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 »

Shake it Off


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.

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 »

Crowdsourcing Request: How one Women’s class caused an Uproar

This post isn’t about polygamy or immigration or even Bill Cosby. I am just interested in your reaction to the below email. It was sent to the entire Elder’s Quorum of a ward about a meeting none of the Elders had attended, apparently based on the reaction of the wife of the Elder’s Quorum president who came late, did not ask any questions or make any comments, and had not done the reading for the evening. Personally, I have never seen a letter like this in a ward.

How would you expect the cast of characters in an average ward to react once this letter has been sent?

(As a little background, this class was taught at the request of the Primary, Young Women, and Relief Society Presidents; the RS president attended and presided the evening that inspired this reaction).

Dear Elders:

I hope this finds you well and having a great week. The purpose of this email is to provide you with some information so you can better serve those in your stewardships – both as husbands and as home teachers. I invite you to ponder and pray to know if the counsel I give here is inspired of God. (Moroni 10:3-5; Ether 4:11)

Please keep this email private and confidential. I trust each of you that you will not use this to further gossip or to create any discord in our ward. Let’s keep the commandment to “Judge not … but judge righteous judgement.” and to “forgive all men.” (Matt 7:1, JST; D&C 64:10)

Recently at the women’s institute, the teacher used inappropriate teaching methods to push a personal agenda on the class members that is contrary to the doctrine and beliefs of the Church. Some of the women who attended were deeply hurt, and felt confused and violated. Many knew what was happening was wrong, but did not know how to handle it, or whether they were alone in thinking what happened was wrong.

Husbands, if your wife attended, please reach out to her in love and help her. Assure her that she was not the only one who felt like it was wrong and with your faith and testimony, help her unpack this with pure doctrine and the Holy Spirit. Probably not for all, but for some, this is a very deep and important thing that she may not be talking about.

Home Teachers, please be sure to visit the sisters on your route, especially the single sisters who do not have husbands to support them. During your next visit, please share a message based on “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and invite your families to read it. Reassure these women and families of divine truth and of the reality and wonderful blessing of the Restoration and of a living prophet.

Thank you for considering this counsel. To the extent that it is in our power, let’s quickly root out any false doctrine or evil spirit that has been planted in the hearts of those in our stewardships and avoid any potential big problems down the road.

Thank you for the much good you do while carrying such heavy family and work responsibilities. You are the salt of the earth in this area. May God strengthen you and quicken your every good intention and effort, for Jesus Christ’s sake.

Thanks for your time. If people are interested, I would be happy to share the actual fallout from this letter, but I am genuinely interested what you would expect from people in a ward.

I’m Stealing This To Share With You

I don’t know if it is legit to post blog articles from other sites on Mormon Mentality, but since I appear to be the only one around, I’m gonna do it. I will apologize later if someone shows up and throws a hissy-fit.
Since I don’t know how else to do it, all I can offer is the link to the BEST article I’ve ever read about Mormon culture. It could be life-changing, if we let it be that.

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    Mormon Truth, New York Doll Style

    Since the church recently released it’s movie Meet the Mormons as a missionary tool to introduce the world to our faith, I thought it was high time to give another, more unpolished, warts-and-all perspective on what it means to convert to Mormonism. And for that kind of truth, I can think of no better movie (documentary) than New York Doll for the job.

    Here’s the trailer:

    The movie came out in 2005 and details the history of both the New York Dolls and one of its members, Arthur “Killer” Kane. The film narrates the history of the band from its formation in 1972, through its drug problems and the deaths of several of its members. The central focus of the film, however, is Arthur’s life after conversion to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. After struggles with alcoholism, drug abuse, an attempt at suicide, and a beating with a baseball bat that left him near death Arthur ended up living at poverty level in a dingy apartment, a very long fall for someone who once commanded stadiums of fans.

    Arthur’s home teacher was a film school graduate who knew nothing of the fame of The New York Dolls in the ’70′s or their influence on punk rock. As Arthur’s story came out little by little, his home teacher started investigating and as they say in Hollywood, the rest was history. I won’t give the ending away because I want you to experience it for yourself. I will tell you that it has made grown men cry. It is a MUST SEE if you want to know how being Mormon can change a person and influence the people around them for good.

    For your viewing pleasure, I am including a music video clip from the ‘extras’ part of the video. If you are at work, grab your tissues and prepare to have the tears flow as you watch two music legends perform a stunning rendition of ‘Come, Come Ye Saints’ as a tribute to their friend .

    and another:

    New York Doll. You need to see it. It is what being Mormon is all about.

