Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Dear Utahn: Love, Your Inactive Neighbor

This is a guest post written by a wonderful woman who just so happens to be inactive LDS living in Utah. Her experience is raw and true to the experience of many inactive and non-LDS people living in Utah. Please give love, support, and great thought to her powerful letter.  

Dear LDS Neighbor,

I am inactive LDS. This does not mean that I am lost. I did not fall away from the church. I left it. I am not wandering, I am simply on a different path than you. I'm not saying which path is better because I believe that nearly any path in this life can lead to extreme happiness. Being inactive does not mean that I am an alcoholic, covered in tattoos, a drug addict, or bad person. Stop treating me like one. You have damaged me for long enough, and it needs to stop. I simply don't go to church on Sunday.

I have no intention of convincing you or your children to stop going to church. I'm not going to offer you alcohol, or try and tell your kids things contrary to what you have taught them. That would be rude and inconsiderate, and I am neither of those things. Please let my children be friends with yours. There is no need for children of any age or religion to believe that other children are inferior. Please stop interfering with friendships between kids who are innocent and loving.

Please, don't try to convince me to go to church. If I want to go back to church, I will go. I know where it is. I would love to be included in neighborhood events, and even invited to ward activities. I'm not going to cause a scene or be inappropriate, I just want to be included. Quite frankly, being inactive can be lonely when no one will talk to you simply because you spend all day on Sunday with your family instead of going to church.

Don't spread rumors about me. If you haven't heard it from me, and you're telling someone else, then you're gossiping. If you want to know why I don't go to church, become my friend, and ask me. I'm not going to gossip about you.

Ultimately, I don't need you to save me. I just need you to be a good neighbor and friend. The only difference between us is three hours on Sunday.

With Love and Respect,

Your Inactive Neighbor

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Modesty: So Much More Than A Hemline

Modesty is a hot topic in the LDS culture. On any given Sunday, in any given ward in the United States (and I'm sure many other countries) you will spot a female with a skirt several inches above the knee, someone in a sleeveless top, someone with cleavage showing, or someone's underwear line showing. Shoot, on any given Sunday you could probably end up seeing up some poor girl's skirt because of the way she is sitting. 

There is no official modesty police at church, though there never seems to be a shortage of people willing to mentally police their ward.

We have plenty in our LDS culture who are "slut shamers." There are both men and women who hold the immodestly dressed responsible for eliciting the sexual thoughts and behaviors of others, sometimes going so far as to claim "she's asking for it." For what exactly? Sex? Well, certainly prostitutes are asking for sex by the way they are dressed. In fact, plenty of women out on the town on a Friday night are asking for the same thing. Yes, they want to have sex. Try not to be shocked. But the 13 year old at church with a skirt 3 inches above her knee? Probably not. For the record, slut shaming is rarely effective in teaching principles of modesty. Men are responsible for their own thoughts and actions. To say that women are responsible for a man's sexually elicit thoughts contributes to a rape culture that degrades women and blames them for situations that are beyond their control. Immodesty has consequences and you can point them out (as in men may have sexual thoughts about you when you dress sexually), but you are not responsible for anyone's sins but your own.

Sometimes in the LDS culture our teenage girls and even our adult women fall into at least a similar category. Perhaps they aren't asking for actual sex, but they are certainly asking for attention. They dress to enhance their sexual characteristics, drawing attention to their breasts or butts to attract men. We have a natural desire to be loved and admired. Dressing to enhance sexual characteristics is very effective in gaining attention. It may not be the right kind of attention, but it is certainly effective.

Society and the media are very confusing. They teach us that being sexually appealing will lead to love and happiness. Our society equates lust with love. Our teenagers act out sexually (including dressing provocatively) in order to soothe their natural desire to be loved. Unknown to them, their God-given need to be loved can not be quenched by lust.

Mormon modesty lessons often focus on hemline locations, do's, and do not's. My message is different. It focuses on the foundations of modesty.

Heavenly Father gave us each a precious gift when we came to mortality. He gave us a body. We know that our Heavenly Father has a body of flesh and bone, and that we were excited to be able to receive this most precious gift. These mortal bodies are a precursor to our resurrected bodies which will at that point be perfected and immortal. Our bodies hold within them special powers beyond which we can truly comprehend. We also know that Satan and his followers will never be allowed the privilege of a body.

Satan does not want us to respect this gift. He would rather we degrade the gift, use it for wicked purposes, corrupt it, defile it, or otherwise distract us from the sacred responsibility we have to guard, take care of, and nourish this gift.

