I didn't change the color of my site on purpose. It just kind of happened while I was editing, and it looks fine so I can't be bothered to change it back. And I wonder what's up with all the visits I've been getting from Russia recently, of all the non-US countries that could be visiting me. That country is not Anglophile and is one of the most sparsely populated in the world, so it wouldn't have been my first guess, but whatever, as long as someone is visiting.
I received this in response to my General Conference post a few weeks ago, but didn't see it until just recently because it went into my "Other" folder and I rarely look there. It said, "Just wanted to tell you that I appreciate your honest blog you posted on 1 Million Mormons on FB. It's brave to write about your honest questions and observations, and even more so to actually post it on a TBM site. Best of luck to you and stay strong. It's a hard road to travel, when you question anything in the church. I've been there myself."
I didn't intend for that post to be "questioning" per se, but I'm well aware that my perspective on these things is sometimes less than orthodox and probably rubs some people the wrong way. I didn't get much flak over that post, though. Several people clicked on it, a few people liked it, and one person commented to tell me that my foundation was obviously built on the sand and that my feelings of complacency before conference came from Satan. She urged me to pray a lot. I was annoyed for a moment, but since she was evidently motivated by genuine concern I decided not to be. At least she cared. I've seen worse and less sincere comments in that group. One time someone shared an anti-Mormon meme she had seen going around and asked for an explanation or refutation of it, and instead mostly received rude comments telling her in essence to shut up and not think about it and stop trying to criticize the Church. The "best" of these comments was "The stone is rolling forward, get out of the way or be crushed." (Gee, that doesn't sound cultish at all.) I gave those people a piece of my mind.
So anyway, I appreciated that message, which is why I brought it up.
The most life-changing article I've read for a long time: Why Must We Hate the Things Teen Girls Love? I've never understood the hate for One Direction. I've been reminded of what "Weird Al" Yankovic once said in response to criticism for having the band Hansen on his short-lived TV show (paraphrase): "Just because your kid sister likes them doesn't mean they're the devil." Nonetheless, I have often mocked the Twilight saga, and after reading this I decided that I never will again. Or at least I'll try not to. Don't expect me to be perfect.
The funniest article I've read for a long time: How To Be a Successful Millennial Ex-Mormon (A Guide for Beginners) Obviously, those who don't share my hobbies and interests probably won't find this nearly as funny as I did, so if you fall in that category, just trust me that it's hilarious, despite being almost too accurate to be satire. Really, virtually anything that makes fun of millennials gets a thumbs up from me. We/they deserve every bit of it.
I was going to talk about how 93% of communication is nonverbal and what a disadvantage that puts me at, but upon trying to check the statistic I discovered that it's kind of bogus. I'm not even surprised, but I'm annoyed because I was going to use that to segue into a spiel about how important emoticons are for conveying inflections and emotions in written text that don't come across otherwise, which is one area where I disagree with Matt Walsh (I don't want anyone to think that I agree with him on everything, although I admire his chutzpah even when he's wrong), who looks down his nose at pictures as if they are inherently inferior to his high and mighty words. Emoticons, as should be obvious, just take the place of the facial expressions that would be used if one was speaking in person. Adding more punctuation marks to our language would help too.
^ That first one would be perfect for the occasional girl who briefly attempts to flirt with me.
No, I didn't insert those comics to take up space because I don't feel like writing a post today but feel pressured to because Bracelets and my other two anonymous fans will be disappointed if I don't. It's not at all a crushing sense of responsibility.
How I felt about my novel before I took a Fiction Writing class: This needs a lot of revision, but nonetheless it's very good and I'm very proud of it. How I feel about it now: I can hardly stand to look at this abomination. Granted, that's probably in part because I'm just sick of reading it, too. Familiarity breeds contempt.
It's a total coincidence that I found an opportunity to use this strip again.
Because many people were absent from Fiction Writing this last time around, we got into groups of three instead of four, thus requiring one of my usual mates to sacrifice herself. But I had printed four copies of my short story, of course, so I gave one to her after class. She threw up her hands and yelled with delight. I believe the term for that is "fangirling". It was the most flattering reaction I've ever gotten, and gives me hope for the future, as long as I can a. generate this enthusiasm on a much larger scale and b. channel it into financial remuneration. I will share that story here at some point, of course, but I need to revise it first. It was so rushed that I forgot to finish a sentence on the first page. I hope she wasn't bitterly disappointed.
In honor of the day that today is, I'm sharing this wonderful and underappreciated song, and now you understand why I couldn't just put this off until tomorrow even though I don't feel like it today.
