Crisis struck last weekend. Prudence, which it runs out I am capable of possessing once in a while, dictates that for the time being I keep it to myself apart from a half dozen friends and all of my Fiction Writing classmates who deserved an excuse for why my second story is garbage compared to the first. For a few moments after seeing the news I never wanted to see, I tried to wrap my brain around the fact that my life and my faith were about to shatter beyond repair. Then I ran into my bedroom to pray but discovered that I couldn't speak. I tried to pray silently but discovered that I couldn't think. So my prayer was just Help me, help me, help me, help me, help me.
I reached out to this guy in the ward that I know a little bit for a priesthood blessing. I didn't want to be too much of a burden on the guys I usually ask. While waiting for him to get back to me and then waiting for him to arrive, I cooked a frozen pizza and force-fed myself half of it, despite my complete lack of appetite, because I was starving. I offered the rest to him when he arrived, and he said it would be a good idea to make himself eat, and he appeared to have an even harder time doing so than I did. He wasn't doing well. He asked if he could stick around for a while after the blessing so he didn't have to be home alone. He asked if I've ever had questions about my faith, and I outlined the most recent one in very vague terms. I didn't want to tell him about my situation because I just wanted comfort from the blessing; I didn't want to open the channels for advice that I wasn't ready to accept. And he gave me the shortest blessing I've ever gotten and I appreciated that. He cried afterward. I think it helped him more than me. So that was cool.
I invited him to accompany me to Come Follow Me with people from the ward. While there, I went through mood swings and wasn't in hell the entire time. I sat there for half an hour while two girls and four guys discussed the proper care and washing of different kinds of hair, a topic that I found altogether uninteresting but still better than being home alone, and then as I was poised to go be home alone again some others arrived very late and we played Werewolf. I threw myself into it with gusto. When I figured out that my in-game lover was a werewolf, I protected her with as much zeal as I would a real-life lover who murdered people. When others falsely accused and killed me, I was only upset that it would lead to her death as well. I can be selfless like that.
I didn't look forward to bedtime because past experience had given me some idea of what I was in for. I'd gotten the obligatory blessing, and I would pray, and I would get sufficiently calm and peaceful to fall asleep, and I would wake up an hour or two later in a cold sweat with my heart doing its best impression of the ungodly screaming over the bridge of Rammstein's creepy and inappropriate song "Mein Teil", and there would be no more calm or peace or sleeping for the remainder of the night. Well, I did wake up and fail to get back to sleep until the sun rose, but the rest didn't happen. I didn't feel good by any means, but I felt all right. I soon came to the realization that God was shielding me from the worst of the pain. And He continued to shield me throughout the week, and I thanked Him and prayed more and tried harder and got better. Wednesday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined most of my day, Thursday morning I woke up from a nightmare that ruined the next half hour, and Friday morning I woke up from a nightmare that I was able to put out of my mind right away.
It's not like I'd never thought to pray for comfort before. I'd just rarely noticed any of this magnitude, no matter how hard I pleaded. I don't know what's so different this time, if the nature of the situation has made me more desperate or more deserving or what. I do know that whatever suffering remains is a part of life that I shouldn't try to avoid or expect to be exempted from. Now I feel like I'm in a good place where I haven't stopped hoping for and believing in one specific outcome based on God's previous communications to me no matter how unlikely it looks at the moment, but I'm also patient and trying to be open to any outcome and the necessary understanding that will come with it. I know, I hate having to be so vague too. I'm annoying myself.
One thing I've consciously done to enhance this effect is listen to a playlist I started nearly two years ago, which has taken on ever greater significance. Sometimes, like in the mornings when I wake up feeling like a dead battery and vulnerable to all manner of negative emotions, songs like "Head Above Water" and "Echoes of Andromeda" and "Boasting" have returned to my head.
I canceled my Tuesday morning classes so I wouldn't have to get out of bed until I felt like it, which greatly disappointed my students, I bet.
