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Hi there! Welcome to my corner of the internets. I'm a 26 year old therapist, photographer, and shop owner currently living in Seattle, Washington. My online spaces are educational and lifestyle accounts dedicated to educating, engaging, and empowering women through digital art, home design, and travel.... with a touch of humor and personality sprinkled throughout. Stay a while!

Monday, February 8, 2021

Ask A Mormonish Girl: The Masturbation Edition

Trigger warning: This post will talk about: sexual abuse, sexual assault, clergy abuse, masturbation, and related sexual topics. 

Happy Monday! We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! 


Intentions:


For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on being an *unorthodox* member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"). My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships: both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  


Question directory/past questions:


You can see a directory of past questions on my "Mormon Q+A" Instagram highlight. My handle is @emmycoletti. 


Submitting questions:


You can submit questions to be answered on my Instagram account (@emmycoletti) where I will post a question box on my stories at some point in the week. You can also comment down below, or email me at emmycoletti@gmail.com. If you don't see your question answered , please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! 


(P.S. Please subscribe via email to be notified of future posts!)




Ok, before I get into the specific question below, I wanted to touch briefly on what is and is not appropriate in the context of sex/conversations about sex. 

About a year ago, I was listening to this episode of A Thoughtful Faith and learned the term "clergy abuse". This is when a leader in a church uses their power to take advantage of others. The episode told stories of women being asked highly inappropriate questions by their bishops, under the justification of a bishop interview. Often times these women felt uncomfortable, but also felt pressured to answer and give details, because it was a "man of God" asking them, after all. 

I want to be clear as day about this: A bishop/church leader does not need to know details about your/your kids sexual practices for any reason. It is 100% inappropriate for them to be asking for any details. Period. If this happens to you, please leave the interview (and if you are a child, tell a parent or other trusted adult about your experience). Please meet with the stake president to discuss your concerns with your bishop's behavior. Clergy abuse does happen, so please take precautions to protect yourself and the children in your life. 

Remember: Everyone is allowed to have an adult with them in the bishop interview room. For kids/teens: This adult does not have to be a parent. It can be anyone. If you are embarrassed with a parent being present, ask a friend's parent to accompany you, another church leader, a teacher, a sibling, etc. The most important thing is that you feel safe and have someone there who can stick up for you. 

Parents: Please remember, that more than 90% of kids who are sexually abused know their abuser. That means that more often than not, kids are being sexually abused by people their parents know and trust: a family member, a close family friend, and yes, maybe even a church leader. Given these statistics, feel justified in knowing that you are never being "too protective" by not leaving your child alone with someone, regardless of how close this person may be to you or how trusted they may be in your community. Hold strong to your instincts and don't allow anyone to tease or guilt you into doing something you are not comfortable with. 

If you are someone who has experienced sexual abuse, or a parent of a child who has experienced sexual abuse: Please know there are therapists out there who can help. You can use Psychology Today or Open Path to find one. (And remember, the LDS church is *usually* good about paying for therapy for those who can't afford it. Even if you're not active anymore. Give your bishop/stake president a call.) 

There are also lots of great sex therapists and sexual abuse prevention resources out there these days, so please rely on them (not bishops/church leaders) for more information on this subject. I'd also encourage all parents to seek out programs that educate kids on sexual abuse and prevention. Just google your state/city and "child abuse prevention" to find programs near you.


Ok, now, on to this week's question: 

Does masturbating break the law of chastity? Where does LDS doctrine (not quotes) say masturbating is wrong? 

This is a tricky question that actually led me down a deep rabbit hole of the church's historical attitudes on masturbation. 

Currently, there are only two references to masturbation in official church literature that I could find. The first one, is in the For Strength Of Youth pamphlet, which I'll link here.


You can draw your own conclusions on what the above wording means. I think it alludes to masturbation, but as you'll read below, it's interesting that when they revised it in 2001 they changed the wording to be more vague. 

The second reference I could find is in the new updated handbook


I believe this is the only reference to masturbation in the entire handbook. It just states that a membership council should not be held for members who engage in masturbation. 

Ok, so that's it for the current literature on masturbation. Now, let's dive into the history of the church's attitudes. I think this is important, because it's important to realize that the way things/attitudes are today, is not necessarily how they may be in the future. We are quick to criticize people who hold differing opinions from the church, but we need acknowledge the fact that the church's opinions have varied since it's conception 200 years ago. 

The history of the Mormon Church and its attitudes on masturbation:

I've talked a lot about how the church is often influenced by the culture of the time, and its attitudes and policies on masturbation are no different. I found an interesting study (which I'll link below). As I read through it, I was shocked by how much of what we have been told is "doctrine" or "revelation", actually aligns really well with what popular American culture believed at that time. 

Let's kick it off! 

Until the 1920s, popular American culture actually thought masturbation caused diseases/negative health outcomes, and for that reason, should be avoided. So, naturally, a lot of the general American and Mormon rhetoric at this time was about abstinence. 

In the 1920s/1930s, researchers started to see a link between shame, masturbation, and suicidal thoughts and attitudes started to shift away from "masturbation is bad". Interestingly, at the time, the church followed suit and changed their tune from "abstinence" to endorsing secular books about sexuality. Their church lessons switched from focusing on abstinence to warning parents about creating "emotional problems" in their children through an "over response" to their kid's masturbation habits. 

