Sunday, December 30, 2018

What Does America's highest Earning Legal Sex Worker Have to Say About Pornography? You Might Be Surprised...

The great thing about the thoughts of a courtesan, is that no one can say that her stance is because of “prudishness”. I also like this because I believe pornography, like smoking or drinking or drugs, is harmful and I want my kids to understand that it’s good for everyone to stay away from it, not just people who want to go on a mission or get married in the temple. This excerpt is from The Tim Ferris show episode #258 with Alice Little, America’s highest paid legal sex worker. 

Context on Alice and her thoughts from elsewhere in this podcast:

  • She chose to be a legal sex worker after trying many different jobs— including a jockey. (She’s 4’8”).
  • She says she finds her job to be very meaningful. She feels that she is providing a valuable service by enhancing people’s quality of life.
  • Most of her clients desire a date experience, with dinner and a social activity.
  • She believes sex is a journey of connecting with a person on an honest, deep and meaningful level and coming to appreciate and understand them.
  • Her hobby is collecting antique books.

BTW, I am only allowed to share up to 500 words, so I'm hitting the most important points, thus the use of ellipses. So without further ado, here is an excerpt of the conversation between Alice Little and Tim Ferriss:

Alice Little: “... I think that porn is ruining America. It’s ruining relationships. And it’s ruining intimacy. What porn does is it creates this almost addictive compulsion where you’re scrolling through, you’re watching the porn...First, rather than investing his time and energy in a genuine connection with a real human being, he’s watching the Broadway equivalent of a sex act that is being overdramatized for his entertainment...everything that women do in porn is the exact opposite of what happens in real life. Secondly, it’s causing men to cause physical harm to themselves. They’re masturbating so roughly that, often times, they’ll lose sensitivity. And it makes it difficult for them to orgasm and climax with their partner...The third thing that it does is it perpetuates this culture where we look at sex and we look at women as objects...they just go to some website, they scroll through, and they click on the first thing that looks interesting without a second thought as to what the impact is on the lives of the women and what kind of societal norm that perpetuates. If we manage to remove porn from our society, I think we would see men spending more time developing genuine connections with other women. They would be going out more. They would be exploring those dynamics and exploring those things rather than that self-gratifying behavior, which is also physically damaging."

Ok, so to recap Alice’s reasons why porn is bad:
  • Porn makes you less likely to go out and have a real relationship
  • Is physically damaging
  • Reduces sexual function
  • Is nothing like sex in real life
  • Teaches you things about sex that aren’t true
  • Ruins your sex life
  • Ruins relationships
  • Makes sex less exciting
  • Hurts women by exploiting them and perpetuating objectification

Sounds like a pretty good set of reasons for your kid to stay away from porn, even for the average hormonal teenager.

Thanks Alice and Tim!!!

Quoted from the Tim Ferris Show transcript:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Have You Read The Book of Mormon?

That’s not a missionary invitation. It’s a rhetorical question. 

Latter Day Saints are often known for being careful about their media choices. Many Latter Day Saints interpret this to mean a few different things, like no movies over a certain rating or nothing with sex, violence, nudity, profanity, etc. Utah has had several edited video rental services. I’ve seen entire guide books for Latter Day Saints telling them what sorts of content are in movies and what the perceived values are. 

Some Latter Day Saints are stricter than others. I can personally attest to the fact that if you study humanities at BYU, you will be expected to study books and films and art that contains all of the above content and you will be expected to act maturely about it and have something intelligent to say. The faculty are world class scholars and do not accept “I don’t partake of media that has violence/sex/nudity/profanity” as an excuse. If you study humanities at BYU, you will read Catch-22, watch The Graduate, study both Michelangelo’s and Donatello’s David and you will listen excerpts from the the Rite of Spring, which is a full length dance piece about human sacrifice in prehistoric Russia. And rather than corrupting you, this will actually make you a better citizen of the world. 

Here is the problem with the clean media syndrome so common among Latter Day Saints and many other Christians:

1. We’ve reduced the value of a movie to a checklist rather than looking for redeeming value. 

Take Twilight for example. Latter Day Saints raved over how Bella waits until marriage to have sex. But why? Well, Stephenie Meyer never really makes it entirely clear. It’s not really anything to do with Bella’s values. Edward is kind of stone like and could hurt her, but he refuses to change her to a vampire even though she wants him to. He sneaks into her bedroom at night just to be there and when the going gets tough he bails. Ok, so we have a paternalistic relationship where secrets and abandonment are the norm and we as Latter Day Saints are OK with this because Bella and Edward don’t have sex until they are married?! Just let that sink in for a minute. 