My ex-neighbor and dear friend Steve drove up from Salt Lake on Monday evening. We talked a little about what happened, but mostly watched Disney+. We watched Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and then some of my favorite episodes of The Simpsons - "Bart Sells His Soul", "Miracle on Evergreen Terrace", "The Springfield Files", "Lisa the Skeptic", "Bart on the Road", and possibly another that I forget at the moment. He went home around noon on Tuesday, which I later realized was his birthday. He gave up a third of his birthday for me. And I couldn't believe it was two years to the day since we went to see Jojo Rabbit, aka one of the finest films ever made. Where does the time go?
My classmate and colleague Kylie also offered to hang out, so after our class on Tuesday I went up to ask if she was still good to hang out that evening. As soon as I started to speak, she put her hand on mine, and I thought about how USU's sexual misconduct prevention trainings told us not to touch someone without permission, even though we know full well that's not how neurotypical people live their lives. And I thought about my old friend Bracelets who used to touch me on the shoulder a lot until she saw the Temple Grandin movie and decided I didn't want to be touched. And I thought about a girl in my ward who came up to give the closing prayer after I had spoken in sacrament meeting, and touched my knee as she walked by. I think, in fairness, that this isn't just about neurotypicals vs. autistics but about women vs. men. Because women are raised to be more affectionate and nurturing, I think they can touch men's hands or shoulders or knees without these automatically coming across as romantic or sexualized gestures, whereas the reverse is not true.
I remembered when a friend in high school was crying about her grandmother dying, and I needed to comfort her but I didn't know what to do but I didn't want her to think I didn't care so I finally admitted, "I'm trying to decide if I should put my arm around you or not," and that made her laugh through her tears a little so I guess it was better than just putting my arm around her. Speaking of dead grandmothers, I was at the funeral of mine a couple months ago, seated right next to my grandfather, who howled with grief a couple of times. If ever there were appropriate contexts to touch someone without permission, these were them. And it was still hard, it still rebelled against my conditioning, to put my hand on his wrist. And then I felt awkward. Should I take it off now? What if he wants to move his arm? I'm not really letting him move his arm. I envied a little Kylie's ability to put her hand on mine all casual-like just because she knew I was having a rough time.
I couldn't think of anything more exciting to do than watch a movie, but fortunately for me, Kylie hasn't seen any Star Wars except for Rogue One and both of SNL's Undercover Bosses skits with Kylo Ren, so I picked the original Star Wars movie to guarantee that I would get invited back at least eight more times. She observed that Darth Vader is a jerk for kidnapping his own daughter, that stormtroopers don't aim very well, and that the use of computers in warfare was a pretty new idea in 1977 and that's probably why the movie was so popular. After the next movie, she reiterated that Darth Vader is a jerk for strangling his own men, and also reflected on the lack of women and racial diversity that's been somewhat fixed in the more recent movies. She said Princess Leia is an interesting character - specifically, it's interesting that she's a strong character but she still has to be sexualized. I hate myself for using that word twice in one post. Anyway, Kylie wasn't judging; she said the movies were fair for their time. I should have apologized in advance for what happens to Leia in the next one.
She made me watch the SNL skits, and I made her watch the Robot Chicken sketch that introduced the world to Gary the stormtrooper.
I also talked to my old friend Eliana on the phone a couple times, and the first conversation mostly turned into her complaining about the Church. Kylie has left the Church too, but we have nuanced and mutually respectful discussions about it, and I look forward to reading her folklore paper about how patriarchal blessings might have roots in the Smith family's fascination with folk magic. When Eliana left a couple years ago she still believed in the Book of Mormon and stuff but didn't trust the leadership because of their past mistakes and current LGBTQ policies. Now she sees nothing good, wholesome, or true in any of it. I didn't try to argue and I hoped that my listening allowed her to let off some steam. But I kind of wanted to ask, Can you live with yourself knowing that I'm still in the Church because of you? I used to tell her about all kinds of issues that bothered my testimony, and she was so chill about all of it and confident that the Church was where God wanted her to be. She was my anchor many times. You never can tell what the future holds, can you? Anyway, we don't talk much anymore but I appreciate that she's still there for me.
