Sunday in Outer Blogness: Happy Thanksgivukkah Edition!

In a surprise move, the first day of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving this year! The Highchair Travelers provided some ideas on how to celebrate Hanukkah — and don’t forget to read the Hannukah story from the Bible!

I assume you already all know how to celebrate Thanksgiving: You think about those in difficulty and you think about the things you’re thankful for. Some thank God, but it’s not necessary. (Don’t forget to look around during the prayer!). Some are even thankful for the Bloggernacle:

I’m just thankful for all these awesome dragons we have here in Outer Blogness. 😉

Of course, all of this was just a prelude to the real holiday: Black Friday. In a point-counter-point, Andrew Hackman argued that it’s not so bad, but everybody else loves to hate it. Maybe we should just celebrate pie night instead!

A Mormon bishop played a little joke on those appearance-conscious Mormons, and the Mormon Women Bare project highlighted the body issues of a culture where “modest is hottest”:

So many Mormon women have so many issues with their bodies—as a lot of women do in our culture. But I think that Mormon women have even more pointed, specific body issues because they live in this patriarchy where they are judged by their looks almost more than anything and expected to be beautiful and dress well. There’s a really high standard for how Mormon women should look, and yet, we’re also supposed to be covered and not at all sexual in any sort of obvious way.

It’s hard (but worth it) to make an effort to check your privilege and affirm your allies:

It may be tempting for gay men in particular to hold on to the male privilege we have enjoyed in the church. We may want to distance ourselves from issues of female equality because identification with the feminine could threaten our standing with the male hierarchy that controls the church.

This we must not do. There are two reasons we must resist male privilege as we rejoin the church. First, as I have pointed out, placing the masculine over the feminine is what leads to rejection of both gays and women in the first place.

The second reason has to do with social capital—the amount of standing a person or group has within society. It is human nature to gravitate toward those with more social capital than ourselves.

In chuch-and-life, Heather’s husband told his exist story, and Profit got the cold shoulder from a former missionary companion. Thinker of Thoughts wrote a very interesting piece on the tale of Dr. Lowry Nelson — a man who challenged the racist doctrines of the CoJCoL-dS (back before the church decided that those doctrines never really existed). Mormon Heretic explained that Denver Snuffer got ex’d for apostasy — for claiming that the CoJCoL-dS is in a state of apostasy! (How’s that for I-know-you-are-but-what-am-I?). And Andrew S. discussed what is perhaps the key problem for liberal religions:

The basic problem is this: In addition to not finding Mormonism (or other religions) to be factual, I don’t typically find religions to be relevant to me.

Here in Switzerland we are having beautiful, snowy weather for this opening week of the holiday season! I’m not sure how long it will last, but (like Knotty) I had fun decking the halls yesterday! I hope all is well with you and yours as well, happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Scary stuff coming up edition!

With Halloween coming up this week, please enjoy the firs batch of tales of this holiday’s history including its tragic devolution into “Trunk-or-Treat”. Also, the missionary costume pictures have already started appearing — and I hope there’ll be plenty more of them between now and next week! (If anyone’s up for a discussion, possible topics for this week include “What’s wrong with Trunk-or-Treat?” and “If it’s not OK to dress up as a Pocahottie, how can you encourage people to dress up as mishies?!”)

This was a big week for books! In my review of Donna Banta’s False Prophet I was careful in explain that she’s not painting Mormons as criminals, but Molly’s coverage of recent events is giving me second thoughts. Heather reviewed Elizabeth Smart’s story. Both Alan Rock Waterman and Denver Snuffer wrote about Daymon Smith’s Cultural History of Mormonism. On the other hand, Roger Hansen is underwhelmed by the quality of Deseret Book’s recent offerings.

(It was also a big week for recipes, with some tasty seasonal offerings.)

In church news, Runtu analyzed an an exciting new analysis of the Book of Mormon. Profet reframed Joseph Smith’s inspiring story. Some other Mormon morality tales are equally charming.

