My Meeting with Captain Curtis Hooley Regarding My Complaint Against Officer Nelson of the Logan City Police Department
This saga of my police conduct complaint has now become a trilogy. I think trilogies are overrated. Let something be a standalone work for a change, or just give it a number of works that best serve the needs of the story instead of being dictated by the need to make it a trilogy, that's what I say. I will, at least, probably have a postscript in the near future, because the police department is still required by state law to give me written documentation of the investigation.
I misheard the police captain's last name over the phone and consequently misreported it in last week's post. It's not Hill, it's Hooley, as in "Hooley dooley, they've come a gutser." I apologize for the misinformation.
Captain Curtis Hooley had to reschedule our meeting to attend a funeral, so I went on Thursday at 10:30, accompanied by my emotional supporter Kylie. As a classmate, she had read my essay about Calise, Talease and the police, and I feel closest to her out of all my graduate instructor colleagues because we shared an office last year and have had deep discussions about spirituality and faith crisis on social media. She left The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but wishes she could have stayed, and I'm the opposite, so that gave us a lot to talk about. She rearranged her busy schedule to be there for me and I am most grateful. It was nice, too, that I had a woman with me to send the message "Look, I have friends who are women who don't think I'm a creep."
I know that mentioning Calise and Talease by name after going to the trouble of blotting out their names when I posted my complaint a couple weeks ago makes no sense. Here's the thing. On the one hand, I have no desire to embarrass them or appear vindictive, but on the other hand, I really believe that if they ever happened to stumble upon any of these accounts and read about themselves, they'd realize how badly they ----ed up and feel remorse and want to make it right. Unless and until that happens, the closure I got this week is probably the most I'm going to get. So I go back and forth on the name thing to get the best of both worlds and probably accomplish nothing at all.
Captain Hooley had a nice little office with some toy police cars and fire trucks and a poster that said "I don't need anger management, I need people to stop pissing me off!" That's funny and I personally can relate to it very much, but I'm not sure it's something I want to hear from somebody with a gun and qualified immunity. Likewise, before the police station parking lot was fenced off to be annoying, I used to shortcut through it after jaywalking across Main Street as a preferable alternative to walking an additional block and waiting five minutes at the crosswalk to get to the library, and one of the police cars had a bumper sticker that said "Nobody cares about your stick figure family" and showed a car plowing through somebody's stick figure family, and I found that funnier at the time than I would now. But it appears that Captain Hooley just has a desk job and isn't out killing people anyway. He was nice, asked me about myself and stuff. I wanted to trust him and believe it wasn't a façade. Having Kylie at my side made that a lot easier.
He asked me to explain what happened before Officer Nelson showed up - the pre-incident incident, as it were - and I did my best, though I stressed that I don't know what exactly I did that bothered Calise and Talease so much since neither they nor Officer Nelson ever bothered to tell me. Captain Hooley then made it sound like this is not an altogether uncommon situation - boy likes girl, girl decides she doesn't like boy, girl calls police on boy. That simultaneously made me feel better about myself and made me want this whole planet to burn.
We didn't return to the pre-incident incident a lot because Captain Hooley wasn't there to investigate it or take sides, but this was the first time anyone in authority bothered to ask me about it or listen to me. Officer Nelson didn't care, the staff at Logan Regional Hospital didn't care, my bishop didn't care. Officer Nelson should have asked me about my side of the story in the first place even if it didn't make a difference to what he had to do. He should have been smarter than to take my neighbors' false witness against me as the final word. I'm still kind of frustrated that they've faced no repercussions for bearing false witness against me. I don't want them to be in trouble, I just want them to be told off for it. Part of me wishes they'd pressed charges, because I would have immediately fought them in court instead of just marinating in trauma for the next year and a half.
My frustration increased a little today when Captain Hooley mentioned a detail I wasn't previously aware of. Not taking sides, not saying it was true or not, he said that Calise said I had "jumped out at her in the dark". I did no such thing at any time. I believe she was referring to the time a week or so before Officer Nelson yelled at me, when she left their little dog Paisley tied up in the snow and forgot about her, then came outside and saw me playing with her. Calise was startled to see me, and I was in turn startled by her yelp, and I later heard from a thirdhand source that she and Talease were ridiculously upset about it, but I did not jump out at her by any stretch of the imagination. I wasn't even standing up. I was sitting cross-legged in the snow on the opposite side of the decorative iron fence around the lower level of our apartment complex. Officer Nelson never even mentioned this particular falsehood to me, even though it sounds worse than any of the falsehoods and distorted truths he actually yelled at me about, but what do I know about police work?
I have only jumped out at a woman in the dark once in my entire life. Ten years ago, still naïve to the ways of the horrible adult world, I was in the campus cemetery at night when I saw two women coming up the path and thought it would be funny to jump out from behind a large tombstone and scare them. I picked up this sense of humor from my dad, but didn't grasp at the time that it was entirely inappropriate in this context. Now it's just one of hundreds of things I've done that I feel really bad about. I'm glad they didn't shoot me. Even back then, though, I wouldn't have considered jumping out at a woman in the dark to be a viable method of making her want to date me, so I don't know why Calise would have thought I'd try it on her and then go on like nothing had happened.
