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:
John Dehlin, host of the Mormon Stories podcast, is a career apostate - that is to say, one who makes his living trying to deconvert people from his former religion, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His views and goals have been all over the place. In 2010, when I had my own faith crisis, one of the first resources I found was "Stay LDS/Mormon", a website he founded. But by 2015 he was excommunicated for publicly arguing against the Church's core truth claims - or as he and his followers called it, "asking questions".
Of course, he fought tooth and nail against being excommunicated because it would reduce his credibility with believing Latter-day Saints, and it has. So now he doesn't even bother trying to obfuscate his true agenda. From observations and one brief personal interaction where he actually blocked me on Facebook for asking a question (He posted something that purported to be from an anonymous source working at church headquarters, I asked why we should trust this source, and he blocked me), I believe him to be a liar, a coward, and a hypocrite. Recent events have somewhat bolstered this impression. On April 18, the StoneXVI podcast released a video called "The End of John Dehlin." Whether that is the case remains to be seen, but it's certainly gotten his attention.
The video was originally made by Kwaku El back in December. As you may recall, Kwaku is not my favorite person either because I don't appreciate the huge dance parties he hosted at the height of the pandemic or the tasteless videos he made for FairMormon, but I support him in this particular endeavor. The video claims that when some Deznat cultist made a meme about John and Jeremy Runnells getting murdered by a baseball bat that represented Kwaku's show, John lied about being afraid for his life and he lied about calling the police. The video also highlights his hypocrisy in not batting an eyelash when one of his podcast interviewees, a very unhinged apostate named Mike Norton who films temple ceremonies and posts them on YouTube, threatened violence if he ever sees Apostle Dallin H. Oaks in public. The video also documents allegations of financial mismanagement and discrimination against women in his "non-profit" organization, and sexual assault against one former employee.
John Dehlin responded by addressing none of the allegations, but instead republishing a laughably vague and evasive statement from December that basically says "I'm not going to explain anything, but trust me, I'm right and they're wrong." He explained, "I used to feel the urgency to respond publicly to the smears, but such responses are usually unwise, since my public responses then help to advertise the smears, which literally never stop. If I were to respond to every smear it would become a full time job, it would drain me of all my emotional energy, and I would never create anything meaningful. Responses also reward those who lie/smear with the attention they crave." I mean, if someone accused me of sexual assault I would definitely not just sit there and take it, but you do you, man.
My favorite part of the video, though, is a clip from a Zoom conversation he had last year with Los Angeles attorney Madeline B. Liebreich, Esq. They were talking about Kwaku and how stupid he must be to convert to a church with so much racism in its history, and as liberals with a superiority complex sometimes do, they thoughtlessly put their own racism on display.
John Dehlin: "Super weird, and I don't mean to attack anyone, but like, that an educated person of color who's a teen or in their early twenties, in 2018 or 2017 or whenever Kwaku converted, with the internet, can you imagine an intelligent person of color ever deciding to join Mormonism? Like isn't that, like I don't wanna be mean or insulting, but isn't that story in and of itself kind of... mind-blowing? That's like some serious internalized hatred, self-hatred, because like, how in the world can Mormonism not be racist, like - I'm racist!"
Madeline B. Liebreich, Esq.: "He doesn't speak like many black people do. He has like a very English venacular, he doesn't have like a black dialect. So he speaks like a proper white person raised in Utah. So he's the perfect figure for Mormonism, because he basically seems like a white person with dark skin; the way he talks, the things he likes, the way he dresses, so... yeah."
Because the full video is half an hour long, and because I wanted some of the attention for myself, I isolated this clip and reuploaded it. The first comment was "When is Kwaku going to come out of the closet?" I deleted it for being spam, but I wish I had held onto it as a demonstration that liberals with a superiority complex have no problem doubling down on racism with a bit of casual homophobia. In fairness, Madeline's remarks here are ten times worse than John's, and very disturbing to hear from someone in the legal profession. There are many racist idiots in the Church - I see them in Deseret News comment sections every week - but what she did here was project her own racial biases and stereotypes onto countless people she's never met to make herself feel superior to those dumb Mormons. I shared this quote from her on an Instagram photo where she was pretending to respect Kwaku. She blocked me within an hour.