Conference tales are still rolling in, including some insightful analysis of the subtext of some anecdotes from General Conferences, plus notes from another conference that sounds even more fun! Here’s Micah’s talk from that one. 😀

And those women knocking on the priesthood door just won’t go away! Heather posted a new slide show of the event, and Michelle described being shut out of an opportunity for service. April told a story illustrating how an all-male leadership structure, managed by kind, well-intentioned men, fails at meeting uniquely female needs, and here’s some statistical analysis of women’s leadership roles in the church.

In politics, more problems with Mormons and sexism. Ed Brayton was impressed by the analysis in a badass editorial in the Salt Lake Tribune. Why has far-right ideology displaced the ideals of the Mormon faith anyway? Semi-related: I’ve really been enjoying this series on Atlas Shrugged — the latest installment literally had me laughing out loud (at Rand), and then I followed a link from that article that wasn’t so funny. But keep in mind that not all Mormons fit this mold!

In personal stories, Alex told of being comforted by blind faith, Ren’s friends had some funny experiences hosting the missionaries. Silverfirexz discussed the importance of making an effort to understand family members who are believers, while Jen reminded us that our feelings have validity too. Liz answered some athiest FAQs, Just Jill is exploring her uncertainty, Marc wrote an ode to science, and Postmormongirl explained how fake-it-till-you-make-it does and doesn’t apply to teaching Biology.

Wrapping up with some fun stuff, check out the latest from Elder Gandy and the Bunyon!! But my personal favorite from this week of scary stuff was the title “It came from Outer Space Blogness“:

This morning when I checked stats, the latest was a visitor from none other than church HQ who came by way of Outer Blogness. Reconnaissance mission or subversive thinker on the inside? I imagine there’s a bit of both at HQ.

So, even if it wasn’t the “More Good Foundation” that grabbed and parked our old domain name, it’s not like we’re not on their radar… Anyway, have a great week!!

The Inconvenient Truths about Mormon Lactivism

Recently there has been much talk surrounding a YW leader who is unfortunately threatened of having her temple recommend withdrawn if she does not leave the room or cover herself while breastfeeding at church meetings. (Call to Action – Lactivism)

There are many things wrong with this scenario.  The LDS church is all about the Family, and one would think they would consider the most beneficial options surrounding parenting in their policies and practices to reinforce the “family” way.  We are certainly too uptight about breastfeeding in general in our western society, much less a Mormon one.  The church really doesn’t like being forced, however.  It is a patriarchal authoritarian one and if they feel they are being coerced,  will pull that authoritarian trigger to assert power where they might not normally.  Apparently mitigating factors were omitted from the original petition that would help us determine whether or not this is just a rogue ecclesiastical authority, or if something degraded in the communication between this gal and her ecclesiastical leader that he felt compelled to pull the authoritarian trigger.

Before I explore the nuts and bolts of the topic which has spread like spilt milk across the Mormon social media channels,  I will disclose I rarely breastfed my children in church and when I did, I did it in the nursing room.  I didn’t feel inconvenienced in doing so, in fact I often fled to the nursing room as the perfect excuse to get out of a predicted mundane, repetitive lesson or talk.  I have since left the church for reasons more ancillary to the mundane brain dead aspect and nothing related to feeding my children in a nursing room.  As someone who does not feel the church is ultimately a healthy or authentic belief system, I would be the first to encourage any woman to take her nursing baby and permanently exit the church if she feels strongly enough about the matter.

That said, I have had frustrations trying to engage in a reasonable dialogue about openly breastfeeding in church.  I am a mother of four.  I gave birth to my children naturally and am generally a proponent of all things nature-based.   There are a few main arguments being made in this discussion, however, that must be considered and addressed if the overall point is to be taken seriously.  It is clear there is a bias from lactivists for ignoring certain inconvenient truths about both the biology of the breast and breastfeeding, as well as dismissing clear cultural ramifications along the way.  Ignoring is counterproductive and easily allows anyone with basic knowledge of anatomy to dismiss the argument in its entirety.

Lactivist Assertion One:  Breasts are designed solely to feed the young and any man who looks upon an exposed breast as anything but a pure maternal act is either a pervert or culturally misguided.