Meco - Werewolf (Loose in London)
Eleven more "deceptively edited" (note the sarcasm) Planned Parenthood videos were released a couple days ago, this time by a hacker who somehow got his hands on them. Some excerpts from Matt Walsh's summary (because he phrases things better than I could):
"This is an abortionist talking to other abortionist[s] (who, by the way, appear to agree wholeheartedly with everything she says). Do you hear that, 'pro-choicers'? Even the damned abortionists aren't trying to claim it isn't a person or it isn't killing or it isn't horrifically violent. They just think killing people is the 'most important thing they can do with their life.' Forget how utterly disturbing it is that anyone would call killing innocent people 'the most important thing' they could ever do, let's just focus on the fact that pro-aborts who use the 'clump of cells' argument do so despite the abortionists themselves saying otherwise... To review, a woman recounted killing a baby and having its eyeballs fall out of its skull. The room full of abortionists laughed hysterically and applauded. And, if you recall, these are people who fully admit the 'fetus' is actually, in their words, a 'baby,' a 'person,' and 'alive.' They fully admit it is, again in their words, 'violence' and 'killing.' Yet they find it funny and charming to hear about a dead baby's severed eyeballs...
"The stuff about selling baby parts is terrible and outrageous, but maybe it shouldn't have ever been positioned as the headline. The headline is, or should be, the simply reality of what abortion is, how abortionists themselves view it, and just the general callousness and cruelty and sadism these people exude... Pro-aborts: abortion doctors admit they are murdering human babies, and they think it's funny. How do you feel about that? Forget tissue sale. How do you feel about the fact that you are in favor of something the abortion industry itself describes as killing babies? How do you feel when you hear a room full of cackling psychos laugh and applaud at the thought of a dead child's eyeballs rolling around on the floor?"
There, I've already given it more coverage than the mainstream media. Now on that cheery note, let's move on. I don't feel inspired to write anything in particular but I'm going to force myself to write anyway, which is usually a bad sign. To wrest out of context a quote from one of my Facebook friends the other day, "I'm excited to see just how terrible this franchise can get. Because when the co-manager of the production company in charge of the film says (and I'm not making this up, it's an actual quote): 'If this is successful, we hope to include more, we'll continue this as long as we possibly can' you really can expect some quality story... right?"
One highlight of this past week was that a girl called me "my knight in shining armor", but that's not really a story, because it was just that and that was it. And then when I mentioned it to one of my other friends (Marie, for those who remember her) she said "Either you're deep in the friendzone or she likes you" and then I wondered why apparently it's okay for girls to use the word "friendzone" but if a guy says it he's the worst person in the world, at least whenever I've observed it. Like, whenever a guy posts something like "How can I get out of the friendzone?" I just wait and watch for everybody to pile on him and be like "I can't believe you're using the word 'friendzone', which doesn't exist, unironically in 2015." But when I see girls say it, no one bats an eyelash. Oh well. Maybe it's like how black people are allowed to use racial slurs against themselves.
Speaking of race... what do you notice about this chart?
I'll tell you what I notice, even though you didn't ask, because if you don't care to know my thoughts on things then you're in completely the wrong place. I notice that even though our society, and especially the LDS Church's critics in this particular context, divide the human race into "black" and "white", there is a whole spectrum of different skin tones all over the above page. Most of the "white" people are not the same color, nor are the two "black" people. Conclusion: society is stupid.
Actually, society's leg-humping obsession with skin color in 2015 is stupid altogether. It's embarrassing to hear some of these people talk and realize that they're being completely serious. Nothing has changed since Booker T. Washington wrote 104 years ago, "I am afraid that there is a certain class of race-problem solvers who don't want the patient to get well, because as long as the disease holds out they have not only an easy means of making a living, but also an easy medium through which to make themselves prominent before the public."
Here's a delightful example of such BS that I encountered recently: "In America white people are conditioned to subconsciously feel superior. [Way to make a sweeping, insulting generalization.] It's possible that they feel this way and aren't even aware of it. [See, if you're white but you don't think you feel superior, you're just too stupid to know yourself. Fortunately a benevolent mind-reading black person is here to help you.] When most all major leadership positions in the US are filled with white people it reaffirms white superiority. [Yeah, because who cares that the freaking President, the most prominent and visible leadership position and so-called "most powerful man in the world", is black. He's practically invisible.] Christ taught that we are all equal. [Duh. Is this a response to the statistically insignificant "we aren't all equal" demographic, or just a straw man?] So my question is, are you willing to listen? [Condescending and patronizing.] Or are you coming here to teach? Are your views so superior that you're unwilling to hear the cries of all of Gods [sic] children? [Straw man. The only person talking about superiority is you.] Or are you coming to excersize [sic] love compassion and empathy as the lord has commanded? [Wow. Get off your high horse already.]"
