My Turn To Say Thanks

Brother Davis now teaches seminary in Utah. Lucky kids.
Brother Davis now teaches seminary in Utah. Lucky kids.

Recently, I wrote a post acknowledging the two men in the church who literally gave my brother Rex, a reason to live. I love both Thelton Skipper and John Carmen with all my heart for the love they unconditionally gave Rex.

Now it is my turn to acknowledge the people who saved me. The problem is, unlike my brother who only needed the attention of two key people to change his life, I needed a truckload of people to help me. All my life I grasped for every bit of positive attention I could get, starting with my earliest memories of being nice to the neighbors so they would like me. I worked hard to be the teacher’s pet at school and if that wasn’t possible, at least to not cause problems for them.

I did the same at church. I was so nice to people my adopted mother complained more than once that she was tired of everyone telling her how lucky she was to have me as a daughter. She regularly reminded me, “If people knew the REAL Heather, they wouldn’t like you at all.”

I figured out early that social capital matters when your life is on the line. The uncertainty of living in foster care and in an undesirable adoptive family teaches you important lessons. I did alright for myself. I found people in and out of the church who were so important to my survival that I still count them as close friends to this day.

There is one person in particular I want to acknowledge in this post. Brother Davis, my high school church seminary teacher was quite the dude back in the mid-1980’s. He was a father with young children and he worked full-time teaching seminary classes at my high school and a neighboring high school in Phoenix, AZ. During the summer when school was out, he drove an ice cream truck around the neighborhood to make extra bank. His family didn’t live in a fancy house, it was obvious doing the Lord’s work didn’t pay particularly well. Not that that mattered, no one in our neck of the woods was doing well. We were all lower middle income, teetering on poor, depending on fate’s whims.

I used my well-honed skills of being a polite and engaged student in Brother Davis’s class because, well – why not? I didn’t give a whit about what he was teaching, other than it was a required class I had to attend if I planned on having a place to live and a church community that accepted me. Luckily, there were enough LDS students at my school that we had release time seminary, which meant Brother Davis’s classes were just another slot in my school day. I didn’t have to sacrifice my sleep by getting up early or do any outside of class work. Actually, it was pretty darn sweet. The A’s I earned in seminary classes offset the D’s I always got in stupid math class, so I graduated high school with a slightly above average GPA (top 25%, yay!). Thank you, Old Testament Studies.

Brother Davis worked hard to make class fun. He dressed up like Moses, with a flowing robe his wife made for him, complete with a long white beard and a wooden staff. It was so funny watching him ride his motorcycle wearing that crazy getup in busy Phoenix traffic. The man had no shame when it came to trying to make scripture stories interesting and relevant.

One of his class demonstrations stuck with me and mental health-wise has really helped me stay centered during tough times. He strung a long piece of string overhead in the classroom and then colored a tiny line on the string. The point of the lesson is that life, pre-mortal, mortal and post-mortal life is long and that our time here on earth is very short. When I looked at that dot on the string, I realized that the suffering I was experiencing in my home life was but a moment in the rest of my life. I could hang in there and make it through because it wasn’t going to last forever. I have no idea what the real point Brother Davis was trying to make was, but that is what his string theory meant to me. I still use that memory today to remind me of the value of perspective.

Over the four years Brother Davis taught me, I came to really like him. He was a good guy. He earned my trust in lots of little ways and I decided he was safe to talk to. I didn’t share my troubles with many people, it was too dangerous. In lots of short conversations before and after class, I shared pieces of my life story with him. He didn’t treat me like I was diseased because my background was less than stellar and I appreciated his acceptance.