    I *heart* Emma Smith

    As a kid growing up in the church, I was always curious and a bit sad about Emma Smith. No one talked about her other than to say she was married to Joseph. I read comments Brigham Young made about her, about how she was …

    “To my certain knowledge, Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman; but she will continue in her wickedness. Not six months before the death of Joseph, he called his wife Emma into a secret council, and there he told her the truth, and called upon her to deny it if she could. He told her that the judgments of God would come upon her forthwith if she did not repent. He told her of the time she undertook to poison him, and he told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told here where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he ‘You got that poison from so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.’ When it entered his stomach he went to the door and threw it off. he spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses of this scene all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him. [Utah Historical Quarterly, vol. 48, Winter 1980, 82]

    Basically, Brigham Young despised Emma.

    I didn’t understand it and there weren’t any church articles or books about Emma. The general message I got from talking to people was that Emma was really great and then she got full of pride and left the church. Her soul was dammed and we should feel badly for her.

    I did feel badly for her. It seemed like her life was full of poverty, suffering and terrible kinds of sadness and for all that, she was dammed to hell for eternity. Pride got her and that was that. I harbored my private questions about Emma for a good long while, until I read a random positive article in the Ensign about her. 1)

    How cool was that! An actual acknowledgement that Emma had some worth.

    That was pretty much all I knew about Emma for years and years, it’s not like one article in the Ensign opened a floodgate of pent-up adoration for her. Then I read the book Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith and had my hair set on fire. That book opened my eyes to seeing Emma, Joseph and all of early church history in a new way. It felt scary and isolating to read books that factually laid out things about church history that I had never heard in any church class or meeting. Since I read Mormon Enigma before the internet existed, I didn’t know other people were interested in the same things I was. I assumed I was alone in my questions.

    The main thing I knew, was that I needed to keep my mouth shut. It was okay to think about things and “ponder them within myself” but it was 100% wrong to bring up old church history in Sunday School or Relief Society. That would raise suspicion I was reading the wrong kind of material, the kind that looked safe but was actually a wolf in sheep’s clothing, designed to tear down my testimony so that I would end up next to Emma Smith, damned to hell for my pride.

    Now, all these years later, with the gift of the internet cracking church history so wide open that even the official church website acknowledges that Joseph married every women in his sight, I gotta say, I freaking adore Emma Smith. 2) I think if I was her friend in real life, I would have had a very hard time finding fault with her position on things. I empathize with the impossible positions she was placed in over and over and I marvel that she stayed true to her moral principles to the end.

    I also wonder what Emma would have to say about current struggles within the church if she were alive now. What would be her take on the Ordain Women movement or how the church handles it’s LGTB members? Pretty much, I find myself thinking WWED (What Would Emma Do) in every situation where I have a differing opinion from the perceived norm.

    It comforts me to think that I too, can be my own person, with my own perspective, and if the prophet of the church himself calls me “one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; ” I can stand with my head head high, knowing I am in very good company.


    Equality: Plural Marriage Style

    The church is undoubtedly concerned about image these days, as reflected in the latest video about garments and this release about polygamyPolygamy explained, justified and dismissed . It’s basically the release on the priesthood ban, substituting “plural marriage” as the subject. “We don’t know” is a step up from the convoluted explanations we often get, but it’s chicken shit. Julie Smith wrote a wonderful blog post on Times and Seasons which is more educated and articulate than this post will be: However, I have a bit more personal interest in this subject because Bill’s still sealed to his former wife. And lately, that has started to eat at me. Read more »

    The Most Offensive Halloween Costume Ever


    Years ago, I when I was knee-deep in raising children (no exaggeration, look at the picture!) I decided my costume for my ward’s Halloween party should reflect the reality of my life. I had two girls (shown in the photo) and a one-month old son, (hopefully napping but most likely screaming his head off) when this picture was taken. Read more »

    A Church Film That I Actually Like! Wahoo!

    The church released a short (less than 5 min. long) video that explains the significance of temple clothing and garments.
    Read more »

    What Would Jesus Do?

    With all the ways the church guides us, in some instances telling us specifically how to live our lives, there is one area of life instruction that the Brethren have left alone. It is a mystery, really. Read more »

    The End, For Now

    My ex-husband has recently been granted a sealing clearance. I was not notified he was seeking a sealing clearance for the second time, and was not a part of the process this time around. I have my own theory on why this is, and am not going to dive into conspiracy theories.
    Read more »

    God on our side…..

    So at Sunday School awhile back, a wise and wonderful friend said something about Jesus pleading our case with Heavenly Father. I pondered. The other day, the lesson was in judgement, the final. And there was the usual competitive conversation in which class members try to outdo each other in their vast understanding of the complicated court process it’s going to be.

