Medical Marijuana and the LDS Church

Medical marjiuana.jpg

On Friday, February 5, 2016 the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints opposed a bill in the Utah legislature brought forth by Senator Mark Madsen that would make Utah the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana. citing unintended consequences that could come with use of the drug.

And I am angry.

I grew up being taught that the LDS church was politically neutral. Every election season a letter is read over the pulpit in every Ward in the United States written by the First Presidency emphatically stating that the church keeps out of politics.

However, this past legislative session in Utah has proven that the church’s long-claimed stance of political neutrality is false. Most people outside the state don’t understand how one religion, no matter how prominent, can have such an effect on state policies. But it does. Most of the state legislators identify as LDS and as any LDS person will tell you, when the prophet speaks, you listen, and you do as you are told. Obedience above conscious.

The reason for opposing medical marijuana?

Unintended consequences.

You mean like people suffering from chronic, debilitating, and painful diseases getting relief?

You mean like people who do suffer those painful diseases not becoming addicted to the opioids their doctors prescribe because that’s all doctors can do legally?

You mean like people being high all the time on THC? NEWFLASH – these same people are high all the time. On opioids.

And because they are having to ever increase their opioid use with no legal proven alternative available, it is leading to some patients becoming addicted. Utah has an insanely high opioid usage rate as well as heroin rate. The Utah Department of Health has noted that Utah has an experienced a more than 400% increase in prescription drug use injuries and death in the last decade. An average of 21 Utahns die a month due to prescription drug overdoses. Utah ranks 8th highest in prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States.

Marijuana isn’t the drug you should be worried about, LDS church.

Heavy opioid use for chronic pain also leads to liver damage, digestive difficulties like not being able to keep food down and chronic, and bowel damaging, constipation.

I’m sure the LDS church leaders believe this is a moral issue, so I have to ask…

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

No one has ever overdosed on Marijuana.

I could see if this were legalizing recreational marijuana use why the LDS church would be opposed to that and taking a strong stance against it.

But this is about medicinal use in oil form. Mormons love their medicinal oils. I’m sure if doTerra was pushing this, all the prominent MLM owning Mormons would jump at having it legalized.

Luckily Senator Madsen is not kowtowing to the incredible and inappropriate overreach of the LDS church into state politics. He has proposed 8 amendments to the law that he hopes will alleviate concerns to the Bill.

Anecdotally, when my mother was diagnosed with Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer in August 2007. She opted for chemotherapy treatments to extend her life and it was awful. She threw up constantly. She couldn’t keep any food down, thereby becoming dehydrated. She was in constant pain. Her doctor prescribed for her Marinol to help increase her appetite and deal with the nausea chemotherapy caused. Marinol is one of the cannabinoids.

I wish I could sit down with the leaders of the LDS church and describe to them what it was like to watch my mom suffer an absolute nightmarish hell during her last 3 months on this earth. I wish I could tell them what it was like to sit with her in her hospital room watching her writhe in pain, wake up and look at me with panic-stricken eyes that reminded me of a wounded animal, and beg me, BEG ME, her second daughter, someone she called “girl baby” and nursed at her breast until I was 15 months old, BEG ME to go find someone to kill her. Please tell me how you would feel to have your mother, a light and sunshine to everyone she knew, be suffering so much she begged you to find someone to take her life.

You know that scene in Terms of Endearment when Debra Winger is in the hospital dying of cancer and her mother, Shirley MacClaine, goes and screams at the nurses and demands they relieve the suffering of her dying daughter? Yeah, that was me.

Please tell where the dignity is in letting dying people suffer when oil from a plant…A PLANT that God planted in the ground.. can alleviate suffering? Why are those who aren’t suffering constantly asking others to do it when they have no idea the pain that is involved?

On another anecdotal note, I’m old enough now to have several friends who suffer from various chronic, painful diseases:  Fibromyalgia, Lupus, Rheumatoid arthritis, Anxiety, Erytohmelalgia (or Mitchell’s syndrome), and numerous other autoimmune disorders. THC has been proven to alleviate the pain and other symptoms that these debilitating and painful diseases cause. Prescribing people who are suffering ever-increasing amounts of opioids is unconscionable, and I would argue, ammoral.

So I’m begging the leaders of the LDS church to do the right thing. I was always taught growing up in church to do the right thing and let the consequences follow. I was taught to be honest in my dealings. I was taught to put the pain and suffering of others above my own comfort. Please LDS church, practice what you preach. Again I ask,

What’s so moral about letting people suffer?

Overwhelmed

I am overwhelmed by the response of my last post, Oh, please, about my experiences as a liberal in a church where most members predominantly identify as conservative.  When I wrote it, I didn’t think anyone would read it.  I didn’t think anyone would care.  Like I say in the description of my blog, writing is my therapy.  I just needed to write it and get it out there, and after that I thought I would just go along with my day.  I’ve received more hits on that post in the last 2 days than I’ve ever had in the almost 5 years I’ve been writing this blog.

What I want to say is thank you.  I’m overwhelmed with gratitude to everyone who thought this post was worth reading, worth sharing, and worth taking the time out of their day to share a comment with me.  I’m overwhelmed by how many people here and on Facebook said it resonated with them, that they identified with something I wrote, and that it made them feel less alone.  The truth is, I felt very alone when I wrote it.  I didn’t expect the fall-out from the election and I was shocked by how many people I love and respected were writing/saying disparaging things about anyone who didn’t vote for Romney.  It felt like once again I was a Mormon on the outside and a Mormon not worthy to sit at the same table with my fellow brothers and sisters in the faith.  I heard the echos of past telling me once again I was not a good enough Mormon.  And it wasn’t for something like sin, but for not voting “the right way.”

