Friday, October 17, 2014

No Thanks. We've Already Met.

So I was in Salt Lake City last weekend, my visit timed with the premiere of the documentary, Meet the Mormons.  I declined the invitation. As I said, we've already met.

Instead I hung with the mere earthlings at the ExMormon Foundation Conference where I had the amazing privilege to introduce the after-dinner speaker, Dana Dahl. She wowed us all, earning a well-deserved standing ovation for her "self-defecating humor."

I'm reasonably certain I wouldn't have learned anything new about the Mormons from watching their documentary. For that matter, I don't think anyone else would have learned anything new about the Mormons from watching their documentary.

That being said, because I haven't seen the picture, and because I don't want to align myself with the critics who reviewed The Book of Mormon without actually seeing the musical, I will refrain from commenting further on the content of Meet the Mormons.

What I will do is ask: Where are the Brethren parking their mothership these days? 

As I understand it, this is how this doozy of a fantasy evolved: 
  • The Brethren, channeling inspiration through their thick space helmets, convinced themselves that the church has been unfairly represented in the godless liberal media. 
  • Fearful that the average Joe Nonmember might not have a complete understanding of the LDS Church - and convinced that he craves one - the inspired Brethren ordered their brainiacs in PR to come up with some sort of promotional gimmick.
  • According to the Lord's apostle, Jeffrey R. Holland, the film, Meet the Mormons, was getting positive buzz from "test audiences" at the Legacy Theater on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. I don't know specifically who made up these audiences. But, as any researcher at LDS Inc. undoubtedly knows, visitors to the Legacy Theater on Temple Square are either Mormons themselves, or non-Mormons who are curious enough about the faith to sit through all or part of a free - emphasis on free - church produced promotional film.
  • Nevertheless, this alleged buzz was reason enough for these PR brainiacs and the GA's to launch Meet the Mormons as a major motion picture, one they knew would be wildly successful at the box office.
  • The reason the PR brainiacs and their higher-ups knew it would be wildly successful was because they had devised this brilliant top-secret scheme! That is, they had ward and stake leaders send out emails to local members pressuring them to see the film on opening weekend.
  • Convinced that their brilliant scheme would execute flawlessly and completely under the radar, the Brethren and their PR brainiacs leaned back and waited for what they were convinced would be a blockbuster success so momentous that it would explode onto Netflix and other outlets, and inspire every Joe Nonmember to declare, "Golly, Myrtle, I was going to go see Gone Girl until I heard about that smash hit, Meet the Mormons!"
Well, back here on planet Earth, Meet the Mormons fell short of the Brethren's inspired expectations. Sure, the numbers were good, thanks to the members who, in some cases, bought out entire theaters. 

But the godless liberal media spotted that top-secret PR scheme a mile away. The Salt Lake Tribune labeled the film an infomercial, Salt Lake City Weekly and other sources reported the church pressure on members to attend, and Rotten Tomatoes currently reports the movie's critics' consensus at 11% alongside an audience score of 92% - not the typical result from a mainstream audience. Not on this planet anyway.

But as the Brethren seem content to remain on their mothership, my guess is it will be back to the drawing board for the brainiacs in Church PR. I can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Meanwhile, I'll hang in the cheap seats with my fellow earthlings.
Me and Dana at Exmormon 2014

Friday, October 10, 2014

Ward Gossip Girl Hits the Road!

I'm on location this week, on my very own one-woman road trip! It started with a dash through drought stricken, blazing hot Central California, continued across the peaceful and vast Mojave and then on to Las Vegas. Because I respect its reputation, I will leave my activities behind in the famous City of Sin. But suffice to say that whatever happened there happened pretty fast, as I was in and out of the entire area inside of thirty minutes. Likewise the fast growing border town of Mesquite.

Because, Gentle Readers, I was on a mission . . . to Utah! 

Okay, before you accuse me of losing my mind, hear me out. I know about the many free-spirited attractions of Vegas. And I know about the uptight rules in Utah, the crazy liquor laws, the right-wing politics, and, of course, the Mormons.

But here's the thing.
 It's so f**king beautiful!

No way could they fake this on the Las Vegas Strip!

And you know what else can happen here and not in Vegas? As of a few days ago, A GAY MARRIAGE! I suppose this comes as a surprise to those who thought of Nevada as the marriage capitol of the country. But, as a former BYU coed, I've always known Utah to be the home of the quickie nuptial…

It's also the home of one of my dearest friends, Insana Dee!
Me at famous Red Hen Gardens
Dee and her husband, Bill, invited me to stay over at their beautiful home in New Harmony, Utah. And Dee took me on a tour of the nearby Kolob Mountains. (Shown above.)
Dee in her garden
She harvested her lettuce for a delicious salad for dinner.
Today I arrived in Salt Lake City. Whatever happens here is reported to the bishop, the stake president, the Deseret News, and, of course, you, my Gentle Readers.

To be continued... 

Friday, October 3, 2014

I'm Happy Because I'm a Mormon!

Years ago the most annoying guy in our ward used to stand at the pulpit during Testimony Meeting and advise us on how we could better spread the Gospel. Some of his suggestions:
"I dropped by the bishop's workplace this week and saw that he kept a couple of Books of Mormon on his office shelf." (Bishop's face beams.) "I thought to myself, what are those books doing on his shelf? He should have passed them out by now." (Bishop's face falls.)
"The other day I was standing in a crowded elevator at work when a colleague looked my way and exclaimed, 'Gee Clem, you sure look happy today' - to which I responded - 'I'm always happy, my friend, because I'm a Mormon."
I could go on, but you get it. This fellow evidently believed that, irregardless of our personal opinions, we should be bouncy and enthusiastic Mormon sales reps every waking moment, in every possible setting, without regard for professionalism, appropriateness, or sincerity.

In other words, make asses of ourselves.

I've often wondered where this irrepressible boob is now. Working for church PR perhaps? I can't be sure but this looks a lot like his handiwork:
So there you have it, Gentle Readers. It's not enough that the rank and file have payed their tithing, scrubbed the ward toilets, and are now poised to sit through yet another mind-numbingly boring and painfully self-righteous conference this weekend. They are also being pressured to log onto their Instagram/Facebook/Pinterest/Twitter/Whatever - PLEASE not Linkedin - and tell the world: I'm always happy, my friends, because I'm a Mormon.

In other words, make … well, you get it.

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.

Donna:
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?

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

Donna: 
Did this make you feel out of place?

Dee:
Actually, it freed me up to just have fun.

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

Dee:
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.

Donna:
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.

Donna: 
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?

Dee:
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.

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

Dee:
I'm surprised they haven't already.

Donna:
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?

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

Donna:
Screw the rules, then.

Dee:
Sin is its own reward, Donna.

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

Dee:
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.

Donna:
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:

SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 1: Don't Explain
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.

EXCEPTIONS TO SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 1:

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?

SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 2: Don't Hide
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 TO SIMPLE RULE NUMBER 2:

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.