Friday, December 30, 2011

I am still a geek

I have been much more geek adjacent than full geek lately.

Then, tonight, I was cooking dinner, and as I was smashing the tomatoes in the skillet for my fantastic homemade tomato sauce, one of the tomatoes exploded and I got hit by flying, superheated tomato juice.

The first thing I thought was, "OOOOWWWW!"

Then next thing I thought was, "Splash damage."

And then I decided to figure out how much damage flying, superheated tomato juice would do.

I am still a geek.

Oh, and 1d2.

12 Big Things for 2012

1. Buy new mattress for our bed. Ours is ten years old and slumpy.
2. Finish the basement.
3. Fence the backyard.
4. GeekBoy and I take a real vacation, sans Cooper.
5. GeekBoy and I take a real vacation with Cooper.
6. Plant a tree that is at least as tall as I am.
7. Laugh more than I did last year.
8. Make an item of clothing - not an accessory - and wear it.
9. Read thirty books for fun.
10. Try thirty new recipes.
11. Find a new poet to adore.
12. Do something completely spontaneous and unexpected.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


We had a wonderful Christmas this year. We decided not to go anywhere and just stay home so we could all (read:me) sleep as much as we wanted and finally get feeling better.

My annual pledge to not spoil Cooper was once again a total failure, and was helped out even more by loving aunts and uncles who treat him like one of their own. Let's just say I think I could set up a Playmobil store in my living room and leave it at that.

People always say it is better to give than to receive, and at Christmas I especially believe that. Watching Geekboy and Cooper open presents that I spent a lot of time thinking about, and how happy and excited they were was great.  Of course, they also did wonderfully in their choice of presents for me. True love is 180 pounds of fancy birdseed.

Next year, we're going to go spend Christmas with my family. That was the one thing that I really missed over the holidays, was my family and all the noise and crazy and cooking and laughing until you cry and new books that you steal from people when they set them down that goes along with my family.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Little Eyes

Sometimes you never know what your child is actually paying attention to. It's been a rough few months healthwise. Tonight, Cooper was saying his prayers, and he said, "Please bless Momma, that her body will get all clean." He says something is all clean when it is working right.

I managed to not cry in front of him.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

I am a legend in my own time

From a student evaluation:
"This class was as awful and painful as everyone's says."

I am not familiar with Everyone's says, but apparently, it's pretty bad.

On a serious note, I do agree with all of the "How could this class be made better" comments. Every once in a while, you do have the random student that goes off on you, but in general, I have been impressed with the ability of my students to offer substantive feedback on what works and what doesn't in a class.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I have a hard time relaxing

I declared this morning that today was going to be my day to relax. It helped that I slept in until a little after 10:00am. At that point, why not declare a day off.

But instead, I wrapped ALL the presents. Two hours and four rolls of wrapping paper later, that was done. I love finishing off a roll of wrapping paper.

Then I decided to start sewing gifts for people. It turns out that, though I can make a stuffed shark with no pattern, I have problems sewing rectangles together. I am not sure what my problem is. Maybe I will wait until after Christmas to craft things.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow I will relax

Monday, December 19, 2011

End of the semester

I finished up all the semester end stuff today and a bunch of administrative stuff as well.

I went grocery shopping and got real food for my family, so we aren't surviving on leftovers.

And then I got home and realized I had left all my work I need to do over the break in my office. Grrr.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

O break, where are thou?

Theoretically, my break starts tomorrow. Realistically, all day tomorrow will be spent in my office finishing up grading, writing letters of recommendation, and finishing up all the administrative tasks that I have to do. I honestly cannot imagine what it must be like to be heavily involved in administration.

Classes start again on January 4th. I have almost nothing done for my syllabi for next semester. One of them is for a class I am drastically reworking; another for a class I've never taught before.

Oh, and I have a conference paper I was planning on writing over the break, too.

Hmm. This does not seem very break-like to me.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

My take on a Christmas Classic

It's The Most Wonderful Time of the Year - Professor Version

It's the most wonderful time of the year!
With the students appealing the grades they're receiving, 
"What's with this F?"
It's the most wonderful time of the year.

It's the hap-happiest season of all!

The finals aren't graded, the faculty's jaded,
And students I've not seen since fall!
It's the hap-happiest season of all!

There'll be stories of sickness

And grandmas who've kicked it
And slide-offs into the snow.
Academic suspension and
Scholarship tension and
Homework from long, long ago!

It's the most wonderful time of the year
My patience is fading,

I'll finish my grading
When students aren't here!
It's the most wonderful time of the year!

There'll be technology crashes
And tears on the lashes,
And deadlines that they didn't know.
The roommate's psychotic,
The boyfriend's hypnotic and
He just would not let her goooooooo!

It's the most wonderful time of the year
There is much celebrating 

I've finished my grading 
And I'm on my break! It's the most wonderful time
It's the most wonderful time
It's the most wonderful time
It's the most wonderful time of the year!

Honestly, I love about 99% of my students.  And I love the other 1% because it's a commandment. Every once in a while, I just have to write a song. It's who I am.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I love my job

GeekBoy: How do you deal with coworkers who say stupid political stuff?

Me: I work with political science professors. They don't say stupid political stuff.

GeekBoy: Oh, yeah.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Princess and the Pea

Last night was bad. As I was laying in bed, I could feel something digging painfully into my side. I rolled over onto my back so I could look to see what it was. There was nothing on the bed, and as I ran my hand down my side trying to see if I had something under my night shirt, I realized I had been laying on a wrinkle in my shirt.

I have never felt more like a princess in my life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yes, this.

Everyone needs to read this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Doctor appointment

We have run out of treatment options.

Let's put you on something you tried in the past, but at a higher dose.

Do you need a re-fill on your pain meds?


Monday, December 12, 2011

I love my body

1. My body is not actively trying to kill me.
2. My eyes allow me to see beauty every day.
3. I have a beautiful singing voice.
4. My body bore two beautiful children.
5. My ears hear my husband say, "I love you."
6. My body lets me hug my kid, tuck him into bed, and give him good night kisses.
7. I have lips that are the color and shape that most women try to get with lipstick.
8. My fibromyalgia means I am on so many medications that I can't donate blood, so I don't have to feel guilty about not donating.
9. I have gorgeous blue eyes, that I passed on to Cooper.
10. I have three little moles in the center of my back that form a tiny triangle. I'm grateful for that because if I ever get decapitated, I'll still be easy to identify.

