Category Archives: Church Stuff

I wish I could be as eloquent..

…as Ken Jennings was in this recent post.  But I can’t be.  So, I’ll defer to “Brother” Jennings. 

May 1, 2007

Mormon guy to Internet: shut up and think a minute


I was outed in The New York Times over the weekend. In the crossword, in fact.

As 52-across, I was (along with 41-across, DONNYOSMOND) part of a mini-theme about famous Mormons. So, yeah, everyone knew I was Mormon anyway (even if everyone didn’t assume that a dorky-looking white guy with a Utah address was Mormon, I mentioned it a couple times on Jeopardy!), but still. My religion is weird enough that it can make me a New York Times crossword theme. Is yours? Nyaah.

For a long time, I sort of felt like Mormons were assimilating pretty well into the fabric of American life. It was hard to get a grasp on this, living overseas and then in Utah, but that was how I saw it, judging from media treatment and private conversations. Being LDS made you a minority and a conversation-starter at dinner, maybe, but it wasn’t going to curl any lips in disgust. It was an interesting oddity, like being a vegan or a hockey fan or something.

But that’s changing. Maybe it’s just the general rudeness of the Internet age, but it seems like knowing sneers and pot-shots at Mormonism are actually becoming a currency of cool now. Did Jon Krakauer’s Under the Banner of Heaven, which puzzlingly portrays the mild-mannered Mormon West as a seething American underbelly of violence and fundamentalism, start this off? Was it the South Park episode? (That’s Mormon founder Joseph Smith at left in the picture above.) Or Big Love?

Mitt Romney’s run for president sure isn’t helping. If Romney somehow gets the nomination, we’ll probably start to see more of this anti-Mormon bigotry from the evangelical right, but right now, Mitt’s taking most of his op-ed heat from the left. But the bashing isn’t generally politically motivated–Mormon political or social views aren’t getting picked at much (which would be fair enough). I guess you did get The New Republic raising the laughable JFK-era boogeyman of a Presidential pawn taking his orders straight from Rome Salt Lake City. (If that’s the concern, hasn’t anyone noticed that the top-ranking Democrat in Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, is a devout Mormon?)

But substantive political argument in these hit pieces is rare. Instead, otherwise rational people have straight-facedly taken the position that LDS theology itself is too outlandish to deserve any respect whatsoever. Religious discrimination is wrong, sure, and people should be allowed to believe what they want. Unless you’re Mormon, of course. Eww. They’re just weird.

Take Jacob Weisberg or alcoholic gadfly Christoper Hitchens in Slate, for example. Or this Boston Globe op-ed. Andrew Sullivan declared “Mormon week” on The Daily Dish a few months ago and spent days guffawing over those dopey Mormons.

Look, I don’t expect opinion writers to write about the LDS church, or any religion not their own, from a believer’s point of view. That wouldn’t make sense. But you don’t get any class points in my book for turning somebody’s sacred beliefs into punchlines just to jazz up your prose. I’m sure we’re going to see more of these things until the Mitt-ster drops out of the race, so here are a few points of advice to the would-be bashers.

