My most bizarre interfaith interaction

This is something that happened to me when I was about 11 years old, and it has stuck with me all these years because it was just so dang weird. As you can tell from the title, I do not mean to imply that this is at all typical of interactions between Mormons and (non-Mormon) Christians.

Back when I was 8 or 9, the movie Grease with Olivia Newton-John was the coolest thing! My favorite cousin — a devout Mormon about my age — loved the film. We all sang to the record together when our two families visited. I think that’s why my parents didn’t really have a problem with the film — it was a fave with other trusted Mormon family members. And — while we were very active Mormons, and pretty strict — we were far from the strictest Mormons in the ward. My parents were strict but flexible.

Anyway, when we moved to Minnesota, a Christian girl from my neighborhood quickly became my best friend. Her family was stricter than mine. She wore skirts to school and was forbidden from wearing jeans (specifically “double-seam pants”). I’ve never met anyone before or since who had that particular restriction.

Sadly, it wasn’t long before another Christian girl moved into the neighborhood. I’m not sure whether they went to the same church, but the new new girl was quickly BFF (to use an anachronism) with my best friend — whereas with me, we had kind of a tolerating-each-other standoff.

One day I had my two friends over for a slumber party. Yes, in those days, that was totally typical for Mormon kids. In those days, there wasn’t even a whisper of a hint that slumber parties were something good Mormon kids should avoid.

One of the components of an early-80’s slumber party was renting a VHS film. I don’t recall whether my friends came along with me to “Mr. Movies” where the film was selected, but the film for the evening was Grease. And we all watched it without the slightest indication that anything was amiss. We then spent the rest of the night playing board-games and dress-up, as was the custom of the time.

The next school day, my two friends walked up to me together during recess. They explained to me — with much gravity — that if ever I were to throw a party again where the film Grease would be shown, then I should tell them, so that their moms could come pick them up and take them home.

This was, sincerely, one of the weirdest things anyone has ever said to me in my life. Because of course I told them the film was Grease before I put it in and we all watched it. And how insulting of them to imply that — if they had objected to watching it (which they didn’t) — that I would have insisted on putting it in, and they would have had to call their respective mothers to be driven three blocks home, and I would have watched it alone.

But the coda of the story was even more bizarre!!

They then told me that next time I should show them a more wholesome movie, like Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. This stuck with me because it was just so random. I mean, I had never seen this film (still haven’t), but I’d heard of it, and naturally I would have been fine with selecting that as the film of the evening — if they’d have suggested it.

It was very clear that they’d gone home and told their mothers that they’d watched Grease, and then they came to school and recited to me wholesale exactly whatever nonsense their mothers had said to them about it — without attempting to filter it through their own brains in the slightest.

Needless to say, one corner was soon cut from this friendship triangle. (I’ll give you one guess who it was…)

This whole story came back to me recently when I learned that — not only is the film Seven Brides for Seven Brothers a story of forcibly abducting women and holding them against their will — it actually has a catchy song about the joys of rape:

As questionable as the film Grease is, it absolutely floors me anew to realize that those strict Christian parents found the above to be more appropriate fare for their 11-year-old daughters!!!!

Strategies of the CoJCoL-dS: The whys and hows of polarization

Any path that bills itself as the one true path for everyone is bound to lead to judgement. Naturally the path will be better suited to some people than to others, and — if it’s what everyone is supposed to be doing — that leads to the conclusion that those who do it well are simply better people; more righteous, more worthy, of better character, etc.

In the case of Mormonism, everyone is supposed to marry heterosexually and reproduce. There is no other path that is equal or greater. Those who fail are pitied, tolerated, given platitudes and excuses — but not respected on the same level as those who follow the path of biological reproduction.

Additionally, if you’re attractive, financially successful, good at public speaking, and generally have the kind of social skills that would put you in the popular clique in Jr. High/High School, then you’ll make a good Mormon. Bonus points if you have musical talents, a low (but not absent) sex drive, and if you’d rather conform than rebel. Ideally your family gets along reasonably well without any major hidden abuse or dysfunction simmering under the surface. It goes without saying that it’s better to have right-leaning political views and to be white. (Double bonus points if you’re related to “Mormon royalty.”)

