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 may have privately defied the commandment for love of his wife, Emma.

Happiness

How do we best care for ourselves? Apparently the secret is to care for others.

This tidbit is something we learn constantly in Church and from reading scriptures. But for those who are ashamed to cite scripture or prophets, it is possible to now add the most popular class at Yale University as a source for this wisdom.

Coursera hosts Yale’s Psych 157: Psychology and the Good Life for free (if you want a certificate proving you took the course, you can get that for $49). The course was created by Professor Laurie Santos based on her concern about the stress and depression she saw among students. When I signed up for the course, I saw that there are over 3 million others taking the course now.

For those who are ashamed to cite anything but scripture or prophets, recall the admonition to “seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.” 1

If you’re wondering what you can do to help others, I highly recommend the video Gift of Time, which is part of the My Foundation course material in the Self Reliance workshops.

Notes:

  1. D&C 88:118

The Phoenix: New Growth after Tragedy

Paul Fürst, Der Doctor Schnabel von Rom (coloured version)

With apologies to King Arthur, England was a fringe nation of little importance before the plague. England’s primary crop was wheat, which was consumed locally. But after the plague had ravaged the western world, the labor-intensive process of growing wheat could not continue as it had before. The shortage of workers skilled in producing and processing wheat led to two key outcomes.

First, much arable land was diverted away from wheat to sheep grazing. It took far fewer people (with less skill) to tend sheep per acre than grow wheat per acre. This in turn led to a boom in production of textiles, which could easily be exported. This textile-based economy was a key engine of English wealth through the beginning of the industrial revolution.

Second, the scarcity of wheat workers allowed those individuals to demand better pay. This contributed to the rise of a middle class in England.

Not unique to England, the plague led to an immediate excess of available fabric. Prior to the Black Plague, books had been rare. But the sudden availability of cloth led to transformation of that cloth into paper (e.g., the reason newspapers are referred to as “rags”). This was a key enabler for the enlightenment and explosion of innovation and knowledge that followed the Black Death.

Any tragedy will cause pain. But tragedy is often followed by benefits that would have been impossible without the tragedy.

My book club is reading Susan Orlean’s The Library Book, which revolves around the massive fire that destroyed the Los Angeles Central Library in April 1986. The fire and its damage were devastating, in many areas destroying at a heat of 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit (books start to burn at 451 degrees Fahrenheit). Yet destruction of that library led to massive community energy to rebuild. Among other things, the Los Angeles Public Library (LAPL) system was free to invest in cutting edge computerized cataloguing technology. While I’m not sure Orlean makes the connection in her book, widespread adoption of computerized catalogues, powered by the LAPL adoption of the technology, seems a necessary pre-condition for the 1995 creation of what initially was an online bookstore, Amazon.

The post title references the legend of the Phoenix, which dies in fire and is reborn anew. While the Phoenix is myth, many organisms are adapted to thrive despite destructive fires. Such pyrophytic (fire loving) plants may even require the heat of fire to allow new seeds to be released or thrive. The lands near volcanoes are famously fertile in large part because of what happens as a result of devastating volcanic explosions.

Even for us as individuals, we only grow stronger when we allow ourselves to be partially destroyed. Exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) is actually a tool athletes use to make themselves stronger. For each cell damaged, such damage may be the end of it’s individual existence. But the body as a whole becomes stronger.

This past week, speakers at General Conference spoke to us, comforting us in our trials, whether directly related to COVID or not. But they also reminded us that trials and hardship can help us.

Whatever comes to us, as those who have selected God’s will as the guiding focus of our lives (Israel, “Let God Prevail”), may we ponder the ways that God’s will can be accomplished even as we find ourselves broken by our hardships. And when the damage to our individual selves seems too great to ever overcome, let us know that Christ heals all who turn to Him. Through Christ, each individual may, ultimately, overcome any damage and harm they have sustained in life.

We need not die in our own metaphorical fire merely hoping that generations yet to be will garner benefit. We can know that we are held in the arms of God’s love, and that all these things will be for our experience and for our good.

Why Monogamy Isn’t Sufficient

I adore monogamy.

But because of my writings, from time to time I am contacted by someone (usually associated with the apostate Snuffer movement) who tries to convince me that Church historians and particularly Brian Hales are wrong about Joseph Smith teaching plural marriage.

Because Snuffer trained to be a lawyer, the folks who contact me try to wrap their reasoning in legalistic terms. But it’s a problem to try to argue history with someone (like me) who actually knows the source documents. Monogamists arguments take license with truth. They often take gross license with the truth. They depend on you being too stupid and uninformed to know that they are lying.

I have already excoriated one variant of the Monogamists’ attempt to re-write history (Commentary on Joseph Smith’s Monogamy, 2015).

But here’s the point, and why monogamy had to be removed as a requirement for eternal marriages:

Insisting on monogamy when doing temple work for the dead would result in excluding numerous women and their children. Maybe many of us are lucky enough that our ancestors were never married to more than one spouse over the course of their entire lives. But even if there were just one woman in a million who married a widower with children and then proceeded to conceive that man’s children, this would be sufficient for ensuring we didn’t insist on monogamy when we perform temple work for the deceased billions of mankind.

Maybe once we all get to heaven it might turn out that there are more men that women. But the point is that we need to make sure we do all the ordinances for everyone in this life. Insisting on monogamy when sealing up our dead would leave far too many women and children without their saving ordinances.

Please don’t be ignorant and stupid. Lovingly allow for all the ladies and their kiddos to be sealed into the family of mankind. Don’t throw off the gospel because of any reason. But particularly don’t throw off the gospel because of this monogamist silliness.

Pretend I was as eloquent about the evils of folks insisting on monogamy as Mormon was about folks baptizing their infants (Moroni 8). Except for the part where Mormon uses words like hell. My autistic daughter gets very upset with me when I say words like hell.

End of rant. For now.

Let God Prevail!

It is always a pleasure to hear from our prophet, and that general truth has been unusually true with President Russell Nelson.

President Nelson shared that he has been focused on the doctrine of the gathering of Israel for all the 36 years he has been an apostle. Yet there was more to learn.

Recently he learned that one Hebrew meaning of “Israel” is “Let God Prevail!”

President Nelson’s comments were powerful, and if you happened to miss this session, it will be available to view very soon. In the meantime, below are the notes I took.

Continue reading

General Conference!

https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/general-conference?lang=eng

It’s time for October General Conference!

With the evolution of technology, we refer you to ChurchofJesusChrist.org. You will be able to watch live during the broadcast itself, or find footage from sessions you may have missed.

For summaries of key sermons, news and announcements from the October 2020 proceedings, visit the Church Newsroom page:

https://newsroom.churchofjesuschrist.org/article/october-2020-general-conference

God bless you and yours during this weekend, as we listen to words of wisdom and peace.