Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Another Year On Ward Gossip

Perhaps fittingly, 2013 began here on Ward Gossip with my take on the historical interpretations of a certain straight white male representative from Utah who, thanks to his painstakingly thorough research, was able to recreate this otherwise unknown episode during the U.S.Constitutional Convention:
Silas Baxter trudged toward home. He was about the business of forming the constitution. 
Standing for righteousness. Liberty. Freedom. The American way.
She was waiting at the doorway, a cotton shawl around her shoulders. "Hi honey, how was your day?" 
"Very discouraging. Mr. Franklin insists on abolishing slavery, while the delegates from the South refuse to give it up. I'm torn between the two sides."
She nodded and made that little pouty face that always drove him wild. "Oh honey, you're such a softy. Feeling sorry for the poor slaves. But shouldn't your first concern be straight white men?"

Turned out 2013 was a pretty darned frustrating for the straight white men who run the LDS Church.

It started with the women who resented Sister Elaine Dalton's remarks in her January 15th Devotional at BYU:
"Young women, you will be the ones who will provide the example of virtuous womanhood and motherhood. You will continue to be virtuous, lovely, praiseworthy and of good report. You will also be the ones to provide an example of family life in a time when families are under attack, being redefined and disintegrating. You will understand your roles and your responsibilities and thus will see no need to lobby for rights." 
Shaken by the realization that LDS sisters seemed to believe they should have rights, the straight white guys rushed to make amends by announcing that the first woman would give a prayer in the April General Conference.

Then, just as the old white guys were breathing a sigh of relief, the whole gay thing blew up again, this time when a disobedient young man was denied the opportunity to serve a mission because he couldn't support the LDS Church's stand on gay marriage, a scandal that inspired the following policy:

"Don't tell your stake president that you disagree with the way the LDS Church treats gays, feminists, and intellectuals--and he won't ask."

But in spite of their outreach to women and progressive new policies, the straight white men in Salt Lake City sensed an evil intellectual trend, a tendency toward tolerance--even in places like Abbottsville, CA:
(The Abbottsville) Ward Preparedness team has been hard at work monitoring ward telephone lines, members' emails, and local LDS chat rooms. Over the past 24 hours, we've detected a shocking number of tolerant-leaning chatter. Here are some of the conversational "red flags" we've uncovered:
  • "Shouldn't the job go to the one who's the most qualified?"
  • "Have any new ideas?"
  • "But it's what's inside a person that counts."
  • "It's really none of our business."
  • "Why don't we put it to a vote?"
  • "She makes a lot of sense."
No doubt these fiendish intellectual uprisings led to the necessity of the Gay Deconversion Badge, Boyd K. Packer's rewrite of the Beatitudes, the church-wide survey on doubt, the demise of DOMA and Prop 8, and the subsequent unrest that drove the persecuted straight white men into brawls in their church parking lots.

Then it was those pesky women again, still wanting to wear pants to church, and even attend the October General Priesthood Session! 

Around that time, I published my new book, False Prophet. -- A sequel to The Girls From Fourth Ward, it includes a scene where Lieutenant Ryan manages to go through a session in the Mormon temple

Upon completion of such an accomplishment, I did what any sensible person would do, I left the country. 

So I missed the hoopla around the October General Conference, the thwarted efforts of Ordain Women, Dallin Oak's mean scolding of singles, divorcees, and gays, and Dieter Uchtdorf's deranged plea for members to "doubt their doubts."  

Instead, I got my inspiration from the sides of London's buses.
And that brings us back to those annoying gays, who the courts now insist are allowed to get married. Even in Utah. 

It's been the kind of a year that might even drive the straight white guys in Salt Lake to admit they've made a few mistakes. Well, almost.

But before you declare yourselves "People of the Year," remember, straight white guys, Ward Gossip hasn't all been about you. 

We've celebrated a joyous birth and mourned a tragic death. We've had some fun parties, a great conference, other great reads from the Mormon Alumni Association including works by Johnny Townsend, Michael Oborn, Lawrence Pratt, Micah McAllister, and the amazing anthology, Latter-Gay Saints. Sadly, none were selections for the Relief Society Book Club. We celebrated the 200th anniversary of Pride and Prejudice ("BYU without the sex"), and discussed complex topics like humility, and Mormon exceptionalism. Elder Young continued his efforts in France, Ruthie Renfro plugged away at her MRS, and the sisters in Abbottsville Fourth managed to endure another Mothers Day. Tea Party Republicans continued to entertain, as did the Abbottsville Single Adults, and BYU student life--recently with the introduction of "Caffeine on Campus." I celebrated my 200th post here in June, and my blogger friends kept cranking out stellar stuff along my blogroll. Also, I had lots of fun over on Ex-Mormon Mavens and Main Street Plaza.

