Friday, July 25, 2014

Pioneers and Proud of It!

pi-o-neer, n: one who goes before, as into the wilderness, preparing the way for others to follow; as, pioneers of civilization, of reform, or in science; also an early settler; a colonist; as, the American pioneers.


One of the many things that I am thankful for is that I never made one of those phony pioneer treks that today's Mormon youth get to are forced to undergo. I imagine they vary according to area, but every participant I've spoken with has recalled the experience with the sort of descriptives one would naturally apply to a bunch of overdressed, sweaty adolescents pushing handcarts in the blazing heat.

A friend of mine, who acted as a youth leader on one of these ordeals, claimed that his ward dressed up like the Utah pioneers, went to a local (D.C. area) park or field and slogged around in circles for an entire week. -- Sort of the antithesis of an actual pioneer journey. Although it could be the ultimate paradigm for the Mormon experience.

There are all kinds of ways that people set off for new territory, not all of them hot and sweaty. And there are all kinds of reasons people choose to get out of town, not all of them altruistic. -- Maybe a man's just robbed a bank, or he's committed murder, or he wants to marry 50 women, for example.

But, in general I think pioneers are honest and brave and true. Especially those who lead themselves and others to a better world.

For example, the ExMormon pioneers who celebrated Pioneer Day last night at the Hotel Utah Saloon in San Francisco.
Westward ho! Sans handcarts and stupid costumes.
But there were some pretty cool pioneers who celebrated in Utah saloons too. Also a group of 500 pioneers who gathered near Temple Square to resign en masse from the LDS Church!

Cheers to the real pioneers everywhere. Also to the real world.

Friday, July 18, 2014

They Get to Talk, We Get to Listen

Years ago a woman in the ward whom I considered to be an actual friend dropped by my house after yet another meeting that I had missed. Convinced that my lagging church attendance would bring about my ruin, she began her remarks with, "I just have to say this," and then bemoaned the fate of my marriage and fretted over what might become of my poor children.

Because I considered her to be an actual friend, I listened politely. Then, when she finally finished, I countered with, "Okay, then I have to say this," and began to explain my misgivings about the Mormon Church, beginning with the marginalization of LDS women. Aghast that I would actually criticize the leaders of the one and only true church, she shut down the conversation, doing everything short of covering her ears and singing Praise to the Man at the top of her lungs.

--This was back when I foolishly assumed that I also got to say things.

Similarly, a couple of years later, another woman from the ward whom I considered to be both intelligent and sophisticated invited me to watch Gordon B. Hinckley's first interview with Larry King. Because I considered her to be both intelligent and sophisticated, I tuned in on the appointed night. The next day she gave me a call. After gushing over her beloved prophet's performance, she asked, "What did you think of the interview, Donna?"

Me: "Well, President Hinckley is a very genial and well-spoken man."
She: "Yes, isn't he amazing?!"
Me: "Ahem, well, his gift for PR aside, I was alarmed by the number of inaccuracies in his answers. For example, when he said that polygamy isn't doctrine--"
She: "Oh right. I just wanted to hear what you thought."
Me: "Okay, that's what I'm telling you. I also thought he ducked Larry's question about--"
She: "Good. I just wanted to hear what you thought."
Me: "Uh-huh. Well, thank you for that."

--This was back when I foolishly assumed they really wanted to know what I thought.

Not that this dynamic is unique to the Mormons.

In her memoir, My Life in France, Julia Child recalled a dinner party she attended as a young woman. Surrounded by intellectual heavyweights, she came to the both frustrating and enlightening conclusion that her opinions were based on emotions rather than ideas. Later she described one-sided encounters with her didactic father who shut down her every attempt to reason and/or disagree with him.

It seems everywhere you go, the emotion gang isn't keen on listening to the idea gang. Nevertheless, we can't stop trying to voice our opinion, hoping more will switch out feelings for thoughts. Last Friday Robert Kirby wrote an excellent column in the Salt Lake Tribune imploring ultra orthodox Mormons to accept rather than shun their nonbeliever relations. To those (emotion gang) believers who marginalize their atheist offspring, Kirby suggested:

"… consider the very real possibility that you’re an idiot. First for letting theology get in the way of love, and second for believing in a plan/god/spirit that would condemn Buddy for being a wonderful human being but unfortunately not a believer."

Naturally, I couldn't stop myself from sharing the article on my Facebook wall, and, naturally, it drew the expected response--this time from a complete stranger who just had to say:

"So, according to Kirby, throw out all of your beliefs to concentrate on making some people feel better about the here and now. Tomorrow doesn't matter, and you should feel great about the soul of your loved one NOT going to a loving place in the afterworld. If you don't do this, you are an idiot. No, Kirby is an idiot and lost. It looks like the only way he will be happy is if we are all lost as well. Hmmm, I guess that makes him a liberal, too."