As women it is easy to feel criticized when it comes to modesty. I make no apology for our standards. This is the Lord’s standard as revealed through modern day prophets. My message is not meant to offend, but rather to remind us all of the blessings associated with modesty and invite all of us to experience and embrace those blessings. 

Whatever your current place on the path of life, modesty affects you! It doesn’t matter if you are old or young, if your kids are grown or young or nonexistent, it doesn’t even matter if you have all boys or if you are a boy. If you have a body, modesty applies to you. 

Modesty encompasses not just dress, but also language, thought, and personal conduct.

Modesty in Dress

We live in a day and age where Satan has created a very sexualized world. The messages we receive can be confusing.

"Your daughters as well as your sons are coming of age in a world that openly embraces early, casual, and thoughtless promiscuity. Immodest, unchaste women are glamorized and all too often celebrated and emulated. While there are steps that we can take in our homes and families to minimize our exposure to these unsavory elements of contemporary living, your daughters cannot entirely avoid the blatant sexual messages and enticements that surround them. You need to have frequent, open discussions during which you teach your daughters the truth about these issues. 
For example, they need to understand that when they wear clothing that is too tight, too short, or too low cut, they not only can send the wrong message to young men with whom they associate, but they also perpetuate in their own minds the fallacy that a woman’s value is dependent solely upon her sensual appeal. This never has been nor will it ever be within the righteous definition of a faithful daughter of God. They need to hear this—clearly and repeatedly—from your lips, and they need to see it modeled correctly and consistently in your own personal standards of dress, grooming, and modest living." M. Russel Ballard SOURCE

When we live the principles of modesty in dress, we are giving an outward expression of an inward commitment, much like wearing the temple garment. We are showing that we know who we are and we are living it. Our families will be blessed when modesty in dress is taught and lived. Children will learn respect for not only their body, but the bodies of others. They will learn that sex appeal is not attractiveness. They will gain power in this life by learning early on that lust does not equate to love.

Modesty in Language

We live in a world where women are often crass. Life isn't so much like an episode of Downton Abbey anymore. [sigh]. 

Does your language leave something to be desired?

It’s more than just swear words and being crude. Are you giving voice to the things of the Lord? Do you speak of God and Christ in your homes? Are you speaking to others with kindness?

Do you gossip? Do you put others down?

Modesty in Thought

This is an interesting one. It's not limited to just how you think about others, but how you think about yourself. This is one that a lot of women struggle with.

What do you think of yourself? Are you kind to your body in your head? Do you degrade it by thinking it isn’t good enough? Do you pinch your fat and examine your wrinkles in the mirror? Do you love yourself just the way God made you? 

Then there's the whole thinking about others portion.

Do you sexualize others? Do you mentally criticize the appearance of others? This would include judging others for their hemlines. Yes, this means that the mental modesty police aren't so modest themselves.

Do you see lots to work on? I do. 

Modesty in Personal Conduct

Certainly you can be immodest in the way you act. I think many of us are probably guilty of acting less than a daughter of God at times. It might be the way we treat others, or it might be the way we call attention to ourselves. It might be the way we take credit for everything and give none of the glory to God. 

How about the way we treat our body?

What does your personal conduct say about your body? Do you take care of your body? Do you use your body to get what you want? Do you constantly seek after the praise of others?

Modesty is an interesting topic. It is so much more than hemlines. Expectations for hemlines have changed over time, but the eternal principles of modesty never changes. I've only touched the tip of the iceberg here. When we teach our daughters (and sons) about modesty it needs to be so much more than a list of do's or don'ts. It is a constant discussion of a higher level of living that goes far beyond what you are wearing. It is about realizing who you really are. 

Adult women have plenty to teach themselves about modesty, too. I know I do. I am a strong advocate for modesty. I can only hope to someday exemplify the modesty that the Savior exhibited in his life. Jesus was a modest man, and it had nothing to do with his hemlines. 

Modesty is a lifelong quest that requires you to discover who you really are as a child of God and the precious and sacred gift He has given you with this wonderful, beautiful, and often quirky thing called a body. 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Fifty Shades of Shame: LDS Women and Their Pornography

Sometimes it is a book. Sometimes it is a movie. Sometimes it is just pictures of shirtless guys. Sometimes it is the dark corners of the internet. Wherever we find it, it is the same thing. It is pornography.

While some of our sisters are trapped deeply in the shame, secrecy, and pain that comes from pornography addiction, others flaunt their pornography involvement and have somehow been given the social "okay" to do so. 

Women are sexual beings, just like men. It is a natural, God given desire. But like all things from God, Satan has found a way to perverse that which is good. It is an alluring trap. And he has tricked some of us into thinking that trap around our ankle is a piece of jewelry. 