Fact one:  Humans are part of the hominid family.  We are the only hominid where the breasts remain swollen at all times.  All other hominids have flat chests, except when lactating.  Furthermore, human hominids walk upright at all times.  As a result of us always being upright and frequently front facing (as opposed to other hominids), humans evolved the permanently swollen breasts as an alternate sexual attractor.  All other hominids use the buttocks as their sexual attractor.  In Desmond Morris’ “The Naked Ape”, he points out the evolutionary design switch of the general shape of the human breasts mirroring the buttocks; rounded with cleavage between them.  The larger the breast, the more closely they resemble the shape of buttocks.  From an evolutionary standpoint, this is the reason why larger breasts tend to be more attractive.  The breasts tend to swell when a woman is ovulating, suggesting fertility.  Additionally, the subconscious part of the male heterosexual mind messages that the larger the breast, the more milk it can produce, thus increasing the survival chance of offspring.

With regards to larger breasts, evolutionary psychology has recently contended men prefer women with larger breasts as it makes it easier for him to judge a woman’s age (and her reproductive value) according to the level of gravitational sag that comes with age (Marlowe,  1998)

INCONVENIENT TRUTH:  Males are designed by nature to find breasts attractive.  To insist they don’t is akin to asking a homosexual to not be attracted to his own gender.  Lactivists may not like this answer, but it is a fact.


Lactivist Assertion Two:  The breast is not a sex organ. There is nothing sexual about a mother feeding her baby!(see prolactin’s maternal-inducing traits)

Fact One: Or is it?  They are well connected. If not blatantly sexual,  breasts most assuredly should be viewed as an erogenous zone.   After birth, estrogen and progesterone levels decrease while prolactin and oxytocin levels increase.  Prolactin, which is secreted by the anterior pituitary, stimulates the breasts to produce milk. The prolactin level is very high in the early postpartum period in order to stimulate initial milk production.  Prolactin induces maternal behavior: a lactating mother experiences a form of psychological tension, which can best be described as a feeling or need of always wanting to see and hold her baby (Brewster, 1979).

Oxytocin is the primary connector between the breast and sexual response.  It is secreted by the posterior pituitary, has two major functions in relation to breastfeeding: a) a new mother feels her uterus contract during breastfeeding, and b) it is responsible for the milk ejection reflex during breastfeeding and orgasm. Oxytocin has the opposite psychological impact as prolactin does: It calms the physiological tension induced by prolactin. Consequently, while breastfeeding, the mother will experience a sense of well-being and contentment. The consequences of these hormones are that each time a woman breastfeeds, she derives great pleasure from the experience and contact with her baby. As a result, all or a very great part of her needs for affection are met through breastfeeding even if she is only partially breastfeeding.  This is obviously healthy and normal. However, one result is that the breastfeeding woman will likely have a decreased need to seek out her partner for pleasure and affection (Also referred to as affection anesthesia).

Oxytocin produces striking parallel effects between breastfeeding and coital orgasm:

  • Both stimulate uterine contractions
  • Both cause nipple erection
  • Breast stroking and nipple stimulation occur during both breastfeeding and sexual foreplay
  • Hormonal emotions are aroused by both types of contact in the form of skin changes
  • Milk let-down or milk ejection reflex can be triggered during both


According to some researchers, anywhere of 24% – 29% of women can experience orgasm solely as a result from oxytocin released during nipple stimulation. The percentage may increase if the woman has her legs crossed, as the uterine contractions released by the oxytocin can trigger a physiological sexual response.  This is otherwise known as a breast orgasm. Nipple stimulation activates the same region of the brain as clitoral, vaginal and cervical stimulation. (Journal of Sexual Medicine, Volume 8, 2011)

Another clear biological lactation/genital connection is the lack of vaginal lubrication when the breastfeeding mother becomes sexually excited.

INCONVENIENT TRUTH:  The breast is connected to sexuality.  It is simply unreasonable to expect all of humanity to treat it otherwise.


Lactivist Assertion Three:  Our culture is uptight and just needs to get over it.  Especially Mormon Culture.

Fact One:  There are three uphill challenges in overcoming breast issues in the church.

1.  Modesty in dress, particularly for females is pervasive in Mormon culture.  A quick search for modesty related information on yields 451 results.  This should be a self explanatory challenge for those who are LDS.  Modesty is tied to cleanliness, chastity and purity.  For a cultural environment who emphasizes coverage of shoulders and knees, as well as garments, it should not be surprising they would be less relaxed about having exposed breasts at church.  Regardless of the wholesome reason that may be behind it, exposing a breast for ANY reason is going to fall outside of normal range and the tribe will react as such.