  1. After you get off a particularly good zinger at those gullible Mormons, try recasting your sentence so it refers to “those gullible Jews” or “…Catholics” or “…Muslims.” If, Wonkette, you think Mormon temple garments should be called “magic underwear” throughout your post, try substituting “magic beanie” for “yarmulke” or “magic Nilla wafer” for “Communion host” in a similar context and considering whether that’s journalism, or whether that’s even funny anymore. If you’re horrified by the result, it’s because bigotry is bigotry, no matter the target. Mormons are no strangers to religious discrimination–after all, Missouri had its 1838 extermination order against Mormons on the books until 1976. Discrimination against Mormons isn’t any more of a laughing matter than anti-Semitism, anti-Islamic feeling, or any other religious prejudice.
  2. Realize that pretty much all religious belief is fundamentally irrational. Weisberg write that the founding myth of the LDS church–unschooled 19th-century farm boy claims that an angel led him to buried metal plates, which he then translated through miraculous means into a book of scripture–is so a priori stupid that he should be allowed his pot-shots. Sure, he allows, this is no weirder than what lies beneath any other religion–virgin birth, the parting of the Red Sea, Gabriel’s delivery of the Qur’an. “But a few eons makes a big difference,” he says, waving his hands. “The world’s greater religions have had time to splinter, moderate, and turn their myths into metaphor.” So a patina of age is what makes it okay to laugh at Mitt Romney about Joseph Smith, even though you’d never make Muhammad jokes to Keith Ellison? That’s just dopey. I don’t know how many churchgoing Americans Weisberg hangs out with, but let me assure him: most of them are just as sincere about their faiths’ improbable divine origins as Mormons are. Does he think modern Baptists and Catholics and Jews read scripture and think to themselves, “Wow, I’m sure glad my splintered, moderated religion doesn’t believe these nutty metaphorical miracles ever really happened”? I’ve always thought the modern American context of Mormonism’s story is what makes it special and uniquely fascinating. Weisberg et. al. just seem to think it makes it a better punchline.
  3. Finally, do your @#$% research. Pieces like Weisberg’s and Hitchens’ seem to be based on a single viewing of that one South Park and perhaps dim memories of a 1976 undergraduate reading of Fawn Brodie’s No Man Knows My History. So they feel no compunction about calling LDS church founder Joseph Smith a “charlatan” who whipped up Mormonism L. Ron Hubbard-style as a “racket” to gratify his own ego and sexual libertinism. There’s only one problem with this caricature: you’re not going to find too many scholars of Mormonism, believing or not, who buy it anymore. When it comes to Mormon history, Brodie is out; Richard Bushman’s considerably more nuanced Rough Stone Rolling is in. Smith is still an enigma, and you’ll find a broad spectrum of scholars willing to explain his remarkable life with varying shades of piety or cynicism (or, if you’re talking to a Mormon, as a genuine visionary). But it’s certainly not good enough anymore to assume in your very first graf that everyone knows Joseph Smith was just a con man and let’s take it from there. Again, try this out with “Buddha” or “Joan of Arc” or “Muhammad” and see how your piece sounds.

PBS has just aired a thoughtful four-hour Frontline doc on “The Mormons” (check local listings if you missed it; maybe it’ll re-air). Some LDS folks will probably blanch at the series’ straightforward look at polygamy, the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and other historical controversies of Mormonism. Nonbelievers might blink at how seriously and respectfully many of the doc’s talking heads treat the LDS church’s surprising origins and evolution. They shouldn’t be surprised. Not every look at a major American religion has to be a clueless five-minute hit piece. Sometimes there’s more to see.



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Who are you again?

Two posts from me today, aren’t you lucky?  I was over on Eden’s blog and was reminded of a story that happened to me in my last ward.  It was kind of funny, but at the same time it kind of ticked me off.  I didn’t really care for this bishop anyway (ducking lightning) but this cinched it.  If I hadn’t been moving I probably would have gone inactive! LOL.

First of all a friend of mine was in the ward (congregation) primary presidency.  Primary is the Sunday School for children under the age of 12.  Her son had been called on a mission and they hadn’t yet found someone to substitute for the class that he taught.  Five year olds.  I wonder why they couldn’t find someone…. Anyway, she asked me if I would be willing to take the class until someone else was called.  I said sure.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  Of course if there’s someone in there battling the demons, er, uh, I mean, teaching the class, of course nobody is going to be in a hurry to get someone called.   The other thing was, the bishop’s demon spawn son was in this class.  I have a son too, who by some miracle and a lot of divine intervention has reached the age of 23.  He has ADD, and believe me, he was a holy terror growing up.  I’m by no means unable to handle unruly children.  Maybe it was the fact that this was the bishop’s son and subconsciously I was afraid to go take him to his parents week after week after week, but after about 3 months the strain of this class was beginning to get to me.   Luckily, we were preparing to move out of the ward (or I swear I would have had a nervous breakdown, living on the edge as I do anyway) so I told my friend that I couldn’t teach the class any more.  I also have to admit that Primary was the last 2 blocks (hours) of church, and I usually skipped sacrament meeting to stay home and prepare my lesson being the eternal procrastinator that I am. 