So thanks peeps, old peeps, and new peeps.  Thank you to those who were able to read about my experiences, my thoughts and feelings, my perceptions about my own life, without judgment and an open heart.  I’m going to put this week behind me and move forward in a positive direction.

Oh, please

I know that Tuesday night’s election results were very discouraging for a number of my friends.  I know a lot of them, mostly Mormon, invested a lot of time, effort, (possibly money), and emotion into Mitt Romney winning the Presidency.  Well, he didn’t and now they are left with a lot of questions and disappointment.  I’m very sorry for that.  I know how they feel.  It’s exactly how I felt in 2000 and 2004 when I had to lick my wounds after the person I voted for for President didn’t win.  In fact, I probably feel more disappointment on election day more often than they do every 2 or so years because, being a blue liberal in red Utah, no one I ever vote for wins.  Except that one time I voted for John Huntsman for a second term as Governor.  Out of 10 or so races this election day only one person I voted for won.  One.  That’s it.  And yet, being a blue liberal in red Utah, I’ve learned and dealt with since 1996 (the first time I could vote) how to very quickly accept reality, move on, and get on with my life.  And I can do it without demonizing or casting aspersions on my fellow citizens for not being as “intelligent” as me to mark our ballots the same way.  I mean, there is something to be said about being a gracious loser and a gracious winner.

And as hard as it is for my Mormon friends who voted for Mitt Romney right now, I’d like to invite them to walk in the shoes of a Mormon who doesn’t fall in line with the status quo politically speaking.  Have you been told you should be excommunicated for your political beliefs?  Have you had family members call you names, write you hateful emails, or unfriended you on Facebook because of your political beliefs?  Has anyone ever suggested to you to your face or in the written word that you should have your temple recommend taken away and face disciplinary counsels for your political beliefs?  Have your friends posted things on Facebook saying that the way you vote is a vote for Satan, is an evil choice, or are not righteous because of which box you marked on your ballot?  All of these things have happened to me and not just this election cycle.  Some of these things have been said to me since I was a teenager.

Being a liberal Mormon means swallowing your pride, biting your tongue, and putting up with your fellow brother and sisters in the Gospel judging you on a regular basis.  It’s enough to make me want to move out of the country where my fellow Mormons don’t define their faith with their politics.  But I stick it out because I love my friends and my family.  My feelings for them have nothing to do with who or how they vote.  We expect children playing sports to be emotionally mature enough to accept the outcomes of wins and losses, congratulate each other on the game played, without throwing temper tantrums or accusing the other side of cheating/being evil/stupid.  And yet, I haven’t seen many grown adults behaving this way since Tuesday night.  I understand the disappointment…what I don’t understand is demonizing your friends who voted differently.   Let’s cool it with the hyperbole and vitriol, please?  Oh, pretty please?

I’d like members of my church to please read the statement the First Presidency of the LDS Church released the night of the election.  Mormons care very much about what their leaders think, say, and behave.

The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued the following statement Tuesday:

We congratulate President Obama on winning a second term as President of the United States.

After a long campaign, this is now a time for Americans to come together. It is a long tradition among Latter-day Saints to pray for our national leaders in our personal prayers and in our congregations. We invite Americans everywhere, whatever their political persuasion, to pray for the President, for his administration and the new Congress as they lead us through difficult and turbulent times. May our national leaders reflect the best in wisdom and judgment as they fulfill the great trust afforded to them by the American people.

We also commend Governor Romney for engaging at the highest level of our democratic process, which, by its nature, demands so much of those who offer themselves for public service. We wish him and his family every success in their future endeavors.

If church leaders aren’t making any prophetic judgments about the end of the world due to an Obama presidency, then it’s members probably shouldn’t either.  If the LDS church leaders aren’t casting aspersions on the President or calling him the anti-Christ, then it’s members probably shouldn’t either.

Finally, I’d just like to say to my conservative friends, I’m sorry you are disappointed by the results of Tuesday’s election.  I’m sorry that you’re sad that who you wanted to win didn’t.  But please, stop calling me names or questioning my testimony or righteousness for voting differently than you.  And I’ll give you the same courtesy in all the local elections that didn’t turn out the way I wanted to or the next time a Republican is voted in as President (which I’m pretty sure will be in 2016 since that’s usually the way the cookie crumbles).  I don’t think you’re evil, or stupid, or unrighteous, or all the other things I’ve been accused of the last 48 hours.  I think we as citizens all vote our conscience and I respect you all enough to know that you are all thoughtful, intelligent, researched people who are doing what you think is right.  So am I.

I’m going to continue the long-standing LDS tradition of praying for my leaders to make good choices and decisions regardless of who is in office and whether or not they represent my values.  I hope you can do the same.

A political rant: Demonizing “the other” side

We have two weeks and one day until the election and I can pretty well say most of us are sick of it.  Sick of it.  I can’t listen to another debate, see another political ad from any candidate in any election, or read another Facebook post/rant/status about it.  I wish this was November 7th already and the outcomes of all the elections were known so I could go back to my regularly scheduled life.  I don’t want to rant about politics and this isn’t about politics per se, but about people thinking their political beliefs are so important that anyone who doesn’t agree must be stupid/evil/the reincarnation of Hitler.

