Skip to content

Telling the truth but telling it slant

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —
Success in Circuit lies
Too bright for our infirm Delight
The Truth’s superb surprise
As Lightning to the Children eased
With explanation kind
The Truth must dazzle gradually
Or every man be blind —
~Emily Dickinson

If you talk to many Mormons undergoing faith crisis or transition (are those terms synonymous?), you will usually find a preoccupation with truth, honesty, and authenticity. Most discussions of a “middle way” will grapple with a tension between maintaining appearances to avoid alienation on the one hand, and being straightforward and honest about their doubts and disbeliefs. I typically see very strong claims that honesty must be open and forthright — it is not only telling falsehoods but omitting relevant truths, or presenting truths in ways you know could be misinterpreted, that is deceptive. (See more discussion about truth and lies at Wheat & Tares.)

Are parables deceptive?

With that as context, I want to transition to another issue I’ve been thinking about since I wrote my last article here. Agellius commented on my post on grace with the Parable of the Sower, and although I was already familiar with this parable, I opened up Matthew and read further. Right after that parable, the disciples pull Jesus aside and ask him a question that I still think is quite relevant: what is the deal with parables, anyway?

More importantly, from the perspective that truth-telling requires forthrightness, are parables deceptive?

Read more…

Talent vs. practice; grace vs. work

Man playing guitar in nature: is he talented or just a hard worker?

Man playing guitar in nature: is he talented or just a hard worker?

In my drafts, I have an essay that has been collecting dust. This essay is my way of trying to wrap my mind around the concept of grace from a Christian spiritual perspective — but more importantly, I’m trying to understand the interplay of grace and works, especially since it seems like that is one area where Mormons feel they’ve gotten a major improvement over Christianity (and yet non-LDS Christians feel that Mormons have gone horribly astray).

The catch: I have tried to talk about it from a secular perspective. Maybe that very effort is doomed from the beginning, but I can’t really say I grok a lot of the God-talk, and so there we have it.

Still, as I mentioned, the essay has been collecting dust. Part of that is because I don’t think I’ve quite gotten it figured out. Maybe that’s fundamental.

However, recently I was listening to a podcast by some YouTube musicians (specializing in covers of video game music, as is my niche). This episode was on the myth of talent. While the entire episode is only 18 minutes (blessedly shorter than some other podcasts I could point to), I think some of the major relevant comments start 14 minutes in on the discussion about “child prodigies” vs. hard work.

For those who don’t want to listen, I’ll summarize the basic contention here:

Many artists/musicians/creative folks of various stripes really dislike being praised for their talent or being recognized as prodigies, because these compliments minimize the hard work that they have invested.

Read more…

Christians as the light of the world


One of the interesting things about Klout is how it takes one’s posts across various social media and assigns a person expertise in different subject areas. For example, I am an expert at the 99.9% percentile of however-Klout-figures-things-out in Accounting — which is probably just a realization of my gaining an appreciable amount of likes on Facebook for posting funny comments and puns about accounting (get it…realizing gains on appreciation? …OK, that wasn’t good). For whatever it’s worth, I’m also an expert at the 99.9% percentile on Mormonism, which probably leads me to suspect that, I dunno, people who actually have a lot to say on Mormonism are too busy to be using social media?

And interestingly, I am at the 99.9% percentile of “religion” but only at the 99.1% percentile of “atheism”…which either means I’m slightly better at being religious than at being an atheist, or that there are a handful of atheists who are better at talking that up on social media than I am.


My Klout “Expert Topics”

But one of  the coolest things about Klout is that it allows you to explore blog posts and articles relating to your topics of expertise. I admit that I’m pretty good at keeping track of the best Mormon blogs, but I have to say that Klout has done a pretty good job of exposing me to interesting comment that I didn’t have any idea about. One thing I discovered somehow was a Plough interview between Peter Mommsen and Stanley Hauerwas. I could probably write a post on any number of the topics in this interview, but I wanted to address one subject, because it’s something I’ve seen discussed a bit before.

How appealing should a Christian life be?

Read more…

Status Report – Where Andrew S is these days

Howdy folks!

