The other day I learned about something too good to be true - a free, insanely quick, and virtually effortless way for citizens of free countries, like me, to help Iranian revolutionaries and other oppressed people. No, I'm not talking about liking a Facebook page, I mean something that actually helps people. If you install the Tor Snowflake extension on Google Chrome or Firefox, people anywhere in the world can use it to circumvent government censorship of the internet. Download it here. Do it do it do it. The little icon turns green when someone is using it, and it displays the number of people who have used it in the last twenty-four hours. Right now mine is at twelve. The highest it's been is sixteen. Already I've gotten my money's worth out of it. I also embedded it in the code of my website's footer, so I have no idea how but I guess people can visit my website and then use it to do other things. That one says it's helped one person. Good enough for me. We now return to our regularly scheduled post.
Almost the only thing my grandpa does is watch TV, especially since his wife died, so during my recent visit I watched it with him for a few hours every day. It's nice to just be able to enjoy someone's company without talking. Mostly he watches on the YouTube app, and since the search function isn't working very well, nowadays he just scrolls through the recommendations that tend to fall into a few distinct categories that I feel like discussing in no particular order.
I'm not a fan of Fox News but I stuck around for some of it to get out of my echo chamber. And it's not that I think Biden is above criticism. I'm not a die-hard fan or anything. I didn't even vote for him. I just don't notice a lot of things to criticize because I'm too busy being grateful that he's not Donald Trump. So I didn't mind that, but when Tucker Carlson started bashing Volodymyr Zelenskyy, I had to leave the room before I threw something at the TV. Zelenskyy is eight hundred thousand times the man Carlson will ever be. He has more class, courage, and integrity in the dead skin cells he sloughs off in one night than Carlson will manifest in his lifetime. But while millions of his people are losing their homes and their livelihoods, he had the gall to not wear a tie to the White House and to request more military aid, and that triggered this shitflake. (Really, the US is doing the bare minimum required by basic human decency. It should have sent Navy Seals to kill Putin months ago. I'm not even joking. This war is almost entirely his fault, and he has so little support in his own country that his death would probably end it overnight.) Then there was this other guy with his own show, Greg Gutfeld. He's a jerk but sometimes he's pretty funny. So help me, I like him. I guess he reminds me of me.
This show is like a cowboy-themed version of Laugh-In, which I didn't find funny either. A lot of humor from the seventies doesn't seem to land the same way anymore. This even applies somewhat to The Muppet Show, but in that case the goofy characters' delivery saves it, and anyway they're constantly making fun of how bad their show is and that works as a kind of reverse psychology. This also partially explains The Star Wars Holiday Special, though the only thing that can fully explain The Star Wars Holiday Special is lots and lots of drugs. So when I visited for Thanksgiving I just thought Hee Haw was painfully unfunny with some decent music. My sister and brother-in-law concurred. This time, though, I enjoyed several clips and an entire episode from start to finish. Maybe I was just glad not to be watching Fox News. But I thought the same thing I thought the second time I saw The Croods: Either this show got better, or I got stupider. My favorite joke was when this guy showered praises on this lady and she responded to all of his lines with "Olé!" and he asked her why and she said, "That's what they say when the bull comes out."
Ray Stevens Music
My grandpa used to watch a lot of Home Free, which is, get this, it will blow your mind, an all-male acapella group that covers other people's songs, but he doesn't anymore for some reason. Now it's usually Ray Stevens. Some of Ray Stevens' songs are hilarious, some are just weird, and some are very right-wing and/or somewhat racist, but fortunately we didn't watch any of those. This is rightly considered one of his best.
America's/Britain's Got Talent
These shows live up to their names. Great music and incredible feats abound. I cry sometimes. This time we got a blast from the past watching Susan Boyle. I remember hearing about her appearance on the news in the airport coming back from my high school's Spanish Club trip. I didn't think as much then as I do now about how crappy everyone was toward her before she sang. They didn't even try to hide the fact that they assumed she would suck because she wasn't young and beautiful. People are really awful. Oh yeah, and then there was the teenager that everyone thought would suck because he was fat, and he put them in their place. But then Simon Cowell suggested that he should dump his friend who supported him through everything and just did the duet with him, because he was phenomenal and she was just good and she would hold him back, and she was standing right there pretending not to be hurt. What a jerk. Oh, here's a nice clip that made me cry. I watched it at Thanksgiving but that's close enough.
