Sunday in Outer Blogness: Post-conference edition!

In our last episode, we were too distracted by scandal to take much note of General Conference, but apparently there was a bit of a surprise! Since people were not happy to see three apostleships all going to white guys from Utah (in 2015), this time the CoJCoL-dS decided to try to make an effort to add some actual diversity to their (all male) top brass. One of the new apostles is even in an interracial marriage — which shouldn’t be a big deal, except that the CoJCoL-dS officially discouraged interracial marriage until quite recently.

With a new president comes new policies, and apparently the latest change is to scrap (or at least modify) the Home Teaching and Visiting Teaching programs. In retrospect it’s not too surprising.

The really exciting conference tidbit was that someone shouted “Stop Protecting Sexual Predators!” during the conference! Mormon Happy Hour Podcast interviewed the girl who did it.

On that note, the follow-up on the Joseph Bishop scandal continues:

And Lynette asks:

To put it baldly: how is it that church leaders who are said to have special gifts of spiritual discernment get duped by predators?

I can think of a very simple answer to that one — you’ll have to read her piece if you’d like to know whether she accepts the obvious solution.

Walter Van Beek wrote a good discussion of Mormonism’s lack of a public wedding ritual, and explained the central problem:

What aggravates the situation, at least for couples of ‘mixed provenance’, is that in the USA the Church does not give couples the choice to marry civilly first; if they opt to do so, they have to wait for a year before being allowed to the temple; outside the USA this is not the case.

When civil weddings are performed by bishops in the USA, they are discouraged from rendering the ceremony too much ‘like a wedding’: no wedding march, no walk through the isle, no exchange of rings. The Church not only has no wedding ritual, but leaders prevent the members from fabricating one themselves.

In my view this is a problem that will not go away, since at its basis lies exactly this missing ritual: it is the absence of a wedding ritual that creates the quandary.

Then there was this tragic tale of a fun community tradition that the CoJCoL-dS latched onto like a parasite — and ultimately ruined.

Since the CoJCoL-dS appears to be contracting, let’s visit the world of the formerly-Mormon!

Sara will be chronicling her post-Mormon journey. Dad’s Primal Scream is still working on reclaiming honesty. Zelph’s Samantha Shelley explained five things she wishes she’d known before leaving Mormonism, as well as a fun exmo gift guide. And check out this profile of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

In fun, Andrew Hackman did a March Madness of film reviews, and let’s take a visit to Gilgal Gardens!

Happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Rape room edition!

Hey folks — apologies for the salacious title, but wow — the latest from Mormon Leaks is quite a shocker! Audio of an interview in which a former president of the MTC admits to having a special basement office for very special interviews with Sister Missionaries who report to him!

Check out these responses:

Looks like Sam Young was right about the danger of abuse. And there was quite a march in Salt Lake City to raise concerns about these interviews with the leadership!

The CoJCoL-dS responded by conducting a full investigation, but not the one you might have hoped for, rather into the victim’s past:

“It sends a message to that individual person, but to everyone else, that if you come forward we are going to dig through your past we’re going to dig through your experiences who you are your very identity,” Bitton said.

It’s natural to be outraged when hearing of the church’s response, but their actions are hardly surprising. Further punishing rape victims for being harlots hasn’t even gone out of style yet in mainstream society.

As I discussed recently, the CoJCoL-dS uses polarization as a standard strategy. Those who were molested (and those who believe them) mistrust the church’s claims of having a trustworthy leadership hierarchy with the “power of discernment” — so the CoJCoL-dS throws them out violently and casts them as villains. That’s what retains the confidence of their target audience: the people who think the CoJCoL-dS is perfect, hence anyone who claims to have been harmed by it must be the minions of Satan, working to tear down the church. If that polarization tears your family apart, then T.S. for your family, as far as the church is concerned.

OK, well, let’s not get carried away — they did make some improvements.

And let’s not let this latest horror story crowd out all the little things, like wondering which white Mormon-royalty dudes from Utah will fill the recently-opened GA positions.

And don’t miss this article in the Children’s Friend, explaining to young girls that if it seems unfair that they don’t get to pass the sacrament like their brothers, they should just put that worry “on the back-burner”. It’s just so gross — particularly this helpful explanation:

Mom said I could ask Dad for a blessing, and he blessed me to not feel too nervous. I feel a little better now. Dad told me that giving a blessing is an act of service for someone else, just like everything else we do with the priesthood. He said that when he needs a blessing, he asks our home teachers. I’d never thought about it that way.