However, this attitude change didn't last long. Church leaders started publishing their opinions about masturbation being immoral, and church attitudes went back to emphasizing abstinence. This was also the first time that Mormon literature diverted from the popular American medical opinion at the time. Until this, what the popular American medical opinion was and what the Mormon Church believed/preached were in pretty close harmony. 

This abstinence rhetoric in the church continued. In the 1940s, during World War II, in a General Conference, The First Presidency told youth going off to war they were "better off dead" than to be "sexually unclean". "Better dead clean, than alive unclean" became a theme that some would repeat out loud at mutual each week. 

(A sad side story: In the 1980's, a LDS psychiatrist was required to pay a wrongful death settlement, because one of his clients committed suicide. The lawsuit said he violated his professional standards by telling his patient to follow Mormon values and abstain from masturbation in order to be "worthy". The client left a suicide note talking about his frustrations with his masturbation habits and his desire to be "clean". I believe the church was also sued. In the trial, they showed research that masturbation abstinence had a documented history of suicidal risk. I will not publish his information, but to hit home how so-not-long ago this was, this psychiatrist is still in practice today.)

In 1972, masturbation was officially declared a normal behavior by the American Medical Association. 

In the 1990s, the first version of the For Strength Of Youth pamphlet was released. It explicitly condemned masturbation by saying, "The Lord specifically forbids certain behaviors, including all sexual relations before marriage... masturbation, or preoccupation with sex in thought, speech, or action". 

In 2001, the For Strength Of Youth pamphlet was updated to what it is today (see my screenshot above). There is no specific mention of masturbation, although it could be interpreted that way. 

Today, there are very few official statements published by the church about masturbation. (See my previous section.) There is a lot out there about "chastity" and "morality", and I think we often accept those to include masturbation.

Popular American opinions today still hold that masturbation is a part of normal sexual development. Also, there is some interesting research that not masturbating can increase the risk of prostate cancer and youth suicide in males. (I'd assume the suicide risk is more so associated with the shame based tactics of abstinence, than abstinence itself.) For women, there's research that not masturbating can "undermine orgasm and marital functioning". 

Attitudes on masturbation: 

So, there's the official church standpoint, and then there's the member's standpoint. It's important to remember these are often two separate things, and they are often not in harmony with each other. (Ex: LGBTQIA+ issues today.)

A study in the 1970's asked 8,584 college students about their attitudes on masturbation. 66% of Mormons said they did not think it was immoral. Another study done in 1995 asked 103 married, Mormon women about their masturbation habits. (P.S. 96% of these women were active.) 43% of them said they currently masturbated! 

More recently, I found these survey results of LDS women from 2018 that show: 64% do not believe masturbation is wrong, 80% said they had masturbated, and 50% said they masturbate once a month or more. In the same survey, 55% of LDS men said they masturbated weekly. 

My thoughts on it:

I probably wouldn't consider it breaking the law of chastity. I had this conclusion before, but I hold even stronger to it now that I've read about the history of the church's attitudes toward masturbation. In the article I read, they talk about how Mormons culturally rank publications as "authoritative". From most authoritative to least we have:

  • Official statements/writings published by the church. 
  • Privately published writings by general authorities. (Often these are quoted as authoritative in official church statements/writings.)
  • Privately published writings by members of the church. These are often only accepted as authoritative if they reflect the popular Mormon views and haven't been disapproved by any church authorities. 

The second question asked, "Where does LDS doctrine (not quotes) say masturbation is wrong?" and that's where it gets me haha. For me, there not being a lot of official statements/writings on masturbation lead me to feel like it's a leftover cultural attitude. A lot of the statements are from apostles in like the 1970s, when people were still thinking sexuality was a choice. I just feel like a lot has changed in the past 50 years and often religion is slow to catch up. 

As a therapist, I obviously have issues with the toxic shame culture that surrounds the conversations we have about sex and sexuality. I hear way too often of people thinking they are "addicted to porn" or "addicted to masturbation" because of the lack of sex education combined with the intense shame culture we have in our church. In my book, that icky feeling of shame and being "unworthy", does way more damage than the sexual activity itself. I don't see normalizing sexual activity causing depression, guilt, and suicide the same way I see shame. 

When I tell my clients, "Actually, it doesn't sound like you're masturbating often enough, or looking at porn often enough, that it would be considered an "addiction". What you're doing is actually pretty normal behavior... it just sounds like it's against the rules of your religion." The look of relief on their faces, the knowledge that they are normal, and not sexual deviants, is so incredibly powerful. 

Regardless of if masturbation is or is not against church policies, the way sex is approached in church culture and the accompanying feelings of guilt and shame are damaging and need to be changed.. 

Another perspective on the morality of masturbation:

I mentioned on my Instagram stories the other day that I have been doing a deep dive into sex therapist recommended books. I bought a bunch of books I saw mentioned in one of my therapist networking Facebook groups. Funnily enough, I didn't realize I had already bought the book, And They Were Not Ashamed: Strengthening Marriage Through Sexual Fulfillment that was mentioned in the study linked below . The author has a viewpoint on masturbation that I feel is worth mentioning, as it seems to be a nice bridge between "abstinence" culture and "everything is normal, do it all" culture. 

