I'm rather overdue in mentioning this. I've gotten sidetracked by things in my personal life, some nice and some positively hellish. Anyway, this guy some months ago added me on Facebook for something clever I wrote on a Salt Lake Tribune article. I don't remember what; I write so many clever things on Salt Lake Tribune articles. And I'm cool with friending people I've never met as long as they're not obviously fake profiles inviting me to look at nudes on another site, which this guy wasn't. And he laughed at my funny posts and praised me for being a genius and it seemed we would coexist in harmony despite him turning out to be a Trump supporter and me being obviously not one.
But it was not to last.
One day he shared a post from a conservative page listing several infringements on the civil rights of Muslims by the government of Japan:
It was just the list with no commentary, but seeing as this was a conservative page, the intention was pretty obvious. The last time a conservative page said something positive about Muslims was, well, never. And if it hadn't been obvious, the comments on the page itself and on my friend's share of the post would have made it so. They more or less unanimously felt that Japan was doing a good job that the United States would do well to emulate. Now of course, being that this was a conservative page, I suspected that most or all of the post was bullcrap, and I was right. Japan does not treat Muslims the way American conservatives think it treats Muslims. I have to wonder what it is in the psychology of so many American conservatives that compels them to swallow and repeat easily debunked lies over and over and over and over and over and over again. Here's a hint: when the makers of these memes don't cite a source it's usually because the source is one of their own orifices.
But unfortunately, the falsity of these claims doesn't change the issue that American conservatives want their government to persecute an unpopular religious minority. That's one of the reasons they elected Trump instead of jeering him out of the 2016 presidential race after he called for "a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States". I jumped in on my friend's post and rhetorically asked if the Founding Fathers made a mistake when they didn't exclude Islam from the First Amendment. I said something about the hypocrisy of people claiming to revere the Constitution while supporting abuses of government power and civil rights like this. I said I love my Muslim friends and would stick up for their rights against any asshole (and I shouldn't have said "asshole", but I'm only human) who tried to take them away. I thought it was a compelling argument, but this guy proved me wrong and preserved the sanctity of his echo chamber by unfriending me. Ah well. It's nice when the trash takes itself out. You know what really makes me sick though? He was a member of my church.
Right-wing hatred of Muslims is not rare. It is not a loud minority. On my more cynical days, I would go so far as to call it one of the chief defining traits of conservatism. It's possibly the single biggest factor in my decision to distance myself from that ideology, and has prompted me to unlike dozens of its pages over the years, up to and including this past week, though admittedly there were a few that I unliked for science denial first. Islamophobia is a cancer, though that's an imperfect metaphor because real cancer doesn't know better. And it's a cancer that more than a few right-wing American members of my church have chosen to infect themselves with, and yes, I hold them to a higher standard and get even more disgusted at their hypocrisy. I don't consider myself a judgmental person for the most part. If you get involved in drugs, prostitution, gambling, armed robbery, or listening to Nickelback, I will with you the best. If, however, you are directly responsible for perpetuating prejudice against the most hated demographic in America, I'll tell you to your face that if heaven is full of people like you, I would rather go to hell.
All other forms of right-wing prejudice take a backseat to that one, but there is an astounding lack of empathy at play. Migrant children being separated from their families and abused by the government? Their parents shouldn't have broken the law. White police officers scream and swear and threaten to murder a pregnant black woman in front of her child? She shouldn't have stolen underwear if she wanted them to be nice to her. High school students removed from the football team for posting a video of a burning rainbow flag and saying "all gays die"? That's a violation of their free speech, and also they wouldn't have gotten in trouble if it had been an American flag, and also why isn't there a Straight Pride Month? God forbid we have a shred of compassion for anyone who doesn't worship, speak, look, or love exactly like us. That's not the American way. Also, addiction is a choice and addicts deserve to have their lives ruined.
Look, this crap just depresses me, all the more so because I don't see it getting better anytime soon. Lord help us all.
Happy twentieth birthday to "The Phantom Menace" and eleventh birthday to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", two much-maligned films that I used to love and still love and won't apologize for loving even though I'm now aware of their shortcomings. I feel pretty freaking old, though, since I remember both of their releases like they were yesterday. Yet Jar Jar Binks and CG gophers are timeless.
