Sunday in Outer Blogness: Conference Fallout Edition!

Did you get a chance to watch or listen to the latest General Conference? If not, you can get some of the highlights from Alex. Or listen to the Infants’ usual parody. (Or maybe listen to their ghost stories instead.)

Brooke W didn’t care for the message that everything is part of God’s divine plan:

The idea that God’s design includes every aspect of my life makes me uncomfortable. I don’t believe that God sent Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, etc. as special tests for the people most affected by them. I don’t believe that people lose their jobs so God can see how well they handle running out of money. And I definitely don’t believe that my infertility is some grand test sent to me to make me a better person.

Some other messages were also questionable.

Perhaps the biggest discussion point this time was the re-iteration of gay people’s status in the CoJCoL-dS, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. Their situation doesn’t change much. But it’s important to be aware of the damage such teachings can do to people’s lives:

We have a suicide youth crisis occurring in Utah… and to continue this cultural bias and unfortunate “tradition of our fathers” promoted as revealed doctrine from God is at best irresponsible… and in my eyes, has taken the following step towards knowing abuse. I am sure you have been alerted to the statistics we are currently dealing with as a people. I hold you responsible for this knowledge and yet choosing to continue in this direction.

Of course some people are just going to hate gay people….

Then, in a surprise move, Elder Ballard condemned racism, sexism, and nationalism! What could it mean?

In church history, here’s the tale of how the Quorum of the 12 got its power, and grindæl explained the origin of the baptism for the dead doctrine. And don’t miss these five myths about Mormons and money!

In US politics, the president is a vulgar man with a decrepit soul, the latest tragic shooting may help pass a bump fire ban, and are we still writing poems about players kneeling down?

In other church stuff, Hawkgrrrl enumerated the ways the church lost her, Michelle found imagery of the divine feminine, and Martin contemplated a Mormon sociopath.

Also, here’s another candidate for this year’s X-Mormon of the Year: Nobel Prize winner Kip Thorne.

In random life, Monica is setting of on a Tinder adventure, Joseph Broom spent a gay day in Berlin, So Says Me is not ashamed to be a fighter, Petra described what it’s like to be the only woman in the room, Sam Young recounted a strange dream, Tracy recounted a sad departure, Rosalynde is changing her perspective on housework, the Pearce family spent five weeks in Europe, and Froggey shared some beautiful photos of pumpkins and roses.

Have a great week!

A Truth Universally Acknowledged: Two LDS Romance Reviews

A DATE WITH DANGER
By Kari Iroz
256 pp. Covenant Communications, Inc. $15.99

PRIDE AND POLITICS
By Britanny Larsen
272 pp. Covenant Communication, Inc. $16.99

As I was adding finishing touches to my upcoming LDS romance novel, I picked up a couple of Deseret Book titles, curious to see if the stock Mormon rom-com formula had changed. You know the story:

Good Mormon boy (or girl) falls for a non/inactive member because she’s so refreshingly different. Then, after a series of mishaps, misunderstandings, and one chaste kiss, the girl converts/reactivates, the boy pops the question, and they live happily ever after, even though she’s now become the sort of girl that bored the boy in the first place.

Think Shirley Sealy’s Beyond This Moment or Jack Weyland’s Charly or Kurt Hale’s film, The Singles Ward.

I’m happy to report that, based on my two chosen titles, the LDS formula may be on its way out, replaced by the more enduring influence of Regency England.

In A Date With Danger, a Utah Valley college coed, Jacklyn (Jack) Wyatt, teams up with FBI Special Agent Damon Wade to catch a stalker on “Eter-knitty Online Dating,” an LDS forum Jack recently joined. Since it’s unclear which of her contacts might be the culprit, she is ordered to date each of the suspects, while Damon monitors her encounters via hidden microphone.

—Yes, I know. But this is romantic comedy not true crime, and it’s hardly the silliest example of the genre. Think Pretty Woman.