Sunday, December 11, 2011


  1. Chocolate
  2. Health Insurance
  3. Laughter
  4. A healthy kid
  5. Pain meds
  6. My husband who takes care of me without a complaint
  7. The priesthood
  8. Home teachers who care
  9. Down blankets
  10. Avocado
  11. Books
  12. My family
  13. My kindle
  14. Temple covenants
  15. Glasses
  16. Electricity
  17. Heaters
  18. Purple
  19. Passion
  20. Snickerdoodles
  21. My grandpa who converted to our faith
  22. Birdsong
  23. Garden swings
  24. Sunshine
  25. Rain storms
  26. Teaching
  27. Learning
  28. Love
  29. Truth
  30. Wendell Berry
  31. Gainful employment
  32. Meaningful employment
  33. My mom's fudge
  34. Christmas lights
  35. Hedgehogs
  36. Fuzzy socks
  37. Friendship
  38. My son that died
  39. The resurrection
  40. Sharpies
  41. Notebooks
  42. Donut holes
  43. Faith
  44. The desire to achieve
  45. Candles
  46. Cuddling
  47. Music that you can sing along to at the top of your lungs
  48. Music that inspires
  49. Libraries
  50. C.S. Lewis
  51. Aldo Leopold
  52. The Pacific Ocean
  53. The Snake River
  54. Redwood Trees
  55. Bald Eagles
  56. My cat
  57. The scent of lilac blooming in the spring
  58. Cruise control
  59. The spot on my husband's stomach that is the perfect pillow for my head when I have had a bad day.
  60. Poetry
  61. BBC miniseries
  62. The internets
  63. My siblings
  64. My parents
  65. Toenail polish 
  66. Barefoot weather
  67. Craft supplies
  68. Bookshelves
  69. Streaming video
  70. Indoor water fights
  71. Falling in love over and over again
  72. Inspiration
  73. Revelation
  74. Snuggling puppies at the pet store to stave off my "need something cute and little" urges
  75. A husband who thinks it is sexy when I am smart
  76. Happy rocks
  77. Purple hippos
  78. Having been married long enough to say, "Remember when...?"
  79. Lip gloss
  80. Massages
  81. Nutella
  82. Everything bagels with whipped cream cheese
  83. Bountiful Baskets
  84. Bacon
  85. Geek webcomics
  86. Fantasy novels
  87. Indoor plumbing
  88. Cute hair clippies
  89. King Benjamin
  90. Washing machines and dryers
My fibromyalgia and headache has been worse than normal lately. I have a doctor's appointment Tuesday. We'll see if we can make any more medication changes or if anything else can be done. My body feels like it is holding me hostage anymore, so I am going to see if I can come up with ten things about my body for which I am grateful, because I can't make myself be grateful for the fibromyalgia. Yet.

  1. My fingernails that look like I have a french manicure with no effort
  2. My intellect
  3. Hair that grows superfast so I have no fear about doing weird things to it because if it doesn't work it will just grow back out.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Rules for life

I've been thinking about the rules for living that I have learned in my years. I've learned them from lots of different sources, and at lots of different points in my life.

  1. Treat others the way you want to be treated.
  2. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all.
  3. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
  4. Inexpensive is good. Cheap is not.
  5. Love is always the answer.
  6. A place for everything, and everything in its place.
  7. It may be the easy way, but its not the cowboy way.
  8. Its not all about you.
  9. Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read.
  10. You may not be able to control what happens to you. You can control how you respond to what happens to you, though.
Ten rules were enough for the ancient Israelites. Ten rules are good enough for me.

What rules do you follow in your life?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Mormons are not Christians

One of the things I tell my research students on an almost weekly basis is that they need to define their terms. The recent fight over whether or not Mormons are Christians is a classic case in point.

Christian denominations insist that Mormons are not Christians. Mormons insist that they are. That is due to a fundamental disagreement over what we mean when we use the term Christian. Mormons as a group don't understand why people can't figure out that we are Christian. Our church is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Look, we say, it's right there in the name. We accept Christ as our Savior. We believe in the virgin birth, His death on the Cross and the Resurrection. We believe He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father except through Him.  Where is the confusion coming from, we wonder.

But as essential as that all is to being a Christian, my understanding of what is entailed in the term Christian as used by other denominations goes far beyond those doctrinal issues. It requires a belief in a creedal history that Mormons do not have.

We can share most of the Apostles creed in common with mainstream Christianity. We don't believe that Christ descended into hell while he was dead, because we don't believe in hell the way that most Christians do. Rather, we believe that during the three days between his death and resurrection, Christ organized missionary efforts amongst the righteous dead to send his message to those who died without a knowledge of Christ. We also don't really believe in the Catholic/Christian church. The Nicene and Athanasian Creeds head further into unshared water.

We don't believe in the Trinity.
We don't believe in predestination.
We don't believe that most people are going to end up in hell.
We don't believe that man is, by nature, fallen.

What do we believe?

We believe that we are literally spirit children of God the Father, that we lived with Him in heaven before we were born, and that we all chose to come to earth to further our spiritual progression.

We believe that Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost are three distinct personages. 

We believe that the Fall caused death to come to this world, and that as mortals we are subjected to weakness and temptation because of our existence in a fallen world and at the hands of Satan and his followers. We believe that only through the Atonement of Christ can we be saved, both from the effects of death and sin.

We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved.

We believe that through the Atonement, not only can we be forgiven, but we can be perfected, long after this life is over. Yes, we believe that the biblical wording that "ye are gods" is actually descriptive. We can become like unto God, through probably millions of years of participation in the redemptive process of the Atonement.

We believe that families can be eternal. We believe that through ordinances available in the temple, families can continue forever.

To try and gloss over the magnitude of the differences between Mormonism and mainstream Christianity I think is both intellectually dishonest and demeans the belief systems of those who do not share our doctrine. To try and elide those differences as just minor points of disagreement is to try and ignore ideas that are so central to the spiritual life of millions of people that wars have literally been fought over these concepts.

So you know what I say? I say stop worrying about whether or not we are Christians. Christ Himself said that not everybody who says unto him, Lord, Lord will be saved.  Focus on living a Christlike life. Focus on living the gospel of Christ as you understand. Love one another. Love God above all and love your neighbor as yourself.

And fellow Mormons, stop downplaying what makes us distinctive so that we can fit in with everyone else. We are weird. We are a peculiar people. What we believe is different - amazingly, remarkably, eternally different - but that is why it is necessary. If Heavenly Father could have accomplished what he needed with the churches that were currently on the Earth, He wouldn't have had a restoration. There would have been no need for Joseph Smith, or the Book of Mormon, or temples or anything else that makes us stand out. If that makes us a cult in the worlds' eyes, so be it. I'm not particularly interested in what the world thinks of me, anyway.

Think about it this way: We believe all the people claiming the title Christian and refusing to apply it to us are apostate. So why are we so eager to fit in with them in the first place?

So stand tall, fellow Mormons. Embrace your inner Christian, come to terms with your peculiar divine nature, and let your freak flag fly.

