Monday, April 14, 2014

The Old Testament

I decided that I'm going to spend this year studying the Old Testament. I'll be honest and admit that my Old Testament study really hasn't extended beyond early morning seminary in high school. There are a few reasons why I'm interested in giving it an in-depth reading as well as why I haven't attempted this in the past.

Nathan is teaching Sunday School this year (Old Testament year), so it will be fun to read and study along with him. He's a repository of information and knows all sorts of interesting things about our holy texts. And while I know the basic stories told in it, I'm unfamiliar with the depth of poetry and storytelling in the Old Testament.

However, the Old Testament has always felt foreign to me. I can wrap myself in the Book of Mormon like a quilt, and I can drink the Four Gospels like water. But the Old Testament feels like a black-and-white rule book written by an unfamiliar God. A God who rules with violence and war and slavery and oppression. A God who is more concerned with how many steps you take on the Sabbath instead of the God I have a personal relationship with. But I want to understand the Old Testament in its own context, and I want to reconcile it with my understanding of the Good News.

I'll be switching between my trusty (Mormon-approved) KJV and the more readable and graceful Holman Christian Standard. I'll also be using A Latter-day Saint Commentary on the Old Testament, which just happens to be written by Nathan's grandpa (and is refreshingly evidence-based).

My goals in this course of study are to reconcile the Old Testament Jehovah with the Jesus I understand, to learn more about the women whose stories are told, and to learn more about the use of metaphor and poetry (specifically in Isaiah). I also hope to extend my reading past the pin-hole lens I've been taught to use for Scripture study in order to appreciate how other religious traditions celebrate and use the Old Testament.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

"Be Faithful and Fearless"

Do what is right; the day-dawn is breaking, 
Hailing a future of freedom and light. 
Angels above us are silent notes taking Of ev'ry action; 
then do what is right! 

Do what is right; the shackles are falling. 
Chains of the bondsmen no longer are bright; 
Lightened by hope, soon they'll cease to be galling. 
Truth goeth onward; then do what is right! 

Do what is right; be faithful and fearless.
Onward, press onward, the goal is in sight. 
Eyes that are wet now, ere long will be tearless. 
Blessings await you in doing what's right! 

Do what is right; let the consequence follow. 
Battle for freedom in spirit and might; 
And with stout hearts look ye forth till tomorrow. 
God will protect you; then do what is right!

I was putting off writing this. In part because I have papers to write and work to finish, but also in part because this issue comes from a raw heart and a vulnerable spirit. I have been told to leave the Church because of this from both Mormons and non-Mormons. I have been told that I am blasphemous, irreverent, and apostate. I have been told that God isn't happy with what I'm doing. But if there is one thing that being a Mormon has taught me, it's how to be courageous.

While I may not have identified as a feminist for my entire life, I remember recognizing gendered power dynamics in my Church as a little girl. I remember silently wondering why only men were in charge at Church, why only my brothers could pass the Sacrament, and why we call male leaders "President" but female leaders "Sister." I learned quickly, however, that thinking about these things constituted a moral failing and a lack of willingness to understand God's plan. And while I grew up and started calling myself a feminist, I didn't dare ask out loud why women aren't ordained to the Priesthood.

My first moment of pure outrage about this was during a Relief Society meeting in my BYU Freshman ward. Our Stake President informed us--a group of 17 and 18 year-old girls--that we would need to share our husbands with other women in order to go to heaven. I was angry and heartbroken, but I didn't have the language or the courage to be angry and heartbroken out loud. Looking back on it now, I realized that my anger was rooted not in the fact that he was simply wrong, but in the fact that this person had more authority to speak on doctrine than I ever would because he is a man and I am a woman. That questioning him meant questioning my Priesthood leaders. I want to go back and sit next to 17 year-old Shelley in that meeting and whisper to her that it's okay to demand citations and encourage her to speak up. But I can't. Instead, I sat in silence.

I sat in silence because my experience of being a woman in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints means learning how to sit in silence. And I can't do that anymore.

Last weekend, I flew to Salt Lake City to participate with more than 500 women and men to demonstrate our support for revelation regarding women's Priesthood ordination. Controversial is an understatement. Many others have already written about what this event was and what it wasn't, so I won't write about that. Instead, I want to write about why I personally chose to participate.

Revelation necessarily follows inquiry. The Scriptures and the history of my Church are full of examples of this. With few exceptions, God doesn't tell us things unless we ask. He didn't free Nephi until Nephi asked to be freed. He didn't forgive Enos's sins until Enos asked for forgiveness. And he didn't tell Joseph Smith about his prophetic mantle until he knelt down and asked. Often, this inquiry is hard and unexpected. Sometimes, it's unpopular. While I am incomparable to Jesus or even Brother Joseph, when it comes to asking questions and talking about things that aren't popular among my immediate religious community, I'm in pretty good company.

