5 Things to Know About My Experience As An LGBT Mormon

1. I am an LGBT Mormon.

This may come as news to many, since it’s not something I’ve probably discussed with the majority of people reading this. So, I will begin this article by “coming out,” as it were, to the whole world. In all reality, I don’t know if I have one “coming out” moment, as we live in a heteronormative society, so I’ve had to do it several times, nor do I expect this to be the last time, but from here forward, it will be fairly public information.

Now, some of you may have known me in the past and say, “But I remember you dating a boy!” or  “Didn’t you like that guy, that one time?” To clarify, I identify with the B in LGBT.

2. My sexuality is not a defining factor in my personality.

Fun facts about me, Rebecca Moore: I have brown hair, I’m 6 feet tall, I am attracted to more than one gender, and I’m allergic to sulfa drugs.

Seriously, it’s no bigger deal to me than those things.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My orientation has more of an affect on my day to day life than my other fun facts because of the society we live in, (I’ve never had to sit in a conversation where people all sat around talking about how everyone with allergies to sulfa drugs were just lying sluts, but you can bet I’ve had to hear that about bisexuals), but to me personally, it’s not good, it’s not bad, it just is. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not interested in repressing it, or making it go away. It’s just there.

Obviously, this affects me enough that I’m writing about it, but my decision to share my perspective has much more to do with how other people view LGBT individuals and how it affects my life, than how I personally view myself.

3. The LDS Church has been my safe haven.

Many people have had tragically negative experiences within the church, but mine has been far from that. With one or two minor exceptions, I have never faced homophobia, nor any sort of discrimination from my fellow members.

My friends never treated me any differently, my priesthood leaders were compassionate, and overall, everyone treated me with the same respect after knowing as they did before. None of their actions ever changed, and that, for me, was beyond ideal. I didn’t need fanfare or a ruckus, I just wanted to be seen as a complex human being, and this is simply one of a thousand other things that make up who I am. They see me as a child of God first and foremost, and I will always be deeply grateful for being blessed to have been surrounded by so many who are living the gospel of Christ, not just preaching it.

4. My parents accepted me long before I came out.

Both of my parents raised me in a very empathetic and open home, and I credit them to be a major reason to why I never had to go through an identity crisis with my own sexuality. While I can say that I have always experienced attraction the way I do now, or at least as long as I can remember, it wasn’t until I was 14 that I finally put a word to what I am. This can be a trying time for anyone, the rage of youth starting to come on in full swing, but when I came to grips with myself, I felt no shame or guilt. It simply was.

In my younger years, when my mother had explained sex to me, she had always done so in a positive way. When we addressed the topic of homosexuality, she told me a story.

My uncle Luke, her older brother, is gay, and years ago, she was sitting at home with her mother when their phone rang. It was Luke, calling to ask if he could bring his partner home for Christmas, as his partner’s family had essentially disowned him, and he had nowhere to go. My grandmother, a staunch Mormon who had grown up in the South, assured him he was welcome at their home for Christmas. Afterwords, she turned to my mother who was 16 at the time, and said, “No one who would ever treat their child like that deserves to be a parent.”

While it was several years before I would come out to either of my parents, I knew that whenever I was ready to talk about it, I would be loved and always have a home with them.

5. My sexual history is not up for discussion.

We live in a world that has hyper-sexualized people whose orientation is different from heterosexuality, and mostly see LGBT people as sexual beings first. When many think of a gay man, they think of his relationship with other men before they think of his accomplishments in, perhaps, astrophysics or banking. They see the person’s interest in sex as their primary interest, when in fact their primary interest could be in cultivating a rather impressive herb garden.

But here we are, and so I feel the need to address what may become a barrage of questions about my own sexual experiences.

You don’t get to know about them, nor do you need to.

I am more than one thing, and while it has been my decision to be very open about a lot of personal things on this blog, this will be where I draw the line. Delving into my own sexual history to satisfy someone’s curiosity about my own orientation is wholly demeaning to me as an individual, and completely unnecessary in understanding the simple fact that I am attracted to men and women.

Also, while we’re here…

Sexual orientation is not about your current or past sexual actions. It is about to whom you find yourself attracted.

I am currently not sleeping with anyone, but that does not make me asexual. It simply means I’m choosing to not have sex with anyone right now. I do not intend to change this fact until I’m married.

As far as monogamy and bisexuality are concerned, they are not mutually exclusive. If a bisexual settles down with one person, they do not become “straight” or “gay” depending on the gender of their partner. Or in even simpler terms: “I don’t stop being Italian whenever I’m not eating Italian food.”

Lastly, I currently worthily hold a temple recommend, which means I am living LDS standards. I do not intend to change this at any point in the future. This decision was my own, and I ask that, while some may not understand it, it still be respected. I am my own person. However, I also would never wish that my choice be used to prop up bigotry toward individuals who have chosen a different path. Respect should come from all sides. 

As I leave this with you, I also issue a challenge to others similar to me, if they wish to accept. Share your story. My time in the church as an LGBT member is neither unique nor common. I know plenty who share my feelings and experiences, and plenty who don’t. I believe that if we want to improve as a community, open and honest discourse is vital to bringing us closer to a more Christlike society. If only certain stories are told, we cannot see the entire picture, and will not be able to truly improve ourselves.

