Friday, July 31, 2015

Now It May Not Even Be Fun For Boys

In response to the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board's decision to allow openly gay leaders, the LDS Church issued the following scathing statement:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.
As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.”
This statement is obnoxious on so many levels. First and foremost it is an affront to LDS gays and lesbians who continue to be marginalized within their faith. But, for the sake of efficiency, I'll confine my sarcasm to (feminist that I am) the part that pissed me off the most:
"As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available."
Pssst - Brethren, just for the record (and not that you care) but half of your "youth" are actually...
GIRLS! 

I admit this poorly chosen wording probably doesn't reflect the Brethren's intent. Most likely it's the work of some underpaid sexist ding-a-ling in church PR. Nevertheless, there is a Freudian resonance to it. If by "youth" the Mormons mean "boys" one must assume that, in similar church statements, by "adults" they mean "men."

And why not? When a Mormon girl turns twelve, she goes straight from Primary to a boring, grown-up regimen of marriage and motherhood. Then, when she finally grows up and gets married, she's relegated back to the standing she enjoyed in Primary. I understand that nowadays, girls as young as 8 are required to attend mind-numbingly boring "women's" conferences, making the Mormon female's experience bizarrely backwards  - robbed of her childhood as a girl, robbed of her adulthood as a woman.

But, back to the "limitations of fully one-half of (LDS) youth."

At least, up until now, the boys got to have fun. 

LDS scout troops are notorious for being unenthusiastic and poorly run. But at least they've had the fallback of the BSA's established rules and requirements, as well as their great camps and jamborees. Back in the early/mid 1990's, our son ended up in one of the better LDS troops, thanks to some competent leaders, including his dad. Our son loved scouting, so much so that he and his dad continued to attend troop activities even after we'd quit attending the LDS Church. When I think back to the good things about my life as a Mormon, two things come to mind: 1. Meeting my husband, Mark. 2. Our son's scouting experience.

A few years ago I paid a visit to my son and his wife in Austin, bringing along some of his childhood possessions. By far, his favorite was his old scout sash. He spent the better part of an evening identifying all of the badges and recalling the memories surrounding them. But later he lamented that, if he were to have his own son, he couldn't, in good conscience, allow him to participate in the BSA - because of the organization's policy banning gays.

I am happy for the BSA switch in policy and I'm happy for the dedicated gay scout leaders who may now openly serve in the organization. Also, I'm happy for my son and my little 11 month-old grandson who may someday carry on the family tradition of scouting - in a troop that welcomes gay leaders.

But I'm sad for Mormon boys. If the LDS Church is serious about dropping out of the BSA, whatever program they put in its place is bound to be an unenthusiastic, poorly run, mind-numbingly boring grown-up regimen - leaving what is left of the church "youth" without any youth after all.

Friday, July 17, 2015

My Interview with Jerry the Aspousetate

In November San Franciscans will vote on whether tax dollars can be spent on legacy businesses. One of those businesses is the Hotel Utah Saloon, which has its own special legacy for local Exmormons. We've been celebrating Utah Pioneer Day there since the turn of the century (1999).
The event organizer is our beloved never-been-Mormon host, Jerry Vaught, also known as “Jerry the Aspousetate” on the Recovery from Mormonism Bulletin Board. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him this week just ahead of the 2015 Pioneer Day party.

Donna Banta:
Jerry, welcome to Ward Gossip! I'm honored that you are here.

Jerry Vaught:
I'm happy to be here, Donna

DB:
Jerry, you've been hosting the Exmormon party at the Hotel Utah Saloon every July 24th since 1999, is that correct?

JV:
I have.

DB: 
For the sake of my readers who are still practicing Mormons, can you explain what exactly goes on at these events?

JV:
There is a lot of drinking and violating of the Word of Wisdom and loud laughter. There’s no agenda.

DB:
No agenda? I'm afraid you may have just scared away my few believing readers.

JV: 
(chuckles) I've been known to do that.

