Friday, October 28, 2016

The Single Life

(My First)
The Single Life
by Brittany Shannon

Have you ever wondered, why one of God's commands
Is for a woman to be married to a man?

In order to return to our Father above,
We are required, through better and worse, to love.

Some people look forward to marriage growing up,
They dream of forever after and such.

What many don't know until they've said their vows,
Is the commandment they've entered is much harder than dreams allow.

Being alone with one person to please,
You don't feel such weight, such stress, such grief.

To care about another is much more than just romance,
In God's eyes, marriage is a dance.

The music is love,
And you need to play it loud.

The choreography is service,
Which must not be done proud.

Each step is an act of kindness,
You sometimes make at the expense,

Of everything you ever wanted,
And everything you'd expect.

You see it's much harder to be selfless and put first others' needs,
Than it is to be single, wild, and free.

God tells his children to covenant in marriage,
The storybook says next comes a baby carriage.

The truth is hardship and struggles will enter,
A long line of wishes with hope at the center.

It starts when you bring home a little pink bundle,
Trust will be broken and romance will crumble.

Together you realize what you don't want in life,
The heartache and loneliness cuts like a knife.

You pray and you search for what should be done,
And hope with the next bundle the battle's are won.

Many years go by, and you remember the years,
When you were single, you shed so little tears.

Compared to now, when the real value of your soul is tested,
The single life was nothing but play, choice, investments.

It would seem your marriage has been more down than up,
When the two of you beg God to bring back your love.

You glance at your children, the full life you've lived,
The sacrifices you've made, all the time that you give.

What has been a mountain of trials to climb,
Now produces blessings, all revealed with time.

You love your family with all of your heart,
Your marriage, the work, it's all been an art.

Sometimes it's messy and you have to start over,
But you're still dancing together, the music's just slower.

Instead of a jive, with just two partners in speed,
A family must waltz, the parents in lead.

Notes will be strummed, you'll try and succeed,
But sometimes you fail and the note is off-key.

All the while your heart has grown,
In the many ways the  love of God has been shown.

What he's asked is not simple or easy at times,
There will be days you envy your single life.

But not one person who has experienced both,
Will tell you they'd give up their family-based hope.

A marriage is meant to teach us more than a war,
We learn things, we do things, better than ever before.

Patience and loyalty are imperative leaps,
As you dance through hell, a remarkable feat.

To become like God, we must do all that we can,
To escape the mortal weakness of man.

Giving up ourself in the place of another,
You learned what it meant to be a father and mother.

Serving in sickness, you grew to know Christ,
For the pure love of charity  has transformed your life.

It might be easier to be single, even after kids are born,
For then a relationship with a spouse and the responsibility is shorn.

You can do what you want, eat what you please,
Discipline children and handle finances with one-parent ease.

A marriage between two is a God-given trial,
One that proves over time to be worth while.

In the midst of commandments and effort put forth,
God changes humans, he alters their course.

A hard heart is softened, betrayals let go,
The family bond strengthens all that you know.

It isn't meant to be easy, Christ said so himself,
He never left us alone, He is here to help.

When you put faith in God and give Christ the power,
Your marriage will be sustained, every minute, every hour.

It won't always sparkle or be breezy and fun,
Sometimes the music is only a hum.

If the instruments fail, if the strings break
One must keep singing, for that's what it takes.

In the end, you'll feel gladness and joy,
For all of your efforts have proven God's ploy.

You love marriage way more than you ever loved single life,
There's nothing greater than being husband and wife.

By Brittany Shannon

Monday, October 24, 2016

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 41

Week 41!!! Eeeee it's so much closer to week 52 which is the LAST WEEK OF 2017!

This week's prompt for the gratitude challenge is: favorite hobbies.
How do I narrow it down!? Lol

Let's see...I came out of the womb singing and dancing and spent a good portion of my life involved in both. I love the performance arts with every inch of me. 

I LUUUURRRRVVV to write. I have a gift with words and want to use it to reflect Christ. I have written five novels, the first of which "Conquest of Canaan: Og" is doing very well. The sequel will be released in 2017. Then the third following that. Once those books are out, I will work on publishing the other series which is a crime/thriller women's fiction.

I like music. I play the piano and compose "film score" style music. I gave the Taylor Swift sound a go, but it just wasn't my thing. But I can write a 9 minute long orchestral saga in a flash ;) ( Not saying it's Hans Zimmer or anything)

I am a cosmetologist and have had a very successful career. I love doing hair. It's part of my artsy fartsy self. Although I completely suck at makeup. Wth?

I think I'm a pretty good chef. Cooking is my specialty. Still workin on baking. I think I get it from my uncle.

I love to exercise. Joining a competitive gymnastics team by the age of five, I learned how to discipline the body and mind very young. I am so grateful for that. It has been so much a part of my life that I don't really know what it's like to not eat healthy and work out regularly, other than my surgeries and after giving birth. Even pregnant I kept at it pretty steadily. I've learned that you appreciate what you have so much more when you work your butt off for it rather than cheating... like having an eating disorder to be "skinny". There's nothing special about skinny. Lots of people can do it, and many do it to the extreme. To me this is a mental disorder. I have mastered the mind and live to eat lots of food, and then burn it off in crazy good workouts.  My body has muscle tone but it is also very healthy on the inside. Hopefully my bones and organs will hold up for many more years :)

I'm a big movie buff. I like watching movies (first to listen to the film score and then to watch the actors and cinemetography) I have an eclectic taste from blockbuster Michael Bay to Indie films to Quinten Terrantino.

Lastly, I like making friends. I try my hardest to be nice to people and extend the olive branch at the earliest convenience. I like to be there for people when they've gone through something rough: I love to stop by unannounced with goodies. I like to have play dates with our kids. I've made so many new friends just this year and it has brought me a sense of peace, as this year was emotionally turbulent for me. 

And that about sums up my week 41 of the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge! Wow...see you at week 42!!:)

Healing from Trauma: Conference for Women

This last weekend I had the opportunity to go to a women's conference in St. George, Utah called, Healing from Trauma. It was put on by The Moments We Stand. There were many speakers and all gave presentations on their life's journey, including the truth, trials, and triumphs.