For Thanksgiving, I was going to visit a nearby great aunt whom I shamefully never visit because I'm always welcome but that means I have to kind of invite myself at any given time, but she got sick. So I went to my bishop's house. Although I haven't always cast him in the most flattering light, he is a great guy. I wish I could say the same about my last bishop. Some others from the ward also showed up, and someone else in the ward had a friend who wasn't in the ward but was going to come, but he went to the wrong house so we started without him. He showed up fifteen minutes in and guess what? He was one of my students. So he saw me without a mask on and sat right next to me and that's kind of funny, isn't it? I hope he didn't take it as a personal jab when I said that I like teaching college students because if they don't want to be there, they don't show up.
Today I tried really hard to pay attention in church and be open to the Spirit, and I did pretty well. I didn't even close myself off when a couple of people in Elders' Quorum said a couple of things about gender roles that made me want to stab my eyes out.
My maternal grandmother, Denece Jensen Brighton of Milo, Idaho, died Thursday morning. This post is not a cry for sympathy. I'm doing fine, and while of course I appreciate any and all condolences, I'm not soliciting them. But I have to write the post because she was my grandmother and that's kind of a big deal. It would be rather bratty for me to write my weekly post about something else.
It had been less than five and a half years since her father, Russell Jensen, my final living great-grandparent, died at 94. Both of them were preceded in death by two of her younger siblings, Russell "Arlen" Jensen and Necia Jensen Hartgrave, each in their late fifties. Only her brother Dane remains of that immediate family. What a sobering realization that must be for him. At 73, she was still not terribly old by today's standards, and I would have expected her to stick around a lot longer if she hadn't been experiencing so many health problems in the last couple years. She was the closest to me of all the people who have died in my entire life so far, and as such her death seems to herald a new phase of said life. First the great-grandparents, then the grandparents, then the parents and aunts and uncles - though of course, any number of things could happen to mix up that order, and I don't really expect to outlive my parents anyway.
I'm doing fine. I'm not afraid of death. I probably don't even take it as seriously as I should. I know it's just a step in God's plan, a temporary transition to another plane of existence, and in my mind, the choice between making that transition and continuing to suffer in mortality is a no-brainer. I don't ever want to be in my seventies having brain aneurysms and liver cancer and whatever. It will just feel weird to not see her again for a long time. Growing up in New York I saw her for a week or two every other year, and of course since moving to Utah I've seen her rather more often. It feels weird already to think about her being dead. Maybe it hasn't sunk in yet. I am a little sad that she didn't live long enough to see me accomplish anything, but maybe that's a selfish perspective. I last saw her at my sister's wedding in May. She won't be at my wedding. Not in the flesh, anyway.
Last night I ran through her voice, her mannerisms, her laugh - no particular memory stands out that I feel like writing about at length here, but I tried to keep the whole person in my mind. Yes, there is the usual guilt that I should have talked to her more often while she was alive. I don't talk much to my family members. It's just how I am. I do my own thing and they do their own things. When my sister called me on Thursday, my first guess was that somebody had died because she never calls me and I never call her. But that doesn't mean we don't love each other. I really don't know what else to say. My brain isn't functioning well this weekend. Yesterday I had plenty of graduate school stuff to do but instead wasted the whole day doing virtually nothing because I had no focus or motivation, and I hate myself for it. I'm really not able to give a fitting tribute to my grandmother at this time. We'll see if anything else comes out after the funeral next weekend.
If you're stuck at home tonight because of the you-know-what, here's something to keep you entertained for a little while. Note that "The Monster Mash", "Spooky Scary Skeletons", "This is Halloween", and "Thriller", though all excellent songs, have been excluded from this list on account of being severely overplayed.
Erica Silverman - Big Pumpkin
If your kindergarten teacher didn't play/read this for you, you had a deprived childhood and may be entitled to financial compensation. Don't quote me on that.