If that’s you, then boy-oh-boy does the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints want you! 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. If you don’t meet the above description, then — as far as the CoJCoL-dS is concerned — you’re the problem. You’re just not as righteous. (See Donna’s recent article for an example of how this plays out.)

A lot of ink has been spilled on the question of how Mormonism trains people to be successful, and the CoJCoL-dS is indeed good at training people to have modern success skills. But they also increase the proportion of the beautiful people among their ranks by creating an environment that is so miserable and odious for those who don’t fit the Mormon ideal that they often just leave.

This is where the polarization dynamic comes into play. The CoJCoL-dS broadcasts the message: “It’s not the church, it’s you. You didn’t pay, pray, and obey enough. You didn’t try hard enough. You weren’t righteous enough.” This message pushes people toward the two poles.

At the one pole we have people whose problems (and not-inherently-problematic differences from the Mormon ideal) simply can’t be prayed away. These folks are further battered by the message that it’s their fault if they couldn’t make an unworkable solution work. If this insult upon injury makes them angry as they leave, then that simply reinforces the church’s narrative: “Their hearts are full of contention; they have turned their backs on righteousness.”

At the other pole we have the people who are winning at Mormoning, and who are encouraged to believe that their success is due to their righteousness — that success with respect to the Mormon measuring rod is an objective measure of virtue. The bonus for the CoJCoL-dS is that the winners’ commitment to Mormonism is reinforced and integrated into their very identity.

I don’t claim that any person or committee within the CoJCoL-dS intentionally developed this strategy of polarization. I think it’s more likely that it’s a cultural strategy that developed over time because it has been effective at maintaining a successful, attractive, and highly-committed core of members. But there have been a number of actions from the Church Office Building that make it look like they’re doing it on purpose. Specifically: spreading lies and slander about those who leave the faith — which serves to make the leavers angrier which, in turn, proves how bitter and angry they are. See, for example, the Thomas B. Marsh and the milk & strippings story.

An example that made a strong impression on me was when the CoJCoL-dS released statements through its newsroom that misrepresented the actions of the Ordain Women movement (see my link roundups here and here). Those who participated in the actions found them positive and uplifting — and they felt they’d made a good connection with the church leaders there at the time. Then for the CoJCoL-dS to turn around and lump them with protesters shouting that Mormonism is of the devil hurt quite a bit. Maybe the folks in the Church Office Building were only thinking of their more orthodox audience when they crafted the statement (that has since been deleted), but maybe they wanted the women of Ordain Women to see the CoJCoL-dS as an institution that will lie about them for the purpose of hurting them. If they’re going to stand up to the CoJCoL-dS and its policies, then maybe the church reasoned it’s better that they leave, and leave angry.

A similar case was the infamous November Policy. A Mormon apostle stated that the CoJCoL-dS’s policy to bar children of gay parents from membership was parallel to their policy of barring children of polygamists from membership. If you don’t fit, they don’t want you to try to squeeze yourself in — and bend the CoJCoL-dS in the process.

I think it would be nice if the success and happiness of those of us who have left weren’t seen as a threat to the worldview of our friends and family who remain in the faith. It would be great if there were a neutral middle ground. But I don’t foresee any changes in the CoJCoL-dS’s polarization policy.

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Other posts in this series:

The Mormon Way to Get Rich

Thanks to some of my believing Mormon friends, the blog post, “Will Your Child be Rich or Poor? 15 Poverty Habits Parents Teach their Children,” has been hovering on my radar, popping up repeatedly in my Facebook feed and even landing in my inbox via mass email. When I finally broke down and read the thing I immediately understood the appeal. The author, Thomas C. Corley, doesn’t specify any church affiliation. Nevertheless, he is clearly a shoe-in for speaker on the LDS potluck circuit.

Distressed that parents, teachers, and other confused bleeding hearts are teaching today’s children that the wealthy “have too much wealth” and the underprivileged are “victims” of poverty, Corley began a five-year “Rich Habits Study” conducted through his “Rich Habits Institute.” Confessing that he is not a scientist, economist, or other so-called “study expert,” he instead applied his “unique CPA skills” to determine why some people are rich and some are poor. His results?

Surprise!!! Rich people have good habits and poor people have bad habits.

