It was very difficult to want to go back to church after you-know-what restrictions eased. I liked having ten-minute sacrament meetings in people's homes. I didn't miss any of the extra stuff that, more often than not, I found less intellectually stimulating than an episode of Blue's Clues. And for a while I felt justified in not going to Sunday school or Elders' Quorum they were more confined and more crowded than sacrament meeting, and I knew everyone else there was regularly attending large social gatherings with no masks. But then I got fully vaccinated and went back to normal life in every way possible and didn't have that excuse anymore, so I went back to Elders' Quorum just in time to be punished with a lesson about marriage.
The teacher wrote "The Perfect Woman" on the board and solicited desirable traits to list under that heading. I take issue with his phrasing, but I'm sure he and everyone else there were aware that the perfect woman doesn't exist because perfect people don't exist and woman are a kind of people. I know what he meant was "The Ideal Woman". So people listed things and I just felt kind of defensive and prideful and thought, I'm not looking for a woman and you can't make me. But if I was, I'm sure I wouldn't want the same things y'all want, because Utah culture is a crap sandwich. You know the kind of women (and men, but that's irrelevant right now) who populate Deseret News comments sections? I'd want the opposite of that. I'm very picky. I never made a list as such, I just got crushes on a case-by-case basis and figured out what I like and what I don't like and got pickier every time my heart broke. The last one, the literal girl next door, set the bar so high that I haven't caught feelings since and doubt I ever will again. I can be as picky as I want because I'd much rather be alone than with someone who can't make me feel the way she did.
The one item I wanted to suggest for the list was talent and career ambition, but I didn't dare speak such heresy out loud. One guy said someone who thinks for herself and makes decisions without asking him about everything, and that was nice to hear and obviously made BYU professor Rodney Turner spin in his grave. The resident old guy said something about we have to remember "gender roles" even though "the world" talks about "equality". He stopped short of saying women shouldn't have careers, but he said there's just "something" they have men don't have that makes them better with children or whatever. He'd have to do better than that to convince me. He could have at least called the mysterious something a "je ne sais quois" and given it the illusion of greater sophistication. One guy agreed that even if his wife was making six or nine figures a year, he'd want her to stay at home at least part-time to raise their kids. If my wife was making six or nine figures a year, I wouldn't care what she did. I wouldn't ask and I wouldn't tell.
The last item on the list was "Beautiful", submitted by one of those brave people who points out that physical attractiveness is important even though we spend so much effort trying to convince ourselves that it isn't even though we all know that it is. That kind of honesty is refreshing, but people so often miss the follow-up: that beauty is a matter of perception, that it can and does change. If you love a woman's inside then her outside will also be beautiful to you. Simple. The first time I saw the literal girl next door, I thought she was plain, homely, awkward, and forgettable, and promptly forgot about her. A couple months later, she was still awkward but I had decided that she was God's greatest work of art and I was an idiot for ever having thought otherwise.
In conclusion, the teacher asked if we're deserving of this hypothetical perfect woman and if not, how to change that? I'm glad the lesson was actually going somewhere, because I had been thinking of a quote in the back of my mind: "As we visit with young adults all over the church often they will ask, 'Well what are the characteristics I should look for in a future spouse?' - As though they have some checklist of 'I need to find someone who has these three or four or five things.' And I rather forcefully say to them, 'You are so arrogant – to think that you are some catch and that you want someone else who has these five things for you. If you found somebody who had these three or four or five characteristics that you’re looking for what makes you think they’d want to marry you?'"
When I walked into the gym a couple weeks later for the combined fifth Sunday lesson and saw the word "FAMILY" written on the board, I knew the next hour would be less fun than a root canal, and almost walked right back out. But I thought, What kind of person will I be if I just avoid hearing anything that makes me uncomfortable? Maybe if I humble myself and suffer through it, God will teach me something.