Some have responded by saying that the Church PR office had released a statement asking participants to reconsider having this event, so going forward with it would be disobedient. However, I believe there is a marked difference between the Church as a vehicle for Restored Truth and the Church as a temporal institution. There are 15 specific people that I have sustained as Prophets, Seers, and Revelators, and not a single one of them works for the PR office. I do not believe that Church-wide revelation comes through any public relations officer, no matter how nice of a person they may be. 

Others have responded that God has already given us an answer about this. If He has, I would like to know what Prophet He said this to and on what date it was canonized as revelation. Because I belong to a Church that is governed by an open cannon of revelation, not speculation even by Church leaders. I belong to  Church that is believes in asking questions because "He will yet reveal many great and important things related to the Kingdom of God." I do not belong to a Church that is governed by the unwritten order of things (sorry President Packer). I do not belong to a Church that is governed by precedent or tradition. Because what compels me most to Mormonism is the incredibly radical idea that God isn't done talking to us. So the idea that my asking about women's ordination is somehow blasphemous or inappropriate or putting me on the road to apostasy is no different than thinking that God has said everything He wants to say about it and asking for more revealed truth is heretical.

And the most faithful thing I can do is ask and live my life believing He will answer.

So on Saturday evening, I asked. And I believe He will answer through a Prophet in His own time.

Photo via Katrina Baker Anderson

Sunday, March 9, 2014

A year in gif's, part deux

So about a year ago, I posted this. I thought I would give an update on an unsure but hopeful situation.

Things could not be better for me right now.

I did end up getting accepted to the City and Regional Planning program at OSU. And it's perfect for me.

I also have an internship with Local Matters, which is a Columbus-based non profit that deals with food systems. I work specifically with an initiative that connects people at risk of hunger with cooking and nutrition classes.

AND I work at Jeni's, a Columbus artisan ice cream shop that is dedicated to high quality, locally-sourced ingredients as well as social and environmental enterprise. 

I'm in a program fitted to my interests, I have a meaningful internship, and on the weekends I scoop up the best ice cream in the world. My life is awesome.

I just want to high five everyone.

Most days, I feel a lot of this.

A combination of working really hard and being lucky/blessed has given me tons of great opportunities, and I'm looking forward to the future.

In short: everything is awesome. I'm awesome. You're awesome.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dark Chocolate Cake with Bitter Ganache and Salted Caramel Frosting

So for some reason, I really wanted to make a cake yesterday. A rich, chocolatey, buttery cake. But I couldn't think of a reason to justify making one with just my husband and I to eat it. But I remembered that we were having missionaries over for dinner today, so what kind of host would I be if I didn't have a delicious cake for them?

Some of my Facebook friends asked for the recipe, so here you go:



  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups white flour
  • 3/4 cups baking cocoa (I added about a spoonful more; I like really dark chocolate)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cups boiling water

  • 4 oz bittersweet chocolate (I use Ghirardelli 60%)
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3 cups(ish) powdered sugar
  • Coarse sea salt for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line two 9" cake pans with parchment paper, OR grease and flour them thoroughly, whichever you prefer.

Combine all dry cake ingredients in a large mixing bowl.

Add the eggs, milk, vegetable oil, and vanilla to dry ingredients and mix with hand or stand mixer for about two minutes.

Stir in boiling water by hand.

Pour evenly into the cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.

Let cool completely (I speed this up and put them in the fridge. If you keep an eye on them and check frequently, they won't dry out.)

While cakes are cooling, melt bittersweet chocolate with heavy cream in a double boiler. You can microwave the chocolate, but doing the double boiler method ensures that the chocolate won't seize. Once chocolate is melted set aside to cool and thicken.

Combine sugar and water in a medium sauce pan. Cook over medium high heat until mixture turns an amber color and you smell a distinct caramel aroma, about 7-8 minutes. Do not stir or scrape down sides.

Add 1/2 cup butter to caramel sauce. It will sputter, so stand back.

When butter is melted, remove pan from heat. Add cream, vanilla, and salt.

Let cool completely. I let it cool on a hot pad for about 10 minutes then put the pan in an ice bath. The caramel has to be completely cool, otherwise your frosting will melt and it will be a huge mess.

Mix 1 cup butter and powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, with a hand or stand mixer on high. You want it to be thick because the caramel will thin it out a little.

When the caramel is completely cool, add it to butter and sugar mixture. Add salt. If necessary, add powdered sugar and milk a little at a time until your frosting reaches a desirable consistency. Add extra salt to taste if you desire.

Refrigerate frosting for 45 minutes.

Remove cakes from pans. Level if necessary (I discovered that I didn't have to do any leveling with this cake recipe, but you might depending on humidity and other factors).