And then this comment stood out. "White people on this site: if you are arguing with he [sic], then you don't get it. Go back to Black People in America 101 and start over. When your eyes are open, you'll understand empathetically and exactly what she said without feeling like you have to defend yourselves." Translation: "If your understanding of yourselves is different from our assertions about you, then your opinion is invalid. Only black people's opinions about this matter."
I feel like sharing a story, for no particular reason, mind you. One time I was out walking at night and having a great deal of fun removing the leaf piles from storm drains. After I had finished, I was crossing through the crosswalk of an empty street when somebody pulled up to it, paused at the stop sign, and then proceeded to start going again while I was directly in front of him. Like, so directly in front of him that Mr. Magoo could have seen me. But alas, this man was either blinder or stupider than Mr. Magoo. I put up my hands to indicate that I would appreciate it if he didn't kill me, and calmly explained, "HEY, MORON! WHAT THE ---- ARE YOU DOING!?" before indicating my displeasure with a choice hand signal. He just stared at me with all the comprehension of a dead cow.
Afterward, of course, I regretted these impulsive words and actions that had burst out of me in the heat of the moment. If I'd had just a few more moments to mentally prepare myself, I would have behaved differently. I would have used more swear words, indicated my displeasure with both hands, and kicked his car for good measure. His stupidity was what really made me angry. I don't know this for a fact, but I suspect that I would be slightly less angry if someone actually tried to kill me. I know there are people who would do so in a heartbeat if it was legal. What makes me angry at times like this is the prospect that I should have to become real dead because someone else is braindead. (That, incidentally, is the same reason I detest anti-vaxxers so much, though in that case at least my anger is altruistic because it's their children and the immunocompromised people I'm actually concerned about.)
As I continued home, thinking about how I hoped he would crash into a tree and remove himself from the gene pool, the thought came to me, What if he was your bishop or something? Without hesitation I retorted, I don't care if he was President Monson. He has no right to drive like that. It did occur to me to wonder, "What would Jesus do?" But I can't do what I think Jesus would do, because I think Jesus would use His powers to disable the car and take the guy out of it. He'd be like, "Sorry, buddy, I forgive you and everything, but we can't have you on the streets endangering people." Or maybe He'd even perform a miracle and heal the guy's blindness.
Between there and home I passed through a public park, and I went to use their bathroom. I wasn't sure if it would be open. The parks always close their bathrooms for the winter because no one ever has to pee during the winter. But it was still open, and right before I went in I noticed that I was actually going into the women's bathroom because someone had defaced the sign and in the dark the stick figure actually did just look like a chunky guy. But I was like, Whatever, it's late and no one's around and no one cares, so I went in. I realized afterward that this might have been illegal, and if so, oops.
Once inside, the first thing I noticed was one of the largest spiders I've ever seen. It was building a web in the corner next to the first toilet. Oh-ho, I thought, God is in a playful mood, I see. I felt sorry for it, realizing that in the near future it would probably get squished and/or flushed, and I looked around for some way to pick it up and place it outside, but to no avail. I wasn't about to touch it with my bare hands. While the mere sight of the creature didn't faze me, I was less than enthused about the prospect of it jumping onto my face. So I had to leave it there with my regrets. As I left, though, I realized that my anger and my animosity toward that stupid stranger had evaporated. It's funny how life works sometimes.
Now for a more serious and bittersweet but hopefully inspiring story that was shared with me by a friend who hopefully won't be angry at me for repeating it anonymously.
"I used to go all out and put on makeup and dress super nice, but then I noticed people wouldn't really talk to me or would make preconceived notions about who I was. They always seemed super surprised when they actually got to know me. Especially when they found out I was actually geeky and outdoorsy and not just a sissy girly girl. Because of that there was a time when I did not really take pride in who I was and therefore tried to hide in sweatshirts and sweats. I wanted people to like me and so tried to fit into the constraints they were comfortable putting me in.
"But then I had an epiphany. If I want to dress nice and express myself through my clothing, then by all means I will. I'm not going to let anybody dictate whether or not I want to look nice. The same thing goes for other things I like and believe in. I dress and act the way I do because it makes me happy. And I choose to be happy."
I can't improve on that, so no comment.