As requested, I brought a printout of the email that the police department never responded to. Captain Hooley was very bothered that nobody ever responded. I had assumed it was intentional. Being ignored is a constant fact of life for me, and I assumed that whoever read the email just thought "Oh, Stalky McStalkerton is mad at us for telling him not to stalk his neighbors" and deleted it. I still wouldn't be surprised if that happened. But Captain Hooley looked at the address and he said that while the address I contacted is legit, he didn't recognize it, and he wasn't sure if anybody at the department was even checking it. The address, firstname.lastname@example.org, was the address that I saw the police department telling negative Google Reviewers to contact when I tried to leave a negative Google Review last year but couldn't because the pandemic somehow prevented Google employees from working online. If someone had taken my email seriously at that time, they could have checked Officer Nelson's body camera footage, but by now it's been deleted. So that's nice.
Captain Hooley agreed that Officer Nelson had erred in not telling me which of my neighbors I wasn't allowed to text, call, or talk to. After being harangued about "Your neighbors" this and "your neighbors" that, I thought it was all five of them when it was only two. Kristina said "Hi" to me one evening and I thought maybe she was trying to get me in trouble. So that was kind of a crappy thing for Officer Nelson to do to me.
As far as looking into Officer Nelson's unwarranted choice to intimidate, threaten and yell at me, it would have been really helpful to have the body camera footage, so that's nice. He won't likely face any consequences but Captain Hooley asked me what I think he should have done differently (besides everything) and promised to bring that up with him. At the time, Captain Hooley said, Officer Nelson had been a cop for about a year, and now he's not the same cop he was a year and a half ago. I don't find it reassuring at all that the trauma I've lived with for the last year and a half was contingent on how much experience the cop had, or in other words on bad luck, but at least he's probably not still doing that to people? Captain Hooley said the cops are busy going to one call after another after another, and dealing with suicidal people literally every day, and sometimes they forget to slow down and listen and focus less on the authoritarian side of things. Yeah, any cop who depends on their authority to demand respect is only proving that they deserve none.
But he was glad Officer Nelson had made me go to the hospital. Hopefully that helped, at least. No, I explained, they also treated me like garbage and made everything worse. Captain Hooley said that the hospital is also very busy with mentally ill and suicidal people, which is consistent with my experience of them treating me like an assembly line product they wanted to finish with as fast as possible.
Kylie wasn't there to testify on my behalf or anything, but she chimed in a little and I really appreciated it. I had been talking the whole time about mental illness. There shouldn't be a stigma attached to mental illness, so I'd been openly saying that I'm mentally ill, that Officer Nelson was well aware of that fact and should have acted accordingly instead of proceeding from the incorrect assumption that I acted out of conscious malicious intent; that Talease is mentally ill, that Officer Nelson should have been well aware of that fact just like everyone else except me and Calise was, and should have adjusted his perspective accordingly instead of employing Calise's double standard where the weird things I said made me a villain while the weird things Talease said were just delightfully eccentric. But Kylie used more enlightened terminology. She asked Captain Hooley what kind of policies or training the department has around neurodivergence. He admitted that he'd never even heard the term before.
She explained the term and pointed out that this incident involved three neurodivergent people. He explained what we already knew - that Utah is way behind in this area. Yes, we all remember how the Salt Lake Police Department dealt with 13-year-old Linden Cameron's mental health crisis by shooting him eleven times as he ran away from them. He said there's crisis intervention training, but not every officer has it, and it's hard to get every officer trained in it when they're so busy and there's such a high turnover. I don't know if there's always been a high turnover or if this is specifically because cops in the post-George Floyd era think being held accountable for their actions is persecution. This is why people say "Defund the Police" - because most police officers simply don't know what the hell they're doing around neurodivergent people, and have killed far too many of us. This should not be one of their responsibilities. Why the hell did we as a country decide that it is?
Afterward, Kylie asked how it went, and needlessly apologized for chiming in with her helpful remarks, and asked what my next step was in this process. I would like to sue Logan Regional Hospital for doing things to me without a consent form and then frantically calling me five times to get retroactive verbal consent after I'd already left, but I can't because they have a lot more money than I do. I would like to file a complaint against my ex-neighbors who got me into this by bearing false witness against me in the first place, but even if such a thing is possible, which I doubt, it would be too much work for too little payoff. So I guess I'm done for now. I'm not done speaking out against police brutality and incompetence, though.
A week of graduate school is past and I'm already very busy. More importantly, on Friday I heard back from someone at the police department about my complaint, so as far as bureaucracy goes that wasn't a bad turnaround time. I'm going in and talking to Captain Curtis Hill about it on Wednesday. On the advice of my friends, I hope to bring someone with me for emotional support and so he can't abuse me - I don't want to assume the worst of him, but he is a cop and I don't have many reasons to trust cops - and one of my friends and colleagues from the English department has agreed to do it, but I can't get ahold of him and find out if that's allowed until Wednesday. I also hope he'll let me record the conversation so he can't lie about what either of us said. I don't want to assume the worst of him, but he is a cop and cops lie literally all the time.