The wealthy, according to Corley, are paragons of morality, intellect, and physical fitness. They listen to audio books, they do aerobics, they attend Back-to-School Night, their kids are on the honor roll, they’re thrifty and driven to succeed. They own all of Thomas C. Corley’s books. Bottom line: they’re rich because they really want to be rich.

The poor, on the other hand, are a seedy, slothful bunch. They eat junk food and gamble, they’re at least 30 pounds overweight, they laze around watching reality TV, and spend all their money. They blow off Back-to-School Night. Bottom line: they don’t really want to be rich.

It’s hard to overemphasize how well this philosophy plays in the LDS community, especially among the die-hards and higher-ups. Given the hierarchy’s principal message is “if you’re offended it’s your fault,” it’s easy to jump to “if you’re poor it’s your fault.” In fact, some extremists in the faith would argue that even the circumstances of birth are not by chance, but determined by the individual’s valiance in the pre-mortal “War in Heaven.” Imagine that logic coupled with Corley’s findings:

“I hear some bleeding hearts are taking a collection to help that newborn discovered inside a dumpster over in South Central. What a waste. Face it, the kid had it coming. He didn’t fight hard enough for Jesus. Anyway, all is not lost. He just needs to save his allowance, listen to some audiobooks, and lay off the junk food so he won’t get fat. He can still succeed. If he wants to.”

Bottom line: the Brethren really don’t want to know about your problems.

Given that a sizable chunk of our populace believes our previous president was born in Kenya, I should point out that Corley’s article isn’t entirely fake news. While hardly a guarantee for financial freedom, his suggestions for at least personal improvement are essentially sound, encouraging his readers toward healthy living, attentive parenting, frugality, etc. In fact, his formula makes infinitely more sense than the LDS model of serve a mission, have a bunch of kids, devote your spare time to church callings, pay your tithing, etc.

But it’s the claim that the rich are morally superior that is so damaging, not to mention perversely inaccurate.

Take, for example, our current commander-in-chief who has risen to success by way of gambling casinos, reality TV, defaulted loans, lawsuits, salacious headlines, and, of course, lies. On top of that, he is hardly a model of physical fitness.

If the “haves” can make a successful case that status is achieved solely through hard work and moral superiority, they can demand goodness knows what from the “have-nots.” But then, I suppose that’s what the Brethren and guys like Corley are going for.

Also, while I’ve no “unique CPA skills,” I can claim over a half century of life experience. And throughout that experience, I have never known anybody who didn’t want to be rich. With one notable exception.**

Of course, I am one of those bleeding hearts and certainly not one of the “haves.” Which really blows because I listen to audio books, exercise regularly, and am less than 30 pounds overweight. I attended Back-to School Nights and my kids were on the honor roll. Also I know how to save a buck. Must have been my Conscientious Objector status during the War in Heaven. Or maybe I just need to read Thomas C. Corley’s books?

**In 1988 I had a memorable encounter with some Carthusian monks in the village of Saint-Pierre-de-Chartreuese, near Grenoble, France. They had taken a vow of poverty. But were surprisingly svelte and never watched reality TV.

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Extreme Parenting Edition!

By now you’ve probably heard the story about the Mormon family who dumped their son in Bryce Canyon when he didn’t want to serve a mission — and about the BYUI professor who got fired for posting pro-LGBT remarks on Facebook.

By Common Consent’s new publishing house looks like it’s off to a great start! I wish them well, and hope MAA Books‘ publishing arm will be ready to roll soon. Other books discussed lately include The Burning Point, The Handmaid’s Tale, Diary of Two Mad Black Mormons, Days of Awe and Wonder, The Burning Point, and ABC’s of Science and Mormonism!

There have been some great discussions lately on apologetics and conspiracies, on gerrymandering, on what the priesthood is anyway, on how the disaffected are silenced and how to counterbalance the problem, and on garmies and porn shoulders.

Sam Young continues to shine the light on the church’s despicable practice of having untrained middle-aged me grill adolescents about masturbation in closed-door interviews. And Grouchy brings us more terrible news from Trumpland — the only worse disaster is climate change.