Put about 1/2 cup of frosting in a piping bag and dam around the edge of one of the cakes. (How to dam.) You don't need to put a tip on the bag. You can even just cut the corner off a ziplock bag and use that.

Pour the ganache onto the cake you dammed. Spread it up to the edges of the frosting dam.

Carefully place the second cake onto the first. Adjust to make sure they line up.

Give the frosting one more go with the mixer since it thickened and hardened in the fridge.

Frost a crumb coat. This is really important with chocolate cakes especially since they tend to be very crumby. Refrigerate for 20 minutes to set.

Finally, frost the cake. You can do decorative frosting with a piping bag or just put in on with a butter knife. I like to make a decorative swirl on top with the back of a spoon.

Garnish with sea salt.

One thing I might try if I make this again is experiment with cooking the caramel sauce longer for a deeper flavor, or even making a dry caramel. I might also double or even triple the ganache recipe and torte the cake to make 4 layers. You can also make a sweeter ganache by using a 30-50% chocolate, or you can make it even darker with 75%+ chocolate.


Monday, April 29, 2013

A year in gif's

So the past year of my life has been...not super great

Let's start with the beginning of last April. I was SO EXCITED TO GRADUATE FROM COLLEGE.

I ran out of the Marriott Center with my sample diploma and non-returnable polyester cap and gown feeling prett-tay good about myself.

Armed with my Philosophy BA, I felt like I could do anything.

I knew we were only going to be in Provo for another four months, but I still wanted to find a job. I had professional work experience and a college degree. I was sure I would find something that I liked and paid well. I was totally confident in my ability to take on the job market.

Oh boy was I wrong. Rejection after rejection after rejection after rejection. Overqualified. Underqualified. Not enough experience. Won't be here long enough.

The summer that I was expecting to be a lot of this

Ended up being a whole lot more of this

Which led to feeling a lot like this

And pretty much every day turned into feeling like this

And there was definitely a lot of this

I had a few job interviews. I would inevitably get my hopes up for them, only for things to turn out like this

And I started to believe that I made horrible, terrible, irrevocable mistakes in my life.

My wonderful, kind, thoughtful husband assured me that everything was okay. But I didn't think so.

I scraped through the summer. I was looking forward to moving to Columbus being a new start. I was hopeful.

And very soon after moving, I did find a job as a teacher's assistant at a daycare.

And I really did like it for awhile. I liked being with kids, but I didn't fit in with my coworkers or the work environment. I always felt a little out of place.

But I dealt with it. Even all the terrible poopy diapers.

And the vomit.

And that one time I had to get the steam cleaner to clean poop out of a rug.

And then the double standards with some of us being expected to follow rules that others weren't.

At month 7 of this job, my mornings became consistently like this

Monday mornings were particularly bad.

I was incredibly unhappy. The most unhappy I've ever been. 

I felt incredibly stagnant. I wasn't doing at all what I thought I was going to. But I felt stuck because what else was I going to do? The whole situation was terribly frustrating.

And then I realized something important: I have more choices than I think I do.

And I realized that it's not okay to do things that make you unhappy because you feel like you're supposed to do them.

So I quit my job.

And it's okay. We're fine on Nathan's student stipend and I'm finding good, productive ways to fill my time. I'm finishing up my application to OSU's City and Regional Planning Master's Program. I'm super nervous about it.

Hopefully the admissions committee will, in their all-powerful mercy, look favorably upon my liberal arts degree and 3.6 gpa.

But even if they don't, that's okay. I'll find other ways to spend my time with things that make me happy.

Especially because I have someone who loves me a lot.

I know I'm probably going to have some more days like this

But here's to hoping most of them are like this

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Temple, Garments, and what Sacred looks like

I've been reading a lot this morning about the speculation surrounding Ann Romney and her wearing of garments. Pictures of her wearing very short sleeves and above-the-knee skirts have led some to question if she in fact wears Temple garments. I think the whole thing is ridiculous and that how someone chooses to explore their faith is no one's business but their own (not to mention that some women's garments don't actually go to the knee), but I don't want to talk about Ann Romney.

Instead, I want to talk about how we think of the sacredness of Temple ceremonies and garments.

If you are unfamiliar, here are some basic definitions: Mormons practice ritualistic ceremonies in Temples which we believe are patterned after ancient Temple ceremonies. We also believe that those who have participated in a particular ceremony, called the Endowment, have the opportunity to wear garments. Garments are white underclothing consisting of a short sleeve top and a bottom which extends almost to the knee (there are some other kinds, such as long-sleeve garments for cold weather and one-pieces). Endowed Mormons are asked to wear them at all times except when doing things than can not be reasonably done while wearing them, such as bathing or swimming. We can compare it to clothing worn by members of other ritualistic religions, because they serve the same purpose: a constant, outward reminder of an inward covenant with God.