The bishop started by telling us each to tell someone, preferably of the opposite sex, what the name of our first child will be. And he was, in fairness, being weird and awkward on purpose. But still, what kind of a question is that? How should I know what the name of my first child will be? Do I look like I've got a seer stone in my pocket? I've never given this subject a ton of thought and I've always assumed it's the sort of thing that will have to be discussed and negotiated when the time comes. I'm partial to Jessica, myself, but maybe my wife will be like, "Ew, no, a high school cheerleader named Jessica bullied me until I developed an eating disorder. I'd rather feed our daughter to a crocodile than name her Jessica." Also, my first child might not be a daughter. Also, it might be adopted and already have a name. So I thought that was a silly question.
His lesson had its positives. He acknowledged that "people experiencing same-sex attraction" exist and told people to chill out if they're in their late twenties and not married yet. Hooray. Much of it, though, took on a very us-vs-them tone, as if members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are the only .02% of people on the planet who believe in family values. He went through parts of the Family Proclamation, a document that he stressed was DOCTRINE, was SCRIPTURE, was from A LIVING PROPHET. Actually, Gordon B. Hinckley is a dead prophet, although he was a living prophet when he gave it, but then so is every prophet when he gives something so I don't know why that distinction is necessary. He said it was prophetic because when it came out in 1995 its teachings were just common sense and he couldn't see the point of it, but now they've become controversial. It was actually written after five years of a court battle over same-sex marriage in Hawaii. The Church was involved in this court battle and had, in fact, been concerned about the prospect of same-sex marriage since the mid-to-late 1970s when that was one of its reasons for opposing the Equal Rights Amendment to the US Constitution.
Anyway, I braced myself for some thoughtless remarks when he got to the part that says fathers are primarily responsible for providing and mothers are primarily responsible for nurturing, but the thoughtless remarks were worse than I would have ever anticipated. He was very blunt and adamant that God wants all women to be full-time homemakers with unpaid 96-hour work weeks. He straight-up told them to use their college education to be better mothers, not to have professional careers, full stop, no caveats, no nuance. He was also adamant that anyone who feels differently (like me) is following the "natural man" and the world's lies about women's equality. At least twice he referred to the people who feel differently "outside the Church", which came across to me as a conscious attempt to invalidate and put down the many people in the Church that he knows perfectly well also hold that view and constituted a sizable portion of his audience.
It pisses me off to think that my future wife may have been conditioned by lessons like this one to believe that her career ambitions are sinful, and to think that some women present for this lesson were thus conditioned. It's wrong and it's harmful. It will lead to depression, guilt, faith crises, and disaffection from the Church. Anecdotally, the twenty-something LDS women I know - not all of them raging liberals by any means - are far more open-minded on this topic. A majority of them see no reason why they shouldn't pursue careers and those who do want to be stay-at-home moms have no desire to force their preference on everyone else. Many of the latter will end up working anyway because modern economic realities have made it impossible for many families to survive on one income, the bishop's talk of sacrifice and frugality notwithstanding. I know for a fact that I wasn't the only person in the room who vigorously disagreed with what he said, and that his belittling of us did not persuade us to reorient our thinking. And women whose staying home is in the best interest of their particular families can make that decision for themselves without a man incorrectly insisting that it's the only option God will allow.
Since the bishop made it very clear that he wasn't open to discussion, and I wasn't in the mood to be called to repentance for not being sexist enough, I tattled on him instead of reaching out to him directly.
I'm sure the bishop is a wonderful man and that it's unfair to judge him by his most obvious shortcoming. Nonetheless, I am no longer capable of respecting or trusting him when I remember this lesson every time I see his face. (At least he's still better than my last bishop.) Will there be any sort of public retraction, correction, or apology? Of course not. That would shatter the illusion that our leaders are perfect, which we work hard to maintain even though we all claim to know that our leaders aren't perfect. I felt that my suffering through this lesson and being depressed for a few hours was worth it because I was able to speak out, to do something - but it would have been more worth it if I could know that I'd actually been able to help the women who also suffered through it. I wonder how many of them will leave the Church.
