Monday, April 07, 2014

On being a Jazz fan

Despite their failure at being good at basketball, I am still--and will probably be until the day I die--a loyal and loving fan of the Utah Jazz. This does not mean that I won't call out their mistakes, wish for roster changes, throw my hands in the air at terrible plays and missed layups, or hope for a change in the coaching staff.

It means that I have a hope--a sometimes very slim hope--they can again achieve their imperfect but nevertheless enjoyable days of glory.

Some say it will never happen, but right now I choose to believe in miracles.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Modern 'Modern Revelation' in 5 Easy Steps

1. Adopt cultural practices (the World).

2. Confuse these practices with 'Eternal Doctrine.'

3. When cultural attitudes change, claim that 'Eternal Doctrine' divinely stands against 'The World.'

4. When 'Eternal Doctrine' is obviously antiquated/bigoted/absurd in comparison to societal progress, quietly rename 'Eternal Doctrine' to cultural practice.

5. Repeat.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Here is matter unorganized...

If a tree falls in the woods and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a sound? There are a few different ways to answer this elementary question. First, one could say that the sound of a tree falling is simply vibrations in the air caused by the tree interacting with other trees and the ground, and thus it makes a sound regardless of whether or not someone is there to hear it.

A second answer to this is to say that sounds are not the vibrations in the air, but are rather the phenomenological experiences that results from those vibrations interacting with complicated structures of the inner ears and traveling to the brain as nerve signals where those signals are transformed into what our minds experience as sounds. Thus, without any ears and brains to receive and transform those vibrations in there air, there are no sounds resulting from the falling tree.

A third answer builds on the second, but instead focuses on the sound of a falling tree. Even if an ear and brain are present to receive and transform those vibrations to a phenomenological experience, there still remains the ability for the sounds of a falling tree to be heard as such. This requires both distinguishing and identifying the sound. The forest contains a blend of vibrations from rustling leaves and branches, chirping birds, rushing rivers, animal calls, wind, etc. Together these bombard the ear and brain as a chaotic mess of vibrations. It is only through time and experience that our brains begin to distinguish one set of vibrations from another (which begins in the womb). Furthermore, as time and experience enable the vibrations to be distinguished, more experience and and instructions (both self-taught and from others) enable us to identify the sounds we are hearing. What entered our ears as unorganized/chaotic vibrations are able to be experienced as organized and ordered sounds. In the forest we can hear, not just sounds, but the sound of a falling tree, the sounds of rustling leaves, the roar of the river, and the chirping of individual birds as if they were each happening in isolation.

This brings me to divine creation and the purpose of this post. In early and even contemporary Mormonism, certain Mormon thinkers criticized and mocked the notion of creatio ex nihilo or creation out of nothing, calling the creation of something out of nothing to be nonsensical--and they did so with the odd assumption that it made more sense to understand God as creating the world with chaotic stuff by speaking to rocks that listen and obey, or angels manufacturing the objects of the world with their knowledge of chemistry. To be honest, I find theories like the Big Bang and natural selection to be far superior and adequate at explaining the existence of objects in the universe and world. In fact, I feel confident in saying that if someone rejects those theories they can only do so out of ignorance or harmful religious fundamentalism.

Many religious scientists who accept cosmological explanations of the universe or evolutionary explanations of life do so with the caveat that those are tools by which God created those things. Such a view, however, is unnecessary and should be rejected, simply because one of the key explanatory values of these theories is that they do not require any deity or higher-being to operate. They are self-sufficient in explaining the existence of the physical state of things in a purely atheistic universe.

Does that mean that I am saying that God did not create the universe? No. Those of you who have followed my philosophical/theological pondering know that part of my project has been to rethink religious language about the divine, understanding them more in terms of divinity than in term of anthropomorphism. For example, eternal life is a type of life, not just more of it; and God's power is a type of power (specifically, love), and not just abilities of a Supersupersuperman. Similarly, I believe we should understand God's creative ability as a type of creation, and not just the creative abilities of a steroid-induced artisan. In other words, God's creative act is not analogous to a potter working unorganized clay into a new physical thing, but is instead His imbuing purpose and meaning into an already existing universe of things.