By the way, if you're saying "But I'm sure this clip was taken out of context" - you're probably right. Let's see what context could possibly make these words less racist. Oh, that's odd. John Dehlin seems to have quietly deleted the original video as soon as StoneXVI shared this clip. So much for that hypothesis.
On April 27, Donald Trump's three black supporters discussed the clip on their podcast "You Ain't Black" (obviously named for Biden's infamous quote asserting that black people need to vote a certain way because of their skin color). They laughed in disbelief at how racist it is. While I don't share their politics, I fully support their mission of calling out the hypocrisy of liberals with a superiority complex.
John Dehlin's first response was to block the producers of "You Ain't Black" on social media, but it didn't take him long to realize how screwed he was. The next day, looking a bit haggard, he stopped ignoring/covering up this scandal and posted an apology for setting himself up as an authority on what beliefs intelligent people of color should or shouldn't find credible.
"I shouldn't have said it, and it was wrong. The truth is I don't even believe that..." Then why did you say it, John?
Two broad systemic problems exist in law enforcement. One is the training and policies themselves which are often inadequate, wrong, and/or needlessly violent. That doesn't seem applicable with respect to Chauvin, who violated his training and policies. The other is the "Thin Blue Line" - the propensity of police officers' colleagues, departments, and unions doing everything possible to cover up their wrongdoing and protect them from consequences. That's why Chauvin wasn't fired a long time before he murdered George Floyd, and that's why he wasn't afraid to murder George Floyd with his body camera and bystanders filming it. But in the face of unprecedented global outrage, the Thin Blue Line fell apart. He was fired and arrested - not placed on paid leave - and then his former chief and various other cops threw him under the bus in court and testified that what he did was wrong.
We all know that what he did was wrong. Some people are doing everything in their power to pretend they don't know that what he did was wrong, but they do. Hence the power of the prosecution's simple plea to jurors: "Believe your eyes." The defense's attempts at rationalizing away the obvious were pretty pathetic, but they served their purpose. Even a monster like Chauvin was entitled to the due process that he denied his victim. But I think he knew he was screwed. He was ready to enter a plea deal within days of his arrest last year. He didn't bother testifying for himself. His testimony would have probably only made things worse, because it would have been something like "George Floyd's life was worth less to me than a mosquito's, and I did nothing wrong and I'm not sorry."
The prosecution summed up his attitude during the murder: "The defendant was not going to be told what to do. He was not going to let the bystanders tell him what to do. He was going to do what he wanted. How he wanted for as long as he wanted. And there was nothing - nothing they could do about it. Because he had the authority. The bystanders were powerless. They were powerless to do anything. The defendant, he chose pride over policing." And that is exactly what I mean when I speak of the need to "put police officers in their place". Their place is serving and protecting the public like they promised to do when they chose that line of work. Their place is not to be a law unto themselves. And for some reason, that's so controversial that 45% of Republicans disagree with Chauvin's conviction. 45%. Almost half of Republicans support cold-blooded murder as long as the person doing it is a cop. I'm surprised it's only that many.
The three other participants in the murder will stand trial later this year. I actually feel bad for the two rookies. They were on the job for days before this happened, and I can understand if they weren't brave enough to stand up to a 19-year police veteran doing something they knew was wrong. Thomas Lane suggested they should move George Floyd onto his side instead of his stomach, but Chauvin said it was fine. They should certainly have lighter sentences and maybe they should be acquitted together - that's for people more familiar with the evidence to decide, and I hope that decision will be correct. Tou Thao, on the other hand, is another violent cop who should have been fired and arrested a long time ago. Years ago the city of Minneapolis had to settle a lawsuit after he beat up a black man for no reason at all. Convict that mofo.
As I watched the post-trial press conferences I shed a few tears at how many people worked so hard for so long to bring Chauvin to justice. I she a few tears when Al Sharpton spoke and then led a bunch of people in prayer right there on live secular television. The prayer was a little different than I'm used to in my religious tradition, but it was as heartfelt as any I've seen. This is a man that in my conservative past I would have disparaged as a race-baiter. I was touched, and then I realized how messed up it is that all these people and their contributions were necessary to convict one cop. For a murder that the entire world saw, no less. Chauvin might very well be a free man today if a teenager hadn't been brave enough to film him. This case needs to set a precedent that will increase the pace of systemic change going forward. It needs to become a hingepoint in this nation's history for race relations and law enforcement alike. George Floyd should still be alive, but since he's not, we have a chance to make sure his death wasn't in vain.
