Monday, January 24, 2011

Brodie Awards

A year ago I became aware of the Brodie Awards. These are peer review awards voted on by readers of the many different genres of Mormon and Ex-Mormon blogs, discussion boards, etc.. Fawn Brodie was a very well known author that wrote a very compelling book that did not put Joseph Smith or the LDS church in very good light. An award in her name is quite an honor to those of us who have read acres of pages of essays, humor pieces, and documentation that examines LDS culture, leaders, and beliefs.

I'm new to the blogging scene and still a novice among many of the more skilled and well known authors. I wrote "Ambiguously Gendered Kitten" as a humorous post on Post Mormon in October after Boyd K. Packer made his unkind statements regarding gays. A while later I posted it as a blog entry and assumed that was the end of it. Someone read it and nominated it for the most humorous title in the Brodie Awards. Not quite a compliment to the content but it's a start and hopefully in time the things I write will garner more attention and value among those that read this blog.

I didn't start this particular blog to highlight my most humorous essays, although they do exist. I've written some very funny, sardonic, parody oriented pieces but they weren't especially geared to the theme of Finding the Pony. But I think I will start a blog much like "Ward Gossip" where I post mostly the funny stuff I come across and write myself, helping to draw attention to the very funny and clever people that abound in the Exmormon world.

Anyway, it sure does feel good to be noticed. Thanks Brodie Awards. Thanks my six or seven fans that voted!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Hie To Kolob

I think this is the essay I'll use as the final entry for the book. I still have several transition pieces to include and some righteous rants regarding frustrations with the LDS experience, but as I contemplate wrapping up the content of my book I think this story emulates the optimism and opportunity I want to offer to show that there really is life after Mormonism.

A few years ago I applied for a job with a creative advertising firm here in Vegas. The Director asked me to write an essay describing my perfect day, from the moment I awoke to the moment my mind drifted off to sleep for the night.  The director liked my essay and she and her team interviewed me in their very funky offices. I was so excited and they were looking forward to my contributions, but then the economy crashed  and they lost too many clients and could not add me to their staff. I was disappointed but happy that I'd gotten the opportunity to describe my perfect day.

The job is long gone, but the dream lives on. In my new life after Mormonism there are many wonderful things that I can now include that were not part of my limited box of crayons while I was LDS. I get the whole big box of 64 to color my world with now. It's wonderful and exciting. Instead of "Endure to the End" as a tedious mantra to carry us through till death I have "Enjoy to the End" to guide my daily choices. No rules, no limits, no rigid order to dictate what I will enjoy and whom I enjoy it with. 

So here goes, my dream day.

Hie To Kolob...(obscure reference to biblical term of star nearest where God dwells, or Heaven)

The blinders on Brigham and Joseph don't come off till about 7:30 a.m., well after sunrise but a respectable "lazy morning" wake up time. They crow vigorously while their numerous wives echo with little clucks and murmurs. Bill has been up since 5:00 a.m. making sure all the niggling details on our financial accounts are tediously recorded and cross referenced. The sound of the shredder eating yesterday's receipts is like the second snooze call on an alarm clock and I finally toss my legs over the edge of the bed and shuffle into the kitchen.

The coffee pot is on it's second shift and has cooled to a perfect sipping temperature. Bills thick cotton robe feels better than my own and opens just enough to reveal that this old granny still has the boobs of a much younger woman. He fondles me and kisses my forehead, avoiding the morning breath but approving of the messy tousled hair.

I squeeze his bum and marvel that the love just gets better each day. "What's the news lover?", I ask as I turn on my computer. "George Bush and Dick Cheney were indicted today and it looks like they'll be prosecuted for war crimes, profiteering, and wire tapping as well as perjury and other crimes. It looks like their accounts have been frozen and they're going to have to pay reparations to the soldiers and their families, the Iraqis and the American people. I suspect they're finished financially and will spend their days in abject poverty, possibly prison where the CIA will practice water boarding techniques on them till they cough up all their dirty secrets.

The Coal fired Power Plant in Mesquite was converted to solar, wind, and soy based fuel and I heard that President Obama just got the Nobel Peace Prize (wasn't that prophetic!) for negotiating a peace agreement between Israel and the rest of the middle east. He left a message on the recorder thanking you for writing his speech.". "Ahhh, mmmm," as I sip my hazelnut flavored Mountain Roast at just the right temperature with my favorite not too thick rimmed mug. All is right with the world with Liberty and Justice for all.

"I traded some summer squash for homemade bread with Joyce. Would you like some toast?", I ask Bill as I pop a couple slices in the toaster. The butter has softened just enough to spread without tearing the perfect crumbly bread as it pops up, filling the air with it's toasty goodness. We revel in the tangy sweetness and warm textures as we gaze out the kitchen window to the herb garden beyond. The bees and butterflies are already hard at work and the shadows of the locust trees are starting to creep west as the sun gets higher over the Utah, Kolobs, dancing across the valley and teasing the warts at the base of Pine Valley Mountain. She spreads her arms around the valley like a big bosomed mama, drawing us close and protecting us from all that is "Out there" in the big wide world.

Holly pops in to pick some fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden for the lunch crowd at her Bistro near the highway. "Good Morning Holly Wally-Doodle-All-The-Day!", I proclaim as she hugs me and reaches to pat Honey (the ambassador of Good Will) on the head. Honey wags her stub erratically and follows Eric and Kevin out the door, running hell bent for the trampoline and playground in the east yard and I smile at my two perfect grandsons, full of life, robust, wild with energy and imagination. I dash to the bedroom and pop on my turquoise smocked sun dress and some fresh cotton panties and floppy hat and scoot into the well worn Birkenstocks by the back door. Holly and I follow Bill to the garage where he's working on yet another Mission Style bookshelf for the art studio above where piles of art and reference books still sit in miscellaneous boxes waiting for daylight to reveal their lovely crisp pages and once again fill me with inspiration and ideas.

"How's the triptych for the shrine coming?" Holly asks as we climb the stairs to the studio. The light from the east and north windows floods the attic and the coral glow on the Kolobs makes the bright green of the rye grass valley below pop like a Maxfield Parrish painting. I place the panels together on the easels and we study them, trying to decide if the narrative is too precious or which leaf needs to be edited. "Why does she have six fingers on her right hand?" asks Holly pointing to the muse.

I bend forward and look closely, counting carefully. "Made you look!!" Holly teases. We hug and our girly giggles fill the room. "It took a while but I'm glad you finally got the city to take down those old satellite dishes and put in underground power lines. It makes the view so much more fantastic this way", she declares as we bask in the reflection of the eastern mountains. The sun is already getting higher and invites us to the garden below where zucchini, squash and tomatoes are propagating like Mormon newlyweds on a Saturday night.