Moreover, with her numerous references to Mr. Darcy, the author is really channeling Jane Austen. Predictable, yes, but Iroz’s writing is solid. Her heroine, Jack, has a strong, witty voice, adorably ditzy in the manner of a good Mormon girl who is more intelligent than she lets on.

Jack’s love interest, the FBI agent, is also a well-drawn character. He’s a lapsed Mormon who makes it clear from the start he’s not coming back to church. Not because he no longer believes. (This is Deseret Book, after all.) But also not because of a petty complaint or a desire to sin. The actual reason is a serious one neither Jack nor the reader can fault.

The two fall in love and then have a falling out over the Church (of course). Then, at the urging of her believing Mormon father, Jack goes back to him even though he’s inactive because—now get this—she loves him! (Cough.) Yes, I just said that. And at the end of the book he’s still inactive and they’re still together! (More coughing.) Has Deseret Book gone astray?

Maybe. Maybe not. They still haven’t lost that chaste kiss requirement. The “lovers” in A Date with Danger have two kissing scenes, one at the end, and another that Jack describes as neither “demanding or even passionate.” Sigh. If it were my book the ex-Mormon would be a much better kisser. Still, I can’t help but admire the real life conclusion.

“It’s not that I’d lost faith in my religion. More that I’d lost faith in the people who practiced it. Or claimed to,” says Summer Knight, author Brittany Larsen’s Elizabeth Bennet clone in Pride and Politics.

Feisty and intelligent, Summer naturally catches the eye of snooty Ivy League Mormon, Benson Hardy. But he isn’t tempted, telling his friend Chase, “First of all, I think you’ve got dibs on the best-looking girl here. Second, she doesn’t go to church. Third, mind your own business.”

Why mind his own business? Because Summer is something far worse than inactive. She’s a Democrat. And not just any Democrat. She’s the daughter of the Democratic senator from Arizona, the arch rival of Benson’s uncle who is soon to become the Republican Party’s nominee for president.

Not long after this initial encounter, Summer obediently returns to church. But that’s not to say the novel follows the old formula. Unlike a more conventional LDS plot that exists within a sheltered Mormon cocoon, Pride and Politics is set in the real world with people who are comfortable in it. We’re definitely not in Happy Valley anymore.

Larsen sticks closely to the story, featuring all of Austen’s beloved characters in interesting—and not necessarily wholesome—manifestations. My favorite is the Lydia Bennet character, Lindsay, who enters the plot when she loses her ecclesiastical endorsement for BYU-Idaho after a public episode of under-aged drinking. There are all the same scenes, only through an LDS lens in Southern California and Washington D.C., with a mock British accent thrown in here, riding breeches and scones thrown in there.

Imagine the ball at Netherfield transported to the Newport Beach LDS Stake Center. Mr. Collins, who needs to marry before he can begin his job as an LDS seminary teacher, foppishly begs Elizabeth Bennet for her hand. She manages to escape, only to be confronted by Darcy who woos her with awkward conversation and caffeine-free Coke. Until they are interrupted by a scantily clad Lydia who jiggles her bodacious cleavage under Darcy’s disapproving gaze. —Now that’s a scene worthy of Amy Heckerling.

Speaking of Lydia’s cleavage, there’s a healthy dose of sexual tension in this book. Enough to shock/titillate a number of Mormon sisters, confound some of the Brethren, and make a 19th century literary realist roll her eyes.

Describing their first kiss, Summer says, “The heat of his (Benson’s) lips made me forget about the cold … my only thought was, More, please.” And then later, when they were dancing, “the synapses in my body were tingling from his touch”

Of course it all ends with a delicious snogging scene for Benson and Summer. The Mormon Republican is elected president. (I’m guessing that was a concession to Deseret Book.) And Lindsay is home from her slutty affair in Mexico, repentant and reformed for life. (Nah—she’s barely warming up.)

Perhaps Deseret Book will favor us with more worldly Mormon romances? I hope so.

For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?

