Re-envisioning my garments


CW: brief mention of a suicide attempt

A few months ago, my garments were causing me all sorts of angst. I hated the way they looked, the way they felt, and I felt like I was constantly tugging at them; I was always pulling here and tucking there. They never seemed to fit right, and they were also causing minor hygiene issues that I won’t go into. In addition to the practical discomforts, they also seemed to symbolize both the gender-imbalanced covenants in the temple, as well as how much the institutional church was involved in every minor detail in my life, both of which were a source of resentment to me. I already had other major sources of stress in my life, and my garments were quickly becoming the push that would send me over the edge. I would go to put them on every day and have a physical reaction: some days, I would get nauseated just thinking about them, and many days, I burst into tears as I got dressed. I hated them so much, and I couldn’t figure out how to reconcile my feelings towards my garments with the temple covenant I had made to wear them throughout my life (that I fully intended to keep). How could I make my garments meaningful instead of a source of anxiety?

Read More

September Young Women Lesson: Why are we commanded to keep the Sabbath Day holy?

Based on the church-wide initiative to improve Sabbath Day observance, I’m guessing that this lesson will be very popular next month.  However, we have a tendency to turn the topic of “keeping the Sabbath Day holy” into a list of do’s and don’ts, and I think we need to be careful about how we teach this lesson, particularly keeping in mind that we will be teaching youth in many different countries and circumstances.  The “Come, Follow Me” lesson plan for the Young Women is found here.

Why do we have a Sabbath Day?

Read Genesis 2:2-3.  Why do the youth think it’s important that God rested on the seventh day?  What does this mean for us?  Possible answers could include that God has set apart one day for rest, so we should also set apart time to rest from our labors.  This could also tie into the idea of moderation in all things – even God, who is the Supreme Creator, took time off from creating to rest.

The Hebrew word for “Sabbath” is “shabbat,” which means “to cease.”  What kinds of things can we “cease” on the Sabbath Day to make it more meaningful in our own lives?

Read Mark 2:27.  “The Sabbath is for the man, not the man for the Sabbath.”  How is Sabbath for man (and women)?  Are we made to be in service to the Sabbath, or is the Sabbath made in service to us?  How is the Sabbath a gift in our lives?  It’s my personal opinion that God gave us the Sabbath both as an example and also as a gift.  It is God’s example that reminds us to rest from our labors and keep our lives moderate.  It is a gift in that we are given one day to really reorient our lives towards God: observing the Sabbath can be a ritual that we use to check in with ourselves, evaluate how our lives are lining up with the goals and standards that we set for ourselves, and then make adjustments as needed.  We are also given the Sacrament as part of this ritual – the Sacrament serves as a weekly reminder of the covenants that we’ve made so that we can remember the promises we’ve made and balance our lives accordingly.

How do we keep the Sabbath Day holy in our lives?

Read More

A Tale of Two Churches

st. johns bellefonte  A few weeks ago, on Easter, I attended an Episcopalian church service with my boyfriend and his family. It was a very High service with lots of reciting, standing, kneeling, standing, and sitting. The priest sang almost all the prayers. The chapel was very ornate with high, decorative ceilings and stained glass windows. The altar at the front of the church was beautifully decorated with lilies and daffodils. The priest and deacons wore white and gold robes. There was a (I’m pretty sure) professional organist who played beautifully; the organ itself was set in one corner of the church. The building was probably 200 years old so it was a pipe organ, beautifully carved. When it was played you could feel the air vibrate. There was incense and candles.

It was basically the opposite of what Sunday services are like in my small YSA branch. We meet in a renovated post office on folding chairs. The only prayer that is the same every week is the blessing on the sacrament. Services are much more relaxed and much less liturgical. My branch president generally wears dark suits; they are nice suits, don’t get me wrong, but they are not embroidered with gold thread. I am the pianist (we don’t have an organ), and between you and me, I fake my way through most of the songs. We don’t even have a real piano; it is an electric keyboard.

Read More

Rescuing Jesus From The United States: A New Zealand woman’s missive to America

Guest Post by  Gina Colvin

NZ postage stamp

It’s no secret that people’s lives have long been expunged in the name of Christianity. Pagans; Saxons; peasants; Turks; the Gaelic Irish; Hungarians; Jews; Muslims; heretics; ‘witches’; protestants; and Catholics, from Palestine to the Massachusetts Bay Colony, to Tenochtitln, women, children and men have died in the name of the church that bears His name. Persecution; ethnocentrism; colonialism; patriarchy; capitalism; slavery; illicit invasions of sovereign states have all been underwritten in one way or another by an appeal to Jesus Christ.


Its called ‘bending the narrative’ – this habit of pulling Jesus into national politcs and shaping military and economic discourses around and through Christianity – like a branding strategy. I understand the motivation. If you make Jesus a citizen of your country, or the head of your political campaign He makes it easy to recruit followers. Christians love Jesus and if you can push him out in front, everything you associate him with ends up feeling divine.  Not that Jesus would have been complicit in the above atrocities – far from it. In any event the ‘Jesus’ card has been played continuously in the game of Western empire building, and Jesus’ effigy has been paraded relentlessly to justify all manner of evil. And this Jesus (by American reckoning in general, and Mormon calculations specifically) currently resides in the United States.


