Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Another Fun Year on Ward Gossip - Thanks to the Brethren

When I started this blog back in 2009 I never dreamt it would be around five years later.

But here we are at the end of 2014 and Ward Gossip is still running strong. It's that little mechanical bunny and the Brethren are the battery that makes it keep on going.

Sure I had to fill in here and there. With bizarre family dramas, fun Ex-Mormon gatherings and excursions, memories of shitty weekends and stupid Relief Society lessons, another joyous birth, and a very sad loss, missionary moments, some odd LDS corporate policies, a return to my Vagina Testimony, a long overdue "person of the year" award, and a bit of recent diplomacy between LDS Inc. and Park City, UT.

But most weeks the Brethren and their disciples wrote the copy for me. Starting in February with that uber-sensitive website, Gays and BYU. Which led to some thoughtful discussion amongst the faithful about The Gay Agenda. After that, believers were shocked to learn that church headquarters was no longer promising them a planet! Then an outrageous article in The Friend provided me with what may be my best post ever. And here's the thing. I barely had to write it!
Every Saturday night while her family was wallowing in smut, Lucy called her Primary teacher and asked for a ride to church. Sister Gomez always said yes.
Then the fun really started when some actual Mormon feminists decided they wanted to be ordained. Try as they might, the Brethren could not dissuade them. Not even with crafts!
"This new craft thing is a crock of (expletive deleted),"  Mildred Peabody, a Salt Lake City tax attorney, told The News. "Makes me want to hot glue the First Presidency to a giant flannel board."
And I say cheers to them all! Especially Kate Kelly .

In an apparent effort to deflect the bad PR over the Ordain Women debacle, the Brethren embarked on an anti-Gay marriage tour. It failed to engage the faithful.
"I've been worried about the rising sea level that threatens my farmland," 47-year-old Hans of Denmark said. "But last night the Brethren told us we should be up in arms over gay marriage. I don't understand. Am I being selfish?"
Likewise the suggestion of another Romney presidential campaign.
"I work in an all-Mormon office and my desk is by the copy machine," said Samuel Petersen, an ExMormon from Sandy, Utah. "I don't care if I lose my job. He runs again and I'm going off the grid."
Obviously in crisis mode, church PR amped up the momentum with a member-driven social media blitz, followed by the release of a major motion picture, followed by an infomercial about Mormon underpants. When the aforementioned efforts flopped, the Brethren decided to cheer everybody up by releasing a statement about all of Joseph Smith's extramarital affairs. After that came a really scary message from the visiting teachers.
I call, I text, I stop by. When she doesn't answer, I stand on her front porch and belt out, Love at Home. When she still doesn't answer, I hot glue 50 packs of M&M's to her front door. I follow her on social media. I follow her to work, to the dentist, and to the mall. I wait in front of her bathroom stall at Nordstrom. But still I get nothing.
And let's not forget my interview with InsanaD, also her amazing address at this year's ExMormon Conference.

Torture for the Mormons, but sheer comic gold for bloggers like me.

So, as Elder Price sang, "What does the future hold?" I see more loud laughter, more lightmindedness, more evil speaking of the self-appointed, and definitely more blogging in 2015.

Happy New Year, Gentle Readers!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

LDS Church Moves to Normalize Relations with Park City

LDS Church to Renew Ties with Park City
Salt Lake News -- published December 18, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- In a bold and historic move yesterday, LDS leaders announced they will be normalizing relations with their long estranged neighbor, Park City, Utah.

"The Brethren decided the citizens of Park City should benefit from exposure to a culture that is superior to their own," LDS spokesperson, G. Marilyn String, told the News.

In brokering the agreement, the LDS Church agreed to release alleged Park City spy, George Fielding. Apprehended last September in a men's room at the Joseph Smith Building, Fielding spent 92 days in solitary confinement on Temple Square.

Insisting the charges against him are false, Mr. Fielding told the News, "I swear to God, I'm innocent. I got bored during Meet the Mormons so I went to the can to splash some water on my face. Then these thugs in cheap suits jumped me and hauled me off to the clink."

"They put me on a restricted diet of Jell-O, Tater-tot casserole, and fry sauce--and then made me watch an endless loop of 'And I'm a Mormon' commercials," Fielding added, his voice thick with emotion. "Thank heaven they let me go. I'm so happy to be back in Park City."

In exchange for the release of Mr. Fielding, LDS leaders are now requesting the return of 37 of their own whom they had deployed behind enemy lines. However, with a hat tip to the quality of the LDS Church surveillance team, Park City officials confess they were completely unaware of any espionage in their community.

"We knew these folks had moved into town, but saw no evidence of any clandestine activities," Park City spokesperson, Homer T. Larsen explained. "They seemed to be just enjoying themselves like the rest of us."

"We have not arrested anyone for espionage," Larsen insisted. "The so-called Mormon spies are free to come and go as they please."

The 37 individuals in question have refused to comment on their current status. At press time, none had made arrangements to return to Church.

Friday, December 12, 2014

LDS Church Leaders Choose "Name Withheld" as 2014 Person of the Year

Name Withheld is Person of the Year
Salt Lake News -- published December 12, 2014

SALT LAKE CITY -- She's found hope and healing after her divorce, forgiven her abuser, and nurtured her husband's frail ego throughout their foreclosure and bankruptcy. He's overcome alcoholism, drug addiction, same-sex attraction, and a tendency to masturbate. Ever humble and long suffering, the progressively gender-ambivalent author of countless Mormon-themed articles, Name Withheld, is finally receiving the title of Person of the Year.

