Church Ball: An Essay by My 12-Year-Old Self

april middle school photo smallNow that I am an adult with a public health degree and a passion for women’s rights, I have developed a heartfelt appreciation for competitive sports opportunities for girls.

That doesn’t change the fact that when I was a young girl myself, I was exceptionally small for my age, clumsy and bookwormish, so competitive sports were pretty much torture to me. (As an adult, I am still a small, clumsy bookworm, but competitive sports no longer torment me because no one makes me play them any more.)

Since I was so completely devoid of athletic talent, I did not participate in school or community sports teams as a kid, so my only experiences with competitive sports were in gym class and at church. My stake had annual Young Women’s softball, volleyball and basketball competitions and my ward members successfully peer-pressured me into participating, not because I was any good (I wasn’t) but because the Young Women in my ward had an intense fear of forfeiting.

I recently found this essay I wrote about church basketball when I was twelve years old. I have invited twelve-year-old me to share the essay as a guest post. The writing is rather immature because the author was immature. (Sometimes, I still am.)  But I see this essay as evidence that my time spent playing church ball (or watching it from the bench) was worthwhile. I never developed any athletic skills but I did develop early signs of a talent for snark, which has served me well ever since.

Church Ball

by April Young, age 12

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Changing my mind

brainI have a new job. Same company, but a new boss and new responsibilities. Intellectually, I am pleased. The new position is challenging, needed and supported. Every detail has lined up perfectly, and yet two months in, I am feeling a little lost. I am overly sensitive and questioning everything. I am tired. Cranky. Slow. Moaning at work/life balance and then when home, staring out the window instead of quilting, reading or riding my bike.

What is wrong with me? I have been asking this question over and over. Snap out of it! This is a great opportunity! Go for a walk and get it together! After moping around for weeks, I finally have a diagnosis. The job will be fine. The problem is me. My world is moving fast and my emotions are a tangle of neurons cowering in my primitive brain, scanning nervously for sabor tooth tigers. I am having a textbook change response.   

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“Take a compliment!”

That’s what the older gentleman called out to me as I was buying lunch at the beach. I had on a tank top and a maxi skirt. That’s all it took to warrant him shouting out to me in public, “You got a nice shape, baby!” For the first few seconds after, I felt so uncomfortable. It was one thing for a close friend or family member to say that I look good; it’s another to hear it from a random stranger in a loud populated area, for all to hear. Deciding to not let him get away with such callous behavior, I confidently shouted back at him, “Go away!”

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Because We Preach Repentance

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by Akls Meteo

It was a rainy Sunday afternoon as I sat on the hill at the south end of BYU campus.  The grey clouds reflected the storm that raged in my heart.  My thoughts turned, as they often did during these tumultuous college years, to taking my life.  I thought I would find peace in meeting with my bishop.  I thought repentance would heal me and help me to forsake my sins.  I had just walked out of his office, and my burden only seemed a hundred times heavier.

I was in my mid teenage years when I had discovered something new that no one had ever told me about before.  I didn’t even have a name for it.  I had a sexual energy that no one had told me I would experience.  All I had ever learned told me that I must be the only one experiencing this.  Sex was something to be overcome, vanquished with the natural man.  Not only that, but it was a man problem.  Women didn’t have sexual energy.  So I must be the only one.  Now I had an outlet for that energy.  It felt good, both physically and emotionally.  For a brief moment, it made me happy.  But then I discovered the name.  There it was in the For the Strength of Youth Pamphlet, listed underneath the category deemed the sin next to murder: masturbation.

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Tips from the Daughter of a Sexual Abuse Survivor

childMy mother is a brave woman who dared to speak out about being raped on multiple occasions by a brother-in-law during her childhood, although recounting such experiences caused her personal pain and in spite of pressure to stay silent for the sake of avoiding embarrassment and contention.  With the important disclaimer that I am not an expert on this topic, I would like to offer some advice, friend to friend, about what I have learned about protecting children from pedophiles as a result of growing up in a family that has seriously grappled with this issue.

