, the rapists at his door then said, fine, give us your daughters to rape instead and Lot begs them to not do such a thing trying to use the virginity of his daughters to leverage some measure of compassion and morality out of these evil people. That didn't work. The angels of God, the holy men, then had to rescue Lot and thus Lot's daughters from these insane people. The JST frequently gets skipped in Sunday School lessons. Instead I hear justifications for Lot offering up his daughters when in reality, according to our own original Prophet that is not what actually happened. It's a bit frustrating. (JST version)

Now, with the demands to rape Lot's daughter, we see heterosexual rape, so again, this story isn't about homosexuality, it's about a society so steeped in a culture of rape where they actually thought it was okay to come to someone's home, demand to rape their guests, and then to demand to rape their daughters. Now, think about it. What kind of culture must they live in where they felt like they were in the right to be loud and obnoxious without fear of getting in trouble to demand these things? And do they even sound like the kind of people who would care about the poor and needy, or morality at all for that matter?

But this is not all. We have Lot, his wife, and two unmarried daughters. They were warned to not look back and look at the city being rained down upon by fire as they fled. Mama does though, probably thinking of her other kids and grandchildren, and turns into a pillar of salt which is a whole other topic. And we are left only with Lot and his two virgin daughters. They end up living in a cave for a while near Zoar.

And then his daughters do something unspeakable. They get their father drunk, and have sex with him while he is so inebriated he can't tell them no. Oh, wait. That's rape. Lot's daughters rape him, and they do so enough times to get pregnant. Now, at church I have heard that those girls believed they were the last people on Earth. Malarky. They knew about Uncle Abraham. They were just living up in a cave for far too long because their dad was afraid to live in Zoar. But those daughters justify it by  saying we'll preserve his seed.

So here we have two girls colluding together to rape their father and justifying it. They had been infected by the evil culture of Sodom. They had engaged in typical Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.  In the Joseph Smith Translation it makes it very clear that "they did wickedly", but again, at church, we justify their actions by saying they didn't believe there were any other humans on Earth. This is also Sodom and Gomorrah thinking.

Of course they would have at least known about Abraham, and all the different Kings that had clashed together that Lot accidentally got in the middle of. Back in Chapter 14 there were several kings mentioned, not just the ones of Gomorrah and of Sodom. There was the king of Zoar and of Admah, and of Elam, and of Shinar and several others, all clashing together. You think Lot didn't at least tell of that capture and escape? Maybe he left out Abram when telling it to his kids to make himself look better, but his children likely knew of all these other kings.

So no. They knew there were other people. They simply were deeply affected by the very toxic evil culture of Sodom, where it was perfectly okay to pound on someone's door and demand to rape their guests or daughters without fear of punishment. This is exactly the kind of culture that would be full of haughty, lascivious, selfish, uncaring, people; the kind who ignore the poor and needy, and engage in dehumanizing and exploiting others.

Perhaps Lot, according to the JST version, was the only decent human being left. If you don't believe in the JST version, then the only reason Lot got to live at all was because the Lord remembered Abraham (Chapter 18), and went ahead and saved Lot, not because Lot was righteous, but because Abraham probably asked it of the Lord and the Lord said yes.

You might think, what of the children? Well, in that kind of culture, the children had probably learned to be horrible and were probably regularly sexually exploited. Maybe even the babies too. Growing up in a culture of sexual abuse, rape, and exploitation would have doomed them, so perhaps it was a kindness to those children and babies.

Think about it, Lot's whole family came from righteousness and fell into such moral depravity after they moved in, so much so that two of the three survivors committed incestual rape. To grow up into that? It's heartbreaking.

And I bet it was heartbreaking for Lot to find his daughters pregnant. He probably wept, devastated, unable to trust them, and perhaps hated himself for choosing to try to be such a good neighbor to the people of Sodom, for moving in in the first place, for staying up in the cave for so long. Perhaps he accepted the justification his daughters gave him so he could love the children they bore. Who knows. We can only speculate. We never even hear from him again. (Though we hear a little bit about the descendants, the people of Moab and the people of Ammon) Regardless, how horrible it must have been for him to know that his daughters had been so deeply affected by Sodom and Gomorrah thinking, and how troubling it would be to try to remove that stain from his line, to not pass it on.

