Friday, May 28, 2010

An Ex-Mormon In Paris

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward, and the seven wonderful followers of my blog
From: Donna Banta
Subject: A BYU alum finally sees Rodin and other things

Friday, May 21, 2010
Around 9:00 AM
Paris, France.

Mark and I had breakfast at our hotel, then walked a few blocks to the Musee Rodin, housed in the former Hotel Biron. It was a glorious day, the garden was just coming into bloom and boasted a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower. Seeing Rodin's work was a treat for a pair of disgruntled BYU grads shamed by their alma mater's censorship of a Rodin exhibition in the Fall of 1997. After requesting, authorizing and paying for the exhibit, BYU decided to ban four nude sculptures immediately before the exhibition opened on October 27, 1997. One of the censored sculptures was The Kiss. A Sunstone Magazine article quoted the following:

An AP story, which was picked up nationally by newspapers such as USAToday, quoted [BYU Art Museum Director Campbell] Gray as saying,"We have felt that the nature of those works are such that the viewer will be concentrating on them in a way that is not good for us."

That same day the Church owned Deseret News further quoted Gray as saying that the excluded pieces did not convey a positive message about either Rodin or the exhibition. "Nudity isn't the issue, it's more the latter [lack of dignity] ."

The Salt Lake Tribune also quoted the museum director in an enigmatic statement: [The decision to exclude] "is more a process of trying to ensure that the integrity of the exhibit is maintained." The Tribune also noted that Gray denied that censorship is occurring and quoted him further: "Censorship connotes a sense of fear. If we had a sense of fear. we wouldn't do this because of the media attention we are drawing." Read the full article here.

Another of the censored sculptures, Monument to Balzac, was described by then BYU President Merrill J. Bateman as a "nude male in the act of self-gratification," an interpretation that drew a slew of incredulous reactions from serious art critics, as well as a bunch of mean-spirited sarcastic bile from ex-Mormons like me.

Among the many ironies of this idiotic episode was that patrons of the BYU exhibit could purchase books that included pictures of The Kiss and the other Rodin nudes at the BYU museum bookstore. Moreover, BYU art students were allowed to study the censored works in their classrooms, but not view the real things when they were on their campus.

So here I am, at long last, viewing The Kiss:

Guess I should have studied with these guys instead of at BYU:
Parisian Primary Grade Students Preparing to Sketch Rodin's "The Age of Bronze."

Around noon
Paris, France

We lunched at a sidewalk cafe across from the Musee Rodin. To-die-for goat cheese salads, a carafe of rose wine, one raspberry tart, and two cafe cremes. Then we strolled around Paris until it was time to leave for our flight.


Around 10:00 PM
New York, New York

We'd come through customs at JFK, freshened up in our Mid-town hotel room and were now strolling the streets of Manhattan. The night was clear and warm enough for just shirtsleeves. My past visits to New York have been uniformly pleasant, and entirely absent of New Yorkers' fabled rudeness. That was until tonight:  (Caution advised.)

The LDS temple's proximity to Lincoln Center seemed, to say the least, disturbing. From now on, my image of sophisticated Manhattanites attending a performance of The American Ballet Theater, or enjoying the talents of Yo Yo Ma will be overshadowed by the scenario playing out across the street. That is, the Mormons, dressed up in Pillsbury dough boy hats and green satin aprons, exchanging secret handshakes, waving their arms around, then retiring for "celestial" meditation in a room that resembles the lobby of the Sacramento Radisson. I must admit, Gotham does have its share of kooks and crazies.

We abandoned the LDS temple for dinner at a sidewalk cafe. Seated around us were couples engaged in discussion about the plays and performances they'd just come from. Mercifully, we heard no mention of the Patriarchal Grip. Then we strolled past Central Park to our hotel, marveling at having viewed the Empire State Building and the Eiffel Tower on the same day.                                  
12:45 AM (Technically May 22)
New York, New York

The bar at the hotel was open for 15 more minutes, so we ordered a couple of martinis. Wow! Mark and I closed out a bar for the first time since . . . oh yeah, we went to BYU.

Because her last e-mail made no mention of the Musee Rodin, I've sent Sister Millie Loomis a complete photo gallery of Rodin's nude sculpture.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Paris Mormon Style -- The One and Only True Tour

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Sister Millie Loomis, self-appointed ward media and culture critic
Subject: My life in France

When the See Zion First's Temple Trip For Gals capped at 200 within the first hour of registration, I instead chose their tour of Paris. Why not? All of my life I've longed to see the marvelous City of Light through the protective lens of the LDS Church. I testify to you, brothers and sisters, that See Zion First delivered all of that and inside of a week.

