This weekend was the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I'm tired of explaining what that is twice a year, so from now on I won't. As usual I will fixate on a few details instead of attempting to summarize the whole thing.
I didn't much care about the changes to the Young Men's program, which will have approximately zero effect on my life, nor would I have cared about the corresponding changes to the Young Women's program - except for my hope that they would dispense with the longstanding age-based class names, "Beehives", "Mia Maids", and "Laurels". From the time I was a teenager, I thought those names sounded stupid. But after learning their historical significance and the reasoning behind them, I just thought they sounded stupid. Really, just because a name made sense in Utah in 1950 doesn't mean we need to hold onto it forever. For zark's sake, the "Mia" in "Mia Maids" stands for "Mutual Improvement Association" which literally hasn't been a thing since before the current Young Women's parents were in Young Women. So I watched the women's session, or to be more precise, listened to the women's session while playing "Plants vs. Zombies", just to see if these stupid names would be relegated to the dustbin of history where they belong.
Yes, I could have just waited until after to find out, but I wanted the pleasure of witnessing this long overdue moment firsthand. And also feeling the Spirit and stuff. I was not disappointed. Although, now that the archaic term "Mutual" is being entirely jettisoned as well with respect to both the Young Men and Young Women programs, the Mutual dating app (which I wrote about at greater length here) may need to be renamed as well to retain its significance to future generations. I recommend "The App for the Assistance of Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Marrying and Procreating Within the Boundaries of the Lord's Divine Law of Chastity". It's not catchy, but every word is important.
My karmic reward for watching an extra session for such a petty reason came swiftly. President Nelson said some words and then he started talking about temples and I was like Wait, this is the way he starts talking before he announces new temples, but he does that at the end of the Sunday afternoon session, so surely he wouldn't oh who am I kidding, of course he would troll us like this just because he can and at that moment the WiFi freaked out and the audio inexplicably cut in to the late Elder Perry talking about the joy of keeping the commandments with soft inspirational music in the background, and I frantically refreshed the page while breaking a commandment or two in my frantic verbal outburst, and then President Nelson was back and he was blurry and his lips weren't synchronized with his voice but that was fine, at least I could hear him, but wait, was this a rerun of the temple announcements from April, because it sounded kind of similar, but no wait, it was fresh and he totally trolled us and I would have been pissed if I had missed that session or that fragment of the session.
What follows are my very professional and spiritual analyses of those temple announcements. With this batch compared to the last one, there seemed to be a bit of a shift back toward building temples where the number of members and stakes justifies it, as opposed to prioritizing convenience for members in far-flung locations even if they be few. But of course both elements are still at play.
Cobán, Guatemala - I expected this one, but not for a few more years since it's kind of out in the jungle, but then, with the way some recent announcements have gone, I expected the unexpected which means I expected everywhere and nowhere at once. Cobán, Reykjavik, Mars, it's all fair game for President Nelson, isn't it?
Bacolod, Philippines - It would seem that the Philippines has somewhat improved upon its historically abysmal activity and retention rates, with stake growth on the increase and five of its seven current or future temples announced in the last decade.
Bentonville, Arkansas - Arkansas is one of the states in the United States without a temple, and the Rogers area is one of the few areas in the United States more than two hundred miles away from one. So it's been on people's lists for years and gotten really annoying. Bentonville should be close enough to shut them up.
Freetown, Sierra Leone - How can the Church have a faith-promoting independent film based on a true story named after this city, but not a temple? It's about time that situation was rectified. By the way, notwithstanding its imdb rating, I recommend the film. "God's Army" it ain't but on the plus side, "The Singles Ward" it ain't either. And it's not a comedy but because it's set in West Africa it has a few moments that are actually funny without an insider knowledge of Provo culture that most people neither have nor desire.
McAllen, Texas - I'm surprised all the Saints in Texas didn't apostatize after they were told to stop bringing their guns to church. Miracles do happen in this day and age. It may serve several members in northeastern Mexico as well, but then again it may not, because owing to policies and politicians who will not be discussed here at this time, traveling across the border has become an absurdly arduous and time-consuming process. Even for Americans!
Orem, Utah - This, in case I've failed to mention it before, is the city where I was born. Unless I'm mistaken we moved before my first birthday; in any case, I don't remember it one bit, and since it's basically Provo I've never had the slightest desire to go back and see it ever. Still, yay for getting a temple in the city where I was born. Especially since getting one in the town where I grew up is about as likely as Mars.
Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea - This is one of those locations where a few years ago people were bragging about the dramatic growth of the Church, and then it just kind of fizzled out overnight. (See also: Madagascar.) Still, membership numbers more than warrant a temple even without taking into account their poverty and the long distances to their nearest ones in Australia and New Zealand.
