In Defense of Trek & Pioneer Day

I am a part of the minority among progressive Mormons (or perhaps actually, a part of the silent majority?) that is pro-Trek and pro-Pioneer Day. Here I strive to make that case and share some thoughts on ways of honoring and celebrating both that more responsibly, thoughtfully, and inspiringly engage with our Mormon heritage. 


Trek to me feels like a mix of ritual and pilgrimage, a potentially powerful way of creating an egalitarian, group ritual. Not all members have pioneer blood relatives, but all Mormons have a pioneer religious heritage, simply by being Mormons. The pioneer ethic and mythos is embedded in how much of Mormonism manifests and I think that we can all honor that, whether our own particular ancestors crossed the plains or not. 

Trek, at its best, makes physical the sacrifices and toil and work and sweat of true religion in a way that I find powerful. Does a few days hiking compare to the true trek across the plains? Of course not. But trek doesn’t need to be the same experience as the literal pioneers to have value.

Caution and safety should be practiced at all times. Trek should probably be arduous, but not life-threatening. Everyone should be well-watered and cared for, with injuries receiving the best care modern medicine has to offer. Suffering for suffering’s sake is not the goal. 

Wearing “traditional” clothing feels to me like a valuable part of the ritual element of the experience, though the standards should definitely be enforced more equally across genders, since in my experience women and girls that participate have much more expected of them than men and boys, who look more or less like they always do. Creating or finding the clothing could be incorporated into the group preparations for the process, which could equalize this and add meaning. Also, all should be allowed to wear any period clothing, regardless of their gender. Period cross-dressing allowed. And again, be smart and responsible with this. Don’t force people to wear so many layers that they overheat. 

Trek should help us remember the sacrifice that our early Saints were willing to make, to realize what true persecution is and that we don’t face it anymore, to think about what we are willing to do for God and each other. Trek should be a deeply communal experience. Helping us reconnect with one another. A ritual that reminds us that Zion is ALL of us, that we are saved together or not at all. That if I neglect my fellow comrades in Christ, that I too am damned. Most of our rituals are focused on our own individual efforts, which can blind us to our responsibility to each other. Trek ideally helps rectify that, forcing us to work together, some doing more work than others, from all according to their ability and to each according to their needs. 


Pioneer Day, for me, does something similar. Yet, I think has even more potential for honoring a wide, diverse array of Saints and ways of being Mormon. Pioneer Day is a piece of a possible Mormon Liturgical Calendar. We don’t really *have* a Liturgical calendar within Mormonism and it’s something that I envy about other Christian traditions and making a peculiarly Mormon one seems to require the inclusion of Pioneer Day.

Much of the rational for celebrating and honoring Pioneer Day is tied to the reasons I feel that we should participate in the ritual of Trek. 

I also think that Pioneer Day allows for a uniquely honest and frank engagement with elements of Mormon history that are often neglected–colonial and racist elements relating to the demonization and displacement of indigenous people throughout Utah and the West.

A true and valuable celebration of Pioneer Day must reckon with the fact that the grit and commitment and dedication of our Mormon ancestors happened alongside and simultaneously with atrocities, perpetuated in the name of those same good attributes. 

I’m not interested in the Pioneer Day celebrations that function as sequels to the Fourth of July, with full-throated Americanism (particularly since such celebrations seem to ignore that the pioneers were literally fleeing America, but whatever). 

This sort of honoring of the day should also come with a decrease in the tendency to revere individuals that have “pioneer stock”, as we recognize the messiness and troublesome realities of that stock. 

I also envision a way of honoring Pioneer Day that incorporates the many other ways that people can be and are pioneers. Converts, first to receive degrees, the still fraught and pioneer-grit-filled experiences of people of color, the difficult and complicated lives of queer Mormons, and others. Stories like that of my great-grandma who was one of the first women to earn a Physics degree from BYU. Like that of Jane Manning James and Elijah Able. Like that of Chieko Okazaki. 

Pioneer Day should honor the past, while doing our part to heal the wounds that our ancestors caused and to reckon with the violence that is at the heart of the reality of Deseret. Pioneer Day should also look throughout our history and into the present to find and tell the stories of those that continue to embody the best of that pioneer spirit. 

The day doesn’t need to be all doom and gloom. Celebrations of the particular quirkiness of Mormon culture also strike me as valuable. I think there are things about Mormonism and our pioneer heritage that are worth celebrating and Pioneer Day feels like a great time to do that. 

Perhaps also because I think we can weave in the experiences of pioneers like Levi Savage that strongly resonate with me and serve to highlight the complexity of faith that some of these individuals had. That being a pioneer wasn’t always about obedience or knowing with every fiber of your being, but was about a recognition of the beauty of community and the value that each and every one of us can bring to that community. 

I long for ways to bring Mormonism out of the chapel and the temple and into my day-to-day life, ways that I can create communal and individual and familial rituals that allow me to connect with God in peculiarly Mormon ways out in the world. Pioneer Day and Trek are the beginnings of creating such a practice for me. May we work together to honor the grit and sacrifice of our pioneer heritage and to remember and reckon with the complexity of that legacy and the violence and harm that was done. 

Queering Mormonism

One of the most pressing areas for continuing revelation in Institutional Mormonism is surrounding LGBTQ+ (grouped under the umbrella term “queer” for the remainder of this piece) Saints. Conflicting messages are being sent and have been sent the entirety of my adult life to my queer comrades in Christ. We desperately need a more robust queer Mormon theology. 

Luckily, people are working towards the reality of this (you can read two of the most notable pieces to my mind in this arena here from Blaire Ostler on Queer Polygamy and here from Taylor Petrey on a post-heterosexual theology). Blaire also happens to be working on a book all about this very subject that should be available in the coming months. 

I can’t create that theology right here and now. But I can lay some groundwork for the discussions that we should all be having to bring this to pass. 

Why Queer Mormonism?

Revelation is a communal project and I hope we can all play a meaningful part in the process of building a vision of Zion that is welcoming for all God’s children, including our queer comrades in Christ. 

I believe that Mormon theology can be and is inherently inclusive. The Mormonism that is currently found and taught in the mainstream Institutional Church is not. It excludes queer relationships and leaves the lived experience of many queer people unacknowledged and unexplained. The more extreme iterations of these teachings (which are even expressed at times by members of Church leadership in official capacities, like with Pres. Oaks at a BYU-H devotional recently) alienate queer people and leave no space for them in our pews. 