Disclaimer: This is just my own beliefs and should not be interpreted as an official statement of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The reason for the long absence

The morning of the 28th, about 2:00am, I woke up coughing and could feeling something weird in my mouth. I went in to the bathroom and spit up a large mouthful of blood. I yelled for my husband and he came running as I continued to spit up mouthfuls of blood. He got on the phone with my surgeon, and we spent the next two hours trying to get the bleeding to stop. It would stop temporarily, but if I did so much as roll over in bed, it would start again. Finally, about 4:30, we called a friend to come over and sit with our son while we headed to the emergency room. After being poked and prodded by the ER physician, it was determined that I had a "small arterial bleed" and would need emergency surgery to cauterize the artery.

In to surgery I went, the anaesthesiologist applied pressure to my throat as I went under so I wouldn't vomit up the blood that was in my stomach, and a minor surgery later, I emerged cauterized and stitched.

I have never looked so white in my life as I did when I got home later that day from the hospital. I don't know how to quantify the amount of blood I lost, but two weeks later I am still a little anemic and lightheaded at times. It was an incredibly traumatic experience. Geekboy had to give me a blessing that night because I was so scared of going back to bed. I knew that if I fell asleep I would bleed out and die in my sleep. Cooper was very clingy that day because he woke up and his parents were unexpectedly gone. So my husband gave me an incredibly powerful blessing of comfort and healing, and then all three of us piled into our bed and went to sleep. We all needed to be together that night.

I've spent the last week and a bit in pre-semester meetings. I've met with my tenure committee. I did a conference presentation that rocked (and I'm not the one who said that) and prepping for the new semester. It starts tomorrow.

My vacation wasn't very restful. Maybe I'll relax over Christmas.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Things I probably should try to do while on pain medication

1. Go on Etsy (says my thither.)
2. Try to learn how to knit lace.
3. Juggle knives.
4. Use heavy machinery.

So, ummmmm, now what do I do?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Now, with 100% less tonsils

I shall be surviving on yogurt, juice and applesauce for the next few days. I'm trying to think of other soft foods to eat that aren't going to irritate my throat.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Conferences, conferences

I've had two conference proposals accepted in the last month, one at our university's conference, and one at a small regional conference. I submitted another proposal yesterday to a big national conference and was notified by the site that someone was googling me this morning, so I'm assuming it is them.

And I just got an email from the section chair at the regional conference asking me if I would be willing to be a panel discussant.

I think I officially feel like a professor.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

30 minutes meals

The fall semester is looming on the distant horizon, and that means less puttering time in the evenings once I get back to work. I'm teaching late afternoon classes three days a week this upcoming semester, and on those nights, the last thing I want to do is cook. So as I've been poking around the internet this summer, I've been keeping an eye out for easy recipes that take under thirty minutes to make. Today for lunch I threw together a recipe that was based on a couple of ones that I've seen floating around and changed it to match what I had in my fridge and cupboards.

Thai Ramen Noodles

1 bell pepper slivered
10 baby carrots, quartered
Two large handfuls of baby spinach
Two packages of ramen noodles (I don't remember buying ramen noodles, but they were in the food storage. Any kind of asian noodle would work, or even spaghetti)
1 T of red curry paste.
1 can of light coconut milk
2 T of sesame oil

Put the water on to boil for the noodles while you chop up your vegetables. When the water comes to a boil, throw the carrots in the water. A minute later, add the ramen noodles.

When the carrots go in the water, add the sesame oil to a skillet, heat over high heat until hot. Add the curry paste and stirfry for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Stir in the coconut milk until smooth. Add the bell peppers. Let simmer over medium heat for a few minutes.

When the noodles are almost cooked, throw in the baby spinach and let cook just long enough to wilt. Drain. Put back in the pot, dump the coconut milk mixture over the top and stir through.

Serve in bowls.  Pass hot sweet chili sauce at the table to drizzle over the top to taste.

Served all three of us with enough left over to make a part of a work lunch.

Cooper loved eating the ramen noodles because I left them too long. He ate from the bottom up.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

I am so boring

What have I been up to for the last few days?

  • Got my diploma framed.
  • Wrote on bananas with toothpicks. One said my son's name. The other said, "Eat me."
  • Much crafting for presents. Pictures will show up when the gifts have been given so as to not ruin any surprises.
  • Spent more than two hands worth of hours working on a syllabus. The course is being completely redesigned to take into account a new prerequisite sequence, so even though I've been teaching it for the last two years, it's like designing from scratch. New textbooks, new material, the whole shebang.
That doesn't sound like much, but I've been working what feels like non-stop. I'm a perfectionist when it comes to course design so that's always a much longer process than it would be for some other people. I do love it though. I love planning the perfect semester, where all the projects work perfectly, and all the students lack attitutde problems.

Oh, I got an email from my dean about my student evaluations. I had one student just go after me in a way that was quite upsetting. He just wanted to let me know that I'm a great teacher, and it was obvious that someone had it out for me, but to not worry, because it happens to everybody once in a while. Just one more reason why I love my dean.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Gorgeous Rainy Day

It was a gorgeous rainy day today. The kind of rain that just keeps falling until there are little creeks running down the alley, and the air is washed free of all impurity.

So I sat in my house with the windows open listening to the rain today. I got a new sewing machine on Saturday. I didn't have a lot of time for making things with my hands during grad school. It was mostly a period of only the essential getting done. I decided to go through my crafting supplies - the little I had kept - and, well...

Fat Owl saw you eat his cookie.

Holier Than Thou Hippie (HTTH) Owl only hunts for prey in organic farmland.

HTTH Owl judges Fat Owl for being made out of synthetic fibers.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Sorta Productive Saturday!

My fibro was acting up today, so I didn't do much physical stuff. GeekBoy took a bunch of stuff to the DI today, so that was good.

I redesigned a course that I haven't taught in five years today. Wow, that makes it seem like I've been teaching for a long time. I'm really excited about getting to teach it. It's on the presidency, and what an interesting time it's going to be teaching that course right now.

I also synched all the music that I have purchased on three separate computers onto my laptop, so now I have all my happy music in one place.

And, I bought these earrings a few years ago, but I never wore them because the ear wires were super long and dangly and they just bothered me. So today I swapped out the ear wires with ones that I like, so it's like having a brand new pair of earrings.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Photodump Friday

I spent several hours working on my syllabi for the Fall Semester this afternoon. I think I have one of the three just about whipped into shape. I wonder if there will ever come a semester where I don't redesign at least one major aspect of a syllabus.

I also downloaded all the photos off of my phone onto my laptop, and then uploaded lots of them to my flickr account.

A few favorites:








Thursday, July 28, 2011

What I did on Thursday

Lots and lots of laundry.

And this.

It's supposed to be for a six month old, but it came out sized for a two year old. Oh well, kids grow.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

My poor summer

I had a huge list of things I was going to do on summer break, but now it has turned into strep throat central and I have to have my tonsils out and meetings for "new" faculty start three weeks before the semester so my summer break is kind of in disarray.

