Tuesday, April 30, 2013


Dear #,

The scriptures are strange, sometimes. Parts of them are simply mythic, telling stories of who we are, where we came from, what our purpose is on Earth. On the whole, though, they are a series of parables and metaphors, using the lives of God's servants as examples of what to do and, more often, what to avoid.

You see, these exemplars are deeply flawed men and, occasionally, women. While some of these stories are about someone who did the right thing, they almost universally tell a story of the pain, suffering, and heartache which comes from disobedience.

This is something I wish the Mormon church paid a little more attention to, especially in regard to the Book of Mormon and our own modern leaders. Honesty about Joseph Smith's weaknesses, for example, or a thorough examination of Nephi and what his flaws might be, could be good for us as a people.

It also makes me wonder how it would feel to be permanently enshrined in lore as the man who slept with his own kin, the guy who swindled his own brother, or the idiot who lost everything because he used his priesthood power unrighteously.

I wonder about some of the biggest screw-ups. Did Jonah have a family he worried about during his three days in the belly of an holy leviathan? Did he have a wife and children he assumed would be a widow and orphans after his mission to Ninevah?

Lehi is a better example, having received a revelation and simply going into the desert. His wife and kids weren't entirely pleased about his decision, though. Do I have the strength of Lehi? Or am I Jonah, about to be swallowed by a whale?

Friday, April 26, 2013


Dear #,

I got a new phone yesterday, and discovered that Swype gives next word suggestions. Three at a time. The rest of the post will be constructed entirely from these.

I'm not sure if what I'm trying to get out of this, metaphorically, and I don't know if that is mandatory. The second half of my favorite part is also strongly encouraged. I got to get out and it needs to be awesome.

I'm trying not to mention that the dragons slept but I don't know how. I can be an arduous pilgrimage to the next few years or more. The ancestors were not sure how many people mention the empire as an alternative to the dragons.

I'm so glad you try to be a good connection, which is also strongly encouraged by the dragons and involves worship of the empire state. I don't know what I'm not going to get. The military service and I don't think that is mandatory for you.

Thursday, April 18, 2013


One of my coping mechanisms involves going radio silent for a while, keeping my head down until I know more and I'm calmer. This is a mechanism I learned in 2001, because my primary reaction is to analyze, guess, and rant. So know I just rant to my wife and keep my mouth shut the rest of the time, soaking up information.

Most things I learn to let go and not stress about, but one of my friends posted something on Facebook which I've been putting some thought into. He wrote, "Such a sad event. We live in a world and culture where violence is not just normal, but seen as entertainment - so how can we wonder why people would turn to violence to make a statement?"

Historically, though, our society is quite exceptional, not for how we embrace violent entertainment but for how we reject violent action. The last major bombing in the US was over a decade ago. The last real riot was the LA Riot. Political assassination has been effectively shelved as a tool.

More poignant, violence as a political tool is an ancient tradition, from the burning down of Druidic groves to the assassination of Julius Caesar, from the crucifixion of Christ to the riots from the early days of Labor. Violence has a long and storied tradition in politics and religion, and that doesn't even include wars, which are inherently both violent and political.

In a more recent perspective, consider the Taliban. The IRA. The CIA. The PLO. Jihad. Subway bombings in London, Spain, Japan. International and domestic terrorism are common in many nations today.

If anything, our country has been blessed by a relative shortage of political violence and terrorism. Combined with the effectiveness of the FBI in combatting terror, I've come to two conclusions: we're really lucky AND current society is doing something right when it comes to violence.

Monday, April 15, 2013


Dear #,

I had a thought today, and for some inexplicable reason I feel I ought to be sharing. This idea may be heretical, or it may be so obvious that those more spiritual than I am will just laugh at my simplistic epiphany.

Either way is fine, because it feels important.

There are too few things we actually Know about God. Revelation and scripture are notoriously silent about Him and Her. Philosophic ponderings are laughably vulnerable to Atheistic arguments which the best Theodicy can't defeat. The sheer Faith of the non-Mormon Christian community is astounding, or maybe my personal testimony just finds modern testimony to be less opaque.