Having had my share of what former Congressman Barney Frank once referred to as an "argument with a dining room table," I merely wished the above soul-saver a nice day, privately empathized with his loved ones, and refused to be drawn in to another pointless, one-sided conversation.  

Perhaps Kate Kelly's bishop put the emotion gang's philosophy best. "You are entitled to your views but you are not entitled to promote them," he explained upon her excommunication--an event that has prompted some to bemoan the end of the "Mormon Moment," a supposed six or so year LDS renaissance that has shone the church in a positive light. 

I have a different take on this recent Mormon Moment. From where I sit, it consisted of a failed campaign to block gay marriage, a hit musical, a failed campaign for president, disingenuous ads featuring members who would be marginalized in their real-life wards, a xenophobic LDS rancher whose views on "the Negro" managed to even offend Hannity, and an accomplished civil rights attorney who challenged the LDS patriarchy.

Also from where I sit, the only real LDS goodwill ambassadors seem to have been that goofy but lovable chorus line of missionaries, and the accomplished civil rights attorney. Only the dancing missionaries are fictional characters and the attorney has been excommunicated. --So ends the Mormon Moment.

I just had to say that.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

LDS Business Owner Adjusts Corporate Policy Under Cover of Religious Freedom

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Virgil Hanson, Ward Employment Specialist
Subject: Opportunities at Party On Abbottsville! 

Ward members who are looking for work may new find openings at Party On Abbottsville! soon.

Buoyed by Hobby Lobby's recent Supreme Court victory, Brian Samuelson, the devout Mormon owner of our local party supply chain has boldly changed company policy to reflect LDS values. Read the in-store memo below:

To All Employees

In light of the Supreme Court ruling on Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the employees at Party On Abbottsville! will now be required to enjoy the lifestyle and religious freedoms embraced by believing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.    

Effective immediately:

All male employees will wear white dress shirts, ties, navy blue polyester slacks and have no facial hair, tattoos or piercings.

All female employees will wear calf-length denim jumpers, gingham-checked blouses and only one earring per ear.

All employees will abstain from alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and caffeinated soft drinks.

Ten percent of employee salaries will be donated to the LDS Church. 

Gay employees may remain on staff so long as they are celibate.

Women may remain on staff so long as they are single, have no children at home, and do not expect equal pay.

Only church approved reading material will be permitted in the break rooms. All employee areas will be monitored, including bathroom stalls.

Health benefits will no longer cover the following:
pain killers
prescription laxatives

We understand that some members of the Party On Abbottsville! team may be opposed to the above policies. We respect their right to object silently, in their own minds. But any vocal opposition will be met with immediate termination. 

If you would like to stop receiving these emails we respect your right to protest silently, in your own mind.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Once Again, It's "Out of Love"

Some of my most unpleasant childhood memories begin with my mom telling me, "I'm only doing this for your own good." Likewise, some of my most unpleasant parenting memories begin with me repeating those same words to my own children.

But at least in the case of parent and child, there is true love behind the discipline. We do punish our children for their own good, or at least we think we do. - So they'll be considerate of others, so they'll learn the value of a dollar, so they'll keep from killing themselves, etc. We're big, they're small, and they're our responsibility. So, for the first decade or two of our children's lives, we're forever on their case - lecturing, nagging, lending endless advice, and otherwise driving them completely crazy. Out of love.

But when the "for your own good" argument is used on adults it too often becomes an excuse for abuse. Such is the case with LDS Church disciplinary councils - or so-called "courts of love."

"Love" is one of those big words that Mormon leaders don't understand.

This week when Ordain Women founder, Kate Kelly, learned that she had been excommunicated by an LDS "court of love," she reportedly sobbed uncontrollably.

Meanwhile, shortly after Kelly's expulsion became public, the LDS General Young Women's President, Bonnie L. Oscarson issued a video statement, claiming:
"Those who are struggling for whatever reason should be able to find within our sisterhood a spirit of warmth, inclusion, and love." 
Warmth? Inclusion? Love? Anyone out there buying that? I'm very relieved to hear that Kate Kelly isn't. When asked if she believed her leaders were ostracizing her for her own good Kelly replied:
"That's classic language of an abusive relationship, where a person abusing and hurting you says they're doing it out of love."
Kudos to Kate for standing firm. For recognizing that abuse is not love and for realizing that nothing less than equality for women will do. I wish her and the brave members of Ordain Women success as they champion their cause.

