I Wish You'd Never Been Born!

I'll never forget the day that one of my siblings, in a moment of sheer frustration with me, shouted out the words, "I WISH YOU'D NEVER BEEN BORN!" and more important, how that made me feel. It literally seared my soul to the very core of my being. I was 13 at the time.

But don't think that I was any better. Oh no. Prior to that we had had many fights as siblings and I can assure you that I had likely taken my fair share of below-the-belt potshots, of which no doubt my sisters surely remember one or two -- at least.

And even though I know that these horrendous words were not intentionally meant to hurt me, certainly not in the way that they did, but were a way to be mean, in the moment, in the stupid way that kids behave at times -- they left a mark that affected my tender young spirit. The result of which left a scar, an indelible imprint -- a distorted and false message about my worth as a human being.

Why am I bringing this up now, today, these many years later? Well, earlier this morning I was reminded about the ongoing and increasing problem of bullying, and how words can really hurt individuals -- I mean really hurt, in ways that those who have not encountered a bully may not understand.

I myself have had a few encounters with bullies over the course of my life, at different ages, and sadly, on one occasion, was a conscious perpetrator. It's true.

When I was about 10, for some reason, and I honestly can't recall the circumstances surrounding the incident, but I told my other playmates on the playground to not like this one, short haired little girl. To this day, I can still remember her face, vividly. And to this day, that I did that to another human soul, haunts me terribly. Every single time I think about it, I am deeply ashamed of myself, and my eyes well up with tears of sadness for the little girl that I bullied on the playground -- and for the scar that I surely must have left upon her tender young heart.

Oh that I could go back in time and tell her how very sorry I am for being such a beast of a child!

I don't think that I would have ever had the courage to share my own pathetic story, if not for Elder Jeffrey R. Holland and his example of humility in sharing the following, touching account of how his own thoughtless actions may have affected someone else, causing him to feel the need to repent, too -- as related during a CES fireside, later reprinted in the April 1998 Ensign titled: Come Unto Me

In 1979 we held in St. George, Utah, our 20-year class reunion for Dixie High School. We had great high school years filled with state football and basketball championships and a host of other “hometown, USA” memories. An effort was made to find current addresses for the entire class and get everyone to the reunion. 
In the midst of all that fun, I remember the terribly painful letter written by one very bright—but, in her childhood, somewhat less popular—young woman who wrote something like this: 
“Congratulations to all of us for having survived long enough to have a 20-year class reunion. I hope everyone has a wonderful time. But don’t reserve a place for me. I have, in fact, spent most of those 20 years trying to forget the painful moments of our school days together. Now that I am nearly over those feelings of loneliness and shattered self-esteem, I cannot bring myself to see all of the class and run the risk of remembering all of that again. Have a good time and forgive me. It is my problem, not yours. Maybe I can come at the 30-year mark.” 
Which, I am very happy to report, she did. But she was terribly wrong about one thing—it was our problem, and we knew it. 
I have wept for her—my friend—and other friends like her in my youth for whom I and a lot of others obviously were not masters of “the healer’s art”. We simply were not the Savior’s agents or disciples that he intends people to be. I cannot help but wonder what I might have done to watch out a little more for the ones not included, to make sure the gesture of a friendly word or a listening ear or a little low-cost casual talk and shared time might have reached far enough to include those hanging on the outer edge of the social circle, and in some cases barely hanging on at all.

Now granted, I was only 10 at the time, and he a high school student, with likely little involvement among those whom the letter was directed. However, it's important to note that both of us were within the age range that most often is found the highest incidents of bullying, still today. And because bullying in the past was considered a mere playground hazard, many parents have a tendency to not take too seriously when their child is either accused of being a bully, or hear a report that they are being bullied -- a potentially grave mistake, according to recent reports.

