Thursday, July 31, 2014

Eggs Have a Date -- Who Knew?

It's funny how tiny details can trigger big memories. Just the other day, for example. I was cooking, I needed an egg, so I opened the fridge, and my eyes settled on the date stamped on the end of the carton.

Wham. In an instant I was 25 years back in time, sitting in a Relief Society Homemaking Meeting.

--Now, before I go on, I should explain that everyone who is lucky enough to be a member of the one and only true church is conditioned to believe she must attend every single meeting in order to partake of the special knowledge that a poor nonmember isn't privy to. Likewise, everyone who is lucky enough to have escaped the one and only true church can recall a series of "aha" moments when she realized this so-called special knowledge maybe wasn't all that special after all.

Back to my "aha" moment 25 years ago. I was sitting in Relief Society listening to a presentation on thrifty shopping tips. The teacher, a young blonde with a feathery hairdo, picked up an egg carton from her display table, pointed at the date stamped into its styrofoam lid and--with eyes widening--proclaimed, "I didn't know this until yesterday, but eggs have a date."

As the women around me nodded sagely, my eyes glazed over and a primal aha screamed in my brain. I gave up an evening with my family to grab the inside scoop that a raw egg is perishable.

Now, I can't blame the blonde feather-head. After all, she was just doing her best to fulfill the calling her inspired priesthood leader pressured her to accept. (She's a woman. Naturally she loves to cook!) What was maddening was that I was sitting there in the first place, honestly expecting to receive "special knowledge."

Here's another example and another Homemaking Meeting. (For some reason these "ahas" tended to happen at Homemaking Night. Maybe that's why they changed the name to Personal Enrichment.)

Anyway, a middle-aged lady was teaching a lesson on multi-tasking. Mustering the full measure of her special knowledge, she advised, with a straight face, "On cleaning day, I load my dishes into the machine, press start, and while they're washing, I vacuum."

Again, the primal aha. What? You mean unlike the rest of us you don't pull up a chair and watch as the machine goes from wash . . . to rinse . . . to dry?

In retrospect, I'm grateful to these two well-meaning ding-a-lings and the like. The poor things may not have been cut out for our divine role, but they helped me see the light. Hopefully they've had their own "aha" moments, possibly on the occasions I was called upon to share my own special knowledge with the ward.

And I did take away a few good things from Homemaking Night. I recently reupholstered a chair, having learned how in my BYU married student ward. It's been a valuable skill. Although maybe not worth 10% of our income.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Pioneers and Proud of It!

pi-o-neer, n: one who goes before, as into the wilderness, preparing the way for others to follow; as, pioneers of civilization, of reform, or in science; also an early settler; a colonist; as, the American pioneers.

One of the many things that I am thankful for is that I never made one of those phony pioneer treks that today's Mormon youth get to are forced to undergo. I imagine they vary according to area, but every participant I've spoken with has recalled the experience with the sort of descriptives one would naturally apply to a bunch of overdressed, sweaty adolescents pushing handcarts in the blazing heat.

A friend of mine, who acted as a youth leader on one of these ordeals, claimed that his ward dressed up like the Utah pioneers, went to a local (D.C. area) park or field and slogged around in circles for an entire week. -- Sort of the antithesis of an actual pioneer journey. Although it could be the ultimate paradigm for the Mormon experience.

There are all kinds of ways that people set off for new territory, not all of them hot and sweaty. And there are all kinds of reasons people choose to get out of town, not all of them altruistic. -- Maybe a man's just robbed a bank, or he's committed murder, or he wants to marry 50 women, for example.

But, in general I think pioneers are honest and brave and true. Especially those who lead themselves and others to a better world.

For example, the ExMormon pioneers who celebrated Pioneer Day last night at the Hotel Utah Saloon in San Francisco.
Westward ho! Sans handcarts and stupid costumes.
But there were some pretty cool pioneers who celebrated in Utah saloons too. Also a group of 500 pioneers who gathered near Temple Square to resign en masse from the LDS Church!

Cheers to the real pioneers everywhere. Also to the real world.

Friday, July 18, 2014

They Get to Talk, We Get to Listen

Years ago a woman in the ward whom I considered to be an actual friend dropped by my house after yet another meeting that I had missed. Convinced that my lagging church attendance would bring about my ruin, she began her remarks with, "I just have to say this," and then bemoaned the fate of my marriage and fretted over what might become of my poor children.

Because I considered her to be an actual friend, I listened politely. Then, when she finally finished, I countered with, "Okay, then I have to say this," and began to explain my misgivings about the Mormon Church, beginning with the marginalization of LDS women. Aghast that I would actually criticize the leaders of the one and only true church, she shut down the conversation, doing everything short of covering her ears and singing Praise to the Man at the top of her lungs.

--This was back when I foolishly assumed that I also got to say things.