He also asked me to bring in a copy of the email I sent to the police department over a year ago, which I mentioned in my complaint just in case it would help with any statute of limitations they didn't bother to mention on their website. He said somebody dropped the ball by never responding to it. I mean, I'm pretty sure the lack of a response was very intentional, but either way, this is a great and unexpected bonus. First of all, someone else who treated me as less than human, albeit in a far less dramatic fashion than Officer Nelson, may also get in trouble. Second, I now get to share the mocking and sarcastic words of my email with this investigation even though I kept my formal complaint restrained and professional. I think I successfully conveyed my anger and contempt in both media, but the email has more raw emotion. And yet even that was restrained. Because it was written to be a Google Review, it has no swear words in it. I will put the email text in italics here to avoid confusion with the quote within the quote.
Because Google is apparently not publishing business reviews at this time, I decided to send this to you directly. I expect the only thing it will accomplish is to give me some small sliver of satisfaction from knowing that you know that one of your officers single-handedly erased all of my respect for law enforcement months before George Floyd's murder, but I'll take what I can get.
In January a couple of officers abruptly showed up at my apartment, responding to a complaint from my neighbors. I had no idea what was going on. These neighbors had never once said anything to me themselves about real or perceived problems. The police never explained to me in plain English why they had come. They never asked me one single question about my side of the story. Instead, one of them said nothing while the other immediately launched into throwing his weight around and trying to scare me into compliance even though I never showed one iota of resistance or disrespect. For at least ten minutes he was nothing but belligerent while I was nothing but cooperative. He never explained what exactly the problem was but from the details he dropped here and there made it obvious that either my neighbors had straight-up lied about some things or he just hadn't bothered to get them straight himself. He told me to stop doing things that I had never done.
He told me not to talk to, call, or text my neighbors ever again. He said, "Consider this a warning." I would have complied with this "warning" if my neighbors had been adults and made this request themselves instead of pretending to be my friends for months, and I would have complied if the officer had just explained it to me without turning it into a threat. Despite this being my first time hearing any of this, he chose to assume from the moment I let him into my apartment that I knew exactly what I'd done wrong, wouldn't cooperate, and needed to be taught a lesson. And he knew that his uniform gave him impunity to treat me in a manner that would have gotten him fired from any other job.
When this officer was done verbally abusing me, he switched tactics and started pretending to be concerned about my emotional health and asking if I felt suicidal. Yes, he literally tried to play "bad cop good cop" by himself even though he had another cop with him. If he was really so concerned he could have maybe, I don't know, not prefaced it by deliberately confusing and scaring the crap out of me? He made me go to the hospital despite me explaining that I had no health insurance. He knew this was part of his purpose for showing up in the first place and still chose to first treat me in a manner that anyone over the age of three could have told him would only make me more suicidal (which it did, very much).
I was not arrested or accused of anything illegal, but before driving me to the hospital they frisked me for anything I could use to hurt myself (even though the hospital rendered this precaution entirely superfluous by taking my clothes away). For no legitimate reason that I can discern, they chose to do this after we had left my apartment, on the sidewalk in front of their police cars and in full view of the entire block. After the abusive officer dropped me off he said I could call the station and ask to talk to him if I wanted, because he apparently thought I was the stupidest person on the planet and would see him as something remotely resembling a friend or ally. The only reason I would ever want to talk to him would be to say some things unfit for publication in this review.
I forgave my neighbors after about a month because one of them was brain-damaged and delusional in the most literal sense of the word. All of our mutual acquaintances including their own roommate felt that their reaction to me was stupid, immature and uncalled for. But at least it wasn't malicious. I can't say the same for the police. I don't fault them at all for taking the complaint seriously and looking into it - they would have been criminally negligent in their duties if they didn't - but the way they went about it was wrong, full stop. I would feel safer entrusting my mental health to the first person I see on the sidewalk than the Logan Police Department. Their gross incompetence has traumatized me since then and probably for a very long time to come.
It was a one-star review, of course, but only because zero-star reviews aren't an option for some reason.
- Christopher Nicholson
So yeah. Officer Nelson has undoubtedly read my complaint by now, and I hope he has a great Labor Day weekend experiencing a sliver of a fraction of the shock and bewilderment that he sprung on me out of nowhere. And by that I actually mean I hope he can't sleep or focus on anything. And after I submit a copy of this email to the investigation, really, it's only fair that he should get to read it too.
Well, I can't complain too much because many others have experienced far worse at the hands of the American legal system. Any victory for them is a victory for me regardless of how my own case turns out. I'm delighted that former Brunswick District Attorney Jackie Johnson was indicted the other day for stopping police officers from arresting the men who lynched Ahmaud Arbery because one of them used to be a cop who worked for her. She was voted out of office last year, but now she'll probably go to jail too. I'm delighted that Kim Potter's charge for not knowing the difference between a gun and a taser, something any toddler could figure out, has been upgraded to first-degree manslaughter. It should be murder, but whatever, we have to take baby steps in these matters.