I've watched bits and pieces of Western movies with my grandpa. When I was there for Thanksgiving I watched Hang 'Em High in its entirety. This time I watched Sonny and Jed (originally La Banda J.&S.) in its entirety. A brief synopsis with spoilers follows.
Jed is an outlaw who steals from the rich and gives to the poor. He also swears a lot more than necessary. Sonny rescues him from the sheriff and says she wants to join him. The second time he talks to her, he's surprised to realize she's a woman, which surprised me because it was pretty obvious, but then I remembered that this movie is set in an era when women weren't supposed to be cowboys. But he also makes a weird joke about her being "castrated at birth" and for a couple minutes I thought he was serious and that it was going to be an interesting plot point. Anyway, as soon as he finds out she's a woman he's like "Do you know what I do to females?" and then tries to rape her but gives up in disgust when he discerns, through some means I don't want to know, that she's a virgin. At that point, for me, Jed crosses the line from anti-hero or likeable villain to someone whose death I'll actively root for throughout the rest of the movie. His redeeming qualities don't balance out this monstrous act. But Sonny keeps following him anyway.
He belittles her nearly every time he opens his mouth, whether he's addressing her or someone else in front of her. At one point his brothel-owning friend wants to buy her and pins her to a bed and tries to take her clothes off, and he just sits back and watches for an uncomfortable length of time before intervening, at which point she's crying not because of trauma but because she loves him. They get married and immediately rob the priest, which is pretty funny. Then there are some more funny scenes of them robbing people as a couple. I feel like this should have been the focus of the movie, but it doesn't last very long. He's nicer to her for a while but then he's a jerk again. Eventually she betrays him to the sheriff, then rescues him from the sheriff (again), then leaves him while he hobbles behind on his injured leg and begs her to come back. Earlier in the movie he told her to walk five feet behind him "like a dog;" now she tells him the same thing.
The best part of the movie is a recurring motif in Ennio Morricone's score with a banjo and then voices singing, "Sonny... Sonny..." Not Jed, which is just as well, as he doesn't deserve to have his name in a song. It's like unseen angels urging Sonny to get out of this terrible relationship. I'd have to go back and keep track of when it comes up to guess at its actual intended meaning.
We took a break from YouTube to watch two of the finest Christmas movies ever made on VHS (ask your parents what that is) - The Muppet Christmas Carol (without the heart-wrenching musical number "When Love is Found" wrongfully excised) and It's a Wonderful Life. They both made me cry. I was a wreck, y'all. The next day, Christmas Day, I suggested Miracle on 34th Street and we looked on Netflix but it wasn't there so instead we watched Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas instead. Then my grandpa just scrolled through Netflix and asked if there was anything I wanted to watch. I saw The Man from Toronto and mentioned that it was funny, so he put it on, and I realized with some chagrin that it's not nearly as funny when I'm not watching it with a bunch of college-aged friends, and this was the day before we watched Sonny and Jed so I wasn't sure how comfortable he'd be with the content, but he slept through most of it anyway.
Green Canyon High School is my favorite place to substitute teach. It's a convenient distance and a convenient age group. The last time I was there I saw a poster for an upcoming production of War of the Worlds, so being a lover of sci-fi as well as wanting to support the students, I went to it this weekend. It wasn't based on the book, it was based on the radio broadcast based on the book. The play depicted the radio employees broadcasting the broadcast. Very meta, and not a lot of actual action going on, but it held my interest just fine. The partially tongue-in-cheek thirties nostalgia set a nice tone and the dialogue reminded me that the original book is a freaking masterpiece and I should read it again. I felt bad that this performance didn't have nearly the audience size it deserved.
Speaking of school, I'm planning to go back next year because my mentor convinced me that I haven't spent enough of the prime of my life in school. I'm leaning toward an MFA. I still don't know what differentiates an MFA from an MA and at this point I'm afraid to ask, but I know it's less of a time and money commitment than a PhD that will still advance my career farther than the Bachelor's and the MA that have failed to advance it any farther than substitute teaching K-12. It goes without saying that sixty years ago the Bachelor's alone would have set me up for life, and the bar has somehow been raised to this point where I need at least three degrees to be noticed, but the world was worse sixty years ago than it is today in many ways so I just have to take the bad with the good. Granted, I did choose a "useless" degree according to the people who, if there were any justice in the world, would be denied access to the fruits of the writers, artists, and musicians they hold in such contempt for getting useless degrees.