In life journeys, Myrtlejoy has posted a lovely story about her connection with her pioneer ancestors. Froggie is exploring mystery through photos. Uomo Nuovo has been on an epic bike tour. Kevin Barney recounted becoming a liberal-minded Mormon. And Chiroscuro recounted an adventure with black-and-white thinking:

Do you think I’m being extreme? I wish I were! President Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Each of us has to face the matter — either the Church is true, or it is a fraud. There is no middle ground. It is the church and kingdom of God, or it is nothing.” (May 2003 Ensign) And guess what? Church history is absolutely not the rosy whitewashed picture we were all taught.

Thanks for your patience, everyone! Sorry I’ve been doing such a terrible job of keeping up my posting here at MSP lately — the thing is that (in addition to extra stress from getting a new job) I have been desperate to finally finish drawing part 1 of my comic book. Well, I finally finished the last panel this morning — yay me!! I still have corrections to do, but I plan to be ready to print up some pre-prints in two weeks. This takes a lot of pressure off, and I’m hoping to have time to catch up on all my other projects in August.

BTW, another fun project I did IRL was to participate in an “Evening of Apostasy” panel hosted by the local freethinkers group here in Zurich. Here’s a write-up of it (warning: it’s in German).

I hope all your projects are going well too, and I hope to be back on track with my series on Mormon strategies next week — happy reading!

Strategies of the CoJCoL-dS: High demands and polarization

A few years ago there was a lot of discussion in the Bloggernacle about the fact that highly-demanding religions (like the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) are currently retaining members better than low-demand religions (like Catholicism). Both types are shedding members, but the more demanding denominations are apparently not shedding them quite as quickly.

I think this claim about the differing rates of attrition is probably true — here‘s an article from a Catholic perspective on how grave their situation is — so let’s analyze the advantages and disadvantages of the two strategies!

Catholicism offers the possibility of choosing pretty much any level of devotion, from full-time (becoming a nun or monk) on the one end of the spectrum down to zero-time (not giving the church a second thought after your parents have you baptized as a baby). My husband, for example, identifies as Catholic despite the fact that he also identifies as atheist (and did not want our kids baptized). Although that particular combination is not common, I think it is pretty common (especially in Catholic-majority countries) to consider oneself Catholic despite going to mass essentially never. I understand my husband’s brother is planning to have his new baby baptized Catholic, even though I’m pretty sure he and the mom aren’t married, I don’t think they attend mass, and who knows what they believe. Viewing the church as simply a set of cultural rites-of-passage doesn’t really disqualify people from embracing a Catholic identity.

On the other hand, with Mormonism (particularly in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints branch of Mormonism), there’s a very strong sense of “you’re in or you’re out.” If you’re in, then you’re expected to fulfill a calling (a job helping to run some aspect of the local congregation) in addition to some additional calling-like tasks: home/visiting teaching, cleaning the church building, and attending temple sessions (in addition to the 3 hour block of ordinary church services every Sunday). You are also expected to pay at least 10% of your income to the church (otherwise people will know you didn’t because you can’t go to the temple!) and wear special underwear and you’re expected to follow the “Word of Wisdom” — that is, to abstain from coffee, tea, tobacco, and alcohol. That’s a lot of work! And it helps keep your social circle confined to the Mormon community.

There exist people who believe the tenets of Mormonism but simply don’t practice (called “Jack Mormons”), but they’re really not integrated or accepted as members of the community the way similarly non-practicing Catholics are. The fact that there’s a separate name for such people is an indication that they’re not really seen as just Mormon — they’re kind of a weird, suspicious alternate category. And if you neither practice nor believe the tenets of Mormonism anymore, then you are actively discouraged from continuing to consider yourself Mormon.

An obvious advantage to the low-demand strategy is that those people who are simply going to participate very little or not at all are at least still members of the community. Of course, the less they participate, the less they are likely to miss the religion if they leave. A high-demand religion, on the other hand, relies on the strategy that people value things that they’ve invested time and energy into. Mormonism gives you not only a community but also a purpose, and it fills your day with stuff to do. And Mormonism encourages people to care a lot about how invested their friends and relatives are in practicing Mormonism. So abandoning Mormon practice can have a huge social cost in addition to leaving you wondering what you’re going to do instead of all that Mormon stuff you were doing — plus it makes you feel like all the sacrifices you’ve made in your life so far were completely in vain, something not many people want to feel. With a low-demand religion, it’s possible to leave incrementally, just by shifting your social circle — hardly noticing that you’ve left.