Taylorsville, Utah - ANOTHER TEMPLE IN UTAH!!!!!!! HOW VERY EXCITING!!!!!!! I CAN BARELY CONTAIN MY EXCITEMENT FOR ANOTHER TEMPLE IN UTAH!!!!!!!1
Of course, I'm not one of those "uTaH dOeSn'T nEeD mOrE tEmPlEs" folks, because my intellect is capable of grasping the concept that buildings have a finite capacity and sometimes can get too full.
My favorite talk was by Elder Peter M. Johnson. An African-American from New York City, his voice has a cadence not quite like anything I've heard in General Conference before, and it riveted me to his every word so that I got more out of his talk than most. He could have read a phone book and I would have paid attention. This also would have given phone books a reason to exist. The missionaries seated near me who appeared to have fallen asleep might not agree, but to each their own. So, you know, go ahead and watch it if you haven't.
With only a few minutes remaining in the final session, I felt somewhat alarmed that nobody, as far as I could notice, had remembered to utter the words "this historic conference". But President Nelson slipped them into his talk and put me at ease. That man never lets me down.
In closing, I would like to change subjects completely and note the passing of actress Diahann Carroll. I read this little book of comics once that I could have sworn was written by Charles Schultz, but it had a multiracial cast and almost exclusively focused on race issues, but I can't find out anything about it now, but anyway in one comic this little black boy was like, "I'm very disappointed in this book 'Black Beauty'. I thought it was going to be about Diahann Carroll." And all these years later I still think that's one of the funniest things ever.
Dihann Carroll will be remembered as the first black woman to win a Tony award (back when the Tony awards had standards, no less) and the first black woman to star in a non-stereotypical television role (I guess we're not counting Lieutenant Uhura? idk, I'm just going by what Wikipedia says), but to me, she will mostly be remembered a. for the aforementioned comic, and b. for her guest role in "The Star Wars Holiday Special" as singing Wookiee porn. I don't know how else to describe it. Between her dialogue and Chewbacca's father's horrific reaction to it, one marvels that this scene was allowed on television in 1978 or ever. And then one realizes, oh, of course, by that point in the Special the censorship people reviewing it had slipped into a coma. As for why it, and the entire Special, was written and filmed in the first place, one can only hypothesize that the creators couldn't find real drugs and drank gasoline instead. Even so. She was the first black character with a speaking role in Star Wars (since James Earl Jones technically played a white guy), and still the only one with a singing role that I'm aware of, and that's worth remembering.
I actually would have forgotten all about the Logan Institute of Religion's closing social if I hadn't heard "Cupid Shuffle" earlier that day, which immediately reminded me. I believe every dance organized by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in North America is contractually obligated to include "Cupid Shuffle" and "Cha-Cha Slide". This one was different than normal, though, as it was hosted by a live DJ who played sort of a mixtape of all the songs with only a couple pauses for slow ones. The dance and the food were also the only options this time around. No games, no movie, no room hilariously labeled "The Friend Zone" where you could go make friends. But no choice paralysis, so that was nice. Of course I got food first, which I would have done even if the dance had started yet, which it hadn't, and sat down to eat in the dark gym where I hoped I could be left alone. But this guy, let's call him James, found me.
James was in my ward for a year or two until he aged out of it. He's one of those guys who will talk to you for half an hour no matter how little interest you show in what he's saying. Unlike most of those guys, however, he thinks he's some kind of holy man - he literally told me that everything he says or does is "sanctified" by the Holy Ghost so that he can say or do whatever he wants and remain temple worthy - with the mission to share his special, deep, made-up doctrine with anyone who will listen. This time around he told me about how the "Second Coming" doesn't actually refer to Christ returning to the Earth, but rather to the people of Zion coming together and coming up to meet him, or something, and the leaders of the Church just don't understand that yet. President Nelson, did, however, say in the last General Conference that time is running out, which James enthusiastically took as validation that "I'm not crazy!"
I just nodded through it like usual. I didn't know what else to do. He masterfully weaves unrelated and decontextualized scripture verses together to support his hypotheses, and I lack the skill to refute them on the spot. Besides, telling this kind of people they're wrong tends to just give them a persecution complex and reinforce their conviction. See also: anti-vaxxers. And I try to be nice to him because I know what it's like to be stigmatized for mental illness and I don't want to do that to someone else. But when he felt the need to tell me in graphic detail about his imaginary sex life that I never asked about, and called my dear friend Mackenzie whom he's never met a whore and servant of Satan, and got agitated while driving and started grabbing at imaginary demon-things he called "birds", and said he was working behind the scenes to stop the missionaries from baptizing those he deemed unworthy, I had to do something. I told the bishop everything and made it his problem. I felt bad, since he was new at being a bishop for the first time, but better him than me. Then James aged out of the ward and things calmed down for a couple years until the other night.