At a minimum, it's angered a lot of terrible people, so at least I can take satisfaction in that.
In fairness, I had an experience with police officers this week that wasn't entirely negative. I can't say it was positive, because getting in a car crash and then standing outside and shivering for half an hour while someone fills out a report is not my idea of a swell time, but since none of the three cops who showed up was Officer Nelson, and none of them yelled at me, and none of them killed anyone, it was all right. Yes, I am personally prejudiced against cops because of the trauma that Officer Nelson inflicted on me by knowing less about mental health than a banana slug, but I've never claimed that they're all bad. I only claim that the law enforcement system systematically encourages and protects the bad ones. When a cop abuses or murders someone, you can't just dismiss it as an isolated incident, you have to ask why he or she was hired, how he or she has stayed in the job despite multiple red flags in most cases, and why he or she probably isn't going to face the same consequences that anybody else would for doing the same thing.
Obviously I've been following the Derek Chauvin trial with great interest. Things don't look good for the poor fascist. Contrary to what I saw a bootlicker suggest the other evening, it's entirely irrelevant whether the prosecution can demonstrate that he had any "intent to kill". The questions at issue are whether George Floyd would still be alive if not for the police's actions, whether Chauvin violated his training and department policies, and whether any reasonable person in his situation should have known better. The prosecution has demonstrated pretty conclusively that the answer to all of these questions is yes. The defense, meanwhile, has had to resort to pure conjecture about George Floyd getting carbon monoxide poisoning from the patrol car's exhaust (that the police were pushing his face into, but never mind that detail) and on cross-examination has acknowledged that the police were wrong to not seek or render any medical assistance after he went lifeless.
It should be in the bag. Derek Chauvin should be as screwed as any person on trial has ever been. I think he feels like he is, and I think that's why despite the urging of his lawyer he declined to testify in his own defense, even though he's not remorseful at all. Alas, while I'm optimistic, I'm not overconfident because he is, after all, a white police officer. There's very little precedent for holding white police officers accountable for literally anything. If he does get acquitted by a racist bootlicking jury, the next best thing would be for him to get lynched, but of course that wouldn't be ideal because the loss in court would make future prosecution of police officers even more difficult.
In other police news, on Sunday we found out about an incident from December 5 of last year where Virginia police officer Joe Gutierrez harassed, threatened, and pepper-sprayed Lieutenant Caron Nazario at a pointless traffic stop. Even though Gutierrez was fired for violating department policy - and it appears to me that this only happened right after the public found out on Sunday, not after the incident happened, but I don't know that for a fact - bootlickers are of course defending his abuse and blaming the victim for not being compliant enough.
The same day, Minnesota police officer Kim Potter shot Daunte Wright in the chest because after twenty-six years on the force, she couldn't tell the difference between a taser and a gun, even though they don't look the same, don't weigh the same, have the trigger in different spots, and were holstered on opposite sides of her body. What I'm saying here is that a #$@%ing toddler could tell the difference. (Yes, you should let your toddler play with guns because the Second Amendment stipulates no age requirement.) But I've seen enough examples of unbelievable stupidity from law enforcement to give Potter the benefit of the doubt and assume it wasn't straight-up murder. Somehow this colossal #$@%up hasn't even registered with bootlickers, who are of course defending her manslaughter and blaming the victim for not being compliant.
On Monday, Iowa's senate passed legislation to strengthen qualified immunity for police officers and increase the penalties for protest-related crimes. Iowa is basically the teacher who ignores a bully for months and then punishes the victim for fighting back one day. Qualified immunity is an abomination that should not exist. One can only hope that after a few years of reforms and precedent by people who aren't fascists, Congress and/or the Supreme Court will strike it down altogether and render Iowa's bootlicking nonsense moot.
On Tuesday, a Maryland police officer killed 16-year-old Peyton Alexander Ham, but little is known yet about the circumstances of that incident, so I will withhold judgment. The overwhelming majority of police violence is unnecessary and unjustified, but not all of it.