I am, of course, no fan of abortion or the absurdly stupid and/or scientifically illiterate arguments so often employed in its defense. However, I regard Alabama's new law with its lack of exemptions or nuance of any kind, and any mindset or legislation along similar lines, goes much too far and is morally wrong. I don't anyone thinking I support that sort of thing. (For that matter, these days I've stopped rooting for anti-abortion legislation altogether, as I think it's far more important to change hearts and minds and provide decent sex education, birth control, and scientific information.) However, I'm not getting super worked up about it because it's going to be struck down, and that's actually the point. The whole thing is a ploy to reach the Supreme Court in the hope of overturning Roe vs. Wade with the help of Trump's more or less conservative appointees. For some reason most people don't seem aware of that. While most of the outrage against this law and the men who passed it is justified, painting them as stupid and/or ignorant isn't. They know exactly what they're doing. I don't think it's justified and I think it will fail, but it's a bold and brilliant maneuver.
I know I'm not supposed to even have an opinion, but I do and there it is and now I'm done. Here's something positive that happened to me this week, not to make anybody jealous but just to prove that I am capable of noticing positive things. I ran into my ex-roommates' mom for the first time since January, and that was just a little nerve-wracking after what they did to me and the lies they probably spread to justify it (a story which will be explained in much greater detail in my upcoming memoir), and I thought maybe she'd be pissed, but she said she felt bad about how things happened and wanted to give me something, and the something turned out to be an envelope with eighty dollars in it. I guess she's been carrying it around for three months just in case. I wouldn't have run into her if I hadn't gone out to buy temple garments that afternoon, so I accepted that as a very welcome tender mercy.
I wrote recently about the movement to change aspects of BYU's Honor Code enforcement that are wrong and have put some students through unacceptable abuse. I'm told that others who actually want to rewrite or do away with the code altogether have piggybacked onto this movement, but what I've actually witnessed is self-righteous Latter-day Saints assuming that the wronged students' complaints are a disengenuous smokescreen and that they should have gone to a different school. Now, I don't believe BYU has ever asked random people to defend it from legitimate accusations, and I don't believe it's ever responded to such accusations by saying "If you don't like us, don't go here." So I'm honestly a little baffled by the sheer number of people who think it's their duty to defend BYU by victim-blaming its accusers and saying "If you don't like BYU, don't go there." It now comes as no surprise to anyone with a functioning brain that this week BYU changed its Honor Code enforcement policies.
The main idea behind these changes, which may not be the only ones, is to get rid of the culture of students being encouraged to tattle on other students for trivial violations that are none of their business. So, for example, students making accusations will no longer remain anonymous, and the students being accused will actually be allowed to face their accusers, except in a few vague circumstances. Why this wasn't the case all along is beyond my comprehension. The default anonymity policy was asinine and couldn't have reasonably been expected to foster anything positive, and it didn't. Let me be clear; while I don't like BYU and didn't go there, I believe most of its administrators act in good faith and that the current director of the Honor Code office is a swell guy and that these changes are at least as much a result of the goodness of his heart as the negative publicity. I applaud BYU for acknowledging some of its shortcomings and fixing them quickly instead of defending them.
And this isn't the first time. It's been considerably less than three years since BYU overhauled its policies to stop the Honor Code office from grilling sexual assault victims, compounding their suffering and expelling them if they were found to have violated it. Of course this was an unintended consequence, not the result of administrators deciding it would be fun to punish rape victims, but regardless of intent the approach was poorly thought out and wrong and catastrophically hurtful. During a crapload of national scrutiny and backlash in mid-2016 (which won the Salt Lake Tribune a Pulitzer prize the following year), many Latter-day Saints could be heard to opine, "If you don't like BYU, don't go there." Then an advisory council of the school's faculty recommended 23 policy changes. And then BYU, to its credit, adopted every single one of them. And then its self-appointed defenders completely failed to learn any lesson whatsoever and made complete idiots of themselves again this go-round.
