Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Number 200 On Ward Gossip!

Our internet was down for three days last week, causing a calamity that in my former life might have been akin to "losing the Holy Ghost."

I don't pretend that losing the internet has anywhere near the hyperbolic significance of losing the Holy Ghost. (Perish the thought!) However, its brief absence from my life did afford me a similar opportunity to pause and actually think.

This is my 200th post on Ward Gossip, a little blog that I started in late 2009 as a writing exercise to help me kickstart my novel, The Girls From Fourth Ward. I'd read that J. K. Rowling had written backstory on all of her characters, including the minor ones. While I'm obviously not J.K. Rowling, she's the one who gave me the idea to flesh out my minor characters here, in the form of emails from the Abbottsville Fourth Ward "until they delete from their mailing list." (You've got to have a gimmick--I've since changed the tagline to "and other musings.") I committed to writing once a week for one year.

In March of 2010, only a few months after I'd started blogging, I received an angry and lengthy personal message from a childhood friend that included the following:
"I don't understand the need to publicly insult the intelligence of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day-Saints. You seem to enjoy promoting hurtful stereotypes which, in my opinion, were created by narrow minded, uneducated, bitter people. ... It's not funny. I can see why your blog only has a following of 5. ... I find it sad that you can't just go on with your life without having to create a blog of lies to vent your frustration with the church."
I was taken aback at the time, so much so that I considered shutting down the blog. I didn't want to "publicly insult" my friends. There were and are many Mormons whom I respect, some that are near and dear to me. I went back and forth on the issue. In the end, I decided to keep writing. Writers need to write about what they know and, after years of living within Mormonism, I was familiar with my subject. Moreover, while there were and are Mormons whom I respect, I have little respect for the LDS Church, an organization that has caused me and others great pain, and has managed to be on the wrong side of just about every social issue of my lifetime. I went on blogging and braced myself for the inevitable barrage of nasty emails.

But here's the thing. They never came! Over three years have gone by and I've received over 1600 comments and countless emails. Most have been from ex-Mormons and other free thinkers who've encouraged me to continue writing. But I've heard from believing Mormons too. Some have confided that they secretly agreed with me, some have respectfully disagreed, and some have not so respectfully disagreed--but in a humorous or sarcastic way--and I'm a big fan of both humor and sarcasm.

So how did this little writing exercise go from being a one-year commitment to a three-plus yearlong journey? Well, because of the MATERIAL, of course.

First there's the routine craziness that is the Mormon experience. Super-special Young Women's hand-outs about chewed gum (written out in calligraphy in pink pen and on pink paper), holiday celebrations like "Smithmas" and the annual "Mother's/Patriarchy Day Sacrament Meeting," oxymorons like "Mormon elders" and "BYU Education Week," the painfully humiliating existence of the LDS single adult, and so on.

Then there's the random craziness that is the Mormon experience. Big Love, a Broadway musical, a reality TV show, the Romney campaign, and the hilarious "hair on fire" LDS PR campaign to counter the publicity. --That website, Mormons and Gays; Colbert couldn't have made that one up.-- A nut-job GA who called tolerance a sin, a "rock star" GA whose dippy analogies about forget-me-nots, etc. have sent the entire Relief Society into a series of mass orgasms, and a desperate Prophet, Seer, and Revelator who lowered the age requirement for full-time missionaries. Not to mention the recent gifts from my favorite oxymoron, the "Mormon feminists," who've been collectively fist-pumping because a woman prayed in Conference and a few sisters wore pants to church. Awesome.

Aside from the material, the other thing that's gotten me to post 200 is the small community of free thinkers, ex-Mormons, and believers who've supported this blog. You truly are gentle readers. Many of you are bloggers as well, and I enjoy reading your thoughtful posts. You inspire me.

And in closing, if I have offended any of you, that's probably because you've let a misogynistic, homophobic, anti-intellectual cult tell you what to think. Go ahead, fire off a nasty email my way. Also, I would be remiss if I did not thank my Internet for leading me to the place where I belong, to the people who've helped me recover from Mormonism; to those who've inspired me to write a blog, write a book, and write a second book that I hope to see published this year. Thank you, Internet, and thank you, Gentle Readers.

As for the Holy Ghost -- he can get lost.

15 comments:

  1. A following of five? The last time I checked, you had 103 followers and God knows how many casual visitors! The Philistine who criticized you is SO wrong.

    Next, I never thought I'd see "Relief Society" and "mass orgasms" in the same sentence, but you found a way to string them together.

    Finally, the misogynistic, homophobic, anti-intellectual cult you came from can go to hell. Keep blogging, keep writing, and keep celebrating your freedom and intelligence.

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    1. Same to you, my free-thinking friend!

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  2. I am getting used to the hate. That's a lie. I have always loved it.

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  3. Thank YOU, Donna. Your eye for humorous details is astounding and always a pleasure to read.

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    1. As are your posts on Picaresque, Diana!

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  4. I'm a recent 'convert' to the 4th Ward. I'm glad you kept up with the effort. Bravo!