So, now I'm just kind of wondering what I should do with the bits and pieces of my summer break. I could just stay in bed and do nothing, but to keep me from doing that, I hereby pledge to post one thing I did each day, beyond, you know, eat cold cereal and shower. Just to keep me from totally wasting the parts of summer that I do have.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

14th Article of Faith

If you complain about something at church, you will get called to fix it.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Did you think to pray?

I suck at praying. I'm sure one of the early saints would have come up with a more eloquent way of saying that, like, "Lo, behold my soul shrinketh in comparison to the mercy and grace that thou has shown me, O Lord, and it is because of thy great goodness O Lord, that I am reluctant to come to thee in my daily trials, because what could someone like me be of interest to thy great Goodness and Mercy and Perfection. When I have gotten my act together, then O Lord, I will be willing to let you into my life. But not now, O Lord, for I have not figured out how to do this all on my own, and only once I have figured out how to do this without You, will I come unto You and say, look Lord, I have done it all on my own. Aren't you proud of me?"

And in that day, which will never come, for it is impossible for me be perfected under my own efforts, He will look at me and say, "O Child, for one so smart, you sure are stupid."

Okay, maybe He wouldn't actually say that, but He might be thinking it loudly. I am thinking it loudly at myself lately.

I know prayer works. When I pray I get answers, but I only pray when things are going really badly. It is difficult for me to keep myself constantly aware of my own reliance on God, without feeling like I am somehow failing at being an independent adult. And there we go, that's the root of the problem. (Writing is amazing. It's how I figure things out.)

I want to be an independent adult. I can do it all by myself. But I can't. My insistence on doing it by myself has brought on me additional trials. I've had people who I trust spiritually tell me that I go through difficult trials because I refuse to ask for help in prayer, and because I'm talented enough to get through most things without having to ask for help. That is why I get the big complicated ones, because only then will I humble myself enough to rely on the Lord for assistance. I kind of think that is one of the reasons why I am dealing with the health issues that I have, to make me more reliant on the Lord and on others for help.

The question that I am struggling with is how do I maintain the humility in good times that I am forced to have when times are rough? I'm not good at that at all, and I feel a strong need to improve in this area of my life recently.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

This I Believe

I believe in love.

I believe that there is a quote from Steel Magnolias that is appropriate for any situation.

I believe that any meal can be improved by the addition of one of the five magic ingredients: butter, cheese, bacon, chocolate or avocado.

I believe that most things in the world can be explained using Star Wars, Battlestar Gallactica, Harry Potter, Dune or Charlie the Unicorn references.

I believe in justice.

I believe in mercy.

I believe in high threadcount bed linens.

I believe in the color purple, the number 42, and that my life has a personal soundtrack that no one else can hear.

I believe in proofreading.

I believe that proofreading and spell checking are two different activities.

I believe in the abolition of the Oxford comma.

I believe in Stephen Fry.

I believe that any problem in the world can be solved by the proper application of office supplies.

I believe that if you can't fix something with vice grips, duct tape and a can of WD-40, you probably shouldn't be messing with it.

I believe that you should take only photographs and leave only footprints.

I believe in poetry.

I believe in homemade bread, warm out of the oven, with jam.

I believe in the power of human goodness.

I believe in hard work.

I believe in singing along with musicals.

I believe in women in general, and the women in my family in particular.

I believe in afternoon naps in the sunshine.

I believe snorgling a baby belly - human or canine - is a cheap anti-depressant.

I believe in laughter.

I believe in myself.

I believe.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I have a 6,000ish word zero draft of an article. It felt clunky, and was missing something to pull it all together. I read an article today and realized what I was missing. I think I have something important and new to say. Now to just get it out on paper the way it looks in my head.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

An Outpouring of the Spirit

This post is a part of June's Synchroblog. Check back Wednesday evening for a list of links to all the other Synchroblog participants.

The topic for this month is
The Jewish festival of Shavuot (Pentecost) celebrates the giving of the Torah at Sinai, and falls 50 days after the second night of Pesach (Passover). This year that'll be June 7-8, depending on where you live and how you celebrate.

The Christian feast of Pentecost celebrates the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles in the book of Acts, ushering in the beginning of the church. Fifty days after Jesus’s resurrection (10 days after His ascension), the apostles were gathered together, and on Pentecost a flame rested upon the shoulders of the apostles and they began to speak in tongues/languages by the power of the Holy Spirit.

For the June synchroblog we invite you to reflect on the foreshadowing that Shavuot brings to the Christian feast of Pentecost. How does the Torah foreshadow the Holy Spirit? What can we learn from our forefathers that will enrich our faith? What are the parallels? What are the differences? These are some (but definitely not all) of the questions that might be explored in this synchroblog.
Honestly, I had to do a little bit of research on Shavuot to figure out how I was going to approach this topic. At the giving of the Torah, there was an outpouring of Spirit as well, but instead of hearing the message of the Apostles in their own tongue, during the receiving of the Law, rabbis tells us that the audience all heard a message as well, but it was communicated by the Spirit, and each person was given a different message.

Even knowing that, I wasn't sure what I was going to say until this morning.


He hung back after class. "Sister MyLastName, can I ask you a question?"


"How do you balance all this" he waved around the classroom, "with what you know to be true?"

I teach political philosophy at a religious institution. This isn't the first time I've been asked this question, typically of a bright young mind who is sincerely honest both in their belief in God, and in studying in a discipline that doesn't really have a place for God anymore.

"Because, I want to share my testimony, but I'm not sure if I can say 'I know' any more. I believe, but can you really know?"

And I told him. Yes, you know. I know through the Spirit. It's confirmed to me the truthfulness of God being our Father, and Jesus is our Savior, and in Joseph Smith and in the Book of Mormon. I know those things are true. And I leave the rest of it up to God.

I don't really think God cares what you believe about dinosaurs, and geological time tables, and Glenn Beck. He cares whether or not you're keeping the covenants you have made with him. The gospel has existed in a lot of different places and a lot of different times, and sometimes the revelations that were good for other generations don't work today for some reason. I can cut my hair short and eat a cheeseburger and I think that's okay, and I think God's okay with that too. Doctrine doesn't change. Cultural practices of a doctrine does. So, we have to figure out what is doctrine from what is culture.

"Well, how do you do that?"

I said, this is where it gets tricky. You and I both believe in modern day prophets. We sustain them as prophets, seers, and revelators. They receive guidance from the Lord about how to administer his church. Does that mean that every utterance they make is Scripture? No. Sometimes they are just men. And sometimes they get it wrong. And they admit that they got it wrong.

We then talked for a while about how different practices of the church have been disavowed, and where apostles have admitted publicly that they were mistaken about statements they have made.

"So, how do you tell the difference?"

