What if I'm horribly wrong?

What if I’m horribly wrong?

Sometimes I think about what will happen to me after I die.  Unlike my Mormon friends, I don’t claim to know. I believe things, I hope things, but I don’t know. Not the way I was taught to know things.

For the record, I don’t share my beliefs and hopes- about death or life or God very often. It’s easy to explain what I don’t believe. But for now, I stay away from public declarations about my faith or my lack of faith, or whatever this feeling is calming my troubled heart at night. Because I don’t know. Instead of terrifying me, not knowing comforts me. Not knowing opens up a world of opportunities and potential that stretches far beyond the tiny regimented universe I was raised in.

Not knowing anything means I can believe everything. I like that.

I don’t worry about what will happen to me after I die. But I think about it sometimes, and occasionally I imagine a world where Mormon God turns out to be in charge of it all. I die, and Mormon God appears. I wonder what this strange God thinks of me. Maybe he says:

“Stephanie, you didn’t wear the right underwear. You didn’t pray the right prayers, or pay the right tithes. You liked gay people more than the prophet. You demanded to be treated as an equal, despite being a woman. You didn’t hearken unto your husband. You don’t get to be a priestess, and I’m not supposed to let you into my highest kingdom.”

What if this is my afterlife?

What if I’m horribly wrong?

I don’t know, but I’m still not scared. Because if Mormon God is right, and I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m any less proud of the life I’m living. I still honor the values and the choices and the beliefs and non-beliefs I’m dedicating my life to. I’m not afraid of Mormon God.

Last weekend when the announcement was made regarding LGBT families and their children’s membership in the LDS church, I felt sad. I’m sad for families who will be hurt, I’m sad for children who will deal with adult situations they don’t understand. I’m always sad when children are the casualties of policy, and there will be casualties. I’m sad for members who want to be Mormon, but want to support their LGBT friends and families as well. It is hard to be stuck.

I feel sad for the members who are busily chiding and condemning the people they disagree with, because anger is a mask for sadness and fear, and it is hard to feel sad or afraid in church. I’m sad and I’m angry sometimes too.

I felt sad and angry about the announcement, and none of my usual coping mechanisms helped. All I wanted to do was read the words of my two favorite hymns over and over. At first, I resisted. I was mad at my old church, I didn’t want their hymns.

Then I decided to simply let my heart want what it wanted, and feel what it needed to feel. 

Not knowing anything means I can believe everything.

So I let myself follow the pattern of grief outlined in my favorite hymn:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

If I’m horribly wrong, and I face Mormon God after I die, (or the LDS Newsroom, or the PR department, or whoever the hell is in charge of Kolob,) I will tell God what I know:

“God, your other sources ceased to make me whole. I drew myself apart, and it shattered my soul. I spent years searching for the pieces, looking for the quiet hand, looking to calm my anguish. I tried my very best, but you were right, there was only one who understood me.”

In Christian tradition, the “He, only One” is the Messiah, but I’ve seen him take a million different forms over the course of my life, and in the end, the only One for me is the One promised in the final verse:

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

I don’t care what form “he” comes in. I don’t know if he is the Jesus I learned about in church, because I didn’t get the answers I needed in church. My answers came privately, and I learned that the only God I need to serve is kindness and love. Not only sometimes, not according to policy- constant he is and kind, love without end. Whatever this is- God, the Universe, humanity, or the broken bits of dead stars pulling us toward something bigger than ourselves, I know peace when I love without end.

If I’m horribly wrong, this is my answer to Mormon God. He’s right. I don’t wear the right underwear, and I love people more than the prophet. It’s true. But if I’m horribly wrong, I still believe I got the most important part right. I hope when I die my children can truthfully say I spent my life as a friend in the Gethsemane of others, that I followed the footsteps of a Savior, and not those who would sleep when others feel the sharp ache of a wounded heart.

If I manage to do this even a small part of my life, I don’t think it matters much what happens when I die.

Lord I would follow thee.

This is my other favorite hymn. My God and my Lord is kindness and love, this is who I follow.
But what if I’m horribly wrong, and Mormon God tells me:

“Stephanie, obedience is the first law of heaven. I told you not to trust in your own understanding. I am a harsh God who sends plagues and destroys the cities of the disobedient, cities inevitably inhabited with little children, who died because their parents were sinful and wrong. Why didn’t you defend the family? Why didn’t you condemn the sinner? What makes you so special?”

“Oh Mormon God, you are right. I didn’t do those things.  And yet…”

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.
Who am I to judge another?

 I would be my brother's keeper;
I would learn the healer's art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother's keeper.

“God, I was busy. Walking imperfectly. Learning the healer’s art.  Mormon God, clearly I am not a warrior. But I am my brother’s keeper. I do not defend, I am not obedient. I question things, and if we are talking, I hope it is because I am very old and in a medically-induced hallucination. I am not special, but my heart is quiet now, and gentle.”

I am not well acquainted with the God of Mormonism these days. But I’m not afraid. I am not worried about what will happen if I am horribly wrong, because it won’t negate the life I am living now, or the life I hope to create. The imperfect life that will be enough.

Someday I will die. But I believe in love without end, and strength beyond my own, even if I’m horribly wrong.



 I am slightly terrified to write this. I struggle with feelings of doubt, and fear being misunderstood. I worry about seeming petty and blind to the "bigger picture." But after a lot of consideration, I feel my perspective is important enough to take on the risks associated with writing this post. Perhaps more significantly, I've learned that you cannot rely on other people to write your story for you. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught us in Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, time is not kind to those who do not record their own history.

People who I consider friends and role models recently published a book- Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. According to the introduction by Joanna Brooks, the book "offers and introduction to the Mormon Feminist movement through the words of the women who have lived and built it. It includes writings that capture key ideas, questions, concerns, and events in Mormon feminist experience from the movement's organizing movements in the early 1970s to the present." The book is an important resource for the Mormon feminist movement, and I am happy that so many excellent resources are available in one place.