(The following probably goes more for women than men, as men's orgasms are reached a lot more easily than women's. I think it's important for women to know what brings them satisfaction, in order to communicate this within relationships and have satisfying sex lives with their partners.)

I haven't yet read the book and am taking the following from the article, so forgive any wrong interpretations. Brotherson essentially says that there are two types of masturbation: "self-learning" and "masturbation". They differ based on their intentions. 

  • Self-learning is masturbation for the sake of understanding your body, knowing what you like, what can stimulate an orgasm, what can "further the expression of love" in your relationship. She says "self-learning" is short term. 
  • Masturbation on the other hand is based in the intention to "selfishly gain pleasure" and "sexual gratification"... and act of "lust". It's an "intent to self-medicate or self-satisfy". 

I don't necessarily agree with her viewpoints, but I do feel it's an interesting perspective that may be helpful to some women! She essentially wants to give women permission to masturbate under "special circumstances" without feeling that toxic guilt or shame. 

A note on revelation and church policies: 

As Mormons, I think we are often taught (and believe) that church policy changes come from the top down. This is to mean that the leaders (the "top") are the ones initiating policy change for the members (the "bottom"). This view leads to a lot of chastising of members when they have different opinions than the leaders and the policies at the time. 

However, I believe a lot of the policy changes we have seen have actually been from the bottom up. That is, the church changes because its members (or the culture at the time) demand for it to. 

As the article states, "As Mormon leaders face growing new evidence of the health benefits of masturbation, and the mental and physical health risks of abstinence, they face the dilemma of maintaining a policy toward masturbation that is now increasingly viewed as medically dangerous by church membership. Historically, when church authorities become convinced that the church's position is in danger, prayerful inquiry on the part of leadership often results in policy change. Mormonism has a history of changing to adapt to new social developments. Policies that once had strong theological foundations, such as polygamy, birth control, and prohibition of priesthood to blacks, at one time were stated by church leaders to be absolute, yet over time they have changed. The same may prove true of the dangers of masturbation abstinence." 

And honestly, I couldn't agree more. 

XOXO
Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti

References:

Malan, M. K., & Bullough, V. (2005). Historical development of new masturbation attitudes in Mormon culture: Silence, secular conformity, counterrevolution, and emerging reform. Sexuality and Culture9(4), 80-127. (You can download the article for free here.) 

Monday, February 1, 2021

Ask A Mormonish Girl: Women and the Priesthood & Priesthood Blessings

Happy Sunday! We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! 


Intentions:


For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on being an *unorthodox* member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"). My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships: both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  


Question directory/past questions:


You can see a directory of past questions on my "Mormon Q+A" Instagram highlight. My handle is @emmycoletti. 


Submitting questions:


You can submit questions to be answered on my Instagram account (@emmycoletti) where I will post a question box on my stories at some point in the week. You can also comment down below, or email me at emmycoletti@gmail.com. If you don't see your question answered , please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! 


(P.S. Please subscribe via email to be notified of future posts!)




Priesthood blessings: Do you ask for them personally?

I have a lot to say about this, so I'll break it down paragraph by paragraph. I'll first say in short TL;DR - I don't rely/value them to the extent I see a lot of other women in the church value them. I am not against them, but they have never been my go-to source of comfort. I tend to lean more towards personal prayer. I don't think God is like, "Oh, sorry, you could have gotten help with this if it were a priesthood blessing, but since you prayed about it it's not going to happen." lol. 

Ok, so first of all, I obviously have some feminism/sexism beliefs that probably affect how much I value/rely on priesthood blessings. First and foremost, I find it extremely interesting that women are able to administer blessings in the temple, but not outside of it






Second, I think the church history of women at the beginning of the church administering healing blessings is interesting as well.



 
If you want to do a deep dive like I did, this academic journal article is really interesting. TL;DR - When The Church of Jesus Christ was first organized, women were able to give healing blessings. Also at this time, church rituals and teachings were mainly passed on orally, so there was a lot of variability in how the rites and rituals were performed. Heber J. Grant (Joesph Smith's successor) worked to create written instructions about rites and rituals in the 1920s, and that's where women giving healing blessings started to be faded out. This was thought to be partially impacted by advancements in the medical/scientific communities at the beginning of the 20th century, and how "folk" type remedies (therapeutic use of oils, etc.) started to be looked down upon. 

So, they removed male and female "healers" from the temple. However, a lot of local wards still had women performing healing blessings. AND when the first presidency was asked about it, they were like, "We'll refer to the Relief Society". Some women were performing healing blessings all the way into the 1940s!!!

Anyway, I linked everything above if you want to read more about it, which I would encourage you to! It's absolutely WILD to me that being a lifelong member, I never heard about this part of Mormon history. And cynically, I have to ask myself why. We heard so much criticism of the "Ordain Women" movement, but we never once heard how their arguments do have some validity based in church history.