    I relate to everything I have read on your blog; you make me smile.

    Here's to 200 more posts. :o)

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    1. Thanks JJ! I'm so glad you're here. I think you'll find the A-4 an unusually pleasant ward to be a member of. There's no tithing, no callings, no judgmental lectures. Just some loud laughter, plenty of light-mindedness, and a ton of evil speaking of the self-appointed. :)

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    2. Very inspired indeed. Just the ward gathering one needs to gain perspective.

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  5. Curiosity drove me here and to some of your other hang-outs.It has enhanced my education and humor immensely. Do it some more!

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  6. Donna, you are definitely an inspiration to me. Your incredible humor laced with sarcasm is amazing. And ya gotta love the Internet. Without it, my healing from Mormonism would have taken so much longer. Reading blogs like yours and so many others, and writing my own, has given me so much catharsis. I left the Mormom Church behind in 2005 (8 years ago), but for 3 years I kept everything to myself. But that tact didn't provide any real healing. It was when I started blogging, getting comments, reading other blogs, and branching out that my healing really took root. Of course, the Mormon Church would prefer that we remain quiet - just go away. But I have found that is not the best thing for moving forward. And so I continue blogging, writing my Ex-Mormon hymns (just wrote #102), and hope that something I say will help others to be able to see the truth behind the Mormon facade. So glad that you and others have taken a similar stance as well.

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    1. Leaving by yourself is hard. I left in the '90's just before RfM got off the ground. I didn't discover the ex-Mormon community on the internet until after I'd left. It would have been so much easier had I had that support. Of course, since then, the ex-Mormon community has exploded with all kinds of different recovery sites, bulletin boards, and best of all (IMO) blogs. I adore your rewrites of the Mormon hymns, Diane. They're funny and true on so many levels, and important, because one of the things that many ex-Mormons miss most is the music (if not the lyrics.) Thanks for your kind remarks above and also for all of your comments on my blog. We must support each other in the arts! :)

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  7. I congratulate you on your 200th post. It's funny how something that started as a little exercise to prepare you for the writing of your novel hhas blossomed so or mushroomed so or however you would describe it.

    My parents were both born into the Catholic faith, but my dad's parents converted 100% to the LDS faith and never looked back. Seven of their ten surviving children followed. (We're still holding out hope for my Uncle Michael and his wife, though. They're just too cool to remain LDS.)

    My dad chose to return to Catholicism when he married my mom, who is rather devout, simply because he thinks church is a good thing for families. As far as religion itself, he's rather irreverent. I'm not nearly as devout as my mother-- I consider myself a "cafeteria Catholic" who picks and chooses what teachings among the many that I'm actually going to believe and practice -- but there are aspects of the Catholic faith and Christianity in general that I choose to believe. Perhaps, though, I'm a bit like a child who, deep in her heart, knows that the Tooth Fairy is really Mom and Dad, but clings to the belief in the Tooth Fairy because she cannot bear to part with it. I don't know where I'm going to end up, religiously speaking, as my life evolves.

    What I'm leading to here is that my mother and the two of her three sisters who are still practicing Catholics -- actually far more devout than she is -- practically roll in the the theater aisles in hysterics at some of the jokes about the Catholic Church and its eccentricities in plays such as some of the editions of "Nunsense." (Every year when my mother gets wasted on St. Patrick's Day, she performs "The Vatican Rag" for whomever is at her party.) I don't think they're unique in that regard, either. My assumption is that much of the Roman Catholic clergy, nuns included, lack any sense of humor whatsoever concerning any aspect of the faith, and the old-schoolers and Opus Dei types are similarly humorless. The vast majority, however, even of the still-practicing Catholics think most humor poked at the Church is pretty funny as long as it doesn't involve the very most sacred of teachings -- namely transubstantiation, or the literal transformation of the communion wafers and wine into the body and blood of Christ. And there are some who will even laugh at jokes over that. From what I've seen, mainline Protestants are even more self-deprecating than Catholics when it comes to faith-based humor.

    Among the various Christian groups, it seems really to be only the Mormons, the evangelical Christians including Seventh-Day Adventists (I don't think any of the groups even identify as "Protestant" anymore for the most part, as they associate it with liberalism) the Jehovah's Witnesses and such who are offended by any humor at all associated with their brand of religion.

    Mormons like to think they're open-minded when it comes to humor related to their church because they laugh when they watch "Singles Ward" and similar drivel, but the material acceptable for jokes in that genre is very selective, and furthemore, I doubt they would laugh even at that lame humor if it were produced by studios owned and operated by non-Mormons.

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    1. Alexis, you just articulated one of my biggest complaints about the Mormons. I saw the Book of Mormon on Broadway and laughed my ass off. Just like when similar comedy is aimed at Catholics and Jews, they laugh their asses off. But the Mormons get so offended over harmless jokes. They look small when they take offense over a little fun-poking. Of course, the irony is that when a Mormon leaves the faith, the believers all complain that he was just "offended." BTW, my MIL thinks The Singles' Ward is an anti-Mormon movie. (sigh)

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