The book is visually stunning. Cover artwork features the "Pants Quilt," Sunday Morning, created by Nikki Matthews Hunter, and made from pieces of pants worn by women to church in December 2012. I've seen the quilt in person, and it is a beautiful and important piece of artwork. The quilt is also being used as part of the promotional tour for Mormon Feminism, so that other women can see the results of their activism while learning about the key events in Mormon feminist history included in the book.

So it was surprising, and yes, very heart-breaking personally, to realize that there is no other mention of Wear Pants to Church Day in the book itself (outside a single reference regarding the cover and once in the introductory timeline.) A book of "essential" writings on "key events" in the Mormon feminist experience, a book featuring the visual representation of that event on its cover, yet no words from the people who lived and built the internationally recognized event and played a key role in inspiring future Mormon feminist activism.

There is no pain quite like the pain of feeling marginalized within an already marginalized community. It feels like infection in an already deep wound.

And as beautiful and inspiring as the cover artwork is, and as necessary and important each essay may be, it does not replace the erroneous and deliberate erasure of "Pants" from this version of Mormon history. I have no theories as to why this event was not included, or why, of the myriad of both academic and personal essays about the event, none were published in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. 

I do know it is a gross disservice to people who helped organize the event, future Mormon feminist scholars, and church members alike.

In 2012, Joanna Brooks described Wear Pants to Church Day as "the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history. Thousands of Mormon women from the South Pacific to Europe to North America bucked convention and wore pants to church meetings on Sunday to manifest their support for greater dialogue on the status of women within the LDS Church, and Mormon men wore purple in solidarity. 

For Mormon feminists and allies, the event was a chance to step out of silence and fear and wordlessly say, “We are here. This faith matters to us. And gender inequality weighs on us too.”

Organized by a new Mormon feminist group called “All Enlisted,” the event set off strong positive and negative reactions within the world of Mormonism—including threats of violence and intimidation directed at organizers and would-be participants.”

And yet, just three years later, the book, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright, contains no mention of the event’s founders, or even “All Enlisted,” the Facebook group I created to brainstorm ideas for potential activism. (Although, strangely, the group is mentioned for later activist action in 2013.) According to the sole reference in the timeline, the event occurred almost miraculously. Somehow, somewhere, women decided to wear pants to church. We all apparently received notification to do so through osmosis. Somehow, “the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history” is now summarized in the following way: “first Wear Pants to Church Day” (December 16).

Readers unfamiliar with the event are never given any context for the causes, results, or influence of “Pants” in Mormon Feminism- information included in either the introduction or individual essays for every other significant act of feminist activism, including the creation of WAVE and Ordain Women, both organizations created before and after the creation of All Enlisted and Wear Pants to Church Day.

Though I do not have a pending book deal in order to create my own history of Mormon Feminism, and despite the obvious fact that I am not a significant player in the eyes of my Mormon feminist sisters, I will tell you a little bit about Wear Pants to Church Day, and why it deserves a fair place in history.

  • 1. It was not an event developed, or even initially supported, by “established” Mormon feminists. Despite being written about on nearly every Mormon feminist thought-blog, and by several Mormon feminist scholars, the event was created by a 26- year- old woman with no other influence than a vaguely popular blog. That itself is pretty remarkable, because it democratized the occasionally insular world Mormon feminism. You did not need to be a “veteran” Mormon Feminist to have influence or power in All Enlisted.

  • 2.     In fact, the “admins” for All Enlisted were all volunteers. If you volunteered, you could help. This caused some pretty significant problems with leadership, and created a lot of messes, but I still think it speaks to the core values of participants and admins, we wanted everyone, and we truly were “all enlisted” in creating a meaningful form of thoughtful activism.

  • 3.       It was a world-wide movement, with a low socio-economic barrier for participation and wide international and cross-cultural platform. Anyone could participate simply by attending their local ward. This eliminated the need for “proxy” participation, and allowed all interested parties the chance to be included. (I am not criticizing activist movements which included proxy alternatives, or actions which required participants to travel to one location, just noting an advantage of Wear Pants to Church Day) We provided a near universal opportunity to practice one’s faith as an activist, and it is something organizers did right.

  • 4.       It broadened the scope of Mormon feminism to include everyone. An admittedly accurate criticism regarding the event involves the lack of clear message or “branding” for what “Pants” symbolized. Was this about ordination? Or just wanting women to be including in Priesthood Executive Meetings? Could you be a faithful Mormon and still want to see changes at church? Could women who did not seek ordination find common ground with those who did? While it was definitely confusing to have different answers for these questions, I think it was also a source of power. Just as there was no socio-economic barrier to pants, there was no faith requirement. Inactive women (like me) participated. Active women participated. Ex and Post Mormons who wanted a chance to honor their former selves participated. That was beautiful.

  • 5.       It evolved to encompass other, equally important issues within Mormonism. By 2013, Mormon feminism had already evolved significantly. Under the leadership of Nancy Ross and Jerilyn Hassell Pool, “Pants” became an event dedicated to inclusion of all marginalized groups in Mormonism, and I think these changes and evolution helped make church safer for many members.

  • 6.       All Enlisted was created on December 6, 2012. Wear Pants to Church Day occurred on December 16. In 10 Days, All Enlisted significantly altered the landscape of Mormon feminism. I remember Kate Kelly talking to me on the phone after the event, and telling me that if “Pants” was such a big deal, Mormon Feminists might as well ask for real, significant changes. The stakes were already high, the rewards ought to be high as well. I’m not taking credit for Ordain Women, or their work, or even claiming I inspired Kate Kelly to found her organization. But I do think “Pants” helped create an eager and motivated population of activist Mormons, ready to tackle the challenges of gender inequality in the church.

There were lots of flaws in “Pants.” It wasn’t a perfect movement. When I say it ought to have been included more thoroughly in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, it isn’t because I believe I personally needed to submit an essay, or because I need personal validation for the event. It ought to have been included simply because it was the first large-scale mainstream act of Mormon feminist activism outside the literary or online realm in several years, possibly decades. That alone should merit its inclusion in any book proclaiming to be a “comprehensive” and “essential” guide to the movement.

