Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Big Fat Gay Mormon Wedding

Yesterday after the Supreme Court announced its landmark decisions on DOMA and Prop 8, LDS Church spokesman, Michael Otterson issued an official statement that again demonstrated the church's disregard for its own history as well as its penchant for the usual self-righteousness:
"Regardless of the court decision, the Church remains irrevocably committed to strengthening traditional marriage between a man and a woman, which for thousands of years has proven to be the best environment for nurturing children. Notably, the court decision does not change the definition of marriage in nearly three-fourths of the states."
Then this morning, in an article that argued that the Mormon Church has had a change of heart over the issue of gay marriage, the San Francisco Chronicle quoted openly gay local LDS Church "leader," Mitch Mayne:
"It's safe to say that the Mormon Church won't be involved (in legislation against gay marriage) as far as in any public policy way."
The article also stated that Mayne would be marching in Sunday's Pride Parade with fellow LDS supporters behind a banner reading "Mormons for Marriage Equality."

For the record, contrary to the SF Chron's description, Mitch Mayne is not an LDS Church leader. He's an (I'm assuming ward) executive secretary, meaning he's the guy who takes care of the local bishop--makes his phone calls, keeps his calendar, fetches his Postum, etc. That's pretty much Otterson's job too, only he reports to the prophet.

Which man truly speaks for the LDS Church? Well, Mayne, of course. The fact that he even exists is proof of that. Since when can an openly gay Mormon priesthood holder skip Sacrament Meeting to march in a Pride Parade, talk to the press about his opposition to official church policy, and still remain a member in good standing? Since the LDS leaders started scrambling around to save their image, that's when.

Ten years ago there was some discussion in the LDS community about making a Mormon version of the hit movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was an interesting idea that never took off because the Mormons simply do not have enough confidence as a culture to laugh at their foibles--or to even admit they have any foibles. Despite what they say about feminists, gays, and intellectuals, what the LDS leaders fear most is being proven wrong.

So, as Elder Price sang in The Book of Mormon, what does the future hold? In the wake of the court's decision, the church seems on the brink of yet another policy shift. Since generally only Mormons listen to official church statements, it was appropriate that Otterson defended the current LDS position on gay marriage--if only for the sake of the 25,000 church members in California whom the GA's pressured into dedicating their time, talent, and $20,000,000 worth of their resources to the passage of Prop 8.

Now, if things go as they have in the past, the next step will be a new official policy that church leaders will market as their long-standing opinion. On the surface it seems like an easy fix. After all, the Mormon definition of "traditional marriage" has, shall we say, evolved over the years . . .

Only in a church that emphasizes rigid gender rolls, the notion of gay marriage could create some sticky situations. For example, in a dual priesthood household, who gets to wear the pants? What about a lesbian couple--are they doomed to exist without the priesthood in their home? The LDS Church was founded by a guy intent on screwing as many women as possible and that legacy has flourished to this day--so I don't see priesthood for women in the cards . . .

But I know 2 things the future will hold: I'm going to have plenty of great material for my blog and, even better, some fabulous weddings--big, fat, gay, and otherwise--to celebrate.

--Thanks to my good friend Insana Dee who shared this video with me.

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.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The DIY Guide To Leaving Mormonism

We must support one another in the arts! Here is my take on a new book by my fellow ex-Mormon, Micah McAllister. (This review was originally published here on Main Street Plaza.)

Since I began writing about my former life within Mormonism, countless true believers have asked me:
So Donna, if the LDS Church is “false,” why are there so many websites, blogs, bulletin boards, and groups out there to help people who leave the Church? After all, Satan doesn’t need those tools for people who quit other (presumably untrue) religions.
Now, thanks to Micah McAllister, the true believers may cite yet another implement in Satan’s toolbox: a guidebook to leaving the LDS Church.
Exit Strategy: A Guide to Leaving Mormonism with your Dignity and Integrity Intact, is a handy and efficient volume that addresses all of the questions surrounding the experience, including the one posed above.
Perhaps the most compelling thing about this concise and highly readable work is that McAllister, who is the founder of Life After Mormonism, does not devote any time to disputing the claims of Joseph Smith, niggling over problems with the LDS Church’s official version of its history, or otherwise proving that the church is “false.” In fact, he doesn’t even describe his own exit process, other than to say that he grew up in a large, believing Mormon family and then left the faith at the age of 29.
Instead, he begins with the premise that his reader has already made the decision to leave, and he respects the reasons behind that decision, whatever they may be. Once established, that spirit of mutual respect between McAllister and his reader expands to include respect for the believer as well. Because, after all, that’s the point. Everybody has a right to his or her own beliefs.
From there, McAllister goes on to cover every aspect of the unique ordeal of escaping both Mormonism and its mindset. He discusses practical how-to’s like composing a resignation letter, requesting “no contact” from the bishop, buying new underwear, brewing coffee, and ordering that first cocktail. He offers helpful advice on navigating the inevitably dicey social situations; such as, breaking the news to family, establishing boundaries, and finding a new community. Perhaps most importantly, he deals with the emotional challenges a new ex-Mormon may face. For example, losing the left-over guilt, learning to communicate assertively, and above all, learning to love one’s self.
All of his points are conveyed in lucid writing that is consistently friendly and, at times, humorous, making Exit Strategies an enjoyable read for a single sitting, and the antithesis to a session of General Conference. I would recommend it to anyone who has left Mormonism, has family or friends who have left Mormonism, or is merely curious about the experience.