Author: Rachel Whipple

The Meekness of the Soldier and Servant

First, I must recognize that today is Veteran’s Day. Armistice Day.[1] I lived in Belgium for a year. This poppy brooch is from Flanders Fields. Every city, every village, has memorials to soldiers and civilians killed in the Great War. In the nature reserve and fields near my home were old craters from explosive shells, softened by time into small ponds. The bucolic landscape, the unassuming people are impossible to reconcile with the No Man’s Land of trench warfare. I was thanked, as a American, for the role my country played in the conclusion of the war, and for providing flour—food—for a starving population that had been occupied by hostile forces for years. It is a thanks I have not earned, but I accept on behalf of others, many of whose graves are dutifully tended today and throughout the year. I do not understand the impulse to war. This aggression. The impulse to hurt and control. So much hurt and sorrow. Defense, I can understand. And like Captain Moroni, I would kill to protect my children. But I have not sent them off to die. I don’t know how to do that. As a student of ancient Greek, I read Xenophon’s Anabasis, about the march of ten thousand Greek mercenaries to the interior of Babylon. Two other famous works by Xenophon are The Art of Horsemanship[2]  and The Calvary Commander.[3] In them, Xenophon talks about the selection and training of war horses.…

A Witness of Kindness

I was so touched to see this bit of humanity, this respect and consideration for the stranger. It is one reason I love living in a city: where we are all so close together, we have more opportunity to exercise and witness kindness.

Uncomfortable Charity

Why does the act of charity, in this case, the transaction initiated by a beggar or panhandler, feel so uncomfortable to me? Mental recriminations if I give, guilt if I don’t. Perhaps it is because I don’t know the protocol, the expectations, and so I’m worried about an inadvertent transgression. But it isn’t that hard to act, to find a way to overcome my anxiety and hesitation to do something small.

How can I, as a woman, support the priesthood?

A few months ago, I was asked to speak on the topic “How do I support the Priesthood in my home?” I am posting the talk now because the Young Women’s lessons in June are about the Priesthood and Priesthood Keys. This is one of the topics that caused me so much uneasiness that I all but stopped blogging for a long period of time.

Contributor Anxiety: Baring Witness

As I read the women’s stories in Baring Witness, I was filled with love and sorrow and hope for all of these sisters. I want to sit with them over a long lunch, laughing and crying together. These are women who have shared their vulnerabilities, who have opened their lives to me: how can I not love them? And the great strength of this collection is that Welker has gathered together Mormon-y women who have a wide variety of experiences with marriage, including even standard Mormon marriages that work according to plan with those relationships that encounter all sorts of unexpected challenges.

Call to Repentance

It is rather presumptuous to call someone to repentance, don’t you think? The act implies at least two things: that the caller knows better than the called, and that the caller has the authority to issue the call to repent. In a world of increasing moral relativism, many of us are uncomfortable with the idea that one person can or ought to impose his or her standards on another. This discomfort illegitimizes the call for repentance by not only undercutting the moral authority of the caller, but the very standards by which a call may be justified. But the call for repentance has always been a call away from the world. It is a beacon that returns us to the Lord’s standard, a corrective guide. In our church today, we accept that our leaders, especially the prophet and apostles, have the authority to call us (and the rest of the world) to repentance. And in part because of the cultural moral relativism mentioned earlier, many of us are content to leave that responsibility to them. We are happy to support them in making that call, and even echo it ourselves, so long as it is clear that we are not the ones leveling judgment. Interestingly enough, in the scriptures, the call for repentance often comes from outside of the authority of any institution, including that of the church. Over and over, in both the Old Testament and the Book of…

Out of the Bubble

It is nice to take a break from the bubble that is Utah Valley. Last month we moved to Belgium for a year-long sabbatical, and I hoping that this time will be restorative. I’m ready to reenter the conversation.

Who gets to be a Mormon?

I have a few questions about boundaries and numbers that I would like to put before the group for your collective insight. While the questions are related, they are not building any particular argument. 1. If the Church excommunicated everyone who quietly disbelieves any or all of the core doctrines that John Dehlin has rejected, how many people would we lose? 2. If the Church dropped from its rolls all those people who have slipped or stomped out of activity, those who opt out of meetings and callings and the home and visiting teaching programs, how big would be the fold of the Lamb of God? 3. Can people remain “Mormon” without belief and/or activity? Has our church been around long enough to have secular Mormons? What does it mean to be a Mormon? 4. John Dehlin has said that he will continue to call himself a Mormon, but “Mormon” is trademarked. Is the Mormon Stories Podcast vulnerable to legal action? 5. I can understand the rationale for excommunicating Dehlin. Moves to make the tent bigger could also been seen as undermining and destabilizing the existing tent. And this excommunication vindicates the position of both those in Dehlin’s camp and those who are very concerned about boundary maintenance in the Church. But there are people in the middle, how many, it’s hard to say, who are troubled, people who want to remain in the community but are still struggling through doubts…