But because the personal is political, I will confess to feeling a bit appropriated by the book. The results of my history, the image of the quilt made by the pants I encouraged women to wear, is being sold for profit, while my name remains absent from the history I helped create. If the adage “for most of history, anonymous was a woman” is true, then Mormon Feminism: Essential History, like the Mormon Church before, has given me a new name. I don’t think I like it.

 I am not anonymous. My name is Stephanie Lauritzen. In 2012 I organized All Enlisted.We organized “Wear Pants to Church Day.” It was essential to Mormonism. It was essential to me.

UPDATE: I didn't include the names of the All Enlisted admins, and I ought to have. I wasn't sure they wanted to be included in this part of the story. I shouldn't have made an assumption, and inadvertently continued the erasure of Wear Pants to Church Day from history. Each one of these individuals did just as much work as I did, and sometimes more, for Pants. They helped make the group and event successful. I recently spoke about Pants at the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference, and I was very open in recognizing that everything good, thoughtful,and meaningful about PANTS was the result of the good, thoughtful, and meaningful people who helped. Admins were Sandra Durkin Ford, Emilie Holmes Wheeler, Jenne Erigero Alderks, Hannah Pritchett Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks, and Kimberly Brinkerhoff, with special help from Meli Curtis Penford and Chelsea Robarge Fife who helped with PR and media. 

In addition to the news and media coverage, (Pants was covered in several national and local news outlets, including The New York Times, LA Times, NPR, and Huffington Post, many people wrote beautiful essays and papers on the significance of Wear Pants to Church Day. Some other “Essential Writings” about Wear Pants to Church Day include but are certainly not limited to the following sources:

Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan published a paper in the Interdisciplinary Journal ofResearch on Religion titled “I’m a Mormon Feminist”: How Social Media Revitalizedand Enlarged a Movement. The paper, but not the events mentioned within, is recognized as a footnote in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. This paper provides a good history on the significance of “Pants” and activism via social media. 

All Enlisted member Curtis Penford wrote about the positive and negative reaction to Wear Pants to Church Day at Young Mormon Feminists. (pantsgate 2012)

Sandra Ford, All Enlisted administrator and creator/manager of the Wear Pants to Church Day Facebook page wrote an essay on Feminist Mormon Housewives advocating for Mormon feminists to wear pants. (Mormon Feminists in Whoville and Why You Should Wear Pants to Church this Sunday)

Writers from The Exponent blog shared their experiences on Wear Pants to Church Day (Our Experience with Wear Pants to Church Day)

SunstoneMagazine essay on the long-term impact Wear Pants to Church Day. ("Wear Pants to Church" Sunday Brings Attention to Women's Issues)
By Common Consent  blog compares Wear Pants to Church Day to secular silencing of female activists online.  (How to Silence an (LDS) Woman: You're Doing it Wrong.)

Princeton graduate Emmy Williams submitted her paper, "Apostates, Heretics, Tools of the Patriarchy: Defining the Spectrum of Contemporary Mormon Feminism" to the Department of Religion as part of her senior thesis capstone. 

Zelophehad's Daughters post on the politics of "Pants." (The Politics (say it ain't so) of Pants)

My good friend Courtney wrote an essay on her blog on the process of deciding to wear pants (or not.) (The Worst Thing is Pants)

The Juvenile Instructor post on PANTS. (Joan in Armor, Zone Leaders in Skirts, and Mormon Women in Pants.) 




I am kind of a buzzkill about things. I like ruining everyone's fun. Here are some things I am buzzkilly about:

1. Sending gazillions of balloons into the air to commemorate an important event. I know, I know, you've all done it, and it is a very visually appealing gesture. I am sorry to ruin your fun. But it is really bad for the environment, okay? It hurts birds and dolphins and furry animals, and it is sort of a dick move to honor someone or an important event by making the earth a less safe place for other creatures. Maybe you could plant a tree instead? Or some nice flowers? Or come weed my yard? Maybe take the money you would have used to choke a blue heron and buy some frozen yogurt?

See more information at Balloons Blow.

2. People dressing up as another culture for funsies because it is cute. I KNOW I AM A BUZZKILL. I am a buzzkill, but here is the thing, I am not overly-sensitive, or obsessed with destroying good fun with political correctness, nor do I need to "find something more important to care about." First, I can care about a great many things, both important and silly, at the same time. In fact, due to my ADD, that is actually sort of my superpower. But anyway. Dressing up like Pocahontas or a geisha or whatever devalues the legitimacy of the culture you are appropriating, and those cultures are already often devalued or stigmatized. Let's all agree to dress up like a sexy roll of toilet paper or a pan of lasagna this year. I personally am going as Governor Herbert's sex education plan. (I am almost seven months pregnant, so I am just going as myself.)

This particular buzzkill rant was motivated by THIS news story-Short version: Some high school students dressed up like Native Americans on a float in their school's parade.

Listen, there is a photo of 16 year old Child Bride dressed up like Pocahontas for Monster Mash. I didn't know any better. I am sorry. My buzzkill rage isn't directed at the students who wore the costumes, they probably didn't know any better either. I don't think they are bad people.

But it isn't the intention or the goodness of people that matter, it's what those good people do when they make a mistake. Native and Indigenous women experience sexual and violent assault at twice the rate of white women. The offender is a non-native person 2/3 of the time. What does this have to do with high school students wearing Pocahontas costumes, you ask? Appropriating cultures of minority groups teaches children that women from Native or non-white cultures are not as "legitimate" as white women. Their culture is a costume, and therefore their identity is disposable as well, and doesn't matter as much as other women. Also, it perpetuates the history of violence and stigmatization against a culture that does not wield equal political or social power. 