It is no coincidence that I chose to play on the title of the popular pornographic book, and now movie, for the title of this post. It is frightening to me how many LDS women openly admit to reading the book and loving it. 

I once accidentally checked out 50 Shades of Grey from the library. I often add best sellers to my request list without knowing about the book. Such was the case with 50 Shades. I sat down to read the book one night and didn't even make it past the first page. I flipped to the book description and was mortified. What had I just let into my home? I returned the book to the library first thing in the morning, embarrassed and worried that the librarian would think I read the whole book in one night. I just hoped no one would ever find out so there would never be a misunderstanding. 

And then I heard friends at church talk about how much they loved it.

Wait, what? How could LDS women be reading this book? Let me tell you, it is 100% pornography. 

Romance novels with graphic sexual scenes are big money makers. Lots and lots of women read them. I have heard many women excuse reading these books.

"It's not like I'm masturbating." 

My dear sisters, I say this with absolute love, but let's be clear here: If you are reading or looking at things that makes your vagina feel good, then you are checking out pornography. 

I have had to unfollow Pinterest boards of some of my LDS sisters. They pin shirtless men, sometimes ones that reveal hair that I have no interest in seeing. They call their boards things like "Hot Stuff" and "Me Likey" and "Give Me Some of That."

Let me take a little liberty with the words of Jesus from Matthew 5:28

"Whosoever looketh on a man to lust after him has already committed adultery in her heart."

Maybe we need to read The For Strength of Youth a little more often in Relief Society. You can read the standards for Sexual Purity HERE and Entertainment and Media HERE

They don't just say not to look at videos or pictures of naked people having sex. They say not to arouse sexual feelings within yourself outside the bonds of marriage. This does not mean that since you are married you can do what you want. 

These socially acceptably forms of pornography will destroy you in the same ways that an old fashioned porno movie can. 

Let's look at the prophetic consequences of pornography use:

1. Weakens your self-control
2. Destroys your feelings of self-worth
3. Changes the way you see others
4. Lose the guidance of the Spirit
5. Damages your ability to have a normal relationship with others
6. Limits your ability to feel true love

Do you see these consequences in your life? 

Even a sex scene in a chick flick can make you see those consequences are real. It warps your view of sex and love. Let me tell you, my sex life doesn't mirror a romantic comedy and I don't know that many do. 

What is on the screen isn't real. What is in the book isn't real. It isn't what God wants for us. 

Looking at those half naked men on Pinterest? What will that do to your relationship with your husband? What if your husband had a bulletin board in the house full of women in bikinis with a big sign that says "Me Like"? Think your marriage would improve? 

Reading those steamy romance novels? Does it make you feel good about yourself? Does it improve your dating life? Does it teach you what to look for to recognize true love?

Sisters, we can do better. It's not just the young women that need to return to virtue. It's us "old" women too. Clean up your life. De-clutter your book shelf, free up space on your kindle, lose a Pinterest board or two. Your life will only improve. 

Let us stand for truth and righteousness at all times and in all places...

...including Pinterest and the book store. 

Note: Pornography addiction is a real issue that many LDS women face. If you are involved in the cycle of pornography addiction, please know that you are not alone. Read THIS article from the New Era. Read THESE two stories about women's addictions. Check out THIS blog that chronicles a woman's struggle with overcoming pornography addiction. Addiction requires help beyond which a Bishop can provide. See the Bishop. Get involved with a 12 Step group. Seek help from a competent therapist. There is nothing the Atonement of Jesus Christ cannot heal. You deserve to have Him heal you. 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

4 Ways to Make Christ the Center of Your Christmas

December is a time for celebrating the birth and life of Jesus Christ. It is easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of Christmas and the end of the year. For some it is a difficult time and leads to feelings of depression, loss, and grief. For those seeking Christ this Christmas, here are a few ideas to make Christ the center of your Christmas worship and celebration. 

1. Read the New Testament
Make it a goal to read the New Testament every day during the month of December. If you need to take it slower, make it a goal to read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John so you can indulge yourself in reading about the life of Jesus Christ. Bonus: Read 3rd Nephi Chapters 11-26 and read of His coming to the Americas.

2. Sing a Christmas Hymn Every Day
Take a few minute each day to belt out a Christmas Hymn, one that sings the praises of Jesus Christ. Sing it with your whole heart. It doesn't matter if you are a good singer or not. This is a good time to develop a habit of shower singing. Belt it with feeling! My favorites: Oh Holy Night, Silent Night, Oh Come Oh Come Emmanuel

3. Go to the Temple
Up your temple attendance during the month of December. Go once, go once a week, go every day....whatever increases your temple attendance, and yes, becomes a little bit of a sacrifice. Making it hard to accomplish will make it that much more worth it. Can't go to the temple? That's okay. Find a holy place for you and spend time there. 