The Church posted this a few days later:
In essence, Dr. Erica Glenn explains that you can have a happy and fulfilling life even if you, like her, are not married. This should not be a controversial argument, but because Mormon culture is a crap sandwich, it was. On the one hand, people took issue with her not mentioning the Church's teachings on the importance of marriage that everyone in the Church has heard hundreds of times and that necessitated the existence of videos like this in the first place. On the other hand, people - specifically men - jumped to the conclusion that because Dr. Glenn is beautiful, the only possible reason for her not being married is that that she chose not to for selfish reasons, and therefore she's wrong. "She could get married tomorrow if she wanted to," said one sexist idiot who's never met her and apparently thinks she should settle for the first carbon-based life form that has a penis and thinks she's hot. Maybe, just maybe, the whole mindset of needing to get married for marriage's sake, and not because you've met someone you actually want to be with forever, is kind of toxic. But nobody asked me.
The last day of USU classes was Thursday, December 10, and though I had two final projects and my own students' grading to finish, for most intents and purposes I was already on vacation. My therapist a couple years ago said that his experience successfully procrastinating as an undergraduate made him less stressed in graduate school. That was one of the most comforting things I ever heard, and I really took it to heart. I've gotten a perfect score on every assignment in every class this semester and still had a lot more free time than I expected. Now I have no classes and no job for over a month; school starts again on January 19 because spring break is canceled to prevent students from traveling and bringing Sharona Cyrus back with them, is what I heard. Next summer, I will probably go back to my old job at Jenson Online for a while to get some extra money, but there's no point trying to do that right now, especially since December is their slowest time of year when they give employees free time off.
I was supposed to attend two sexual misconduct prevention trainings this semester - one for graduate students and one for university employees. I'm not sure why graduate students need to have their own training separate from normal students, but they do. The employee training never happened because it's being rewritten to conform with updated government regulations, but the graduate student training was... interesting. I signed up for a date and time and then showed up to a Zoom meeting with several other graduate students, and it basically went as follows.
Host: This is kind of an awkward topic.
Everyone else: Yes, well, that can't be helped, can it? We'll just have to deal with -
Host: So let's make it less awkward. Let's make it fun.
Everyone else: Uh, what?
Host: I'm gonna put you in breakout groups and have you answer icebreaker questions.
Everyone else: Icebreaker questions?? Um, thanks, but that's really not -
Host: I'm going to put you back in these groups over and over.
Everyone else: You really don't have to -
Host: Build some lifelong friendships!
Everyone else: Please don't do this
Host: Have fun!
Everyone else: We won't
By the fifth or sixth time I returned to my breakout group, none of us were speaking at all. The main group discussion was fine, though notably absent was any mention whatsoever of rights or due process for those accused of sexual misconduct. I'm sure that was just an oversight - this isn't Purdue, after all.
Surprisingly, there doesn't seem to be a rule against graduate instructors asking out their students. I assume that if there were such a rule, it would have been announced very emphatically both during this training and the initial orientation. It makes no difference to me either way since none of my students are old enough or good enough at writing for me to be attracted to them, but I'm just surprised. My colleage Greyson got asked out by one of her students in a weekly reflection post, and she turned him down because it was "unprofessional". In the next week's reflection post he said that he hated her class and everything about it. Then he tried to make her jealous by talking about "this dope girl" he was going out with. Then he stopped coming to class. Then at the end of the semester he said he's dropping out of college and it's all her fault. I'm never going to stop teasing her about it. On a more positive note, one of my students asked out one of his classmates in a discussion post, and I was super impressed with his chutzpah and I hope they get married because that would be the cutest thing ever.
I also was supposed to have to take an alcohol training before I would be allowed to register for classes next semester, and that never materialized either. It would have been a waste of time anyway. I've never consumed a drop of alcohol in my life, and if I ever do, I know I'll immediately drink myself to death and there will be no other problems to consider.
Teaching was... good. I don't know what else to say. It wasn't phenomenal, it wasn't terrible, it wasn't super easy, it wasn't super difficult. I do seem to have natural teaching skills that somewhat compensate for my lack of knowledge or experience. I don't know how I could have acquired any such skills but I don't know how else to account for the semester going so smoothly under the circumstances. I love most of my students - I definitely have favorites, and one least favorite. My favorites are the best writers, of course, but also some others who aren't so good at writing but are just really good hard-working kids. I still don't know what most of them look like. I may have gotten an exceptional batch - my colleagues complained that all of their students wrote about Covid for the "Investigating the Conversation" current event essay, but my students, in addition to a few essays about Covid's effects on this or that, wrote about such diverse topics as Utah's drought, California's wildfires, Chicago's violence, Mexico's water treaty with the US, Chile's new constitution, Bolivia's election, Poland's abortion ban, and China's Uyghur genocide.
