Sunday, January 18, 2015

Dos and Don'ts for Climbing Mount Timpanogos

Mount Timpanogos is the second tallest mountain in Utah's Wasatch mountain range. It's also the first real mountain I've ever climbed. I can say without hesitation that reaching the summit was one of the most physically challenging and mentally rewarding things I've ever done.  The hike is strenuous but not difficult on a technical level so even inexperienced hikers can reach the top with enough willpower.

Here are some tips to help make the most out of your climb!

DO: Pack enough snacks to keep you energized throughout the day. Energy bars, string cheese and trail mix are all good options. Consider bringing some sugary snacks for quick bursts of energy when you need it.

DON'T: Overpack. A small backpack with straps at the waist and chest is ideal. The heaviest item in your pack should be drinking water.

DO: Climb more than once.  The man in the photo above has summited Mount Timp one to two times a week (throughout climbing season) for the past several years! You don't need to go that often, but it's an interesting hike that has it all: forest, meadows, lakes...even a glacier!

DON'T: Climb before May or after October, and even then check the climbing conditions before you go.  Winter hiking requires technical climbing experience and is much more dangerous. June-September are the ideal climbing months.

DO:  Get started early. We started our hike at the Timpooneke trailhead in American Fork Canyon at 6:30 AM and still didn't reach the top until about 3:30 PM. If you plan on beginning any later than the crack of dawn, bring a flashlight for the way back!

DON'T: Overdress. Summer hikers probably only need a T-shirt and windbreaker. Spring and Fall hikers will likely need a T-Shirt, a warmer layer and a windbreaker plus a hat and gloves. Dress in layers, because the hike can be warm near the bottom and then windy and bitterly cold once you reach the ridge line.

DO: Wear shoes or boots that fit well and support your ankles. The last third of the trail crosses what is essentially a giant pile of rocks and slate. Your ankles will roll if they don't have the proper support.

DON'T: Litter. This much should be obvious. Finding trash along this gorgeous trail is no fun!

DO:  Take your time to enjoy the summit.  It will have taken you the better part of the day to get there, so spend forty minutes or an hour resting and taking in the views. You might even see some mountain goats!  

Thursday, January 15, 2015

An Open Letter to My Church: Please Stop Excommunicating the Doubters

This blog post is written in response to the Mormon Church's move to excommunicate John Dehlin announced this morning January 15th, 2015.

I am a (sort of) Mormon woman living in Salt Lake City. I am hurting.

That's what happens when one wakes up and finds themselves in the grip of a harrowing and tumultuous crisis of faith: it hurts. I hurt.

I was raised with one foot in Mormonism and one foot out: the daughter of a Mormon and an atheist. Even though my Mormon parent was never very religious, I stayed involved in LDS activities and called myself a believer. 
I progressed into my early twenties, growing into myself and developing an understanding of who I really was and who I wanted to be. With that growth came a slew of glaring and unanswerable questions. Suddenly, mercilessly, I understood that my belief in the teachings of the Mormon church came not from my
own convictions but from passive acceptance of the lessons and traditions I'd been raised with. It wasn't working for me anymore; blindly accepting what I was told and calling it faith was not the way I wanted to worship... it stopped being enough.

I am a doubter.
I am a doubter, and I'm hurting.

I don't fit perfectly within the Mormon box. I am loud. I am ambitious. I want a career. I want to graduate summa cum laude and go to an Ivy League graduate school. I've been happily married for over three and a half years but still have no desire to have children. It's not that I just want to wait until school is over or until we're more financially stable....I just genuinely do not want to be a mother at this point at time. Maybe that will change. Maybe it won't.

I have no desire to stop consenting adults from loving or marrying each other, regardless of their sexual orientation. I can accept that God considers the union of a man and a woman to be sacred, but I believe fiercely in agency (2 Nephi 2:27) and I can't wrap my head around the idea of a religious organization pouring millions of dollars into influencing legislation to take that agency away. It baffles me and breaks my heart.

As I began sorting through these feelings I read talk after talk, lesson after lesson, all telling me I was wrong, selfish, a sinner. The guilt was overwhelming. Why couldn't I change the way I felt? I wanted to change, and yet it was impossible - it was impossible because it would mean rewriting every facet of my identity and lying to myself on the most intrinsic of levels.

I wanted to believe. In many ways, I still do. It's not a thing I can fix by just "praying and reading my scriptures," which seems to be the cure-all prescribed and exhorted in every Sunday school class and Testimony Meeting.  If I am to ever find my way back to that proverbial path I will need to be unfailingly honest with myself.  If I'm to find or grow the testimony I wish I'd always had, it needs to be real and, most importantly, it needs to be mine.

I began a zealous search for answers. I read the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants. I read a 740 page historical biography of Joseph Smith. I poured over books and blogs, subscribed to podcasts, joined facebook groups.

Incredibly...I found that I wasn't alone. There were thousands just like me who had one too many questions and many seeds of doubt, and yet they were trying just as earnestly as I was to hold on and find a way back. It was the most merciful of blessings I could have hoped for - suddenly I had a family who understood me, supported me, and carried me back to a much healthier and positive place.  They showed me that it's possible to be a flawed, passionate, liberal, imperfect feminist and still believe that Jesus is my savior, that the Book of Mormon is inspired, that the leaders of my church are human and flawed but can still be called to do God's work.  They gave me hope.

As I'm sure you've already gathered from the title of this post, one of those groups is Mormon Stories, a website/podcast/facebook group that creates a genuine discussion about the issues within the Mormon church, created and run by John Dehlin.  This is not an anti-Mormon website. This is not a wolf in sheep's clothing out to prey on the flock.  This is a community of doubters who want, like me, to find their way home.

Today you moved to excommunicate John Dehlin. Last month, you called a friend of mine into a BYU disciplinary hearing for no other crime than identifying as a feminist. This summer, you removed a woman I respect from a church calling because she voiced her opinion on same-sex marriage in front of a church member who then reported her.

By doing these things you tell me that my doubt equates to apostasy. You tell me that voicing genuine opinion and fears is dangerous and worthy of punishment. You tell me that people like me are unwelcome in your house. 

In a church and community where I am supposed to feel joy and love and forgiveness, you make me feel unsafe.

I want to be a Mormon and I want to be a believer.  I just wish it weren't so hard sometimes. 


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