When he left to wander around I bolted from the gym and found a table in one of the lounges. I had to socialize, but so be it; at least I was safer. The dance was supposed to start at 7 so I returned to the gym only to find that it had been postponed by fifteen minutes, so I went back to the lounge and found a chair by the corner where I could be alone. Some girl perpendicular to me was still eating. Then "Joe" happened by. Joe is a regular fixture at the institute who looks for girls with athletic figures and then talks to them about football until they wish they were dead. I mean, I don't know what exactly they're thinking, but even I can tell they're not enjoying it. So he said "Hi" to this girl and she said "Hi" back and they stared each other down for a moment and I don't know how she did it, but he left. That was a surprise. Another surprise happened when she subsequently turned to me and said, "And how are you, Chris?"
Sometimes I feel like I have real honest-to-goodness dementia. It's absurd how often someone addresses me by name and I don't even recognize their face. Apparently this was someone from my ward named Jessica who's friends with Amelia Whitlock whom I quoted in the blurb for this blog, and she said Amelia recently noticed that and got all excited but I could have sworn I asked permission to use it in the first place so I thought she already knew that. Jessica asked what I was doing and I said I was reading an article on my phone about computer reconstructions of historical figures' heads and she said that was cool. I tried to scroll down to George Washington and show her, but my phone chose that time to replace the article with a choppy white screen and the moment I got to him she said "See ya" and left.
Then the dance started and I wandered in because a. there was nothing else to do and b. I never get to play my music that loud at home. So that went on and then the first of two slow songs came on and the DJ complained that there were too many ladies not being asked to dance. As generous as I am, there was nothing I could do to single-handedly solve that problem, and I don't typically ask strangers to dance anyway because in my view it's one of the least efficient ways to meet people. I looked around for somebody I knew. Technically I knew Jessica now, so I figured I'd ask her if I could find her. But someone very unexpectedly tapped me on the shoulder and asked me first, having either taken pity on me or taken her destiny into her own hands. So we walked sideways in a circle and demonstrated why this is one of the least efficient ways to meet people.
Me: WHAT'S YOUR NAME?
Me: WITH A 'T' AS IN 'TRAILER'?
I thought she said Tori, but I had to verify that it wasn't Corrie because that's technically a woman's name and even if it wasn't, you can never be sure. Given that she's from Utah I can't even be sure that "Tori" isn't spelled with four m's and a silent q. We had a nice conversation, all things considered, but it was over so fast, which is the other reason why this is one of the least efficient ways to meet people. After two or three minutes we just knew a few basic facts about each other, mostly about me because she asked most of the questions because I was still perplexed that this was happening, and then we high-fived and there was little else to do. Maybe this works for attractive guys, but I don't feel like I can ask for someone's number or add them on Facebook after two or three minutes of small talk, and I actually gave up years ago on asking for numbers without a legitimate reason at all because texting them and getting no response got old fast. I'm not likely ever going to see her again. So this experience left me more depressed than if nothing had happened. Don't get me wrong, though, I do appreciate Tori for being nice and assertive.
Eventually I needed a water break and there I ran into the missionaries, or rather I chased them down and demanded to know why they haven't visited me yet. Sister Black asked if I'd been dancing and meeting girls and whatever, and I said yes, but I guess she didn't hear me because she pushed me back to the gym. She pushed me with the fingertips of one hand, and I could have easily resisted or moved aside, but they wanted to come to my endowment if possible so I needed to discuss that with them anyway so I decided to just cooperate and let her feel like she was doing a good deed by forcing me to be sociable. I happen to know that she wants to travel the world by herself instead of getting married, so it seems slightly hypocritical, but whatever. I talked as I let her push me and then we reached the gym doors and the second of the two slow songs came on, which made her extra insistent that I go ask a girl to dance. I would have taken fifteen seconds, tops, to finish talking to the missionaries and then gone in and maybe found Tori and asked her to dance again if that wasn't too weird. But James showed up again.
James literally pushed me aside - a gentle push, like Sister Black's, though unlike Sister Black he's big enough to pound me into a pancake if he wanted - and started talking to the missionaries as if I wasn't there. He launched right into his special doctrine. I zoned out and only caught a few words here and there, but it went down exactly like the last time I lingered nearby while he talked to missionaries. One companion stared at him, enraptured, while the other glanced at me and smiled as if to say, "Is this for real? Are you hearing this too? At least I'm not alone." For at least five minutes he talked to them, long past the end of the second and final slow song, ignoring my telepathic pleas that could have been accurately bowdlerized as "Go away." At long last he did, and we wandered away in a daze. Sister Black, the one who'd smiled at me, said, "That was the craziest person I've ever met!"