Recently a friend of some of my mutual friends made headlines in her town, Nacodoches, Texas, when the Democratic Party of Nacodoches County asked if they could put up some Obama signs on her fences because her house is at the corner of a major intersection.  Being Obama supporters they agreed and quickly the signs were stolen by an immature person(s) with unknown motivations, other than to be total buttmunches.  Heather and her family invited people to come over this last Friday night for a sign party where people could hang homemade signs.  The truly shocking thing was when the local paper ran this story, there were comments in the comments section that actually threatened violence against her family.  Violence!  Because she and her husband aren’t voting for their guy.  I’m sorry, but this is the most unAmerican piece of bull crap I have ever heard.  It doesn’t matter who her family is supporting, she doesn’t deserve to be “target practice” like some comments said.  There are two bright spots in this story.  One is that Heather’s community came together on Friday, mostly made up of people she had never met, to make signs and hang them together.  The next day, according to Heather’s facebook status, the official signs were stolen and the homemade signs were ripped to pieces creating a large mess in her yard.  The second bright spot  is what Heather wrote on Facebook about a family who came to help clean up:

“So grateful.  Ardent Romney supporters (husband, wife, teenage son) just stopped to ask what they could do to help us. They offered to clean up today’s mess or be part of a round-the-clock neighborhood watch to keep this from happening again.  Brent (Heather’s husband) said they were welcome to put up a Romney sign. He said he wasn’t interested in hanging a Romney sign; he was only interested in helping us protect our right to support the candidate we want.  Score (another) one for protecting the political process!”

In one week Heather has witnessed the worst her community has to offer and the best.  Three cheers for the pro-Romney family for doing the American thing, the right thing, and putting politics aside to help out Heather’s family and state that they had the right to hang signs on their own property supporting their candidate of choice.  (You can find Heather’s story here).

Seriously people, have we become so divided, so effed in the head that we actually think that anyone who doesn’t agree with us is therefore against us and deserves to be harassed, have their private property destroyed, and threatened with violence online?  Seriously, who are we?  How is this acceptable?  And spare me the stories of people who have had Romney signs stolen.  I know this happens on both sides and I’m only using Heather’s story as an anecdote to prove a point, and because she is someone I sort of know.  She could be a Romney supporter and this story would still piss me off.

In these times of 24 hour “news” channels, instant access to information on the internet, and the ability to filter out any opinion that does not match our own, we have become a people who have chosen sides against each other instead of with each other.  We are all still Americans no matter who is in the White House, no matter how many seats belong to which side in Congress, no matter who your mayor is, and no matter what yard sign currently occupies your neighbor’s lawn – WE ARE ALL CITIZENS OF THE SAME COUNTRY!  That is the fundamental truth.  We don’t have to agree!  We don’t have to believe that only our side has the right answers!  But we have to get along.  But we have to respect each other as actual human beings with thoughts, and feelings, and lives, and experiences that might not match our own but inform the opinions of others.  I’m sick, sick, sick of all this bipartisanship!  It doesn’t matter who I cast my vote for when I enter into that voting booth (and thank goodness we live in a country with secret ballots).  What matters is that I’m your neighbor no matter what I don’t deserve to DIE because I didn’t choose the same candidate you did.

Not to mention, there are more than two freaking sides in this country.  We have gotten lost in this ridiculous two party system and it’s a major flaw of our political system.  There are actually more than just Democrats and Republicans and a huge diversity of thought among our citizenship.  I’d like to see a debate with ALL the candidates running for President.  Until then, it gives the impression there are only two teams and if you’re not on our team your wrong, wrong, wrong!   And the constant bickering over who is right, who is wrong, who said what, what word was used,  is driving me nuts.

Knowing that who I vote for for President doesn’t matter because I live in Utah and it’s obvious the electorate is going to go for Romney, I’m actually thinking of voting for a third party candidate this year.  Not because I’m against Romney (I am) and not because I’m for Obama (I am), but I’m more against this bull crap of teams, choosing sides, you’re an idiot if you didn’t choose mine.  If you want to see a list of ALL the candidates running for President you can check out this list.   I’m actually considering supporting the Stein/Honkala ticket because their values/positions/beliefs are more in line with mine.  And isn’t this what we all should do?  Support the candidates who actually reflect our opinions/values/beliefs instead of holding our nose and voting for the candidate who doesn’t piss us off the most?  And having more than one political party with actual political clout would cut down on all this two-sided nonsense that only seeks to divide us as citizens of this country.  It actually makes us look bad to people outside of the country who see political pundits and candidates quibble, yell, and pick at the semantics of words and argue over who is the more evil.  Seriously, this the example we want to set for the rest of the world?

I have plenty of political opinions of my own, but I never thought that my opinions somehow impacted someone else’s life.  I don’t care who you vote for…why the hell do you care so much about who I do?  What’s it to you?  When I go into the voting booth it’s just me, myself, and my conscious and the only person I have to answer to is myself.   The same goes for you.  So lay off me if you don’t like political beliefs.  I don’t give a crap, why should you?

I promise you, all those of you who hate the other guy, it doesn’t matter who wins the Presidential election on November 6th…the world will still go on.  If your guy doesn’t win, it doesn’t mean the end of civilization as we know it and if you think that, you’re seriously jaded.  The most important elections are the local ones anyway because those are the ones that have the most direct impact on your actual life.

