Thursday, December 31, 2015

Utah Says No to Trump!

I hardly ever venture into politics here, but today am making an exception.

This morning's New York Times ran a story about Donald Trump's relative popularity among Republican voters. According to the article, of all the traditional Republican enclaves, Utah has the weakest showing of Trump supporters.

Now, I don't say this very often, but, WAY TO GO, UTAH!

I'm neither a Utahan nor a Republican, and therefore in no position to explain this dynamic. Hopefully some of my Gentle Readers will weigh in on this in the comment field.

Mark says it's because Mormons adhere to organizations and therefore oppose Trump and his rejection of the Republican establishment. I see his point, only I'm pretty sure there are a sizable number of Rand Paul supporters in Utah - and he's hardly a team player either.

Could it be that Utah Republicans are too smart to buy a used car from a flamboyant blowhard who looks like he should be plugging the ShamWow?

Maybe. - But then they will buy an old beater from a reticent navy-suit who looks like he should be managing a crooked hedge fund. They'll even throw in 10% of their income.

Could it be the hair? I have to admit, that lacquered combover almost makes the Mormons' genetic male-pattern baldness look sexy. Almost.

Perhaps I'm overthinking things. What the heck, it's the holidays, and on this rare occasion, Mark and I find ourselves on the same side as the Utah Republicans. At least for the moment. That's reason enough to break out the champagne - even if it weren't New Year's Eve.

Cheers and Happy 2016!

Saturday, December 19, 2015

The Crazy Talk Gets Even Crazier

Mormons have always gone crazy in defense of their church and its teachings. It's never enough for a member to grudgingly go along with whatever the Brethren come up with next. She/he is expected to embrace each new policy or pronouncement with orgasmic excitement.

Yes, Brethren, YES! 

Although, in the wake of the recent new church policy regarding the children of same-sex couples, the quality of "faking it" has cheapened considerably. Uber-faithful Saints who used to carry on like Sally with Harry are now coming off more like Princess Leia with Jabba the Hutt. 

And the crazy-a**ed arguments they're making! For example, this popular post from (Gay) Mormon Guy that has been floating around social media for the past month. In it the openly gay, (I'm assuming) celibate, believing Mormon blogger argues that the Brethren are being totally fair. After all, the children of gay couples are not the only aspiring members who must face estrangement from their families. Among his examples are the daughter of fringe Mormon polygamists, and the son of radical Islamists who threatened to kill him for leaving their faith. 

I'll give the former extremist Muslim kid a pass for cutting ties with Mom and Dad. But I'm not even going to try to wrap my head around the (gay) blogger's logic of comparing married same-sex parents to homicidal fanatics. If any of my more intellectually grounded readers would like to take a pass at it, I welcome your insight.

As for the polygamy argument, I keep hearing it from seemingly thoughtful Mormons, even - and perhaps especially - from those who are gay.

How can an admittedly gay man equate his natural desire to be with another man to some creepy old pervert's desire to collect underaged girls? (Or to homicidal fanatics, for that matter?) How does one reduce himself to this level of self loathing? For the Brethren? Face it, they're a bunch of clueless old white men.

How clueless? Consider these remarks from apostle Dallin Oaks at a recent BYU Christmas address. Thanks to Heather! I saw this first on her blog, Four Monkeys.

"A few years ago, I analyzed the Christmas cards I received at my office and home. There were many, so this was not a small sample. Significantly, my sample was biased toward religious images and words by the fact that most of the cards were sent by fellow leaders or members of my faith.
I sorted the cards I received into three groups. In the first group I put the traditional cards—those with an overt mention of Christ and/or pictures evocative of the birth of the Savior. Only 24 percent of the cards I received were of this traditional character.
In the second group were those cards whose pictures and visuals were not at all religious, but they did have the words “Merry Christmas” to identify the religious origin of the holiday. This was the largest group—47 percent.
In the third group—comprising 29 percent of the cards I received—there was no mention of Christ or Christmas and no religious visuals at all. These cards had words like “Season’s Greetings,” “Happy Holidays,” “Peace in the New Year,” or “Peace and Beauty of the Season.” A few were so daring as to refer to “Peace on Earth” or “Faith, Hope, and Love,” but none had any pictures suggestive of religion.

For Latter-day Saints, Christmas should be a time to celebrate the birth of the Son of God and also to remember His teachings. In reality, His life has had greater impact on every part of this world and its history than any life ever lived. His gifts to us are the greatest gifts ever given—the assurance of immortality and the opportunity for eternal life. Those are the gifts we should celebrate at this and every Christmas." 

See what I mean Gentle Readers? Nobody should be lying down on her back for some creepy old man who spends his quality time dividing his holiday cards into groups and then running statistical analysis to determine the standard deviation of the appearance of the words "Christmas" and "Savior."

Nevertheless, I wouldn't be at all surprised to learn that since Oaks' talk, Utah Valley stationary stores have been booming with business from shamefaced customers who've dumped their "holiday" cards for a new set of "Christmas" cards. And heaven help the poor schlubs who had already put theirs in the mail! -Sigh- You really don't need to act like you're enjoying it!

In that spirit, I wish you all Happy Holidays and Peace in the New Year! Thanks, as always, for reading.

I also hope that my above reference to Princess Leia doesn't dampen your enjoyment of the new Star Wars movie.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Loving that Appearance of Evil

It's tricky being a Mormon. They have to obey all these rules - or at least look like they're obeying them. That's the key. Looking the part.