The Spirit will tell you the difference. When someone says something that is incorrect spiritually, the Spirit will let you know that it is incorrect. God trusts you enough to receive confirmation by the Spirit of the truthfulness of any message.

That's not a standard LDS viewpoint. We tend to just accept whatever they say as the truth, but there are times where they are factually inaccurate, or that the message they are giving as a general guiding principle doesn't apply to you, or needs to be practiced in a non-standard way. This is the point to me of the parallels between the giving of the Old Testament Law and the New Testament Law. Both involve God speaking, through the Spirit, to each of His children in an individualized personal manner. Whether it is literally in a different language, or if he is just speaking the language of our heart, we should be prepared for and seek after opportunities to feel the guiding influence of the Spirit in how we live the Gospel.

And I ended with, when in doubt, act out of love, and you'll never be wrong.

I hope it helped.

Kerri at Earth’s Crammed With Heaven… – Transformation
Sarita Brown at Gypsy Queen Journals – Pentecost: A Poem
Jeremy Myers at Till He Comes - The Incarnation of the Temple, Torah, and Land
Tammy Carter at Blessing the Beloved - Random Biblical Calendar Thoughts, Unity & Love
K. W. Leslie at More Christ – Pentecost
Liz Dyer at Grace Rules – We Cannot Capture The Wind 
Emma Nadine at Life by List - An Outpouring of the Spirit
Marta Layton at Marta’s Mathoms - Shadow of Things to Come?
Abbie Waters at No Longer “Not Your Grandfather’s CPA” - Spiritual Gifts
Bill Sahlman at Creative Reflections - A “Wild Goose” Festival at Pentecost
John O’Keefe at john c. o’keefe – What’s With This
Kathy Escobar at kathy escobar – more than the leftovers

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Even Skeletor Has Friends

I've got multiple tabs up right now as I watch the world wait for President Obama to confirm what all the news stations are blaring: Osama bin Laden is dead.

I'm kind of appalled at what is going on in my news feed on Facebook. People are celebrating the death of another human being.

Yes, I know, 9-11, USS Cole, and a hundred other atrocities can be placed at his feet. But still, he's a human being, and people are lighting fireworks and popping champagne.

The only thing I can think to say is this:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Doctor Me

I passed my defense. It seems like that should be a bigger deal than it is, but my defense was actually pretty easy. I guess having a committee that has given you extensive feedback along the way so you're on your fourth draft by the time you get to defend helps with that.

Most of the discussion was about how to turn it into a book. They want me to anticipate my critics. I laughed internally at that. I have critics? When did that happen? Oh, yeah, at the point I became a doctor.

It's been a weird week and a half since then. I feel at lost ends. You don't realize the enormity of the timesuck that a project like that is until you don't have it to do anymore, and you start wondering what to do with all that time. I haven't heard back about the job yet, so I'm still waiting to hear if my hire got approved, so it's hard to move forward with anything academically until I know what's going on there.

So, today I dealt with some curriculum issues our program is having. And then I designed a Secret Agent Man major. It includes politics, criminology, social dance and welding.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

When the FBI comes knocking

Scene: I am sitting at my desk, with the office door open. I am helping a student analyze his research results. The student leaves and I see a middle aged man in a black coat standing there. I assume he is a used textbook buyer.
Me: Can I help you?
Man: Hi, I’m from the FBI…
Me thinking: *yeah right, which one of my students put you up to this?”
Man shows me his badge.
Me thinking: Oh, crap!
Man: I need to talk to you…
Me thinking: It was Modern Theory Class! I’m supposed to teach Marx!
Man: … about one of your students…
Me thinking: Did one of them think I was serious and go shoot a member of the bourgeoisie?
Man: …who is applying to be an intern with us.
Me:* internal sigh of relief* Oh sure, come on in.
End scene.

Note to self:  1. Never let them see you sweat. 2. It’s not all about you.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Big week

This week:
  • I got permission to defend my dissertation. Draft three took, and I get to defend in April.
  • I was informed that I am the preferred candidate for the tenure track job I applied for. The university has sent my name to the executive board for approval. If they sign off, I have the job.
  • My husband got a great job offer from a company that is recruiting him. They are still negotiating the details, but it looks like he'll be leaving the company he's worked for for the last decade.
We've had so many of these major life change issues going on during the last month that it has been difficult to make plans because so much is up in the air. As one of these things gets nailed down after the other - and seriously, all three of these still have uncertainty to one degree or another - it should make planning easier. We're potentially going to sell our house and move. Maybe. To one of three cities. And we'll have to make decisions about schools for Cooper and all sorts of fun stuff.

I bought a little notebook to keep in my purse that I can jot down all the little things that will need to get done on  multiple fronts over the next while to make sure all these things happen when they are supposed to.

It's back to life by list.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Life in the Wilderness

This post is part of a Synchroblog on the season of Lent and experiences in the wilderness. Check at the end of this post for a list of the other blog posts that are part of this synchroblog.
I knew something was wrong by the look on his face. You don't miscarry two sets of twins and not get good at reading the faces of doctors when they are looking at your ultrasound.

This time was supposed to be different. My husband had given me a blessing when we found out that I was pregnant. In that blessing, he gave me two distinct promises. First, that this child would be born into mortality with everything he needed to accomplish his mission on earth; second, that I would be happy the day he was born.

I had panicked at the first promise. That language means something to a Mormon. It means that something is wrong, that the child will die quickly because all he needs is a body before he returns to his Heavenly Father. But I couldn't reconcile that promise with the second one. How could I be happy if my child died? I decided that I must be overanalyzing the language of the blessing. God promised me happiness. Happiness would be had.

As the doctor started listing off all the problems he was seeing - hydrocephalus, a missing heart chamber, no kidneys, and on and on - I felt as if a fluffy warm down comforter was wrapped around me. I know now that God walked me through the rest of my time with this pregnancy. I was supported by the love of my Father for me through the hardest experience of my life. I was protected as much as I possibly could be and still allow me to learn from this experience all the lessons that I needed to learn.

Even through the grief, I felt at a distance from the pronouncement. I knew I was supposed to be happy when this child was born, and that could not happen with this set of facts. We were sent to a specialist to confirm the diagnosis. They concurred that the fetus probably wouldn't make it to term, and if it did, would only live a few minutes at the most. We were given the opportunity for an abortion. We declined. That was my baby. I was going to treasure each moment I had with him.

And so our time of waiting began. We waited, not knowing how long the pregnancy would last. Every week we went in for a doctor's appointment. Every week his heart was still beating. Week after week I clung to the promise of happiness, expecting a miracle.

Finally, at about 31 weeks, my OB sent me in for another ultrasound. He told me that there was no way I should have made it that far in my pregnancy, and he wanted to see exactly what was going on. The ultrasound showed not my expected miracle, but that the baby's hydrocephalus had progressed to the point where his head was already measuring 41 weeks. The specialists told me there was no sign that the pregnancy was going to end on its own, and if I ever wanted to get pregnant again, they advised me to induce labor as soon as possible to prevent a c-section scar so significant that it would prevent me ever having another pregnancy.