We do know some things, though. We know He couldn't bear to watch his foolish children execute his fIrstborn son. We know they are our Father and Mother, and love us deeply. And we know They are responsible for the creation of our planet.

This isn't much to go on, but I think if we're using our Heavenly Parents as an example, the single greatest thing we could do to Follow them is to Create. Simple physical creations are good. Christ's birth father was a carpenter, after all, and we see other great stories of physical construction, like Noah. Biological creation (Babies!) is good too, as long as you take care of and love your creation.

But the greatest followers created something entirely... Different. Moses created a People. Joshua forged them into a Nation. Solomon created a vast repository of wisdom. Even the Great Heretic himself forged a church. Joseph Smith created a people as well, and Brigham created a Home for them. Hinckley created temples, and Monson is creating a Missionary Army.

We are tasked with building a community, a church, a nation, Zion. Are we failing?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On Gender and Sexuality

Dear #,

I've been thinking about how to approach the remainder of the subject of gay marriage, since my first post about it made a pretty big splash on facebook. I'm struggling to write what I feel needs to be said, to clarify my understanding, and to not offend my loved ones. I mean, if you are offended because you completely disagree with me, that's your fault, but if I accidentally offend anyone by not being clear enough, or by rudeness or insensitivity, that's a different story. So I'm biding my time a little longer. Instead, I want to dive into this idea of Gender a little bit. In the original post, I emphasized how Traditional marriages have something to learn from Emerging ones, and that primarily revolves around Gender, but I didn't really explain what they need to learn, mostly because the post was long enough already and it didn't need more.

But here's the thing about Gender - it isn't always tied to sexuality. Many people believe it is, but it isn't really at all. I'm going to borrow something from D&D and use the alignment system. In D&D, they simplify basic morality along a double axis, one for Good v Evil and one for Law v Chaos. This isn't a perfect system, and it has dramatic and important flaws, but it makes it clear that just because two people are "Good" doesn't mean they have similar ideas or would make ideal allies. Because there are three positions on each axis, (the two polarities and "Neutral"), the final result has 9 positions total. The results look something like this:

Now, consider for a moment Gender and Sexuality - if there are two separate axes for this, as well, you would get similar results. Some of these are going to be what we consider "Normal" or at least are normative, but some are definitely different than what most Religious groups consider to be the two acceptable groups - Hetero Masculine and Hetero Feminine. Ultimately, it would look something like this:
Disclaimer - I intentional replaced terminology in such a way as to avoid equating certain alignments with certain Genders/Sexualities. Please don't read into it in that way, that's not the point.
 Now, here in the Conservative Mormon Heartland, two or maybe three of these are considered "normal" or "acceptable":

This leaves out a significant portion of the spectrum. Worse yet, this presentation is missing the Z axis, which has two polarities (with a tiny genetic Neutral), which is what SEX they were born as. What I mean is, if you are Heterosexual Feminine AND a Girl (genetically), that's "Normal." But if you happen to Heterosexual Feminine and a BOY (genetically), that's completely unacceptable. (For clarification, in this construction, a Heterosexual Feminine "Boy" would be someone who has male genetics, female gender, and is heterosexual (meaning she likes boys). This is important, because it would make her "Gay" in many classifications, which she really isn't. So we're classifying sexuality based on actual gender, rather than genetic sex).

And finally, just to make things murkier, consider that reality is, well, more grey.

Now, this may not be an entirely scientific reading of the way it works, but it covers my understanding of sex, gender, and sexuality. Most who are bisexual fit into the Neutral on that axis. Most with Neutral gender will not realize they are until someone points it out, or they'll just figure they are "tomboys" or "metrosexual" or whatever they decide to call themselves. As for those who consider themselves to be "Polysexual" or "Pansexual" I hope this doesn't exclude you too much - if it does, I apologize deeply, but I hope you understand that the D&D system has distinct limitations.