On Thursday, body camera footage was released of the March 29 shooting of 13-year-old Adam Toledo by an as-yet-unnamed Chicago police officer. Unlike 13-year-old Linden Cameron, the police only shot 13-year-old Adam Toledo once instead of eleven times, but unlike 13-year-old Linden Cameron, 13-year-old Adam Toledo is dead instead of just having lifelong damage to several internal organs. 13-year-old Adam Toledo was running away from the police with a gun, but when they told him to "show me your #$@%ing hands", he threw the gun away and put his hands up, and they shot him. Then, as police officers always do after they murder someone, they lied about it, claiming in their report that he "did not follow verbal direction" and "used force likely to cause death or great bodily harm." Bootlickers are of course defending the murder and blaming the victim for being out so late and wHeRe wErE hIs PaReNtS? Obviously if they had been good parents, they would have chained him in bed or stayed up all night keeping watch just in case. You can't make this stuff up.
On Wednesday - I know this chronologically comes after Thursday, but I have a reason for it, so just stay with me here - the Department of Justice announced that the Capitol police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the January 6 insurrection will not face any charges. Bootlickers are of course outraged that Babbitt was killed in the act of trying to overthrow the government and overturn the legitimate results of a presidential election. If she had tried to use a fake $20 bill, or slept on the floor at her boyfriend's apartment, that would have justified it, but this was just a harmless little attempted coup. We've all done it. I do feel a little bad for her because I'm sure she was sincere in her delusions, but she should have fully expected to die regardless of how justified she felt her cause was. Even taking into account the insurrectionists' skin color, I'm astonished that the police only killed one of them.
I say bootlickers because it's the commonly used and accepted term, but if it had been up to me, I would have probably called them buttsuckers. They are the scum of the Earth. They are the people who, if they lived in a fascist regime that allowed them to blossom in their true colors, would be gleefully torturing their neighbors without the slightest cognitive dissonance about the morality of their actions. I couldn't be more grateful that their president wasn't re-elected.
Closer to home, the former University of Utah police chief and four former officers are seeking $10 million in damages, claiming that the university unfairly scapegoated them and ruined their reputations after student Lauren McCluskey was murdered by her sex offender ex-boyfriend because they did nothing when she came to them for help. One of the former officers is Miguel Deras, who illegally shared an explicit photo of her with his co-workers at least four times but isn't in jail because reasons. For all I know he's still in Logan. He briefly worked for the police department here until the public found out what he did. (By an astonishing coincidence, the cop I talked to after being in a car crash was also surnamed Deras, but I made sure it wasn't him.) So I think he, at the very least, should #$@% off into the sun, but let the others have their say. I don't think anything excuses their negligence or changes the fact that Lauren McCluskey would still be alive if they had done their jobs, but I'm open to the possibility that the rest of the university needs to be punished more too.
There's been some good news too, though. New Mexico became the second state to end qualified immunity. Only forty-eight more to go. New York City also ended qualified immunity last month, and that's better than nothing. Maryland passed Anton's Law, named for 19-year-old police victim Anton Black, which makes most police disciplinary records and complaints publicly available so that cops like Thomas Webster IV, a participant in Anton Black's murder who had almost thirty conduct complaints against him - even more than Derek Chauvin - can't cover up their records and keep ruining people's lives. Yesterday, Attorney General Merrick Garland rescinded a Trump administration policy that prevented local attorney generals from using consent degrees to make particularly shitty police departments (like those in Ferguson and Baltimore) get their acts together.
Much too slowly, and too late for the ones who are already dead, traumatized, or wrongfully convicted, police officers in this country are getting put in their place. I'm just grateful the reform movement hasn't fizzled out after it was no longer a fad. All the people who suddenly started to care about child sex trafficking in July 2020 because they wanted to change the subject sure have been quiet for a while, though.
The spiritual highlight of my weekend was viewing the early access premiere of "The Chosen" Season Two. I'm not supposed to give any spoilers. Let's just say that it fully measures up to the standard of quality set by Season One. I do still intend to write up a post about this phenomenal series someday when I get around to it.
General Conference was good too. I was happy for all the focus on Easter in this morning's session. It seems that in the past whenever Easter coincided with General Conference, they just acknowledged that fact and moved on. Hearing so much about the message of Christ's resurrection and what that means for us all was nice. Also in that session, they went out of their way to have speakers and prayers and singing from various countries on every inhabited continent, blatantly pandering to my obsession with diversity that eclipses my attention to spiritual messages. I want this level of diversity to be the norm, not a one-time gimmick. Speaking of which, three black men (Thierry K. Mutombo, Ahmad Corbitt, and Edward Dube) spoke in this General Conference, blowing the previous record (one) out of the water. A man who looks like a black man (Taniela B. Wakolo) also spoke, but his skin color doesn't count as black because he's from Polynesia, not Africa or Europe or the Americas. I don't make the rules. I was happy to see that José A. Teixeira's face rash is gone.
