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Sunday, September 28, 2014

Happy Birthday, Carol Lynn Pearson



This weekend we celebrate the birthday of Carol Lynn Pearson--kind of our Mormon "Grande Dame" when it comes to finding space inside our faith for people who feel on 'the outside looking in.' Well, that's who she is in my eyes, anyway. And I love her a ton. 

This is the story of how I met Carol Lynn. I guess you could say she was kind of the starting point for me for my work inside the faith to reach out to others like me, and all who don't quite fit the imagined Mormon mold. 

Enjoy.


A few years back when I was attending the Oakland First Ward, someone handed me a book in Sacrament Meeting—it was “I Love You, Goodbye,”by Carol Lynn Pearson.  I didn’t know what to say at first— while I wasn’t in the closet anymore (I was happily living a great Mormon life: partnered,  active in Church and teaching Sunday School) I also wasn’t as “out” as I am today. But I took the book gratefully, and I read it. 


Throughout my adult life, I’d ravenously read any books or articles that talked about the church and homosexuality—they had, for the most part, left me horribly depressed. But this one was different. Yes, the story was sad—tragic even. But in the honesty and candor I also found something else: hope.  
As I poured through the pages something within me stirred. It was as if someone was turning a key to a box inside my head, and in the box was this simple knowledge that my story—like the one I was reading—had healing power, and perhaps, maybe, it was time to share it.

I was inspired to take action, but had no idea where to begin. On a whim, I went to Google and typed in Carol Lynn’s name. Most of the references that came up were commentary on her work—and not all of it good, I might mention. It became clear very early on that this woman was not short of detractors of her perspective and her work. Yet, I remained undaunted and finally stumbled upon a website that looked to be a legitimate page of hers.

I scoured the page for an email address, and found one. Without really planning out what I was going to say, I dropped her an email. I wish I’d saved a copy of it—it was nothing short of me pretty much clumsily throwing my story down in a few short paragraphs along with my then-sketchy ideas of how I might make this come to life when I chose to share it with others. I sent the email, and honestly expected that to be the end of things.

Within less than an hour, there was a response in my inbox. “I assume you live in San Francsico,” she said. “If that’s the case, what are you doing Tuesday afternoon?” To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. Not only did this woman respond back, but she’d invited me out to her home to talk in person about my experience and how I might bring it to life to help others who muddle through this thing called “gay Mormonism.”

As I drove out of the city and got closer to her home, my palms began to sweat on the steering wheel. I was, admittedly, a little star-struck. Here I was, just a normal guy with no real published author credibility being invited to this famous author’s home! In my mind’s eye, I imagined her to have the commanding presence of Meryl Streep in “The Devil Wore Prada,” only much more kind and benevolent. I envisioned being invited onto a back patio with sweeping views of Mount Diablo and being served small sandwiches with the crust cut off by what I was sure would be her ample house staff. I knew, in that moment, my life course could very well be altered. And it was—but not in the way I expected at all.

I drove up to the upper-middle class home, and before I even had the key out of the ignition, out ran Carol Lynn from the front door—arms outstretched to greet me. She was a wiry framed, small woman with a bright shock of curly white hair that encircled her head like a halo. Her clothes were hiking clothes—cargo shorts, a tee shirt, and walking shoes. And her hug, deep and tender, was as genuine as her appearance.

“I would imagine you have to use the restroom after that drive!” she said, once we’d exchanged greetings. I smiled wryly, feeling a little awkward about my first exchange with somewhat of a literary hero to be about the rather small size of my bladder, but I agreed.

She walked me into the house, “The bathroom is over to the left, help yourself—and get a glass of water from the kitchen, because I am taking you on a hike!”

The first thing that struck me when I walked in the door was not that I was some sweeping palatial estate of the rich and famous—I was in a Mormon home. For those of you who have been in one—or grew up in one—you’ll know exactly what I mean. Front and center in the living room was a grand piano, since music played such a critical role in the homes and lives of Mormons. The furniture was well loved and well worn, and it was clear it had welcomed guests and family to this home for years. The walls were cluttered not with dazzling self portraits of the author or original works of art, but with frame after frame of family photos of all different shapes and sizes—some new, some faded—but clearly a shrine to a family that loved one another and called this place home.