"Was that your first time?" I asked.
"Yes," she said. "You know him?" I said I did, and we finished talking, and she characterized his interruption as "rude" which made me feel better that I wasn't the only one annoyed by it. If I have to suffer, other people should too. That's just fair. I'm glad I'm no longer the craziest person she's ever met.
The following evening USU held its monthly "Poetry and a Beverage" event. It was Glasses' final performance. I wrote years ago about my fiction writing group members whom I dubbed Bracelets, Redhead, and Glasses, and those were stupid pseudonyms and I usually don't even bother with pseudonyms anymore, but I stuck with them for the sake of consistency even though I think I only mentioned Redhead and Glasses one more time after that. At that time I described the latter as "a culturally unorthodox Mormon who hates society, speaks his mind and swears a lot", and that's still pretty accurate except that we're not supposed to say "Mormon" anymore. He's a real cool guy and I've talked to him and seen him around over the years but I just never wrote about him because our conversations are none of your business.
He's a master of rhythmic, almost rap-like, humorous and unfiltered poetry that he's performed at almost evey PoBev while here, and as far as USU is concerned, last night was his magnum opus. (As far as I'm concerned, his magnum opus is still the ode to Oreos that he wrote back in 2015. Good luck ever topping that one, pal.) It was long and covered a lot of unrelated topics, kind of like my early blog posts but actually entertaining, and included enough opinions to offend everyone in the room. Among other things he reflected on his time at USU, his positive memories and his less positive memories and the fact that tuition has risen 22% while he was here even though the national average increase was only 9%. He listed some things that everyone is supposed to love that he doesn't love (like animals, babies, and Bernie Sanders).
He concluded by expressing exactly how he felt about certain aspects of USU and college in general, repeating the same colorful four-letter verb as a mantra for each aspect. A very few people got up and left at that point, but when he finished he got the loudest and most enthusiastic applause of any act I saw that night or at any other time. The organizers were well aware of his previous contributions and smart enough to save him for last. I know I can't do justice to his poetry or convey its appeal with my weak summary, but this being his last time and all I wanted to pay tribute. He and a couple other people have asked when I'm going to perform at PoBev. I'm thinking probably never, but stranger things have happened. I just can't think of any.
Over a year ago I wrote a post about why diversity takes a long time to "trickle up" through top leadership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and why it isn't the systemic problem some people think it is, so I'm not going to rehash that here, but if you bother to read it you'll see that subsequent events have further vindicated everything I said. Of course, though it "doesn't matter", I remain a huge fan of diversity and I'm very pleased that none of the ten General Authorities called this past Saturday were born in Utah. They were born in Argentina, Puerto Rico, the Netherlands, California, Chile, New York, California, Washington, Hong Kong, and Argentina, respectively. And let's be honest, we all know that while ostensibly the same country, for most intents and purposes Washington, California and New York are separate planets from Utah. This diversity will retroactively be amplified even further when Trump sells California back to Mexico.
Peter Johnson got some attention for being the first African-American General Authority - not the first black one, which happened in 1990, but the first black one from the United States. And this has some significance because the Church has struggled a lot more in making headway among black people in the United States than in many African countries. Black people in the United States have a history of systematic discrimination and persecution based on skin color that most black people in Africa, excluding South Africa, don't, so they understandably tend to have a harder time forgiving the Church's own historical hiccups in that area. Also, they tend to be less than impressed with our bland music (but then, so are plenty of white people). I know and/or have listened to several African-Americans online and in person who are members of the Church who still have a problem with both of these issues. Of course these are just general trends that explain the disparate growth trends we see, and not meant to be taken as stereotypes that apply to everyone everywhere.
Peter Johnson, in any case, is even more interesting than that. He is also the first former Muslim General Authority (having converted to Islam before he converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and more than likely the first former rapper General Authority (having been part of a rap group during his preteen years that performed at community events). If he raps his first General Conference talk and quotes the Quran, I will officially bestow upon him the coveted title of Coolest Person on Planet Earth. So yesterday was a good day. It also happened to be The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints' 189th birthday and my soon-to-be-missionary sister's nineteenth birthday but, contrary to what many Latter-day Saints believe based on a misreading of D&C 20:1, probably not Jesus Christ Himself's birthday.
