Conceiving Masculinity | Considering Male Infertility

Conceiving Masculinity | Considering Male Infertility

Addressing the typically taboo topic of male fertility, Latter-day Saint ethnographer and sociologist Liberty Walther Barnes suggests abolishing gender stereotypes to encourage and increase medical breakthroughs.

Liberty Walther Barnes, who holds a Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in Sociology from the University of California at San Diego and a B.A. in Media Arts from Brigham Young University, is now a Research Associate in the Department of Sociology at the University of Cambridge.

Liberty Walther Barnes

She began conducting an ethnographic study of male infertility among heterosexual couples in the United States in 2007. She shadowed medical professionals in fertility clinics and followed up with couples receiving treatments from the clinics. Her resulting findings formed the basis for her book Conceiving Masculinity: Male Infertility, Medicine, and Identity. (more…)

Mike Ericksen and the New Age Folk music of Cedar Breaks

Mike Ericksen and the New Age Folk music of Cedar Breaks

I got to sit down with Mike Ericksen, an amazingly inspired soul, whose creative works invite you to reflect on your ideas of home, faith, and heritage.
His own journey to define home, faith, and heritage for himself and those who walk the path with him culminated in a book — Upon Destiny’s Song, a motion picture — Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, an album — Tyme: Aspects of Home — a collaborated effort of Cedar Breaks band, and Tyme’s breathtaking musical video-documentary. Even with all of the vision and monumental effort, Mike and the rest moved themselves out of the spotlight and invite you to focus on the beauty and message of their work.

“Take my hand, don’t walk too fast

Down the trail of ages past” ~Eutaw

Mike began his story to me by describing the creation of the song “Eutaw.” He was enthralled by Utah’s Black Hawk Indian War (1865-1872). He felt inspired to write a song about Utah, but didn’t know where to start or what to focus on. In a flash of inspiration, he decided to use the old time spelling of Utah—Eutaw.

He went fishing with a friend. The running river behind them sounded like voices in the water. Mike found out that an Indian legend for the area said a squaw lost her child in the water and was still searching for him, hence the personified voices in the river. Utah’s mountains are magnificent, but Mike mused about how cautious people had to be when someone came over the mountains—was he friend or foe? How great it was when people came in peace. It reminded him of a scripture “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings, that is the founder of peace” (Mosiah 15:18). Truly, the Savior is the bringer of ultimate peace.

Mike saw and felt the personified attributes of the earth and felt the metaphor so powerfully, that he wrote Eutaw as a person. Suddenly, the song just flowed. Mike said, “It became a song about me when I thought I was writing about her (Utah).”

“When I stand on sacred ground

I can hear their voices

Soft and low they seem to say, look up

Beautiful are her feet

Upon the mountain peak

For she … is called Eutaw”

Producer Norman Bosworth contacted Mike about putting scenery to Eutaw. They entered the film in the LDS Film Festival in 2012. He had four films in that festival.  His documentary film on handcart pioneer Ole Madsen won in a film festival in Southern Utah.

Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, Faith, Family, Determination

A 40 minute documentary on Danish Mormon convert Ole Madsen and his family as they cross the plains with the ill-fated Willie handcart company enroute to Salt Lake City, Utah

Walking in Obedience: The Ole Madsen Story, tells the story of handcart pioneers, in their own words, crossing the plains to Utah who, unexpectedly ravaged by early winter storms, face certain death until Mormon rescuers arrive with food, clothing, blankets, and wagons enabling the remaining pioneers to finish their journey to Salt Lake City. Ole Madsen is Mike’s ancestor. Ole and his family joined the handcart company. Ole perished days before the rescuers reached the bedraggled pioneers.

Mike began studying this heritage about 10 years prior to making the film and was so affected by the story that he knew everyone he talked to needed to hear it.  He felt like Americans have two problems: 1)Americans take things for granted, and 2)then Americans feel guilty about what they have.

“We were given what we have by what someone sacrificed – a slave in slavery, a Mormon from Nauvoo, an immigrant. Someone sacrificed at the end of the day. Who gave me this right to choose?

On the news one night, a teenage girl said how thankful she was for living in Utah and grateful for a new start. She’d lost everything in Katrina. But, she didn’t complain about it. That’s what I found so great about the stories of those pioneers. They didn’t want to blame their leaders. The majority were just so grateful and thankful for everything despite what they went through. I looked at the ground where I stood and Tyme came to me.”