The adversary tried very hard to keep me from attending this conference. I had driven all the way down there and arranged for babysitters for my kids, but struggles kept arising. I didn't feel very positive and was regretting making the trip to St. George. I was upset that I had bought a ticket and was going to miss out on part of the event. I woke up Saturday morning and almost didn't go...I thought about just packing my kids up and heading home. I was sad inside. I thought to myself, "I don't belong with these women. They don't want anything to do with me. How can they possibly help my situation? No one will even notice if I don't go."

The conference started at 9:00am and I decided to go a few minutes early and "check in", and ask if it would be a problem for me to come and go. I've never been to one of these events, and I didn't know if I would get locked out running to and from, to check on my kids. So, I got dressed and drove down there at 8:45am. I had every intention of checking in and then leaving. As I watched the seats fill--rapidly--and caught a glimpse of a few of the speakers, I started to feel strongly...STAY.

I called my parents and asked what they were doing. They said they weren't doing anything at the moment and so they could help watch the kids for a little bit. I felt guilty knowing it wasn't what they wanted to do, but I knew I had to stay and hear this first speaker. For some reason.

The conference began. The first speakers were the Terry's. They are a couple who lost their healthy daughter, Kycie, to a freak accident. Brain trauma caused by a totally unexpected diabetic coma. They showed a video with home footage of Kycie's journey, before, during, and after the coma. Kycie was "not supposed to live" after the coma. But when she opened her eyes, her parents knew she would live. She had to learn to hold her head up, roll over, walk again. Five minutes in, and I was sobbing. Real lip-quivering sobbing.

Something about this story touched me so greatly. Probably because the parents had such a positive outlook on the situation. Kycie eventually did pass away, after coming down with a chest cold. She was in the hospital four months after her coma, returned home for six weeks, got the cold and returned to the hospital. After a week, she was released and doing much better. However, three days later, she passed away. The Terry's both said that privately they each received a confirmation that Kycie would be leaving them. They were so positive about her passing, and now use her story to help others. Watching that little girl in the arms of her mother penetrated the core of my spirit. I just kept thinking of my daughter and what I would be like if I went through that.

The next speaker, Mindy, talked about mountain running and related an experience she had running up a mountain in Utah, during a winter blizzard, and how it felt when she reached the top. I feel like I am halfway up that mountain now, cutting my own trail, and exhausted and frightened. And yet, after this conference, I feel a sense of relief. Like just for a moment, when these women were speaking, they were cutting the trail for me. It has been eased a little.

I had to leave to check on my kids at this point, and returned in the afternoon. I caught speakers Rachel, Dawn, and Ashley.

Rachel gave an incredible, in depth presentation on fear and how the human reacts to it. She referred to our "fear bubble" as the cause for how we react to the world, how we fit in the world, and how we see the world. I saw myself in many of those situations, and I also saw some of my close family members in that "fear bubble". Although I cannot control other people and how they react, I know it is time for me to pop my fear bubble and step into "my freedom."

Dawn's presentation...mic drop.
I have no other words.
Her story is so complex I will need to write an entire separate blog post just to cover it all.
However, the most profound moment to me, that I will NEVER forget, was when she said, "You know you've hit rock bottom when you're holding a shovel."

Want to know why she was holding a shovel?
Well, by the age of 18, Dawn had lost pretty much everything and experienced every heartbreak God has allowed to inhabit this earth. I'm not joking.

Dawn was holding a shovel because her baby boy (who I believe was just shy of 3 months old) had died. She woke up to find him gone, lying beside her in bed. She had been robbed and abandoned in Arkansas, a state she did NOT live in, and was staying with someone else while waiting for her ex-boyfriend to drive down from Iowa and pick her up. When her son died, she did not have any money to pay for anything. She buried her son in a Styrofoam cooler, in the dirt. My heart broke a thousand times hearing her speak of this loss. So much more than the abuse she endured growing up, living homeless from the age of 14-18, having two children and the father abandon her, and then one of those children was just so much PAIN! And yet, Dawn stood up at the front of that room, a healthy, happy, beautiful woman, and spoke about change and the power of choice.

Ashley concluded with a presentation on her life. Her husband had been murdered by the spouse of his secret mistress. Ashley learned her husband had been shot and killed--and had been having an affair with his paralegal--all in the same moment. She then endured months and months of trials, investigations, and judgement. Oh, and did I mention she was 28 years old, widowed, with five kids? This girl was a powerhouse. She spoke of the abuse, the "feeling of never being good enough", an earlier struggle with an eating disorder, and learning to find happiness again. It felt like I was watching myself. Well, my future self. We have been through a lot of the same heartaches, although I have not had to experience being a widow to five kids. She was tall and beautiful, she stood proud and spoke loud. I cannot wait until I have that confidence and have healed a little bit more from my own PTSD.

All in all, this conference was truly a blessing. I know I needed to be there. It changed me for the better in SOOO many ways. I hope if you ever hear about this conference near you, YOU WILL GO! It is so worth it. TRUST ME!
To learn more, visit

By Brittany Shannon

Friday, October 21, 2016

Do Mormons Hate Homosexuals?

My thoughts this evening are inspired by a story my sister shared with me.
A girl private messaged her on social media and asked her, "Why do Mormons hate homosexuals?"

In short, my sister responded, "They don't. Some people-Mormons and non Mormons-bully homosexuals."

The girl responded, "I've had Mormon people come up to me with their bible and Book of Mormon and bash me for being homosexual."

My sister said, "I've never known a Mormon in all my life to do that." And something like, "I'm sorry. That person is a bully. What is the purpose of you asking me this?"

And the girl never responded.

It hurt me too hear that this girl, who is thirteen by the way, would feel so shamed by being a homosexual and that she has had a negative experience with Mormons. Either that, or she's making it up....But let's take her word for it.

Let's break down her experience.
Girl is homosexual and is bashed by a bible-blaring Mormon.
She felt the need to contact a random LDS girl on social media about it.

I wonder if this girl has forgotten, as most of the world has, that all Christian religions are based on the Bible. That is NOT unique to Mormonism. Second, a fundamental belief of Christianity is that acting on homosexuality is a sin. However, leaders in the LDS church have clarified that there is a difference between having a weakness and acting on it. These discussions clarify that being homosexual, for instance, is not a sin. For "unto man did I give weaknesses" (as stated in the scriptures.) So, while it can be hard to swallow sometimes, Christianity considers homosexuality a weakness. It is NOT a sin, unless acted upon. 