Thank you, Gentle Readers. I see a great New Year in our future! And more frustration for the straight white guys.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Mormons Finally Allowed To Know Their Own History

To: Abbottsville Stake
From: Mitchell Knightly, president of the Abbottsville Stake
Subject: Statement from the First Presidency

In a surprise statement earlier this month, the First Presidency announced that church members are finally worthy enough to know their own history. Since then, some actual fact-based articles have been published on the official church website, most notably an admission that the LDS Church has a racist past, and an explanation for the varying versions of Joseph Smith's First Vision. Additionally, a church spokesman agreed to a hard-hitting interview on KBYU:

Susie Wimpleton: I am speaking with T. Rulon Sneed, an official spokesman for the LDS Church. Welcome to the show, Brother Sneed.

Sneed: Thank you for having me, Susan. 

Wimpleton: Brother Sneed, the First Presidency recently released a statement on the official church website that disavowed its previous policy of denying African American men the priesthood. Can you explain why the Church adopted this racist policy in the first place?

Sneed: Well, to begin with, it wasn't Joseph Smith's fault. The Prophet Joseph actually ordained black men to the priesthood. However, after his death, the mantle of Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the One and Only True Church fell upon Brigham Young. Unfortunately, as Prophet, Seer, and Revelator, Brigham made the stupid decision to exclude blacks from the priesthood. Probably because instead of listening to God, Brigham listened to the narrow-minded political hacks with whom he sought influence. Sadly, this bigoted policy remained in place until 1979 when the Prophet Spencer W. Kimball decided to listen to God.

Wimpleton: So, it was that familiar dilemma: Is the Prophet speaking as a man or is he speaking for God?

Sneed: Exactly, Susie, and as maddening as it is, bottom line, it's not our call, it's his--and occasionally (points heavenward) His.

Wimpleton: I see, and how does the First Presidency account for the varying versions of the First Vision? In the official version Joseph Smith saw Jesus and God, but in an earlier version he only recalled seeing Jesus and some angels.

Sneed: (nods vigorously) Yes, I know that's troubling to many church members. But memory is a tricky thing, Susie. People often mix up their recollections. To make matters worse, Joseph didn't even remember his vision until 12 years after the event actually occurred. Add to that, he was under the influence of inspiration and in the presence of larger than life characters. It's easy to understand how things may have blurred in Joseph's mind, don't you think, Susie?

Wimpleton: I suppose. Although it's hard for a person like me to imagine myself in his place.

Sneed: Think of it this way, Susie. You're at the Oscars' after-party, you're a little high, and all these famous faces are wandering in and out of your vision. You're bound to tell it differently each time. Joseph simply forgot God was there. It could happen to anyone.

Wimpleton: Recently, church leaders have come under fire for opposing gay marriage and also for not allowing a group of feminist sisters into last October's General Priesthood Session. Do you expect the Brethren to issue any explanations regarding those matters?

Sneed: Here's the thing with the gays. I feel for them, I really do. But the current Prophet, Seer, and Revelator of the One and Only True Church has made the decision to oppose gay marriage, and bottom line, it's not our call, it's his--and hopefully someday . . . (points heavenward).

Wimpleton: Uh-huh. And the women who were denied access to the General Priesthood Session, have the Brethren an explanation for that?

Sneed: They forgot they were there.

Wimpleton: I have been speaking with T. Rulon Sneed, official spokesman for the LDS Church. Thank you for time, Brother Sneed.

Sneed: My pleasure, Susie.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, understand that, bottom line, it's not our call.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Sanity On Campus

Need Sanity? New business delivers at BYU
The Salt Lake News - published December 6, 2013

Inspired by the popular startup, Caffeine on Campus, a group of five launched Sanity on Campus, a business that offers another commodity not typically found at the Lord's University: saneness.

