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.
I'm very excited for school to start in a couple days - excited for my class on Monday, excited for my class on Tuesday, excited for the classes I'll teach on Tuesday even though I won't have Zoom as a crutch and wouldn't have chosen to start at 7:30 if it were up to me, excited for what feels like a five-day weekend every week but really isn't because it just means I need to be a very responsible adult and determine my own schedule for the many things I have to do outside of classroom time, excited for the vaccination mandate that USU is preparing to implement because asking nicely just isn't enough in Utah. The future is bright, up until the end of this year when I really need to start getting a handle on whether I'm going to get a PhD or just take a job somewhere and if so, where, and supposedly I'm going to get married at some point before I die and it would be really nice to have that at least underway by then so I could make these decisions with my wife or wife-to-be instead of us both charting our life paths separately and later struggling to mesh them together. But nobody asked me.
You know, my first first day of college was ten years ago. This may or may not be my last one. As a student, I mean. I should be waxing all nostalgic about that, as is my wont, but I don't feel articulate enough to do it justice right now.
Of course, the week or so leading up to school has its drawbacks, and my desire to just relax and savor it was somewhat thwarted. Logan Preferred Property Management sent the carpet cleaners to my apartment complex without telling anyone, sent the normal cleaner to my apartment complex without telling anyone, and sent roofers to replace the entire roof without telling anyone. All of us except my roommate who can sleep through anything were pretty pissed. When the roofers woke me up at 7 a.m. on Monday, I couldn't believe LPPM had the audacity to do that after I complained about the idiots with the chainsaw who had done the same thing despite being ordered not to start until 8. I complained again and got the same empty apology and reassurances. The next day the roofers started later, but on Wednesday they started banging away at 6:30, which is, as I understand it, illegal. So I complained to management for the third time, and apparently "illegal" was the magic word that got them to stop lying about addressing the problem and actually address the problem. I decided I'd file a noise complaint if it happened again, and then I decided I was pissed enough to file a noise complaint anyway.
I know what you may be thinking - Ah, Christopher, you fool, you complain about police all the time and now you suddenly need them. Why didn't you call a crackhead for help instead? Correction: I didn't "need" the police for anything. I could have dealt with the situation myself, but our society has arbitrarily decided that pushing people off of roofs is also illegal. So I looked online for some kind of form I could fill out instead of talking to a human, and stumbled instead on a different form entitled "Personnel Complaint". I got so excited about this that I considered the roofers a blessing in disguise.
As both of my long-time readers are aware, on January 14, 2020, aka the worst day of my life,
D'oh. Anyway, on that day I learned firsthand that police officers are the natural enemies of anyone with a mental illness, when Officer Nelson showed up to "help" me and instead did the opposite of that. I didn't do anything about it at the time. My first priority was to get out of the hospital before I got stuck with a buttload of medical debt (because 'Murica), and then my first priority was to live through the night despite the unbearable pain for my friend Katie's sake, and then I just kind of wandered through life as a shell of my former self for a couple months. I didn't know anything about formal complaint procedures and I feared the police retaliating against me if I did complain to them. You have to remember, this was before George Floyd became one police murder too many, and nobody was putting them in their place. As Officer Nelson was abusing me I knew that he knew he could do it because he had a blue uniform and de facto authority to kill anyone who didn't show him the respect he thought he deserved. If he hadn't been in a blue uniform, I would not have tolerated the way he spoke to me.
Largely thanks to the well-deserved anti-police backlash a few months later, I got over my fear enough that I started to hope he would see my blog posts or Facebook posts and comments where I told the world, usually in rather crude terms, exactly what I thought of him. And I knew I would not respond the same way if anything similar ever happened again. A while ago I had one of my occasional nightmares that the police were coming after me again, and I was terrified, but determined that despite my fear I was going to give them a piece of my mind. I woke up before that came to pass.
When I did briefly look into the possibility of a formal complaint, I read something about a six-month statute of limitations, and looked no further. I also knew that Derek Chauvin, in his nineteen-year career, had accumulated eighteen conduct complaints resulting in literally nothing but two letters from his boss asking him not to do it again. But this complaint form on Logan City Police Department's website said nothing at all about a time limit. And now the climate around policing is much different. I figure there's a very real chance of getting a tangible result. Even if I don't, I at least have the satisfaction of knowing that Officer Nelson has been blindsided by this coming back to bite him in the butt long after he'd forgotten about it, and by the realization that this doormat he trampled on actually has feelings and a brain. I wish I could see the look on his face when he reads my complaint. I'd like to think he already has, and that it ruined his weekend, but with bureaucracy being what it is I doubt it's moving that fast.