Today, I had the privilege of attending the final session with some guy I just met who had a car. He wondered why we had to leave so early, and I said traffic would probably be pretty bad as we got close, and he expressed his surprise that traffic was pretty bad as we got close. Honestly, General Conference must be the Salt Lake Police Department's least favorite four days of the year. But we got there and then we just had to drive around for another ten minutes looking for a place to park, and in the process got to stop at six traffic lights. As I looked up the hill to the Capitol Building I was reminded of my participation in a protest march a couple years ago, and I made the mistake of mentioning that, and the guy asked what for and I had to tell him and I'm very sorry for bringing up politics during a church event. But you can read my account of that protest here on your own time.
We did eventually find a place that we hopefully wouldn't get towed from, and got out and walked, and I saw a mural that was new since my last visit and it was so compelling that I had to stop and take a picture. My name for it, which I'm sure is superior to whatever name the artist has for it, is "The Owl Who Ate a Rainbow and Had Explosive Crystalline Diarrhea". It should be part of a Skittles ad campaign if it isn't already.
As we waited at a crosswalk, two young ladies dressed for Conference walked up behind us and assaulted even my virtually non-functional nostrils with some kind of lotion and/or perfume stuff. After a few moments of hesitation, I rationalized that I would not likely ever see them again and could safely seize this opportunity to practice being smoother than the cream cheese on your bagel.
Me: One of you smells really nice.
Them: *giggle* Thanks. *giggle*
Me: Maybe both of you, I don't know.
So the guy I just met and I walked a couple more blocks, lost the young ladies and reached the Conference Center. Last year, Blaire Ostler and Peter Moosman stood outside by the Conference Center with signs that read "Hug a Bisexual Mormon" and "Hug a Gay Mormon", respectively. I was pleased to see that this year they a. did it again, b. followed the prophet's counsel to refer to themselves as Latter-day Saints, and c. increased their numbers by 150%. Blaire Ostler was busy talking to someone, so I hugged the two before her and the two after her and came back to her and said, "I missed you," and she might have taken that completely the wrong way but I guess she was cool with it. I hope these people will come back year after year and continue augmenting their numbers. Maybe they'll even let me join them when the Church is ready to acknowledge that asexual people exist. Their faith and fortitude is mind-blowing and augments mine. Few people or experiences of my life have touched my cold, dead heart more than the transgender woman who hugged me today and said, "Welcome to Conference."
I wanted to take a picture of them. I didn't because I was afraid it would be dehumanizing somehow, but now I think that concern was stupid and I wish I had and if I had this is where I'd put it.
So those wonderful LGBT Saints provided diversity, and I provided neurodiversity, and other people provided more obvious diversity by coming from all over the world with their different languages, skin colors, grooming and fashion. I especially love to see the Polynesian men who wear these - I know they're not dresses, but I don't know what they're called, and I don't want to be disrespectful at all, but they kind of look like dresses made of dress pants material, but anyway my point is I love that they wear these as their Sunday best instead of feeling pressured to follow American norms. The line went surprisingly fast but then our tickets didn't work and we had to go to a special door where they fixed our tickets or something. Because this problem was addressed, we were only a couple minutes late and I won't leave a terrible Yelp review for the Conference Center. We sat on the terrace in the very back with several Latino Saints who talked to each other in Spanish while I rudely eavesdropped to brush up on my rusty Spanish skills. Most of them put on headphones to listen to an overdub of the talks.
I took off my suit at one point, and then tried to put it back on at one point without getting in anybody's face, but one sleeve slipped out of my grasp and hit the man next to me. Not so it would hurt, of course, but I presume he was trying to pay attention to Elder Rasband's talk and I had just jarred him out of it, and I felt very bad and without thinking I blurted out "Sorry." In a whisper, so as not to distract everyone else too. Now I'm not sure if this particular man even knew English, because when they filed in the usher said something and this man asked another guy what the usher said and the guy repeated it in Spanish for him, so I just hope he at least knew what "Sorry" meant. With lightning-fast reflexes and without a word he held my sleeve up so I could put my arm in. "Thank you," I said, again being instinctively stupid, but I'm sure he knew what that meant because every English speaker on the planet knows what "Gracias" and "Merci" mean.
I would not have been surprised by any number of temple announcements. There could have been zero, after a whopping nineteen last year, but President Nelson doesn't strike me as the type to slow down and I was thinking anywhere between three and eighteen. We got eight, which was decent. In these announcements we see the continuation of President Nelson's priority to bring temples to Latter-day Saints in all corners of the Earth even if their numbers don't quite seem to justify it on paper. Most of these temples were anticipated by those of us who have no life and think about these things to be announced within a few years, but none of them were the highest on most of our lists. I will not be directly affected by any of these temples anytime soon, but I rejoice for those who will, which I'm sure included several in the audience. After the closing prayer, the man who'd helped me with my jacket turned around and embraced the man behind him, who said in Spanish with moist eyes, "Such emotion, brother... such emotion. Antofagasta."