So don't yell at the girls on the float, or complain about "liburahls" and their agendas. Teach your child not to treat cultural identity like a costume, and everything will be fine.

You can read more about violence against Native Women HERE.

So what if I dress up as George Washington? Is that like, white racism? Is that devaluing white culture? Hahahaha, I sure got you, Child Bride! 

Shut up. There is no such thing as reverse racism, the victim cannot take away power from the oppressor by becoming, or acting, more like the oppressor. Go home and cry your #whitemaletears into your Cheerios.

3.That's a nice transition to the next buzz I will harsh-White fragility and whining about how hard it is to be white, and how really, really, hard you worked so it isn't fair that you didn't get that job or that scholarship because obviously a black guy took it. At this point, I shall pass the microphone to someone who says it better-

"Part of white privilege has been the ability to not know that your privilege exists. If you benefit from racism, do you really want to know that?" I can see where it would be uncomfortable for people to admit that their lives are shaped by unearned advantages, especially in an environment where those advantages may be beginning to slip away, but the blindness itself is a part of the problem. White people have duties as part of the American community. They must be honest with themselves and their co-citizens and admit that white privilege shapes a lot of life in this country. They must understand that the truly pernicious, life-defining sort of racism is not interpersonal, it's institutional. The systems that shape who lives where, who gets educated, who gets jobs, who gets arrested, and so on, these things shape lives, and they are all heavily weighted in white people's favor. To ignore all of that is to misunderstand America. If white people admit those things, it will be plain that they are not, in any way, victims."

You can read the whole article HERE.

Anyway, I also spent a lot of time recently buzzkilling people who were whining about gender neutral bathrooms being the sign of the apocalypse, getting my blood pressure up after reading an article about how to teach my child to be heterosexual, (sorry fetus, Mom's gonna skip that lesson!) and in general just being cranky. But I need to go eat some ice cream now and take a shower, so just know that if you start going on about that nonsense, I'll kill your buzz. Thank you. It's been great.



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 I’ve seen a lot of statements recently from Mormons frustrated by the upswing in activism and attempts at reformation by other members of the LDS Church. These same people are also generally supportive of the recent excommunications or disciplinary councils for members like Taylor Knuth-Bishop, (gay, married Mormon) Marisa and Carson Calderwood, (apostasy, not literal believers) or Kirk and Lindsay Van Allen (rejected polygamy as reveled in D&C 132.) For these members, it makes sense for the church to excommunicate people who openly disagree with key doctrines in the church. After all,

“Why should the church have to change to suit the needs of a few people?”

“God’s laws are unchanging! We can’t bend God’s will just to suit what is popular in modern society!”

I understand the frustration. If the church works for you and makes you happy, it can be hard to empathize with people who don’t feel the same way. Furthermore, if you feel like the excommunicated people are in direct contradiction to the teachings of the church, you may ask yourself:

“Why should they want to be a member anyway? Why remain in an organization that you don’t agree with?”

I’m not a religious scholar, so forgive me when I offer an answer that seems overly simple. But here are two theologically-based reasons for why a Christian-identifying Church shouldn’t excommunicate people, and why a Christian church should change, not only to accept ideas that are popular in modern society, but also to accommodate the needs of only a few people:

1.       It’s what Jesus wouldn’t do.
2.       It’s what Jesus would do.

1. When John Dehlin and Kate Kelly first announced they were facing church disciplinary councils and excommunication, my friend Jana Reiss wrote a great post titled “An in-depth look at every individual excommunicated by Jesus in the scripture.” Short answer? Jesus did not excommunicate people.

In fact, Jesus broke or bent the rules of his own religious tradition to accommodate those who were often excluded or socially excommunicated the sick, the “sinners” and the otherwise “unclean.” It seems that even if Jesus thought the person was sinning, he still wanted them as part of his flock. He saved the adulteress, healed the sick woman on the Sabbath, and he encouraged his disciples to “feed my sheep,” even the sheep who seemed lost or disobedient. It is hard to heal the sick, feed the sheep, or forgive the sinner if you have excommunicated them from your congregation.

This is usually when Mormons tell me that even though Jesus saved the adulteress woman from being stoned, he still exhorted her to “go and sin no more.” Somehow, this is seen as justification for punishing those who do not believe correctly, because like the adulteress, members who contradict church teachings are sinning, and need to be told to stop.

 And yet, when Jesus speaks to the adulteress, he places the burden of repentance on the woman, not her religious community. He does not instruct the church members to make sure she doesn’t sin anymore. It’s up to her, and up to Jesus to forgive her. Jesus deliberately intervened against those who would punish her according to religious law in order to set a new precedent: sins are resolved between God and the individual. A religious community should foster and strengthen the relationship between a sinner (and we are all sinners) and God, not sever the relationship as a punishment for sins. In fact, it seems pretty blasphemous to this admittedly heathen Mormon to assume human men can do better than Jesus.

What about when Jesus cleansed the temple? Isn’t that setting a precedent that the unrighteous or contradictory need to be cleansed from our places of worship?  Upon further reflection, it seems Jesus only gets at all militant and starts breaking out the scourges when people do things that actively prevent others from seeing God. The merchants in the temple were preventing worship, and keeping others from God, I’d say forcibly removing someone from their congregation has a similar effect. But again, openly heathen retired Mormon, here.  

Furthermore, I recently read a sermon called “Breaking the Rules” by Kevin Ruffcorn. In citing times where Jesus broke with religious tradition, namely the time Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath; he notes that the Savior broke the rules to set people free. Not just the sick, but also the synagogue leaders held in bondage by traditions that kept people from God.  According to Luke, when Jesus healed the sick woman, the leader of the synagogue was humiliated and angry, but the people surrounding him rejoiced at the miracles occurring around them. It seems Jesus was okay changing a rule to fit with popular opinion, and even okay with the religious authorities feeling a little humiliated by their strict devotion to authoritarian practice. This seems opposite of how the Mormon Church functions now, in which religious leaders humiliate and isolate the individuals the Savior would run to.