Bridget Jack Jeffries said it best in her op-ed in Wednesday's Salt Lake Tribune:
"If you have to constantly reassure someone that you really do love them, value them and respect them, it may be because your actions are telling a different story. In any case, there is no such thing as equality without equal access to authority. Therefore, any talk of Mormon women being equal to Mormon men free from ordination to the priesthood is perfect nonsense."
And the male church leaders' claim that they love women and consider us as equals? An empty assertion that bears no resemblance to reality.

But then, "reality" is another one of those big words that Mormon leaders don't understand.

Friday, June 20, 2014

ExMormons Brace Themselves For Romney 2016

ExMormons Prepare For Another Potential Romney Candidacy
Salt Lake News -- published June 20, 2014

Employing skills they acquired as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, some former Mormons are amassing emergency supplies amid rumors that another presidential bid by Romney may be imminent.

"I work in an all-Mormon office and my desk is by the copy machine," said Samuel Petersen, an ExMormon from Sandy, Utah. "I don't care if I lose my job. He runs again and I'm going off the grid."

He's not the only one.

"I was an actual woman in one of his binders last time around," said Sally McPhee, a former Mormon from Somerville, Massachusetts. "I can't go through that again, I don't care what I have to do."

Overexposure to their pro-Romney Mormon relatives and coworkers during the 2012 Romney campaign, as well as revulsion with the governor himself, has led many former LDS to devise exit strategies should "the one and only true candidate" decide to again enter the race.

"I've set up a private sanctuary away from everyone," Homer Smoot of Saint George, Utah told the News. "It's remote, sound-proof, and has a tiny padded nook where I can curl into the fetal position and moan."

Meanwhile, those who can't escape their present situations are pleading with news outlets to limit campaign coverage if Governor Romney decides to enter the race again.

"I know he was running for president and all. But the media had no idea how damaging the constant exposure was for people like us," said Julie Frost, an ExMormon from Farmington, Utah, who believes that the entire 2012 Romney campaign should have been condensed into a single visiting stake high councilman's talk.

"For the sake of our sanity, they should have limited it to one media event," Frost explained. "Just picked a stifling hot Sunday afternoon, started with his cheesy anecdote about Ann's 'couple of Cadillacs,' gone on to the faith-promoter about strapping the dog on top of the car, filled that tiresome unprepared mid-section with his repetition of, 'I like cars,' came to a close with him insulting 47% of his audience, and then ended in the name of the corporation."

"Instead we had to listen to him drone on for a year, in that same stake president's monotone," Frost bemoaned. "It was agony."

Citing the special nature of both the last and the upcoming elections, other ExMormons remain fatalistic about what they see as the inevitable.

"In 2012 the Republicans were faced with foiling the reelection of the first black president. In 2016 they will probably be poised to block the election of the first woman," said former Mormon, Kyle Rogers, of Bountiful, Utah. "It makes sense that they'd pick a Mormon to do that."

"I'm prepared to stick it out and endure to the end," Rogers declared. "But then, I can take anything … I have a degree from BYU-Idaho."

***In other news: Be aware, Gentle Readers, that a number of progressive Mormon bloggers and activists, including Kate Kelly, are scheduled for church disciplinary courts this Sunday, June 22 2014. Read more about "the real Mormon Moment" here. Also read Kate's letter of defense here.

Friday, June 13, 2014

LDS Leaders Courageously Stand on Principle

LDS Church Offers Additional Response to Church Discipline Questions
Salt Lake News -- published June 13, 2014

As the pending church disciplinary action against Ordain Women founder, Kate Kelly, and Mormon blogger, John Dehlin, approaches, LDS leaders continue to insist that people of all opinions are welcome within their ranks.

"The notion that the LDS Church is not a place for feminists, gays and intellectuals is simply not true," church spokesperson, LaRue Walker told the News in an exclusive interview yesterday. "We are a progressive organization made up of individuals with diverse backgrounds and opinions."

Citing several profiles in the church's popular "I'm a Mormon" campaign, Walker insisted that the LDS Church is an open environment that encourages questions and allows members to think for themselves. She did, however, voice concern over some members who choose to share their thoughts.

"It's as simple as this," Walker explained. "Mormons can be feminists, so long as they don't say women are equal to men. They can be gay, so long as they don't demonstrate their same-sex attraction, and they can be intellectuals so long as they don't share any of their ideas."

Summarizing the LDS leaders' hopes going forward, Walker said, "The Brethren want the members to galvanize around them as they stand firmly on principle and courageously lead the church into the future."

When asked about the expected outcome of Dehlin and Kelly's pending trials Walker stated, "The Brethren can't comment on that as church disciplinary actions are a local matter that they have no responsibility for whatsoever."