"We saw that there was a modest demand and absolutely no supply," Jeff Blackburn, a sophomore studying biology and part of the team behind the sanity service, told The News. "I know personally there have been days when I've just come out of a church history class, or my religion professor was explaining evolutionary theory, or someone at a ward mix and mingle claimed he was one of the Three Nephites, and I just had to have some sanity. In every case I had to walk to the nearest off-campus convenience store before I could find anything that was remotely not nuts."

After two weeks, the new website, sanityoncampus, received over 5,000 hits. Nevertheless, the young entrepreneurs don't expect to become millionaires. For now, they are limiting their inventory to some basic services for that small niche market of the BYU student body who are tired of acting completely bonkers.

"The demand isn't big enough for the Office of Student Life to bother changing its whole system," Blackburn explained. "We aren't pushing for BYU to make changes in what they offer as far as sanity goes. Nor are we attempting to change the longstanding LDS cultural tradition of en masse delusion. We hope people see us more as an extremely fast delivery service dedicated to keeping our small client base from totally cracking up."

Currently the groups' extremely fast deliveries are limited to: birth control - attractive underwear - intelligent political commentary - alternatives to ranch dressing - marriage proposal solutions that don't require video equipment, Donny Osmond impersonations, or a football stadium card section - and finally, a sympathetic listener who doesn't object when an otherwise reasonable person rants and screams and drops the F-bomb.

So far, the Sanity on Campus team has not had any pushback from BYU. Other student efforts -- including an online petition urging the school to allow students to gather daily for "ten minutes of rational conversation" -- have fallen short. Last October, a student carrying a book on mitochondrial DNA was chased off campus by BYU security.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

It's Relief Society Book Club Time!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Sister Susan Renfro, Ward Relief Society President
Subject: December book club titles

Next month sisters in the Go Sit in the Corner for women  book club may choose from the following titles:

Her Own Once Upon a Time
by President Uberdork

Before she can find her "happily ever after," Princess Eternal must first face adversity, mulch a bed of forget-me-nots, and learn the sole value of a woman's remarkables.

Take THAT Science
by Zelph Sorenson

In the tenth installment of the Captain Moroni series, Scienceman and his band of evil doctoral candidates invade Bountiful, Utah and threaten to spread their pernicious theories of evolution, global warming, and cholesterol. Fearing that the fair citizens of Bountiful will be exposed to facts, the mayor sends for Captain Moroni who bravely saves the day, donning his Title of Liberty cape and conking the evil-doers over the head with his horn.

When Rulon Met Merrilee
by Shirlyn Frost

When Rulon and Merrilee embark on a cross-country road trip from Ogden to Provo, it seems they have nothing in common. That is, until Rulon tells a knock-knock joke that almost makes Merrilee giggle. They both turn red and apologize. After that, they arrive in Provo, shake hands goodbye and never see each other again.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, we'll send you our best knock-knock jokes.
(Or you could check out False Prophet--hint, hint)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why People Who Leave The Church "Aren't Happy"

I've been off my blogging lately, taking a necessary break after finishing my second book. But a memory popped into my head today.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend an LDS Fast and Testimony Meeting. While painful and time consuming, these occasional visits always provide me with some sort of epiphany. This particular meeting was no exception. After several of the usual suspects rose to bear their testimonies, a woman around my age took the stand and with a mopey face tearfully proclaimed, "People who leave the church aren't happy." Then came my epiphany:

I could be her right now. A miserable Mormon woman.

Over the years, LDS leaders have thrown the bulk of their time, talent, and resources into driving home the message that people who leave the Mormon Church are miserable sinners. -- And thereby scaring the faithful into remaining miserable believers.

It's a strategy that's worked pretty well for them. All they have to do is point to the miserable ex-Mormons like me.

As I sit here at my desk, drinking coffee in my street clothes and department store underwear, I am the embodiment of a miserable sinner. 

You see, "sin" has a somewhat broader definition for Mormons than it has for most people--it starts with drinking coffee and wearing department store underwear, and then moves up to more grievous transgressions, such as eating out on Sunday, wearing a tank top, enjoying a healthy sexual relationship, laughing really hard, drinking a coke, playing gin rummy, and having too much fun. Fun is the operative word here. Because if a person is enjoying herself, she is most likely being sinful.

Fun is very scary. It can make you miserable.