I tried to get them to talk and make friends with each other in class. For the most part they were awkward and quiet, but sometimes when they finished their work in breakout groups they asked each other about their lives and majors and stuff, and sometimes when I dropped in they asked me questions about my life and undergraduate experience and that was probably the most enjoyable thing for me so far. They didn't have many opportunities to socialize this semester and I wanted to help them out as much as I could. Most of them are freshmen getting cheated out of their freshman experience. When I was a freshman, events were held on campus and/or in my dorm almost every evening. Live, in-person events. I feel so sorry for these kids. I tried, also, to teach them skills and principles that will help them in everything they do for the rest of their lives. I thought back to a philosophy class I took my first semester, and how it taught me to think, and I wanted to replicate that effect in my own class. I never forced my opinions on anyone but I taught them how to evaluate sources and information and different perspectives, and that will help them be less stupid and dogmatic than most Americans.
I tried, also, to draw on my own experience to urge them to avoid my mistakes and consequent suffering, but here I was less successful. One of my students with a learning disability flunked the class after not showing up or turning anything in for two months, despite being informed by me about the Disability Resource Center four times. I ask myself, what could I have said or done differently to have more of an influence on this student? If nothing, then what's the point of me being here? If I wanted to watch young people ignore my warnings and make avoidable mistakes and suffer, I would become a parent.
You know that gag book that's called Everything Men Know About Women and all the pages are blank? I'm going to write one like that, except I'm going to call it Ventana Student Housing's Guide to Effective Damage Control. As previously reported, Ventana Student Housing in Orem, Utah gave a tenant less than a week to move out after she violated her contract by vocalizing suicidal tendencies. I'm not kidding. That's literally what the eviction notice says. Now, I think the social-media-driven outrage machine is usually a plague on society, but this time it was put to good use and I was happy to participate. How did Ventana Student Housing respond?
They didn't. They continued ignoring all media requests for comment and refusing to answer the phone - so if you thought for one moment that they had a legitimate side of the story that could exonerate them, you were wrong. They disabled the option to message their Facebook page and deleted comments on said page. In fact, they deleted their one post from this year, apparently thinking nobody would be smart enough to just comment on the next one. They were mistaken about that. And somehow they got Facebook to take down my review for "violating Community Standards", which, after a solid track record of Facebook refusing to do anything any time that I report blatant hate speech or pornography, confirms my suspicion that the Community Standards are enforced by lobotomized gerbils. So I immediately left another review and that one has stayed up for a week now. Their rating is at 1.1 stars, which sadly is the lowest it can go because they have some ratings above 1 star from back before they showed their true colors. I'm not sure why 1 star is the minimum anyway. They deserve negative stars. What's the 1 star for, having the audacity to exist when they shouldn't?
I still hope, of course, that Ventana Student Housing will get sued out of existence, but even if that doesn't happen, at a bare minimum they've been taught a lesson they'll never forget.
While these ingrown hairs on Satan's butt are persecuting a student whose vocalizing of suicidal tendencies, according to them, was a "breach by the Tenant of the quiet enjoyment of the premises or surrounding premises of other tenant's [sic]", my neighbors are actually breaching my quiet enjoyment of the premises several times a week, but I don't want them to get evicted because they're nice and I'm not a complete sociopath. A few days ago one of them started screaming over and over and over so I rushed outside and banged on the door. Michaela's face greeted me in the window beside the door, as with a cheery smile she said, "This doesn't concern you, Chris!"
Kaylee was, as usual, the source of the screaming. Michaela and Hailey had her on the floor, cornered. Hailey also greeted me at the window and explained, "She's afraid to text a boy."
"Oh," I said, "you should just take her phone away and do it for her."
"That's what we're trying to do!" Hailey said.
"Help me, Chris!" Kaylee said.