We peruse a few of the more tender and ripe specimens to be used in Holly's famous "Whachagot Stew" at her patio lunch restaurant by the Texaco. "The sauteed summer squash and peppers are selling like  hotcakes", she states, plucking several more buttery yellow crooknecks from the vines. I place a few eggplants and some fat juicy tomatoes in the basket and we head toward her Subaru.

"The boys haven't had a bath yet but I figure they'll just get dirty playing in the yard today anyway."she informs. "They're probably going to get muddy at the creek catching crawdads. I'll give them a bath after lunch before their naps.", I assure her as she calls to them. "You boys be good for Grandma and help her in the garden". She gives them a quick kiss on their curly mops and thanks me for being part of their lives. Little does she know how much I'd grovel to just be included and how warm it feels to have family nearby.

She drives off and I head over toward the old school bus where the boys are planning yet another private "Club". They've written, "No Gorls Aloud, only Gramma" in permanent marker above the door. I eavesdrop on the planning commission. Eric the Older is subjugating Kevin The Fearless One in a classic power struggle. "Well you can be whoever you want but I'm SUPREME DICTATORFOR LIFE!!" declares Eric. A manly war is about to be instigated and true to my nature of peacemaker, I intervene. Distraction is the order of the day and so I delegate some weeding and compost turning to my labor force. "And don't pull out all my carrots this time", I instruct as I send them off for their duties. I glance at the interior of the old bus and it's gaudy pink and blue walls painted in equal parts to reflect the girls and boys halves, with shelves full of old toys, Barbie houses, and costumes from two decades of kids and neighbor kids. The echoes of their playful yelps and silly squabbles, creative games, and zillions of Kool-Aid tea parties still fills the air. "How did I do it all?", I wonder, reflecting on the years of poverty and struggle to raise a family. Honey sidles up to me and begs for a belly scratch. Her old dog odors are pungent but remind me of the years of love and affection that she's brought to our home and neighbors. I know my popularity is only vicarious through her friendliness and eternal puppy hood.

I manage to keep the boys on task for about 45 minutes as we glean the garden for weeds and nasties. They've named the biggest praying mantis "Deloris" after the lady who taught me to read and they're trying to convince her to set up housekeeping in the fort they've made from a coffee can. She resists and scuttles off in the forest of fennel and cosmos to hunt out aphids and squash beetles.

"If you boys will haul all these weeds to the compost and give the bins 10 turns, I'll let you play for a half hr. before we get ready for lunch. It's Kevin's turn to choose, will it be soup and sandwiches or hobo dinners today?", I ask. "POT PIES!!!", Kevin exclaims. I concede (again) and try to remember if I have any left in the freezer. "Didn't we just have Pot Pies on Friday?", I ask, hoping he'll get off his fetish and onto something else.

The pies are almost toasty brown on top when Bill comes from the garage and brings me a strawberry Popsicle from the freezer. "Where do you want to go today?", he asks, kissing me with his cold Popsicle flavored lips. "I've never been to Kiev or the Ukraine", I mumble as my mouth tingles with the tangy iciness of the Popsicle. "Ok, I'll check the weather there and see about what we should wear. Are we staying for dinner?", he asks. "I think it would be nice to try something local and maybe take in a sunset walk in one of the parks. Do you want to do a museum or just people watch this time?", I respond. "If we have time I'd love to see the Folk Art and Architecture museum or the Eastern and Asian art museum.".

The boys gobble their lunch and are busting to go back outside but I entice them with the promise of Grasshopper Slushes if they read for 1/2 hr and then take showers before a short afternoon nap. They relent, shuffling upstairs to the library to fight over the banana chair and "The Big Book of Really Gross Insects". Reading is a misnomer because they're both just looking for the most repulsive and frightening pictures to appall their mother when she returns after the lunch crowd dies down.

We try to rest and get a little cat nap while the boys are restlessly feigning quiet time. I hear the gravel crunch on the driveway as Holly pulls up and I sigh a big breath of relief and help scoot the boys out the door . "You look tired already Holly, was it a big crowd today?". "About the usual. A fire crew came through on their way up the mountain. Crikey those men can eat!!". "Did they like the stew?", I ask. "They nearly licked the bottom of the pot. I used up every single vegetable and all the beef stock in the fridge and then some today." she replied.

"Were the boys good?", she asks. "They are wonderful and so much fun. Eric is Supreme Dictator For Life and Kevin wants to show you the fort they made for Deloris.". "Deloris?", she asks. "Praying mantis", I state. "Oh". They pull her to the garden and show her the coffee can, complete with a chair made from a rock and a beer cap sink for Deloris's private drinking fountain.

Bill and I hop in the shower as Holly and the boys drive off. We've chosen comfy sneakers and loose khaki shorts with big pockets for our passports and wallets. I don my favorite rusty red scoop neck top and snatch a sweater from the closet. "Off we go!!", says Bill as he hits the "Send" button on his Google Earth Nano-cule Transport Blackberry /Ipod/Cellphone/DVD player/pocket sized Time Traveler. Bill has already programmed it for the coordinates in Pirogovo Village near Kiev and we have mosquito repellent, a city map, and our unlimited, 0 interest (forever) MasterCard's tucked tightly into our zippered pockets.

We appear before the gates of an old Ukrainian village where traditional arts and crafts are brightly displayed between the houses and gardens. Bill marvels at the woodworking and craftsmanship in the gingerbread details on each steep roof and porch. I fondle the embroidered aprons and hand tatted doilies, wondering how many long winter nights each incredible art piece took. We spend an hour or so there and then hop on a funky bus full of locals and European tourists heading into Kiev.

The bus rattles into the cobbled streets of old town and we crane our necks trying to catch all the sights of the beautiful ornate stone buildings lining the twisted avenues. We finally end up at, 15 Tereshenkovskaya St., the Kiev Museum of Western and Oriental Art. It's a beautiful peach colored classical French building with stone balustrades and elegant arched palladium windows. Inside is a double staircase in dark walnut, curling up and up to the floors above. We browse through such world-famous work of Diego Velasquez, The Portrait of Infanta Margaret, and Juan de Zurbaran's still life in the Spanish hall of the museum and through hundreds of other masterpieces collected by Khanenko, the museum collector and curator. Eventually we work our way out to the gift shop and I purchase a large collectors book showcasing many of the collections of the museum. We ask the plump cashier for suggestions on a good dinner location and she directs us to a local favorite called, "Panikovsky".