Then the guy I just met took a picture of me to prove I was there and help me someday plead my case for why I should pretty please be allowed into heaven just this once please. Unlike most pictures of me, this one came out not looking like something that I want to kill with fire, so that's just one more evidence that the Church is true.
What did I actually gain from the actual messages in the actual talks, one may ask? Mostly just that I need to change the things that I already knew I needed to change and had every intention of changing someday when I get around to it, if I have to, I guess. I hope to gain even more insight by rewatching the talks at a later date (which of course I would encourage anyone else to do as well by following this link) when I'm no longer so tired that it's painful to keep my eyes open. These, however, were a few refreshing tidbits:
President Uchtdorf's reality check re: unwarranted triumphalism about the growth of the Church
Elder Andersen's acknowledgement that he doesn't understand my circumstances re: the Family Proclamation, but the Lord does
Elder Gong's disclosure of his struggle with insomnia that makes me a little less angry with God about mine
And that's all I have to say about this weekend right now but I hope we can do this again sometime.
The latest General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (hereafter never again to be called the LDS Church, the Mormon Church, or any of the less flattering names that internet trolls like to copy-paste in hopes that someone will mistakenly think they're clever) has been, as usual, a much-needed refuge from the stupid crap going on in the world and in my life. Although I've had more trouble than usual sleeping lately and especially last night, and was only semi-conscious for today's sessions, it was still a calming and uplifting and faith-building experience. I believe so strongly in this church and its mission and feel very blessed to be a part of it. This is my first attempt at writing about General Conference right after it happens instead of a week later, and I'm playing around with the format and trying to do something other than just comment on a bunch of talks that people just watched, so we'll see how it goes. In my preemptive defense let me point out that I'm still only semi-conscious.
I heard the rumor about church changing from three to two hours and thought it was ridiculous. Shows how much I know. Of course, I'm one of those who's excited about it for all the wrong reasons. I'm sort of an elitist jerk whose tendency is to zone out the moment I don't feel intellectually stimulated by what I'm hearing, instead of listening to the Spirit and yadda yadda yadda. And for the past few months I've been going to the family history room during the third hour instead of Elders' Quorum, which I find difficult to sit through. Traditionally I much prefer the mixed groups in sacrament meeting and Sunday school to the monolith of men. Lately I've been better at fostering meaningful platonic relationships with men, but traditionally it's been awkward. Someone helpfully pointed out the issue years ago: "I know you're uncomfortable hanging out with guys because you don't want people to think you're gay, but actually, hanging out with girls all the time is what will make people think that." And I was freaked out at first, but then I realized that if she had actually read my mind, she would have gone mad.
Anyway. The proper reason to get excited about two-hour church is that the focus of gospel learning is being shifted more into the home, for me and my two inactive roommates to deal with. I'm glad everyone else in the Church is qualified for these "higher law" changes. I still haven't done anything with "ministering". The monthly visits were out of my comfort zone already, and I got to doing them consistently anyway, and them bam, this more vague mandate that I still have no idea what to do with. I don't have a ton of experience making friends, okay?
I've been grappling lately with the realization that I can't have and don't want a family, and the discomfort that causes me in such a fundamentally family-centric religion. From my vantage point it looks more often than not as though God built me to be incompatible with His plan for ostensibly the entire human race. And I'm positive that not one person in the church's leadership understands my unique challenges. I don't think there ever has been or ever will be an Aspie ace Apostle. May people throughout the world could undoubtedly say the same about the things they're dealing with. So naturally, I zone out whenever conference talks are about marriage or raising children. But... I feel encouraged in my personal relationship with God, and encouraged that He does understand and care. And that's enough for now. I must say the positives of my membership in this church and my testimony of most of its teachings far outweigh the discomfort, or of course I wouldn't still be here. I hope my experience is comforting to some who deal with similar awkwardness.
Another talk about forgiveness. I'm not a forgiving person. How can I forgive someone who inflicted damage on me that I will have to deal with until I die? I'm not that humble or that strong. I hope they talk about forgiveness again for at least the next twenty years so I'll have a chance to get it right.
I've developed sort of an unhealthy obsession with diversity, and get an extra thrill when anyone who isn't white and/or American speaks. Don't get me wrong, most of my best friends are white and/or American, but the diversity of God's garden - and I hate myself for being so sappy, but honestly - is such a breath of fresh air. The Deseret News ran an article last week about how the number and percentage of General Authorities from outside the United States have increased in the last forty years. The actual membership as a whole is quite a bit more diverse, but that diversity is of course trickling up at an exponential rate and it's wonderful to see. The more skin colors and nations and walks of life I see represented, the more my heart burns with love for all my brothers and sisters of varying skin colors and nations and walks of life. In the words of the great preacher Emo Philips, "Why be prejudiced against anyone because of their race or nationality or creed... when there are so many real reasons to hate others?" I kid, I kid.
