Young Women Lesson: How can repentance help me every day?

Repentance can be a very difficult subject. You want to help the girls learn how to recognize when they’ve done something wrong and to improve upon that, but you don’t want to instill shame. I think as an opening activity, I would ask one of the girls to tell the story of the Council in Heaven. In the story, Satan wants to make every one do the “right” thing, but Christ advocates for agency. This story tells us that making mistakes is something that we know will happen and it’s part of the Plan to make mistakes. Doing the wrong thing means simply that we did something wrong; it does not mean that we are therefore “bad” people. In the class, I might emphasize that again: doing something wrong does not mean we, ourselves, are bad and undeserving of love, mercy, and forgiveness.

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Where All the Stories Are LOVE Stories

One of My Heroes. From one of the greatest stories of LOVE.

One of My Heroes. From one of the greatest stories of LOVE.

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

As a storyteller, I’ve long understood the power of connecting ourselves with our heroes. Growing up I was able to put myself in the shoes of Anne of Green Gables, Laura Ingalls, Nephi, Indiana Jones, then, eventually Bridget Jones and even Walter Mitty. It’s the power of a story. No matter where we live or who we are, we have the imaginations that stretch us, pull us, and encourage us to aim higher, achieve more, relate, and envision a happy ending–even if we’re at the scary, unknown exposition.

Stories are universal. And a culture is made up of stories passed from one generation to the next. The foundation of the way we define our lives is expressed through stories told in movies, social media, news media, and books written at a given time in history. Over the last year, I’ve come to the conclusion that it is the right time in history to make a change in the stories we’ve passed on about the LGBT community.

The trend in our culture has been to portray our LGBT neighbors as misfits, always on the outskirts of normal society, often so eccentric that we are unable to relate. Rarely do you see a movie featuring gay couples sharing a simple kiss, holding hands, or looking at each other with expressions of everyday love– these simple actions are the foundation of everyone’s love story. They make art art and love love– your love and my love. My story, as a filmmaker, is to change this. To make a documentary film about these everyday, extraordinary stories that make us all the same.

I believe in people. I believe in the power of love. And I believe that the thing that connects us to each other, regardless of our differences, is our personal story. Our stories are our lives. They are fleeting. They are precious. They are worthy of being documented. And each one should be told and heard.

I’m reminded often, during this filmmaking process, of  the words of my hero from one of my favorite stories. Atticus Finch understood something during his time that many people did not,  ”You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” Maybe that seems simplistic on a topic that has caused much heated discussion and debate, but for me, it’s truly come down to simple love, kindness, and acceptance of those who may at first appear different that I am.

If you feel so inclined, please, take a look at our kickstarter project, donate if you can, and share the link. Thank you.

First Gay Marriages in Utah

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Birth/Rebirth: How I Chose to be a Surrogate

Guest post by Jen Holt

Jen lives in Utah with her husband and 4 children

(note: with Gestational Surrogacy, the egg of the mother is donated by the IP’s, or an egg donor. Traditional surrogacy uses the surrogate mother’s egg. However, traditional surrogacy is exceptionally uncommon as a result of advancements in fertility treatment, plus, it is considered unduly problematic and controversial because of genetic attachment to the surrogate. For any kind of surrogacy, IVF is used to retrieved the egg, create an embryo, and also to prepare and transfer to the surrogate’s womb, i.e. both the egg donor and surrogate need to participate in the IVF process in gestational surrogacy, and both women are usually required to be on the same cycle, which means both women take birth control pills in order to prepare for IVF.)

Twelve years ago my aunt was struggling with infertility. It was heartbreaking for me to see her suffer a loss with an ectopic pregnancy then having many failed IVF attempts after that. I offered to donate my eggs or carry for her because I felt so strongly that she was a mother. That was the plan until she ended up getting pregnant on her fifth IVF attempt. She now has healthy quadruplets. Still, I began to dream of helping another family.

Photo of Jen Holt's belly by Erin Gadd, Pink Daffodil Photography

Photo of Jen Holt’s belly by Erin Gadd, Pink Daffodil Photography

I already had a son from a previous relationship when I started to date my husband. I met him at the time my aunt was going through her infertility treatments. On our second date I mentioned I would be a gestational surrogate one day. We hadnʼt even talked about our future at that point. I sometimes wonder why he asked me out again. But he did. After we married and I had three non-complicated pregnancies, our family felt complete. I no longer had the desire to have another baby of my own but the feeling of “pregnancy hunger” never went away. I knew that my ability to get pregnant and having easy pregnancies was not for me— it was for another family or families. I started to tell everyone I wanted to carry for someone else, but I had a powerful urge to move forward was when my baby girl turned a year old in 2010.