Now, somehow this has been way blown out of proportion in the last decade...causing MAJOR friction between Christians and homosexuals (bisexuals, pansexuals)  And somehow, MORMONS have been secluded in this group of Christians, my guess is because they have a reputation of being really uptight and judgemental.
Bullying is OUT OF CONTROL these days, and lives are ending because of it.
I will mention a gay guy friend of mine once said (and I quote) "transgenders are disgusting." So, beware. Not all hate is from straight people on's everywhere.

The truth is, a lot of ignorance surrounds same gender attraction. I'm not qualified to make the remarks I'm going to make, but I want to share how I feel about this topic because it is near and dear to my heart. 

If what the Bible says is true, that God GAVE MAN WEAKNESSES, then we must recognize that people born with the same gender attraction tendency must have been trusted with it by God. Yes, I said TRUSTED. 

Straight folks: Have you ever asked yourself what it would BE like to have love, to be capable of love, to be driven by the single most powerful human emotion, and be told you CANNOT act upon it? 

Or do you think people just want to "rebel", or that they must "not believe in God" because they're in a same gender relationship? 

I've put myself in the shoes of my dear, valued friends who are openly homosexual. I've spoken with those that still live Christian lives,, and I feel for them.
To think, every day, "I am a walking sin...I am not good enough...people think I'm disgusting..." You know where I would turn? Probably suicide.

You know, there are ALSO really, happy, kind gay people who don't think of suicide. They're normal people living normal lives. Doing a better job than me.

In my heart, I am a Christian, If  same gender attraction is a "weakness"...that God gave, he must have given it to  his STRONGEST soldiers. He gave them HUGE hearts and MIGHTY spirits andLOVE, LOVE, LOVE....and yet, commanded them to not partake in this sin. Remind you of the Garden of Eden? Here's the part "straight" people forget: pride is also a sin!! In fact, it is mentioned in the Bible over 100 times. Way more than same gender attraction. Lying is a sin. Murder. Stealing. Adultery. (Hello--Mormons! This is HUUUGE in our community...including pornography) What about abuse? In all forms? Emotional abuse is more damaging than physical, and a lot of church-going Christians eliminate themselves from the sinners pool because they think they're not doing anything wrong. Words are like weapons. The axe forgets, but the tree never does.

To pacify any Mormon-haters: there is a rumor that when Christ comes again, He will cleanse the earth starting with the Church. Don't worry. They have what's coming...

Many things are weaknesses of mortals. And ALL of us mortals are going to partake in these weaknesses, thus leading us into "sin". So much shame surrounds the word "sin" and yet we are all sinners, committing sin on a daily basis. They vary, based on our weaknesses given to us by God, but none of us is exempt. And none of us is better than the other. God loves us, values us, and roots for us. Each and every one. We are give a PERSONAL refiner's fire that only the individual can truly walk through and experience. To judge someone from the outside, and say you would or should do better, is absolute nonsense. Plus it is a "sin"....

"Judge not that ye be not judged."

Did you know it says in the Bible that you will be judged according to how you judged others? I LOVE THAT! Isn't it a testament to God's care for His children? That He not only desires but requires us to love everyone despite different weaknesses? 

Sometimes I envy people who have faced harder struggles than I have. How strong must they have been in the premortal life (and in this life) to be trusted with such trials?
They must have been a saintly soldier. I was probably just the hairdresser, adjusting halos to fit the perfect "Do".

In conclusion, I want to add that even though I have Christian beliefs, I would never force those on my beloved friends and family, or anyone else. I don't think homosexuals or same gender attraction people need to "change". I would never spend my time judging them or worrying about whether they were in a same gender relationship or not, that's not why we are on this earth. Trust me--if I was born with same gender attraction, I guarantee you I would rather be in love and be loved than live a life of loneliness and isolation. You would too, believe it or not. Even if only once, we fall.

One of the Ten Commandments is Do Not Bear False Witness (number 9) and every one of you have told a lie...even if it was about the Tooth Fairy....

Trying to justify that? That's because it's YOUR sin. So much easier to call someone else a sinner than ourselves.

Some of the most wonderful people I've known were my gay guy friends. My grandma's partner Faye was one of the kindest people my mother ever knew. I still hear stories of Faye.

I cannot imagine living a life where people told me that to love would be a just breaks my heart. But I do know that judging and being prideful is a sin, and I know I take part in both too much! How could I possibly look at someone else and think I was more righteous? I could never look in the mirror...
Can you imagine having the compulsion to steal? Everywhere you went? From the store, from families? Cleptomania is real. So is the compulsion to do drugs, or commit adultery. Oh man. I'd so much rather be a happy lesbian wife!

I hurt because this topic has caused such a huge wedge between Christians and the LGBT community. Mormons specifically. I have felt close in my heart that a child near me (soon) is going to need my love because they will be born with same gender attraction, I hope to never make the mistake many religious people do, and shame them or turn them away from God. I want them to know they are unique and valued, like everyone else. I will teach them truth, from the Bible.

I apologize if any of my comments translated offensively. I was nervous writing this and didn't know how it would come off..and I totally accept people feeling differently about it. I was just very consumed with this topic today. My head and heart are full of questions and Why must we go through this wonderings. I wish I had an easy answer and all the solutions. I don't know everything, but I do believe in God and Christ and I believe if they "gave unto man weakness" then they can "make weak things strong". (Bible) We are ALL partakers in weakness. May we judge less, extend the olive branch further, and help others see that Mormons DON'T hate homosexuals.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Fight the New Drug

Fight the new drug.
Porn kills love.
But porn also kills sex.

For this blog cover for Blogtober I am covering the many issues of the cause Fight the New Drugz

A lot of people will say that porn kills love, but porn kills more than just love. It kills the magic of sex. There are certain people who are addicted to sex, and there are certain people who are addicted to pornography. Sometimes one is addicted to both, but they are not the same thing. For instance, some people are addicted to having sex. They feel a compulsion to have sex with someone else. They want to do this frequently, and what is considered more than normal. They don't care necessarily who they're having sex with, they just want to do it all the time. It's an addiction. It's like getting high.

Those that are addicted to pornography want to be viewers of the spectacle of sex. They want to watch other people have sex. Usually this is a selfish endeavor taken  upon by one's self.