I am so sick of people shutting down ideas about what the future of the church could hold based on this weak argument that: "The way the doctrine is written... that could never happen." Just look at how much has changed in the past! 100 years ago we supported multiple wives. 80 years ago women were performing healing blessings. 50 years ago we weren't giving black people the priesthood. And even just 5-10 years ago children of LGBTQIA+ parents couldn't be baptized, church was was 3 hours, and the mission age for women was 21. 

Are we really so arrogant to assume that the way the church is today is how it will continue to be? Are we so scared of change that we are unable to entertain the idea that the "doctrine" as it is being interpreted today will be interpreted differently in the future? (As apologists now argue with the "skin of blackness" curse.)

So, no. I don't value priesthood blessings above my own power of prayer, because I'm not yet convinced that the healing power of a priesthood blessing only being accessed by men isn't just another product-of-the-culture-at-the-time rule set in place to give men power women don't have access to.

XOXO,
Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti

P.S. If you haven't already listened to it, this podcast episode about the priesthood power of women is amazing. 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Ask A Mormonish Girl: Part 7 - Temple Recommends, Joseph Smith, and Social Work School Beliefs


Happy Sunday! We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on religion, being member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"), and reconciling all of this with democrat/liberal values. My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships, both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  


(P.S. Please subscribe via email to be notified of future posts!)


If you don't see your question answered this week, please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! Every Sunday I post a question box on my Instagram (@emmycoletti) and I will save it in the highlight "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl". If your question is too long (or you don't have Instagram), feel free to email me instead at emmycoletti@gmail.com.




 
What is a temple recommend?

So, we have our temples, just like other religions. When they are first built, you can actually go in and tour them, even if you're not a member! It's kinda a cool thing to do, if you have any being built in your area. However, once our temples are built and tours are over, we do a "temple dedication" where we dedicate the temple to being a house of God and from then onward, only members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints who have a "temple recommend" are allowed in. 

A temple recommend is a little document that allows you to enter the temple. . You get one by talking with the local clergy (a "bishop" or one of his assistants "the bishopric"). They ask you a bunch of questions about your lifestyle/beliefs. You do have to meet a criteria to get one and to be able to go into the temple. Once you have a temple recommend, it is valid for 2 years before you have to do another interview and get it renewed. 

You can read the list of questions they ask here, but basically they ask: 

  • If you believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost
  • If you believe in the atonement of Jesus Christ and his role as your savior
  • If you believe in the restoration of the gospel 
    • I believe this is referring to Joseph Smith: Our first prophet who translated the Book of Mormon and who we believe restored the gospel after it was gone from the earth for a bit.
  • If you sustain/support the prophet and other leaders of the church
  • If you obey the law of chastity 
    • So, no sex before marriage and no cheating on your spouse if you are married
  • If you follow the teachings of Jesus in your private and public behavior 
  • If you support or promote and teachings or practices opposite to the church
    • Ex: There was a woman who got kicked out (aka "excommunicated") because she started a movement to ordain women with the priesthood, and that was a teaching/practice opposite to the church. You can read more about it here
  • If you try to keep Sundays holy and attend church meeting as requested
    • We don't shop, eat out, work, etc. on Sundays. So, if you know a Mormon who skips out on stuff you hold on Sunday, now you know why haha. 
  • If you try to be honest in all you do
  • If you are a full tithe payer 
    • We pay 10% of our income to the church.
  • If you obey the word of wisdom
    • We don't drink alcohol or coffee, smoke, do drugs, etc. But we do slam a 90oz soda at 8:00am lmao
  • If you have financial obligations to a former spouse/child and if you meet them
    • Basically do you pay your child support/alimony
  • If you wear your garments
    • Our religious under clothing. You can read my thoughts on all things garment related here
  • If there are serious sins that need to be resolved
    • So, let's say you had sex with your bf/gf and you're not married. If you already talked about this with the bishop and repented, then you don't have serious sins that need to be resolved, because it had already been resolved. But, maybe you didn't tell him until now. Then, they probably wouldn't give you your temple recommend and you would have to go through the repentance process and meet with him again in a month or so. 
  • If you consider yourself worthy to enter God's house aka the temple

The thing with temple recommend interviews is that even thought the questions don't vary, what your bishop will do with them does haha. Like, with the garments. If I was like, "I don't wear them at night because they are uncomfortable." One bishop might be like, "Ok that's fine" and give me a recommend, while another bishop might be more strict and like, "Well you need to make more of an effort." hahah. Or with keeping Sundays holy. If someone has to work on a Sunday, they would probably still get their temple recommend. Or like if you drank coffee once, that would most likely be something they would just be like, "Don't do it again" but still give you your temple recommend. So, just note that there is a lot of nuance in the above questions and it's not like a total cut and dry thing.

Anyway, if you pass all those questions then you are deemed "temple worthy", given your temple recommend that is good for two years, and able to go any Mormon temple. 


Your feelings on Joseph Smith? Realizing he isn't as perfect as the church portrays him.

I've never been one of those members who thinks the leaders/past leaders are perfect or idolizes them. I've always believed a lot in humans being flawed and why would leaders of churches be any different haha. I'm kind of like, ok yeah, they are leading us, but that doesn't mean everything they do or say is going to be inspired by God and/or right per say. So, all that being said, I haven't ever been in like, shock about anything I hear about Joseph Smith. I also think we forget to put religion into context with history, and there was a lot of racism, sexism, etc. in history haha so when I hear things I'm like, "Yup! Sounds about like everyone else at that time haha." 