One incident my senior year of high school tested my ability to handle my life. I had a bad tooth and I was in a lot of pain from it. I hadn’t been to a doctor or dentist since I was 7 yrs. old, when a flurry of dental work and physicals happened to make me acceptable for adoption. I was now 17 years old and my tooth was killing me. I reluctantly told my adoptive parents that my tooth was hurting. I was told that I needed to make it a matter of prayer. If I had the faith of even a mustard seed, Heavenly Father would heal my tooth. It was up to me to exercise my faith or not. I went to school, frustrated by my situation. How was I supposed to handle my tooth pain if the solution wasn’t to go the dentist, but to expect healing from God? And if I wasn’t healed, it was my own fault, not the fact I needed dental care? Out of desperation, I broke down sobbing in Brother Davis’s office before class. “What should I do?” I wailed, while holding my throbbing mouth. I don’t remember what Brother Davis said to me, but I was comforted by his words. Our conversation happened on Friday, and over the weekend, a miracle happened. My adoptive parents, who had never taken me or my siblings to any doctors or dentists, changed their minds and agreed I could see a dentist. I was mystified, but overjoyed by their unusual change of heart.

On Monday afternoon I told Brother Davis the good news. I had an appointment scheduled the next morning at 6am to see a dentist before school. He was so happy for me. He told me that he fasted and prayed all weekend that my parent’s hearts would be softened and that I would be allowed to see a dentist. I wept when Brother Davis told me what he had done for me. I knew he was a diabetic and that fasting was a difficult thing for him to do. I was so grateful for his sincere concern for me and wanted to repay his trust in me. I did the only thing I could do, the one thing he had been asking me to do for 4 years and I had refused to do. My adoptive parents had harassed me for years to read the Book of Mormon but I wanted nothing to do with it. I was just trying to survive their crazy house until I turned 18 and I wasn’t about to drink whatever nutty Kool-aid was in the Book of Mormon just to satisfy them. If they were involved with it, I wanted nothing to do with it.

I read the Book of Mormon because Brother Davis fasted and prayed for me and he made a miracle happen. The least I could do was read the book. I read it and had a very unexpected spiritual experience that changed my life. I gained a testimony of the Book of Mormon. That knowledge came just in time for me to graduate, move out of my adopted parents house and to start figuring out how I wanted to live the rest of my life. I credit Brother Davis for teaching me the religious doctrine I needed but more importantly, for giving me the gospel that saved me.

For more of the story of Brother Davis, read “Ezra and Hadassah: A Portrait of American Royalty.”

4 Comments
5 Church Callings That Don’t Require Man Junk

Lots of people have written about the crazy lack of women’s presence in church callings and the response always has been the same.
The Priesthood.
The Proper Order of Things.
The Prophet.
Don’t Mess With the Man. Read more »

14 Comments
My Big Idea That I Hope Someone Steals

My ward is planning its quarterly ward temple trip. Our temple is almost 2 hours away, which means a temple trip makes for a great day trip with the youth doing baptisms for the dead and adults doing all other temple work. It also means every temple trip is a mad scramble to take care of the most precious resource the church has – the children. Read more »

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Becoming a Democrat

I registered as a Republican so that I could vote in the primaries for someone I have still never met. Well, Bill sold his mom a car and she called one day asking for our vote. It was county clerk—I think. Bill was delighted to declare his loyalty that way; I was just humoring a little old lady. It has made for interesting conversation because I like to surprise people who think I’m a Democrat (or a socialist). Read more »

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Quick Question

What level of sickness should make someone stay home from church?
Inquiring minds want to know.

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My Brother, Rex

Someone recently said something that reminded me of my deceased brother. Rex has been gone for 15 years, which is long enough for my memories of him to take on the misty-edges of softness that movies scenes showing the past often have. Read more »

21 Comments
The Missionary Work I Didn’t Do

We live in a lovely neighborhood. We are surrounded by the friendliest, most helpful people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. Our neighbors come from all religious faiths, employment and living situations. I love the diversity of our block because it makes for the best casual sidewalk talk in the world. Read more »

22 Comments
When He Was God

Years ago during stake conference meeting, our stake president told a story about a guy who came to him for advice about starting a business. Read more »

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And Now…For A Bit of Humor

A friend of mine sent me this message and I just have to share. It is too good to keep to myself.

The set up:
My friends son’s wedding day, inside a temple.