Of course Dad can’t ask Mom to perform this act of service for him (because penis), so he has to ask some random male neighbors to do it. Gosh, that makes me feel so much better about this whole thing…

Plus another sad family story about not meeting expectations:

In his office, my dad has a frame on the wall containing a picture of each of my sisters. My picture is not in this frame.

When my second oldest sister went on her mission, she happened to send home a picture of herself standing on a street with her bag slung over one shoulder. Someone in the family realized that this photo had striking similarities with a picture my oldest sister had taken on her mission. The background was from a different country and the outfits were slightly different, but the poses and the facial expressions were nearly identical. A plan was quickly hatched for my youngest sister to pose the same way at some point during her mission and for me to follow suit a few years later, completing an amusing but meaningful set for my parents to frame. My dad went so far as to get the frame and arrange the portraits so that there were two empty spaces. It wasn’t long until the third space was filled. And I knew that the bottom right-hand corner was reserved for me.

In announcements: the Sunstone fiction contest is coming up — submission guidelines here.

Good luck with the heavy dose of reading this time! Oh, and Happy Easter! 😀

Server maintenance

Hi everyone — I am taking advantage of this long Easter weekend to move this blog to a new server. So there may be some intermittent problems. If you notice any weird behavoir, please comment so I will know what to fix.

There’s been quite the explosion of Mormon news this past fortnight, so I hope I will have time to do SiOB today or tomorrow (Monday). I already have my link list ready — stay tuned!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: I’m back edition!

Hey folks, let’s ease back into this with some good old-fashioned gender inequality!

April Young Bennett performed a fascinating experiment on what happens when you merely point out how few women speak at LDS General Conference — particularly daring to include some controversial musings:

“Wouldn’t it be strange if we had a whole session of #LDSconf without a single male speaker?” I asked Twitter after the Saturday afternoon session, which had included six male speakers and zero female speakers.

“Considering that would mean no talks by the priesthood leadership, yes. Yes it would be weird. Or, it’s be Women’s session.” answered one man. He was right on his first point; in our church, it is considered mandatory to hear from the priesthood (i.e., men) but women’s perspectives are thought of as unnecessary or optional. He was wrong on the second point: a man speaks at every Women’s Session. In fact, usually the male speaker at Women’s Session receives more speaking time than any of the female speakers.

It turns out that the fundamental irrelevance of women is a bit of a recurring theme in Mormonism:

How many active, full-tithe-paying Melchizedek Priesthood holders does it take to form a ward? No, it’s not a lightbulb joke.

15 — to fully staff a bishopric with clerk and secretary, high Priests group leadership, Elders quorum presidency, young men presidency and a ward mission leader.

How many active, full-tithe-paying Relief Society sisters does it take to form a ward? Well, technically none.

Of course, the CoCJoL-dS’s more hard-core cousins are also not so keen on seeing women in leadership positions:

“It has come to a point where I have to choose between my religion and participation in city government, and I choose my religion,” he wrote in his letter dated Jan. 25. “My religion teaches me that I should not follow a woman for a leader in a public or family capacity.”

Given religion’s terrible record with recognizing women as full-fledged humans, wouldn’t it be awesome if the atheist movement were doing a great job of providing a clear alternative? That’s the future I’m trying to work towards, but for the moment, it’s more like this:

TJ Kirk AKA the “Amazing Atheist” has been around for over a decade, and he’s been this repugnant since he first popped up. He has over 100,000 followers on Twitter. He has a million subscribers on YouTube.

You want to defend the skeptical and atheist community? We’re going to have to face up the fact that the popularity and persistence of terrible people who wave the banner of atheism has already compromised us, and realize that when some of our ‘heroes’ go further and commit sexual harassment, that doesn’t mean that they’re exceptional, but are perhaps more representative than we like to admit. At the very least, we have to recognize that being a misogynistic scumbag does not disqualify you from claiming to be an “amazing” atheist.

Sam Young has turned his petition movement (against adults giving children sexually-themed “worthiness” interviews) into a non-profit. Also, you may know that one of the Infants on Thrones has worked as a sex crimes prosecutor — he shared some insights on how to best protect children and help victims of abuse and trauma heal.