In the end, I admonish everyone to seek to see humankind as Christ sees us.

Worthy of love.

Note: I will not be reading the comment section of this for my own sanity. If you have serious inquiry, I’m considering writing a follow up post, and of course want to engage in this discussion, so I will be accepting questions or comments at tlatoaetm@gmail.com. These will all be screened before being forwarded to me. 

A Lesson in Unglorified Violence: Why The 100 is the Best Thing to Happen to Sci-Fi in Years

If you go and see something like James Bond, Taken, The Bourne Identity, or any other summer Action/Sci-Fi blockbuster, most of the time you walk out of the theatre, pumped up, and ready to take on 14 drug cartels, corrupt government agents, and a civilization of invading aliens. Because, “HOLY CRAP! THAT WAS COOL!”

This is glorified violence. It takes away all the ugly gore, and just gives you fun action shots where all your favorite characters get to kick some butt. The bad guys they fight aren’t so much people as they are comic book-esque villains that have their humanity so far removed from them by the narrative, neither the protagonist nor audience feel any sense of remorse over their death. Yes, you get an occasional angsty, “What I do isn’t easy” line thrown out there, but based on the rest of the story, these lines hold little weight.

But then came The 100.

A few months ago, I had some friends recommend to me The 100, a show about 100 teenage delinquents attempting to survive earth, 97 years after a nuclear war wiped out most of humanity. I gave them a hearty, “No, thanks.” I was not interested in yet another post-apocalyptic drama on The CW. The entire subgenre does little for me, and especially on the teen end, because the whole “society’s  putting their youth in danger to solve issues” trope is now bordering on overdone.

But they begged. They promised it was good, and finally I caved.

And I can now wholeheartedly say that this show is going in the hallowed halls of my favorite fiction with Star Trek and The X-Files. There are some days where I even think I like it a little more.

This show is one of the most morally complex works I’ve seen in years, and a huge part of that is how violence is dealt with within the narrative. I’m not about to tell anyone that The 100 isn’t violent, because it is. But it’s not fun. It’s not pretty. It’s tragic. Even when it’s your favorite character fending off an attacker, it’s heartbreaking to watch. Violence is always framed as bad. Necessary at times, yes, but I assure you, they do not glory in bloodshed.

Tragically, war is part of our world. Hollywood often makes it look glamorous, but The 100 seeks to do no such thing. While the premise is about 100 delinquents, and the show starts off vaguely reminiscent of Lord of the Flies, it has progressed into a commentary on the ethics of war, the responsibilities of governments and leaders, and human morality.

So when you watch this, no, you don’t get excited and want to go punch someone in the face. You’ll want to take a deep look at yourself and the rest of humanity.

John Green once said, “Writing, or at least good writing, is an outgrowth of that urge to use language to communicate complex ideas and experiences between people… Reading is always an act of empathy. It’s always an imagining of what it’s like to be someone else.

“Writing fiction is an inherently political activity because people—even imaginary ones—do not live in vacuums… The world and our hopes for it are always part of our stories.”

The 100 is the epitome of that kind of writing. And it is that humanity and empathy the writers keep that maintains the tragedy of violence. All of our epics throughout history, even our religious texts, have violence within them. But the truly great ones use it as a cautionary tale meant to educate, not entertain.

War is not beautiful. But human beings, struggling to be greater than war, are.

Beyond its rather unique take on violence, here’s five other reasons The 100 is remarkable.

1. The Writing: I am consistently impressed with the writers use of well-thought-out plots, symbolism, historical parallels, three dimensional characters, and excellent dialogue. If I were in a film and television analysis class, this show would provide me with enough complexities to fill several papers. To be honest, I’ve thought about writing some just for kicks and giggles, but I’m weird like that. Instead, here are a few of my favorite lines.

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2. The Cinematography: I’m not sure what their budget is , but but the production value is really stunning. A pictures worth a thousand words, right? Well, have some high quality gifs. I tried to grab shots that weren’t too spoilery. 

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3. Eliza Taylor, Bob Morley, and the characters they play: While I could wax endlessly about the entire cast on The 100, guest stars or regulars, I’m going to give a special shout out to our leads (I mean, it’s an ensemble cast, but I think everyone can agree that Clarke is the lead and Bellamy is the supporting lead).

Eliza Taylor plays Clark Griffin, a wonderfully complex protagonist, who is thrown into a world, and eventually war, she never asked for. Taylor performs with such grace, it is truly a joy to watch her every week. The role is certainly not an easy one, but her raw portrayal is deserving of some sort of recognition that I hope comes her way as the show gains more of a following.

Bob Morley brings to life Bellamy Blake in a way that has made him one of the biggest fan favorites. Before this, I didn’t know I needed a futuristic version of Alma the Younger (shout out to my Mormon readers who will get that reference) but I do. Morley’s grasp of this character takes a script that is already top notch, and turns it into such a believable human performance, I sometimes forget I’m watching an actor.