Conversely, there are movies and books that have sex, violence and profanity that have far more redeeming value. Schindler’s List is the story of a man who could have taken the easy way and gone along with the Nazi party and instead chose to save lives. Saving Private Ryan depicted the immense sacrifices a generation of young men made to preserve a free world, The King’s Speech is the story of a man who overcomes weakness through the help of a good friend. 

Oh, but those are all high art history movies. Surely I can’t be talking about other movies? Yes, I am. The 2001 movie Chocolat shares the message that its OK if other people live differently than we do, we should follow Christ’s example and be kind and loving. Star Wars teaches us to come to terms with our own darkness and overcome anger and fear to resist temptation. Juno is the story of a girl who shows selfless love in carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term and finding a loving adoptive home for her baby. 

And there are movies that have sex, nudity, profanity and/or violence in them that are still not good choices in my opinion. The second and third Matrix movies were a bunch of action scenes strung together with little overarching moral or ethical development. Attack of the Clones showed a subservient Palme who tolerated murder because she’s in love with Anakin. American Sniper’s message was that America shouldn't have gotten involved in Iraq because, well...Clint Eastwood is against war and lied censored changed several things about Chris Kyle's story to promote Eastwood's beliefs. (About the only thing left of Chris Kyle’s memoir in the movie was that his wife threw up outside the bar on the night they met. That was such an important detail.) 

We need to be more tuned in to the values that media teach than a simple checklist of external things. After all, our lives are unfiltered movies. There is sex and violence and abuse and gore and profanity and skimpy clothes and temptations of all kinds. These things will touch our lives in one way or another. What defines us is how we handle them. Media is the same way.

2. Most of the people who make these movies and the characters in them do not have the same knowledge that we do. 2 Nephi 9:25- “Wherefore, he has given a law; and where there is no law given there is no punishment; and where there is no punishment there is no condemnation; and where there is no condemnation the mercies of the Holy One of Israel have claim upon them, because of the atonement; for they are delivered by the power of him.” God doesn’t hold these people to a standard that they do not have. Neither should we. And along with that, most of the world does not have the law that we do. How we handle media made by people not of our faith says a lot about how we treat people who are not of our faith. And if you’re an endowed member who throws a fit over tank tops and bikinis in movies and rationalizes why it’s not so bad that your returned missionary family member is molesting children, see 2 Nephi 9:27.

3. Life does not follow a ratings system. Life is not rated G, or PG, PG-13 or even R. Some parts of it are. But we are all going to have to encounter evil in our life. That doesn’t mean we should indiscriminately partake of media. (See Number 1, above. I’m actually advocating that we get more discerning, not less.) But it does mean that we should partake of narratives that inspire us to become better people. And the greatest stories of good we will find out there are from people who faced evil, not just a little, but a lot. Paying attention to the narratives out there about the evil in the world can help us to prepare ourselves and our children to fight them. We can not fight what we don’t acknowledge. If we don’t acknowledge the veil out there, we will likely find ourselves participating in evil acts because they have been normalized by those around us.

And so, I say again, we have been commanded to read a book that contains accounts of violence, murder, genocide, rape and war. And if we believe that the compiler of this book wrote these things with his own hand on golden plates for preservation, reiterating that this was not even a hundredth of the history of his people, it stands to reason that those events were put there for a reason other than sensationalism. I think that Mormon wanted us to know that these things had happened among his people so that we would not repeat them: 

Moroni 9:11-14
11  O my beloved son, how can a people like this, that are without civilization—

12 (And only a few years have passed away, and they were a civil and a delightsome people)

13 But O my son, how can a people like this, whose delight is in so much abomination—

14 How can we expect that God will stay his hand in judgment against us?

Friday, August 3, 2018

That Whole Breastfeeding, Temple Recommend, Modesty Thing

I don’t know the exact details of this story. There could be more to it. When you get stuff from the news, you’re not getting an unbiased and impartial or even fully informed source most of the time. The news stories (so far) only give us the mom’s side of the story. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was true because I’ve heard plenty of people argue that uncovered breastfeeding will cause men to view pornography. There was bound to be some bishops or stake presidents who will ascribe to that belief and act accordingly. But there are some problems with punishing uncovered breastfeeding in the name of protecting mens’ moral sensibilities:

The body is a temple 

People use this one all the time as an explanation for why covering up when breastfeeding is a moral imperative.  But we don’t hide temples. We have pictures of them everywhere. We have pictures of the inside rooms, we have temple preparation classes, entire books written about temples and the ordinances performed there. We even have diagrams and models of the inside of the temple for everyone to see at Temple Square. Construction crews come in and do work on temples. Temples are everywhere and are meant to be seen and remembered and utilized. We treat them with respect, but we don't hide them. And guess what? Seeing a temple does not cause you to sin. Which brings me to my next point...