Here's a song for Halloween that I remember fondly from kindergarten. Unfortunately it's full of annoying beeps and doesn't actually go through the pages of the book, but sometimes life is like that.
Erica Silverman - Big Pumpkin
Some choice words of wisdom from Elder Dallin H. Oaks from his landmark 2005 devotional that I initially was going to append to Elder Hales' General Conference remarks in last week's post, but opted not to because it would have been too much of a tangent:
"The meaning and significance of a “date” has also changed in such a way as to price dating out of the market. I saw this trend beginning among our younger children. For whatever reason, high school boys felt they had to do something elaborate or bizarre to ask for a date, especially for an event like a prom, and girls felt they had to do likewise to accept. In addition, a date had to be something of an expensive production. I saw some of this on the BYU campus during the ’70s. I remember seeing one couple having a dinner catered by friends on the median strip between lanes of traffic just south of the BYU football stadium. All of this made dating more difficult. And the more elaborate and expensive the date, the fewer the dates. As dates become fewer and more elaborate, this seems to create an expectation that a date implies seriousness or continuing commitment. That expectation discourages dating even more."
(In fact, I suspect that this status quo has only continued to deteriorate, and that if you ask twelve Mormons what a "date" is, whether and how it differs from "hanging out", and what degree of romantic interest it implies, you will get twelve different answers. It's jaw-droppingly asinine.)
"If you don’t know what a date is, perhaps this definition will help. I heard it from my 18-year-old granddaughter. A 'date' must pass the test of three p’s: (1) planned ahead, (2) paid for, and (3) paired off."
(According to these criteria, I've been on more dates with guys.)
"And, young women, please make it easier for these shy males to ask for a simple, inexpensive date. Part of making it easier is to avoid implying that a date is something very serious. If we are to persuade young men to ask for dates more frequently, we must establish a mutual expectation that to go on a date is not to imply a continuing commitment. Finally, young women, if you turn down a date, be kind. Otherwise you may crush a nervous and shy questioner and destroy him as a potential dater, and that could hurt some other sister."
"Now, brothers and sisters, if you are troubled about something we have just said, please listen very carefully to what I will say now. Perhaps you are a young man feeling pressured by what I have said about the need to start a pattern of dating that can lead to marriage, or you are a young woman troubled by what we have said about needing to get on with your life. If you feel you are a special case, so that the strong counsel I have given doesn’t apply to you, please don’t write me a letter. Why would I make this request? I have learned that the kind of direct counsel I have given results in a large number of letters from members who feel they are an exception, and they want me to confirm that the things I have said just don’t apply to them in their special circumstance.
"I will explain why I can’t offer much comfort in response to that kind of letter by telling you an experience I had with another person who was troubled by a general rule. I gave a talk in which I mentioned the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' (Ex. 20:13). Afterward a man came up to me in tears saying that what I had said showed there was no hope for him. 'What do you mean?' I asked him. He explained that he had been a machine gunner during the Korean War. During a frontal assault, his machine gun mowed down scores of enemy infantry. Their bodies were piled so high in front of his gun that he and his men had to push them away in order to maintain their field of fire. He had killed a hundred, he said, and now he must be going to hell because I had spoken of the Lord’s commandment 'Thou shalt not kill.'
"The explanation I gave that man is the same explanation I give to you if you feel you are an exception to what I have said. As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. Thereare exceptions to some rules. For example, we believe the commandment is not violated by killing pursuant to a lawful order in an armed conflict. But don’t ask me to give an opinion on your exception. I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught this same thing in another way. When he was asked how he governed such a diverse group of Saints, he said, 'I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves.' In what I have just said, I am simply teaching correct principles and inviting each one of you to act upon these principles by governing yourself."
(I love this quote because you probably think he's going to be like "There are no exceptions. Get over yourself." But then he's like, "PSYCH!" No wonder no one ever uses this quote.)
Just in case I end up talking about them a lot, the other members of my Poetry Writing Group shall hereafter be named "Bracelets", "Redhead", and "Glasses". Bracelets is the one who reads my blog so she's the only one who really matters, but I'll name them all just in case.