Bill looks it up on his Blackberry and we find the following brochure....
"The restaurant is a modern and fresh establishment that aims to offer its diners a pleasant eating experience. The original interior is decorated with the objects and furniture of the first decades of the 20th century. The cozy dining hall is not very big, just for 36 guests. The staff is friendly and courteous, and the chef strives to provide an extensive menu in order to ensure that each guest could choose something to his or her taste. The menu, decorated with the funny scenes from the film "Golden Calf" and quotes from the book, offers delicious dishes of Ukrainian and European cuisine's. Dishes are called with pithy expressions from the film that have become popular.

For example, the guests are offered dishes "I Would Take It in Parts, but I Can't - I Need All" (surgeon steak with vegetables), "Everything Will Be Extremely Good" (chicken in bacon with piquant sauce and baked vegetables), "And Suddenly, All at Once" (salmon cooked in champagne, served with fried leek, potatoes and delicious sauce), "Petrol - Yours, Ideas - Ours" (black and red caviar, served with wheat and potato pancakes), "Only for Members of the Trade Union" (baked trout, stuffed with salmon), "After All, Do I Have a Right to Dine?" (Ukrainian borshch with mushrooms and prunes, served with pampushkas (traditional rolls), garlic sauce and cream), "Homer, Milton and Panikovsky" (salad from goose, new potatoes, peppers and cedar nuts) and so on. The wine list, offering 48 items, features wines of France, Italia, Spain, Chili, South African Republic, Georgia, Moldavia and Ukraine. There is a large screen in the corner of the dining hall, so if you like you can choose some popular soviet film and enjoy the charm of the naivete and optimism of the past. In the extensive film collection you can find "Twelve Chairs", "Golden Calf", "Chapaev", "Volga Volga", "Circus", "Mimino", "Maxim Perepelitza" and many more. At the restaurant, which is situated in the premises of the Split Casino, always reigns welcoming and festive atmosphere. "

We order "Everything Will Be Extremely Good" and share it while Bill orders a glass of Moldavian wine. I savor the chicken and veggies and the garlic from the pampushkas sits on the side of my tongue, making me thirsty for more as we watch the last of Volga Volga on the big screen. The locals are merry with wine and food and the banter of vigorous Russian conversation fills the air. We don't need to understand the language to know that these people have passion and dreams and lots of ideas about how to make the world a better place. Talk of politics is thick in the air, but so is music, literature, history,art and culture. Bill and I bask for a while, watching the people interact and remembering what it was like when we still had idealism and optimism to guide our youthful energy. The comfort of being just slightly past all that angst, set enough in our ways and saggy enough to be settled into the bodies we've acquired worked like an old blanket over us and we felt warm and at one with another. The sun was starting to set in the northern hemisphere with just a hint of green northern lights dancing on the horizon.

We swipe our cards leaving a generous tip for our waiter and then saunter out to the street. It's still busy with traffic and people and a robust night life is just getting started. The Dnepr River is nearby and we stroll arm in arm along it's grassy banks, taking in the lights and old bridges doppled with pretty potted trees and bright flags. The geraniums and hanging flower baskets sway slightly in the breeze and fill the air with the heady scent of petunias and musky moss covered river rocks. We watch the sun set toward Poland and then when we've had our fill Bill wraps his arms around me and we are instantly transported back to our lovely old home in New Harmony.

The hot tub on the deck is just right tonight. The afternoon thunderstorm and breeze has cleared the sky and the stars are popping out like.. like stars. We step into the tub and I lean back into Bill's chest as he fondles my floating "Orbs of Joy and Pleasure". The hot jets pound our muscles into oblivion. He's a little soft but that is quickly remedied and in a few moments we're ready for a cool shower and to bury our bodies in a cloud of softness on our Memory Foam topper. We both go "Hie to Kolob" and Bill finishes the bliss with a 16 minute back rub, remembering that spot on my lower back that loves to be played like an old timey piano. Soon I've spooned into him and his "Soldier" gives me a thank you nod and we fall blissfully asleep.

I wake up the next morning and realize I've just had the most amazing dream in the world. I'm still smiling when Bill comes in to kiss me goodbye. "Have a good day at work sweetheart", I say as he squeezes my thigh. "I'm going to write back to that one11 place and see if my skills are useful to them. I feel really intimidated and like an middle aged fuddy duddy compared to the crowd there, but it seems like such a cool place to work and I really think I have something to offer". "You never know till you try.", Bill says, encouraging me. I get up and shuffle to the kitchen, pouring some coffee and click on my computer. Holly calls and tells me that she's got a Chemistry test that she forgot to study for. I remind her that all she has to do is pass and graduate and the rest will take care of itself. Keeping her on task is a full time job but its so hard to do when she's "Up there" and I'm down here. Vegas has it's charms and Bills job is great so I'll make the best of it. I think of the cabin and the little town where the world goes away on the weekends. Bliss is relative and can be had where the heart is willing.

I wonder if our Home Owner's Association would mind if I got a couple of chickens?

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Debasement of Saint Wanda

Mother's Day in the Mormon church is one of those really twisted experiences that fills many women with inadequacy and guilt, and others with gratitude and a spirit of reverence. Few of us measure up to the illusions of what a good Mormon mother should be so we find ourselves feeling worthless for our shortcomings and resentful of the expectations. I hated Mother's Day because in my own imagination and from the example set by my own mother, I'd never measure up. Now I'm not sure I want the mantle.

She's really all I claim she is. I'm not making this stuff up or exaggerating a bit. My mother is beautiful inside and out, truly the most compassionate and dutiful woman you'd ever hope to meet. The things she's done, given, accomplished, and helped in her life would fill volumes. If there's such thing as a Mormon Saint, my Mom would easily sit atop that pedestal with few that could top her service and sacrifice. I won't bore you with the lists but suffice it to say that this world will surely be a sadder place when she passes on.

One thing she did that is a bit complicated and haunting was to marry my father. He was one of the cruelest, most cold hearted, vindictive, and mean spirited men and thought nothing of exacting pain, both physically and emotionally on her, on us kids, and the people he met in life. When she met him he was nice enough looking but showed a cruel streak even then. Who knows what motivated a sweet pure innocent young woman at BYU in the 1950's to go for the smoking cussing philandering bad boy from the other side of the tracks. It was Sandy and Danny from "Grease" only Danny in this case did not have a sweet bone in his body.

My father had never been very active in the LDS church and had stopped going when he was about twelve years old. I recall some legend about his Priesthood leaders making an offhand comment about the shabbiness of his clothes and so my father walked out and except for a couple of very disastrous experiences never came back to church. He knocked up a local girl when he was still in High School and abandoned her, quit school and joined the Army. It was one of his friends that was dating my mother's roommate in college and they met on a blind date.