4. Pray
Take a few minutes each day to say an unselfish prayer to God. Pray for others. Pray for opportunities to share the Spirit of Christ. Pray for the poor and needy. Pray for those both seen and unseen who are struggling. Make your prayers a little more thoughtful. 

How do you make Christ the center of your Christmas?

Monday, December 1, 2014

When Going to Church Hurts

Maybe you are struggling with infertility and it hurts to see all those inevitable pregnant bellies and new babies. Maybe you have been the subject of gossip and don't want to show your face. Maybe you are struggling in your marriage (or separation, or divorce) and can't stand to hear another lesson on eternal marriage. Maybe you feel like an outcast and don't want to sit alone again. 

There are numerous reasons why it might hurt to go to church. You dread Sundays and lay in bed coming up with excuses to stay home. Sometimes you do stay at home. Other times you peel yourself out of bed, get ready, and trudge your way through church. Sometimes you have to leave during the meeting because it is just too much. 

I feel you, sister. I think it is much more common than anyone really knows. We keep it a secret after all. Heaven forbid someone finds out that it hurts to go to church and judge us. Because we all know it is possible. Some self-righteous saint might very well tell us we just need to pray more or some nonsense like that. 

Sometimes it hurts to go to church. I am hear to tell you that it is okay to feel that way. I hope that you don't always feel that way. I hope that you go through periods of your life where it doesn't hurt anymore. But for now, sometimes it just hurts.

I'm not going to pretend I have all the answers for this. I don't really have any solutions for you. Sometimes no matter what you do, how much you pray, and how many scriptures you read, it'll still hurt to go to church. 

What I want to talk about instead is ways that you can still find your own personal worship despite all the pain at church. 

Do we have to go to church? Nope. You don't have to do anything. But I'm guessing that if you are reading this then you have some sort of desire to go to church, despite the hurt. Sometimes we go to church for our children. Sometimes we go to save face. Sometimes we go because we have some sort of Sunday duty. There are a lot of reasons.

If you look at the real reasons why we should go to church, they might look a little different. 

First and most important, we go to church to partake of the sacrament. If the pain is truly too much to bear, at least go for that one. 

Second, we go to church to worship God. We sacrifice our time to go and sing praises and listen to gospel messages. This just so happens to involve squirming children, people kicking your pew, spilt cheerios, and judgmental looks. 

Third, we go to church to be obedient. The man upstairs asks us to do a lot of things, and sometimes they are hard. God wants us at church. 

It is really that simple. But that doesn't take away the hurt.

Here are some suggestions that might help you. I'd love to hear more suggestions in the comments. 

Find some time before church to spend in personal worship. This might be playing the piano or singing hymns. It might mean sitting in a quiet, peaceful place in silence. It might mean reading scriptures or other inspiring literature. It might mean taking a hot bath and meditating on spiritual things. Find something that is your own personal, selfish, indulgent worship time. Connect with God before you go to church. It might help you connect with him beyond the pain when you are actually at church. 

Tune it out. If you can't handle the speaker or the lesson, tune it out. Dive into the scriptures or conference talks, anything on your little gospel library app. Sure, the speaker or teacher may think you are totally rude, but who cares? Speakers and teachers are supposed to be facilitators of the Holy Ghost so they should just take it down a notch and not take it personally when someone isn't paying attention. Take some liberty and feel free to do what you need to do to feel the Holy Ghost. If you are being disruptive, that is one thing, but it's okay if you just let the spirit take you where you need to go. 

Find a safe person. It doesn't matter what their position is or what their relation is to you. Just find a person that is safe at church. Someone you can sit by. Someone who won't give dirty looks when you check facebook on your phone. Someone who won't make a scene if you burst into tears. Someone who will be discreet if you have to leave the room. I promise you that there is someone safe in your ward. If you need help, pray your guts out to find out who it is. There's something about having a safe person there that is liberating. It frees you up to find your worship beyond the hurt.

Focus on the sacrament. If it hurts to be at church, then there is something you need. It's the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Sing your heart out during the sacrament hymn. Blur your vision so you can imagine Jesus Christ in place of the young men passing you the trays of bread and water. Give the kids some candy right before hand if it will give you some momentary peace. Cling to those few sacred minutes and try and find God beyond the pain. Utilize the power of the sacrament to restore your soul and give you strength to make it through. 