  • Pedophilia thrives on secrecy.  Maintaining confidentiality is not a virtue when dealing with a pedophile; it facilitates their behavior. Teach your children that it is wrong for someone to ask them to keep secrets from their parents and they should tell you immediately if an adult asks them to keep a secret.  Regularly ask them if anyone has asked them to keep a secret.
  • Pedophilia is a long-term condition with no known cure. No matter how long after the fact this crime is discovered, it should be brought to light and if possible, prosecuted. The pedophile may have stopped harming the known victim by that time but is likely to have moved on to younger victims who are keeping silent. 
  • Teaching “stranger danger” is not helpful.  People are much more likely to be assaulted by someone they know.
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Total Game Control

Guest Post by Emily Holsinger Butler

the playahs

A Catholic friend of mine once offered the idea that world religions exist for one single purpose: to control women. “A bit reductive, no?” was my response. But this guy was wicked smart—never flippant, never glib. And his assertion has stayed with me like a compass point. I refer to it whenever “things happen” in our Mormon universe. Who is trying to control whom, I ask.

I’ve been controlled, sure. In fact, I’ve often given courtesy control to people out of sheer politeness—like all those times on my mission when I submitted to a young district leader’s efforts to foist a personal priesthood interview on me. That was how the game was played. If there was a priesthood leader present, a sister would hop out of the driver’s seat and let him commandeer the wheel. “Take ‘er for a spin, Elder! Don’t scratch the paint!”* Results varied. It was usually fine, and sometimes funny.

Controlling women—have I been complicit? Heck yeah. I’ve collaborated. I’m not proud of myself. Holy cow, I’ve been Vichy France with a temple recommend.** Like that Saturday in 1994, at some church basketball tournament. As a very lovely break from law school exertions, I played on our ward’s women’s basketball team, coached to great effect by our Stake President. It was super fun. We made it to some sort of regional event, and drove down to a building in southern Virginia on the appointed day. Men were playing in a separate but equal tournament on the full-sized court. We were playing on a smaller one, and I wasn’t about to look that gift horse in the mouth, believe you me. As the female players gathered together, we were addressed by a priesthood leader who may or may not have also been the referee (I don’t recall). He outlined a few basics of the tourney, and then, in all seriousness, admonished us to dress modestly on court.

Incredulous, I looked at my teammates. We were for the most part women of a certain age, some of a more certain age than others. Our power forward was a professional nurse of repute. Our best shooter, the only one who could almost dunk, was the Stake President’s wife (and mother of many). Then there was me—I was a terrible player, but was equipped with two sports bras (worn simultaneously) and shorts that covered my thighs very adequately. I honestly don’t remember the other women’s names, but do remember their tolerant, almost vacant expressions as the brother went on about the necessity of sleeves and such. Nobody batted an eye. We regarded him with distant benevolence. We permitted him to tell us how to dress.

And so it was that we were unprepared for the vision that was unleashed upon us a few moments after the good brother concluded his remarks. It was then that the men’s teams emerged from their changing area. Unlike us, they had actual uniforms with actual numbers. On the other hand, it was clear that said uniforms had been handed down through generations of Mormon men, languishing in a Stake Center closet between basketball tournaments that began sometime in 1972. Sleeves they had none. Manufactured from some sort of skin-tight polyester fabric, the shorts stopped mere centimeters south of the groin area, which (how to put this) was exceptionally pronounced, if not practically articulated—so clingy they might have been codpieces for all intents and purposes. The men’s teams were composed primarily of middle-aged priesthood holders who (like us) were in it for a good time, and who (like us) could stand to lose a good twenty or thirty or forty pounds. It would have been a tender mercy for me to offer my second sports bra to any number of those players. Yeah. Their costumes left very little to the imagination.

Again I looked at my teammates. Bless them, their faces were frozen in alarm, not at what they were seeing, but at what was about to happen. We removed ourselves at once to a secluded area behind the bleachers, and fell to the floor where we rolled around unleashing howls of laughter. Personally, I laughed so hard I pulled a muscle in my abdomen, which didn’t help my game at all. We laughed until the tears ran. Someone almost choked. It wasn’t pretty.

What did I learn that day? Can’t say, really. But it does occur to me that we have a ways to go in our church before we can say that we love each other more than we love controlling each other.

Play on, sisters.

*It was, in fact, literally the case that sisters did not drive cars in my mission. That privilege was reserved for the missionaries who worked in the mission office. Who, incidentally, were all elders.

**I’m paraphrasing the wonderful Caitlin Moran, here. Email me if you want the original quote, which is pretty salty.

Emily Holsinger Butler is a hausfrau living in Utah with delusions of grandeur & survival, a writer of books, a hoper of all things and a believer in several of them.

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