And I'm delighted that the three police officers and two paramedics who murdered Elijah McClain have been indicted for manslaughter and reckless homicide, even though the police department's previous "investigation" of itself determined that they did nothing wrong when they stopped him for no ----ing reason and injected a fatal dose of ketamine into him for no ----ing reason. Once again his family can thank Derek Chauvin for this case being taken more seriously now than it was when it happened. To be frank, Nathan Woodyard, Jason Rosenblatt, Randy Roedema, Jeremy Cooper, and Peter Cichuniec should be publicly executed just like they publicly executed Elijah McClain, sorry not sorry. Oh, and let us never forget how three other police officers unrelated to the incident (Erica Marrero, Kyle Dittrich, and Jaron Jones) photographed themselves at Elijah McClain's memorial smiling and recreating the chokehold used on him. "A few bad apples" my ----ing ass.
This case hits close to home because he wasn't neurotypical, and I'm not neurotypical, and I've also had some anonymous asshat call police on me for "acting weird" while I was minding my own business and doing nothing wrong. I was even the same age. It was a Saturday afternoon in September 2016, I was swinging in a public park, and somebody decided my mannerisms looked odd enough that the police needed to get involved. When you're not neurotypical, you constantly have to justify your existence to the people who think they're the default humans and you're an unfortunate aberration. On that occasion the police just checked my ID and asked if I needed any help and then left me alone. It set my self-esteem back a few years, but it didn't traumatize the hell out of me like Officer Nelson did. I've also, subsequent to Officer Nelson traumatizing the hell out of me, been dismissed and dehumanized by so-called healthcare workers who were supposed to help me not kill myself but instead decided to make it as obvious as possible that they didn't give a rat's ass about me.
So Elijah McClain's case feels personal for me, but the obvious difference is that I've never been tackled to the ground and injected with drugs. White privilege is very real.
I've felt that if I could channel my anger constructively into advocating for police reform, what happened to me would be worth it. But that hasn't happened because I don't have much of a voice through my obscure little blog or my Facebook shares that the algorithms make sure are never seen by more than two people. I kind of just write about things, express outrage over injustices and happiness over indictments and reforms, creating for myself the illusion that my commentary has any impact on these impacts that go on in a sphere entirely separate from mine. Still, I guess it gives me a sense of purpose. I'd hate to get to the other side and try to explain to God why I was more upset about a black man kneeling during an old English drinking song than about men, women and children of various races, but disproportionately black, being abused and murdered by the men and women who took an oath to serve and protect them.
I'm very excited for school to start in a couple days - excited for my class on Monday, excited for my class on Tuesday, excited for the classes I'll teach on Tuesday even though I won't have Zoom as a crutch and wouldn't have chosen to start at 7:30 if it were up to me, excited for what feels like a five-day weekend every week but really isn't because it just means I need to be a very responsible adult and determine my own schedule for the many things I have to do outside of classroom time, excited for the vaccination mandate that USU is preparing to implement because asking nicely just isn't enough in Utah. The future is bright, up until the end of this year when I really need to start getting a handle on whether I'm going to get a PhD or just take a job somewhere and if so, where, and supposedly I'm going to get married at some point before I die and it would be really nice to have that at least underway by then so I could make these decisions with my wife or wife-to-be instead of us both charting our life paths separately and later struggling to mesh them together. But nobody asked me.
You know, my first first day of college was ten years ago. This may or may not be my last one. As a student, I mean. I should be waxing all nostalgic about that, as is my wont, but I don't feel articulate enough to do it justice right now.
Of course, the week or so leading up to school has its drawbacks, and my desire to just relax and savor it was somewhat thwarted. Logan Preferred Property Management sent the carpet cleaners to my apartment complex without telling anyone, sent the normal cleaner to my apartment complex without telling anyone, and sent roofers to replace the entire roof without telling anyone. All of us except my roommate who can sleep through anything were pretty pissed. When the roofers woke me up at 7 a.m. on Monday, I couldn't believe LPPM had the audacity to do that after I complained about the idiots with the chainsaw who had done the same thing despite being ordered not to start until 8. I complained again and got the same empty apology and reassurances. The next day the roofers started later, but on Wednesday they started banging away at 6:30, which is, as I understand it, illegal. So I complained to management for the third time, and apparently "illegal" was the magic word that got them to stop lying about addressing the problem and actually address the problem. I decided I'd file a noise complaint if it happened again, and then I decided I was pissed enough to file a noise complaint anyway.
I know what you may be thinking - Ah, Christopher, you fool, you complain about police all the time and now you suddenly need them. Why didn't you call a crackhead for help instead? Correction: I didn't "need" the police for anything. I could have dealt with the situation myself, but our society has arbitrarily decided that pushing people off of roofs is also illegal. So I looked online for some kind of form I could fill out instead of talking to a human, and stumbled instead on a different form entitled "Personnel Complaint". I got so excited about this that I considered the roofers a blessing in disguise.