2.  Recent research from University of Westminster, Archives of Sexual Behavior just last month revealed interesting information about the type of man who favors larger breasts.  Researcher’s found that the largest percentage of participants (32.7 percent) rated medium-sized breasts as “most attractive,” followed by large (24.4 percent), very large (19.1 percent), small (15.5 percent) and very small (8.3 percent). However, a preference for large and very large breasts was significantly correlated with overt sexism, benevolent sexism, female objectification and hostile attitudes toward women. This connection was strongest when it came to benevolent sexism [emphasis by Froggie]. In other words, men who tend to idealize “traditional” femininity and perceive women as meek and weak, are also the most likely to prefer big breasts. “It is arguable that benevolently sexist men perceived larger female breasts as attractive because larger breast size on a woman is associated with perceived femininity.”

3. Western culture has made progress regarding breastfeeding.  It does, however, have secondary side effects of pornography, even maternal breast-targeted pornography such as pregnancy or nursing fetishes, that provide a less conducive climate to just simply “understanding and getting over it.”

INCONVENIENT TRUTH:  When you add the aspect of “benevolent sexism” along with the already existing Mormon-centric  puritanical, patriarchal, rigid gender role defined environment, layered with a coating of broader Western culture, this is no small uphill battle.  To quote Sun Tzu, “Know your enemy.”  Trying to leverage the breast as a tool when the tool itself has an enormous amount of already existing stigma may not be the best strategy.  It isn’t a situation that one just wakes up and “gets over.”

Conclusion:  If productive dialogue is to occur with the church on the matter of transitioning the cultural climate to allow for ease of breastfeeding at church,  one must acknowledge the above-listed inconvenient truths and be prepared to include them as part of the discussion.  Not ignore them or be blissifully ignorant of their impact.   A special nod of acknowledgement must be given to the current cultural norms within Mormonism  as well if one wants to effect change on this front.


Komisaruk, Barry R., and Beverly Whipple. “Functional MRI of the brain during orgasm in women.” Annual Review of Sex Research 16 (2005): 62.

Levin, R. J. (2006). The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality. Sexual & Relationship Therapy, 21, 237-249.

Marlowe, Frank. “The Nubility Hypothesis.” Human Nature 9.3 (1998): 263-271.

Sex and Breastfeeding:  An Educational Perspective. J Perinat Educ. 1999 Winter; 8(1): 30–40.doi:  10.1624/105812499X86962

Sholty, M. J., Ephross, P. H., Plaut, S. M., Fischman, S. H., Charnas, J. F., & Cody, C. A. (1984). Female orgasmic experience: A subjective study. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 13, 155-164.

The Journal of Sexual  Medicine. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x. Surprise finding in response to nipple stimulation Lay summary – (5 August 2011).


(edited to fix list marker)

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Last Gasp of 2012 Edition!!

If you had anything you wanted to be sure to do in 2012, you don’t have much time left!! It’s time for tithing settlement, and the year-end reflections have already begun! Mormons Building Bridges have been recognized as making an impact in 2012, as have many Mormon politicians who’ve been keeping the Mormon news lively throughout the year. (Like Romney, for example, who ran for president out of pure selflessness.) And now’s your chance to help pick the winners of 2012’s Brodie Awards and William Law X-Mormon of the Year!!

Christmas is mostly over, but it looks like the “War on Christmas” is wrapping up with a laugh and a poem. Here’s a Smithmas poem as well! (Is it my imagination, or did Smithmas get very little airtime this year? Maybe it needs a war on it, to drum up some interest…) Miracle on 34th Street generated some controversy, not to mention those other two Christmas stories.

This was a big year for difficult family encounters and passive-aggressive presents. (One of the people at the Swiss Post-Mo Christmas party had received one from a family member, and transformed it into a lovely/ironic ornament.) But family gatherings can also be nice — and even when they’re not, aren’t they better than nothing? And some people enjoyed alternative services and treats.

We’ve got the tail ends of a few topics still lingering on people’s tongues, such as what happened when the women wore pants. Oh, and that recent tragedy? We have some rational and irrational suggestions.