Just about every Sunday Mormons are reminded to "avoid the appearance of evil." This gospel tenant is driven so deeply into their collective psyche that you'll find them rushing to explain even the slightest possible misperceptions.
Brother Benson, I know you saw me standing in front of the liquor store, but it was only because I was admiring an ad featuring a guy that looked like someone I used to play ball with. . . . Not that I'm gay or anything.
The problem is the emphasis on appearances doesn't stop at the chapel doors. During the week Mormons go out into the world, equally obsessed with how they look, especially when they're hanging with "the cool kids" - aka "nonmembers." This is why you'll see hipster-clad Mormons at Starbucks buying milk in cool looking cups or at LDS wedding receptions guzzling Martinelli's in cool looking champagne flutes. Say what you want about "evil." Bottom line, it looks really cool.

Speaking of Mormon wedding receptions, some years ago Mark and I attended one such cool looking affair in Dallas. The posh gathering featured a martini bar. Only, because it was a Mormon home, the caterers had to substitute mashed potatoes for the gin or vodka, gravy for the vermouth, sour cream for the twist of lemon, etc. Are you following me, Gentle Readers? They served mashed potatoes in martini glasses. HOW COOL IS THAT?!

As we were leaving this sophisticated soiree, Mark suavely turned to me and, in his coolest voice, said, "Make mine mashed, not baked." Then we went to a bar. I mean a real one.

In light of all this, the recent Utah Soda Wars should come as no surprise. (Read more here.)

Evidently there's been a rise of "dirty soda shops" staffed with "mixologists" who serve soft drinks laced with non-alcoholic flavor shots, offering Mormons the guilty pleasure of ordering what sounds like a cocktail. Competition is fierce, with 2 chains vying in court over the use of the term "dirty."

Care for an Extra-Dirty Second Wife? It's a combo of Mountain Dew, fruit syrups and half and half. Salud!

According to the article, these establishments have their share of regulars:
They know me, they know my drinks, and they get excited when I walk in,” she (a regular) added. “It makes me feel good.”
And, no wonder. It's like . . . everybody knows her name.

Dare I boast that I saw this coming? In my 11/17/11 post, It's Ward Cocktail Hour!, Abbottsville Stake President Dennis Newsome suggested cocktail recipes featuring his own alcohol substitutes. For example:

Long Island Iced Tea
3/4 oz Windex
3/4 oz clam juice
3/4 oz root beer
3/4 oz Mountain Dew
3/4 oz Karo Syrup
3/4 oz Mr Bubble
dash of lemon juice

Rum and Coke
1 part root beer
2 parts root beer

Gee, maybe I should sue somebody.

Or, better yet, maybe Mark and I will just toast the Mormons again over our ritual Friday night cocktails - made with real booze - not Mountain Dew or mashed potatoes.

May the Saints continue to keep up appearances!
Brother Benson, I know you saw me with that drink in my hand, but it wasn't a real cocktail, it was just my favorite Extra Dirty Returned Missionary. . . . Not that I'm gay or anything.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Take This Church and Shove It

Last weekend over a thousand Mormons gathered near Salt Lake's Temple Square to submit their resignations from the LDS Church. It was the latest in a series of reactions to the LDS Church decision to refuse infant blessings and baptisms to the children of gay parents. Read more here.

For the benefit of my gentle readers who are not blessed to have been members of the one and only true church, a Mormon's decision between formally resigning vs. playing permanent hooky is a tricky one. Both options have their challenges.

LDS Inc. requires the resigning member to write the local bishop who may impose all kinds of pressure on the resignee before eventually passing his/her request on to the stake president who, in his own time, forwards the resignation to church headquarters. On the other hand, lapsed Mormons who remain on the church rolls may expect to be contacted once, twice, even multiple times a year by eager beavers hoping to reactivate them - and for the rest of their lives, no matter how many times they move.

Evidently the group who protested last Saturday had the help of an attorney who was able to bypass the local bishops and stake presidents and deliver the resignations directly to the LDS Church Office Building. I find this all very confusing, probably because I haven't invested the time to study the matter. But I was under the impression that it had finally been established that once a person submitted a resignation from the church, he/she was out, at least from a legal perspective.

Just like once a person resigns from his/her job, he/she may pack up and walk out. The primary difference being, when a person quits a job, he or she usually gives a couple weeks notice, in the spirit of professionalism and good will toward the employer.

When a person quits LDS Inc. it's usually in the spirit of, "Take this church and shove it."

It's been 15 years since Mark and I formally resigned our membership in the LDS Church. When we quit attending in the 1990's there was no formal resignation process. At least not to our knowledge. If you wanted off the rolls you had to be excommunicated, meaning you had to commit a grievous sin like murder or rape or child molestation. Or, even worse, have gay sex or write a factual book about Mormon history.

Later, when we became aware of the resignation process, we hesitated to make the step, simply because it seemed like too many hoops to jump through. And, lord knows, we'd already jumped though our share of hoops for the Mormons. Instead we asked to be "no contacts." "No contact" was supposed to mean that we stayed on the rolls but the ward members were respectfully advised not to contact us. What it actually meant was that we stayed on the rolls and the current ward leadership didn't contact us. Then the leadership changed and it was open season all over again.

Our last "contact" came from an Elders Quorum President who called after 10 p.m. on a weeknight to ask if we had a pickup truck.

The next morning we caved and composed our resignation letters. They were concise and professional, following a form we'd found on the Internet, and included no specific complaints or criticism, only our wish to be removed from the records of the church.

Our simple request set off a mind-numbingly frustrating back and forth that lasted a full 14 weeks until we were finally off the rolls. The highlight was a letter from our bishop that juxtaposed his slant on our opinions, character and family against that of his own.

