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.