Stop demonizing the other guy.  Especially if the other guy is your neighbor.  Stop saying a vote for the other guy is like digging up Hitler and making him President.   Stop saying that the world will suddenly come to an end and everything bad that can and will happen if you don’t vote for the guy on my team.  Stop freaking stealing yard signs just because you don’t want that person to win.  Please, please, please be like the Romney supporting family in Heather’s community who put politics aside to help their neighbor.  These people get it.  It doesn’t matter who your neighbor is voting for, it’s about how you treat that neighbor.

I know Martin Luther King, Jr. was talking about segregation and civil rights when he said this, but I find it particularly poignant now that we as a public are at each other’s throats over the “other guy.”

“We must learn to live together as brothers, or perish together as fools.”

I am a Welfare Queen

I didn’t want to weigh in on the Mitt Romney 47%-of-the-country-is-a-bunch-of-government-dependent-lazy-good-for-nothings controversy but I just can’t bite my tongue any longer.  This post isn’t directed at Mitt Romney or about what Mitt Romney said or even about Mitt Romney.  It’s about the people who believe him and are now posting socio-economic discriminatory things on Facebook/blogs that really have me steaming.  And I just have to say

It is completely hypocritical for you to complain about those taking some form of Government Assistance when you have yourself!

I write this after someone I know who is on Medicaid, because they have medical issues and are self-employed, complained that those they deem as “welfare queens” should only receive temporary aid from the government and we should institute a system that helps people become self-sufficient instead of dependent.  Well, I agree with them but the ironic thing is we already have that.  What they think of as “welfare” is called TEMPORARY Assistance for Needy Families.  Yeah, that’s right…it’s right in it’s name…temporary.  Federally, those receiving TANF can only access it for 5 years total for their entire lifetime.  However, it varies state to state and each state can decide how to distribute that.  I live in Utah where TANF can only be accessed for 3 years total in a person’s lifetime.

I invite anyone who doesn’t understand welfare and more importantly the welfare reform that took place 16 years ago in this country to do more research on the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996.  To get started you can view this cursory outline of it on Wikipedia.  And why do I know so much about this Act?  Besides being a social worker, I spent an entire semester researching this policy for my Policy Class a few years ago (and this policy has not changed in those 6 years), specifically the TANF portion.  Forgive me if I believe I might know more about this than the average person spouting off about “welfare queens” on Facebook.

So what’s up with the title of my post, right?  Surely Risa is not a “welfare queen.”  No, she and her husband both have good jobs, make more money than the average middle class family, live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood, and don’t appear to have any wants or needs.  And that is true.  Now.  But let’s rewind seven years ago.  And Risa and the hubs were working crappy full-time jobs that barely kept a rented roof over their heads.  Daycare costs were high, working back breaking jobs weren’t getting them anywhere, and they often borrowed money from Risa’s parents just to have milk in the fridge.  Then the hubs got a new job that made more money than the two of them combined had before and Risa and the hubs decided that since she was only 2 years away from having her BA in Social Work to send her back to school.  So Risa decided to quit her full-time job and go back to school full-time until she finished (Risa likes to say God decided because she received a very clear and direct prompting on this matter…if you believe those sorts of things like Risa does).  And Risa and the hubs, GASP!, took government money in the form of Pell grants to pay for her tuition.  During this time, Risa and the hubs’ children qualified for reduced school lunch.  Another government program!  And they took it, because they could afford a 40 cent lunch but not $1.50 lunch every day.  And once Risa graduated from college, the Pell grants ended.  And once the hubs started moving up in his company and making more money their children no longer qualified for reduced school lunch and Risa and the hubs started having to pay full-price, which was a great blessing to them that they had the money to do so.  (Okay, all this talking in the third person has gotten very annoying).  Let me assure you, all of this aid was very, very temporary and allowed us to better ourselves and our situations to become, dun dun dun, self-sufficient!  Wow, wasn’t that the goal of these programs?  The Pell grants allowed me to finish my education so I could better myself and my family’s situation and the reduced school lunch program helped our children eat lunch during school hours without breaking the bank.  And now that we’re in a better situation, we don’t need these programs anymore.  They were temporary.

And because of this, I will never, ever criticize someone for utilizing a government program because, a) I’m not an expert in their lives and I don’t know their specific situations or their specific needs, b) you can’t judge someone from their appearance and just because they don’t look like what we stereotypically view as a “welfare queen” doesn’t mean they don’t really need those services provided, and c) it would be completely and totally hypocritical of me to complain about the person in line in front of me at the grocery store using food stamps, or the new mother receiving WIC, or the pregnant woman accessing pregnancy Medicaid, or the recently laid off person accepting unemployment insurance, or the disabled person accessing Social Security to that they can, you know, live, or the elderly couple living on a fixed income of Social Security (which, by the way they paid into their entire lives and I resent it being called an entitlement when it should be called an earned benefit), because me, myself, and I at one time benefited from a government program.  However, that hasn’t stopped a lot of people I know who have accepted public assistance at one time complaining about others who do.   I know what it’s like to struggle and sheepishly fill out the conspicuous pink form that enables your children to received reduced school lunch, and I will never, NEVER, fight against or try to deny or complain about a fellow citizen who might need help in a different way.

The funny thing about Mitt’s statement about the 47% is that many, many young BYU and/or Mormon families accept some sort of government aid so that they can go to school while raising families.  Because not all of these families can just sell stock, like Mitt, to pay for their educations and families at the same time.