DB:
It's difficult to describe how crazy and fun these parties are without citing examples. Mark and I have been attending since 2004. As you know, our annual contribution is the Joseph Smith Sphinx poster that beckons the faithful to our hangout above the stage. One year it mysteriously disappeared. After a thorough search, we concluded that Joseph the Sphinx had been “taken back up to heaven,” threw up our hands, and went home. The next day the bar called to report that our sphinx had somehow turned up onstage with the band later in the evening! We drove back over to reclaim him. He’s looked a little dazed ever since.
JV:
That Joseph was always sneaking off somewhere.

DB:
Indeed. What are some of your favorite Hotel Utah Saloon memories?

JV:
Well, there was the time I put up a wanted poster of Warren Jeffs and it attracted the attention of the regulars at the bar. One asked if the then fugitive was to be our featured speaker. Another year Pat Bagley from the Salt Lake Tribune dropped by and drew cartoons on our hands. Also there was the year a woman brought a giant jello mold of the Salt Lake City temple. You never know what to expect at these things.

DB:
Do you ever get any active Mormons?

JV:
Yes, but not necessarily on purpose. One year a woman who happened to be at the bar that evening saw our sign and announced, "I'm a Mormon." Noticing the beer in her hand, I figured her for one of us, and invited her to join the party. She hesitated a moment, scowled, and said, "No. I have to teach Relief Society tomorrow."

DB:
Too bad she passed on your invitation. She might have gained inspiration for her lesson.

JV:
Also we sometimes get some mystery guests. Folks who don't drink or interact, but seem overly curious. And most years the bar gets a call from an anonymous person asking, "How many Exmormons are there, and what are they doing?"

DB:
Think they might be Mormon spies?

JV:
Maybe. We don't ask and they don't tell.

DB:
Jerry, as the long time dedicated host of this and two other amazing Northern California Exmormon parties, the mantle of Exmormon leadership has deservedly fallen upon your shoulders. Has this high standing in the community afforded you any spiritual or prophetic powers?


JV:
Absolutely. I see more Exmormons in my future. Also bigger parties.

DB:
Sounds like true inspiration, Jerry. Thanks for imparting your wisdom here on Ward Gossip. Also thanks for being our host again this year.

JV: 
My pleasure, Donna.

One week from today!
Be there or be square!
Friday, July 24, 2015
5:30 pm
500 4th Street @ Bryant
San Francisco
415.546.6300**

**Call the bar if you get lost. Or if you're a creepy Mormon spy who wants to know what we're up to.

Friday, July 10, 2015

LDS Singles Hitting New Low?

When Mark and I walked into one of our favorite restaurants recently, we found the bar packed with middle-aged men and women participating in a Bay Area singles' speed dating event. We went on to be seated in the dining room with our friends, Jerry and Cheryl. The bar was out of sight, so we couldn't follow the couples' interactions. But we were reminded of their progress by the ringing of a bell at ten minute intervals. Also, on my trip to the ladies' room I witnessed the disturbing spectacle of women at or around my age vying for primping space in front of the mirror.

As he always does when confronted with such a situation, Mark swore that if something happened to me he would never reduce himself to participating in (what he considers to be) such a humiliating activity. While I'd like to agree with him - at least on the primping in the mirror part - I'm not really sure. He and I have been happily married for decades now, and honestly can't say what we'd be "reduced to" if we suddenly found ourselves single. Dating is awkward by definition. And people have been known to do far more embarrassing things for the sake of finding love, or even just for the sake of getting laid.

Take the Mormons, for example.

A middle-aged LDS acquaintance of mine recently attended a single adult activity where the icebreaker was "Pantyhose Tug-of-War." This 2-participant game, evidently introduced on a Japanese game show, proceeds as follows: snip the toes off a pair of women's pantyhose, have each player pull the leg end down over his/her head and face, and then tug in opposite directions until the winner either crosses a line, strips the hose from his/her opponent's face, sustains a concussion, or all three.

