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:
Ironically - wait, no, that's not it. What am I trying to say? Oh yes. Coincidentally, which does not mean the same thing as ironically, last weekend I posted about an assignment I wrote about memes I had made, and then a few days later I was looking through the hard drive from my computer that died in 2014 (not to be confused with my computer that died in 2013, my computer that died in 2015, my computer that died in 2019, and my computer that died a couple weeks ago) and found a couple more that I had forgotten about. Well, there was this one, which I hadn't forgotten about as such but which wouldn't have been the best choice for a secular college assignment even if it had come to mind at the time.
I've probably shared that here before. You know, I was just so frustrated with all the people I saw regurgitating that talking point who weren't scientists, didn't know anything about DNA except how to spell it, and made no attempt to acknowledge or engage with anything already written on this subject by people far more educated than them about why DNA testing can neither confirm or disprove the book's claims. That was before the Church's website had its own essay on "Book of Mormon and DNA Studies". A year or two ago, I was in this Christian evolutionist group on Facebook where some guy who may or may not have been an actual scientist said that the missionaries had shared it with him, and because of his a priori assumption that my religion is ridiculous, he was sure it must be misleading and would somebody please refute it for him? In the time that I observed the thread, nobody attempted to do so, but people did helpfully provide additional unrelated reasons why my religion is ridiculous.
And then there were a couple I had forgotten about. In late May and early June, I chatted with a girl I met in the Facebook group "The Awesome Mormons' Secret Society of Awesomeness", which constituted an embarrassing proportion of my social life for years. I still interact to several people from that group more than almost anyone I went to school with. This girl isn't one of them. But I chatted with her for a while, and she sent me a bunch of pictures of herself which were also in a folder on the hard drive. I don't remember how that got started. I'm pretty sure I didn't ever say "Please send me pictures of yourself." But she did, and I praised her beauty and I think that's why she kept doing it until she got tired of me. In a couple instances, I turned her pictures into memes and sent them back to her.
Smoother than the chunky peanut butter on your chunky peanut butter toast, that's me. But speaking of the genetic plausibility of the Book of Mormon, the foremost Latter-day Saint apologetics organization FairMormon has changed its name back to FAIR. Now, though, instead of "Foundation for Apologetics Information and Research" it stands for "Faithful Answers, Informed Response". This is because most normal people don't know what apologetics is and wonder what they're apologizing for.
President Scott Gordon noted, "At this time of name changing, we have also done some reflection and subsequent course adjustment.... This means avoiding personal attacks or derogatory language." You may remember that once upon a December I wrote a post blasting their CES Letter videos, which were full of personal attacks or derogatory language, and their subsequent doubling down against the backlash by disabling comments, banning dissenters from their Facebook page, and issuing a damage control statement. I acknowledge that my blog has also had its share of personal attacks or derogatory language, but I think it's fair (pun intended) to hold the foremost Latter-day Saint apologetics organization to a higher standard. I'm sure it did far more damage than me by making itself and the Church look bad. President Gordon's statement makes no mention of the videos, which FAIR has now quietly removed. It hasn't yet apologized for banning me from its Facebook page for criticizing them, but that's okay, I know people are busy. I'll wait.
Although FAIR has lost my respect, it did me a lot of good in the past and I hope it does more good for people in the future. And I don't share or understand some Saints' blanket condemnation of apologetics. Of course it isn't science or straightforward scholarship because it works backward and looks for evidence to fit an assumed conclusion, but that's okay sometimes. It can be done well or it can be done poorly. Trying to prove a religion by such means would be dishonest - but demonstrating plausible grounds for the religion, acknowledging that faith ultimately lies outside the scope of empirical evidence and reason but showing that it is nonetheless compatible with them, is necessary and desirable. In the example above, good apologetics assert (correctly) that DNA testing, because of its limitations and the unknown variables and shifting populations and genocides over a couple thousand years, can tell us little or nothing about the Book of Mormon. Bad apologetics, which also exist, assert that DNA testing proves Native Americans in the Midwest are direct descendants of Israelites.