"After spending 50-plus years at the top of the temple prayer rolls, Name Withheld is long overdue for this recognition," official church spokesperson, K. Byron Spool, told the News.

When asked about the timing of the decision, Spool explained, "It's been an especially tough year for the Brethren, what with all the selfish complaints from the feminists, gays, and intellectuals. Meanwhile, Name Withheld humbly carried on, without dwelling on her civil rights, or carping about his unfulfilled sex life, or making a huge deal out of Joseph Smith's minor promiscuities. The Brethren really appreciated that."

Name Withheld was unavailable for comment as she is currently in the drunk tank after a relapse brought on by his temporary refusal to forgive his bishop for sexually assaulting him--or her.

"He . . . or she . . . requested a Book of Mormon be sent to his cell," a source inside the jail said. "She is repentant and seems determined not to become bitter."

"The Brethren couldn't be happier with this year's choice," Spool firmly declared. "Nobody, save Joseph Smith alone, has endured such storied persecution."

Friday, December 5, 2014

Dealing with Visiting Teacher Dodgers

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward Relief Society
From: Ramona Barnes, Ward Visiting Teaching Coordinator
Subject: What to do when your visiting teachee keeps dodging you

I call, I text, I stop by. When she doesn't answer, I stand on her front porch and belt out, Love at Home. When she still doesn't answer, I hot glue 50 packs of M&M's to her front door. I follow her on social media. I follow her to work, to the dentist, and to the mall. I wait in front of her bathroom stall at Nordstrom. But still I get nothing.

At first I thought it was me. But, in talking with friends, I've realized this kind of reception is common among sisters. So, what's a woman to do when she gets rejected time and time again?

Here are a few tips I've learned through my colorful history with visiting teacher dodgers.

Think Outside the Box

Oftentimes our less active sisters dodge their visiting teachers because they don't like the idea of visiting teaching. They're deluded into thinking it's just some time-consuming, boundary-invasive imposition that saddles a sister with a couple of nosey, fake friends.

For example, a few years ago I was assigned to visit an inactive sister in our ward. I tried everything. Texts, emails, treats on her doorstep, notes on her car. Nothing. Not even so much as a text to tell me that she acknowledged my existence.

I decided to think outside the box and not even try to entice her to be "visit taught." Instead I posted on Facebook that I was dying to get a pedicure, thinking she would jump at the chance to go with--because, even though we've never met--I knew she would be dying to get a pedicure. She blocked me.

Since I could no longer reach her on Facebook, I went to her house and rang the bell. When she didn't answer, I banged on the door. She opened it and told me to go away. Undeterred, I refused to leave until she agreed to go for a pedicure. She threatened to call the police. I went back the next day. And the next. She got a restraining order.

I'm still hopeful. A restraining order only means I have to observe a certain physical boundary, meaning I can keep doing creative, outside-the-box sorts of things, just from 30 feet away. (In her case I have to wait outside the bathroom at Nordstrom.)

Learn About Her Life

Real friendships take time, work, and constant communication. But a visiting teacher can't wait for all that. Without warning, the ward boundaries might be realigned or the Relief Society presidency might change. In a matter of months a visiting teacher could be assigned a whole new set of best friends.

For that reason, a successful visiting teacher needs to whip out her detective skills. Thank goodness Heavenly Father has provided us with the technology! Social media like the online ward directory, Facebook, Instagram, etc. are terrific tools for getting to know your visiting teacher dodger. (I'm Facebook friends with my inactive sister again, thanks to that fake profile I set up.)

If you're not inclined to sign up for any type of social media, try staking out her neighborhood. Interview her neighbors under the guise of a census taker or Homeland Security, or hang around her kids' school so you can strike up a conversation with her when she picks them up. Even better, pick up her kids, then she'll have to talk to you if she wants them back.

Be Persistent

I know how hard it can be to always have your texts, calls, and messages ignored, especially by someone you really care about but haven't actually met. But if you want any measure of success with a visiting teacher dodger, persistence is key.

My work on that inactive sister is paying off. When I saw her in Nordstrom yesterday she didn't even swear at me. She just walked out of the bathroom, rolled her eyes, and went on her way.

Photo courtesy of InsanaD

If you would like to stop receiving these emails we'll assume you're dying to get a pedicure.

Friday, November 21, 2014

New PR Campaign to Precede Next Essay

LDS Church Leaders Plan Next PR Blitz 
Salt Lake News -- published November 21, 2014

Drawing on what they consider to be a successful response to their recent essay, Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo, the Brethren have approved the roll out of yet another monthlong PR campaign, this time in preparation for their next topical essay: A Complete Disclosure of LDS Church Finances. 


"We were worried about how the plural marriage essay was going to be received," said church spokesperson, Leonard George. "Then the General Authorities came up with this member-driven ad campaign. It was brilliant, really." 

"Sure, the average church member was sorry to learn that our founding prophet was guilty of polygamy, polyandry, adultery and statutory rape," George admitted. "But it was so much easier for him to put all of that aside after he'd spent the month boasting online about his church affiliation and plugging a feature length documentary about us. The Brethren figure the members will need the same kind of incentive before they learn where their money really goes."

Details of the advertising effort have not yet been released. But inside sources say members will again be called upon to change their social media status to another en masse meme such as, "I'm a Mormon and I Tithe." 

Also production has begun on a new documentary, one that will focus on individual Mormons and the many sacrifices they make for their church and in their communities. 

"Just like Meet the Mormons was a timely reminder that most Latter-day Saints are monogamous, law-abiding citizens, we hope this new documentary will demonstrate how generous and ethical some of us are," George explained.

Nevertheless, there is a significant number of LDS Church members who have become disaffected with their faith after reading the revelatory essays on the official LDS website, the most recent being about Joseph Smith's womanizing.