Full disclosure: I am one of those who believes the substance of the Honor Code itself, not just enforcement, needs to change. The beard ban that arose to counter 1960s American hippy culture is desperately obsolete and accomplishes little more than making BYU weird for the wrong reasons. I, for one, have found shaving to be an enormous and unwelcome inconvenience. and the spinny blade things to be highly ineffective at their one purpose for existence, so I do it once a week and use the sideburn trimmer for my whole face. None of my fellow students or faculty at USU could have ever possibly cared less. In fact, some guys grow out their beards just to mock the BYU football team when it visits. So yes, I think that's a stupid policy and will support any protest movement against it, but obviously these things have to come on a priority basis. As in my previous mention, I acknowledge that the vast majority of BYU students have positive experiences. But with these policy changes and hopefully more to come, the minority who don't are being heard, and their future numbers should be much lower.
Oh, here's another positive thing. Please take two and a half minutes to watch it.
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.
I hope everyone had a delightful Christmas, as I hope that everyone, Christian or not, is able to enjoy the candy and camaraderie and carols and so on. In this sequel of sorts to last week's post, I address what is widely recognized as a great era for music. The music of every decade prior to the 2010s has its own unique qualities, so it's hard to pick a favorite, but if I have to, it's the eighties. They make me nostalgic for a time I never lived in. Plenty of eighties songs are still loved and repeated, but for unclear reasons, other equally good ones have fallen out of favor and collective memory. I've never heard any of these on a classic hits station even though most of them were rather successful at the time of release. In theory, sharing videos like this instead of writing posts from scratch saves precious vacation time that could be better used to try to get into graduate school and hunt Gold Skulltulas.
The Nick Straker Band - A Little Bit of Jazz
We're starting off with something very clever; a song about jazz that isn't a jazz song, as far as I know. I don't know much about music genres or terminology, I just know what I like, but I'm pretty sure this isn't jazz. No further comment, unless "jazz" is actually a euphemism for some kind of drug or weird sex thing, in which case please don't tell me because I don't want to know.
Red Rider - Lunatic Fringe
A song of defiance against anti-Semitism, which not only hasn't become irrelevant almost forty years later, but also has vague enough lyrics to encompass the various other forms of bigotry that have experienced a resurgence in the Western world in recent years.
Eurythmics - Never Gonna Cry Again
The vast majority of Eurythmics songs are underrated. In my opinion their biggest hit, "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)", isn't even in the top five. So it was no easy task to select just one to showcase here, but I settled on the one that was the catalyst for me buying their debut album which was the catalyst for me buying more of their albums. Their debut album was their least successful, but its unique and cool experimental sound makes it my favorite.
Shakatak - Night Birds
An instrumental, electronic version of this song was the demo on a few varieties of Casio keyboard, including the one my parents used to keep under their bed. I yearned for those moments when they let me take it out and push the special button to set it off. As an adult I found the demo online, but stupidly never considered that it might be a real song, until one evening when I was reading "Here There Be Robots" and letting YouTube play in the background and recognized a melody that made me stop in my proverbial tracks.
Goanna - Solid Rock
A better-known song in Australia, but most of my audience isn't in Australia. It's about the invasion of Australia by Europeans, which I think is a bit harsh since most of the Europeans who settled Australia weren't there voluntarily, but it's touching regardless. Much to the writer's chagrin, in recent years some Australians of European descent used his song to take a stand against the "invasion" of Australia by Muslims. It's comforting to know that the United States doesn't have a monopoly on worthless bigots.
L.B. Rayne - Indiana Jones
A rejected theme song for "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom". Okay, it's actually a joke song made in 2008, but it's more eighties than the eighties so I give it an honorable mention. I'd just as soon play along with the joke and not admit that, but then I'm afraid people would assume I'm stupid.
Baltimora - Tarzan Boy
No comment necessary. (Insert your own quip about none of my comments being necessary here.)
A-ha - The Sun Always Shines on T.V.
Once upon a time, two songs from the same album rose to great prominence. As the years went by, however, one remained prominent while the other fell into relative obscurity. The former is "Take On Me" and the latter is this one. While I can't bring myself to say that the godlike masterpiece of "Take On Me" is overplayed, since I doubt such a thing is possible, I wish the powers that be would spare just a bit of that time for its underrated brother. Until then, it's just another victim of Luigi Syndrome.