Sunday in Outer Blogness: BYU Coke edition!

In my day, “caffeinated pop” was one of those sinful beverages that good Mormons avoided. Then it became a point of controversy, and then President Newsroom announced that there’s not actually any rule against it. And now Brigham Young University has finally started allowing the sale of Coke with caffeine on campus! Which, naturally, takes all of the fun out of it.

The other bit of Mo-news was that the CoJCoL-dS purchased the Printer’s Manuscript of the Book of Mormon from the Community of Christ for $35 million. Many were shocked, but I can’t bring myself to be remotely surprised that the richest branch of the Mormon tradition bought a valuable historical artifact from another branch in need of cash…

General Conference season is upon us, so it’s time for exciting activities like voting opposed! The first controversial development so far is that Joy D. Jones explicitly mentioned “Mother in Heaven”! Maybe talking about Heavenly Mother will one day be allowed again, like Coke.

There were some interesting scripture-study topics, including :

At no point does anybody say, “hey, we went from millions to less than a hundred, let’s stop and think about this.” At no point does someone say, “I’m getting out of here to live on my own before these animals destroy everyone.” At no point does anyone say, “Maybe the fact that we keep fainting from the loss of blood doesn’t bode well.” It’s just continuous fighting, with occasional breaks for sleeping and for fleeing to other made-up place names between battles. When did they have time to prepare and ingest food to fuel more fighting? How is it that one side didn’t win by attacking while the others slept?

None of this makes sense. None of this feels like the behavior of real people—although, admittedly, it would make one seriously badass action movie (Jason Statham IS…Coriantumr. Coming summer 2018). No one is this obsessed with victory or vengeance, but even if there are people like that, what are the odds that the last hundred or so warriors of a nation numbering in the millions would ALL be that kind of person?

But you know what’s even more ludicrous? After these millions of Jaredites have hacked each other to pieces, the last two combatants after every single other person has died are the two leaders of the armies. The final inning is a showdown between Shiz and Coriantumr.

Gimme a break.

Then there were a bunch of other interesting LDS-interest discussion topics:

As soon as a white Mormon man decides to ‘reimagine’ Eve as black, she is naked and up for auction.” Likewise, Bryndis Roberts, a Black convert to the church who practices law in Atlanta, told the Salt Lake Tribune that “this depiction with more of a focus on her breasts than her face is far too similar to pictures of black women on the auction block.”

But Richards did not listen.

In personal journeys, we have some literal ones and a poignant live journey:

There were so many things I didn’t know that day as I knelt at an altar and agreed to the LDS vows of a forever marriage. For example I would have been devastated to know that three close family members who were present at the ceremony would die too soon. My father would only live two more years because of pancreatic cancer, I would lose my brother-in-law to lymphoma five years later, and my grandmother a decade after that. I couldn’t foresee that I would move more than 15 times in those 25 years or that the wedding gift that I received that day, of a sewing machine from my mother, would become one of the very few possessions that would travel with me for each of those moves. And of course it was completely beyond my imagination that the eternal wedding vows I agreed to that day would, seventeen years later, be erased by the action of a stake president when he excommunicated my spouse from the LDS Church, or that a year after that I would file for a civil divorce.

See you in a fortnight!!

What does the CoJCoL-dS offer me? — the wrap-up!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my series of articles analyzing the strategies of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

Here they are, in case you missed any:

Now you may be wondering why this subject interests me so much. Of course I’ll start with the standard answers to the #1 exmo FAQ (If you’ve left the church, why won’t you just leave it alone?)

Being raised Mormon played a big role in making me the person that I am. That’s never going to change — I’m not going to magically, retroactively get a new past just because I don’t want to continue to practice Mormonism indefinitely. It’s a little like High School — I see no point in staying there forever, but that doesn’t mean that I hate it or that I didn’t learn anything of value from it or that I wish I’d never done it.