Just as the forest without distinguishing and identifying brains contains a chaotic and seemingly incongruous mess of vibrations in the air, the physical universe--as it presently is--is chaotic and unorganized in itself. The physical universe does not distinguish rock, from mountain, from ant, from ice, from star, from human baby, from good, from bad. Those are things that we do (as well as other brained-animals to a certain extent). Using the tools of experience and science we organize the world by distinguishing and identifying those things that we distinguish. Without humans and god, the world of things would still exist. There just wouldn't be anybody around to point at it, saying, "This is a rock," "This is ice," and "This is a baby."

This type of creation by organizing that which is inherently unorganized is similar to, but not wholly analogous to, God's creative act (even though one could read this into the Genesis 1 account of creation). Rather than simply organizing the unorganized product of cosmology and natural selection by distinguishing and identifying its parts, God's creative act is a type of organization that only God can do. His act was to imbue the whole with purpose and meaning.

To talk about God creating the universe should not be a discourse on the origin of things (including Homo sapiens), but the recognition of the purpose of the universe. At its religious heart, to say that God created the universe is not to say that the universe of things would not exist if there were no God, but is to evoke the purpose and meaning that the universe and ourselves have been given.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

New Kofford Books site

 

Spent much of the last week putting together a new site to replace the bland one that had been up for a few years. For the rest of the month you can use the discount code MORMONSTUDIES to get 20% off your order.

Go buy some books at www.gregkofford.com and help me feed my children.

 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Failing the 1

I am so thankful for all of the support I have been receiving the past few weeks. This has certainly been a challenge, and I do not think I would have been able to handle it in the way that I have without the dozens of emails, messages, phone calls, comments, etc that I have received.

However, along with that support so many people have shared similar painful experiences that they have either experiences or are experiencing today. In some ways, reading these accounts have been more painful than what I have been going through myself. Too many friends, family, and acquaintances--too many good and faithful saints--are suffering because of the (usually) well-meaning but ignorant actions of local leaders. It has been a comfort for me to know I'm not alone, and I know it has been a comfort to others to know that they are not alone either.

The problem is that I should be alone in this. This (or similar acts) should not be a recurring problem in the Church. I should be alone in facing the hurtful acts of a rogue local leader, but I am not. I wish I could just cast the blame at my local leaders (and my own naivete), but I cannot. This is not to say that the corporate leadership of the Church is behind the actions (which I do not think they are), but rather that the bureaucratic organization of Church leadership, the cultural perception of an infallible Church, and the failure of leading Church authorities to address these problems are the root causes of these acts.

I'm so torn between my love for the Church and for the potential that I see in it, and my exhausted desire to just walk away from it.

Last night I received an e-mail from someone who is having her own challenges with a well meaning bishop, and I hope she is fine with me sharing her words:

"I work so hard at trying to stay in the Church. Really hard. More often than not I feel like I don't fit. This just feels like I am being pushed out. I am tired of fighting, of trying to be careful to say the right thing in the right way so that my voice is heard but I am not rocking the boat too hard, and I am so tempted to walk away from a community that frustrates me yet that I love.
"I am trying to reframe this and I am having a hard time with it. It isn't just this one incident. It's like this has been building for so long and I have been trying so hard and this is the breaking point. Right now I feel like I can't be who I am, and believe how I believe, and still try to be a part of the Church. I have spent the last two months reading and studying the words of Christ in the four gospels. I don't understand how I have been teaching anything different than what I have been reading about in the scriptures.
"I keep trying to adjust my perspective but some of the things I am most passionate about are being smashed . . . my emotions are screaming at me because of the way I am being treated.
"My heart aches."

Rereading this is bringing tears to my eyes as I type (largely caused by a sobbing gene that I inherited). I could have written this myself, as could so many good, faithful saints. My heart is aching so much, not just for myself, but for so many that are hurting so much right now--especially for so many out there who do not have this enormous circle of support that I have found.

In it's desire to love the 99, the Church is utterly failing the 1.

Monday, September 09, 2013

On my temple recommend

I've done some thinking the past couple days about why having a temple recommend is important to me. I'll be honest, I don't attend the temple often. I used to, but eventually it started to feel like tedious and boring work. I did not just have almost every single word of the entire endowment memorized, but I anticipated the length of every pause, each intonation, and every note of music. I eventually discovered that I could enjoy going to the temple far more the less frequently I went, and especially when I was seeking that extra boost of peace and inspiration that less-frequent attendance seemed to grant me. I realize that this is certainly not how most Latter-day Saints experience the temple, but it was worked best for me.