Friday, Day 1: We disembarked our plane and were met curbside by Europe Second Branch President Pierre Sorenson who whisked us to his picturesque meeting house with its sweeping view of the Charles DeGaulle Airport. After vacuuming the carpets and scrubbing the bathrooms, we unrolled our sleeping bags on the cultural hall floor and slept off our jet lag.

Saturday, Day 2: We got a taste of the Latin Quarter when we helped the Maxwell family move into their charming flat in a fifth floor walk-up in the 6th arrondissement. They graciously treated us to a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Then we returned to the branch meeting house for a genuine Parisian revue performed by the Mia Maids.

Sunday, Day 3: Since church started in the afternoon, we spent the morning collecting Fast Offerings, then attended to our various assignments in Primary, Relief Society, Sunday School and Priesthood. I had the good fortune to be stationed in the Nursery. After church we enjoyed a scrumptious "Break the Fast" meal of cassoulet de tater tots, citron vert Jell-o, and Mormon pommes de mort.

Monday, Day 4: We introduced ourselves to the locals by going out on splits with the missionaries. We were amazed by how many Frenchmen left their doors unlocked, and by how annoyed they were when we walked through them. We discussed this phenomenon over Rice Krispies Treats after our Family Home Evening French Hymnal Karaoke.

Tuesday, Day 5: We headed to the stake cannery where we happily donated our time for the welfare of others. The result? Two hundred quarts of haricort verts for the French saints.

Wednesday, Day 6: Sightseeing! Elders' Quorum President, LeVar Lafitte, sprung for a one hour bus rental from a local U-Haul and gave us a whirlwind tour. I did my best to capture it on film:

The glass sculpture outside of the Louvre inspired President Lafitte to describe his latest business venture.

As a result, I am now a distributor of Frere Featherstone's Miracle Hair Grow.

After returning the bus, we stopped at a genuine Parisian cafe, where we ordered omelettes stuffed with stinky cheese and fizzy French water. Hate to say it, but the meal was something of a let down. The food paled in comparison to the French cuisine served at Sunday's Break the Fast. Also everyone around us was smoking and drinking and eating chocolate. The Metro ride home turned out to be a harrowing ordeal, as we found ourselves surrounded by the Parisian non-member community. Sister Jamison nearly passed out after witnessing something shocking. Luckily the Priesthood was on hand to give her a blessing, and we were soon back in the loving embrace of the saints from the Europe Second Branch. The testimony meeting that evening was c'est magnifique.

Thursday, Day 7: We said tearful good-byes to our French brothers and sisters, then boarded the plane for America. Not a one of us slept on that flight, as we were too busy reminiscing about the sights we saw, the people we met, the food we enjoyed, and the wonderful time we had thanks to LDS owned See Zion First.

After all, only the church could send us on a trip like this.

If you would like to stop receiving these e-mails, we'll alert a distributor of Frere Featherstone's Miracle Hair Grow.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

LDS Women Brace For Another Mother's Day

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Bishop Paul Zimmerman
Subject: Mother's Day Sacrament Meeting

In anticipation of the inevitable complaints about this Sunday's Mother's Day program, I remind you of a previous Sacrament Meeting under the direction of Bishop Brent Loomis, whose shocking murder remains unsolved.

Sacrament Meeting
Presiding: Bishop Brent Loomis
Abbottsville Fourth Ward -- Mother's Day Service

Conducting: Bishop Loomis
Pianist: Sister Peterson
Music Director: Brother Souter

Opening Hymn:  #27 Praise to the Man

Opening Prayer: Brother Harold

Ward Business: Bishop Loomis

Sacrament Hymn: #171 With Humble Heart

Administration of the Sacrament by the Aaronic Priesthood

Youth Speaker: Brad Miller -- "Honoring my Priesthood: How I Preside Over my Mother."

Speaker: Sister Rae Ann Darcy -- "Scrapbooking is Special."

Special Musical Number: Fourth Ward Men's Choir -- See the Mighty Priesthood Gathered

Speaker: Bishop Brent Loomis -- "Dressed for Satan's Success: the effect of the feminine pantsuit on our society."

Closing Hymn: #340 The Star Spangled Banner

Benediction: Brother Renfro

***While worldly churches wallow in appreciation today, we, as members of the one and only true church, will focus on what really matters: worthiness. In that spirit, rewards will be meted out as follows:

Mothers of 5 or more children who have served missions and married in the temple: Horseshoe floral bouquet.

Mothers of less than 5 children who have served missions and married in the temple: Two dozen roses.

Young mothers who are raising their children to serve missions and marry in the temple: One dozen roses.

Mothers of less valiant children: Wrist corsage.

Working and/or single moms: One carnation.

Single sisters: A dandelion.

Upon completion of the distribution of gifts, ward members are released to the Cultural Hall for a four course Mother's Day feast, prepared and served by the Relief Society.

If you would like to stop receiving these e-mails, we'll send you a dandelion.