I find this appalling. 

The Body of Christ, and the Institutional Church is one manifestation of that Body, needs all of us. We cannot afford to cut people off. We may be losing our leg, our eyes, our kidneys, our mind, or even our heart. 

If we queer Mormonism, we can open our arms again to our queer comrades in Christ. We can make space for them on the pews, we can begin to do the long, hard work of atoning for the pain and suffering that they have experienced at the hands of the Institution and others in it, whether that pain was intentional or otherwise. 

Our queer comrades in Christ need a spiritual home in Mormonism that welcomes them and we need them, or Zion will never be whole or complete, or as we’ve been commanded — perfect.

What Does “Queering Mormonism” Even Mean?

“Queering” Mormonism is taken from academic slang that we used in the English department at BYU (and I assume is used elsewhere). Essentially, it refers to using queer theory to examine and interrogate Mormonism. Queer, in addition to being an adjective and sometimes a noun, can also be a verb, and that’s what’s happening here. 

I’m also riffing on the title of a recent book in Mormon Studies that presents a series of essays on a different, but also urgent, theological and cultural project within Mormonism: Decolonizing Mormonism. Much as that book argues that we must decolonize Mormonism, I believe we must queer Mormonism. 

Where Do We Start?

The beginning. Petrey’s piece does some of this work. Imagining a queer reading of the creation narrative as contained in Mormonism that would lay a different foundation for Mormonism. The danger in some of these efforts is that given the male-dominated space of Mormon scripture, doctrine, and theology, it may be easy to create a gay theology, but not necessarily a fully queer one. 

We must always be on the lookout for gaps in our inclusivity as we go about this work. 

Performing queer readings of scripture (we can draw on robust queer biblical readings and go further, including exclusive Mormon scripture). 

Removing heteronormative and exclusive doctrines and teachings. 

Listening to a wide variety of queer Mormon voices 

Working to make lived Mormonism, as well as the theology, inclusive and welcome for queer Mormons

Dismantling sexist and patriarchal elements of the Church

Decolonizing Mormonism

Those are just some basic areas to work within. We need all sorts of voices contributing to this discussion from the most radical to more moderate and even somewhat conservative ones (all with a recognition of the humanity of Queer Mormons and the need to reinterpret and seek revelation on new theological insights to bring Queer Mormons into the fold). 

What Does a Queer Mormon Theology Look Like?

I believe that the center of a Queer Mormon theology is found in reinterpreting the “family” that is central to God’s plan as the human family and the diversity of familial relations that that encompasses. As we do this, I believe we must move beyond gender essentialism, which allows for a wider array of acceptable life paths to exist fully within the Church. 

This would naturally come with a need to re-evaluate and reconceive of Priesthood. Doing so should come with a de-coupling of priesthood and administrative-ecclesiastical authority. As well as rethinking the sealing ordinance, much in the ways that Blaire describes (which to me seems closer to some of the ideals at the heart of Joseph’s vision for the ordinance). 

I believe that an ethic of sexual care would need to be a part of this. A new Law of Chastity, rooted in consent, care, collaboration, creativity, and communion. 

A queer Mormon theology depends on a strong community and shifts the core unit from “nuclear families” to local communities. This allows for single Mormons to be more fully integrated into the Church and strengthens our commitment to each other and to truly being a part of the Body of Christ. 

All of this requires re-thinking our understanding of God. We already have divine roles for Men (Heavenly Father) and Women (Heavenly Mother) and a little revelation and theological creativity, combined with Joseph Smith’s teachings of a “Council of Gods” could help shift us from a Man+Woman Union as the central, building block of eternity to one that places Councils or Communities at the center, recognizing a broader diversity of voices than just two. 

None of this insists on destroying marriage or robbing couples of the value and importance they place on their marriages. It simply helps integrate them into a larger community. 

That to me seems like the root of a queer Mormon theology. But I’d love to hear what you think, about any and all of this.

“Lord, I Believe, Help Thou My Unbelief”: Doubt, Belief, and the Paradox of Keeping the Faith

Note: An effort to recreate the talk that I gave using the quotes contained herein as a base on 21 July 2019, in the Provo UT 32nd Married Student Ward. 


If you were here the last time that Cec and I spoke, about a year and a half ago, you know that we have very different strategies when it comes to titling our talks. Hers is once again called, “church talk” and mine is “‘Lord, I Believe, Help Thou Mine Unbelief’: Doubt, Belief, and the Paradox of Keeping the Faith”. So let’s begin with the verse referenced in that title, Mark 9:24:

“And straightway the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief.”

For the past seven years or so, and on and off since I was 16, my faith has been this sort of faith–a faith simultaneously composed of doubt and belief, that the two coexist in varying degrees and amounts at any given time. The past few years have been fairly stable, but those early years just after my mission were hard. 

I felt as though the faith that I had as a missionary and a young man in the church had died. That it was gone and with it, my sense of certainty and purpose and morality. Yet, I think now that that death was needed. After all, as Christians, we’re in the Resurrection business. Paul teaches over and over throughout the epistles that we must die to be born again in Christ. 

Rachel Held Evans, an Evangelical author that I find inspiring and powerful who I mentioned in a testimony a few months ago when she unexpectedly passed away, wrote of a Church experience that:

“It was a death, but it was a good death.”

Searching for Sunday, 229

I believe that we can make the inevitable death of our faith, a good death. Or as Mary sings in Rob Gardner’s Lamb of God:

“Hope did not die here, but here was given.”

“Here is Hope”

Not all deaths are inherently good deaths and not all give us hope. But they can. I hope that I can help you find hope in the midst of your faith dying, as it dies again and again. That your faith too can be reborn, as mine has been and continues to be, for the work is not done. 