The 100 is not a romance, by any stretch of the imagination. But, it is about human relationships in many ways, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Taylor and Morley’s excellent chemistry as Clarke and Bellamy. In regards to what those two are to each other, I will say only this; the unconditional trust, compassion, forgiveness, and understanding each possesses for the other is deeply moving. Truly great love stories are made up of these ingredients, regardless of weather or not romance is a factor. 

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4. Representation: I’ve talked about the importance of representation in the media before, and The 100 delivers on pretty much all fronts. They have a wonderful well-rounded female cast, racial diversity going far beyond the “token black friend” that includes everyone from Polynesians to Peruvians, and canon LGBT characters. But the best part is none of this is exactly a statement, or a particularly defining part of any of these people. In the end, that’s what you want. You want to be a human, not a label, and The 100 gives us that.

clarkeandtheclique

5. Critical Response: Lest you think I am a crazy person still, trying to convince you, likely an adult with more mature tastes, to watch what sounds like another knock off of The Hunger Games I’m going to back this up. The critical response for this show, especially season two (it really has grown immensely) is phenomenal. Lately I’ve seen many saying that it’s been hitting the quality standards of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.

Let’s look at some recent headlines:

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And quotes:

“I can say with some assurance that I’ve rarely seen a program demonstrate the kind of consistency and thematic dedication that The 100 has shown in its first two seasons.” – The Huffington Post

The 100 is a delicious, intense sci-fi drama. It’s obvious that planning and care have gone into developing the world and its culture.” – The Nerdist

The 100 Season 2 finale again showed just how terrific this show has become. It was exciting, upsetting and incredibly emotional.” – IGN

The 100 is must watch sci-fi in the tradition of Battlestar Galactica.” – Den of Geek

While, I’ll admit, the first few episodes are a little shaky, I am more than comfortable saying that if The 100 keeps up what they have been doing lately, it will easily be one of the best Sci-Fi epics to ever grace the screen.

Season one is on Netflix, and I’m sure season two will be up soon, as it just ended.

Now, go watch.

(Note: I know a certain quote from this has gained popularity on Tumblr. I have since changed a few sentences, including that one, for style purposes. Sorry for any confusion.)

The Stars Are For Everyone

“Make no mistake, this journey will help guide and define our generation.”

nasa_bolden_state_of-nasa_020215_945Last week, I had the privilege of attending the State of NASA, which is essentially the same thing as the State of the Union, just for the space program. I participated with many others from Langley Research Center, where I was able to tour their facilities and see what they are doing to contribute to Orion and The Mission to Mars. Later, we heard from Charles Bolden, NASA’s Administrator, via Kennedy Space Center, who gave a wonderful address on where the space program is heading.

I’ve thought a lot about what I wanted to write in regards to his remarks, and going into the event, I was pretty sure I wanted to write about the importance of private partnerships, but there was a particular line that struck me that I have not been able to shake.

“It was through the Space Shuttle Program that NASA opened space flight to many who had previously had no chance of flying – bringing diversity in our crews to include women, minorities and astronauts from many of our partner nations – perhaps its greatest legacy.”

Out of all the tremendous advancements made by the Space Shuttle Program, why would the diversity of the crew be its greatest accomplishment?Dr._Mae_C._Jemison,_First_African-American_Woman_in_Space_-_GPN-2004-00020

As I’ve thought over this question, I’ve come to realize the simple truth that the push to the stars is our future, but that future is impossible unless we are taking everyone with us.

NASA and what it stands for is the American dream in its best form. It is the spirit of exploration and the triumph of human will over the unknown. It is the desire to push to be something greater than who we are now, and we will never be able to accomplish our best if we are putting limits on our people. For years, the American Dream was not actually a possibility for a rather large section of our population. It still isn’t one hundred percent there, but we must keep trying. Our future cannot include only a fraction of the world.

Representation matters. Being able to see someone like yourself triumph and accomplish their dreams matters. It inspires the lost and the lonely because they see themselves and it lets them say, “If they can do it, maybe I can too. Maybe everyone else is wrong. Maybe I can be more.”

On my wall, I have a print of Uhura from Star Trek bending down to a little girl who is saying “Representation Matters.” The painting was inspired by this story from Whoopi Goldberg.Representation-Matters-1

“Well, when I was nine years old Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, ‘Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!’ I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”

The idea that anyone can be anything they want, if they just put their mind to it, has long been propped up as what makes America great, even when we have not actually lived up to that mantra. But now, through NASA, that statement is becoming a greater truth for the American people.

Diversity will become our greatest legacy because it is how we will inspire the best and brightest from all walks of life to carry us into the stars and beyond. It is how we will change who we are as a people while we push to change the world we live in for the better.

Social and scientific advancement must go hand in hand.

Read the entire State of NASA here.

Stop Watering Down My Beliefs

There are very few people in my life, whether they know me well or not, who are unaware of the very strong beliefs I hold, namely my faith and my feminism. Often these subjects come up in conversation, and not always in the best of ways. In the many circles I frequent, one or both of these topics are frequently the focus of negative attention.