Erutan - Come Little Children
A full length version of the song sung by Sarah Jessica Parker in the cult classic "Hocus Pocus". It's a silly movie, but what really ruins my suspension of disbelief is a straight teenage boy running away from Sarah Jessica Parker.
Sierra Games Staff - Consumite Furore
Creepy Latin singing from the intro to the gory and highly controversial 1995 computer game "Phantasmagorica", which, as every article about the game is obligated to point out, was banned in Australia.
Chorus Girls - Don't Feed the Plants
This original ending to the dark comedy musical "Little Shop of Horrors", replaced because of test audiences' negative reaction but now widely regarded as superior to the happy version, ranks as one of the most expensive deleted scenes of all time.
Iced Earth - Dracula
Rather sacrilegious, except that Dracula's rebellion against God is driven by the abhorrent false doctrine that his girlfriend has been damned for eternity for killing herself, so really, with the information available to him, he isn't wrong to respond as he does.
Rob Zombie - Dragula
Not really scary so much as too epic not to include. ("Epic" is professional music critic terminology for songs with loud electric guitars.)
The Key of Awesome - Emo Vampire
Believe it or not, there was a time when the Twilight series was cool, at least if you were a girl between the ages of twelve and fifty. My mother was possessed by it, and when I first met my friend Rachel at Youth Conference, her name tag identified her only as "Edward's Girlfriend". The backlash was inevitable.
The Living Tombstone - Grim Grinning Ghosts
A better cover of this song has never been found. I say that as one who watched on older version at the beginning of Disney's "Boo Busters" and "Witcheroo" VHS tapes (ask your parents what those were) and had a huge crush on live action Maleficent.
Information Society feat. Ayria - Heffalumps and Woozles
I found the original sequence quite unnerving as a child. As an adult, I find this cover both unnerving and lots of fun to dance to in private.
Hex Girls - Hex Girl
From "Scooby-Doo and the Witch's Ghost" (1999). Nowadays, this song is problematic because it promotes a double standard about consent, but we can still appreciate it as long as we recognize its historical context. It turns out this video also includes "Earth, Wind, Fire and Air" so that's a bonus track.
Debs & Errol - If I were an Undead Crawler
Parody of Barenaked Ladies' "If I had $1,000,000". Are zombies overrated? Yes. Is this song underrated? Heck yes.
Baha Men - It's Spooky in Here (Digimon Halloween Song)
You've probably never heard this, because it's from a CD called "Rhythm and Boos" that came in boxes of Count Chocula, Boo Berry and/or Franken Berry cereal in 2001. Some of my students weren't even born then. That's scary.
"Weird Al" Yankovic - Jurassic Park
Not that I've seen a lot of horror movies, or plan to, but I find "Jurassic Park" scarier than any horror movie I've seen. The Tyrannosaurus rex in particular always stops my heart. As a creature both fantastical and real, it's scarier than either a made-up monster or a random human serial killer. This music video is ironically much gorier than the actual movie, but it's all played for laughs, and the song's ending is unironically beautiful.
Bloodbound - Nosferatu
"Nosferatu" is a 1922 low-budget German film plagiarized from the novel Dracula that fortunately still exists even though Bram Stoker's heirs tried to have all prints destroyed. I have no idea what the word Nosferatu means, since the vampire's name is actually Count Orlok.
Judas Priest - Night Crawler
Personally my favorite Judas Priest song. And as dark and creepy as it is, it has a happy ending, or at least as happy of an ending as one could reasonably expect under the circumstances!
Jonathan Coulton - Re: Your Brains
The song that introduced me to the genius of Jonathan Coulton, and still his best work IMHO (though his music and lyrics for the Portal anthem "Still Alive" comes in close). Even my freshman year roommate playing it twenty times in a row failed to make me hate it.
Ozzy Osbourne - Scary Little Green Men
Even with his advanced age and ill health, the wizard of Ozz managed to release a killer album this year, which features this gem that beats out his other Halloween classic "Balk at the Moan" for a spot on this list. Aliens > werewolves.