Descriptives used when addressing us:
  • ill-conceived
  • most serious action
  • sincere regret
  • distorted, uneducated and subservient
  • completely disagree
  • numerous examples to the contrary
  • cutting yourself off
  • reap a whirlwind from this unfortunate action
  • erroneously take umbrage
  • matters of spiritual life and death
  • a tragic mistake
Descriptives used in addressing his family (which we could be like if only we were righteous):
  • strength of character
  • poise
  • worldly and educational accomplishment
  • spiritual strength
  • phenomenal successes
  • unusual and continuing successes
  • moral and ethical compasses
Tonight Mark and I will raise our Friday night cocktails to toast the over 1,000 brand new official Ex-Mormons who didn't have to endure all this s**t.

If we had it to do over again, I think our resignation letter might go something like this:

Friday, November 6, 2015

Time to Leave the Table

Yesterday the LDS Church changed its policy to exclude children of same-sex parents from membership until/unless they become legal adults, move out of the house, and disavow their gay parents' relationship.

Read more here.

Perhaps in the coming days I will find a way to satirize this astounding act of bigotry. But right now all I feel is sadness. My heart goes out to the loving LDS families and individuals who will suffer because of this. But here's the thing:

You don't need to. You CAN leave!

I'm sorry to say this to my believing readers, I know it's not what you want to hear. But, in my opinion, any organization, religious or otherwise, that requires its members to shun their parents is nothing more than a cult. 

Singer and civil rights activist, Nina Simone, said, "You've got to learn to leave the table when love's no longer being served."

To my liberal Mormon friends:
  With all due respect - and I do respect you - I think it's time you left the table.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Kerfuffle Over a Cup of Coffee

This past Sunday a film student interviewed Mark and I for a documentary that he and an ex-Mormon classmate are making about people who've left the LDS Church. Since we've been out of the faith a couple of decades now, the return to the early steps in our exit process was an interesting emotional journey for us both. Suffice to say, we've come a long way since then.

One of the questions the young man asked was, "How did your Mormon friends react when you left the church?" As I wrote in my last post, most of my Mormon "friends" weren't actually friends but, rather, women I was assigned to work with.

I told him that my old LDS friends - people from high school and college with whom I'd cultivated genuine friendships - continued, for the most part, to be my friends. But the people I had been currently attending church with broke ties with me. Only not at first. At first, these assigned friends claimed they'd stick by my side "no matter what." Then, when reality seeped in and they finally acknowledged that I was never coming back to church, they unceremoniously dumped me.

This conjured a memory, one I hadn't thought of in years. Not long after I'd quit the church, I was in my local McDonald's buying coffee before work. One of my Mormon "friends" spied me from somewhere inside the restaurant, chased me out to my car, and then breathlessly confronted me with:
"I can accept that you no longer go to church. But I never thought you'd drink COFFEE!" 
For a few long seconds she leered at me in absolute revulsion, as if she'd just caught me exposing myself to a child or torturing a puppy with a lit cigar. Then she stormed off, never to see or speak to me again.

While amusing now, at the time this encounter was painful. It's tough to lose your friends, even tougher to acknowledge that they were never your friends in the first place. Since when does a friend dump you over a cup of coffee?

One of my favorite quotes comes from Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden:
"Grief is a most peculiar thing; we're so helpless in the face of it. It's like a window that will simply open of its own accord. The room grows cold, and we can do nothing but shiver. But it opens a little less each time, and a little less; and one day we wonder what has become of it."
From where I sit today, the window is securely shut. I can laugh and roll my eyes over the absurd recollections from my Mormon past. But I will never forget the pain I felt back then.

When I meet people who've recently left Mormonism and are struggling to make peace with the believers in their lives, I can truly empathize. I can't reassure them that their LDS loved ones will support their new life choices, because, in all honesty, I know that's probably not going to happen.

But I can tell them about the bat-sh@#t crazy woman who flipped out when she saw me with a cup of coffee - and otherwise do my best to make them laugh. I can tell them that the cold wind will abate, the window will gradually close, and that, before long, they'll be laughing about a lot of things.

I also tell them that writing a funny blog really helps. Or producing a documentary. I hope those kids get an A+ on their assignment.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Real Friends in the Real World

As a Mormon I was taught to avoid The Real World. It was an evil, cold, miserable place. The Church, by contrast, was loving and gentle and good - a haven of camaraderie and friendship, the only destination where men and women could find true happiness.

Only, I wasn't happy. A lot of the things I heard in church weren't loving, gentle, or good. As for friendship, all those church assignments left little time for socializing. My only friends were a couple of women who were assigned to come around and "teach" me every month. Half the time they were women I had little in common with. On the occasions I was given somebody that might grow into a friend, she was shifted to a new assignment before anything developed. With the LDS Church arranging my social life, I felt as though I was constantly following a script. Like an actress in a cheesy sitcom or creepy promotional film.

For me, there was no happiness in that Fake World.

Thank heavens I'm now a member of the Real World!

I like to say that the best thing about being a Mormon is becoming an ExMormon. It's a great community of accepting free thinkers - a place where I've found lots of real friends, not fake ones. And we've plenty of time to socialize! Take the past few weeks, for example.

First Eric and Ali flew down from Oregon. We met them, along with Steve and Sarah, at the Barrel to Bottle event in Half Moon Bay.

BYOB - and they fill it!
Then back to our house for another mythic cooking session!
Food is serious business

Eric whipping eggs into a frenzy

Blackjack supervising
Caesar Salad!
Chocolate Souffle - yum!
Then last week Bill and Dana/Insana Dee dropped by our house as part of their West Coast road trip. How lucky are we?!
Dana and I at the Moraga Steps in SF
Of course Dana had to go to the Mission District and buy a Donald Trump piñata!
Dana's just mad about The Donald!
Of course Bill posed with him!
As did Don and Scott!
Then we hooked up with Jerry and Cheryl after the ExMormon gathering at the SF Ferry Building on Sunday. Sadly, our long time watering hole, Sinbad's, is closing down so the city can build another ferry landing.
Jerry and Cheryl with Sinbad
Owner Tom Stinson in a final duel

But we'll find a new watering hole. Because there are still plenty of fun times with good friends ahead. Life is good - when you don't have to fake it.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Whew! We're Still Here

As many of you may already know, preparedness shops in Utah have been selling out of their 72-hour kits and freeze-dried food rations in preparation for the apocalypse that was supposed to happen last night.