The foundational idea that has helped me to keep the faith, is the idea of belonging. Particularly as Brene Brown explores the idea and contrasts it with “fitting in”. She writes that: 

“One of the biggest surprises in this research was learning that fitting in and belonging are not the same thing, and, in fact, fitting in gets in the way of belonging. Fitting in is about assessing a situation and becoming who you need to be to be accepted. Belonging, on the other hand, doesn’t require us to change who we are; it requires us to be who we are.”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, 25

Much of my experience at Church was that I didn’t fit in, that I didn’t belong. I thought because I believed different things or because I looked a little different that I couldn’t really be a part of the organization. I’ve always felt a little different than others and never felt a strong sense of community at Church, though that was at its peak in YSA wards in Provo, in the years immediately after my mission.

Not only did I experience all the pressures that come for almost all people in a YSA ward, but I layered on top of those this sense of confusion and frustration that I couldn’t really be who I was. I thought that everyone else knew for sure that all these things were true, that everyone had different political beliefs from me, that no one else had questions. That everyone else was dumb and judgmental, which ironically made me dumb and judgmental.  

As I started to be vulnerable and authentic at Church, sharing my own real expression of belief and doubt in testimony meeting and comments, I started to discover that I was wrong. All sorts of people came up to me and would thank me for being open and honest, for saying what they’d always felt and never felt able to say. I felt welcomed. Truly. For ME.

And I felt able to grant others that same space. Brene Brown describes this phenomenon like this:

“When we don’t give ourselves permission to be free, we rarely tolerate that freedom in others. We put them down, make fun of them, ridicule their behaviors, and sometimes shame them. We can do this intentionally or unconsciously. Either way the message is, ‘Geez man. Don’t be so uncool.’”

The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are: Your Guide to a Wholehearted Life, 123

When I was unwilling to extend myself the grace to be real and authentic at Church, I turned that pain and suffering into ridicule of everyone else. And perhaps somewhat counterintuitively, as I refused to fit in, as I decided to stop trying to be like everyone else and to bring my whole self, difference and everything, to the table, I was suddenly much more comfortable with everyone else doing the same. 

Fast and Testimony meeting went from one of the worst, most painful, frustrating Sundays to consistently some of my favorite Sundays. If I want to be accepted and loved and welcomed for who I am, in all my weirdness and fringey-believing doubt or doubting-belief, then I need to extend that same grace and acceptance and love to those with faith that looks different from mine. 

Interlude: Epistemic Humility

For me, this idea is encapsulated in “epistemic humility”, which is a fancy, academic jargon-y way of saying, “recognizing that you’re wrong”. I believe that I am wrong about all sorts of things. Just like you. Everyone believes that everyone else is wrong about at least some things, and in some cases many things, but we have to believe that about ourselves as well. 

It could be easy to simply dismiss everything as unknowable and to reach a state of apathy and passivity, but I think that’s misguided. I recognize that I am likely wrong about all sorts of things, but I believe that my beliefs currently lead me to be a good person that helps others. 


I believe we must couple this sense of humility with claiming our own spiritual authority. 

Claiming our spiritual authority I think is often described in terms that actually describe spiritual autonomy, that people want to believe what they want and to choose the consequences. To me, spiritual authority is believing what you believe to be true and facing the consequences. I don’t see this as a competition with prophetic authority, after all, when Moses was confronted by someone who believed that he should be concerned with the Israelites prophesying, Moses responded:

“Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit upon them!”

Numbers 11:29

Moses wanted all his people to be filled with the Spirit, to be prophets, to claim their own spiritual authority. And if Moses wasn’t worried about it, then I shouldn’t be either. 

To claim your spiritual authority is not only to seek revelation and to do what you feel God calls you to do, but also to face the consequences of that course of action, whatever they may be. If you aren’t willing to face the consequences of your beliefs, what good are they?

Esther is a powerful example of claiming spiritual authority and maintaining epistemic humility. When Mordecai comes to her and tells her of the plot that Haman put into motion to kill all the Jews, she says to Mordecai:

“Go, gather together all the Jews that are present in Shushan, and fast ye for me, and neither eat nor drink three days, night or day : I also and my maidens will fast like-wise; and so will I go in unto the king, which is not according to the law : and if I perish, I perish.”

Esther 4:16

Esther is willing to die for her beliefs. She doesn’t know if what she’s going to do will save her or her people, but she believes in it. She believes so strongly that she’s willing to put her own life on the line. I don’t know about you, but my convictions have never been tested quite that much, dying for my beliefs is not really in the realm of possibility. 

I’m also struck by the fact that Esther maintains this conviction even though God is entirely absent from the text. The Book of Esther is the only book of the Bible where God is not mentioned, not even once. Esther is living in the silences that I, and we all, experience. Yet, she believes. She sticks to her belief, in the face of uncertainty, in the silence from God, unto death.

Interlude: Weakness is Strength

I wonder if we misunderstand what strength means in the Kingdom of God. Ether reminds us that the Lord taught:

“… if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”

Ether 12:27

This teaching seems to be in line with what Christ taught us about the Kingdom of Heaven–that it’s a topsy-turvy place, where the first shall be last and the last shall be first. Where it’s not like an empire or a palace or a political entity, but a mustard seed and yeast. 

The sort of faith that holds doubt and belief together that I experience may sound or look weak, but perhaps it’s exactly the sort of strength that God is looking for?

The Lord, importantly, instructs us to come to Him, and that takes us to the necessity of community, that we cannot isolate ourselves and be made strong. 


Rachel Held Evans describes the nature of and power of community and Church like this:

“We expect a trumpet and a triumphant entry, but as always, God surprises us by showing up in ordinary things: in bread, in wine, in water, in words, in sickness, in healing, in death, in a manger of hay, in a mother’s womb, in an empty tomb. Church isn’t some community you join or some place you arrive. Church is what happens when someone taps you on the shoulder and whispers in your ear, Pay attention, this is holy ground; God is here.”

Searching for Sunday, 258

I’ve felt this. Here. With all of you. 

Often Church is kinda boring and mundane, but every once in awhile, in the midst of that quotidian mundanity, God is here. 

As we wrestle with the scriptures, share our struggles, ask our questions, air our doubts and concerns, strive toward the light, strain to see through the glass darkly, this ground and these carpeted walls are made holy. God is here. 

The need for community meets epistemic humility and spiritual authority in my favorite quote from Joseph Smith:

“And if we go to hell, we will turn the devils out of doors and make a heaven of it. Where this people are, there is good society.” 

Joseph Smith was willing to die and go to hell for his beliefs. That’s how open to being wrong he was. That he’d end up in hell. He was willing to face eternal consequences for his beliefs. 