Yes, sometimes it hurts to go to church. There is certainly nothing I can do to change that. What I do know is that God wants to reach you beyond your pain. He recognizes the sacrifices you make to worship Him, and He will bless you.

Hang in there sister.  

What are your secrets for surviving church when it hurts?

Sunday, November 30, 2014

4 Things You Can Do Right Now To Battle Pornography In Your Home

LDS women, I'm about to give you a virtual slap in the face. Just know that it comes from a place of love. You see, there's something we need to talk about. There is something that a lot of you have been absolutely blind to. For some of you, this is really going to hurt. 

Odds are someone in your home is looking at pornography. 

Before you dare think you might be the exception, you may want to hear me out. 

More than 70% of men actively seek out porn on a regular basis. Don't you dare think, "well, that is for nonmembers." It isn't. Best estimates are that those statistics are the same within the LDS church. I've heard numbers such as 50% of active Melchizedek Priesthood holders are actively involved in pornography, and 1/3 of High Priests. Just because someone has been or is currently a member of a bishopric, quorum presidency, YM presidency, etc, doesn't mean they aren't involved in pornography. It's kind of scary. You'd be surprised how many wives of men in high profile callings end up discovering their husbands secret other life. That probably scares you. You might even be in denial about it. But it makes sense. Satan is targeting us like never before. The love of men is waxing cold, just as ancient prophets said it would. 

Every single one of your kids will be exposed to pornography by the time they reach age 18. In today's world they will not just be exposed, but bombarded by it. Your sweet innocent 6 year old that is just learning how to read? He (or she) may be looking at porn. You may think that age 5 or  is too young to talk to your kids about sex and pornography, but Satan doesn't. 

But your girls are okay, right? Wrong. Somewhere around 30% of them are actively seeking out porn. Maybe you are too. Books, pinterest, or hardcore porn. There's a wide range. Those girls and women have social expectations of not having problems like that (like women somehow are naturally uninterested in sex FALSE) so their shame can be pretty devastating. 

Do you feel like you've been slapped in the face? Those kind of numbers are enough to scare any wife or mother. Some of you are fully aware of the realities of the situation and this will have felt more like a punch in the stomach or a bee sting to the heart. But for those of you blissfully unaware of the big wide world of pornography, this is your slap in the face. Wake up! We need you to get to work. The battle for souls is raging. 

These trapped men and women are not lost causes. The fact is, there is a lot of hope. You see, two thousand plus years ago a man by the name of Jesus atoned for the sins of the world. He provided endless hope to all mankind. 

I cannot cover all the information you need to wage this battle. But I can give you some places to start. Here are 4 things you can do right now to make a difference. 

1. Have an FHE lesson on pornography ASAP!

You have got to start talking about pornography in your home. It needs to be a fairly regular conversation. The Church recently released a series of lessons for use in family home evenings which you can read about and access HERE. Some of the lessons are specifically designed for nursery and primary age children. Be careful of the language you use when you talk about. Pornography addiction feeds off of secrecy and shame. If you use shaming language you will only force people away from you and deeper into pornography. 

2. Put Up Some Defensive Barriers

You should have a filter on every internet accessible device in your house including but not limited to computers, phones, and tablets. Parental controls should be enabled on your television, cable, satellite, netflix, hulu, and amazon. Make it a habit to check browser histories, search histories (on internet devices as well as television devices). Cleared browser histories are unacceptable and a huge red flag. It is vitally important that you don't think that just because you have those things set up, you are in the clear. There is absolutely nothing you can do to prevent pornography from entering your home. Accept that fact right here, right now. I didn't say these were preventive barriers. I called them defensive. Filters are only one line of defense. It helps prevent accidental exposure, or clues you in to current behavior. The best filter is an internal one. And that is much harder to install. 

3. Open the line of communication

I don't recommend you set out on a witch hunt. Forcing someone into repentance rarely works. What you can do is open the line of communication. Let your husband and your children know that you know how common of a problem it is and that if anyone is involved in it and would like help, you will be there for them. Play it cool. Don't let your anger, jealousy, or pride get in the way. You've got to come from a place of absolute humility. You can't force people to repent. You can only invite. The scriptures constantly describe the Savior as inviting people unto repentance with open arms. Don't stand in the way of that. Facilitate it. 