Animotion - Stealing Time
For some reason, the album is titled "Strange Behavior" while the song from which it presumably borrows that title is titled "Strange Behaviour". But I haven't chosen that song anyway, because it's not even one of the better ones on this great album. I recommend this entire great album, but you won't find it on Spotify because something something record label bullcrap.
Depeche Mode - Strangelove
I pronounce it "duh-PAY-chay mode". If that's wrong, please don't tell me because I don't want to know. This song has nothing to do with the classic Peter Sellers film of a similar name, but when said film gets its inevitable remake, this song had better be in it or the director should never be allowed to work in Hollywood again.
Icehouse - Electric Blue
Another Australian song, but with no overt Australian themes (unlike Icehouse's other really great song, "Great Southern Land", which is basically an unofficial national anthem). It gets ten billion points for not rhyming "on my knees" with some variation of "begging please", and another ten billion points for this guy's hair. I'm tempted to grow my hair out just like it, but that's a big decision to make. I need to mullet over for a while.
Information Society - What's On Your Mind (Pure Energy)
Information Society is one of the most underrated bands of all time, with at least a dozen songs that deserve to be a lot more popular than they are. This one showcases their fondness for irrelevant Star Trek dialogue samples. The band's debut album from which it is taken was the only one they released in the eighties. They're more of a nineties band, though they started making music again a few years ago, I guess because of Trump. Their sound obviously evolved during that time and in this early offering it's at its simplest, but still powerful.
If I think of any more besides the ones from the same artists that I left out to promote diversity, I'll pull a George Lucas and edit this post, but without telling anyone.
A Response to Some Oft-Repeated Lies about the Alleged Decline of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
I couldn't care less if people express views contrary to mine about politics, religion, or whether pineapple goes on pizza, and I'm thick-skinned enough to care little if at all when they decide to be unnecessarily rude about it. On the rare occasions that someone as witty as John Safran or Emo Philips makes fun of my religion, I'm inclined to find it hilarious. But when people say downright stupid and/or dishonest things about my religion or someone else's religion (usually Islam) or current events or history or science or pizza that are subsequently accepted as unquestionable fact by whoever wants them to be true, something inside me breaks. I feel a desperate, un-Christian yearning to grab said people through my phone or laptop screen and shake the fake news out of them. And that's why I also feel a neurotic compulsion to address some stupid lies about my religion today. I'm under no delusions that this will stop people from continuing to spread and accept these exact stupid lies, but it will be very therapeutic for me to address them for posterity with the respect and thoughtfulness they deserve.
The truth or falsity of any idea is not affected one iota by how many people choose to accept it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints claims something like 0.02% of the world's population. Actually, the Book of Mormon prophesies that its members will be few but will be represented among every nation and culture on Earth, so it would be a bit problematic if there were billions. It's wrong for Latter-day Saints to claim that the Church must be true because of how fast it's growing, especially since its growth rate has declined considerably over the last three decades and at last count was at its lowest rate since 1937 for the third year in a row. It's also wrong for the Church's critics to claim, as they often do, that it isn't growing at all or that it's declining. You can acknowledge that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is growing, and still not believe that it's true. The two propositions are not incompatible. You clearly aren't very confident in your conviction of its falsity if you have to make things up to reassure yourself. So these are the stupid lies about church growth that I've seen (in addition to many other times) in just the past two weeks.
- that people are starting to find out "the TRUTH"™ about the Church and get out.
I must agree to disagree on what constitutes "the TRUTH"™ and disregard the astounding arrogance of statements like this, because for more than eight years I've examined virtually every historical or doctrinal issue that people leave the Church over and I still believe for many spiritual and intellectual reasons, but I take issue with the part where critics act like this is a recent phenomenon. People have been losing their faith and leaving the Church since 1830. During the Kirtland era, they left at a much higher rate than they do today. The number leaving today, however significant it may be and however important each individual, is very much a minority compared to those who stay, join, or return. People who have left the Church often hang around with people who have left the Church, looking for a support system to replace the one they've lost, and this results in echo chambers where they convince themselves that everyone is leaving the Church. And some of them calculate the Church's growth rate based on this without taking into account its two to three hundred thousand baptisms per year. Seems like a sliiight oversight.
Yeah, well, get used to it, Dr. Horrible. I never claimed to be original. Why don't you go bother Penny - OH WAIT.