To think that we can keep these things from those outside the Church is naive. Anyone can do a quick Google search and see videos and pictures of things sacred to Mormons. Often times, Mormons become offended when someone reveals these things to the public, and for good reason. We are taught that the Temple is the most sacred place on earth and we generally associate revealing it with anti-Mormon antagonism. But even though our first reaction is offense, should we remain offended? I think exploring what sacred means in a Mormon context would help us not to be.

It has been said (which, if someone can source this for me, that would be wonderful) that the difference between reading about or watching the Temple ceremony online and actually experiencing it in person is like the difference between reading the score and watching the symphony. I think this is a fantastic analogy, and one with which I agree. I'll be honest, I have sat in Temple ceremonies and thought, "If I didn't believe in the ancient pattern or symbolism of all of this, I would think it was really, really, really weird." I'm sure if I read about it online before my own Endowment, I would not get the same feeling that I get in the Temple: the active participation of my body and soul feels like the way I was designed to worship God. While I enjoy the intellectual satisfaction of thinking about the Temple ceremony, I go for the spiritual fulfillment.

I often wonder if our reasons for keeping the Temple and garments sacred are misguided. We often use the idiom "Sacred, not secret" in reference to the Temple. But is this how we practice it? I would argue that the reason we are asked not to reveal Temple ceremonies or garments is not a pearls-before-swine rationale. Rather, the experience we have in the Temple is incommunicable to those who have not experienced it. It is more than just words and ritual. The sacredness of the entire experience gets lost when we try to communicate it outside of its context. It's not because it's our own little secret which only gets shared with a select few, but that to willingly share it outside of its context shows a complete misunderstanding of the reasons behind it.

I also think we get confused about what in the Temple is actually sacred. The symbols and the words used are not what are sacred. What the symbols and words mean are what is. One big criticism of the Temple ceremony is its similarity to Masonic rituals. However, I would argue that the symbols and words in the Temple ceremony could be anything, so long as they still represent what God intends them to. So what if someone records it and posts it on Youtube? So what if someone is selling garments on Ebay? The sacredness no longer exists in it. It becomes only a satisfaction of curiosity and nothing else.

I hope that we can get to a point where we get a better understanding what sacred means and how our experience with the Temple and garments fits into our culture of information and curiosity. And I hope for myself that I can be okay with the decisions of others to discount the Temple's sacredness because those decisions do not affect my faith and my Mormon experience.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On Mercy and the Transient Community

So I've recently tried to get in the habit of buying a meal, even just a McDonald's lunch, for every homeless person I see. I'm not perfect at this, and sometimes I like to convince myself that I have somewhere important to be (protip: I don't), but I'm trying to get better at it. Today while driving back from some errands in Orem, I found myself willing to buy lunch for a transient man. $6 at a gas station got him a sandwich, carrots, Chex mix, and a liter of water.

Recently I've been in a few conversations about why and how we help the transient community. One argument that comes up consistently to justify not helping those who are struggling is that they were the ones who made poor choices to get them in their situation, they'll use what is given to them for drugs or alcohol, they're "professional" panhandlers, they aren't doing real work, or some variant of one of these. The underlying implication is that helping them is somehow taking responsibility for their bad actions.

So I was thinking about all of this on my way back home, trying to piece together exactly how I feel about the balance between compassion and personal responsibility, when I thought of Alma 7:11-12.

"And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities."

The purpose of the Atonement was for Christ to take responsibility for not only the situations we have no control over, but also our bad choices.

So how profoundly Christlike it would be for us to stop making excuses about why we shouldn't help the transient community, pretending that we are teaching them self-sufficiency, when we ourselves aren't at all deserving of the obligation Christ has taken upon himself to us. How Christlike we would become if we stopped judging homeless people by making assumptions about them and just helped them. How Christlike we would be if we took responsibility for others, including responsibility for their possible poor decisions.

Because, when you think about it, we are all standing at intersections, holding well-worn cardboard signs, begging for mercy.

"For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?" (Mosiah 4:19)

Sometimes it seems like, because we live in a culture that prizes individualism, we seem to forget just how fiercely interdependent we are--how absolutely necessary it is for us to be part of a community. And we use this to justify thinking that we are only responsible for ourselves. However, I argue that as members of the human family, every one of us has an obligation to help better the lives of every one else.

So what ought we to do? I would agree that government programs can be inefficient and sometimes abused. But this is all the more reason for personal action. So I would like to present a challenge. Do something to help a member of the transient community without judgment or assumption. See your action for him or her as selfless as the Savior's work is for us. Christ shows us never ending mercy, regardless of our actions and decisions. Do we not owe it to our brothers and sisters to do the same for them?