Thursday, May 21, 2015

LDS Conference Center to be Possible Setting for 2016 GOP Debate

LDS Conference Center May Host GOP Debate
The Salt Lake News - published Thursday, May 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - As the list of Republican presidential candidates continues to expand, party officials are seeking larger public venues for next year's debates. The LDS Conference Center, which houses a stage big enough to park a 747, is among the locations the GOP is considering, sources inside the party told the News.

LDS leaders are already eagerly entertaining the possibility. "The stage at the Conference Center is equipped with seating for the LDS General Authorities and the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir," church spokesperson, T. LaDell Tweedy said. "But we can tack on extensions that will add an extra mile in each direction."

According to Republican party sources, other possible debate venues include the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

In the spirit of non-partisanship, Mormon leaders are also reaching out to the Democrats. "She's welcome to debate in the ward cultural hall of her choice," Tweedy said. "We'll let her have the whole stage to herself."

Related: Arizona Vacuum Cleaner Salesman Announces He Will Not Seek the Republican Nomination

***Hat tip to Gail Collins' hilarious Saturday editorial.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Those Hoity-Toity Mormon Girls or the Strange Terrain that is Mormon Culture

Looking back, it all seems crazy. There are the things that are now so obvious, I want to kick myself for not seeing it at the time. And then there are the things I still can't quite figure out. Like the guy in the documentary Wordplay who complains he has the solution in front of him but still can't figure out the puzzle.

For example, a long time ago I served as secretary in a ward Young Women's presidency in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. One year the annual YW retreat was switched to a fancy hotel downtown. Usually this Friday/Saturday overnight event was held at the stake center, with food served from the church kitchen and lodging provided on the gymnasium floor. But, thanks to a well connected local church member, the girls were offered a stay at a five-star hotel with a fancy meal included! In the beginning it seemed like a fantastic opportunity for the young ladies to practice their white glove and party manners, as well as enjoy a little pampering.

Only it wasn't. And that's what I still can't figure out.

On a Sunday before the retreat, the lesson in the YW meeting was on proper hotel and restaurant manners. Eager that the local Mormon girls demonstrate their heavenly-appointed poise to the Dallas elite, stake leaders had compiled a list of etiquette no-no's:

 Bring a bathing-suit coverup and wear it to and from the pool - or - If you need service in the restaurant, ask your waiter, not any employee who wanders by - or - Don't walk through the lobby in your bathing-suit, even with the coverup - or - In the restaurant, if you need your waiter, wait until he passes by, don't get up and look for him or call across the room, etc.

Right from the start it became obvious that practically nobody in the room was familiar with half, or even any of the suggestions on the list. It wasn't because they lacked the means or opportunity. This was an upper-middle class group of girls and women who came from families that - while hampered by tithing and LDS gender-specific parenting obligations - had the resources for an occasional dinner out or hotel overnight. Rather, it was that many of the girls had been in upscale hotels and restaurants and seen their parents behave completely differently:

My dad says if they work here they're paid to serve us, doesn't matter if he's not our waiter - or - When they get it wrong my mom never waits for the waiter. She takes her plate straight to the kitchen, etc.

The woman teaching the class, clearly clueless herself, sternly reminded everyone that the assigned etiquette had come from the stake leadership and, by extension, God. Accordingly, she presented the inspired dictates as if they were a list of palace protocol appropriate to the reign of Henry VIII:

If management sees you in the lobby in your swimsuit and cover up you will be asked TO LEAVE - or -  If you hang your wet swimsuit on your guest room balcony you will be asked TO LEAVE - or - If you put your elbows on the dinner table ... Well, you get it.

Upon learning that a dash from the pool to the lobby fruit bowl might lead to their arrest by hotel security, the girls were understandably apprehensive. At this point, the YW president, clearly also clueless, reminded everyone that the stake had made these rules for the girls' protection. After all, they were going out into the world - to a hoity toity hotel - a place akin to the large and spacious building in Lehi's dream. They would be amongst people with lesser beliefs, people with questionable morals, people who are only interested in one thing.

(Like...this afternoon's conference session on profit margins, perhaps?)

At any rate, her point was that even though what "the world" called manners may be hoity toity, we sometimes needed to humor "the world" for the sake of appearances, and, of course, the opportunity to spread the Gospel.

Somehow - and I can't quite figure this out - but in one hour, what might have been a fun stay at a plush hotel had turned into a deployment to a war zone.