"Frankly, we're not surprised," said George. "Some people are just easily offended and want to sin."


Friday, November 14, 2014

Even Mormons Take a Break Now and Then

Those of you who used to be members of the one and only true church know what I'm talking about. You woke up minutes shy of Sacrament Meeting, heaved a sigh, willed yourself out of bed, and then rolled over and played dead instead.

Sorry, Gentle Readers, that's what I'm doing this week. But I have a really good excuse, on account of when I rolled over this morning I saw this out my window.
My view from the Albion River Inn
But just because I'm playing hooky doesn't mean you need to. Fortunately both the New York Times and the San Francisco Chronicle have my back. Thanks to that rascal Joseph Smith, the Mormons have hit the big time.

Have a great week!

Friday, November 7, 2014

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo - Additional Explanations

To: Abbottsville Stake
From: Dennis Newsome, advisor to the Stake Public Affairs Council
Subject: Additional Explanations from the Brethren

Because there continues to be "got-ya" questions from the less faithful who frequent certain anti-Mormon websites like here and here, the Brethren have published some additional explanations for polygamy in Kirtland and Nauvoo, again employing their usual inspired logic. Read below:

Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo - 
Additional Explanations
________________________________________

Joseph Smith faced many challenges after he received the revelation to practice plural marriage. At one point, a mob, led by the brother of one of his spirit wives, dragged Joseph from his house and threatened to castrate him. The threat of castration, serious by today's standards, was considered harmless in that era, akin to a fraternity prank, or a kidnap breakfast. Joseph encountered many such mobs and knew fully well that they were just joshing. In this specific case, he was only tarred and feathered. 

In another instance, Joseph approached the bedside of a fair maiden and asked if he could sleep with her. When she declined, he reminded her that it was the will of the Lord that she succumb. When she still refused, he offered her $5.00. Rebuffed again, Joseph left her bedside, sought out the maiden's husband, and successfully exchanged 8 cows for a night with the man's wife. The story went on to become the inspiration for a popular film on the Hallmark Channel.

On June 7, 1844, the first edition of the Nauvoo Expositor criticized the practice of plural marriage. Very little was published or recorded after that as Joseph Smith declared the paper a public nuisance and ordered the press destroyed. Because of this and other similar actions by Joseph, some ambiguity will always accompany our knowledge of early Mormon polygamy. Like Joseph's spirit wives and their husbands, we "see through a glass darkly" and are asked to walk by faith.

If you would like to stop receiving these emails a mob might show up at your door and threaten to castrate you. Just joshing.


Friday, October 31, 2014

The Mormon Month from Hell

If you run into any rank and file Mormons tonight, hold back on the tricks and give them extra treats. They've had a very scary month.

First there was the weeklong requisite "I'm a Mormon!" on their social media profiles. After that, the mind-numbing semi-annual General Conference. Next came a mandatory ticket purchase for the feature length infomercial, Meet the Mormons. Then last week: the double whammy. A flimsy defense of Joseph Smith's relations with 14-year-olds and married women. AND … get this, Gentle Readers ... a commercial about their underwear.

I'm not kidding. Their underwear. If you don't believe me, check it out here.

Please tell me this isn't going to lead to another mass profile picture switch.

I admit, this latest string of events has been a gift for bloggers like me. For several weeks now, Mormon Inc. has written the satire for me, and for that I thank them. But, really, how much humiliation can the poor faithful endure?

The new Mormon Newsroom video's central premise is that devout Mormons are just like the orthodox of other faiths, namely Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists who also wear ceremonial and symbolic clothing.

-- Perhaps. But there's at least one glaring difference between these ancient religious cultures and the Mormons. There aren't any Madison Avenue-style commercials defending the nuns' habits - Jewish prayer shawls - Muslim skull caps - Buddhist saffron robes. The participants simply wear them. Without apology and without obsessing over what others think. --

The video then concludes in classic LDS fashion. With a blatant lie. In this case, the claim that there is nothing "magical or mystical" about the temple garment.

-- Bulls**t! If I had a dollar for every faith-promoting story I've heard about garments protecting someone in a fire, I'd be a rich woman. And I always got dirty looks when I pointed out that they're flame retardant. No way. It was those magic symbols that saved poor Brother Schmuck's bacon! --

So, if you run into some rank and file Mormons today, be especially nice. Their leaders just used their tithing money to splash pictures of their underwear all over the Internet.

The fact is the Mormons are persecuted, but not by outsiders. By their own leaders.

For the few devout who read this blog, if it's any consolation, there may be a lot of San Franciscans wearing some ceremonial underpants of our own following Wednesday night's game. Check it out here.

Finally, there's more scary news breaking today. Kate Kelly just learned her appeal has been denied. Read more here.

Happy Halloween!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Meet the Real Mormons

Dang! I missed my chance. Meet the Mormons is no longer playing in a theater near me. I suspect the same may be true in many other less Mormon-populated locales. But for those of you who live outside the Brigham Belt, or who simply don't want to pony up the price of admission (tickets to my local Cinemark range from $7.50 to $9.00 a pop), I have an alternative suggestion.

After watching the trailer and skimming the Meet the Mormons official website, I've learned that what the Salt Lake Tribune calls a "sales pitch" focuses on the lives of "six ordinary individuals." Namely, the famous WWII candy bomber (whose story the church has trotted out on countless previous occasions), a Nepalese humanitarian, a Costa Rican female kick-boxing champ, an African-American football coach, a single mom, and an African-American Mormon bishop. At first glance, they don't seem very typically Mormon to me.

