Thursday, October 8, 2015

Real Friends in the Real World

As a Mormon I was taught to avoid The Real World. It was an evil, cold, miserable place. The Church, by contrast, was loving and gentle and good - a haven of camaraderie and friendship, the only destination where men and women could find true happiness.

Only, I wasn't happy. A lot of the things I heard in church weren't loving, gentle, or good. As for friendship, all those church assignments left little time for socializing. My only friends were a couple of women who were assigned to come around and "teach" me every month. Half the time they were women I had little in common with. On the occasions I was given somebody that might grow into a friend, she was shifted to a new assignment before anything developed. With the LDS Church arranging my social life, I felt as though I was constantly following a script. Like an actress in a cheesy sitcom or creepy promotional film.

For me, there was no happiness in that Fake World.

Thank heavens I'm now a member of the Real World!

I like to say that the best thing about being a Mormon is becoming an ExMormon. It's a great community of accepting free thinkers - a place where I've found lots of real friends, not fake ones. And we've plenty of time to socialize! Take the past few weeks, for example.

First Eric and Ali flew down from Oregon. We met them, along with Steve and Sarah, at the Barrel to Bottle event in Half Moon Bay.

BYOB - and they fill it!
Then back to our house for another mythic cooking session!
Food is serious business

Eric whipping eggs into a frenzy

Blackjack supervising
Caesar Salad!
Chocolate Souffle - yum!
Then last week Bill and Dana/Insana Dee dropped by our house as part of their West Coast road trip. How lucky are we?!
Dana and I at the Moraga Steps in SF
Of course Dana had to go to the Mission District and buy a Donald Trump piñata!
Dana's just mad about The Donald!
Of course Bill posed with him!
As did Don and Scott!
Then we hooked up with Jerry and Cheryl after the ExMormon gathering at the SF Ferry Building on Sunday. Sadly, our long time watering hole, Sinbad's, is closing down so the city can build another ferry landing.
Jerry and Cheryl with Sinbad
Owner Tom Stinson in a final duel

But we'll find a new watering hole. Because there are still plenty of fun times with good friends ahead. Life is good - when you don't have to fake it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Whew! We're Still Here

As many of you may already know, preparedness shops in Utah have been selling out of their 72-hour kits and freeze-dried food rations in preparation for the apocalypse that was supposed to happen last night.

I don't really have much to say about this, other than to suggest that a 72-hour kit might not be enough to last through an apocalypse. Also to lament that I am not the author of the accompanying best sellers.

But it seemed like waking up this morning to discover that the world hadn't ended was worth a post.

In that spirit, congratulations, Gentle Readers!

Hell, I may even toss some freeze-dried blueberries on my nitrogen-packed cracked wheat this morning.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 2

Continuing from last time, the second half of WHY DON'T YOU GET IT?

Reason #2: Because being Mormon was an integral part of our life experience.

Five years ago I dedicated a post to my husband, Mark. It was a brief bio that outlined his happy Mormon childhood, his fond mission memories, our courtship at BYU, etc. Then I went on to quickly explain why we eventually decided to leave Mormonism.

Minutes after the post published, I received a personal message from an old friend who scolded me for being negative about the church, called me a liar, and suggested that "people like me" should "just leave" and never talk about the church again.

Excuse me? Never talk about this overwhelming experience that dominated our formative years and consumed over two decades of our lives? Forget "why?" - How, exactly, does one do that?

Thanks to a a generous reader, I have an even better example, and with illustrations! (Thanks again, Gentle Reader/You Know Who You Are!)

Every American kid who came of age during the 60's and 70's can recall the generational divide over hairstyles, dress, and especially music.

Only, while the "nonmember" kids' parents were hollering at them to "turn off that racket and get a haircut," teenagers in the one and only true church were dragged off to LDS firesides to listen to Lynn Bryson and other self-serving zealots who managed to convince many of them that rock music was devil worship, John Lennon was a wizard, and that the Eagles were practicing human sacrifice!