4. Demystify the repentance process

Sinners don't like to face consequences. I'm a sinner and I hate the consequences of my actions. When the sins get serious, so do the consequences. Children and teenagers involved in pornography are often terrified of the consequences. Will their parents still love them? Will they never be able to use a computer again? Will they get grounded until they are 18? Will the bishop yell at them? Take the mystery out of it. (By the way, please don't ground your kids for looking at pornography. That will only deepen their shame and give them even more reason to cover their tracks. Facilitating repentance means getting them the help they need. Talk to them. Figure out what kind of things will really help them stop). Husbands are afraid too. See, Satan builds up all these lies in their head about what will happen if anyone finds out. You can help by talking about the realities. Learn about church discipline. Demystify it. Church discipline is not about punishment. Teach about how bishops help guide people to Christ. When Satan has us in a deep trap, we need help to get out. Teach it. Live it. Testify. 

Discovering a spouse or child's involvement in pornography can be devastating, but it is not hopeless. You can be a tremendous force for good in the battle against pornography. It's time to step up and fight. 

More Resources:

This is the official LDS Church website dedicated to helping individuals and families utilize the Atonement to overcome the sweeping effects of pornography. Resources for individuals, families, and leaders.
Has a series of videos on how to talk to children and teens about sexuality and human intimacy from LDS therapists who specialize in the area.
Offers resources for loved ones and female addicts. Offers an anonymous support forum for loved ones.
Provides hope, education, and resources related to pornography and sexual addiction recovery.
No filter is 100%. Internet filters can easily be bypassed by anyone, even if they are not tech savvy. Instructions to bypass any level of filtering is easily available online. Even without bypassing the filter, pornography can still come through. Filters are a great first-line defense. Every internet capable device should have filtering. A device-specific filter will provide filtering service regardless of the location or internet connection. A second level filter can be installed to protect all internet capable devices that enter your home (friends and visitors) and can provide a second level of defense.
  • Individual Device Filtering = software installed on individual devices that filters all internet connected to that device no matter where they are.
  • DNS Filtering = filters your entire internet connection when installed on your router. Requires each individual device to honor the dns settings.  www.opendns.com
  • Proxy Server Filtering = all internet in your home is filtered through a proxy server. http://dansguardian.org/
  • ISP Level Filtering = internet filtering from your internet service provider. Most ISPs do not provide this service. You have to call your ISP to get this set up. Your ISP is the person you pay your internet bill to.
Relying on the latest research on addiction, and merging this knowledge with spiritual aspects of repentance and recovery, the author provides understanding and hope to those who seek healing and restoration of both body and spirit, which are the "soul of man."
This manual contains reliable information about pornography and sexual addiction, including answers to frequently asked questions about what is necessary to support recovery for those addicted- and their afflicted loved ones. 
Written by the spouse of a pornography addict, the book shines light on the darkness of pornography and sexual addiction, the trauma felt by loved ones, and the hope that recovery and peace are possible.
An LDS Clinical Psychologist shows couples how to identify and address vulnerabilities in their relationship. This book offers healing advice for spouses, provides help for the struggling partner to avoid relapse and focuses on how to make the marriage relationship stronger than it was before.
http://www.healingthroughchrist.org/ has created a comprehensive 12-step book based on LDS principles for family members affected by a loved one’s addiciton. It is available for free on their website.
Written by a pornography addict in complete recovery, this author shares his LDS perspective to help others understand and overcome their own pornography addiction. The book is available for download for free from his website: http://rowboatandmarbles.org/

Offers both in-person and telephone 12 Step Meetings specific to Pornography Addiction for both addicts and loved ones. Local groups are for men only addicts and separate classes for loved ones (women only). Women addicts can access phone meetings
    • Local Meetings:
      • You can search by zipcode for meetings your area
    • Phone Meetings for Women Addicts:
      • Thursdays 8:00pm Mountain Time, call 1-855-537-4000 and use access code: 993-936-696
  • SA - Sexaholics Anonymous (www.SA.org)
12-Step Group for both men and women who have a sexual addiction. Age 18+ only. Also offers phone groups, conferences, and workshops. Not for loved ones (see S-Anon for loved ones information).
    • Search on their website for local meeting information.
  • SAA - Sex Addicts Anonymous (www.SAA-recovery.org)
12-Step Group for men and women who have a sexual addiction. Not for loved ones.
    • Search online for local meeting information.
  • S-Anon (www.SAnon.org)
The S-Anon Family Groups are a fellowship of the relatives and friends of sexually addicted people who share their experience, strength and hope in order to solve their common problems. Our program of recovery is adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous and is based on the Twelve Steps and the Twelve Traditions. It is free and non-denominational.
Offers an intensive outpatient group therapy using a three phase treatment program for addicts, loved ones, and teens. San Diego office contact information: John J. Boyle (MA, MFT) & Rebecca Jorgensen (PhD) (714) 869-4682
Offers online counseling via video conferencing as well as group 12 step meetings with counselors specialized in pornography addiction and betrayal trauma. Offers a free 6 class program for loved ones of pornography addicts, as well as paid services for individual counseling for both addicts and loved ones, group counseling, and couples counseling.
Offers paid online counseling via video conferencing for men, women, and teens from qualified addiction therapists.
  • LDS Family Services
Provides short-term counseling. Contact your bishop or local office for more information.