With a basic college degree portrayed from early childhood on up as the bare minimum to which everyone must aspire in order to have any chance at any success in life whatsoever, it becomes all the more unreasonable that eighteen-year-olds whose brains won't be fully developed for another seven years are held fully accountable for the long-term consequences of the student loans they're pressured into taking out. The issue, of course, is not so much the amount of the loans themselves as the interest that continues to accumulate so they pay several times over what they borrowed and somehow still owe more. I don't see how any person with a basic grasp of ethics can believe this system is fair or justified. So while BIden's forgiveness program may or may not be the most ideal approach, I have not one shred of sympathy for the predators who won't be able to extort as much money as they wish.
I'm far from an expert on the legal or economic nuances of the situation, but at least in theory I see no reason why taxpayers should have to pay the forgiven debts either. If the government holds the debts - and my understanding is that this forgiveness specifically doesn't apply to debts held by private companies - then I don't see why it can't decide that they simply no longer exist, just like it decided that this time today is magically an hour earlier than it was yesterday. Money is not real. Pieces of paper or numbers on a screen have no intrinsic value whatsoever. We decide as a society to pretend that they do because it's easier than having everyone try to work out the exchange rates of a thousand different goods and services and successfully barter with people who may not have the slightest interest in what they have to offer. When conservative Christians read Jesus' parable about a king who decides that a debt of ten thousand bags of gold simply no longer exists, do they complain about how that's going to burden the taxpayers or wreck the kingdom's economy? Is there supposed to be something fundamentally different about money in the modern world? (Also, the guy who has that debt canceled and then goes and harasses someone who owes him a hundred silver coins totally reminds me of Derek Chauvin.)
Many have correctly pointed out that this forgiveness is only a short-term band-aid solution, without seeming to notice that Biden has also announced multiple no-brainer reforms to the loan system itself that will make it screw borrowers over and ruin their lives substantially less in the future - like, for example, by not constantly adding interest to the principal and charging interest on that so the debt grows faster than it can be paid. It's a start. I mean, in some developed countries college education is free (yes, I know that means it's funded by taxes) because governments recognize that having educated citizens is in their own best interest. Educated citizens are far less likely to actively oppose common-sense public health guidelines during a global pandemic or try to overturn election results to keep the racist troglodyte they worship in power, to name just a couple of hypothetical examples.
Anyway, I'm considering a few school options and hoping to pay for the MFA the same way I paid for my MA, by teaching, but I won't say yet what those options are because I probably wrote something very offensive once and I don't need someone sharing it with them and telling them not to admit me.
Substitute teaching elementary school children and middle school children who act like elementary school children is every bit as awful as I thought it would be. Not all the time - some first grade classes are better than some sixth grade classes, and some sixth grade classes are perfect but some third grade classes are straight from the bowels of hell. (I did a day teaching six sixth grade classes and a day as a librarian covering the whole spectrum.) But it's a gamble, so I'm definitely going to keep aiming for high school. Also, I didn't think my desire to reproduce could be lower than it already was, but surprise!
Yesterday I went outside just in time to see a teenager come down the road on a bike, and right in front of my apartment, the front wheel came off and the back wheel flipped over his head. He lay in a fetal position in the road with the bike on top of him, gashes on his forehead and wrists, and had a seizure. Another teenager came up behind him on a skateboard and screamed, "AW SHIT! AW SHIT! AHHHHHHHH! AHHHHHHHH!" That freaked me out more than the initial accident. I ran up and tried to move the bike, but when I pulled up on one part the other part went down, and I didn't want to make things worse and I figured the bike being on top of him was not the most pressing issue, so I ran back inside for my phone that I hadn't bothered to put in my pocket because nobody ever calls or texts me. For this guy's sake I put aside my hatred of Logan Regional Hospital and the Logan City Police Department and I called 911. I explained everything to the dispatcher, and then she put me on hold, and then another dispatcher picked up and asked the nature of my emergency so I explained it again and she said they already knew about it. Um, okay.