As a non-American member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints I grew up having to crane my neck to watch out for the American Jesus. We New Zealand Mormons are permanently calibrated in that direction, we face a North East direction toward the Pacific ocean and over the rocky mountains to Salt Lake City where the American Jesus is in charge of our eternal salvation. From somewhere on Temple Square, he stands at the head, guiding, directing and fully in charge of Mormon affairs.  This American Jesus has been continuously on the lips of the American Mormons who get to speak, instruct and direct the rest of the Mormon world from large podiums festooned with flowers or from the pages of glossy monthly magazines.  American words have been landing in the ears of the non-American Mormons throughout my entire lifetime – and it’s wearing thin.

Read More

International Series: The Trumpet Shall Sound

We are thrilled to feature new voices and new perspectives, many from women who are posting for the first time in English. Their voices have been missing from the conversation about gender and Mormonism, and their posts highlight the diverse experiences of LDS women throughout the global church.

Today’s post comes from Rahel.

How it eluded me for 35 years of active church membership, I do not know. In a recent conversation in my current ward in Pittsburgh, USA, I discovered that brass instruments are deemed “not appropriate for sacrament meeting” churchwide (Handbook 2, p. 115). Possibly, this personal discovery was avoided for so long through a succession of rogue bishops in my old ward—Basel, Switzerland—who allowed members to enhance the meetings on a variety of instruments with “less worshipful sound” (ibid.). I left the conversation with a tongue in cheek comment: “How else are you supposed to instill in people the fear of God if not by the piercing sound of trumpets?” (It might help with staying awake too.)

I am somewhat perplexed by how much this discovery affected me. Even though I like jazz and other music that involves brass instruments, I would be just fine with never hearing brass instruments during sacrament meeting again. Maybe I would have never even noticed the lack of trumpets and trombones in my new ward if it were not pointed out to me specifically. Why, then, do I feel the need to dwell on this seemingly minor point? I wonder if my discomfort might not stem from the content of the rule itself but rather from its apparent arbitrariness.

There is no universal principle stating that certain instruments are not worshipful. Arguably, certain sounds are more calming and soothing, while others are more stimulating. However, reverence does not equal calmness. It is possible to worship God in many differing states of agitation. I’m reminded of the case of Saul, who was given the following promise by Samuel:

After that you shall come to Gibeath-elohim, at the place where the Philistine garrison is; there, as you come to the town, you will meet a band of prophets coming down from the shrine with harp, tambourine, flute, and lyre playing in front of them; they will be in a prophetic frenzy. Then the spirit of the Lord will possess you, and you will be in a prophetic frenzy along with them and be turned into a different person. (10:5-6, NRSV)

If Saul could be at his most worshipful in a “prophetic frenzy” accompanied by tambourines, there must be a range of moods appropriate to the worship of God. Besides, we already have many songs in the hymnbook that elicit exuberance appropriate for those “other” instruments. Should we get rid of those songs as well? Somebody might get too exited! If calmness truly were a measure of worshipfulness then being asleep might be the most worshipful state of all.

Generally, Mormonism seems to have adopted a certain idea of worship that is not only expressed in its use of specific instruments. It is also conveyed in the style of its music, in the particular way the melodies flow and the tones merge into one indistinguishable sauce. Or you might recall instances of talks given in very aspirated voices, the “spiritual voice,” as my husband calls it. Aren’t you glad that they are not mandated by the Handbook?

I have come to refer to this particular style as the Walt Disney brand of worship, a brand where no dissonances, abrupt sounds, or unhappy endings are allowed. This is not to say that there is no merit to this kind of worship. Personally, I have found myself manipulated to tears by meetings in this vein. But, as someone who leans towards a more Lars Trier-oriented style, I also want a turn.

I find arbitrary rules harmful, and not just out of a belated teenage angst. They cause the power imbalance between those creating the rules and those having no part in making them to be more tangible. Of course, rules will only seem arbitrary to a person who was not part of creating them. In terms of the Church, I believe that the arbitrariness of certain rules is more blatant and therefore also more bothersome to people from cultures other than that of the rule-setters.

If the leaders of the Church ever come to me for advice about the handbook—and I’m sure they will—I will counsel them to allow more flexibility to the rules by being less specific. These rules are not about the Truth, so there is flexibility to be had. And if I was already at it, I would suggest less micromanaging and more self-determination. If the Church is big enough to accommodate the Swiss as well as the American, it is big enough to accommodate the horn as well as the organ.

Read More

International Series: The Mormon Messiah Complex and the Worldwide Church

The American woman stood at the podium in my mid-sized Australia ward, yet paused before uttering a word. The Mountain by BalthusThe bishop had asked her to speak, because it was her last Sunday in this ward. She and her husband were finishing their mission and this ward fell in the boundaries of the mission office where they had driven admin desks for 18 months. They were not in the mission presidency, yet had held office jobs that removed them from everyday interaction with the locals. In a way that I can only describe as Marilyn-Monroe-ish, she swished her perfectly styled and coloured hair then breathlessly said, “What words can I leave the people of Australia with?”

I looked at my husband and snickered as he rolled his eyes. “She is in a solitary, expat-heavy ward in all of Australia! Who does she think she is talking to?…. and who does she think she is?” we both said.

She went on with her testimony (which sounded more like a brag-a-mony) about how great her influence was on us locals, how humbled she had been to “serve all of you,” and how she hoped she’d left Australia a better place. Right? Because of all her desk work at the air-conditioned office where she pushed the papers of “the American church,” to its predominantly American missionaries…that was her idea of feeding my spirit?  

Read More