Yet, he maintained hope and faith in the power and goodness of his beliefs and the beliefs that he shared with his fellow Saints. He would kick out those devils and transform hell into heaven. 


As we go throughout life we often pass through times where God feels distant or absent or silent, where the glass we see through is darker than usual, where we wonder how we fit in or where we belong. 

The words of General Princess Leia Organa guide me through those moments:

“Hope is like the sun. If you only believe it when you see it, you’ll never make it through the night.”

Darkness and silence are part of mortality. But they don’t erase the light that we’ve seen. 

“For I, [like Paul,] am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” –Romans 8:38-39

No matter what you believe or don’t believe, what you do or don’t do, nothing can separate you from the Love of God. And if we strive to divide ourselves to build walls to deny others our love, then we are trying to do what even God will not. If God’s love is never denied us, then who are we to deny others of our love?

I don’t know much. I believe much. I hope for quite a bit. But I know that God lives, that God loves each and every one of us and I say with Brother Joe that if I go to hell, I’ll turn the devils out and make a heaven of it because where you are, there is good society. 

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

On Being an Ace Mormon Man

Occasionally I see the idea posited that the Church or Mormonism or some variation thereof wants people to be asexual. And I wince every time.

It’s tricky because there are definitely zones of crossover between a typical asexual experience (based on my own life and learning about the experiences of other aces from conversations and reading) and the “Ideal” Mormon experience (as I understand it). And yet, there’s something a little troubling implied in this assertion and in my experience it’s just not really true on the whole.

Asexuality is one of the lesser understood queer experiences (for a variety of factors: less representation, less systemic oppression, easier to blend into society, the label evokes bacteria, it describes an absence rather than a different presence, etc.). So, I think generally those that share this idea do so with good intentions. But to more accurately and compassionately describe what we mean, we can do better for each other and particularly for our ace comrades in Christ.


The main area of crossover between an ace experience and the “ideal” Mormon one occurs before 16. Dating is a taboo in Mormonism before turning 16, which for me was a piece of cake. I didn’t even like dating when I turned 16. Or ever really (but those reasons are more complicated than just my asexuality).

While kids in my ward were having boyfriends and girlfriends (which I think most would agree is against the intention of the “Dating” guidelines in For the Strength of the Youth, which is one of the standards for young adults, and some would argue everyone, but that’s a conversation for another day), I was still trying to figure out what these “crushes” were that everyone was talking about.

I’ve written a little about this elsewhere, but Law of Chastity lessons as a kid were easy. Not a problem at all. I was honestly baffled by what was wrong with all the other young men in my ward, who talked about making out with people all the time. But, I chalked it up to my own superior righteousness or something (I know, I know).

For those years, being ace was great. And definitely lined up with the ideal. I had zero interest in girls, boys, porn, masturbation, kissing, dating, and all of that. Golden.

Things broke down a bit when I was 16 because I wasn’t interested in dating, which was definitely expected and also encouraged. Lessons also started to shift a bit here to lay the groundwork for the differences in a typical ace experience and the ideal Mormon experience.

At BYU, dating was very encouraged, but also not (I was in a freshman ward, living in Helaman Halls, so casual dating was encouraged, but the serious “marriage is impending” dating was not so encouraged). Then I was on my mission, where the Church would LOVE it if everyone was ace for those 18 to 24 months. Missionaries are expected to focus entirely on missionary work and not to have any romantic relationships (and generally seem to struggle with that to varying degrees), so I’m sure if the Church could flip a switch that made all missionaries ace, but strictly for the duration of their missions, they’d be all over it.  

Once I got home, everything began to fall apart.


You see, Mormonism has a complicated relationship with sex. There are fierce boundaries placed around it that determine when it is acceptable or not (rooted in heteronormative patriarchy), but sex, within marriage, is next to godhood.

Loads of Mormon discussions of sex are absolutely dangerously shame-y for sex outside of hetero-marriages, but they also elevate that married sex to celestial heights. People talk about God being present (setting aside how weird that is to me) and there’s quite a bit of stuff within Mormonism that praises the body and the importance of bodies that sometimes leads to the assertion that sex persists in heaven (according to some Church leaders only in the Celestial Kingdom, the only place where people will actually have genitalia).

All of this works to raise sex specifically to unbelievable heights.

I didn’t get it.

I had zero interest in sex, except from like a curiosity perspective.

I started to wonder if something was wrong with me, not just because the entire world was bombarding me with messages about sex being The Best, but because to be righteous and holy and good I felt like I needed to want and to eventually have sex. Which I was utterly ambivalent about.

I can only speak to my particular experience as a man within Mormonism, but there was absolutely an expectation and implication that I would be the driver and initiator of relationships, and likely, sexual experiences (all the way from kissing to sex). Now, some of this is imported from elsewhere and is by no means unique to Mormonism, but I had the impression that as a man, I needed to have some kind of sex drive, some like push for sex and that part of growing up was mastering it. That I was lacking because I never felt that. That I was not truly worthy or masculine because I had no desire for sex and that somehow I couldn’t ever really be godly without it? Like, that the desire needed to be present to be tamed and that without it being there I could never tame it and therefore, never prove my worthiness. Not to mention all the other stuff about true men being these sorta healthier expressions of a James Bond-esque charm and sex appeal (and sex drive).

Some of these expectations are different for women within Mormonism, so their experience will likewise differ.

Obviously, I did get married and I have a kid, and in that way do still fit the Mormon Ideal. But sex as this divine experience wasn’t a driver for either of those.

Mormonism doesn’t want aces. There is little space within Mormonism for the adult ace experience. Not all aces want to get married and some may want to but only within a relationship where they can truly be themselves (not necessarily with another ace person, though that’s definitely one option. But mixed-orientation marriages are complicated and from my reading have very low success rates, though no idea on the particulars for mixed-orientation marriages involving an ace partner).

The ace experience challenges the family-centric nature of the Church in a way that even same-sex marriages don’t (not to say that the ace experience is more oppressed within Mormonism because it’s absolutely not, just that it seems potentially easier to maintain Mormonism’s emphasis on family and marriage while including queer marriages than ace individuals that can’t or don’t want to be married).