Similarly, a couple of years later, another woman from the ward whom I considered to be both intelligent and sophisticated invited me to watch Gordon B. Hinckley's first interview with Larry King. Because I considered her to be both intelligent and sophisticated, I tuned in on the appointed night. The next day she gave me a call. After gushing over her beloved prophet's performance, she asked, "What did you think of the interview, Donna?"

Me: "Well, President Hinckley is a very genial and well-spoken man."
She: "Yes, isn't he amazing?!"
Me: "Ahem, well, his gift for PR aside, I was alarmed by the number of inaccuracies in his answers. For example, when he said that polygamy isn't doctrine--"
She: "Oh right. I just wanted to hear what you thought."
Me: "Okay, that's what I'm telling you. I also thought he ducked Larry's question about--"
She: "Good. I just wanted to hear what you thought."
Me: "Uh-huh. Well, thank you for that."

--This was back when I foolishly assumed they really wanted to know what I thought.

Not that this dynamic is unique to the Mormons.

In her memoir, My Life in France, Julia Child recalled a dinner party she attended as a young woman. Surrounded by intellectual heavyweights, she came to the both frustrating and enlightening conclusion that her opinions were based on emotions rather than ideas. Later she described one-sided encounters with her didactic father who shut down her every attempt to reason and/or disagree with him.

It seems everywhere you go, the emotion gang isn't keen on listening to the idea gang. Nevertheless, we can't stop trying to voice our opinion, hoping more will switch out feelings for thoughts. Last Friday Robert Kirby wrote an excellent column in the Salt Lake Tribune imploring ultra orthodox Mormons to accept rather than shun their nonbeliever relations. To those (emotion gang) believers who marginalize their atheist offspring, Kirby suggested:

"… consider the very real possibility that you’re an idiot. First for letting theology get in the way of love, and second for believing in a plan/god/spirit that would condemn Buddy for being a wonderful human being but unfortunately not a believer."

Naturally, I couldn't stop myself from sharing the article on my Facebook wall, and, naturally, it drew the expected response--this time from a complete stranger who just had to say:

"So, according to Kirby, throw out all of your beliefs to concentrate on making some people feel better about the here and now. Tomorrow doesn't matter, and you should feel great about the soul of your loved one NOT going to a loving place in the afterworld. If you don't do this, you are an idiot. No, Kirby is an idiot and lost. It looks like the only way he will be happy is if we are all lost as well. Hmmm, I guess that makes him a liberal, too."

Having had my share of what former Congressman Barney Frank once referred to as an "argument with a dining room table," I merely wished the above soul-saver a nice day, privately empathized with his loved ones, and refused to be drawn in to another pointless, one-sided conversation.  

Perhaps Kate Kelly's bishop put the emotion gang's philosophy best. "You are entitled to your views but you are not entitled to promote them," he explained upon her excommunication--an event that has prompted some to bemoan the end of the "Mormon Moment," a supposed six or so year LDS renaissance that has shone the church in a positive light. 

I have a different take on this recent Mormon Moment. From where I sit, it consisted of a failed campaign to block gay marriage, a hit musical, a failed campaign for president, disingenuous ads featuring members who would be marginalized in their real-life wards, a xenophobic LDS rancher whose views on "the Negro" managed to even offend Hannity, and an accomplished civil rights attorney who challenged the LDS patriarchy.

Also from where I sit, the only real LDS goodwill ambassadors seem to have been that goofy but lovable chorus line of missionaries, and the accomplished civil rights attorney. Only the dancing missionaries are fictional characters and the attorney has been excommunicated. --So ends the Mormon Moment.

I just had to say that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

LDS Business Owner Adjusts Corporate Policy Under Cover of Religious Freedom

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Virgil Hanson, Ward Employment Specialist
Subject: Opportunities at Party On Abbottsville! 

Ward members who are looking for work may new find openings at Party On Abbottsville! soon.

Buoyed by Hobby Lobby's recent Supreme Court victory, Brian Samuelson, the devout Mormon owner of our local party supply chain has boldly changed company policy to reflect LDS values. Read the in-store memo below:

To All Employees

In light of the Supreme Court ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the employees at Party On Abbottsville! will now be required to enjoy the lifestyle and religious freedoms embraced by believing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    

Effective immediately:

All male employees will wear white dress shirts, ties, navy blue polyester slacks and have no facial hair, tattoos or piercings.

All female employees will wear calf-length denim jumpers, gingham-checked blouses and only one earring per ear.

All employees will abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks.

Ten percent of employee salaries will be donated to the LDS Church. 

Gay employees may remain on staff so long as they are celibate.

Women may remain on staff so long as they are single, have no children at home, and do not expect equal pay.

Only church approved reading material will be permitted in the break rooms. All employee areas will be monitored, including bathroom stalls.

Health benefits will no longer cover the following:
pain killers
prescription laxatives

We understand that some members of the Party On Abbottsville! team may be opposed to the above policies. We respect their right to object silently, in their own minds. But any vocal opposition will be met with immediate termination. 

If you would like to stop receiving these emails we respect your right to protest silently, in your own mind.