That Escalated Quickly
This happened on Facebook about a month ago. I'd like to think I've gotten more humble since then, with General Conference and all, but not likely.
As much as I think this is a terrible idea because people who choose to live in rural areas choose to live in rural areas for a reason and don't want somebody coming in and building a city next to them, I have mad respect for this guy actually giving a crap about the environment, unlike 99% of Americans. He has several researchers at work to make this thing eco-friendly. Also worth noting that he says he doesn't care what the leaders of the church think about his project because they don't control him. This comes as quite a shock, because everyone knows Mormons like me are brainwashed into following our leaders and incapable of thinking for ourselves. So anyway, of course there were some useless responses.
I've noticed that, in addition to several other cultish buzzwords and cliches, anti-Mormon trolls really like the phrase "shred of evidence". It's almost like most of them are sharing the same brain, which would explain a lot. If only one of them knew what the word "evidence" means, he could tell the others to stop confusing it with "conclusive proof".
Of course I'm usually not the type to make fun of someone's atrocious spelling, even if reading it makes me die a little inside (there's really no excuse for a native English-speaking adult without a mental disability to not know the difference between "you're" and "your"), but if that person is also being a jackass at the time, of course I will. I feel like being an atrocious speller ought to give someone a shred of humility. But that's just me. Still, I tried to have a little bit of humility by editing the words "equally brainless" out of my comment. That counts for something, right?
Why did I opt for ad hominem instead of addressing his criticism? Because my time is too precious to waste on people who are pretending to be critical thinkers but are actually just being jackasses. I'm not stupid enough to think he would listen to anything I would have to say. He's flat-out lying when he says "then I would probably beilie them." There are literally hundreds if not thousands of geographical, archaeological, and linguistic evidences for the Book of Mormon (see here, here, here, and here, for example) and none of them have persuaded cynics to believe in it. It's a matter of faith, which is kind of the entire freaking point. Not blind faith, but bothering to actually read the book and ask God personally if it's true. I've actually never bothered to do that latter part because I already knew it was. It was just obvious to me. But if he was satisfied with "a shred of evidence that a hige [sic] battle had been fought there", he would just move the goalposts and demand something else. Don't even try to pretend he wouldn't. Critics have done it for nearly two centuries.
Anti-Mormons: The Book of Mormon mentions people using cement in the ancient Americas, but there wasn't any cement in the ancient Americas! Ha! Joseph Smith was so stupid!
Archeologists: Hey, we just found cement from the ancient Americas.
Mormons: Oh look, there was cement in the ancient Americas just like the Book of Mormon said there was.
Anti-Mormons: Uh, let's never mention this again because reasons. Now this other thing...
Honestly, it blows my mind how people can be so asinine. But, for the benefit of readers here who may not be aware of it, the Hill Cumorah is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith never identified the hill in upstate New York where he got the book of Mormon as the Hill Cumorah, nor is there any reason from the text to assume that it is. But other people assumed that it was and that's what we call it now. Most of the people who examine the book for a living believe that it took place in Mesoamerica, where the vast majority of aforementioned evidences are found, obviously implying that the real Hill Cumorah is there as well. So we wouldn't expect to find anything important in the wrong place.
I actually found this really funny because it was just so out of proportion to what I said. It really shows the depth of Curtis' critical thinking skills, you know? I can see why someone as intelligent and perceptive as him demands evidence.
I'm the opposite. If I really am a better person for staying, I'd hate to think what I would be like as a non-member. I'm almost positive I would be dead or in jail.
Facebook's "mic drop" stickers are limited to pretty much just this one, and the Salt Lake Tribune doesn't allow photo comments. Speaking of the Tribune, they recently had a slow news day and published a hit piece called "Does tithing requirement for entry into LDS temples amount to Mormons buying their way into heaven?" Such a timely and relevant article on such a recent development within the Church. Wait, no, it's the exact opposite of that. But I do also have several ex-Mormon friends and family members who, at least in person, are decent human beings. I respect them and try to get along with them despite our differences even if it doesn't always seem like it because of how vocal and strongly-worded I am in my opinions. So I felt inspired to make this meme in their defense and differentiate them from the trolls.
The following criticisms are directed only at militant atheists, by which I mean those who make it their mission in life to destroy the God they don't believe in. I have no grievances with atheists who are willing to live in peace and mutual respect with people whose beliefs they don't share. I try to respect them as I hope to be respected (though of course, not being respected won't change my beliefs, religious or otherwise, one iota). Just recently, for example, I was with a coworker who said I'm her only friend at work and we were talking about our deceased dogs, and I asked "Do you believe animals go to heaven?" and she said "No, because I don't believe in heaven" and my first thought was "That's depressing" because, you know, that would mean she has no hope of ever seeing her dog again, but I stopped myself from saying that out loud because I realized it would probably be offensive. So there was a bit of awkward silence as I looked for something else to say, and that probably made her think I didn't like her anymore anyway. But I tried.