One of the biggest differences in the two strategies is the amount of polarization. A super-devout multiple-mass-per-week Catholic can be married to a nominal Catholic and still feel like they’re both essentially on the same page. And, from the church’s member-retention point-of-view, the kids get raised Catholic without it being a source of contention or conflict within the family. In majority-Catholic communities, you can easily have whole families that are participating only marginally, whose kids end up later taking a more active interest in the faith — without that being seen as anyone rejecting anyone else’s values or cultural identity.

In the CoJCoL-dS, such a dynamic is really not possible. Varying levels of Mormon belief and practice are typically a huge source of conflict and contention within families. As more people are leaving the situation has been improving (for leavers), but traditionally it has not been uncommon for devout Mormons to cut off, shun, or divorce family members who stop believing. From the church’s member-retention point-of-view, the threat of such social consequences is a major incentive that keeps people from leaving. But there’s a flip side. You can have devout, extremely devoted members who love Mormonism and who — left to their own devices — would never have left, but who start questioning when they realize that the church itself is the source of the conflict in their home. Contrast this with a similar family in a low-demand religion: the devout member doesn’t face the same pressure from the community to “fix” the (possibly non-believing) spouse, and the kids don’t grow up with the impression that the church is a conflict-creating monster that wrecked their family.

Now you’re probably detecting a bit of bias on my part in favor of the low-demand strategy. Yep, it’s true. Each strategy has its pros and cons when it comes to helping the organization retain members. But, naturally, I think that avoiding pointless, family-wrecking conflicts is a much better goal than retaining members.

As a post-script, the hilarious part is that I’m apparently not the only atheist who has made this same calculation. According to this 2008 Pew study, atheists have by far the worst retention rate (in terms of kids raised in atheist households growing up to identify as atheist). The negative interpretation is that kids raised in atheist households are very unlikely to want their own kids to have the same experience. The positive interpretation is that atheists really are serious about not brainwashing their kids but rather honestly expect their kids to make up their own minds — even if that means choosing a different path than the way they were raised. There’s something to be said for not believing in hell — you may be annoyed when your kid starts believing in Jesus, but at least you’re not worried that your kid’s annoying beliefs are going to get your kid tortured for eternity…

But seriously, I think the biggest reason for atheists’ lack of kid-retention is that it’s a world-view without being a culture — it’s not a cultural identity in the same way that being a Mormon, Catholic, Christian, Muslim, or Jew is a cultural identity. Atheism doesn’t have the organizational apparatus or cultural rites-of-passage. So once your beliefs change, there’s really no community or culture to feel a continued connection with.

Anyway, more on polarization in the next segment, one fortnight from now! Stay tuned! 😀

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Baby steps edition!

Hard to believe, but it looks like the CoJCoL-dS may be moving on from the 1950’s to… the 1970’s I guess…? Female church employees are now allowed to wear pants (naturally, I’m more astonished to learn that they weren’t…) and the dudes can wear colored shirts!

The most baffling part was Elder Cook’s quote: “I would hope that Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront in creating an environment in the workplace that is more receptive and accommodating to both men and women.” I can’t even imagine what he thinks he meant by that. Is he crowing about being more progressive than the FLDS? Or maybe he hasn’t set foot in an ordinary workplace in 60 years…? Or maybe he meant “I would hope Latter-day Saints would be at the forefront — and it’s really disappointing to see how far we are from that aspiration.”

Also the Zion curtains are tumbling down and BYU is making progress on its rape problem! But the changes don’t seem to be coming fast enough to retain the Mormon Millennials.

But aside from all of that, the Mormon discussion this past fortnight was really dominated by the ripples of Savannah’s story.

In discussions, we have a new allegory, a discussion of the importance of diversity in Mormon literature, and a list of Mormon doctrines that have been jettisoned:

These are not peripheral Mormon doctrines. These teachings have been CORE to Mormon Doctrine since the beginning. You might argue that Joseph Smith and early church members literally fought, starved, bled, and (in some cases) died for these teachings. Plus, these teachings are encoded into our Articles of Faith, canonized scripture, and sacred temple ceremony.