One night when I was busy filling my usual insomnia quota, I had an idea for a poem. By the time I got up the next day it didn't seem like a good idea anymore. But life got busy, and another poem was due, and I didn't have any other ideas, so I went for it - though with a bit of trepidation. My poetry professor has told us to be authentic and never hold back or censor ourselves, and her own poems cover some pretty dark themes, but I didn't know how she'd react to this. Maybe she would send me to a counselor. And then I'd say, "Why do I have to go to a counselor?" And she'd show me the petition. That was a real concern, but in the end I decided to go for it, if for no other reason than to tell society's taboo where it could go stick itself. (Annotated by professor)
So I talked to her, and she clearly felt very awkward and felt like she should do something but didn't know what, and on my next assignment she apologized for having been awkward, and I felt guilty for having made her worry. So no more of that, I guess. To be clear, this is not current and not something to be concerned about; if it was I never would have shared it in class, let alone here. But subject matter aside, I think it's a pretty awful poem. It's much too heavy-handed and blunt. I like bluntness, but poetry isn't really the place for it. (In case you were wondering, I put this kind of self-criticism and other commentary after the poems instead of before because we're not supposed to explain them before people read them. They're supposed to speak for themselves so that we can see if they come across the way we intended.)
I'd really hoped that my group members, for a change, wouldn't say they totally understood and identified with this poem because everyone feels this way sometimes. That would have been sad. Fortunately, they didn't. They also liked the use of parentheses, and so do I, though I can't explain why. It just has a nice tone to it. I used that much more extensively in my next poem. (Annotated by Bracelets)
This is literally just a true story about a dead grasshopper I came across on my way home from campus, but the nice thing about such a topic is that it will automatically convey a deeper meaning to people without me even trying to put one in. Don't we all feel like that grasshopper, sometimes? Bracelets also noted that although she detests grasshoppers, I had made her feel sorry for this one.
The next time, I decided to try writing something that wasn't dark, or at least mostly not. (Annotated by Redhead)
That was ridiculously hard to write, hence only half of the lines rhyme. Fitting the rhythm with the right number of syllables and placement of emphases was the worst. I felt that it was rushed and too short and that people would be confused about what exactly was going on, but they loved it, so I don't know what I'm talking about. Because we had extra time, I also shared it with my non-poetry group in the Fiction Writing class. "You're a really great writer, I hope you know that," said one of them. Oh, I definitely do, I thought, but I still love to hear you say it. I didn't say that out loud, of course, because I'm very modest.
In case you're curious what a splanch is, it's from Irregular Webcomic! (which actually has an exclamation point in its name, so that's not just me being excited about what a great webcomic it is!).
Rammstein - Amerika
I've been listening to this song a lot, like every day, because it never gets old. I wanted to share it with Bracelets, but then I figured why not just feature it on my blog so that not only she, but two other people can enjoy it.
Seeing as an entire week has gone by, I imagine most Mormons have forgotten about General Conference and moved on with their lives, and in any case the flurry of memes and articles has obviously died down, so now is the perfect time for me to show up late to the game as always. I don't have anything particularly insightful or uplifting to contribute, aside from the bits that are quoted from other people. It's mostly just a recap of a few parts and will be kind of redundant to anyone who actually watched it, and definitely isn't one of my better posts, but... this is my blog and I do what I want.
Sometimes General Conference discourages me, honestly. Sometimes I'm feeling like life is great and happy and there's nothing to worry about, and then I watch General Conference and they talk about how wicked and full of lies the world is and how it's just going to get worse and harder to live in, and then I start to worry. Fortunately, that's balanced out by the more uplifting and feel-good stuff.
I didn't watch the Women's Session so I won't comment on it. Seeing as it was the same weekend as Comic-Con, however, I rather expected to hear that the audience had been full of Xenas and Wonder Women and Pennies (from "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog").
Despite the lack of new temple announcements, the Saturday morning session was notable for President Uchtdorf calling out anti-vaxxers. His talk wasn't about them or directed only at them, of course, but he's an intelligent man who knows what's going on in the U.S. and if he didn't recognize those applications of what he was saying then I'm Jeff Foxworthy. Of course, none of them will listen, but at least he said it. (The Church's own stance on vaccines is exemplified by the fact that it works to provide them for literally millions of people around the world. Anti-vaxxer Mormons chalk this up to prophetic fallibility, which coincidentally just so happens to apply whenever a church member disagrees with him.)
"Aren’t we all a little bit like this? After a recent medical procedure, my very capable doctors explained what I needed to do to heal properly. But first I had to relearn something about myself I should have known for a long time: as a patient, I’m not very patient. Consequently I decided to expedite the healing process by undertaking my own Internet search. I suppose I expected to discover truth of which my doctors were unaware or had tried to keep from me. It took me a little while before I realized the irony of what I was doing. Of course, researching things for ourselves is not a bad idea. But I was disregarding truth I could rely on and instead found myself being drawn to the often-outlandish claims of Internet lore."