I do really want to read the book Rough Stone Rolling, though! 

The church seemingly trying to cover up/hide some its controversial history.

I'm not sure I understand the question here. Does it bother me? Yeah. Do I think it's right how they handle it? No. Do I wish there were more open conversations about it all? Yes. Do I think people are jumpy about any sort of criticism against things they love? Yes. 

How do you face cognitive dissonance with religion?

I talk about it a lot in the first question here and the second question here, but basically I am ok with an imperfect relationship with religion. I don't need everything to make sense. I don't need to agree with everything. I'm fine having little bumps where I'm like, "Oop, don't love that" without feeling like I need to love that thing or leave the religion. 

How will you answer the garment question in the temple recommend interview? 

I'll answer with whatever I am currently doing with garments haha. 

I am curious whether you have had any periods of identity crisis with regard to former beliefs instilled through your upbringing being shifted through your education and experience as a social worker?  (Example: Abortion is sinful, homosexuality is sinful, everyone exists cognitively as their assigned biological sex, etc.)

I think my answer to this would be: no, I haven't had many periods of identity crisis with my beliefs being shifted though my social work education. My beliefs were pretty liberal already as a teen, and my education didn't shift a whole lot of them. I'll break them down a bit more: 

"Homosexuality is sinful": Even as a teenager this didn't make sense to me. I remember wondering why, if it was a choice to be gay, would anyone want to choose that?? At the time I had friends who were LGBTQIA+ and was hearing stories about how they (and their other LGBTQIA+ friends) were treated. And I don't think anyone would "choose" to be LGBTQIA+ and treated like that unless it was truly how they identified. Lol so I never really thought it was a choice, or that it was sinful. I was more shocked by how these religious parents were so quick to kick their kids out of the house/disown them... a very ironic choice given the fact that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints focuses so much on families and staying together. 

"Everyone exists cognitively as their assigned biological sex": Same thing. I always felt like... Why would someone choose to go through all the discrimination, judgment, etc. of being transgender, unless it was truly how they identified? So, social work school didn't shift any beliefs about this I didn't already hold. 

"Abortion is sinful": This is probably the only area in which I have flipped around a bit from when I was a teenager to now. I was reading a journal from my teenager years and had written, "I am against abortion" lol. However, since entering adulthood, I've realized that the situation is a lot more complicated than that.
 
The church's policy on abortion is that it is a "no" unless in the case of rape or incest. However, from a logistical point of view, how are you able to make people prove their pregnancies are a result of rape or consensual sex? If you know anything about sexual assault, you know how traumatic those experiences are for people and how even in the most proactive situations, rape kits aren't able to be completed and/or the perpetrators walk free. So, you can't really enforce proving whether a pregnancy was caused by consensual sex or rape. 

When all the Planned Parenthoods were getting shut down and when people are like, "abortion should be illegal", it's like... Well... You don't have to support abortion, but if you're aligning with the church's viewpoint on it, you do still need it to be legal and accessible for people who have become pregnant as a result of rape or incest. And since you can't really prove what the root cause of a pregnancy was (consensual sex or rape), you kinda have to accept that there are going to be people getting abortions who you, personally, would not support in doing it. 

So, at this point, I'm fully in the boat of "Who am I to make a decision on what someone else should do with their pregnancy?" Like, these are human lives we are talking about. These are going to be kids growing up in neighborhoods with high crime rates, in poverty, high risk for abuse, etc. I don't see the logic in being pro-life, but then against so many of the government programs and initiatives that would help that baby's life be safe and good quality. I think the truth of it is, for a lot of these pregnant people, they're not in situations that would be safe to bring a child in. And they know that. And they opt to terminate the pregnancy instead of raising a child in a situation that would not only not be good for the parent's mental health/wellbeing, but also not a good situation for the child. 

Also, if I don't like abortion in some cases... well then let's make it easier for people to prevent unwanted pregnancies! Let's get accessible healthcare, free birth control, good education, etc. etc. And yes, even with all of that, there are still going to be cases of abortion I see on TV/in movies where I'm like, "Well I personally wouldn't choose that in that situation", but that doesn't change the fact that IT IS NOT MY DECISION to make haha. I'm not going to sit over here, in my young, White, able bodied, upper middle class comfort and be like, "aBoRtIoN sHoUlD bE iLlEgAl", because I can't possibly know everyone's situation and it's not my place to make that call. 

-

Alright, that's it for this week! If you have a question you want answered next week, check my Instagram stories (@emmycoletti) around Friday/Saturday for a question box!

XOXO,
Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti

Sunday, January 17, 2021

The Time I Got Hospitalized At 27 Weeks Lol


Prelude:


First things first, I am writing this for myself. It’s 2:00am, going on day 3 in the hospital and I woke up from Jake’s squeaky hospital bed creaking lol. I know I’ll want this whole story written down for the future (and probably the baby will too!), so I figure no time like the present. Plus, writing has always been therapeutic for me when big things happen.


