The Assistant Primary Chorister

In June, I volunteered to be the Assistant Primary Chorister.  I emailed the Bishop and the Primary President and asked if they would consider an unusual arrangement …  I offered to conduct, helping out the Primary Chorister once or twice a month even though that is all I attend my ward.  The Bishop responded he was supportive, but left the decision up to the more conservative Primary President, who talked with the Primary Chorister – who said I “was an answer to her prayers”.
After I came and watched her once and then co-did singing time the following week, we’ve worked out an arrangement where I lead the music every three weeks.  This has given her a consistent break.  I also covered a couple weeks when she was on vacation and will try to be available if her kids get sick.  Essentially I’m a dedicated sub.  I’ve really been enjoying it.  I love singing and interacting with the kids.  I still consider myself an agnostic Mormon but for some reason singing doesn’t bother me the way doctrinal discussions might.  Basically I think of it as all poetry and of course vocal exercises. And a chance to get to know the children of my friends better.
I’ve discovered all the Primary blogs and want to share some of the things that I have done so far.  For those that are or have had a calling as the Primary Music Leader (the more PC and actual term for the calling), I’d love to hear some of your secrets.  Basically my secret is to google blogs … and to coordinate with the other leader.  I’m mentioning the range of things I’ve done but am also noting some of the “feminist” things I’ve done.
1)      To start singing time, I have the kids stand up and stretch.  And then sing a couple of wiggle songs (5 minutes).  I want to introduce a few vocal exercises like vibrating lips with some of the silly songs.  Singing “wiggle songs”  has helped maintain the reverence better afterwards – even in the senior primary in which there are a bunch of 10 and 11 year old boys.  I got the idea from and .  There are obviously a ton of quick songs that can be rotated to have a fun 5 minutes.  I’ve now printed out the cards from the ocd chorister site that can be used for the kids to pick.  I’d like to make the “wiggle worm jar” but am not that invested yet …
2)      I’ve mostly used pre-exisiting props and review games for the songs they are learning for the program that have previously been introduced to them.
3)      I somewhat obsessively organized the props and materials (particularly the ones I’ve made), so they can easily be shared between whoever is conducting.  I asked for a file box from the Primary presidency.
4)      To introduce/review “when I am baptized” (although they sung it for last years program –it was the first song I was asked to introduce and it had been awhile for them), I had the junior primary help me construct a rainbow with different pieces of construction paper.  We’ve put up the rainbow a couple times.  I wrote out the words to the songs on paper (different color or paper and marker per verse).  With the senior primary, after singing it through once, we started pulling the pieces of paper with the words down so they were memorizing the song.  This was inspired by reading a couple blogs including – which also makes the point to emphasize it discussion that baptism isn’t really about wrongs being washed away for little kids.  When we review it again, I like the idea of putting the words as rain drops to music that the kids can follow along with sticks, as done by multiple blogs including and
5)      To introduce “families can be together forever,” since there weren’t any good props and I didn’t have enough time to prepare anything fancy, I just went through the song repeating line by line, having the words written out on paper.  To review it, and having found a great idea a week late, I had the junior primary color pictures of their families on top of construction paper with the words to the song written out (which I wasn’t sure if I was going to use, but since I ended up with 40 minutes with them, and had prepared them), it was perfect. The kids beamed as I showed off their pictures as we went through it – particularly the 7 year old girls who drew zombies in their picture of eternity.  I like to think this helped the kids learn the song better. (see for the original idea )
6)      To introduce A Childs Prayers, I found awesome pictures at  (which get a special feminist mention for having Heavenly Mother in them).  I went through the pictures and explained them which seemed to help the junior primary a lot.  Having gone through the song, with printed words with the senior primary, the week before, the pictures also challenged them to remember the words.  I was a bit nervous to lead the split version of the song, but the senior primary actually requested it.  When I initially split left vs. right -some of the boys said “aren’t the boys suppose to sing the 2nd” and I said no it can be sung split lots of different ways – which is why I then had them sing it girls/boys and the boys/girls as well.  I’ve now printed some cards out that splits who sings the third verse by favorite colors, color of hair, etc. to review it in the future. 
7)      Even though it is not one of the program songs, to finish senior primary, I have introduced the first verse of “Ill Walk with You” with just printed words a couple times.  I will eventually get to the second verse.  I want to sing more than just the eight standard songs the kids are learning for the program.  And I love how inclusive this song is and that Carol Lynn Pearson wrote it.
8)      I have no shame in being myself.  Which includes being nervous, sweating a little (sometimes a lot), frequently being a bit off conducting (and hence why I acknowledge hiding behind some props), and definitely showing my feminist non-traditional self 😉

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Body Hair

by Kelly Ann

Several weeks ago I had the following somewhat awkward maybe minute conversation at a game night with some single Mormon friends:

Guy [to three girls present]: Do you think chest hair is attractive on men or not?

