Friday, May 29, 2015

The G.A.s Fight the War in Heaven

Mormon General Authorities' Role in The War in Heaven to be Subject of New Mini-Series
The Salt Lake News - published Friday, May 29, 2015

Filmmaker Lowell Swainston (The Naked Testimony, The Naked Testimony 2 1/2) has created a new mini-series that twists the conventional Mormon view of the Pre-Existence. Pre-Mortal Saints: the War on Sex will begin airing this Sunday.

The concept that the most righteous spirits in the Pre-Existence were destined for greatness in this mortal life has been long embraced by believing Mormons. Traditionally, this meant that the most valiant in the pre-life, most specifically during the fabled "War in Heaven," were slated for top positions in the Mormon hierarchy. But recently, monumental bungling by the Brethren coupled with the dawn of a surprising strain of rational thought have brought this theory into question.

"Over the years, the General Authorities have devoted the better portion of their lives to fighting masturbation, gay sex, pre-marital sex, oral sex, kinky sex, sex education, sexual freedom, sexy thoughts, sexy underwear, anything and everything remotely sexual," Swainston explained. "Despite the relative success of their efforts, these seem like weak issues compared to the causes championed by Dr. Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi. It made me wonder, what exactly did these bozos do up there to land a GA gig down here?"

His curiosity piqued, Swainston posed the question on Twitter, drawing over 500 tweets inside of an hour.

"The general consensus was that the Brethren must have dedicated their pre-mortal lives to the obliteration of all forms of sexual pleasure," Swainston explained. "Once I had that figured out, the whole thing sort of wrote itself."

Excerpt from Episode 1:

Scene: Colonel Barack Obama is standing in a Telestial High School hallway opposite rising seniors, Boyd K. Packer, Mark E. Petersen and Spencer W. Kimball  

Obama: Good afternoon, young patriots, I understand you have served valiantly in your posts as hall monitors for the boys bathroom. 

Packer, Petersen and Kimball: Yes sir!

Obama: I've come here to enlist your support in the War in Heaven. Young Packer, are you up to the challenge?

Packer: Sir, yes sir! Only...

Obama: Only what?

Packer: Only I hate to leave my work here. It's essential to the preservation of my little factory, and to the safety of that of my fellow brethren as well.

Obama: Exactly what is your little factory?

Packer: Sir, it's my link to the creation, the life blood of my power down on earth, the vital essence of my godhood.

Obama: Packer, what the hell are you talking about?

Packer: My penis and testicles, sir.

Obama: So you're saying that serving in the War in Heaven might endanger your dick?

Packer: Maybe, sir. Where might I be called to serve?

Obama: The campaigns of Generals Eleanor Roosevelt, Alexander the Great, and Albert Einstein are all in desperate need.

Packer: A woman, a gay and an intellectual? I'm sorry, sir, but they pose the three most vital threats to my little factory.

Obama: I can see why you might think that. What about you, Petersen? Worried about your vitals too?

Petersen: Sir, yes sir! That's how it all starts. I leave my post and first thing you know I'll be touching myself outside of normal toilet processes. That's how it always starts. (whimpers) I do my best to control myself - I leave the bathroom and shower doors open, dress in constrictive clothing, snack constantly, tie my hand to the bed rail, imagine myself in a tub of worms ... I even scream STOP at the top of my lungs.

Obama: And none of this works?

Petersen: (dabs brow with hanky) Something always happens to trip me up. Maybe I see myself in the mirror naked or I eat a little too much spicy food or I wake up with a full bladder, and bam! I'm at it all over again.

Obama: Thanks for sharing that, Petersen.

Petersen: Sir, yes sir!

Obama: Kimball, what do you have to say for yourself?

Kimball: Sir, I would like to say that I think your people - that the Negroes - are as righteous as we Whites in the Pre-Existence. Native Americans are too. And I plan to preach equality when I am on Earth.

Obama: That's commendable, son.

Kimball: I also intend to stand against nuclear proliferation.

Obama: Excellent. So will you join us in the War in Heaven?

Kimball: I'd like to, sir. But I don't think I can after last night.

Obama: Last night?

Kimball: Colonel, at a weak moment I began to masturbate...that led to group masturbation...that led to an act of homosexuality...and then... (his eyes tear up)

Obama: And then what?

Kimball: (exhales) I had sex with my horse.

Obama: (glares back at him) Your horse? Kimball, I admit that out of the lot of you turkeys you are probably the only one I would agree to have a beer with. Still, you are one sick and twisted son of a gun.