This article at Addicting Info pretty much sums up how I feel about those who demonize the poor.  However, there are a lot of swears that are not suitable for those with delicate sensibilities.  

Abortion and the Republican Platform

Abortion is a highly volatile subject.  I refuse to believe that there are any easy answers and I really don’t appreciate black and white thinking when it comes to reproductive choices.  I have to say, I’m am extremely concerned about the Republican platform’s new stance on abortion that they just adopted at the Republican National Convention last week.

I want to make it clear that I’m not pro-abortion.  I would like to see less abortions performed and less unwanted pregnancies.  The Republican platform says that abortion should be outlawed in all cases without exception.  I find this to be extreme, especially since my own church (which Republican nominee, Mitt Romney belongs to) discourages abortion but makes exceptions for rape, incest, the health of the mother, or viability of life of the baby outside of the womb.  You can find the LDS’s official stance on abortion here.

And yet, Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan believes that rape is just another means of conception.  That a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant should regard that pregnancy as a gift.  Although I’m sure there are some women who do, who is he to decide how an individual woman should feel about her own sexual assault and resulting conception?  Senator hopeful Todd Akin even has gone so far as to say that women can’t get pregnant from rape.  What astounds me about all these men talking about and trying to out-law abortion in all cases is that they will never experience becoming pregnant from a sexual assault.  (Yes, I recognize men can be raped.  The statistic is 1 in 7 boys/men are raped/molested/sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.  The point is they can never become pregnant through rape).  Unless they have a personal understanding of how it feels to become pregnant after a sexual assault they have no business telling women who have how they should feel, what they should do, and that they are protecting these women from their bad choices because they know better.  And I find it extremely ironic these extreme abortion policies come from a party that espouses wanting a small government and one that stays out of an individual’s freedoms and choices.


Another thing that bothers me about the Republican platform’s stance on abortions is they think that outlawing abortion is going to magically protect life.  Roe v. Wade wasn’t the beginning of women having abortions; it was the end of women dying from abortions.  Women will have abortions whether they are legal or not because they have been doing that since the beginning of time.  Does Paul Ryan really want to see the re-emergence of back alley abortions?  Women who use hangers or go to shady doctors with little to no medical training who use a dirty knife and a folding table?  Who’s life is Paul Ryan interested in protecting?  Certainly not desperate women who make desperate decisions in desperate times.

This is why I am so annoyed by the pro-life versus pro-choice labels.  They aren’t nearly nuanced enough or accurately describe the complexity of abortion.  First of all, no one who is truly “for life” can also be for war, for the death penalty, or for abortion doctors being killed.  Once these legislators start caring about these babies once they’re born by not cutting funding to programs like WIC, Medicaid, TANF, subsidies for daycare and housing, food stamps, etc., then I’ll actually believe they care about the life of these children they’re so desperate to see born.  Not caring about the quality of these children lives and not supporting the parents you’re forcing to bare these children is not “pro-life.”  People who feel this way need to change the name of their stance to “pro-birth.”

And I hate the way the women who seek abortions are characterized.  It is estimated that one in three women have sought an abortion in her lifetime.  That means very likely someone you know has had an abortion.  The fact that women who seek abortions are villainized as these evil sluts who have sex with no conscience and use abortion as a form of birth control is disingenuous at best.  I’m not disputing that women like these exist, I just don’t believe they are accurate representation of all women who seek abortions.  She is the scared teenager who is not ready to be a mother and cannot emotionally handle a pregnancy; she is the girl who has been raped repeatedly by her father/step-father/grandfather/uncle/cousin over the course of her life; she is the woman in an abusive relationship who does not want to be tied to her abuser or get in a custody battle with him; she is the woman who desperately wants her baby but it has died in her womb and the medical term for extracting the dead fetus is called an abortion.  Banning abortions in all cases means this last woman would have to carry the fetus in her womb until it expels itself on it’s own risking infection and her life.  Senator Ryan, why aren’t you pro the life of this mother?

There are alternatives to abortion, and I believe that we as a society, if we truly want to see the rates of abortion decreased, should embrace them over extreme legislation.  It has been proven that comprehensive sex education and access to birth control reduce the rates of abortion (as well as delays the age at which teenagers begin to have sex and reduces the rates of STDs among teenagers).  And yet, most of these “pro-life” legislators also want to ban sex education except if it is “abstinence only,” outlaw some forms of birth control they don’t believe in (IUDs, the birth control pill), and defund programs like Planned Parenthood, which prevents more abortions than they’ll ever perform.  These legislators need to get real about their stance. If they’re anti-abortion and anti-anything that has actually been proven to prevent abortions, what they’re really interested in legislating is the sexual activity of unmarried people (it needs to be said, married people have abortions, use birth control, and seek health services from Planned Parenthood) and they want to be the morality police of this country’s citizens.  I’m sorry, but this is a free country and you can’t legislate the morality or moral conscience of the public, nor it is your right to choose the morals and values of people you don’t know.