As I’ve said, I have every right to my own stories — and I strongly reject the believers’ claims that my perspective on Mormonism is less valid and/or more biased than theirs.

That said, there are a whole lot of aspects of my past that I don’t spend so much time analyzing, so why this one in particular?

Some of it is just random. My first experiences with socializing on the Internet were centered around ex-Mormon websites, and that led to being linked into a community of friends centered around that shared experience. Also, since I moved to Europe (and integrated myself into a new, European life), following Mormonism is a way of reconnecting with the culture I left behind.

But in addition to all of these personal reasons, I actually think that Mormonism is objectively interesting.

Some outside of Mormonism think it’s fascinating that people would believe in a prophet who’s “obviously a con-man” — but, honestly, I don’t think that part is unique at all. At best — because Mormonism started more recently than many other religions — the paper-trail is still warm. And that can help shed light on what other religious leaders might look like if we had perspectives on them written by someone other than their own followers. But I don’t think it’s that exceptional.

What I think is more interesting is that people would venerate an organization that is obviously a for-profit corporation. Just because the leaders aren’t living lives of conspicuous consumption like wealthy televangelists, believers don’t seem to mind giving 10%+ of their income to a real-estate corporation that is amassing great wealth apparently just to invest it and amass some more. That’s that point that’s kind of always in the background in all the articles in my series linked above.

I hope you’ve found my analysis interesting. I certainly had fun coming up with it and writing it all out. I welcome further discussion!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Disaster edition!

I hope all of you in Florida and Texas and other disaster-stricken regions are safe today! It is time to take climate change seriously. Runtu’s daughter and son-in-law’s home was flooded by Hurricane Harvey and they didn’t have flood insurance — he has set up a fund for them here.

Surrounding the hurricanes, prosperity-preacher Joel Osteen was shamed for not sheltering people, and a Texas professor got fired for making an insensitive remark.

Let’s have a look at this week’s Mormon discussion topics!

In life journeys, Brooke W recounted some adventures with fertility. Andrew Hackman’s son just turned 16. Paul Sunstone lost his mother. David Johnson shared some thoughts about the CoJCoL-dS and his mixed-faith marriage. Dad’s Primal Scream participated in a discussion of divorce and gay parenting. Ben came out to his new ward, and Alexis’s cousin had an unusual gay Mormon experience:

We were led to believe that he suffered with a mere lack of direction in his life which compelled him to spend hours at a time in front of the family’s living room television, thoroughly engaged with Food Network programming. Richard’s fascination with all things related to Bobby Flay did not escape the attention of his mother, who honestly believed she could change her son’s true nature to what it should have been according to LDS teachings by the simple act of cancelling her family’s cable TV connection.

And I could relate to Bethany Jane’s experience of not connecting with one of the central components of Mormonism:

It took me until my late twenties to realize that I am not a spiritual person. I don’t feel things in church or when I pray or when other people are. The only time I feel something is when music is involved and I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the pioneer hymns of Mormonism. When you are not a spiritual person and frankly most religious things make you incredibly uncomfortable, it is virtually impossible to try and gain faith in things you feel nothing for and are super confused by. I deal primarily in logic and not feelings; religion is not logical. When I told my bishop that I was not a spiritual person he tried to assure me that isn’t true and of course I am; I do not see this as a fault but just how I was made.

This week’s Book of Mormon lesson was pretty fun:

And it came to pass that his high priest murdered him as he sat upon his throne.

Again!? I’m starting to think that if the FBI developed a time machine and used it to track American crime statistics back a few thousand years, they’d discover that about 80% of all homicides in this country prior to European invasion took place on either a throne or a judgment seat. It’s literally the most dangerous place for any character of the Book of Mormon to be at any given time.

Or maybe Joseph Smith just wasn’t that creative when it came to dreaming up scenarios for the assassination of government officials (luckily for Lilburn Boggs).

Then there was quite a lot of discussion about books:

Good luck to all, and happy reading!