Understandably terrified, some LDS teens were actually persuaded to turn off some of the best music of the century and listen instead to:
LDS pop-singer Mac Reynolds, aka "The Singing Farmer"


The Mormon alternative to Sly and the Family Stone

or . . . drumroll . . . TA DAH!

The most annoying song ever recorded just became even more annoying.

In response to my recent post about Mormons and '70's rock, a reader wrote:
"I grew up in a small, isolated town in Utah. After the fireside in my stake, I had friends whose parents would only let them listen to compilation tapes of music Lynn Bryson sold to them. When you have a snake oil salesman like that come into town, it just spreads paranoia and fear that can literally last for decades."
Paranoia and fear that lasts literally for decades? ... Feelings? ... The god-d***ed Singing Farmer? Again, forget "why?" - How does one leave that alone?

Listen, Mormons, I'm sorry that you don't like hearing about our less than perfect experiences, but we can't stop talking about them. We couldn't even if we wanted to.

Consider this, my believing friends. Say a successful professional man grew up in a big Mormon family in an all Mormon town in Utah. He's since moved to California and left Mormonism behind. Nevertheless, every once in a while a nosey nonmember asks him, "Where are you from?" Now how would you have him answer?

  • Should he be vague? "Um . . . the mountains."
  • Or paranoid? "Who wants to know?"
  • Should he fake amnesia? "I've forgotten everything that's happened to me before I walked into this bar just now."
  • Should he lie? "I'm from France."
  • Or ... should he own up to it and toe the party line? "I grew up Mormon in Provo, Utah, but I left the church because I was offended. Also because I wanted to hang out in seedy bars with low-lifes like you." 

I'm going to sign off now, and start banging my head on my desk.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 1

The question I am most often asked by believing Mormons is: "Why won't Ex-Mormons leave the church alone?"

I've never directly addressed that inquiry here on Ward Gossip. There's a reason for that, and it involves the preservation of my sanity. As many of my Gentle Readers probably know, engaging with Mormons on that issue can be a head-banging, mind-numbingly maddening experience.

I end up getting angry - like back when I was a Mormon. And since not being angry all of the time is one of the best things about no longer being a Mormon, I tend to opt for humor. In part for my own therapy.

However lately a decline in my blogging enthusiasm has made me see the end of Ward Gossip closing in on the horizon. And there are a few things I still want to share before I go, including my answer to the highly annoying question: "Why won't Ex-Mormons leave the church alone?"

Reason #1: Because the church doesn't leave us alone.
  • Mormon missionaries travel worldwide, knocking on doors and sharing their message. 
  • Members are encouraged to share the gospel with their neighbors and friends, also to reconvert "inactives," even when the so-called "inactive" has made it clear that he or she is no longer interested in attending. 
  • The church springs for in-your-face advertising: TV commercials, billboards, even a feature length film. 
  • Mormon temples and historical sites boast attractive, well-manned visitors' centers.
  • They have a big choir that regularly tours and records. 
  • High profile Mormons in business, politics and the entertainment industry publicly embrace the faith. In 2012 one even ran for president.
  • The Mormon Church has encouraged/pressured its members to vote for and donate money to political causes that impose its narrow values on society at large. For example, the extreme liquor laws in Utah, the successful opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment during the late 70's and early 80's, various gambling initiatives, and perhaps most notoriously, the successful passage of Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage in California back in 2008. 
Don't get me wrong. The LDS Church is well within its rights on all of the above. So long as they are obeying local laws, the Mormons are free to seek out new and reconvert old members - even if their tactics are annoying. Likewise, they can produce cheesy commercials and films, run for office, and otherwise participate in politics. 

In fact, there are outsiders who enjoy those cheesy ads, admire the Mormons' wholesome, clean-cut image, and appreciate their outspoken support of conservative social issues. We know this because the Deseret News, the Mormon Newsroom, and similar LDS outlets are quick to share any kind  words directed at the church in the mainstream media.