[After dead silence] – Me [knowing this will stir more tension]: I like it.

[Followed by more dead silence and weird looks in my direction by others]

Guy: Well what if it isn’t uniform?

Me: I say let it be.  (Noting I have never paid that much attention to hair on guys at the beach.)

Others comment about benefits of hair removal in swimming. Conversation goes five different directions.  Awkwardness is palpable.  Somehow it comes back to me saying a guy shouldn’t feel the need to shave if they are comfortable with it.

Girl [looking back and forth between guy and me]:  Girls aren’t really the ones who should be commenting on hair removal …

[Exchange ends, either someone walked in the room or the game progressed]

Me [thinking to myself but censored]: “You probably don’t want to see my legs…”


I am actually not a true hippie.  I tame my eyebrows (mostly the stragglers), pluck a few random chin whiskers I get, and shave my armpits.  But I go through phases in which I don’t shave my legs.  Since I live in 60 degree year round weather for the most part, it really isn’t an issue.  I wear dark tights so no one even notices when I wear a skirt.  And truth be told, I really don’t have that much hair on my legs except for down the middle of the front of one of them.

But as it has gotten warmer, and I have gone the longest I have ever gone without shaving my legs (nine months), I have become more conscious of it.  I have confidently rode my bike with my right leg rolled up but then quickly pulled by pant leg down before getting to work.  There have been weekends when I have been unphased, if not somewhat proud of my hippiness, and worn capris – albeit mostly at home.  But as I thought about wearing a swimsuit this past weekend, I caved and I shaved my legs.

I have to admit that although I say that one should be comfortable whether or not they shave, that I am only to a certain extent.

Knowing that the question of body hair is oft debated between feminists, I am curious what this group thinks about body hair and what they personally shave or don’t shave?


Noting I really truly do like hairy guys – particularly guys with well trimmed beards. And hate that as a society we have a double standard of what is acceptable for women.

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Un-redeeming the dead

I have a complex family history question that I am hoping to find an expert to help me with.  I am wondering if there are any family history gurus that might be able to help me.

I recently logged onto family search and discovered that my grandfather’s work – baptism, confirmation, and initiatory, has been done – generically by the temple system in Guatemala (where I have no family connections).

The real kicker is that in 2007 (pre-family search), I submitted his and other family names to temple ready.  I had the names reserved to be done by myself or other family members.  We did a lot of the work of other ancestors but have held off doing my grandfather’s – because when we asked my living grandmother, she was very much against doing his work.  We want to respect her wishes as well as general church policy to have permission of living relatives.

The original reservation notation is noted on the endowment and sealing ordinances but for whatever reason the temple system was allowed to do the baptism, confirmation, and initiatory ordinances.  I have emailed family search asking for ordinances to be removed to no avail.  While I have been able to resolve some other technical concerns (including how to link my new account to my original submissions), after seven frustrating emails, I am at a loss of how to proceed.

I explained that I did not consider the work valid as it did not follow church protocol.  I emphasized that discovery of the completed work would cause contention in my family.  I don’t really know what else I can say.

Truthfully, it has surprised me how much I care.  I haven’t done any temple work myself since 2008 (after my faith radically changed).  I gave the printed cards to my sister, per her request in 2009, and she has slowly been finishing the other names. But I am exceptionally annoyed that my concerns are going unrecognized.  It makes me think of controversies surrounding doing the temple work of Obama’s mother’s and Holocaust survivor’s (the latter of which Jewish organizations successfully petitioned to have removed).

I value genealogy.  I logged in after hearing about “relative finder” to see if any of my relatives were related to famous people in church history.  My interest has been renewed and I have been working on finding more ancestors and cleaning up records further back (merging them with others, as you can see the work has been done 20 times).  But I really think the current system is too focused on having ordinances done and I want to find a way to find the ordinances removed from my grandfather’s record.

I look forward to hearing any insight anybody might have.  Because apparently, I know only enough to get myself into trouble …

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Singing in Another Church’s Choir

by ‘Kelly Ann’

This coming weekend, I will be singing Gounod’s:: Messe Solennelle (St.Cecilia Mass) in a joint performance of the local symphony and the Unitarian Universalist Choir.  I quite randomly, after attending one service at the UU church, started singing with the choir near my house at the beginning of February.  They don’t care that I am not a member of their church – nor that I am Mormon.