Often when the subject of abortion comes up I hear from pro-lifers, “well if she doesn’t want the baby she should just give it up for adoption.”  I have never seen in all my years of working with expectant mothers  a women decide to place her baby for adoption because she couldn’t be bothered and didn’t want the baby.  Yes, I know women like this exist who are chronically pregnant and have placed numerous babies for adoption; I just have not seen them be the majority of women who place their child for adoption.  Just like abortion, adoption is often talked about with little nuance.  Just like abortion, adoption is fraught with moral ambiguities.  No one gives any thought to how hard it is to actually grow a child in your womb for 9 months, bond with that child, give birth to it, and then hand it over to someone else to raise.  Unless you’ve actually sat in a room and watched a woman relinquish her rights to her child and then place that baby in another mother’s arms, you really have no business suggesting adoption as an alternative to abortion without knowing those complexities and moral ambiguities of adoption.

For instance, little thought is given to the grieving mother left behind in the wake of adoption.  Yes, I know lots of women who placed their babies 10, 20, 30+ years ago who are doing great, have had great lives, no regrets, and feel like placing their baby for adoption at that time in their life was the best choice they could have made.  However, if you do even a cursory search of the plethora of birth mother blogs out there you will see wounds that have not healed and lives that are irreparably altered.  The bloggers at First Mother’s Forum advocate abortion over adoption because of what they have experienced. I believe a lot of this grief can be mitigated through extremely open adoptions where contact is maintained throughout the child’s life.  However, a lot of adoptive parents are uneducated about how important open adoption is for the well-being of their child and the people who gave that child life.  I’ve seen a lot of long-term open adoptions that work and this is one of the only cases where I believe adoption should be considered as an alternative to abortion (obviously when drugs and abuse are in the picture and a woman does not to have an abortion, adoption is a great alternative to being raised by a drug-addicted or abusive parent).

Another way adoption is fraught with moral ambiguities and is not always the best alternative is no one gives a thought in these abortion discussions to how it feels to be “given up” for adoption.  Back when open adoption was not the norm and it was replete with secrecy and social stigma, all an adopted child knew was that his or her first parents abandoned them and that they were left to be raised by strangers (even if this wasn’t the case, an adopted person was not allowed to know their birth parents or why they were placed for adoption).  An adoptee’s history and heritage was erased and replaced by a new one.  Again, there are a plethora of adoptee’s blogs out there telling the world just exactly feel how it feels to be adopted.  Why aren’t we listening to them?  In some states, adoptees don’t even have the right to have access to their original birth certificate.  Another argument for why open adoption in the right circumstances, the the right adoptive parents, and for the right reasons is always best.

I do not want to come off as anti-adoption by any means.  I am very pro-adoption.  Adoption can be a beautiful, wonderful thing if done right and for the right reasons.  Expectant mothers should never feel coerced by social, cultural and religious pressure into placing their children for adoption.  Women and men should be given accurate information about all their choices and their consequences.  Adoption should not be for-profit and it should not be fueled by a population of desperate people desperate to have babies and will pay any price (adoption is a billion dollar a year industry) to get them.  Adoption should always be about finding homes and families for children who need them, not finding babies for people desperate to have them.  The adoption industry has a history of deception, unethical practices, and lies and thankfully there are people out there who are honestly trying to improve this without personal motivation of  monetary compensation (one of the main reasons I work where I work no matter what anyone else thinks or says about that).  This is why I ask people when suggesting adoption as an alternative to abortion to please do your research and know what you’re talking about before you make it seem like adoption is a panacea for abortion.

To sum up, there are no easy answers or quick fixes when it comes to human reproduction, especially when it was unexpected or unwanted.  There are nuances, complexities, and most importantly real people in real difficult situations who should be allowed the freedom to consult with doctors, their partner, experts, and their God about what they should do, not a legislator with no medical experience, knowledge, or empathy for their situation.  I believe the Republican platform on abortion should be condemned for caring more about those who haven’t been born than those who are actually living and giving no thought to the real people they are hurting with their extremist policies.  Mitt Romney, you’re better than this.

Edited to add:  You can access the GOP’s official Platform here.  This is the wording regarding the “right to life” as said by the GOP in their own words.  “…we assert the sanctity of human life and affirm that the unborn child has a fundamental individual right to life which cannot be infringed. We support a human life amendment to the Constitution and endorse legislation to make clear that the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections apply to unborn children. We oppose using public revenues to promote or perform abortion or fund organizations which perform or advocate it and will not fund or subsidize health care which includes abortion coverage.”  As you can read, there are no exceptions mentioned.  If they wanted to have exceptions to abortion in their platform, they should have explicitly outlined them.  They didn’t.  Which leads me to believe that they are not for any exceptions at all.  If they meant something different, they should have written something different.  Also, I do not agree with not subsidizing health care clinics, like Planned Parenthood, who perform abortions as part of their services.  These clinics often perform many more health care services, which are vital to the health of a woman.  Including annual pap smears, cancer screenings, birth control, sexual health education, and STD screenings.  Abortion is only 3% of Planned Parenthood’s services and it seems ludicrous to me to shut down a health care clinic over a minute portion of their services. Like I said, the platform is concerned about the life and health of the unborn, but not the people already living who depend on these services.

Rock Center on NBC: Mormons in America

On Thursday, August 23, 2012, NBC’s news program, anchored by Brian Williams, featured an entire hour on “Mormons in America.”  Knowing that two of my friends, Joanna Brooks and Mitch Mayne, were going to be interviewed I was very excited to watch it.  However, I approached it with a lot of apprehension because you just never know how the media is going to examine your faith.  If you didn’t get a chance to see it, here are the five segments of the show.

