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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If and Then

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Benicosa

Photo Credit: D’Arcy Benicosa

Up until last night this has been my story.

But the reported and confirmed changes to the Church Handbook of Instruction in regards to the children of gay parents has thrown me into a bizarro, Sliding Doors world and now it is impossible for me not to write my “what-if” story.

What if this policy had been in place in 1991, the same year I turned 8 years old? What if my parents’ marriage had disintegrated, as most mixed-orientation marriages do? And what if my father had done the entirely human thing and pursued a new relationship with a man he loved and was attracted to?

The policy is clear…I could not have been baptized.

Then what? I know I would have been devastated. In my existing story, church was one of the few places of comfort for me as a child–I can only imagine it would be more so if I was dealing with the break up of my family. Don’t, for one second, think you would have been protecting me from anything–not being allowed to be baptized would have been a source of deep sorrow and shame for me. Not to mention what this would have done to my mother, who was and is a committed member of the church. This would have absolutely broken her heart. To add that burden on her after all that she carried…there are no words for that cruelty. And I have to wonder what it would have done to my relationship with my father? Would I have resented him? Would I have been able to overcome the awful rhetoric we use towards our LGBTQ brothers and sisters and actually see my father for the amazing, Christ-like man he is? I hope so but I don’t know. I am absolutely certain that this policy would have destroyed my family in ways I cannot even fathom.

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The Lock







The Lock

Every evening I brush one damp curl from my baby’s forehead
And in its place leave a long, mama kiss

My sweet strawberry of a boy is heavy now–
All cheeks, tummy, and leg rolls
To me, though, he is still tiny

A little lump laying under white sheets and grey cotton blanket


His fingers rise up to his displaced curl
Thumb and forefinger searching for that precious peach lock

And then they twirl
Root to end…
Root to end…

A ritual performed since babehood, sucking at my breast


I watch, waiting for the next step in our little dance

Then it’s his turn to wait
For me to shake my head and whisper
‘Daddy is at church.’

He knows the routine by heart


My strawberry boy is still small enough that our family nights
Spent reciting our theme–

         Do all the Good you can
         In all the Ways you can
         To all the People you can

–Words meant to soothe the hearts of our children in the absence of their father–
Are a jumble of nonsense to him
Who needs a theme when you can have a daddy?

He sighs, debating whether to go on


The choreography is rote and he dutifully moves forward

The next step is mine
I’m supposed to say something about Jesus
But I stumble

I am tired–and hurt


Jesus listened and wept with the woman
Jesus comforted and healed the outcast

Telling my boy that his daddy has gone to church to help Jesus feels like a half truth
When the church his daddy serves builds idols on top of the pain
Of the lost sheep Jesus sought

‘I don’t know.’


It is all I have to give
A worthless, heartbroken utterance

But my strawberry boy nods
Perhaps grateful for an honest change in our routine
And turns to lay on his side, finger still twirling his favorite lock

Root to end…


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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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On Blessings

In Gilead, a favorite novel of mine, a Congregational minister named John Ames recalls his life in a letter to his young son.  Part autobiography and part meditation on ultimate questions, the book contains some interesting thought on blessings.  As a minister, Ames has bestowed countless blessings, but his first experiencing of blessing was with kittens.

“I still remember how those warm little brows felt under the palm of my hand.  Everyone has petted a cat, but to touch one like that, with the pure intention of blessing it, is a very different thing.  It stays the mind”  He and his lifelong friend Boughton had wetted the kittens brows with water to baptize them.  He wondered what they had done to them, musing, “It still seems to me to be a real question.”[1]

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