Sunday, January 31, 2010

1 Nephi 3:7

A very free "retranslation" expressing my meditations on this verse.


I will go, Lord.
I will do it.
I accept the mission you have given me.

I undertake this task
in the faith that you do not ask the impossible,
that behind the scenes, you too are busy
laying groundwork,
phoning ahead,
getting all the other pieces in place.

I may not be able to see
how this task is to be accomplished
or why it matters in the big scheme of things.
Yet I trust
that my efforts will somehow be of use
in a plan that only you
are far-sighted enough
and genius enough
to orchestrate.

I will go.
I will do it.
And because it is you who asks it,
I trust that whatever I accomplish
will somehow work for good.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

La Gonave in the news

MSNBC has done a story on the influx of earthquake refugees to La Gonave. That's the island I visited two years ago. I've been in the hospital you see in the news story: we took a member of our group there when he began to pass a kidney stone.

Watch the video

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Ruins of Episcopal cathedral in Port-au-Prince

I received this photo today by email. It shows the ruins of the Episcopal cathedral in Port-au-Prince. In an earlier post, I showed pictures of the cathedral interior taken during my trip to Haiti two years ago.


Lord, your house is left to you desolate.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Moroni 10:32

The Haitian rescue and aid efforts continue, but from my vantage point here in the States it's all fading from normalcy-shattering crisis to background noise. I hate that transition. Even though, of course, life goes on and I've gone on reading my scriptures and doing different kinds of spiritual reflection during the week, I've kept my blog entries for the past couple of weeks focused on Haiti because it seemed callous to let anything else into the spotlight. But at some point, Haiti passes from center stage to join a whole chorus line of other concerns.

At the Advocate, we do the Prayers of the People each week. By unscripted custom, certain petitions are routine: Someone always prays for the other religious groups who loan our congregation use of their buildings; someone typically prays for peace in Iraq and Afghanistan; someone often prays for those working to end the death penalty in our state; etc. If someone else doesn't do it, I want to make Haitian relief and reconstruction one of our routine petitions.


For the past couple of years, I've been using the blog principally to post weekly reflections on the standard works being studied in Sunday School. I haven't settled yet on a weekly routine for this year, but I'm pretty sure it won't be following the Sunday School reading schedule. I feel like it's time to do something different, and I have some sense of where I'm being nudged to go, but I'm in a "wait and see" mode for the time being.

Before the earthquake hit, I'd been planning to post this. It's a very free "retranslation" or paraphrase of Moroni 10:32, something that I felt moved to work on a while back. I have a couple more paraphrases of commonly cited scriptural passages I'll probably post later.

Unfamiliar as the paraphrase may seem, every phrase is a reflection on something in the original text.


Come to Christ—enter into Christ—
and you will be made complete.

Let go of everything that holds you back
from growing into the fullness of your divine nature.

Let it go,
and let love for God take over your life.

Throw yourself at God with unrestrained passion;
hold nothing back.

You will be transformed
in ways you would not have dreamed possible—
transformed by God’s power working in you,
remaking you into the image of Christ.

Try it, and see for yourself.

(Moroni 10:32)

Monday, January 18, 2010

200,000 dead in Haiti; looting, flight

I just read the latest estimate of the death toll: 200,000. Four times the Red Cross estimate, two times the initial estimate preceding that one. God. I don't know what to add to that vocative.

The obstacles to distributing aid have led to looting and riots. People are fleeing the city. At church on Sunday we had a report of yet another facet of the disaster that hadn't even dawned on me until then: People in the countryside get a lot of their goods, including food, from the city. But of course now those market routes have been disrupted, and God knows when they'll be up and running again at their accustomed capacity. So the earthquake is producing shortages of necessary goods in the countryside as well.

Talking with my father the other night, he passed on to me the news that an LDS chapel which withstood the earthquake is being used as a medical center. (My father, who used to do construction for the Church, said he wasn't surprised to hear the building had survived because the Church's own building codes are stricter than those used in many developing countries.) Read the story.

The chance for resurrection I see coming out of this disaster—for bringing life and renewal out of death and destruction—is that (1) the need to rebuild creates opportunities to build right, to create infrastructure that can help lift this country and its people out of poverty; (2) Americans are perhaps more keenly aware than they were before of this incredibly poor country that's one of our nearest neighbors. I pray a commitment to Haiti endures after the earthquake finally passes out of the news.