The skateboard teenager had also called 911, and he asked the injured one's name and age, so at first I thought they didn't know each other but of course he was just checking to make sure the injured one remembered. After the seizure, I thought for a brief awful moment that the guy was actually dead, but then he spasmed and then he tried to get up and his friend tried to keep him from getting up. His friend asked where it hurt and he said nowhere. I could see blood on his teeth as he spoke, but he said he was fine. A FedEx driver stopped to see what was going on, and an EMT stopped to see what was going on, and then the fire department and the police but not an ambulance showed up. Nobody knew how to contact his parents, so they debated for a moment whether to take him to the hospital. Why was that even a question? Oh right, because this is the United States, and the hospital bill might ruin his parents' lives. The police investigator asked me for my contact information and I gave it to her and I wonder if she recognized the name. The department leadership is very aware of who I am, and for all I know they've got an illegal file on me. I don't know what she even needed to investigate since no crime took place or was suspected. The second teenager came back later to pick up the wrecked bike, and he said he'd snapped (snapchatted, for you boomers) his friend and he was in a neck brace but seemed fine.
For anyone wondering, no, he wasn't wearing a helmet. Wear a helmet. I'm never getting on a bike again without a helmet.
Yesterday evening, my next-door neighbor tried to have a game night, but too many of our neighbors were gone for the long weekend so we just watched a movie with one other person. The movie was Back to the Future Part II because I selfishly always vote for movies I've already seen instead of trying new ones. Now, this next-door neighbor is ultraconservative (her word) and frankly her worldview disgusts me. She wears Thin Blue Line shirts, she identifies as anti-feminist while happily taking advantage of the rights that she owes to feminists, she unsubscribed from Disney+ because it's "too woke," she subscribes to the Daily Wire instead, and they sent her a Thermos labeled "Liberal Tears" that she likes because it's a good Thermos but now she's worried about offending her vegetarian roommate. I'm not offended by it, I just think it's pretty pathetic coming from people who tried to overthrow the government because their candidate lost. But anyway, I just stay away from those topics and I've managed to be her friend and enjoy her company anyway. Thomas Jefferson said, "I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend." And yes, even though he owned enslaved people, he had some good ideas.
So in Back to the Future Part II, Michael J. Fox reprises his role as Marty McFly and plays Marty McFly's son and Marty McFly's daughter. When my neighbors realized that he was playing the daughter, they found that very amusing. Fair enough. But then the the super conservative one joked about how she'll get canceled and banned from all her social media platforms for not saying that Michael J. Fox is a beautiful woman, and they both went back and forth joking about that for a minute, just obviously poking fun at transgender issues and liberals. And this topic hits much closer to home for me than it did a few months ago, and I couldn't stay silent. I didn't want to make a scene in front of the other neighbor and in the middle of the movie, so I texted her, "I have a transgender sibling, so I would appreciate you not mocking transgender people in my presence." And she read it and then, with the maturity one would expect from the kind of person who drinks liberal tears, she went ballistic on me. How dare I be passive-aggressive, how dare I have the audacity to text her in her own apartment, how dare I not say what I had to say to her face if I had something to say. And she condescendingly explained that it's just funny that Michael J. Fox is dressed as a woman, that's all, and pretended like she didn't just say the overtly political stuff she just said.
So you know, I don't think I respect her at all anymore. And that's rather awkward, but whatever, it's not the worst falling out I've had with next-door neighbors. Just ask the police.
So this happened, really, I swear.
It was a nice surprise. I haven't made any money off my writing since 2014 when I worked for the USU campus newspaper and made, if memory serves me, five dollars per article. I suppose I could be trying harder to actually publish stuff that isn't blog posts. But I just want to say that everyone is more than welcome to follow this person's example. If you're considering it, do it fast before I offend you and change your mind.
I was going through the stash of old papers that I've hoarded for nostalgic reasons, weeding out the ones that I can now bring myself to part with, when I found this comic that I drew for a class in 2018. I posted it on my blog once, but I couldn't get the scanner to not cut off the edges, so I just took a picture of it that was probably impossible to read on a mobile device. This time I got a better scan with a better scanner and decided to crop each individual panel, and on top of that to offer the commentary that both people who read it the first time have undoubtedly craved since then. Through the miracle of modern technology, these scans bring out every wrinkle and smudge on the paper in high definition. (Believe it or not, in person it actually looks white.) The context of this comic was that it had to be about some aspect of American culture because the class was about American culture. (Mostly it was about racism.) So I made it about American political polarization and mud-slinging because that really ground my gears. (It still does.)