I Am LDS and Polygamy Makes Me Want To Vomit

How you can believe Joseph Smith was a prophet without understanding polygamy                                                 

The LDS Church renounced polygamy in 1890 (or 1904 depending on how you look at it). You can read all about that stuff HERE. The point is, it's been over for more than 100 years.

But that doesn't make me feel any better about it. The idea of polygamy makes me want to vomit.

If God himself appeared to me an asked me to practice polygamy, I would plead with him for mercy and ask "is there no other way?" 

A lot of LDS women feel this way, or variations of it. The disgust for it can run so deep it can leave a big whole of doubt in our testimonies of the Gospel or of Joseph Smith. 

So lets talk about it.

You can look at any polygamous family tree and see that it was definitely a useful tool in building up a lot of born and bred church members. Or in other words, it was effective in raising up a righteous generation. 

But what about those wives? What about sex? 

When the show Sister Wives came out, I eventually took an interest and watched an episode. And then another, and another, and another. As a member of the LDS Church I was fascinated by the practice of polygamy of this offshoot group that practices polygamy based on the teachings of Joseph Smith. 

Let's be clear, we're not the same church. They say that over and over on the show. They aren't LDS. Current polygamists with ties to Joseph Smith are all offshoot religions that split back in 1890-1904.

At first I watched like it was some sort of horror show. I'm embarrassed about that. It's not exactly a kind thing to do. They are real people after all. After a few episodes I started to see something besides horror. I started to see how my LDS Church ancestors might have benefited from polygamy. And that made me feel pretty weird. I saw how the women have to overcome things like pride and jealousy. Over the episodes, the Sister Wives earned my respect. Maybe polygamy can help you develop Christ-like attributes. They had a wonderful built in support system. There was a lot of love shown in their families. One wife was only able to have one child. Because of her polygamous family, her daughter had siblings and she was able to be a mother to many. I'm sure the Sister Wives aren't perfect, but it gave me a glimpse of how polygamy in the early days of the church might have worked and been a good thing.

Obviously not all polygamous families are this way. I don't have to look further than Warren Jeffs to feel the vomit coming up again. I suspect this is how it was back then too. Maybe for some men it was about the sex. Maybe it was about controlling women. But maybe for others it was a struggle. Maybe it taught some men patience, long-suffering, and other wonderful attributes. 

They say Joseph Smith had up to 30 wives. My first reaction is vomit. But then I slap myself and say, "but Joseph Smith was not Warren Jeffs." I read the Book of Mormon and I feel it. I feel that it is true. Joseph Smith did that. I read the account of the first vision and my soul is stunned. That was Joseph Smith. I go to the temple and I feel the presence of God. Joseph Smith did that. I may have never met Joseph Smith, but I kind of know him. I've seen what has come from him. 

I honestly don't understand Joseph Smith and polygamy, or any of my ancestors or early church members and their polygamous relationships for that matter. It feels so wrong to me, and maybe that is a good thing because that isn't what we are supposed to do anymore. I don't understand it, and maybe I never will. 

When the vomit starts to rise, I have to remember what I do know. I know those good feelings. I trust those good feelings. I have to remember all the times in my own life where I wonder what in the world God is thinking, and then later I see that it has all worked out for the best. I can't explain polygamy to anyone. I can't defend the practice. But I can explain what I do know. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet. And I know that God works in mysterious ways. I won't always understand Him or His ways, but I know that He will always be right. 

I believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. And polygamy still makes me want to vomit. And that's okay. 

Saturday, November 29, 2014

5 Weird Ways To Be A Better Visiting Teacher

I haven't always loved visiting teaching. I'm not sure I really understood it until a few years ago. In 2012 they changed visiting teaching. If this is news to you, you should go back and read it HERE. They compared the old way of visiting teaching to the Law of Moses. The new way is the higher law. So, are you still stuck on the Law of Moses where you go once a (every few) months and sit down and have a lesson, chat, and then leave with the old, "is there anything I can do for you?" Don't worry, lots of people still are. But you have an opportunity to do better. When I started following this new route of visiting teaching I absolutely fell in love. Suddenly I was becoming an instrument in the hands of the Lord and it felt so good. I have had sisters I visit teach tell me that I have changed their lives. Whoa, right? I have to tell them that it wasn't me at all. It was all the Lord. Following this new path of visiting teaching reaches the one, ministers to women, and strengthens all of us. All because it is all about being the hands of the Lord rather than following a cookie-cutter program. 