The funny thing about introverts is that we are so private in real life, but open up when we have control of the conversation (aka online). I can drop an intimate post online, and then come back to the comments/texts when I feel able. But, ask me about this in person and I’ll prob blow most of it off hahahahah. So basically, I am going to read and appreciate all your texts/comments... but most likely not text or talk to anyone back 😂 So don’t take it personal, it’s just my personality. If you are a friend IRL/family member, feel free to Marco Polo or send texts and ask questions/chat about whatever and know I’ll probably ignore you for a bit, but I’ll get back to you in a week when I’m ready to chat about it again (and bored on bed rest probably 😂)

Let's dive in!


Day 1, Thursday, January 14, 2021:


So, something to know about my baby is that she is so hard to photograph haha. At the 20 week ultrasound, they do an "anatomy check" and check all your baby's parts to make sure they are developing ok. At my first, they couldn't get pictures of her spine or kidneys. They scheduled me for a second, and got pictures of her spine, but not the kidneys lol. So, I had to go in a third time on Thursday for them to get pictures of her kidneys and since I was already going to be there, my doctor ordered a check on my cervical length. At week 20 or so, they found out I have a "short cervix", which I'll attach a picture of below. A short cervix is a problem, because it puts you at risk for pre-term labor. There are a few interventions they can do for this. They can put you on progesterone suppositories (pills you shove up your vagina at night lol) to strength the cervix so it maybe grows or just doesn't shrink anymore OR a stitch so your cervix stay closed and baby stays baking. They only do the stitch up until week 23/24 I believe. My cervix was never short enough to do a stitch, so they just gave me the progesterone and put me on pelvic rest. Since I had to go back for all the ultrasounds to get pics of camera shy baby anyway, they were also doing cervical checks (sticking a probe up my vagina to measure my cervix lol) and it was staying pretty stable! So, that was good. My last appointment was in December, and my doctor ended up taking me off of pelvic rest since things were looking stable, but still suggested I take things pretty easy: aka not lifting a lot, but I could still go on short walks with Tucker, etc. 



So, I went in for another ultrasound on Thursday (27 weeks) thinking they were just going to photograph baby's kidneys and do a cervical check and send me home. I'd been taking things pretty easy and doing the suppositories every night, but cervix stuff is hard because it is just a crapshoot. Some people go full term, some people deliver early. Your cervix can go from being thick to thin so fast and you can even dilate without even feeling anything. 


The ultrasound tech started measuring my cervix and was like, "What was your last measurement? When did you go in last?" etc. I told her my last measurement was 31mm a few weeks ago. She then told me that my cervix was not only open, but had also shortened to 9mm lol! She showed me on the TV what you see below. So the baby's head is on the left, and the green line is what it *should* look like aka no open cervix. But, that yellow dip is the inside of my cervix open! Wild! And yeah, not really a good thing when I still have another 3 months until I'm due haha. 





The tech said she would grab the doctor, which is never a good sign lol. He came and told me that my cervix was open and looked dilated, so they were going to call my doctor and decide if I should go to her first or straight to the hospital. I was late to my appointment, so I had to go back out to the waiting room to finish filling out my intake paperwork and was a hot mess sobbing in my mask and trying to fill out the forms hahaha. They ended up printing me off a little thing and sending me over to my doctor, who was just a short walk away in a different wing of the building. It was just such a shock that my cervix had tanked! Cue me walking through the halls to my doctor's office, on the phone with Jake, try to tell him he needs to come to the hospital ASAP, while sobbing and wearing a mask lol. He was like, "Honey, I can't understand you" lololol. 





Anyway, I waited in my doctor's office while Jake Ubered over. My doctor let him come into the appointment which was another sign things probably weren't that good lol. She told us that my cervix was open at the top, but closed still for about 9mm at the bottom. But, that I was dilated to a 2, had "hybrid funneling", and only had about 9mm left of my cervix. She also manually checked my cervix to double check the dilation and was immediately like, "Yeah go to the hospital." Hahaha. (Side note: She just came in to see us last night and told me that she didn't want to freak me out at the time, but when she manually checked my cervix, she could feel the baby's head!!! Can you imagine!!) I overheard her call the hospital and tell them she was sending over a "sweet little patient for a few days" and was like, oh, ok this is getting more serious haha. 


I had parked my car on the street that morning, so they let me walk over with Jake to get the car and drive the block to the hospital. I called my mom to give her an update and was like, "Sorry, I'm out of breath I am walking up a hill." She was like, "What!! You can't be walking up a hill right now! You have a short cervix!!" And then once we got to the car and drove the block to the hospital, I saw this cute museum and was like, "Oh Jake, look how cool that museum looks." And she again was like, "Em! Don't comment on museums! Me and Jake are in panic mode!" Hahah. 




We got to the hospital and they told us the plan was to get some steroid shots for the baby's lungs to develop faster and some magnesium IV to help with cerebral palsy if she was born early (and I think magnesium can help with stopping contractions, although I wasn't having any). They said they could only do this twice (so once this visit and once another visit if it comes to that). The steroid shots have to be given 24 hours apart, so we knew we would be here for at least two days to get that done. 