What exactly constitutes bullying? According to the Center for Disease and Prevention:

"Bullying is when a person or group repeatedly tries to harm someone who is weaker or who they think is weaker. Sometimes it involves direct attacks such as hitting, name calling, teasing or taunting. Sometimes it is indirect, such as spreading rumors or trying to make others reject someone. 
Often people dismiss bullying among kids as a normal part of growing up. But bullying is harmful. It can lead children and teenagers to feel tense and afraid. It may lead them to avoid school. In severe cases, teens who are bullied may feel they need to take drastic measures or react violently. Others even consider suicide. For some, the effects of bullying last a lifetime."

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development gives this definition:

"Bullying is being aggressive to another person in a physical, verbal, or relational manner. Cyberbullying (or “electronic aggression”) is bullying that is done electronically, including through the Internet, e-mail, or mobile devices, among others."

So today as I was reminded of the worth of every soul, as a literal child of God, my heart was drawn to my baptismal covenant and a deep sense of gratitude for an understanding of my responsibility and promise to strive to develop the Christlike quality of charity. When I think back to that little girl of only 10, who could have momentarily been so thoughtless to have not realized how hurtful my actions were, to now feeling such pain for those actions, I am so very thankful for that incremental growth that has come line upon line as I've come unto to Christ and felt my need for the Atonement.

As parents, grandparents and teachers, this is the opportunity that we have with our children and students: to teach, nurture and guide them in recognizing those around us who may seem different, left out, and who the world cast off as dross. These are the many found by the wayside, hurting, lonely, often in need of a friend, and as we have learned, some perhaps at risk of suicide. As we encourage our children to try putting themselves in the place of those who others might feel comfortable treating less than, we teach them to become like the Savior -- thus they are developing charity; the pure love of Christ.

I'd like to share with you a video-poem by popular poet, Shane Koyczan, titled "To This Day". I think you'll be moved by this current art form and the way in which Shane has been able to take his own experience with being bullied and personalize it to so many who have also been affected, and empower them in the healing process. It's a powerful piece and ongoing project.

Video: To This Day  - Shane Koyczan

They Were Wrong! 

Awareness of social issues is a good thing when we remember, and have faith, that the answers are always found in applying the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

How have you helped your children understand the problem of bullying and identifying when they are being bullied or being a bully? Have you found positive ways to help them develop charity as you've discussed bullying in your family?

Kathryn Skaggs


The Meaning of Love in Mormonism

Mormons Launch New Website on Homosexuality

Lost and Found

Photo Credit: Chesi - Fotos CC

The Meaning of Love in Mormonism

I had the pleasure of contributing as a Guest Voice on the Washington Post's On Faith blog once again. This time, I was able to have a little fun with the piece, while at the same time share some of the most cherished aspects of our Mormon faith, having to do with the meaning of love in Mormonism.  My job was to be an "explainer" for our faith, alongside those of other faiths on the subject of love in an article titled: A Mormon Guide to love.

Twilight author, Stephanie Meyer, captivates her audience by weaving one single concept throughout her entire series -- the quest for eternal love. As romantic and fantastical as this may be to read, for Meyer, a Mormon, it is more than just mere fantasy--it’s reality – minus, of course, all the vampire action.

To find out how I explained true eternal love to On Faith readers, less the vampires, click HERE.

After the article was published at On Faith, I had an unexpected surprise in finding that the Mormon Newsroom linked over to my article on the Washington Post!

In a Valentine’s Day commentary on the Washington Post’s “On Faith” forum, a Mormon in California notes that the eternal love of Christ is the “lens through which Mormons view their most personal relationships.”

Read more: http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/mormon-view-love

I loved spending time pondering and praying about how I could best explain, limited to 800 words, what love means to Mormons, to those not of our faith. And of course with it being Valentine's Day, I would focus on romantic love, or marriage, first, but also love in the larger context of the LDS faith. This exercise was such a beautiful experience and gave me such an appreciation for just how much the gospel of Jesus Christ, at its very center, influences every aspect of our lives -- as it should.