Mom didn't know about his child from another woman nor did she realize what she was getting into. Once in the middle of it she took the mandate from her own father, "You made this bed, now lie in it" and that sick part of her Manifest Destiny LDS woman's heart tried to make lemonade out of the lemons she bought. She'd said "Yes" to marriage and come hell or high water she was going to make good on the promise.

Mom and Dad were married on July 24, 1952 (I think) in NYC in the bishops office of a branch there in the city. Mom had come out to see Dad before he shipped off to Korea and they got married two or three days before he shipped out. In true Mormon fashion she was pregnant by the time he left. She dropped out of college and went to live with his parents in a little town in central Utah. She went into labor the day my father returned home from Korea and he arrived just hours before their first child, my oldest brother was born.

From there they moved to Texas and lived for a short while with my fathers older sister and her husband. Mom got pregnant again and from an account of my aunt, my father was very upset and beat my mother for her lack of care in preventing pregnancy.

They moved to Oregon where she had my second brother and then a few short months later she conceived my third brother but in the eighth month of pregnancy my father came home from work "in a mood" and was quite rough with her. She went into labor and delivered my third brother early. His lungs were not quite developed and he caught pneumonia. He lived six weeks but was in and out of the hospital and not doing well when he mysteriously died one night. My mother woke up early that morning to find my father near the crib with my brother stone cold grey dead. My mom screamed and my father apparently slapped her and told her to shut up because there was nothing that could be done. It was ruled a SIDS, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome death and they buried him a week later at a little cemetery in Central Utah.

Mom had two little boys to deal with and a marriage that was not going well so she must have just shut that part of her grief down so she could go on with life. Let the dead be dead I guess.

Back in Oregon they had two more boys and then they moved back to Utah when my father lost one job after another. While there she had my sister and then a month later got pregnant with me. I was born in Idaho and after a brief stay in Pocatello they moved back to Oregon where my youngest sister was born. Eight kids in eleven years.

In between all that was the poverty, abuse, misery, fear, and neglect that so often accompanies big LDS families and people that live on the fringes. Mom dealt with it with grace, dignity, and amazing resourcefulness. We were always poor but never dirty, ragged, or seen as low class.

The years drug on and the marriage did not improve. Dad became more abusive, neglectful, cruel and much more indigent as the years went by. When his abuse got so violent and frequent my brothers would try to intervene but he made short work out of their hides and they left home one after another to try to make a life for themselves away from his tantrums and violent rants.

We moved back to Utah when I was in the fifth grade and lived very much on the edge of extreme poverty and starvation for a few years. Mom worked really hard at several menial jobs and eventually got herself situated to go back to school and get her teaching degree. During those spare difficult years with my brothers gone our father began taking his rage and resentment on my sisters and me.
The beatings and emotional abuse increased until just the sound of his pickup truck would send my sisters and me to our knees and crawling out the back door with fear and into the field to hide till he left again. We knew better than to tell Mom because if she confronted him he'd only make things worse for her and we wanted her to finish school so she could get a good job and make a living and hopefully get rid of him once and for all.

Eventually we couldn't hide the bruises and abuse and she did finally confront him in her last semester of school. She made him leave but it was obvious to us that this decision was a painful choice on her part. She spent weeks with canker sores from the stress so thick in her mouth that she couldn't eat. She prayed, sought advice from the bishop, and tried every avenue to avoid divorce but it was finally the only thing she could choose given how awful and violent he'd become.

I very well remember the day  that she announced they were getting a divorce. Dad had been spending a lot of time in SLC with some of his lady friends and we seldom saw him. Mom had lost nearly 40 lbs. and looked very humiliated but still determined to finish school. She sat us girls down along with my fourth brother who was home from his mission and told us that she and Dad were getting a divorce. It was like when a really flaming gay person comes out to his friends. DUH!!! I remember feeling a little bit afraid but mostly incredibly joyful. FINALLY FINALLY FINALLY!! Now we could go on with the business of healing our family and home and not live in constant fear all the time.
It took years to get the smell of his cigarettes out of the house but the worst was the lingering debt, the threats, the interference he tried to exact while Mom tried to put the pieces back together.

I was in 9th grade and I remember telling my group of sheltered LDS friends that my parents were getting a divorce. Not one of them had ever been through that. Not one. It was not only a novelty but a cultural shame, both on the parents and on the kids but my friends knew that my father was an abusive cruel man and were secretly glad for me, even though they dared not say so.

In my Mia Maid class we had a lesson on temple marriage. Of course this was the ultimate goal of every young LDS person, especially the young women. We were conditioned from infancy to plan for this eventuality and our scrapbooks, journals, and dreams were to be illustrated with our illusion of what this day was to be like. It "garnished our every thought", or so they told us it should. I had little to go on for a model for happy marriage so in my mind I hoped that day would be waaaaayyyy down the road and only if I were in a position to take care of myself so that I would never have to subject myself to the humiliations and deprivations my mother had suffered at the hands of my father.

One Sunday the Sunday School Teacher gave a lesson taken from the Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 which in part says:
17 For these angels did not abide my law; therefore, they cannot be enlarged, but remain separately and singly, without exaltation, in their saved condition, to all eternity; and from henceforth are not gods, but are angels of God forever and ever.
18 And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife, and make a covenant with her for time and for all eternity, if that covenant is not by me or by my word, which is my law, and is not sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, through him whom I have anointed and appointed unto this power, then it is not valid neither of force when they are out of the world, because they are not joined by me, saith the Lord, neither by my word; when they are out of the world it cannot be received there, because the angels and the gods are appointed there, by whom they cannot pass; they cannot, therefore, inherit my glory; for my house is a house of order, saith the Lord God.

I recall asking the teacher if my own mother who was NOT married to my father any longer and had never been sealed in the temple was then denied the blessings of the Celestial Kingdom and would be relegated to serving as an administering angel for eternity. The teacher confirmed that YES, my mother was not allowed all the blessings of heaven nor would her family remain intact in the eternities unless she re-married someone or was sealed to a worthy priesthood holder for time and all eternity in an LDS temple ceremony.

At fourteen years old this was a big blow and very painful to hear, especially after all the unjust garbage my mother had already endured. Now the church she loved and served her entire life was saying that she was not entitled to her family in the hereafter nor would she be anything more than a servant to some other family. This one lesson felt like a rough sliver under my skin, working it's way deeper and deeper into my heart and festering with the infection of resentment. The injustice of it galled me and I secretly loathed the church, the scriptures and especially Joseph Smith and God for creating such an arbitrary rule that only favored a Patriarchal order.