But the moment anyone publicly disagrees with, criticizes, protests, or (god forbid) pokes fun at the Mormons' very public image and/or mission, the members and leaders of the self-proclaimed one and only true church suddenly morph into the Amish: 
"Why are they persecuting us? We're a humble, private people who only want to practice our religion separately and in peace. Why can't they leave us alone?!"
Now comes the head-banging moment, when I need to be duct-taped to my chair to keep from grabbing one of them and screaming into his or her clueless face:
"WHY DON'T YOU GET IT? Humble my @$$. You belong to the one and only true church, for crying out loud. Your religion's headquarters has expanded into half of downtown Salt Lake City. And when your Utah-based church tries to dictate the marriage laws two states away - where roughly 1% of the population is LDS - people aren't going to leave it or you alone." 
Most members of mainstream churches do get this. Thank god for my progressive Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, and also my thoughtful LDS friends who can stand the heat and take a joke.

But there are a smattering of fundies out there who, like an unfortunate number of Mormons, mistake freedom of religion with the right to impose one's religion on all of society. Take, for example, Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who, for the sake of obeying "God's law" broke federal law when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Now she's in jail, and, no doubt, feels persecuted.

I could attempt to explain to both her and her supporters why I believe the government won't and shouldn't "leave her alone." But it would likely be yet another head-banging moment. Then I'd end up getting angry - like back when I was a Mormon. Angry and bitter.

There's another common question I'd like to answer before I go: "Why are Ex-Mormons so angry and bitter?" One thing at time...

Coming soon: Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 2! (Spoiler alert! Content to include seriously terrifying little-known facts about John Lennon and The Eagles. Also some disturbing examples of "LDS rock music.")

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Never a Dull Moment in ExMormondom

Back when I was a Mormon life was a pretty dull ride. Thank goodness I've shifted gears as an ExMormon. Now there's never even a dull moment. Like this weekend when Mark and I headed up to Sacramento for the last of Jerry the Aspousetate's annual summer parties.

The following crappy photos are courtesy of the slightly buzzed blog owner:

Among the attendees were several members of the newly formed Sacramento chapter of Mormon Spectrum. Interesting folks with interesting stories - from a young man who is struggling to raise his kids alongside his believing ex, to a middle-aged woman who had married into Mormon royalty (with disastrous results), to an eighty-year-old who still endures the snubs and rebukes from her believing siblings some 60 years after leaving the faith.

Also we got to meet Mike, who is famous for his YouTube temple videos. He reminisced about those wholesome, bygone days when we got to pantomime our own deaths in the LDS temple. Ah...memories.

This prompted me to recall that smarmy Protestant minister in the old temple film, the one who hung out with Satan. ("We teach a religion made up of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.") Any of you old enough to remember him? He was played by none other than J. Spencer Palmer who taught World Religions at BYU. No irony there (snort).

But if you really want a laugh check out Mormon Temple: The Musical!

When we got back to San Francisco "The Galaxy Song" from Life of Brian was still swimming around my brain.**

Then yesterday I received a package from a Gentle Reader! Inspired by my recent post on rock music and BYU, he sent me some fun CD's. Do I have cool readers or what?

One is an LDS fireside featuring Lynn Bryson whose anti-rock music talks were popular in Mormon circles during the 1980's. Also an "Up With People" album (an LDS pop group circa 1970) and some "Sons of Mosiah," an LDS group formed in 1970 who look like they could be back-ups to Greg Brady's Johnny Bravo schtick.

Look! He even sent a spare album cover. 

The back cover is an article in the Washington Post, published 2/28/70

Thank you Gentle Reader/You Know Who You Are! I now have the makings of endless material for future posts. Also hours of anything but dull moments ahead of me.

**Don't get the Life of Brian reference? That's because you haven't checked out Mormon Temple: The Musical!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Donna's Mini-Break!

I've been off the grid lately, thanks to a wonderful visit from our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids!

Mark, Meera, and adorable offspring
Since I understand the Mormon-themed media is obsessing over Joseph Smith's phony seer stone while the mainstream media is obsessing over the Republican phony, Donald Trump, I'm not suffering from any separation anxiety. In fact I'm having a blast!

and Max!
So, as you can see, Gentle Readers, I've no time left for the seer stone or the Donald.

But I will be back soon.