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Birth/Rebirth: Birth and Rebirth through Divorce

Guest Post By Erin

From what I remember, (it has been almost 8 years since I pushed another life out of my body) birth is painful, messy, exhausting, and frightening. I can understand why Nicodemus might have been a little incredulous when he was questioning the need to be reborn, i.e. “You want me to do what???” However, there are times in life when a rebirth is absolutely necessary. Not because we weren’t right when we started, but because we have strayed from the person we were meant to be when we began.

Over the course of our marriage, my husband had taught me that I wasn’t enough. I couldn’t do much to please him, no matter how I tried. I logically knew that all the things wrong with our relationship weren’t my fault in total, but in order to maintain peace, I did the apologizing, I accommodated to his needs and wants, I did my best to change my verErin Guest Posty essence in order to please him through fourteen years of marriage. I was committed to my covenants and would have given up more if I could to protect my children from the spectre of divorce.

In September of 2012, my husband told me he couldn’t “do this” anymore and walked out the door leaving behind a well prepared letter of how visitation and child support and division of property and debts would proceed. I was dumbfounded, to say the least. A week before we had been making detailed lists of all the things we should plan to buy for birthdays and Christmases to prepare for a family goal of section hiking the Appalachian Trail over the next 7 years. His leaving came out of nowhere. Thankfully, the Spirit whispered, “Let him go, he knows what he is leaving and he is still making this choice. You will be okay.”

This wasn’t the rebirth, this was the conception what would be the birth of my new life.

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A Thing with Feathers


I’ve always been a sucker for wounded creatures. So when my husband let my seven-year old bring home a fledgling Cedar Waxwing that had been evicted from the nest, I loudly protested that it would not be my problem.  My 16 year-old son laughed in my face. Twenty four hours later I found myself in Petco, spending the last of my birthday money on a cage, baby bird formula, and a few toys for “Finn.”  Rationally I knew he couldn’t make it. But it didn’t stop me from rearranging my life so that someone could feed him every 3 hours. Or from scouring the internet for ways to get him flying. Because even though my brain told me that I was wasting my time and money, I could see how much it meant to my Beatrice, and in my heart I also yearned to see this little guy thrive.  It brought to mind some of my favorite lines from Emily Dickenson:

hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune-without the words,
and never stops at all.


If faith, hope, and charity are like three sisters from the Brady Bunch, then Hope is Jan, the oft forgotten middle child. (Can you imagine her saying in frustration, “Charity Charity Charity!”) But not surprisingly, Hope is the sister that I cling to.  During my last pregnancy (Beatrice), I was told early on that there was something severely wrong with the fetus. The genetic counselor said it was 60% chance of a genetic deformity, and 40% chance of a non-genetic problem, like a heart defect. When I asked what were the odds that my baby would be ok, she gave me a sad look that you might reserve for someone who can’t do simple math. The fall out was devastating on my soul. My husband, believing he was steeling himself for a traumatic outcome, shut down emotionally. I have never felt so alone in my life. But at a certain point I knew that I had to embrace Hope. Despite the outcome. Unlike her more confident sister Faith, Hope doesn’t make promises. But it “perches in the soul and sings the tune… and never stops.”  So I began nesting. In my home I readied the nursery; and in my heart I chose to hear a lullaby. Right before Thanksgiving we were blessed with a healthy baby girl.


Back to the birds. Did I mention that while we were trying to keep Finn alive, our two cockatiels, Pip & Merry (Lords of the Wing) were sitting on a clutch of 4 wee eggs? Did I mention both were supposedly male? Gender confusion was not their only issue. They were terrible parents, right out of “Teen Mom;” old enough to copulate, but too young to parent. They sat on the eggs sporadically, often pushing them out of the little cardboard nesting box the 11 year-old put in the cage.  I was not so secretly delighted. “Well, the eggs will never hatch but if they do you guys are going to have to take care of them.”  My four kids all nodded their heads in agreement but I could see that we all knew whom the big sucker was that would end up on baby birdie night duty. And just as Finn began to go down hill fast, losing feathers, not singing anymore, I awoke to a tiny chirp chirp and found an itty bitty piece of yellow fluff in the corner of the cockatiel cage, tiny enough to be wedged between the bars. I could not believe a chick actually hatched. When I put him back in the nesting box, Pip promptly used his beak to pick the baby up by the leg and toss him out. Teen parents indeed. You could almost hear them on their cell phones complaining about how irritating it was to have a baby, always chirping, always wanting regurgitated food, such a buzz kill when what you really wanted was to just eat a sunflower seed in peace! Dude!