I don't really have much to say about this, other than to suggest that a 72-hour kit might not be enough to last through an apocalypse. Also to lament that I am not the author of the accompanying best sellers.

But it seemed like waking up this morning to discover that the world hadn't ended was worth a post.

In that spirit, congratulations, Gentle Readers!

Hell, I may even toss some freeze-dried blueberries on my nitrogen-packed cracked wheat this morning.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 2

Continuing from last time, the second half of WHY DON'T YOU GET IT?

Reason #2: Because being Mormon was an integral part of our life experience.

Five years ago I dedicated a post to my husband, Mark. It was a brief bio that outlined his happy Mormon childhood, his fond mission memories, our courtship at BYU, etc. Then I went on to quickly explain why we eventually decided to leave Mormonism.

Minutes after the post published, I received a personal message from an old friend who scolded me for being negative about the church, called me a liar, and suggested that "people like me" should "just leave" and never talk about the church again.

Excuse me? Never talk about this overwhelming experience that dominated our formative years and consumed over two decades of our lives? Forget "why?" - How, exactly, does one do that?

Thanks to a a generous reader, I have an even better example, and with illustrations! (Thanks again, Gentle Reader/You Know Who You Are!)

Every American kid who came of age during the 60's and 70's can recall the generational divide over hairstyles, dress, and especially music.

Only, while the "nonmember" kids' parents were hollering at them to "turn off that racket and get a haircut," teenagers in the one and only true church were dragged off to LDS firesides to listen to Lynn Bryson and other self-serving zealots who managed to convince many of them that rock music was devil worship, John Lennon was a wizard, and that the Eagles were practicing human sacrifice!

Understandably terrified, some LDS teens were actually persuaded to turn off some of the best music of the century and listen instead to:
LDS pop-singer Mac Reynolds, aka "The Singing Farmer"


The Mormon alternative to Sly and the Family Stone

or . . . drumroll . . . TA DAH!

The most annoying song ever recorded just became even more annoying.

In response to my recent post about Mormons and '70's rock, a reader wrote:
"I grew up in a small, isolated town in Utah. After the fireside in my stake, I had friends whose parents would only let them listen to compilation tapes of music Lynn Bryson sold to them. When you have a snake oil salesman like that come into town, it just spreads paranoia and fear that can literally last for decades."
Paranoia and fear that lasts literally for decades? ... Feelings? ... The god-d***ed Singing Farmer? Again, forget "why?" - How does one leave that alone?

Listen, Mormons, I'm sorry that you don't like hearing about our less than perfect experiences, but we can't stop talking about them. We couldn't even if we wanted to.

Consider this, my believing friends. Say a successful professional man grew up in a big Mormon family in an all Mormon town in Utah. He's since moved to California and left Mormonism behind. Nevertheless, every once in a while a nosey nonmember asks him, "Where are you from?" Now how would you have him answer?

  • Should he be vague? "Um . . . the mountains."
  • Or paranoid? "Who wants to know?"
  • Should he fake amnesia? "I've forgotten everything that's happened to me before I walked into this bar just now."
  • Should he lie? "I'm from France."
  • Or ... should he own up to it and toe the party line? "I grew up Mormon in Provo, Utah, but I left the church because I was offended. Also because I wanted to hang out in seedy bars with low-lifes like you." 

I'm going to sign off now, and start banging my head on my desk.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 1

The question I am most often asked by believing Mormons is: "Why won't Ex-Mormons leave the church alone?"

I've never directly addressed that inquiry here on Ward Gossip. There's a reason for that, and it involves the preservation of my sanity. As many of my Gentle Readers probably know, engaging with Mormons on that issue can be a head-banging, mind-numbingly maddening experience.

I end up getting angry - like back when I was a Mormon. And since not being angry all of the time is one of the best things about no longer being a Mormon, I tend to opt for humor. In part for my own therapy.

However lately a decline in my blogging enthusiasm has made me see the end of Ward Gossip closing in on the horizon. And there are a few things I still want to share before I go, including my answer to the highly annoying question: "Why won't Ex-Mormons leave the church alone?"

Reason #1: Because the church doesn't leave us alone.
  • Mormon missionaries travel worldwide, knocking on doors and sharing their message. 
  • Members are encouraged to share the gospel with their neighbors and friends, also to reconvert "inactives," even when the so-called "inactive" has made it clear that he or she is no longer interested in attending. 
  • The church springs for in-your-face advertising: TV commercials, billboards, even a feature length film. 
  • Mormon temples and historical sites boast attractive, well-manned visitors' centers.
  • They have a big choir that regularly tours and records. 
  • High profile Mormons in business, politics and the entertainment industry publicly embrace the faith. In 2012 one even ran for president.
  • The Mormon Church has encouraged/pressured its members to vote for and donate money to political causes that impose its narrow values on society at large. For example, the extreme liquor laws in Utah, the successful opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment during the late 70's and early 80's, various gambling initiatives, and perhaps most notoriously, the successful passage of Proposition 8 that banned gay marriage in California back in 2008. 
Don't get me wrong. The LDS Church is well within its rights on all of the above. So long as they are obeying local laws, the Mormons are free to seek out new and reconvert old members - even if their tactics are annoying. Likewise, they can produce cheesy commercials and films, run for office, and otherwise participate in politics. 

