Thursday, March 28, 2013

New Policy For LDS Missionaries: Don't Ask, Don't Tell

To: Abbottsville Stake
From: Mitchell Knightly, President of the Abbottsville Stake
Subject: New policy for full time missionary applicants

Recently a 20-year-old young man was denied the opportunity to serve a full time mission when he told his stake president that he did not support the LDS Church's stand against same-sex marriage. While the local authorities acted in good conscious at the time, the incident sent shock waves through the missionary community. In the hours since the story broke, over 1000 potential missionaries have withdrawn their applications based on similar objections to church positions.

Additionally, a growing number of missionaries in the field are requesting early release, complaining that they can no longer present the official views of the LDS Church with a straight face.

Because of these unfortunate developments, the Brethren have decided to add a "don't ask, don't tell" policy to the missionary application process.

From now on, all full time mission applicants may be assured that their opinions of the LDS Church and its leaders will have no bearing upon their acceptance into the program, so long as they keep their said opinions to themselves. In other words:

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.

As for the problems that the missionaries in the field are facing, the Brethren are still weighing potential solutions. 

One option under consideration is to change the temple recommend question from: Do you sustain and support the General Authorities? to Do you listen to the General Authorities? Then, if the candidate answers yes, follow-up with, Do you intend to repeat what they say?

Until a consensus can be reached, full time missionaries are urged to spend their preparation time studying books and other media that present the LDS Church in a positive light, such as The Mormon Way of Doing Business, or a David Archuleta concert. Likewise, they should avoid all anti-Momon sources including, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, The Pearl of Great Price, the Ensign, General Conference, any of Romney's speeches, and KBYU television.

If you would like to stop receiving these e-mails, we won't tell.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

"Mormon Feminist" To Be First Woman To Offer A Prayer In General Conference

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward Relief Society
From: Margaret Spencer, Visiting Teacher and ward token feminist
Subject: We've come a long way ladies!

Dear Sisters,

I've just learned that the first woman to offer a prayer in General Conference will be none other than the pioneering champion of gender equality, Sister Barbie Wooley!

For those of you who don't know her, Barbie began her career as a "Mormon feminist"at BYU in the late 1970's when she was called before University Standards for wearing a pro-ERA button to her child development class. She was also cited for other high profile protests, such as wearing non-feminine-cut jeans in her dorm laundry room, refusing to make a Holly Hobbie jumper at a stake Homemaking activity, and turning down a marriage proposal from a returned missionary.

In 1981, Barbie finally tied the knot with her fellow student, Wayne Midgely. However, their brief union ended abruptly when Wayne discovered that Barbie intended to stay in school, finish her education, and get a job.

After the divorce, Wayne quickly found love with a career homemaker and settled down to raise 7 children. The couple are now featured in ads for a popular product that prevents erectile dysfunction.

Meanwhile, Barbie threw all of her energy into climbing the career ladder, a tireless and ruthless trek that led to her landing the position of Lead Kindergarten Teacher at Timpview Elementary School.

Throughout her demanding and high-powered career, Barbie continued her activism, and was a thorn in the side of several ward bishops. She was expelled from the church on three different occasions. First, for raising her hand too often in Gospel Doctrine class; a second time for prefacing her Sacrament Meeting remarks with, "In my opinion . . ."; and finally for showing up for Relief Society with a run in her pantyhose.

The pantyhose incident led Barbie to question her faith.

Confused and offended, she quit coming to church. Not much is known about this dark period in Barbie's history because she disappeared into the secretive and cult-like non-Mormon community. But we can only conclude that she went the sinful way of most apostates--wallowing in sexual promiscuity, forever lost in a drunken stupor, and hopelessly addicted to porn. Evidence of this can be found via snippets gathered from her students. For example, 5-year-old Ricky Smith remarked, "When Miss Wooley reached up high to get the paste, I could see a tan on her tummy."

Eventually, the trauma of having too much unstructured time on her hands caught up with Barbie, and she suffered a complete mental breakdown. Happily she's been released from the hospital, has returned to full church activity, and has just been granted permission to use forks. And just in time to be the first woman to offer a prayer in General Conference!**

As of today, it is uncertain whether Barbie will still be confined to her straightjacket during the General Conference. However, her spokesperson has confirmed that Barbie will be sporting a brand new pair of pantyhose.

Sisters, don't forget to watch this historic event.