Well, the Sunday after I taught my last class I went to Sacrament meeting and the bishop comes up to me, extends his hand and says, “Hello, I’m Bishop XZY.  I don’t think we’ve met before.”  WHAT??!!  I just looked at him, took his hand and said, “Bishop, of course you know me, I’ve been teaching your son’s primary class for the past 3 months.” So he says, “Oh yes, Sister K!  I heard you were moving, we’re really going to miss you.”  Again – WHAT?!?!  Thirty seconds ago you didn’t even KNOW me and now you’re going to MISS ME WHEN I’M GONE?  I just stared at him.  Whatever.  I mean, he could have recovered by saying something like, “Oh, did you cut your hair” or “I’m sorry I just didn’t recognize you”, but to tell me they were going to miss me after that… Oh well.   It’s not like we live in Utah and have huge wards here in the middle of nowhere either, and I had been in to talk to him about some other things on occasions.  I guess I wouldn’t have felt so bad if it had been anyone else in the ward, but the bishop…?  It really ticked me off at the time, but in retrospect I have to laugh about it.  And I’m just glad I never have to worry about being bishop.


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My husband the missionary

Steve had to go to Chicago today for business (ick).  He called tonight to tell me he had a Muslim cab driver from the airport to his hotel.  Which I think is better than a Muslim pilot… (Just kidding!)  Anyway, he said the whole way to the airport the guy just kept going on and on about religion and Allah, and how Mohammed (excuse my spelling) was the last prophet.   I was laughing while Steve was telling me all this, it was kind of cracking me up, so I said at this point, “What did you have to say about that?”  He said he asked him why there wouldn’t be a prophet on the earth today.  I about fell out of my chair.  Who would have thought that after only 20 years Steve would think of such a thing?  He said the cab driver told him the Mormons believed that, but of course he didn’t.   Steve said the cab driver told him to ask for him when they go the airport tomorrow, he’d give him a copy of the Koran.  (I asked him if he was staying at the Marriott, maybe he could “lift” the room copy of the Book of Mormon and trade him.  Unfortunately, he’s staying at the Hilton.  I don’t want to know what they put in the nightstands.  Probably autographed pictures of Paris Hilton, and who’d want that?)  I told him not to take the Koran, all we need is to be on the Department of Homeland Security watch list because of some cab driver in Chicago.   I have to admire the cab driver though, if I were Muslim I don’t think I’d be so eager to share my religious message with people.  Not in this day and age, thank you.  But then again, if you truly believe what you preach, you shouldn’t be afraid to share, should you?  Interesting. 

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14 days and counting

The Primary kids sang in Sacrament meeting yesterday, they’re so darn cute, I just love them all.  It’s funny when I started in the Primary I was convinced I wasn’t going to like it, but I’ve really come to love those kids, they’re so cute – and the older kids are funny!  I’m going to miss the older ones as they go on to Young Men and Young Women this year.  Chantal is leaving this year, and Sonja (our President and Pianist) and a family that’s relatively new in the ward are looking to move on already, so before too long we’ll be short 9 kids.  Our primary is so large now we’re actually going to start having a junior and senior primary – a far cry from the 10 kids we had last year!  I don’t know what we’re going to do when Chan leaves.  I know I don’t want to be president, but then again I never wanted to be in Primary to begin with, so who knows what will happen.  I can’t imagine whoever comes in is going to be as organized as Chan is, she’s remarkable!

I had to wash the tree skirt the other day.  It’s just too tempting for Charlie and Ruger, I’m afraid.  The wrapped presents are in front of the fireplace – off the floor.  I’m not rewrapping any presents this year.  That’s just gross.  Who wants a dog-pee soaked present anyway?  I’m so paranoid though, I live in fear that someone can see the presents from outside and is going to break into the house to get them.  Like putting them under the tree would make a difference. 