A Mormon Liar’s Wild Ride: “Through His Eyes and Lies” by C. L. Jackson

eyes_lies_cover Through His Eyes and Lies is not an ex-Mormon novel or an anti-Mormon novel. It’s kind of a Mormon-adjacent novel. Though the majority of the book’s events take place in Provo, Utah and religion does play a role in the story that unfolds, Mormonism itself is more the setting than the central focus. The church is Middle-Earth, not the One Ring. For anyone hoping for a juicy attack on LDS values in a millennial coming-of-age format, you’re going to be disappointed. Otherwise, there’s plenty of meat on the bone here.

Though author C. L. Jackson does take a few subtle and less-than-subtle swipes at Mormon foibles here and there, the story itself is a character study of a pathological liar (who is also a borderline alcoholic) as he searches for love and a sense of purpose between Maryland and Utah. He bounces from one short-lived romance to the next and staggers from one liquor bottle to the next, never really having a good handle on what he wants or who he is—which should make this a painfully relatable struggle for many.

The narrator is well-drawn, managing to maintain a delicate balance between being sympathetic and being despicable. He’s flawed, and there were plenty of times he needed a good solid punch in the nose, but as the novel progresses, it becomes clearer that he’s a good-hearted person whose best qualities have been obscured by the loss of his identity. When he starts to find out who he is and who he wants to be, the urge to punch dissipates quickly.

My only real complaint about Through His Eyes and Lies is the abundance of sexual encounters. While each has significance to the progression of the story and the development of the characters, it’s astonishing how easily the narrator is able to entice women into what are often one-night stands. Perhaps I merely don’t possess his womanizing attitude (or his devastating good looks), but it begins to feel very unrealistic as he cuts through the inhibitions and the brainwashing with relative ease in order to sleep with a staggering number of women in, of all places, Provo.

The sex is still an essential part of the narrator’s experiences and growth, however. His character arc is agonizingly drawn out at some points, but this quality is the book’s most realistic representation of human nature—change takes time, and we tend learn at a speed that, to outside observers, is much too slow. If anything, this makes his progress in the end all the more rewarding and all the more satisfying.

Jackson also layers the text with a pervasive if understated sense of humor. All of the film references, for example (especially in the chapter titles), are a fun little treat to keep you perked up even when the hero is at his lowest points. And though the book appeals to a wider readership, those with experience in Mormonism should be able to deeply connect with the narrator’s quest for a new identity and a life of authenticity.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Intolerance edition!

You may have noticed that there have been some racial tensions in the United States lately. Also the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has traditionally had some problems with racism (see this helpful infographic). And, yes, there’s racism in the Book of Mormon:

This scripture is important because it racializes skin color. That is, it was because of the dark skin, that we know the Lamanites were bad hombres. This as opposed to the idea that the Lamanites were sinful and thus they were cursed with a dark skin. Also note that the dark skin was a mark of marriage prohibition. This is racism 101. Let me provide an example to help better understand what I mean

“How do we know Blacks (insert negative stereotype) act that way?”

“Because their skin is black and black people always act that way.”

There is no way 2 Nephi 5:21-24 can be read metaphorically.

It turns out there’s a Mormon Mommy Blogger who is one of the leaders of the Alt-Right! To the church’s credit, President Newsroom explicitly called out white nationalists when the Nazi mommy interpreted their more ambiguous statement as being favorable to the alt-right. Next step maybe actually excommunicate her?

The Mormon Church has been making empty statements about racists not being proper Mormons since well before the Alt-Right groups became a thing. Individuals, like Ayla, have risen in popularity while the great authority of the Mormon Church has excommunicated people like Kate Kelly for suggesting that some women could be given the same magical “blessings” reserved for eight year old boys. This leads the outsider to think that, to the Mormon Church, respectfully discussing aspects of magical wacky-woo is much more egregious than openly espousing neo-fascist ideology.

