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.

Escaping (Bird) Hell

This past week my husband and I found a bird in the lobby while cleaning a building.

Now, I care about the organization whose building we were cleaning. But I think all would agree that a wild bird would find any building to be a hell. As I had a chance to reflect, the bird’s saga reminded me of too many times when I or those I love have been caught in our own personal hells.


When we saw the bird, my husband tried to open the outer doors so the bird could fly free. But it is hard, when in hell, to know who or what to trust. In this case, the bird darted past us, flying through the labyrinthine hallways, into a room near an exit.

Here again, we attempted to coax the bird out a door to freedom. But the bird, panicked, darted down yet another hallway.

Two things are worth mentioning at this point.

First, my husband had seen an e-mail from the week prior, where a bird was reported in the largest room in the building, a room with a ceiling more than twenty feet high. The person reporting this had left the doors leading out of the large room open, in hopes that the bird might both escape the room, as it would surely die were it to remain in that large room.

Second, I had gone the other way through the hallways, shutting any doors left ajar.

The bird ended up at the front of the building again, flying straight towards freedom. My husband had propped open a door. But the bird flew straight into a window flanking the open door, likely to avoid being within arms’ reach of my husband. The bird fluttered aloft again and retreated to a perch at the far side of the lobby, which we had now closed off from the other hallways. My husband similarly backed away from the open door.

After a moment of resting, the bird flew towards freedom again. But again the bird hugged the wall, leading it directly to the window.

Helpless, we watched as the bird tried a third time, this time flying so hard that the impact knocked the bird to the floor, motionless.

My husband approached from behind. The bird, desperate, flapped away.

Through the open inner door.

But the bird collapsed before it made it through the outer door.

My husband carefully closed the inner door, leaving only a path to true freedom.

While my husband left to finish what we had come to do, I sat near the door, waiting for the bird to either expire or escape. There was plenty of time to reflect on how I and others had beat our souls bloody trying to escape from our own hells. There was time to reflect on how I, at least, had not been willing to take advantage of the helps that lay on every side. There were the times when I and others had been so destroyed that escape seemed futile.

The bird kept breathing, though shallowly. I waited, watching.

Then, to my surprise, the bird fluttered the wings that had been so awkwardly splayed akimbo. It hopped to its feet. Then, before I could have said anything, the bird took flight, soaring out the door to freedom.


May we, also, always keep trying to overcome the limitations that bind us. May those of us trying to help know that, at times, the one who needs help must rest before accepting the aid we so wish to grant.

Over all, may we, though bruised and hurting, find our way to the escape our Savior offers us.

Religion and the one, true… fiber?

There are times when the Church comes under fire for claiming to be God’s true Church.

This came to mind recently when I was researching psyllium, the ground husks of plantain seeds (in this case, plantain, the flowering plant). I had bought some psyllium for a gluten-free bread recipe and was intrigued by uses indicated by the packaging.

Curious, I found NIH articles titled “Evidence-Based Approach to Fiber Supplements and Clinically Meaningful Health Benefits” Part 1 and Part 2.

Bottom line, psyllium is by far the only supplement that actually provably delivers benefits across the board:

  • reduces cholesterol
  • mitigates glycemic spikes
  • improves satiety
  • mitigates constipation
  • helps mitigate diarrhea
  • reduces irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  • helps achieve weight loss 1

Here’s the summary chart from the second of the NIH reports, which makes it obvious that psyllium really is head and shoulders above other supplementary fiber sources (click on the chart to open the table in a separate window):

Now, if we were going to provide a “benefit” chart for religions, what would we list as the benefits we seek from religion? Several come to mind for me, but I’m interested to hear what you have to say.

Notes:

  1. The NIH literature survey required two peer-reviewed studies to make a finding of unequivocal benefit, so only gave psyllium a +/- for this.

Review of a Review: Bushman on Givens’s The Pearl of Greatest Price

Though I have not yet had the pleasure of reading the totality of Terry’s Givens’s The Pearl of Greatest Price, I was delighted by the review written by Richard Bushman, which is in the most recent issue of BYU Studies (59:4).

Where the Book of Mormon and The Doctrine and Covenants were intentional scripture, largely or entirely created and published as scripture during the life of Joseph Smith, The Pearl of Great Price assembles a collection of writings by Joseph Smith that was originally assembled as a pamphlet in Britain by Franklin Richards in 1851, long after Joseph was dead. The collection was canonized in 1880 as President John Taylor was sustained as the new President of the Church. It may be worth noting that the text now known as The Book of Abraham and the Articles of Faith were originally published in the Times and Seasons during the spring of 1842, when Willard Richards (Franklin’s brother) was residing in the Times and Seasons building and John Taylor was effectively running the operations of publishing the Times and Seasons (though Joseph was titular editor at that time).

Richard Bushman points out how radically Joseph’s doctrine departed from what had become “Traditional Christianity.” Though Bushman doesn’t reflect on this, I imagine Terryl Givens in his text may make mention that Joseph’s doctrine does, in fact, hark back to the teachings of the original Church fathers, those who had learned Christianity from the Savior or those who themselves had learned at the feet of the Savior.

I recommend Terryl’s book for your consideration. But any reading this blog post surely have time and ability to take in Richard Bushman’s review of Terryl’s book. Please read it.

___________________________

One point Terryl apparently makes, with which I will take some exception, is the idea that the universe existed before God and that God appears powerless over aspects of that universe, specifically the free willed actions of individuals. A God who actively chooses to allow us free will is not the same as a God who lacks the power to take away our free will.