"I suppose I expected to discover truth of which my doctors were unaware or had tried to keep from me." That says it all, really. It's hard to imagine such an intelligent man doing something so foolish, but he had the humility to admit it, and that makes him all the more likable.
Saturday afternoon, of course, was the calling of the new Apostles: Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson, and Dale G. Renlund. There was a lot of anger and backlash from certain quadrants, not all of them outside the Church, over the fact that all three of them are white guys from the Wasatch Front. This means that still all of the current Apostles are white, most are from Utah or Idaho and only one is from outside the United States.
Diversity in the Church is a very slow trickle-up phenomenon. I, like many people, was hoping that the the time had come for more diversity to appear in the Quorum of the Twelve. I don't believe in affirmative action or ethnic quotas, and it doesn't matter where they're from or what color their skin is, but I was hoping this would represent a coming of age, so to speak. I mostly kept this to myself, though, and was a bit distressed that so many people didn't. To see so many people going "I want a Hispanic Apostle and an Asian Apostle and an African Apostle" or even naming the Hispanic and Asian and African General Authorities that they thought would be good choices was rather obnoxious. I felt that so much public speculation and hoping was inappropriate and that if anything, it would make the Lord less likely to choose more diverse Apostles, since He wants it to be clear that He isn't dictated by political correctness or popular opinion. (The priesthood ban wasn't lifted until most of the public pressure against it had disappeared.)
Yes, I felt a twinge of disappointment when no one more exotic was called. I'm not ashamed of that. Anyone who says they've never been disappointed with any of God's decisions is an atheist or a liar. But I got over it. And I think that's why so many speakers the next day emphasized that these calls were from the Lord. That was confirmed to me most powerfully during Elder Jörg Klebingat's opening prayer. Now there's a spiritual giant if ever there was one. I think he should be - ah, never mind, I'll keep that to myself.
My friend Pascal had this to say:
"1) Unlike some have suggested, the Church does not change its stance on basic principles based on the political climate of the day (in North America).
2) The Church functions on revelation, not affirmative action.
3) Just because these three men are American, does not mean that they have never left the U.S. or lack an understanding of global issues - I am quite certain that they each have spent more time living and traveling abroad than you.
4) Most importantly, a concern raised by actually a lot of faithful Mormons is that the current Quorum of the Twelve is 'not representative' of global Church membership. While that is true, it has nothing to do with anything, really. The Apostles' duty isn't to represent Church membership in any way in front of anyone. Their duty is to warn, direct, preach and maintain Priesthood keys on the Earth. Color or origin are of no consideration in that effort.
5) If you seriously think that there had been any per se *better* alternatives, you may actually want to read some of the talks of the new Apostles. At face value, they all seem like logical choices to me, but I guess tastes differ."
Here's the real disappointment: no more talks given in non-English languages, at least for now. To quote Syndrome: "Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame!" Of course, the logistics of all that extra translation work must have been really difficult and I was surprised they could even do it in the first place. Maybe they didn't have the time or resources this time around because of the three Apostles dying. I hope that's it, because I hope they'll be back at it next time. It was so cool. And to be honest, I don't understand why so many people got confused or distracted by the English translators talking over the top of the actual words. Even with my hypersensitivity to noise it never bothered me in the slightest. People do that in documentaries and stuff all the time.
My institute teacher referred to Elder Robert D. Hales' talk as the "spinach" of the gospel feast that Mormons don't enjoy eating. Here are some excerpts to demonstrate why.
Elder Hales: Many young adults in the world are going into debt to get an education, only to find the cost of school is greater than they can repay.
Me: La la la, I really don't want to hear this...
Elder Hales: The track that leads to marriage passes through the terrain called dating!
Me: Can we please go back to talking about student loan debt?
Elder Hales: Dating is the opportunity for lengthy conversations.
Me: No, seriously, I'm suddenly very interested in student loan debt.
Elder Hales: Speaking plainly, please don’t date all through your 20s just to have a good time...
Me: Oh, believe me, Elder Hales, I don't.
I missed the first half hour of the priesthood session because I severely underestimated how long it would take to cook pasta for dinner. I admired the gorgeous autumn weather as I walked to the chapel, but I was saddened to miss seeing a long line of cars and fellow pedestrians coming out of the woodwork left and right to head in the same direction. That sight has always put me in mind of the opening song in "Quest for Camelot".