But what struck me most about the house was the smell. Again, for those of you who grew up Mormon or had friends who did, you’ll know exactly what I am talking about. It was food—good food, homemade food, the kind of stuff relegated to June Cleaver and Mormon Mom’s.

Looking back, I think the truth of the matter is I had walked into a palace. I had walked into a palace that celebrated the lives, the love, and the talents of the Pearson family. And I was more honored to be there than if I had stepped into the Taj Mahal itself. You see, Carol Lynn had not just invited me into her home, but by extension, she’d also invited me into her heart—and the heart of her family.

The hike happened, as promised, and it was indeed an arduous one. I expected some easy stroll along side a creek bed, and Carol Lynn surprised me once more. She took me directly to the top of Mount Diablo—and without much rest for breathing, I might add.

Along the way I shared my story, and she shared more of hers. At the top of the mountain we stopped, and she asked me to join in her ritual of blessing mother earth—I heartily agreed, but didn’t really know what to do—but that wasn’t a problem. She turned and pointed me in each direction and told me exactly what words to speak. Here we were, two Mormons—albeit unorthodox ones—at the top of Mount Diablo, offering  a non-traditional blessing to the whole earth, without regard to specific faith—other than faith in our Creator.

As we walked the path home, I spoke more of my story, and finally of my fear. My fear, you see, was that of retribution. I loved my church, and I’d worked hard to eke out a quiet, little corner in the Bay Area where I could openly gay to a point, and still enjoy all the blessings that a straight member would elsewhere. My fear, I told Carol Lynn, was that I would come out both in print and in person, and then would be excommunicated for my honesty.

She stopped in her tracks, and looked at me for a moment, and didn’t speak right away. Then she shielded her eyes from the sun with her hands, and made direct (and rather piercing, I might add) eye contact. “Do what is right. Let the consequence follow. That is my advice to you.”

When she spoke, I thought of the chorus from the Mormon hymn she’d referenced:
Do what is right; let the consequence follow.
Battle for freedom in spirit and might;
And with stout hearts look ye forth to tomorrow;
God will protect you; then do what is right.

I knew I must begin.

For most of my life, I felt like I was a man with a foot in two different worlds—and that I belonged in neither. But as I have grown through this work—and in my testimony, I remain a man with a foot in two different worlds.

And I belong in both.

Thank you, Carol Lynn. And Happy Birthday.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's About Love--Not Rancor


Yesterday, an article was published on Religion News Service (RNS) about an event we held in Berkeley on September 7th. The article was subsequently picked up by Washington Post, Huffington Post and a few others.

In it, the journalist talked about the evening itself as well as looking at how social media has fostered change in the hearts and minds of Mormons on topics like our LGBT brothers and sisters.

While I appreciate the coverage, I regret the positioning.

This isn't really about pushing back on Church teaching, our leadership, or our doctrine. This is about meeting people where they're at, and helping create a Mormon culture where everyone is welcome, just as they are--a culture our Savior Himself would foster. A more accurate headline would be, "Mormons use social media to build connectedness and community inside a faith that views them as 'different."

We're not the rebels the headline might believe some to think. We're simply the face of cultural change, and are engaged in this effort because we love our Savior, we love our fellow Mormons, and we love our Church--and we want us to be better.

This isn't about rancor. It's about love.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Gospel of Attraction

I spend a fair amount of time at the gym. Working out has become part of my spiritual practice for me--it's an almost meditative state where I can simply "be" in my own body, and when I use my earphones I can play music that helps me feel insulated and private even when I'm in a room full of other people. I find as I exercise my body, my thoughts become more distinct, my motives become more clear, and I am better able to respond kindly to those around me because I am more centered.

Once in awhile, I get interrupted by well-meaning personal trainers offering advice on technique and form when I'm working out. Sometimes they're right, but sometimes they're not. Either way, I'm invariably surprised when someone approaches me and shares what they see to be the definitive right answer to a question I've never asked them. I can understand their motives, because once upon a time I, too, was someone who was certain I had the right answer for everyone's problems and I was compelled to share that right away! Suffice to say, my certainty and need to be right didn't always score me a lot of points with the humans around me. One thing I learned is unsolicited advice is seldom welcome.

Sometimes the same thing is true of those of us inside faith communities, including Mormonism. Based on fierce certainty that our way is the right way, and our God is the right God, we can feel entitled to share our enlightenment with those around us without considering the question, "Did they ask?"

