Tuesday, October 4, 2011

General Conference Rocks!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Donna Banta
Subject: My conference weekend

Back when I was a Mormon, I hated conference weekend. Mostly because we had to get all dressed up and drag our little kids to the church to watch the thing on closed circuit TV. I did everything I could to get out of it, wheedling my then devout husband with excuses. "Nobody really watches conference on Saturday, right?" or "We can read all the talks next month in The Ensign, right?" Whether or not I got my way depended on the convincingness of my argument combined with how much the children and I had worn down Mark's patience.

More often than not we stayed home. But I did sit through some winner sessions. I remember being told to avoid symposia and not to say prayers to Heavenly Mother. I recall a bizarre talk by Boyd K. Packer that began with him flying into a rage over the notion of a man baking a pie. Also, I'll never forget a mind-numbingly boring analogy from some garrulous old coot who went on about how he used to straighten out bent nails with his dad's hammer. I don't remember who gave the talk, only that the nail story droned on for the length of a bible but never arrived at a point. --Meanwhile, the A/C in the chapel was overtaxed, my pantyhose were sagging, and we had run out of Cheerios for the kids.

In those days I would have done anything to get out of watching conference. A root canal, a four hour mammogram, an unsedated colonoscopy, even a C-SPAN marathon.

But times have changed. Now, I look forward to conference! I was a little disorganized on Saturday, so I missed hearing Boyd K. Packer advise the faithful that the second coming was not imminent. (Damn! See what you miss when you aren't prepared?) But I did catch Bednar's talk about how young people should give up facebooking and tweeting for the far more scintillating online pastime, genealogy!

I snorted serious amounts of Pelegrino through my nose, then called out to Mark. "Honey, get in here, you're missing Bednar!"

"I'm not listening to that prick," he hollered back.

"But sweetheart, this is awesome. He's telling teenagers to look up the dead on their smart phones. Also his face is all pink and sweaty like he just googled his great-great aunt Gertrude and downloaded an image of her in her corset."

Mark escaped to the kitchen. I turned up the volume. A dick named Andersen was going on about multiplying and replenishing the earth.

"Oh my god, Mark you wouldn't believe it. This total blowhard just told a story about a guy who's looking at his sixth child -- a daughter -- just minutes after her birth, has an epiphany, then runs to the bedside of his recovering wife and tells her the Lord said He wants them to have a seventh child and it will be a boy!"

Mark stared back at me with a desperate expression, the same one he wore the time I was taking too long in Target and he had to fake a stroke to get me out of there. Thankfully he just said, I'm going to Joxer's for a beer, wanna come? Out of respect for his priesthood, I submitted.

Then Sunday rolled around and we got up early, put on nice clothes, and went to something way more special than Conference: a NorCal Post-Mormon party.

They offered a fine selection of beverages
This time Donavan and Scott opened up their house to us and served coffee made from beans they roasted themselves. Delicious. As was the Post-Mormon potluck fare that was refreshingly free of processed foods. Also Christina and Warren's mimosas were literally a revelation.

And, just because we're Ex-Mormons, doesn't mean we're not inspired.

  • Donavan waxed poetic on the blessings of alcohol on an empty stomach. He also admitted that he left the church at around age 11, when he was kicked out of the "Tuesday afternoon thing." 
  • Anagrammy shared how in Relief Society she learned to make "meat" by soaking the gluten out of bread dough in her washing machine, pounding it thin, slicing it into "cutlets," then soaking it in bouillon and passing it off as Swiss steak. (The kids ate it, the dog refused.)
  • Warren and Christina couldn't understand all the weird looks they were getting when they visited Colorado City. That is until they remembered they were riding around in Christina's car with the license plate, WRNSGRL.
  • Tyler asked, "Do you think Joseph Smith married all of those women because of sex, or was it a power thing?" To which I responded, "I think it was mostly about his dick."
  • We all concluded that Packer's announcement about the last days was aimed at protecting Romney in the upcoming election, so that voters won't think he's a member of some crazy cult. (And who better to deliver the message than the craziest guy in the cult?)
I admit, I am a little sorry I missed Tad Callister's talk. He was in my hometown stake in Glendale, California. Back then he seemed like an articulate and intelligent person. However, from what I hear, his talk was an irrational, insane rant. So either I have a bad a memory, or a lifetime of service in the LDS Church has turned yet another potentially normal person into a garrulous old coot.

For that, and many other reasons, I am eternally grateful for Ex-Mormons. Also for mimosas.


  1. Isn't Joxer a character from Xena, Warrior Princess?

    Man, I don't miss conference AT ALL. My mom and stepdad are very serious conference-goers (they were in Salt Lake this weekend), and I never missed a conference between the ages of 7 and 19.

