Thursday, September 26, 2013

False Prophet by Donna Banta

False Prophet, my sequel to The Girls from Fourth Ward, is now available. 
"In the summer of 2008, the brutal murder of a devout Mormon widower sends Lieutenant Ryan back into the LDS community of Abbottsville, California. This time his investigation leads him inside the Mormon temple, behind the scenes at an LDS mission home, and into the workings of the Mormon campaign to pass Proposition 8."


The old man lay face down on the living room floor, his frac-tured skull in a puddle of blood and one hand on the phone.
I turned to Gatz and Mosely from Forensics. “When’d you get here?” 
“Ten minutes ago. He was already dead, but not for long.”
I stepped into paper booties and approached the corpse. His other hand was wedged beneath his chest, forcing an unnatural bulge. I pulled a pair of latex gloves from my coat pocket. “Would you guys pick him up? I want to see what’s underneath.”
Gatz and Mosely lifted in tandem. I squatted down and turned over a blood soaked leather volume. Gold embossed letters spelled The Book of Mormon.
I shut my eyes and whispered, “Jesus Christ. Not again.”

Order the paperback and the kindle version here. (Hopefully Amazon will get me on the same page soon.)

--End of flagrant self promotion--that is, until my next post.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

This Time I Woke Up Laughing...

So I had the dream again, the one I've been having since I left the LDS Church. The setting varies, but the message is always the same. In the most common scenario, I'm soaking in the bathtub and the men in suits walk in. I scream/try to cover myself/tell them to leave, and they either ignore me or say, "It's okay, Sister Banta, you're not in the way."

The other night's setting was more complex. I was living in a communal house with some church members. We shared a bathroom. There was a lock on the bathroom door that I didn't know how to use, but everyone else did. So I'd go into the bathroom, start to undress, and somebody would barge in. I kept asking people to show me how to use the lock, but nobody would help me. After I'd been intruded on a few times I gave up and told the landlord I was moving out. He was a guy in a suit. "Sister Banta," he said. "You can't leave until you talk to your bishop."

I snickered, then giggled, then laughed, then doubled over and wheezed, and then I woke up, still laughing.

Talk to my bishop?

For those less familiar with the one and only true church, an LDS bishop is a layman. He is not trained in any way for the clergy, and, depending on his occupation and life experience, may be completely unqualified for the job. The Mormon Church not only admits this, it boasts that its clergy is unschooled.

I first went through the Mormon temple in 1980, back when the film included that scene where Satan brings a Protestant minister to preach to Adam.

"A man can not preach unless he has been trained for the ministry!" the smug vicar claimed.

HA! What did he know?

At the time, the minister/Satan's sidekick was portrayed by a very popular BYU professor who taught a class entitled "World Religions." Why I didn't get the irony in this is beyond me. But then, I didn't get a lot of things back then.

More to my point, even though a Mormon bishop may only be trained as a carpenter (yes, I know, like Jesus) he is deemed qualified to sit alone in a room with a church member and ask about her relationship status, yearly income, church activity, her underwear (naturally), and, finally, the details of her sex life.

That's where the creep factor comes in. Mark and I also got married in 1980. Couples who marry in the temple have to have individual one-one-one interviews with both the bishop and a member of the stake presidency.

The stake president interviewed me first. In order to be assured of my "worthiness," he cheerfully grilled me about the details of my intimate encounters with Mark. "Did you kiss?" "Did you use tongues?" "Did he lie on top of you?" "Did he touch you here?" "There?" I was so nervous, I just started lying, answering "no" to everything, worried that if I didn't I wouldn't get to marry Mark. -- Like I said, there were a lot of things I didn't get back then.

Then Mark went in for his interview and I grew even more anxious. What if Mark told him the truth? Then we couldn't get married! But - whew - thankfully, all was well. Turned out the stake president didn't ask Mark any of those questions.

In fairness, I've known my share of nice Mormon bishops, and there are certainly some creepy trained clergy out there. Maybe the common theme here is "clergy."

At any rate, the good news for me is that the idea of meeting with the bishop now inspires laughter rather than fear.  I won't be talking to my priesthood leaders any time soon. Although, given the opportunity, I'd have quite a bit to say to the stake president who interviewed me back in 1980.

But there'll be no more one-on-ones with the bishop...Unless we're at a bar and he offers to buy me a beer.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

There's Nothing Fun About Sex!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: J. "Bull" Barton, Ward Preparedness Specialist
Subject: Sex is not for fun!

Thanks to Tea Party activist, Jerome Corsi, I have decided to lower the ward threat level to orange. A nonmember, but nevertheless a champion of traditional marriage, Corsi made the following inspired observation before a conservative gathering in Oregon:

“If you want to have fun, read a book, go to a movie. Sex is about the procreation of children. It’s a sacred responsibility that is meant by God to have men and women commit their lifetime to children.”

As members of the one and only true church, we have always known there are plenty of things that are funner than sex. Recently, the Brethren compiled a list of alternative activities. Here is an excerpt:

Church Approved Alternatives to Sex

  1. Read a book
  2. Watch a movie
  3. Tinker in your garage
  4. Macrame
  5. Rearrange the furniture
  6. Take pictures of old barns
  7. Watch FOXNews
  8. Whittle
  9. Tend your bonsai
  10. Pay your tithing
  11. Eat prunes
  12. Complete a jigsaw puzzle
  13. Scrapbook
  14. Watch General Conference
  15. Yahtzee!
The complete list is available as a 175 MB PDF file and may be downloaded off the church website.

This concludes this ward preparedness update.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, we suggest you get out a jigsaw puzzle.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Most Milquetoast Generation

Some years ago, Mark and I attended a book club discussion at a local Unitarian Church. Because our topic was Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, there were several former Mormons in attendance -- a young man in his twenties, a thirty-something woman, Mark and I (in our late forties), a woman in her sixties, and a gentleman in his eighties. Those in the group who had never been Mormon were intrigued by the following exchange:

Twenty-year-old man: When I was a Mormon I was told that I was a member of the most righteous generation, charged with the assignment of ushering in the apocalypse.

Thirty-something woman: I was told that too.

Mark and I: So were we.

Woman in her sixties: So was I.

Gent in his eighties: Me too.

Now, doubters and anti-Mormons might jump to the erroneous conclusion that this is yet another example of the Mormons' penchant for passing down lies to their children. But last night, over wine and cioppino at Annabelle's, Mark and I came to a different conclusion.

Try as he might, Heavenly Father hasn't managed to churn out a generation righteous enough to destroy the world.

The Greatest Generation? I don't think so. Baby Boomers? Weren't booming enough. Generations X, Y, and Z? Not too promising either.

Face it, with loser generations like ours in the lineup, the moon won't be turning to blood anytime soon--leaving poor Jesus to roll his eyes, pace back and forth in his heavenly green room and wonder when the hell God is finally going to produce the kind of Mormon talent that is worthy enough to blow us all to smithereens.

We thought that deserved a toast!

Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh.
Doctrine and Covenants 1:12, revelation given through Joseph Smith, November 1, 1831