Over the past few years, I've been doing something I consider to be great fun--speaking my mind via blogging and writing novels. Researching a novel can lead to all kinds of "sin." For example, when my friend Cheryl and I went to the porn shop. An ex-Mormon and retired first grade teacher, Cheryl, like me, is no stranger to "sin." That said, neither of us ever thought we'd cross the threshold of an adult superstore. After all, in Sunday School our teachers told us that people who left the church ended up as drunken degenerates who wallowed in porn.

Turns out our teachers were right. For the better part of an hour Cheryl and I wallowed in porn. After that we had a few beers.

While I admit I was shocked by some things, and a little grossed out by others, I found a lot of the merchandise to be useful products for people enjoying a healthy sexual relationship. (And we know what to think of that!) All in all, it was a very fun experience, so much fun that I made Cheryl a porn shop co-owner in my new book, False Prophet.

Here's the (obligatory) excerpt from when Lt. Ryan and Sgt. Romano visit her shop:

Romano mercifully broke in. “We’re actually here to ask you if you saw a certain man in this vicinity yesterday. He was a Mormon, so I doubt he was a customer.”
“Don’t be too sure,” said Cheryl. “We have a few.”
Really? I had to ask. “Know a guy named Dennis Newsome?”
Cheryl squinted. “Lawyer?”
“That’s the one,” I replied.
“Newsome,” said Murph. “Nice guy.”
“He was in last week,” Cheryl added. “Bought some of the remote control panties.”
“No kidding?” said Murph. “Thought his girlfriend was into the edible warming oil.”
“The panties were for his wife,” Cheryl replied.
Murph moved his head in a slow nod. “That’s good of him. Keep her happy too.”
Romano shot me a bored look. “Ryan, why don’t you show them the picture?”
“Oh yeah.” I handed Murph the image of Dooley.
“Sure, I’ve seen him. You’re right. He’s not a customer. But he walks by the shop from time to time.”
A girl in a candy store uniform carried a collection of dildos to the counter. Murph passed Cheryl the picture on his way to the register.
“Can you bag them individually?” the girl asked. “They’re gifts.”
“I saw him yesterday.” Cheryl handed the picture back. “Just after nine a.m. I remember because the sales rep who supplies our butt plugs had to run to pay for parking. The meters begin operation at nine every morning.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I pulled out my pad.
“Anyway, just after he left, your man appeared in the window, wide-eyed, mouth open, gawking, but at nothing in particular. I’d seen him go by before, but with barely a glance at us. I was so startled by his appearance that I went out the door to ask if he was okay. He stared back at me in a bizarre way that gave me the creeps. And in my business that’s saying something.”

Suffice to say, I am obviously very miserable. Look at all the fun I'm having.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

April Newsome's Getting Married--And You're Invited

In her recent review of False Prophet on Main Street Plaza, C.L. Hanson wrote:
"As much as I enjoyed her earlier book (The Girls From Fourth Ward), I think this one is even better."

I think False Prophet is a better effort too. -- At least it's shorter. But for those of you who have asked about them, the girls do play minor roles in my new novel. For example, when Lt. Matt Ryan attends April Newsome's wedding reception--a grand fete made grander now that her father, Dennis Newsome is a candidate for the U.S. Congress.

Excerpt from False Prophet:

I followed the walkway to the stately McMansion. When I arrived on the porch, the door opened, and I entered to piano strains of “Isn’t it Romantic?” A blonde, teenaged girl held the door with a smile. Two more were stationed at a guestbook table just inside.
“May I take your gift?” One of the girls asked.
I handed it over and watched as she nestled (the gift I'd wrapped in) Abbottsville’s crime report amongst the silver and white ribbon-tied presents that covered a long mahogany console. Then I took the white feather-plumed pen from its holder and, clearly and in all caps, filled up two lines of the guestbook with, Detective Lieutenant Matt Ryan, Abbottsville Police Department, Homicide Division. I returned the pen to its place, smiled and thanked the girls, and continued into the reception with a spring in my step.
Officer Davis stood in uniform at the edge of the living room, his expression taut, without a trace of his perennial smile.
“Hey, Davis. You okay?”
He leaned in and half whispered in my ear. “As okay as I can be when half the folks in the room are wondering what the hell a black guy is doing here.”
“C’mon. Are you sure they aren’t just wondering what a uniformed officer is doing here?”
He moved away from my ear. “That’s the other half.”
“How can you tell?”
“Experience. But speaking of the uniform, I don’t think the guests are buying the idea that Newsome invited an on-duty black cop to his daughter’s wedding reception. Can we get this over with now, Ryan?”
“Keep a lookout for Romano and I will find the candidate. If anyone asks, tell them you’re on a routine investigation for the vice squad.” I winked.
I wandered through the well-dressed crowd, catching dull snippets of conversation along the way, most of them prefaced with either “Brother” or “Sister.” A bow-tied waiter offered me the last glass of pink bubbly off his tray. I took it and thanked him. Then I came upon the baby grand piano. The formally attired man at the keyboard played a respectable version of “The Way You Look Tonight.” I caught his eye and nodded my approval, then froze at the sight of Oakland Temple President, G. Maddox McKay. We stared at each other for a second and then he looked beyond me. I relaxed and smiled to myself. Probably didn’t recognize me with my clothes on.
I took a sip of the bubbly and shuddered. The stuff went down just like the Strawberry Ripple my date and I had snuck into the prom. Only without alcohol.
I stopped the nearest waiter. “You got anything to drink besides this?”
“Pellegrino. Also, there will be an herbal tea service with the cake later.”
Pellegrino? Herbal tea? Jesus, where the hell was the punch? I set the glass on a table and walked through the dining room past a long, sumptuous buffet. My stomach growled. I hadn’t had anything since Mrs. Zimmerman’s cookies. Surely the candidate could spare a dinner roll. I grabbed a Parker House from the basket, broke it open, went around to the end of the buffet, and stuffed it with a slice of roast beef and a dab of horseradish. The server at the carving block looked at me funny but didn’t comment.
I took a bite and then continued out of the house and into a large tent where guests dined on cloth-covered tables. A female harpist performed an awkward version of “Hey Jude” on a small stage set in a tropical motif. Beyond her, the bridesmaids and groomsmen posed for pictures in front of a large floral arrangement. Right off the bat I recognized them. Three of my favorite unconvicted murderers: Jill Spencer, Sarah Renfro and Betsy Miller decked out in burnt orange and beaming for the camera. The groomsmen wore nervous grins. I stepped into the girls’ field of vision. They glared at me like death. The photographer snapped their picture. I waved at them, finished off my roll, and ambled over to the rose arbor where the newlyweds and their parents were receiving a long line of guests. I caught a glimpse of Murderer Number Four through the crowd. April Newsome was the quintessential fresh-faced virginal bride. Like a model in those ads for Breck shampoo—or Eve in the temple movie. I craned my neck to get a look at the poor bastard she’d tricked into marrying her. The kid resembled a young George W. Bush, only sober.

Order your copy of False Prophet here.

Also read my Main Street Plaza review of Johnny Townsend's amazing new short story collection, Dragons of the Book of Mormon.

...And don't worry, gentle readers, I will break from the flagrant self-promotion to bring you more emails from the Abbottsville Fourth Ward. For starters, elder young is due to give his mission homecoming talk soon!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Two Conferences, Both Not Alike In Dignity

dig - ni - ty
1. The state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.

In Mormonworld October is the month for two conferences.

The first is the LDS Semi-Annual General Conference. On the surface, it exudes the appearance of dignity: envision a sea of distinguished white men in white shirts.

Only once they open their mouths they're stripped of any semblance of dignity--all the way down to their holy temple garments. It never fails. Every General Conference what the men in the magic underpants say is sometimes folksy, always guilt-inducing, basically bullshit, and, at the same time, over-the-top boring.

As my regular readers know, I had the good fortune to be in London during this October's 7 1/2 hour snore-fest. So I missed the whole damn thing. But from what I understand this year was no different. Evidently only two speakers managed to rouse the faithful from their rem sleep:

The unintentionally hilarious Dieter Uchtdorf who admitted that LDS Church leaders had made a few mistakes (presumably referring to eensy boo-boo's like polygamy and the Mountain Meadows Massacre) and then urged skeptics to "doubt their doubts." (Whatever the hell that means.)


The intentionally nasty Dallin Oaks who pompously insisted that even though gay marriage is legal it is still immoral.

Shakespeare couldn't have said it better.
The second of two conferences is the Ex-Mormon Conference in Salt Lake City. I was present for that and can report first hand. On the surface, it did not exude the appearance of dignity.