When we come to understand the phrase "true religion" its power must manifest itself in all things of a person's life to claim that it is so, if it is indeed authentic.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in my view, can justly proclaim that it is truth, evidenced by its fruit in the lives of its many members!

Kathryn Skaggs

Photo Credit: Mormon Newsroom

WBMW:  Focusing on Greater Love

Mormon Women - Alone on Valentine’s Day? God Will Be With You

Prop 8: Many Surprised to See LDS Church Stand and Re-Affirm Position

As a Mormon, and a careful observer of my faith  as an organization, I've watched The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints carefully navigate the gauntlet of public scrutiny, accusations, and what feels like a final judgement, over these last few years -- and in particular, starting in 2008 with Romney's first presidential run and the process of passing Proposition 8; which from many has not been kind. In fact, many believed, and some from within, that because of the public whooping they've received, our leaders had learned their lesson; and that going forward they would no longer engage in the public debate when it came to the issue of gay marriage.

As well, in conversation with some members, I have heard it suggested, numerous times, that the Church probably had no idea the kind of backlash they would receive for getting involved with Prop 8; from both members and the public. Anyway, my point is, that since then, the LDS Church, granted, has been relatively quiet on the topic of same-sex marriage. Though what they have emphasized, extensively, is religious freedom. A very important focus. I think.

Also of note, and adding to the confusion, for some (again, this same surprised group) is the launch of the new mormonsandgays.com website. Apparently it is felt to be disingenuous to try to learn to love people better, while simultaneously not condone certain behaviors and/or actions. Which to me, as a parent, is not a difficult concept to grasp; as that is precisely the attribute that I had to acquire as the mother of teenagers -- then on to adult children who turned from values, completely.

So what upset the apple cart? Well, just last week it was reported that lawyers for the LDS Church prepared two briefs on behalf of a number of religious organizations to be filed with the U.S. Supreme Court, urging them to uphold Proposition 8 and the Defense of Marriage Act . Both were signed by not only The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but also the Southern Baptist Convention, the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, and the National Evangelical Association, among others.

Christian News reports that, "the United States Supreme Court has received over two dozen briefs from legal organizations nationwide expressing their support for Biblical marriage." They also said, "attorneys nationwide have been busy working on friend of the court briefs — also known as amicus briefs, to ensure their voice is heard among America’s highest justices." 

(I've only looked over the 37 page Prop 8 brief, but still plan to read it completely. From what I can tell, it is  a very well thought out and researched submission, and one that will be well worth the time to study and dissect. I imagine the content of which I will likely bring up, some, here.)

Within a matter of only days, as soon as word got out to those who strongly oppose Prop 8, their immediate reaction was to turn on the recent efforts of the LDS Church to reach out to the homosexual community as merely a buffer to camouflage Mormon homophobia, as noted above, being disingenuous, thus meaningless; e.g. this little gem from AMERICAblog:

There they go again. After claiming they were toning down the hate after single-handedly getting Prop 8 passed in California in 2008, and ripping the right of marriage away from millions of gays in California, the militant Mormons are back with a vengeance.
Hate took a holiday. It’s back now. 

This excerpt is only one among many, but you get the idea.

I posted a link about the briefs on my Facebook wall a few days before it hit the mainstream media, that quickly drew the attention of a few friends, one in particular who is a former Mormon, who lives in Canada, where same-sex marriage is legal. This is basically how it went down... 

I had finished a brief exchange with another friend, who is preparing to be baptized, and I had commented that it is an interesting time to be coming into the Church. I had touched lightly on the dynamic that some people find difficult to reconcile: which is that at the same time Mormons strongly defend traditional marriage, we also claim to have no ill feelings toward homosexuals. (This issue is actually addressed in the Prop 8 brief.)