“So after the sealing which started late due to the sheer huge volume of people who attended (probably to make sure nobody backed out as they are so close to 30) I had to use the bathroom. So I unsnap the bra-like hooks from the crotch of my spanx, which rolled up like a tourniquet, removing EVERY OUNCE OF URINE from my bladder. I’m like “ok, good” but then – then – I couldn’t get it rehooked. I would get one side and the other would come undone. I’m trying to pull this strap from my backside up close enough to see (which isn’t possible) and attach it. I’m in there FOREVER. Then my visiting teacher knocks on the stall and is like “are you ok?” I’m seriously getting concerned and just blurt out “I may have to have you go above and beyond the call of visiting teaching duty and come in my stall and hook my Spanx…at my crotch”. She hesitates and says “well if you really need me to…..” And at that moment the heavens opened and took pity on me and I got the stupid thing reattached. And as an extra bonus I didn’t have to pee again until after the reception.”

And that is what it means to be a Mormon.

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Did You Hear the News? We’re in Last Place!!!

I’m so excited! Several other way, way more prominent Mormon blog sites do year-end “Best Of” awards. This year, the Mormon Mentality blog site and participants actually got nominated in several categories! Can believe it?!

Us. The popular kids at school know our name! Yay for us!

Times and Seasons did their awards, but it doesn’t even count because they are stuck- up enough to say to readers, “Vote for all the categories but know that we (the T&S bloggers) will pick the final winners.” Huh? What’s the point of pretending to be democracy-loving Americans, when at the end of the day, you are really North Korean oppressors who pick your own leaders?

The votes that count, came from the blog WheatandTares.org

In their poll, The Wheaties, Mormon Mentality got last place for Best Group Blog, (out of 16 choices), Living in Zion got last place for Best Blogger (out of 5 choices) and Annegb got last place for Best Blog Commenter ( out of 6 choices). Heck, it is awesome we got noticed in ANY category!

It is true what they say, it is an honor to be nominated.

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Measuring Parental Success

(reprinted by permission from ezrandhadassah.blogspot.com)

This thought came to me as I pondered the injustices of parenting. I can’t think of a more soul-sucking, exhaustion-filled occupation in the world, than being a parent. Many people enter into the business of parenting with a nervous, I-hope-this-all-works-out-well attitude, acknowledging they have no idea what they are doing. For whatever reason, the universe has seen fit to have us humans enter this world with no built-in blueprint of instinctual rules to follow for our care. Everyone has to figure out parenting for themselves.

Some people are blessed with healthy, happy, easy-going children who never give their parents an ounce of trouble. Others have offspring that are a challenge from day one and that never changes. Still others have to deal with the hurdles of children with disabilities, special needs or illnesses that add an immeasurable amount of pressure, worry and responsibility to the endeavor.

How is it possible to know if you are doing a good job as a parent? It doesn’t seem fair to judge a person with an “easy” child a better parent than a person who struggles mightily, doing all they can, sacrificing everything, and their child still chooses a life path of self-destruction and heartache. Judging success solely by children’s outcome is a recipe for despair and frustration. Each child has the right and obligation to make their own life choices, regardless of the efforts or neglect of their parents. For good or bad, every human has free will to act for themselves.

The only sane and reasonable measuring stick of parenting has to be an internal examination of our own selves. What have you learned from your parenting experiences? Patience? Empathy? Self-sacrifice? Self-discipline? Hope? Joy? Humor? Love? The list of possible answers is endless, but each should be a hint as to how far you have come since you too, embarked on humanity’s unknowable journey of parenthood.

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Cake!

Yesterday, as soon as it was announced the church was going to hold a press release at 10am, my mind started racing, wondering what the topic would be. Whatever it was, I knew it would be a big deal because our church doesn’t hold press conferences nearly as often as the Catholic church. I wasn’t disappointed.
The church talked about my favorite dessert: Read more »

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Suggestions

With a disciplinary hearing for John Dehlin in the news, it looks like we are set to embark on another round of debating the merits of boundary maintenance, the definition of apostasy, and the ability of the Church to respond to 21st Century challenges to faith. Similar to the approach Neylan McBaine took with her book Women at Church, I’m going to punt the determination of the merits of John Dehlin’s disciplinary council, and I’ll only say that if I were as miserable as he seems to have been at Church, I would likely have resigned my membership a long time before any disciplinary council could be held. My Sundays would long ago have become days of actual rest and recentering, like we claim they should be. But I’m sure John has his reasons for not taking that approach, and I can respect that.