Pants. No Big Deal, Right? Wrong!

This was originally posted on my old site on December 8, 2013. Here it is in its entirety:

Story time.

A few weeks ago at church I sat in the foyer, just outside the chapel during sacrament meeting like I sometimes do. A nice looking lady enters the foyer through the double doors right in front me, walks toward me but is clearly going to behind me into the multi-purpose room (gym) that the back of the chapel is opened up to in order to allow for the over flow of people to sit in the meeting (though, really, some of that could be fixed if everyone were on time and were willing to sit up front and in the center of the pews more, but whatever).

I tell the lady there’s room in the chapel. She doesn’t hear me, so I repeat myself, at which point she’s closer to me, and explain, “I just sit out here sometimes because I feel like, so there’s plenty of room to sit inside with everyone else.”

Then this lady explains that she can’t because she’s wearing pants. All her dresses were packed away, I think. I don’t quite remember exactly why her dresses were unavailable, there was some good reason for it, but whatever the case, her circumstances required her to wear pants. Then she says that there are some women rebelling and that she didn’t want to be associated with them, so she was going to slip in the back and then slip out again, and even miss out on Sunday School and Relief Society (the women’s meeting).

I repeatedly tell her, “No you look fine. I didn’t even notice you were wearing pants. It’s okay, just be here.”  Alas, it didn’t matter what I said, she went and sat in the back. I just wanted her to be there and I felt so bad that she felt so uncomfortable.

Later, an FB post about Pants Day came up.

So, let me explain Pants Day real quick, it was a thing that happened last year to raise awareness of discrimination against women who wear pants to church as well as women’s empowerment. I kinda thought it was dumb. I always figured,  if you want to wear pants to church wear pants to church. It felt like stories of women being ostracized, of members treating women wearing pants as being two steps away from apostasy, of women losing their callings over it, seemed over blown. Surely something else was going on. However, out of respect for people’s feelings I would say, no one should be judgmental over pants if I ever felt like commenting. Normally I didn’t really say much.

Then, in the facebook group, Exploring Sainthood Community, Pants Day came up. This lady had already been on my mind, off and on ever since, so I go ahead and read this thread. Then, a man posts about his sister’s experience. I wish I could remember this guy’s name and that the search function actually worked so I could find it. Anyway, there was something about her experience, the details I don’t remember well, of how she was treated at church over wanting to wear pants at church because that was what she was comfortable wearing, that just hit me. And suddenly, I knew that the majority of these stories that I had been hearing this past year were not over blown. Not only that, but I needed to support these women who were being hurt by participating in something as goofy sounding as Pants Day. (Which is on the 15th of this month.)

Fast forward a bit.

Fast and testimony meeting was coming up (where we all fast, give some money to help the poor in the ward – which was what we call a congregation, and some people in the congregation get to bear their testimonies of the truthfulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ up at the pulpit if they want to). I briefly wondered if God was gonna ask me to deliver a message again. (I have this thing where I don’t bother going up to bear my testimony unless moved upon by the Spirit. Sometimes it’s a delight to do so, whereas at other times it can be varying degrees of eye-popping-soul-terrorizing-distress and then I go do it anyway, [edit: and feel good about it after the fact].) So, I have that thought, and of course, what comes to mind? The lady who wore pants to church and my new found commitment to Pants Day.

I immediately commence in the instant prayer thing. So, what’s the point of that? Just talking about it, it seems kinda, well political almost. How could it work and be appropriate for fast and testimony meeting? Then, blossoming in my mind I saw myself standing at the pulpit, wearing pants (O_O), talking about how heart breaking it was to see that lady’s discomfort when all I wanted was for her to be with us. Then I thought, about how we’re tearing each other apart over what we’re wearing, about how much God loves us, and is unhappy about people judging others for the clothes they wear. It’s not the sisters wearing pants that’s the problem. It’s people judging them for wearing pants that’s the problem.