Another purpose of apologetics is to respond to criticisms of the religion which may be objectively wrong or may just be founded on interpretations that are up for debate. If the critics are right about everything and the apologists are wrong about everything, as those Saints who disdain all apologetics seem to imply, then the Church has virtually no redeeming value and why are they still in it? Of course, I doubt they really belief this logical conclusion of their contempt. I think they have more in common with one Salt Lake Tribune commenter who posed the rhetorical question, "Why does the truth need apologists?" And I get the straightforward assumption embedded in his question. Why can't the truth speak for itself? Why does it need to be explained and defended so much? But his assumption is erroneous. The truth is, anything confusing and/or controversial needs apologists. Even science needs apologists. For example:
Critic: Vaccines contain aborted fetal tissue.
Apologist: No, they don't. Several vaccines are developed in cells grown from cells taken from two fetuses that were aborted for unrelated reasons in the 1960s, but refusing to save millions of lives with the vaccines won't un-abort them.
Critic: Evolution violates the second law of thermodynamics, which states that systems will lose energy and go from order to disorder, not the other way around.
Apologist: No, it doesn't. The second law of thermodynamics only applies to closed systems. The Earth is not a closed system because it constantly receives more energy from the sun. Your logic would preclude ordinary water droplets from forming into intricate snowflakes.
I am not a scientist, but I am a science apologist. I don't pretend to have credentials or do groundbreaking research in my own right but I do have enough expertise in a few areas to explain misconceptions or misrepresentations of people who don't. For that reason, I have no regrets about my time spent in a major that wasn't English. And apologists like me are needed. A field of science is not less true because people may not understand some aspects of it, or because they may choose to fixate on anomalies and as-yet unsolved mysteries to delegitimize the entire thing. Granted, the actual scientists can do the apologetics themselves too, but I imagine they get even more freaking tired of it than I do and would like to get back to doing actual work like saving us from this pandemic.
Quote of the day, from the chat of Dialogue's Zoom Sunday school this morning: "Darius [Gray] is sharing the real Easter message right here: the resurrection means that Christ wins over the worst that the most powerful men in the world can do. The resurrection is a holy middle finger to oppression and death. It is the destiny of the restored church to overcome racism"
Latter-day Saint Charities recently donated $20 million to UNICEF's push for two billion vaccine doses in 196 countries by the end of the year. I applaud such an initiative. It is absolutely unacceptable for only wealthy countries to get the vaccine while the rest continue to suffer for God knows how long. Naturally, the anti-vaxxers whose existence blights this planet are confused and upset at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all over again, and I've had many opportunities to pass along my post "Follow the Prophet, Even When He Shills for Big Pharma", which has upset some of them even more. When I wrote it, I harbored no illusions that it would change anyone's mind. Trying to convince an anti-vaxxer of reality is like trying to convince a rock to do jumping jacks. I know that, and yet I've still wasted some time arguing with them, and I'm not proud of myself and I'm really trying to stop.
The best I could hope for was to cut through their mental gymnastics and rationalizations about the officiality and unambiguousness of the Church's position on vaccines, and expose them to the full force of the cognitive dissonance they warrant and deserve for knowing that it isn't run by delusional anti-science conspiracy theorists like them, and convince them to have some integrity and admit that they disagree with an official and unambiguous Church position. Even that was expecting too much of them, but I tried. At least when left-wing members disagree with the Church on something - always for reasons that are a lot less stupid - they have the cajones to say they disagree with the Church on something. They don't lie and pretend it's one guy's opinion that isn't binding on anything. Really, the logical leap from "The First Presidency ackowledged that vaccinations are a personal decision" (true) to "The First Presidency didn't endorse vaccines and encourage all members to get vaccinated" (bull) is so blatantly wrong that I'm sure even most of the anti-vaxxers making it know it's wrong. They're just trying to stave off the cognitive dissonance at all costs. And they hate me when I don't let them do that.
More than one person was upset with me for mocking the grieving parents of hundreds of thousands of children who have suffered from vaccine injuries. No, I'm mocking parents who are so stupid that if their kid gets vaccinated and then gets hit by a car two years later, they call it a vaccine injury. More than one person was upset with me for not showing Christlike love to people with a difference of opinion founded on lies that presents a constant direct threat to public health throughout the country, and especially to the lives and well-being of children whose only sin was being born to such idiots. Oh, isn't it funny how anti-vaxxers were always like "Why does my child need to get vaccinated to protect your child" but now they're pretending to know how herd immunity works? We don't need the vaccine, we need everyone in the world to get sick, several million people to die, and the healthcare system to collapse so we can achieve herd immunity. The virus has a 99.9% recovery rate with no long-term side effects or any negative outcomes besides death whatsoever, but the rate of abnormally serious side effects from the vaccine is - well, it's a lot lower than .01%, but that's still a lot because it just is! Or something. I'm only pretending to comprehend their thought process, if they have one.