For the average Mormon, some tips on standing against white supremacy from BCC and the Young Mormon Feminists. Dooce recently resigned from the CoJCoL-dS over the racism:

When I found out that the Mormon Tabernacle Choir was going to sing at the inauguration of a self-professed sexual predator and unadulterated bigot, I submitted my name for removal. Here’s the PDF I have hanging over the laundry basket where I throw my dirty panties.

Trump’s flailing incompetence is fanning some very dangerous flames of hatred. In my analysis on my personal blog, though, I’ve found a possible ray of hope:

The critical point is that the Republicans in Congress are finally starting to turn on him. Trump doesn’t seem to understand that those Republicans in the House and Senate are currently the only people standing between him and jail. And he is just too. damn. stupid. to do a bare minimum of maintenance on those alliances that are so critical to his survival. Instead he has repeatedly demonstrated that teaming up with him is the fast track to finding yourself under a bus.

The CoJCoL-dS also has some problems with homosexuality, but some gay Mormons are making it work — sometimes in unusual ways. Specifically, this lesbian couple earned praise for getting divorced in order to be members in good standing!

In happier gay Mormon tales, Dad’s Primal Scream came up with a positive way to keep himself from being erased from his son’s life:

My e-mails have usually been full of the latest details about our family, me and his sisters. I always tried to include a healthy amount of humor. I’d send jokes or the latest memes because I know how somber and dreadfully serious everything can be on a mission.

But now that he’s coming back I’ve been dreading the same sort of snubbing at homecoming events that I experienced when he left.

So, I’ve decided that instead of feeling sorry for myself I am going to take my power back. I’ll be hosting my own welcome back party for him. I’m be inviting my gay and ex-Mormon friends and he can invited whomever he wants. The focus will be on our joy to have him back. That’s it. I’ve run it by him and he has agreed!! I’m very excited.

On to other LDS-interest news and discussion topics!

And Alexis posted a fascinating Mormon doctrinal riddle — comment on her blog if you know the answer!

What is the protocol concerning informing new spouses about old secret names? And what about if two husbands know a woman’s secret name? What if the original husband says he has moved on, but he really hasn’t, in an emotional sense, and he still knows his ex-wife’s secret name? What if he manages to get himself posited into the right place to bring his ex through the veil? The wife is unsuspecting and thinks it’s the right person bringing her through the veil, or whatever, and then VOILA! She gets through or across and sees that she has been facilitated into eternity by someone she wasn’t at all expecting to see there. What does she do then?

Or does she get a new secret name so that the old husband, in case he’s not on the up and up, doesn’t know her more current secret name?

Also don’t miss this new blog with travel tips from one exmo friend to another!

Wow, there was really a lot of fantastic discussion in blogspace this past fortnight! I hope you get a chance to check out some of these links despite my getting this out so late. Happy reading!

What the CoJCoL-dS Offers: Retro Morals

In the second episode of this series, I claimed that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers a lot of nothing — but then in the most recent installment I mentioned a substantial selling point:

And the church will be right there to constantly pat you on the back for how superior you are as a person than people who fail on any of the points above.

The CoJCoL-dS offers the comforting belief that the customs of the good old days were, in fact, more moral, more righteous than their more modern counterparts. A hilarious case-in-point would be tattoos and piercings:

Personally I follow the Mormon rules on this issue. I have no tattoos, and I have only one piercing per ear — the allowed amount for women. My husband has none, and he’s clean-shaven.

Do you know why?

It’s because I was born in 1971 — and back when I was forming my ideas about what looks good, tattoos and multiple piercings weren’t fashionable. Similar story for my husband, born in 1969. Consequently, I think excessive tattoos and piercings look kind of weird, not attractive.

But the difference between me and the leaders of the CoJCoL-dS is that I recognize that this is simply a personal aesthetic preference — not a statement of morals or ethics.

The part I find hilarious is the fact that the church allows exactly one pair of earlobe-piercings (and for women only). So they can’t pretend that they have some consistent principle about body modification. It’s simply that whatever random thing happened to be stylish in the US in 1980 is righteous — and more recent fashions are sinful.