I got to eat some breakfast before they put me on a magnesium IV (all this was happening at like 8:00am), because once I was on that I could only have half a cup of fluid every hour. It was pretty chill for a while. They monitored the baby and my uterus for contractions (and have twice a day since then). She was kicking around and you could hear it get picked up on the monitor lol. Our first nurse was so nice and funny, by the way (they all have been!). She was like, "Wow! You've got an active baby!" I also got my first blood draw (of 3 the next 48 hours) and got my IV put in. 



After I ate, they gave me a steroid shot in my bum lol and it actually hurt a lot worse than I was expecting! The magnesium wasn't super fun either, but the nurse brought me a fan and a bunch of ice packs for the hot flashes that helped a lot. And those went away after the first little bit and then I just felt really woozy.


At this point, we also realized my bed wasn't inflating. (These hospital beds are so dope and like adjust with you body weight haha I love it.) So, after me thinking that's just how hospital beds are for a few hours, my nurse said something and we realized it was in fact broken. We were lucky because a bigger room had just opened up, so she moved us over there. She brought in a little wheel chair, because at this point the magnesium made it hard to walk. She was wheeling me over to the new room, giving us a little tour of the hospital and showing us the views. She was talking about some wing of the hospital and I was like, "Oh, what wing am I in?" (thinking I was in labor and delivery or something). And she was like, "High risk pregnancy." Hahahhahhahah. So, I guess I am officially a high risk pregnancy person. But, the new room has been so nice! Such a pretty view, more space, and a bed that actually works! I feel like I am staying at a nice hotel haha.



The rest of the night we ate dinner and watched The Office. Jake's cousin was so nice and watched Tucker. My emotions caught up with me a bit, too. She sent us a pic of him and of course I immediately started crying, because I was so happy he was in good hands hahaha. I never cry, so crying this much did feel good!



Jake has been allowed to stay with me (he is my only visitor allowed) and he can leave once a day (depending on the nurse). So he ran out our first night and grabbed some fruit and crackers, which ended up being so nice to have when I was sick the next day!


I slept pretty terribly this night. They were having me buzz the nurses if I had to get up, since the magnesium made it hard to walk. And MAN. It got really hard to walk in the night lol. I also felt like I couldn't keep my eyes open that wide which was funny. They ended up doing another blood draw to measure if I was getting too much magnesium and ended up lowering my dose day 2!



Day 2: Friday, January 15th, 2021.



Day 2 was rougher haha. They did end up lowering my dose of magnesium. I had a low appetite that morning. My nurse brought in my pre-natal and I told her I hadn't been taking them because they made me sick. Then, while I was sitting there, I started to feel a little bit nauseous, so I asked for a vomit bag just in case (although I hadn't vomited since like October). She was like, "Take off your mask too, masks and nausea don't go well together." So, I did and like immediately vomited into the little bag hahaha. I also got a bloody nose for the first time in my life (literally while vomiting lol), so that was an interesting combination. The nurse was like, "Good thing I didn't give you the prenatal!" Lol.



They monitored the baby and my uterus again: she still looked good and I still didn't show any contractions. I got my second steroid shot and it actually didn't even hurt that bad. So weird! The nurse was like, "Patient say I give good shots." And I was like, "Yeah, I'll say!" They also took me off the magnesium after the second steroid shot which was AMAZING. It took a bit to leave my system, but since then I've been able to get out of bed by myself and go to the bathroom without buzzing a nurse every 30 minutes lol. And I don't have to have all the cords connecting to the drips!



The rest of this day I just watched TV and hung out. Jake went home to get some supplies, so I could change out of the hospital gown now that my IV was gone. He took Tucker on a little walk and brought back some snacks.

They monitored the baby and my uterus again and everything looked good. She had the hiccups and we could hear it on the monitor lol. This was also the first night I didn't need any night check-ins, so I was able to sleep a little bit better.


Day 3: Saturday, January 16th, 2021.




Day 3 was much of the same: Still had some trouble sleeping that night (I miss my bed and pregnancy pillow lol), baby still looking good on the monitor, still no contractions, steroid shots were over, didn't have to have a magnesium IV anymore. All good things! One of my doctor's partner's came in to discuss if we would be able to go home. She said she was pretty nervous about sending me home just yet and since my doctor would be in at 6:00pm, wanted to keep us here until then when my doctor could check me out and see what she thought.


I was finally able to shower, though! They just have to tape this huge glove to my hand to keep my IV dry lmao. Sadly the water wasn't very warm, but it was nice to not be *as* smelly lol and get a change of clothes. I also had to do a urine sample this day, but aside from being a little backed up from the medication, felt fine! Jake took Tucker on a walk where he met a new friend. We ate dinner and Jake feel asleep like this lol.



Our doctor came in to see us that evening and basically said that since week 24-28 is such a crucial point in a baby's development, she wants me to stay here until I hit at least 28 weeks (which will be Thursday) and then we'll re-evaluate. They haven't measured my cervix again, so hopefully it stays at a 2! She also said it's just kind of a crapshoot. Like it's hard to say whether all this means I'll go into labor early or go full term. I'm kind of mentally preparing for a NICU/premie, so it's not as much of a shock if it happens. My doctor sent in an order for us to chat with someone from the NICU this week, so that will be good to learn more about what that would look like and what their policies are right now with COVID. My doctor said she thinks both parents are allowed in at the same time, but no other visitors are. So, that's at least good to know that Jake and I could go visit BB together! They are also going to do another ultrasound sometime this week to measure the baby and see where she's at size wise, so that will also be fun to see!