I got in arguments about politics at the school lunch table, mostly over whether or not I was racist, and when my parents got over their concern about me being kidnapped by strangers from the internet and let me get a Facebook account in 2009, I made a photo album entitled "Obama Sucks!" I really and truly believed he was an anti-Christ trying to destroy the United States and take away all of our rights. If he were president today, I would probably be "Meh" toward him like I am toward Biden. At least both of them can go five minutes without lying or globally humiliating this country.
The class in question was Honors U.S. Institutions, which (spoiler alert) initiated the slow process of my political views becoming more nuanced. Nowadays it must be the "heterosexual cisgender white males suck" class. The girl behind me, who I think underwent a similar process even though I don't purport to know her thoughts and only purported to here as an attempt at humor, is the subject of my essay "Chasing Kelsey."
This was my initial reaction to this quote, but now I try to live by it. Until recently, I displayed it on my homepage, but after leaving the church I cancel cultured Oaks because of some less admirable things he's said - "It's wrong to criticize leaders of the church, even if the criticism is true," "I know that the history of the church is not to seek apologies or to give them," and a number of homophobic statements unequalled by any other LDS leader still living. Last November during a Q&A at the University of Virginia, he straight-up lied that BYU didn't practice conversion therapy on gay men during his tenure as president, which is so impossible to rationalize that the church's apologists haven't even tried. So he's not someone I want to promote as a spiritual leader. Nonetheless, I appreciate the glimpses of political nuance that I've gotten from him (he's obviously conservative but not a fan of Trump or what he stands for) and I still like this particular quote. I had an extra incentive to cite it in this comic because my professor was new to Utah and I wanted to convert him.
Saskia and I were both admins of a Facebook group called "The Awesome Mormons' Secret Society of Awesomeness" that furnished an embarrassing percentage of my social life in college. Someone pointed the irony that the admins tended to be liberal while the group membership tended to be conservative. Someone, probably Saskia, said it was good and then clarified, "That we are liberal, not that all these conservatives are here." I said, "I take it I'm not welcome then?" And then Saskia said this and blew my freaking mind. The group is dead and most of the admins have left the church by now.
My first real exposure to Donald Trump was a Bloom County storyline where he gets hit on the head with an anchor and has his brain transplanted into Bill the Cat. That was also my first exposure to Bill the Cat, so it gave me a weird first impression. Bloom County's portrayal of Trump wasn't altogether flattering, but I figured whatever, maybe it's just making fun of him because he's rich, so that didn't give me much of an opinion on him one way or another. And then suddenly in mid-2015 I heard that he believed vaccines caused autism, and that was a wake-up call. And by the end of that year I thought his misogyny was so self-evident that I didn't understand why his "Grab 'em by the pussy" recording came as a shock to anyone. In fairness, when I attended one of Utah's Republican caucuses in 2016 the entire discussion revolved around stopping Trump from becoming the nominee, but of course as soon as that failed Utah decided that having principles was overrated. Yeah, I'm more liberal now, but my objection to Trump has always and will always have far less to do with politics than with the fact that he's an absolute garbage excuse for a human being and I'm sick of people kissing his ass and trying to gaslight me that he's the Second Coming of Christ.
The narration is poorly phrased. The "impossible concept" here is not being mindlessly devoted to one of two political parties. I still get this crap from strangers on the internet who assume I'll be traumatized by them insulting Biden after I've insulted Trump. And yes, even though George Washington owned enslaved people, he had some good ideas.
I stand by the first sentence in my speech bubble one thousand percent. A lot of people in this country are going to burn in hell for deliberately preventing us from solving this problem that the rest of the developed world has solved. For God's sake, America, stop pretending it's normal for your children to live in fear of being gunned down at school. The second sentence, I'm not sure about. It's complicated. The issue, notwithstanding how liberals constantly misrepresent it, is not one of just refusing service to people based on their sexual orientation - which I unequivocally oppose - but of refusing to participate in a practice (same-sex marriage) that the business owners believe are wrong. Nowadays I think such beliefs are wrong and harmful and I'm not sad to see them rushing to extinction, but the constitution protects people's right to not only hold beliefs that others find offensive, but to act on them within reason. Liberals now argue that this protection doesn't cover people when they're providing goods and services to the public, and I can see the appeal of that reasoning, but I don't think it's supported by the constitution. Not that I claim to be an expert. Also, yes, Germany conducted its 2017 election like adults.