This canonization of the good old days is the main reason why the CoJCoL-dS can’t stop doubling-down on the gay issue. The church can’t evolve unless its members want it to, and it is unfortunately stuck in a bit of a feedback loop of bigotry.

Back in the 1970’s, one selling point of the CoJCoL-dS was that it was the church that let you say, “Hey, it’s not that I’m a racist — it’s God!” More recently it has been offering the same feature for sexists and homophobes. Each of these iterations affects the composition of the membership because it attracts bigots and repels people who care about equality. This loop builds a situation where it’s impossible for the church to forcefully root out bigotry because too many of the members see it as a feature and not a bug.

Honestly there are a lot of things I love about my Mormon heritage. It annoys me to see the Mormons mainstreaming their unique theology to align it with (Evangelical) Christian theology — as if the beliefs of the Christians were somehow objectively less nutty. But it seems that the members of the CoJCoL-dS have chosen to merge with US Christianity’s worst element: Religious Right politics. So instead of seeking real religious freedom for fellow minorities like the LGBTQ community, the Mormons are willing to help bully them in hopes of getting a seat at the mean girls’ table of the Religious Right.

Tagging along with the Religious Right — which is dominated by Evangelicals (who will always see Mormonism as a dangerous heresy or cult) — doesn’t demonstrate a lot of self-respect on the Mormons’ part. But it looks like it’s too late for the CoJCoL-dS to turn back and take another path. For better or (more likely) for worse, giving a moral stamp of approval to conservative privilege is one of the biggest selling points that the CoJCoL-dS has to offer.

Trump and the Rise of the Uninformed Expert

I got some hate mail last Thursday.

It was a voicemail, actually, from an old friend. He said he’s cutting his ties to us because of my husband Mark’s recent suggestion that Syrian refugees be admitted into our country.

Boasting an extensive knowledge of Islam (he owns a Quran), this “friend” scolded Mark—over my voicemail—for inviting an influx of crazies who only want to “put black sacks over women” and “distort their genitals.”

Then on a conciliatory note, he gave Mark a pass because he is a victim of “Mormon Whiplash,” a label this man (who has never been LDS but owns a Book of Mormon) invented for the blanket of former Mormons who (in his mind) always do the exact opposite of what the Mormons do.

Gosh, I loathe black and white thinking. But it seems to be all we get these days. Thanks to the rise of Trump and the alt-right, people like our friend now feel free to express the hatred they’d kept hidden for so long, and in a recorded message, no less. What used to be a dog whistle is now a bullhorn.

Does our former friend read the news? Okay, so maybe he thinks it’s all fake. He still goes to the grocery store though, right? Does he really believe that the friendly kid in produce wearing the “Muhammad” nametag dreams of mutilating women? How does one reduce a worldwide population of 1.8 billion into such a narrowly drawn, repugnant, and false stereotype—one that is so easily disproven?

Likewise the less ambitious “Mormon Whiplash” analogy. I’m actually quite familiar with this stale theory, having heard it time and again from the black and white thinkers at church—“People who reject the gospel ricochet into washed-up losers who booze it up in front of the porn channel.” Or maybe even vote Democratic.

Again, the false stereotype that is easily disproven—starting with Mark who, upon leaving the LDS Church over two decades ago, “whiplashed” out of the Republican Party just last year when it nominated Donald J. Trump for president. But he still hasn’t started boozing it up or looking at porn—so there!

Besides, how is kindness to refugees an example of so-called “Mormon Whiplash?”

I’ve written extensively about the Mormons, on this blog and elsewhere. Much of my writing has been humor aimed at the culture and much of it criticism leveled at the church’s exclusionary policies and practices. I believe all religions deserve scrutiny, especially those that claim exclusive access to God and salvation.