But the thing is, most people like me, and so they quickly try and explain that they are not talking about me when they say derogatory things about something I believe. Phrases like, “But you’re not, like, really Mormon-y. You’re totally normal,” or “I’m just talking about those crazy feminists! I mean, you aren’t even that liberal.”

My patience with these kinds of phrases has been wearing short as of late, because as much as some people around me may want to protest to this fact, I am an extremely devout Mormon, and I am an adamant feminist.

This past week I spent nearly 9 hours going to church functions, on top of which I also fasted, read scriptures, and prayed multiple times a day. I believe, with all I am, that the Book of Mormon and the Bible are the word of God. I believe Jesus is the Christ and the Son of God. I believe we came to a fallen world to learn the importance of free will, and to become perfected through Christ, and return to our Father in Heaven. All of this is not to imply I’m some perfect Mormon, but simply to illustrate that I certainly fall into the category of devout. I am a very mormon Mormon.

Also, as I type this, I am wearing a shirt that says “A woman’s place is in the House and the Senate.” If you were to go through the books in my car right now, you’d find a copy of Bell Hook’s Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center and I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai. I am best known for two things, one being a study I did in college (which went viral after The Guardian reported on it) that quantified whether or not the BBC show Doctor Who had become more sexist since it’s head writer changed. The other thing I am known for is my continuing attempts to combat misogyny in my own religious culture (not to be confused with the doctrine or gospel of my faith) and beyond. I don’t sort of support women’s rights. I am an unwavering intersectional feminist.

I am devoutly religious, and I am a feminist. And I don’t have to water down either of these convictions.

We live in a world that has confused strong beliefs with some sort of insanity. We imagine convictions somehow exist on a scale of 1 to 10, and we mentally place those who have extremist, violent, harmful, views on the 10 side, because they must have some strong convictions, right? Well, not if you stop to consider that much of what they believe is not actually in line with the beliefs of the whole community. Those who perpetuate violence and hate in God’s name are clearly missing the point. They hardly ever actually follow the tenets of their religion. Wouldn’t that make them less devout?

There’s mass confusion about feminism, too. The people who think all women must have careers, and are better than men, or something else along that line are subscribing to some seriously antiquated ideas in feminism. They aren’t particularly current feminists. It would be like someone claiming to be a scientist, while still thinking the world was flat. But the media, society, or some combination of the two has used such extreme rhetoric, like “religious nuts” and “feminazi” to make the world think that people with strong beliefs have somehow escaped the loony bin.

When people are around logical, balanced, intelligent individuals who are strong in their views, many try and water down what they believe. Because after all, they aren’t crazy, so they probably aren’t that focused on that way of thinking. It never occurs to people that they should challenge the idea those who are fervently living what they believe are not, in fact, insane.

The first thing we must do is be willing to be an undiluted version of who we are. Be unapologetic about your faith, political stances, and world views. Yes, it may be uncomfortable at first to be a vocal member of your faith in your more progressive (and paradoxically close-minded) circles, and I know that a “radical feminist” is not exactly who the person next to you in the pew on Sunday would always have you be, but don’t be afraid. You don’t have to be rude and shove it down people’s throats, but don’t shy away from opportunities to teach others what you really believe.

Once, when asked why I thought I was a feminist, I gave a fairly standard textbook definition of feminism, and then said I believed that, therefore, I was a feminist. The person responded with, “Well, that’s not really feminism. That’s just common sense.” Perhaps it’s both?

On the same note, I once was explaining to a friend of mine why I am a LDS, and why I had made certain lifestyle choices. I went over the basic doctrines of Mormonism, and her response? “Well, that actually makes a lot of sense.” I wasn’t trying to convert her, but a clear explanation helped her to understand my faith, and realize I’m not a brainwashed sheep.

I love what Aziz Ansair said a while back on why people need to stop distancing themselves with the word feminist. “If you look up feminism in the dictionary, it just means that men and women have equal rights. And I feel like everyone here believes men and women have equal rights. But I think the reason people don’t [want to call them self a feminist] is that word is so weirdly used in our culture. Now, people think feminist means ‘some woman is gonna start yelling at them. So, I feel like if you do believe that, if you believe that men and women have equal rights, if someone asks if you’re feminist, you have to say yes because that is how words work. You can’t be like, ‘Oh yeah I’m a doctor that primarily focuses on diseases of the skin.’ Oh, so you’re a dermatologist? ‘Oh no, that’s way too aggressive of a word! No no not at all not at all.’”

And the same goes for your faith, whatever it may be. People won’t stop thinking of it as something crazy until we stop watering it down to comfort their ignorance.

We can choose to distance ourselves from the world’s standards, and instead help everyone become more empathetic to each other. We must not be ashamed of who we are, and we must be willing to stand with our convictions, even if it is not the easiest thing to do at times. We must be willing to endure this temporary discomfort for the sake of progress in thought. After all, that is the foundation for progress in action. 

This piece was written for altFem Magazine. AltFem seeks to “give voice to women who find in their religion not just spiritual solace but also strength, power, and confidence. Mainstream media coverage of women of faith depicts these women as disempowered and brainwashed by dominant men in their faith. Religious women are almost invariably painted as irrational and their devotion to their religion inauthentic. altFem is working to change that perception by providing a platform where religious women of all faiths can speak for themselves rather than be spoken for—and its goal is nothing less than redefining feminism to include and celebrate women of faith.”