Rammstein - Spieluhr
The gist of this song is that a small child wants to be left alone, so it [sic] pretends to be dead, and gets buried with a music box in its hand, and then the music box and the child's singing can be heard from beneath the earth.
Meco - Werewolf (Loose in London)
Even though werewolves < aliens, they still deserve some recognition. And so does Meco. Despite scoring a number one hit in 1977 with his disco cover of the Star Wars and cantina band themes, he's fallen into almost total obscurity, which isn't fair.
Consortium of Genius - What a Friend We Have in Cthulhu
Not a direct parody of "What a Friend We Have in Jesus", but it brings in that energetic clapping-type music that's one of the few good things about conservative Southern Christianity. And makes it about a guy with an octopus for a face.
Hap Palmer - Witches' Brew
Once upon a time, one of my Primary teachers had us sing this in Primary. I liked it better than most of the boring church songs we did.
Because I find rituals comforting, I habitually listen to both of these entire soundtracks on Halloween.
Jonne Valtonen - Alien Incident
This 1996 point-and-click game ("Muukalaisten yö" or "Night of the Aliens" in the original Finnish) actually takes place on Halloween, so it's appropriate that the aliens look like Casper the Friendly Ghost. Its rather strange music has really grown on me. I converted and uploaded the music files from the free Abandonia download, though there is additional music in the game that I don't know how to find and wasn't patient enough to record directly.
Alain Goraguer - La Planète Sauvage
This bizarre animated 1973 French-Czech co-production isn't a horror film as such, but the soundtrack is creepy and unearthly enough.
Me: My ex-neighbors who sent the police after me were really dumb and immature.
This girl's roommates: Hold our root beer.
Also Me: Police officers are the least qualified people on the planet to deal with mental health crises.
This landlord: Hold my root beer too.
I say root beer because this happened in one of the highest-percentage Latter-day Saint cities in the world. I don't know for a fact that the roommates and/or landlord are Latter-day Saints (nor, in any case, do I consider their actions an indictment of the majority of Latter-day Saints, who are as outraged as any normal person), but I'd bet a few bucks on it. Also, in making these comparisons I'm still not letting the police off the hook for their impressive track record of murdering mentally ill or disabled people. But this is a new, special kind of evil that just blows my mind.
Ventana Student Housing seems like kind of a sketchy establishment to begin with. Its Facebook page has 65 likes and has posted once this year, twice last year, and zero times in 2018 or 2017. The pretentious legalese bullcrap in this eviction notice, though standard procedure, is somewhat undermined by the landlord's illiteracy ("other tenant's", "recklessly endangerment", "undo stress"). There are some complaints in Google reviews about the management's greed, apathy and insensitivity, and of course every apartment complex has a few negative reviews from disgruntled ex-tenants but these particular ones seem very credible right about now. And management have not issued a statement on their side of the story. Their response to inquiries from the media and everyone else has been nothing, zero, zip, zilch, nada. They won't even answer the phone. It's almost as if they realize how rightfully screwed they are and just want to implode in peace.
I wasn't planning on taking time out of my day to contribute to making their lives hell, but I consider it time well spent. All appearances to the contrary notwithstanding, I don't want to be someone who insults people and/or swears all the time, but this is one instance where I have no regrets and would do it again.
Mine is at the bottom. Yes, I liked my own question because someone had to do it. In fairness, someone named Lilly responding to one such question claimed that the girl's roommates had actually offered her help multiple times, that she had talked to a police officer (you know, one of those incredible mental health experts), and that she had threatened one of her roommates. I told Lilly that I'm not buying it because none of that is mentioned or even hinted at in the eviction notice, which explicitly gives "vocaliz[ing] suicidal tendencies" as the sole reason for breach of contract, nor has Ventana Student Housing bothered to mention this alleged side of the story to anyone despite having more than ample opportunity to do so. Lilly also claimed that this girl "just wants attention", a common accusation against suicidal people, which seems quite incongruous with her choice to remain anonymous. Both Lilly's response and my response to her response have been removed.
