Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Utah Pie And Beer Day

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Donna Banta
Subject: Ex-Mormon Pioneers

I logged onto Facebook this morning to discover that I have five -- count them -- five friends who were born today! Wow, that's unusual, I thought to myself. Maybe there is something to this astrology stuff. Then I remembered that today is Utah Pioneer Day, the day that Brigham Young led the saints into the Salt Lake Valley, the "Fourth of July" for Mormons.

I immediately became suspicious. One of the birthday boys was my good friend, Elder Price! Another was a guy named Paternoster -- a likely relation to everyone's favorite stake president.

But then another was my friend Marilyn, who really was born on July 24. Only she lives in worldly Park City, where they call it "Utah Pie and Beer Day."

That's the holiday the San Francisco Ex-Mormons celebrate every year too.

Tonight at the Hotel Utah Saloon in San Francisco

It was way better than that cheesy parade.
Eat your heart out Abbottsville Fourth! 

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Three Nephites Get New Suits!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Brother Sid Dooley, ward spiritual giant
Subject: Boosting the Lord's economy

Last week I had the opportunity to visit Salt Lake City, the capitol of Heavenly Father's dynasty, and the subject of a fascinating article in BloombergBusinessweek. My first stop was the temple where I completed an endowment session for and on the behalf of Zedekiah Baxter, who is dead. After the session, I passed into the Celestial Room where I was greeted by three gentlemen in white. They asked me to assist them in the Lord's errand. I immediately recognized them as the Three Nephites, and, of course, agreed.

We hopped into their shiny new Lexus (TM) and sped over to the Lord's newest place of worship, City Creek Center.

"Brother Dooley," said Nephite #1. "We are about to embark on a new mission, and we need your help."

"I am proud to be of assistance," I told them.

"Good," said Nephite #1. "But first we must determine your worthiness. May I see your American Express Card?" (AXP)

"Absolutely," I replied.

Nephite #1 quickly ran it through the scanner attachment on his iPhone. (AAPL) "You're worthy," he said, and pocketed my card.

"What is this new mission?" I asked.

"Well," #2 explained, "changing all those flat tires went a long way toward helping the Lord's servants. But it wasn't doing anything for His portfolio."

"I see, He wants you to switch to raising Him some heavenly capital," I said.

"Right," said #3. "But first we need to look the part. So, ONE TWO THREE -- let's go shopping!"

We began at Macy's (M) where all Three Nephites were fitted out with brand new Hugo Boss suits. ($2800) From there we went to Nordstrom (JWN) and shopped men's furnishings for some socks, shirts, and neckties. ($280) Then we ascended into the shoe department where, thanks to my worthiness, the Nephites acquired some new black wingtips. ($1200) Finally, we completed their new look at Tiffany & Company (TIF) with 3 new Atlas Chronograph watches. ($27,000)

Our business complete, I wished them luck with their new endeavor. Nephite #1 returned my credit card.

"Thank you, Brother Dooley, for your contribution to the Lord's portfolio," he said. "You may now expect a pre-tithe return of $31,280 worth of heavenly blessings."

I couldn't be more pleased with an investment. I wandered along in a blissful daze until I saw a familiar face smiling my way. It was none other than Zedekiah Baxter, who is dead.

"Brother Dooley!" he cried. "Thanks for doing that endowment on and for my behalf."

"Think nothing of it," I replied. "What brings you to the mall, Brother Baxter?"

"I'm on my way to Banana Republic. (GPS) The Celestial Kingdom isn't cheap these days and I don't want to show up looking shabby."

"Good thinking, brother," I said, and wished him happy shopping.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, you must present your American Express card. (AXP)

Note from blog owner: Check out this article in Salon.com written by postmormon girl!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Heaven Up Here by John K. Williams

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Donna Banta
Subject: Another Ward Gossip book review!

John K. Williams

I never served an LDS mission. But I have known my share of Mormon missionaries and have viewed them from varying perspectives.

First I watched my friends leave on their missions. Almost all of them were nineteen-year-old boys. When they returned they looked and acted like thirty-five-year-old men. I knew this transformation occurred because they had just come back from a deeply profound and gratifying experience. The reason I knew this was because each one of them stood in Sacrament Meeting and described his mission as being "the best two years of his life."