“Think I know the answer now for all

of us that roam if we just stay together

we will surely make it home” ~Tyme

Mike’s 10 years of research also culminated in Upon Destiny’s Song. He met Sage Steadman and talked about his vision for the book. Upon Destiny’s Song is the story of 10 year-old Ane Marie Madsen, Ole Madsen’s daughter. Through his research, Mike identified 12 days of Ane Marie’s life. One of Mike’s songs is interjected into every chapter of the book.

Upon Destiny's Song, book by Mike Ericksen and Sage Steadman

The soulful story of Ane Marie Madsen and her family who immigrated to Utah with the ill-fated Willie handcart company

“When Ane Marie opens her eyes, I want to know how she feels and what she sees. I want to tell people what it was really like back then. I want to tell it a little more real.”  Mike’s own life experiences are interspersed as chapters throughout the book. As the Madsens make their way to Zion, Mike traverses his own journey to purpose, self-awareness, to seeing.

Sage trekked all of over Wyoming and they worked together to get the story right. Several historians read the manuscript and pushed back on some things which Mike then modified or let go. After three years of writing, Mike and Sage finished the book and a CD to accompany it. After they were done, they discovered that Sage had a Danish ancestor in that company as well!!  He had a 10 year-old daughter, who was probably friends with Ane Marie.

Mike originally titled the film Unsung as a metaphor for the unsung lives of Ane Marie and Ole Madsen. But after doing the final script for the film, writer James Jordan told Mike “We’re not going to call it Unsung, we’re going to call it Walking in Obedience.” There were too many metaphors in the story for it to just be Unsung. It wasn’t just the story of the Madsens, or the rest of the Willie handcart company. It and Upon Destiny’s Song tell the story of humanity.

As boring and mundane as my life is, I realize there will be people looking for me. I look at pictures of Ane Marie and look at her eyes, just trying to figure out who she is. I learned what a true hero was. Heroes are people who get up every day and sacrifice for their kids, give up their time for their community, and church. That’s the people you gain strength from. In reality, we know our heroes, we live with them.

I realized what you want mostly in life is that if you’re raising kids, you want them to be good people. Being Christian has less to do with dogma and more to do with helping people. The Gospel is restored. We have more understanding about what truth is, how it’s important and how it comes to you. It’s funny when people talk about ‘how’ to be a Christian…it’s just how you treat your neighbors.”

This project taught me what faith look likes, what hardship looks like, what sacred space looks like. That’s kind of what I got out of it at the end of the day. There’s a lot of meaning of life sitting there.

"What I have been has been given to me. So, if I see a door and it looks like it's open, I walk through it." Mike Ericksen

Cedar Breaks Band

“What I have has been given to me. If I see a door and it looks like it’s open, I walk through it.” That’s how Cedar Breaks Band came to be.

Mike, guitarist, and Diana Glissmeyer, vocalist, met doing presentations about pioneers around the country. As the concept for Cedar Breaks moved along, they enlisted banjoist, Keith Behunin, who lives in St. George, Utah.

Mike and his daughter Jenny listened to Rebecca Croft’s CD and met her at Brigham Young University for lunch. Mike told Rebecca he wanted to do an album about what home is—all the places that can be home for people. She agreed to add her vocals to the mix.

When Cedar Breaks come together, they come together with great purpose. Mike and the band felt so strongly about their purpose overshadowing the band members as individuals that they didn’t even want a picture of the band on the album cover.  But, they got overruled, and there is a small picture of the band on the back cover.

Cedar Breaks Band with Keith Behunin, Rebecca Croft, Mike Ericksen, Diana Glissmeyer, Michael Gibbons

Keith Behunin, Rebecca Croft, Mike Ericksen, Diana Glissmeyer, Michael Gibbons

The purpose is evident in the lyrics of every Cedar Breaks’ new age folk song.

After holding his granddaughter Nora for the first time, “Set to Wander” flowed through Mike’s hands. He saw her life’s mission, and himself and Nora walking through life holding hands.

“She set herself to wander

As she opened up her eyes

I thought as I held her

How the time would surely fly

And I wanted to tell her

She was born among the free

What I had to give her

Was given once to me

Like the gentle spring rain

That lets the flowers grow

Without provocation

Into the even flow” ~Set To Wander

Cedar Breaks Band Set to Wander, a song for a little girl

The band’s producer, Michael Gibbon, wanted to sing and record “Set to Wander” for  his wife for Mother’s Day, they had just had twins.  When the band heard his rendition, they immediately asked him to add his vocals and guitar skills to theirs.  Michael’s brother, Guy Gibbons, became their keyboardist and Michael’s wife, Jennifer, the violinist.