As both of my long-time readers are aware, on January 14, 2020, aka the worst day of my life,
D'oh. Anyway, on that day I learned firsthand that police officers are the natural enemies of anyone with a mental illness, when Officer Nelson showed up to "help" me and instead did the opposite of that. I didn't do anything about it at the time. My first priority was to get out of the hospital before I got stuck with a buttload of medical debt (because 'Murica), and then my first priority was to live through the night despite the unbearable pain for my friend Katie's sake, and then I just kind of wandered through life as a shell of my former self for a couple months. I didn't know anything about formal complaint procedures and I feared the police retaliating against me if I did complain to them. You have to remember, this was before George Floyd became one police murder too many, and nobody was putting them in their place. As Officer Nelson was abusing me I knew that he knew he could do it because he had a blue uniform and de facto authority to kill anyone who didn't show him the respect he thought he deserved. If he hadn't been in a blue uniform, I would not have tolerated the way he spoke to me.
Largely thanks to the well-deserved anti-police backlash a few months later, I got over my fear enough that I started to hope he would see my blog posts or Facebook posts and comments where I told the world, usually in rather crude terms, exactly what I thought of him. And I knew I would not respond the same way if anything similar ever happened again. A while ago I had one of my occasional nightmares that the police were coming after me again, and I was terrified, but determined that despite my fear I was going to give them a piece of my mind. I woke up before that came to pass.
When I did briefly look into the possibility of a formal complaint, I read something about a six-month statute of limitations, and looked no further. I also knew that Derek Chauvin, in his nineteen-year career, had accumulated eighteen conduct complaints resulting in literally nothing but two letters from his boss asking him not to do it again. But this complaint form on Logan City Police Department's website said nothing at all about a time limit. And now the climate around policing is much different. I figure there's a very real chance of getting a tangible result. Even if I don't, I at least have the satisfaction of knowing that Officer Nelson has been blindsided by this coming back to bite him in the butt long after he'd forgotten about it, and by the realization that this doormat he trampled on actually has feelings and a brain. I wish I could see the look on his face when he reads my complaint. I'd like to think he already has, and that it ruined his weekend, but with bureaucracy being what it is I doubt it's moving that fast.
Another cop was there, but he said three sentences the entire time and wasn't a bully or a jackass, so I said little about him in my complaint but I did list him as my sole witness despite not knowing his name. I only know Officer Nelson's name because he told me. A few months ago when I was in a car crash and had to talk to a cop, he had his name printed on his uniform, but I'm pretty sure that was a post-George Floyd reform. Anyway, I'm sure they'll ask this cop to evaluate my account, and I can only hope that honesty is more important to him than backing the blue. On that note, the form claims that the investigation will be "objective", which is kind of a red flag whenever I see it because nobody on the planet is objective about things that matter to them at all. Even if they really are trying, police officers investigating another police officer are not going to be objective. They just aren't. They can, however, still do the right thing if they choose to be honest.
They'll surely consult with Brad Hansen, the USU police officer who first received my neighbors' complaint and delegated it to the city police. My neighbors went to him because he was in our bishopric. He never spoke to me again after that day, but I made a point of resting my hand on my face with the middle finger extended when he walked by, and I know he noticed. I'm excited for him to read my complaint too. And they really should ask my ex-neighbors about what they said and how they said it, because they more than likely were overdramatic and told some outright lies that influenced Officer Nelson's response to the situation. I didn't devote nearly as much space as I could have in my complaint to explaining why their complaint was wrong, because that's not really the point, but it is still relevant because Officer Nelson was an idiot to take it as gospel truth and never ask me about my side at all. I have let go of all malice toward my ex-neighbors because, as mentioned in my complaint, one was delusional and the other gullible. (And I was equally gullible, which is how the problem started.) It's the trained law enforcement personnel who should have known better.
I assumed that walking into the police station and handing my complaint to the woman at the desk - I visualized a woman at the desk with a few male cops nearby, and I told myself that was a sexist assumption to make, but of course that was exactly what I saw when I went - would be terrifying. I assumed that I would have to be courageous and push through the fear. But it wasn't and I didn't. It was no more stressful than going to the post office. Maybe God was with me. After the woman at the desk said "Hello" I felt a little bad at repaying her kindness with a personnel complaint form, but I wasn't about to back down at the last minute.
I made scans just in case she or someone else "misplaces" it. Here they are for posterity.
“I Would Not Risk My Salvation to Any Man”: Eliza R. Snow's Challenge to Salvific Coverture
Brigham Young and other nineteenth-century male church leaders taught that men were responsible for their wives' salvation. This probably goes a long way toward explaining why the endowment ceremony, which was given by Joseph Smith but first written down under President Young's direction 35 years later, perpetuated that idea until 2019. USU graduate student Brooke R. LeFevre coined the term "salvific coverture" for this teaching, drawing a parallel with the British and American common law practice of men absorbing their wives' identities and thus becoming responsible for all their legal and financial dealings. (This, of course, is why we still have the ubiquitous practice of women taking their husbands' last names. Barf.) In a recent article in the Journal of Mormon History, she documents how general Relief Society president Eliza R. Snow went around contradicting the male leaders by teaching women that they were responsible for their own salvation. You can't read the article unless you pay $14 or have access to it through an institution like I do, but you know it's a good article because USU graduate students are very intelligent and articulate writers.
