In case anyone was wondering, I switched my website to Dark Mode because my friend Marie whined about straining her eyes while reading Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars. It will take some getting used to but I think it's better for the environment or something so I'll probably keep it.
Addendum to my observation that young Latter-day Saints have become more chill about swearing: On Thursday I went to a game night where at least three people who weren't the same as the people at the fire said "Shit" and/or "Damn it" when the Exploding Kittens weren't in their favor. No one acted scandalized and no one apologized. Last night I attended the Logan YSA 7th Stake talent show. A woman did a humorous monologue and mentioned that she was "covered in shit all day" in her job as a nurse. She apologized to the stake president and bishops but argued that it was fine because it wasn't Sunday and we weren't in the chapel. Then she immediately described one of her patients as "a crazy-ass lady" and didn't apologize for that one. She was my second choice in the vote for the winners. None of my choices won anything, just like in a real election.
I finally made some small tangible impact on the world this week when I played a small part in taking down the Missouri Attorney General's Transgender Center Concerns online form. Honestly, he should have seen the deluge of fake spam complaints coming a mile away. A lot of people filed complaints about Republican politicians' wives or the Catholic priests who wear dresses and groom children. I made up a story about my little brother wearing a dress and then becoming a Marxist lesbian who wants to teach critical race theory. And it got pretty weird and crass after that so I'll leave it to your imagination. The person reading the entries probably didn't bother to read mine after he saw that my name was Ron DeSantis, though, so I should have thought that through a little better.
Yesterday I also went for a walk with my neighbor and his puppy Gizmo. I help take care of Gizmo while my neighbor is at work at least twice a week. He's a real hassle, gets on my nerves constantly, but of course I wuv him.
But anyway, I went for a walk with him and my neighbor, and as we neared the end my neighbor asked, "You're LDS, aren't you?" Not gonna lie, that was a pretty embarrassing thing to be asked by a Black person, because, you know, the entirety of the LDS Church's history with Black people. I said I used to be but I left the church last year. He was curious why. I didn't know how much he would even understand as an outsider. To summarize it I said, "A lot of stuff that built up over the years.... Stuff in the church's history that made me think it isn't what it claims to be, and its positions on social issues. It discriminated against Black people for a long time, it's been really sexist, and it's against gay rights." If I'd had more time to think I would have phrased my response a little differently because in fairness, within the second half of my short lifetime the LDS Church has started supporting most gay rights except marriage. It's come a long way since Dallin H. Oaks proposed that gay people should be barred from any form of employment where children could see them as role models.
He asked if I'd ever been baptized and when. I said when I was eight, which is standard for children born into the LDS Church. He was amazed at how young that was so I explained how the church teaches that eight is the age of accountability when children understand right and wrong enough to sin, and if they die before then, they automatically go to heaven. He thought that was nice. He said he wanted to get baptized soon, probably into the Baptists, "Because I, too, am a God-fearing man." I said I didn't know what to believe, and I'd stayed in the LDS Church longer than I should have, because I'd felt spiritual feelings and I was told that they were the Holy Ghost telling me that specific religion is true, and then I saw a video of people in all different religions apparently getting identical feelings and asserting with just as much confidence that their religions were true, so now I wonder if they're all just delusions. He said he thinks all religions are just people's best efforts to reach God and that they can all experience God in their own way. That's a nice thought. "I believe everything happens for a reason," he said.