My mind goes back to those women at the bathroom mirror, as well as to my initial point. It could have been far more more embarrassing. At least the nonmember middle-aged gals didn't have to ruin their makeup and carefully combed coifs by pulling a hose leg over their faces. (Ahem, I don't think they did, that is. As I said, we couldn't actually see from the dining room.)

Not that I'm all that surprised. Mormons have been patronizing their single adults for generations, subjecting them to infantile activities like mall scavenger hunts, blanket fort building in the cultural hall, and endless rounds of the Bunny Hop. - When researching LDS sites earlier I ran across a sort of "goo game" where participants smear themselves with Vaseline and then compete over how many cotton balls they can adhere to their faces.

That being said, this pantyhose competition seems like a new low, even for an LDS Singles activity.



And the sad thing was, after all that, nobody even got laid.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Gay Marriage? We've Got This!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Sister Millie Loomis, self-appointed ward culture critic and author of the blog, A Perfect Mormon Woman
Subject: My latest on gay marriage

We've Got This!
Although the complete legalization of gay marriage in the United States comes as a terrible blow to the faithful members of the Lord's church, we are prepared - we've got this!

We've made covenants. We know the doctrine. And we're not strangers to persecution.

After all, legal same-sex marriage isn't the only immoral law that the Supreme Court and a handful of activist judges in all 50 states have forced us to accept. Every day we are confronted with so-called legalities such as lottery tickets, cocktail bars, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, Coke machines, and professional women in pants. Even in the midst of these indignities we have held our heads high. Today is no exception.

In these days of moral confusion, many good people are so desensitized, so lacking in good conscience, so lazy, slovenly, and intent on sin, that they find it nearly impossible to even distinguish truth, let alone stand for it.

This observation is in no way judgmental. Rather it is an expression of single-minded acceptance and unabashed humility. Now, thanks to the morally confused majority, love has lost, and marriage has become a mere manmade institution.

This is a lie. Marriage isn't about people. It's about God.

Since God, conveniently, speaks exclusively to to the leaders of our church, we know that the only legitimate marriage is between a man and a woman who are sealed in the Mormon temple for time and all eternity. - The woman cleaving exclusively to one man, and the man cleaving temporarily to one woman. That is, until the next life when he may have conjugal relations with hundreds, perhaps thousands of wives.

It is in this wholesome environment that God intended children to be born and raised.

Because of our beliefs, we will be labeled as bigots and told we are on the wrong side of history. But we know that we will prevail in the end. (In the meantime, being called bigots might spare us exposure to unsavory sorts with counterfeit lifestyles.)

But I digress. Now, as Latter-day Saints, we must stand strong for the Mormon definition of traditional marriage and against the sleazy, politically correct, morally confused United States Supreme Court.

Disagree? Think we're on the wrong side of history? Go ahead, call us bigots. (We're actually okay with that.)

In the spirit of unabashed humility,
Millie Loomis, A Perfect Mormon Woman

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, we invite you read this far more nuanced and sophisticated piece of satire penned by Kathryn Skaggs over on A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sorry, Mormons. It's Not About You.

For most of my gentle readers today is a day to celebrate the nationwide legalization of same sex marriage. It is also a day to mourn the loss of the Reverend Clementa Pickney and the other innocent victims who died in the mass shooting in Charleston. - A chilling combination that reminds us that progressive Supreme Court decisions are only a small step in the march toward equality and acceptance.

But for many believing Mormons, today's events will provide yet another opportunity to cry persecution. Take, for example, a recent op-ed in the Mormon-owned Deseret News that called the recent shootings in Charleston an assault on the "right to worship freely."