- that in recent years the Church has declined by 30%.
I only heard this from the one guy, whom I'll keep anonymous because I'm in a good mood. Pardon my French, but this is a textbook example of pulling statistics out of your butt. Whether he was referring to the raw number of members, the percentage of members who attend church, the raw number of members who attend church, or even the growth rate (which in context I'm pretty sure wasn't the case), his statistic is 100% incorrect. It's so incorrect that I'm not even going to dignify it with more of a response than that. And I love writing.
- that in recent years the Church has declined at all.
Unlike the previous more specific claim, this one is - oh, I'm sorry, did I say "unlike"? Autocorrect. I'm too lazy to go back and fix it. Like the previous more specific claim, this one is false. I think the confusion here is because the Church's growth rate has declined, and some people naturally assume that means it's reversed. I understand. I didn't grasp the difference between linear growth and negative growth until I was in second grade, and I understand that people have to learn at their own pace.
- that when people stop attending church but don't resign their membership, the Church counts them as part of the membership total until they die or turn 110 years old, and that's an underhanded thing to do.
This is true except for the absurd negative spin. I made a little post about it, and Jon Hansen memed it, and I said it was beautiful, and then I felt bad for calling a horrific tragedy "beautiful", and I had to repent. But you get the picture. (The zeppelin represents critics of the Church.)
Seriously. People flip their shtick every time the Church excommunicates someone who's actively fighting against it. Imagine how they'd cry and stomp their little feet if the Church excommunicated people for staying home on Sundays. Sure, a decent chunk of these many, many "less active" members don't believe in or consider themselves affiliated with the Church at all, but it isn't the Church's place to decide which ones they are. Every week in various parts of the world, people who hadn't been going to church, sometimes for decades, start going to church again. And of course some stop going and the cycle continues. And of course some people who go to church are closet atheists trying to please their families. So basically the Church does exactly what it should in not trying to guess people's testimonies. I, for one, stayed home from church for most of summer 2012, but I never stopped believing, and I would have been highly offended if someone had deleted me from the membership records. They put me in the "Address Unknown" file instead. That makes me feel so dark and mysterious.
- that the Church closing its Missionary Training Center in the Dominican Republic is proof of its membership decline.
Even disregarding the fact that the Church has more missionaries now than there it did in 2000 when the DR MTC was dedicated, the confirmation bias here is nothing short of incredible. The nineteen future temples that the Church announced this year? Those mean nothing because reasons. Some people actually claim that the Church announces temples to create a "facade" of growth. Well, I can't really say anything to people like that, can I? If you assume that the leaders of the Church are always acting in bad faith (no pun intended) and that everything they say is a lie, your world becomes much less complicated. As long as you don't think about it for very long.
- that Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's "prophecy" of 100,000 missionaries by 2019 has failed to come true.
Hmm. Strange. Let's see what Elder Holland actually said, shall we? "We're projecting out probably within four years, the base-line number for the missionary force will be something around 100,000." Hmm. Well, it's not like I'm an English student or anything (Full disclosure: this is a playfully sarcastic statement; I am an English student, and probably will be for the rest of my life, and the fact that I've already used two adverbs in this sentence makes me deeply uncomfortable), but I think I see a couple problems with interpreting Elder Holland's words as a prophecy. I'll list them.
verb (used with object) pro·ject [pruh-jekt] /prəˈdʒɛkt/
8. to set forth or calculate (some future thing): They projected the building costs for the next five years.
1. in all likelihood; very likely: He will probably attend.
Okay, I get it. Both of these words start with the same three letters as "prophesy" or "prophecy". And some people have an infantile view of prophets and apostles that requires them to not have opinions or be wrong about anything. (I'm not talking about legitimate faith-challenging issues along those lines because this isn't one of them.) I'm pretty sure it wasn't even his projection, and that he was quoting some number-cruncher in the Missionary Department. Big whoop. I don't expect this projection to be met, and I won't be particularly disturbed if it isn't, but I do think it might also be pertinent to point out that 2019, let alone the four year mark from this statement (February 27), isn't here yet. Wait a couple months, and then gloat over this statement if you still feel like it. Preferably without calling it something that anyone can see it isn't.
- that the Church is only growing in Africa because people don't have as much internet to find out "the TRUTH"™.