 The participant watching  pornography by themself usually masturbates and enjoys watching the other people to stimulate themself. The reason why pornography is so damaging is because it is not real, and the depictions of sex are usually far exaggerated from the truth--in some circumstances actually perverse.

88% of porn scenes contain physical aggression. 49% contain verbal aggression. 
Found on

People who watch this re-wire  their brain, their emotions, and their sex drive to believe that this is what sex. It is watching other people engage in sex while you masturbate alone. The effects of masturbation have been medically linked to impotence, not to mention destroy the ability to enjoy the gentle touch of your partner.

Porn+ masturbation= self pleasure.
Sex with partner= pleasure of partners. (As long as you're communicating and making love with care)

 It is a selfish habit and perverts the beauty and magic of sex between two partners that require the two people to please one another. Pornography also implies that you are more selfish of a lover, and that you are more cowardly. It is more challenging to ask someone out and take them home for a one night stand than to go home alone to your computer. It is harder to forgive your spouse after a fight and make love than it is to go in the bathroom alone for ten minutes. Porn addicts do not want to physically engage in sex with another person more than they would rather watch it alone.

This has become an issue for relationships--and at a very young age.
Viewing pornography can have negative consequences on teenagers down the line, affecting both their psychological and physical wellbeing.

When young people are learning to be selfish (and selfish lovers) marriage and love are becoming endangered elements of life.

Usually pornography involves fantasies and/or actions that can sometimes be unorthodox. People who get addicted to pornography find these fantasies to be more stimulating then regular love making. This makes the individual find love making unsatisfactory to the point where they can literally be turned off by sex and unable to perform without the help of pornography. Even then, the act of sex can be quick and one-sided. Which leads the addicted individual to more porn.
More "self pleasure" & more selfishness. This overflows into other aspects of one's life. This is why addiction to porn is ultimately as dangerous as any addiction. It KILLS love...our most important emotion.

People who are addicted to both sex and pornography can find both stimulating, however a problem arises when one is so addicted to pornography that they need that as a source of stimulation to then go fulfill the actual act of  sex. Pornography which involves one person usually watching exaggerated depictions of sex teaches people to be less loving and sensitive and selfless during lovemaking. It desensitizes a person's brain and trains them to only be stimulated by what they're seeing visually. Pornography kills more than just love, especially between couples who do not feel the same way about porn.

Porn kills sex. It teaches you that you can engage in the sex acts by yourself and that you don't need another partner, when sex was designed to be enjoyed between people. It was not designed to be watched by one person in exaggerated or fantastical situations that can offend and  desensitilze the brain. Porn kills more than just love. It kills sex.

Porn leads to:
  • Increase in high-risk behaviors.
  • Skewed view of the world.
  • Decrease in ability to build healthy relationships.
  • Normalization of sexual violence.
  • Increase in aggression towards women.

When you can no longer be stimulated by your partner, the gentle hands and loving caress of your partner, and you need the help of pornography to even get turned on, you have become a slave to an evil industry that has sought to destroy the purity of love making. This goes for both genders, male and female. A lot of women will claim that they don't have a problem with pornography, that they don't feel threatened by it, and that they actually enjoy participating in it with their husbands. This does not excuse the degrading or demoralizing industry, nor does it condone pornography in the eyes of God.

The choice is for every individual to make, but in my experience in the Addiction Recovery Program I have seen countless broken hearts because of pornogrpahy abuse. Addiction is addiction. What one individual may find problematic another may not. Any addiction should be taken seriously, especially if it is affecting the household negatively. 

For more information on the Addiction Recovery Program visit ARP.LDS.ORG.

INSIDE LOOK: Excerpt from Conquest of Canaan: Og by Brittany Shannon

You asked, and ye shall receive (Biblical pun intended)
Here is an excerpt from my novel, Conquest of Canaan: Og.
Book one in this historical fiction trilogy.
Hope you like it :)