Speaking of Charlie Brown, I think he’s looking pretty bad.  I have to wonder if we’re doing the right thing, pumping him up with steroids, and anti-rejection drugs, and antibiotics.  His eyes are looking kind of droopy and red.  Steve said he noticed pus in them the other day, so we’ve been using his antibiotic ointment in them again too.  The problem is he’s so darn happy all the time – well, when he’s awake that is.  Which isn’t really much, only about 3 hours in the evening.  He mostly just wakes up to eat and go outside, and then he wants to be held at night.  He smells so bad too.  I’m sure it’s the infection under the skin, he just reeks.  But we just love him to death.  I don’t want to put him to sleep, but he’s not going to get any better.  I’m so torn about what to do with/for him.  I know in my heart we’ve given him a great home for the past 15 months, not bad for a dog that was only supposed to live 6 weeks when we got him.  If he still enjoys life I don’t want to end it, but I can’t imagine he feels good.  I hate making decisions like this.  Maybe after the first of the year I’ll take him to the vet yet again and see what he thinks.

I didn’t mean to end on such a gloomy note, but break is over and I have to get back to work.  There’s still 7 consults and 5 H&Ps before I even begin on the op reports from yesterday.  


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A long and winding post

You know, I’ve written this damn thing about 10 times and keep deleting things.  To heck with it.  Maybe it won’t be so long and winding. 

The floor is done and looks great.  The dogs are all doing fine.  Summer is over too fast.  The RS broadcast wasn’t anything outstanding, but the cheesecake was.  I enjoyed getting out of the house for a while and actually have an opportunity to talk to someone.  Thanks R!  

I’m considering the counselor thing, but wonder if it would be worth the money.  I probably won’t do it.  I’m thinking of quitting the MK business.  I’m just so freaking sick of the whole thing.  I applied for a new MT job at a hospital this time, I hope I hear something soon. 

That’s it.  Finis.

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You know someone is really a friend when you haven’t talked to them for, oh, months at least and you call them to borrow their sons to move a freaking piano for pete’s sake and they show up within in an hour.  They moved not only the piano, but all the rest of the living room furniture except the entertainment center (are they even called that anymore?) withoout even a second thought.  I’m not a very good friend, I think.  I don’t even have excuse except that maybe the psychologist was right, I’m too socially isolated.  I’ll have to get out more.  Maybe bake a cake and take it to them to say thanks.  I love my friends.  Even if I never talk to them.  I really do. 

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Weekend from hell

Buttercup is doing much better.  Steve took her to the vet yesterday and she got some prednisone and appears to be much better.  He thinks it’s probably a soft tissue injury and not her spine.  Thank goodness.  I feel so much better and thankful to all my friends on Lovedachs and Dodgerslist for their prayers and suggestions. 

I don’t think lowering my prednisone is going to work, and that’s what the weekend from hell is all about, but I’m not going to whine about it anymore.  I’m just going to have to deal with it. 

Our bishop was released yesterday.  I’m actually quite sad about that.  He was absolutely the best bishop I’ve ever had and I’m going to miss his counsel. There’s no doubt in m y mind he was inspired to do some of the things that he did in our ward and I think the whole ward is going to feel his loss immensely.  The new bishop was his old first counselor (of course) Dave Jensen.  Dave is cool, smar, funny, but I’m just having a hard time picturing him as bishop right now.  I’m sure he’ll probably come along just fine, and I’m not exactly witholding judgment, I’ll just have to wait and see how it goes.  I suppose it’s too much to expect that he’ll redo the primary presidency and I’ll get to do something else (besides primary president, I mean).  Actually the new first and second counselors have just moved into the ward, so we have more children in primary than ever, I think. I guess that’s one way to get people with kids to stay in the ward, put them in the bishopric! LOL.  I don’t know either one of them at all, so, I guess I feel like I’m in a new ward! 

Maybe now though Lori and Kelly will have some time and we can get together with them.  I know Steve really likes Kelly and they had a great time the night he cooked some rabbit and Steve and the Missionaries went to his house for dinner.  (Ick, I declined THAT invitation, but Steve says it was wonderful)  Elder Haloia from Tonga was here and he had this thing about eating wild game (hmm… wonder why?)  Anyway, Steve had come home from Lincoln with some fresh rabbit that somebody shot and Elder Haloia was so excited.  I wouldn’t cook the stuff, so the bishop offered and they had a boys night in. 

Well, in retrospect, the weekend may not have exactly been from hell, but it was a close second.  I’m glad things turned out as good as they did.

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