Then that little vision went away, and I thought, sort of sending my thoughts out to the Spirit (or to the universe, whatever you want to call it) at the same time, really? Is that really want you want me to do?


HOLY CRAP. I am so uncomfortable with that!

So, of course, me being me, when I’m uncomfortable with something, I keep asking about it. The answer was always yes, and I never got much in the way of details about what to say. When I would ask for more details it was always, as usual, you’ll receive it when you’re up there. (I think there’s a conspiracy to keep me authentic or something.)

The first Sunday of the month comes along. The day of fast and testimony. The day to wear pants to church. On purpose. All Sunday. And to tell everyone about it. Holy crap. I stand in front of the mirror in the bathroom, looking at my clothes, and my heart starts racing. I begin a prayer, “Dear Heavenly Parents, is this really-”

“For my daughters.”

Yes. They totally cut me off.

And I totally buck up and put on the pants. It was a nice outfit though.

So, I’m all jittery going to church, opening up the library, taking care of before church needs (I’m the librarian at church), and even managing a bit of compassionate service in the mix. I’m wondering the whole time what people are thinking of me. I’m super nervous when sacrament meeting starts. The time comes. And, because of helping out someone out, I was in the foyer so I have to walk in, then take a really long walk, all the way up the pulpit, and wait my turn.

I stand up, move the microphone, panic because I think I’m getting dizzy from a sudden migraine but it turns out that one of the fellows behind me was just lowering the podium. Yeah, I was nervous. Then I tell them that the Spirit told me to do something uncomfortable and that sometimes when that happens I double check to make sure I’m getting the message right, but I needed to tell them about a lady I met first otherwise it won’t make sense (I apologized to the guys that I couldn’t just cut to the chase because it really wouldn’t make sense). I relate to them the tale of the lady. Then about Pants Day and my old opinion, and then about the stories I heard (but omitted my opinion of those stories).
So then I said that the Spirit told me to do something uncomfortable, and I double checked again this morning (meaning the morning of the testimony) and before I finished the prayer, the spirit said, “for my daughters” and the Spirit asked me to wear pants.

At that point, I burst into tears saying, and I’m really uncomfortable. I’m just like that lady. So there I was, wanting her to stay and just be with us and not even noticing her wearing pants, and now that I’m wearing pants I was just like her feeling horribly uncomfortable and worried about being horribly judged. Over pants. We need to just relax, and I say this in a relaxing meditative zen voice ahhhhhh, relief kind of tone. We should just come to church dressed comfortably without worrying about what others are wearing. We’re all in this together, and it doesn’t matter where you are spiritually. You can be way up high spiritually, like Brother Dave  (haha, totally called you out almost extra publicly because it’s sans last name, this is what you get for being a great Gospel Doctrine teacher) and oh, he’s turning into a tomato that’s awesome (he totally did too, his wife, Sarah, was laughing so hard – love that woman, she makes me wish I were in Young Women’s again so I could have her as a leader) or can be not so great or one of those people who think they're not so great at spiritual stuff but you really are but it doesn’t matter because we’re all just starting from where we are and working together to be a better (Zion) people.

What matters is what’s on your inside. Not the clothes you wear. You could be “ugly” (I used air quotes) or horribly disfigured, but who cares? No trips over that because it’s who you are spiritually that matters, so who cares if you’re wearing pants to church? God looketh on the heart. I know that Joseph Smith is/was a prophet of God, and that Christ lives and thinks we’re worth it. That Heavenly Father and Mother loves us and think we’re worth it. In the name of Jesus Christ Amen.

Then there was the long walk back out and I’m thinking everyone’s looking at my pants, and I’m wondering how people took it. But, it’s all good. I felt good. I did what God wanted me to do. I felt buoyed up, lighter, and suddenly like, I could dress in whatever I felt was appropriate to honor God in at church. Something I had never experienced before in all my years at church. Oh yeah, I did mention somewhere that I almost never wear dresses except for at church so for me dresses were doing something different on a Sunday.