Last week we workshopped the first thirteen pages of my essay "Things That Rhyme With 'Elise'", which maybe I'll post on this website and maybe I won't. And I just want to say that the workshop was a great experience for how it contrasted with my experience last time I had a class from Jennifer. Last time, as I've mentioned, I was not adapted to the flash non-fiction format she made us use where every detail has to have some deeper layer of meaning, and my classmates didn't understand when I was trying to make jokes in my writing and decided to assume I was stupid instead. I felt eaten alive. This time, everyone gushed about how great it was. I mean, workshops always start with saying what you think is working well in a piece anyway, but you can tell if everyone really liked a piece because they have so much to say. They thought it was funny and sweet and had all these brilliant things going on - some of them intentional on my part, some subconscious, and a few coincidental but I'll take them anyway. My one favorite line from all verbal and written feedback combined is: "I love the way you write about Calise, I feel like I'm falling in love with her with you."
Of course, as this is a little less than half of the current length of the essay, they couldn't see where I was going with it or which seemingly random details will turn out to be important - some even questioned whether Talease, interesting though she is, really matters to the story I'm telling, and oh how I wish I could answer that in the negative - so I'm impressed with the volume of useful feedback they were able to provide regardless. I felt bad having to split it up and make it less powerful, but I'd feel worse making them respond to 28 pages in one go. I was going to do this essay and another essay about something else, but this one will swell to fill as much space as I can give it, and it's what my heart needs me to write about. I've had to be very selective with details and try to choose representative ones that present a good picture and also take the time to dwell on key scenes and not just jump along from one point to another like "The Rise of Skywalker", and there's the whole show vs. tell balance and scene vs. summary balance and so on. My classmates are invested now and they're excited to read the second part and see how this adorable love story will play out.
Yeah... I feel bad about that.
I wish I could make up a different story, to satisfy them if not myself, but I can't because unlike anti-vaxxers, I have some integrity. So the second part is going to break their expectant, excited hearts. I feel like a box of puppies is looking up at me with such love and trust in their eyes as I'm about to shoot them all. I suppose this is a skill I can carry over to my preferred venue of fiction writing. I'll get people to love my characters and root for their success and read with baited breath to see what happens, and then I'll do terrible things to my characters, kill them off even, and my readers will cry and curse me and keep buying my books. I mean, I want my books to be funny, so I won't be too extreme with that direction. But it's a good skill to have and it looks like I have it. I feel so bad.
Anti-vaxxers have long been a very vocal, very annoying minority within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but with any luck they'll all apostatize soon and start their own church of walking plague bombs.
President Russell M. Nelson, whom most members regard as a prophet, seer and revelator, posted the following on his Facebook page on January 19:
"With approval from our physician, my wife, Wendy, and I were vaccinated today against COVID-19. We are very grateful. This was the first week either of us was eligible to receive the vaccine. We are thankful for the countless doctors, scientists, researchers, manufacturers, government leaders, and others who have performed the grueling work required to make this vaccine available. We have prayed often for this literal godsend.
"As a former surgeon and medical researcher, I know something of the effort needed to accomplish such a remarkable feat. Producing a safe, effective vaccine in less than a year is nothing short of miraculous. I was a young surgeon when, in 1953, Dr. Jonas Salk announced that he had developed a vaccine against the cruel and crippling disease of polio. I then watched the dramatic impact that vaccine had on eradicating polio as most people around the world were vaccinated.
For generations, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has donated considerable resources to making vaccinations available for people in developing countries. Vaccinations have helped to eliminate diseases such as diphtheria and smallpox. My professional and ecclesiastical experiences convince me that vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.
"Receiving the vaccine today was part of our personal efforts to be good global citizens in helping to eliminate COVID-19 from the world."
President Nelson's medical background doesn't make him an automatic expert on every field of medicine or the latest developments, but it does say a lot about his worldview, one that sees faith and reason as harmonious while many try to put them in opposition to each other. It's a real breath of fresh air. So he's not the foremost expert on COVID-19, but I trust his judgment on it more than that of some young mom in Provo who sells essential oils.