What led to the changes? Social pressure – in every case. At the end of the day, the Mormon God seems to cave to social pressure, if the pressure is significant enough.

And so I am bewildered by the fact that so many educated, thoughtful, modern-day Mormons haven’t really noticed, let alone contemplated the implications of these core changes to Mormon doctrine…and instead remain devoted (with money, time, and reputation) to a church/religion that clearly is not what it claims to be…but more importantly…is becoming less and less of what it once was with every passing generation.

It reminds me a bit of my own recent post on the subject — which is part of a series that I will be continuing and wrapping up soon!

Naturally there’s been further commentary on the ongoing tragedy in the United States, and what can be done. Sadly, the atheist movement is currently in no condition to be of any help. The climate is also getting scarymaybe we can do something about that.

In personal journeys we have an image of reconstructing one’s faith, a journey through ex-Mormonism, rosé and remembrance, contrasting one’s current and former self, and a tale of a Mormon family trying to stop an interracial marriage.

In fun, Paul Bunyan and the Mormons, chocolate chip cookies, and a list of celebrities you perhaps didn’t know were ex-Mormons!

Next weekend I hope to get back on track with my series analysing the CoJCoL-dS — we’ll see how it goes. Have a great week and happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Savannah’s edition!

I imagine that by now you’ve all seen this viral video:

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints doesn’t have to continue to double down on its homophobia. Or its racist policies. Just look what the Southern Baptists did about their past racism:

WHEREAS, the roots of White Supremacy within a “Christian context” is based on the so-called “curse of Ham” theory once prominently taught by the SBC in the early years—echoing the belief that God through Noah ordained descendants of Africa to be subservient to Anglos—which provided the theological justification for slavery and segregation. The SBC officially renounces the “curse of Ham” theory in this Resolution; now be it therefore

RESOLVED, that the Southern Baptist Convention, meeting in Phoenix, AZ, June 13-14, 2017, denounces every form of “nationalism” that violates the biblical teachings with respect to race, justice, and ordered liberty; and be it further

RESOLVED, that we reject the retrograde ideologies, xenophobic biases, and racial bigotries of the so-called “Alt-Right” that seek to subvert our government, destabilize society, and infect our political system; and be finally

At least the CoJCoL-dS seems to like non-conformity under certain circumstances

Other personal stories of the week include a first trip to the temple, a magical road trip, daily life in an interfaith marriage, and other interfaith connection with family.

In church news, the European outposts are contracting. In discussion topics, Lynette covered the value of life, Andrew S wrote about invisible gods. See also beauty tips, and can the wording of the sacrament prayer change?

Wheat and Tares posted some intriguing articles including a temple mystery and an account of the days of Mark Hofmann.

In Book of Mormon study, we’re up to another part where Joseph Smith throws in a convenient prophecy. Plus what’s up with the iron rod? Alex also made the best of a bad review.

And the latest Trump drama is teaching lessons about sexual coercion.

After all of that, let’s cleanse the palate with a bit of Frog Eye Salad! See you next week!

(Somewhat) New Ex-Mormon Books!

Hey everyone! I love writing book reviews, but I have been so busy with my comic book and my new job that I have really not had time to do it. So I’d like to at least gather up here a list of Mormon-related books that I’ve learned of lately:

Polygamys-Shadow-cover-201x300In Polygamy’s Shadow, by Maggie Rayner
Set in the 1950s and 60s on the West Coast of British Columbia, In Polygamy’s Shadow: From a Mormon Childhood to a Life of Choice chronicles Maggie’s personal struggle to keep herself from being devoured by the Mormon church and her parents’ unrelenting loyalty to it. She questions why her family eats food from a garbage dump while her father rises in the church hierarchy and her parents pay tithing on every dollar that comes into the household. She fears for her future when polygamists from Bountiful visit her congregation on the hunt for young brides.