I now have the answers to my questions posed here. They are "It was inevitable as soon as we ignored George Washington's warning and created political parties in the first place" and "We don't," respectively.
Here it is, folks, the most holier-than-thou thing I've ever written or drawn. The ZB on my shirt stands for Zaphod Beeblebrox. Get it? Nowadays, "snowflake" seems to have declined in favor of "woke." I've seen two people in my life claim to be "woke" and at least two hundred people derisively accuse other people of trying to be "woke." Not by coincidence, the latter group is much, much, much more annoying.
Okay, so both of my blog's regular readers could tell you that despite my best efforts to live by the Oaks quote and be eclectic in my political views, if I were to draw this comic today and be honest with myself, I would be standing further to the left, that is to say my left, which is the reader's right. As much as I try to be critical of both sides and blame both sides for the dumpster fire that is the United States of America - and both sides are to blame - I am forced over and over again to conclude that one side is a much bigger problem than the other. One side is a haven for bigotry, ignorance, conspiracy theories, censorship, and a uniquely American brand of narcissism. One side is constantly an obstacle to social, scientific, and environmental progress. One side simply denies the existence of obvious crises (e.g. climate change, systemic racism, a global pandemic) that it doesn't want to have to deal with, and openly mocks the other side for acknowledging reality (e.g. by calling it "woke"). And I've just been reading Peter Carroll's history of the 1970s, It Seemed Like Nothing Happened, and I'm equal parts fascinated and consumed with rage at how little has changed in fifty years.
I mean, just last night I saw Deseret News readers bitching because California is going to provide free school lunches for all students. Yes, geniuses, we know that "nothing is free." We know that taxpayers are going to pay for it, just like they've been paying for the kids to be forced to go to school in the first place for a very long time. If you're so damn concerned about taxes, maybe instead of complaining about children getting food, support police reform so that cities don't have to keep settling for millions of dollars because cops can't figure out how to stop abusing and murdering Black people. Just a thought. Also, speaking of cops, more children at school are shot dead in this country than cops in the line of duty, and since you're hell-bent on not letting that problem be solved, the least we could do is not make them pay for their own food. Anyway, this is the sort of thing that makes me want to scream to the heavens, "Why, why, why are Republicans so ------- stupid?" But I'm trying to be fair and balanced, I swear.
Oh yeah, and as a bonus just because I happened to find it in the same stash of papers, here's my preliminary sketch of the layout of the comic, with some marginal notes related to other aspects of my life at the time. It's garbage now, but future historians will be all over it.
The first real crack in my lifetime of "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints isn't sexist" conditioning came not from any critical source, but from the section on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home" in the Eternal Marriage Student Manual. I was raised to believe that anything in the church that seems sexist to modern sensibilities is really just misunderstood. But after being in college for too long, some of these quotes that I'd probably already heard growing up really rubbed me the wrong way, and then this line in particular from Spencer W. Kimball jumped out as unequivocally, unapologetically, and undeniably sexist: "No career approaches in importance that of wife, homemaker, mother - cooking meals, washing dishes, making beds for one’s precious husband and children." Translation: Women have the most important divine role, which is to perform household chores for men and children. To be perfectly frank: barf. And from then on I couldn't stop seeing all the sexism that I'd been taught not to see.
In February of last year I linked to this manual section in a blog post about how the church's teachings (aka doctrine) on women have evolved. Within a month, the entire section had quietly disappeared from the church's website. Coincidence? Probably, but you can't prove it. And that wasn't worth making a whole other post about, but yesterday a reddit post brought to my attention some more recent and more subtle deletions from the manual, and I just have to talk about them.
Elder Spencer W. Kimball
“Boys seldom criticize a girl for using too little makeup. Sometimes they say, ‘She’s a nice girl, but I wish she’d dress up, and she uses too much makeup.’ To be overdressed, to be gaudily dressed, to be dressed to look sexy, to be overdecorated is bad taste, to say the least. The young woman is smart who can don just enough powder and lipstick to convince the fellows it isn’t makeup at all, but the ‘real you.’...