As I contemplate what it means to be like God and His Christ, I see how hard They work to teach us Truth and guide us into wise decisions. In becoming like Christ, this is an aspect that I try to emulate. But when I contemplate an omniscient and omnipotent God who respects our free will, this is to me more powerful than a God who simply can’t thwart our free will. As a mere human, it is possible for me to take away the free will of others. And therefore, God must also be capable of stripping us of free will.

Saints understand God, though raining down truth upon us, to not force our will. At this time of COVID and availability of scientifically validated mitigations, this alternate reading of the God of the Pearl of Great Price gives me insight into why communities dominated by Saints have reacted as they have.

Jan 2021 versus Jun 1844

I remember a day when I realized how much confusion could have been avoided had Joseph Smith lived longer. I pulled the covers over my head and wept great wracking sobs.

When the news started rolling out about the attack on the U.S. Capitol, it was obvious to me that there were parallels between the mob of January 2021 in Washington, DC, and the mob of June 1844 in Carthage, IL.

  • The 1844 press had agitated for overthrow of a legitimately elected rule, with the Expositor laying the groundwork for suspicion and the Warsaw Signal actively calling for violence, “War and extermination is inevitable! Citizens ARISE ONE and ALL!!!-Can you stand by, and suffer such INFERNAL DEVILS! to ROB men of their property and RIGHTS, without avenging them. We have no time for comment, every man will make his own. LET IT BE MADE WITH POWDER AND BALL!!!” 1
  • The Carthage Greys were posted to protect Joseph Smith, but they were instructed to avoid loading their guns and rifles.
  • The individuals attacking gathered a distance from Carthage and whipped themselves into a “righteous” anger before attacking, based on reports under oath by those who were at that gathering.
  • Many individuals attacking had painted their faces (though it doesn’t seem the folks who attacked on Jan 2021 intended to hide their identities).
  • Some of those attacking were harmed during the attack.

Luckily, no elected officials were shot on 6 January 2021. In this, the attack of June 1844 achieved a higher degree of lethality, at least on the part of the intended victims.

I hadn’t bothered posting anything about this earlier because it seemed to me a comparison that didn’t need to be pointed out. However someone I care about, who is active on social media, indicated that they had not seen any comments comparing Jan 2021 to Jun 1844.

So with this, I consider that lack of comment on the obvious to be rectified.

Notes:

  1. Thomas Sharp, Editorial, Warsaw Signal, June 11, 1844, at http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/IL/sign1844.htm#0611 on 11 Jan 2021.

Slaying Dragons

I have written from time to time about my quest to save a family member who had become a victim of scams. I called this family member “Riley,” since that’s a nice, gender-neutral, name.

Alas, my mother has died (and I’ve told you who she is). You are left with the possibility that I was describing a distant relative (and some of you would therefore be right to wonder why I was butting into someone else’s business) or that I was describing my father.

“Riley” is my dad.

I bother writing this now because I spent the last two days in yet another hearing, where Dad incurred tens of thousands more dollars worth of legal effort in his quest to free himself from the protection we were able to provide for him. The funny thing is that all the legal costs are being borne by his estate. We children show up and testify. I’ve gotten really good at writing pro se filings. But no one else is losing a cent (aside from toner, paper, and stamps). With COVID, none of us even had to stir from our couches.

I sometimes see my life as slaying dragons. Some of the dragons are small, like the tiny dragons of disorder in my home. Other dragons are large, like the threats against which it is my job to help ensure the United States maintains undersea superiority. M* readers have witnessed my battles trying to slay the twin dragons of 1) defamation against Joseph Smith over plural marriage and 2) adulation for the supposed patriarchal and woman-hating system some believers claim is Joseph’s legacy.

But when it became clear my father now believed African women were willing to share gold mines and $100Ms in offshore assets for fake marriage documents and every cent in his possession, I realized I was facing one of the most difficult dragons of all.

Dad is every whit as smart as I am. Like a tiger, he lashed out in ways intended to cause great wounds. Even now, protected, he is pleased to insist that I and my siblings acted to protect him only because we covet his money. Though we are barred from knowing anything about his will, he is pleased to tell us that he has disinherited us. Given that estimates of the value of Dad’s real property exceed $50M, that would hurt.

If it was money we cared about.

I guess I see my dad as being like Scrooge McDuck. He glories in his wealth. The scam worked on Dad because he thought he suddenly had a line on wealth beyond his previous dreams. Initially, we know, he intended the vast wealth the scammers promised to be ours.

But the way these scams go is predictable. First, every scrap of available money is siphoned out of the victim. In Dad’s case, that was $1.2M. Then, the real property is sold because of defaulted mortgages or unpaid taxes. The funds from these sales of real property go to the owner – land transformed to cash. Had Dad been unprotected and still under thrall, all that cash would have been wired to the scammers. The gold and promised wealth is imaginary.

Dad would have ended with his lifetime of investment, sacrifice, and luck dissipated. He would have been left with only income from his pension (still more than many have). And he would have had the love of his many children and grandchildren. But had he ever awoken to the truth, it would have been truly pitiable.

In Dad’s case, we were able to get him protected just as mortgage companies were acting to foreclose. Despite the substantial cash he’d lost, Dad didn’t lose any of the real property he’d spent his lifetime accumulating.

I hope in some future day to meet my Dad beyond the veil, freed from the lies that cloud his vision today. I hope that in that day he will realize that I was fighting to save him from a fate he would have found horrific.

For now, I must be content with a job well done, if unthanked by the beloved father whose dear treasure we have saved.