    They started spelling out in detail who would judge, etc., and pulling out their scriptures to back them up. Gradually, of course, there began to be the saintly comments thrown in about sinners and non-Mormons, which bugs me no end. So I said, “I believe the Book of Life is written on and in our bodies and it’s gonna be a pretty quick process, not some long drawn out court case. But, Tony (his name is Tony) what did you mean by Jesus pleading our case? You made it sounded like God would be this stern disapproving “string ‘er up’ hanging judge standing there with His arms folded, thumbs down. Doesn’t God like us?” Read more »

    You Never Know: A different view

    I love it.  It think it’s great.  It really spoke to me.  And I think all the people complaining and posting their “balanced” views need to take a step off of their soap boxes – possibly literally – and look at it straight on for what it actually says.

    YES there are other things the woman could have done.  I would make a list but doing so contradicts my point: I thought we were trying to move past the Mommy Wars.  I thought we were trying not to judge each other for how we manage our lives.

    Maybe we somehow actually watched different videos, though the ones linked at FMH, Segullah and Exponent all look like the one I watched.  But they’re all seeing or reading things out of it that I don’t think are there.  Why is everyone complaining that the working sister is being presented as self-centered and materialistic?  She was really struggling with a situation at work and reached out to someone for help – like people are shouting that the main character should do.  What is this, damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

    Anyway.  The point of the video is not “sacrifice until you have nothing left.”  It’s not promoting that and if you’re worrying that someone could interpret it that way – well, um, how long have you been human again?  Because humans can take anything they want from just about any text.  You don’t need a special post decrying a message that’s not even in the video any more than you need to do a special post decrying Nephi’s killing of Laban just in case someone starts taking it as carte blanche to kill anyone in their way.

    You know what IS in the video?  The message that, even when our best feels like it’s not enough, it is still good.  It’s still valued.  There is a beautiful counterplay in the prayers.  In the morning, the mom prayed for help in doing all they had to do.  In the evening, as she’s sitting exhausted on the couch, her child kneels down and says “thank you for helping us do what YOU needed us to do” (emphasis added).  And you can see the light dawn on the poor woman’s face.  She was feeling like a failure – and haven’t we all had days where we feel like that, even when our to-do list goes well? – but now she’s looking back at the good she has done.  The weight of the negatives on her list was dragging her down but now it’s being balanced by the positives.

    She’s counting her Drops of Awesome.

    The video is telling her “You Are Enough.”

    But, as usual, the Prophet said it first.

    Put Your Shoulder to the Wheel

    This post is written in reference to males for my own convenience but is 100% applicable to females. Feel free to switch gender specific labels if it makes you feel better.

    Our washing machine crapped out on us. Read more »

    You are Your Book of Life

    What is the Book of Life? As a child, I was taught it was a record that angels in heaven kept of every good or bad deed I did. When I died, Heavenly Father would judge me based on the notes in my personal Book of Life.

    Since we are such a personal journal, record keeping obsessed people, I didn’t question the concept of a Book of Life. So much about the afterlife was beyond my grasp that I was content to not think too much about heavenly bodies who had the glorious task of keeping track of every stray word or thought I ever had.

    That changed for me in my mid-twenties. I was the mother of three chronically ill children who were constantly in the doctor’s office and ER. Trying to figure out how to heal my children led me to enroll in a program to teach me about the human body.

    One of my first health courses was taught by a member of the church. One day after class, my instructor casually commented he believed that in church when we talk about “the light of Christ that is given to every man,” what we are really talking about is the electrical spark of life. “What is that?” I asked. He explained that just like when someone has a heart attack and the doctors use a defibrillator to shock the heart back into rhythm, every cell of our bodies has an electrical current. His belief was that the light of Christ spoken of in the scriptures is the electrical current of energy that animates our bodies. Without electricity in us, we are dead.

    What a new concept for me. Jesus Christ is the source of the literal spark of life within us. I never thought of it like that. As I continued my studies on human health, I read more things about how the electrical system within our body effects us.

    My teacher was right. Every organ in our bodies has its own unique electrical signal. Every cell electrically communicates with other cells.

    Not only do the electrical signals within us keep our heart beating, they also play an important part in our ability to fight off illness and maintain good mental health.

    Biofeedback is a well-accepted modality for actively controlling body systems once thought of as purely autonomic.

    Our thoughts and feelings influence our physical body. When physical or emotional trauma happens, it changes not only the biochemistry of our body, but also the electrical pathways of communication deep in our cells. Techniques to help heal emotional trauma trapped within us have also proven to stabilize physical health.

    With technology’s advances, physicians can now physically measure the differing electrical signals of individual emotions. Anger creates one charge, love creates another and both effect the biochemistry of our cells.