I don't even care if atheists want to criticize religion. It certainly isn't above criticism. But they can do so while still recognizing that not all of the billions of people who disagree with them about the existence of a higher power are delusional idiots. Militant atheists can't be bothered with such basic decency and would rather keep perpetuating Americans' unfavorable rating of all atheists by making themselves as obnoxious as possible. So...
I haven't read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". If his Tweets are anything to go by, I'm not missing much. I have read Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation", which painted him as an incredibly unlikeable individual, and reviewed it here. I have read parts of the late Christopher Hitchens' "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" and found it so full of unabashed, inexcusable lies as to be not worth continuing. Hitchens apparently took great delight in fabricating nonexistent quotes and facts, such as Thomas Aquinas saying "I am a man of one book" despite the reality that Thomas Aquinas never said anything of the sort and in fact cited all kinds of books in his writings. To say nothing of everything Hitchens got wrong about Mormon history. See here for a great review with several examples of his lies, which some atheists on YouTube have responded to with name-calling. But when you're a militant atheist, you see, the ends justifies the means. It's okay for you to make crap up because you're superior to religious people.
So anyway, I get that I'm supposed to be intimidated by the allegedly superior intellects of militant atheists - Sam Harris says so explicitly in his book - but I'm not. At least Richard Dawkins made a recent attempt at appearing clever.
Answers to Richard Dawkins' questions:
No, all of them
N/A (see previous answer; note, however, that I do not deny the existence of these hominids or the reality of evolution)
No, all people are eligible
Physically and mentally perfected me (Don't all Christians believe this, even if they don't believe in resurrection? Why is this even a question? It's like smugly asking an all-you-can-eat place if they provide chairs.)
I mean, are these questions supposed to be clever? They took me literally thirty seconds to answer. I guess when you're a famous biologist who hasn't actually done biology in several years, you can write whatever dreck you want and thousands of your drooling worshipers will lick it up. He's an atheist, ergo everything he writes is just brimming with intelligence. Like when he advocated cloning human meat and eating it to overcome our "irrational" taboo against cannibalism. I really don't even know what to say to anyone who still admires him after that. Ironically, he's on record mocking Mitt Romney's beliefs as "barking mad" and yet, if he'd ever bothered to actually look at them, he might have noticed that they answer all of his stupid questions. But maybe not that ironic. When you're a militant atheist, you see, you don't need to understand something before criticizing it. All I see here is a sad, irrelevant old man whose nearly spent life revolves around trying to tear down other people's happiness. I'll pray for him.
FamilySearch and Stuff
Taxes are over and only cost me seventy dollars to file, and finally there is an end in sight to this semester, which will reduce my stress level considerably and give me more time to write things that are actually enjoyable. Naturally my motivation is in the toilet. Although 2018 has thus far been an almost uninterrupted stream of stress, loss, heartache, frustration, arthritis, and various other kinds of pain, it's only been the second worst year of my life because it's still not as bad as working at a call center and losing my dog.
I did some stuff with FamilySearch this week. I did a face match thing to see which of my ancestors I most resemble and for that I took a new picture of myself. I think I look moderately attractive in the mirror, but in photographs I usually somehow come out looking like an unsuccessful lobotomy patient. So I limit the photographic evidence of my existence and use a picture of my dead dog on social media. Of course I was really surprised that I managed to get an acceptable picturee and if you haven't seen it yet, here it is. Notice how white I am, thanks to my English, Scottish, Danish, and Portuguese ancestry.
FamilySearch also has an option to "Add or Find Spouse" to a person's file, and of course people joke about that, but I already did it and so far I haven't gotten in trouble or had to reverse it. I expect her to show up any day now.
I can't believe all the people who don't know who Felicity Jones is and think I just picked a random name. Maybe I can trick God this way. I'll go in for the interview, and He'll be like "Hmm, so you never married" in a sort of vaguely judgmental tone. I'll be like, "Yes I did, look here, it says right here." And He'll be like "Oh yeah, my bad." Nobody tell Him about this post.