2.  So what would Jesus do? Why should the church change and accept people with beliefs seemingly in conflict with what the church teaches?

Jesus would change the rules to be more inclusive of others.  Mormons are familiar with the story of the Good Samaritan, it’s a parable used to teach us to be kind to the sick and the needy. A few weeks ago, my mom gave a Family Home Evening lesson on the Good Samaritan, and it seems as though Mormonism often skims over some significant parts of the story.

The traveler who helps the Good Samaritan may or may not have been Jewish.  But if he was Jewish, he would have been raised to reject the Samaritan. Not because the Samaritan and Jewish people necessarily held dramatically different beliefs, but because they held different interpretations of the same beliefs. Samaritans believed their scriptures were the only word of God, and Jewish people believed their scriptures were the true word. Furthermore, Samaritans married outside the tribes of Israel, making them sinners in the eyes of the Jews.

But they still worshiped the same God, and obeyed the same basic commandments.

 I’d say the same is true for many of the Mormons currently facing disciplinary actions. Regardless of their orthodoxy, the excommunicated members did not choose to leave themselves; they saw something in Mormonism still worth identifying with. Rejecting them via church discipline mirrors the behavior of the Priest and the Levite in Christ’s allegory, not the Samaritan.

Growing up, it was hard to understand why the Priest and the Levite would not help the injured traveler. I think Mormons are taught to believe we have evolved past this. I don’t know a single Mormon who wouldn’t stop and help someone physically hurt on the side of the road. But I don’t think that was what Jesus meant.

Jesus wanted people who believed in God in different ways to interact with each other. He wanted them to see each other as neighbors. He wanted to end the tradition of Jews and Samaritans as seeing one another as “unclean” for believing in God differently. Jesus wanted the contradictory ideas to exist side by side. When Mormons applaud the excommunication of members, who in their eyes (and in the eyes of church leadership) don’t believe in the right way, they are ignoring the counsel of Christ. So yes, I’d say Jesus would be okay with making changes to the church, even accepting opinions of the minority in order to achieve greater unity. He placed the hated Samaritan in a position of power and grace, not a position of excommunication for breaking the rules.

But wait! If we just let everyone believe what they want, and don’t excommunicate them, and we start to accept beliefs and changes based on “popular culture” won’t the church have to accept bestiality and child abuse and kicking puppies and eating babies? Isn’t God’s house one of order?

Sure, but the thing is, Jesus already clarified on the nature of the two greatest commandments: Love God, and love one another. Now some people may identify different ways to love God, and each other, but as I already mentioned, I think Jesus is okay with that. I also believe people are inherently good, and won’t start up an online petition to allow puppy kicking in the LDS temples, or podcasting baby recipes. And if they do, I’ll eat my hat. But so far, the changes I see advocated for by the excommunicated members of the church stem from a desire to be good, authentic and honest, and in the case of LGBTQ and women's rights, a desire to stand with "the least of these." You can disagree with me, but I don’t think you (or anyone) should excommunicate me, or the people like me.

Because in the end I don’t believe the people who advocate for LGBT rights, or believe “apostate” doctrines are sinning. I don’t think I am sinning for following my conscience and leaving the church. But I do think there are ways to be a believing, orthodox Mormon, and to disagree with members who are different, and even believe they are making a mistake, and STILL reject the idea of excommunication as theologically sound.  Mormonism identifies itself as a religion of progression, it claims to believe all things, and hope all things, and be in a place of active listening for further revelation and insight.

I guess that means I have something in common with the Mormons frustrated by their “apostate” peers. Excommunication, disciplinary councils, and exclusion seem contradictory to the teachings of the church I was raised in. I guess I’m even asking the same questions disgruntled Mormons ask:

Why would you want to be Christian if you don’t believe in doing what Christ taught? Why would you want to believe in a Savior and redeemer if you don’t want to feed his sheep, heal his sick, and forgive his sinners?  

If the presence of “apostates” in your church bothers you so much, why don’t you just form a new church? (Maybe one with a fancy Rameumpton?) Why don’t you just leave? 

If you answer has something to do with your testimony, or what feels right, or what you know to be true, how hard is it to extend that grace to your siblings in Christ who believe differently, or even not at all?

It’s very frustrating indeed.  


I’m not sure why I felt compelled to write the most Jesus-centric post of my entire blogging career. I’m actively seeking peace in my post-Mormon life. I’m not a literal or orthodox believer in any significant way. But something about the sanctity of my doubts makes me want to protect those who walk this road with me. Maybe that's enough. 


Even Atticus shoots the dog.

My mind was totally changed by your FB status update! #saidnobodyever

I see the above sentiment, or sentiments like that, all the time. Two groups are arguing about something online, and inevitably, just when shit starts to get real, one side or the other decides to call it quits. Since neither side is ever going to change their mind, the discussion must be pointless.

This bums me out for a bazillion reasons, please allow me to list them for you.

1. A conversation is not a selfie. There are more reasons to talk to someone beyond "winning" or making someone think like you. It's incredibly narcissistic to believe that a conversation only has worth if the other person leaves with a matching brain. People have value beyond their ability to mirror your thoughts. More importantly, while a conversation may not result in a changed mind, it may result in one or both parties learning something new, and learning is never a waste of time.

2. People are not screens. It is really easy to say mean stuff to your computer screen. You can't see the screen's face react when you tell them their family, or their beliefs, or their choices aren't as valuable as yours. When you say mean things to a screen, and then run away because "we are never going to agree on this anyway," you forfeit the chance to see someone's soul, instead of the screen. Taking the opportunity to explain your beliefs (and really explain them, not just rely on soundbites from people who think like you) allows you to share more than just a meme or a link, it allows you to share your core values while simultaneously forcing you to recognize the humanity of the other person behind the screen. I like technology, and I like social media. I don't like how easy it is just to shout stuff onto our screens while creating an echo chamber that only repeats back what we want to hear. Take time to be vulnerable and be the type of person who allows others to show vulnerability back.