Choice and accountability 

All over the world there are good and decent men who see women breastfeeding and don’t think immoral thoughts. I’ve heard some of my friends who have served missions internationally say that in certain parts of the world breastfeeding was the norm, even during church. This may come as a surprise to many Americans— and apparently many Utahns—but in many parts of the world, breastfeeding is regarded as a way to feed a baby. 
And for that matter, our pioneer ancestors felt the same way. Check out these drawings of a 19th century sacrament meeting in Utah and this famous painting of a handcart company— which hangs on the wall of many LDS meetinghouses. 


And the scriptures are very clear on this point: even if a woman is throwing herself at a man, it is still his responsibility to say no. See Joseph and Potiphar’s wife (Genesis 39:7-13) and the harlot Isabel (Alma 39:3-4). Men, if you are waiting for the world to be righteous so then you can be a good person, you will be waiting a long time. Man up and take responsibility for your thoughts and actions.


Breastfeeding was clearly not a modesty issue for the Early Saints. Ironically enough, our version of “modesty” which allows knee length skirts and shorts would have offended the early Saints. And for that matter, I imagine they would be shocked that priesthood holders and women would equate breastfeeding in public with pornography. So in this scenario, who is the problem: the breastfeeding mother or the man who views women’s bodies as a sex object?

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Making Peace With Your Diet Through Traditional Chinese Medicine

We've all been through different diets to try and eat healthy. Vegan, vegetarian, raw, gluten-free, paleo and the list goes on... Some people see phenomenal results with one way of eating while others see little to no change. It used to be a big mystery to me. But the more I've studied the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) perspective on diet, the more I understand. Certain foods are good for certain imbalances. Correcting these imbalances is crucial not only to general health, but also women's health and decreases the chances of things like menstrual discomfort and infertility.

Why TCM? For starters, TCM has been around for longer than the Western model of medicine. Much longer. Wait, let me rephrase that. Much, much, much longer. The Chinese have been using what we call TCM for around 2,500 years, whereas our current pharmaceutical and surgery based approach has been in use for about 100-ish years. So with TCM we're talking about centuries of observation and practice, not years or even decades. Western medicine is the best option for emergency care. In an emergency, no one can do better than a sterile ER with well-trained doctors and nurses. But for things like chronic diseases and hormonal imbalances, TCM has the potential to be much more effective while being gentler on the body.

The other difference is in approach. The Chinese used a pattern of inductive and deductive logic to understand how the body worked. Their understanding of anatomy and biology came from observing what strategies caused the disease (or disharmony as they would call it) to resolve itself. (This is why TCM terminology is different than that of Western medicine.)  In contrast, Western medicine studies anatomy and biology and then bases treatment on its current theories of how the body works. While this can have some efficacy, it is limited because we are always learning new things about how the body works

There are several different patterns of imbalance that TCM can identify and many people will have more than one at a time. But here's a very brief intro to some of the more common patterns and a few of the dietary recommendations for them.