I also sent Ventana Student Housing this message through ventanaapt.com:
"Hi, I checked a website and it said you don't have any vacancies, but I know you just evicted a student for having the audacity to open up about her struggle with suicidal thoughts, so you do have a spot open, right? Could I come look at it soon? Full disclosure: I have had suicidal thoughts before, like 9.3 million other adults in the United States every year, but if they come up again I promise to keep them to myself. Worst case scenario, I'll just kill myself instead of asking for help, so you don't have to take your precious time writing an eviction notice. Thanks!
"Sarcasm aside, I hope you sick [redacted]s know that you more than deserve every bit of the public relations nightmare you're currently experiencing. The pleasure of watching your sick twisted excuse for a company crash and burn won't erase the hell you put your tenant through or the long-term trauma you inflicted on her with your colossal middle finger to everyone who's ever been depressed, but it's all I can do for now. I wish I could sue you on her behalf since it's unclear whether she's going to. You know as well as I do that you would lose in a heartbeat. I suppose I just have to be patient and content myself with knowing that someday you'll stand accountable before God, who's undoubtedly even more pissed at you than I am.
"With overwhelming contempt and disgust,
I was frustrated that the victim is undecided on pursuing legal action, but I later read that the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is going to regardless, so that's nice. I hope Ventana Student Housing gets sued out of existence. The automated form said someone would get back to me soon, but I don't think they will.
The stigma that mentally ill, even suicidal people face in this country remains alive and well despite nobody in 2020 having any excuse not to know better. The stigma needs to die. So many of us pay lip service to the idea of accepting people for who they are and encouraging them to seek help when necessary, when what we actually want is for them to keep it to themselves and suffer in silence because popular culture bombards us with the lie that mentally ill people by definition are dangerous and scary. Now this girl is traumatized and will be terrified to ever ask for help again, as will others who don't want to go through what she did. But would the world have taken notice, would the world have become as outraged, if her roommates and/or landlord had found some more typical and less blatantly illegal ways to mistreat her after they learned of her problem?
Ventana means window. Eyes are windows to the soul. Yet Ventana Student Housing has no soul, and my prayer is that soon it won't have a business either.
RIP Richard Tenace
On a completely unrelated topic, I feel compelled to note the passing of Richard Tenace from my childhood congregation in Potsdam, New York, on October 13. I wasn't super close with him but his death came as quite a shock to me, as it did to everyone else, because he was only in his early fifties and exercised more than most people. He was a magician, mentalist, clown, wrestler, author, and landlord, but not the evil kind. I first met him at a delightful magic/mentalism show he performed at SUNY Potsdam. I thought it was very clever how he deliberately flubbed a simple card trick at the beginning of the show to increase the tension at the end when screwing up his final trick would have ostensibly been fatal. Shortly afterward he became a member of the Potsdam branch presidency, and if I understand correctly, he was the main driving force behind the congregation's participation in the Ministerial Association of Potsdam. He was a big advocate of interfaith gatherings and service projects while some branch members who will remain anonymous were kind of furious about having a Muslim read the Koran from our pulpit.
There was a lot of festering political tension in that branch. Brother Tenace was solidly in the liberal "faction" and my family was solidly not. One evening I got into a bit of an argument on Facebook with him about something Glenn Beck had said about some firefighters who had let a house burn to the ground with dogs inside because the family hadn't paid the tax to support the fire department. He said something like, "Here we see the conservative mindset in action: if someone can't afford something, they deserve to suffer." I said something like, "Actually, the conservative mindset is that if someone can't afford something, it's not the government's place to force other people to buy it for them." And things continued for a bit but he deleted his initial comment, acknowledged that it had been somewhat contentious, and tried to smooth things over and explain his viewpoint less abrasively. And then that evening I was at the church for activities and he was there and he made a remark to someone about how awesome I was, like we hadn't just been arguing, and I thought that was real classy.