My Canadian friend later jumped in, and challenged my ability to on one hand take a position that feels hurtful to people, while on the other hand not want to be seen as hurtful and/or expect others to understand this seeming contradiction. Meaning, he challenged my desire to have it both ways. He pointed out that I am anti-gay marriage and was basically saying that I should just admit it. Fair enough. But also conceded that he knows I am not vindictive, hateful or malicious. Thank you. I appreciate that. He then went on to confirm that he knew these things about me, because my convictions stem from my faith and not from any animosity.

He also felt it important that I understand the principle of how intentions operate: meaning, I have no control over how people perceive my actions, regardless of my goodwill. Therefore, it is better to not choose to do anything which could potentially be misconstrued by another person as hurtful. This is the philosophy that he believes we all should live by. (Of course this is my interpretation of what he wrote.)

After reading his comment, reading many other articles currently popping up online, and after a fairly long reprieve from blogging about Prop 8, I knew that now was the appropriate time to step back into the conversation, and give at least a general response to my friend's thoughts, and to share a few others that I feel are pertinent to the overall place we are at, right now, as we head toward the federal hearings next month. After all, I've been given a pretty good cue; and mind you, as I share my thoughts about these things, I own them as my personal opinions and feelings.

First, I want to address the double-edged sword that my Canadian friend raises: the inability to have it both ways and to control how others perceive my intentions.

That's something that I've given a considerable amount of thought to over these last few years as there have been and will be ongoing criticism toward those of the Mormon faith, and others, who have taken on this cause to stand for traditional marriage. I've had to conclude, that it's important to trust that those of a fair mind, and who are willing to take the time to either get to know me, and engage in conversation, or those who choose to be offended because another person opposes their opinion, are themselves making a choice, of which they are responsible. My peace, or clear conscience, comes from knowing that what I stand for is right in my mind, heart and spirit. The other factor that makes this work for me, is a respect for those whom I don't agree with and find difficult to understand at times -- and an equal expectation that I have, that others should offer me the same in return.

There is also the sensitivity factor, in general, with the homosexual community, which is challenging to navigate without causing offense. I am ever mindful when approaching these issues on my blog, to be as careful as possible -- but unfortunately because we are all still learning how to best communicate with one another, it is still a learning process for all of us. I continue to have a sincere desire to better understand my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters, and will continue to, awkwardly, try to do my best, with as little damage as possible.

Which brings me to a second point: the foundation of my position.

It seems to really ruffle the feathers of those who advocate the more liberal social issues of the day when people whose opinions are rooted in faith-based values speak out, or worse, unite their efforts with others to oppose them; simply because they lack respect for such convictions.

However, the truth of the matter is, that not one of us has the right to place a value judgement on the worth or weight of others' opinions; regardless of its origin. The fact is, that when one steps into the voting booth to cast a vote, or speak their mind in the public square, that act has equal value to the person who has the I.Q. of an Albert Einstein. As you may have already figured, I am a strong advocate for freedom of religion and freedom of conscience.

In regard to gay marriage, I have very passionate feelings about the rights of children, which is why I am more inclined than some, perhaps, to put myself out there on this topic. Without going into detail, my parents' divorced when I was 10. My relationship with my father was never the same after; although we continue to try. There were years at a time that I did not hear from him or see him. My mother was emotionally absent much of my growing up years; she herself adopted. I was greatly affected by these experiences and have seen how that also infiltrated the next generation and so forth. I was not raised in an active LDS home. After graduating high school, I did become active and met my husband. My personal motto: Every Generation Better

Upon coming to understand the Doctrine of the Family, I fully embraced it, and wanted those blessings for my own children, and now feel compelled to use my voice to stand up and speak for the natural birthright of every child, given by loving Heavenly Parents'. So my passion of knowing what is right emotionally, spiritually and physically, for children, comes from personal experience; confirmed by faith. That, is powerful combination.

