About Meg Stout

Meg Stout has been an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ (of Latter-day Saints) 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 that Emma was right to assert she had been Joseph's only true wife.

The Social Dilemma

This past month my family endured something of an emergency. My autistic daughter had decided to send inappropriate video links to various family members. In response, my husband decided that my daughter would have to give up her phone for 4 days.

Now, my daughter already suffers from a lack of understanding of the universe, due to her autism. Plus she has Graves Disease, which at times makes her highly emotional, irrational, and paranoid. For example, my daughter will start screaming at us that we are not her real parents, that we kidnapped her a birth. When I remind her (often calmly) that I know she is my child because I was there when she entered mortality, she will wail, “Are you sure?!?!?!?! How do you know!?!?!?!”

For the first two days of phone restrictions, my daughter was rabidly angry and paranoid. Which prompted numerous efforts to correct the errors in her thinking. By the weekend, the oppositional paranoia increased to fever pitch, then gave way to waves of non-specific anxiety. By the last day of the phone restrictions, my daughter was in a constant state of panic: weeping, hyperventilating, afraid my husband was going to die.

Then she got the phone back, and it was like she’d received a calming drug. Now she’s back to only frequent paranoid behavior.

It was in light of this recent experience that I watched /the social dilemma, a documentary mixed with drama that rings a warning bell (if rather faint) regarding how social media companies benefit from algorithms that maximize our screen time, no matter what the consequence.

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The Joys of Growing Old

In recent months, I have increasingly savored the resonance I have with people and places familiar to me.

Not all the resonance is pleasant. Walking into work, I sometimes remember the mass shooting that killed 12 of my co-workers. When I take the Van Dorn exit off the Beltway, I see the hotel where a Soviet GRU agent was apprehended in the 1980s as a result of a friend’s willingness to be a counter-intelligence asset. When I drive past a certain park, I remember the suicide of a Woodson student whose disappearance I followed for the many days before their body was discovered.

But other times the resonance grounds me, reminding me that I am among people I know and cherish.

This past conference, I was reminded time and again that I know these people. Because of the use of recorded music, I was able to see Clay Christiansen at the organ, bringing to mind memories of singing at the National Basilica to a concert he gave, then sitting around the table at lunch with him in the Basilica cafeteria as he talked about the organ he’s installed at his house. Several friends were in the Tabernacle Choir for the performances broadcast this past weekend, including one man I remember dancing with at Youth Conference dances, whose sister was a cherished friend.

Several of those who spoke in the conference or during specials airing that weekend are individuals I have met in real life, including a former member of my ward and another who I have met at family gatherings.

No life is the same, so the experiences that have shaped my soul are different from the experiences that have shaped your soul. But I wish for you that the difficulties of this life can become for you pearls of wisdom and that the friendships of this life can become for you gossamer threads tying you to the best hopes God holds for your future.

Doctrine and Covenants Song

A few years ago, my husband told us he was planning to write a mneumonic song, to help folks remember the sections in the Doctrine and Covenants.

“How’s it going to go?” I laughed. Then I sang the following to the tune used for the New Testament song: ‘1, 2, 3, and 4, and 5, 6, and 7?'”

In response, Bryan sang the first part to us, to the tune “Flow Gently, Sweet Afton” (as in the youtube video above):

“The Doctrine and Covenants has more of God’s word:
Section 1’s the Lord’s Preface; the 4th calls to serve.
18, souls are worth much; 19, please repent.
The Church formed in 20; 27, sacrament.

This past year, Bryan fleshed out the entire text, refining a word or two here and there as we began our 2021 study of the Doctrine and Covenants. On Easter, Bryan finished the video and posted in to Youtube.

For my part, I tried to argue for some of my favorites (the Elect Lady revelation in D&C 25, the discussion of Church governance in D&C 28). But I am pleased to share a song we’ve enjoyed in our family over the years, which helps us remember some of our favorite sections.

April General Conference #genconf

In a few minutes, we will have the chance to participate in General Conference. I almost miss the days when we would live-blog conference. I have fond memories of sitting in darkened chapels, typing away at my computer keyboard, giving you my synopsis of what I was taking away from the session.

But now any of us with modern devices can listen and watch live from whatever corner of the world we are in. Just go to ChurchofJesusChrist.org and click on the Conference stream image (above). And if we can’t participate to the live stream, we can access recordings of the live stream immediately afterwards.

May you have a wonderful Conference weekend and a Holy Easter Sunday!

To the Hebrews

One of the delights of moving to home-focused, Church-supported study is implicit permission to take your own studies far beyond the level that is appropriate for a general audience meeting for less than an hour in Sunday School.

On April 16, BYU Studies will be releasing a much-anticipated commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, which was the subject of an entire online conference broadcast on March 6, 2021. 1

When I was provided an advance copy for review, I didn’t understand why a commentary on 13 chapters in the New Testament could justify a book that runs nearly 900 pages. But gamely I dove in.

The Gem Painted in Pauline Authorship

The Epistle to the Hebrews is commonly attributed to Paul. But the early fathers noted that the Greek of this epistle is more elegant and refined than Paul’s rather blunt language. It is as if one were to read something written by Neal A. Maxwell and be told it was the work of Bruce R. McConkie.

This beautiful and powerful early epistle clearly could not be entirely attributed to Paul. At best, it was an epistle that someone with a better command of Greek could have written based on the teachings of Paul, himself.

For hundreds of years, Christian leaders struggled to find a way to canonize this precious document. There were those who argued it had to be Paul, despite the wholly different nature of Greek usage. Eventually those who didn’t agree the author was Paul felt it was more worthy to include the Epistle to the Hebrews than to allow this gem to be excluded because its unknown author could not be known to be an apostle.

[The unknown author of the Epistle to the Hebrews refers to himself as a man, so no spinning feminist theories about this one.]

Why read (buy, study, delight in) this Commentary?

The Epistle to the Hebrews was written to children of converts, pleading for them to remain true to Christ. All of us who have embraced the baptism of Christ benefit from the author’s plea to reject today’s faithless ones, embrace Christ, and unite with the faithful from the beginning of time.

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Notes:

  1. The BYU Hebrews Commentary Conference is available on youtube at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLXbAVRWvW61YxGGxH2xqj1MulRbjefwqs.