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.

Cheerful Givers

St. Margaret at Queensferry by William Brassey Hole (1899)

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “…God loveth a cheerful giver.” 1

God loves all of us all the time. Yet when we don’t give or give grudgingly, God may not delight in us, though we be loved.

When it comes to giving cheerfully, I typically think of the person for whom I was named, St. Margaret. Margaret was Queen of Scotland, mother to eight children, and my ancestor 2. Though St. Margaret lived nearly 1000 years ago, the deeds of her life were preserved by means of her daughter, who insisted that Margaret’s confessor create a written record by which the daughter could remember the mother she had not known well.

The life the confessor captured is an epitome of the giving Christian. Margaret would feed hundreds of orphans each day of the two Lenten periods she observed each year (before Easter and before Christmas). As Margaret visited the inhabitants of her country, she would give away all that she had. And she encouraged those around her to give similarly.

In Church today, one friend described how those actions we may see as sacrifices can later be seen as investments. By cheerfully giving and serving, we create a better world, both for ourselves and for those around us.

As King David wrote, The earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof…. 3 Everything we have is God’s, by that view. The only thing we have of ourselves is our free will. If we willingly, gladly, give to God and His children, then we have given the only gift we have to give.

Who are your examples, when you think of Paul’s admonition to give cheerfully?

Notes:

  1. 2 Cor. 9:7
  2. According to the genealogies others have researched,
  3. Psalm 24:1

Proof versus Conjecture: the Golden State Killer

Detail of cover to Michelle McNamara’s 2018 book about the Golden State Killer

In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of robberies, dozens of rapes, and numerous murders were committed by an individual Michelle McNamara dubbed the Golden State Killer.

The individual had been known by other names: the Visalia Ransacker (1973-1976), the East Area Rapist (EAR, 1976-1979) and the Original Night Stalker (ONS, 1979-1986). DNA from the crime scenes could not be analyzed until the DNA profiling theory of 1985 was adopted in the affected California jurisdictions.

Ms. McNamara died in 2016 of a combination of an undiagnosed heart defect and prescription drugs for sleeplessness, anxiety, and pain. Colleagues finished the book, which was published in February 2018. Neither Ms. McNamara nor those who completed the book knew who the Golden State Killer was. The many DNA clues that linked the crimes to one another did not match any DNA profiles on the FBI’s Combined DNA Index System (CODIS).

As I read Ms. McNamara’s book, I knew who police arrested in April 2018. Therefore it was almost painful to read the portion of the book where Ms. McNamara and her colleagues talked about the the times they had been certain they had found the killer, only to learn time and again that DNA exonerated the suspect.

Of this, Ms. McNamara wrote:

“We return to the past, armed with more information and cutting edge innovations. But there are hazards in having so much wizardry at hand. The feast of data means there are more circumstances to bend and connect. You’re tempted to build your villain with the abundance of pieces. It’s understandable. We’re pattern seekers, all of us. We glimpse the rough outline of what we seek and we get snagged on it, sometimes remaining stuck we we could get free and move on.”

No matter how much a suspect seemed to resemble the profile of the killer, they were not the killer if the DNA didn’t match. In this case, a simple test was possible, a test that time and again failed to validate the plausible conjecture in which people were so vested.

Why is this germane to the audience that reads Millennial Star? I think it is germane because there are many who have become convinced of a seemingly plausible conjecture regarding Church history. They have glimpsed a rough outline and have gotten entirely snagged on it. They have been unable to move on and seek to snag others with their discontent.

Unfortunately, determining the validity of conjectures regarding Church history is not as simple as performing a single DNA test. Entire theories are based on the thinnest of evidence, with dozens of books and hundreds/thousands of online repeaters voicing the conjecture as though it were incontrovertible fact.

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Miracles

Today I met a new brother, recently moved into our congregation. [Actually, I met several new brothers (and sisters), recently moved into our congregation.] As we often have since January, we used the hour after the end of formal meetings to chat with one another.