Kidney Yin or Yang Deficiency
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Kidney meridian governs fluid and acid balance, metabolism, waste elimination and growth and development. Stress and fear are the emotions that are associated with imbalances in this meridian. Conditions associated with this imbalance:
  • Lower back and knee pain
  • Feeling cold frequently
  • Stiff joints
  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
  • Anxiety
  • Adrenal fatigue
TCM Diet recommendations:
  • wheat germ, bulgur, some tofu, millet barley, brown rice, amaranth
  • asparagus, beans of all varieties, peas, chickpeas, bean sprouts, eggplant, beets
  • seaweed, chlorella, spirulina, kelp
  • fruits like apples bananas, berries, melons and pineapple
  • shellfish
  • eggs
  • duck and organ meats
  • pork, venison and other hormone and antibiotic free meats
  • walnuts, black sesame seeds, yams, gelatin, corn
  • flaxseed oil
  • For Kidney Yin Deficiency avoid dry, pungent and acrid spices like horseradish, peppermint or curry.
  • For Kidney Yang Deficiency use warming spices like anise, ginger, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, basil, caraway and dill.
  • For Kidney Yang Deficiency eat more Yang vegetables like parsnips, parsley, mustard greens winter squash, cabbage, kale, onions, leeks, chives, garlic and scallions
Spleen Qi Deficiency
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the Spleen meridian governs immune function, digestion, circulation and production of certain hormones like progesterone and thyroid hormone. Excessive sugar and refined carbohydrate consumption, greasy foods and excessive worry and over-thinking all stress the Spleen meridian. Conditions associated with this imbalance:
  • Thyroid abnormalities (hypothyroidism, hyperthyroidism, etc.)
  • A number of autoimmune conditions, especially with severe fatigue
  • Allergies
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Anemia
  • Low blood pressure
TCM Diet Recommendations:
  • Eat organic vegetables lightly cooked or sauteed.
  • Avoid raw or cold foods, especially ice cream, popsicles and ice-cold drinks.
  • Avoid energetically "cold" fruits and vegetables like mangoes, watermelon, pears, persimmons, cucumbers, lettuce, celery and spinach.
  • Do not eat refined carbs. No white bread, pasta or refined sugar.
  • Eat whole grains like rice and oats.
  • Eat yams, pumpkin and pumpkin seeds (except if you have certain conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome).
  • Eat meat of many kinds (beef, rabbit, poultry, and fish).
  • Cherries, coconut, dates, figs, cherries, grapes, molasses, potatoes and shiitake mushrooms are especially recommended.
  • Avoid sugar, sugar substitutes and concentrated sweeteners like maple syrup, honey and agave.
  • Fruits should be eaten in whole form not as juices.
  • Avoid all dairy products as these have a dampening effect, which further harms the Spleen meridian.
Blood Deficiency
In TCM, blood deficiency doesn't necessarily mean anemia. Blood depletion in the sense of Blood as a vital substance in its TCM definition can happen through a really crazy overly active lifestyle, too much stress, lack of rest and self-care and, of course, blood loss.
  • Dry, flaky skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Hair loss (all over, not in patches)
  • Diminished night vision
TCM Diet Recommendations:
  • Eat apricots, berries and grapes
  • Eat eggs and meat
  • Eat spirulina
  • Eat dark leafy greens
  • Eat liver and bone marrow broth
Blood Stasis
Blood stasis refers to conditions where the blood isn't moving properly.
  • Varicose veins
  • Endometriosis
  • Chronic hemorrhoids
  • Blood clotting disorders
TCM Diet Recommendations
  • Eat soy, but in moderation
  • Use oils that are cold-pressed and unrefined and high in linoleic and alpha-linoleic fatty acids like flaxseed, pumpkin seed and chia seed oils.
  • Add spirulina to your diet.
  • Avoid foods containing arachidonic acids like meat, dairy, eggs, and peanuts. Fish is OK.
  • Eat walnuts, chestnuts, chives, crabs, peaches, mustard leaves, onions, scallions, dark leafy greens, cabbage, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, beets, turnips, cauliflower and carrots.
  • Lemons, limes and certain types of seaweed like kelp, Irish moss and bladder wrack are especially recommended.
  • Don't eat foods straight out of the refrigerator or freezer.
  • Don't put ice in your drinks.
  • Add grapes, raspberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, celery, beets, watercress, vinegar and unrefined salt to your diet to purify the blood.
Liver Qi Stagnation
Oh, Liver Qi stagnation. A good portion of America suffers from Liver Qi stagnation and at least one of its accompanying conditions. Liver Qi stagnation is often associated with stress, anger and unfulfilled desires.
  • Depression
  • Insomnia (trouble getting to sleep as opposed to night waking)
  • Heartburn
  • PMS
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
TCM Diet Recommendations
  • Incorporate Spleen Qi deficiency guidelines.
  • Don't overeat.
  • Avoid heavy or hard-to-digest foods like nuts and nut butters, butter and other animal fats, and excessive bread or meat.
  • Don't eat foods with chemicals or preservatives.
  • Sit down when you eat.
  • Eat small, frequent meals.
  • Chew thoroughly.
  • Eat spices like peppermint, rosemary, spearmint, turmeric and thyme.
  • Supplement with zinc.
Heart Deficiency
In TCM, the Heart Meridian encompasses the mind and the spirit as well as the cardiovascular system. Imbalances in this meridian are associated shattered emotions and spirit. If you have experienced severe trauma, there is a good chance you have an imbalance in this meridian. Take note that many of the symptoms are associated with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. If you want my opinion (and I'm assuming you do if you're here), I think PTSD is associated with imbalances in the Heart meridian.
  • Insomnia (waking early and having trouble falling back to sleep)
  • Heart palpitations
  • Restlessness
  • Nightmares
TCM Diet Recommendations
  • Cut out coffee, caffeine and any other kinds of natural or artificial stimulants
  • Mung beans, beets and corn are especially recommended.
Excess Heat
In TCM, imbalances in the meridians can be associated with "coldness" or "heat". Excess heat needs to be treated differently than excess cold.
  • Dry mouth and throat
  • Hot flashes or feeling warmer than those around you
  • Red acne
TCM Diet Recommendations
  • Don't drink alcohol.
  • Avoid spicy and greasy foods.
  • Don't take very hot baths or sit in hot tubs or saunas.
  • Include cooling foods like burdock root, plums, pears, tomatoes and pomegranates in your diet.
Too much dampness in the system can be another imbalance. Some conditions associated with Dampness:
  • Fibrocystic breasts
  • Cystic or pustular acne
  • Joint aches with movement
  • Some types of overweight conditions
  • Certain types of rashes
TCM Diet Recommendations
  • Do not eat greasy, fried foods.
  • Avoid sugar, fruit juices, sweets and refined carbohydrates.
  • Do not consume dairy products.
  • Eat soy products sparingly if at all.
  • Avoid wheat (it's a damp food). Barley, rye and brown rice are grains that help combat dampness.
  • Don't eat bananas, chocolate or nuts.
  • Don't drink alcohol.
  • Add in diuretic foods like alfalfa, parsley, radishes, summer melons, celery, carrots, cabbage, cranberries, cucumbers, lettuce and kelp.
I owe a debt of gratitude to the book The Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis Ph D and the website for much of the information in this post. I highly recommend both if you are curious about Traditional Chinese Medicine.