I realized that we would shortly have two avian deaths on our hands. And I could not take it. I could not watch Bea go through it. So I had a heart to heart with Dave and told him the he had to take failing Finn to the nature preserve near us and help the little soul “fly away.” “You mean you want me to—“ I repeated my request and said I did not want to discuss it further. I had a cockatiel to try to keep alive. We all took turns feeding and holding the little guy. (when I posted about his arrival on FB, I requested a good LOTR name and these are a few of the responses I got: Gollum, precious, orc, Hobbit toe lint, and second breakfast!) He made it through the first night. That was good. The girls named him Hercules to try to imbue him with strength. But on night two, he seemed so cold. I went out to a party and came home to find my son typing one handed on his computer, gently cupping Hercules in his left hand. “My fingers are cramping, but it’s the only way to keep him warm,” he said. I sent Jonah to bed and took over bird watching. I lay down in front of a movie and knew what Jonah meant about the hand cramp. So I did what any mama would do: I swathed him a tissue and nestled him between my breasts, the safest, warmest spot I could think of. I knew he was going to die, but he would not die cold or alone.  When I went to bed, I placed him in a makeshift nest on a heating pad next to my pillow. But the damn pad turned off after 45 minutes so I set my alarm for every hour to turn it on again.


Bea woke me the next morning, sobbing as she held the tiny lifeless creature. I held her and we cried and buried him under the yellow daffodils that line our front walk and matched his feather color.  She told me that Hercules will wait for us in heaven with my Oma who passed away last month. I told her Oma will take good care of him and teach him to sing in German. This made Bea laugh. We sit on the front steps and listened to the different bird calls. 

hope is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul,
and sings the tune-without the words,
and never stops at all;

Robins and sparrows, chickadees and black birds. We hear a Cedar Waxwing and Bea is sure it’s Finn.  I hold her close and pray that we can always hear the song.   



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Equal in Faith: Salt Lake City

Collage 2013-08-26 22_24_40

On Monday I fasted. I fasted for the first time in years. It was completely different than I remember. I remember fasting being about food, about missing food, wanting food and taking a long Sunday nap until I could eat food again. Occasionally, we would fast for something: an illness, fire, job or tragedy. During these times I really did want to comfort the people in need. I thought about them while I fasted….for about 3 minutes before I broke my fast. This Monday’s fast was very different. It was a fast on National Equality Day for the purpose of religious gender equality around the world in collaboration with thousands of women and men of all faiths.

All day I thought about this issue. When my stomach growled in the morning I thought about all of those people around the world that go hungry and thought, “Maybe if women were in charge of religions that number would decrease.” Around noon, on my way to teaching my class, I was thirsty. I saw a water fountain and wanted a drink so badly. This made me think about how few people in the world have access to clean water. I reflected on how many millions of lives are lost because of this one simple issue. I realized that if women were in charge of all of the money, human capital and decision making power of religions around the world, would we solve the world’s largest problems: water, sanitation, education, war, poverty and inequality? By the time I broke my fast in the evening this was not just something I had thought about for a few minutes, it was something that overwhelmed my life. To me, religious gender equality is so much more than having female religious leaders or ordination for women. To me, it is a fundamental path to equality, peace and hope throughout the world.

These were the thoughts I had running through my mind as I entered the pews at the BuddhistTemple in Salt Lake City, Monday, August 26th, along with fifty other comrades. The meeting was conducted brilliantly by Margaret Toscano and we began with the song “Freedom’s Daughter,” sung to the tune of “Hope of Israel”—a song written by Lula Greene Richards during the late 18th Century when the LDS church stood for Women’s Suffrage! The first speaker was Debra Jensen, an LDS woman who shared her story of why she stood for religious gender equality. She started with the question, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” Then she gave us her own answer. When she took fear out of the equation she realized she would absolutely stand for equality. Then she asked, “What are we missing out on because of fear?” Jensen concluded her talk by relating the hunger we all felt after fasting to the hunger women all over the world feel for equality and by urging us to recognize and utilize the privilege we have to stand up for our rights.

The next speaker was Pastor Monica Hall. In a rousing and inspiring display of humor, joy and enthusiasm, Pastor Hall described the journey that her own Presbyterian religion had to go through in order to obtain ordination for women. She, an ordained minister, asked if she was more qualified for her role than her LDS female counterparts? She asked if LDS male members were more qualified than LDS females? She argued that neither was the case. In fact, she argued via beautifully told stories from the scriptures, women were the first to see the resurrected Lord, women were the first appointed apostles, and, finally, women are not neglected by Jesus today either! Pastor Hall then quoted fellow Presbyterian feminist, activist and anthropologist Margaret Mead as saying “Never doubt that a small group of concerned citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

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