It Dawned on Me

By dawn, my eyes and fingernails sting. My headache is worse. I mope into the kitchen with a limp, obviously the first one awake. Locating the kettle, I make a pot of mint tea over a fire. It is unexpectedly satisfying. I drink another two cups before the Roteruths and the others rise. Yespin carefully arranges breakfast, but I can’t find it in me to eat. My stomach feels worse than the bruises.
“Have trouble sleeping?” Gring asks me.
“Something like that.”
Hart tells us the villagers will host Avoca’s survivors at the tabernacle, and that we may search for our loved ones there. Travin is the first to leave, Bronwynn only a half second behind him. I exit the Roteruth’s home because I have no reason to remain within it, following Travin toward the tabernacle. The twins, Yespin, and Hart join us. The streets are crowded by the time we arrive. There are guards, armed guards, and patrons organizing family searches. Their organization reminds me of Mikyla Rox, working diligently for the people of Avoca.
I avert my eyes toward the northeast horizon. Billows of dust grab my attention. Gring and Grond Bottker, who have made a habit of staring at me, follow my gaze. Grond tugs on Hart’s sleeve and points. It is not dust, but smoke. Something is on fire.
“The city is burning,” Yespin mutters in fright.
By now, the greater part of the Taavetti populous sees it. Travin and I exchange glances. Accompanying the smoke, the ground starts to rumble.
“Look!” Gring states.
Across the desert hills, below the thick black smoke swallowing the blue sky, fresh dust from the earth swirls as the infantry of an army comes into view. They are marching toward us. Chariots follow, with more men on horseback. Their numbers are beyond measurable. They cover the entire landscape, like shadows from the clouds. Behind them, the smoky haze of the burning city increases. It is a sight I cannot describe in the words of man.
“They march from Heshbon,” Grond says mutedly.
“They’ve destroyed it,” Hart agrees.
All I can think is that the Canaanites have come to butcher us all.
And yet, frozen in awe, I gape at their majesty.
Smoke covers the sun until it appears to be dusk, though it is only daybreak. A dust storm ensues from their footpaths, causing some of the Taavetti women to return to their homes, ushering little children indoors. The soldiers advance faster than imaginable, by the thousands, until they are upon the parish. Chariots and horses ride into the streets. More men than I knew inhabited the earth take up positions around the perimeter, establishing a blockade so no person from Taavetti may go forth unto the wilderness. Soldiers, in an exceedingly sexy man-wears-loin-cloth kind of way, march unto the steps of the tabernacle. Their armaments offset the sepia of their skin, long hair glistening under the ocher sky.
One man emerges, atop a beautiful stallion. He gallops in front of the infantry, coming to a halt before us. A man on foot steps beside the horseman, carrying a shield. The villagers and visitors fall so quiet I can hear Heshbon burning from miles away. I gape at the man astride his purebred horse and marvel. He is the largest man I’ve ever seen and not just by physical appearance. His horse is equally as spectacular. Dried blood covers the man’s body, sticky in his hair beneath a metal helmet. His upper half is layered in armor like unto the scales of an armadillo. The other soldiers are armed and bloodied from battle, waiting perfectly still, as they regard him with absolute reverence.
Everyone around me begins to murmur. Many of the Taavetti inhabitants drop to their knees.
I don’t understand.
The man on the horse starts to speak. “Arise, faithful servants.”
His voice echoes like thunder, commanding the attention of all who are in his presence. I have never seen an army, and I have never seen an army’s High Commander, but the image before me surpasses anything I could have envisioned. Each soldier stands erect, immobile, and alert. Breastplates and swords gleam under the saffron clouds. All of the equestrians cease their whinnying, their only movement the flick of their hair in the wind. The canvas behind them is like a scene from the underworld.
The High Commander continues, “I am Joshua, servant of the Most High God, High Commander of the Israelite army. We come from Heshbon, where we have destroyed the high walls that defended every city. Nophah, Medeba, Dibon, and all their lofty citizens have we put to death. And we did burn the cities to ruins. Sihon, King of Heshbon, is dead. And his spoils, and all the cattle, have we taken for ourselves.”
At this, several of the villagers cower. The Bottker twins, standing in front of Travin and Bronwynn, whisper in one another’s ear. Hart leads Yespin to the back of the tabernacle.
“The Lord has given us this land to possess it,” Joshua declares. “Our wives and little ones and our cattle shall abide here in these our cities. The country situated between Arnon of the south and Jabbok to the north, and the Jordan to the west, are under our possession. We will soon march on Bashan. Og, king of Bashan, has the height of a cedar and the strength of an oak. His cities are threescore, all with high walls and mighty fortifications. Nevertheless, I say unto you, Og shall fall because of his wickedness. The land on this side of Jordan, from the Arnon River unto the mount of Hermon, and every coast and all of the dirt our feet will step upon will be ours. All of the cities of the plain, even Gilead and those on the west of the Jordan, shall be ours, saith our God.”
Beside me, Travin is captivated. You would think he was staring at God Himself. He absorbs the words of this Joshua with the hunger of a suckling child. How is this man, this High Commander, more righteous than the bloodthirsty Canaanites?
I think of poor Maleah, possibly not making it safety, or out of Avoca, being scooped up by the hands of a nasty rebel. Being dragged behind an alley.
 “Our army has gathered,” Joshua preaches, “over the goodly mountain. We have a stronghold in the valley of Shittim, led by righteous leaders. Our numbers exceed forty and a thousand. All worthy men of Taavetti aid us, and you shall receive land and provisions. Do not fear our enemies, for God will fight for us.”
All this talk of God makes me nervous. I’ve never seen Him, or met Him, or spoken with Him, which is why I don’t comprehend people who act like they have. Joshua seems rather convinced that he is acting for, and in behalf, of said God, and that the burning of Heshbon was a commandment. A smitten city, every living thing, young and old, sheep and ass, put to an end.
My chest burns at the thought of dying women and children and animals, Canaanites or not. A God who could command such a thing is frightening. And then I remember Joshua saying the Israelite army exceeds forty thousand soldiers. This frightens me more than God.
The Taavetti people don’t feel the same way, apparently. They run toward Joshua, begging to be received into the Israelite army. Gring and Grond enlist. Many young, able females also join them. To my dismay, some of the peaceful residents of Avoca desire to join the battalion of fighters. Unless perhaps, they are not so peaceful at heart. The kindest of souls, Trav, is one of them, Bronwynn in tow.
Our friendship has been at an awkward standstill, mostly due to the barrier Bronwynn has put between us since they began courting. I didn’t help matters with my comment last night, but I would like to share a farewell with him, at least.
I glance around at the strangers surrounding me, watching those interested in following Joshua evacuate the tabernacle. Even those who don’t join the army emerge from homes, congregate in the street, and praise the soldiers. Several holy men raise their graven images, chanting toward the darkened heavens. Joshua removes his helmet, trotting over to them.
“O, be wise,” he states. “Worshiping false idols is a sin in the eyes of God. Behold, there is to be a new law. We will teach you all the ways of the Israelites.”
I can smell the smoke. War. Destruction.
The Israelite army commences the process of enlistment. Several officers organize a conscripting site as the majority of the infantry retreat beyond the homes to tend to cattle and water their horses. Men, and some women, both Taavetti locals and my neighbors from Avoca, diligently join ranks with the soldiers. Glimpsing the rolling plumes of inferno over their shoulders, I don’t blame them. Would Joshua just as soon burn all of us if we resisted?
I’ve heard tales of Israelites ruining generations and eliminating bloodlines, or conquering evil and providing for their posterity, depending on who speaks of them. Rebby claims the Israelites protect the freedoms of the land and fight for a righteous cause. But Avoca was a free people. We sought no one else’s gain. A neutral territory has been destroyed, and the Israelites were not there protecting it.
All around me the faces of family members grieve and pray and smile proudly. I spy Travin near the recruits. He’s holding Bronwynn against him. She is sobbing hysterically, fingers clasping his tunic. His face is a fusion of anger and pain and something else. I feel no small amount of antipathy toward this God that Travin has lost so much. We both have.
Nobody stands next to me. No one will ever stand next to me, to worry over whether I shall return or not, unless you consider a lactating dairy cow that person.
I turn to the nearest tabernacle pillar.
“Good talk,” I quip and descend the stairs.
I think of my drawer of keepsakes back in my home. My jewelry box. The animals at Lucan Care. My beloved, beloved animals. The flaming banner floating above the street in Avoca, eviscerating my link to a home and neutrality.
On the street, I pace straight toward an Israelite officer and state vehemently, “I am going with you.”
The fierce warrior stares blankly at me. A glare of sunshine reflects off of his breastplate. I squint at it, my eyes darting between his stoic face and the girdle around his waist. His weapon is almost as big as me. Over his shoulder, a Taavetti female is signing up. My agnostic attitude is overruled by my vengeful one. I take the chance to persist, falsified in confidence.
“I’m only five feet tall, but I’m ten pounds of wheat in a five pound bushel. I have no remaining kin, and my occupancy and occupation have been destroyed. I need a place to live and food to eat. For imbursement, I can care for your beasts.”
In response, the Israelite officer takes my name and sends me toward the recruits who are being prearranged into four travelling companies. It takes the remainder of the day. Taavetti men and women donate belongings of use. Those, combined with the supplies of the Israelites, are divided and dispersed into each company. These companies are under the direction of an officer, each officer reporting to their High Commander. Joshua. I regard him in the distance, presiding over the people in a calm, benevolent, yet executive demeanor. Notwithstanding our differences, I owe this High Commander a bit of respect.
Amongst my company, I let the possibilities of my near future flash through my head. I am joining an army, where I will live alongside soldiers. I’m leaving home for the first time. I will see the world. What a vision will it be to behold? I will see the River Jordan. I will see . . . Bashan in conflagration, like Heshbon. What is war like?
Night falls upon us. I ignore any looks of judgment from the older, wiser, and stronger people and move into the congregation of my travelling company. Yay, the most difficult part of this enlistment will be tolerating so many people.
Around midnight, the four companies merge into the ranks of the Israelite army, depart the village of Taavetti. Our destination is Shittim, further east. Above us, the charcoal smoke of Heshbon hovers sinisterly. Avoca is left to memory. The people I worry may be left to memory also rise in my mind. If Mikyla survived the attack, she would probably stay behind as a successor and rebuild her community of peace. And Rebby, if he’s alive, I know I will see him again. He will be among Joshua’s men.
I wonder what will become of our neutral territory if it is overthrown by Canaanites. Somehow, I am glad I won’t be there to find out.