When Kate Kelly was in the news for her pending disciplinary council, the membership of the Church divided more or less into three camps: people who agreed with the activist approach embodied by Kate and the Ordain Women organization; people who rejected the OW approach and felt like their ideas were an assault on important doctrines of the Church; and people who rejected the OW activism but felt that Kate and her colleagues in OW had some very valid arguments that the Church would do well to take seriously.
Read more »

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When I Was A Hussy

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This picture was taken at a swimming pool party with the young men and young women of my ward. I was senior in high school. Wasn’t I cute? I was freaking adorable. If I had known then how my body was going to fall apart in the future, I would have been a totally proud nudist. But of course, that thought is ridiculous because I was a very good Mormon girl.

My strict parents made my sister and me wear long shorts to the knee decades before the church’s Friend magazine photoshopped sleeves on a 4 yr. olds dress. I didn’t wear anything that gave a hint I had a girl’s figure underneath my baggy jeans and t-shirts.

This photo is the last picture taken of me wearing this swimsuit at a church function. As I was preparing to dive off the diving board, one of the Melchizedek Priesthood holding men at the party commented to the man standing next to him, “Man, I had no idea Heather looked like that. She has a cute shape. She should wear that more often.”

I heard what the guy said because the men were standing right next to the pool, supposedly supervising the teenagers in the water. As I dove in and swam to the surface, I vowed to never attend another swimming party with those men in attendance. All the lessons, all the lectures, all the dire warnings about protecting my chastity from those evil teenage boys, and it was their FATHERS who had the gutter minds? I was so done with it.

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Fast forward a few years. I was a sophomore in college and I was asked on a date to attend the fall homecoming dance at the university. The dance was formal and the only thing I had to wear was a bridesmaid dress from a friend’s wedding the previous summer. The boy who I went with was a member of my single’s ward. I think he was the Elder’s Quorum President. I know for sure he was a returned missionary because like all enthusiastic returned missionaries, he had plenty of stories from his mission to tell me. It must be an unwritten rule of Mormon dating that all mission stories must be told first, before the girl even decides if she likes the way he eats french fries.

I thought the date went fine. I wasn’t interested in the guy, he wasn’t my type but we had an ok time. I like the picture. It was a rare night where my hair and makeup behaved properly. I’ve forgotten his name but I haven’t forgotten what I was told by two different people about the evening.

My date was asked at church the following week if he was going to ask me out again. He replied that he thought I was pretty, but he wouldn’t be going to out with me again because I dressed like a hussy. What? My dress was a hussy dress? It had sleeves, it came to my knee in the front, I wore it as a bridesmaid to a Mormon Temple Wedding, for heaven’s sake!

Yes. I dressed like a hussy because when the picture was taken, he looked down at me and saw my bra- encased bosom. It wasn’t enough I had full frontal coverage, I needed to protect his traumatized eyes from looking down the front of my dress.
What a creep.

Luckily for me, shortly thereafter I was rescued from the single’s ward before my reputation was in tatters, by my now husband. Whew! Our engagement couldn’t have come at a better time.

I am also double lucky because never, ever has my husband made me feel unattractive, or shamed my choice of clothes. He has been a supportive dad to his daughters and has never given them a hard time about their clothes.

After my two small experiences with being humiliated by men at church, I no longer give a flying fig about anyone’s ideas on modesty. Wear what feels right to you and if some jerk looks down your dress, feel free to punch them in the nose. I’m confident Jesus would approve.

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Responding to the Deseret News on Scripture

This morning, The Deseret News published an article from Bill Hamblin and Dan Peterson on the nature of scripture.  Hamblin and Peterson are participants in a very significant debate going on in the Church right now about the nature of scripture, and this article presents their view that the value of scripture is intrinsic due to its status as the “the will of the Lord,…the mind of the Lord,…the word of the Lord,…the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation” (D&C 68:4), as opposed to being the result of people’s perceptions of the value of a given text.  They go on to assert:

Conservatives agree that scripture is written and selected by humans, but, beyond this, they insist that a text is scripture because it’s divinely revealed. For conservatives, scripture would remain scripture even if nobody regarded it as such because scripture is defined by God, not by individuals or communities.