Afterward I realized he seems to know almost nothing about the LDS Church, so my answer probably didn't mean as much to him as to someone who does. He didn't seem to realize that the LDS Church isn't just another denomination, that it claims to be the one true church restored by Joseph Smith and led by prophets who speak for God. The Baptists have certainly had their own problems with racism, but those are easier to forgive because they don't make such lofty claims. And it's harder to falsify their entire religion by pinpointing a historical event that didn't happen the way they say it did. The LDS Church's historical problems are so damning that it's now teaching the youth this crap in seminary:
There's a sneaky conflation of terms here. Of course some, even most historical details are insignificant. But without others, the so-called Restoration completely falls apart. The term "Restoration" itself is a historical claim. Allegedly Joseph Smith restored Jesus Christ's original church. Either that happened or it didn't. Likewise, either he saw Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father in the woods or he didn't, either he translated the Book of Mormon or he didn't, either he received the priesthood from heavenly messengers or he didn't, either he received the temple ceremonies by revelation or he didn't, and so on. Without these historical details, the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine are completely bogus. And the historical details of social issues play into this too. When prophets are on the wrong side of slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights, that's a pretty good indication that they're not nearly as in tune with the mind and will of the Lord as they claim to be, and that the covenants, ordinances, and doctrine that come through them should consequently be treated with greater skepticism. Especially since their views on slavery, civil rights, feminism, and gay rights were doctrine until suddenly they weren't.
My neighbor is hardly alone in believing that everything happens for a reason. Life is less frightening that way. But even when I believed God was far more hands-on with his creations than I believe now, I didn't share that sentiment. How could I? In four separate incidents in the last week or so, a teenage boy, two college cheerleaders, a little girl and her parents, and a very young woman were shot by psychopaths for making simple and entirely harmless mistakes. All these shootings happened in the United States, but you already knew that. Miraculously, all of these people except for the very young woman survived. I say "miraculously" because it's a normal and appropriate figure of speech, but I don't believe any real miracles occurred at all. I think most of them got lucky and Kaylin Gillis didn't. I don't see how I could accept a God who intervened to save the others but got to Kaylin Gillis and said, "I'm sorry, I have a very important and immutable divine plan that desperately requires you to die at age twenty. This piece of shit was foreordained to shoot you and if he hadn't, I would have arranged an accident anyway. Fuck your parents, fuck your younger sisters, fuck your long-term boyfriend who wanted to spend the rest of his life with you and nobody else."
Which brings me to another issue that first occurred to me years ago when I read about an LDS woman whose boyfriend was killed in a mass shooting. It was in the United States, but you already knew that. Anyway, the LDS Church teaches that the Atonement of Jesus Christ will make everything right in the next life and fix every injustice. And that's a beautiful thing to believe. But I don't see how it could fix everything for Kaylin Gillis and her boyfriend. They wanted to be together. But Kevin Monahan took away their agency to make that choice. Agency is one of the most important things in the LDS paradigm, so why does God let people take other people's away? Why does Kevin Monahan's agency trump theirs? Now Kaylin Gillis' boyfriend could stay alone for the rest of his life and then be reunited with her in the afterlife and still be with her for eternity. But if at any point he does marry someone else, then she has to either find someone else too or join them as a polygamous wife. And actually, because of deaths and remarriages I don't see a way around the polygamy problem for eternal marriage in general, although the LDS Church could make it not sexist by letting women be sealed to multiple husbands too. In any case, their eternal destinies have been altered in a way that the Atonement may not be able to reverse.
The other most famous of these shootings, Andrew Lester vs. Ralph Yarl, is of course making waves for the racial component. Without knowing anything except that an elderly white man shot a Black teenager in the head for ringing his doorbell, I would have bet the lives of everyone I care about that the elderly white man voted for Donald Trump, but it's even better than that. According to his relatives, he's a full-blown Fox News junkie, anti-vaxxer, Stop the Steal, the whole shebang. So of course he's afraid of everything. Of course when he hears the doorbell ring his first thought is to grab his gun. Of course he's going to think that the Black person who just rang his fucking doorbell is trying to break in. Of course he's going to be scared of the size of the Black person who's shorter than me and weighs the same. This isn't me reading his mind, by the way, these are all things he told the police. Look, I've tried really really hard to be politically nuanced and avoid polarization, and I'm not saying progressives are perfect or anything, but the right-wing movement in this country is a fucking cancer. It just is. And either the movement or the country is going to die.
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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.