They shall build the old wastes,
they shall raise up the former desolations,
and they shall repair the waste cities,
the desolations of many generations.
(Isaiah 61:4)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Prayers for aid workers in Haiti

Today my thoughts are especially with those who are trying to administer aid in the midst of the tremendous obstacles: difficulties getting into the country, the challenges of getting aid to those who need it, the overwhelming numbers of people in need and the insufficient numbers of those available to help, the threat of rioting by desperate people.

Hold on your way; fear not,
for God will be with you.
(D&C 122:9)

Lift up your heads and be comforted,
notwithstanding your many strugglings
which have been in vain.
I trust there remains
an effective struggle to be made;
therefore lift up your heads,
and put your trust in God.
(Mosiah 7:18-19)

All things must come to pass in their time;
therefore, be not weary in well-doing.
(D&C 64:32-33)

Lord, give success to the laborers.
Comfort their souls.
Grant them strength to bear the afflictions
that will come upon them.
(Alma 31:32-33)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Haitian casualties may be less than feared

The Red Cross is now estimating 45,000-50,000 dead. While still a horrible number, of course, it is substantially less than the initial fears of 100,000 dead or more. Thank God for that.

I continue to pray for survivors: the wounded, the homeless, the bereaved. I pray for those administering medical aid. I pray for the search and rescue teams. I pray for those who are transporting and distributing food, water, clothes, and other needed supplies.

The earth ceased to tremble,
and the rocks ceased to rend.
And the wailing of the people who were spared alive ceased,
and their mourning was turned into joy
and their lamentations into thanksgiving.
(3 Ne. 10:9-10)

That's not going to happen for some time yet, of course. But that's what I'm praying for.

In Christ's name, amen.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Some good news about Haiti

The word is that the island I visited two years with the Episcopal mission group "was shaken but not devastated." The news was a great relief. I'd hoped that would prove to be the case.

I'm so grateful to see the outpouring of concern and support coming from Americans and others elsewhere in the world. I'm grateful that people are being moved by the spirit of solidarity and generosity.

I pray for a spirit of wisdom and insight to be with those who are trying to get aid where it's needed, so they will know how to cope with problems and be blessed to find solutions. I pray that aid workers will be blessed with strength—that they will be borne up on eagle's wings; that they will run and not be weary, walk and not faint. I pray for a spirit of solidarity to prevail among survivors as they wait for help, and look for food and water and other necessities, and do what they can to help the wounded and to start to rebuild. I pray that there will be not be violence and anarchy. I pray that the Spirit will comfort those who mourn and give a spirit of hope to those who are waiting for help.

Papa nou ki nan Sièl-la,
délivré nou ak sa ki mal.

In Christ's name, amen.

Haitian cathedral destroyed

I received an email earlier today, announcing that the Episcopal cathedral in Haiti "is gone." That was a secondhand report, but I've now seen it confirmed in a news article at the Episcopal Church website.

I visited that cathedral two years ago. It was adorned with beautiful folk-style art. Here are some photos. The destruction of art is by no means the most important measure of the tragedy—for that we have to look to the destruction of homes and bodies. But since I haven't yet heard about how anyone I know personally was impacted by the earthquake, the announcement of the destruction of the cathedral has been the thing that, thus far at least, has made the tragedy hit closest to home for me. It would be good if this is the closest the tragedy comes to hitting me personally, because it would mean that the people I know survived relatively unscathed. (My contacts lived on an island off the mainland, and I think there's a good chance the damage there will be minimal.)

All photos taken by Grace Camblos.

Haiti relief efforts

When I saw pictures of the giant dust cloud hanging over Port-au-Prince because of all the collapsed buildings, I realized this was going to be even worse than I'd first envisioned. My God, so much of this city is going to be reduced to rubble. Beyond the deaths and the wounded and the people trapped in collapsed buildings, there are going to be so many survivors left with nothing.

I'm relieved to see how quickly governments and relief agencies are mobilizing responses. So many resources are going to be needed, though. We're talking about a country that has such incredibly limited resources and infrastructure of its own already.

Donate to the Red Cross

I'd have liked to provide links to either LDS Humanitarian Services or the Community of Christ's responses to the earthquake, but there's nothing up online yet, though I assume that some kind of mobilization is underway by both institutions. I'll check back later.