This brother, who suffered near-fatal injuries in Afghanistan, spoke of the miracles that had occurred in his life. He shared of a day after his injury when he was broken, in pain, angry at everyone and everything. In his pain and anger, he had quarreled with a fellow patient, a quarrel that led to murderous blows. He had wholly given up on himself and anything he had learned since his baptism as a child convert about religion and forbearance and forgiveness. The rest of that day was expected to go on without love or concern, just pain and anguish.

As visiting hours began, this brother headed to the back of the facility. As he passed through a doorway, the fellow he’d quarreled with was coming the other way.

“Where’re you going?!” he demanded.

“Some Elders from my Church are here. My Bishop gave them permission so I can have the sacrament.”

All hostility faded away.

“Um… Could I join you?”

I’m sure words conveyed something about the brother’s baptism many years earlier, and his willingness to renew that covenant. So in less than eight hours he’d gone from actively trying to murder a fellow patient to humbly partaking of the sacrament side by side with that same patient.

A miracle.

My new friend shared that one of his favorite talks is Matthew Cowley’s 1953 talk on miracles, which this brother listens to regularly. I recommend the talk to you. As Elder Crowley relates, he was advised early in his ministry that he was always to speak as inspired by God.

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Maiden: Film Review

Maiden Official Trailer (includes spoilers, may include ad)

In great epics, the hero faces tragedy around age ten. Scrappy, unruly, the hero overcomes great odds as they find themselves and their quest. In the best stories, the hero joins together with valued colleagues to conquer against great odds, risking death.

If Maiden was a fictional film, it would be a great film. But the story of Tracy Edwards and her friends is better than that. It is true.

Maiden is both a universal tale of an underdog making good and a specific tale of a woman proving gender should not be used to exclude excellence. No matter what your life experience, I project you will find that Maiden grips you, inspires you, and surprises you in all the best ways. To explain further why I am posting this to Millennial Star would be to post spoilers. And as much as possible, this is a story best told to an audience that doesn’t know what (exactly) will happen.

For those of us who have adult memories of 1989, watching Maiden is like looking back at a trailhead from a summit. It seems impossible that Tracy Edwards and her fellow female sailors faced such disdain and abuse. No businesses would initially back them, fearing negative press when the presumed fatal disaster inevitably occurred. When Tracy and her team arrived at the start of the race, the bets were not about where they would place, but how close to the start they would founder on the initial transatlantic leg.

This morning I was in a meeting headed by my Captain, a woman who was commanding officer of a US Navy Destroyer and now directs acquisition of military capability worth hundreds of millions of dollars each year. We who rejoice to see women able to achieve and lead in what were formerly male-only fields of endeavor owe a debt to Tracy Edwards. She did not excel through fighting in the courts or demanding a seat at the table, but by achieving a dream over which she had control, a dream for which she offered everything she had and all that she was.

Protecting the Flock

Jesus with the Little Children

As our family read from Romans this week, I was struck by two verses which differentiate between those who are struggling with faith they wish to retain and those who are actively attempting to destroy faith.

Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations….

Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.

For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ…,

Romans 14:1, 16:17-18

There are those who tear down with words. Then there are those who destroy in more disturbing ways.

The Church has launched training, which is mandatory for those who minister to children and youth. This training can be accessed at ProtectingChildren.ChurchofJesusChrist.org.

All may take the training, which becomes part of one’s Church “training jacket.” The training must be re-taken every three years to maintain eligibility to minister to children. As all become trained, we will be better able to detect and prevent inappropriate behavior.

Paul’s counsel to the Romans was to help them understand the difference between earnest questions and calculated attacks, counsel we do well to consider in our day.

The Church training on protecting children and youth is to avoid those instances of inappropriate behavior which so harm children of God and further provoke those wanting to condemn God and His people.

Let us so live that we are fully acceptable to God and those who are His, no matter how those in the great and spacious building might mock and jeer.