I mentioned up top that I see troubling implications in the assertion that Mormonism or the Church wants people to be asexual. Some of what I meant by that is present in how I walk through “The Differences”, but other bits aren’t. So, here we go.

A quick clarification that responds to some of the implications I see in that assertion is that asexuality does NOT equal celibacy. Celibacy describes a condition of sexual activity and asexuality refers to a sexual orientation and the accompanying attraction, or lack thereof as may be more accurate. Some aces are celibate and happily so, others are unhappily celibate, and still others are not celibate. Often discussions of asexuality outside the ace community blur the distinctions between the two. Certainly, Mormonism would love for all unmarried Mormons to be celibate, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Mormonism wants people to be asexual.

The next troubling idea is tied up in how this discussion of Mormonism wanting people to be ace is wrapped up in conversations about Mormonism being sexually repressive. The implication then is that asexuality is the same as sexual repression and that Mormonism is responsible for my asexuality. Frankly, I think that’s erasive of my identity and bullshit.

Mormonism absolutely has sexually repressive elements, but as I’ve laid out, to claim that it is completely sexually repressive is misguided and, I think, untrue.

This line of argumentation also implies that Mormonism caused my asexuality AND that if we could rid the world of such sexually repressive rhetoric all people could live more fully and authentically. Essentially, this implicitly argues that I would not be ace without Mormonism AND that I (and other aces) could live a better life without my asexuality, that I’m actually *something else*, but that the sexually repressive ideas within Mormonism forced me into asexuality.

This is offensive and, I believe, untrue.

I’m not going to argue that Mormonism has no influence on my sexuality because that’s a fool’s errand. But to make it solely responsible?

That erases my own lived experience and strips me of any sense of autonomy, not to mention seems totally removed from empiric evidence. There’d be a hell of a lot more aces around if that were the case.

Even if Mormonism were fully responsible for my asexuality, if I choose to identify that way, that decision should be supported. Regardless of how it happened, my lived experience is that of being ace and is valid and good and brings value to the world. My Queerness, including asexuality, isn’t good because it’s “natural” or because I was “born this way”, but because it is Good, in and of itself.

Let’s be a bit more careful as we talk about each other. And remember that my Asexuality, my Queerness, goes unacknowledged by Institutional Mormonism, that my sexuality doesn’t even exist for the Institutional Church (for better and for worse), that my identity like many other queer identities is erased in the silence. (In many ways this is far preferrable to the rhetoric and teachings that surround more mainstream queer identities, but is a different sort of challenge.)

Remember that my Asexuality—my Queerness—is of God, Divine, and Eternal. Sure, it is undeniably shaped by my experiences in Mormonism and the world broadly, but it is so much more than that.

Heavenly Mother: A Sunday Speculative Profile

We entered the cafe, looking for our usual booth. It was open and Marie waved us to it.

We sat down, I was holding H— since it was Mother’s Day, doing what I could to give Cec a break. We talk about the normal everyday things that we always talk about, mixed in with some peppered interjections about the podcasts we’d both been listening to and the occasional pause to look at and talk to H—.

Marie came over to get our order and as Cec spoke for both of us, I noticed that Evelyn was at the counter, with a world-weary look on Her face. She’d always been great to H— and me and Cec in our time here, helping us feel welcome almost immediately.

I tried to puzzle over why she’d look so weary and was going to ask Cec if she’d heard anything, but H— started fussing and I forgot in the immediate flurry of helping her.

Our food came and we chatted, but I kept seeing Evelyn and thinking that we should say something to Her.

As we finished, we finally made our way over.

“Hey Evelyn, how’s it going?” I ask.

She raises Her head from Her steaming cup of coffee and smiles wearily, but warmly as She locks eyes with H—.

“Always tired and sorrowing for the ills of the world and particularly for my sisters,” She replied.

She paused and swallowed, but the air was filled with Her words and holy, it felt wrong to speak, to violate the silence and space that She’d created, so I waited.

She started and stopped a few times, looking for the precise words to fit, the entire time communicating deeply with H— wordlessly.

“I’ve served the good people here for years and still, pain and suffering surrounds us. Despite my best efforts I can’t prevent people from hurting and I know the value of pain and the inevitability of grief, yet, still it hurts,” as She opened Herself up, tears welled in the corners of Her eyes and began to fall, “I look around me and am tired. Tired from the work I’ve done, tired at the thought of all the work there is to do, tired from the work that must be left to others.”

H— began to growl, babbling wildly and enthusiastically, smiling and looking straight at Evelyn.

Evelyn smiled and laughed as H— continued, a smile and laugh that know deep pain, that feel the full breadth of life’s emotions.

“Thank you,” She says to all of us, but mostly it seems to H—.

We say our goodbyes and I walk to towards the door, holding H—. I look around as I reach the door and see that Cec and Evelyn are talking, I think about going over again, but something holds me back. I simply watch. They part with a warm farewell.

As Cec walks over we join hands, fingers interlocking. I smile at her and we walk back to the car.

Heavenly Mother: A Thursday Speculative Profile

H— was sleeping in her bouncer on the kitchen floor nearby as I was working furiously to finish the week’s stack of dishes and clean the mess that the kitchen always seems to be no matter how often we cleaned it. Cec was resting in our room, turned in early for the night. I was singing along to my years old, “Best Of” playlist.

“Come sail away, come sail away, come sail away with meeeeeeeee…”

I was exhausted and overwhelmed. Life was just so much. Work, Cec, H— and everything else that was up ahead.

Life is good. And exhausting. How do you do it all? How can I be a dad and husband and soon to be student and generally decent human and teacher and disciple and political activist for a thousand different worthy causes? How can I give Cec everything she needs? How can I give H— everything that she needs? How do I keep my own interests alive and balanced and myself thriving as a creative person on top of all that other stuff? How do I find time for all the movies I want to see, books I want to read, podcasts and albums I want to listen to, and other art that I want to engage with?

Who knew that washing the dishes could spark an existential crisis?

I kept washing. At least I could do that. Hopefully before H— woke up.

I just always felt like I was neglecting something. Not fully taking advantage of what life had to offer, that no matter how much I watched or read or wrote or did, it would never be enough. That I would always fall short of the time I should’ve spent with Cec and H—.

 How do people do this? How do they live with this pressure, every day, forever? Does it ever get better?