In more recent years, of course, I drifted further to the left and found myself agreeing with most of his political posts. But he also balanced those out with memes and things that were just funny and lighthearted. And photos from his workouts. He took staying in shape very seriously, which, again, makes his sudden death all the more shocking. It goes without saying that he will be missed.
So speaking of arguments, you know where I wish it was more acceptable to express disagreement? Church settings like Sunday School, institute classes, and Come Follow Me groups. Of course, there's no rule as such within my faith tradition against vocal disagreement, but there is a general attitude of let's all get along and not cause any "contention" that could drive away the Spirit. Sometimes this means that one person says something that everyone else in the room knows is insane bullcrap, but they all just kind of smile and nod and try to move on as quickly as possible. I was in an Elders' Quorum class once where a guy asserted that homosexuality used to be good because it prevented overpopulation, but now we don't have to worry about overpopulation because we can go to other planets, so now homosexuality is bad. The teacher just kind of smiled and nodded and tried to move on as quickly as possible. You have to pick your battles. I didn't like that guy until he gave me a candy bar and then I felt guilty for not liking him.
I experienced this myself when I filled in to teach a Sunday School lesson and a lady who was there for some reason despite being too old for a YSA ward made some comment, I don't remember precisely what, about the need to turn to God instead of the internet for knowledge. I personally get a little exasperated at people belittling "the internet" as if the source medium itself somehow invalidates the accumulated knowledge of humankind found therein. Yeah, it also enables the proliferation of lots of stupid made-up crap, but if you have a few brain cells and some common sense, you can usually tell what's what and find the internet a mind-blowingly useful tool for gathering information. So trying to constructively build off this lady's comment, I agreed and noted that the Holy Ghost can help us find sources and discern which are reliable. No, she insisted, we need to rely only on God, not manmade sources. The slightly manic look in her eyes advised me that pushing the issue would be futile. For the record, though, I think what she said was idiotic. I see little or no reason why God should tell you anything via direct personal revelation that you could find out yourself with a Google search.
Before the you-know-what canceled everything, I participated in and sometimes led a Come Follow Me group in the stake that I'm not even a part of anymore. And I enjoyed it but there are a few times I wish I could have critiqued what was being said. I could have, I suppose, but it would have ruined the illusory atmosphere of everyone agreeing with everything anyone in the group said because we're all part of the same church and that means we believe the same things. So I'm going to go on record with my disagreements here instead.
1. We were talking once about how death is just a step in the Plan of Salvation and not something to be sad about because we'll all be resurrected someday. The people in our group over sixty talked about how they weren't sad at all when their parents died at ripe old ages after living full lives. Everyone seemed to regard those examples as representative and sufficient proof of the point at hand. My parents (and grandparents for that matter) are still alive, so instead I thought of, but didn't mention, a friend of mine whose twenty-something brother was crushed to death in a workplace accident a couple years ago, leaving behind two very young children who probably won't even remember him. Everyone in this friend's ward tried to tell her it was okay because she'll be with him again someday. She found this so insensitive that she stopped going to church.
It's okay for death to be sad. Some deaths, in fact probably an overwhelming majority when the circumstances of most of the world's population is considered, are untimely, unpleasant and unfair. And knowing that you'll be with someone again at some unspecified future date doesn't mean you can't or shouldn't miss them here and now. Remember when Lazarus died in the Bible and, quote, "Jesus wept", close quote? Even though Jesus knew full well that Lazarus was going to be resurrected someday? And even though in this instance Jesus brought him back to life maybe five minutes later at most? He validated Lazarus' sister's mourning by mourning with her. He acknowledged that no matter who you are or what you know, death is meant to be sad.