Seven other Apostles, including both of President Nelson's counselors in the First Presidency, also received the vaccine. This prompted a couple of equally stupid suggestions from opposite directions. Some Salt Lakers whose lives revolve around whining about everything the Church or any leader ever says or does complained that these men, in getting the vaccine, were being treated with favoritism because of their status in Utah's dominant religion. And some anti-vaxxers within the Church surmised that the unvaccinated Apostles don't share the vaccinated Apostles' approval of vaccinations. To these bipartisan idiots I would like to point out the very simple observation that the vaccinated Apostles are eligible for the vaccine in Utah because they're over seventy, while the unvaccinated Apostles aren't because they're not. As an afterthought I would like to add, duh.
Just to cause even more cognitive dissonance and mental gymnastics for anti-vaxxers, the First Presidency followed up the same day with a statement that carries a bit more weight than President Nelson's Facebook page:
"In word and deed, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has supported vaccinations for generations. As a prominent component of our humanitarian efforts, the Church has funded, distributed and administered life-saving vaccines throughout the world. Vaccinations have helped curb or eliminate devastating communicable diseases, such as polio, diphtheria, tetanus, smallpox and measles. Vaccinations administered by competent medical professionals protect health and preserve life.
"As this pandemic spread across the world, the Church immediately canceled meetings, closed temples, and restricted other activities because of our desire to be good global citizens and do our part to fight the pandemic.
"Now, COVID-19 vaccines that many have worked, prayed, and fasted for are being developed, and some are being provided. Under the guidelines issued by local health officials, vaccinations were first offered to health care workers, first responders, and other high-priority recipients. Because of their age, Senior Church leaders over 70 now welcome the opportunity to be vaccinated.
"As appropriate opportunities become available, the Church urges its members, employees and missionaries to be good global citizens and help quell the pandemic by safeguarding themselves and others through immunization. Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination. In making that determination, we recommend that, where possible, they counsel with a competent medical professional about their personal circumstances and needs."
Anti-vaxxers have, of course, fixated on the idea of free agency and the fact that "Individuals are responsible to make their own decisions about vaccination" as a way of ignoring the fact that the highest governing body of the Church unambigously rejected their entire worldview, praised vaccines, and encouraged everyone to get them. Yes, members may choose for themselves. That doesn't in any way nullify the rest of the statement's contents. I said something in a Facebook comment somewhere about these mental gymnastics. An anti-vaxxer replied to prove me wrong by explaining that if the prophet says he likes fishing but he, the anti-vaxxer, doesn't like fishing, that's not a big deal. So I retracted my premature statement. No mental gymnastics there, no sirree.
The Church Newsroom reported on the apostolic vaccinations and the First Presidency statement and added:
"The Church of Jesus Christ has recognized the importance of vaccinations and immunization for decades. 'We urge members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to protect their own children through immunization,” the First Presidency said in 1978.
"Since 2002, through its humanitarian organization Latter-day Saint Charities, the Church has helped fund 168 projects in 46 countries to bless some 116,819,870 people. Latter-day Saint Charities gives monetary support to prominent global immunization partners to procure and deliver vaccinations, monitor diseases, respond to outbreaks, train health care workers, and develop elimination and eradication programming. The results include more immunized children and fewer lives lost to measles, rubella, maternal and neonatal tetanus, polio, diarrhea, pneumonia, and yellow fever.
"Notable success stories of late include the elimination of diseases throughout Africa. In 2019, Latter-day Saint Charities and partners such as UNICEF USA and Kiwanis International helped eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in Chad and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Late last year, thanks to UNICEF and partners such as Latter-day Saint Charities, Africa eradicated wild poliovirus. And in response to a measles epidemic in Chad in 2019, UNICEF and its partners helped vaccinate 653,535 children between the ages of six months and nine years over a one-week period.
'I’m glad our turn has come to have this vaccination,' President Oaks said Tuesday morning. 'We’re very hopeful that the general vaccination of the population will help us get ahead of this awful pandemic. It’s hopeful, like the light at the end of the tunnel. There is relief and appreciation involved for those who have invented the vaccine and for those who have caused it to be generally available on a sensible priority system.'