For those of you who have been following this blog, you likely have noticed that I haven’t been writing that much, either here or at Wheat & Tares. I wanted to be able to say that that’s because my Mormon engagement has transitioned more to Facebook (especially Facebook groups like Mormon Hub, A Thoughtful Faith, and so on), but that’s also not accurate — while I still read a few threads each day in some of those Facebook groups, I post and comment much less frequently.

This is not to say that my interest in religious discussion in general or Mormonism in specific has died out. Maybe that’s partially the case, but I still appreciate reading certain articles from Times and Seasons, By Common Consent, Wheat & Tares, that come my way through my RSS list. And I still pay attention to new podcast releases, just to see if I should save any episodes for long drives.

And I also have been reading some pretty cool blogs outside of the Mormon religious space. Agellius at Petty Armchair Popery keeps me up to speed on Catholicism (although I guess I shouldn’t claim to be kept “up to speed” on any topic, much less an entire religious tradition just from reading one blog, haha). Anthony at Making Sense of Christianity has a rigorously practical, fresh approach that I have not seen before (although maybe that’s because, as mentioned before, my reading is heavily slanted towards blogs).

If I look at the numbers, it’s probably true that I haven’t been doing as much religious blogging, and maybe I’ll try to do something more regularly. But that doesn’t mean I’ve been doing nothing. Here’s where I’ve been recently, and where you can find me, if you’re interested:

Read more…

Choosing sex over God

Nick Galieti, a guest-poster at Millennial Star, wrote a post responding to the recent post at The Atlantic entitled “Choosing Love or the Mormon Church.” In his response, he reframed this choice more starkly: really, LGBT (or SSA) Mormons are choosing between sex and God.

This post is mostly a summary or encapsulation of a lot of LDS thoughts regarding the SSA experience from the past few weeks (e.g., one should challenge dominant narratives as to LGBT being a core identity vs. one’s agency and choice being core, and one should challenge dominant narratives of a permissive and unbounded love vs. a narrower definition of love), so I won’t go into detail there…although I will say, if you can manage, that the comments also had a few additional points and arguments.

I wrote the following comment (edited lightly so that it makes sense off the site), as an ambassador from the other side, Team Sex:

A part of me really appreciates what the LDS church is trying to do here. I mean, even as this post lays it out pretty starkly, I understand. Mormonism is intensely heteronormative — realistically, with the accumulation of theology being as it’s been, there’s not really a way to get around the idea, as Meg has pointed out, that Mormonism is a religion celebrating a procreative heaven, and so far, God has not deigned to be creative enough to define procreation in any terms outside of our earthly biological concepts. (Not that I can speak — how dare a mere mortal claim to be above God?!) Mormonism as a religion has set very strict standards, and it wouldn’t dare to compromise on those standards even if it could elevate some more folks lives by demanding a rigorous monogamy (against their supposed nature) instead of an absolute celibacy (against their supposed nature).

It seems to me though, even as someone raised in the church, that I didn’t and don’t have a lot riding on the identity of being a “child of God”. It didn’t mean much positive to me, and instead was implicated in a lot of anxiety, depression, and negative affect — and that was when it triggered any response at all. I understand that for other people, things are different. Other people hear the word “God” and to them, that’s an actual being with which they can (or even do) have a relationship. But for me, the word God was how I exemplified the LDS concept of the “stupor of thought”.

To people [at Millennial Star], I chose sex over God. I perceived there would be more benefits to me and more room for growth to me to go with something tangible like that than something intangible like God. I accept my fate, whatever it may be.

But I agree that for me, for my personality type, it would probably be easier to be celibate. I often think that if this relationship doesn’t work out, then I might do just that. And here’s a few reasons why:

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have to worry about dealing with a person whose personality is so different from mine…whose desires are very different from mine, and whose way of thinking about things is so very different from mine.

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have to worry about trying to serve someone who seems to frustrate even my best attempts because my instinctual response to serve are in ways that *I* would appreciate, not ways that *he* would appreciate.

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have to be humbled by the fact that although he experiences this same mismatch, he certainly works much harder at trying to figure me out and meet me on my level than I do at trying to figure him out and meet him on his level.