During this I noticed that my daughter had opened the doors to the chapel and stood in the doorway after I started crying and was like wow. She had no idea that I had this pants issue. Frankly, I didn’t either. I didn’t realize I was just like that lady until I was up there. Oh, but God knew and used it for the extra spiritual punch. That’s okay though (I’m grinning at the orchestration of the event actually).

During the whole time I spoke, God did as was promised. I was given all the words I needed.  I spoke with reverence, with love, with humor, and thus with inclusive power that lifts people up. The kind of power that rejuvenates and heals, if you let it. .

The problem with translating what happened to a blog post is, some of that gets lost in translation. You don’t get the spiritual soul zinger but hopefully you get enough. I was also human too and thus relateable. (Hm, maybe that’s why God uses fallible prophets instead of just sending angels to get us to do things all the time.)

Afterward, in the library, I had people express appreciation or that I looked just fine. One lady came into the library specifically to see the pants because she totally didn’t notice that I was wearing pants and needed to see it. Brother Dave gave me a hug before going off to teach his class (unless it wasn’t his week to teach, sadly I miss his classes now that I’m in the library). A fellow MoFem (Feminist Mormon) told me in Relief Society (if the library gets quiet I sometimes go into Relief Society before the end of church return all the things rush) that she loved my pants.

Another lady came in who was visiting from another ward that she came to church in pants because it was too cold for a dress and she felt the same way I did. And she was like, it’s not like I was dressed promiscuously. I said that’s true, but what if they’re just trying to be pretty and that’s how they feel pretty? I remember dressing in a very sexy outfit for my husband. I looked at myself in the mirror and I suddenly saw myself completely differently. I was beautiful. (stunningly so, really). I don’t think of myself in those terms. I told my husband about it, and how I don’t think of myself as being beautiful all the time like one would think of a flower as beautiful all the time. My husband said that I was beautiful all the time and that’s not his fault that I don’t see it. (Thanks media messages, but that’s an different post.)

I also told this lady, that a woman in another ward said that when she first joined the church she’d wear promiscuous clothes without realizing what she was saying about herself but no one said anything to her about it but slowly over time she changed what she wore as she learned more about the Gospel. This lady was like, wow, that’s a good point. (I’m kinda sad this lady is in the other ward, she was cool, we talked about other stuff too, and she had a cute passel of children.)

Today, I’m going to church in a dress. Next week, for Pants Day, it’s in pants. Then after that, I’m gonna shake it up. Now I’ll just have to see if I can find shoes I can sprint in comfortably that also look nice. Maybe then I’d be comfortable wearing a dress to work.

Oh yeah, and I should say, the Bishop was totally cool. He didn’t say anything about it, but I have an awesome Bishop.

Edit: Oh, and some people came up to me and said I was really brave. It was appreciated but also seemed to emphasize the point of my testimony.

(small confession: I didn’t proof read this post before posting this time)
[Edit: I did a little just now. But fiddly bit stuff, no real change to the words and meanings]

Welcome to That Which Hurts

This is where I will be speaking on That Which Hurts;  "that" being the things that people don't like to hear, the things that make people think I can't possibly be a Lady of Radiant Joy if I speak about such things because they don't spark joy; necessary things.

We cannot heal the world by only looking at the good things in it.

We cannot heal the world by only looking at the bad things in it.

We can only heal the world by accepting all of it, together, that things are the way they are because they are.

But that is not enough. We have to go further.

We can only heal the world by having a vision of what we want in the future, so we can do everything in our power to do the things we can in-the-now to build the bridge between the now-we-want-to-change so we can enjoy the now-of-the-future-we-envision.

We cannot cross the bridge before it is built. May we all do our part in its construction, a labor of love, and cross that bridge to our vision.

A vision of love and beauty, where we can work out our problems without hate and harm.