There are many inequities in the LDS doctrine and culture but the rules regarding the rights of women in the hereafter are really a bitter pill to swallow. According to the church we can never be free agents but we can be traded up between men. No matter how much we do, earn, learn, and accomplish in this life, how much we single-handedly raise our kids, we are still nothing without a man, any man to validate us. A twelve year old nose mining obnoxious little boy has more value and authority than any LDS woman. I came to resent every man in the church that believed his Priesthood and so called God Given authority justified his unrighteous dominion over me or the women in my family. It is a big chip to carry around in life and one that is all to easily knocked off.

For a few years after my parents divorced my sisters and I would tease and try to encourage our mother to date and re-marry. I recall hoping she'd meet someone nice that would treat her the way she deserved, that would honor her and become the father I'd never known. It was such a silly fantasy at the time but I so wanted to be part of an eternal family, for my siblings and mother to have the unity and promise of being together forever. I was taught to believe this was the ultimate reward for all of life's suffering and deprivations. The poverty, the pain, the shame and neglect would be over and we'd get to spend eternity together in love, peace, and happiness.

I remember driving with Mom to SLC for some event and my sisters and I would joke about finding Mom the perfect man. Even when the grand kids came they would join in on the game. One cute and endearing memory is of my niece and my daughter at about four or five years old promising Grandma that they'd pray for her to get a man for her to marry, "I'll buy you a big tall one!" my niece exclaimed.  We all wanted for her to have what she'd never had, the kind of man worthy of her goodness and beauty.

Mom might have dated a couple of times. She was very private about such things and fairly adamant that she would do her own looking if she was inclined. Mostly she was focused on her teaching job, making a living, building her own home, helping her grown kids and being available to her massive hoards of grand kids.

The years went by and the grand kids grew up only peripherally knowing our father. Most of the experiences with him were pretty negative and pathetic. I had decided early on not to allow my kids to have any experience with him at all because of the many reports of painful and humiliating conflict when my siblings would try to interact with him.

When my father died about six years ago my fourth brother called me on a Saturday morning to tell me that Dad had died in the night. I was at my desk working and I remember listening to the news and then the only response I could come up with was, "Hmm, well, do you need some money to help with expenses?" He responded, "Yes, if you can spare some. I'll be bringing him down in a casket for the funeral."  That was it. The biggest emotion I could conjure up for the man who sired my siblings and me was an obligation to help my brother with expenses. I'd mourned my fathers emotional death years before and he was little more than a stranger by then. I felt as ambivalent as if someone had notified me that Fidel Castro had died. In a way, it was the kindest thing my father had ever done. Now to bury him and with him any ugly memories or pain. As if that can be done.

My siblings and mother planned a respectable funeral at the church in the town my father grew up in in Central Utah. Mom paid for the casket and formalities from the mortuary as well as a good portion of the grave expenses. I'm not sure what she was intending but I think she considered it a shame and travesty to bury the father of her children in less than a fine casket and respectable funeral. My father had not stepped foot in an LDS church in nearly 40 years and yet they were happy to feign that he was one of them. The tithes of fifty or more offspring can soften the heart of any ol' bishop.

No one cried. It was a bit surreal and very much an obligatory ritual filled with the typical LDS stuff as well as some reminiscing by his only living brother. My father had married a woman named Ruth shortly after he and Mom divorced and she and her two sons from a previous marriage were there. I barely knew her and she'd proven quite daft in the head, not only for marrying my father but from the years of poverty, abuse, and mental cruelty that ensued afterward. She was idiotically stupid and prone to bizarre delusions that barely kept up with the delusions Dad had fed and nurtured in his years of schizophrenic narcissistic ranting and raving. I felt some pathos for her in losing the only man willing to put up with her but mostly just ambivalent pity.

I went to the funeral not out of any desire to pay respect to my father, but because I sincerely wanted to see my siblings and try to commune with them on a level beyond our shared pain and history. I looked at him in his casket, made up to look far more healthy and alive than he had his last years of life and almost happy in his stiffness and plastic makeup. The oddest feeling of finality came over me. "Good, he's really dead" I sighed.

Most of the weekend was spent joking, laughing, a little reminiscing and catching up on one anther's lives and families. Dad was mentioned as a sort of unifying person of interest, but few of us had good memories of him in life and little interest now that he was dead.

A few years later I was with my father's younger sisters and a cousin at a restaurant in Salt Lake City when my aunt mentioned that Mom was working on getting my father absolved from his sins and accepted back into the LDS church so that she could be sealed to him in the temple. I stopped mid bite unable to process the hideous thing she'd just said. "You're kidding aren't you?" I asked. "No, she's really determined that this is the only way she'll have her family in the eternities. She is going to petition the General Authorities so that Ted's work can be done and they can be sealed." 

At the time I was going through some of my own relationship problems and was in need of solace, comfort, and advice but when I would try to talk to my mother she only wanted to hear the good stuff, to deny any negative difficult realities and would actually tell me, "It's not our right to ask for what we want, but to take what we get and make the best of it."  I was so angry at her for her willingness to give over her rights to dignity, to a self esteem to justice or fairness in order to comply with a cold misogynistic mandate from the LDS men. And then to try to convince me to do likewise. I lashed out and rebuked her for the rumor I'd heard from my aunt.

I begged her to find anyone else, any man but my father to get sealed to if that's what she needed to placate her belief in the Celestial Family. I reasoned that if the old prophet Wilford Woodruff could claim a vision where the founding fathers had come to him and begged him to do their temple work, then she was entitled to seal herself to one of those noble men postumously and thereby earn herself a better place in heaven than with a louse like my father.  She insisted that the only person worthy of being father to her children was their original father, and that his salvation was a matter between him and God and not for us to judge.

I asked her how she could subject herself to such a humiliating low position to be sealed to the man who had beaten, starved, neglected, cheated on, and offended her so often in their twenty five year marriage. She said that I had exaggerated the problems and it wasn't really as awful as I had imagined. I asked her if I'd imagined the time he beat her so badly that she had to run away with us kids in tow, barefoot, without any gas, any money and no where to turn. I asked her if I'd imagined the time he held her face over a gas stove and burned her cheek because she was talking back to him. I asked her if I'd imagined that he'd terrorized us so brutally that my brothers had to leave home at sixteen just to escape his wrath.