I had just a few dishes left and was about to get to cleaning the kitchen, which I’d been hoping to do all week.

H— started crying. She was suddenly awake and suffering, she must have had a nightmare or something. She needed immediate attention.

“Hey, hey, H— it’ll be ok. I’ll be right there,” I breathe out, trying to sound reassuring and calming and also urgent, as I try to finish washing the dish in my hand and then get it put down and my hands dry so I can pick her up.

Lost in the urgency, I don’t notice until I turn back to grab her that she’s stopped crying.

A woman was holding her, with red bushy hair, freckles, and bright green eyes. She was wearing a denim jacket covered in patches and behind Her, parked in our kitchen was a vaguely orb-shaped craft of some kind, with the door open, and controls visible, looking like the origin of this mysterious woman.

“Well, now, H—. I’ve been hoping to get to see you. I’ve been watching your mom and dad for a long time, now. You’re in for a treat,” She looks up at me and winks, with a bright twinkle in Her eyes as She says that last line.

I feel like I know Her, even though I know I’ve never seen Her before. I’m not sure at all what is going on and am honestly baffled at this spaceship that found its way into our kitchen and this strange, familiar woman was holding H—.

H— looked totally comfortable and thrilled to be in Her arms, honestly. Which did something to assuage my fears (I’m not sure why I trust H— to be this barometer of truth and goodness, but it seems fair that her wild, less-biased baby judgments may have some shred of truth to them).

“Conor, you look exhausted. You gotta get some sleep. Probably the least helpful thing I could say to you right now, though. You’re a new dad. You won’t be sleeping well for at least like 18 years,” She finished with a grin and a soft laugh.

Realization dawned on me.

“God-Mom? Is that you?”

“In the flesh.”

I was stunned. No wonder She was familiar and strange all at the same time.

“Why me?”

She shrugged and then turned to H— to say, “You’re so cute,” as H— growled at Her in her new dinosaur voice that she’s been exploring for the last couple of days. “You needed some help and had some questions, so here I am, perhaps not with answers, but with love.”

H—’s lip started to quiver and then she was screaming, yelling the loudest she could, as if she were dying.

God-Mom reached out to me, holding H— to pass her off. I take her, talking to her the whole time I pull her close to me.

H— calms down as soon as she’s in my arms, still intermittently reminding me of the suffering that she has experienced with yells and general pouts. As I’ve focused on H—I lose sight of Her and then I look back up and realize that She’s climbed aboard Her ship and was about to take off, Her Aquabats patch barely visible over the side of the ship.

“You take care of her, now, Conor.”

“I will, I do,” I affirm enthusiastically, as I look H— in the eyes, she smiles and laughs and I’m filled with light and goodness and joy.

“Ah, you’re feeling it Conor. That’s how you carry on. Those moments right there. It won’t all be good, but nothing compares to those glimpses of Heaven that your children and loved ones give you.”

She had stood up and moved out just a tad as this was happening and then turned to get re-settled in Her spaceship, “Take care of yourself, Conor. You’re no good to your family, friends, Church, or the world at large, if you don’t give yourself what you need, to be who you are and do the good you need to do.”

By this point She had returned to Her spaceship.

The door was closing and She was waving as I tried to wave, while holding a fussing and growling daughter.

“Oh, one last thing,” She called out, “Watch a movie. Read a book. Write. It’ll make you a better dad. And remember, reckless abandon.”

The door closed on Her twinkling eyes and then blasted into Space without destroying our roof.

“H— what do you think about all that?” I ask her.  

She growls, smiles, and laughs.

Heavenly Mother: A Wednesday Speculative Profile


I ascend the short, narrow staircase and enter the Chapel.

I’m speechless.

An immediate, unquenchable giddiness morphs into a profound sense of awe and wonder as I vacillate between turning quickly trying to take in the entirety of the stained glass that surrounds me on all sides and stopping fully to lose myself in individual panels.

The beauty is overwhelming.

Tears stream down my face as I simply feel the divinity of the building, my mouth forming a huge, irrepressible grin.  

She’s here.




I tread delicately around the entire Chapel, opening myself up to every detail. The glass and the Chapel reach for the unreachable, express the inexpressible. That’s divinity. That’s Her.

I walk with Her, letting the warmth of the sun shining through the stunning stained glass keep me company as I try to etch every last detail of the glass and the feelings that I’m experiencing onto my soul. Divinity had perhaps never been so close as in Sainte-Chapelle.

I am filled with Her witness. Words cannot do justice to Her and who She is, but they’re all I have. As the Chapel itself reaches for the unreachable, I feel called to write, to do my part to express the inexpressible, to feel Her light and presence again today, as I walk back to Sainte-Chapelle, placing myself in that sacred hall.

She’s not here, but the power of the glass remains. She lingers with me, and my lips curl up into a soft smile again.  

Pioneer Book

I browse the shelves, not looking for anything in particular. I’m always drawn to the Mormon Scholarship section and can only enter with a specific purpose or clear financial limit or I end up walking out with far more than I intended.

Today, I was looking for Mormon Enigma to fill the Emma-sized hole in my early Church history book collection.

As I walked down the row—buried deep in books, embraced by their collective stories and wisdom, comforted by their presence and witness to past owners and lives outside the walls of the store—I held my hand out, a couple fingers tracing the air in front of the spines as my eyes tracked the titles and authors.

Mmmmmm. No, no, no…oh, Quinn, do they have…? Still no. Next time. Mmmmm, let’s see, ah, yes!

I’d found it. Mormon Enigma. Missing it’s dust jacket. The title in gold lettering against the black of the spine, shining.

I carefully remove it from the shelf (pushing the book out from the back and gripping the spine on both sides, as I was taught by the good, book-loving folks at the Wordsworth Trust), and begin to explore it.


I turn, startled, but no one’s around.


I look all over, but can’t see the sound of the voice in the otherwise low rustles of the bookstore.

But then, I feel something. A friendly, side-hug.



What? Why? What’s going on?

Uhhhh, I don’t know what to say…

My thoughts are muddled and overwhelmed and before I get anything put together, She interrupts.



She was gone. Some of the warmth and curiosity of the store felt reduced, Her absence noticeable, even when I hadn’t recognized Her presence.