Want to meet the real Mormons? (Or the ones who call the shots?) I invite you to wander over to the LDS Church website and read the load of bollocks the regular gang of white male cliches have been churning out about their church and its history.

Not only is it free. Not only is it a truer representation of the LDS Church. I believe it will prove far more entertaining than the Lord's feature-length film. In fact, in places it's flat-out hilarious.

With their talent, the Brethren should really do stand-up. Or write a satire blog. After all, they've been practically writing mine for almost five years now. Try as I might, I can do little to improve upon them.

Take, for example, this past week's article: "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo." You decide, Gentle Readers, who is funnier? Them or me?

Excerpt from LDS Inc. satire:
Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.26  
Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations.27 After Joseph’s death, Helen remarried and became an articulate defender of him and of plural marriage.28
Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.29 Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.30 Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

My attempt to improve on LDS Inc. satire:
Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age. The youngest, Helen Mar Kimball, was 14 years old. The oldest, Fanny Young, was months shy of her 57th birthday. 
The marriage of a 14 year old girl to a middle-aged man who is already married is and always has been both illegal and inappropriate. However, Joseph attempted to evade U.S. laws and standards of decency by drawing a distinction between marriages for "time and all eternity" and marriages "for eternity alone." 
Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being for "eternity alone." This suggests that rather than stealing her away to indulge in her nubile, teenaged flesh, Joseph merely retired with Kimball to his bedchamber where he recited to her in Reformed Egyptian.
Joseph Smith was also sealed to a number of women who were already married. Because this also is and always has been both illegal and inappropriate, some of those women likewise described their marriages to Joseph as "for eternity alone." 
That way, when confronted by an angry husband, Joseph could explain, "No worries, Harvey. She's still yours for now. I'm just practicing on her for the next life." 
Others left no record or description of their relationship with Joseph, a common practice for married women who suddenly find themselves in similarly confusing connubial situations.  

See what I mean? The LDS Inc. schtick is deft, subtle, hip! Whereas I come off as a puritanical old poop.

Regardless, I'm guessing this week's article on Plural Marriage reveals a lot more about the Mormon Church than the subjects of its new documentary ever could. That being said, I want to meet that Latina kick-boxer. There are some human targets in Salt Lake City I'd like to see her apply her talent to.

Friday, October 17, 2014

No Thanks. We've Already Met.

So I was in Salt Lake City last weekend, my visit timed with the premiere of the documentary, Meet the Mormons.  I declined the invitation. As I said, we've already met.

Instead I hung with the mere earthlings at the ExMormon Foundation Conference where I had the amazing privilege to introduce the after-dinner speaker, Dana Dahl. She wowed us all, earning a well-deserved standing ovation for her "self-defecating humor."

I'm reasonably certain I wouldn't have learned anything new about the Mormons from watching their documentary. For that matter, I don't think anyone else would have learned anything new about the Mormons from watching their documentary.

That being said, because I haven't seen the picture, and because I don't want to align myself with the critics who reviewed The Book of Mormon without actually seeing the musical, I will refrain from commenting further on the content of Meet the Mormons.

What I will do is ask: Where are the Brethren parking their mothership these days? 

As I understand it, this is how this doozy of a fantasy evolved: 
  • The Brethren, channeling inspiration through their thick space helmets, convinced themselves that the church has been unfairly represented in the godless liberal media. 
  • Fearful that the average Joe Nonmember might not have a complete understanding of the LDS Church - and convinced that he craves one - the inspired Brethren ordered their brainiacs in PR to come up with some sort of promotional gimmick.
  • According to the Lord's apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, the film, Meet the Mormons, was getting positive buzz from "test audiences" at the Legacy Theater on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. I don't know specifically who made up these audiences. But, as any researcher at LDS Inc. undoubtedly knows, visitors to the Legacy Theater on Temple Square are either Mormons themselves, or non-Mormons who are curious enough about the faith to sit through all or part of a free - emphasis on free - church produced promotional film.
  • Nevertheless, this alleged buzz was reason enough for these PR brainiacs and the GA's to launch Meet the Mormons as a major motion picture, one they knew would be wildly successful at the box office.
  • The reason the PR brainiacs and their higher-ups knew it would be wildly successful was because they had devised this brilliant top-secret scheme! That is, they had ward and stake leaders send out emails to local members pressuring them to see the film on opening weekend.
  • Convinced that their brilliant scheme would execute flawlessly and completely under the radar, the Brethren and their PR brainiacs leaned back and waited for what they were convinced would be a blockbuster success so momentous that it would explode onto Netflix and other outlets, and inspire every Joe Nonmember to declare, "Golly, Myrtle, I was going to go see Gone Girl until I heard about that smash hit, Meet the Mormons!"
Well, back here on planet Earth, Meet the Mormons fell short of the Brethren's inspired expectations. Sure, the numbers were good, thanks to the members who, in some cases, bought out entire theaters. 

But the godless liberal media spotted that top-secret PR scheme a mile away. The Salt Lake Tribune labeled the film an infomercial, Salt Lake City Weekly and other sources reported the church pressure on members to attend, and Rotten Tomatoes currently reports the movie's critics' consensus at 11% alongside an audience score of 92% - not the typical result from a mainstream audience. Not on this planet anyway.

But as the Brethren seem content to remain on their mothership, my guess is it will be back to the drawing board for the brainiacs in Church PR. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Meanwhile, I'll hang in the cheap seats with my fellow earthlings.
Me and Dana at Exmormon 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ward Gossip Girl Hits the Road!