Unfortunately, the liberal perspective tends to sideline the view that scripture is scripture because of something inherent in its nature and essence, not because of our individual or communal response to it. Scripture, to those who believe in it, is a manifestation of God to humans that humans can either accept or reject. But human rejection of scripture doesn’t change its scriptural nature. That comes from God.

Scripture is scripture whether we believe it or not. This thus creates a potential misunderstanding: a religious liberal can affirm “belief” in scripture, but that may sometimes signify only recognition of the human status of certain texts — and perhaps even the canonical texts of the community to which that person nominally belongs. It may or may not imply that such scripture is divinely authoritative, authentic or historical.

As a religious liberal, I mostly agree with them.

Read more »

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The Bible Tells Me So – A Book Review

“We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly…” -Article of Faith #8

“The Bible, as it has been transmitted over the centuries, has suffered the loss of many plain and precious parts.” -First Presidency statement on the King James Bible, 1992

Salt Lake, we have a problem. You would not know we have a problem if you were to simply read the instructor manuals for Sunday School and Institute, or if you were to read the Church’s Gospel Topics page on the Bible:

https://www.lds.org/topics/bible?lang=eng

That page seems designed to assuage the concerns of our Evangelical friends, while the Gospel Topics page on Biblical Inerrancy

https://www.lds.org/topics/bible-inerrancy-of?lang=eng

Can be summarized as “We believe some things are missing or erroneous in the Biblical text, but if you have access to our additional scriptures and modern revelation, you have what you need.” As with so many of our past attempts to address gospel topics, that is a great answer to a question nobody is asking. Read more »

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When the How Becomes More Important Than The Why

A friend asked how I thought people stayed in the church. The question wasn’t why people stayed, it was how. It is an important distinction. The why of staying covers theology, faith, reasoning, peer pressure. The how question is more interesting in my mind. Read more »

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Custom Made Christmas

eleanor christmas

This year Christmas is shaping up to be the most radically modified event of our lives so far, which is saying a lot at our house. Ever since our 3 year-old granddaughter Eleanor and our daughter moved back home, we have readjusted our plans for a quiet life watching our three adult children work their ways through college, jobs and eventual marriage. Our house is once again full of toys and Sesame Street is our morning show. Read more »

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Shake it Off

hinkley

This is a photo of President Gordon B. Hinckley at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nauvoo Temple on Oct. 24, 1999. Our family attended the event. It was the first time I’d seen a prophet up close. He looked good to me. I loved his hat, it was retro and made him seem like an old school gentleman. I wish men and women still wore hats. I like them.

The weather was beautiful, not hot and humid and not freezing cold. Perfect fall day in the midwest. What has stuck with me all these years, is the announcement that was made before President Hinckley arrived that he wouldn’t be shaking hands with visitors because it was too painful for him. The people around me were really disappointed. They thought that shaking his hand was like touching the hem of the Savior. I didn’t think that at all. From a practical standpoint, I completely understood. I could only imagine how tired and swollen his hand must be after shaking a bazillion hands all day. I remembered how exhausted I was on my wedding day after smiling for pictures and guests , then being sociable through our wedding reception. My face and hand hurt for days afterwards.

Being around hordes of people for hours sounds dreadful to me. Nowadays, a fist-bump is acceptable (thank you, dreaded swine flu and Howie Mandel for introducing fist-bumping to the world) and I hope that is what all the current apostles and prophet do when faced with thousands of people who want to make physical contact with them.

I was perfectly content to leave President Hinckley alone at the Nauvoo groundbreaking ceremony. I didn’t need to touch him to feel blessed by him. I am grateful to our family friend who had an expensive camera he knew how to use. I love this photo of his serene face.

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How Were We Supposed to Know?

I wasn’t going to comment on the church’s recent article posted on their website about Joseph Smith’s being a polygamist,
because there are 500 zillion other Mormon-themed blogs that immediately jumped all over it. Nothing is more boring than rewriting what someone else already wrote. But as I read what every blog post had to say about the church coming clean about church history, I found myself getting irritated. Over and over, posts said this kind of thing: Read more »

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