While I originally went to see what their music program was like, thinking it would be nice to learn a few hymns, I was drawn in by the spirit of the group and range of music that they sing.   In the two and a half months since I joined the choir, we have sung some hymns – but also a mix of Broadway, Jazz, and Classical pieces.  I have felt at ease as I have gotten to know an interesting mix of people who made me feel comfortable from the beginning.  My section in particular has gone out of its way in encouraging me.

Having only sung in ward and stake choirs sporadically previously, and suffered a bit from a shy alto complex, singing in the UU choir has pushed me musically.  The choir is actually pretty good with an enthusiastic musical director and professional singers as section leaders.  It is really fulfilling just to learn new pieces and sing for 2-3 hours a week.  However, being in the UU church has also fed me spiritually in ways that I did not know I was lacking.  I can’t tell you how many times I have felt the spirit while singing pieces or interacting with others.  It has been refreshing to feel welcome to a group where faith is integral to their existence, but people’s beliefs vary from Atheist to Theist to “former whatever” to “dual whatever” to simply a musician.  I now come early to chat with friends I have made on Thursday nights and on some Sundays.  I have been gaining new perspectives on lives and faith while being myself.  I’ve even had some particularly interesting conversations about Mormon Feminism and Women’s Ordination with a couple women who attended the Sunstone West dialogue between Catholic and Mormon women (they identifying as Catholic as well as Unitarian Universalist).  While there are definitely moments like when I have sung completely different words to hymns, that I have felt a bit odd thinking about the fact that I am singing with another church’s choir, overall it has been really satisfying.

As I am proud of how I have progressed as a singer, and am really looking forward to the performance this weekend, I have invited a handful of friends – albeit my voice will be hidden within my section and I may not be able to see everybody who comes.  I have to say that I have been pleased that my Mormon friends haven’t been put off by the fact that it is in the UU Church – which I worried a little bit about.  They recognize the importance to me, enjoy music themselves, and where possible are coming to support me.  For which I am grateful.


In terms of discussion, I am curious what if any ways, have you participated with different faiths or religious traditions?  Was it a good experience or bad experience?

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Exponent II Highlight: Always Hope

Glorious Struggle by Heather Campbell, Salt Lake City, UtahAs always, this spring’s Exponent II Magazine, is a moving collection of artwork, poetry, and essays telling many stories about Mormon Women.  I would like to highlight one particular essay entitled “Always Hope: A Colombine Survivor’s Story” by Kathy Carlston.

When I first met Kathy in 2007, probably at a FHE in the University ward, she mentioned that she was from Littleton.  I then without thinking said something like I know where that is – the Colombine shootings happened there.  Her response was a simple “yes, I was there”.  There was a bit of silence before I managed to say “I am so sorry” (wishing I had not put my foot in my mouth).  As I have gotten to know her better over the years, I have been impressed with her grace and determination in all that she does.  And her willingness to share her story.  I find her current efforts to reach out to others particularly moving.  ‘Kelly Ann’

 Always Hope: A Columbine Survivor’s Story
Kathy Carlston
Walnut Creek, CA

There have been times where I’m in the middle of a storm and I can’t feel God, so I go into a rage, cry myself to sleep, and give up on Him. But eventually the storms do end. When I look back, there are times when it’s so clear to me how God walked with me every step of the way.

As a freshman in high school, I woke up on Tuesday, April 20, 1999 with no idea that my world would be turned upside down in a few hours. I went to my morning classes, went to lunch, and bought a slice of pizza that came with a giant, free chocolate chip cookie. Free Cookie Tuesday was my favorite day of the week. I sat down at a table in the cafeteria with my friends and had only taken a couple of bites of pizza when there was a huge commotion. Everyone’s attention was pointed toward the corner of the cafeteria by the Teacher’s Lounge. My sister’s basketball coach, Dave Sanders, got all our attention by shouting that there was someone with a gun outside and we needed to get down. I thought it was a prank, but a few seconds later we heard a couple of pops from guns. Instantly the cafeteria was a sea of people, staying low and scuttling across the cafeteria floor. A few more pops. The panic in the room rose to a fever pitch. Suddenly, everyone around me got to their feet and started running up the stairs, to the main hallway. I got up and ran with them. A boy I grew up with darted into the science hall, and I made an instinctive decision to follow him. Momentum carried me past the first classroom, and when we tried the second classroom’s door, it was locked! We were absolutely terrified. We tried the third room, which thankfully opened.

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