"Don't let her out!" Michaela said, but I couldn't anyway because the door was locked. So I left them to it.
Of course I couldn't help but think back several months, to their predecessors, who were much quieter but did far more to breach my enjoyment of the premises. Talease gave me Calise's number one evening when I dropped by to invite her to go hiking and she wasn't home. Talease said I should just text her to invite her to stuff, but I didn't dare use her number without permission. Talease assured me it was fine, that she was Calise's best friend and it was fine. And then Calise came home and interrupted us, and on my way out I said that her roommate gave me her number and wanted me to text her. She said, "You're welcome to text me," and then Talease's little dog Paisley ran out the door and we spent the next ten minutes chasing her down and I didn't forgive her for weeks.
So I'd texted Calise a little bit, probably less than I could have, always hesitant and worried that my unnatural luck would run out after she actually responded the first few times, when I became frustrated by my lack of progress and solicited Talease's help and she said Calise loves going for walks and I should invite her to go for a walk. She basically promised that Calise would say yes, but I didn't believe her. I said I was too nervous. She said, "Then we'll do it together. Give me your phone." I did, and she wrote the text and sent it with no input from me, and when I saw it I nearly had a heart attack.
It's funny how perception and memory can be so wrong - for me, at least. Maybe I'm exceptionally stupid. Because this is what the text actually said: "Hey Calise, I was wondering if I could take you on a walk on Wednesday. Are you free?"
But this is how I read it: "Hey Calise, I would like to take you for a walk. Do you have some time on Wednesday?"
First of all, I wouldn't have said "take you for a walk" because she wasn't a dog, but I guess "take you on a walk" is a little more ambiguous. In any case, though, I read the text as expressing a desire without an actual request attached to it, and then operating on the assumption that she had already agreed to the nonexistent request and we merely needed to work out the details. And I nearly had a heart attack because it was so bold and presumptuous. "No, it isn't," Talease assured me. She said that Calise was at work and would probably respond in about an hour. She responded in nine minutes.
"Sure, I have some time after 6- I usually go to the temple on Wednesday as well if you'd like to join me"
So I thought about that when I told Kaylee's roommates they should take her phone and text the boy for her. In hindsight, I'm not sure if I was trying to help her or if I am just a bit of a sociopath after all. But tonight I heard she got a date out of it, so she's welcome.
I watched a clip from "Cuties" the other day to see what all the fuss is about. It made me feel like I should be in jail. I am well aware of the director's stated purpose for creating this movie, but I don't believe that any amount of context could possibly justify the existence of the footage I saw. If sexualization of 11-year-old girls is such a big problem (which I don't doubt), then surely the director could have achieved her desired shock and outrage by creating a documentary about the sexualization of 11-year-old girls that already existed, instead of sexualizing 11-year-old girls to prove that sexualizing 11-year-old girls is wrong. When all is said and done, regardless of the intentions behind it, she created something for pedophiles to jack off to and I'm baffled that it was legal. I'm baffled that a cameraperson can zoom in on the rear end of a twerking 11-year-old girl for any reason and not go to jail.
This week the university brought some completely unnecessary extra stress into my life by trying to make me pay $8,300.64 instead of the $595.34 that I actually owed. Somehow they forgot that I've been a Utah resident since 2012 - a fact they should be well aware of since I did my bachelor's degree here under the same ID number I have now, not to mention they never bothered to ask - and charged me $10,787.48 non-resident tuition instead of the $3,082.18 resident tuition that's covered by my graduate instructor tuition award. I lost considerable sleep over this which rendered me mentally incapable of doing almost any homework on Friday, and didn't get so much as an apology for their attempt to swindle me, and the only reason I didn't tell them to get bent is that I don't want to jeopardize my employment. But I still showed them. They didn't say sorry for making the mistake so I didn't say thank you for fixing it.
All this sleep deprivation I've been experiencing since late August for no legitimate reason just feels so gratuitous. It feels like God is saying, "Graduate school is too easy for you, so I'll make up some extra crap to make sure you can't enjoy it."