Streetlight Manifesto at the Murray Theatre

The horns started. The trombone and saxophone dueling for dominance, debating eternity. The crowd began to fuse together. All the individuals slipped into the group, losing and maintaining their sense of self all at once. I felt the pull. The crowd moving in a circle, a strong, irresistible current.

I joined.

My hands and feet flying in coordination with everyone else. My Chuck Taylors made for this. We all move with increasing rapidity. And flow.

We’re basking in, lost in, the music. The horns punctuating the rhythms as we give ourselves over to each other. The world outside drifts away and all there is is the crowd, is us.

We are One.

I surrender to us.

We’re moving, faster and faster as the tempo increases. All giddy with the energy that fills the room. People slip and fall, but are lifted up on the backs of the rest of us. Hands reaching down to pull ourselves up, never letting us hit the ground.

The unity of the crowd is staggering. One motion. I have lost myself in something larger than myself.

I realize the community that I’ve entered, that we’re moving with one heart and one mind. We are one. We are She.

She’s here.

She is us.

We are Her.

As we move as one, we join Her, rejoicing in unity, throwing our hands and feet in time with the ecstasy of the horns, pure joy running through all of us.

We lost ourselves and we found Her.

Heavenly Mother: A Tuesday Speculative Profile

“Conor, your ideas are good, but they need a little more rigor. Come on. I know you can do better than this. The insights that you share in class, the depth of your thinking, your prose at its best…you’re capable of so much more.”

She was right, of course. I’d jotted the paper off at the last minute, per my usual modus operandi, and the result did leave something to be desired. But it was usually enough to satisfy my professors. Not Her.

Her office was brimming with the projects She was working on, a stack of third wave feminist and queer theory texts next to scans of journals of first-generation converts to Mormonism and other 19th-Century religions founded in America and in the far corner a mix of graphic novels, mythology, and postsecular theory. Small mementos from Her travels and years teaching were scattered among her desk and shelves.

She looked at me with Her fierce, yet warm eyes.

“What’s your plan, Conor? How can we take this idea and flesh it out? You’re moving in interesting territory with your argument about superheroes as modern American myth, but what does that give us? What does that mean?”

I pause for awhile before replying, “That is the question. I think, we can learn something about our values and what we yearn for in the heroes that we look to.”

“Ok, but why are they like a modern myth, why draw the connection to Hercules and Zeus and Odin and countless other mythic figures from various traditions?”

“Pop culture is religion? That’s messy and more of a sociological argument, but I think there’s evidence for it. And obviously, I can use Thor as a bridge figure, that these modern myths literally lift figures from old myths. I probably need to do something with Gaiman’s American Gods, but I can slip that in.”

She pushes me, asking, “But where’s the belief? Aren’t myths defined by the cultural belief in them? Their explanatory power? Some sort of belief system associated with them?”

“That’s the weak point. But does belief need to be literal? What about comic cons and Halloween and action figures and the ways that young kids are indoctrinated into the cult of Marvel or DC? Isn’t that a sort of belief?”

“Perhaps. You could establish some sort of rites or pilgrimages that would bolster the mythos argument. I’m not sold, but we’ll run with it. What do these myths give to us? What do they teach us?”

We’ve reached the peak, I think, as I respond, “That’s complicated. There’s a strong individualist streak, a sort of Nietzschean ubermensch. Often the characters come from nothing, we have all these American Dream origin stories. Yet there’s also a focus on teamwork and this community of superpowered people that somewhat weakens the Nietzschean pull…”

She stops me.

“Conor, why do you want to write about this?”

I sit, pondering.

She waits. Expectantly.

Why do I want to write about this? Probably some childhood thing. Maybe all those cartoons growing up. Perhaps to figure out why I’m still drawn to them, despite feeling ideologically conflicted about the violence and arguably fascistic bent of most, if not all, superheroes.

“To untangle my connection to superheroes. And because I feel like there’s some sort of religious or at least spiritual component. Maybe because I feel a sort of childlike faith when I encountered some of the films and want to figure out why and how I can replicate that elsewhere in my life. There’s something about how I understand and connect to God and power and salvation, I think, buried deep in my attachment to these films and I want to get at that.”

She smiled and leaned back.

“Now that’s interesting.”

We worked for the next hour or so bouncing ideas off one another, wrestling with my complicated connection to and relationship with these superheroes. It was enlightening. As we turned my scholarship back on me, it filled with new meaning.

We shook hands as I walked out.

“If you get stuck again, Conor, don’t hesitate to come by. Always happy to chat.”

“Will do, Professor. Thanks.”

She closed Her door and a last flash of light glinted off Her initials on Her nameplate, “H. M., Ph.D.”

As I walked away, I heard the faint hint of Danny Elfman’s haunting Batman theme and smiled.

Heavenly Mother: A Monday Speculative Profile

God was there before the beginning. She was planning the beginning. Working closely with Her Council to design and create the worlds. At least, one new world, a test run of sorts. She had it all laid out, from start to finish. Six days. With a seventh on standby, just in case. The concept of days wasn’t yet created for this new world, so time was a little mushy around the edges.

She poured over the plans, pulling the pen from behind Her ear to make a few last corrections before they got to it the next morning before they entered the timeless space of creation.


She was up. She leapt out of bed, giddy with excitement. She quickly got ready and headed over to workspace.

“Alright everyone. It’s time to get to it. We’ve got a world to build. Homes to make.”

That first day, She fearlessly led Her crew as they mined out the darkness, making space for the light. They worked tirelessly to separate the two, dividing them sharply. At least, that was the intent. The darkness miners were a little careless and create some grey spaces that no one quite knew what to do with, that seemed to defy the binary of light and dark that they were hoping to make a theme of for this new world.

“Huh,” She mused, looking over the day’s work, “I dig this shades of grey stuff we’ve got going on. I was a little disappointed it upset the stark black and white vibe we initially set up, but this should make things interesting. Let’s run with it.”

And that was the first day.


She was in the trenches the next morning, working tirelessly alongside Her team as they worked to make some space for the light and dark to inhabit that signaled to the future inhabitants what was up, but didn’t radically disrupt their lives.

She’d decided to place the light and darkness up above, out of the reach of these future creatures. Placing the dangerous light and darkness on the top shelf, like a jar of secret cookies. For safekeeping. And perhaps to dangle in front of them as an inspiration to reach new heights, quite literally.