What works better for me today is striving to embody the peace and mindfulness I get from my spiritual practice and staying close to my Savior--while allowing others the dignity to walk their own path. Sometimes it means people will ask my opinion about things of a spiritual nature or beyond, and sometimes not. Either way, for me, it's more like living a gospel of attraction instead of a gospel of promotion. After all, I try to look to my Savior in all things, and one of His mantras was, "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." It certainly wasn't, "I stand at the door and shout and will continue until you open up and do things my way, and if you don't open it I'll shout even louder!!"

When I'm at my best--meaning I'm really putting the principles of my spiritual practice into my actions, words, and deeds--I'm a lot better equipped to deliver the message my Savior would have me deliver, and I'm pretty certain He'll bring the people into my life who may learn from me--and me from them.

I continue to learn to be honest with myself. I will not use my spiritual practice as an excuse to change others or tell them how to live. They have a Savior too, and it's not me. Trying to control how other people think and act disrupts my spiritual center and moves me away from my Savior. Instead, I strive to promptly admit my missteps and then put the focus back where it belongs: on me and my connectedness with my Savior.

Besides, I'm starting to believe that how I respond to someone's lack of interest in any message I might deliver is a far more powerful demonstration of my commitment to my Savior than any lengthy (and unasked for) testimony I could deliver.

Today, I will strive to bring my spiritual practice to life in my thoughts, words, and deeds--and allow others the dignity to walk their paths without my interference. Only when my focus is on my own spiritual growth can I genuinely be who my Savior wants me to be--for myself or anyone else.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

What question have you been asking God lately?

There's a small group of interfaith friends I meet with once a month on a casual basis. It's been a great experience to learn about other faiths, and the stories behind the individual paths of the participants--ranging from clergy to new members--are fascinating to hear. What's been most remarkable, I think, is it's become clear that the actual 'brand' of faith matters less than the God we find there. Recently, at one of our meetings, a new participant asked a pretty proactive question: What question have you been asking God lately?

It was a small group, so we each took a turn and talked a bit about what's been on our mind and how we've pulled God into our daily lives and concerns. I will admit, I'm a pretty deeply spiritual person and this was a tough one for me--I talk to my Savior constantly throughout the day and pull Him in on virtually everything. Rather than always being formal, my communication with Him is spontaneous and authentic. Sometimes I imagine He views me as one of those over-excited kids tugging at the shirt sleeves of a parent and jumping up and down while I do it. But I love my Savior, and I love having Him involved in my life, on every level--and I know He meets me where I am.

But what question was I asking Him? That was tougher. So when it was my turn, with my usual dry sense of humor, I responded with, "The question I've been asking my Savior is, 'When are we going to start doing things my way?" Of course, it generated a chuckle around the table and it was meant to do so.


Humor aside, there was a kernel of truth here. Once upon a time, my prayers were very much centered on getting my way and getting other people to change. "Please let my Dad figure this out so he will love me again," or "Show Mom that I am right!" were common refrains.

Over time, and by developing a solid spiritual practice that has led me to a deeper understanding of my Savior, my prayers have changed. I have come to believe that changing other people isn't my job--changing myself, however, is.

The serenity prayer has been a good guide post for me. Now, while I still share at great lengths about what worries and troubles me, I bring my Savior my joy and gratitude, as well. Today, my prayers are centered around what I'm supposed to learn, accept, or change within myself in any given situation. They've become about who my Savior wants me to be, and often include a request to grant me enough humility to bring my will into alignment with His. I pray for the wisdom to know the difference between my path and the paths of my fellows, and the courage to follow through with what I learn. Finally--and this is especially important for me--for those with whom I'm frustrated or angry, I pray that they be granted all the love, serenity, and peace I want for myself. After all, each of my brothers and sisters deserves that.

My Savior did finally start answering my prayers--but not until I stopped telling Him what to do.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

"You Can Be Angry at Someone (or Something) You Love..."