So let me give you 5 weird ways you can be a better visiting teacher that you've probably never heard of before. 

1. Wait Until the Last Day of the Month to Report

That might sound contrary to what you've been told at church. "Report by the 15th!" No way. If you report before the end of the month you imply that your visiting teaching is somehow over, checked off the list, done for the month. But that isn't how visiting teaching is supposed to be. Not anymore. Forget about numbers. It isn't that way anymore. Reporting is just checking in with the Relief Society Presidency and an opportunity to forward on the needs of the women you minister to. There is no "yes" or "no" as to whether or not you have done your visiting teaching. You are supposed to report your efforts for the month,  what you have done to minister, and any needs your sisters have. Now, if an urgent need is found during the month, you should definitely make a call to the Relief Society Presidency and get help. As for the dates involved, forget about it. Don't let your visiting teaching efforts revolve around months or dates. That is SO 3 years ago. 

2. Stalk the Ladies You Visit Teach

I'm not saying you should be a creeper, but friend them on facebook, even if you don't really know them! Follow them on Instagram and check out their Pinterest page. Social media is a great way to get to know your sisters and interact with them. Notice the details. They mention a family event or upcoming trip? Write it down if you need to, or schedule a reminder in your phone to ask about it. Sometimes technology can help you learn how to be a good friend to them. If your sisters aren't on social media, then find different ways to nudge yourself into their lives and get to know them. If you don't know anything about your sisters, sorry, but you probably aren't going to be a very effective visiting teacher. 

3. Skip the Message

Whoa, what? I know, I'm actually telling you to skip the message. I promise I'm not being sacrilegious. Remember the year where visiting teaching was super awkward because the messages were all about being a good visiting teacher? Then you felt like a moron when you went visiting teaching because it was something you should have been doing, but you weren't, so you just felt like an embarrassed hypocrite. Well, those messages weren't meant for you to share with the sisters you visit teach. They were for you. You were supposed to come up with your own message. They started giving messages again because we didn't get it. But let me tell you, it's a better way to visit. Pray. Figure out what gospel topic or message your sisters need or want to discuss.  That means you may need a different message for each sister. Visiting teaching is a safe place to meet the very personal needs of women. The message in the Ensign is for millions of women, it is not for the one. We're changing. It's time to focus on the one.

4. Stop Bringing Cookies

We rely way too much on cookies and treats. Sometimes we even leave a plate of cookies on the doorstep and call it good for the month. We're missing the point. Jesus wasn't talking literally when he said "feed my sheep." Your cookies and treats are a crutch. If you stop leaning on them, you'll be forced to find new ways to be a better visiting teacher.  I promise that you will have a whole new world opened up to you. Once you figure out how to reach the one, then you can consider baked goods as a way to minister, if appropriate. Just don't let it be your crutch. 

5. Treat Everyone Differently

In a world that seems to be focusing a lot on equality and treating everyone the same, I'm going to suggest the opposite. Treat each of the sisters you visit teach differently. Your sisters are all different people with different needs. Visiting teaching them the exact same way won't reach their individual needs. One sister may need someone to go walking with on occasion. Another may be home bound and may need home visits and a listening ear. Another may have a chaotic home life and needs an escape. Perhaps she needs to come to your home to escape! Another may want nothing to do with the church but is willing to let you send her texts. Visiting teaching is about meeting needs. Stop treating your sisters the same. Treat them as individuals and you'll have a better chance at effectively meeting their needs. 

Bonus: Never ask "Is there anything I can do for you?" It's a cop out. Live the higher law. Do unto others as they would have done unto themselves. Figure out their needs and meet them. Don't just ask the standard question when you know that the socially traditional response is, "nope, I'm fine!" 

When I served in a Relief Society Presidency I found that sisters often underestimated their efforts in visiting teaching. They beat themselves up for what they didn't do, and didn't realize all of the things they were doing. A sister once reported that she had failed to do her visiting teaching that month. I told her that was a bunch of crap. I knew that she watched the children of the woman she visit taught several times that month, had brought them dinner, and had been checking in with her almost daily. But she hadn't visited and shared a message. This sister was beating herself up for not following the law of Moses, and neglecting to see where she was following the higher law. It's time to live the higher law. We can be better. We need to be better. The Visiting Teaching program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is an inspired program that allows sisters to be instruments in the hands of the Lord. Every woman deserves the opportunity to feel those ministering hands in her life. Be the hands!

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