And so we did. The next evening, I went in to the hospital and labor was induced. The next morning, my son was born. His heart had stopped beating at some point during labor, so they handed me his body, wrapped in a blanket. I held him. And I was happy.

Those 11 weeks of waiting, of not knowing, of wondering what was going to happen, of all the science saying one thing and my faith saying something else, led to one of the most marvelous revelations of the love of God in my life. I had a son. And I knew that because of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the sealing ordinances of the temple, that regardless of the amount of time I held him here on earth, that he would be my son for eternity. I held him, and I could feel his spirit in the room. We all held him, my husband, grandparents, uncles and aunts. We told him we loved him. We cherished him. We welcomed him to our family. I can honestly say that the happiness I felt at the birth of my son was no different than what I felt at the birth of our next son, who is currently running around the living room at top speed impersonating an airplane.

I thought that God had to fulfill his promise in a specific way. Like the Jews of the Old Testament, I was not expecting the fulfillment of promise in a radically different manner than my mortal understanding could predict. God showed his power over all things in the fulfillment of promise in his own way. He sent me a son, to remind me of the Son of God, and to await for the promised blessings of the resurrection that His Son made possible.

So now, I wait. This life is a wilderness of preparation to be brought back into the presence of God. My not knowing is subsumed in what I do know.

God fulfills his promises.


Even, and especially, in the wilderness.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Saturday, i.e. the eye of the storm.

Day one of the interview is done. I did not burp or fart or trip over my own feet.  I discussed outcomes assessment and teaching pedagogies and department integration with ease. I suggested ways in which I am uniquely qualified to help further the institution's mission. I interviewed well.

Now, I hope I can keep it up on Monday. Two more interviews and two teaching demonstrations on that day. I bought a new outfit. I know it's silly, but looking cute and put together makes me feel more professional and competent.

My voice held out all day yesterday, due to the many prayers being offered on my behalf by family and friends. It's back to crappy today, but I'm hoping not to have to talk much today. Lots of work to do to catch up from all the interview prep time but my husband is awesome and takes care of so many other things so I can do what only I can do.

I really want this job.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A glimpse of the reality

Just so you don't think it's all spirituality all of the time...

I'm supposed to interview tomorrow for a tenure track job.
I have laryngitis so bad I can barely talk.
I finally figured out what I'm going to wear this evening. Saturday will be spent returning all the things that didn't make the cut.
I have three loads of laundry to fold. I figure if I wait long enough, they will just end up in the wash again as we pick out things to wear.
My son got a hold of my phone and texted a bunch of random contacts of mine.
I still need to iron my blouse for tomorrow.
I should go do that.
I am so tired.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Palaces and Mirrors

Today is just one of those days where the planets are aligned just so and the world is in harmony or whatever you want to call it.

Today was the day that Heavenly Father knocked down a wall. Everything that has been put in my path over the last week, everything I've read, all the things we talked about at church, even the hymns, combined into one big spiritual battering ram.

CS Lewis in Mere Christianity says:

Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of - throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.
This part often gets quoted in church, but I find the part that follows even more interesting. Lewis says that God

will make the feeblest and filthiest of us into a god or a goddess, a dazzling, radiant, immortal creature, pulsating all through with such energy and joy and wisdom and love as we cannot now imagine, a bright stainless mirror which reflects back to God perfectly…His own boundless power and delight and goodness.
I find this second section even more important than the first because it focuses on what is truly important. The first quote says that God is going to make of us a palace. That sounds like we should go along with the process because we will be made greater because of it.  It feels to me like using the Gospel as some sort of self-help plan, to glorify ourselves, rather than our Father which is in Heaven.

The second section is where I find the true challenge to the Christian soul. Are you willing to have yourself be completely eradicated in the process of perfection? We need to become "a bright stainless mirror" so we can reflect back to God "power and delight and goodness." Are we willing to lose ourselves to become like God?

I find I have two contradictory responses to that challenge. First, is the disbelief that God can make me perfect. Me, for my sins are so special and my flaws so immense that they challenge even the capacity of the Almighty to overcome. My, what pride, masked with a facade of self-loathing.

My other response is to not want to give up who I am, because I like who I am. My husband once told me that sacrifice is giving up something good for something better, before we know what the better is. How could being like God not be better than what I am now? It has to be.

And yet, I am reluctant. I am scared of that surrender. Of what it might cost. Of what might be required of me. But I have to remember that I am not God. And I am not called to be God. I am called to be a mirror of God, so that others can see Him when they look at me. What a relief to not be God. To not have to be in control. To not be required to fix things or save people or have all the answers.

God calls me to love. Love others as Christ would love them. Love others as I would love myself. Through some transitive property that I haven't thought about since ninth grade geometry, that means I have to love myself as Christ loves me, with a full awareness of my imperfections, but with no judgment, merely a call to improve.

Love is the answer. It is always the answer. Love is at the center of all things.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Creativity and Christianity

This post is part of a synchroblog - where a lot of different bloggers write about the same topic.

We are supposed to take the theme of creativity and Christianity as our theme this month. When I read the topic, the first thing that came into my mind was, "What? I'm supposed to be creative? When, in between teaching and grading and dissertating and parenting and wifing -yes, I just verbed wife, I'm being creative - am I supposed to find time for creativity?"

Luckily, the synchroblog moderator posts the topic early, so I've had time to think about this for a while, and I've come to a few different ways of thinking about the role of creativity in the life of a Christian. First, my theology is  informed by a view of God as Creator. When I look around me at the world, I am struck by the wonder and beauty of the created world. The diversity and splendor of creation teach me something about the nature of God. Even understanding the biological and geological processes that are in play, I still see the hand of someone creating something for the sheer beauty of it. Wilderness places are always places where I can feel the hand of God.

Created nature also teaches me something about the nature of God. He has a sense of humor - just look at the platypus. The thousands of different beetles let me know that there are lots of ways that the same job can get done, and helps me fight my natural tendency to insist on my way or the highway. The interconnectedness of redwood trees, with their roots linking into each other, supporting each other, sustaining each other, teaches me about how to support members of my community, and also emphasizes how reliant I am on the support of others for my own survival. All of these lessons affect my praxis on a daily basis, as I strive to become more like the Creator in my own life.

However, for Christians, nature also has a different meaning. We know that "the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been since the fall of Adam." We are natural, sinners, carnal and sensual. To become like Christ requires us to reject our nature, and create something new. I have always loved Jehovah's words to Jeremiah.