3. Empathy is not an inherent trait, empathy is a learned behavior we gain with practice. The internet is a great place to practice empathy. Here is a nice compliment someone gave me: "I thought about what you wrote today in church." The person who gave me this compliment doesn't agree with me on everything, and some of our disagreements about the LDS church are probably pretty fundamental.  It would be very easy for this person to ignore the things I say online, unfriend me on social media, and go along their merry way never being bothered by what someone else thinks. But instead, this person listened to what I had to say, thought about it, and took the time to let me know that I mattered. This person has developed lots of empathy, and their example helped me gain more empathy too. Allowing people to own emotional real estate in your brain makes you a kinder, more thoughtful person. Feeling empathy doesn't mean you have to agree with someone, it means you allow their thoughts into your head so that you can practice feeling what they feel.

I think we've developed a culture where we believe empathy is a slippery slope to compromising our values. If we practice feeling what other people feel, we might accidentally start thinking what other people think, we might even start agreeing with the enemy. This mentality is bullshit. Emotional real estate in our mind is not like real estate in Manhattan. There is room enough for everyone. More importantly, learning to feel what other people feel helps us understand our own complex and contradictory emotions. We become more forgiving of others, and eventually more forgiving of ourselves. All of us need that.

The thing is, people are wrong when they say minds aren't changed by what they read online. Not because their opinions change, but  because how they see the world changes. Whether you want to admit it or not, knowing there is someone out there that thinks you are entirely wrong about everything will change the way you think or behave. Maybe you will turn into a bigger asshole, and the interaction will only solidify your own self-righteousness. There is always slime at the bottom of the intellectual gene pool. Gives the rest of us something to evolve from.

But maybe, hopefully, allowing yourself to finish that conversation with someone different than you will help you see people as people, not selfies or screens or enemy combatants. Your mind is changed when you see differences as a source of worth, not a threat.


1. We don't have to finish conversations with people who threaten or bully us. That isn't walking away from a conversation, that is practicing good mental health. If someone is using a difference of opinion to hurt you or other people, and I apologize in advance for the implied swear, but there really is no other way to say this: FTS. You don't have time for that. Move on, block, delete, whatever. #byefelicia

Emotional safety is just as valuable as physical safety. If you wouldn't let someone come in your house and beat you up, you don't have to let someone come into your email inbox/FB wall/twitter/ghostsnapthing and emotionally berate you. I used to think I had some weird moral obligation to let anyone say anything to me online or in person because of free speech. I've learned that there is a difference between free speech and harassment, and people are not public spaces.

2. Racism, sexism, homophobia, all the isms and phobias are not your disease to cure. If the person you are talking to is so addled by one of these diseases, you aren't responsible for curing them, and you aren't a bad person for putting up an enormous NO VACANCY sign in your mental real estate brain. The thing is, everyone is biased and flawed and problematic in some way. A basically decent human being with an infection can be cured by interacting with and empathizing with other people. I know I benefit by people gently but firmly calling me on my bullshit and helping me be better. But I am a basically decent human being. Assholes are not, and it is okay if you mentally Old Yeller them.

Here's another metaphor about dead dogs:

 Even Atticus shoots the rabid dog. We don't have to pretend a racist/sexist/homophobic/douchelord deserves the same air-time as Aunt Alexandra or even Mrs. Dubose.

3. The internet is not Vichy France, and you are not the only resistance worker left standing between the world and Hitler. It is okay if you take a break from things sometimes, and walk away from a perfectly healthy and reasonable discussion regarding a difference of opinion. It is okay to politely excuse yourself. The internet will still be there tomorrow, I promise.

4. I rarely if ever follow my own advice. I would be happier if I did, though.


high stakes testing

It happens a few times every school year: a student sees me in the hall, and shouts, “Ms. Lauritzen! My mom showed me a clip of you on the news!” Other days, a student will casually mention seeing a recent article online, waiting to see if I’ll reveal my secret identity as a freelance writer.

I’m  usually busy trying to do other things-grade a paper, teach a class, confiscate a cell-phone mid snap-chat, so I respond to any mention of my “outside life” by changing the subject, and redirecting the student’s attention back to whatever I’m trying to teach. I try to act natural, but mentally I’m freaking out, trying to remember if the last thing I wrote was potentially inflammatory.

Sometimes I get the impression that a student is speaking in code, referencing an article in order to alert me to the fact that I’m not the only feminist/democrat/weird Mormon in the room. My online presence becomes a modern way to say “shibboleth” and identify common ground. Regardless of their intent, I try to stay in teacher mode. My job as a public servant depends on my ability to separate my role as Ms. Lauritzen, history teacher and stealer of phones, from Stephanie Lauritzen, writer of minority opinions and one-time activist. (In the interest of honesty, I will confess that sometimes I let my students distract me with silly tangents and stories, but I try hard to stay on task, and somewhat on message.)

A few months ago, I wrote about teaching the new AP U.S. History curriculum, and why I disagree that the new curriculum represents a “hostile liberal take-over” of American history, a claim issued by many Republicans. A few people responded with outrage that I, as a teacher, do not maintain personal political neutrality. They worried that I would be unable to teach subjects portraying Democrats in a bad light. Others worried a student would inevitably read my piece and feel scared to express counter opinions to the views in my article.

Concerns about my online presence resonate with me. I frequently worry that writing publically will negatively impact my ability to create a safe and inclusive classroom for all of my students. I worry that my decision to publically disagree with the LDS Church might make my LDS students might feel I dislike them, or don’t value their contributions in class. I worry that conservative students might feel intimidated to share an opinion, or feel the need to constantly defend their position in order to be taken seriously. I don’t believe any student should feel afraid to speak up in class, nor do I believe my job is to coerce students into adopting my interpretations of history. I do believe that as a teacher and authority figure, I’m granted a position of power, so it is my responsibility to let students know their opinions and ideas are valued, even if they differ from my own.