In fact, there are outsiders who enjoy those cheesy ads, admire the Mormons' wholesome, clean-cut image, and appreciate their outspoken support of conservative social issues. We know this because the Deseret News, the Mormon Newsroom, and similar LDS outlets are quick to share any kind  words directed at the church in the mainstream media.

But the moment anyone publicly disagrees with, criticizes, protests, or (god forbid) pokes fun at the Mormons' very public image and/or mission, the members and leaders of the self-proclaimed one and only true church suddenly morph into the Amish: 
"Why are they persecuting us? We're a humble, private people who only want to practice our religion separately and in peace. Why can't they leave us alone?!"
Now comes the head-banging moment, when I need to be duct-taped to my chair to keep from grabbing one of them and screaming into his or her clueless face:
"WHY DON'T YOU GET IT? Humble my @$$. You belong to the one and only true church, for crying out loud. Your religion's headquarters has expanded into half of downtown Salt Lake City. And when your Utah-based church tries to dictate the marriage laws two states away - where roughly 1% of the population is LDS - people aren't going to leave it or you alone." 
Most members of mainstream churches do get this. Thank god for my progressive Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, and also my thoughtful LDS friends who can stand the heat and take a joke.

But there are a smattering of fundies out there who, like an unfortunate number of Mormons, mistake freedom of religion with the right to impose one's religion on all of society. Take, for example, Kentucky county clerk, Kim Davis, who, for the sake of obeying "God's law" broke federal law when she refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Now she's in jail, and, no doubt, feels persecuted.

I could attempt to explain to both her and her supporters why I believe the government won't and shouldn't "leave her alone." But it would likely be yet another head-banging moment. Then I'd end up getting angry - like back when I was a Mormon. Angry and bitter.

There's another common question I'd like to answer before I go: "Why are Ex-Mormons so angry and bitter?" One thing at time...

Coming soon: Why Ex-Mormons Won't Leave the Church Alone, Part 2! (Spoiler alert! Content to include seriously terrifying little-known facts about John Lennon and The Eagles. Also some disturbing examples of "LDS rock music.")

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Never a Dull Moment in ExMormondom

Back when I was a Mormon life was a pretty dull ride. Thank goodness I've shifted gears as an ExMormon. Now there's never even a dull moment. Like this weekend when Mark and I headed up to Sacramento for the last of Jerry the Aspousetate's annual summer parties.

The following crappy photos are courtesy of the slightly buzzed blog owner:

Among the attendees were several members of the newly formed Sacramento chapter of Mormon Spectrum. Interesting folks with interesting stories - from a young man who is struggling to raise his kids alongside his believing ex, to a middle-aged woman who had married into Mormon royalty (with disastrous results), to an eighty-year-old who still endures the snubs and rebukes from her believing siblings some 60 years after leaving the faith.

Also we got to meet Mike, who is famous for his YouTube temple videos. He reminisced about those wholesome, bygone days when we got to pantomime our own deaths in the LDS temple. Ah...memories.

This prompted me to recall that smarmy Protestant minister in the old temple film, the one who hung out with Satan. ("We teach a religion made up of the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture.") Any of you old enough to remember him? He was played by none other than J. Spencer Palmer who taught World Religions at BYU. No irony there (snort).

But if you really want a laugh check out Mormon Temple: The Musical!

When we got back to San Francisco "The Galaxy Song" from Life of Brian was still swimming around my brain.**

Then yesterday I received a package from a Gentle Reader! Inspired by my recent post on rock music and BYU, he sent me some fun CD's. Do I have cool readers or what?

One is an LDS fireside featuring Lynn Bryson whose anti-rock music talks were popular in Mormon circles during the 1980's. Also an "Up With People" album (an LDS pop group circa 1970) and some "Sons of Mosiah," an LDS group formed in 1970 who look like they could be back-ups to Greg Brady's Johnny Bravo schtick.

Look! He even sent a spare album cover. 

The back cover is an article in the Washington Post, published 2/28/70

Thank you Gentle Reader/You Know Who You Are! I now have the makings of endless material for future posts. Also hours of anything but dull moments ahead of me.

**Don't get the Life of Brian reference? That's because you haven't checked out Mormon Temple: The Musical!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Donna's Mini-Break!

I've been off the grid lately, thanks to a wonderful visit from our son, daughter-in-law, and grandkids!

Mark, Meera, and adorable offspring
Since I understand the Mormon-themed media is obsessing over Joseph Smith's phony seer stone while the mainstream media is obsessing over the Republican phony, Donald Trump, I'm not suffering from any separation anxiety. In fact I'm having a blast!

and Max!
So, as you can see, Gentle Readers, I've no time left for the seer stone or the Donald.

But I will be back soon.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Now It May Not Even Be Fun For Boys

In response to the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board's decision to allow openly gay leaders, the LDS Church issued the following scathing statement:
“The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is deeply troubled by today’s vote by the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Board. In spite of a request to delay the vote, it was scheduled at a time in July when members of the Church’s governing councils are out of their offices and do not meet. When the leadership of the Church resumes its regular schedule of meetings in August, the century-long association with Scouting will need to be examined. The Church has always welcomed all boys to its Scouting units regardless of sexual orientation. However, the admission of openly gay leaders is inconsistent with the doctrines of the Church and what have traditionally been the values of the Boy Scouts of America.
As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available. Those worldwide needs combined with this vote by the BSA National Executive Board will be carefully reviewed by the leaders of the Church in the weeks ahead.”
This statement is obnoxious on so many levels. First and foremost it is an affront to LDS gays and lesbians who continue to be marginalized within their faith. But, for the sake of efficiency, I'll confine my sarcasm to (feminist that I am) the part that pissed me off the most:
"As a global organization with members in 170 countries, the Church has long been evaluating the limitations that fully one-half of its youth face where Scouting is not available."
Pssst - Brethren, just for the record (and not that you care) but half of your "youth" are actually...