Far more than the ability to attend the temple, a recommend for me was a validation of my experience and disposition as a Mormon. It let me know that despite my sometimes different understanding of the gospel, I was still an accepted part of the community. It was for this reason that every time I went for a recommend I was totally honest with my bishops and stake presidents on my views related to the TR questions, even though I had no need to be. I wanted to know that I was accepted for who I was and with what I believed. And for every bishop and stake president I have had up until recently, they would say they saw no problem and gladly. For each of these previous leaders, the Church was big enough for even me.

This is why my TR's cancelation has been particularly difficult for me. While I try to remind myself that these are just two particular leaders out of many, and that there are many others who would accept me, it is still difficult to not feel like this is a rejection of me--a way of saying that I am not really welcome into the community of saints. And while there are many (and perhaps most) leaders who would accept me, this is a reminder that there are still many out there who would not. I have to be honest with reality. These leaders who have rejected me are not as much of an aberration as I wish they were. And there are, of course, many strong believing Latter-day Saints who share many of my views and would no longer be fully accepted into the community if leaders like these have their way--and in their wards and stakes, they can and do have their way.

However, not being fully accepted into the Church community involves more than just a sense of not being welcomed. Because the highest form of communal worship and relationship building happens within the walls of the temple, not having a recommend can cut a believing saint--can cut me--out of the events of the persons in my community that I love. Without a recommend, I am not able to participate in the weddings and sealings of friends and family. I am told that I belong outside the walls of the temples, with those who are explicitly not part of the community of saints.

Some clarifications

Here are some clarifications to some questions that had been floating around:
--Our temple recommends were not revoked because of the blessing I gave my son or for Angela holding him. Our stake president was very clear in saying that I had every right to do this as a father's blessing and that Angela had every right to hold Durden as we performed it. He said he had not problem at all with the blessing or how it was done. Instead, he felt we were partly unworthy of the temple because we did not obey the advice he had given us (to only do it as an official ordinance in sacrament meeting). Confusingly, when I asked him if he would have taken our recommends if we had decided to not bless Durden at all, he said he would not have. In his view, if I say that I sustain my leaders, then I am obligated to obey all advice and counsel they offer.
--The vast majority of our meeting yesterday involved the Stake President instructing me on the true understandings of the First Vision (the JS-H version is the true version, and it means that Joseph physically saw the fleshy bodies of God the Father and Jesus "in reality" with his biological eyes), what it means for The Brethren to be called prophets, seers, and revelators (EVERY thing they say or write are revelations from God), the doctrines of the Church (everything taught by The Brethren, which happens to always be true and unchanging), the true understandings of gender (blah, blah, blah), the true understanding of homosexuality (it's a choice!), the true understanding of blacks and the priesthood (blah, blah, blah, the ban was because of revelation, god wouldn't let a wrong ban happen, blah, Egyptus, blah), and other things.
--I have no idea why he brought up half of the stuff he did. Angela and I tried to change the subject a few times, but he was determined to make sure we understood the Truth. However, he made it clear that for me, the only two doctrines that he felt made me unworthy of a temple recommend were that I did not have a testimony of the true understanding of the First Vision and that I did not have a testimony of the truth that everything The Brethren say and write are actually revelations from God.
--Of the two hours of the meeting, virtually none of what the SP said was directed at Angela. In fact the only time he brought up something explicitly about why Angela's temple recommend was revoked was when she was out of the room nursing Durden. He said that it was because of a single comment on my facebook status (which he had a full print-out of). It said:

In my opinion, we asked the bishop out of politeness and formality. Kind of like when Loyd asked my father for my hand. If my father said no we still would have been married. Not rebelliousness, just a silent acknowledgment that the question was only out of politeness and a nod to tradition. We are not being rebellious if we go forward with the blessing in our own way. But by doing so we are acknowledging that no one but Loyd and I have the authority to make this decision. So no, no letters, no fan fare. Loyd wants to tell the bishop our plans...like still talking to my father about our wedding even if he had said no to Loyd.
According to him, this was evidence of "a little rebelliousness," which made her unworthy of a temple recommend. I told him he would have to talk to Angela about this. He didn't (though to be somewhat fair, by the time Angela came back it had been nearly 2 hours and our daughter was very eager to leave.
--When we asked him why he went against the handbook and revoked our recommends without notifying us, he apologized for the harm it caused, saying that he wanted to speak to us in person and not notify us by phone, and simply hoped that we wouldn't try to go before our meeting with him. He said that there were protocols for being able to cancel a recommend without notification if he found out a member was engaged in something like adultery or child abuse.
--When asked why he went beyond the question given to him for the temple recommend, he said that as a judge he was inspired to understand what the question is really trying to ask.
--When I pointed out to him that we initially spoke to the bishop and him because we had known so many others who had been allowed to do the official naming ordinance at home, he said that those leaders were going against what The Brethren have instructed and that they would have to answer to God.
And to answer your question, yes, I gave or tired to give that response you are thinking of.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

A short update

After a two-hour cordially, but frustrating meeting with the stake president, the SP told me he had to think more about reactivating our recommends. In order to be worthy of a temple recommend, he believes that I need to affirm that Joseph Smith physically saw  the embodied God the Father and Jesus Christ with his biological eyes, that I need to affirm that everything spoken by "The Brethren" are revelations from God, and need to agree to obey all advice and counsel given to me by my leaders, including him and the bishop.

In other words, if I want to get my temple recommend back I need to show that I sustain my leaders by lying to him.

A not-so-brief account

Some of my facebook status updates have pointed out a frustrating ordeal that has been going on for the last couple weeks, and I've realized that several people have been discussing it online with only bits and pieces of the story. Here is a lengthy account of what has happened. Obviously, this is only my version of the tale, but I can assure you that nothing that could be considered incriminating against me by my Church leaders has been omitted.

********

My second child was born a couple months ago. Rather than doing it in a hospital as we did with my daughter two years ago, we chose to have our son in a birthing center with the aid of a midwife. (I highly recommend Better Birth to anyone pregnant in the Salt Lake/Utah County area). For me, the best part of having our son at the birthing center was that my wife was able to use a birthing chair that she sat on instead of laying on a bed. I sat in a chair directly behind her, where I could hold her and offer her encouragement. Because of this, my son's birth was a drastically more intimate experience than that of my daughter's. Unlike my daughter's birth, where I was more of an observer, I felt like I was an active participant (though, obviously, not participating in the way that my wife was). Seeing the birth from her perspective was beautiful and brought tears to my eyes. (You can see what I saw here).

Throughout the pregnancy, I wanted my wife to able to be more involved with his baby blessing and wanted her to be able to hold my son as many of my other friends have been able to do. Experiencing his birth in this way made me want to do it even more--to allow her to hold him and be intimately present during his blessing, just as I was able to hold her and be intimately present in the delivery.

We had just moved into a new house a couple weeks before our son was born, and was not entirely sure how our new bishop would feel about this. We also did not want to make anyone feel uncomfortable in our new ward by having my wife in the circle during his blessing in front of them. Rather than bring this desire up with our bishop, we instead chose to address another concern that we had--that both sets of our parents live across the country and would not be able to witness the blessing of their grandson. In order for them to be able to still be a part of it, we wanted to be able to bless him in our home so that we could Skype it with them. I have had dozens of friends bless their children in their homes and felt this would be a non issue. We met with our bishop and expressed this concern. He told us he thought it was fine, but wanted to discuss it with our stake president.

A few days later I got a call back from the bishop telling me that the stake president said no to what we wanted to do. I called him back that afternoon and discussed it with him. He seemed to care little that our parents could not attend and saw the blessing as only a Church ordinance. I decided to tell him about the powerful experience that I had at my son's birth and the desire I had that my wife be able to participate more intimately in the blessing, hoping that he might understand our desires. I made it clear that my wife would not be participating as a priesthood holder, but as a mother holding her child. He did not care. He told me that he held "ecclesiastical jurisdiction" over the stake and that his "advice" was that we do the blessing during our ward's sacrament meeting. Our phone conversation was cordial, but left me frustrated. I wrote the following shortly after the call on facebook (which is only shared with friends):