In discussing this over dinner the other night, Mark observed that when most people venture into unknown territory, they take their cues from the people around them. But since Mormons are members of the one and only true church, the last thing they want is to take their cues from "the world." How hoity toity would that be! Hence the invention that when our steak isn't cooked enough we just haul our plate to the kitchen, etc.

Sound theory, I guess. But my head's still spinning over this one.

I don't actually know how the retreat went. As the YW secretary, I wasn't hoity toity enough to join the group at the hoity toity hotel. But the following Sunday there was a testimony meeting in the YW meeting. Girl after girl stood to proclaim that, while it was okay staying in a hoity toity hotel and eating hoity toity food, nothing could compare to the special feeling they had being back inside the church.

So...what was the point of this whole hoity toity experience in the first place? So the girls could turn around and ridicule their own activity? Maybe the well connected church member was one of those hoity toity liberal Mormons nobody liked? Even with hindsight, I can't figure this one out. Maybe I'm just too...hoity toity.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Help! I Need a Translator.

The Mormon message is so confusing that sometimes even Exmormons like me need a translator.

For example, I recently saw this photo circulating around Facebook. Some shared it in earnest and others with an accompanying eye-roll - the latter noting that the quote is incomplete - and therefore a bit misleading - and also that Hinckley isn't even its source.
The actual author of the quote is the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Unitarian minister, Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Here it is in full, the omitted lines in red:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.
Leave it to the Mormons delete the exciting part! But I digress. In fairness to Hinckley, he did cite Jones as the author and used the quote in its entirety in church talks. But because the late prophet, seer, and revelator bandied those words around a number of times, his devoted followers have begun attributing them to him, even abridging them. And why not? The Lord told his prophet to use the quote.

The Facebook meme appears to have originated on a page entitled "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." This is apt, since in 1995 the church released "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," a declaration that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that all human beings should marry, have children, and pursue traditional gender roles. Then two years later, sensing that they might feel marginalized, Hinckley gave a 1997 talk to single adults, employing the above passage from Jones to illustrate that for most, life within Mormonism is pretty much all tough beef and missed putts.

"All of you presumably are without marriage partners. Many of you wish you were married. You think this would be the answer to all your problems. While a happy marriage should be the goal of every normal Latter-day Saint, let me assure you that for many who are married, life is miserable and filled with fears and anxiety." 
He went on to describe the burdensome responsibility he shouldered when determining whether to issue a temple divorce:
"The circumstances behind the divorce and behind the request for cancellation of a temple sealing contain a litany of selfishness, of greed, of behavior at times even sadistic in its nature, of abuse and heartache and tragedy."
So here's where I need a translator. Was Hinckley saying that he only issued temple divorces to couples who were "selfish, greedy, sadistic, and abusive?" (Meaning nice couples who were just plain old miserable together should stay joined for the eternities?) OR was he saying that people who seek temple divorces are selfish, greedy, sadistic, etc., and to an audience packed with individuals who have requested them?

Does it matter? Probably not. But I am mildly curious.

I'm not the only one confused by the Mormon message. Consider poor Brian Dawson who was fired from his Sunday School position for using information from the church's official website in his lesson! Foolishly thinking he could teach a lesson on race relations to his ward youth, Dawson consulted a 2013 church approved article entitled "Race and the Priesthood." Obviously he needed a translator. 
"Anything regarding black history before 1978 is irrelevant," Dawson recalls his bishop saying, "and a moot point."
Okay, so does that mean that anything regarding Mormon marriage practice before the release of the Family Proclamation in 1995 is irrelevant? What exactly is relevant?

Does it matter? Probably not. But I am mildly curious. Also this could become problematic on Pioneer Day...

Fortunately I'll be celebrating at the Hotel Utah Saloon - with people who speak my language.

Oh! And Happy Mother's Day, especially to my gentle readers/mothers who will be enjoying the day without that horrific Mother's Day Sacrament Meeting.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Our "Poor Daughter" or What Happens to People Who Quit the Church

I've been inactive this week, trading out blogging for a visit to our "poor daughter." You've heard the story over and over again. Her demise began when she became offended because she wasn't allowed to pass the sacrament in church. A Merry Miss dropout, she was left to idle, worldly pursuits, which have led, sadly, to yet another formulaic outcome. Now she is unmarried, childless, rarely knits, enjoys reading and writing, doesn't go to Relief Society, and is wasting her time, talent and resources on pursuing her doctorate.

And how do we feel about that? Over-the-top, ridiculously, ecstatically proud!