Jacob Baker gave some interesting insights about the CoJCoL-dS gaslighting people on their choice of identity:

Elder Oaks’ recent talk about not “labeling” oneself gay is a case in point. You are not “gay;” at most you have certain “homosexual predilections” that must and can be contained and, if possible, re-purposed. Deciding that this is your identity is the “real sin.” Being okay with being gay, loving yourself as a gay person, wanting others to love you as a gay person, that’s problematic because you are actually not a “gay person,” you are a child of a God who would never task any of his children with the impossibility of eternal, ontological homosexuality, thereby preventing them entirely from being connected to the Great Chain of Exaltation.

And, as I’ve said before, this isn’t a case of the church trying to free us from the limitations of labels in general since they clearly don’t have a problem with me identifying as a “mom” and probably don’t have a problem with me identifying as a “software engineer” — but when it comes to people wanting to embrace identities the church doesn’t like (like gay), they’re like:

Other Mormon-related discussions include how Mormons are like fundamentalists, do blessings of healing work?, how Mormon apologetic tactics have improved, BYUI is of one of the most terrifying universities imaginable, and what does it mean to teach doctrine, and how is it different from what people were doing in Gospel Doctrine class before?

Tanner of Zelph has some more great book recommendations! All non-fiction though. If you’re up for a fun fiction title, have you tried this one yet? Or perhaps a sacred poem?

Folks — thanks for your patience (if there’s anyone left still reading this…). I hope that my little bi-weekly roundup of the most interesting Mo-related news and discussion is interesting and entertaining to you. As I’ve probably explained, the reason the content has been a little lean for the past six months is that six months ago I was promoted to CTO, and, naturally, I had to increase my hours at work. I am hoping to get the IT department into a state where I can cut my hours back down and still do this job effectively, but I’m not there yet. Maybe by this summer I’ll be able to have a day per week for projects like this blog and MAA Books — not to mention getting back to drawing my comic book (and in my fantasy universe I also do a podcast 😉 ).

Happy reading and have a great week!

Congratulations 2017 Brodie Award Winners!!!

2017-Brodies-200px Congrats to the following winners and to all who participated!!

Year-long awards for people and groups:

Brodies 2017: Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast: Radio Free Mormon

Brodies 2017: Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast: Brother Jake

Brodies 2017: Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast: Naked Mormonism

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Church-Info Site: MormonLeaks

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-interest Discussion Forum: r/exmormon

Brodies 2017: Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor:u/missedinsunday

Awards for Individual Works:

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction): The Book of Laman, by Mette Ivie Harrison

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction): Michael Quinn’s Mormon Hierarchy: wealth and corporate power

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Song: Tapirback Rider, by Weird Alma

Brodies 2017: Best Poem: The War Goes On, by Clarence Tong

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image: Mormon Merit Badges

Brodies 2017: Best Post Title: Blue balls, flaming swords and the language of coercion, by Thinker of Thoughts

Brodies 2017: Funniest Humor Piece: a tie between Evil Apostate Series, by Thoughts on Things and Stuff, and God Steps Down Amid Sexual Assault Allegations, by Tanner Gilliland

Brodies 2017: Funniest Parody: Straight Outta Cumorah, by Weird Alma

Brodies 2017: Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory: A Den of Thieves: The LDS LGBTQ+ Story as Currency, by Nathan K.

Brodies 2017: Best From the Pulpit Sermon: Savannah’s Testimony

Brodies 2017: Most Poignant Personal Story: Mike Norton on Mormon Stories

Brodies 2017: Best Exit Story: an email to her bishop rejects any and all callings because representing the church in any capacity would compromise her integrity, by Reddit user PlanitL

Brodies 2017: Best Life Journey Piece: a tie between A Sunday in the life of a closeted exmormon, by Reddit user my_name_is_NO, and Stepping Out of the Big Tent: The Possibility of Leaving Mormonism, by Lynette

Brodies 2017: Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism: Protect the Children Petition by Sam Young

Brodies 2017: Best Leak or Personal Recording: Savannah’s Testimony originally released by NewNameNoah

Brodies 2017: Best LDS Church Watch Piece: Eclipsing the Truth, by Alex

Brodies 2017: Best Response to Apologetics: Response to 3Mormons on Race in Mormonism, by Thoughts on Things and Stuff

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Culture Piece: 178 & 179: The Truths About Marital Intimacy: A Critique of Wendy Nelson’s Sex Talk: Helfer-Parker and de Azevedo-Hanks

Brodies 2017: Best History Piece: Undeniable proof that the Journal of Discourses (JoD) was/is an official church publication, by Gileriodekel

Brodies 2017: Best Scripture Study Piece: Ether 15: The End of the World As We Know It, by Alex

Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Parenting: Taking Back My Power, by Dad’s Primal Scream

Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Orientation: White Shirt, Black Name Tag, Big Secret, by Ellis Jeter

Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Gender: Cheating LDS Young Women – Again, by Gina Colvin

Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Race: Response to 3 Mormons on Race, by Thoughts on Things and Stuff

Brodies 2017: Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS: Face2Face series, by Thinker of Thoughts

Brodies 2017: Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion: Undue influence in general conference: obedience, by Luna Lindsey and Jonathan Streeter

Brodies 2017: Best short media presentation: Revelation Through Hallucination, by Bryce Blankenagel and Cody Noconi at the Sunstone Symposium

Brodies 2017: Best Podcast Episode: Year of Polygamy, Episode 139, Dispelling the idea that Joseph Smith fought polygamy, by Lindsay Hansen Park with John Dinger, Bryan Buchanan, and John Hatch

Brodies 2017: Best Book Review: 6 Must-Read Books for Ex-Mormons, by Samantha Shelley

To all of the winners, here’s your winner graphic that you can display on your website:

2017-Brodies-Black

2017-Brodies-White

What fun that was! Thanks to all who nominated and voted — I’ve found some great new sites to follow in my own reading! 😀

To see the poll results and links to all of the nominees, look here.

Brodies + MAA Books!!

The Brodies voting is well underway — and it has turned out to be an exciting year after all!! There are already some clear winners, but also some tight races, such as: “Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast,” “Best Life Journey Piece,” “Best Response to Apologetics,” “Best Discussion on Gender,” and “Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion.”

There is so much great stuff this year — I really hope that (like me!) you’re taking advantage of this opportunity to discover some great content that you may have missed! You have one more week!!

My profound apologies for all of the embarrassing errors this time, specifically: accidentally naming all of the polls “Brodies 2018” and accidentally neglecting to make a poll for “Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor” — plus a bunch of other obvious typos. It’s as if I was drunk while preparing the polls or something! (note: I neither confirm nor deny rumors of my being drunk while preparing the polls, but I will say that it is an incredibly boring task, just sayin’ 😉 )

Additionally, today I finished my first pass at updating the MAA website to reflect our new status as an indie publisher!! 😀 Check it out!

We’re still working on the “about” page (clearly), but I hope to have it in a better state next weekend.

Good luck to all on the Brodie Awards, and have a great week!!!

Time to vote for the 2017 Brodie Awards!!!

2017-Brodies-200px Yay, it’s time to vote!!! Thanks for all of the great nominations — we have got a great crop this year!! And I thought it was going to be a slow year! Thanks especially to all of those who indulged my last-minute request for poems!

Year-long awards for people and groups:

Brodies 2017: Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast


Brodies 2017: Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast


Brodies 2017: Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast


Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Church-Info Site


Brodies 2017: Best LDS-interest Discussion Forum


Brodies 2017: Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor


  • u/invisibles_cubit
  • u/relevantlife
  • u/Chino_Blanco
  • u/missedinsunday
  • u/bwv549

Awards for Individual Works:

Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction)


Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Book (non-fiction)


Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Song


Brodies 2017: Best Poem


Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image


Brodies 2017: Best Post Title


Brodies 2017: Funniest Humor Piece


Brodies 2017: Funniest Parody


Brodies 2017: Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory


Brodies 2017: Best From the Pulpit Sermon


Brodies 2017: Most Poignant Personal Story


Brodies 2017: Best Exit Story


Brodies 2017: Best Life Journey Piece


Brodies 2017: Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism


Brodies 2017: Best Leak or Personal Recording


Brodies 2017: Best LDS Church Watch Piece


Brodies 2017: Best Response to Apologetics


Brodies 2017: Best LDS-Culture Piece


Brodies 2017: Best History Piece


Brodies 2017: Best Scripture Study Piece


Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Parenting


Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Orientation


Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Gender


Brodies 2017: Best Discussion on Race


Brodies 2017: Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS


Brodies 2017: Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion


Brodies 2017: Best short media presentation


Brodies 2017: Best Podcast Episode


Brodies 2017: Best Book Review


The polls will remain open for approximately two weeks. The polls will close on Saturday, February 17th, 2018, at 10a.m. (Switzerland time)

Sorry, one last round for Brodies nominations….

