About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the LDS church for decades. She lives in the DC area with her husband, Bryan, and several daughters. She is an engineer by vocation and a writer by avocation. Meg is the author of Reluctant Polygamist, laying out the possibility that Joseph taught the acceptability of plural marriage but may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Making Babies… And Math


Recently I wanted to find out the probability that an average woman would get pregnant at any given age.

I was really surprised by what I found. In my family going back in time, people tended to get pregnant whenever it occurred to them to try. So I had this model in my head that likelihood of getting pregnant after puberty (menarche) was close to certainty in any given month when an attempt would be made, until the time when one’s body stopped wanting to deal with pregnancy.

But it turns out that the first several years of being a woman we females aren’t particularly fertile. It’s possible to get pregnant, as all too many teens can attest. But for most in that early period of time, there’s not reliable ovulation to accompany the outward signs associated with monthly ovulation. This anovulation seriously messes with likelihood of getting pregnant in the early teen years, which is awesome, since risk of maternal death is significantly elevated for folks who get pregnant before age 16.

The peak timeframe for fertility is in the early twenties. Across multiple studies, it appears a person who wishes to become pregnant at this stage of their life has a 97% chance of achieving their goal, with a 25% monthly probability of getting pregnant. Continue reading

James Hamula released, no longer a member of the church

From James Hamula’s biography at lds.org:

August 8, 2017: This morning James J. Hamula was released as a General Authority Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, following Church disciplinary action by the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, LDS Church spokesman Eric Hawkins provided the press no details about the removal. But the church did confirm Hamula was no longer a member of the church and that his ouster was not for apostasy.

This is the first excommunication of a LDS General Authority in the social media age. The most recent excommunication of a General Authority prior to today’s announcement involved George P. Lee, who was cut off in 1989 and admitted in court circa 1994 to touching the chest of a 12-year-old girl. The most recent excommunication of an LDS General Authority prior to 1989 occurred in 1943, when Apostle Richard R. Lyman was cut off for a long-term affair with a woman he considered to be his secret plural wife.

I urge readers to reach out in love and compassion to the Hamula family and their friends during this unprecedented public readjustment.

Update: The Deseret News has also published an article about this announcement, which discusses the reasons why the Church excommunicates individuals and the circumstances where they might explain the reason for the action.

Three sisters and Illicit Intercourse

This past few days I’ve been at Sunstone, where I made a presentation about the Illicit Intercourse heresy of 1841 and 1842.

My point to all I talked with, whatever their persuasion, is that this history makes a huge difference in how we interpret our past. It has huge power to help us own our now and plan our future. I’ll be putting the audio together with the slide deck in the next day or so.

In the meantime let me mention a couple of the things I saw at Sunstone.

I learned that Exmormon Reddit is approaching 50,000 members, with about 1 million unique views per month. Apparently I had been a member of that Reddit group before under my own name but my account has now been deleted. I was assured that it probably had to do with the fact that I simply haven’t gone to that site in years now.

I saw Kate Kelly and chatted with her. She’s moved on from the faith and marriage that she was in when she was excommunicated. But the folks seeking female ordination in the LDS church are still active in attempting to make their point. I shared the experience I had of blessing my son before his death, at a time before I had come to realize that such things are not necessarily kosher under current policy. There is a documentary in the works about Kate Kelly’s journey, and the trailer includes footage of the moment when Kate learned she had been excommunicated. While I wished she had handled her disciplinary trial differently, it was a raw and painful moment.

I popped in on one presenter who happens to be from my stake. It was good to hear him talk about how we become one, but I’m afraid I brought a bit of the “no prophet is honored in his own country” to that session.

On Saturday I caught a session about the minutes of the Council of Fifty. It is good to have those records. But I would argue people shouldn’t be held to their most wild and fevered statements immediately after a murder.

The final session I was able to catch focused on female body image. The two main speakers are both involved in professions that focus on the human body. The first lady is not Mormon. She was a Playboy Playmate of the Month in 2011 and currently helps couples learn to more fully receive physical fulfillment from one another. The second, Sasha, is an active member of the church and her profession is dancing in strip clubs. Her tale is one of terrible abuse, homelessness, drug abuse, and rape. In short, a life from which becoming a very good stripper is a step up. And the entire time, as she struggled with the different stages of her life, she continually and faithfully came to church and held on to her faith in Christ.

As I left Sunstone to rejoin family and make sure I could actually catch my flight home, I ran into these two outstanding women, one who knows nothing of Mormonism and another who has held to the pure faith of Mormonism despite a rather atypical journey. I had shared some of my past experience during the Q&A session, so the three of us were pleased to have a picture taken, which for me was the only picture of this conference.

How do we love all the children of God, whom He loves, even when their lives differ so much from our own? Particularly in cases where their work could be seen as being in conflict with our own dearest hopes?