Skin color aside, Brother Corbitt's message was most meaningful to me personally. I was moved by his reminder that I can overcome Satan because I've already done it once. Elder Cook's talk about how wonderful bishops are reminded me of my last bishop who was about as inspired as a potato and let me down at every opportunity. A lot of typical stuff ran through the conference about patience and trusting in the Lord amid the unfairness and tragedy of the world. Nothing new, and nothing I wanted to hear, but kind of an oasis to refill my stamina in the endurance test of life. The last few weeks have felt like a slow death of a thousand paper cuts. I continue to wait on the Lord to take His sweet time to fulfill His promises to me, and to ponder how destroyed I'll be if He decides not to keep them after all. The longer it takes, the higher the risk of faith seems to be. But it's not like I have anything better to do.
When President Oaks announced that he felt impressed to talk about the Constitution of the United States, I blanched at how tonedeaf and how counter to the "We're a global church" messaging that sounded, but I reserved judgement and gave it a chance. It was all right. He focused on the Constitution's broader significance to the history of the Church and the principles that people throughout the world can apply from it, instead of preaching the "The United States is God's favorite country" BS I hear all too often. I support the Constitution, but having distanced myself significantly in the past few years from many of the kinds of people who rave about it, the word sometimes rubs me the wrong way when it shouldn't. I believe in the principles the Constitution stands for. I don't believe it's perfect and I don't believe it contains a definitive list of every right that humans are entitled to. I don't believe this country deserves my blind veneration for consistently failing to live up to those principles.
And of course I was happy about President Nelson announcing twenty more dots for Rick Satterfield's temple map. This is a new record for the most temples announced at one time. Of course, it has little to do with recent church growth. I certainly hope nobody listening to these announcements was under the misconception that Norway, Belgium, and Austria have experienced recent surges in growth that have made these temples necessary. In fact, in 2017 Belgium had five of its sixteen congregations (31%) consolidated, including the only ones in a couple of major cities. California, another temple announcement location, has been in consistent membership decline and stake consolidation for several years as people flee in search of a place that doesn't tax them for breathing. And as one would expect under the circumstances, church growth took a nose dive last year to less than half of its usual flat rate. Mozambique has had the most impressive growth of any location on the list, but its actual members aren't exactly placing a strain on the nearest temple in South Africa.
So of course most of these announcements were not driven by numerical need but by a desire to increase convenience for members. President Nelson wants to get all members within two hours of a temple, and that means drastically different things in different parts of the world. I rejoice either way, but since I know that we as a people like to look at faith-promoting numbers and pat ourselves on the back for not doing anything and say "The Church is true because it's growing so fast", I wanted to point that out. The temples announced were:
To be honest, I would have expected the next European temple to be in Scotland, for both distance and numerical reasons. Smithfield is right in my neighborhood, of course, and I admit the numbers here could actually warrant that announcement. I assume they'll build that one as fast as possible so we don't trample Brigham City into the ground when the Logan Temple closes for renovation in the near future. And I've changed my perspective on having more temples in Utah. I used to be as unenthusiastic as anyone else, but now I love them because they make Salt Lake Tribune commenters angry, and I enjoy watching terrible people get angry. Insert unoriginal sarcastic comment about how Christlike I am here.
The senior missionaries who pushed me to get endowed almost two years ago gifted me an Easter lily. I kept it on the kitchen table for a couple days, and then I put it outside because my apartment is perfectly located to prevent any significant amount of sunlight from getting in, so it would probably have fully bloomed by now if I'd done that in the first place, but I didn't and it hasn't. I water it sometimes. I had a thought the other night that maybe, in lieu of a sentient pet or spouse to love and be loved by, I could find purpose in life by devoting myself to this plant's well-being. But then I realized that's too risky. I don't even know yet if I can keep it alive for a week, so I'm not going to invest that kind of emotion into it right off. Maybe later.
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.