2017-Brodies-200pxOK, folks, I wanted to have the polls up today, but I ran into a bit of a glitch: Two people nominated The War Goes On, by Clarence Tong, as best poem, but…. I don’t have a third poem nomination to make this category viable. And I don’t want to just grab whatever random thing at the last minute — there’s got to be at least one more LDS interest poem published in 2017 that deserves to be nominated! So you have one more week for nominations, and I’d like to see some poetry. 😀

Here are the nominations as they stand. Please comment if anything is missing or if you have corrections. I will probably split up some of the larger categories when making the polls, but here’s what we have so far:

Year-long awards for people and groups:

Best New Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Humor/Satire Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best Mormon History Blog/Channel/Podcast

Best LDS-Church-Info Site

Best LDS-interest Discussion Forum

Best Exmormon Reddit Contributor

  • u/invisibles_cubit
  • u/relevantlife
  • u/Chino_Blanco
  • u/missedinsunday
  • u/bwv549

Best faithful-perspective Mormon Blog

Awards for Individual Works:

Best LDS-Interest Book (Fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Book (General non-fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Book (Narrative non-fiction)

Best LDS-Interest Song

Best Poem

Best LDS-Interest Comic or Image

Best Post Title

Funniest Humor Piece

Funniest Parody

Best Metaphor/Analogy/Allegory

Best From the Pulpit Sermon

  • Savannah’s Testimony
  • Three Sisters, by Dieter Uchtdorf
  • Act of Confession by Reverend Jerrod Lowry (in unison with the assembled pastorate) at the Utah Pride Interfaith Service in Salt Lake City on June 1

Most Poignant Personal Story

Best Exit Story

Best Life Journey Piece

Best Activist/Activtist Movement Within Mormonism

Best Leak or Personal Recording

Best LDS Church Watch Piece

Best Response to Apologetics

Best LDS-Culture Piece

Best History Piece

Best Scripture Study Piece

Best Discussion on Parenting

Best Discussion on Orientation

Best Discussion on Gender

Best Discussion on Race

Most Insightful Commentary on the CoJCoL-dS

Best Philosophical/Theological Discussion

Best short media presentation

Best Podcast Episode

Best Book Review

How to nominate: Just post your nominations as comment to this thread, but please include links to the works you nominate. It’s best to post one nomination per comment — to avoid your nomination ending up in the spam filter — but if your nomination comment ends up in the spam filter, please email me (chanson dot exmormon at gmail dot com) and I will fish it out.

And don’t forget the nomination guidelines:

  • Please nominate as many people, books, blogs, sites, podcasts, songs, articles, images, etc. as you want. However, please do not nominate more than two individual works by any one author/artist.
  • You are encouraged to nominate your own works. No one knows better than you do which pieces were your best. No more than two, though.
  • Please nominate works that first appeared during 2017.
  • Please try to nominate people and works that have some connection with Mormonism (eg. either the work touches on Mormonism, or the author is a current or former Mormon and/or is an active participant in our community).
  • A category must have at least three nominations in order to be included in the voting and awards phase.
  • You may suggest your own categories — however please do it as early as possible in the nominations process, to give others plenty of time to add nominations in your proposed categories.
  • Any other proposed changes to the categories or to the guidelines are welcome — feel free to discuss it in the comments.
  • The nominations will be open until February 3, 2018.

Thanks again for all of your nominations!!

You’re the star of your adventure now, Lolly Weed!

For me, giving my whole heart to Josh while knowing that he did not love me the way a man loves a woman has always been devastating. We were best friends, but he never desired me, he never adored me, he never longed for me.

[…]

No matter how much I knew “why” he couldn’t respond to me in the ways a lover responds to a partner, it wears a person down, as if you’re not “good enough” to be loved “in that way.” And what I didn’t realize is that as human beings, we actually need to feel loved in that way with our partners.

This deficit started to mess with my self-esteem. […] No matter how clear I was on the technicalities of this reality, it was impossible not to internalize his complete lack of attraction toward me. Subconsciously, it was a constant message. You aren’t attractive. You aren’t wanted. You aren’t beautiful. You aren’t a good enough woman.

It was making me unhealthy. I gained a lot of weight. My self-concept was diminishing over time.

That’s Lolly Weed, writing a segment in Josh Weed’s heartfelt piece describing the end of their high-profile mixed-orientation marriage.

Early in the piece, Josh recounted the “three currents” that led to the demise of their marriage:

First: Love for the LGBTQ population

Second: Love of self as a gay person

Now, if you have read the above-linked piece, and if you’re like me, you probably anticipated #3:

Third: The realization that this marriage is slowly crushing Lolly’s soul, and that her happiness also matters.