Beloved Pioneer


Here is the talk I gave yesterday in Church, but without all the sniffling.

Beloved Pioneers
Meg Stout
July 23, 2017

While the choir was preparing to sing Faith in Every Footstep, we learned how this song came about. K. Newell Dayley had a son going on a mission. So Newell said they should both memorize a scripture each day.

They did this for about two weeks. Then on a Saturday morning, the words to this song started flooding into Brother Dayley’s mind. He completed the words and tune that very morning. 1

Sometimes we don’t even know we are laying the foundation of a great work. Brother Dayley had no idea his scripture memorization would do anything more than help his son be more ready for a mission. Yet how many thousands and millions of people have heard this anthem and been lifted by its message.

What is a pioneer?

The term pioneer comes from Latin, and originally meant a foot soldier, one sent ahead to prepare the field for the army. 2

The first ones we call pioneers were the Mormons who had been driven from Missouri. They had endured the deaths of Joseph and his brother, Hyrum. When it was clear that the courts would not punish anyone for murder, mobs began attacking again. I have ancestors who died during these so-called Wolf Hunts. 3

Despite attack, the Saints completed the temple and decorated it in the dead of winter with green plants, to symbolize paradise. They sealed themselves together as families. 4 Then they turned west. Continue reading

Notes:

  1. “The Story Behind Faith in Every Footstep,” online 7/22/2017 at http://quantumleap42.blogspot.com/2009/07/story-behind-faith-in-every-footstep.html.
  2. pioneer (n.), “foot soldier who prepares the way for the army,” from Middle French pionnier “foot-soldier, pioneer,” from Old French paonier “foot-soldier” (11c.), from peon (see pawn, as in the pawns in a game of chess (n.2)). Figurative sense of “person who goes first or does something first” is from c. 1600. Related: Pioneers, online 7/22/2017 at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=pioneer. Fun thought – in a game of chess, the pawns are the first, but are relatively weak. But as they “endure” to reach the other side of the board, they gain strength to move like the most powerful player, which in chess is the queen.
  3. Mary Amanda Bunnell and Ralph Henry Delong. According to the oral histories, the family was given “blueberries” that fall by neighbors and all who ate the pie made from the berries died. Most died within a day of eating the pie. Mary went into premature labor and then she and the infant died, consistent with how a deadly poison would have affected a pregant woman and her unborn child.
  4. Cook, Lyndon, Nauvoo Marriages Proxy Sealings, Grandin Book Company, 2004, available at https://www.amazon.com/Nauvoo-Marriages-Proxy-Sealings-1843-1846/dp/B000RAHCCM.

Be Ye One

Getty ImagesLast night my pre-mission daughter shared a new cool thing she’d seen on the internet:

Synchronous Fireflies

There are a few places in the world where these unique fireflies can be found, including the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee.

A question researchers had was “why do they light up at the same time?” The hypothesis was that there was some master bug that was somehow commanding the others to blink in unison. One imagined viscious attacks of the master bugs on asynchronous outcasts, producing successive generations where mindless obedience was bred into the system.

Honestly, researchers did posit some kind of centralized control for these insects.

But then they found out what is really happening. It turns out the flashing of a firefly is controlled by an internal clock. Most species of firefly flash to their own rhythm and don’t take cues from their neighbors. But Photinus carolinus fireflies will adjust their internal clock in response to their neighbors. Let’s call it photoluminescent empathy.

This empathy causes a firefly that hasn’t yet lit up to see another’s light and say “let me speed up my next cycle a bit to be like them.” My daughter had found a website where you could turn on this “empathy” and watch the screen as dozens of animated fireflies slowly blinked into synchronicity, based on the math of the natural phenomenon.

The animation was set up so you could click and move your mouse to cause a photonic disturbance in the unity. So we spent some time “messing up” the unified blinking, only to relax and watch as the virtual fireflies slowly returned to their soothing unison pattern.

Those who accept Christ’s baptism and strive to honor that commitment are like these special fireflies. They look to the faithful around them and yearn to be one. It isn’t because of central mind control from Salt Lake City or harsh sanctions against the slackers, but because one sees another doing good and is inspired to try a little harder oneself.

It made me reflect on a couple of events of the past, recent and non-so-recent. As we would click to disrupt the unison flashing, I thought of high-profile disruptions that have spun away segments of those who were previously one with the Saints. Like wounds in the beauty of the unity, however, our click and drag disruptions would heal. And in similar manner I see the disruptions in our own unified body healing.

Alas, my quinquagenarian google-fu isn’t leading me to the fun animation I enjoyed with my daughter last night. If any of you know where to find the synchronous firefly animation, please share.

And in the mean time, I will look to my brothers and sisters and try to be more like the good I see in them.