I'm on location this week, on my very own one-woman road trip! It started with a dash through drought stricken, blazing hot Central California, continued across the peaceful and vast Mojave and then on to Las Vegas. Because I respect its reputation, I will leave my activities behind in the famous City of Sin. But suffice to say that whatever happened there happened pretty fast, as I was in and out of the entire area inside of thirty minutes. Likewise the fast growing border town of Mesquite.

Because, Gentle Readers, I was on a mission . . . to Utah! 

Okay, before you accuse me of losing my mind, hear me out. I know about the many free-spirited attractions of Vegas. And I know about the uptight rules in Utah, the crazy liquor laws, the right-wing politics, and, of course, the Mormons.

But here's the thing.
 It's so f**king beautiful!

No way could they fake this on the Las Vegas Strip!

And you know what else can happen here and not in Vegas? As of a few days ago, A GAY MARRIAGE! I suppose this comes as a surprise to those who thought of Nevada as the marriage capitol of the country. But, as a former BYU coed, I've always known Utah to be the home of the quickie nuptial…

It's also the home of one of my dearest friends, Insana Dee!
Me at famous Red Hen Gardens
Dee and her husband, Bill, invited me to stay over at their beautiful home in New Harmony, Utah. And Dee took me on a tour of the nearby Kolob Mountains. (Shown above.)
Dee in her garden
She harvested her lettuce for a delicious salad for dinner.
Today I arrived in Salt Lake City. Whatever happens here is reported to the bishop, the stake president, the Deseret News, and, of course, you, my Gentle Readers.

To be continued... 

Friday, October 3, 2014

I'm Happy Because I'm a Mormon!

Years ago the most annoying guy in our ward used to stand at the pulpit during Testimony Meeting and advise us on how we could better spread the Gospel. Some of his suggestions:
"I dropped by the bishop's workplace this week and saw that he kept a couple of Books of Mormon on his office shelf." (Bishop's face beams.) "I thought to myself, what are those books doing on his shelf? He should have passed them out by now." (Bishop's face falls.)
"The other day I was standing in a crowded elevator at work when a colleague looked my way and exclaimed, 'Gee Clem, you sure look happy today' - to which I responded - 'I'm always happy, my friend, because I'm a Mormon."
I could go on, but you get it. This fellow evidently believed that, irregardless of our personal opinions, we should be bouncy and enthusiastic Mormon sales reps every waking moment, in every possible setting, without regard for professionalism, appropriateness, or sincerity.

In other words, make asses of ourselves.

I've often wondered where this irrepressible boob is now. Working for church PR perhaps? I can't be sure but this looks a lot like his handiwork:
So there you have it, Gentle Readers. It's not enough that the rank and file have payed their tithing, scrubbed the ward toilets, and are now poised to sit through yet another mind-numbingly boring and painfully self-righteous conference this weekend. They are also being pressured to log onto their Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/Whatever - PLEASE not Linkedin - and tell the world: I'm always happy, my friends, because I'm a Mormon.

In other words, make … well, you get it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Three Generations Without Priesthood

This month we welcomed the arrival of our grandson, Max, pictured here with his father and grandfather. -Three generations of Banta men content without priesthood blessings.
"If Grammy still went to Relief Society I'd be wearing 2 booties."
Proof, Gentle Readers, that our species can survive in a world of gender equality, sans inspiration from the Brethren.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What Would Insana Dee Do? Come to ExMormon 2014 and Find Out!

This week I am proud to present an EXCLUSIVE with Insana Dee, the featured speaker at the 2014 ExMormon Foundation Conference, also known as the President of the Sisterhood of the Licked Cupcake Society and the Annie Oakley of ExMormonism!

Donna Banta:
Welcome to Ward Gossip, Insana Dee. I'm humbled that you agreed to visit my little blog.

Insana Dee:
Thanks Donna, I'm happy to be here.

Donna:
You're a speaker at next month's ExMormon Foundation Conference. Did you ever once in your devout LDS childhood imagine you would be speaking at an ExMormon conference?

Dee:
No, but I did figure out early in my upbringing that I was not Celestial Glory material.

Donna: 
Did this make you feel out of place?

Dee:
Actually, it freed me up to just have fun.

Donna:
Good for you. How did your family react to all the fun you were having?

Dee:
Back when I was about 12 or 13 years old my mom rented this run down, shabby old saddle shop in Fairview (Utah). We spent a summer fixing it up and found when we stripped some of the old cruddy plaster off the walls that they'd stuffed the chinks in the railroad ties with newspapers circa 1880. One featured an ad that offered, "Buy an Idaho bride!" and showed a drawing of these hefty, strong looking dark-haired women lined up in their nightgowns. The caption read, "These girls come from good Mormon homes and are obedient, fertile, and have strong bones and teeth." Since I was the only one of my siblings born in Idaho, my brothers threatened to trade me to an old plyg for water rights and property or cash. The going price in 1880 was $800, but they figured they'd have to discount me to $500 since I wasn't very obedient.

Donna:
Ha! Your brothers were willing to unload you for cheap?

Dee: They were hard up for cash. Also, I think some of them thought it would have been a good way to get me to comply and be more submissive, but what they didn't realize was that if I'd been put in such a situation I would have had the women collectively rebelling and giving some well earned retribution to their oppressors in no time flat. I'd have been the polygamists' nightmare.

Donna: 
Will your remarks at the ExMormon Foundation Conference include any criticism of the leaders of the mainstream LDS Church? For example, Elder Russell Ballard's recent suggestion encouraging Mormon women to speak up in meetings, so long as they don't say too much?

Dee:
I blame all this uppityness on women in flip-flops. If women would go back to hard uncomfortable shoes, yeast infection inducing pantyhose, gas building tight girdles, and complicated bras with bones built in the ribs and back and itchy lace sewn across the middle then we wouldn't have all this hoopla about women's equality.