But, if (like me!) you guessed that, then (like me!) you guessed wrong!!

Nope, it was:

Third: the death of [Josh’s] mom.

Ummm, Okaaaaaay… So your realization that the marriage was hurting Lolly (as described above) didn’t even come in fourth or something…?

The other disturbing bit is the following, (again quoting Lolly):

Almost everyone has said to me, with an air of protective emphasis, “Oh, but Lolly, you deserve to be loved that way! You will find someone else who can love you like that. You deserve to love and be loved in that way!” And I agree with them. The thing that I find interesting is that these are all straight people looking at me, another straight person, and being able to see the injustice of me not experiencing true love.

[…]

I mean, isn’t the same true for LGBT people? Shouldn’t we feel the exact same intuitive injustice at the thought of them deserving to be “loved like that”?

Yes, of course we should (and many do). But here’s the problem: This is a personal piece about your feelings about your marriage. Your marriage contains exactly zero (0) gay people who have never been “loved like that.” Josh obviously faced a number of profound challenges in your marriage, but failure to be the object of true romantic love isn’t one of them.

Lolly, if you are reading this, I find it disheartening that — the one part of this story that’s about you — you can’t just let it be about you. You have to immediately pivot to concern about other people’s needs. It’s as if you’ve been profoundly conditioned to believe that your needs always have to take a backseat to everyone else’s needs; that you think you fundamentally don’t matter.

Lolly, I hope you find the love you deserve. You are probably well aware that unfortunately — as a Mormon single mom — your chances of finding your new soul-mate are a lot lower than Josh’s. But you know what? Even if you never find true love, you’re still better off getting out of the situation you described: the marriage that is strangling your spirit.

Josh’s whole post describes a path of learning a truly beautiful love and empathy for LGBTQIA people. You both have developed a great understanding of the beauty and humanity of queer folks. Which is why the treatment of Lolly’s experience in the piece is so jarring.

Well, Lolly — you’re not the co-star of Josh’s adventure anymore. You’re the star of your own adventure now. Let me help you get started:

Mormon Erotica: Banta’s Third Book Delivers Heart and Humor

I’ve been a Donna Banta fan since 2010, when I discovered her blog “Ward Gossip.” Oh my god! This woman is The Onion of Mormonism, I thought, as I instantly recognized Banta’s fictional ward as a mostly-accurate reflection of my own Mormon experience, with just the right amount of exaggeration in just the right places to make the truth very apparent (and funny!).

In her latest book, Mormon Erotica, Banta’s penchant for satire is masterfully woven into a quirky and loveable cast of Mormon characters, who run the range of orthodoxy from the ultra-faithful to those who have left the Church. Yet, even the most outlandish characters are only slight exaggerations of most of the rank-and-file faithful, and are representative of enough actual Mormons that I’ve known to not feel like caricatures.

51WPpyFWCTL

The story follows Jim Maxwell, an affable forty-something divorced dad living in California’s Bay Area, as he navigates parenting, friendship and family, his love life, and his faith as a Mormon who has concluded that he believes in the Gospel, but is agnostic about marriage. Much to his sister Kellie’s dismay, Jim spends more time “[sitting] around Starbucks drinking hot chocolate with lesbians” than he does hunting for a faithful Mormon wife. (Kellie has some of the most deliciously hilarious lines of dialogue in the book, one of my favorites being her lament, “You can’t find a decent woman at Starbucks.”)

Everything changes for Jim when he bumps into an old college flame at a wedding reception. Sadie Gordon has left the Church and makes her living writing PG-13ish fiction, deemed porn by Jim’s bishop and his neurotic ex-wife. Though the interim years have led Jim and Sadie to different conclusions about the Church, they discover that the flame they had for each other in college is still burning. But for love to win the day, Jim and Sadie must navigate their differences, as well as weathering the opinions, and intrusions, of family and friends, all while Jim does his best show up as a father for a whip-smart teenage daughter with some secrets of her own.

I deeply appreciated that every character was respected, and represented as a whole and multi-faceted human being. Banta avoids the Mormon tendency to view issues and people as black or white, and navigates all the messy shades in between with compassion and humor.

Mormon Erotica is a quick read. It is funny, and the container of humor tempers some deeply poignant reflections on a universally human dilemma that is more important now than ever: How do we live with, and love, all of the people in our lives through the full range of both our commonalities and our differences?

 

Leah Elliott is a writer, poet, teacher, and journeyer living in North Carolina. You can find poetry, social media links and other good stuff at her website.