After being able to closely hold my wife as she sat on a birthing chair to give birth to my son, I was adamant that she hold him as I blessed and named him--so that she can participate more closely in the blessing in the same way I was able to participate more closely in his birth (as opposed to largely being a mere observer as we both were with our daughter's birth and blessing two years ago). 
Not wanting to make a statement in sacrament meeting, we decided we wanted to bless him in our home. The added benefit with doing it at home is that we would be able to share the blessing by Skype with his four grandparents who are all on the other side of the country and unable to make the trip for the blessing. 
Spoke with our bishop and he was fine with it, but wanted to talk to the stake president first. He called last night and told me the SP said no. I called the SP this afternoon and he said that my wife could not hold our son, we could not do it at home, and that we could not share it with his grandparents. I tried to avoid arguing with him, but made as many points as I could. He simply appealed to tradition, the handbook, and his ecclesiastical jurisdiction. 
My feeling right now is to just do as we planned and make this a father blessing his child and not care about any Church recognition. 
Ugh.

After prayerful consideration, my wife and I decided that the "advice" that my stake president gave me was not what my family needed and we chose to do the blessing at a family gathering a couple weeks later. It was a beautiful experience, and perhaps the most spiritually fulfilling that I have had as a father. This was how I described it a couple says later:

Two days ago, outside a cabin near Bear Lake, my beautiful wife held my son as I offered his baby blessing. In the circle were my two brothers and brother-in-law. Just outside of the circle, but seemingly a part of it were my two sisters-in-law, along with 4 nephews and two nieces. My parents were watching via Skype. As I was blessing my son, my daughter ran in and wrapped her arms around my wife's legs. 
My daughter held my wife, while she and I held our son, and my family essentially held the four of us. I couldn't have asked for anything better.

***********

Life was good... until a few days later when I got a call from the ward executive secretary informing me that our bishop wanted to meet with me. I thought it may have been related to our blessing, but, in my naivete, I actually started to believe that I might be getting a calling--perhaps even to be gospel doctrine teacher, as I have always wanted to be.

The bishop asked if we could begin our meeting with a prayer, and his opening words made it very clear that I was not getting a calling: "Heavenly Father, we are thankful for the principle of obedience..."

After the prayer, the bishop immediately began asking about the facebook post above, telling me that I was publicly mocking a confidential discussion between me and the bishop and SP. I told him that I was not mocking them or disparaging them at all and asked how he even knew about the post. He told me that the SP brought it to his attention and asked him to discuss it with me. When I asked how the SP knew about it, he told me that it didn't matter. I asked again, and he said that it was public and anyone could see it (which I knew was dishonest, because my status's are made so that only my fb friends can see them). I pointed out that only my fb friends could see my posts and wanted to know which one showed it to him, and he again said that it didn't matter how he or the SP came to see it and that it was public for anyone to see.

As we were discussing the post, he repeatedly said that I was mocking him and the SP. I ensured him that I did not and that I could show him the post on my phone to prove that I had not. His response: "No. I don't need to read that again." He accused me of lying on my post saying that I had claimed the bishop gave me "carte blanche permission" to do whatever I wanted with the blessing. I told him that I had not and instead had said that he thought it was fine but wanted to discuss it with the SP first. I told him that I could show him the post on my phone to prove that I had not lied on my post. His response: "No. I don't need to read that again." He then went on to say that I was claiming that I was saying that women should be ordained in the comments of the post. (BTW, I've never publicly supported the ordain women movement, largely because I believe we need less, not more, priesthood authority in the Church). He said that if I believe that women should be ordained, then he has a real problem with me. I told him that to the contrary, I told others in the comments who were making my post about women's ordination that they should take that discussion elsewhere. I told him I could show him what I actually said on my phone. His response: "No. I don't need to read that again."

From there, he started telling me that others in the ward have gone to him, complaining about me. He said that I was saying in my elders quorum that women should be ordained. I told him that if someone had told him that, it was not true and they had completely misunderstood me. Rather, what happened that Sunday was that during a lesson on the Relief Society, where my fellow elders were giving the stock answers about how great women in the RS are, I raised my hand and said. "Instead of just saying how great the RS is and how the Church couldn't survive without them, can we ask how we might actually help the women in the Church feel more valuable? There are lots of young women and women in the Church who, from the age of twelve, feel like they are less valued in the Church because they are women. Given the limitations we have from our policies and doctrines, what are some things we can do in our ward to help them feel more valued?"