Changes in LDS Hymns: Implications and Opportunities
In this old Dialogue article that fortunately is not behind a paywall because Dialogue is cool like that, Douglas Campbell looks at some of the lyrical adjustments made to LDS hymns between the 1835, 1927, 1948, and 1985 editions of the hymnbooks. I was most surprised to learn that the compilers of the 1985 edition bothered to change many instances of male-centric language - that is, using terms like "man", "men", "brothers", and "sons" to refer to the entire human race - to gender-neutral language. I was surprised because of course male-centric language remains ubiquitous throughout the hymns and our scriptures, and since we like to sound spiritual by quoting or paraphrasing hymns and scriptures, it has a big influence on our speech patterns within the Church even though nobody in the real world talks like that anymore. But if people noticed and addressed this issue in 1985, they certainly will all the more in the upcoming edition, so that's great. This issue wasn't on my radar whatsoever when I gave feedback on the hymnbook in 2019. I'm glad we're not all depending on me.
It also occurs to me that there's actually no reason at all why the male-centric language in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants - which were translated and written, respectively, in the nineteenth century (other than a couple bits of the latter that don't change the point I'm making) - couldn't or shouldn't be updated like it has been in modern Bible translations. Both have already undergone many revisions, but we're a lot more squeamish about fiddling with the text now than Joseph Smith was. If he can remove a bunch of repetitions of "And it came to pass" (yes, there used to be even more) and change "white and delightsome" to "pure and delightsome" then there's no reason why President Nelson or whomever can't change "Men are that they might have joy" to "People are that they might have joy".
A Mentor's Master's Missionary Memoir
In the USU library skimming the shelves for Sonia Johnson's memoir, I stumbled upon the Master's thesis of a Creative Nonfiction Writing teacher I had once, and read it first because it was much shorter. It was on a subject he had raised in class as well: the paucity of good, non-polemical literature about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints that doesn't take a heavy-handed stance for or against. He took a step to rectify that with a little memoir of growing up in the Church, serving a mission, and losing his faith. It portrays the Church in a very human, not altogether flattering, but fair enough light. There's no sense that he's trying to expose anything or destroy anyone else's faith. That's the point. Still, I missed whatever theme was probably meant to tie all the anecdotes together. I easily got the sense that he wasn't all in, that he never had a burning testimony to begin with, but when he took a sip of beer with his friends and realized he was done with the Church and then the story just ended, it felt abrupt and unexplained. Of course, it may have been chock-full of foreshadowing that went over my stupid head.
What struck me was the number of spelling and grammatical errors - not a ton, certainly not enough to ruin it for me, but more than I would have expected in a Master's thesis. I was surprised his committee let him get away with it. I can't imagine Charles letting me get away with it. Anyway, that boosted my confidence in my ability to write a Master's thesis of my own. I don't mean this to sound denigrating to him at all - he was a great teacher and a great human being, and his writing is not bad by any means - but I feel like if he could do it, so can I. Sometimes I feel like this graduate school stuff requires me to be some kind of academic super genius that I'm not.
From Housewife to Heretic: One Woman's Spiritual Awakening and Her Excommunication from the Mormon Church
I never had much of an opinion on Sonia Johnson, a USU alumnus and possibly the most famous Latter-day Saint excommunicant of all time, though I questioned the mental health of a straight woman who grew so bored of men that she married a woman. Well, in 406 pages I could count on one hand the things I disagreed with. Of course, this is very much her personal story and as such a lot of it is subjective or unknowable by definition. I'm not qualified to evaluate the validity of her spiritual experiences or the accuracy of the thoughts, feelings, and motivations that she constantly imputes to every male she's ever interacted with. (And some of the women, too. Actually, I think she has more contempt for the Church's anti-ERA spokeswoman Beverly Campbell than anyone else. Not once in the entire book does she mention Sister Campbell's name, which I figured out from the accounts of some of the same events in Leonard J. Arrington's diaries, instead only calling her "the Chairman" over and over again.) And admittedly, toward the end I did stumble over a bit of shockingly obvious hypocrisy that I think undermines her credibility somewhat.
Page 360: "I recognized the same syndrome I had watched, aghast, in Virginia: the [Mormon] men behind the [Mormon] women, the women fronting for them... The men manipulating the women, telling them what to do and say; the women, like 'fembots,' going about saying and doing it, serving as unwitting tools of their own oppression."
Page 364: "Writing me off as a tool of the enemies of the church... is as convenient a way of disposing of me, and as often used against women, as labeling me 'emotionally disturbed.' It is highly unlikely that a man in my situation would be dismissed as merely being used by others without his understanding, without his volition. Patriarchal persons are so bogged down in stereotypes of women that they refuse to believe we can act on our own initiative out of our own integrity, as men do."