Finally, this model was built with input from, well, no one. So it could be deeply offensive. If so, it stems from my understanding of things, and I hope you know I mean well. If you are reading this and are one of Conservative or Mormon friends, please, I beg of you, consider the possiblities this system allows, and remember one thing: EVERYONE fits into another category or two:


Child of GOD.


Monday, April 8, 2013

On Names and Gender

Disclaimer: I understand gender normative naming may not entirely line up with my generally feminist ideas. I understand there can be larger issues at stake here, such as employers being more like to pick a male name over a female name, which is pretty unacceptable but happens all the time. I understand some of my readers chose gender neutral names or male names for their female offspring, and will thus hate me forever. So be it.

Dear #,

I'm so glad that, as crazy as your name is, your parents gave you a genderless name rather than a "boys" name. Just in case that sentence made no sense, allow me to define some terms:
  • Gendered Names are those which are strongly associated with one gender or the other, such as Deborah and Jessica for girls or Michael and Jacob for boys. These can come from a variety of sources and cultures, but most societies have names which are strongly associated with one gender or the other. 
  • Gender Neutral Names are those which have commonly been applied to either gender over the years. Great examples can be hard to find, as most seemingly Neutral names are either Transtional or Genderless. 
  • Transitional Names used to belong to one gender, but now belong to the other. In general, this transition has historically shifted from males to females. Some incredibly common "female" names, such as Ashley, were once the sole domain of Men.
  • Genderless Names are typically names which don't seem like names at all: Apple, Seven, #. Assigning traditional genders to these names doesn't make sense, at least not yet. Maybe in a generation or two there will be lots of little boy Sevens and lots of little girl Threes, similar to the Protestant methods of naming children Faith, Temperance, Vigor, or Hope. 
Now, here's the critical thing about naming a girl with a boy's name: If you go too traditional (Michael) you have to spell it funny in order to make it clear it isn't a boy, and even that doesn't always work. If you go a little bizarre, you can usually get away with it, but the more people who do it, the more likely it is for that "neutral" name to become Transitional, and for that Transitional name to become Feminine. I hate to complain, but there are virtually infinite sources for female names: Months, Flowers, Cities, Virtues, the Bible, Traditional Names, and more. Male names tend to have a harder time and fewer sources, so stealing from the existing pool is just plain mean. Let me give some real examples:

  • Taylor was ranked 51 for males in 1993. Today, it is ranked 337 for males - but 44 for females.
  • Riley was ranked 99 for males in 2002. Today it has sunk to 111, but is at 47 for females (This might be a Neutral name). 
  • Kendall was never an extremely popular boys name, reaching a peak of about 300 in the 60's... immediately after which it began to appear as a girl's name, where it now ranks 123.
Others, while statistically female through most of the current numbers we have available, actually have fairly significant history as male names.
  • Mackenzie comes from Gaelic, and literally means "Son of Kenneth." Clearly this shouldn't really be a feminine name, right
  • Madison again means "Son of Maud," but that doesn't stop people from using it.
  • Addison, surprise surprise means "Son of Adam" and mostly exists in feminine form because it sounds like Madison.
  • Tracy, believe it or not, was popularized as a male name by Charles Dickens, then later transformed into a female name in the 1940's.
There are more. Lots more. I'll probably cover more later, because the history of some of these are absolutely fantastic. For example, did you know that Clair was once a boys name? With a popularity as high as 282, it fell off the Male chart in 1965. Since then, Claire has gone from 605 for girls all the way to 50 today! Incredible!

Anyway, the moral of the story is, if too many girls are given a guys name, it ceases to be a guys name altogether. So don't do it. Go for a Feminine name. Or at least a "Neutral" name, if you can find one.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Gay Marriage

I've put a lot of thought into the question of gay marriage over the years, and the recent Supreme Court hearings have brought it into the public spotlight once again. I doubt anyone cares to hear my opinion, but I'm going to give it anyway.