Donna:
Do you think the Brethren will reintroduce such a dress code?

Dee:
I'm surprised they haven't already.

Donna:
As the President of the Sisterhood of the Licked Cupcake Society, would you advise faithful sisters to comply to such demands? What would Insana Dee do?

Dee:
Walk on the grass. Run with scissors. Laugh loudly with light mindedness. Roll up her garments so she could wear a mini-skirt.

Donna:
Screw the rules, then.

Dee:
Sin is its own reward, Donna.

Donna: 
Sounds like your speech at the ExMormon Conference may be the Brethren's nightmare.

Dee:
That's why I'm the Annie Oakley of ExMormonism. Only rather than shooting a gun from a galloping horse, I can shoot quips and smart-ass remarks like a gatling gun and hit the self-righteous right between the eyes.

Donna:
Indeed you can! Thanks so much for sharing a preview of those smart-ass remarks here on Ward Gossip, Dee.

Dee: Thank you for having me.

- Want to hear more of Insana Dee's wisdom? Don't miss this year's ExMormon Foundation Conference - October 10-12, The Double Tree Suites, Salt Lake City.

Click here to listen to Insana Dee's 2012 interview on Mormon Expression Voices.

Alternatively, there's always the Brethren…

Friday, September 12, 2014

ExMormon Etiquette - Lesson One

Last Sunday, at our monthly ExMormon gathering at the San Francisco Ferry Building, we welcomed some newcomers who had recently left the LDS Church. Like most emerging ExMormons, the first question on their lips was, "What should I tell my believing family?"

It's a common dilemma. So common that the better part of an excellent book about leaving Mormonism is devoted to the subject. But lucky for you, Gentle Readers, I happen to be an experienced expert on this and all subjects pertaining to ExMormon etiquette! In that spirit, I invite you to read my 2 SIMPLE RULES FOR DEALING WITH YOUR BELIEVING MORMON FAMILY:

SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 1: Don't Explain
I know it's counterintuitive. As a newly escaped Mormon, you've spent the better part of your life both privately and publicly explaining everything from your recent masturbation lapse to the mysterious tan line on your mid-thigh. But really, you don't owe anyone an explanation for why you decided to leave the one and only true church. Leveling with your mom, dad, siblings, etc. may seem like a satisfying means of closure, but all it usually does is open the door to further argument and more hard feelings. It's best to agree to disagree on matters of religion and stick to safe subjects.

EXCEPTIONS TO SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 1:

Exception A: If your family/loved ones decide to change your mind by arguing their point, sending you pro-Mormon literature, quoting the Book of Mormon, etc.
- In this case, ignore SRN1 and say, "Here is my counterpoint - my favorite factual book about Mormonism - the Shakespearean play that is the source of that scripture." That usually shuts them up pretty quickly.

Exception B: If your family/loved ones decide to go behind your back and reconvert your young children by arguing their point,  sending them pro-Mormon literature, quoting the Book of Mormon, etc.
- Again, ignore SRN1 and say, "Here is my counterpoint - my favorite factual book about Mormonism - the Shakespearean play that is the source of that scripture." And if you ever approach my children with your bat s**t crazy a**ed propaganda again, I'll lurk outside church on Sunday, ambush your kids, bring them back to my place and force them to watch Cosmos." That usually sends them sprinting down the street screaming in terror.

Exception C: If you have teenaged children who still believe.
- Then it is your DUTY to ignore SRN1 and explain all of your misgivings about Mormonism. Sure, they'll resent you for leaving, for embarrassing them in front of their friends, and for not having a single brain cell left in your daft head. Face it, they're teenagers, you're a clueless adult, and it's going to be at least 10 years before you've learned anything. Given that by then they'll have swapped out a mission for study abroad or put off having kids for a career or tied the knot with their same sex partner, my guess is "I hate my parents for leaving the LDS Church" will no longer be among their common refrains.

Exception D: If you have adult children who still believe.
- In this unfortunate situation, my best advice is to fall back on that well-honed skill you acquired from Mormonism and LIE. Statements like, "even though it's not for me, I completely respect your dedication to and sacrifice for the one and only true church" may leave a bad taste in your mouth. But consider it a small price to pay. Otherwise be prepared for annual visits with the grandkids who will wretch when you kiss them because "Grammy and Grampy are a couple of perverted psychopaths but we love them anyway because we're Christians."

Do you see how simple this is?

SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 2: Don't Hide
Again, it's counterintuitive. After years of hiding your caffeine consumption, R-rated videos, and that mysterious tan line, it seems only natural to stash the beer and coffee pot when the TBM family drops by. But don't do it. The sooner your loved ones accept your decision as permanent, the sooner they can move on to Stage 1 (definitions below)

- Disclaimer: while the following course of events does not play out in every family scenario, after reviewing over 100 test cases, I have found their occurrence to be surprisingly typical. Because, let's face it, obedience to all of those heavenly rules doesn't commonly lead to earthly success, much less overall sanity. -

Stage 1: Your loved ones - let's say your parents - understand you're never coming back to church, write you off as losers, never talk about you to family and friends and spend the better part of your conversations extolling the accomplishments of their believing children and grandchildren. (Unless, of course, you experience some unfortunate luck. They'll be sure to bring that up.)

Stage 2: Your parents stop extolling the accomplishments of their believing children and grandchildren, opting for subjects like sports, the weather, and even an occasional query about your kids.