Kimball: Sir, yes sir!

Obama: You three are unfit for duty in the War in Heaven. I order you to stand your posts here in the Telestial High School boys room and reap the eternal consequence.

Packer, Petersen, Kimball: (raise their arms in salutes) Sir, yes sir.

Obama: (briefly returns salute) At ease.

Petersen: Oh no, sir. That's how it all starts.

Nine episodes of Pre-Mortal Saints are scheduled to air this season. However, based on viewer demand, the filmmaker will consider an extension of the project. "Every LDS General Authority played his own unique role in the global war on sex," Swainston told the News.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

LDS Conference Center to be Possible Setting for 2016 GOP Debate

LDS Conference Center May Host GOP Debate
The Salt Lake News - published Thursday, May 21, 2015

SALT LAKE CITY - As the list of Republican presidential candidates continues to expand, party officials are seeking larger public venues for next year's debates. The LDS Conference Center, which houses a stage big enough to park a 747, is among the locations the GOP is considering, sources inside the party told the News.

LDS leaders are already eagerly entertaining the possibility. "The stage at the Conference Center is equipped with seating for the LDS General Authorities and the entire Mormon Tabernacle Choir," church spokesperson, T. LaDell Tweedy said. "But we can tack on extensions that will add an extra mile in each direction."

According to Republican party sources, other possible debate venues include the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and the Vehicle Assembly Building at the Kennedy Space Center.

In the spirit of non-partisanship, Mormon leaders are also reaching out to the Democrats. "She's welcome to debate in the ward cultural hall of her choice," Tweedy said. "We'll let her have the whole stage to herself."

Related: Arizona Vacuum Cleaner Salesman Announces He Will Not Seek the Republican Nomination

***Hat tip to Gail Collins' hilarious Saturday editorial.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Those Hoity-Toity Mormon Girls or the Strange Terrain that is Mormon Culture

Looking back, it all seems crazy. There are the things that are now so obvious, I want to kick myself for not seeing it at the time. And then there are the things I still can't quite figure out. Like the guy in the documentary Wordplay who complains he has the solution in front of him but still can't figure out the puzzle.

For example, a long time ago I served as secretary in a ward Young Women's presidency in a suburb of Dallas, Texas. One year the annual YW retreat was switched to a fancy hotel downtown. Usually this Friday/Saturday overnight event was held at the stake center, with food served from the church kitchen and lodging provided on the gymnasium floor. But, thanks to a well connected local church member, the girls were offered a stay at a five-star hotel with a fancy meal included! In the beginning it seemed like a fantastic opportunity for the young ladies to practice their white glove and party manners, as well as enjoy a little pampering.

Only it wasn't. And that's what I still can't figure out.

On a Sunday before the retreat, the lesson in the YW meeting was on proper hotel and restaurant manners. Eager that the local Mormon girls demonstrate their heavenly-appointed poise to the Dallas elite, stake leaders had compiled a list of etiquette no-no's:

 Bring a bathing-suit coverup and wear it to and from the pool - or - If you need service in the restaurant, ask your waiter, not any employee who wanders by - or - Don't walk through the lobby in your bathing-suit, even with the coverup - or - In the restaurant, if you need your waiter, wait until he passes by, don't get up and look for him or call across the room, etc.

Right from the start it became obvious that practically nobody in the room was familiar with half, or even any of the suggestions on the list. It wasn't because they lacked the means or opportunity. This was an upper-middle class group of girls and women who came from families that - while hampered by tithing and LDS gender-specific parenting obligations - had the resources for an occasional dinner out or hotel overnight. Rather, it was that many of the girls had been in upscale hotels and restaurants and seen their parents behave completely differently:

My dad says if they work here they're paid to serve us, doesn't matter if he's not our waiter - or - When they get it wrong my mom never waits for the waiter. She takes her plate straight to the kitchen, etc.

The woman teaching the class, clearly clueless herself, sternly reminded everyone that the assigned etiquette had come from the stake leadership and, by extension, God. Accordingly, she presented the inspired dictates as if they were a list of palace protocol appropriate to the reign of Henry VIII:

If management sees you in the lobby in your swimsuit and cover up you will be asked TO LEAVE - or -  If you hang your wet swimsuit on your guest room balcony you will be asked TO LEAVE - or - If you put your elbows on the dinner table ... Well, you get it.