The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying,
Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will cause thee to hear my words.
Then I went down to the potter’s house, and, behold, he wrought a work on the wheels.
And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter: so he made it again another vessel, as seemed good to the potter to make it.
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the Lord. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel.
I see myself not only as clay in the potter's hand, but as the potter, with the clay being the stuff of life. I tend to make my life as I see fit to make it, and frequently that creates a marred vessel. My pride and arrogance keep me from being a fit vessel, from being a vessel of the Lord. However, the Lord can make of us a perfect vessel. I reject my nature, a hardened heart and a rebellious spirit, to become malleable as moistened clay in the hand of the Lord, to do His work.

This is where I am creative - in surrendering creative control over my life to the Lord. He is the master artist, and can make of my life more than I can on my own. I may not be an artist or a poet or a playwright, but I am creating a life in the image of Christ, and I cannot think of anything more beautiful.

Other posts in the synchroblog:

Wednesday, February 2, 2011


I have always been quite taken at the idea of a Heavenly Father. Perhaps overly taken by that idea, in that it defines God in specific attributes that are taken from my personal understanding of fatherhood and parenting that is reliant on a culture that is my own and experiences that are specific, rather than universal.

All that said, however, I am still inspired by the language that Christ uses in addressing God, that of Father. If Christ is to mediate for us with God, then his choosing to address God as Father, not only of Himself but of myself as well, speaks of a relationship of parental nurturing as a prime responsibility of the Creator of the Universe.

Like Schumacher said in a previous post, Christians are home-comers, and he views the Christian as the prodigal son, again with the familial language to describe our situation in relationship to divinity. We are attempting to come home to God, home to recognize that the lowliest position in the Lord's house is better than any position in the world.

What does this say about our relationship to each other? If God is the Father of all of us, then we are all spiritually brothers and sisters. I went home a few weeks ago. It was the first time all of us were together in several years. We spent months talking about what we were going to do when we get together, counting down the time until we all come together again. This is because I love my brothers and sisters. There are six of us all together, and now that we are all adults and past the period of asking impertinent questions of dates and stealing clothes/makeup/albums, we are an incredibly close knit group. If you wrong one of us, you will be facing all of us as we bring you to justice.

I remember a particular situation that demonstrates the love that we have for each other. My younger brother was playing Lord Capulet in his school's production of Romeo and Juliet. One of my best friends had died the night before in a car accident. As I went to see my brother perform in his play, I was overcome by grief. My friend and I had attended this same school, and as they performed in the open quad, memories of my lost friend assailed me. During intermission, I went backstage looking for my brother and couldn't find him. As one of the other actors went to go find him I went back out front of the stage. I looked up, with tears streaming down my face, and saw my brother running down the stairs from the balcony, his cape flowing out behind him, a look of utter concern on his face, as he came to me as quickly as he possibly could. He wanted to succor me in my hour of need, regardless of the play he was involved in.

With relationships like that, it is easy to see why the idea of belonging to a family is an appealing idea religiously. It also explains my commitment to justice for those who are spiritually my brothers and sisters. My calling as a believer in Christ is to treat all people as my brothers and sisters, not just those to whom I am genetically related. Believing in Christ is a call to care for all people on the earth as a sibling, to succor them in their hour of need.

How can we ask someone to be come part of a family of believers, or to trust in a Heavenly Father, when they are always treated like the red-headed stepchild of the family? Social justice is both a fruit of and a prerequisite to true belief.

Monday, January 24, 2011

I think your talk made everyone uncomfortable...but in a good way.

That was one of the comments I got after my talk in church yesterday. 

This was the talk I gave, more or less.

I am a sinner. I say this not to confess of any major sins, for like Joseph Smith, such things are not in my nature. But, I am still a sinner. I am more aware of that basic facet of my character every day. I am, at the root of all things, a sinner.

You would think that my recognition of my own sinful nature, the multitude of ways in which I fall short on a daily, if not hourly basis, would make me more compassionate to my fellow travelers in this fallen world. But in an act of even greater sin, my own pride distances me from those with whom I travel. I am driven to find ways in which I am better than others, in which my own choices are superior, in which my personal understandings are vindicated through my assumed correctness.

This is a barrier to receiving the grace of God in my life. The only way to overcome this prideful  disposition is through the grace of the Atonement which pride keeps me from accessing. How do I escape this dilemma, of my sin keeping me from the ability to repent?

Nephi exhorts us:
For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do…And we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies, that our children may know to what source they may look for a remission of their sins.

It is only through Christ that I can find remission of my sins.

Elder Quentin L. Cook taught us in General Conference that:
The final two days of the Savior’s mortal ministry prior to His Crucifixion are profoundly important and in some ways beyond comprehension. So much of what is essential to our eternal destiny occurred on Thursday and then Friday, the day Christ was crucified. The Last Supper, a Passover supper, the “established memorial of Israel’s deliverance from bondage,” was commenced Thursday evening. 1 Ordinances and doctrines of great importance were initiated at the Last Supper. I will mention just three. First, the Savior introduced the ordinance of the sacrament. He took bread, broke it, prayed over it, and passed it to His disciples, saying, “This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me.” 2 In this manner He instituted the sacrament. Second, His overwhelming emphasis was on doctrines teaching love as a preeminent principle. He taught, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” 3 Third, through Christ’s intercession or direction, “the Holy Ghost was promised to the apostles” as another Comforter. 4

Books could and have been written on each of those three ways in which the Savior changed the way his followers would worship the Father. For today, however, I would like to focus on the second, the emphasis on love. “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” Do we have love one to another?

Christ’s love for each of us, the essence of charity, is the love that will set apart his disciples in the world. While the sacrament is an ordinance of the gospel reserved to members of this church, I find it interesting that the gift of charity and the witness of the Holy Ghost, in his function as testifier of Jesus Christ, is available to all who seek Jesus Christ, regardless of religious denomination. Christ did not reserve the gifts of his ministry just for a select few, for the chosen amongst his followers, but is willing to bless all those who follow Him, whatever their circumstances.

Elder Cook went on to say:
He was not teaching a simple class in ethical behavior. This was the Son of God pleading with His Apostles and all disciples who would come after them to remember and follow this most central of His teachings. How we relate and interact with each other is a measure of our willingness to follow Jesus Christ.
As we listen to the messages of this conference, we will be touched in our hearts and make resolutions and commitments to do better. But on Monday morning we will return to work, school, neighborhoods, and to a world that in many cases is in turmoil. Many in this world are afraid and angry with one another. While we understand these feelings, we need to be civil in our discourse and respectful in our interactions. This is especially true when we disagree. The Savior taught us to love even our enemies. 13 The vast majority of our members heed this counsel. Yet there are some who feel that venting their personal anger or deeply held opinions is more important than conducting themselves as Jesus Christ lived and taught. I invite each one of us individually to recognize that how we disagree is a real measure of who we are and whether we truly follow the Savior. It is appropriate to disagree, but it is not appropriate to be disagreeable. Violence and vandalism are not the answer to our disagreements. If we show love and respect even in adverse circumstances, we become more like Christ.