Another cop was there, but he said three sentences the entire time and wasn't a bully or a jackass, so I said little about him in my complaint but I did list him as my sole witness despite not knowing his name. I only know Officer Nelson's name because he told me. A few months ago when I was in a car crash and had to talk to a cop, he had his name printed on his uniform, but I'm pretty sure that was a post-George Floyd reform. Anyway, I'm sure they'll ask this cop to evaluate my account, and I can only hope that honesty is more important to him than backing the blue. On that note, the form claims that the investigation will be "objective", which is kind of a red flag whenever I see it because nobody on the planet is objective about things that matter to them at all. Even if they really are trying, police officers investigating another police officer are not going to be objective. They just aren't. They can, however, still do the right thing if they choose to be honest.
They'll surely consult with Brad Hansen, the USU police officer who first received my neighbors' complaint and delegated it to the city police. My neighbors went to him because he was in our bishopric. He never spoke to me again after that day, but I made a point of resting my hand on my face with the middle finger extended when he walked by, and I know he noticed. I'm excited for him to read my complaint too. And they really should ask my ex-neighbors about what they said and how they said it, because they more than likely were overdramatic and told some outright lies that influenced Officer Nelson's response to the situation. I didn't devote nearly as much space as I could have in my complaint to explaining why their complaint was wrong, because that's not really the point, but it is still relevant because Officer Nelson was an idiot to take it as gospel truth and never ask me about my side at all. I have let go of all malice toward my ex-neighbors because, as mentioned in my complaint, one was delusional and the other gullible. (And I was equally gullible, which is how the problem started.) It's the trained law enforcement personnel who should have known better.
I assumed that walking into the police station and handing my complaint to the woman at the desk - I visualized a woman at the desk with a few male cops nearby, and I told myself that was a sexist assumption to make, but of course that was exactly what I saw when I went - would be terrifying. I assumed that I would have to be courageous and push through the fear. But it wasn't and I didn't. It was no more stressful than going to the post office. Maybe God was with me. After the woman at the desk said "Hello" I felt a little bad at repaying her kindness with a personnel complaint form, but I wasn't about to back down at the last minute.
I made scans just in case she or someone else "misplaces" it. Here they are for posterity.
Ventana Student Housing in Orem, Utah learned the hard way last year that evicting a student for vocalizing suicidal tendencies - yes, in case you missed it, that's literally exactly what they did, no exaggeration - is not okay. They experienced a tsunami of thoroughly deserved backlash in which I was proud to play some small part. They responded to this backlash by refusing to answer the phone, deleting comments from their Facebook page, and generally removing any question as to whether they had a legitimate side of the story that would make them look less evil. Now it brings me great joy to know that the student, Austyn Sorenson, and the Disability Law Center of Utah are suing them for this blatant violation of the federal Fair Housing Act. If she hadn't chosen to sue them, nobody else could have done so, and they would escape the legal consequences that they deserve on top of the suffering they've already faced. Unfortunately the law doesn't provide for the management to be imprisoned for life and have their company confiscated and given to actual humans, but at least I can be satisfied that they're not having a fun time right now.
In a Salt Lake Tribune editorial, Robert Gehrke summed it up pretty well: "Unless you’re vying for the title of 'Utah’s Worst Person,' it’s hard to comprehend that your reaction when someone comes to you and tells you a young person is considering suicide would be to evict that person from his or her apartment." Indeed. I read another editorial months ago about the ignorance around mental health, which is a legitimate problem, but not relevant to this case. Evicting someone for vocalizing suicidal tendencies isn't ignorance, it's sociopathy. I also appreciate that Gehrke mocked the author of the eviction notice for writing "undo" instead of "undue", one of three spelling errors that I noted in my previous evisceration of that damnable document. Since then my English graduate instructor training has taught me not to criticize people's spelling and grammar, but I'm still going to make an exception for this person and I hope Beth can forgive me for that. I only criticized people's spelling and grammar mistakes when they were being jerks anyway. And people like this person, and everyone else at Ventana Student Housing who either signed off on it or did nothing to stop it, are the reason hell exists.
Yesterday I went to the park to read The Merlin Effect, one of the scores of books I've acquired over the years and never read because I was too busy wasting time on social media. It's part fantasy, part sci-fi, so I could kind of justify reading it for my thesis even though it wasn't on my list. It's very creative, tying together a bunch of ideas and plot hooks into a strange and satisfying whole, and I really enjoyed it even while silently critiquing its shortcomings, such as entire chapters of expository dialogue. (I have to notice those things for my own improvement as a writer.) I just breezed through it and didn't count down the pages until I could be done like I did with some of the books on my list.