I admit this poorly chosen wording probably doesn't reflect the Brethren's intent. Most likely it's the work of some underpaid sexist ding-a-ling in church PR. Nevertheless, there is a Freudian resonance to it. If by "youth" the Mormons mean "boys" one must assume that, in similar church statements, by "adults" they mean "men."

And why not? When a Mormon girl turns twelve, she goes straight from Primary to a boring, grown-up regimen of marriage and motherhood. Then, when she finally grows up and gets married, she's relegated back to the standing she enjoyed in Primary. I understand that nowadays, girls as young as 8 are required to attend mind-numbingly boring "women's" conferences, making the Mormon female's experience bizarrely backwards  - robbed of her childhood as a girl, robbed of her adulthood as a woman.

But, back to the "limitations of fully one-half of (LDS) youth."

At least, up until now, the boys got to have fun. 

LDS scout troops are notorious for being unenthusiastic and poorly run. But at least they've had the fallback of the BSA's established rules and requirements, as well as their great camps and jamborees. Back in the early/mid 1990's, our son ended up in one of the better LDS troops, thanks to some competent leaders, including his dad. Our son loved scouting, so much so that he and his dad continued to attend troop activities even after we'd quit attending the LDS Church. When I think back to the good things about my life as a Mormon, two things come to mind: 1. Meeting my husband, Mark. 2. Our son's scouting experience.

A few years ago I paid a visit to my son and his wife in Austin, bringing along some of his childhood possessions. By far, his favorite was his old scout sash. He spent the better part of an evening identifying all of the badges and recalling the memories surrounding them. But later he lamented that, if he were to have his own son, he couldn't, in good conscience, allow him to participate in the BSA - because of the organization's policy banning gays.

I am happy for the BSA switch in policy and I'm happy for the dedicated gay scout leaders who may now openly serve in the organization. Also, I'm happy for my son and my little 11 month-old grandson who may someday carry on the family tradition of scouting - in a troop that welcomes gay leaders.

But I'm sad for Mormon boys. If the LDS Church is serious about dropping out of the BSA, whatever program they put in its place is bound to be an unenthusiastic, poorly run, mind-numbingly boring grown-up regimen - leaving what is left of the church "youth" without any youth after all.

Friday, July 17, 2015

My Interview with Jerry the Aspousetate

In November San Franciscans will vote on whether tax dollars can be spent on legacy businesses. One of those businesses is the Hotel Utah Saloon, which has its own special legacy for local Exmormons. We've been celebrating Utah Pioneer Day there since the turn of the century (1999).
The event organizer is our beloved never-been-Mormon host, Jerry Vaught, also known as “Jerry the Aspousetate” on the Recovery from Mormonism Bulletin Board. I had the pleasure of sitting down with him this week just ahead of the 2015 Pioneer Day party.

Donna Banta:
Jerry, welcome to Ward Gossip! I'm honored that you are here.

Jerry Vaught:
I'm happy to be here, Donna

Jerry, you've been hosting the Exmormon party at the Hotel Utah Saloon every July 24th since 1999, is that correct?

I have.

For the sake of my readers who are still practicing Mormons, can you explain what exactly goes on at these events?

There is a lot of drinking and violating of the Word of Wisdom and loud laughter. There’s no agenda.

No agenda? I'm afraid you may have just scared away my few believing readers.

(chuckles) I've been known to do that.

It's difficult to describe how crazy and fun these parties are without citing examples. Mark and I have been attending since 2004. As you know, our annual contribution is the Joseph Smith Sphinx poster that beckons the faithful to our hangout above the stage. One year it mysteriously disappeared. After a thorough search, we concluded that Joseph the Sphinx had been “taken back up to heaven,” threw up our hands, and went home. The next day the bar called to report that our sphinx had somehow turned up onstage with the band later in the evening! We drove back over to reclaim him. He’s looked a little dazed ever since.
That Joseph was always sneaking off somewhere.

Indeed. What are some of your favorite Hotel Utah Saloon memories?

Well, there was the time I put up a wanted poster of Warren Jeffs and it attracted the attention of the regulars at the bar. One asked if the then fugitive was to be our featured speaker. Another year Pat Bagley from the Salt Lake Tribune dropped by and drew cartoons on our hands. Also there was the year a woman brought a giant jello mold of the Salt Lake City temple. You never know what to expect at these things.

Do you ever get any active Mormons?

Yes, but not necessarily on purpose. One year a woman who happened to be at the bar that evening saw our sign and announced, "I'm a Mormon." Noticing the beer in her hand, I figured her for one of us, and invited her to join the party. She hesitated a moment, scowled, and said, "No. I have to teach Relief Society tomorrow."

Too bad she passed on your invitation. She might have gained inspiration for her lesson.

Also we sometimes get some mystery guests. Folks who don't drink or interact, but seem overly curious. And most years the bar gets a call from an anonymous person asking, "How many Exmormons are there, and what are they doing?"

Think they might be Mormon spies?

Maybe. We don't ask and they don't tell.

Jerry, as the long time dedicated host of this and two other amazing Northern California Exmormon parties, the mantle of Exmormon leadership has deservedly fallen upon your shoulders. Has this high standing in the community afforded you any spiritual or prophetic powers?

Absolutely. I see more Exmormons in my future. Also bigger parties.

Sounds like true inspiration, Jerry. Thanks for imparting your wisdom here on Ward Gossip. Also thanks for being our host again this year.

My pleasure, Donna.

One week from today!
Be there or be square!
Friday, July 24, 2015
5:30 pm
500 4th Street @ Bryant
San Francisco

**Call the bar if you get lost. Or if you're a creepy Mormon spy who wants to know what we're up to.

Friday, July 10, 2015

LDS Singles Hitting New Low?