What lessons should we learn from this?

How often do we reserve our charity for members of the church? Do we think that our fast offerings discharge our duty to care for the poor and the afflicted? Do we love our neighbors, even those who disagree with us? Do we pray for our enemies, for those who despitefully use us and persecute us? If not, are we demonstrating the love for our neighbors that Christ demonstrated to those who opposed him? Christ did not rail against those in high political position, against powerful enemies, against those who opposed his work. Instead, through a steady ministry of quiet and personal labor, he changed the world for the better. At the end, he forgave those who had sought to destroy his life and his work. The Atonement has as much power over a Sadducee as over Simon Peter.

How does this help me in my quest to be more humble, to love as Christ would love?

Many years ago, my brother found out that his wife was having an affair, and had become involved in several illegal activities. This lead to an acrimonious divorce, with law enforcement becoming involved as the full extent of his wife’s activities became known. The consequences of her actions played out over several years.

When I was in the MTC, I got a letter from my mother, updating me on all sorts of family news. Included were the latest problems my brother was having because of his ex-wife’s behavior. She had cost him his career, was denying him access to his son, and was exposing his child to negative influences. As I knelt to pray that evening, I prayed for my family, especially for my brother. As I went to close my prayer, I felt my tongue stopped. I literally could not end my prayer. It was my first real experience with a stupor of thought. As I tried to figure out what I was supposed to do, I heard a voice tell me I needed to pray for my sister-in-law. Actually, the voice called her by name. As I knelt and struggled to pray for someone who had caused so much pain and destruction to people I loved, I felt my heart softened. I saw her as He sees her, as a daughter of God who has made bad choices. As I prayed for her, for her to come back to the church, to seek forgiveness, to know of the love that her Father has for her and that I still held for her as a sister in the gospel, I saw, though through a glass darkly, the love that Christ has for each of us, regardless of the choices that we have made in our life. Only after I sincerely prayed for someone I had considered an enemy was I able to say Amen.

As I look back at that experience now, more than a decade later, I see other lessons from that experience that I missed the first time. First, I am impressed that she was called by name. Even after engaging in behaviors that both the gospel and the world would condemn, she was still known by name to the Father. Just like Moses and Joseph, Christ knows her by name. Every one of us is known to the Father by name, regardless of what we have done. The Father does not turn his back on any of us, ever. We are all precious in his sight, regardless of what we have done, regardless of our education, political affiliation, religious identity or sexual orientation. God loves each one of us. The commandment to love others as He loved them knows no barriers.

Secondly, I see myself in my sister-in-law. I see myself as someone who has made bad choices, who has sinned, who is unclean in the sight of God. Though our sins differ in magnitude, the effects are the same. No unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God. To think that I am somehow better than her because her sins are greater in my sight than the omissions I have made, is Satan’s lie. I am in as much need of the Atonement as she was. To puff myself up in my own sight just adds to the sins for which I need forgiveness.

We follow Christ when we love others, regardless of what they have done or who they are. Now, this does not mean we have to agree with or support what they have done – Christ repeatedly told those taken in sin to sin no more – but he also never denied the sinner his love and the blessings of his ministry. Christ spent his time ministering to the sick and the afflicted, those who were most in need of his care.

President Uchtdorf said:
I am not suggesting that we accept sin or overlook evil, in our personal life or in the world. Nevertheless, in our zeal, we sometimes confuse sin with sinner, and we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion. We know from modern revelation that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.” 4 We cannot gauge the worth of another soul any more than we can measure the span of the universe. Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen.

I have often heard the word tolerance used to describe our attitude towards those who engage in behavior the gospel denounces. We tolerate those who disagree with us, or who live lifestyles different than ours. The word tolerate is not used in the scriptures. The word love is used 564 times. There is a difference between tolerance and love. I love my cat. When he gets mad at me, he pees right outside his litter box. I tolerate that behavior because I love my cat. I do not tolerate my cat. How much more greater is the command to love one another than my love for my cat? No one wants to be tolerated. We do not hope for a valentine’s card that says, “I tolerate you.”  I do not tolerate people, if I am following Christ’s example. I love them. 

My brother is gay. He has known he was attracted to men since elementary school. The kids in his ward, sensing that something was different about him, shunned him and made fun of him. In addition to this, they would get up in church during testimony meeting and talk about how thankful they were to be part of such a wonderful ward, and that it was so great that they youth all loved each other. The worst teasing he got was not from members of the church, rather from children at school that bullied him on an almost daily basis. But, at least we weren’t as bad as other people are is not a really high bar to reach. Despite that, he stayed active in the church and served an honorable mission. When he came home from his mission, he struggled with the church's teaching. He tried to find a home within the church, where he could be loved. One day, one of the sisters in the ward asked him why he wasn't married. When he told this woman, who he had known for over a decade, whose husband was a member of the bishopric, who had served honorably in many positions of responsibility in the ward, that he was gay, she slapped him.

In Luke’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, Christ says:
Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.
Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:
Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again.

My brother has left the church. As sad as that makes me, it is hard for me to blame him. He has found a community of people who love him, who support him, who care about him as a person in a way that he never found within the church among those who claim to be followers of Christ. While I know that it is his choice to leave the church, and he will be held accountable for that choice, I also know that we will be held accountable for those whom we treat without mercy, without compassion, and without love. When we act without love towards others, we are violating the commandments of God, and will be held accountable for that sin.

Elder Uchtdorf pleaded with us to:
let our hearts and hands be stretched out in compassion toward others, for everyone is walking his or her own difficult path. As disciples of Jesus Christ, our Master, we are called to support and heal rather than condemn…It is unworthy of us as Christians to think that those who suffer deserve their suffering…Sunday is a good day to remember that our Savior willingly took upon Himself the pain and sickness and suffering of us all—even those of us who appear to deserve our suffering. 6

As we follow Christ, “as we teach of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ, and we write according to our prophecies,” then will we learn that it is only through Christ, and through the gift of the Atonement that we can ever overcome our own weakness. Love requires humility. Without humility we cannot follow the example of Christ and be a believer in both word and deed.

As we extend our hands and hearts toward others in Christlike love, something wonderful happens to us. Our own spirits become healed, more refined, and stronger. We become happier, more peaceful, and more receptive to the whisperings of the Holy Spirit.

This is the answer for me specifically, and each of us more broadly, as we seek to overcome our own sin and weakness. As we act with Christlike love for all of God’s children, we are perfected. We become more humble, more gentle, more like Christ. I pray for each of us, but especially for me, that we can be blessed with the ability to see all people as Christ sees them, that we can love them as He would, without pride but with a humbleness of heart and a fullness of purpose, that we can follow the commandment of Christ to love one another at all times and in all things and in all places.
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