Stage 3: You discover that your parents' favorite believing child is getting a divorce/has been fired/is leading an expedition to Kolob next year. Or that their favorite believing grandchild is pregnant again at 15/has a sexually explicit tattoo on his face/is so self-righteous nobody can stand to be around her. Only you don't hear about this from your parents. The revelation comes via a mutual acquaintance, or because you see your nephew being arrested on reality TV, or because you pay a surprise visit home and discover that your brother-in-law is living in your old room.

Stage 4: You parents rarely talk about their favorite believing children and families and now spend their time boasting about you and yours to both family and friends - leaving out that tiny detail that you've left the church.

EXCEPTION TO SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 2:

Exception A: SRN2 only works under normal LDS circumstances. If you grew up in a family of General Authorities, Mission Presidents, Temple Presidents, etc., if you're employed by the LDS Church or NuSkin, are a student at BYU or BYU-Idaho, or if you're a longtime resident of Utah County. . .
- I not only suggest you hide, I urge you to change your appearance and your identity and disappear under the cover of darkness.

More simple rules to follow.    

Friday, September 5, 2014

I Used to Dread the Weekend

I used to dread the weekend. It's one of my most cringe-worthy Mormon memories. Back when I was a young mom, my hands covered in eczema, on the last morning of the work week, I'd roll out of bed and think to myself, Oh shit, it's Friday. Or, according to the ExMormon Urban Dictionary, OSIF.

The reason being that after Friday comes Saturday. And everyone who has been a member of the one and only true church knows that Saturday is that special day when Mormons get ready for Sunday. Literally. There's even a song for kids.
Saturday is a special day.
It's the day we get ready for Sunday:
We clean the house, and we shop at the store,
So we won't have to work until Monday.
We brush our clothes, and we shine our shoes,
And we call it our get-the-work done day.
Then we trim our nails, and we shampoo our hair,
So we can be ready for Sunday.
So while the other families in our neighborhood were off boating, camping, or lazing around the pool, the Bantas were making 8 a.m. runs to Target and the grocery store, cleaning house, mowing the lawn, doing laundry, preparing our church talks or lessons, and then maybe squeezing in a Little League game before we had to haul ourselves to some stupid but mandatory church activity. Because there's always an activity, a truth we are reminded of even now, when Mark and I happen to drive by the LDS Church on Saturday - perhaps on our way to the beach - and see the parking lot packed.

Then comes the dreaded Sunday. I don't think I need to go into too much detail here, especially when my friend over on Thoughts Per Coffee has written her own brilliant take on the Mormon version of the holy Sabbath.

I was between a rock and a hard place - miserable and demoralized when I attended church, miserable and guilt-ridden when I skipped out. After all, who wouldn't want to go to the one and only true church?

Me, that's who.

I made all the excuses; I faked illness (although a stress-induced migraine coupled with eczema-inflamed hands wasn't exactly fake); I skipped out after Sacrament Meeting (it's partaking of the sacrament that's most important, right?) Finally, I declared myself a failure and just quit going.

And that was a good thing. Because then I started looking forward to the weekends - even Sundays.

For example, this past Sunday when some of my fellow heretics and I celebrated the Sabbath by cooking Zuni Cafe roasted chicken and bread salad.

I had been looking forward to this all week!
 
All prepared to partake of the sacrament.
Me and my friend, Don, who left the church at age 12 when he was kicked out of the "Tuesday afternoon thing."

A couple of Fridays ago I checked the calendar on my iPhone to see "Sacrament Meeting" appear on my upcoming Sunday schedule. A dear young woman I've known practically all of her life had recently returned from her mission and was scheduled to give a talk. I smiled and thought to myself, I'm looking forward to that!

After a fun, stress-free Saturday, Mark and I awoke Sunday morning, managed to find some reasonably well-brushed clothes and scuff-free shoes and headed for church. I didn't have a migraine and my hands didn't itch. The meeting was enjoyable because it featured our friend, and we had a rush of pleasant nostalgia while singing the hymns. Afterward we hugged our friend and her family, and then left without staying for Sunday School and Priesthood/Relief Society.

And I didn't feel guilty. Not even a little. 

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Actual Woman to Attend LDS Church Women's Meeting

LDS Church Leaders to Admit First Woman to Women's Meeting 
Salt Lake News -- published August 28, 2014

In yet another startling break from tradition, LDS leaders announced late Wednesday that an actual woman will be attending next month's church-wide Women's Meeting.

"The Brethren are nothing if not progressive," said church spokesperson Wilbur Burton. "They decided to test the waters. If this one behaves herself, there may be more next time."

The carefully selected candidate, Ginger Louise Bennion, is a sophomore at BYU-Idaho and serves in her ward nursery. 

"The Quorum of the Twelve sifted through thousands of resumes before settling on Sister Bennion," Burton said. "They were looking for a special kind of sister, one who possesses that delicate combination of tact, sweetness, and run-of-the-mill expectations."

While the Women's Meeting is scheduled to last 2 hours, Ms. Bennion will be excused after the first 30 minutes.

"The Brethren don't want to push it," explained Burton. "So much of what will be discussed in the Women's Meeting is too sacred to be shared with an actual sister. But she can at least hear our opening agenda."

When asked how she received this honor, Ms. Bennion replied, "I'm like, so thrilled. I mean, it's way cool to be the first and everything." And then she added archly, "This will once and for all demonstrate how much my church values women."

Friday, August 22, 2014

For the Young Mormon Feminists. From an Old Mormon Feminist.

