Hi there!

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!

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Third Trimester Updates

Lol I totally skipped a second trimester post. The most meaningful event was being hospitalized which I wrote all about here



Ok, so third trimester things:


So yeah, I got released from the hospital the day I turned 28 weeks, as that's a huge milestone for baby development. I was put on "modified bed rest" meaning I could still get up to shower, grab a snack, go downstairs to lay on the couch, etc. But, wasn't supposed to do any housework (like, literally they said that in my discharge paperwork lol), walk my dog, or anything that would involve me "bearing down" or straining. So, Jake was an angel during this time. He made me all my meals, did all the housework, took Tucker on all his walks, and also worked full time from home. 



Due to the pandemic, I'm already working from home. So, I was able to keep working during that time which I'm super grateful for! In my free time I played lots of Animal Crossing 😆. Healthwise, I had a scare where I had cramping and we went into the hospital, but they didn't pick up any contractions. I learned that it was really helpful to drink lots of water, eat a good breakfast, and rest for an hour or two before going on with the day... or else I would get cramps ugh. I actually just felt really crampy a lot anyway, kind of like mild period cramps. So, it was definitely manageable, but also the "honeymoon" of the second trimester was definitely gone haha. 



Doctor wise: During this time they were having me go in twice a week to get a non-stress test done to make sure the baby's vitals looked ok. She always looked great! And was always an "overachiever" meeting the milestones they set for babies two weeks older than her. They never picked up any contractions on my non-stress tests, but they did often pick up "some irritability". I think around 34 weeks or so, they let me step down to just doing them every week. 



After the whole hospital fiasco at 27 weeks, we were just happy every week I was still pregnant! We would get a little treat or dinner every Thursday to celebrate making it another week haha.




My mom came out when I was around 35 weeks, since the doctors have basically been like, "you can have this baby at any time or you can go until 40 weeks and have to be induced". She has also been working from home, so it's been really nice to be able to have her here to hang out with and know she'll be able to be at the birth.


I was able to go off of my "modified bed rest" at 36 weeks and stop the weekly non-stress tests, which was really nice! My stamina is 0 for sure, so I have been trying to be a bit more active since then (and by "active" I mean walking my dog for 15 minutes) to build it back up. It's definitely been hard! Like, after holding Tucker's leash for 10 minutes I got crampy and had to have my mom take him hahaha. 



When I went in for my 37 week appointment, my doctor was so happy hahaha. She was like, "You made it to term!!!!!" (I think I've definitely been one of her more stressful patients. She told me, "Every time I go to the hospital and don't see your name on my list I am so happy." lol.) I asked her how long they would let me keep being pregnant before they induce me, and she said they like to let people go until a week after their due date, "but if you were dilated to like a 5, then we don't want you walking around and would induce". When I saw her 3 weeks earlier, I was dilated to a 2 (which I had been since 27 weeks). But, when she checked this time she was like, "Ok so yeah, you are dilated to a 5, so we will want to induce you." I was in such shock haha like what!! I didn't understand that you can dilate so far without having strong contractions? I still don't understand how common or uncommon that is, but ultimately feeling really grateful that I have made it halfway to pushing without like, really intense contractions. 


The earliest the hospital will let her induce me is at 39 weeks, so she scheduled me for literally the day I turn 39 weeks haha. With all the high risk pregnancy/short cervix stuff, she was saying how if anything happens, "we want you to be at the hospital", which I totally agree with.


I went in again today (currently 37 weeks and 4 days), so they could tell me about the induction. They let Jake come in for this one, which was nice as he hasn't been able to come into anything aside from the ultrasounds. The med assistant was taking my blood pressure and was like, "Is she checking your cervix? How dilated are you?" And I was like, "Yeah I think so, and I am dilated to a 5." She was all shocked like, "What!?!?!? You are at a 5?!?! You could get an epidural if you were at the hospital!" lol. The doctor checked me again: still at a 5 and 80% effaced she said! She also said the baby is really, really low. She is scheduling the induction for April 8th and kept saying "if you make it that far", so we'll see! She said that since I am at a 5, I can get the epidural whenever I want it, so I'm like ??? Wait I'll literally just walk in on April 8th, get an epidural, have my water broken/Pitocin started, and then have a baby? Super weird concept haha but I'm down! It would be really nice to just have a calm lead in to delivery, instead of like really intense contractions and me yelling at Jake and my mom lol. 