When Mark and I walked into one of our favorite restaurants recently, we found the bar packed with middle-aged men and women participating in a Bay Area singles' speed dating event. We went on to be seated in the dining room with our friends, Jerry and Cheryl. The bar was out of sight, so we couldn't follow the couples' interactions. But we were reminded of their progress by the ringing of a bell at ten minute intervals. Also, on my trip to the ladies' room I witnessed the disturbing spectacle of women at or around my age vying for primping space in front of the mirror.

As he always does when confronted with such a situation, Mark swore that if something happened to me he would never reduce himself to participating in (what he considers to be) such a humiliating activity. While I'd like to agree with him - at least on the primping in the mirror part - I'm not really sure. He and I have been happily married for decades now, and honestly can't say what we'd be "reduced to" if we suddenly found ourselves single. Dating is awkward by definition. And people have been known to do far more embarrassing things for the sake of finding love, or even just for the sake of getting laid.

Take the Mormons, for example.

A middle-aged LDS acquaintance of mine recently attended a single adult activity where the icebreaker was "Pantyhose Tug-of-War." This 2-participant game, evidently introduced on a Japanese game show, proceeds as follows: snip the toes off a pair of women's pantyhose, have each player pull the leg end down over his/her head and face, and then tug in opposite directions until the winner either crosses a line, strips the hose from his/her opponent's face, sustains a concussion, or all three.

My mind goes back to those women at the bathroom mirror, as well as to my initial point. It could have been far more more embarrassing. At least the nonmember middle-aged gals didn't have to ruin their makeup and carefully combed coifs by pulling a hose leg over their faces. (Ahem, I don't think they did, that is. As I said, we couldn't actually see from the dining room.)

Not that I'm all that surprised. Mormons have been patronizing their single adults for generations, subjecting them to infantile activities like mall scavenger hunts, blanket fort building in the cultural hall, and endless rounds of the Bunny Hop. - When researching LDS sites earlier I ran across a sort of "goo game" where participants smear themselves with Vaseline and then compete over how many cotton balls they can adhere to their faces.

That being said, this pantyhose competition seems like a new low, even for an LDS Singles activity.

And the sad thing was, after all that, nobody even got laid.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Gay Marriage? We've Got This!

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Sister Millie Loomis, self-appointed ward culture critic and author of the blog, A Perfect Mormon Woman
Subject: My latest on gay marriage

We've Got This!
Although the complete legalization of gay marriage in the United States comes as a terrible blow to the faithful members of the Lord's church, we are prepared - we've got this!

We've made covenants. We know the doctrine. And we're not strangers to persecution.

After all, legal same-sex marriage isn't the only immoral law that the Supreme Court and a handful of activist judges in all 50 states have forced us to accept. Every day we are confronted with so-called legalities such as lottery tickets, cocktail bars, Starbucks, Victoria's Secret, Coke machines, and professional women in pants. Even in the midst of these indignities we have held our heads high. Today is no exception.

In these days of moral confusion, many good people are so desensitized, so lacking in good conscience, so lazy, slovenly, and intent on sin, that they find it nearly impossible to even distinguish truth, let alone stand for it.

This observation is in no way judgmental. Rather it is an expression of single-minded acceptance and unabashed humility. Now, thanks to the morally confused majority, love has lost, and marriage has become a mere manmade institution.

This is a lie. Marriage isn't about people. It's about God.

Since God, conveniently, speaks exclusively to to the leaders of our church, we know that the only legitimate marriage is between a man and a woman who are sealed in the Mormon temple for time and all eternity. - The woman cleaving exclusively to one man, and the man cleaving temporarily to one woman. That is, until the next life when he may have conjugal relations with hundreds, perhaps thousands of wives.

It is in this wholesome environment that God intended children to be born and raised.

Because of our beliefs, we will be labeled as bigots and told we are on the wrong side of history. But we know that we will prevail in the end. (In the meantime, being called bigots might spare us exposure to unsavory sorts with counterfeit lifestyles.)

But I digress. Now, as Latter-day Saints, we must stand strong for the Mormon definition of traditional marriage and against the sleazy, politically correct, morally confused United States Supreme Court.

Disagree? Think we're on the wrong side of history? Go ahead, call us bigots. (We're actually okay with that.)

In the spirit of unabashed humility,
Millie Loomis, A Perfect Mormon Woman

If you would like to stop receiving these emails, we invite you read this far more nuanced and sophisticated piece of satire penned by Kathryn Skaggs over on A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sorry, Mormons. It's Not About You.

For most of my gentle readers today is a day to celebrate the nationwide legalization of same sex marriage. It is also a day to mourn the loss of the Reverend Clementa Pickney and the other innocent victims who died in the mass shooting in Charleston. - A chilling combination that reminds us that progressive Supreme Court decisions are only a small step in the march toward equality and acceptance.

But for many believing Mormons, today's events will provide yet another opportunity to cry persecution. Take, for example, a recent op-ed in the Mormon-owned Deseret News that called the recent shootings in Charleston an assault on the "right to worship freely."

Can't say I'm surprised. I'm well acquainted with the Mormon penchant for making everything about them. The train of logic goes something like this:
The white supremacist, Dylann Roof, was really out to persecute religious people. In fact, he could just as likely have charged into an LDS chapel and blown away a bunch of white people. - In fact, Roof mistakenly believed that the members of the bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were Mormons! - In fact, a group of LDS missionaries were set to, CONDUCT that bible study when they were prompted to stay away!! OR an angel (a really really white one) blocked their path and warned them away!!! OR one of the 3 Nephites called the Elders aside to help him change some Mormon guy's tire!!!! 
Suffice to say I wouldn't want to be at a Mormon potluck tonight, listening to the inevitable cries of persecution. (The death of their traditional marriages, perhaps?)