And now for this week’s new topics!! Some redditors are suggesting that City Creek Mall wasn’t a wise investment. And poor RfM — if only they weren’t so easy to make fun of! But at least they’re not as bad as those malignant Mormon memes.

Lastly, book reviews!! Post-Mormon Girl reviewed The 19th Wife (not to be confused with Wife No. 19 — though the two books are, not coincidentally, related). Sounds interesting. And Walker Wright claims that The Book of Mormon (the original JS book, not the musical) is “a good novel.” I disagree. I think the book’s lack of literary merit causes it to fail as inspired fiction in much the same way as its lack of being true/accurate causes it to fail as non-fiction. But I’m no expert, and Wright claims (with footnote):

The Book of Mormon is an epic masterpiece. At least one scholar has compared its narrative complexity to that of Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings.


Either way, Happy New Year 2013!!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Let the Holidays Begin Edition!

Last week marked some interesting holidays, including the anniversaries of the publication of The Origin of Species and Dr. Who. Plus Hanukkah is coming up in a couple weeks.

Many of us celebrated Thanksgiving. I find this holiday a bit problematic, but don’t let my Thanksgiving-grinchery rain on other peoples’ holiday fun. So here are this week’s posts about it, ranging from classic videos (including a temple-film actor) to tips on surviving your family to photos of an old-style community feast. As well as what people are thankful for.

Now beings probably the most entertaining holiday in the entire American liturgical calendar: “War on Christmas” season!!

In other slices of life, I wish I could photograph daily life as well as this, and perhaps postmormon girl does too. Facebook friends are up to their usual antics. Here are five life lessons learned from traveling and others learned just from living. And check out these polygamist before-and-after photos and family-photo playing cards!

I would especially like to highlight one heart-rending story of the consequences of teaching kids to be ashamed to be gay:

And that in an environment like that, it’s not hard to see how a little boy with his first erection would allow his personality to bifurcate: Jay and R.J. That he would develop a psyche in which, as far as anyone would know, he was straight, because he was—on the outside at least. It’s not hard to imagine that he would look for some way, any way, to get himself out of the “trap” of homosexuality. To “choose” to be straight, even if it meant inventing a persona who really didn’t exist, repressing the real self deep into shadow of the soul, and naming the persona the “real” self. It wouldn’t occur to such a little boy that he was lying to himself—only that he was “choosing” the right. And it certainly wouldn’t occur to the 23 year old boy I married that he was lying to me.

Unfortunately, Mormons Building Bridges continues to promote this sort of thing.

On a related note, the CoJCoL-dS has been caught giving some highly questionable advice. Kind of the opposite of good ethics. It’s quite a game to discover what the church policies are and whether anyone is steering this ship

In Theology, Oxymormon Girl provides some interesting discussion of the history around the The New Testament, Diane Tingen sings about questioning, and Runtu contemplates purification rituals.

Happy Holidays one and all!

Tuesday in Outer Blogness: Pioneer Day Edition!!

Hi Folks!! Today I’m blogging you from Salt Lake City, Utah — where I’ll be participating in the Sunstone Symposium! Anyone who is in town and wants to get together, please email me: chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com.

Today is a special day in Utah, though so far I’ve seen very few posts about it in Outer Blogness.

However, our own pioneers this week have written about their journey through Mormonism! We’ve got some new exit stories and a BEL (big exit letter). Our first William Law X-Mormon of the Year wrote his story, see also Andrew’s review of it. Makes you wonder what causes people to be religious.

Plus folks have started some new blogs (note: I’ll be adding the backlog of new blogs to Outer Blogness as soon as I get back to Switzerland). One of the September six accepted rebaptism, apparently without receiving any kind of apology from the CoJCoL-dS. Meanwhile the church is losing loads of members in Sweden.

In other Mormonisms, there were some fun hymns. Diana argues for allowing faithful Mormons to have their say. Yet, Mormonism is not without its side-effects. And one of the all-time worst talks strikes again!

This week’s grab-bag contains two topics: Fear of living up to stereotypes and lessons learned from the recent movie theater shooting.