30 Minutes A Day To Overcoming Dyslexia*

*My son CJ doesn't have a "technical" diagnosis for dyslexia. When I saw that his younger brother was grasping concepts like sounds and quantities easily and that CJ was still writing his letters and numbers backwards and upside down, I looked up dyslexia. He fit almost every symptom: difficulty matching sounds and letters, unable to sound out words, lots of difficulty with reading, trouble remembering sequences, unable to rhyme words, using context clues to figure out words, reversing and inverting letters in words, etc. I also suspect my brother may have had undiagnosed dyslexia when he was a kid. (We went to public school.) Like most parents, getting a trained specialist for an evaluation is not something we can do very easily. When I found that he fit so many of the symptoms, I just started finding out everything I could about dyslexia to tailor a curriculum to his needs. Onwards...

CJ is seven right now and on a traditional school system schedule, he would be in second grade. We have homeschooled him from the start and last year I started to really focus on more formalized reading and writing based work for him. Before this we had done a lot of learning games and some reading and writing practice. Schooling sessions quickly became a battle. I'd ask him to read simple three letter words and I may as well have asked him to read the Klingon paq'batlh. (This is when I hit my homeschooling crisis moment- "My child is failing because I am a terrible teacher!!! I am a walking example of the education apocalypse that is predicted when parents homeschool their children!!!)
klingon alphabet
I see letters and numbers. He sees a bunch of unintelligible squiggles.

As I began to understand that CJ's brain just wasn't wired on a traditional school schedule, I became a little more patient during his lesson time. But I felt like I was fighting a losing battle. This past summer I was giving him first grade level work and he couldn't do it. He needed a ton of coaching to get through his workbook pages. (Apparently I'm not alone in this experience. One popular homeschooling site for parents with dyslexia had an article called "What To Do When Teaching Reading Takes All Day".)

One day after cleaning up the school supplies, I saw my four year old's Pre-K workbook and an idea hit me: Get CJ to do all the pages in the Pre-K workbook.

Unorthodox, yes. But I knew he could do it fairly easily. (The great thing is that he didn't really know that he was doing Pre-K work. He couldn't read yet and he doesn't really understand the concept of grades in schools. So his ego didn't seem much affected. Which is good because he likes to be in charge.)

30 Minutes A Day to Overcoming Dyslexic Symptoms

We did two 15 minute sessions 6 days a week in the Pre-K book. We started back in August and he was done after a few weeks around the beginning of September. The thing I noticed is that he was becoming more familiar with sequences, lines and writing, quantities and the sounds that letters make. So far, so good.

We moved up to the Kindergarten level book and I am thrilled to say that with the same 30 minutes a day, he raced through the workbook in about 6 weeks! Now he can sound out words, rhyme like a poet, do simple addition and subtraction, finish patterns, spell, and read and write short words. He just started first grade level reading, phonics and math.

The other difference I've noticed is that he's become more confident and takes more initiative. He's started doing some of his worksheets independently and is getting the answers right. He's still writing his letters backwards, but he knows the names, sounds and how to use them to spell. A couple of weeks ago, he read Hop on Pop out loud to his dad and brother with minimal help. Score!

Why Is It Working?