On the plus side, my neighbors' dog no longer wakes me up because they seem to have gotten rid of him. He was always out in their fenced backyard, obscured from view, and when I moved in over a year ago he barked every freaking time anyone whatsoever walked past the fence, because apparently he hadn't gotten used to the existence of this apartment complex that's been here at least since the eighties. One night he was barking while I tried to sleep, and I yelled at him a few times to shut up, and he didn't, so I went outside to throw rocks at him. But before I could find any rocks, he shut up. And after that night, instead of barking at passersby he just tried to jump the fence. He still barked at occasional random intervals but if it continued for more than five seconds I yelled at him to shut up and he did. I held no personal ill will against him. I reserved that for his owners, who never lifted a finger to prevent him from being a nuisance to the entire block. Until they recently got rid of him. I don't know why the change, but it may have something to do with this note I left a couple weeks ago.
I wasn't going to sign it "your very tired and pissed off neighbor" but I had extra space and wanted to use it wisely. And I'm glad they believed my bluff about the police. The only reason I would contact the Logan police would be to tell them to go choke on a cactus, but I wasn't sure about the legality of threatening to break the dog's neck.
The girls next door - that is to say, in this apartment complex, on the opposite side from the house where the jerks with the dog live - continue to be loud, but last Sunday they tried to make it up by dropping off zuchinni bread and a card.
Following the example of their predecessors, of course I told the police to tell them to never be nice to me again. (That joke only works if you know what I'm referring to and forgot that I just said the only reason I would contact the Logan police would be to tell them to go choke on a cactus.) Seriously though, I took them up on their offer to party the next day when I had to wait two hours for my laptop to update, but they were busy doing homework and only had time for a game of Uno. I felt very misled. I came over again on Friday because the loud one was screaming so much that I had to make sure she wasn't being murdered. She was just getting too worked up over a game of Sorry. Whatever her quirks, though, at least she probably isn't a delusional pathological liar like one of her predecessors I could mention.
Although I'm done with dating for the foreseeable ever, pandemic or no pandemic, that didn't stop someone in Uganda from trying to play matchmaker.
I appreciate the sentiment, really. There's just a slight cultural difference at play here, like the time he found the profile of some college student in Georgia, decided he was in love with her, and wanted me to add her and set her up with him. I'm not one to assert that my culture is "the right way" to do things, but that just wouldn't have worked. So I just stall and change the subject when these things come up.
Trigger Warning: sex
The August 2020 issue of the Ensign is one of the last issues of the Ensign that will ever be published, because beginning in January it will be renamed the Liahona, which is the name currently given to the magazine for all Latter-day Saints who don't speak English, though it's not quite equivalent to the current Ensign because it covers material for adults, teenagers, and children while English-speakers have three separate magazines for those categories. Beginning in January all three magazines will be available to everyone, though they will vary from language to language in frequency of publication and amount of content just like the Liahona already does. This change, like rebranding EFY as FSY and cutting ties with the Boy Scouts, removes a systemic difference between the Church in the United States and the Church everyone else. It's an important step toward actually being a global faith and not just trying to act like it.
The cover of this issue says "Talking about Sexuality from a Gospel Perspective" and several of the articles inside do exactly that. Now, I find it really pretentious and annoying in the mainstream society how people go on about their obsession with sex and sexuality and sex life and sexual orientation and sexual health and sexual this and sexual that and sex and sex and sex, pretending that the world revolves around their most primitive animal instinct and trying to make it all sophisticated and intellectual. But I concede that it's got to be talked about sometimes, and there are good ways to do that and bad ways to do that. This issue is obviously striving to promote the good ways to do that and get rid of the cultural stigma, discomfort, and wedding night confusion that plagues our church along with all Christian denominations (and probably other religions) that teach that sex is good within marriage and wicked in any other context. In fairness, sex education at my secular middle school in liberal New York sent mixed messages too. It was all like "Don't have sex, but if you do, use these free condoms."