    Later on in school my instructor pointed out in the bible dictionary under the Book of Life it says,
    “In one sense the Book of Life is the sum total of one’s thoughts and actions – the record of his life.
    Interesting. Then he took it to to a whole new level for me. He pulled out the book Mormon Doctrine* and pointed out the description under the Book of Life.

    “In a real though figurative sense, the book of life is the record of the acts of men as such record is written in their own bodies. It is the record engraven on the very bones, sinews, and flesh of the mortal body. That is, every thought, word, and deed has an affect on the human body: all these leave their marks, marks which can be read by Him who is Eternal as easily as the words in a book can be read.
    By obedience to telestial law men have telestial bodies; terrestrial law leads to terrestrial bodies: and conformity to celestial law – because this law includes the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost – results in the creation of a body which is clean, pure, and spotless, a celestial body. When the book of life is opened in the day of judgement, men’s bodies will show what law they have lived. The Great Judge will then read the record of the book of their lives; the account of their obedience or disobedience will be written in their bodies.”

    I like the idea that Heavenly Father will be able to tell just from looking at us the personal wars we’ve fought, the tragedies we have suffered and the healing we have created within ourselves. Taking it a step further, I believe in the next life everyone will able to read each other’s bodies. Just like I can spot a bad boob job or botox treatment, I think it will be reasonable to expect we will be transparent to each other in the afterlife. What’s to hide at that point?

    Meanwhile, back here on earth, we are made up not only of the food we eat, the chemicals we are exposed to, the injuries and illnesses we endure, we are also the thoughts we think and the deeds we do. All of it is recorded in our bones, our muscles, our skin, our cells and even in our hair.

    Every day we are writing a new page in our personal Book of Life. What will yours say?


    *I acknowledge that even though there is a good reason Mormon Doctrine isn’t an official reference book of the church, even Bruce R. McKonkie can’t be wrong about everything, especially when he agrees with me.

    Dumb Questions

    What is the stupidest thing you ever asked your bishop?

    Mine has to be the time I asked my bishop/ BYU professor if UFO’s were real. He sighed and said, “Of course not. Is there anything else you want to discuss?”

    Thank Heavens This is Behind Us

    I just read an article in the online Salt Lake Trib. from one of my favorite columnists, Kirby. He wrote about the crazy doctrine that seminary teachers taught when he was in high school during the early 1970′s. Read more »

    First Temple Memories

    Rex and Heather after Sealing

    What I remember about our family sealing trip to the Oakland, CA temple was that my new adoptive mother, Virginia was super crabby in the car. Read more »

    We Lost a Good One


    Less than an hour after the announcement of comic Robin Williams passing I read my first post on Facebook from a religious person who was worried about his soul.

    Did Robin know Jesus? If not, his eternal life is in jeopardy.


    Next came a member of our church saying that Robin took the cowards way out since he is presumed to have taken his own life. That comment just makes my blood boil.

    I hate those statements. They don’t bring peace or comfort to a grieving family. They can be a knife to the heart of loved ones who had tried valiantly to help their family member or didn’t even know the depth of their suffering.

    I was talking in church about a funeral I attended and how difficult it was since no one in the family had a belief in God or in eternal life. I was sad for their pain. After I finished speaking the enthusiastic Ward Missionary Leader bounded up to me and handed me a new copy of the church VHS tape “Families Are Forever.” He told me I should have showed that to the people at the funeral.

    I stood in stunned silence, uncomprehending his statement. Really? I should have what – asked for a VCR and tv and taken them to the front of the funeral home chapel and played the tape for all the mourners instead of the program the family planned? Forcing my religious views on others who darned well knew I was Mormon and chose not to learn more about it, would have been appropriate at that time?

    No. It is not appropriate to hand out church pass-a-long cards at a funeral. Or Book of Mormons. Or VHS tapes expounding our views on eternal life. There is a time and place for everything and during the days before/during/immediately after a loved ones passing is not the time for uninvited evangelizing.

    In fact, there is never a time for UNINVITED evangelizing. Sometimes the best, most appreciated thing to do is offer a hug, a sincere condolence for their loss and to shut up and sit down.

    Especially as members of our church, we are the last group of people who should worry about someone’s standing with Heavenly Father and Jesus. We are the ones who believe in Baptism for the Dead, remember? Everyone who wants to be baptized, will get that opportunity.

    As for the second FB comment, JUDGE NOT, you stupid person. I can only hope that idiot gets smacked upside his head by life before I die. I want the pleasure of seeing him repent of his pride and arrogance.

    Not that it really matters, I already added him to my list of people I plan on haunting from the other side when it is my time to go. That and I plan on buying a ticket to see Robin Williams perform at the Eternal Comedy Club. I’m sure every show is a sell out.

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