I'm not a learning specialist, but my guess is that since dyslexia is a neurobiological disorder that affects the parts of the brain involved in language processing, getting a stronger grounding in phonics, reading and writing has helped him build the pathways in his brain to be a more effective reader and writer.My current hypothesis is that people with dyslexia may need extra strong base in language before moving on to more advanced reading and writing.

I know that people with dyslexia are often auditory learners, but I want CJ to be able to confidently navigate a world that relies heavily on reading and writing. He doesn't need to be a professor of Russian literature, but I want him to be able to read and write well enough to handle the mountain of bureaucratic paperwork he will inherit at 18 when he has to start taking responsibility for his own medical care. I also don't want him to be limited in his career options from an inability to read and write well.

Other Things to Note About This Experiment

We've also had him using an app called ABC every day. This has introduced him to some second grade level work, though he often needs help with some of the more advanced math and grammar. (However, one of the gifts of being a busy mother of three/ MPH student/ breastfeeding educator/ childbirth educator in training is that I can't always rush over and help him immediately. There have been so many times he has said that he has a hard math or reading game that he can't do himself and by the time I'm able to get over to him, he has it figured it out.)

The workbooks we have been using are based on Common Core. You can buy them on Amazon. We've used School Zone's Big Workbooks and supplemental work books as well and Thinking Kids workbooks as well. I don't if any one work book is better than another, I think it's the extra reinforcement of those base level skills.

We also feel lucky that we didn't come into this with the baggage of public school. Public school is like public transportation- it's necessary to have it as an option, but it's not an ideal solution for everyone. Most schools are not able to provide the resources necessary to diagnose dyslexia and help kids with it. CJ hadn't had the experience of being the kid in class who doesn't understand things, so we were able to avoid some of the frustration associated with that. I think half of the difficulty with dyslexia is trying to fit kids with different brains onto a schedule that doesn't work for them or their teachers.

Seeing how he struggled to count, finish patterns, sequence events and assess quantities for a while, I suspect that he may also have a learning disability called dyscalculia as well.
And so, our exhilarating adventure in homeschooling with dyslexic symptoms continues!

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Thoughts on Mormonism and Same-Sex Marriage

Will the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints ever support or allow same-sex marriage?

Despite the rampant assertions of patriarchy and sexism, Latter Day Saints bear the unique distinction of being the only mainstream Christian religion that believes in a God and a Goddess. If you read the Proclamation on the Family, which is an official piece of doctrinal material released in 1995, the official position of the LDS Church is that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God. 

This is not such a unique view when you get into more Eastern religious philosophies. Ancient Chinese paintings in the tomb of Fan Yen Shih depicted a God holding a square and a Goddess holding a compass entwined together.

 The ancient Egyptians had a King and Queen deity, Osiris and Isis. Even certain sects of Jews held the belief that a goddess accompanied God, at least as an aspect of God, called the Shekhina. The late Leonard Nimoy did a photography project about the divine feminine and described his first exposure to the idea of the Shekhina at an Orthodox synagogue in his youth. (The “live long and prosper” sign of the Vulcans was Nimoy’s suggestion, it was the sign he had seen the rabbis do during synagogue for the Shekhina.)

Why a man and a woman? The answer to this is also in the Proclamation on the Family: gender is an eternal characteristic. Latter Day Saints also believe that Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother are the Father and Mother of the spirit of every human being. So in Latter Day Saints’ belief system, it is that union between the male and female that is the source of all creation. Other unions may be ordained by earthly institutions or by people, but only a sealing of a man and a woman can create life in the world to come. Based on these beliefs, I don’t think that same-sex marriage will ever be sanctioned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. 

There are a lot of people who don’t agree with this belief system. But that is the great thing about living in a country that allows free speech and free thought. If the Latter Day Saint view of God and marriage doesn’t fit for some people, they can choose another religious or social group that does fit. Diversity doesn’t mean that we all change to a different viewpoint and tolerance doesn’t mean that others conform to our thinking. Diversity means that we allow a lot of different viewpoints and tolerance means that we learn to peacefully co-exist with people whose views may differ from our own.

What about the LDS Church’s ban on blessing and baptizing the children of same-sex couples?

Um, why would it be ok for total strangers or your neighbors or extended family to teach your child values you disagree with and then make them a part of their organization without the parents’ consent? Why would that be OK? It’s inappropriate for schools to promote a particular lifestyle or family type and it’s inappropriate for religions to bless and baptize minor children against their parents’ wishes. 