Excerpt from Conquest of Canaan: Og
Copyright Brittany Shannon Lemmon

Monday, October 17, 2016

Don't Judge Me

Disclaimer: Parental Advisory

One of the most common complaints I hear about people who belong to the LDS religion as I do is "They're so judgemental." 
This stereotype, while true at times, has gotten so out of hand that the tides have turned and now it is the opposite, where people that are NOT in this religious group are hating on the religion so much. The judgement has switched. When I was a kid growing up, you would sometimes hear, "Oh, I can't hang out with her because she isn't LDS."
Now, you more frequently hear the opposite. "I can't stand her because she's Mormon."

This fanaticism is predominantly a problem in Utah, where a lot of the population are LDS, and have in their religious fanaticism garnered said stereotype. Like people who think soda is against the religion. Did you HEAR this past general conference?
Remember when Dieter Ucthdorf said he had "many liters of a diet soda that shall remain nameless."
And also the fact that there is ZERO doctrine saying you cannot drink caffeine or soda? (If you're new to the LDS religion, the belief that LDS people don't drink coffee because it is caffeinated is a wives tale)
Likewise, there are plenty of wives tales about non-Mormons that the bubble-bred Utahns are suckered into believing. I.e. Too many piercings means you weren't loved as a child. Or Divorce means you didn't care about your marriage.

  While I grant those seriously offended by any Mormon the appropriate validation, I 100% disagree with turning around and judging those who belong to the LDS religion. It's total hypocrisy. 

Saying, "They're all the same," is like saying "he must be a bad guy because he has tattoos." They're both ignorant statements brewed by hypocrisy. 

I've felt the judgment from people when I decided to change my church attendance.
Note: nothing about my personality changed. I'm still pretty much the same Brittany at the core. And yet, my attendance at church changed (increased), I made some choices about living a sober life, I got married (shocker) and gave up graphic media. Big whoop. But suddenly a couple people didn't want much to do with me.

Let me give a few specific examples:

1. I was once on a vacation with friends in Mexico. A girl called me "the boring friend" because I didn't want to get drunk that day. That's right, me, the "boring" friend. Because I didn't wanna get drunk. Mind you, she wasn't teasing either...
If you want the total truth, I was also deathly hungover from the night before and simply did NOT WANT to drink any more alcohol...I knew my intake was getting out of control and wanted to take a break. It was also the middle of the day. Being sober made me the "boring Mormon".
This same vacation, Glen opted out of going to the Strip Club with the men and they made fun of him for growing up "Mormon".

2. I was at The Pride Parade once. Yes, me. And a group of friends started making fun of the "Releif Society" and blamed the Mormons for one of their favorite bars shutting down. Wth? Then they looked at me and said snidely, "Oh, sorry Brittany." Like I had everything to do with it and should be embarrassed.

3. I was kicked out of the "cool club" of popular girls because I didn't talk trash on my husband or take my shirt off at parties. Literally. (And I took off a lot sometimes)

4. This same group were also swingers and excommunicated Glen and I because we were disinclined to "swing". Never called us to hang out again.

5. In fact, once Glen and I started living a sober life, ten years of "friendships" mysteriously dwindled...because what could you possibly do as friends if you aren't going to show up at a random house, get plastered, swap spouses, and get a couple DUI's on the way home? Great memories, right?

6. I got married. Super weird, I know...instead of just living with Glen and getting pregnant and reaping all the benefits of government funding, we chose to sign a paper.

7. We didn't get married in an LDS temple, but neither did we have an open bar. A lot of people didn't come. Others got drunk or high in the parking lot so they could have fun.

8. Glen and I wanted to have a family right away. We also both work, try to maintain a house and yard, attend family functions, and spend our free spare three minute with each other. And suddenly we were "too good" for our non-Mormon friends because we "wouldn't get a babysitter " on weekends. (Most of the time these gatherings are "parties") If it was a "kid friendly party" and we chose not to go so we could get the kids to bed early and have sex for the FIRST time that month, WE WERE the judgemental ones.

9. I gave up my career to be a full-time mom. GASP! Suddenly my working friends don't have anything in common with me anymore. I'm just "one of those Mormons " now. I'll actually toss in here that even some working LDS people have shunned me from lunch dates because I can't talk about being exhausted like they can....(did you hear my scowl?)
Never mind that I still work as a full-time writer and manuscript evaluator, or volunteer hours of my time for the Addiction Recovery Program. Daycares aren't free, you know. Ever wonder why? I've adequately done both and I can say with confidence being home 24/7 is way more stressful and emotionally draining FOR is a vacation.