I kid you not, as soon as I finished saying this, the bishop jumped in and responded: "They have babies. Doesn't that make them feel valued?" Had I not known he was serious, I would have thought it was an inside joke.

This turned into a lengthy argument between the two of us, with him certain that there are not women in the Church that feel this way. I told him that my wife, other family members, dozens of friends, and many acquaintances have expressed this. I told him about the Claremont Mormon Women's Oral History Project, with hundreds of oral histories of Mormon women from all over that show this as a consistent theme. He dismissed all of this, claiming that he has never seen any women who feel this way.

This went on for a while and then moved on to the question of sustaining leaders. He said that because I did not obey my SP's advice that I was not sustaining my Church leaders. I told him that to the contrary, the reason that I spoke with both of them was because I sustained them, and that otherwise I would have just done it behind their back as others suggested I should have. "No, if you sustained your leaders, you would have listened to the advice the SP gave you." "I did listen, but we decided that the advice he gave was not the right thing for our family. We aren't obligated to obey all of our leader's advice." "Of course you have your agency, but there are consequences for not using your agency to listen to your leaders." "I called him and sought and listened to his advice. That's what it means to sustain him." "No, to sustain your leaders means to obey whatever they tell you." "That's not what 'sustain' means though." "That's what it means to me." "That's fine if it means that to you, but that's not what the word means." "Well you can play your word games if you want to try to get around being obedient." "I'm not playing word games." "Well then you should sustain your leaders by being obedient to them."

This meeting went on for an hour and a half, looping in circles and going nowhere. Eventually he said he had to meet with the financial clerk and that we should just end the meeting by agreeing to disagree. I hated the whole feeling of bitterness that filled our whole meeting and desperately wanted to find some place of agreement that could bring in a spirit of love, understanding, and concern--aka The Spirit--before I left. I asked him if I could ask him a couple questions.

"Bishop, I know you don't believe this, but I promise you that there are many young women and women who feel less valued in the Church because they are women--because they have two X chromosomes...."

"No..."

"Bishop please, I assure you that there are women who feel this way. My daughter..."

"There are some men that feel less valued."

"I'm sure there are, but please, can I ask you my question."

"Okay."

"Bishop, I don't know our ward members very well, but given the large percentage of young women and women in the Church who feel this way, I can guarantee you that there are young women and women in this ward who feel that they are less valued because they are women. My daughter..."

"Nobody in this ward has expressed this."

At this point I was starting to tear up. "Bishop, please don't interrupt me. My daughter is only two years old right now. In ten years she is going to be in Young Women's and I don't want her to feel that she is less valued in the Church because she is woman. I don't want her to feel what my wife, my family members, my friends, and many others have felt. I know you don't believe me, but I promise you that many feel this way. What I'm asking you is to just take this to the Lord. Pray to Heavenly Father and ask him if there are any young women or women in the ward that feel this way. If I'm wrong, then I'm wrong. But can't you please at least ask the Lord this. You're the bishop of this ward. You've go the keys to help them. If God tells you that this is the case, then just ask for understanding about how they feel and how you can be inspired to help them. Bishop, if you do this, I will love you so much. I will have so much respect for you."

"And what if I don't."

"Then I can't have that level of respect for you. Bishop, I'm going to go all missionary method here. Will you pray to Heavenly Father and ask him if there are some young women or women who feel this way and for understanding and inspiration to help them if they do?"

I'm pretty much crying at this point; and in as cold as a manner as you can imagine, he looked at me and replied: "I don't have to take your advice."

I stood up and loudly told him, "Then I have no respect for you." And walked out the door.

After I got home and told my wife what happened, I recalled that a few days earlier I had discovered that my elders quorum president was a facebook friend of mine. I usually have a strict policy of not having warm members as facebook friends, but accidentally added him a couple weeks earlier confusing his friend request for a friend of mines. (He went to my old high school and had several mutual friends from my HS days.) I went onto fb, saw that he was online, and then asked him if he sent any of my posts to our stake president or bishop. He first denied it, but after pressing him further, he said that the bishop had gone to him with concern and he shared the post because he saw that I had been frustrated and was concerned about me. (Remember, the bishop told me that the SP notified him about the post.) After further discussion though, especially concerning that discussion in EQ that he had misrepresented, it was obvious that more than just a concern about my frustration had occurred--after all, the bishop didn't just see the fb post, but had also read the several dozen comments that followed it. I quickly unfriended him.