“Young men should keep their faces shaved, their hair combed, their haircuts reasonably conservative, their nails cleaned. Overtight, suggestive pants brand young men as vulgar. Young people can be smart and personable, dignified and attractive by finding an area somewhere less than the extremes and still in good style” (“Save the Youth of Zion,” Improvement Era, Sept. 1965, 761).
This quote is arguably a bit sexist - it reminds me of M. Russell Ballard's "Put on a little lipstick now and then and look a little charming" comment that may or may not have been blown out of proportion a few years ago - but it has the rare distinction of being more nitpicky about men's dress and grooming than women's, so I appreciate that. I assume it was just removed because dress and grooming standards have changed since 1965 (except at BYU) and it comes across as obnoxiously Pharasaical (like BYU). A lot of women like men with beards. Also, I know it's perfectly normal for women to wear just a little bit of makeup and for men to erroneously believe that they aren't wearing any, but Elder Kimball's phrasing here seems to encourage deception, so that's kind of funny.
Women's Divine Roles and Responsibilities
President Ezra Taft Benson
“It is divinely ordained what a woman should do.... The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood” (“In His Steps,” 64).
“Brethren of the priesthood, I continue to emphasize the importance of mothers staying home to nurture, care for, and train their children in the principles of righteousness” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1987, 60; or Ensign, Nov. 1987, 49; see also To the Fathers in Israel, 3–4).
See To the Mothers in Zion, on pages 352–57.
“A mother’s role is also God-ordained. Mothers are to conceive, bear, nourish, love, and train. They are to be helpmates, and are to counsel with their husbands” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1984, 6; or Ensign, May 1984, 6).
“It is divinely ordained what a woman should do, but a man must seek out his work. The divine work of women involves companionship, homemaking, and motherhood. It is well if skills in these three areas can first be learned in the parents’ home and then be supplemented at school if the need or desire presents itself” (“In His Steps,” 64).
“There are voices in our midst which would attempt to convince you that these home-centered truths are not applicable to our present-day conditions. If you listen and heed, you will be lured away from your principal obligations.
“Beguiling voices in the world cry out for ‘alternative life-styles’ for women. They maintain that some women are better suited for careers than for marriage and motherhood.
“These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and selffulfilling roles for women than homemaking. Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the ‘Mormon woman stereotype’ of homemaking and rearing children. They also say it is wise to limit your family so you can have more time for personal goals and self-fulfillment” (“The Honored Place of Woman,” Ensign, Nov. 1981, 105).
It's self-explanatory that this was removed for the same reason as the entire section on "Mothers' Employment Outside the Home." I'll just examine a few lines that stand out to me.
"It is divinely ordained what a woman should do, but a man must seek out his work." Translation: women have a one-size-fits-all role, while men are free to seek out roles that fit their individual talents, interests, and personalities. They may, of course, still end up stuck in crappy jobs that they hate in order to support their families, but not for lack of trying. And this really gets at the heart of why "complementary" or "separate but equal" gender roles are not equal at all and never have been.
"These individuals spread their discontent by the propaganda that there are more exciting and self-fulfilling roles for women than homemaking." Translation: if a woman doesn't feel sufficiently contented or fulfilled by menial household chores that her husband could just as easily do, she's been deceived by propaganda. She couldn't have possibly reached that conclusion on her own, and even if she did, she's not smart enough to know what's good for her.
"Some even have been bold to suggest that the Church move away from the 'Mormon woman stereotype' of homemaking and rearing children." Please read this in Owen Lars' voice: Like the Church moved away from the 'Mormon woman stereotype' of homemaking and rearing children by showcasing career women in its "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign?
Benson's anti-feminist masterwork speech referenced here, "To the Mothers in Zion," remains in the manual despite all these other deletions. That's a bit of an oversight, which I brought to someone's attention with the online feedback form in March.
President Spencer W. Kimball
“Tomorrow when I repeat the phrases that will bind you for eternity, I shall say the same impressive words that the Lord said to that handsome youth and his lovely bride in the Garden of Eden: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth.’ ...
“... You came to get for yourself a mortal body that could become perfected, immortalized, and you understood that you were to act in partnership with God in providing bodies for other spirits. . . . And so you will not postpone parenthood. There will be rationalists who will name to you numerous reasons for postponement. Of course, it will be harder to get your college degrees or your financial start with a family, but strength like yours will be undaunted in the face of difficult obstacles. Have your family as the Lord intended. Of course it is expensive, but you will find a way, and besides, it is often those children who grow up with responsibility and hardships who carry on the world’s work” (“John and Mary, Beginning Life Together,” New Era, June 1975, 8).