"You can be angry at someone (or something) you love, and it doesn't always mean the relationship is over."
Years ago, a wise friend shared this with me and when I heard it, I think I stared back at her for a good 90 seconds before I even blinked. It was as if someone stated the painfully obvious that I knew deep down was true, but had never heard verbalized my entire life--let alone seen someone practice it.
Sure, I got it intellectually--anger isn't the end of everything. But the world I lived in never dealt with anger directly or in a healthy way: it was stuffed, covered up, or denied wholesale until it festered right into a resentment, which of course could leap out at any time and punish the offender (who seldom had any idea why they were being punished), with harsh words or any icy freeze-out. This kind of behavior was not only true in my family, but also deeply entrenched into much of my Mormon culture where being "nice" seemed to be valued much more than being "genuine."
It took me a long time to understand how to come to grips with the truth of my friend's statement. And, it took me a long time to understand how to deal with my anger in a healthy way, and learn that it's not really "nice" at all to be angry with someone and not be honest about it, and instead carry resentments around with me like a giant bag of rocks.
Today I recognize I have a choice when dealing with anger. I also recognize that "anger" is only one letter short of "danger," and when I don't deal with anger appropriately it often leads me in a hazardous direction where I lose my spiritual center. That one-letter, one-second choice between managing my anger or letting my anger manage me often means the difference between creating cavernous gaps in my relationships, or creating connections with those around me based on honesty, respect, and dignity for both of us.

As an openly gay Mormon--and someone who stands as my authentic self in both communities--I get many opportunities to learn how to manage my anger. When I'm faced with anger, I can choose to detach and think before I react. Maybe I choose to remove myself from the situation; perhaps I choose to respond with a simple statement like, "You might be right" to avoid a pointless argument; or I can choose to directly tell another person I feel uncomfortable or angry with their behavior and say what I mean, without being mean when I say it. Then, if I need to, I can choose to process my feelings with a safe and trusted friend in confidence, put the situation in my God Box and give it to my Savior, or beat the heck out of my pillow with a whiffle bat. I can even choose to do all three.
Everything about maintaining my spiritual center begins and ends with me and the choices I make. When I choose to practice managing my anger in a healthy way, I don't have to carry resentments around like a heavy bag of stones, and I am free to live my life peacefully and with dignity--and allow others the privilege of doing the same.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Things That You Must Explain

Today, I'm sharing a guest post written by a good friend of mine, Matt Mosman. Matt has an interesting story himself: straight, multi-generational Mormon, honorably served a mission and in many callings within the Mormon Church, and married to a non-member (who is perhaps among the most fantastic humans I know).

Matt and I met when I took my calling as the openly gay executive secretary in the Bishopric in San Francisco almost three years ago. We became fast friends--he's quick to laugh, and quick to stand up for anyone who is unjustly placed in the role of the underdog.

He's now--whether he likes it or not--a solid part of my inner circle. A wise, articulate, intelligent and kind man I am proud to know. Here, he shares his thoughts around some of the sometimes questionable logic used against marriage equality. I asked him before I shared this, "Are you worried you will offend some by standing up for marriage equality?" His response was classic Matt Mosman: "I'm not even advocating for marriage equality here. I'm simply advocating for sound logic."

And that he does.

___________________________________________________________


As I’ve become involved in offering support for LGBT rights and for LGBT acceptance within the LDS community, a few things have really stood out to me as striking crimes against basic logic.  I want to take a few paragraphs here to outline places where LGBT people should not have to defend themselves.  In most cases, those who oppose them do. 

Note here that I am not attempting to refute an exhaustive list of anti-gay rhetoric.  Rather, I’m sticking only to flaws of logic: those notions, often now memes, that fail on the level of basic structure.  To wit:

The claim that being LGBT is a choice.  This is a classic example of the logical fallacy called “Shifting the Burden of Proof.”  It goes like this: I am a rather tall person, at 6’4”.  When I look over a wall or fence and describe a view that is obscured from normal-sized people, the onus is not on me to prove myself correct.  I am the one looking on the sight; when I say that the neighbor’s backyard has a lemon tree, I am assumed to be correct unless someone can demonstrate that I am not by getting their own view beyond the fence.  To suggest that I am the one who must prove that there is a lemon tree in the yard, and not the person who cannot see past the fence, is shifting the burden of proof.

So why, when a person who is gay explains to us that this is the way that they have felt for as long as they can remember feeling anything, do other people suggest that they are wrong about that?  The only person on earth with a view into the person’s mind is the person himself (or herself); no one else could possibly make a sensible claim to know better.  Somehow the burden of proof has shifted to the wrong party.

The most logical thing to do would be to simply ask individual LGBT people what their experience was with respect to having experienced a moment of “choice,” or not.  When someone claims to have been the way they are for as long as they can remember, we should simply believe them -- the same way we believe heterosexual people who make the same claim.