Sunday Morning Session of General Conference

We spent yesterday listening to General Conference while assembling IKEA furniture in the hopes that the spirit of the meeting would help reduce the desire to curse associated with strange pictorial instructions and screw heads that really want to strip. It went as well as could be expected. This morning I read about theology, love and literature (Alan Jacobs), cleaned some, made tea for my sick husband, harvested from the garden to make omelets (squash and onions, parsley and sage, tomatoes, with mushrooms and provolone not from the garden) for a late breakfast. And now I’m ready for conference to start.   President Uchtdorf conducting.   Pres Henry B. Eyring, 1st Counselor, 1st Presidency   Many are seeking revelation. We need a constantly renewed stream…a continuing blessing of communication with God. Quote from Packer: Revelation continues in the church Process of revelation begins, ends (?), and continues as we receive personal revelation. Example: Lehi’s dream and Nephi’s confirming revelation. A principle of revelation that the parents’ revelation continues in the child. Chokes up during story about his mother. “I have tried to go and do as she hoped I would.” (The clear love and respect for his mother 40 years departed is touchingly evident.) The value of revelation depends on those being led receiving confirming revelation. Example of Grand Teton Dam breaking in Idaho. Leader of federal disaster response team deferred to the stake president who was organizing the local…

FairConference, Thursday Afternoon Sessions

Bob Rees A review of Earl Wunderli’s Imperfect Book   Started with this Card Colour changing trick video ( to illustrate that too much focus on one thing can cause you miss the many other things that are going on. What aren’t you noticing? Emerson said,  “Tell me your sect, and I’ll tell you your argument.” How we approach the Book of Mormon will determine what we find within it.  Rees was impressed with Earl’s thoroughness. He has read extensively and carefully. He approached as though cross-examining it in a court of law, and like any good lawyer making a case, he has been selective in choice of witnesses. Wunderli’s book does not give a balanced presentation, although it gives an impression of having done so. And he does raise important questions about the Book of Mormon, from the use of KJV language, internal stylistic consistency, anachronistic scientific understanding, mythology, and so one. Wunderli sees himself of side of reason, science and truth, and as a result paints the other side unreasonable, unscientific, and inclined to believe in myths and falsehoods. He doesn’t acknowledge that some scholars are open to spiritual ways of knowing, that there is more than one legitimate avenue for seeking knowledge. Those of us who use both approaches see differently than those who use just one. And this cuts both ways; those rely solely on spirit may be indifferent to any evidence. In Book of Mormon…

FairMormon Conference Thursday Morning Sessions

I’m not quite up to live blogging, so my coverage of FAIR will lag slightly behind the fact. I will be posting summaries of talks posted after completion rather than subjecting you to my sloppy notes in real time. Kerry Muehlstein, Ph. D. Brigham Young University Unnoticed assumptions about The Book of Abraham While the assumptions discussed in this talk are applied to Abraham, they also have more general application. What is apologetics? Apologetics to some means to try to defend a certain assumption. For Muehlstein, it means to try to understand what is true, what is accurate. In our search for truth, we need not be afraid, we have nothing to hide, and everything can be put forward as in the exemplary Joseph Smith papers project. No need for a strident tone in apologetics if we are seeking truth and working to disseminate it.   The beginning premise is crucial. We (Muehlstein and LDS apologists generally) take as a premise that revelation may be a source of knowledge (unlike scholars outside of the faith) 1. Revelation is a valid source of knowledge. 2. With the Book of Abraham and the Book of Mormon he starts with assumption that these are true, then tries to fit any evidence that he finds within that paradigm, and uses that to filter all evidence that we find. Key Assumptions: What was the source of the text for the Book of Abraham? Assumed it…

As Instructed

On Tuesday, Ally Isom, Senior Manager of Public Affairs with the LDS Church, encouraged listeners to have respectful conversations about their concerns with and faith in the Church.

Success in Life

My daughter just turned 12, and her new Young Women’s advisor and the  one other Beehive in the ward came over to introduce her to the program, give her a slew of pamphlets, and welcome her to Young Women. After they left, I read through the Guidebook for Parents and Leaders of Youth that they had left for me. It is a nice little booklet. In the section “Role of Parents” it states: “Your sons and daughters are children of God who have great potential. Although the Church has many leaders and resources to help them, you as their parents have the primary responsibility to help them succeed. the Church’s programs and materials for youth, described in this guidebook, are designed to assist you as you help your children develop the skills and attributes needed for success in life.” And that sounds good. But remembering Craig’s piece Bo Knows Heaven, I have to admit that I don’t know what success in life looks like, or if success if life is what God wants most for us. For the Young Men, there is the Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God Program. “The Aaronic Priesthood Duty to God program helps young men accomplish the purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood. It helps them develop skills and attributes that are needed to succeed in life.” This sounds good, but it is vague in that it relies on the unstated purposes of the Aaronic Priesthood and…