Nonetheless, her scathing observations of sexism in and out of the Church remain accurate forty years later to a far greater degree than I would care to admit. At times when her constant feminist rhetoric started to seem excessive, I asked myself, But is she wrong? I don't think she is. I do think she's emotionally disturbed, and that her state, as evidenced by her writings and political activities, has continued to deteriorate since, but she's had a hard life. The effects on her psyche of hearing adults talk about the Holocaust as a young girl during World War II, the constant delegitimization she experienced as a female teenager and young adult in the 1950s, feeling periodically depressed and unfulfilled as a housewife while her husband left for months at a time and never discussed his problems with her like an adult, then being totally blindsided when he tricked her into signing a divorce paper so he could leave her for another woman during the time when she needed his support the most, then being vilified and slandered by the religious community she devoted her life to and continued to love despite her differences - right or wrong, my heart aches for her. So does God's.
I can relate in a way to her feminist awakening because this year I had my own that's probably become quite annoying to readers of my blog. Mine was far less painful, but it's still left me with a fair amount of confusion and anger to work through. I had believed and assumed for most of my life that because God values women and men equally, the Church values women and men equally, and therefore any teaching or practice that looks sexist isn't actually sexist if properly understood. Besides, Utah gave women the right to vote before almost anywhere else, so the Church must have always been progressive on female equality. I learned that neither of these assumptions are true, around the same time I started to comprehend the extent to which sexism is woven into every human institution on Earth. Learning why most women take their husbands' last names felt like finding out I'd been eating human flesh my whole life. Sonia Johnson experienced sexism her whole life, but had no vocabulary or frame of reference to contextualize it or suggest that things should be different. She was in her early forties when it clicked. In the book she wrote a few years later, her anguish is still raw and palpable.
Sonia Johnson is an extremely talented writer, and there are so many quoteworthy passages, but only so much space in my humble little blog post. I will therefore zero in on a beautiful and funny poem she wrote in sacrament meeting one Sunday because, as the ward organist, she couldn't leave the chapel. I kind of want to frame a copy of it and give it to my bishop.
Power Play in Church
Here I am again, pouring out
to avoid being poured into, singing
to drown out the cacophony.
It's the "God's will for women" theme again
as decided and decreed by some man again
(a particularly virulent form
of hypocrisy in human males).
It is difficult to pour out, however,
as fast as he pours in
which hardly seems fair
since he is after all tampering with my life
not me with his.
Believe me, if it were vice versa,
if I were insisting that God intended
all men to be farmers because Adam
was a tiller of the soil
and any who resisted were in league
with you-know-who to destroy the family,
the nation, civilization -
If I were extolling the exquisite joys
of shoveling hog manure in subzero weather
and taking out endless mortgages
in withering heat
and from my spectator's seat
(light-years from such a fate myself)
pontificating that in these tasks
lay the righteous and complete fulfillment
of men's true natures,
hosts of embattled non-farmers would find
a quick way not only to shut me up
but to lock me up
Ah he's almost finished, dazzled by his own
magnanimity and noble condescension, awash
with zeal, unassailably righteous
and immensely comfortable
like a nineteenth-century missionary to darkest Africa.
It might smudge his shining smug to learn
that despite his dishonorable intentions
I won - I wrote louder than he talked,
and for the love I bear myself
I'll live louder than he talks
And I'll win.
Helen Andelin and the Fascinating Womanhood Movement
From the early 1960s to the 2000s, Latter-day Saint housewife Helen B. Andelin followed what she believed was a literal calling from God to share the secret to happy and lasting marriages, namely, that women should act like stupid, helpless, emotionally manipulative children. There's a word for the kind of man who would be attracted to that kind of woman, and it rhymes with "jedophile". But her book Fascinating Womanhood, largely plagiarized from a series of 1920s pamphlets under a similar title, has sold over three million copies, and the classes she ran to teach its principles have continued in multiple countries after her death. The book and classes now play a large role in the extremely creepy "tradwife" movement of middle-class white women who feel liberated by embracing 1950s middle-class white gender roles. (I mention their whiteness because a. nobody of any other race could possibly think the 1950s was a good time to be alive in this country and b. their movement is, unsurprisingly, associated with the alt-right.)
This book gives a fair and balanced overview of the history of the movement, including the factors that shaped Helen Andelin's own life and worldview. It's very obvious that she was several fries short of a Happy Meal, so I don't want to mock her for doing what she really believed was right (even though it wasn't right and made the world a worse place). I was most fascinated to learn that she made several attempts to convince church leaders to endorse her program as a solution to the members' alarming divorce rate, but they just kind of ignored her until she gave up, and that caused her a severe crisis of faith but she decided she didn't need their approval to share God's message with the world. We dodged a bullet there. Also, her philosophy has had a more subtle, mainstream, and often unacknowledged influence on many other marriage help books, including a couple you've undoubtedly heard of - Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus and The Propher Care and Feeding of Husbands. The common thread running through such works is that they promote degrading stereotypes about men and tell women that all marital problems are their own fault.