rehabReligious Rehab: A memoir, by Todd Maxwell Preston
Finally, late one afternoon, I found myself down to my last dollar-fifty. That fact brought reality starkly into focus. Life needed to stop for me. I walked clumsily towards the bridge, crying, laughing, trying to hide my avalanche of pain. The sun beat on my back. I could feel perspiration trickling down my spine. The blasting of horns and the noisy traffic stopped. Everything slowed, like a giant hand had reached down and hit a switch, and my life unraveled across an imaginary screen. The giant steel beams blocked my vision – I looked down at the Hudson and could not make out a single ripple. But all I had to do was fall; I didn’t even need to jump. I just had to fall and falling was something I was good at. I closed my burning eyes and visualized my plunge and poetically felt justice in ending my life. It felt magical and ethereal, as though it was my destiny.

notaloneYou’re Not Alone: Exit Journeys of Former Mormons, by Jessica Bradshaw
It can be terrifying to acknowledge your doubts, let alone to confront the aftermath of discovering your religion was not what it claimed. Knowing that, the author reached out to a few other former Mormons and asked them to share their journeys in a “chicken-soup-for-the-ex-Mormon-soul”-style compilation. This collection of 23 exit stories represents those willing and eager to remind other brave, honest souls confronting their cognitive dissonance, fears, and doubts that they’re NOT alone, that others have been there, and we all think about, cope, and struggle with it in different ways.

weepingWeeping, Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth, by Johnny Townsend
On Judgment Day, several Mormon apostates face being thrust into Outer Darkness for their sins. With all of humanity watching, they are forced to confess their stories of rejecting the witness of the Holy Ghost. As they tell the world what led them to abandon the Church, there is much “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth,” as foretold by the prophets of old. But their punishment is so shocking that even the Devil himself is left speechless at the verdict.

mormonbitchMormon Bitch: Illusions of Hope: Book One, by Mollie Hope Stewart
Ordinary believers that trusted the Mormon Church until its lack of intellectual and spiritual freedom overwhelmed them. This first-hand fictional account deriving from twenty years of journals tells of the subtle brainwashing beginning in Mollie’s happy-go-lucky childhood; then of her learning to question superstition and dogma, and of her learning to trust science, evidence, and reason. And, as she describes it, of her eventually learning to think for herself, rather than always waiting to be told what to do.

wellfedThe All Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man: A memoir. by Dan Pearce
Brought to you by the author of the widely-acclaimed Single Dad Laughing blog, The All-Important, Well-Fed, Giant White Man will make you laugh as often as it makes you squirm (in all the right ways) as Dan shares his sidesplitting life stories, moments of incredible stupidity, colossal mistakes, and the awesome (albeit sometimes strange) lessons learned through it all.

***

If anyone would like to write a review of any of these books for Main Street Plaza, that would be great! Also, if you’ve read any of these books, feel free to give your impressions in comments and/or add your own book suggestions!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: Forget Mormonism edition!

Hey folks — I have at least one more article left in my series on what the CoJCoL-dS offers, but I’d like to save it for next week and just do a regular SiOB today. This is mostly because I finally got around to writing a post on my personal blog yesterday (nothing Mormonism-related, just international politics), and I can only compose so much new content in one weekend.

And I’m not the only one who was inspired to write about climate politics — check this out:

The problem with the “God will take care of it” sentiment is that it is the equivalent of never changing your child’s diaper because you know that God is even more capable of changing that diaper than you are—if it really becomes a problem, God will take care of it.

Actually, lots of Mormon-connection friends have also written about other random subjects, including more politics, historical research, third-culture kids, Memorial Day heroes, Memorial Day shaming, and motherhood.

Now let’s dig into the past week’s Mormon news! Like this Mormon mommy alt-right leader — and Mormonism’s continuing race problem. And don’t forget the homophobia problem:

I suspect that a measurable amount of the “at capacity” space will be occupied by the the new “hugging booths” that Mormons Building Bridges have introduced. MBB is an apologist organization that seeks to normalize the homophobia that is a structural component of LDS cultural theology. They insist on calling anything LGBQ (note the lack of a “T” here) by the acronym “SSA”, which stands for “Same Sex Attraction”. If allowed they can describe individuals who “suffer” from SSA who have married members of the opposite sex, raised families in the LDS church, and been monogamously in love with only their opposite-sex spouse.