Mom was defensive and quiet and tried to placate me with "It'll all be worked out in the millennium" and then to negate my own role in it by suggesting that it was not my problem or business anyway. This only drove the wedge deeper and I felt that festering resentment grow. My respect for her went down a few notches and I began to see how often she'd capitulated on so many things till she was nothing but a doormat for my father, my brothers, the church, and even sometimes me. Instead of bringing honor to herself she invited more abuse, more neglect, less respect. We agreed to disagree and did not bring it up to each other again. The anger sat under my skin though and I could not let it go.

A few years ago while at a family reunion my four brothers decided to regale the family with some happy reminiscences of our dead father. I could see that they were trying to do this at Mom's request, but also possibly to justify and balance their own heritage and role in the continued abuse and neglect of their own marriages and families. If they could absolve Ted, maybe they could absolve themselves. Not that their crimes measured his, but none of us got out of that childhood without some pretty nasty hangups and poor parenting models.

They told stories about our father as if they were remembering an old friend. A friend who beat, humiliated, threatened, and neglected them. The stories were horrific and my son and his wife and their cousins sat in a bit of freakish awe at what passed for the "GOOD" times. I felt my blood boil and even my two sisters were not amused by the stories. We had few good memories of our father and my brothers did not invite us to contribute to the charade. The grand kids laughed nervously at what passed for humor in their parents childhood.

The theme was, "He meant well but just didn't know how to show his love appropriately." Yeah, like that time he threatened to beat all of us with willow whips and frightened my brother so badly that he fainted. OHHH, that was sure funn-eeeee! But, but, but, he took us all out for burgers and root beer floats at A & W when he realized how much he'd scared us. See, that there proves what a good heart he had.

Mom sat in a sort of awkward happiness that some artificial goodness was able to be carefully gleaned from the horrors of our childhood. I seethed and cursed under my breath and was barely able to sit through it. The next day I was visibly upset and tried to put a little light on what had really happened when we were younger. Mom discounted my memories and dismissed me saying, "Oh Dana, you love to exaggerate and just look for the negative!" My siblings did not come to my defense there but privately my sister gave me the look that she knew what I knew. We knew. We all knew but Mom wanted the illusion of a happy cohesive family and we were obligated to give it to her. What a bully I'd be to deny her that in her old age with my rantings of REALITY. Who needs reality when the Celestial Kingdom is almost within ones grasp?

This year at the Family Reunion she drew my siblings and our spouses together for a family meeting and proudly announced that the General Authorities of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have finally been inspired to absolve our dead father because he's repented in heaven. The three quarters of a century of all her tithes, the tithes of my siblings and their children have purchased enough of our father's indulgences to pardon him from a lifetime of cruelty and shame. His Priesthood blessings are restored, he has come full circle and is ready to receive all that he neglected and denied in his earthly life. They've given her the approval and go ahead to be sealed to my father for time and all eternity. The blessed day is set for November 20th, 2010 in the Manti Temple. I will not be attending.

Now my mother can go to her grave with all the dots connected. Her duties completed, her humiliations over, and service counted. She won't have to be a servant to another man and his many wives because she is a Queen and Priestess in her own right. The FIRST wife of  xxxxxx, destined to be a Goddess as he creates world without end with her at the helm and sister wives to join them in eternal bliss. And my siblings? They're there too, dressed in white and blissful in eternal unity. Happy Day! All is Well!

We really ARE a Happy Fa Mi Leeee! (Note, this image is from a hilarious site called Awkward Family Photos. These are not my kin, but collectively we weigh the same).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Community Outreach- Finding Purpose and Compassionate Service Post Mormonism

In the decade since I've left the LDS church I've struggled to find a balance between my inherent need to give back to the people and community I love, and still stay true to my values and new found knowledge. I loved serving while I was LDS but didn't love the many restrictions and arbitrary rules that governed how, where, and when I could contribute. I do miss many of my LDS friends and would give them the shirt off my back, as long as they don't ask me to go to church or listen to the dogmatic beliefs.

One thing that is so complicated when one leaves the church is to find a community where all that energy, all the creativity and talent can flourish and be appreciated but not be extorted in exchange for silence. I have found some of that with my Unitarian Universalist connections. I've found some in giving to my little community in Utah in assisting with the various fund raisers and parks projects.

But one place where I feel like I've found a great deal of fulfillment and connection is when people from my own Postmormon and Exmormonforums communities contact me and seek my experience or advice regarding their own exit process or family dilemmas. I have learned a lot from the years of making fairly obvious errors and tripping over my own lack of tact and grace. I've also learned that patience in all these matters is probably the most important element to incorporate in any communication with the remaining LDS family.  So when someone asks for my help or insight I'm compelled to try to impart them with the best of what I've gleaned in all those experiences.

Following is an outline of a letter I wrote to a young friend that is facing very complex challenges in telling his devout LDS family that he's not only left the church, but he's also Gay. Their reaction has been textbook typical and painfully predictable. The young man is writhing in pain from the rejection he feels from his family and that's all before he's been completely open with who he is. I ache with what he's dealing with and wish I could help his parents know how amazing he is and to accept him for who he has become.

So in my unprofessional but well meaning way this letter will help him present some information to his parents. I don't know how they'll receive it but this is the best I can offer knowing what I know about where they stand and where this young man stands.

Outline for response to Dads letter

Objective-to reflect appreciation and respect for parents contributions and to open doors of communication regarding
autonomy and freedom to make my his life choices. To help parents see xxx as whole intelligent adult deserving of respectful acceptance and continued friendship.

Ideal reaction-Parents read entire letter and find resonance with the writing, contemplate the ideas offered, and a peaceful acceptance of unique differences with respect to deep familial love and connections.

Base reaction-We agree to disagree and maintain a careful connection based on necessary respect and continuity of family unity.

A. One page of tender and specific recognition of parents love and contribution to xxx upbringing and values. Some reverence for some values gleaned from the LDS experience without too much critical examination or defensive statements. (remember, your parents do love you xxx, even if they struggle to reflect it in a way that helps you feel accepted or understood. They are as much victims of the church and their generation as anyone).

B. One page of a carefully crafted specific explanation of who you are, and who you've become, even aside from the gay and non-LDS stuff. Specifically highlight your intellectual side, your creative and insightful sides, your deeply sensitive and finely tuned awareness. Celebrate these things without attacking the church or going into too much detail about your recognition of your homosexuality.