Of course, most of these people have been struggling with their faith for a while now. They might have felt a few pangs years ago when the Church endorsed the radical notion of not being dicks to undocumented immigrants and refugees from war-torn nations. But certainly within the last year, they were troubled when the Church acknowledged that racism still exists and needs to be eliminated. They were upset when the Church congratulated Biden on winning the US presidential election instead of regurgitating their lies about election fraud, some of them so much so that they tore up their temple recommends. And they've had to crawl over, under, around and anywhere but through basic principles of logic to ignore the fact that the Church has treated this pandemic as a serious threat and taken precautions from the beginning. It's very obvious that nobody in the church hierarchy believes that COVID-19 is no worse than the flu or that individuals' "right" to not wear masks in public trumps (no pun intended) their obligation to the people and society around them. But sure, keep deluding yourself that "the government" is the reason they canceled every church meeting and closed every temple in the world.
Left-leaning members have struggled with and/or rejected various aspects of church teaching and policy for a very long time, while "faithful" right-leaning members have belittled them for doing so. It's nice to see the opposite becoming so common these days. A true Christ-following religion should have something to offend everybody. I guess I should be sympathetic, but these are such stupid, stupid reasons to struggle with your faith. And also I'm actively rooting for them all to leave the Church and stop embarrassing those of us with functioning brains. So there's that.
I suspect this person is a member - they could be Catholic, since the Pope also got vaccinated, but he's famous enough that I think they would have just mentioned him by name if that were the case.
But do you know what? As much as I hope they all apostatize and stop polluting Deseret News comments sections, I actually agree with the anti-vaxxers on one very important point. I don't think President Nelson's enthusiasm for vaccines or the First Presidency statement encouraging everyone to get vaccinated are inspired. That is to say, I don't think that at any time any of them bothered to ask God whether vaccines are a good thing or not. I don't know that for a fact. But I strongly suspect that they declared it on their own initiative because they're not complete imbeciles.
I have to wait until anywhere from March to July to get vaccinated, or probably longer if the government doesn't get its crap together. Until then all I have to do is constantly avoid the 70% more contagious strain that's about to raise hell in the US like it did in the UK, in a state where people throw literal temper tantrums about their children having to wear masks to school. Easy peasy.
School, and consequently my job, start again on Tuesday. I'm as excited as anyone can be about schools and jobs. I'm teaching two sections of English 1010 this time, and consequently only taking two classes.
Creative Nonfiction Writing Workshop - I have to take this because of my major. We'll see how it goes, since it's from the same professor who did the undergraduate Advanced Nonfiction Writing class that I hated. To recap, I hated it because she made us write "flash" nonfiction, very short pieces that had to make every detail count and incorporate additional layers of meaning beyond the literal events of the text itself, something I was woefully unequipped by nature to do, and during peer review I felt eaten alive by some of my idiot classmates who, for example, couldn't tell when I was joking, because God forbid I ever try to be funny unlike any of them. Nothing against the professor herself, who was a delightful human being, except for how she went out of her way to make me feel singled out and excluded at the beginning of every class when she said "Hello, my beautiful ones!" (See, this is an attempt at being funny. The joke is that she excluded me because she was only talking to the beautiful students and I'm not beautiful. Maybe it's not that funny, but do you understand it, at least? Do you understand that it's not meant to be taken literally? Do you understand that you don't need to assume I'm a moron?)
Folk Art, Traditional Art, and Material Culture - Falling in love with an artist reminded me that I love art, and I drew a lot of pictures when I was little, and in kindergarten I was always the last one to finish our daily project and go play because of my attention to detail (when we made bees, for example, I was the only one who gave mine anatomically correct insect eyes instead of white cartoon eyes), and I might have become an artist myself if my art teacher all through elementary school hadn't been a grouchy old cow. I'm also super interested in anthropology and what it explains about human behavior and religion. It just is a shame that life is too short to pursue every interest in earnest, but college is a chance to take your time and diversify and explore, as long as you don't mind going into debt for the rest of your life. This is, in fact, an undergraduate-level class, but I just have to do some extra stuff and it will count as a graduate-level class.
I still have all my lesson plans from teaching last time and I have some clue what I'm doing this time and I think it will be great and not too stressful. Knock on so much wood.
