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.

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?

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

Did this make you feel out of place?

Actually, it freed me up to just have fun.

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

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.

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.

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?

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.

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

I'm surprised they haven't already.

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?

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

Screw the rules, then.

Sin is its own reward, Donna.

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

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.

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:

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.


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?

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 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.