The 80 minute program was presented as an "unscripted" Q&A with young audience members either raising their hands in the local Salt Lake venue or remotely querying via email or social media.
However, after listening for only a few minutes, it seemed obvious (to me anyway) that the whole thing had been written in advance. Not only were the questions outside the teenaged vernacular:
"Brother Owen, how can I not feel so alone when I know those around me have so many different standards?"But the answers sounded like mini-conference talks replete with "great question, Andrea," the perfect homey personal experience - not too verbose - then, "and the moral is..." Clearly the answers had already been prepared to questions the leaders had already chosen.
Of course, what could I expect? Imagine the apoplectic fit a real question might have inspired:
"Sister Oscarson, I've been living with my dad and step-dad now for 5 years. They're really good to me. But since the church changed its policy about the children of gay parents, I feel pressured to move in with mom and her boyfriend. Do I really have to? It creeps me out when her boyfriend reaches up my dress."
"Brother Owen, I'm going on a mission soon. Only lately I've been doing a lot of masturbating. I'm not sure I can stop. Does that mean I won't get any converts?"See what I mean? We all know that's never going to happen.
I'm reminded of one of the last church meetings I attended. It was a joint Relief Society/Priesthood meeting in suburban Dallas. Our stake president was the featured speaker. I found myself seated next to a gentleman I'd never seen before. Thinking he was either a new ward member or perhaps a visitor from out of town, I made an attempt to welcome him. He went out of his way to ignore me, to the point of rudeness. Then the stake president stood before us, and, after some brief introductory remarks, turned the time over to questions from the audience.
The rude guy next to me eagerly raised his hand and the stake president immediately called on him.
"President, how can we teach our youth the difference between worldly knowledge and spiritual knowledge?"At that moment I realized what was going on. The guy didn't want to talk to me because he was a ringer. He had been put there to set up the stake president for the answer he'd already prepared on the topic he'd already chosen. I thought to myself, "How could a grown man reduce himself to participating in such a sleazy and transparent con?"
Today, some twenty years later, I finally have my answer. He was trained to do so in his youth!
I kept listening to that broadcast, hoping against hope that one of those apprentice shills would switch sides and ask a real question.
Elder Rasband, how can I not feel like a dope when I know my friends with different standards are at the school science fair while I'm here reciting your prewritten lines in this phony Q&A?Unfortunately, I knew that wasn't going to happen.
***Awards season is upon us again. Don't forget to visit Main Street Plaza vote for your Mormon-themed favorites in the Brodie Awards!