10. I am called the phony and the fake, the self-righteous or the hypocrite, because I made a few choices that were for the greater good of my relationship, my health, and my children. I don't cuss (nearly as often) or wear bikinis anymore...I'll probably still gamble and breastfeed in public, tho. Sorry, Bishop....Almost NONE of my non religious friends still call me to get together. I have a few, they're my greatest friends in the whole world -and you know who you are- but the rest have "lost my number" because (laughs to self) I am the judgmental one.

Tell me, how am I the judgmental one?
Nothing about me has changed--at least nothing that affects YOU or our relationship.
I can drive home at night, wake up clear headed, trust my husband on work trips, and smile at the sweet behavior of my children, and that makes me a JUDGEMENTAL person? All because I wanted to go to church more?

Let me tell you what "church" is. Church is a building. I go to a building. And I learn about Christ and His gospel. I volunteer with children under 3 for two hours and hang out with sweet old ladies. We talk and laugh and worship God. We don't spend a SINGLE MINUTE worrying about what other people are doing outside of the church--or religion--for that matter. Maybe you've had a bad experience now and then, trust me I have. But the majority of "Mormons" are just like you. They simply have slight variations of values, like not drinking coffee or tea. No big deal. We don't gossip or stress about what non-Mormons are doing. We genuinely want to love everyone and build strong lasting friendships with all kinds of people.

In my experience, I have been judged FAR MORE by non religious people than I have actually judged them (and I like to think I hardly ever throw shade...sometimes I do)
It isn't fair. It is one of the biggest problems humanity faces. I've heard all the rumors--from Mormons having horns to the "secret rooms" in our temples. The information non LDS people gather concerning LDS people is from OTHER NON LDS people. And none of it is usually accurate. It is completely unfair for me to lose friendships I work hard to maintain because someone assumes "I'm a Mormon" therefore I am the "judgemental" one. When In fact, the opposite is true.

While I believe in the Bible and try my best to follow Christ, I am NOT one of those "judgemental" people and hate to be classified as such. I LOVE people and diversity. Just because I'm not a lesbian doesn't mean I loath of my best friends is gay and my grandma was a lesbian so...choke on that. I know others might make choices that are different than mine, and different than Christianity, but I don't let it affect our friendship if it isn't affecting MY LIFE. I think that should go both ways, don't you?

If you're LDS and you find yourself thinking negatively about other non religious people, or people of different religions, I invite you to stop. Get to know them better. Understand that there is nothing evil about having a beer at dinner.

If you aren't LDS and you find yourself gossiping about "Mormons" in a negative manner, I invite you to stop. Get to know them better. There is nothing cult-like about sacrament meeting.

So please, let me go to church on Sundays, and wear my "Mormon underwear", rock the heck out of modesty, (say heck instead of hell), drink Pero instead of coffee, and focus more on motherhood instead of fame and fortune...and please, don't judge me.

52 Weeks of Gratitude: Week 40

Week 40 of the 52 weeks of gratitude challenge is a NO BRAINER!
Your greatest accomplishment.
Lemmon Family 2016

My greatest accomplishment BY FAR AND LARGE is my family. My children are my pride and joy (and each one of my gray hairs 😝😝😝)
I love my kids so much it's stupid. Like really.

I am so grateful I was able to experience pregnancy and motherhood. I truly know it is such a blessing and a gift. Despite many challenges, I am always grateful that motherhood has taught me more about patience and selflessness. My family is the most important thing in the world to me. 

Aren't they the best?
What's your greatest accomplishment?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Why I Don't Give Back

Have you caught on to a similar theme in my posts? ;) 
You're so smart.

Today I want to tell you why I don't give back.
Any guesses?

I did not understand what it meant to be charitable for a really long time. It has always been my instinct to be "protective" with myself, including my time, money, talents, and service. In other words, I was selfish. I've viewed humans as not to be trusted, and thought the worst of everyone, most of my life. The truth is most people I knew weren't trustworthy and didn't do very good things. That was my experience with people. Always getting short-handed, taken advantage of, ripped apart, and gossiped about by others. In retaliation, I grew more reserved and cynical. Disguised as wit and sarcasm, my resentment toward "people" expounded year by year, one bad experience after the other. My concerns were validated. People didn't give to me, so I didn't give back. The end.

In adulthood, I began to become aware of people around me who were extremely kind and generous. They were always the first to volunteer time, offer to pick up an extra gallon of milk at the store, or pay for dinner. They weren't as common as the people who treated me poorly, but they were out there. Shining like unicorns! Unique, special, rare creature that were....GASP...nice!!

Super annoyed me. 
How could someone care about me? I thought.
They must want something. 
I'm not so easily fooled.
I will uncover their motives.
I'll focus on their flaws until they betray me, they I'll turn around and point, Ah-ha! See, I knew it.

This attitude followed me around, sabotaging prospects for friendships and giving me a reputation as a grump. Funny, but grumpy. Like Chelsea Handler.
(Still a compliment, in my opinion)

Except I wasn't satisfied with my relationships. I would find myself asking, Why don't people call me more? Why don't people care when I go through a tragedy? Why don't people ask about my successes or my failures? What am I doing wrong?

Bitterly, I thought, I'm never doing anything for anyone ever again. My friends have abandoned me, my family doesn't care, God sends me to voicemail when I have Him on speed dial.

Then it dawned on me. I haven't been Christlike.
It occurred to me, in my slow process to maturity, that "giving back" wasn't as important to my journey of growth as "giving forward."

I made a change right then. I was going to "give forward."
I started buying flowers for people I cared about during their struggles. I wrote notes and bought snacks for coworkers. I volunteered more of my time at my local church. I volunteer for the Addiction Recovery Program, and travel to give presentations on it. I began GIVING more of my time, service, and talents to people around me, without worrying about how much I was being given first. Instead of focusing on "giving back", I put my energy into "giving forward."

Something really cool happened. It took a really long time. Probably because people either had no idea who I was, or they knew who I was--a grumpy recluse--and they had no idea why I was bringing them cookies to their doorstep. Like, total creep. Right?