The Bad Side of Jesus

Last week, as we were walking to school, my 6 year old spontaneously started telling me about his latest Primary lesson.  He does this often, and usually reports the talking points accurately. “I learned about the bad side of Jesus,” he said. “Really? Jesus has a bad side?” I responded, wandering if they had talked about casting moneychangers out of the temple. “Yes. A very bad side. You know, when we were all in heaven, and he decided that one third of the spirits shouldn’t be allowed to have bodies, and that made them really sad, and Jesus did that, so that was the bad side of Jesus. Can you believe Jesus did that?” So that particular lesson about the plan of salvation and the pre-existence didn’t get through as clearly as his teachers must have hoped. But I do like the way that slightly distorted view casts a different light on those experiences we lost when we passed through the veil of forgetfulness. Imagine, for a moment, that Jesus and Lucifer were brothers, close brothers who look alike, maybe even share the same mannerisms and charisma. Imagine them as twins even. Somehow, through chance or fate or choice, Lucifer got the role of the evil twin, the bad side of Jesus. After all, it’s not hard to imagine them as equal in potential to do good or evil, equal in potential for glory and honor. But our story has…

The Wrongness of Being Right

It seems to me that any time you turn something into a point of conflict, you risk being in the wrong. It becomes more important to be right than it is to understand your fellow brother, to exercise compassion, to be humble and teachable.

The Joseph Smith Papers, Documents Volume 2

On Monday I attended a launch event at the Church History Library for the second Documents volume of the Joseph Smith Papers. We were given a brief introductory presentation from historians and production editors who worked on the project. Documents Volume 2 covers the time period from July 1831 to January 1833. Three themes emerge through the documents covering this period of time. The first document is a revelation from July 20, 1831, which later became canonized as Doctrine and Covenants Section 57. It identified the land of Missouri as the land of Zion. This set the stage for the first theme of tension between the leadership in Missouri and Ohio, as well as the pedestrian difficulty of dealing with logistical issues of land acquisition and settlement. A second theme is that of Joseph Smith as a husband and father. The volume includes two letters to Emma, written in Joseph’s own hand. As with many of the documents, a facsimile of the original letter is included, along with a source note on the document and a historical introduction. And there are footnotes for everything. [fn1] The last natural theme that emerges from the documents covered by this time period is the development of our church’s theology and the clarification of the orders of the priesthood. We have the revelations that became Sections 76, 84 and 88. I love that this volume gives context for the these revelations. This immersion into…

Bittersweet Thanksgiving

We grew up. All of those kids I went to high school with. Not just high school; my family never moved, so I started in with them in kindergarten and went through to graduation. Part of me never felt like I fit in. Being the only Mormon in my class may have had something to do with that. Not that many new people moved into our little town, although many of us have since moved away. How many, I’m not sure, as I’m one of the ones who left. But every once in awhile, I get a glimpse into the lives of those people who were once children that I knew as a child. They’ve all grown up. They have kids of their own who they haul around to ball games and dance recitals and piano practice, just like we went to when we knew each other, just like I do with my kids now. They have jobs. Several of my friends became teachers. Some are pastors. Some are coaches or directors. They have houses and cars and pets. When did we all get so old? The best part is seeing how much faith they have, how these irreverent high school kids grew into people of devotion. The girls married the guys who got them pregnant in high school? Still married and raising their kids right. If they went to church then, they go to church now. I remember being…

Everybody Ought to Have a Body

A distinctive Mormon doctrine related to creation and stewardship is the idea that embodiment is a necessary prerequisite for god-like exaltation. This doctrine includes within it the ideas we can be exalted to become like God, and that God himself has a physical body. The soul of man is the spirit and the body. Although we believe we had a premortal existence as spirit children of God, we were not completely created until we were born into our physical bodies. Our mortal parents acted as co-creators with God in having us. Our bodies are the temples in which our spirits dwell, and which the Holy Ghost may visit. So in a Mormon view, having a body is necessary for the development of our spirits. The traditional Christian view that holds that God embodied himself as Christ in order to make himself approachable to us. While we believe in the condescension of God, we believe our embodiment has the potential to bring us closer to God, to make us more like Him. There are great pleasures to be experienced through our bodies. The body is our vehicle for experiencing the whole of creation, our means of developing an aesthetic sense which God already has. He wants us to find that things please our eyes and gladden our hearts. We are meant to experience the pleasures of the flesh, within the bounds that the Lord has set. Those lines of moderation and…