A Collection of Random Thoughts

Half Dome Yosemite

Photo and text by Gabrielle.

Today, I’ve got another installment of random thoughts just for you. Feel free to share your own random thoughts in the comments!

1) Happy Veteran’s Day!
I’m feeling such gratitude to the Veterans in my life. I’m thinking of my brother-in-laws Paul Rodgers and Daniel Madsen. I’m thinking of my Grandpa Pack and Grandpa Stanley who both served in WWII. And I’m thinking of all the amazing people that have been willing to give their time, and in too many cases, their lives, to defend this country.

Are you thinking of anyone in particular today? Will you get the chance to visit a military cemetery or perhaps a veteran’s hospital? Have you found a good way to mark this day, or help your kids understand its significance? I always love your ideas!

2) Since Thursday night, I have been preoccupied with news that my church has a new troubling policy. I have probably spent a hundred hours at this point talking to people about it. I’d like to tell you I’ve been totally gracious in my discussions, but if I’m honest, among the civil conversations I’ve had, I’ve also done a good deal of shouting at the internet. Sigh. It’s definitely an emotionally charged subject. I’ve been writing all over the place, but you can see most of my thoughts in the comments of this post.

I should note: If you have thoughts to share on this topic, I do want to listen to you and talk with you, but may not be able to respond today as I’m traveling.

3) Speaking of which, I’m on a quick field trip to L.A. today for some business meetings. Nothing dramatic — I’ll fill you in as soon as I can. It’s a short trip and I return home tomorrow night.

I really like Los Angeles. I was born in Southern California and spent my first 5 years there. And once we moved away, we still returned for visits several times a year. So there’s something about the area that always feels and smells familiar to me. I have lots of happy memories there.

Do you have strong feelings about Los Angeles? It seems like anytime it comes up in conversation, the city provokes a lot of love and hate. In comparison, I have almost never heard anyone express big dislike for New York City — they might complain about its challenges, but they adore it at the same time.

4) I am thinking about Alt Summit. We announced some big changes coming up. After January’s conference, we’re moving our flagship event to a new city! It’s a big deal to us and we’re excited about the change, but also feeling nostalgic about all the years we’ve had in Salt Lake City. I’m so happy we get one more conference there! I’m really looking forward to the January event. Are you coming?

When we made the announcement, we knew there would be people that wanted one more chance to experience Alt Summit in Salt Lake City, and we opened up a block of additional tickets. They are going fast, so if you want one, I hope you’ll grab it right away.

5) Our 3-day trip to Yosemite was so good for my soul. Time together with my whole family feels like the most precious resource I have at the moment. A resource that disappears too quickly! I loved every minute of the trip. Talking with everyone during the drive. Asking the kids to play DJ so we can hear what they’re listening to these days. Hearing them debate about the Oreos versus Trader Joe’s Joe Joe’s.

And of course, simply being in Yosemite. Each day, we would head into the park with zero plan. And then we’d park and explore whenever something caught our eye. We scramble on the boulders, play by the river, play catch in the meadows, watch the sunset on El Capitan. The weather was wonderful — enough chill to keep us in jackets and hats, but not so cold that the kids weren’t willing to dunk their heads in the river. Hah!

This was also the first time we had the chance to visit the Ahwahnee Lodge. The hotel was booked so we didn’t stay there, but we explored the public spaces and ate a big feast for lunch in their famous restaurant. Fun fact: We learned that the restaurant has a dress code for dinner. So if you’re planning a visit, you might want to pack something dressier than we did. : )

We really loved being there and we’re thinking about making reservations now for Thanksgiving 2016. A holiday at Yosemite sounds magical.

One more bonus about visiting in November is that the park is relatively empty. In the summer, visitors are required to use the park shuttles, but in November, we could drive and park quite easily. If you’d like to see, I shared a whole bunch of photos on Instagram and so did my kids.

6) We finally turned on the heat here in Oakland. If we lived anywhere but the Bay Area, that would probably be a sign of dread for me, but the weather here is so steady that it almost feels like a novelty. Maude made me hot cocoa with marshmallows last night, and it felt like the best treat ever. Sometimes I miss having true, decisive seasons, so it’s fun to have this drop in temperature. (Though when February comes around, I admit, I’m like, just kidding, California is best!)

7) I’m thinking about Ralph’s Court of Honor. I still haven’t start planning it and need to get myself in gear! I want to plan something really memorable and fun and satisfying for everyone involved, but I haven’t been to many Eagle Courts of Honor. Are there any particularly good ideas you’ve seen or heard of? Please share!

8) After a family party with cousins on Monday night, we were driving back from San Francisco and the topic of babysitting came up. I told Oscar and Betty that in just a few short years, they would probably get a chance to babysit their little cousin Edie.