Quest for Camelot - United We Stand
There President Uchtdorf spoke again and said, among other things, "Brethren, let me be clear: there is nothing noble or impressive about being cynical. Skepticism is easy - anyone can do it. It is the faithful life that requires moral strength, dedication, and courage. Those who hold fast to faith are far more impressive than those who give in to doubt when mysterious questions or concerns arise. But it should not surprise us that faith is not valued by society. The world has a long history of rejecting that which it does not understand. And it has particular trouble understanding things it cannot see. But just because we cannot see something with our physical eyes does not mean it doesn’t exist. Indeed, 'there are more things in heaven and earth... than are dreamt of' in our textbooks, scientific journals, and worldly philosophies. The universe is filled with wonders profound and astonishing - things that can be comprehended only through spiritual eyes."
Of course, as even this brief snippet makes clear, he is using "skepticism" in a very specific context with regard to spiritual matters. Skepticism in its broadest sense of not believing everything you hear is a virtue, and one he actually endorsed in his own talk earlier that day when he spoke of "the often-outlandish claims of internet lore". Sometimes these "often-outlandish claims" and spiritual matters overlap. Most faith-promoting urban legends, for example, are simply not true, and I detest them even more than normal untrue urban legends because faith should not be rooted in falsehoods. I am very skeptical of those and make no apologies for being so. But that's different from being skeptical about the existence or validity of spiritual matters altogether.
On Sunday morning President Monson spoke. Toward the end he was clearly struggling. Two great viral stories came out of this: one of President Uchtdorf standing behind him for support, out of view of the camera and most audience members; and a couple eyewitness drawings from children who apparently saw angels standing on either side of him. And since I'm not the kind of cynic that President Uchtdorf describes (a cynic, to be sure, but not that kind, though they're probably nothing noble or impressive about my kind either, but I never said I was perfect), I have no problem believing that. I know there are unseen people around us because I've been touched by one, not emotionally but literally. And of course children would be the ones with enough faith to actually see them. (Children besides me, anyway - I was an apatheist at that age.)
Elder Durrant's talk about "ponderizing" was unfortunately soon overshadowed on the Internet by the revelation that his daughter and son-in-law had made a website to sell "Ponderize" merchandise and unveiled it immediately afterward. The backlash was immediate; some from members of the Church and some from ex-Mormons, migrating over from their message boards in droves to attack something that was none of their concern, just because they could. The site lowered its prices, then raised them back up and promised to donate all profits to the Missionary Fund. But very soon it was taken down altogether. Elder Durrant also apologized because he had known about the site and not made them take it down. I felt sorry for them because, while they were really, really foolish with their timing and presentation, that's no reason to assume malicious intent and demonize them. Stuff like that is sold at Deseret Book all the time and no one bats an eyelash.
At our home evening activity the next day, someone referred to Elder Koichi Aoyagi as "that cute little Asian man from General Conference". I tried to teach everyone his name by using it in our little charades-type game, but they evidently thought "Couchy Couchy" was close enough to count. Sigh. With a name like that, they should at least be able to tell he's Japanese, not just "Asian". Sigh.
Next week maybe I'll share a couple more of my poems, or maybe not. We'll see.
This is kind of rushed, as my laptop is fried (again) and I'm busy with General Conference (which I will probably talk about next week) and homework and stuff. But I can't miss a week because then everyone with their modern attention spans will forget I exist.
I'm sorry to keep bringing up institute dances, but I keep thinking of things that I forgot to mention in the original post. This time I just want to mention that the cruelest thing they ever did was have a ladies' choice dance and allow "dates only" to attend. Their promotional slogan should have been "If no woman wants you, then neither do we." There, now I've said it and now we can move on.
Last week I had the privilege of going with the LDSSA Service Committee to sand and repaint some parts of the fence around the Logan Utah Temple. I got a chip of paint jammed under one of my fingernails and it hurt until yesterday, so my testimony's struggling a bit over that. But anyway, during this event I met this person who had a cool name that I can't say here because then anyone local will know who I'm talking about and that would be an invasion of her privacy. Suffice it to say that it sounded like the name of a Spanish dinosaur.
So anyway, she was like "What brought you to Utah?" And once again, I wondered why everyone asks, "What brought you to Utah?" They never say, "What are you doing in Utah?" or "How did you end up in Utah?" or "What were the primary factors influencing your decision to travel to such a culturally and sociologically different place so far from your childhood home?" It's always "What brought you to Utah?", as if everyone is reciting from the same script. For a while now I've always given the same response: "An airplane."
With that out of the way she moved on to, "What's your major?"
I said, "Creative Writing."
She said, "Oh, I wish I could go into something like that."
Slightly confused, wondering if she had really controlling parents who wanted to dictate her life's path and had already betrothed her to some guy she couldn't stand, I asked, "Er, well, that's within your control, isn't it?"