Instead, on this historic day, I invite my gentle readers to check out Elder: A Mormon Love Story.

And tonight Mark and I will raise our Friday night cocktails to the proud display of the rainbow flag at the San Francisco city hall and the removal of the Confederate flag at the South Carolina state capitol.

Sorry, Mormons. It's not about you.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Wouldn't It Be Nice - If I Hadn't Gone to BYU...

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing the new biopic about Brian Wilson, Love and Mercy. It's a sensitive and fascinating examination of the former Beach Boys' sheer genius and fragile emotional state. While the story shifts back and forth in time, its focus is Wilson's recording of Pet Sounds, the 1966 album that continues to rank at #2 on Rolling Stone's list of the greatest albums of all time - #1 is Sergeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band which the Beatles released the following year, and drew heavily on Pet Sounds in its influence.

I grew up in Southern California and listened to the Beach Boys as a child. Like many people my age and older, their music is permanently stamped in my psyche. Even today, whenever I hear one of their classic tunes, the warm Southern California breeze, the hot sand beneath my feet, and the sweet smell of the ocean stirs in my memory. Good vibrations.

However, thanks to a certain deranged chucklehead at BYU, one Beach Boys song inadvertently conjures a foul memory.

In the late 1970's I was taking education classes to qualify for my teaching credential. Among the requirements were a series of single credit courses, lasting about six weeks, on topics pertinent to secondary school teachers. Many of these mini-classes were taught by young profs who had recently come from teaching in public schools and were exceptionally enthusiastic about their subject. So, when I signed up for a class about drawing on popular culture to assist in lesson preparation, I expected to learn some fresh, new ideas.

On the first day, my seven or so classmates and I were greeted by a roly-poly gent somewhere in his 60's. He sat on a metal folding chair that could barely accommodate his girth. Next to him was a portable record player - one of those numbers that could be carried like a suitcase and then opened with the turntable on the bottom and the speaker in the lid. He promised to, by way of example, demonstrate the evil, pernicious messages that were being fed to our children through today's popular music.

There was a certain whimsey to the whole experience. Bear in mind this was around 1978. The big acts of the day were the Bee Gees, Rod Stewart, the Commodores, Elton John, ELO, the Village People, Supertramp, etc. But Professor Chucklehead, convinced he was on the cutting edge, spent our class time dissecting songs that were at least a decade or two old, by artists whom the current rising generation would never listen to, unless it was to humor their parents or some other tiresome grown-ups in their lives.

I exchanged pained winces and stifled snickers with my fellow classmates as Chucklehead interpreted the underlying meaning of tunes like "Under the Boardwalk" - I know what those Drifters really want you to do under there - "We'll Sing in the Sunshine" - catchy finger-popper, but an obvious vehicle for free love - and even "Wake Up Little Susie" by the Everly Brothers - what, indeed, will they tell their friends when they say "ooh-la-la?"

Ironically, during this same semester, one of my housemates had taken to doing her living room aerobics routine to David Bowie's "Suffragette City."

The class started out as merely amusing. That is, until Professor Chucklehead went after one of my favorite songs of all time, "Wouldn't it Be Nice." The first track on Brian Wilson's Pet Sounds, it is both complex in its musicality and innocent in its message, much like Brian himself. (Tony Asher wrote the lyrics.) I won't go into what Chucklehead had to say about it, as I would rather my gentle readers remember it as the artist intended: a sweet and soulful tribute to adolescent longing.

You know it seems the more we talk about it 
It only makes it worse to live without it
But let's talk about it...

I highly recommend Love and Mercy. It left a profound impression on me, enough of one that I might even be able to, once and for all, bury the memory of Professor Chucklehead. And god only knows, I could do without him.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Destined for Destruction, and Proud of It!

A couple of years ago Mark and I were eating dinner at the Applebee's in Bountiful, Utah. The booth next to us was filled with bouncy Mormon teenagers enjoying ice-cream sundaes. A young lady in the group announced that she had been accepted into a summer program in Los Angeles. Then, when some others in the party voiced concern, she replied loudly, "Don't worry. Only San Francisco is going to fall into the ocean!"

We had to smile. It had been some time since we'd entertained this apocalyptic forecast from our former doomsday cult. Of course, in our day, it wasn't just SF, but the entire state that was destined to fall into the ocean. Why single out San Francisco? Well, there was the whole hippie/free love thing, followed by the whole gay thing, followed by ... what? The whole techie thing? Are algorithms a tool of Satan? Worldly knowledge, I suppose.

I must say, as a native Angeleno I am offended by this exclusion. I beg your pardon, but L.A. has totally earned its part in God's final Big One, thank you very much! Where do you think He got the script?

For those of you who have not had the good fortune to be members of the one and only true church, it's not just hippies, gays, and software engineers whom the Mormons have destined to perish in the wake of Jesus' return, it's everyone who isn't dedicating all of his time, talent and resources to the LDS Church. - People who enjoy iced tea or cocktails on a lazy Sunday afternoon. People who are obsessed with truth and scientific fact. People who pick out their own underwear. - That would include not only the state of California, but also the Pacific Northwest, the entire Atlantic Coast, and most points in between.

I admit that falling into the ocean isn't a pleasant prospect. But we've all got to go sometime. And if my options are ... plunging to my death on a lazy Sunday afternoon, cocktail in hand, in the underwear of my choice vs. enduring to the end, painfully sober, and left to exist on a diet of powdered milk, nitrogen packed wheat and dehydrated pear flakes ... I'll take the whole plunging to my death scenario.

I'm guessing there are even some folks in Bountiful, Utah who might agree with me. The bar at the Applebee's was surprisingly busy when Mark and I dined there a couple of years ago.