Cedar Breaks had also just finished “Prayer,” written by Mike’s friend Eliza Gilkyson. Mike liked Prayer because the prayer doesn’t ask for anything, instead offering words of gratitude for things beautiful and things difficult.

“Thank you for my tears

Loved ones who forgave me

Thank you for my darkest years

All the sorrow that made me.” ~Prayer

The band couldn’t figure out how to end the song.  Mike said, “There is a place between sleep and prayer, where you’re awake, not quite asleep, but in the middle of saying a prayer. I wanted to find that place at the end of ‘Prayer.’ The band captured that feeling by humming for 2 ½ minutes at the end of the song.

Mike then wrote the rest of the songs specifically for the vocalists, just so he could hear their voices blending together. Because Cedar Breaks Band didn’t have a deadline to release the album, they took their time, melding and crafting the music together. They finished album after 3 years.

Cedar Breaks Band Tyme: Aspects of Home.

Then, they blew away normal music video expectations with a fabulous video documentary incorporating Cedar Break’s soulful music, with spectacular scenery of Utah, dance, and narrative. It’s truly stunning and moving.

Tyme Aspects of Home music by Cedar Breaks

After Tyme: Aspects of Home’s release, the band met at Mike’s house for a practice.  Mike told them they’d need to get out and play for people. He also had written another song called Light (which has actually just been released in 2014) and he really wanted to do something with the song. But, there was mutiny at the practice.  The band had 6 babies born to band members in the previous 4 years.  Everyone said they couldn’t play out as Cedar Breaks band, because of the time it would take away from their families. None of them felt good about making an album about family and then saying, “Ok, we’re going to play this bar tonight, get your babysitters lined up.”  So for now, they’re a studio band because of the commitment they’ve made to their families.  They’ve also made a commitment to make really good music, but they’ll worry about touring sometime down the road.

Mike concluded with an emphasis on Cedar Break’s purpose.

If the band were here, they would say it’s really cool to be part of a project that’s based on a cause. Everyone has a cause and a flag they need to carry in their lives. This was a really fun one and an easy one to carry. There are a lot of people in the world who don’t know who even their parents are. When you give that gift of purpose to people, it really energizes them. Everybody has a story…that’s the end of the story. People need to know who they are and how to get themselves there. Tyme is about taking the time to figure out who you are and why you are here.

I asked Mike what song or lyrics he felt specifically reflected his heritage.

“I think my favorite lyrics are in the song ‘Tyme’….a treatise on the vastness around us and the endless path that we are on.  ‘It’s not how far you journey on, just with whom you walk along.’”

I love the band’s tagline: Unique Sound. Familiar Feel. It’s so true.



Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn – A Gay Mormon

Neon Trees’ Tyler Glenn – A Gay Mormon

Rolling Stone magazine reported Rock band Neon Tree’s lead singer Tyler Glenn’s recent announcement that he was gay. “I was going to learn to drive for my 30th birthday, but I came out instead,” Tyler said. [1]

Early Beginnings and Coming Out As Being Gay

TYler Glen Gay MormonTyler Glenn grew up in Murrieta, California, with Neon Trees guitarist Chris Allen. In 2005, after serving missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church), both men moved to Provo, Utah, and began performing locally.  Elaine Bradley, drummer, and Brandon Campbell, bassist, joined the band shortly thereafter, and Neon Trees became a global sensation. The band has now released their third album titled “Pop Psychology.” They have also planned a tour of Europe and North America, concluding in Salt Lake City, Utah on 16 June 2014.

Tyler penned a Facebook post to fans concluding with this advice: “Come out as YOU. That’s all I really can say. That’s what I’d say to me at 21, the scared return Mormon missionary who knew this part of himself but loved God too. You can do both. Don’t let anyone tell you you can’t.”

Tyler also told Rolling Stone, “I don’t know what the rumors are, but we’re not taught that ‘homos are going to hell’ on Sunday in church,” he says. “Mostly it’s just about Christ and his teachings.”