Why You Should Be As Excited About Orion As your Grandparents Were About Apollo

In case you haven’t heard, we’re going to Mars. I’m not talking a robot or probe. I mean actual living, breathing, human beings.

Last week NASA, with help from Lockheed Martin, successfully performed the first flight test for Orion. You should get used to hearing that name. It’s our generation’s Apollo. Orion is “NASA’s first spacecraft designed for long-duration, human-rated deep space exploration. Orion will transport humans to interplanetary destinations beyond low Earth orbit, such as asteroids, the moon and eventually Mars.”

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Look who was live on NASA TV!

Since Mars is a much longer trip than the Moon, the operation will happen in stages, as opposed to just sending it to Mars. Just prior to the launch, I was able to spend a day at NASA Langley Research Center learning all about Orion and what is going into to the project.

In addition to the final goal of actually landing on Mars, NASA will be making other significant advancements along the way. One of the most notable for me was their planetary defense system. As mentioned before, Orion will land on an asteroid before it lands on Mars. When they do this, they will be able to collect samples to learn more about the asteroid, but they are also working on contingency plans in case an asteroid was ever on a trajectory that would hit the Earth. They would be able to send up a rocket, and using the 0 g environment, redirect the asteroid, so that it would not collide with us, landing us in history with the dinosaurs. Here’s a video of the simulators they are using! (You only need to watch until 3:07) 

Safety First

If you watch until the end of the video I included, you will also see a huge advancement for deep space travel: the inflatable house in space. How cool is that! For take off, they need the spacecraft to be as small and light as possible, but they also want a larger living space for the astronauts, as the journey will be many months (6, if I’m remembering correctly). Using similar material to a basket ball, they can create a habitat for the astronauts to live and work. This will be much more effective for deep space travel.

On top of all the amazing scientific things that are happening (and I only mentioned a few), Orion is already having amazing effects on the ground. “Lockheed Martin leads the Orion industry team which includes major subcontractors Aerojet Rocketdyne, United Technologies Aerospace Systems, and Honeywell, as well as an expansive network of minor subcontractors and small businesses in 45 states across the country.

“In addition, Lockheed Martin contracts with hundreds of small businesses across the United States through an expansive supply chain network. There are approximately 3,000 people who work on the Orion program nationwide, including contractors, civil servants, subcontractors, suppliers and small businesses.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Expanding the space industry would drastically affect our economy for the better. Yes, it’s pushing for the stars. Yes, it’s letting the next generation dream about reaching further. But it will forever change things here at home. The space industry can help create a stable economy, and the American people should understand how vital an investment that is.

Orion is amazing. What it will do is amazing. It is the next leap into the great beyond. Orion is the future.

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Sources:

NASA

Lockheed Martin

It’s Ok to Hate Jell-O: How to Deal With Culture Vs Doctrine

This article was originally written for and published on Millennial Mormons.

In the October 2013 session of General Conference President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “[T]o be perfectly frank, there have been times when members or leaders in the Church have simply made mistakes. There may have been things said or done that were not in harmony with our values, principles, or doctrine. I suppose the Church would be perfect only if it were run by perfect beings. God is perfect, and His doctrine is pure. But He works through us—His imperfect children—and imperfect people make mistakes.”

This was a rather bold admittance. While it was not exactly new information that God’s people are imperfect, including His prophets, apostles, and other leaders, it was still quite a thing to state in the middle of General Conference when we were supposed to be receiving council and revelation from these men and women.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the greater part of the 20th and 21st century, you will know that the church over the years has faced criticism from external, and internal, individuals or groups for practices, principles, and doctrine. In fact, I can think of no point in time, Genesis to now, where someone was not critical of God or his mouthpieces. Now, what President Uchtdorf said is true, there have been mistakes made in the past, and I’m sure that more will be made at some point or another. However, we should not take this knowledge as an excuse to challenge the doctrine of God to conform to the world’s standards.

Read the rest at Millennial Mormons!

The Morality of Space Exploration

Imagine sitting next to Thomas Edison as he is creating the light bulb, and all of a sudden, someone walks in and says, “Tom, would you put that away! There are real problems we need to deal with. You shouldn’t be wasting time making a fancy candle.” You would probably think, “Wow, this person is so backwards. If they only knew how important this is and how much good will come from this.” In fact, I know you would think this, because we all do all the time. After all, how many inspirational Hollywood movies focus on a dreamer who has to overcome all the naysayers and then create something amazing? But for all we do to celebrate the forward thinkers of the past, so many still refuse to see the importance of investing in scientific advancement.

I spent the past three days with NASA as a social media contact for the Antares Rocket launch in Wallops, VA. Before going, I told people they could send me questions I could ask the scientists and other representatives I’d be meeting with. I got some really interesting ones here and on Facebook. One person asked “Do they think they have the moral right to spend such enormous sums on space technology when there are such urgent needs here on the earth?”