For a while I've noticed the irony that while I think sex is disgusting beyond all reason, I'm far less squeamish about it than many who ostensibly believe it's beautiful and sacred at the right time. I don't believe that sex is beautiful and/or sacred, because I simply can't, but if you claim that you do, freaking act like it. Don't tell me sex is ordained of God and then treat it like a swear word. So this magazine is a breath of fresh air. It does refer to sex over and over again as "sexual intimacy", using seven syllables where one would do just fine, but that's still accurate and I can live with it. What really irks me is when people just call it "intimacy". As such, this passage from "Conversations about Intimacy and Sex That Can Prepare You for Marriage" was my favorite part of the whole issue:
"A lot of people use the word intimacy as a synonym for sex, but this can be incomplete and a little confusing. Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness created within emotional, intellectual, and physical areas of relationships. There are a few types of intimacy:
Saying "intimacy" because you're scared of the word "sex" is a slap in the face to everyone who's ever had a meaningful friendship. Elsewhere, Ty Mansfield has noted, "I’ve even known of men who questioned their sexuality simply because they developed a deep emotional love for another man. It seems our culture often has difficulty distinguishing deep love and intimacy from sexual or erotic desire, and it certainly doesn’t help when in conservative religious cultures we use terms like intimacy - a general human good and need that transcends sexuality - as a euphemism for sex."
On that note, I was happy to see an article by a gay Latter-day Saint on "My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction". It's the usual "I don't know why God did this to me but I trust Him and I have a really strong testimony" spiel that I would have expected, and I think the article's actual contents are less important than the fact of acknowledging and listening to our LGBTQ+ members in the first place. I'm actually far more interested in the author's Hasidic Jewish background. I think converts from Judaism are even rarer than gay converts, and he's both, and most of Judaism isn't really okay with homosexuality either. Did he know he was gay while he was Jewish? Did anyone else? What was that like? When he converted to the Church of Jesus Christ, which he mentions his Jewish community wasn't thrilled about, did they drop the gay thing and decide this was even worse? How, if at all, does this unique background inform his perspective on both LGBTQ+ and Christian topics?
This issue also contains what I believe is the first ever acknowledgement in any official Church source that asexual people exist. In "Bridling Your Passions: How to Align Sexual Thoughts and Feelings with the Lord's Expectations", we find this gem: "Most of us experience sexual feelings as part of our mortal experience." (emphasis added) Not much, obviously, but it's more than the absolute nothing that I've gotten up to this point. When no other article includes such a caveat, and two or three of them assert that these sexual feelings are a gift from God, I could perhaps be forgiven for wondering if God forgot about me, or deemed me unworthy of the gift, or simply ran out. After all, if the universe has a finite amount of eternally existing matter that God just arranges into planets and people and stuff instead of spawning them ex nihilo, He's got to start cutting corners eventually.
Naturally, there's a lot of focus on how to teach your kids about this stuff, but without going into any real detail. Two or three articles mention the importance of using proper names for body parts. Again, I don't believe these body parts are beautiful or sacred but they are entirely normal and healthy things to have so there's no point in demonizing them. They could have strengthened their point considerably by using those names themselves. It would have sent such a powerful message: "Look, if we can say 'penis' in a church magazine, you can say it to your kids." And I'm sure many readers would benefit from learning, as I did recently, that what they call a vagina is, in fact, a vulva, which consists of at least eleven parts with weird, often Latin names, and the vagina isn't even one of them. The vagina is, in fact, inside of this apparatus. (After reading the magazine, I looked this stuff up on Wikipedia in the hope that familiarizing myself with the not-vagina would help me be less viscerally disgusted by what I think looks like an aborted sarlacc fetus. It didn't work.)
Obviously the Ensign is only meant to be a jumping-off point for these discussions, and is not considered the place for going into a lot of actual detail. I would just like to add my two cents that these discussions should include more than the bare minumum of detail. It's true that my happiness in life has declined in inverse proportion to how much I know about sex, but I'm in the minority, and I don't think anyone particularly enjoys being clueless and taken by surprise on their wedding night. I first learned about sex from a book that described it as when a man inserts his erect penis into his wife's vagina, and pretty much left it at that. So I visualized it as something that took place in the bathroom standing up. (This is anatomically impossible because of how the vagina/vulva is positioned, but I didn't even know that much.) Fortunately the guys at my lunch table at school filled the gaps in my knowledge whether I liked it or not.
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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.