June was understandably upset. She teared up. Would she get to babysit anyone? We told her that when she’s old enough to babysit, Ralph or Maude might be a parent, and she can babysit their kids. Obviously, we have no idea if and when our kids will become parents, but regardless, June was so excited!! You could see her little head calculating the future generations and trying to figure out who was going to babysit her own kids. It’s so satisfying and unbelievable to see your children start to comprehend past and future in a profound way. There are a whole lot of amazing things about being a parent, but watching your kids learn something right before your eyes is one of my favorite parts.

I think that’s it for today. Please feel free to respond to anything here, or bring up your own topic. I always love hearing what’s on your minds!

 P.S. — I post my random thoughts each month. You can find them all here.

137 thoughts on “A Collection of Random Thoughts”

  1. Oh and with the idea that this policy is simply aimed at missionary efforts, it becomes more clear how the church says it puts families first, even with same sex parents. If the church was concerned with only gaining members it would allow baptism no matter what. But I see it calling for respect for families first, membership in the church second. (I think if the policy was worded to actually say that, with emphasis on keeping harmony in the home for future converts, we all could’ve avoided a lot of grief. )

  2. Gabby I met you on your book tour and was blown away. I’ve read this blog for years but meeting you showed me how smart, gracious, and thoughtful you truly are. I hope that everyone who disagrees with you on this matter could know that you are even more sincere and great in real life.

    I am hurting over this policy, not just because of the specifics but because of the direction it seems to be moving the ship. Is gay marriage the mountain our church wants to die on? Is the church view of a family the most important thing?

    In looking over the lessons I’ve been assigned to teach for relief society in the last couple years, over 60% have been largely about the family. I support families. I am part of a family that fits the church mold. My husband and I have held lots of leadership positions and continue to serve in the church. But sometimes I think we as a church are missing the forest for a tree. We need more time talking about love, forgiveness, following Christ, listening to the Holy Ghost, the sacrament. Where were those things in all my assigned topics to teach? I’ve done my best to emphasize them but so often I feel like I’ve been asked to preach one man one woman marriage go go. There’s more out there. We have a church and a world full of people that could use some more teachings on loving like Jesus did, on forgiving and following him.

    I know people have been hurt by this new policy specifically. I feel hurt wondering where our church is going in light of this policy. I hate that people think Mormons hate gay people. I don’t. I don’t know where to go or what to do. I am sure if I spoke with my local leaders I would be “flagged” and removed from my callings, given a scarlet letter of sorts. I feel like any appeal to SLC falls on deaf ears. I want to be true to myself and my beliefs. It seems I want to have my cake and eat it too, and that doesn’t feel easy. And so I am hurt, praying, waiting, and wondering. I am so glad to know that I am not alone in this place. Hugs to you, gabby.

  3. Hi Gabby,

    I don’t mean to beat a dead horse, but I have little littles in the house and didn’t get to respond earlier than now.

    Thank you for all you do. You work hard with your whole heart.

    I appreciate your honesty and really feel for how emotional of a position that this honesty has put you in. I know that you are acting out of love for the children who will be at the receiving end of this policy. I know that you regularly ask and weigh in on hard questions, but as a member of your faith I feel how especially wrenching this policy issue has been for many.

    Spoken in a spirit of love and sharing, not of judgment or derision, I’d like to relay my own personal experience. I once was at a major crossroads in the history of my own belief. I can remember a day when my feelings about Joseph Smith were as dark as dark could be about a person. I don’t say this lightly. My feelings for the church died. I felt zero amounts of inspiration and felt two-faced and culturally pressured to tell faith promoting stories about him in my then calling. I simply could not understand or reconcile who he was (according to some accounts) with what I had been taught about him, and up to that point, what I had believed about him. He wasn’t even the initial doubt I had started with. However, my doubts had evolved into questioning the entire foundation of our faith. I’m not saying this is happening to you. It just happened to me and is part of my story.

    I prayed a lot and struggled and eventually received slow but steady answers that gradually became more clear and more precious to me, and those answers pointed me in the direction of rebuilding my faith. It took me years, now almost a decade. I know that many of my friends who have struggled at their own personal crossroads have gone in a different direction. I do not judge them, and I believe that their experiences are as real as mine. I believe that they are living the lives that they are meant to live. However, I cannot also deny my own experiences. I won’t catalogue them, but they were REAL. This story may sound *very* trite in Mormonspeak and something cliche and shallow spoken at a whim sacrament meeting, but for me it is as precious as anything in my life. The miracle and mystery of faith (for me) exists because of a razor sharp edge that I stood on and eventually found my way off of. I can’t say it was the last razor sharp edge that I will stand on. In fact I expect some more. However, though the world will never have a clear understanding of whether Joseph was an inspired prophet, perverted charlatan, or something in between, that question has been put to rest for me, deeply and profoundly so.