The most frustrating element in the Prop 8 Case: beginning with the initial overturn of Prop 8, is the lack of outrage by the public, when millions of Americans had their "right" to vote deemed as meaningless by a handful of individuals. Instead, those who opposed the vote in question saw it as an advantage for their cause, rather than its true identity: a threat to future freedom -- and rejoiced in it.

Many people either don't know the full history behind Proposition 8, or they choose to forget, but its history goes back to 2000 when California voters passed Proposition 22, which was the first time the voice of the people made clear, by means of an initiative, that in the state of California: "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." However, in 2008 it was struck down by the state Supreme Court. So, in 2008 Prop 8 was brought before the voters, same words, but this time it would amend the Constitution; and once again it passed.

Did we (California) have a constitutional right to do so? I firmly believe that we did. In other words, my frustration about this entire case is that it has become twisted into a single issue, centered only on gay marriage, when the greater issue has to do with that which should alarm every American; and to me that is the greatest travesty of this entire fiasco! If Proposition 8 is not upheld, millions of Americans who exercised their right to vote in a legal election will have been disenfranchised by a few activist judges.

And so, as they say, "It is what it is." "We are, where we are." "What will be, will be." And, "We'll deal with the outcome...  Whatever that happens to be?"

I realize that that is not the most optimistic perspective. And one might suggest, not a winning attitude. Perhaps you might be wondering how I think the court will rule? My answer: I don't know. I hope that Prop 8 will be upheld in California. This is so important, but NOT only to defend traditional marriage; as most emphasize, as important as that is, as a moral issue, but for the reason that I've explained; both of them.

If Prop 8 is not upheld, of course that would be a disappointment, but not a shock. I'm sure most conservative Californians are going into this with eyes wide-open, knowing that we're being snubbed by the those who feel socially more evolved, who see us as being on the wrong side of history; some, our own members.

In fact, I was listening to a public interview  just yesterday, quite shocking actually. Mitch Mayne, a self-proclaimed gay ambassador for the Church, was asked how he felt about the LDS involvement in Prop 8, and curtly replied, "I think the Mormon Church deserved the black-eye that they got" and they moved on... and my mouth dropped. Honestly, the entire interview was, to me, odd.

I just sat there in stunned mode for quite a while, and thought to myself...   Does this guy know that the Church just sent those briefs to the United States Supreme Court Justices ---and that by doing so our leaders are in effect saying, at least in my opinion, we still stand behind our initial decision to support Proposition 8; no regrets, no backing down, no change in policy, same doctrines. And then I came back to reality.

Marriage between a man and a woman, from the LDS perspective, is an eternal doctrine, which is why The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has joined other religious organizations, throughout the United States, to voice concerns to the U.S. Supreme Court on this important issue, urging them to uphold Prop 8 and DOMA. From the brief:

A desire to maintain the only definition of marriage that there has previously ever been, which is only between a man and a woman, has never been a desire to hurt, exclude, or take away another person's perceived rights. That the definition of marriage could be redefined would have been inconceivable only a few short years ago. Yet today, those who desire to preserve traditional marriage are considered religious zealots and openly referred to as bigots.

I honestly feel that it's fair to concede that the LDS Church has made great strides in reaching out to the homosexual community, that are genuine, and that they, and their members will continue to do so. The Church has remained firm on its doctrines and policies concerning homosexual behavior, giving no indication of changing. So, to those who are surprised, upset, or perhaps feeling angry because you feel the Church has lulled gays into believing things were going to change, doctrinally, and then BAM, Prop 8 is back, here we go again!  Please don't be.

Meaning, don't be shocked or surprised. At least you shouldn't be. And if you are, then please make sure it's not because you feel you've been duped because of a switch in messaging from the Church -- because that's just not the case. Not from the Church. Maybe from those who don't represent the Church, who may have been speculating about potential changes, but not from the LDS Church. So please check your sources, before you decide who you're upset with. Okay?

Oh, and in the future, you might want to get a new, more credible, source for information about the LDS Church.