Emily at Rutgers

Emily in Central Park with her ecstatically proud parents
But then, that's what happens to people who quit the church.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Mormon Persecution Museum Opens

Persecution Museum Now Open on Temple Square
The Salt Lake News - published Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - The Mormon Persecution Museum opens to the public today. The newest attraction on Temple Square, it boasts an impressive collection of historical artifacts, artwork, film and photography that depicts the maltreatment of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In addition to its permanent collection, the museum will also host temporary exhibits. The first of these, The Brethren: Latter-day Martyrs for the Faith, focuses on the marginalization of the current Mormon leadership.

LDS Church curator, Rufus G. Bigelow, passionately promotes the museum's first special event. "Most people don't realize how much abuse is leveled at the humble servants of God who guide and direct our Church," he explained. "Patrons of this exhibit will come away without any doubt of the existence of what the Brethren have long known to be the vast anti-Mormon conspiracy." 

Visitors may experience the vast conspiracy Bigelow refers to via multi-media presentations aimed at exposing the Brethren's myriad nemeses. Targets include Feminists, So-Called Intellectuals, So-Called Gays, So-Called Historians, Whiners, Wimps, Comedians, Immodestly Dressed Women and Children, Counterfeit Couples, Mothers Who Think They Know, Part Tithe Payers, The Three Men who Shouted "Opposed" at General Conference, etc.

"The event runs the gamut when it comes to anti-Mormon elements," Bigelow said. "It delves into the mind of each variety of anti-Mormon, examines his particular brand of bitterness, outlines his delusional objectives, and describes his doomed means of achieving them."

Despite the breadth and diversity of its subject, Bigelow says the exhibit successfully stays on message. "The unifying theme is that all of these different forms of bigotry stem from the enemy's collective desire to sin and/or be easily offended."

The LDS General Authorities enjoyed a private tour of the museum on Monday. Their response is said to be highly enthusiastic.

"The Brethren are thrilled by this long overdue retribution," said LDS Church spokesperson, LaDell Dart. "Finally, the world will have the opportunity to see that they are the true victims."

"Already there is talk of expanding," Dart added. "Plans are in the works for an adjoining library, an interpretive center, and maybe even a research institute. In the coming years, the Persecution Museum is expected to grow into a full blown Persecution Complex."

Regular museum hours are Monday through Saturday 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Hours extend to 9:00 p.m. the first Monday of every month to accommodate special Family Home Evenings. Closed Sunday. The "Latter-day Martyrs" exhibit will be on display in the Orrin Porter Rockwell Gallery from now until August 15, 2015.

Friday, April 3, 2015

LDS Women Compared To New Inanimate Object

Over the years good Mormon girls have been unlicked cupcakes, fresh sticks of gum, clean crystal goblets, and untouched rosebuds. So it should come as no surprise that in her opening address to the LDS General Women's Meeting, Cheryl A. Esplin, second counselor in the Primary General Presidency, likened LDS women to full cans of soda:
"The concept of being filled with light and truth became particularly important to me because of an experience I had many years ago. I attended a meeting where members of the Young Women general board taught about creating spiritually strong families and homes. To visually demonstrate this, a Young Women leader held up two soda cans. In one hand she held a can that was empty and in the other hand a can that was unopened and full of soda. First, she squeezed the empty can; it began to bend and then collapsed under the pressure. Next, with her other hand, she squeezed the unopened can. It held firm. It didn’t bend or collapse like the empty can—because it was filled."
"We likened this demonstration to our individual lives and to our homes and families. When filled with the Spirit and with gospel truth, we have the power to withstand the outside forces of the world that surround and push against us. However, if we are not filled spiritually, we don’t have the inner strength to resist the outside pressures and can collapse when forces push against us."

Okay. This totally works for me. But I'm surprised that a member of the Primary General Presidency would admit that in order to be full of "the Spirit and gospel truth" an LDS woman has to swallow the intellectual equivalent of an entire cup of dissolved sugar that's been shot up with pressurized gas.

But wait. There's more:
"Satan knows that in order for us and our families to withstand the pressures of the world, we must be filled with light and gospel truth. So he does everything in his power to dilute, distort, and destroy the truth of the gospel and to keep us separated from that truth."
So there you go, sisters. Guard your pop-tops. Satan hovers over you, flexi-straw in hand, eager to sap the fizz right out of your Sprites!

Why . . . oh . . . why do they make it so easy? And this was just the women's meeting! There are five more sessions of General Conference this weekend. Torture for the faithful. Comic gold for bloggers like me.