Upon learning that a dash from the pool to the lobby fruit bowl might lead to their arrest by hotel security, the girls were understandably apprehensive. At this point, the YW president, clearly also clueless, reminded everyone that the stake had made these rules for the girls' protection. After all, they were going out into the world - to a hoity toity hotel - a place akin to the large and spacious building in Lehi's dream. They would be amongst people with lesser beliefs, people with questionable morals, people who are only interested in one thing.

(Like...this afternoon's conference session on profit margins, perhaps?)

At any rate, her point was that even though what "the world" called manners may be hoity toity, we sometimes needed to humor "the world" for the sake of appearances, and, of course, the opportunity to spread the Gospel.

Somehow - and I can't quite figure this out - but in one hour, what might have been a fun stay at a plush hotel had turned into a deployment to a war zone.

In discussing this over dinner the other night, Mark observed that when most people venture into unknown territory, they take their cues from the people around them. But since Mormons are members of the one and only true church, the last thing they want is to take their cues from "the world." How hoity toity would that be! Hence the invention that when our steak isn't cooked enough we just haul our plate to the kitchen, etc.

Sound theory, I guess. But my head's still spinning over this one.

I don't actually know how the retreat went. As the YW secretary, I wasn't hoity toity enough to join the group at the hoity toity hotel. But the following Sunday there was a testimony meeting in the YW meeting. Girl after girl stood to proclaim that, while it was okay staying in a hoity toity hotel and eating hoity toity food, nothing could compare to the special feeling they had being back inside the church.

So...what was the point of this whole hoity toity experience in the first place? So the girls could turn around and ridicule their own activity? Maybe the well connected church member was one of those hoity toity liberal Mormons nobody liked? Even with hindsight, I can't figure this one out. Maybe I'm just too...hoity toity.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Help! I Need a Translator.

The Mormon message is so confusing that sometimes even Exmormons like me need a translator.

For example, I recently saw this photo circulating around Facebook. Some shared it in earnest and others with an accompanying eye-roll - the latter noting that the quote is incomplete - and therefore a bit misleading - and also that Hinckley isn't even its source.
The actual author of the quote is the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Unitarian minister, Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Here it is in full, the omitted lines in red:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.
Leave it to the Mormons delete the exciting part! But I digress. In fairness to Hinckley, he did cite Jones as the author and used the quote in its entirety in church talks. But because the late prophet, seer, and revelator bandied those words around a number of times, his devoted followers have begun attributing them to him, even abridging them. And why not? The Lord told his prophet to use the quote.

The Facebook meme appears to have originated on a page entitled "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." This is apt, since in 1995 the church released "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," a declaration that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that all human beings should marry, have children, and pursue traditional gender roles. Then two years later, sensing that they might feel marginalized, Hinckley gave a 1997 talk to single adults, employing the above passage from Jones to illustrate that for most, life within Mormonism is pretty much all tough beef and missed putts.

"All of you presumably are without marriage partners. Many of you wish you were married. You think this would be the answer to all your problems. While a happy marriage should be the goal of every normal Latter-day Saint, let me assure you that for many who are married, life is miserable and filled with fears and anxiety." 
He went on to describe the burdensome responsibility he shouldered when determining whether to issue a temple divorce:
"The circumstances behind the divorce and behind the request for cancellation of a temple sealing contain a litany of selfishness, of greed, of behavior at times even sadistic in its nature, of abuse and heartache and tragedy."
So here's where I need a translator. Was Hinckley saying that he only issued temple divorces to couples who were "selfish, greedy, sadistic, and abusive?" (Meaning nice couples who were just plain old miserable together should stay joined for the eternities?) OR was he saying that people who seek temple divorces are selfish, greedy, sadistic, etc., and to an audience packed with individuals who have requested them?

Does it matter? Probably not. But I am mildly curious.

I'm not the only one confused by the Mormon message. Consider poor Brian Dawson who was fired from his Sunday School position for using information from the church's official website in his lesson! Foolishly thinking he could teach a lesson on race relations to his ward youth, Dawson consulted a 2013 church approved article entitled "Race and the Priesthood." Obviously he needed a translator. 
"Anything regarding black history before 1978 is irrelevant," Dawson recalls his bishop saying, "and a moot point."
Okay, so does that mean that anything regarding Mormon marriage practice before the release of the Family Proclamation in 1995 is irrelevant? What exactly is relevant?

Does it matter? Probably not. But I am mildly curious. Also this could become problematic on Pioneer Day...

Fortunately I'll be celebrating at the Hotel Utah Saloon - with people who speak my language.

Oh! And Happy Mother's Day, especially to my gentle readers/mothers who will be enjoying the day without that horrific Mother's Day Sacrament Meeting.