First off, go read this post about the difference between Traditional and Emerging marriage. This effectively sets the stage for my arguments, and it helps. If you are too lazy, he basically argues that Traditionalists see marriage as permanent, family oriented, gender driven, committed relationships, while Reformers see marriage as personal commitments of love which are about the individuals. His explanation is better, but he clearly favors one side, and his bias shows in his explanation of Emerging marriage. He also fails to include the observation that Traditional marriage, over the course of history, has often failed to taken the wife's needs into consideration, to the point where in many relationships in many cultures women are or were treated as little more than property and had little say in their own lifetime commitments to men.

Personally, I find that most people are looking for some combination of the two: social stability, personal happiness, long term commitment, and love. We want it all. I think this is inherently difficult, and should be. A great marriage should be something worth striving for, something that all of us can work toward achieving each day.

Statistically, homosexual relationships last for a shorter period of time than heterosexual ones. I suspect this has to do with the lack of formal marriage available to them. Additionally, I find the push toward marriage in their culture to be a subtle recognition that their emerging marriage culture is missing something, and that they have something to learn from the Traditionalists.

While Homosexual marriage is at a clear disadvantage with society and stability, their advantage in gender equality is even clearer. There are no traditional roles they can cling to or fight against. Each couple must instead define their own rules, custom designed for the individuals involved. This should be how heterosexual couples behave as well; a recent study demonstrates that many women would rather get a divorce than be a housewife under the constructed gender norms of our grandparents. Ultimately each couple should be finding a balance that works for them, as every couple is different and demonstrates love, affection, and need in different ways.

So, to return to the original question, what do I think about Gay Marriage?

I think it is an intense question, and impossible to see the precise societal outcomes which will stem from the Supreme Court decision, whatever it ends up being. I think that the cultural push toward the allowance of Gay Marriage is actually a push in the direction of Traditional Marriage, rather than toward Emerging Marriage, and that many of these couples have individually recognized the need for more stable relationship forms than they currently have available. I think that drawing legal distinctions based on sexual proclivities and religious ideology is dangerous and shameful. I think that just as they have something to learn about Marriage from the couples celebrating their 50th anniversaries, so to do we have something to learn about marriage from the couples who are willing to fight tooth and nail for the chance to legally sanction their marriage in the eyes of the law. I think we need to open our minds to new ideas, open our hearts to embrace others, and open our mouths to speak out for what we believe.

It isn't easy, but it really isn't complicated.

Friday, April 5, 2013

H + J = Letters to my Future daughter in law.

Dear #,
At the time of writing, I'm the proud father of two adorable little boys, your future husband and brother in law. We named them fairly traditionally, one from a dream and the other from rational considerations and an abnormal obsession with obscure presidents. We consider name selection to be a grave responsibility, and we took it more seriously than color choices, diaper brand, or stroller selection. Well, maybe not stroller choice, that's as critical as religion, schooling, or what age is best to take the boys to Disney World.

We've discovered, though, that not everyone takes naming as seriously as we do, and the parents of girls are particularly lazy about their choices. Strange spellings, unusual choices and extreme gender stealing have all become the norm with girl's names.

To be honest, I wasn't that worried about it. We have boys, and if we are blessed enough to have a girl in the future, she'll get a good, well considered name. And then my lovely wife pointed out a critical fact: unless my boys are both gay, someone with one of these crazy names will be my son's wife.

These girls will be involved in the naming of my grandchildren.

So I'm writing to you, #. Please take the responsibility of naming your children seriously.


Thursday, April 4, 2013


Dear #,

When I write genuine letters and send them in the mail, I can't seem to break the habit of going into meta writing. It seems this blog is no exception, so I've decided to get it out of my system and move on.

As I've been developing this project, I discovered I want it to serve dual purposes, both humor and a more serious exploration of ideas, principles, and beliefs. Your name and identity are a running joke, but letters to a future generation should be about more than mere comedy, so I'm doing both. Deal with it.

With love,