Kathryn Skaggs


Mormon Newsroom:

Same-Sex Attraction

New Church Website on Same-Sex Attraction Offers Love, Understanding and Hope

A Special Message From President Monson

I wanted to make sure you didn't miss reading a very special, and unprecedented, message that the Church published in the online edition of the LDS Church News, from President Thomas S. Monson; living Prophet of God. Fortunately, a friend was thoughtful enough to think that some of us might have just missed it, and in fact he was right, I did miss it! 

Perhaps the Mormon Newsroom have plans to post it there, and we all would have seen it, eventually. I'm not sure. All I know, is that it's a wonderful, and important message, and has given me cause to ponder on some specific things that President Monson said, and perhaps consider why he felt inspired to say them -- as well as increased my feelings of gratitude and love for our prophet, his life of selfless service, and Christlike example to the membership of the Church. 

President Monson noted that from the time he was called as a general authority, to now, as President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he has emphasized, "a need for the "rescue" of our brothers and sisters from many different situations which may be depriving them of all the blessings the gospel can provide" and that as President, "felt an increased urgency" for the work.

In his message, President Monson also made special note of the new ages for missionary service, the increase in Church temple building efforts, temple work, and our many opportunities to serve in the Church.  

"This year will mark 50 years since I was called to serve in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. I was 36 years old when that call came. Last August I celebrated my 85th birthday. Some of the senior members of the Quorum of the Twelve have a few years even on me. Age eventually takes its toll on all of us. However, we join our voices with King Benjamin, who said, as recorded in the second chapter of the book of Mosiah, "I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen ... and consecrated by my father, ... and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me" (Mosiah 2:11). Despite any health challenges that may come to us, despite any weakness in body or mind, we serve to the best of our ability. I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assures that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm.
As we now go forward, may we follow His example. He left His footprints in the sands of the seashore, but He left His teaching principles in the hearts and in the lives of all whom He taught. He instructed His disciples, and to us He speaks the same words, "Follow thou me" (John 21:22). May we ever be found doing so."

You can read the entire message on LDS Church News.

As mentioned above, the way in which this message was delivered, online, via the Church News, is unprecedented; at least to those of us who have chatted about it a bit. In our little discussion, we did note that it was published with very little fanfare considering its uniqueness, and could see no reason to make any big speculations about any particular reason it was published -- other than President Monson's desire to do so. There is always a concern, as he mentioned, for his declining health, of which the prayers of the entire Church are continually offered on his behalf. And lastly, of particular interest, might be the listing of above priorities; things to ponder.

Perhaps of greatest comfort, for most, and indeed to me personally, was this closing testimony...

"I assure you that the Church is in good hands. The system set up for the Council of the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve assures that it will always be in good hands and that, come what may, there is no need to worry or to fear. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, whom we follow, whom we worship, and whom we serve, is ever at the helm."

Highlights: See Others As They May Become

What are your thoughts about this unique message from President Monson? Had you heard about it? Where and how did hear about it? What were your first thoughts and impressions?

Kathryn Skaggs

Here are some of the addresses from President Monson on the topic of "rescue; but then again, perhaps he didn't always use that particular word in teaching the principle of saving souls. So, I've topped the list with the latest, and also my new personal favorite.

Thomas S. Monson: See Others As They May Become : )

Thomas S. Monson: To the Rescue

Thomas S. Monson: Believe, Obey, Endure

Thomas S. Monson: Precious Promises of The Book of Mormon

Thomas S. Monson: To Learn, To Do, To Be

Thomas S. Monson: He Is Not Here, But Is Risen

Thomas S. Monson: Come Unto Him in Prayer and Faith

Thomas S. Monson: Standards of Strength

Thomas S. Monson: Search and Rescue

Thomas S. Monson -- The Priesthood: Mighty Army of the Lord

Photo Credit: Mormon Newsroom