So, yeah! That's where we're at! I've definitely not been doing as well the past few days. I've had some decently intense tailbone pain and this weird upper leg thing that almost reminds me of growing pains. Like the tops of my legs will hurt really bad and feel almost like something is cinched. Idk how to explain it haha but we were at the dog park earlier and I was like, "Ok I can't walk anymore" and we had to leave haha. So, yeah, hoping the legs and tailbone pains go away and my standard daily cramps replace them instead lol. 


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Oh, and here's the answers to the Q+A from instagram!


Are you scared of anything at this point?

Oh for sure haha. Mostly I'm scared of progressing so fast that I either have the baby in the car or am not able to get an epidural at the hospital. Also, I'm obviously a bit anxious for the baby to get all checked out and hopefully she is healthy and doing great! 



Do you have heartburn? Any new symptoms unique to the 3rd trimester? (Cravings, baby movement, aches, etc.)

I don't think I have gotten heartburn, actually! I don't think I've ever had it so I'm not sure what it would feel like. As far as new symptoms: I got cramps pretty daily. The tailbone pain and leg pain is new in the past few days. I have also had what they call "fire crotch" lol where your baby hits a nerve and you get a quick shooting pain. 


As far as cravings: In the past week or so I've been really into candy bars. Prior to that I was super into like, home cooked foods and fast food sounded gross. I got really into bacon after having it at the hospital. I swear to you, for like 3 weeks after being discharged, I had a "traditional breakfast" every morning with orange juice, wheat toast, bacon, and eggs. These days I'm just into whatever is filling. Like I like to have complete meals with side dishes etc haha. 


As far as movement, yes! Lots of it! Once again I'm not sure what is normal or not, but I always joke with Jake that our baby got 'roided up and is all yoked in there, punching away all the time haha. I'm to the point where her moving is fun... but also uncomfortable hahaha so I don't complain when she is just sleeping. 


Are you set on a name? 

We have a list of names we like and will see what fits when she is born! We do have one that we think we'll probably use, though. 


What are you looking forward to most once baby comes?

I just feel like it's been so much to get her here, it will be nice to be done with all that! I joke that my pregnancy has been like that "snip, snap, snip, snap" scene from The Office where Michael is complaining about how Jan kept changing her mind about kids and made him get and reverse like four vasectomies haha. 


via GIPHY


First trimester I was throwing up every day, then things were fine and I felt great, then found out I had a short cervix and was put on pelvic rest, then things were looking good so I was taken off, then I was suddenly hospitalized for a week and they were scared the baby would be born super early, then I was released and put on modified bed rest, and now here I am, sitting 5cm dilated at 37 weeks with an induction date! It will just be nice to not have her survival dependent on my body/me doing things to my body haha. It's been stressful. 


Other things: It will be fun to see what she looks like and what her personality is! I'm really looking forward to our parental leave and just having this summer to bond as a family after such a stressful year last year with pregnancy/medical complications and pandemic stuff. I'm really grateful to live in a state (city?) that prioritizes parental leave for everyone and really hope that is in everyone's future! It really is ridiculous sooo many companies either don't give their employees parental leave, or they do but it's unpaid. Vote for politicians who care about that! 


I'm already planning all the things I will be able to do, not being pregnant anymore! Mostly looking forward to being more active and leaving the house more. I'm excited to go to the beach, on short hikes if our baby is chill, and may some little day trips to cute towns around Seattle. 


Worst and best things about the 3rd trimester compared versus the 2nd or 1st:

Worst - Being more uncomfortable physically. Not fitting into most of my clothes. Being worried about if I'm going to go into labor pre-term. Being on modified bed rest. Getting closer to birth and being worried about how that experience will be lol. 


Best - Being able to feel the baby kick, it makes it more real that there's a human in there! Getting the nursery ready and buying baby products. Having a cute bump that people can actually see/know you're pregnant. Knowing it's all almost over! 


Plans for how to raise the baby:

Whew, that's a big question! I guess it depends what stage you're talking about. We are kinda just taking things bit by bit and not getting too far into decisions that aren't here yet. We are on the same page with how we want to do most things, and I'm sure anything else we'll just figure out! We were just talking about how we've been so focused on just getting the baby to full term that we haven't thought much about what to do after the baby will get here hahaha. I'm sure we'll have lots of YouTube searches like, "how to burp a baby" etc. 


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Ok, that's it! Very happy this is the last pregnancy post I'll be doing for this pregnancy!

XOXO

- - - - -

E

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. 

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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