That night I felt a complex mix of anger, frustration, and sadness because I had really wanted to be active in this new ward and now felt that it would be nearly impossible. I know it's not manly to admit this, but I shed a lot of tears into my pillow that night.

**************

Three days later it was fast and testimony meeting. I had resolved myself to not let this get into the way of me being an active participant in the ward. Since the bishop had told me that others besides someone in my EQ (which turned out to be my EQP) had complained about me, I thought I would share as honest and heartfelt testimony as I could to ensure the ward that I had a deep love and testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ, that I believed in the key claims of Mormonism, but that my testimony was not grounded or fixed on institutions, humans, and 'things'. You can read what I said here.

I felt inspired as I spoke, but it was clear from those who spoke after me that they did not understand what I was hoping to relay. Each person went through the list of things I discussed, strongly declaring that they "have a testimony of X and KNOW that X is true." Besides the lovely testimonies of the two missionaries who didn't seem to be responding to me, not one of them testified of the gospel of love. One of the respondees was a counselor to the SP who began: "I don't want to take any time away from your testimonies, and I appreciate Brother Ericson's honesty, but I want to say that I have a testimony of X and KNOW that X is true..." Funny thing is that I have never met this man and when I got up I only identified myself by my first name. Near the end of the meeting, even the bishop got up and bore the script, even though his counselor had begun the meeting with his own testimony.

********

Two days ago (Thursday), I got a call from the SP's secretary telling me that the SP wanted to meet with both me and my wife this Sunday. He said that the SP just wanted to know how we were doing and that it would just be an informal 15-20 minute visit. I had hopes that this meeting would be more about love and understanding instead of the abuse of authority and judgment that had been exemplified by my bishop last week. However, I learned with the bishop to not put too much hope into others. It had been several months since I had last gone to the temple. I had really wanted to the last few months (especially with the new video), but with a new baby that needs frequent nursing (and not wanting to cause nipple confusion by using a bottle too early), we can been unable to. I desired the peace and meditative contemplation that I always feel in the temple and wanted to go on today (Saturday) in case the SP tried to take my temple recommend away for disagreeing with him and the bishop. My wife pumped herself like a cow so that we could leave our son and daughter with some friends, and we drove to the Jordan River Temple (where I was first endowed just over 15 years ago).

As we were driving to the temple, I became ever more eager to feel the peace away from the storm that had been unsettling me since my meeting with the bishop. We discussed how we needed to use this time in there to think about why it was we wanted to stay active in the Church.

We entered the doors of the temple and went to throw away some gum in my mouth and get a drink of water. My wife told me she was going to go ahead and get dressed and would meet me in the waiting chapel. As she walked away, the thought crossed my mind that the bishop or SP would have already canceled my temple recommend and that if my wife got in, I would have to find someone to track her down and let her know what had happened.

Instead, I found my wife talking to a confused recommend-checker who couldn't understand why nothing would come up the computer when he scanned her TR. Not only were my suspicions correct, but they had done this to my wife as well--someone who they had never spoken to. Just to make sure, I had the checker scan my TR. It had the same result.

Normally when I leave the temple, I feel peace. This time I felt anger, frustration, betrayal, and deep sadness. We called the SP's secretary to try to get a hold of the SP to get some understanding of what had happened. He knew nothing of the matter and could not reach the SP. He was only able to contact the 2nd counselor, who knew nothing about it. I called the bishop afterwards. He repeatedly told me "You need to talk to the SP."

I've never felt so angry about something in the Church before. Not only did we suffer the embarrassment of what happened in the temple, but I am frustrated that they revoked my recommend, annoyed that they did so without even notifying me, and angry that they did this to my wife--who, as I have mentioned, they haven't even spoken to.

The temple is almost the only thing that has kept my wife active. And because of me, they are punishing her. This, in some ways, hurts the most.