The LDS Church has placed restrictions on proselyting and baptizing people in other circumstances such as Muslims in certain areas of the world and certain countries like Israel and mainland China. In Russia, LDS missionaries have to comply with certain legal requirements about what they can do and who they can work with. Latter Day Saints may only perform baptisms for the dead and temple work for Jews who are their ancestors. To effectively navigate a world of social, political and legal complexities, the LDS Church sometimes puts restrictions on how and when missionary work can be carried out. 

Josh Weed’s assertion that the Church may refuse to baptize his youngest two daughters may or may not be entirely accurate since their mother still has legal rights—unless she relinquishes custody— and could be a party to deciding (along with Josh) whether their daughters should be baptized. If Josh and his ex-wife are both in favor of their daughter being baptized, it may be a non-issue, especially if their children are members of a ward with one or more active parents. The policy is more about ensuring overzealous families or neighbors don't interfere with the parental rights of same-sex couples over their children (adopted or conceived through surrogacy or sperm donation) than barring Josh Weed’s daughters from baptism if he is in favor of it. These cases are to be decided on a case-by-case basis by local leadership. In the event that local leadership is uncertain about baptizing any of Josh Weed’s children, he and his ex-wife could likely present their case to General Authorities by writing to them and asking for their wishes to be carried out.

Being Proud

I have a son with spina bifida. It does have a major impact on his life and the things he can do. Some day, whether in this life or the next, I hope that he will have a body that allows him to run and jump and be free from a VP shunt. But at the same time, his condition is a part of who he is, and I am proud to have a son who handles his challenges with a great attitude. If he wants something, he just goes after it and doesn’t think too much about his condition holding him back from what he wants. He brightens people’s day when they see him in his wheelchair or walker with a smile on his face. In some way, I think this experience is part of his contract for his mortal life and mine, something he needs to learn from and something he can teach others, including me. I would not trade the experience of having a child with spina bifida for anything. It has blessed my life and helped me see the world as a more beautiful place. I would suggest that everyone, whatever side of the debate they fall on, come to that place where they can be proud of something that is hard or different and embrace the fact that somethings are not meant to be changed in this life, but rather learned from. 

The LDS Church’s refusal to allow same-sex marriage is emotionally damaging

People can be awful when others don’t conform to their worldview. That’s everybody, not just Latter Day Saints. Much has been said about suicide among Latter Day Saints with same-sex attraction. Pulling from some of my public health studies, we could look at the issue of emotional harm as a quality of life issue. In the context of same-sex attraction in the LDS Church, many have asserted that the lack of support for people with same-sex attraction leads many Latter Day Saints with same-sex attraction to feel deeply depressed and suicidal. In a bioethics setting, feelings of depression and suicide are criteria we look at when we evaluate how we should approach a case where there is the potential for suffering, such as a seriously disabling or terminal condition. 

The problem with blanket statements and criteria for any quality of life issue is that everyone reacts differently. Faced with quadriplegia, some individuals opt for physician assisted suicide, citing the inability to do most things they enjoy while others continue to live life adapting as needed and pursue careers or higher education. Some people faced with terminal cancer choose physician assisted suicide, citing pain and loss of abilities and the pain of family members in watching a slow death. Others opt for hospice care. 

The large numbers of Latter Day Saints who suffer from depression and suicidal feelings should be deeply concerning to all Church members, though this should hold true for Latter Day Saints who have depression or feel suicidal who don’t have same-sex attraction. (And for anyone who isn't LDS. OK, basically anybody who is feeling seriously depressed and suicidal, we should be concerned about.) Latter Day Saints with same-sex attraction have a specific set of needs to be addressed. This is part of bearing one another’s burdens and living in a consecrated manner where we are prepared to live with God among us.

I do think that people on both sides of the debate need greater tolerance for others and their decisions. If an individual  chooses to live a life that involves same-sex sexual activity, it is not our business to change the other person’s behavior. Only they can make that decision. My first responsibility is not to influence how others act or what they choose, but rather to govern myself in a godly manner. On the other side, proponents of gay marriage need to be tolerant of the choices that others with same-sex attraction might choose. If someone with same-sex attraction chooses celibacy or marriage to a person of the opposite sex, that is their decision and it should be respected. 

An interesting parallel to this (in my opinion) is couples with infertility. We are often presented with a vision of the family that involves a husband and wife (who are both active in church) and have several children. For couples who can not conceive, it can be extremely difficult to “fit in” to a family oriented organization like the LDS Church. Couples who do not have children are frequently judged and stigmatized for their status of childlessness. Every couple’s story resolves differently. Some spontaneously conceive after a while, some adopt, some undergo fertility treatments and some never end up having any children of their own. 