If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t have such a personal and tangible evidence of a non-family member (because familiarity can often breed contempt…or at least make you take things for granted) loving me first and loving me even when I didn’t consider myself all that lovable. If I were celibate and not in a relationship, as the Law of Chastity demands, then I wouldn’t be struck with the poignant message that this love is a gift, but even as a gift it demands a response, and that response is one that I must freely choose to give, and one that I actually have to work at.

I understand that for many, companionship is so highly desired, and solitude is anathema. For me, solitude is cherished. It would easier for me to be alone, and maybe that’s the gift God gave me to deal with my “challenge” of SSA.

But I can’t help but feel that for me to take that easy way out would also be missing something important that I am being given the opportunity to learn while in a relationship that I would never have to the same extent, degree, or magnitude elsewhere.

There is no sax in the chapel…@Wheat & Tares

Long time, no see, folks. I have been really busy at work, but now that my projects have settled down, I have been really busy paying attention to my other hobbies…I’ve been able to get back into fencing, but I’ve also been able to get back into arranging and recording video game cover music. Here’s one of my latest pieces:

As I was thinking of a video to go along with this, I actually stumbled upon an idea that actually seemed somewhat notable…and so I wrote about it at Wheat & Tares. When we analogize the various members of the church to different instruments in an orchestra, how inclusive is this, really?

Well, it turns out that if the church is compared to a symphony orchestra, then it’s true that many instruments are valued, but not all of them.

The orchestra may not need only piccolos, but it *never* needs an electric guitar. If you want to play electric guitar, you have to find something other than an orchestra. A saxophonist may sometimes be invited to play with the orchestra, but only if he can conform his sound to that of a french hornists, or only if his conductor is picking musical selections from composers who wrote saxophone in with the orchestra.

In this way, a metaphor for inclusion can actually imply exclusion.

Hopefully, if you have time, you’ll check out my song or my post (or both???)

Yes, there are no gays in Mormonism’s Heaven

Mike Cammock recently wrote a guest post on Gina Colvin’s blog KiwiMormon turning a question into the assertion that  There are no gays in Heaven. As he discussed the infamous church policy towards those in same-sex relationships and their children (which the church rapidly seems to be elevating in terms of importance and value), he wrote:

Mormonism’s insistence that “practicing homosexuality” is sin, especially within the bonds of a loving committed monogamous relationship, is indicative of a theological reality that Mormon leaders clearly believe, but never directly articulate: There Are No Gays In Heaven.

This seemed obvious to me, but from Mike’s post, it looks like he is not convinced. (And by not convinced, I’m not discussing whether he should be convinced that there are no gays in Heaven…but he seems not convinced that in 2016, Mormonism believes that there are no gays in Heaven.) So, at several places in the post, he seems to minimize LDS attitudes, beliefs, and policies toward homosexuality. For example, he says:

As I contemplated and “ponderized” this history I realized that my present uncertainty regarding the church’s stance on homosexuality stems from my religious tradition’s recent history on the wrong side of social change.


Equally problematic is the recognition that the church has been driven to address the issue of homosexuality, not out of a desire to explore our own theological inconsistencies, nor out of the need to engage the hard question of whether our own bias and culture may have us at odds with Christ. Instead we have arrived in this heated debate driven by the fear that our institutional status quo may be at risk.

Throughout the piece, it appears that Cammock believes that Mormonism’s views on homosexuality are not driven by theological considerations, but are rather axiomatic. He also seems to imply that the only reason Mormonism is so committed to these beliefs is because of its political commitments. There is an implicit message in the post that if the church really underwent a deep theological investigation, it would come to different conclusions.

I don’t think this is correct.