**Sister Wooley's prayer has been composed by the Church Correlation Committee, approved by the Brethren, and will be broadcast via time-lapsed audio.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, we may have to come and collect your forks.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Sorry A-4, Lately You've Been Spam

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward and the wonderful people who read this blog
From: Donna Banta
Subject: Hello and Goodbye

Dear Gentle Readers,
I'm sorry that I haven't been bringing you any emails from the A-4 lately, also that I've neglected to read and comment on some of your blogs. I've been preoccupied. First I, and the many who knew and loved him, mourned the death of our friend, Kerry. Directly after that, Mark and I travelled to Austin to say hello to our newest granddaughter!

Keya and her baby sister, Maya

Then as soon as we returned, we were called to Salt Lake City to say goodbye to Mark's excellent father, Roger Wade Banta. He led an amazing life, was loved by many, and will be dearly missed.

At a time of such bittersweetness, I can't help but be reminded of how fragile and precious life is, and how essential it is to live one's life to the fullest.

I intend to begin by committing to write every day, do good deeds, walk on the beach, spend time with family, party with the ex-Mormons, and avoid all media coverage of the new pope.

How about you guys--any more suggestions?

Friday, March 1, 2013

It's Strange That A Church That Promises Eternal Life

. . . makes some people prefer death. 

My friend Kerry died on Monday. He was an ex-Mormon, a gay activist, and a talented graphic artist turned landscape architect. He was literally wrapped in love by his partner Olivier, his many friends, and the hundreds of people whose lives he touched. Among them were the participants on the Recovery from Mormonism bulletin board where he was a permanent fixture for many years, posting under the moniker Flattop SF, and later as xyz. He was 53 years old.

He was raised in Chicago in a strict LDS home. He told me that when he left his Mormon mission in the late '70's and later came out as a gay man, his believing LDS family rejected him in the name of god. He also told me that his brother tried to kill him twice, and that his mother shunned him--until recently, when her bishop gave her "permission to love him."

I have a hard time processing this sort of thing. This week, efforts to sum up my thoughts have ended in long and tearful walks along Ocean Beach or drives along the seawall. I need time and distance before I can write intelligently about such a tragedy. In short, I'm a lousy eulogist. The best I can do is take it one memory at a time.

When Kerry and Olivier decided to move to Massachusetts so Kerry could pursue a PhD at Harvard, they threw a big going-away party at their house here in SF's Castro District. Mark, our daughter Emily, and I were among the lucky guests. It was the first time we saw Kerry in something other than an ex-Mormon setting.

We arrived to find the beautiful multi-level home mostly packed up, the living room filled with stacks of Kerry's beautiful paintings.

"See all the crap we still have to pack," he half sighed.

As I thumbed through the frames of artwork, sadness overwhelmed me. It was true, he was really leaving us.

We climbed down his back steps to the sunny terrace past cascading antique roses and fragrant hybrid teas. He offered us seats on his charming patio. Around us roses climbed up sturdy rectangular trellises that Kerry had designed out of thick rebar. When he noticed that the sun was in our eyes, he rolled over a carefully pruned climbing jasmine housed in a spiffy metal planter he had fashioned on wheels.

Mark, Emily and I drank wine and snacked on crackers and brie. Our ex-Mormon friends from Lafayette were there as well, eager to reminisce about all the good times we'd shared together. Then, little by little, more people trickled in. Some were neighbors, some were work colleagues, some were his classmates from Berkeley. All were thoughtful and well spoken, and the conversation sizzled with intellectual excitement and depth. Kerry encouraged me in my writing. Also he encouraged Emily in her studies. Olivier helped Emily practice her French.

At one point a handsome young Brazilian man joined the party. Kerry led him over to where our group was sitting and said, "I'd like you to meet the gayest guy in the Castro."

"It's true. I am," the young man confirmed.

"How wonderful to be the best at something!" someone replied.

We all laughed, lifted our glasses to him in a toast and fell back into conversation. The discussion ranged from politics to art to literature to philosophy to religion. Mark and I contributed some, but listened more. Kerry was a lively participant throughout, as self-deprecating as he was intelligent. He compared his upcoming stint at Harvard to the Reese Witherspoon franchise, calling it, "Legally Grey."

When we left, he and Olivier walked us out. We hugged and we wished each other well. We promised to keep in touch. We sort of kept that promise.

Of course I wish I'd written him more after he'd left, made more of an effort. I wish I'd known he was in trouble. I wish I'd been of some help. He'd been such a help to me--with my writing, with my recovery from Mormonism, with the rebuilding of my self-esteem. He'd encouraged Emily in her studies, and he'd introduced us to the "gayest guy in the the Castro."

I heard from him last just under a month ago. It was a cheerful exchange. Olivier was in Paris. Kerry was in Massachusetts, "eating junk food and watching bad TV--LOL." He encouraged me in my writing again.

And now he's gone. But in the Castro, there are some roses climbing on sturdy rebar trellises that are there to stay.