  2. Diana, it does amaze me how people flock to the LDS conference. In fact even now with that "great and spacious building" I hear that people fight for tickets to it like it was The Book of Mormon on Broadway. I'm happy that you don't have to go anymore. : )

  3. "I recall a bizarre talk by Boyd K. Packer that began with him flying into a rage over the notion of a man baking a pie."

    Donna, you're a genius! I now know my calling. I must undermine the LDS church by rounding up screaming hordes of gays, feminists, and intellectuals to force devout Mormon men to bake pies! THEN, we'll sell the pies to support progressive bookstores! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAAA!

    "Warren and Christina couldn't understand all the weird looks they were getting when they visited Colorado City. That is until they remembered they were riding around in Christina's car with the license plate, WRNSGRL."

    As in Warren Jeffs? Oh God.

    "... just minutes after her birth, has an epiphany, then runs to the bedside of his recovering wife and tells her the Lord said He wants them to have a seventh child and it will be a boy!"

    Two seconds later, the weary woman grabbed a pair of forceps, screamed like a maddened banshee, and shoved--no, I'd better not say in polite company.

  4. Donna, my parents took me to conference in Salt Lake when I was 13 or 14. Traumatizing experience, what with all the protesters outside. So, so busy and the best part of the trip was visiting the BYU bookstore (since I was still reading The Work and the Glory and the Tennis Shoes books).

  5. @Ahab, you are hilarious! Also correct, there's nothing scarier than men baking pies. Loved the forceps idea. Yeah, that guy was pretty insensitive, not only to his wife, but to his newborn daughter. He takes one look at her then charges off. "Great! Now let's get it right and make a boy."

    Yuck, Diana, I can't think of a more boring weekend for a 13 year old. At least you got to go to the bookstore. (sigh) My MIL gave us one of the Work and the Glory books. I never read it, but a bunch of women in my ward borrowed it and proclaimed it as sooo special!

  6. Mormons could make Conference weekend (and church in general) more entertaining and enlightening if they added: rides to the visitor's center in SLC (like a fly-by Jeebus thing, kinda like the Peter Pan thing at Disneyland), wine instead of water for sacrament, mostly naked angel depictions, and updating the Word of Wisdom to include vodka as an acceptable - nay - preferable beverage.

    Had a great time with all ya'll. Can't wait to do it again!

  7. sideon, it was awesome. I agree with everything you said. I think it would be cool if they added one of those "zipline" rides to the SL temple, like the one they have along the Embarcadero in SF...

  8. OMG! You have accomplished the impossible, Donna: Making me almost wish I'd watched GC. You crack me up - the whole story about how you used to avoid it and now you almost can't get enough of it -- for all the right reasons! I laughed out loud at yours and Mark's conversation about watching Bednar (I totally typed "Mednar" and fixed it; yet Mednar somehow seems appropriate ...)


  9. Sitting here sipping my cider I am thinking that I (and my mini tribe) reaaaallly need to get ourselves to the big US of A in order to experience some serious ex-Mormon action. Leaving the Joseph flock in Australia just doesn't provide enough buzz. I'll call you from the plane eh!

  10. Thanks CD, I really think the best response to the LDS GA's is to laugh at them. But to do so you really need to have a well developed sense of the ridiculous, which, thankfully, you and I share!

    Maureen, totally call me from the plane, I'll meet you at the airport and plan one serious party in your honor. Although, I must admit, sipping cider in Australia sounds pretty good too. :)

  11. Well, you've got it right. Mocking General Conference. In fact, I think a running commentary during the airing is in order... you know, like Mystery Science Theatre 3000 and their running commentary of old stupid movies. And I can't think of anyone better to do it than YOU!!! It would be hilarious!!

    I saw you said your home ward was in Glendale, California. I lived there for about a year in 1979 or so. Lance Wickman was my Bishop... he used to be a GA (Seventies, I think) and now he's General Counsel of the church. Small world, huh??!! Mainly I lived in Pasadena during that time period.

  12. OMG, Diane, you are so right. And Mystery Science Theatre 3000 is so much like conference already!

    I remember the name Wickman. I was in Glendale 2nd Ward. My bishops were Reeder, Valentine, and McGuire. The Reeders were a lovely family, they bought my grandparents' old house. The McGuires were exceptionally kind to me. Their oldest daughter was in my high school class. Stan McGuire would have been the Glendale 2nd bishop in 1979.

    Doug Callister, Tad's older brother, was my stake president. He went on to be a mission president (Missouri I think?) Then eventually he was called to be a Seventy, and is now a temple president. I had tremendous respect for him as a young person. I remember being crushed when I saw that he was in charge of the CA Mormons' efforts to bankroll the Knight Amendment. Now Tad, whom I also thought was a reasonable guy has turned into some sort of fanatic.

    Yes, it is a small world! Thanks for sharing that info. I would love to hear more of your recollections sometime. It's also funny how people change. -- Myself included. ;)