The other flaw we often see in this argument is called the “argument from incredulity,” which takes the form of something like “I cannot imagine x to be true, therefore it must not be true.”  Many religious folks simply have difficulty reconciling the notion that God created LGBT people as they are with one or more of their religious beliefs.  But of course this is not logical at all -- an inability to reconcile something that is provably true by normal means with a belief system implies that perhaps the system should bend to accommodate new truth, instead of its proponents simply denying provable truth.

The idea that being LGBT is somehow a “popular” or “hip” thing to be.  This claim is often related to the “choice” claim, the idea being that young people are choosing to be gay because it’s cool.  This is an idea so irrational and insane that I hardly know where to start.  The experience of almost every gay person, anywhere in the world, is one of extreme difficulty and near-constant rejection.  Suicide rates and depression are dramatically higher for LGBT people, which argues rather successfully against the notion that it is the popular thing to do. 

The absolutely true notion that gay characters are gaining acceptance on popular television programs does nothing to support the idea that being LGBT is popular, though it may suggest an increase in acceptance (which is quite a different thing).  It remains true that most television programs feature exactly zero gay characters, and the fact that it is newsworthy that “Modern Family” features a gay couple (in which one of the actors, Eric Stonestreet, is not actually gay) argues against the popularity hypothesis. 

What concerns me here is that I have seen otherwise intelligent people listen to someone make this bizarre claim and yet nod their heads in assent without an investigation of the merits.  It has become a meme, asserting itself purely through repetition.  People who are fairly good at saying, “Now, wait just a minute here…” to almost anything else are not questioning a claim that has almost no basis in reality. 

Here, again, the burden of proof is on the claimant.  The person making this assertion cannot simply state it without offering any reasonable evidence. 

And the proof won’t be there.  I’ll indulge in my own fallacy by using a sample size of one to illustrate, but I have to tell this story:  Just a few years ago, I was CEO of a software company here in the San Francisco Bay Area.  One of my company’s software engineers arrived at work one day with a black eye and a fat lip, and I asked him how it happened.  He said he was just walking to his train stop, and some guys jumped him.  “For what?”, I asked, incredulous.  The engineer just looked at me like I had two heads.  He’s a gay guy, and he thought the “why” question should have been obvious to me.  It still happens.  Even here.  A lot.

The notion that gay marriage is an “attack” on “traditional marriage.”  Before I even address this, I have to note for everyone what my brilliant wife, who is not LDS, has pointed out to me on several occasions: that for Mormons, of all people, to be lecturing others on what is or is not “traditional” in marriage is a little bit mind-bending.  Which, well...yeah.  It really is.

This particular idea suffers from multiple fallacies in the “red herring” category.  Red herring fallacies attempt to hide a weakness in an argument by drawing attention away from the real issue.  

This argument is very obviously an appeal to fear, a fact made clear by the common use of the word “attack.”  It becomes difficult for people to evaluate merits when fear is involved.  Also, the very use of “traditional marriage” makes it an appeal to tradition, a form of argument which places extra value on something being “the way we do things,” ignoring or diminishing the fact that some traditions are just plain wrong.

Were proponents of this line of reasoning to state more reasonably their objection, it reads (and feels) rather different.  It would be something like, “In the modern era in the West, the societal norm for marriage has been one man married to one woman.  Gay marriage is not that.”  Such a statement is absolutely correct, but it doesn’t carry the fear and (long) tradition heft.

Finally: Gay marriage is a slippery slope.  The notion here is that widespread legal approval of gay marriage will inevitably lead to a series of dire consequences.  Often this ends with the prediction that the government will eventually force the church to solemnize gay marriages in its temples.

It’s interesting to me that this is put forth as a firm argument, since the whole concept of a slippery slope is widely considered to be a logical fallacy (it is also sometimes referred to as the “camel’s nose fallacy” or the “thin edge of the wedge”).  The reason it is considered fallacious is that it assumes a series of events that are by no means guaranteed to occur (and in fact most often do not occur) in order to reach its dire conclusion. 

Sadly, the argument itself has often brought about its own dire conclusions.  Our nation went into Vietnam on a slippery slope argument -- the fall of Vietnam to communism was supposed to be the first domino in a series that would end up with communism engulfing all of Asia.  A generation of young men fought and died for that faulty hypothesis.