I spent a good part of it playing hooky with my pals at the registration desk.
I got this amazing breadboard made by InsanaD's husband.
Also we had a little too much fun with some missionaries I found at Deseret Book.--Leave it to the Mormons to make "action figures" with no moveable parts. We did our best to loosen them up.
Right off we got them drunk.
Ensuring these are the best two years of their lives.

Also there was some flagrant self-promotion--Yes, of course, I brought my new book!

I also won a very cool book in the door prize drawing!
These are true messengers!
But here's the thing, what the Ex-Mormon Conference lacked in decorum, it made up for in substance. What its speakers shared was sometimes folksy, never guilt-inducing, totally true, and, at the same time, over-the-top interesting. For example:

Micah McAllister's heartfelt presentation about his excellent book, Exit Strategy: Leaving Mormonism with your Dignity Intact. (There's that word again.)

D. William Johnson's panel discussion of his "I Am an Ex-Mormon" videos--a presentation so moving that at it's end, members of the audience rushed forward with cash donations to help him continue the project.

Richard Packham's two excellent talks that were, at times, intentionally hilarious.

Chris Johnson's fascinating insights into possible sources for the Book of Mormon.

Kay Burningham's speech, "Are Mormon Leaders Above the Law?"

And beyond that, the hours of scintillating conversation amongst the thoughtful and intelligent attendees.

Which of the two October conferences possessed the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect? I'm with the Ex-Mormons. We may not wear white dress shirts anymore, and we've nothing like the magic underpants. But our dignity is intact. Also we're allowed moveable parts.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I Wish I'd Written This Book

The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott: Heritage of Secrets
by Michael Oborn

It was his editor who did the talking and, God bless her, she didn't mince words.
"We received a second-party offer to purchase your manuscript, Mr. Alcott. It's a kill fee and it's for a considerable amount of money."
"It's a direct buy-out, Sam," the attorney Vincent interjected.
"Yes," she said, turning to her secretary, Glenda something. "Do you have it?"
Glenda handed her boss an off-white envelope. Sam pushed it into the middle of the table in Matt's direction. It rested there, on the glass surface. Five pair of eyes focused on it like the last piece of chocolate. 
When Matthew Alcott finishes his honest and meticulously researched biography of Joseph Smith, some high-ranking officials in the Mormon Church offer him 2 million dollars to keep from publishing it.--Like I said, I wish I'd written this book. But it's lucky I didn't, because a chicken like me would have taken the money and run.

Not the case with journalist and researcher Matt Alcott, the fearless hero of Michael Oborn's exciting thriller, The Complete Mystery of Matthew Alcott: Heritage of Secrets. Recovering from both Mormonism and alcoholism, Matt escapes Salt Lake City and then Las Vegas to a tiny town in upstate New York where he gets sober, finds love, reclaims his writer's voice, and begins to live an authentic life. But when news of his lucrative book deal reaches Salt Lake City, he is immediately pulled back to Utah and the hell he worked so hard to leave behind.

As the story weaves back and forth in time, Oborn's writing is consistently as solid as the passage above, his dialogue witty and entertaining, and his characters engaging--from the self-important Mormon patriarchs, to the desert denizens scattered around Zion's periphery. For example, the sexy herpetologist "without tan lines," and the Salt Lake based bikers who call themselves "The Twelve Apostles."

My one tiny criticism is that some passages are a bit long on explanation. But then, I speak from the perspective of a former Mormon who is already too familiar with the author's subject. Readers who are not so fortunate as to have belonged to the "one and only true church" will probably welcome these bits of exposition. And nothing gets in the way of Oborn's fact paced, thrill-packed plot.

Ready for an adventure? Order it here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Darn, I Missed General Conference!

Mark and I were in London last weekend, where Season Four of Downton Abbey actually took precedent over the first worldwide broadcast of the LDS General Priesthood Session.

Coldly cut off from the one and only true church, I had to wait until I got home to hear the inspired words of the Lord's anointed. Of course my primary sources were exmormons here in the states--most of whom seemed more interested in my sneak peak at Season Four of Downton Abbey. 

Here are the few snippets of the 183rd Semi-Annual General Conference that I managed to gather:
Meanwhile, I was in London, surrounded by an infinitely more civilized, sophisticated, and welcoming society. Whenever I visit their wonderful city, I am amazed by how these tactful, genteel, and proper people are so adept at getting straight to the point. For example:

And then there's the theater!