UPDATE: LDS Church response to Haiti earthquake

UPDATE: Community of Christ, Haiti earthquake relief

I know disasters happen all the time, and I know my sense of investment in this one has to do with my connections to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. But I hope Americans generally will be seized emotionally by this disaster, the way we were by the tsunami five years ago. This disaster is going to prove to be particularly bad, and it's happening at our doorstep!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Haiti earthquake

I just caught part of a news story on CNN about the earthquake in Haiti. I expect this to be very bad, with many casualties and extensive damage to already weak and precarious infrastructure. Of all the setbacks this country did not need...

What do I pray for in this situation? I don't begin to know what to say. What can God do?

Be with the dying, let help come speedily to the wounded, comfort those who mourn. Keep the survivors safe. Clear obstacles from the path of those who are trying to bring aid. Touch the hearts of governments and individuals to give generously, and let the money be used wisely to accomplish the maximum good. Give hope to those who now have to rebuild. In Christ's name, amen.

I need to figure out how/where to make a productive donation.


She shall cover thee with her feathers,
and under her wings shalt thou trust.
(Psalm 91:4)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Bring my sons and daughters

The Old Testament reading in church today was from Isaiah 43, on which the hymn "How Firm a Foundation" is based. (We sang that hymn today as well, though it has a different tune in the Episcopal hymnal than in the LDS.) The theme of the reading was the gathering, which struck me because that theme has been on my mind lately.

Here are some selections from the passage (the text mostly from the NRSV, but with a few liberties).

Thus says the Lord,
who created you,
who formed you:

Do not be afraid,
for I have purchased your freedom.
I have called you by name;
I have claimed you.

When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
through the rivers,
they shall not overwhelm you.
When you walk through fire,
you shall not be burned,
and the flames shall not consume you.

For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
You are precious in my sight,
and honored, and I love you.

I will bring your offspring from the east,
and from the west I will gather you.
I will say to the north, "Give them up!"
and to the south, "Do not withhold!"

"Bring my sons from far away
and my daughters from the ends of the earth—
all who are called by my name,
whom I created for my glory,
whom I formed with my hands."

(Isaiah 43:1-7)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Manly Book of Experiences—WTF?!

I was having lunch just now, leafing absently through the Deseret Book catalogue that arrived in the mail a few days ago (I'm not really sure why we receive it), and I saw an advertisement for the product pictured above. It's a journal for boys, basically, created on the assumption that boys need to be convinced that journaling won't compromise their masculinity. Note that the cover is designed to look like something assembled from cardboard and duct tape, and that it carries the both defiant and assuring disclaimer, "Not a diary!" We're evidently to understand that a "diary" would be girly. Ditto for a journal made in the conventional style: the elegant binding, the faux gold lettering, the inkwell engraved on the front cover—the kind of journal I and most every other elder I knew took on our missions. How did we fail to recognize the feminine nature of these products?

According to Deseret Book's ad copy, "this one-of-a-kind journal has an important benefit, as the author states, 'The following pages will prove to future generations that you were indeed a manly man.'" Among the topics the book gives you to write about are: "manly injuries: stitches, broken bones, and lacerations," "moments of manly courage and bravery," "video games I've mastered or conquered, "sports I play," and "times I've shed a manly tear."

Extending the logic of this product, perhaps Deseret Book could persuade the Church to start producing editions of the scriptures designed to look more "manly." There are plenty of evangelical models on the market they could emulate: Bibles sold in metal casing stamped with the emblems of the different branches of the armed forces; Bibles with color inserts featuring athletes bearing their testimonies; just a couple weeks ago I saw a NASCAR edition. Those are scriptures that will prove to all who see you reading them "that you are indeed a manly man." What kind of limp-wristed pansy carries around leatherbound scriptures with gilded pages?

Jana Riess pointed out, like, 15 years ago how Mormon pop culture and marketing reinforce gender stereotyping. So I can't say I'm surprised by this product. But I'm still going to treat myself to the moral luxury of being appalled.