    The cycle of faith and knowledge will always have the dichotomy of doubt and truth surrounding and preceding it. With the lens of thousands of years, there is nothing in human ethics or experience that would justify the murder of one’s own child. Yet I believe that Abraham was asked of God to sacrifice Isaac and that they both willingly submitted to this request. I don’t believe this to be a metaphor or a legend or myth but a literal true experience of the patriarch Abraham, though of course with any good story there are immense layers to his tale. His razor sharp edge had an infinitely higher stake than my own, and his reward that much greater. What could induce him to make such a decision to obey? Was his faith admirable or abominable? Ultimately he was not asked to carry through on his test. Saul was asked to destroy the Amalekites down to the animals that they had, not excluding women, sheep, oxen, children, babies. He saved some animals for sacrifice. If it were me, right now, I couldn’t have even gone half as far as Saul in obedience. Yet he was asked by the the Lord’s anointed to do it. Would the Lord have excused him from this mission had he had the faith to go through with it? Was the Lord chastening or loving in his tone when He said He preferred obedience over offering the fat of rams? Do we believe in a barbaric, bloodthirsty God, or one who is infinitely loving whose actions we may never fully understand in this life? We may not even come close to understanding Him. How far does my trust go? Will he forgive our blind obedience? Does He require it? Will He expect us to stand up for the downtrodden? Could it possibly be all these things? These are not didactic questions, but instead questions of someone who has really wrestled with them and still does.

    Is this newest policy an error of men or an Abrahamic test? Does God use the errors of men to create Abrahamic tests for his Saints? Will it go the way of the former restrictive policy on the Priesthood or the practice of polygamy? Or will some form of institutional LGBT exclusion always exist due to the church’s doctrine on families? Could a loving God want that? Joseph taught that a religion that doesn’t ask its members to sacrifice everything does not have the power to save. Can we sacrifice our sexuality, our hobbies, our health, our families, our friendships, our beliefs, our culture, our good names, our acceptance, our safety, our lives… in order to be saved? Does He actually require those things of us, or are they all tests? Does He want that, or is this requirement a social Mormon construct?

    As a former missionary I taught some people who were not allowed by their parents to be baptized. In an extremely filial society some of these children were far into their adulthood, even in middle age. It was a tragedy that a cultural practice could prohibit so many from freely entering the waters of baptism. So on its face, to exclude children who have all consenting parents seems to make no sense. It may never. Is this a case of “His ways are not our ways” or institutional fallacy? Is it a test? Will it grow or break the faith of those tested? The former practice of exclusionary priesthood power resulted in many who could not understand it and eventually left the church. Some will never understand this policy and will never join the church because of it. I have it filed under my “ask God” when I see Him category. In the meantime, humble saints in who could not receive the priesthood but who believed the Book of Mormon were waiting, praying, and receiving miraculous visions, dreams, and answers to their faith. Think back to the story of Billy Johnson, a Ghanaian pioneer. The experiences that kept his faith going were as real to him as the angel who kept Abraham from slaying Isaac. Would he have had them had he not had this trial of his faith? Was that whole policy completely in vain? I cannot say because I don’t know.

    I believe that this policy issue is the tip of the iceberg. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will progressively be seen by the world as a hateful and bigoted organization that is led by outdated traditions and by men. Persecution will increase. Members will leave in greater numbers. Ironically, for scripture to be fulfilled, this must happen.

    Many serious and faithful members of our church will grapple deeply with their faith as they have in the past. Some will not be able to reconcile history. Some will come to believe that the purity of what Joseph Smith once taught was lost over time and that plain and precious truths are now being purposefully hidden. Some will come to believe that they never had belief to begin with. Some will believe that the church is turning away from love and clinging to hatred. Some will hold to the faith that the Church is true and that all will be made right in the end despite the errors and misunderstandings of men. I intend to stay. Though the future will be full of trials, I believe it will be worth it. But I know this won’t be the case for many, and I understand that we all have a path in life. Loving Father in Heaven has all past, present, and future before Him. What we experience in this life is meant to be (not through coercion but by design of free agency), whether it be faith, doubt, disbelief, or the many shades of those things.

    There is only one thing I know for sure. Every facet of hurt, abuse, and darkness that exists in this life can ultimately be healed by the Atonement. Those hurt by this policy can be healed. Those who have been offended by your words can heal. Those who are offended by my words and by the Church as an institution can heal from their disgust. We can choose peace and love, understanding and forgiveness. The Atonement is mighty to save.

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