Book Review Series: Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt

Book Review Series: Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt


Planted-smallIn Planted, author Patrick Mason represents what I love most of the LDS faith: a focus on community and Christ with flexible boundaries that stretch to include everyone. His journey through topics many find troublesome will give those in the LDS faith who feel certainty, greater certainty. But, Planted also offers lessons for enhancing the capacity of LDS Church members to hold space for those who doubt.


In the spirit of Eugene England or Chieko Okazaki, Planted teaches empathy and the gift of mourning with those that mourn. It is a must-read for the faithful and doubting alike (with a caveat that it might not be the best fit for those that no longer entertain the possibility that central LDS truth claims have any validity).


Mason argues for an inclusive body of Christ that is stronger and more redemptive through the diversity of faith among the members. He relates examples from his own lived experience as to how he has connected to others through unifying applications of the teachings of Jesus Christ that cherish diversity. Mason also balances his male perspective to some extent with experiences of women. My favorite was the treatment of Mother Teresa and her struggles for connection to God. I was shocked to learn how a woman so fully devoted to the work of God, anguished throughout her life in seeking a spiritual witness that never came.

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The Lifecycle of Mormon Feminist Hope

Guest Post by Hope. See previous posts by Hope here and here.


I can still hear myself say, calmly bearing witness, “There are gender problems in our church…. It will be very interesting to see what we, as a church and a people, do about it.”

hopeThat girl, Me From The Past, was calm and sure of the veracity of her claim, but also confident that once The Church saw how much we all need to address these problems, how much room for further light and knowledge there is, how much we longed for answers from On High, things would change. She was full of feminist hope. People would understand, things would change; you would see.

That girl hadn’t lived through public excommunication of LDS liberals, feminists, and scholars. She had experienced blatant sexism within the organization of the church (and areas within its’ influence), and so she thought she knew. She thought she was so tired, ready for a miracle. 

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“My entire belief system has shifted”

My name is Sherry. Forty-eight. Mom of three with four bonus children! Happy, fun with a liberal heart and mind. I live in Utah, with my husband, our two cats (Prince Jerry and Princess Madeline). I’m constantly creating, looking for inspiration, and always up for an adventure.

Andy Carter/flickr/Creative Commons

At the young age of 8 years old, I was baptized into the Mormon Church, also known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I didn’t really know much about the church or religion other than I knew it was expected of me to be baptized and my parents were members.

I think I realized around age 10 or 11 that my family was exclusively different from other families in the church. By this, I mean the way other families behaved versus the way my family (parents) behaved.

My friend’s parents would hold weekly Monday night family nights. My parents didn’t do that. My friend’s families would pray together, pray at meals and read scriptures. My parents didn’t do that either.

I learned the word hypocrite at a fairly young age. One morning after a Sunday school class I was called a hypocrite by another young girl. At that moment, I didn’t know what the word meant but I learned later on and it devastated me. I began to dread going to church because of the other children and I always felt like my family was different. I mean, my family had never even been to the temple, let alone, sealed for time and eternity. Nevertheless, I had to go to church every Sunday, Wednesday and any other afternoon or night that an activity took place. My childhood and preteen social life revolved around the Mormon Church, which at the time didn’t seem too awfully bad.

I didn’t learn about the church history or what Mormons truly believe until just a few years ago. Of course I had heard rumors about Joseph Smith and his mystical and enchanting behavior and obviously I knew about Brigham Young’s polygamy. At any rate, I didn’t give any of it much thought and continued on with my “beliefs” and developed a rather judgmental attitude towards anyone who didn’t believe the way that I did or practice Mormonism.

Here is an example: after my husband I were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 2006 our son (my stepson) had recently returned home from his mission. He met a girl who was not a member of the church and asked her to marry him. I was furious! I was mean to his fiancée and talked behind her back. It breaks my heart now just knowing how mean and closed minded I was. I have since, apologized for my behavior and we are close and I love her unconditionally.

A few years ago, I read a book by Rebecca Musser called The Witness Wore Red. It’s a story about the woman who brought Warren Jeffs, the “prophet” from the Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints (FLDS), to justice. While reading her book I noticed quite a few similarities between the FLDS and the LDS churches. In fact, almost everything was the same except for the polygamous relationships. It really bothered me. I couldn’t shake the feeling off and decided that I needed to do more research on the Mormon Church’s history.

With that said, after a full year of research, reading and studying I made the decision to be fully authentic with myself. What this meant was that I could no longer subscribe to an organization that had more flawed history than what I was willing to put my trust and faith into.

It has been a journey and a huge eye opener for me. I have some family who continue to accept me and some who do not. It’s taken a toll on my marriage and we have had some tough times. We are still together though. I have learned not to discuss or bring up religion with my husband. I accept him as a person and love him. His beliefs are not my beliefs. My thoughts are that we don’t have to share the same beliefs in order to be a couple. It’s still uncertain to me if he would agree with that statement. We just don’t “go there.”

I no longer believe in patriarchy or that men are the only ones worthy to hold higher positions than women. I no longer believe that “God” only wants straight people or members of the Mormon Church in heaven, or in Mormon terms, the “Celestial Kingdom.

My entire belief system has shifted. I went from certainty to uncertainty in a very short time. I believe I’m a good person and I don’t feel a need to belong to an organized religion to prove that to myself or anyone else and if there is a God, I don’t think he/she cares either.

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I Could Keep My Eyes Closed Forever…

Guest Post by Quimby. Quimby’s previous posts are here, herehere and here.