And that was day two, dividing the heavens and the earth.


God was ready to get to the good stuff. She was a little tired of all the manual labor of these past two days and wanted to get to making things.

She had her Council get to work on the Land, using Her plans that she’d been tweaking, while she spent Her time working the water. The water was calm and wild and vast and so complex. The water contained everything. Or it would. She paid particular attention to the movements, to the crash of the waves on the coast, the flow of the rivers, the smooth reflectiveness of the lakes. And She fiddled with the scent for hours. Wanting to give the ocean that right balance of bite to entice people to come back and back, to feel called to the waters.

And that was the third day.


She’d decided that the light and darkness divide was a little too simplistic. She wanted something to contain the light in, to set scattered throughout the darkness. She developed two classes of containers (though the first had a subclass that evolved essentially to be its own class of light)—stars and the moon. The stars were everywhere, with huge variation. Some small, some large. One, standing out from the rest, so close to where they were playing around, that they started calling it their son, then The Son.

And that was the fourth day.


Time to breathe some real life into this thing. She was excited. The water and the heavens would get some life.

Once again, She worked with the water. She was drawn to it. Something about the water spoke to Her (and obviously, Her Council used Her work to bring the birds into existence).

She breathed into the ocean, Her fingers twirling through the matter, as Her breathe brought new, yet unseen life to be. She dove down to the depths and walked along the sea floor, stopping every now and then to pay attention to creatures so odd and strange and horrifying that may go millennia without recognition or contact or the love that others would get. Yet, down here, buried beneath the waves, in a new found quiet, there was something lovely about the strangeness, about these creatures that seemed otherworldly, existing.

She began to swim back up to the surface, stopping to add a few finishing touches to a wildly colored creature, granting them the power to launch their claws through the ocean almost faster than She could travel through time and space.
“Here,” She said as She played with their eyes, “Now, you’ll be able to see countless colors, untold light and beauty. You will be blessed with beauty and strength; you are the harbinger of blood-soaked rainbows.”

She swam to the surface and gazed longingly at the fowls filling the air.

And that was the fifth day.


The big day was here. The Deadline. Hopefully, everything kept going according to Her meticulously prepared plan.

Her Council got right to work on the animals (well, everything besides the fish and birds). She popped in here and there with some tweaks.

“Nah, that one should be more like a duck and a beaver, but with a poison claw. Oh, yes, that one needs to be aloof, holds its head very high. Ah, yeah, just, uh, whatever you want with those tiny ones…absurdly strong? Sure, go for it.”

She was preparing the magnum opus.


She was fierce at work shaping the dust into life.
She puzzled over the two shapes She was simultaneously working on.

“Something’s not quite right, here.”

She leaned over to the one on the left and pulled a chunk out of the side, then walked over to the body on the right and started working it in.

“Ah, yes, that’s better. More equal distribution of life. Hopefully that sticks.”

She pressed Her head to their temples, one hand on each of their heads and breathed out. As Her breath passed over them, it began to fill them with life. They started to move and live.

She stepped back.

“We did it. I did it. Uh, uh, wow.”

She watched, barely containing her enthusiasm as they moved and sat up and began to notice they’re surroundings. And finally, Her.

“Hi. Yes, hello. I am God and this is Planet Bob.”

The Council chuckled and nudged Her.

“Earth, yes, this is Earth. Your home. Look around you. All these shapes and colors are so that life doesn’t hurt so badly, which it inevitably will. So take advantage of what you see. You are meant to care for it. All of it. Which I get is a heavy responsibility for two freshly created, still stunned beings, but I believe in you.”

And that was the sixth day.


It was finished.

She looked out over all Creation. Checking the final product against Her plans.

She put them away and just took it all in.

“Daaaaaaaaaaamn,” She whistled, “It is good.”

And that was the seventh day.


I, like many Mormons, love the doctrine of a Heavenly Mother. I love bringing a divine feminine presence into the discussion of Godhood (which is often, particularly in LDS circles) quite masculine.

Yet, as a queer Mormon that is wary of, and disinterested in, reinforcing prescriptive gender roles, the idea that women are only valuable as mothers, and Mormonism’s tendency toward an oppressively heteronormative heaven, I’m unsure quite what to do with Her.

Essentially, I’m concerned that increasing dialogue surrounding Heavenly Mother will reinforce Her position primarily in relation to Heavenly Father, that is as a Wife and Mother, not as God in and of Herself. Obviously, this is complicated. Because on the one hand, I love the idea that none of us can become God by ourselves, that Heavenly Father cannot be God without Heavenly Mother, that I cannot one day be a God without Cec.

And yet.

Some of it is that despite this underlying, implicit belief, the rhetoric we use has essentially granted Heavenly Father Godhood independent of Heavenly Mother for close to two hundred years (within Mormonism, and, uh, far longer within Christianity generally). Though to be fair, we know very little about Heavenly Father (especially since most of the scriptural accounts of God within Mormonism are OT or BoM, where God is Jehovah, who is the premortal Jesus Christ). But we still largely use masculine pronouns for God, suggesting that we mean Heavenly Father, when there’s a linguistic argument (and Mormon doctrinal argument) that we should use plural pronouns (God as Elohim in Hebrew is plural, plus all the coupling necessary for Godhood stuff mentioned above).

I love the representation in Divinity that Heavenly Mother gives to all the women that I know. I love that it speaks to the Divinity that I see in countless women that are in my life. I love that Heavenly Mother gives my daughter a role model that looks a little more like her for the eternities.

But I want that work to be done as inclusively as possible.

I want Heavenly Mother to truly be a Divine Feminine, to be more than a Mother, to be God.

And I want that to happen in a way that empowers all of us to embody and lean into the best of our femininity.       

Anyway. I’m writing seven (if all goes well) profiles of Heavenly Mother this week and hope that as I do so, I can build on the work of those that have gone before and work to create a space for Heavenly Mother that includes, that reaches out to those already on the margins and pulls them in for a warm embrace, that smashes every expectation, that preaches with power, that loves fiercely, that challenges warmly, that sits quietly, that stands loudly.

Here’s to Heavenly Mother, a God(dess) in Her own right.