Well, it was neat to watch people warm up to me. Rely on me. Smile and wave. Call me by name. Call me to borrow milk. Ask me to have a play date, or better yet, to babysit. The more time i invested in others, the more people invested in me. It was tricky at first, and I sometimes felt really insecure or embarrassed or afraid of rejection. Not always will my efforts be reciprocated. But the miraculous thing is my feelings toward people have changed. I now see there are a lot of good people out there, and I can attract them by giving forward. I had been attractive negative people and negative behaviors, without knowing it. Now I expend energy in a positive way, in the example of Christ, and it has yielded a more positive reward.

The truth is I don't need to wait to "give back" to someone. I spent so much time irritated with people, when I was really irritating myself. Unwilling to reach out to someone in need unless they did something for me first. Including my husband! Duh...
Total buzz kill...

Good thing I'm all grown up now and super smart (like you)
I don't give back. I give forward. And I'm so happy for the new friends I've made and the joy service has brought me. Not to mention how much happier me and my husband are now that there is a balance of give and take. Once I started giving more, my husband started giving more. A win win for all! Just as Christ said, he who loses His life in my service, shall find it.
Or...something like that :)
You get the picture.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

I Don't Want to be Married

After my divorce, the thought of getting remarried was utterly terrifying. I dated Glen four years before we got married. I lived with him first, too, because I was so scared of what could go wrong. My plan was: I don't want to be married. I knew very well what a person could hide, even when you live together and think you're just fine. Marriage became just a piece of paper...something most people crumple up or tear in half. In the end, my beliefs in the institution of marriage and God overruled my fear (barely!). 

There have been times throughout our marriage I have been consumed with fear. I've been angry (both at my past and my present). In my darkest moments I have thought: I don't want to be married.

Time and time again, Glen and I figure stuff out. We combat financial issues and parenting challenges as a team. We are good communicators and work together. By some miracle, we always pull through.

All through these experiences I learned one really important lesson:

It is far easier to love a human mortally when you have learned to love God eternally.

Last year was a rough year for Glen and I. We had a lot of personal struggles. I have read countless talks on marriages, studied books, and am currently in therapy. I am proactive and believe in always fighting for what you want. Never give up.

My heart was saddened by this weak year and I began comparing myself to others. In doing so, I began to focus on the negative about myself and my spouse. This brought me great unhappiness and unwanted stress. I can tell you this attitude is ADDICTIVE and spreads like cancer.

Fortunately, the opposite is also true.
I decided to focus on the positive things in my life. To talk about them more. To praise my husband and ponder his good qualities instead of the faults. And to NEVER EVER compare, "Comparison is the theif of joy." 

This includes comparing yourself to people who "have it better" but also lumping yourself into the category of people who "have it worse". Both are toxic.

When I decided to focus on all the things my husband did right, and outwardly express it, this TOO SPREADS and becomes habitual. He would return the compliments and expressions of love. We started showing affection to one another again, something I had found to be awkward and tense after a year long friction. I have been thinking to myself, "I don't want to be Married." 
I want to be SEALED. Forever.

There is a difference to me in just being married civilly and having a mortal capacity to love, and being sealed for eternity with the eternal love and power of God.
Russel M. Nielsen said: The noblest yearning of the human heart is for a marriage that can endure beyond death. Fidelity to a temple marriage does that. It allows families to be together forever.

I don't want to just be married. I want it all. I want to be sealed as a family,

We went on a date last weekend to the Utes football game and had a blast. It was so fun to just be out together, my worries and fears seemed far away. I thought about the Savior and His atonement all Sunday, and said many prayers of gratitude for the happiness I am feeling. It is a testament that positivity can grow just like negativity can. And you have to be cautious EVERY DAY. I've always said I will "guard my marriage." But I think last year I did the opposite. I was attacking it without even being aware, I allow d negative thoughts to infect my mind and they are contagious. That's the kicker. Be aware of where these thoughts come from and if there is a negative influence in your life. I notice when I don't feel cared about by other people, I reflect that in my marriage. I feel like my husband doesn't care about me and use all of his faults to back up this farce. Instead, when I started telling myself he did love me and backed it up with all the kind things he does for me and our kids, I began to FEEL more loved by him. 
Nielsen also said: The family proclamation also reminds us that “husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other.”

Now when I look back, some of the struggles we faced seem silly. I spent unnecessary energy worrying. We have a great marriage and we don't face hardships others don't face. Everyone has a problem now and then, and the way you get through it is TOGETHER. It is our duty, and it is promised that when we follow through it will bring us a fullness of joy. I've always wanted this joy. 
It has been my motivation to make better choices and pursue happiness EVEN when I'm not surrounded by it. Even if I'm not the recipient of good choices. This habit can be formed by watching other people and learning by their example.
L. Whitney Clayton said: First, I have observed that in the happiest marriages both the husband and wife consider their relationship to be a pearl beyond price, a treasure of infinite worth. They both leave their fathers and mothers and set out together to build a marriage that will prosper for eternity. They understand that they walk a divinely ordained path. They know that no other relationship of any kind can bring as much joy, generate as much good, or produce as much personal refinement. Watch and learn: the best marriage partners regard their marriages as priceless.

This cute drink called "Purple Stuff" is a stress relieving drink my husband bought for me when we made a quick stop at the store before the football game. It was a sweet gesture by him, because he knows I get stressed and that I like my bubbly drinks. He knows my love language is gifts and he does an excellent job meeting that need of mine.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a theologist, stated in a letter to his niece before her marriage: Marriage is more than your love for each other. … In your love you see only your two selves in the world, but in marriage you are a link in the chain of the generations, which God causes to come and to pass away to his glory, and calls into his kingdom. In your love you see only the heaven of your own happiness, but in marriage you are placed at a post of responsibility towards the world and mankind. Your love is your own private possession, but marriage is more than something personal—it is a status, an office. Just as it is the crown, and not merely the will to rule, that makes the king, so it is marriage, and not merely your love for each other, that joins you together in the sight of God and man. … So love comes from you, but marriage from above, from God.

I've made an effort to be more positive, not just with my husband but in my own mind too. I don't need to compare my life to anyone else's. I have so much to be grateful for. 
So, no, I don't want to be married anymore--I want to be sealed and I want this "office". I accept the responsibility and know my marriage affects generations far beyond my own. That is my responsibility. I am feeling so happy this week and I want this feeling to last forever. I just wanted to share that with you. Hope you have a great week!

Brittany Shannon

I don't want to be Married. I want to be very married.

"If I get married, I want to be very married."
Audrey Hepburn