Because I'm teaching two classes, I don't have to work at the Writing Center. I don't think I ever talked about working at the Writing Center. I enjoyed most of the actual appointments, talking with students about how to strengthen their writing, but preparing for the appointments was a nuisance that I won't miss. Not to mention the stress of trying to get them. I was supposed to aim for twenty by the end of the semester, and I got so far behind that one week I desperately opened eight to nine hours a day on my appointment schedule, more than doubling my appointments and reaching the goal, and then that turned out to be a complete waste because all my normal slots were filled for the last few weeks of the semester and I ended up with way more than I needed. The scheduler was weird too. I had my default schedule, but if I wanted to open up more slots, I had to go in and "blackout" all the times that I didn't want open and then everything else would be open by default. At first I thought that was pretty stupid, but now I just think it's pretty stupid.
Usually when I looked over someone's writing prior to an appointment, I felt way out of my depth, because I was supposed to focus on the bigger picture stuff more than spelling and grammar issues that would be much easier for me to tear apart. I didn't know what to do when an ESL student specifically asked for help with his grammar. As a teacher, I'm not supposed to correct ESL students' grammar because the notion of "standard English" is bullcrap that one group of English speakers codified to make themselves superior to all other English speakers, but as a tutor, I'm supposed to help students with what they want help with. I also had to help with a business major's application to a graduate school in Scotland, and I knew very little about the stuff he wrote about but I would be surprised if anyone at USU has better business qualifications than him. It was his fourth time bringing it to the Writing Center so I guess I was lucky to be at the tail end of it. I also had to help with someone's grant proposal for a study on how to more effectively grow plants in space. She was like, "Is there anything else you think I should include?" And I was like, "How the #$%@ should I know?" Not out loud, of course.
So I had situations like that where I had no idea what to do and then it turned out fine. I had some other science stuff, even though there's supposed to be a separate Science Writing Center that I didn't sign up to do. There was this one guy, I forget what his thing was, but I was doing my introductory spiel and I asked "Have you been to the Writing Center before?" like I'm supposed to, you know, even though I always draw a blank on where to go from there if they say no, but he was like, "Yeah, but not the Science Writing Center" and I was like, "Oh, uh, you still haven't." Not out loud, of course. I'm not that assertive. And he was all apologetic about how he meant to sign up for the Science Writing Center but he must have not. So guess what? One of my colleagues found out that if you go to the website and sign up for the Science Writing Center, it just directs you to the normal Writing Center schedule. Facepalm.
Of course, most of the students I tutored were filling a requirement from their instructors. As an undergraduate I also had to do this as a requirement for some instructors, and I thought it was a hassle but they did give good feedback. I was never obnoxious to the tutors. I only had one student who was obnoxious. The thing he gave me to look over was literally one paragraph of an essay he was supposed to write, and in the sign-up he said he was just doing this because he had to, and where he was supposed to list his concerns for me to focus on, he said he wasn't worried about anything. Based on the quality of the paragraph he provided me, he should have been worried. It was garbage. So we got to the appointment, he made it really clear he didn't want to be there, and he had changed his topic so all the corrections I made to his paragraph were moot anyway. I was more than happy to let him go after two minutes.
I could have still done the Writing Center this semester for some extra money in addition to my salary, but I had to decide by like December 12, so I decided nah.
I have continued to experience joy this week as several more of Trump's domestic terrorists have been arrested. I've heard, and have no reason to doubt, that everyone who carried a cell phone to the failed coup, aka everyone there, will be tracked and arrested. And that's why worrying about tracking chips in vaccines is even stupider than it appears at face value. The only problem is that they want Trump to pardon them, and that raises the question of why presidential pardons are a thing in the first place. As a child I was taught about checks and balances. I was taught that, quote, "A president is not a king", close quote. So why does he have the power to unilaterally erase anyone's legal consequences, not because the person is innocent, but because he likes the person? In this case, because the people were doing exactly what he wanted them to do? Of course, since they failed and he doesn't care about anyone but himself, I won't be surprised if he doesn't bother. I hope security is sufficiently improved this week, and that anyone else who tries to overthrow the government so their god can become a dictator is mowed down on the spot like this last group should have been.
I've just been notified that my childhood home in northern New York, which had stood since sometime in the late nineteenth century, burned down last night. So much for buying it back when I get rich.
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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.