C. One page of discussion about the importance of your family in your life and how you plan to continue to show some reserved respect for their beliefs (not drawing siblings into the fights) and yet maintain your independence and personal convictions. Indicate that you love and need their support and that you hope to remain a vital and contributing member of the family throughout your life, in spite of the unique differences that are obvious. If you have to pretend then pretend on the side of optimism and assume that they will honor your rights to make your own choices and be a whole human being the best way you know how. Use their own scriptures (we believe in allowing all men to worship how, where, what they may... and some stuff from Jesus about accepting and tolerating other human beings). This is where you should show gratitude and kind words for what your parents mean to you (even if you have to really pull a rabbit out of your hat for this). Its important that the letter end on a good note and that your parents feel loved otherwise they will reject the whole thing. Remember the goal is to get them to respect and understand you and they won't be likely to do that from a position of defensiveness. The issues with the LDS church are complicated but this might not be the time to get into an argument over those specifics. It is usually unproductive anyway.

D. One page of information and sources. Not the whole dissertation but just links and suggestions to how they can educate themselves on the issues of homosexuality, the damage done to those who aren't accepted, and how important it is to you to have them accept you as you are and not try to change or manipulate you away from your natural humanity. Perhaps you could present it with a comparison like, "Mom and Dad, if I'd been born with a unique genetic anomaly that impacted my physical health or mental health you would be quick to read up and understand every aspect of that part of who I was born to be. You'd not blame me or God or yourselves. You'd deal with it and do your best to help me deal with it in ways that are healthy and productive. Imagine for a moment that Gay is a genetic reality in a portion of the population. Imagine that it makes me different from you but not inherently immoral. Imagine that you want to understand all the factors that naturally dictate my mind and body. Imagine that you love me no matter what and hope to understand who I really am and who I really want to be. Imagine that your love for me can super cede your own bias and indoctrination."

Don't dwell on a lot of the negative stuff xxx. Offer the information and lots of gratitude and love and let them deal with their own ignorance afterward.

Here's some links and book suggestions that might help you if you decide to offer information to your parents on accepting gays. I know it's tricky xxx. It's core to having a relationship with them but try to remember that they're dealing with a lifetime of indoctrination and rejection of information that contradicts what they are taught from the pulpit. I'll try to use mostly LDS sources so that there is some familiarity for your parents. They will instantly reject anything from more liberal sources so we just have to ease them into this.

This is a podcast from a respected tenured BYU professor who has studied the gay issue in great depth. He has a gay son and has gone through his own struggle to understand the many complex issues. It's a fascinating podcast but can be difficult to understand if one is completely unfamiliar with the science behind DNA and genetic makeup. One thing it does do is take the blame from the parents and places the whole issue on the randomness of genetic makeup. Once it can be accepted as a natural phenomenon then the doors to accepting gays as just unique humans is less painful.

This is Bill Bradshaws own site and he offers some fascinating links to help LDS parents accept their homosexual children:

Perhaps you could offer a list of well known and respected artists, musicians, inventors, writers, etc. that are/were gay and a short paragraph on how many have contributed very wonderful things to the world. Indicate that their homosexuality was not the reason they were creative or intelligent but just one aspect of them as whole deserving human beings. Associate your own creativity and brilliance with people your parents may unknowingly already respect and admire. (note, choose a few that they might actually recognize. Most LDS are pretty naive and ignorant when understanding famous authors, playwrights, inventors, and philosophers)

Alexander the Great*Macedonian Ruler, 300 B.C., Socrates*Greek Philosopher, 400 B.C.,Sappho,Lord Byron*English poet, 18th c.,Walt Whitman*U.S. poet, author, 19th c.,Gertrude Stein*U.S. poet, author, 20th c.,Cole Porter*U.S. composer, 20th c.,Virginia Woolf*English author, 20th c.,Leonard Bernstein*U.S. composer, 20th c.,T.E. Lawrence*English soldier, author, 20th c.,Tennessee Williams*U.S. Playwright, 20th c.,Michelangelo*Italian artist, 15th c.,Leonardo Da Vinci 16th c.,Herman Melville*U.S. author, 19th c.,Tchaikovsky Russian composer, 19th c.,John M. Keynes English economist, 20th c.,Noel Coward*English playwright, 20th c.,Eleanor Roosevelt *U.S. stateswoman, 20th c.,Melissa Etheridge*U.S. Rock Star, 20th c., Elton John*English Rock Star, 20th c.,Margaret Fuller*U.S. writer, educator, 20th c., Peter the Great*Russian Czar, 17th-18th c.,Langston Hughes*U.S. author, 20th c.,Martina Navratilova
*U.S. tennis star, 20th c.,Greg Louganis*U.S. Olympic swimmer, 20th c.,Billie Jean King*U.S. tennis star, 20th c.,Hans Christian Andersen*Danish author, 19th c.,Tom Dooley*U.S. M.D. missionary, 20th c.,Rock Hudson*U.S. actor, 20th c.,Ralph Waldo Emerson*U.S. author, 19th c.,*U.S. M.D., Olympic star, 20th c.
Kate Millet*U.S. author, 20th c.,Janis Joplin,*U.S. singer, 20th c.,Aristotle*Greek philosopher, 384-322 B.C., James Dean*U.S. actor, 20th c., Montgomery Clift *U.S. actor, 20th c.

Carol Lynne Pearson has written numerous books and music regarding the pain and complexities of heterosexual marriage among homosexuals. She is still LDS and has reverence for many of the important Christian aspects of the gospel, especially love and tolerance. She was married to a man that struggled with his homosexuality for decades and eventually came out. He died of AIDS after experimenting and resorting to a less than moral lifestyle. Part of what drove him to such deviance and promiscuity was the lifetime of oppression and denial of his true self. Her accounts of what he went through and the things it did to her own family are important reflections on the errors of coercing homosexuals to engage in heterosexual marriage.
Heres a podcast where she's interviewed by John Dehlin on Mormon Stories:

Goodbye, I Love You: The Story of a Wife, Her Homosexual Husband, and a Love Honored For Time And All Eternity (1987) ISBN: 1-55517-984-3

This site  will nearly break your heart and certainly be a bit of a thorn in your parents side but it's something they need to recognize and see how they can contribute to the pain and misery of their own child. The numbers of gay suicides is on the rise and the pain they go through prior to that awful choice is hard to watch. I think more Mormon parents need to see these stories so that they will stop the cruel denial and behaviors that negate their own children. Shunning, humiliation, and cold expulsion from the home, family or support have very real consequences. Mormons claim to honor the loving teachings of Jesus Christ yet will spurn their own children for being born different than they are or think they are. This practice is horrific and more attention needs to be given so that they stop hurting the ones they love.

The affirmation site offers a ton of really great topics that would help you and your family (if they were to actually research them) to understand the complexities of who you really are and what you're going through. I wish the LDS church would recognize how damaging their leaders words are because the members see such bigotry and then consider it a licence to impose that bigotry on their own family members.