I happened to learn in the process that I'm distantly related to my bishop, my bishop's wife who is distantly related to my bishop, his first counselor, my ex-crush, and some other people. My ex-crush, in case you were wondering, is my ex-crush because someone told me I could do better. I didn't believe him at first. I thought, but didn't say out loud, how so? Is she a serial killer or something? I would actually respect that. Women are ridiculously underrepresented in the serial killing industry, and I admire any woman who manages to break through that glass ceiling. But I figured he was just saying that to be nice. I thought, but didn't say out loud, that if he wants to compliment me I'd be happy to give him a list of my positive traits so he doesn't have to make stuff up. At least if I can find the list. I may have accidentally thrown away the Tootsie roll wrapper it was written on.
This reminds me of a story. A few years ago, when I was about five or six, I had the biggest crush on Natalie Davis, who was about ten or twelve or something. I've been mostly into older women for as long as I can remember thanks to the sister missionaries who put me on their laps and tickled me when I was little, which is another story altogether. Anyway, Natalie had a twin, or maybe just a sister who looked a lot like her, I don't remember, but I could tell them apart and I knew which one I wanted. She had six siblings, if I recall correctly. My family and her family hung out a lot. I was closest to her sister Cheryl in age but sometimes I didn't get along with her and one time I called her a "sarcastic know-it-all", which was the worst insult I could think of. Natalie, or maybe her twin, was all like "How would you feel if someone called you that?" and I was all like "I wouldn't care." One night a bunch of us slept on her family's trampoline and she told us a scary bedtime story and my chest is aching from nostalgia just thinking about all this.
So one day I was at this church activity at some park somewhere and Natalie was sitting on a table talking to a friend, and I don't remember the thought process behind what I did next or even if there was one. I was very young and not entirely familiar with the principle of consent. I climbed up next to Natalie and kissed her on the cheek.
"Gasp!" said her friend.
Natalie, however, was unfazed. She said, "It's okay, we're related."
That was not what I had expected to hear. Yeah, somehow I missed that discussion of when our families met and found that out. But she's only my third cousin or something, I think, so I think that would have been all right anyway. But doing family history reminded me of her and that made me really nostalgic and motivated me to churn out several pages of the memoir that I stopped working on quite a while ago because it turns out that spelunking through my memories is super depressing.
I posted my second story for class a few weeks ago and this week it was critiqued, and while the ratio of constructive criticisms to praise was more even this time, indicating that this story was inferior to my first one just like I thought it was, it did seem to be funnier. Macie said this was the first story all semester to laugh out loud. I think the reason for that is because witty, rude, and/or sarcastic dialogue is inherently ten times funnier coming from a robot than a meatbag. Star Wars and Futurama have discovered this principle. And I think the reason for that is because robots are expected to be emotionless and subservient and logical, and humor lies in subverting expectations. Anyway, Adrian, who also happens to be the best writer in the class (I've ranked us Adrian, Natalie, me, everyone else) liked KC-1138 enough to take the initiative of drawing him for me, and that was the most flattering thing ever.
The Sisters of Mercy - When You Don't See Me
This is my second favorite Sisters of Mercy song. I don't know what to say about it other than it's awesome. And romantic. Since most of my music is gone for the foreseeable future, I've listened to the "Temple of Love 1992" single about twelve times a day.
A Couple Things I Did for School
To conserve effort during these busy times, here are a couple of projects I've done for school. The end is nigh and hopefully this summer I can go back to writing haflway decent posts again. First, a comic I had to make telling a story from my life that had something to do with American culture, and the explanation I had to write to go with it. If you can't read the comic at this resolution, you're not missing anything.
I feel like it's hard to notice distinctively American cultural items when I grew up surrounded by them and most of them are shared with the rest of the world thanks to globalization. As I brainstormed, one thing that occurred to me was the polarization of American politics. We have only two political parties with any chance of winning an election, and the discourse between them has increasingly devolved into hypocrisy and mudslinging. As far as democracies go, this seems to be a uniquely American phenomenon. I have learned from my European friends that other democracies have more than two parties to choose from and more mature political discourse.
I sketched out a plan on another paper of what I wanted the panels to look like and a couple words in each explaining what I wanted in them. I put in a little size variation but in general the standard three panels across the page works for me. I'm not much of a visual artist so I didn't get too ambitious with that. My drawing skills also leave a bit to be desired, as I can't draw anything three-dimensionally or remain entirely consistent between panels. If I weren't too lazy to improve on this I'd like to draw comics a lot more often. I didn't go the digital route because I needed the flexibility that drawing it myself provides. I took a picture instead of scanning it because every scanner I've ever used cuts off one edge of the paper for some unfathomable reason.