I came away from the program delightfully surprised.  I was a teenager when then-President of the church, Gordon B. Hinckley, was interviewed by Mike Wallace.  It felt like as Mormons we all held our collective breath.  President Hinckley came off as warm, funny, genuine, sweet, and he made all of us proud.  But because we Mormons, as a collective group, are so used to being criticized (I’ve read it all, we’re a cult, not-Christian, devil worshipers, robots, etc.), we all get a little uptight when we’re put in the media spotlight.  And boy, are we ever in the media spotlight right now as Mitt Romney is about to accept the Republican party’s nomination for President, and become the first Mormon ever to be nominee for a major political party.  Phew, it’s kind of nerve-wracking for us American Mormons who only make up 2% of the country’s population.
So, I thought I’d dissect this piece done by Rock Center and tell you what I liked and what I didn’t like.  Saying that, I have to say that the positives far outweigh the negatives and I felt like the producers and Brian  Williams did an amazingly balanced piece.
What I did like

-Finding out the man who started Jet Blue is a Mormon.  I never realized that and they are by far my favorite airline.  The entire first piece made Mormons seem very successful, hard-working, showed how serving a mission prepares us to be hard workers, and pointed out that we pay for our missions ourselves.
-Section two presented church history (while not accurately) with a fair shake.  It did not make us Mormons seem like big weirdos, instead it pointed out that every religion has it’s fantastical stories, thereby normalizing us.
-Polygamy was basically glossed over and the church historian, Elder Steven Snow, made it a point to say the church stopped practicing polygamy after a revelation received by then prophet, Wilford Woodruff, in 1890, just in case anyone out there still believes that main stream Mormons practice plural marriage.   They could have gotten into some heavy Mormon history that isn’t very flattering (Joseph Smith’s practice of plural marriage without the consent and knowledge of his wife Emma, anyone?)  Instead, the program spent barely a minute on it and let a church authority explain it instead of someone very anti-Mormon, which they could have done.
-The talked about the priesthood ban for African Americans prior to 1978, but then asked an African American man how he felt about it.  Again, kudos for going to the person who would know his experience best.
-I loved the third section, which featured modern Mormon families.  I loved how the bi-racial family was presented as funny, normal, nice, and really good parents.  When asked if the father, who is African American, ever experienced discrimination in the church, he said never.  (Oh, how I wish the same could be said for our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters in the Gospel).  The family talked about their standards, like the Word of Wisdom, without seeming preachy or judgmental.  They talked about their garments, and even made a joke about them, “Magic underwear,” which made them seem down to earth.
-Featuring my friends Joanna Brooks and Mitch Mayne were big thrills for me.  I liked how with Joanna they addressed Mormon feminism, without making it seem like all Mormon women feel the same way. However, knowing Joanna I know she had a lot of great things to say and what they showed was highly edited.  Mitch Mayne is someone I look up to a lot.  He has the most beautiful testimony of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and shows more courage and dignity on a daily basis than most people get to show in a lifetime.  He is Executive Secretary in his ward and is out-spoken on what it means to be both gay and Mormon.  As my brother said on Facebook (I hope he doesn’t mind me quoting), “Mitch Mayne is a class act and more courageous than I could ever imagine being.  Every ward needs a Mitch Mayne.”  I agree.  
-I loved how the third segment, by featuring Joanna and Mitch, showed that Mormons are not a homogeneous group and there is a diversity of thought among us. It showed that we’re not some cult where every one dresses, acts, thinks, behaves, and says the same things.  We’re all individuals and we have individual experiences.  
-I liked how Abby Huntsman shared her experience on marrying a non-Mormon and having her Bishop tell her that if she married him that she would not be blessed.  This is her true experience and it highlights the pain that those of us in part-member families often experience.  I could write a whole post alone and how hurtful it can be not to have your whole family included in your religion ceremonies, but I won’t delve into that now.  She was able to share her experience without seeming hateful or bitter.  I didn’t like how they called her a “former Mormon” because until she has her records removed from the church, she is still a member.  My mother was inactive for 26 years, but was still a member that entire time.
-I love, Loved, LOVED the fourth section on the Welfare Department and all that it does to help members and non-members alike.  I wish they had also visited the Humanitarian Center in Salt Lake and had shown all the projects that go on there and how far-reaching church aid and humanitarian efforts are.  I didn’t even start realizing the extent of the charitable arm of the church until I started working in the same buildings as the Bishop’s Storehouse, LDS Employment Services, and Deseret Industries.  They left out my department of Welfare services which provides clinical counseling to members and non-members, pregnancy counseling and adoption services, but I can live with that.
-I thought it was odd they ended with a gay former-Mormon now starring in Broadway’s musical, “The Book of Mormon” but can understand why since it has been such a popular musical and won several Tony awards. What I did like about that segment?  They showed a former Mormon who had very positive things to say about his former church.  He teared up when talking about his mission experience and obviously has very fond memories of his time in the mission field.  He talked about his parents being missionaries and how they love and accept him even though he has left the fold.  I mean, if they wanted to feature some really bitter, hateful, anti-Mormon ex-Mormons they could have found them easily. They didn’t and the ending piece was very positive.