But after years of being told I was “offended and wanted to sin,” I’ve steered clear of drawing the same sort of uninformed conclusions about practicing Mormons. After all these years, the false stereotypes still get under my skin. For example: “all Mormons practice polygamy” or “Mormons perform kinky, satanic rituals in their temples.” The ever popular “Mormons aren’t Christians” or, hat tip to our former friend, “all Mormons are bigots”—a good thing, according to him.

Our nation’s newly embraced bigotry exploded in violence in Charlottesville over the weekend, the ultimate example of black and white thinking. An event egged on by, I believe, an increasing lack of civility in our public and private discourse, a tone set by our commander-in-chief. Even now, President Trump refuses to blame the white supremacists for this terrible incident, his true colors showing in his boorish tantrum before the press yesterday.

Mormonism is neither as large nor as steeped in history as an ancient faith like Islam. However, we still defy stereotypes, especially when our spectrum is broadened to include the fundamentalists on the right and the post-Mormons on the left. Hopefully, we can reject the national trend and keep our discourse civil. Latter-day Saints like to say they’re “not of the world.” This would be an excellent time to live that example.

And as long as I’m on a tear over the ignorant hate mail, I’ll conclude with a lesson that was impressed upon me as a child. One that I, in turn, impressed upon my own children: You don’t display your expertise by boasting your thin resume.

Imagine Dr. Kissinger prefacing his remarks with, “I have an extensive knowledge of the Middle East. I own a Quran.”

But then, since our national tone is set by a guy who insists he’s really smart because he went to Wharton Business School and had a hit reality show, I see more ignorant hate mail and hollow boasts in our future, leaving the critical thinker to go on calling out the hatred while stubbornly sticking to the facts.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: **edited: forgot to add a title edition, lol

I guess it’s not Mormon news, but various Mormons had a lot to say about the recent racist violence in Charlottesvilleand about racism within Mormonism. Good for the CoJCoL-dS for specifically calling out racism — something Trump couldn’t bring himself to do.

I wish the atheist movement were doing a better job of stepping up to the platesadly, no.

The biggest Mormon story was that a General Authority got excommunicated. The CoJCoL-dS didn’t say what it was for, except to say that it was not apostasy. So let the speculation begin! (Both about what this dude did to get X’d and about why the CoJCoL-dS felt the need to tell us all that it wasn’t apostasy…)

On to discussion topics! We have some new takes on familiar topics like whether Joseph Smith had sex with his polyandrous and teen brides, how the CoJCoL-dS delegitimizes the stories of those whose experiences with the church were less than positive, the problem with faith-promoting stories, how to communicate across the Mo/exMo divide, the church taking credit but not blame, whether prayer works, and masturbation! Plus some modern topics like blaming the poor for poor health (as opposed to socialized health care) — looks like blaming is actually more biblical. There are also women’s issues like fat shaming, rites for girls in other faiths, gender essentialism, and being trained in which aspirations are allowed.

In history, there’s the ambiguity of the succession crisis, plus a follow-up!

In scripture study, the Book of Mormon teaches some questionable ideas about faith.

In life journeys, John Gustav-Wrathall explained why he stays in the CoJCoL-dS (despite having been excommunicated), myrtlejoy told the story of a transgender pioneer, the Narrator has taken off his (metaphorical) hats, and Adult-Onset Atheist lost a friend to intimate partner violence:

There are so many things that are happening in the world that some 63-year-old man bashing in the head of his middle aged girlfriend in an out-of-the way West Virginia home barely claws its way into local news. There is a family bereft of their flame-haired matriarch, and scores of people who have suddenly lost a good friend. Not just an acquaintance that is so cordial that they earn the title “friend”, but an honest-to-goodness good friend. She was a close friend of my younger sister.

And there were a whole lot of book reviews in Mormon land over the past few weeks! See these reviews of Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons, Days of Awe and Wonder, The Burning Point, Mother’s Milk, Illuminating Ladies, Tears We Cannot Stop, and Singing and Dancing to the Book of Mormon!

Happy reading!