And I'm going to toss out a half-formed idea for consideration. Let's say you're a pre-teen Mormon boy growing up in a culture that equates masculinity with mastering video games and playing sports and breaking bones. But let's say that you're not really into sports and video games. Let's say you're more of the pensive, bookish, artistic type. Let's say you're sensitive and emotional, prone to shedding much more than the occasional "manly tear." And as you're growing up, approaching adolescence, you're becoming increasingly aware that you don't fit what your culture and your church regard as the conventional masculine mode. And at the same time, you're growing up in a church which equates homosexuality with gender confusion; and adults who are aware that you're out of step with what they regard as normal gender behavior are getting worried about what this means for your sexuality, and intentionally or not they're sending signals about that; and then you may have peers who are perfectly blunt in expressing their suspicions about your sexual identity ("Are you a fag?"). And as you grow into adolescence, you absorb these suspicions so that they become your own...

And thus a self-loathing candidate for Evergreen is born—a product, ironically, of the very same gender stereotypes that Evergreen is supposed to help confused, "same-sex attracted" people learn to live by.

The Book of Mormon tells us that "male and female . . . are alike to God" (2 Ne. 26:33). Latter-day Saints, however, are still far from convinced.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


In honor of Epiphany, with its theme of the light of Christ bursting forth to the nations, a passage from the Doctrine and Covenants. I read it in light [no pun intended there, honest] of my experience as a gay Mormon and a liberal Mormon.

I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
I came to my own,
and my own did not receive me.
I am the light that shines in darkness,
and the darkness does not comprehend it.
I am the one who said to my disciples,
"I have other sheep that are not of this fold,"
and there were many who did not understand me.
(D&C 10:57-59)

Friday, January 1, 2010

New Year, 2010

I realized today that it's been 10 years since the Y2K scare. That scare is one of the landmarks I use to remember how long my partner and I have been together, since our relationship started the Thanksgiving before Y2K. I remember us going together to visit a friend of his, with the big worldwide millennium celebration playing on TV in the background.

Ten years... In a society that doesn't yet lend same-sex relationships the logistical support structure of marriage—though it's starting here and there—and where so many couples who do have that legal structure end up divorcing anyway, these ten years feel like an accomplishment. More importantly, I feel very grateful for these years together.


As a kid, I watched the movie 2010 (pronounced "Twenty Ten," by the way, so when are people going to quit calling this year "two thousand ten"; we only said "two thousand" during years 0-9 because pronouncing 2009 "twenty nine" would be confusing, though I guess we could have said "twenty oh nine"; anyway, we didn't call 1999 "one thousand nine hundred ninety-nine," so why are we setting ourselves up now to be saying "two thousand ninety-nine"; sheesh, people, catch up already)... Anyway, as a kid I watched 2010, and that year was tantalizingly close enough to make you wonder "What will the world really be like then?" (not like the Star Trek movies, which were set so far in the future that they might as well have been set in a realm of pure fantasy); but that year also felt far enough away that you couldn't really wrap your mind around the fact that you would, presumably, live to it, not in the same way you envisioned what you'd be doing in just a year or two...

But now here we are. Living the future. No manned spaceships travelling to Jupiter, though. And the Soviet Union's an anachronism, though at the time the movie was made, its longevity just seemed like something you had to take for granted. Of course the Soviet Union would still be around in 2010. Just as you take for granted that the United States will still be around in, say, 2050. Won't it?

I grew up as a kid taking it for granted that by the time I reached the year 2000, the world would be caving in under the calamities leading up to the Second Coming. I quite seriously imagined that as a draftable young adult, I would have to be on the run as a draft dodger to avoid being sent by the U.S. government to fight against the nation of Israel in the battle of Armageddon. When I was in high school, in the late 1980s, I assumed that by the late 1990s there would probably have been a nuclear war. These beliefs weren't active in my life in the sense that I actually planned around them. I wasn't holing up in the mountains; I was preparing for college and some kind of future career on the assumption that the system would be around indefinitely. But in the back of my mind, I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be.

Looking back, I find it a strange way to have lived. Now I live with no mental roadmap for the future. I take nothing for granted anymore. There are no prophecies telling us how the story will end. We've been given sketches of what God would like the future to look like. But whether that happens or not depends, collectively, on the agency of the human family.

OK, I admit it: I still live my life assuming, in the back of my mind, that I'll probably live to see Western civilization collapse; to see global warming soar out of control; to see the electrical grid go dead, and the Internet and all the vital information on it dissolve like a mist. I think it's entirely possible that when I die, it will be of starvation. That's partly just the apocalyptic frame of mind I was schooled in as a Latter-day Saint; but it's also because the people running the show aren't giving me much reason to be more optimistic.