Can't say I'm surprised. I'm well acquainted with the Mormon penchant for making everything about them. The train of logic goes something like this:
The white supremacist, Dylann Roof, was really out to persecute religious people. In fact, he could just as likely have charged into an LDS chapel and blown away a bunch of white people. - In fact, Roof mistakenly believed that the members of the bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were Mormons! - In fact, a group of LDS missionaries were set to attend...no, CONDUCT that bible study when they were prompted to stay away!! OR an angel (a really really white one) blocked their path and warned them away!!! OR one of the 3 Nephites called the Elders aside to help him change some Mormon guy's tire!!!! 
Suffice to say I wouldn't want to be at a Mormon potluck tonight, listening to the inevitable cries of persecution. (The death of their traditional marriages, perhaps?)

Instead, on this historic day, I invite my gentle readers to check out Elder: A Mormon Love Story.

And tonight Mark and I will raise our Friday night cocktails to the proud display of the rainbow flag at the San Francisco city hall and the removal of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina state capitol.

Sorry, Mormons. It's not about you.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wouldn't It Be Nice - If I Hadn't Gone to BYU...

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the new biopic about Brian Wilson, Love and Mercy. It's a sensitive and fascinating examination of the former Beach Boys' sheer genius and fragile emotional state. While the story shifts back and forth in time, its focus is Wilson's recording of Pet Sounds, the 1966 album that continues to rank at #2 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest albums of all time - #1 is Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which the Beatles released the following year, and drew heavily on Pet Sounds in its influence.



I grew up in Southern California and listened to the Beach Boys as a child. Like many people my age and older, their music is permanently stamped in my psyche. Even today, whenever I hear one of their classic tunes, the warm Southern California breeze, the hot sand beneath my feet, and the sweet smell of the ocean stirs in my memory. Good vibrations.

However, thanks to a certain deranged chucklehead at BYU, one Beach Boys song inadvertently conjures a foul memory.

In the late 1970's I was taking education classes to qualify for my teaching credential. Among the requirements were a series of single credit courses, lasting about six weeks, on topics pertinent to secondary school teachers. Many of these mini-classes were taught by young profs who had recently come from teaching in public schools and were exceptionally enthusiastic about their subject. So, when I signed up for a class about drawing on popular culture to assist in lesson preparation, I expected to learn some fresh, new ideas.

On the first day, my seven or so classmates and I were greeted by a roly-poly gent somewhere in his 60's. He sat on a metal folding chair that could barely accommodate his girth. Next to him was a portable record player - one of those numbers that could be carried like a suitcase and then opened with the turntable on the bottom and the speaker in the lid. He promised to, by way of example, demonstrate the evil, pernicious messages that were being fed to our children through today's popular music.

There was a certain whimsey to the whole experience. Bear in mind this was around 1978. The big acts of the day were the Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, the Commodores, Elton John, ELO, the Village People, Supertramp, etc. But Professor Chucklehead, convinced he was on the cutting edge, spent our class time dissecting songs that were at least a decade or two old, by artists whom the current rising generation would never listen to, unless it was to humor their parents or some other tiresome grown-ups in their lives.

I exchanged pained winces and stifled snickers with my fellow classmates as Chucklehead interpreted the underlying meaning of tunes like "Under the Boardwalk" - I know what those Drifters really want you to do under there - "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" - catchy finger-popper, but an obvious vehicle for free love - and even "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers - what, indeed, will they tell their friends when they say "ooh-la-la?"

Ironically, during this same semester, one of my housemates had taken to doing her living room aerobics routine to David Bowie's "Suffragette City."



The class started out as merely amusing. That is, until Professor Chucklehead went after one of my favorite songs of all time, "Wouldn't it Be Nice." The first track on Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds, it is both complex in its musicality and innocent in its message, much like Brian himself. (Tony Asher wrote the lyrics.) I won't go into what Chucklehead had to say about it, as I would rather my gentle readers remember it as the artist intended: a sweet and soulful tribute to adolescent longing.

You know it seems the more we talk about it 
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let's talk about it...





I highly recommend Love and Mercy. It left a profound impression on me, enough of one that I might even be able to, once and for all, bury the memory of Professor Chucklehead. And god only knows, I could do without him.