Read more…

Opposing families in defense of The Family

Over at Times and Seasons, Julie Smith wrote a great post “A Rhetoric of Indirection”, wherein she discussed her misgivings over the LDS church’s increasing emphasis of “The Family” as its centering anchor for doctrine. From her post:

But. I feel that the church I joined was one where the swimmers ate carefully and exercised hard in order to win their races. The by-product of that was nice-looking bodies, by which I mean thriving families. Yes, families were huge–literally and figuratively–in the church I joined. But that was the result of a rhetoric of indirection; it wasn’t the result of a direct focus on The Family. I feel like the church I am in now is one where the swimmers are obsessively trying to look good in skinny jeans. And they–by which I mean “we”–are not only not looking so hot these days, but we are going to lose our races. This emphasis on The Family is going to do us more harm than good. And it is starting to feel like idolatry to me. It often feels in church settings as if The Family is more important–more emphasized, more loved, more fussed over, more worshiped–than God or Jesus Christ. And anything that doesn’t mesh well with The Family–be it an older single member or a child raised by gay parents–needs to be ignored or banished so as not to interfere with The Family.

This week, Rosalynde Welch wrote an article in response questioning whether the difference between Julie and herself might instead represent a sort of “chicken-and-egg” problem with respect to family or individual primacy.

From Rosalynde’s post:

Read more…

Technical Plateau

I have noticed a recurring pattern in my life, and it bugs me that this seems to be happening to me in so many places.

It is a plateau of my technique or expertise in a given area where I come to realize more fully my limitations as an amateur, or my ignorance as an outsider.

What does this look like?

When my boyfriend challenges me to a game of Connect Four, I enter it thinking this is a battle of reactions. He goes, then I analyze what he must be trying, then I go. I’m thinking about laying down traps, and outthinking his. My boyfriend crushes me several times. He says, “You’re not following the optimal path.” Even without having studied anything, I know, vaguely, that I should stick to the middle. But I don’t want to learn optimal paths. Even though this is a solved game, I don’t want to play it as if it’s a solved game.

In chess, it looks like a friend crushing me several times. He tells me, “Well, you have pretty good reflexes, and decent tactical thinking, but you should really study on openings and defenses. Here you started with what looked like so n’ so’s opening, but then you did something very unconventional, so I was able to come in here and here.” He tells me about his development as a chess player, studying openings.

I have no idea who so n’ so is. I’m just playing the game, trying to think a couple moves in advance — but certainly not with an entire game played out in my head.

In fencing, it looks similar. My coach says, “You are pretty athletic, and good at responding, but you don’t have discipline. And you should study tactics” I know it. My footwork is terrible. Watching myself in videos is cringeworthy, even when I win.

But I just want to fence! I know the drills are necessary, but I just want to fence freely!

I wanted to learn how to draw, but the pain of drawing junk stopped me every time. (Maybe next time will be different?)

I started playing music again, and I got to a place where my sound started sounding good enough to me for me to continue.

And yet, here I am with the plateau again.

Read more…

Reasons not to resign from Mormonism

In light of the latest drama in Mormonism regarding the updated policy on apostasy (and the barring of the children of a parent in a same-sex relationship from receiving a name and a blessing, being baptized, and so forth), a lot of people have finally decided to resign. There’s a lawyer on r/exmormon who says that he’s processed over 1500 resignations since the news.

And then there’s little old me who is still on the rolls. Is it time to resign?

There was a great article at Feminist Mormon Housewives discussing why one might stay in the church — even though they don’t attend and have no intention on attending in the future. Just a couple of reasons from the article:

VOICE: I only get to resign once. If resigning is the way I choose to use my voice, I am effectively choosing to make it silent forever after. This is the last thing I get a voice on. Storming out of the room feels good, but it also means I am now out of the room. And they will not follow me and ask me to clarify my position. They will be shocked for a second, and then I will simply cease to be an issue.

THE SLOW BURN: On the other hand if I stay on the records, I am forever a thorn in the side of the local ward with my existence, whether or not I go to church. They have to send me home and visiting teachers; they have to wonder what happened and why I don’t come. Somebody has to have the uncomfortable job of reaching out to me, in every place I live, and with every change of leadership. Every time this happens I have an opportunity to tell someone IN the church how I feel, if I want to. I can certainly decline to engage, if I’m not in the mood. But it leaves the door open to continue to have a voice with the local members and leadership of the church. I’m not ready to close that door.

That being said, I’m not sure if I agree that all of these (or even most of these) apply to my situation, or that I would want them to.

Read more…