Mormon Doctrine and Same-Sex Attraction

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, though strongly supporting the doctrine that marriage is between a man and a woman, recognizes that some of its members are attracted to same sex gender. On its website, The Church of Jesus Christ posted,

Few topics are as emotionally charged or require more sensitivity than same-sex attraction. This complex matter touches on the things we care about most: our basic humanity, our relationship to family, our identity and potential as children of God, how we treat each other, and what it means to be disciples of Christ.

Where the Church stands:

The experience of same-sex attraction is a complex reality for many people. The attraction itself is not a sin, but acting on it is. Even though individuals do not choose to have such attractions, they do choose how to respond to them. With love and understanding, the Church reaches out to all God’s children, including our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters.

When asked why the Church doesn’t just let people be, Elder Todd D. Christofferson said,

This is a gospel of change. Jesus Christ is asking every one of us to change, and to become better and to progress and to follow in his footsteps. His ultimate commandment is that we become as He is and as His father. And none of us are at that point. None of us have things, are free of things that we don’t need to change in our lives and to improve. And the standard is always the gospel of Jesus Christ. And every one of us has to measure up to that standard because that’s where our ultimate happiness is going to be found. That’s where our ultimate freedom is going to come. And God being just and loving all of His Children is going to help everyone who wants to progress toward that ideal, whatever they may need to do in their lives to do that.

Conversations About Homosexuality

The Church posted conversations about homosexuality on Gay Mormons share their stories about being Mormon and gay in the Church.  Some left the Church to live a gay lifestyle and then returned to find spiritual fulfillment.

Ted shared,

There’s so many questions, there’s probably way more questions that there are answers for sure. I certainly don’t know anything, except for this. I know that God loves me. I am His divine child and I know He wants me to come back into His presence. I know that because He’s told me so. The mighty change of heart that’s not just a figurative thing, it’s a real thing, that He takes our hearts and makes them soft and fills us up with light. It doesn’t matter who we are, all can come unto Him. I am His and He loves me.

Ty shared,

I was in a couple of different relationships with people that I really cared about. And it was interesting because I felt more emotionally alive but I also felt a loss of light, and that was clear to me during that time. It was a slow decrease in light but I noticed it. At one point, I was feeling very, very distant, probably as far from God as I had ever felt, and I had this very strong spiritual experience, kind of a mystical experience, where I was almost being enveloped in this feeling of love. There was nothing in that that was ‘what you’re doing is right, what you’re doing is wrong’ it was just this feeling of ‘I love you.’ And I felt like God knew me, that he remembered me. And I needed that more than anything. Again, it wasn’t an affirmation, it wasn’t a rebuke, it was just ‘I love you.’ And so I continued just trying to move forward trying to find reconciliation, to be in places, I mean I kept attending church, and just to try to be in places where I thought the spirit could be present, to teach me. I kept trying to learn, and to read, and I kept trying to figure things out and at one point I was in a kind of a devotional address and the instructor was talking about Isaiah, “But if you take hold of the covenant, you shall have a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters.” And as he was talking about this verse, I just had again like this very powerful spiritual experience, that my place was in the Church, that’s where I needed to be. It was a very clear communication that whether you get married in this life or the next is of no matter, just stay with me. Stay with me. If you take life a day at a time, continuing to seek and cultivate the spirit in your life, every blessing that can be had will be yours. Just trust. That’s what I did and at that point, I resolved myself that I was going to get my life back in order. And I was able to totally release myself from cultural expectation. Like from now on, I was doing this journey in the Church, but this was between me and God. No more pressure to get married, no more timetables, no more anything. No more programs, this or that therapy, it was me and God, taking this a day at a time. If it something works, great, if it doesn’t, great not a problem. I’m with God and that’s all that I need. But that was enough for me to be able to feel a real hope. And to feel a joy in Christ and to feel a joy in the gospel that I had lost years before. And also, the natural desire to want to have companionship. But at this point, I knew I didn’t need that more than I needed God. It was God first, that was second.

For more information on The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ position on same-sex attraction, visit

Mormonism Helps to Break the Poverty Cycle

Mormonism Helps to Break the Poverty Cycle

Though we live in a time of incredible opportunity, impoverished neighborhood cultures still influence people’s views on success.  Negative influences can hamper a family’s economic development for generations.

