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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Relief Society Lesson 22: Carry the Gospel to the World


The manual lesson may be found here. It gives us a glimpse of the heritage of missionary service President Ezra Taft Benson inherited, and the importance he places on the work, both for himself, and for all of us. His teachings offer calls for more (and better) missionaries, from full-time young men, young women, and senior couples, to non-full-time member missionaries. He also offers suggestions for preparing children to serve missions, and for four things we all need, as we engage in the work.

If you are going to teach this lesson, pause for a moment, and consider the makeup of your Relief Society. Maybe it has several young sisters who are eager and ready to serve full-time missions. Maybe it has several older sisters, who are preparing to go by themselves or with their spouses. Maybe it has several mothers who hope their children might go, who could use tips for encouraging them without unduly pressuring them. Maybe it has several mothers who despite hopes and encouragement, have children who didn’t go, and feel undue pressure and guilt, themselves. Maybe it has some combination. Your Relief Society, ward, or stake might also have a strong emphasis on member missionary work. These considerations will help you know how to allocate your time during the lesson.

A Missionary Heritage

As mentioned, President Benson came from a family with a strong missionary ethic. He was old enough to live at a time when fathers could still be called away from their family’s for full-time missionary service. His own father was one of those fathers. “As the eldest son,” President Benson remembered “the letters that [his father] wrote from the mission field in the Midwest. There came into that home a spirit of missionary work that has never left it.” Perhaps because of this, he and all ten of his siblings “filled missions,” as did his wife, who “had the pleasure of her widowed mother serving with her for the last six months.”

That he mentioned his wife serving a mission is important to me, for two reasons. 1) When I was preparing to go on a mission in 2004 and 2005, I always appreciated hearing Elder Richard G. Scott talk about his wife, Jeanene Watkins Scott’s, missionary service, and how much it meant to her, to him, and to their children. 2) There is a history of discourse from male General Authorities going back and back, that essentially tells men that it is their priesthood duty to go, while women are “not invited, but welcome.” I embrace any discourse that highlights and encourages female missionary service, and believe such speech is even more crucial as the age change has shifted the percentages of male and female missionaries. (I rejoiced the day my friend text me, that for the first time ever, there were more female missionaries entering the Provo MTC than elders.)

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Teaching No Greater Call: Exponent Resources for Teachers

Do you have a teaching calling? The Exponent can help! Here are some of the resources we have to offer:

primary-class-391476-galleryLesson Plans

The Exponent has an ongoing project to compose Relief Society, Visiting Teaching and Young Women lessons.  We have also completed series on lessons based on Daughters in My Kingdom (the Relief Society history book) and Activity Days ideas.

Relief Society

Young Women

Visiting Teaching

Daughters in My Kingdom

Activity Days

While the Exponent has not done a specific series on Primary, several bloggers have posted their Primary lessons and tips as they have completed Primary callings.

Exponent II Magazine

The Sabbath Pastorals feature of the magazine provides examples of excellent talks delivered by women in Sacrament Meetings across the globe. Borrow their ideas and wisdom! The Flannel Board feature offers suggestions for teaching Primary, Young Women or Relief Society with a feminist bent. Subscribe to Exponent II magazine and/or purchase past issues here.

Learn How to Teach

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Book Review: Baptism & Boomerangs

baptisms and boomerangs

Oh, Baptism & Boomerangs is just so sweet, and colorful, and made me cry the good kind of tears. I hope each of you can read it, too.

For now, I will just tell you this:

It is about little girl named Amara, who just arrived in Sidney, Australia, with her mom, dad, and brother Jack, to celebrate her eighth birthday with her grandparents and delicious baptism cake(!), and of course, to get baptized.

But there is a small, but significant, problem. Amara is excited to get baptized, but is also nervous. And what’s more, she is nervous to say that she’s nervous. Thankfully, her perceptive mother thinks to ask her what she’s thinking about, and a number of really lovely, heartfelt discussions ensue. The first one happens at the kitchen table, over Amara’s special cake, but those butterfly feelings are still there!

The next one happens in a park, with Amara’s granddad, brother, and a boomerang. It is both the soul of the story and, as you can imagine, the reason for the book’s title. This is also where I tell you that I came to this book with the tiniest understanding of boomerangs’ seemingly magical property of returning, and was more than a little curious what they might have to do with baptism.

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The Church of the Nuclear Family of Latter-day Saints?

Lately I’ve felt like I’m hearing too much about “the family” at church, so I was pleased to see the topic of Sabbath observance during the 3rd hour at the ward I attended on August 9.  Something basic about living the gospel and focusing on spiritual development was just what I wanted to hear.  The lesson was part video from Salt Lake City, and part discussion facilitated by the ward’s bishop.  In the video a few apostles made brief remarks, followed by a slide with a question, which the bishop encouraged the class to discuss.

I liked that the material presented was about principles and not about specifics on what to do and not to do on the Sabbath – they seem to trust church members to use the spirit to guide their Sabbath observance.  Elder Ballard remarked that the reason for a lesson on this topic was to make the Sabbath a time when people can have spiritual experiences to strengthen their faith.  Yes!  I am on board with that.

However, Elder Bednar took the discussion in a direction I did not expect.  He said the whole point of the gospel is for a man and woman to be sealed and happy at home, using a quote from Elder Packer to support this.  He presented the following graphic:

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Where None shall Come to Hurt or Make Afraid

Last month, my family was in Nauvoo for a family reunion. One night we watched the Nauvoo pageant. As Joseph Smith is headed to Carthage, we are told that he goes there on “trumped up” and “false” charges. This was not entirely true; he was there for his connection to the Nauvoo Council’s decision to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor’s printing press. The few days we were in Nauvoo, we also went to Carthage and heard the story of the martyrdom multiple times at various historical sites. And I looked at my kids and thought, “Please, please, please, do not absorb the Mormon persecution complex. Please, please, pStatue of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Nauvoo Illinois lease.” I know what it does and it is not good.

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