Later, as a grown-up doubting Mormon, these "thirty-five-year-old men" went back to being boys. --Boys who came to dinner at our house every month and spent the better part of the meal encouraging us to help them annoy our neighbors. 

After that, as an ex-Mormon, I saw them as squirrelly, self-righteous little twits who sometimes compelled me to slam my door in their faces. 

Then in April 2011 I went to Broadway's Eugene O'Neill Theater and watched a couple of adorable goofball Elders do their darndest to win the hearts of a small Ugandan tribe.

Elder Price: Africa is nothing like The Lion King. I think that movie took a lot of artistic license.

Fun romp that it was, The Book of Mormon reminded me of how young and clueless these "thirty-five-year-old boys" really are. While LDS leaders claim that the musical is inaccurate and "anti-Mormon," Parker and Stone's play goes a long way toward showing outsiders why LDS young people choose to serve and complete missions, even when their presence in a culture makes absolutely no sense. Since seeing the play on stage, I've been less inclined to slam my door. I imagine others who have seen it have had a similar change of heart.  

Then last month I read John K. Williams book, Heaven Up Here. And finally, thirty-some years after seeing my friends leave on their missions, I understand why so many come home looking fifteen years older.

Heaven Up Here begins in the pristine setting of Brigham Young University where Williams spends what most college students would consider a bizarrely sober and chaste freshman year. Then, upon receiving a call to serve in Bolivia, he enters the Missionary Training Center where he learns Spanish, memorizes missionary lessons, and is taught that Bolivia is well-equipped with modern conveniences and that the people will beg to be baptized.

Thus prepared, Elder Williams embarks on what he knows will be "the best two years of his life."

His first area is high in the Andes, where he is immediately stricken with altitude sickness. After that he falls prey to various parasites, as do most others in the mission. He describes "brown outs," a slang term for on the spot diarrhea emergencies, and a siege of nausea that causes him to vomit six-inch worms. He endures filthy living conditions, a painful treatment at a horrific medical facility, and dangerous outbursts of political unrest that in one instance almost costs him his life. Such stressful conditions take a toll on many of his companions who grapple with depression, near insanity, and suicidal tendencies. Some of the Elders even drink and become sexually promiscuous. But painful and bizarre as his conditions are, the thought of returning home early is even more painful. So Elder Williams commits to staying the duration, and even lies to his parents about his health and well-being. On top of that, when he is given the opportunity to extend his mission from eighteen months to two years, he immediately agrees.

In spite of the negative experiences, Williams' narrative never presents itself as an expose of Mormon missions, nor does it condemn the LDS Church. It is an elegantly written memoir told in the voice of a believing young man who doesn't rely on tiresome faith-promoting morals. And not all of his experiences are negative.

At what is perhaps the lowest point of the story, Elder Williams glumly realizes that he has completed eighteen months of his mission and could be going home. Soon after that he is transferred to the Bolivian rainforest where he picks cashews off of trees and a macaw alights on his companion's shoulder. The heat is oppressive, but after eighteen months in the country, Elder Williams is used to climate extremes. Also his experience finally enables him to navigate the culture with ease. He interacts with some interesting Bolivian characters, takes shopping trips to Brazil, and has a humorous encounter with a mid-level drug dealer. He spends an unforgettable Christmas with a humble and loving Bolivian family. Then on his last day in the country, he rides a bicycle for the first and only time. It is an ending that is far more faith-promoting than any Sacrament Meeting homecoming talk, and even makes this cynical ex-Mormon feel grateful that Williams decided to extend his mission.

Heaven Up Here is a must read for believing Mormons, ex-Mormons, and anyone who is interested in an honest account of an LDS mission. Hopefully it will encourage more forthcoming stories about Mormon missionaries, as it did postmormon girl recently.

Heaven Up Here is available in both paperback and as an ebook.
Or purchase a signed copy from the author himself at the upcoming Sunstone Symposium July 25-28. I'll be there too signing copies of The Girls, as will C.L. Hanson, author of ExMormon. There will be more great titles on sale from the Mormon Alumni Association as well.