Friday, October 24, 2014

Meet the Real Mormons

Dang! I missed my chance. Meet the Mormons is no longer playing in a theater near me. I suspect the same may be true in many other less Mormon-populated locales. But for those of you who live outside the Brigham Belt, or who simply don't want to pony up the price of admission (tickets to my local Cinemark range from $7.50 to $9.00 a pop), I have an alternative suggestion.

After watching the trailer and skimming the Meet the Mormons official website, I've learned that what the Salt Lake Tribune calls a "sales pitch" focuses on the lives of "six ordinary individuals." Namely, the famous WWII candy bomber (whose story the church has trotted out on countless previous occasions), a Nepalese humanitarian, a Costa Rican female kick-boxing champ, an African-American football coach, a single mom, and an African-American Mormon bishop. At first glance, they don't seem very typically Mormon to me.

Want to meet the real Mormons? (Or the ones who call the shots?) I invite you to wander over to the LDS Church website and read the load of bollocks the regular gang of white male cliches have been churning out about their church and its history.

Not only is it free. Not only is it a truer representation of the LDS Church. I believe it will prove far more entertaining than the Lord's feature-length film. In fact, in places it's flat-out hilarious.

With their talent, the Brethren should really do stand-up. Or write a satire blog. After all, they've been practically writing mine for almost five years now. Try as I might, I can do little to improve upon them.

Take, for example, this past week's article: "Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo." You decide, Gentle Readers, who is funnier? Them or me?

Excerpt from LDS Inc. satire:
Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday. Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.26  
Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being “for eternity alone,” suggesting that the relationship did not involve sexual relations.27 After Joseph’s death, Helen remarried and became an articulate defender of him and of plural marriage.28
Following his marriage to Louisa Beaman and before he married other single women, Joseph Smith was sealed to a number of women who were already married.29 Neither these women nor Joseph explained much about these sealings, though several women said they were for eternity alone.30 Other women left no records, making it unknown whether their sealings were for time and eternity or were for eternity alone.

My attempt to improve on LDS Inc. satire:
Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age. The youngest, Helen Mar Kimball, was 14 years old. The oldest, Fanny Young, was months shy of her 57th birthday. 
The marriage of a 14 year old girl to a middle-aged man who is already married is and always has been both illegal and inappropriate. However, Joseph attempted to evade U.S. laws and standards of decency by drawing a distinction between marriages for "time and all eternity" and marriages "for eternity alone." 
Helen Mar Kimball spoke of her sealing to Joseph as being for "eternity alone." This suggests that rather than stealing her away to indulge in her nubile, teenaged flesh, Joseph merely retired with Kimball to his bedchamber where he recited to her in Reformed Egyptian.
Joseph Smith was also sealed to a number of women who were already married. Because this also is and always has been both illegal and inappropriate, some of those women likewise described their marriages to Joseph as "for eternity alone." 
That way, when confronted by an angry husband, Joseph could explain, "No worries, Harvey. She's still yours for now. I'm just practicing on her for the next life." 
Others left no record or description of their relationship with Joseph, a common practice for married women who suddenly find themselves in similarly confusing connubial situations.  

See what I mean? The LDS Inc. schtick is deft, subtle, hip! Whereas I come off as a puritanical old poop.

Regardless, I'm guessing this week's article on Plural Marriage reveals a lot more about the Mormon Church than the subjects of its new documentary ever could. That being said, I want to meet that Latina kick-boxer. There are some human targets in Salt Lake City I'd like to see her apply her talent to.

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…