John Dehlin is still facing questions about his organization’s finances:

But John and the Board have a long way to go to “come clean” about OSF finances. What he and they have not done is to answer specific questions about how John has potentially used his institutional power and position to influence not only how much he is compensated, but how others throughout the organization are compensated in comparison — including potential conflicts of interest with his wife and the compensation of people like Kristy Money…which is where this all started.

Fortunately the Book of Mormon is still full of delights:

Moroni has created the absolute worst abridgment in the history of abridgments. If he’s taking the salient points of doctrine from these records and carving them onto his own plates, why not keep it simple:

And it came to pass that the brother of Jared went forth unto a mount and did molten out of the rock sixteen small stones; and he did carry them to the top of the mount, and cried again unto the Lord, saying:

Look at that, I’ve cut the word count by roughly forty-five percent without breaking a sweat. I suppose, realistically, that the word counts might not be the same in Reformed Egyptian, but still, it sure seems like this prophet was making a lot more work for himself than necessary and laying down some truly awful prose in the process.

Also, this new Mormon stories collection looks interesting.

Happy reading!

Sunday in Outer Blogness: New exits edition!

A cool new blog appeared this past week, starting with a (perhaps familiar) story:

In many ways, nothing about me has changed and yet everything has. The thing is, I’ve really only changed in the same way every other person reading this changes—subtly and over time. None of us are the same people we were a year ago, five years ago, ten years ago; remaining unchanged in one way or another is impossible. We meet new people, we have new experiences, something sparks and suddenly—BAM! Lightning bolt; we’re forever changed. We go through these infinite, tiny changes during the course of our lives that are too subtle to be defined, and yet they define who we are in every way.

Moving away from the church the last few years has been freeing in ways that are difficult to convey to anyone who hasn’t been through a paradigm shift of this kind.

Welcome Rebekah — sounds like your journey is going well! Then I encountered another recent tale about understanding exmos (not quite sure whether it’s an exit or not):

Over the next couple of months I looked into what I had always believed were anti-Mormon lies. As it turns out, they weren’t lies. Almost none of the things I thought were lies were actually lies. Seriously, almost none. It was crazy. My natural response was to read the scriptures more, pray harder, fast, all that good stuff. The problem? Moroni’s promise didn’t work anymore.

And then there was a tale from a guy who is a faithful believer who can’t seem to squeeze any life out of the current meetings:

This ward (and I think the whole stake) has adopted a standard of always assigning Sacrament speakers to talk about a General Conference talk. The opening line of almost every talk (after the apology and joke section) is “The talk I’ve been assigned to talk on is …” To put it politely, this doesn’t make for the most engaging worship service.

I guess the biggest recent Mormon-land scandal was some questions arising about the finances of John Dehlin and the Mormon Stories Foundation. It looks like some people are not happy that a (perhaps surprisingly?) high proportion of the tax-deductible donations go to paying Dehlin and not to paying female content providers. It’s not totally clear to me what’s up, and the most baffling bit of all was Zelph’s satire about Dehlin eating a pet lizard…

In other mystery/humor, apparently a statue went missing,

Oh, and the Prophet is no longer well enough to attend church. If only there were a way for him to step down. (Weirdly reminds me of something I was saying just last week.)

In church culture, there was some discussion of the superficial bits: identifying the “temple-worthy” just by looking at them and excluding the tattooed from serving LDS missions. Plus more discussion of the problem with “porn addiction” and other sex hangups.

Gina Colvin wrote an interesting allegory of the CoJCoL-dS as McDonald’s, which is kind of apt except that, really, your family doesn’t care if you don’t like McDonald’s.

The official CoJCoL-dS magazines got some critiques this past fortnight! The New Era article on threats to religious freedom had some significant problems, and the Ensign apparently ran a piece that was a little mainsplainy:

Having a husband lecture his wife on being Christlike when he is sitting enjoying breakfast and she is cleaning up “messes she didn’t make” feels manipulative and self serving. Perhaps the actual situation wasn’t that way, but it’s not an unreasonable reading.

In non-Mormon-land other theocrats have their problems.

And let’s wrap up with some announcements: the feminist Mormon housewives are offering a single mom scholarship, there will be a Mormon Humanities Conference in May, and Mormon Arts Sunday will be June 11th.

Happy reading and have a great fortnight!