The best laugh of the week? The 11 Most Unintentionally Hilarious Religious Paintings (hat tip). These Mormon memes are pretty funny too!

And let me close with everyone’s favorite topic: my adventures!! My cousin posted about her experiences at our recent family reunion, and I got to visit Camp Quest in conjunction with this year’s competition for Team Awesome Underdogs (see here, here, here, here, here, and here) to re-beat PZ Myers!

If you’re currently in SLC, I hope to see you soon!! And, if not — have a great week anyway!

Sitting on a shelf gathering dust

Food storage is a good example of the divide between liberal and conservative schools of thought. Not all LDS believe in keeping a three months’ supply of food, of course. While it’s been discussed as recently as 2007, I think food storage was always a “soft” commandment. Like journaling and genealogy, some LDS keep a three month supply and some don’t.

A person can be considered a faithful LDS and not have shelves full of canned goods and drinking water. It’s not part of the temple recommend interview (that I know of).
Continue reading “Sitting on a shelf gathering dust”

The Future of the King Follett Discourse

Three months before his assassination in 1844, Joseph Smith gave a speech that is referred to today as the King Follett discourse (named after an Elder Follett). In that speech, Smith laid out the idea that God was once a man and that all human beings have the potential to become gods and goddesses themselves. As someone with Buddhist tendencies, I actually quite like this idea of understanding the divine at the human level, because it makes the divine accessible. It would be great if Smith’s speech were coupled with the gnostic gospels of early Christianity that also point to human divinity, but this would probably require Mormonism to consider women as capable of being prophets as they were in the gnostic period. (See, for example, Mary 9:2-4, where Peter gets pretty annoyed at the idea of Jesus confiding in her things that he didn’t tell his male apostles.)

Anyway, my understanding is that the King Follett discourse was indispensable to Mormon identity for several decades, but was used by evangelicals to point to “how crazy those Mormons are” because “they actually believe they can become gods.” Thus, the Church toned down its use of the doctrine by also suggesting to the membership that it’s not really important to think about potential divinity at this moment — since most of us have a long way to go. Armaud Mauss suggests that this will continue to be the case as the Church moves more into an assimilative period, as the teaching of human divinity is “traditional,” but not “essential.” A question I have, though, is whether Mauss is assuming that Mormons are assimilating to only Christianity in America, or if they are trying to make sense of themselves on a global stage (Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews) — in which case, why not maintain the King Follett discourse?

Also, in terms of the “essentialness” of the discourse to Mormon identity, is it not the case that the Church’s gender roles and stance against same-sex marriage are directly related to the notion of men being imaged like Heavenly Father and women being imaged like [a barely mentioned] Heavenly Mother, a divine procreation of deities Whom we will someday emulate as gods ourselves? I don’t exactly see how the Church can downplay its doctrine of potential godhood without also downplaying its justifications for no female ordination or same-sex marriage.

Knowledge, Community, and Relationships

Over at the faithful Mormon blog Faith-Promoting Rumor is a discussion enticingly titled “Do Relationships Make the Church True and False?

This post is a short enough one that you should just go over there and read it, but I guess I will still highlight some points here…when I was reading it, I will say that one idea I was apprehensive about finding was the idea of trying to bottle ex-Mormons as those people who leave because “they’ve been offended.” Or maybe “the church is true but the people aren’t.”

I personally think that my apprehensions were unfounded…I didn’t get that vibe from reading the article. Instead, I got a much different vibe.

(First of all, I think that the paper about exit narratives to which TT refers is Seth Payne’s; it can be found here. The Mormon Expression podcast [to which you all should listen!] interviewed Seth over his study here.)

Continue reading “Knowledge, Community, and Relationships”

what to say when

Recently I saw a (small maroon) book with a title like “What to say when: answers for latter day saints”. I’ve searched popular search engines, online book retailers, LDS church publisher websites to no avail. So I can’t post a link.

But I thought it was an interesting idea/concept. It had gems of wisdom including what to say when your friend’s son doesn’t want to go on a mission (“it’s probably better that he doesn’t go, it doesn’t help anyone to have someone in the mission field who doesn’t want to be there”). Or when a friend in her thirties gets married (“don’t say congratulations, as if she’s fortunate to have finally caught a man”)
Continue reading “what to say when”