Some analysts are very pessimistic about cultural trends in low-income communities and their impact on mobility. In Coming Apart, Charles Murray describes the sharp decline in poor neighborhoods of four “founding virtues” linked to economic improvement: industriousness, honesty, marriage, and religiosity. He and others also worry that the growing homogeneity of both rich and poor communities means those at the bottom are less likely to encounter upwardly mobile neighbors and positive social norms. Robert Putman sees such trends as trapping people in a low-achieving social class. Indeed, it should be no surprise that being raised in a neighborhood where it is accepted that few complete high school, or work steadily, or delay childbearing until it is economically viable, depletes the motivation to complete the steps needed to make it to the middle class. True, some do overcome such cultural stickiness. But NYU’s Patrick Sharkey observes that an upbringing in a very poor, segregated neighborhood is likely to have dire, multigenerational impacts. Stuart M. Butler

Another factor can help people “unstick” themselves and raise their sights. Joining themselves with a religious community whose doctrines and principles align with principles of success can give them new vision about their own status in life.

God's Love awakens

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the “Mormon” Church) teaches principles of spiritual and temporal salvation.  Faith in Jesus Christ propels you to act as He would act and to follow His teachings.  Among the most basic of the Savior’s doctrines are truths of the divinity of the soul and the abundant nature of Heavenly Father who is the God of the universe.  “Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name” (Matthew 6:9) and “…we are the offspring of God…” (Acts 17:29).  The Lord promised divine aid when asked! “And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive” (Matthew 21:22). God’s love can be the impetus out of poverty, a divine awakening sowing a search for growth and opportunity.

His truths are sound advice for self-reliance. Pay an honest tithing. Live within your means. Save a portion of earnings.  Use time wisely. Develop skills and talents. Practice self-control and fortitude. Obtain an education. Be grateful and optimistic.

The following videos highlight Latter-day Saints who found abundance and success through the Gospel of Jesus Christ while honoring their roots.

LDS Charities Invited to Share Its Humanitarian Mission at a United Nations Briefing

LDS Charities Invited to Share Its Humanitarian Mission at a United Nations Briefing

Recently The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also inadvertently called the Mormon Church) shared its humanitarian aid efforts at a United Nations briefing on February 27, 2014. The briefing, one in a United Nations series called “Focus on Faith,” highlights Nongovernmental Organizations’ (NGO) impact around the world. LDS Charities, which is the humanitarian branch of the Church, garnered NGO status from the United Nations several years ago. In 2013, LDS Charities provided $84 million aiding nearly two million people in 130 countries.

Latter-day Saint Church representative Sharon Eubank, director of LDS Charities, said

To care for the poor is a foundational duty of anyone who reveres God and the brother and sisterhood of all — to serve, lift, bless, and relieve suffering independent of religious persuasions, social philosophy, nationality, tribe, gender or background.

[LDS Charities] emphasizes dignity, human worth, cooperation, unity, sacrifice, and the assurance that no one is too poor or too vulnerable or too marginalized to contribute something of value.

LDS Charities is unique in that it is entirely self-funded from donations, the distribution force is labor based, and it partners with other charitable organizations.

Outstretched Hand Be Answer to Prayer

7 Initiatives of LDS Charities

1. Clean Water

LDS Charities provides wells and drinking systems for communities without access to clean water.  The Church volunteers show local water committees how to maintain the water systems and provide community training on hygiene. Since 2002, LDS Charities has enabled over 7.5 million people to gain access to clean water.

A Thousand Days

2.            Neonatal Resuscitation

Since 2002, LDS Charities has trained 193,000 medical professionals “Helping Babies Breathe” to help resuscitate newborns born with breathing difficulties.

A Child’s First Breath

3.            Mobility Assistance

LDS Charities works with local organizations to evaluate individual’s needs to provide the most appropriate assistance. Since 2002, over 415,000 people have received mobility devices.

Riqui’s Wheelchair

4.            Vision Care

LDS Charities provides supplies, equipment, and training to eye professionals improving eye care quality in local communities. Since 2003, over 550,000 have participated in LDS Charities’ vision projects.

World of Happiness

5.            Food

LDS Charities provides tools and gardening, storage, and nutritional training for families struggling to obtain food.

A Desolate Land Blossoms

6.            Emergency Response

LDS Charities provides relief of food and other supplies immediately after a disaster.

LDS Charities Syrian Response 2013

7.            Immunizations

LDS Charities provides local volunteers to immunize people worldwide.  Since 2003, 59,000 volunteers assisted in immunization campaigns in 35 countries.

Church Works Toward World Goal to Eliminate Preventable Diseases article

To learn more about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saint’s humanitarian mission and aid, visit:


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