A second cousin from my family and her husband struggled for years with infertility. They tried for adoption, but their prayers were not answered with a “yes” and they continued to remain childless- at least in the legal sense- despite their righteous desires and dreams of a family Eventually, the wife was called to a prominent position in the Young Women’s organization and served as a mentor to many girls maturing to adulthood. Their home became a place where children from all over the neighborhood come and visit. 

Their prayers were not answered in the way they anticipated, but this couple was given a chance to fulfill a parenting role. Why were they not blessed with biological or adoptive children of their own? I don’t know. I do know that God knows their hearts and their circumstances and I need to work on living my own life worthily first. I think that people with same-sex attraction (members or non-members) will have less depression and suicide if they have the lack of judgement from people both in and out of the Church to choose their own path.

Should the LDS Church fight same-sex marriage? 

I think this is a matter of personal opinion. However, the bigger question for everyone on both sides is “How do you handle it when someone has a viewpoint opposite of yours?” Do you use name calling, shunning, shaming or even vandalism? Or, do you understand that not everyone has to agree with your view and respectfully disagree? I think that the Eleventh Article Of Faith applies here: “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”

When it comes to marriages, Latter Day Saints and same sex marriage proponents actually have quite a bit to learn from each other. In the 1858, the American government sent armed soldiers into Utah to deal with— among other things— polygamy. Church leaders who practiced polygamy were jailed. Some left to set up colonies in Mexico where they could practice this part of their religion without persecution. Latter Day Saints should treat those with differing views on marriage as they wish their ancestors or early Church leaders had been treated. And those who have deeply held convictions in favor of same-sex marriage should be willing to stand by those convictions without the approval of others.

What if it were your child?

In my opinion, this is the worst argument both ethically and emotionally for supporting same-sex marriage— or other issues for that matter. Ethically, I don’t believe it is right to decide our moral viewpoint based on our children’s characteristics or choices. I see a lot of potential problems within this point of view. I have seen people defend things like child molestation and adultery because it was their son or daughter who was doing it. I think that how a person feels about same-sex marriage should be determined by their beliefs about same-sex attraction and marriage. 

But an even bigger reason not to link your love for your child to your stance on a political or social issue is that it doesn’t send the right message to the child. As parents, our responsibility to our children is to love them no matter what. (Note: Love does not equal approval and love does not equal indulgence.) If your child decides to get married to a person of the same sex, the response should never be, “That’s ok, because I love you.” The response should simply be, “I love you”— no matter what you think about same-sex marriage. I think our kids need to know that they are loved whether we agree with their choices or not. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Trek Continues

After Elder Ballard’s talk “The Trek Continues”, I saw the largely female community of LDS energy healers hit a faith crisis. I saw women stop doing energy healing, stop teaching energy healing and question everything about energy healing. Personally, I think this talk was very much needed. A couple of the women who have been most prominent in the recent LDS energy healing movement are not the type of people I personally think we should be looking to for spiritual help. 

One popular energy healer started out as a health blogger catering to LDS women. The catch is that she isn’t LDS any more. Though her website focuses on the Word of Wisdom, she’s actually a member of an online ex-Mormons group and says that she left Mormonism because of her issues with polygamy. (She used to display a picture and her full name on this profile, but has since taken down the picture and only displays her first name. A very sensible move since her business of selling health food and products is targeted largely to LDS moms.) 

I saw a Facebook group of LDS women interested in essential oils and energy healing raving about an upcoming podcast with this energy healer. I asked what the health food blogger’s credentials were for energy healing and whether she had certified in any energy healing modalities. Nobody knew where this health foods blogger had gotten her energy healing expertise from, but she had developed a quiz that was telling all these women they are empaths, so that was enough. Someone went on gushing about how the health food blogger was a psychotherapist. 

Having known her personally I will attest to the psycho part, but not therapist. She displayed symptoms of borderline personality disorder and/or narcissism. There was an undercurrent of contention to much of her healthy eating information. She often lamented that husbands and children don’t want to eat healthy foods and emphasized the divisive nature of healthy eating. The other half of this energy healing duo is a style coach who also is self-enlightened about angels and has developed her own energy healing certification.

I don’t think that Elder Ballard’s talk is incompatible with the many healing methods that are termed “complementary and alternative”. An enormous amount of research shows that meditation improves our mental health, a growing body of literature points out the benefits of hypnotherapy for pain control, and essential oils for killing off bacteria. We are encouraged to use therapies that are medically sound. Like most talks in general conference, there are multiple ways that it can be interpreted. It could be an admonition against many dubious healing strategies, from rhino horns to marijuana, depending on the particular challenges people are facing in their place and time. Just make sure that whoever you invite into your inner circle actually has the capability to help you.