A more useful argument would outline each of the steps and assign some likelihood to each, in order to accurately assess what might actually happen.  Since the steps taken together form a conditional probability (in which you multiply each of the probabilities together to obtain the likelihood of the result actually occurring), the proposed endgame is almost always exceptionally unlikely: either a long series of fairly likely steps or any series that contains even one unlikely step will produce a low-likelihood result.  A series of five steps, each with a 70% likelihood of occurring, produces a 16.8% likelihood of reaching the endgame.  Insert even one term in that series with a 25% likelihood, and the overall probability drops to 6%.

None of this is to say that it is impossible to believe differently than I do about gay people or about gay marriage.  I’m certain that there are reasonable things that can be said on each side of these issues.  Rather, it is to say this: that the arguments presented above are each deeply flawed, and if a person is to use them, they have some fairly serious explaining to do. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Come Ye Thankful People, Come

A post by my friend Bob Rees, in honor of Thanksgiving. Enjoy.




“Come Ye Thankful People, Come”
Robert A. Rees

That is the title of a Thanksgiving hymn written in 1844 by Henry Alford which is still sung in many churches today. The imperative, repeated “come” give the hymn  the sense of both invitation and urgency. This is a season of coming together (as families, groups and congregations) to express appreciation, gratitude and thanksgiving (related but distinct human emotions).  The Institute of HeartMath in the Santa Cruz Mountains where I worked for a dozen years has studied gratitude and its associated emotions and their impact on our minds, bodies,  and spirits. Here is a summary of their findings: “[When expressing appreciation or gratitude,] you feel a deep sense of peace and internal balance­­—you are at harmony with yourself, with others, and with your larger environment. You experience increased buoyancy and vitality. Your senses are enlivened—every aspect of your perceptual experience seems richer, more textured. Surprisingly, you feel invigorated even when you would usually have felt tired and drained.” Another way to say this is that expressing appreciation, gratitude and thankfulness are good for us—physically, emotionally and spiritually. 

And yet, we often have to be reminded to be grateful. That happened to me just this week. I was at Best Buy involved in a long, difficult phone conversation with a computer repair technician somewhere in the antipodes. I was irritated, frustrated, and tired. To a woman standing next in line waiting to be served, I complained, “What a day!” She responded, “But it is a day.” Immediately, her words changed my perspective. Yes, having any day (even a difficult one) is better than having no day. Whatever difficulties I was experiencing, I was alive. I was also immensely blessed, especially in comparison with the vast majority of humankind, including no doubt the technician on the other end of the line.

Thanksgiving is also a day, a day set apart for expressing gratitude and thanks.  It is a day when we remember all of those others who have blessed our lives in some way, who have given to us beyond the limits of obligation and expectation, who have given time, patience, and love with grace and generosity and in doing so have made our lives fuller, richer, safer, and more meaningful.  With just a little thought a list of those who have touched or now touch our lives in some way expands exponentially. Thus, those for whom we should be grateful are not only those millions who have sacrificed to make our world as rich, comfortable and safe as it is, but, in Wordsworth’s expression,  the “little, nameless unremembered acts of kindness and love” of which we are daily recipients.

It is the nature of gratitude to engender gratitude—in ourselves and others. Which is to say that gratitude is contagious. That means that expressing gratitude on Thanksgiving is likely to elicit gratitude in others—and more gratitude in ourselves beyond Thanksgiving, finding in each day at least one thing for which we can be grateful. Expressing gratitude also often leads to our manifesting gratitude beyond words. Feelings of appreciation and thankfulness often motivate us to do something for others.  As John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

One of our family rituals is to ask all those sitting around the Thanksgiving table to name one thing for which they are especially thankful and then to have a collective prayer of thanksgiving. When I was travelling in China years ago with a group of American writers,  Barry Lopez said something I have never forgotten: “An older meaning of ‘to remember’ means to pass something through our hearts once more.” This Thanksgiving, perhaps as we sit around the table with friends and relatives we can all take a moment to let some remembrance of gratitude pass through our hearts again. As the old French proverb puts it, “Gratitude is the heart’s memory.”

Robert A. Rees, Ph.D., a member of  the  Marin Interfaith Council Board, teaches Mormonism at UC Berkeley and Graduate Theological Union. He lives in Mill Valley.