I am not perfect at this, but there are a few things I work on each day in order to create the best possible environment for critical thinking, writing, and discussion. First, I remember this quote by educator Eric Rothschild, “The more I say in class, the less my students learn.” Teachers are prone to god-complexes and I’m not immune to the siren call of my own voice. Sometimes it is necessary to talk a lot: to lecture on historical context or to model successful analysis strategies. But I try to remind myself that my students can’t truly learn unless they have the opportunity to explore idea and concepts without my interference. Each day I give students time to study ideas on their own, discuss what they learned with a partner or in a group, and then talk together as a whole class. I mediate the conversations without trying to control the outcome, and I’m always impressed with how well my students tackle difficult subjects while respecting differences of opinion.

Secondly, students appreciate honesty, so when I do share an opinion-based idea I let students know explicitly that they are hearing one side of the story. I make sure to counter my opinion with the opposing viewpoint, so that my view is never the only interpretation presented in class. In discussing different historical perspectives, including American Exceptionalism and Revisionism, I let my students know about the recent controversy concerning the new AP U.S. curriculum. I shared my thoughts on the limits of Exceptionalism, but also told my students that all historical models are flawed and incomplete when studied in isolation, so we will study all of them and use what we learn in class to create new interpretations and ideas.

I think it is healthy and good for students to see that multiple viewpoints can exist in the same space, and that disagreements do not mean people can’t work or learn together effectively. As students graduate and enter the workforce they will encounter countless people who disagree with them on fundamental issues. It is unrealistic to train students to remain silent on issues they care about in order to work effectively with others, just as it is unrealistic for me to pretend I am a non-existent neutral party outside the classroom. If my students read something I write and disagree with me, I hope I've modeled sufficient tolerance and open-mindedness in the classroom to give them the skills necessary to navigate their thoughts productively and honestly. In the end, the only test I truly want my students to pass is one proposed by F. Scott Fitzgerald: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” Also, the ability to go 86 minutes without snap-chatting on one’s phone. 


she is risen

For all those standing at the door of the tomb.

I always hesitate when people ask me to explain the catalysts that led me to my current state of post-Mormonism.

I hesitate because there was no single event, thought, or behavior that truly caused me to question my identity as a Mormon. My faith narrative is complex, and when I try and explain things in a chronological narrative, the significance of those things always feels diminished.

But gun-to-my-head, why are you no longer practicing? I'd say my primary motivator concerned my visibility, or, more accurately my lack of visibility, within the church. One day, I could no longer "see" myself in the church institution, so I left to look for myself elsewhere.

My first experience with invisibility occurred in in high school, during a lesson on "The Proclamation to the Family." It was the first time I really studied the document’s implications, and I immediately felt bothered by the very rigid gender roles exemplified in the document:

“By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." 

At this point in my life I already knew I wanted to work outside the home. I wanted children, but I fully intended to pursue and advanced education and career. I did not intend to be "primarily responsible for the nurture" of my future children. I was comforted by the next line of "The Proclamation," which states, "Fathers and mothers are obligated to help one another as equal partners… other circumstances may necessitate individual adaptation.” I hoped my deep passion for my education and future career as an educator would be enough for God to grant me an exception under the "other circumstances" clause, and I hoped that the claim of "equal partnership" somehow negated the “fathers are to preside over their families" rhetoric. I did not intend to be presided over by anyone, even someone I loved.

In 2007, I was newly married and considering applying to graduate school. In the fall session of General Conference, Relief Society President Julie B. Beck gave her now infamous "Mothers Who Know" talk. For me, Beck's talk represents the first time women like me were publicly and openly derided as "less than" the Mothers who conformed to the gender roles outlined in "The Proclamation to The Family."

"President Ezra Taft Benson taught that young couples should not postpone having children and that “in the eternal perspective, children—not possessions, not position, not prestige—are our greatest jewels."

I fully intended to postpone having children. My goals were focused on my degree, (a possession) my career, (position) and becoming the best educator possible (fortunately public educators never need to worry about prestige going to our heads-whew!) At this point, I could clearly "see" myself in the church. Unfortunately, that vision of myself was one of failure and sin. Clearly, I was not a "woman who knows." My role in the church was one of the cautionary tale, the prideful woman unwilling to give up the things of the world in order to conform to a one-size-fits-all template for divine womanhood.

"Another word for nurturing is homemaking. Homemaking includes cooking, washing clothes and dishes, and keeping an orderly home. Home is where women have the most power and influence; therefore, Latter-day Saint women should be the best homemakers in the world."

“Mothers who know do less… These mothers choose carefully and do not try to choose it all. Their goal is to prepare a rising generation of children who will take the gospel of Jesus Christ into the entire world. Their goal is to prepare future fathers and mothers who will be builders of the Lord’s kingdom for the next 50 years. That is influence; that is power.

And suddenly, I was invisible. I don’t begrudge or invalidate the value of women who do fit into this description of a “mother who knows.” But where was the woman like me? Why was there no mention of Mothers who know, and therefore pursued advanced education and degrees in order to help sustain their family’s economic well-being? Of women who worked carefully and faithfully in order to "choose it all," and influence the world both inside and outside the home? Of a woman who knows how to provide her children with multiple examples of successful parenting, including examples of women enjoying successful careers and happy families?