My initial reaction was dismissive. I thought, “I’m not going to waste these people’s time by asking such an asinine question,” but then I realized that this kind of attitude of discouraging scientific progress, whether coming from a false sense of moral superiority or just a general shortsightedness, was a much too widely held attitude, and with the explosion at the launch, naysayers will have one more thing to point to as to why funding should stop. 

The youth of America are often accused of always needing instant gratification, however I have come to think that is much more of a universal human trait as I see many older individuals being the greatest critics of the space program because they don’t see the payoff IMMEDIATELY. But it is there and it’s huge. 

Now, I’d like to tell you about my time with NASA over the past few days. 

The Antares Rocket, which was built by Orbital Science, and contained a variety of supplies and scientific experiments that are needed on the International Space Station. The ISS itself is a marvel, and even though it can be thought of as routine, it is anything but that. The ability to keep six people in space for months at a time is a key stepping-stone to developing the technology for a manned mission to Mars, and build permanent outposts in space. The amount of time and manpower going into this is remarkable. But equally so, is what is coming out of this push to move farther into space exploration. 

Much of the scientific equipment being sent up is medical. Spending long amounts of time in space creates unique medical problems, and people need to figure out answers. One of the issues faced is how blood flow goes from the heart to the brain. “A human health study called Drain Brain will inform understandings of blood flow in space to possibly aid in the treatment of headaches and other neurological systems reported by crew members living on the space station. The special neck collar used to measure blood flow from the brain for the Drain Brain study …does not require surgery or special knowledge to operate. This could make the collar a useful tool for monitoring patients on Earth who have heart or brain disorders. Drain Brain could also have implications for development of screening mechanisms for cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.” (Taken from Orbital CRS-3 Mission Overview) Other equipment being sent up could have similar outcomes, in that they answer problems both in space and at home. 

STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) research is vital to answering many very real problems we face in the world, but with American students falling further and further behind in the these areas , it is unlikely we will be able to compete in solving them on a global scale. Is this because American students are stupid? No. They simply need more opportunities, and NASA is working hard to provide them. 

The Student Spaceflight Experiment Program, part of National Center for Earth and Space Science Education, was sending up experiments from students all across the country that would help find answers to problems in long term space flight, from air filtration to calcium deficiencies. 

I was able to attend the conference where several teams of students  presented what they would be sending up on Antares. I was amazed by how elegant some of their ideas were. Addressing the formerly mentioned issue of air filtration, one team discovered that living chrysanthemums, could help filter out some of the chemicals in the air. They were sending up a small tube containing seeds to test whether or not they could grow in a zero gravity environment. 

Afterwards, I spoke with some of the students. I was particularly moved by one group of middle school girls who were studying muscle loss in a certain type of shrimp that has similar muscle makeup to humans. They were so excited about this opportunity. One told me, “This has been the most amazing experience. I didn’t know I was smart. I had no idea I could do something like this. I didn’t even think I liked math and science.” Another piped in, “Yeah, I feel like this is really teaching a man to fish. We have learned how to problem solve. This was so hard, but I would do it all over again.” 

Programs like these are helping the youth of America discover their own potential. And this isn’t just inspirational – it is essential. I spoke with NCESSE’s director Dr. Jeff Goldstein on Monday at the conference about this. “There are a myriad of problems here on earth, but many of those problems are going to be solved through science and technology. We are going to need a next generation of scientists and engineers to address many of these problems here on earth. We have got to inspire the next generation, or we will have no one to solve those problems.”

A group of students as they presented to us their project nicknamed "Blood Suckers."

A group of students as they presented to us their project nicknamed “Blood Suckers.”

As I mentioned earlier, American students are falling behind in the world in math and science. This means, in the global job market, our children will not be competitive. “If we are going to compete in a high tech, 21st century market, we’ve got to bring innovative products to market that come from science and technology fields,” says Dr. Goldstein. “The need to compete, to maintain our standard of living, critically depends on getting the next generation involved in STEM fields.” If this weekend is any indicator, that is exactly what they are doing. Many of the students, even ones who had grown up around science, had no interest in pursuing it, until this program came along and showed them their own potential.

(I’d like to take a moment to note that, after speaking to their director, the experiment lost should hopefully be able to be built again and sent up on a later flight.)

It’s not just a distant day in the future we would start seeing benefits. There are immediate benefits from pushing forward with space exploration. On Sunday, while we were touring the launch pad, the facilities director told us, “These contracts have been a shot in the arm to the local economy.”

What is a problem Americans are facing right now? Unemployment. Investing in and growing the space industry can help create a stronger economy. If just these contracts have helped the local economy so much, imagine if, on a country-wide scale, this industry could grow to be as big as some of our other manufacturing industries. We could see a major change in our economy. 

Of course, that is not to say there will be no failures. As we saw on Tuesday, accidents happen. But going into the frontier was never supposed to be easy. It never has been. It wasn’t easy for our ancestors who did it here on earth, and we cannot expect anything different for our own generation. I spoke Dr. Goldstein after Tuesday’s briefing again and he remarked, “Failures are simply the signposts on the road to success.” To use an even older phrase, “Fall down seven times, get up eight.”