Nonetheless, I love President Russell M. Nelson the most. I never expected him to capture my heart like this when I had little opinion on him prior to his current calling. Maybe it's his sense of humor, maybe it's just an ineffable charisma, maybe it's that he has far more energy than me despite being sixty-nine years older, but I love and sustain him one way or another. It's always easier to follow the prophet when he's already likeable as a person.
And I actually appreciate that he's moved the temple announcements to the end, instead of putting the best part at the beginning and going downhill from there given the pace he's set, I wasn't at all surprised when today he set the new record for most temples to be announced at one time (twelve) despite already announcing seven more six months ago. I'm so happy for myself now getting to look at more dots on a map, and I'm so happy for the Latter-day Saints in and near Mendoza, Argentina; Salvador, Brazil; Yuba City, California; Phnom Penh, Cambodia; Praia, Cape Verde; Yigo, Guam; Puebla, Mexico; Auckland, New Zealand; Lagos, Nigeria; Davao, Philippines; San Juan, Puerto Rico; and Washington County, Utah; which is less lame than it sounds because it's outside the Wasatch Front. It seems wev'e crossed a threshold of dotting the Earth with temples and will only go further from here, and I personally know some people who will be affected by these. Speaking of temples, Rick Satterfield's website is back online with a facelift and well worth the wait.
Tune in next week for something that I haven't decided yet.
This happened on Facebook about a month ago. I'd like to think I've gotten more humble since then, with General Conference and all, but not likely.
As much as I think this is a terrible idea because people who choose to live in rural areas choose to live in rural areas for a reason and don't want somebody coming in and building a city next to them, I have mad respect for this guy actually giving a crap about the environment, unlike 99% of Americans. He has several researchers at work to make this thing eco-friendly. Also worth noting that he says he doesn't care what the leaders of the church think about his project because they don't control him. This comes as quite a shock, because everyone knows Mormons like me are brainwashed into following our leaders and incapable of thinking for ourselves. So anyway, of course there were some useless responses.
I've noticed that, in addition to several other cultish buzzwords and cliches, anti-Mormon trolls really like the phrase "shred of evidence". It's almost like most of them are sharing the same brain, which would explain a lot. If only one of them knew what the word "evidence" means, he could tell the others to stop confusing it with "conclusive proof".
Of course I'm usually not the type to make fun of someone's atrocious spelling, even if reading it makes me die a little inside (there's really no excuse for a native English-speaking adult without a mental disability to not know the difference between "you're" and "your"), but if that person is also being a jackass at the time, of course I will. I feel like being an atrocious speller ought to give someone a shred of humility. But that's just me. Still, I tried to have a little bit of humility by editing the words "equally brainless" out of my comment. That counts for something, right?
Why did I opt for ad hominem instead of addressing his criticism? Because my time is too precious to waste on people who are pretending to be critical thinkers but are actually just being jackasses. I'm not stupid enough to think he would listen to anything I would have to say. He's flat-out lying when he says "then I would probably beilie them." There are literally hundreds if not thousands of geographical, archaeological, and linguistic evidences for the Book of Mormon (see here, here, here, and here, for example) and none of them have persuaded cynics to believe in it. It's a matter of faith, which is kind of the entire freaking point. Not blind faith, but bothering to actually read the book and ask God personally if it's true. I've actually never bothered to do that latter part because I already knew it was. It was just obvious to me. But if he was satisfied with "a shred of evidence that a hige [sic] battle had been fought there", he would just move the goalposts and demand something else. Don't even try to pretend he wouldn't. Critics have done it for nearly two centuries.
Anti-Mormons: The Book of Mormon mentions people using cement in the ancient Americas, but there wasn't any cement in the ancient Americas! Ha! Joseph Smith was so stupid!
Archeologists: Hey, we just found cement from the ancient Americas.
Mormons: Oh look, there was cement in the ancient Americas just like the Book of Mormon said there was.
Anti-Mormons: Uh, let's never mention this again because reasons. Now this other thing...
Honestly, it blows my mind how people can be so asinine. But, for the benefit of readers here who may not be aware of it, the Hill Cumorah is mentioned in the Book of Mormon. Joseph Smith never identified the hill in upstate New York where he got the book of Mormon as the Hill Cumorah, nor is there any reason from the text to assume that it is. But other people assumed that it was and that's what we call it now. Most of the people who examine the book for a living believe that it took place in Mesoamerica, where the vast majority of aforementioned evidences are found, obviously implying that the real Hill Cumorah is there as well. So we wouldn't expect to find anything important in the wrong place.