It's a.) false and b.) kind of racist to insinuate that Africans are being duped because they don't have access to information. Speaking anecdotally, I have a Ugandan friend who owns a smartphone and regularly uses something called an "internet cafe", so it's possible that one or two others on the continent do as well. But more to the point, books, pamphlets, radio, newspapers, television, and transatlantic mail and telephone systems all existed and were used by Africans long before Al Gore claimed he invented the internet. West Africans living in West Africa started finding out about the Church on their own and requesting baptism in 1946. That's not a typo. Within less than two decades, there were tens of thousands. (See this page for more information.) Want to hear a far more plausible reason for the Church's success in many (not all) parts of Africa? Maybe because Africans tend to be far more humble and religious than Westerners, more because than in spite of the same war and poverty and disease that rich white American and British atheists point to as proof of God's nonexistence.
Little-known fact: The Church could be growing much faster in the parts of Africa where it's growing fast, but deliberately takes things slow to ensure proper conversion and leadership development instead of baptizing entire villages at a time. There is still a great deal of untapped potential here. Currently, the baseline membership in Africa is so small and such a small percentage of the global total that its growth doesn't affect the overall rate much, so the decline we've seen is mostly reflective of North America and Europe. I'm projecting out probably within ten years, the growth of the Church in countries like Cape Verde, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Rwanda, and South Africa will start to have a much larger impact on the overall rate (and of course on global LDS demographics and culture). I believe we'll soon see the Church exponentially again, because there are untold millions of receptive individuals out there - just not, for the most part, in the secularized regions that the Church has depended on since it was founded.
- that the Book of Mormon was plagiarized/co-authored from a manuscript written by Solomon Spa(u)lding.
Wait, what? How did this get in here when it has nothing to do with church growth? Oh well. I saw it last night so I guess I'll address it anyway. Okay, so I try to be charitable. I can't fault guys like this for not knowing everything or being completely up-to-date on church history developments. Until the actual Spa(u)lding manuscript was discovered and found to have very little in common with the Book of Mormon, it was possible for intelligent people who had never read the manuscript to sincerely believe that there was a connection. The manuscript was just discovered a couple years ago, in 1884, so I can't fault guys like this for not yet having heard that. Okay, but really, dude? Is that really the best you can do? Really?
- that "[w]e are witnessing the slow death of a religion."
Though it's hardly a unique sentiment, I had to quote this one directly. It's just too precious. Okay, so I have few sociopathic tendencies and I really love it when people straight-up say that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or the "LD$ Cult"™ or whatever mindless buzzword they use) is dying, or that they're excited to watch it die, or can't wait for it to die, or whatever. I love it because I lay awake at night with a smile on my face thinking of how disappointed they're going to be. I don't care what your religious views are. I don't care if you don't believe in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But if you think it's going to die at any point - well, I won't call you a fool, because then the Bible says I would be in even more danger of hellfire than I already am, but just know that I'm thinking it. I've compiled a page of quotes from people who have predicted (or should I say "prophesied"?) the Church's demise from 1830 to today. Those people either didn't see their predictions come true within their lifetime, or won't see their predictions come true within their lifetime. I feel like I need another picture here so this will have to do.
Sorry, that was a little overdramatic. Anti-Mormons don't use torches anymore. My point is that if The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was ever going to die, it would have died in the nineteenth century when it was much, much smaller and faced attempts to annihilate it on a regular basis, including but not limited to the murder of its founding prophet. It doesn't take a scholar to figure that out. Oh, but what about how people say that the Church is going to die now because the recent invention of the internet has enabled its members to find out "the TRUTH"™? Spoiler/plug for my page of quotes: at least one person said basically the same thing about the arrival of telegraphs and railroads in Utah. In 1866. Precious, right? And none of this even proves that the Church is true. You can accept that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is invincible, and still not believe that it's true. The two propositions are not incompatible. Some religions that I don't believe are quite as true as mine will undoubtedly last alongside it, while others actually will go extinct, and I bear no ill will toward any of them because sometimes I act like an adult.
I can't wait to share this post every time I see someone lying about the membership of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being in decline. I'm projecting out probably within four years, I will have shared it at least two thousand times.
"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.