The comic ended up having a lot more words than pictures. This wasn't my intention, but since I am a writer by nature, it just happened that way as I had lots of words I wanted to include in it. Though incorporating real events in my life, there's a lot of summary and symbolism, like showing people in person that I only talked to on Facebook in real life. The explanatory notes with arrows were inspired by one of my favorite comics, “Bloom County”. It's kind of hard to follow the chronology of the words without interrupting the flow, and if I had time to do it over I would try to plan that better.
The comic also ended up being a lot more self-righteous than I intended, kind of making it sound like I think I'm super enlightened and everyone else is stupid. My enlightenment is the point of the story but I tried to counterbalance it by showing how obnoxious and thickheaded I was at first. I don't think conservatives are stupid and I don't think liberals are stupid, but I do think anyone who worships their own political ideology and turns a blind eye to its flaws while criticizing the other side is stupid. And in this day and age they dominate the conversation.
And then this video about climate change that I joined up with a classmate and her sister for. I can't actually stand to watch it, but I figured out that I come in around 4:45 and mumble through my lines in a barely audible fashion just like in real life. Why don't you just skip to 10:23 and see the credits that I made.
A week ago, as some of my readers know and others don't care, was the 188th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and although my enthusiasm for writing has been drained by the crappy events of this week, I will continue my tradition of posting about it a week late. I never had any particular emotional attachment to Russell M. Nelson before, but I do now, as I find him impossible to love in his new role. In an ironic and wonderful twist, our 93-year-old prophet has already injected a burst of freshness, enthusiasm, and progress into the Church. He seems eager to change everything he can get his hands on. He has more energy than I, nearly sixty-nine years his junior and evidently forbidden by the laws of the universe from ever getting a decent sleep. Neil L. Andersen said, "We hope he will be with us for another decade or two, but for now we are trying to persuade him to stay off the ski slopes." The ski slopes part wasn't a joke. Two decades is pushing it, but one more wouldn't surprise me in the slightest, knock on wood.
I wrote a post in January about how diversity has "trickled up" through LDS leadership, because some people have a hard time understanding that, and said that it would reach the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles soon. I even felt strongly that it would happen already in this conference, with the two recent vacancies, but didn't say anything about that for fear of jinxing it. But I was right. I mean, Gerrit W. Gong doesn't really count because he's still American, and Ulisses Soares (not Suarez) doesn't really count because he's still white, but it's a start. Kidding, kidding, I love and sustain them both and am just being facetious. It seems relevant to me God doesn't usually like to follow public pressure. Prior to the last set of Apostles being called in 2015, there was a lot of speculation and agitation and chatter about how they needed to diversify and they should call a Latino and a black person and an Asian. I believe that was actually a significant factor in why it didn't happen at that time. This time, most people just figured there would be two more white guys from Utah, and surprise! Of course, I won't be surprised if in a few years the anti-Mormon revisionist historians start claiming the LDS Church did this to avoid losing its tax-exempt status, and idiots keep repeating this lie as an unquestionable fact despite it being completely unsupported. Where have we heard that before? Hmm...
The first session was all it took to once again shatter my illusions of being a good person, but in an uplifting way. Larry Echo Hawk talked about forgiveness. I'm not a forgiving person by nature, and in fairness this applies to myself as much as anyone. When I accidentally broke the shift buzzer at work, everyone acted like nothing had happened, but that frustrated me because I wanted them to lynch me so I could atone for the inconvenience I had caused them. Elder Echo Hawk forgave a drunk driver who killed his brother. I already know that if a drunk driver kills one of my sisters in the immediate future, I'll rip his lungs out. So I can stand to improve. David A. Bednar talked about meekness, and along those same lines, I'm not meek. I act meek in person sometimes because I'm introverted and sometimes because punching people in the face would bring negative consequences for me. But frequently in my internet discourse I make little or no attempt to hide my contempt for people. So I can stand to improve on that true. I've already made great strides this week and then relapsed.
Lynn G. Robbins talked about the second, third, fourth, four hundred ninetieth, etc. chances that God gives us. I know his words are true. I should stand in daily awe for the grace of God in not abandoning me when I deserve to be abandoned. I've done some things a lot more than four hundred ninety times and would be screwed if God gave up on me. He has no reason to not give up on me, no reason other than inexplicable unconditional love. I have a couple people in my life that I will never give up on either and I've been dealing with them lately and it's given me a much better understanding of this principle, though the depth of God's love remains beyond my comprehension as it always will. So yeah.