So, to the initial question of morality, my response would be that it would be morally irresponsible NOT to invest in the space program. We cannot abandon our future for the sake of immediate gratification. We have a responsibility to push ourselves to explore, innovate, and create, because through this, we will secure a better world for the next generations. 

Want to Talk to NASA?

If you could ask NASA a question what would it be?

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On Monday, October 27th, NASA will be launching the Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket at 6:45 p.m. The rocket is heading to the International Space Station with 5,000 pounds of supplies including science experiments, experiment hardware, spare parts, and crew provisions. The Orbital-3 mission is Orbital Sciences’ third contracted cargo delivery flight to the space station for NASA.

In addition to traditional news outlets, NASA has selected some people from the social media world to come and cover the launch. I applied to be one and… I GOT ACCEPTED! I am very excited about this, and will be spending Sunday and Monday at the NASA visitors center and Wallops Flight Facility getting to go to press briefings, tours, and of course, watching the launch.

I’ll be able to ask questions at some of the press conferences, and I’ve asked if I can bring questions from people who follow my blog (or other social media accounts) and I can!

So, if you could talk to NASA, what would you want to ask? If you go here, you can learn lots more about this specific mission, or you can just ask a question in general, like “What are NASA’s long term goals with manned missions?” or “What are the biggest obstacles you face right in the space program?”

If you have a question, submit it in the comments below, and make sure you are following me on Twitter! I’ll be updating it during the two days in addition to a full article I’ll write after the launch that will be published here on the blog.

Slut Shaming Eve: How the Mother of All Living Became the Mother of All Sin

“So came Eve…the last created being in the creation of the world, without whom the whole creation of the world and all that was in the world would have been in vain and the purposes of God have come to naught.” -Elder J. Reuben Clark

Technology has brought us some truly remarkable abilities as humans. We can cure disease, travel hundreds of miles with ease, and talk to someone in Hong Kong as we sit in Washington, D.C. Slightly less remarkable is our ability to consume 5 years worth of television in 2 weeks, which is what I did a short while ago with the BBC series Merlin. I’m sure most of you are familiar with that odd empty sense you get after binge watching something on Netflix, so I convinced my mother to watch the series so I might have someone to wax endlessly on to about my theories on religious symbolism within the series.

Now, my mother has long been a fan of Arthurian legend, so it didn’t take much convincing. One of her favorite books is T. H. White’s The Once and Future King, and it makes for interesting discussion on the series to have that perspective. Yesterday, she and I were discussing Morgana and (spoiler alert) her descent into evil and how it can parallel Lucifer’s fall from grace, especially within LDS doctrine. Sometimes, Morgana is evil in other Arthurian tales, and at one point my mother asked me, “Why do you think it is that so many stories portray evil, or the one who is supposed to be like Satan, as a woman?”

My response came like a reflex. “Eve.”

Over the years, the woman who ushered in not only knowledge, wisdom, and choice, but humanity itself has been corrupted into some sort of vile temptress, or “The Original Sinner,” as some texts would call her. In fact, her names have grown to include, “the lance of the demon”, “the road of iniquity”, “the sting of the scorpion”, “a daughter of falsehood”, “the sentinel of Hell”, and “the enemy of peace,” to name but a few.

All of these titles came because of her decision to partake of the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What most people fail to realize is that without this decision, we would not be. Adam and Eve lived in the garden as little children, with no concept of sexual relations. General public sex education may be lacking, but I think you can put two and two together and realize that if the rest of humanity was to come into the world, the two of them had to come to know each other Biblically, which was only understood after partaking of the fruit.

On a broader scale of just good and evil, we must realize that personal accountability is paramount. Mormon doctrine teaches that we are not to be held accountable for the sins of our first parents, but for our own. That means the converse is true, in that we cannot hold Eve accountable for the sins committed by humankind. They are our own to bear, and calling her the “Mother of All Sin” is simply a way of shifting responsibility. In our last General Conference, Elder D. Todd Christofferson addressed the importance of accepting our agency and responsibility therein. “God intends that His children should act according to the moral agency He has given them, ‘that every man may be accountable for his own sins in the day of judgment.’… In matters both temporal and spiritual, the opportunity to assume personal responsibility is a God-given gift without which we cannot realize our full potential as daughters and sons of God. Personal accountability becomes both a right and a duty that we must constantly defend; it has been under assault since before the Creation. We must defend accountability against persons and programs… And we must defend it against our own inclinations to avoid the work that is required to cultivate talents, abilities, and Christlike character.” The mentality to blame Eve for the sins of the world is not only incorrect and grossly degrading to her character, but also something that will prevent us from progressing to become something greater.

Much of the corruption of Eve’s divine character came about during the time of Medieval legends, so it is not surprising that the stories of that time would have chosen a woman to bear the role of the Devil, or some representation thereof.   

But what does this specifically mean for women today? What effect does centuries of portraying evil as a woman have on us? I’ll tell you what it does. It creates cultures that shame us into hiding, into viewing ourselves as innately wrong. Women will see themselves, and more especially their sexuality, as something sinful, instead of beautiful and moving. In a different address, Elder Christofferson stated, “There has long been a cultural double standard that expected women to be sexually circumspect while excusing male immorality.”