A group from Gospel Peace Church had set up a pavilion in the park with free Popsicles, face painting, and cornhole. I got invited over there twice. It's an evangelical church that's just been planted in Logan a few weeks ago as a spinoff of a church with a similar name in Salt Lake City. (Proactive church planting is often a far more effective method for growth than my own church's preferred method of waiting until congregations reach a certain size, which may or may not ever happen, and then splitting them.) Leadership had come from as far away as Michigan, so I can only assume that this church was planted specifically as an outreach to Mormons, whom many if not most evangelicals assume are all going to the same place as the management of Ventana Student Housing. Of course they asked about my religious background and I told them, and they were chill about it and didn't criticize. They said their LDS neighbors are all really nice and the temple grounds are beautiful.
I hope they stay that way. I hope they aren't like those guys who used to set up on USU campus and seemed far less interested in promoting their own beliefs than in tearing down other people's beliefs. There's a big difference. By all means, promote your beliefs, explain why you find them credible and compelling and whatnot, and let people decide for themselves whether they then find your beliefs more credible than their current beliefs or lack thereof. I have no objection to that. I have no objection to everyone enjoying the same right to proselyte as my own church's missionaries - but my own church's missionaries aren't trained to go around poking holes in other churches' theology or history. Taking that approach is far less likely to persuade someone than to make them think (correctly) that you're a dick. Atheists who go around social media comments trying to deconvert people from belief in general, offering literally nothing in exchange, are even more obnoxious.
I also welcome any increase in Utah's religious diversity. Even believing, as I do, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the "most true" religion, I don't want it to monopolize any area because that results in too many of its members becoming arrogant narrow-minded jerks (as is human nature with any lack of diversity) - and since it explicitly teaches that people who don't join it in mortality can still do so in the next life, there's no downside. (That's often the elephant in the room with religious diversity. "I love you and legitimately respect your differences in belief, but according to my beliefs you're still going to burn in hell forever." My church's workaround for this problem is one of my favorite things about it.) And if they do end up pulling their future membership from my church's current membership, oh well - my church has plenty of people that I would be happy to give away.
Today is, appropriately, the anniversary of my most popular blog post last year. The bar for that is pretty low, but it still made me happy. So here it is again: Newly Discovered Ancient Document Sheds Light on the Origin of Our Species
I hadn't been to Institute for two semesters because although the organization was taking appropriate health precautions, I knew for a fact that most of my potential fellow students were out having large social gatherings with no masks on a regular basis. Now I'm vaccinated so it's fine. I even had prolonged exposure to a Covid-positive neighbor a week before my vaccination reached full efficacy and nothing happened, so after all this time I can finally relax and stop thinking about the potential life-ruining long-term side effects that an infection might have on my brain. I missed the first couple weeks of "Jesus Christ and the Everlasting Gospel" due to my visiting family. I've taken this class twice, as I've taken every class that interests me at all, but I still have great need to increase my relationship with and faith in Jesus Christ. It was a powerful experience the first two times but it wore off after a while.
I'd never even seen Rand Curtis before and didn't know what to expect. When I came in and saw on the screen "Lesson 4: The Creation", I got a bit queasy as I flashed back to past experiences with this topic in Institute classes. Listening to teachers who know nothing about evolution mock evolution while I sit there with the expertise to know it's real as surely as I know the sun shines has never been a pleasant experience. The last time was a few years ago, and the Institute faculty may have caught up with the last century of scientific discovery by now, but I just didn't know what to expect and it was kind of tense.
So he kind of started off with a painting of a primordial-looking Earth with Jesus flying above it looking pretty epic with his hands and feet angled toward it as if to say, "KAZAM!" He made us talk to our classmates and discuss what we think the creation of the Earth may have looked like. I told my partner that I accept the scientific account of the creation of the Earth, so I think it took a really long time and if you floated there and watched you wouldn't notice anything happening. (Granted, if you timed your observation just right you might see the hypothesized planet Theia crash into it and knock off the big chunk of debris that later became our moon, which would be almost but not quite as epic as Jesus saying "KAZAM!") I phrased my opinion as inoffensively as possible, as if accepting science were only one of many possible options. My partner kind of nodded and accepted that.
Brother Curtis then had a slide that showed a diagram of the Earth with its layers, and a timeline of its scientifically established history starting at the north pole and going around its circumference. I wondered, did he put that up there just to dispute it? But he reassured me very quickly. "Was the Earth created in six days?" he asked the class. I kind of went "Eh" as if to say "I don't believe so, but you can believe what you want." But he answered his own question like, "No! But a thousand years are as one day to God, so was the Earth created in six thousand years?" And I kind of went "Eh" again. But he answered his own question like, "No!" And he had a spiel about the ultimate compatibility of scientific and religious truth, and he spoke against checking your brain at the door of a religious classroom and suppressing secular knowledge or the questions it raises. Stuff I've read and written ad nauseam, but a welcome surprise anyway. He basically straight-up said that the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. That was more than I could have hoped for. I get so tired of people pretending that if the Church doesn't have a position on something, any view on the subject is equally valid regardless of basic facts and common sense.