I watched the three Saturday sessions alone and then listened to the Sunday morning session in the car with my sister and a couple friends as we went to Salt Lake where we watched the final session live. Although the conference attendees were predominantly white Americans, dozens of other ethnicities and nationalities were also present, which was a breath of fresh air and a reminder of our beautiful global brotherhood. I saw some cool people. Not my picture, but I hugged both of these guys. I wasn't sure what to do. Did I need to ask permission, or was that already implied by the signs? I settled for quietly standing in front of each of them until they initiated it.
A while later I also saw Kwaku from the web series "3 Mormons" talking with one of the anti-Mormon protesters. I wanted to say hi, but he was busy and I was shy, so I didn't. I regret that now. Here are some pictures of me instead.
Temple announcements are my favorite part of conference. There were no announcements this time around during the times that they would normally happen, but since President Nelson had shaken up everything else I thought he just might be saving some for the very end. And my ears figuratively pricked up when he said, "Eventual exaltation requires our complete fidelity now to covenants we make and ordinances we receive in the house of the Lord." And further when he said, "At this time, we have 159 functioning temples, and more are under construction." And when he said, "We want to bring temples closer to the expanding membership of the Church", I knew he was either about to announce some or he was being a jerk. To my elation he continued, "So we are now pleased to announce plans to construct seven more temples." And they are:
Salta, Argentina - A city that, if my rusty Spanish serves me, means "Jump". I have a friend in Rio Gallegos way down by Antarctica, so I hoped for a temple closer to her, but no such luck this time.
Bengaluru, India - As I've recounted elsewhere, my heart overflows with love for the people and cultures of India. With just about 13,500 Mormons spread out through a nation of 1.3 billion, I didn't anticipate a temple in India for some time, but I couldn't be more grateful for it. Currently they have to travel well over a thousand miles to the temple in Hong Kong, which will soon be a substantially reduced but still insane distance to Bangkok. This announcement had me like
Managua, Nicaragua - The only Central American nation left without a temple. Well, okay, there's Belize, but it doesn't count. The people also tend to be pretty impoverished and Costa Ricans hate them, so traveling to the temples outside their country is presumably a bit of a challenge.
Cagayan de Oro, Philippines - The Philippines currently has only two temples, with two more announced, to service nearly a million members and over a hundred stakes and scores of districts, so this will be a welcome addition.
Layton, Utah - Why the crap did this elicit a loud gasp from most of the people in the conference center? I'm thrilled for Layton, really, but I see nothing surprising or amazing about yet another temple in Utah. Especially compared to some of the others on this list.
Richmond, Virginia - The united state with the most Mormons without a temple. Washington DC recently lost a good chunk of its temple district, and will lose a lot more with this one, and it's not a small temple, so it will be interesting to see if they can keep it well-used afterward.
A major city yet to be determined, Russia - I believe it's without precedent to announce a temple for a country without even knowing the city yet. And Russia is not a small country. Which city they choose will make a big difference for the people trying to get to it. Moscow seems like the obvious choice, being the capital and having the most Mormons, but it's way over by the western border and would leave a massive expanse of un-templed Russia trailing behind it. I didn't expect Russia to get a temple anytime soon, given the Church's struggles with growth and retention and currently not being able to proselyte at all.
Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in his talk, made a passing reference to the asteroid strike that most scientists believe wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs. On the drive home, I turned this reference into a discussion of one of my passions: evolution. I was pleased to discover that nobody in our car had a problem with evolution. I shared my opinion that God set up the laws of physics, chemistry, biology etc. to run and inevitably bring about the results He wanted with little or no direct intervention. Most Christians don't believe that God feels the need to directly control, say, weather patterns, and I believe evolution is the same way.
We had a small point of disagreement, though I think we were mostly on the same page and just talking past each other. My sister and one of her friends said you can't take God out of the origin of life, and I would agree with that, but I also said "God of the gaps" argumentation makes religious people look stupid and just because scientists don't currently know how the first cell originated from non-living matter doesn't mean they never will. I believe that happened according to materialistic natural laws as well, not by God going "poof" or something, but that He's the one who set up those laws just right in the first place. I suppose my enthusiasm was at least partially to blame for getting my sister's friends so engrossed in conversation that at first they didn't notice we were no longer driving back the way we had come. The discussion quickly changed topics.
"We're on the wrong interstate?" asked the driver.
"No, we're on the right interstate," said the other navigator as she checked her phone. "We just missed our exit... thirty minutes ago."
We turned out to be in the wrong town and the wrong valley. I could have been upset. But I decided to follow Elder Echo Hawk's counsel on forgiveness.
"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."
- David Young
About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, 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.