What I didn’t like

-The entire first section about successful Mormons was completely devoid of any females.  What about Sherry Dew who is CEO of Deseret Book?  There are plenty of successful females in the Mormon church, but they were not featured.  Also, it only showed footage of male Mormon missionaries.  Many, many Mormon females serve missions which prepare them to be leaders and successful once they are home.  They presented the Mormon experience as a uniquely “male” one while leaving out completely what the female Mormon experience is like.
-In the second section, the church history was a little “off.”  The church didn’t start when the angel Moroni came to Joseph Smith and told him where a set of golden plates were buried which would become The Book of Mormon, another book of our Scriptures (Mormons also believe in and read the Old and New Testaments). Although Mormons do believe that this did occur, the church started when a 14 year old Joseph Smith went into a grove a trees on his family farm and prayed about which church to join.  During this time of American history the country was on religious fire and tent revivals were very common.  Smith wanted to know which of these churches was most accurate after reading James 1:5:
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, 
that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not;
and it shall be given him.

Mormons believe at this time God, the Father, and his son, Jesus Christ, appeared to Smith and told him not to join any of the churches.  It would be a few more years before Smith was visited by the angel Moroni.
– I could have done without the shot of the temple garments.  I don’t think the producers realized how offensive that would be to devout Mormons.  We regard our garments as sacred and as a symbol of our relationship with Jesus Christ.  However, I’ve seen that picture before on the internet (just google Mormon and garments and you can see a lot of pictures, even temple clothing).  So, maybe they didn’t realize it was such a big deal when anyone has access to what they look like online.  The probably should have checked with someone before showing them.
-They  made it seem like all Mormons don’t drink caffeine because Sister Jackson said she didn’t.  Most Mormons I know drink their caffeine in soft drink form (never coffee) and it’s only the incredibly devout who don’t.  No one has taken my temple recommend away yet for drinking Mnt Dew on a regular basis.
-I wish they would have showed more of Joanna Brooks and Mitch Mayne because they both have a lot of great things to say, but that’s only because I love them both so much.  
-They shouldn’t have asked Abby Huntsman all the questions they did.  Some of those questions would have better served the program by asking a General Authority, or even better yet, former General Relief Society President, Julie B. Beck, those questions.  However, she did the best she could with what she knew and it kind of made sense they’d want to interview the daughter of a former Presidential candidate. 
***
I was literally on a high after watching Rock Center, feeling incredibly proud of the way my faith was portrayed.  Which is why I was shocked, shocked, to log on to Facebook afterwards and see so many of my Mormon friends criticizing it.  Really?  Yeah, there were so good points and a few uncomfortable ones, but overwhelmingly it was positive.  More positive than I expected.  I would write what I think but Scott D. Pierce already wrote something for the Salt Lake Tribune that says virtually everything I want to say.  You can access that here.  My favorite part of what he said was this: 
Of course, there has been some negative reaction to the hour.  No surprise here.  Because an attempt to do actual journalism about the church  means talking to at least a few people who aren’t big fans.  But, in some quarters, anything that’s not glowing praise is viewed as an unwarranted attack. Calm down. It wasn’t.

I find the persecution complex among some Mormons to be so tiring.  I get it, our ancestors were driven away from their homes, some were killed, they had to cross the plains, the Missouri Governor issued an extermination order for Mormons, the government forced us to give up polygamy, they martyred our prophet, and other really bad things.  But this isn’t the 19th century anymore and Rock Center’s program wasn’t Haun’s Mill.  And I find it also annoying when anything that is said about the church isn’t 100% dripping with the utmost admiration for the organization, people call it an attack, even if what is said is true.  Stop it.  Victimhood looks good on no one.  And furthermore, you’re the ones who make Mormons look bad, not whoever is saying whatever you don’t think isn’t flowering and complimentary enough about the church.  
Another thing that also does not speak well of us, when we’re so desperately trying to prove that we are Christian, are those Mormons who have been sending hate mail to people like Abby Huntsman and Joanna Brooks.  For someone who left the church after a hurtful experience with her Bishop, sending Huntsman a hateful e-mail is not going to make her change her mind and suddenly come back to church.  If they’re trying to prove they’re better than her, well they failed.  Love and fellowship is what brings people back to the church; not hate and disdain.  Also, people tweeted that Joanna Brooks should be excommunicated for talking about female ordination.  What the what?  This is something Christian women have wrestled with for 2,000 years, her giving a voice to it (when she made it clear that only *some* Mormon feminists feel this way and she has not personally struggled with women not being ordained) does not mean she should be forced to leave the church.  And who are you to have the audacity to suggest someone be excommunicated, Mr./Ms. Hate Tweeter?  Calling out your sister in the Gospel in that way is just about the least Christ-like reaction you could have.  You can read Joanna’s reaction here.  I also read some comments online at NBC’s website by members disavowing Mitch Mayne and saying that gay people cannot hold positions of authority in the church.  Well, I’m here to rock your world because, as I said above, Mitch is the Executive Secretary in his ward. His bishop specifically asked him to serve in that function to help more gay members, disaffected by Prop 8 since he does live in California, to feel more welcome in church.  You can find Mitch’s amazing, beautiful, spiritual blog here.  
I feel that Rock Center’s piece was fair and over-whelming positive, when it could have gone in a whole other direction.  If the goal was to humanize and normalize Mormons, it succeeded.  Mormons came off as intelligent, successful, charitable, diverse, and just plain old regular folk.  And Mitt Romney should be thanking them for the great PR job they did for him, especially when Brian Williams asked Harry Smith asked if he could see Romney as a Bishop, helping and leading his congregation and he said yes, well anyone planning on voting for Romney should see that as a win.  I’ve heard from several of my non-Mormon friends who have said that Rock Center was so positive that Mitt should just show it on the election trail.  If you want Mitt to win, why are you complaining?