2. The guy leading the discussion mentioned an incident here in Utah a few years ago where a teenage girl was shot in the head and left in a ditch by two teenage boys. She survived and made a remarkable recovery from her severe injuries. Most people regard this as an inspiring story. But this guy said that in court, when the boys asked for forgiveness, both the girl and her father were like "I hate you and I hope you're never happy again." How awful, the guy said, that now these boys have to live with that for the rest of their lives. What I said was nothing. What I wanted to say was "Are you -----ing me?"
Yes, we're supposed to forgive everyone, but that doesn't mean everyone deserves to be forgiven. If she had forgiven them, it would have made an inspiring and faith-promoting story precisely because they were scum and didn't deserve it. But because she didn't, I'm supposed to feel sorry for them? I'm supposed to feel bad that they have to live with the guilt of being attempted murderers? Maybe they could have avoided that by, I don't know, not shooting someone in the head? In fairness, I don't think they should have to live with that for long either because I think they should have been fed to wolves. But that's beside the point. Anyway, I know he didn't relate this story to be judgmental, but still I think it's out of line to bring up someone else's failure or refusal to forgive something that any normal person would find really really hard to forgive. It's not my concern or my problem. God will deal with everyone involved as He sees fit.
3. Any time someone says something like "I love science, but..." I brace for them to follow up with something stupid that makes a liar out of them. In this case, though, I was pleasantly surprised at first. The girl talking made a legitimate point about the built-in limits of scientific knowledge and the dangers of scientism (though she didn't use that term). And she made a legitimate point about the uncertainty principle limiting how much we can know about the universe whether in principle or practice. But then she went full-on god of the gaps. She said her faith is strengthened by how much we don't know, and scientists still can't explain dark matter so that proves God exists. She lamented that scientists refuse to let God be part of science or taught in schools even though they can't prove He doesn't exist. I'm paraphrasing from memory but that was basically it. I mentally decided that I would never try to date her.
One of the senior missionaries chimed in, "So we didn't evolve from pond scum?"
Everyone else: *chuckle at those silly scientists who are so dumb they think we evolved from pond scum*
Okay, first of all, we know a lot more than we used to and we're going to know a lot more in the future than we do now, exponentially more in fact, so basing her testimony even in part on what we don't know at this current moment in time is stupid. Maybe scientists will figure out dark matter and maybe they won't, but how awkward will she feel if they do? Does she assume dark matter is by its very nature inexplicable in terms of the physical world? Does she think it's just magic?
Henry Drummond explained why this way of thinking is stupid more eloquently than I could, so I'll just let him take it from here: "There are reverent minds who ceaselessly scan the fields of Nature and the books of Science in search of gaps - gaps which they will fill up with God. As if God lived in the gaps? What view of Nature or of Truth is theirs whose interest in Science is not in what it can explain but in what it cannot, whose quest is ignorance not knowledge, whose daily dread is that the cloud may lift, and who, as darkness melts from this field or from that, begin to tremble for the place of His abode? What needs altering in such finely jealous souls is at once their view of Nature and of God. Nature is God's writing, and can only tell the truth; God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all."
On top of that, she contradicted her own legitimate points. As she pointed out, science has limits and can't explain purely spiritual things or the meaning of life. Why, then, does she think it should incorporate God directly into its theories? To plug the gaps, right, but you can't have it both ways. As she pointed out, they can't prove He doesn't exist, and that's precisely why they avoid the question altogether. Science deals with things that can be falsified. It tests them over and over again until they're proven wrong. If the theory of evolution by natural selection is not true, that can be demonstrated (though of course, no matter how much creationists try to pretend, it has not been). If God's existence is not true, that cannot be demonstrated. If scientists searched every molecule of the observable universe (which they can't) and failed to find Him, they still couldn't be sure He wasn't hiding in another galaxy too distant to reach, or another plane of existence untouchable by our human senses and instruments altogether. Keeping God out of the laboratories and schools isn't an attack on religion, it's just the way legitimate science has to be done. If He didn't want that to be the case He wouldn't have gone the whole "faith" route.
Of course, my overall experience in this Come Follow Me group has been quite positive and I hope for it to resume in the near future, but that's not nearly as interesting to blog about.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.