And I think that's pretty much it so far! Hopefully these next few days are nice and quiet with no contractions or anything crazy haha. I've been playing lots of Animal Crossing and watching TV. Also enjoying the room service. Although I'm sure I'll hit my limit with those meals in a day or two lol. Overall, I think this situation could be a lot worse, so I'm just happy to be here and feel safe and secure with all the monitoring that's going on! I'm sure I'd be a lot more anxious if I was at home having to make judgement calls on if I'm having contractions or just normal pregnancy pains haha. So, I'm not mad to be here a little longer! Especially since 28 weeks is such a huge milestone. It's nice to know bb girl is getting a lot of monitoring to get her there! Not to mention, if something happened, we are literally right here and could call and nurse and be whisked away to whatever medical thing they need to do.


Wow, that was a lot! But, it has been an experience for sure haha. Sorry in again for ignoring everyone lmao and yes I will keep you updated on how dope my Animal Crossing island gets while I'm here 😂 But in all seriousness, thanks for your well wishes and good vibes! Let's hope this bb stays bakin'!


XOXO

- - - - -

E

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ask A Mormonish Girl: Are There Paid Clergy In The Mormon Church?


Hello and happy Sunday!


We're back for another "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" post! For anyone new, this is a series where I talk about my feelings on religion, being member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (aka "Mormon"), and reconciling all of this with democrat/liberal values. My goal of these posts is to help you know you're not alone with your questions and concerns AND to actually talk about them and create some conversation past "just have faith and it will work out". Overall, I believe in imperfect relationships, both with people and institutions. This series documents my very imperfect relationship with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  


If you don't see your question answered this week, please keep submitting it! I will get to all of them eventually! Every Sunday I post a question box on my Instagram (@emmycoletti) and I will save it in the highlight "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl". If your question is too long (or you don't have Instagram), feel free to email me instead at emmycoletti@gmail.com


(P.S. Please subscribe via email to be notified of future posts!)


I was talking about callings on my Instagram stories this week, and the subject of paid clergy came up. I mentioned how one of the things I like about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is that it is entirely volunteer based and we have no paid clergy. 

Shortly after, I got a wave of people informing me that the top leaders actually are paid, and a hefty amount at that. I wrote out a whole response, but figured I'd just dive deeper into it today! So, let's begin our dive: 


Are there paid clergy in the mormon church?


The short answer is: yes. However, it is only the top authorities and it is called a "living allowance" rather than a salary per se. The top authorities is comprised of about 100 or so people and includes: 

  • The prophet (1 person)
  • The first presidency (3 people)
  • The quorum of the twelve apostles (12 people)
  • The first and second quorums of the seventy (140 people)
  • The presiding bishopric (3 people)

The living allowance is currently about $120k via leaked documents. I know to some people this may be considered a lot. However, this is pretty on par with the average CEO salary of non-profit organizations. So, knowing they get a living allowance of $120,000 amount honestly doesn't bother me too much for these reasons. 

Plus, there's also the question of accessibility: It seems to me that if there wasn't a living allowance, only wealthy people would have the financial privilege of being able to leave their careers to serve as full time leaders in the church. So, I do appreciate that the living allowance makes those positions available to a wide variety of individuals. 

Ok, next: I have heard so many people claim they get a "1 million sign on bonus" in addition to their living allowance. However, I have yet to see any sources/receipts of this beyond word of mouth or anonymous forums online. I feel like that is hefty enough a sum of money that something would have been leaked by now lol. So, until is see actual proof that they are paid 1 million dollars as a sign on bonus, I'm going to be cautious about that claim. 

Overall, there, I think there are a lot of things to fry the church over (LGBTQIA+, racist history, sexism, patriarchy, etc.) But this issue of the tippy top leaders getting a relatively modest living allowance isn't one of them for me haha. Especially considering it's a church of 16 million people being relatively effectively run by people volunteering their time. Idk, I just think that's cool and a pretty big feat. 

These discussions can frustration me, because I often feel pulled by both sides. I am not Mormon enough for the Mormons, but not ex-Mormon enough for the ex-Mormons. I'm a weird middle ground of a person, and I think people sometimes feel drawn to try to get me to their side. Orthodox Mormons are quick to excuse and belittle concerns I have about the church in order to pull me into orthodoxy. But, on the opposite side of that same coin, ex-Mormons are quick to criticize and devalue any positive thing about the church. 

I'm not here to tell anyone else what to think. Nor is it my job to validate each person's individual journey with religion. I'm just here to share some gray area thoughts on a typically black-and-white conversation. I'm here to be "mormonish". To me that means being able to acknowledge the good AND the bad of this religion. 

And for me, when it comes to our volunteer run organization and few paid clergy, this is one of the good things. 

Until next week!

XOXO,
Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend,
Emmy Coletti