The day I heard ISIS had claimed Palmyra, I pulled out a dusty Q2album and turned the pages until I found the pictures I was looking for. I ran my finger over them, wanting to feel the smooth ancient columns, taste the air, hear the music. A few days later I read the news –


Four-hundred dead in Palmyra, their mutilated bodies lining the dusty roads, their blood staining the sand red.


I found I could not breathe.


Four-hundred dead in Palmyra. In the scheme of such things, it is nothing – a trifling amount. Pol Pot killed nearly 2 million in Cambodia. Hitler had his 12 million in the Holocaust. Mao killed almost 80 million in China. Four-hundred dead in Palmyra. It hardly warrants a mention.


But once I walked those dusty roads. Once I touched those ancient columns. Once I danced in that amphitheatre.

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Where is God?

“Breath of Life” by J. Kirk Richards

CW: rape, stillbirth


Three stories:

1. A woman is promised a long life in her patriarchal blessing.  She dies young from an incurable disease.

2. A woman feels that she heard the voice of God telling her to go on a mission, and subsequent promptings in prayer and in the temple confirm this decision.  On the first day in her mission, she is violently raped by an intruder and immediately returns home.

3. A woman is told in a dream or vision that she will have a daughter whose name is revealed to her, and that this daughter will go on to do great things.  She discovers she’s unexpectedly pregnant, but later delivers a stillborn daughter.

Where is God in this?  Why would God direct people in these ways when these are the events that follow?

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Finding God in Community

"Lightning on Columbus River" by Ian Boggs

“Lightning on Columbus River”
by Ian Boggs

By Jenny

The spring thunderstorms have set my mind back to my youth.  I watch the misty greyness creep in as the rolling thunder awakens in me a sense that a powerful universal force exists.  Lightning pierces the melancholy clouds and lacerates the sky with its fierce power.  It’s as if God is raging in the heavens above, until the clouds open and the fierceness turns to a cleansing grace which flows freely to earth allowing life and beauty to thrive.

My teenage years also flowed with grace that allowed life and beauty to thrive in me.  I was nurtured by community and by dedicated leaders.  I lived in a world filled with scripture stories, faith, and miracles.  On a Book of Mormon Trek the summer after I turned sixteen, these scripture stories surrounded me in the form of handcarts and liahonas helping my youth group through the wilderness like Lehi’s family.  Prophets appeared to tell their stories and miracles surrounded us at every bend.  My leaders had put their heart and souls into planning a three-day trek that they hoped would be life-changing for those in their charge.  And it was.

I sat in the forest alone after the prophet Enos had appeared.  He sent us to pray and meditate on our own in the woods as he had done.  My scriptures lay open on my lap as the thunder began to roll in.  I looked up at the sky and smiled.  I could feel raindrops slowly kissing my face.  The smell of newness filled the air.  Thunder crept closer to me, as if warning me of what was coming.  Suddenly a boom shook the earth and the forest was consumed with fire.  A sharp pain shot through my back and I fell to the ground.  Through the chaos of people running down the mountain, I stumbled and was carried to a tent.  The doctor came quickly and looked at my back.  When he decided I was fine (just experiencing acute shock), he couldn’t hide his excitement over seeing an actual mark left by a lightning strike.  He took a picture.

The Stake President and Bishop came in then to give me a blessing.  Everyone in the tent could feel the power at that moment.  I don’t remember exactly what my bishop said.  It wasn’t so much a power of words, as it was a power of love and belief shared among humans.  When they left the doctor checked my back, but the mark was gone.  As a community, we felt the miracle in this event.  No one else on that mountain was hurt.  Through the storm, God had showed us power and grace.  I spent my teenage years feeling wrapped in that blanket of grace, safe and secure.

From that environment of communal nurturing and growth came a strong and powerful faith.  Over the years my faith has become more complex.  I have gained a deeper understanding of experiences beyond my own.  I have found knowledge that extends beyond my cultural conditioning.  I see now that things aren’t as they always seemed to me when I was younger.  Some might call the complexities of my faith “doubt,” but that word doesn’t describe it.

I have frequently been asked over the last few years, “So what do you believe?”  I don’t have the words, or maybe the words are meaningless to someone who hasn’t experienced my journey.  How do you describe what lightning feels like to someone who has never been hit by lightning?  If I could just show you my faith.  If you could see it, feel it, hear it, taste it…like running out into a thunderstorm, arms out, feeling energy flashing in the sky, the rain streaming down your face.  If you could only know my faith the way I do.  But you are in your safe shelter, watching the storm from a distance.  All it is to you is a disturbance to your plans, a tempest when you want sunshine.

I don’t claim to know the form of God.  Male, female, an old man with a beard, a king, a spirit, energy, embodied being, the evolutionary perfection of the human race, Elohim, Allah, Krishna…it doesn’t matter to me.  God is perfect love.  God is brightest light which opens the mind and fills it with knowledge and wisdom.  God is energy to move in a positive and powerful way.  God is grace.

I felt that grace as a young girl.  I felt it through family, friends, and leaders.  It kept me in the light.  It moved me in a positive direction.  It surrounded me with the power of love.  I don’t feel like I am wrapped in a blanket of grace anymore.  So I must generate grace within my own soul.  God is in me.  God is in the way I love, forgive, and connect with other people.  God is in the way I accept my imperfect faith and move forward.  God is in the way my heart tries to understand those who don’t understand me.  I believe God’s power and grace can be found in lightning and miracles.  God’s power and grace are in communities that nurture, build, and support each other.  God’s power and grace are in a heart that is open to love.     As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Miserables, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

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