Recently a brave BYU sophomore named Keli Byers challenged her school's ban on sex for unmarried students, and more specifically, berated the BYU administration for its bias against women. In an article published on August 13, 2014 in Cosmopolitan Byers described how, at age 15, she was assaulted by an LDS returned missionary and then blamed by her bishop for having invited the sexual violation. She then went on to explain:
"When I came to BYU last year I signed its honor code and promised to live a 'chaste life' — students who don't could get expelled. But my attitude changed after I joined the Young Mormon Feminists, a group that's not endorsed by the Church or BYU. We talk about how the Church doesn't see women as equal to men and how BYU is slut-shaming. The school's honor code forces women to dress modestly — no skirts above the knee — supposedly to help men control their thoughts. The group helped me reclaim my sexuality and realize my sexual assault wasn't my fault.”
Predictably, her opinion drew angry and defensive responses from believing Mormons. Read both the article and reader comments here.

As I pondered my own reaction to Keli's brave admission, I concluded that my opinion is probably best expressed in the Vagina Testimony I presented at the 2012 Sunstone Symposium, earlier only excerpted here on Ward Gossip.

So this week for Keli, the Young Mormon Feminists, and my Gentle Readers, I again present my Vagina Testimony, this time in full:

I have a vagina. I have a womb. I possess the procreative power, the fertile valley. I am the sacred feminine. My holy female cycle keeps me in tune with God by way of heavenly mood swings and hot flashes of inspiration. I am a member of the stronger sex.

We women did not choose this role. Rather, it was thrust upon us. And it is a heavy mantle to bear. Every day brings new challenges, especially in these troubled times, when increasing numbers seek to challenge our God-given authority. Even here, in the heart of Zion.

For example, yesterday I awoke, dressed, and came downstairs to take on the day. My helpmeet, Mark, served breakfast. Just the usual. Eggs, bacon, waffles, homemade banana muffins and orange juice for me. Half a grapefruit for him. – I appreciate that Mark works at keeping his figure. It’s important. Especially for men of a “certain age.”

I kissed him goodbye and rushed to an important leadership meeting on the BYU campus. Nine o’clock sharp. I was gathered around the well-lacquered conference table with my fellow sisters. As always, we grappled with the day’s tough issues.

n    First on the agenda: A sensitively worded statement to be read to all LDS wards and stakes. One that tactfully marginalizes all members who are not white, straight, married with at least five kids, living on one income, and fulfilling their gender-specific roles.
n    Second on the agenda: A hip LDS PR campaign that only features Mormons who do not fit the above profile.

Afterward, my colleagues and I headed across campus for some good old gal talk at the Sisterhood Bakery. On my way there I marveled at the many righteous young women I encountered who were striving to live the Gospel. But I had a growing unease about the young men, as some engaged in conduct that was unseemly at best, borderline “vagina envy” at worst.

First, outside the bookstore, I spotted a rather homely young man holding up a placard that read, “It’s My Sperm!” (I chalked this up to his obvious inability to get a date.) Then a few minutes later, as my sisters and I were approaching our destination, another woman-hater shouted, “No fair! Why can’t men eat at the Sisterhood Bakery?”

This insubordinate could not be excused. I drew a breath, mustered all of my patience, and said, “Young man, in the unlikely event that the Lord allows men to hold the keys to the Sisterhood Bakery, which cookie would you want?”

After lunch I headed to the library hoping to do some research. Unfortunately, I found it impossible to concentrate, thanks to a shockingly immodest young man in a pair of Levi 501 Shrink to Fit jeans.

Now, you may ask, “Don’t lots of boys at BYU wear 501 Shrink to Fits?” Yes they do, and for most it is an acceptable choice. But this particular young man had an especially curvy backside that strained the confines of his tightly shrunk pants and left nothing to the imagination. Hot, breathless, and teased out of my mind, I quit the building. Honestly, it’s a wonder that a BYU coed gets any work done in such an environment.

This is difficult to explain to somebody who only has a penis. Because, as we know, God designed the penis for a single purpose -- the impregnating of the holy female womb -- an act that is efficient, perfunctory, and complete inside of a minute.

The vagina, on the other hand, has that sacred spot that God created specifically for pleasure and nothing else. Men don’t have that. So by nature they are naïve and vulnerable to the dangerous power of the female orgasm.

The young men must realize that once aroused, a woman’s passion gathers, builds, swells with quivering anticipation, and finally peaks in hot, wet waves of erotic pleasure that drive the female into a prolonged climax of frenzied desire. Even then she is not sated, and may achieve orgasm again and again for hour upon hour with no end in sight.

That young man in the 501’s has no idea how lucky he was. If I hadn’t had the courage to leave when I did, anything could have happened. And it would have been entirely his fault.

I rushed home to find my helpmeet, Mark, at our kitchen table, hot gluing felt for an upcoming Elders’ Quorum lesson.

I ripped open his shirt. “I have to have you now!”
“Um, okay, but can I at least finish my felt . . .”
“Screw the felt.”
“Darling…please be gentle.”

Five hours later, I left Mark collapsed in a puddle of hot glue and headed to my office at the church. I had only one appointment that evening, but it was a lengthy one, as most confessions are. Sven, a young swimsuit model, had taken a job for a prescription drug company. – It was one of those ads promoting the custom fit vaginal vibrators that are covered by insurance. The commercial featured Sven in a swimming pool surrounded by a bunch of peri-menopausal hotties. When the shoot was over, the women—predictably—lost control and forced Sven to perform oral sex on all six of them.

Wait. Or was it seven? … Just to be safe, I made him repeat the whole story again. It was six women in the pool.

Or was it the hot tub? … I’d better have him back.

Finally I went home, retired to my bed, and drifted off to sleep thinking of all the other privileges I might be entitled to simply because of the anatomy inside of my underpants.

And more importantly, I wondered how much longer I would be able to get away with it.

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