I actually found this really funny because it was just so out of proportion to what I said. It really shows the depth of Curtis' critical thinking skills, you know? I can see why someone as intelligent and perceptive as him demands evidence.
I'm the opposite. If I really am a better person for staying, I'd hate to think what I would be like as a non-member. I'm almost positive I would be dead or in jail.
Facebook's "mic drop" stickers are limited to pretty much just this one, and the Salt Lake Tribune doesn't allow photo comments. Speaking of the Tribune, they recently had a slow news day and published a hit piece called "Does tithing requirement for entry into LDS temples amount to Mormons buying their way into heaven?" Such a timely and relevant article on such a recent development within the Church. Wait, no, it's the exact opposite of that. But I do also have several ex-Mormon friends and family members who, at least in person, are decent human beings. I respect them and try to get along with them despite our differences even if it doesn't always seem like it because of how vocal and strongly-worded I am in my opinions. So I felt inspired to make this meme in their defense and differentiate them from the trolls.
The following criticisms are directed only at militant atheists, by which I mean those who make it their mission in life to destroy the God they don't believe in. I have no grievances with atheists who are willing to live in peace and mutual respect with people whose beliefs they don't share. I try to respect them as I hope to be respected (though of course, not being respected won't change my beliefs, religious or otherwise, one iota). Just recently, for example, I was with a coworker who said I'm her only friend at work and we were talking about our deceased dogs, and I asked "Do you believe animals go to heaven?" and she said "No, because I don't believe in heaven" and my first thought was "That's depressing" because, you know, that would mean she has no hope of ever seeing her dog again, but I stopped myself from saying that out loud because I realized it would probably be offensive. So there was a bit of awkward silence as I looked for something else to say, and that probably made her think I didn't like her anymore anyway. But I tried.
I don't even care if atheists want to criticize religion. It certainly isn't above criticism. But they can do so while still recognizing that not all of the billions of people who disagree with them about the existence of a higher power are delusional idiots. Militant atheists can't be bothered with such basic decency and would rather keep perpetuating Americans' unfavorable rating of all atheists by making themselves as obnoxious as possible. So...
I haven't read Richard Dawkins' "The God Delusion". If his Tweets are anything to go by, I'm not missing much. I have read Sam Harris' "Letter to a Christian Nation", which painted him as an incredibly unlikeable individual, and reviewed it here. I have read parts of the late Christopher Hitchens' "God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything" and found it so full of unabashed, inexcusable lies as to be not worth continuing. Hitchens apparently took great delight in fabricating nonexistent quotes and facts, such as Thomas Aquinas saying "I am a man of one book" despite the reality that Thomas Aquinas never said anything of the sort and in fact cited all kinds of books in his writings. To say nothing of everything Hitchens got wrong about Mormon history. See here for a great review with several examples of his lies, which some atheists on YouTube have responded to with name-calling. But when you're a militant atheist, you see, the ends justifies the means. It's okay for you to make crap up because you're superior to religious people.
So anyway, I get that I'm supposed to be intimidated by the allegedly superior intellects of militant atheists - Sam Harris says so explicitly in his book - but I'm not. At least Richard Dawkins made a recent attempt at appearing clever.
Answers to Richard Dawkins' questions:
No, all of them
N/A (see previous answer; note, however, that I do not deny the existence of these hominids or the reality of evolution)
No, all people are eligible
Physically and mentally perfected me (Don't all Christians believe this, even if they don't believe in resurrection? Why is this even a question? It's like smugly asking an all-you-can-eat place if they provide chairs.)
I mean, are these questions supposed to be clever? They took me literally thirty seconds to answer. I guess when you're a famous biologist who hasn't actually done biology in several years, you can write whatever dreck you want and thousands of your drooling worshipers will lick it up. He's an atheist, ergo everything he writes is just brimming with intelligence. Like when he advocated cloning human meat and eating it to overcome our "irrational" taboo against cannibalism. I really don't even know what to say to anyone who still admires him after that. Ironically, he's on record mocking Mitt Romney's beliefs as "barking mad" and yet, if he'd ever bothered to actually look at them, he might have noticed that they answer all of his stupid questions. But maybe not that ironic. When you're a militant atheist, you see, you don't need to understand something before criticizing it. All I see here is a sad, irrelevant old man whose nearly spent life revolves around trying to tear down other people's happiness. I'll pray for him.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
- David Young
C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.