According to the Daily Mail, Prince Harry recently took in this hit show in the West End. Isn't that smashing?

My next challenge: figuring out where to escape during the April conference.

Sorry President Uchtdorf, Carson's a way bigger rock star than you'll ever be.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Priesthood Session, Warm Fuzzies, Scary Temple Scene

Recently, a group of Mormon women requested tickets to the General Priesthood meeting. The LDS Church countered with the claim that the physical presence of women in the Conference Center would violate the sacred bonding between fathers and sons who attend the session together. As a feminist, I admire the efforts of this small number of women who seek to equalize their status within their church. But as an Ex-Mormon, I can't fathom why anyone would want to sit through this mythic snore-fest. Moreover, I question how much father/son bonding takes place during 90 or so minutes of verbal chloroform that is only enlivened by occasional scoldings toward those who are single, gay, or sometimes tempted to touch themselves.

But then, the Mormons are expert at promoting their bizarre and tiresome rituals as warm and fuzzy spiritual experiences. Lieutenant Matt Ryan discovered that when he inadvertently found himself inside a Mormon temple endowment session--under the guise of Brother Zimmerman, whose temple recommend he'd borrowed. It's just part of my new novel, False Prophet. (Yes, this is more flagrant self-promotion for my book--did you think it wouldn't be?)

Excerpt from False Prophet:

A voice from the speakers said, “We are instructed to clothe you in the Robes of the Holy Aaronic Priesthood.” I heard, “place the robe on your right shoulder.” It lost me after that. I saw that my neighbors were removing their Dearfoams. I popped mine off too, with barely a tug at the overtaxed elastic, and rummaged through my clothing for a robe. I found a long skinny scarf, what appeared to be a hat, and a folded square of white cotton. I figured it for the robe.
“Need help, Brother Zimmerman?” (actually Ryan.)
I looked up to see Brother Booze and a handful of others standing and staring down at me. 
“Nope, I got it,” I replied, and jumped to my feet. 
What they called a robe looked more like one of those sexy drapes that actresses wear in movies set in ancient Greece. It fastened with those annoying little hospital gown strings that I never could properly tie. When I at last completed the task, I looked around to see that the entire room was now fully accessorized and seated. Brother Booze leapt to my aid. 
“Where are the rest of your temple clothes?” he whistled. 
Indeed, where had they gone? The young red-haired man on my right collected them from underneath his seat. He stood, handed my hat to Brother Booze then tied the long white scarf around my waist. Booze placed what looked like a baker’s cap on my head, and came around behind to tie yet another string, this time connecting my hat to the shoulder of my robe. I stood still and stiff, aware that every eye was on me. 
Brother Red Hair searched under his seat again then mimed, “Where is it?” 
I shrugged. 
“Your apron?” Booze whispered. 
“The green thing?” 
Booze nodded. 
“I’m still wearing it.” 
Booze and Red Hair hiked up my skirt on either side. I flashed back to the pained expression of my fellow kindergartner, Rhonda Tressler, after I’d performed what I thought was a harmless playground prank. Brother Booze removed my apron and motioned for me to tie it around the outside of my clothes. Then the three of us sank gratefully into our seats. Red Hair pointed at my feet. 
“Brother Zimmerman, you need to put your slippers on,” said Brother Booze. 
Right. The Dearfoams. I guess I could manage that on my own. I found the left one in front of me on the floor and then felt around for the other. Shit. It must have traveled. If only the goddamned elastic wasn’t so tight. I dropped to my knees, searched under my seat, and those around me. I thought I spotted it, but when I touched the toe it moved. This was getting me nowhere. I climbed back into my seat and aimed a desperate look at the officiator. 
He cleared his throat. “Will the brethren in the room kindly check around their chairs for a stray slipper?” 
The room roiled with the bobbing of white caps, until a polite whisper of discovery came from behind, and the shoe floated hand over hand in my direction.“Thank you, brothers,” I murmurred before returning it to my foot and facing the altar. 
The officiator sent me a withering look and motioned to Brother Booze. Booze glanced over, grabbed the baker’s hat that dangled from my shoulder, and put it back on my head.  
I smiled up at the guy at the altar. He nodded, sighed, and depressed the button that activated the voice of God.

That will do! For now.

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