It's a shame Sister Andelin passed away before someone could host a debate between her and Sonia Johnson. I would pay good money to see that.
Why I Stay: The Challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Mormons
I also saw this one while browsing for Sonia Johnson's memoir, and decided to save it for last so I could end on a positive note after wading through some heavy stuff. This is a compilation of essays by various liberals and intellectuals trying to make it in a culture that's often very hostile to liberals and intellectuals. Since I find myself in a similar boat, I resonate with a lot of their words. I can't really do the book justice by trying to summarize all twenty essays in one go, so I shan't bother.
The Future of Women at Church: A Conversation with Neylan McBaine
I didn't read this, because it's not a thing to read, but I listened to it while doing a puzzle and I figured I'd tack it on to the end of this post rather than devote another one to it next week. Neylan McBaine is one of my heroes and I think everyone should listen to her.
The First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints recently wrote,
"Dear Brothers and Sisters:
"We find ourselves fighting a war against the ravages of COVID-19 and its variants, an unrelenting pandemic. We want to do all we can to limit the spread of these viruses. We know that protection from the diseases they cause can only be achieved by immunizing a very high percentage of the population.
"To limit exposure to these viruses, we urge the use of face masks in public meetings whenever social distancing is not possible. To provide personal protection from such severe infections, we urge individuals to be vaccinated. Available vaccines have proven to be both safe and effective.
"We can win this war if everyone will follow the wise and thoughtful recommendations of medical experts and government leaders. Please know of our sincere love and great concern for all of God’s children.
"The First Presidency
Russell M. Nelson
Dallin H. Oaks
Henry B. Eyring"
Notably absent this time around is any mention of this being a personal decision. Obviously it still is one, but I'm guessing they got fed up with all the idiots cherry-picking that part of their last statement in a pathetic attempt to pretend they didn't really mean what they unambiguously said. Of course the omission didn't stop those people from twisting themselves into pretzels around this statement too, but now they know that they're lying to themselves even more than they knew they were lying to themselves last time.
I, for one, am exasperated that I need to start wearing a mask again over three months after I got fully vaccinated like a responsible person. I'm exasperated that Utah's intensive care units are now at 102% capacity because over half of my state's population has refused to get vaccinated. I'm exasperated that the virus continues to have opportunities to spread and mutate to the point where my vaccination may become useless because people are pretending not to understand how herd immunity works even though that was their argument for refusing to war masks and letting a bunch of preventable deaths happen in the first place. I'm exasperated that I've tried to do the right thing and follow health guidelines without complaint for so long and it doesn't matter because everyone around me thinks this whole thing is a joke. Meanwhile, as we in this country turn up our noses at the most miraculous vaccine in history being given away for free all over the place, people in less privileged countries are going through hell from this "flu" because they don't yet have access to it. They must be far more exasperated than I am.
Yesterday I went to a book club meeting yesterday for "Live Not By Lies" by Rod Dreher. Unfortunately, the entire discussion proceeded from the assumption that all of us agreed with everything in the book and only needed to figure out how to apply its teachings in our lives. I did agree with its overall message, but had several nitpicks about specifics and no opportunity to mention any of them even if they had been welcome, which they weren't. Dreher based his book on the assumption that Christianity and political conservatism are the same thing, which would make him feel right at home in Utah. Liberals in Utah (with the exception of Salt Lake City nearby areas) face the same stigma and fear of speaking up that conservatives complain about in the book. The guy next to me did raise a couple of nuanced opinions, but the hostess pushed back pretty hard. He's from the younger generation, she said, so he would think that people should face consequences for advocating death to homosexuals, and not understand that the First Amendment was created to protect hate speech. I think when someone recommended that we all listen to Candace Owens was the moment I knew I wouldn't be coming back.
Before the meeting, knowing that I struggle to articulate my thoughts verbally or insert myself into conversations of more than three people, I wrote my review of the book which I share here in case anyone actually does care what I have to say.
Update on my prostate:
My blood test and urine test results came back from the hospital eleven days later. The doctor didn't know why it took so long. I could have told him it's because the staff at Logan Regional Hospital doesn't see me as fully human, but I let it slide. The tests found no cause for concern other than the increased number of antibodies that one would expect in a swollen prostate. I have "lots of really good blood", he said. After using up my antibiotics I had to go in and let him stick his finger in me again to see if they were accomplishing anything. This time was worse. It took longer and I felt like I was about to ---- on the floor and I tried to disassociate myself and sing hymns in my head, but I couldn't because he kept talking to me. No, it doesn't hurt a bit, please stop. One part of my prostate was a little bit less swollen after two weeks, so he renewed the antibiotics. He also prescribed some other pills to make my bladder stronger and make me drowsy 24/7. The health center took another urine sample and he said there was still blood and protein in it. I wasn't aware that the last one had blood and protein in it. He said I may need to see a urologist if it doesn't resolve itself. In summary, I'm still kind of in hell.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.