“Supreme happiness in marriage is governed considerably by a primary factor—that of the bearing and rearing of children. Too many young people set their minds, determining they will not marry or have children until they are more secure, until the military service period is over; until the college degree is secured; until the occupation is more well-defined; until the debts are paid; or until it is more convenient. They have forgotten that the first commandment is to ‘be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it.’ (Genesis 1:28.) And so brides continue their employment and husbands encourage it, and contraceptives are used to prevent conception. Relatives and friends and even mothers sometimes encourage birth control for their young newlyweds. But the excuses are many, mostly weak. The wife is not robust; the family budget will not feed extra mouths; or the expense of the doctor, hospital, and other incidentals is too great; it will disturb social life; it would prevent two salaries; and so abnormal living prevents the birth of children. The Church cannot approve nor condone the measures which so greatly limit the family” (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, 328–29).
This section already omitted many quotes that straight-up denounce birth control as evil, because they don't jive with the church's current position that it's a personal decision. So Kimball's quote made the cut the first time around but now it crosses the line. Why? Probably because it pressures couples to have children that they can't afford or otherwise aren't ready to take care of, which is just plain terrible for everyone involved. I'm particularly disgusted that he, a man, considered "The wife is not robust" to be a "weak excuse" for not popping out as many babies as possible. This flat-out contradicts a far more reasonable David O. McKay quote on the preceding page: “In all this, however, the mother’s health should be guarded. In the realm of wifehood, the woman should reign supreme." (Then why does she need so many men to tell her how to do it?)
Looking at this and the earlier deleted Kimball quote, though, I am impressed that the manual made a distinction between "Elder" Kimball and "President" Kimball. Usually when an apostle becomes president of the church, subsequent publications attribute all of his quotes to President So-and-So regardless of when he made them, which is lazy and misleading.
Wayward Children Born Under the Covenant
The Prophet Joseph Smith
“When a seal is put upon the father and mother, it secures their posterity, so that they cannot be lost, but will be saved by virtue of the covenant of their father and mother” (in History of the Church, 5:530).
It's surprising to see anything from Joseph Smith deleted. He's had a better track record than most of his successors. And I don't know why this quote was problematic. I could see the church maybe wanting to move away from the implication that temple sealings remove children's agency, but the subsequent Brigham Young quote implies that far more strongly. Maybe the Joseph Smith quote encourages complacency by focusing on the ordinance (dead works) and not on the parents' actual efforts and worthiness? Maybe recent scholarship has cast doubt on its accuracy? That's all I've got.
I'm grateful for these deletions, except for the last one, which I don't care about one way or another. I just wish the church actually announced or drew attention to them in some way. Yes, I realize it's awkward to explain why quotes from prophets, seers, and revelators are no longer acceptable for publication, but when the church just quietly discontinues old teachings without correcting or superseding them, people who were previously taught those things continue to teach them anyway. Case in point: last year, in a fifth Sunday lesson in a YSA ward in a college town, my sixty-something bishop was very adamant that God wants all women to be full-time homemakers, and told those present to only use their college educations to be better mothers, not to have careers, and that anyone who disagreed (like me) was deceived by the world's lies. Mostly I was pissed off and incredulous that he had failed to notice the shift in the church's position over the last thirty years, but I also felt a little sorry for him when I complained to the stake president (who agreed with me) about him teaching the same thing that the prophets taught when he was our age. With regard to this manual specifically, many institute teachers probably use a paper copy and will never notice the online revisions unless somebody tells them.
But speaking of sexism, thanks to the recent states' rights free-for-all opened up by the repeal of Roe v. Wade, a ten-year-old rape victim from Ohio had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion. I hope God is warming up a spot in hell for every politician who thinks it's even an option to force a ten-year-old rape victim to endure pregancy and childbirth. (I argued with a family member who claims that pro-choicers don't care about her at all, that they're just using her as a pawn for their agenda to murder babies, as if liberals don't denounce rape literally all the time.) But I guess I can take some comfort in knowing that Utah, despite ranking as the second most sexist state in the nation and being a near-constant political embarrassment, will never be that bad... right?
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, so you can't, unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.