I recently saw a woman ask, “Why do all portrayals of the Seven Deadly Sins always use a woman for lust?”

The reason is femininity has been degraded to a weakness, either as our own or that of men’s hearts. It is supposed to pale in comparison to the “strength” of traditional masculinity, but when his “strength” fails, and a man actually succumbs to feelings of lust, it somehow is not the evil within himself that has come out, but the evil of the temptress before him. Society has done far too much to remove any responsibility for sexual relations from a mans shoulders, and it is this mentality that continues to contribute to rape culture and slut shaming.

Those aforementioned terms may be new ones, but the concept is not new. It was in the 2nd century that Tertullian told women that they were all “the Devil’s gateway” because of Eve. It is a tragedy to me that our mentalities have not come as far as they should since then.

Until we remove this seemingly permanently ingrained, however false, ideal that women have a naturally stronger relation to temptation than men, we will never be able to resolve the acts of violence, hate, and injustice that plague women to this day.

Author’s Note: I wish to say something on my choice of title. I know for many within my own faith it may have been jarring as we hold Eve in such sacred regard (imagine if I was Catholic and I wrote a piece called “Slut Shaming Mary”), and wanted to express that it was meant in no way to degrade her. I chose the title with much pondering, as I am always deeply troubled when I see how the majority of the world treats Eve, and I could not find a better current vernacular to express what I feel has been done to her over the years.

Painting by Anna Lea Merritt (1844-1930)

Why NASA is Vital to America

If you were to ask me as a child what I wanted to be when I grew up, the answer would not have been a ballerina, doctor, or firefighter. It would have been a Vulcan. Yes, even in my youth, I was a giant nerd. I loved Star Trek, and I loved the world in which it existed. I grew up watching a universe where the earth was united, poverty was nearly non-existent, and exploration, discovery, and peace were the primary goals of those in charge.

Now, I have since grown up and have realized that becoming a member of a fictional alien race is not a valid career option. However, my ability to imagine a better future has never left me, and as I watch current events unfold, my heart breaks, as I fear we are moving farther and farther away from what could make us great.

We need to be putting more money into the space program.

Everyone knows that the United States spends more on our military budget than any other country in the world. I know that I have made it clear in the past that my tendencies are usually pacifist, and I am not such an idealist to think that we can remove our military budget, but we are spending more and more on weapons while NASA has seen its funding drop another 2 billion in Obama’s second term. There are real threats in the world and I am aware that ISIS is a problem. I suppose we could have a debate on whether or not we should be bombing the middle east, the ethics of drones, how involved we should be with this, etc., but even though our leaders came to the conclusion we needed to be at war, that does not change the fact that our greatest accomplishments in the space program came during the Cold War, a time where we were under constant fear of destruction. NASA makes up less than half a percent of the US budget. At its peak in the 60’s, it was about four percent. It has never been a huge cost to the American people, but the space program has given us some of the most remarkable accomplishments of humanity, and it is ours. It is our heritage, but with the current funding, it will not be our future.

The technology developed by NASA does’t just allow for exploration, it provides answers to major problems we see on the ground. The space program gave us medical advancements, like artificial limbs and LED therapy. It gave us cell phones, firefighter equipment, and water purification and so much more. If we were to continue investing in NASA, we will see technology that will save lives, solve conflicts, and propel us toward a safer and more stable country and world as a whole. 

As I watch the government strip more and more from NASA, while at the same time maintaining the largest nuclear arsenal the world has ever known, all I can think is that we have become incapable of investing in anything other than our own fears.

We once inspired the greatest scientists, the greatest explorers. Not any more. We are far behind in math and science, and the upcoming generations will be much more likely to associate the word debt than dreams with their education. But that’s not how it has to be.

In the past, we fought a failing economy with the machine that is war production. What if, with that same vigor and zeal, we became a powerhouse for space exploration? Older industries are dying out, but if we could replace them with the space industry, on a massive scale, we would see a dramatic increase in jobs. Instead of making an industry who’s primary goal is destruction, we could build one that would push us into being something greater. We would see students rise to the challenge of mastering the great unknown. In the first part of the 20th century, we went from having people that were born still using horses and buggies, to see a man on the moon before the end of their lifetime. Don’t give me any more of this half a percent of our budget. I want leaps like this again. I want to live to see people colonize Mars. I want to see us leave our solar system. I want to push to be absolutely everything we can be but aren’t living up to.

I don’t know if you understand how much my generation loves space. With Pluto’s recent (possible) comeback, all I’ve been seeing on my social

Image Source

Image Source

media feeds for the past few days are my peers typing in all caps, “VIVA LA PLUTO!” I’ve seen infographics, and discussions, all from thousands of people who just really love space. In general, millennial’s see their future as pretty gloomy, but if you talk to most of us about space exploration, we think that is such an exciting thing. It’s something so many dream about.

NASA can give us the answers to our greatest problems, and everyone, especially my generation, needs this organization more than you can imagine. Please, don’t cut us off from reaching for the stars.