Granted, I had another teacher, Kurt Reese, who said that the Earth isn't 6,000 years old and then said "If anyone here believes the Earth is 6,000 years old, I'm sorry... that you're bad at science." I guess that counts. But he wasn't teaching about the Creation per se - it was a church history class and we were talking about Joseph Fielding Smith's ridiculously fundamentalist readings of scripture, and he liked to joke around and tease like that in general. He would tease you for being from Colorado or being a Democrat even though one of the points he tried to hammer home is that you can, in fact, be a Democrat and still be worthy. He went so far as to imply that it's okay if you observe rampant poverty on your mission and come home feeling "pretty disgusted with capitalism". And he's a Republican himself, but not the evil kind. Where was I going with this? Anyway, his discussion of the age of the Earth was cool and all but not quite as impactful in that context. Maybe I was just desensitized to his heretical teachings by that point in the course.
Brother Curtis pointed out that on this little Earth history timeline, dinosaurs don't seem so ancient anymore, and human history was too brief to even show up. And then he said three incredible words - "Fifty million years." Not phrased as a question. Oh boy. The Earth itself is one thing, but this strikes at the very heart of some people's spiritual identity. Of course, it's the sort of perceived chronological discrepancy that some Latter-day Saints think they can just handwave away with suggestions like "wE dOn'T kNoW hOw LoNg AdAm AnD eVe WeRe In ThE gArDeN." Yeah, whatever. They're the only two people in the world, they can't have sex, literally nothing has been invented yet, and I'm supposed to seriously consider for one moment the possibility that they just chill in the Garden for, say, the entire time that dinosaurs are roaming around elsewhere? Nuh-uh. I give them three months before they eat the forbidden fruit as an attempt at suicide.
His next slide showed a bunch of skulls of our ancient evolutionary cousins and ancestors - either that, or just skulls of people who think Derek Chauvin should have been acquitted. He asked if we have room for these people in our view of the gospel. I discussed with my partner. Yes, we both did. Cool. But Brother Curtis overheard someone say "It doesn't matter how we got here, just that we're here" and called him out on it because that kind of intellectual apathy "won't make us like our heavenly parents." Brother Curtis was very big on intellect. Most religious teachers are in theory, but it's another thing to actually be so in practice and not the type of person who starts sentences with "I love science, but..." He did say he wasn't going to get into all the details of how he worked out science and religion together, which is fair, but I wish he hadn't just said "I find no physical evidence for a flood covering the entire planet a few thousand years ago. None" and left that for us to grapple with. I think the story of Noah is much easier to reconcile than most people give it credit for. I don't know why so many are locked into this false dichotomy that either the flood covered the entire planet or it never happened.
Speaking of heavenly parents, that was a big thing with him. He always said "heavenly parents" where most Saints would just say "Heavenly Father". I don't think he said "Heavenly Father" one time. In fact, in one of his slides he had written "Heavenly Father" and read it as "heavenly parents", which suggested to me that perhaps he, too, just recently had a feminist awakening. These small and simple vocabulary replacements are a huge step toward promoting true gender equality in the Church, showing women that they, too, have a significant eternal destiny and role model, and really leveraging one of the greatest doctrines that separates us from the mainstream Christian world and by all rights should be shouted from the rooftops, not treated as an open secret.
Since this was a ninety-minute night class, we then had another lesson, which was about commandments and stuff and not nearly as interesting because science, but still good. Yes, commandments can change; no, Jesus did not drink grape juice. Brother Curtis remained an engaging and effective teacher but tried a little too hard to relate. He shared that he still hasn't mastered the don't-looketh-upon-a-woman-to-lust-after-her thing. He said, "I'm old, but I'm not that old." TMI, my dude. But I'll let that slide. His whole perspective on things was such a breath of fresh air as I've grown so disillusioned with the rampant stupidity and willful ignorance that sometimes make me very embarrassed to be a believer. It's above and beyond what I've come to expect from an Institute class. He even expressed his gratitude for the LGBTQ community. The experience had me looking at him like
I hope my classmates don't complain and get him fired.
A couple of videos he shared which I'd seen before but were worth rewatching because space:
Some of My Favorite Halloween Carols
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.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.