I couldn’t see myself as a woman in the church, let alone a mother. I went searching for examples of womanhood and motherhood elsewhere. I hoped other examples of “modern revelation” would allow me to “see” myself in the church. Instead, I found statements like this:

In the world today, there are observed strenuous efforts to distort and desecrate this divine pattern. We hear much talk -- even among some of our own sisters -- about so-called 'alternative life-styles' for women. It is maintained that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood, or that a combination of both family and career is not inimical to either…God grant that that dangerous philosophy will never take root among our Latter-day Saint women…” -Ezra Taft Benson

   "We have often said that this divine service of motherhood can be rendered only by mothers. It may not be passed to others. Nurses cannot do it; public nurseries cannot do it. Hired help cannot do it; kind relatives cannot do it. Only by mother, aided as much as may be by a loving father, brothers and sisters, and other relatives, can the full needed measure of watchful care be given. The mother who entrusts her child to the care of others that she may do non-motherly work, whether for gold, for fame, or for civic service, should remember that 'a child left to himself bringeth his mother to shame” –Spencer W. Kimball

“Your wife will be fortunate indeed if she does not have to go out and compete in the marketplace. She will be twice blessed if she is able to remain at home while you become the breadwinner of the family." –Gordon B. Hinckley

While I naturally found a few instances of talks encouraging women to pursue an education, or of heroic mothers forced to work outside the home due to unforeseen circumstances, I never found an image of myself in the descriptions of righteous, good, LDS women. President Hinckley once gave a talk praising a woman who managed to work outside the home as a nurse with flexible hours, thus eliminating a reliance on outside care. This was comforting, but still not a fully formed image of a woman who worked successfully while creating a happy and functioning family, even if that meant using outside care. I could not see myself in the church, and that hurt.

Apologists are always quick to point out that personal revelations make it okay to deviate from the ideals described above. (Unless personal revelation leads one too far outside church norms, and you start acting crazy and asking for female ordination.) Many told me happy anecdotes of their aunt who worked as a UN Ambassador, or Dads who stayed home to raise children. But anecdotes do not represent institutionally and doctrinally supported roles for working women. If you are a true believer (which I was) who trusted that church leaders spoke for God, the lack of visibility feels like a very real emptiness. I’m consistently reminded of the comfort many Mormons take from Genesis 1:27, which states than man is made in the image of God. We need to “see” ourselves in our divinity.  Visibility and familiarity within our faith tradition creates the stability, community, and closeness that makes organized religion appealing. But according to LDS doctrine, I was not made in the image of anything divine. Instead, women like me were worldly, selfish, alternative, not divine but unholy, not sacred but ungodly.

For people still  dismissive of the very deep pain feeling “invisible” causes a member of the community, I’d first ask you to check your theological privilege. Do you fit the sanctioned role for femininity or masculinity? Do you seem to fit within Beck’s description of a mother who knows? Are your decisions regarding employment and family planning supported, praised, and even glorified as divine by the church institution regularly and publicly? Visibility within your community is like air. You often don’t consciously acknowledge its necessity. Your church, like your body, automatically sends messages to your respiratory system telling you to breathe, telling you that you are welcome, that you are godly, and that God sees you as a member of his church.

Lack of visibility is like dry-drowning. Often it doesn’t look like you are drowning at all, you bob above the water desperately snatching breaths of air from snippets of scripture and doctrine that reaffirm your belief in self-divinity.

But still you drown. Mormonism talks a lot about spiritual death as a result of sin or distance from God. From my experience, spiritual death comes from lack of visibility. If you cannot “see” yourself at church, you cannot breathe.

In the next few years, I continued to look for myself within Mormonism, only to realize that I could not “see” myself within the doctrine. I did not “see” myself when the church supported Proposition 8 in California, or in any of their subsequent statements opposing marriage equality. I could not “see” myself after the first Wear Pants to Church Day when hundreds of self-described “active” Mormons collectively held my head under water and told me to leave the church, fully supported by coinciding church leadership talks reaffirming that “women of God did not need to lobby for rights.”

I could see myself with those who also felt invisible within the church. The LGBT activists, the feminists, the members of Ordain Women, the historians, the hundreds of other people searching for air in the closed tombs of our faith. I stayed there, looking at my reflection, “seeing” myself for the first time, drunk on fresh air. I will forever maintain that I simply went to where I believed the Savior would go: to the Samaritans, to the lost sheep, to the outcasts, to those deemed “sinners” by Pharisees masquerading as Prophets. I mourned with those who mourned, and in loosing myself in Christ-like empathy, found myself again.   I don’t regret my time “seeing” myself in the fringes or unorthodox Mormonism, but when the people who allowed me to “see” myself in the church for the first time lost their membership, or were disciplined, I knew I needed to continue looking elsewhere.

For me, the most beautiful story in the New Testament occurs in the days after Jesus’ death. In John 20, Mary Magdalene goes to Joseph’s tomb to prepare the body of Jesus for preservation. She finds the tomb empty, and after telling the disciples of her discovery, returns to the tomb and weeps.

Years after my initial faith crisis and transition, I can still feel her pain echo sharply in my chest. I know the pain of searching for a Savior and finding and empty tomb. I know what it feels like not to see what you believed was there.

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou? She saith unto them, because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.”
Jesus saith unto her, Mary. She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

When I couldn’t see myself in the tomb of my former faith, I felt like Mary searching for Jesus. I felt like someone had taken away my identity, and I didn’t know where to find myself once the stone was removed from door. I didn’t recognize myself when I first left my faith, I didn’t know how to see myself as anything other than the image presented to me at church: the unholy and ungodly distortion of an idealized feminine form that didn’t match how I saw myself in my heart.  I kept searching the tomb and weeping when no one was there.

What if Mary never left the tomb? What if she never found Jesus, and never learned of the miracle of his resurrection? What if she never heard Jesus’ message: “Peace I leave unto you,” because she never turned back?

Mary couldn’t see Jesus until he called her name, until he recognized her, until he “saw” her. Only then was she able to see her Master, only then could she stop looking for Jesus in the empty tomb, only then could she run and tell the world “He is risen.”

What if I never left my own tomb? What if I continued to drown searching for myself in a gospel that did not recognize me? What if I never learned to see my own worth outside the confines of Mormonism, and what if I remained a spiritually dead corpse, never finding a resurrected soul in the graveyard of my faith?

Like Mary, I turned myself back. I stopped looking for my body in the tomb of my former faith, and begun to to see myself: a living, breathing, fully visible self. I heard my name. After years of mourning and grief, I could finally leave the tomb and tell the world of my resurrection.

So weep not, she is risen.