She said, "Well, yeah, except that I don't have the talent."
Then I gave her some words of encouragement and told her about the Creative Writing club that's open to people from any major, also mentioning that she could double major between that and her current Elementary Education and it would probably work out spiffily [sic], and now I feel that I've probably changed her life forever. If she becomes a more successful author than me, I'll never forgive myself, but until then I'm pleased.
I want to discuss that more here, and I'm going to because it's my blog and I can write what I want. I want to discuss her remark about not having talent. First of all, it may not even be true. People are way too hard on themselves and often falsely believe that recognizing their own strengths is arrogance. Maybe she does have writing talent.
But, let us presume for the sake of discussion that she doesn't. That is also a possibility, because life is unfair. Not everyone is beautiful and not everyone is intelligent and not everyone is athletic, and so on and so forth. Let us presume for the sake of discussion that's she's the worst writer in the English-speaking world; that her poetry is worse than that of the Vogons, that her prose is the real reason people hate America, and that every time she strings a sentence together, a kitten dies.
Is there any hope for this hypothetical version of her? Of course there is. And I know this is going to seem really out of character for the bitter, jaded cynic that is me, but... oh well.
Without checking the dictionary to see whether I am, in fact, technically correct, I am going to assert that talent and skill are two distinct and separate things. I am going to assert that people are born with and without certain talents, to varying degrees, and have no control over this. Remember that in Jesus' parable of the talents, the servants did not receive equal talents. The guy with the most literally had ten times as many as the guy with the least. But I am going to assert that regardless of which talents they are born with, they can develop certain skills. Of course there are still limitations, because life is still unfair, and their skill potentials in certain areas may be constrained by physical disabilities or what have you. But still, we have blind artists and stuff.
Now, I'm not for a moment setting myself up as the standard of writing excellence, but I'm more qualified to write about myself than anyone else, so that's what I shall do. I have a writing talent that, I presume, I was born with. It was always there. Teachers always recognized it and praised it. And yet, when I read any of my writing from between four and twelve years ago (anything older than that is "cute" and therefore exempt from normal criticism), it's so awful I can barely get through two paragraphs, let alone share it. It's convoluted, confusing, stilted, unrealistic, and just generally unpleasant. The talent is clearly there, beneath the surface - it hasn't changed - but it is marred by a severe lack of skill.
For example, the dialogue sounds nothing like the way real people talk. I hadn't grasped that yet. Actually, much character dialogue in books and movies doesn't sound like the way real people talk either, but it's constructed in such a way that it still works and people don't notice. There's an art to that. For another thing, I fell into the common trap of not being detailed or explicit enough about setting or character action or what have you. I had the whole picture in my head, of course, but didn't convey enough for someone unfamiliar with it to get what was going on. The end result of this is that a few years later, when the picture had faded, I was perplexed by my own writing.
Talent is no substitute for skill. There may be a few exceptions. There may be a few people in this world who can write a bestselling novel with no experience and no training and no previous failures. The rest of us can be united in the common bond of hating their guts.
Talent certainly makes acquiring the skills easier, but the main factor, I believe, is whether you enjoy it and want to do it. If you love writing enough then the time and sacrifice required will be worth it even if your natural tendency is to suck horribly. If you don't love it that much, then it will be drudgery and probably a lot less successful. I believe that I could theoretically become a professional basketball player, but only if I really, really, really, really, really, really wanted to, and since I don't, I can't put forth the kind of effort that it would require.
Now that's enough of that. Here, if the link works properly, is the rough draft of my class assignment story about Elizabeth Sommers, who was featured here last week (though you may wish to wait until a revised and superior version is available). It's about fifteen pages long, which coincidentally was the limit. When I shared my ideas with my group before actually writing it, they had a bunch of great ideas to make it darker and more disturbing. At the end, one of them said, "I'm gonna have nightmares about your character now." And I was like, "Well, you made her worse!" Unfortunately, because of the space limitation I wasn't able to do much with those ideas, but I squeezed them in a little bit.
Now, by way of wrapping up, let's bring things full circle by mentioning the temple again. Sometimes when I go to the temple, my attempts to get into a reverent and worshipful state of mind are hindered by my brain's insistence on recalling catchy and irreverent (not inappropriate, but irreverent) songs. And of course, the attempt to not think about them only makes me think about them by thinking about not thinking about them. Last week it was this one, which I'm sharing now because I don't see why I should be the only one who gets it stuck in my head.
Too Hip for the Room - Ballad of Boba Fett
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C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.