Here's a link to a biblical perspective on homosexuality that might help your parents ease into the idea that God does love and did make you this way and there's nothing wrong with it.

Before you write this XXX please read and listen to the podcasts I recommended and do a little research on your own. The affirmation site will be a huge help to you.

Your parents may not accept any of what you might offer but it's vital to your own mental health to love and accept yourself as you really are and not try to conform that to the expectations of a backward and ill informed religion that will only chew you up and spit you out. Know that many people love and admire you and will be there when you think you can't carry things alone. Reach out, spread your talents among those that are open to receiving them. If you experiment in adult relationships protect your health and your feelings. Don't beat yourself up when you make the typical mistakes and blunders that all lovers make when they're learning about the game. It IS a game and requires a lot of skill to navigate successfully. I lost many times before I finally figured out how to win at love. You will too. It's normal, natural, and so common it's boring. That's Ok too.

Ok, there's the basis of what I'm suggesting you craft in a response to your folks. Make it very specific and very optimistic XXX. Even if you don't feel the love right now, project that into your words so that your parents will feel it and receive your words. Then review it and review it and then when you feel it reflects the very best you have to offer, send it and let it stand as a testament to what you hoped to do. If they reject it it's their loss, although the loss of support will certainly sting for a while. You'll recover. We all do.

P.S.when you send the letter, send it on nice paper in the mail. If its in an e-mail they can claim they didn't get it or not bother to read it. This is a biggy XXX and deserves some formality.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Time To Get Back On The Horse

Since about June I've been avoiding finishing the essays for the last third of my book, "Finding The Pony". I think part of it was genuine distractions that needed my attention and part of it was fear. Once I finish it then I have to do something with it, mainly editing, refinement, and a lot of slashing and burning of stuff that doesn't work. I am not looking forward to that part but I do think this book has merit somewhere and so the surgery has to be done. So as winter is on the horizon and my season of writing budding I am compelled to get back on that horse and try to ride it to the finish line.

This is the book cover I've come up with so far. I think the piles of horse poo look like brown cheerio Christmas trees so I need to find something that looks more poo like. My lighting sources are a bit competitive and I think the green could be toned down a bit. The composition works for me but it still looks like a bunch of photo shopped images stuck together rather than a cohesive image.

The final third of my book will be a refinement of my exit out of the church and a little of the painful parts as I emancipated myself but then I want to focus on all the things I progressively gained as I got free from the religion of my youth and eventually religion and faith in general. I want to give some tribute to the freedom that comes with becoming agnostic but I don't want to alienate an audience that may still have a lot of ties to their own faith. Agnosticism is a part of my life but doesn't define the actual lifestyle that gives me so much more color and opportunity now that I'm out of Mormonism.

So what I need from my smattering of fans is some encouragement, some pointers, and hopefully a willingness to read each entry and give some feedback. The sound of crickets will inevitably follow but eventually somebody might trickle in and peek here and there. I appreciate every response and the willingness to read these blatherings.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Life After Mormonism-Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Today is Halloween. It's also a Sunday. In my former LDS days I would have had to try to juggle the traditional holiday with the LDS Sabbath mandates to only do religious and more reverent things on that day.

I don't have a problem with such mandates since I understand the value of having a day of rest but I am happy to no longer be tied to a rigid set of rules that seem to mindlessly dictate all our choices. I can appreciate reverent activities and appreciate their place. Halloween isn't one of those. It seems to super cede the other 51 Sundays of the year because it's a sacred tradition in itself. Some try to hold it on the preceding Saturday but those are usually an epic fail.

Today I started the day off leisurely with my husband and got to my UU church around 9:00 a.m. to help decorate. We had a huge potluck and service action to raise money for the new kitchen appliances. I dressed up as Agnostica, defender of Reason and Rationality. I made my costume from some dollar store junk that I spray painted & hot glued together to make my cool costume. It was fun to dress up for once. I'm too fat to be sexy anymore but I got a ton of attention for the massive plastic boobies. Men go all goofy in the presence of massive breasts.

I had to leave early to come to a family party for my husbands birthday but I think they raised a good share of money. The music was strange until the pianist played the theme music from Adams Family. It was a strange experience but let me know that I was definitely not in Kansas anymore. No tedious boring predictable LDS sacrament meeting.

Here's some pictures of the decorations I made & various fellow UU's, including my sweet husband BABB (in his motorcycle get-up and an orange shirt that says, "Costume").

This is Ferdinand and Imelda, my beloved scarecrows. I had to re-do their heads and torsos this year since they'd been mostly sun killed in the last five years. They spend most of the year in the top of the storage shed ogling each other and their stuffed pelvic areas in scandalously close proximity. They seem to never grow tired of each other. True love.

Our Social Committee Chairperson asked me to make a large banner to decorate this half of the Social Hall so I called a local elementary school and got some orange and black butcher paper and then with a white pencil I drew out the big funky haunted house shapes and other Halloween characters and glued them to the orange banner. It turned out pretty cool.

We have so many different kinds of people that come to our UU church. Many are in the retirement age but we're getting more young families all the time. I love the diversity and feeling of openness there. There seems to be something for everyone and a welcoming spirit. I'm so glad I found this community. They've helped me find a place for my talents and desire to serve.

Jamie is one of the smartest men I've ever met. He's in the Air Force here in Vegas but I don't know what he does there. I asked him about his costume and he said he wanted to choose something that is the most frightening and horrific symbol of all, a religious fanatic. His chain mail was the real stuff and looked to weigh about 30 lbs. his sword was very long and powerful looking.
Thia is my husband Bill (BABB). He melts my butter and I think he's a very handsome man. He's generous and kind and one of the most moral men I've ever met. He's also a devout Atheist. It's possible and also often quite likely that many Atheists and Agnostics are very good people because they care very deeply for their fellow man, not because they feel guilt or fear about their eternal reward. The mantra, "Be good for goodness sake" would definitely apply to the way Bill and I would like to model our lives and commitment to our community. 
As you can see, UU's are pretty normal folks. Even the abnormal ones are pretty mild. My kind of people.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Katie Couric-CBS (My questions to Jeff Sharlet at Exmo Conference)

Last weekend BABB and I went to the Exmormon Conference where a famous author Jeff Sharlet was a featured speaker. He's got two books on the NYTimes Best Seller List and has done numerous cable and mainstream television interviews. I'd listened to his interviews on NPR and was very excited when I heard he would speak at our conference.

Here's the video of his talk and at about the one hour mark he finishes and the floor is opened for questions. I asked basically two questions,

 I was intrigued by one of your most recent NPR interviews where you were discussing your research into the Ugandan efforts to make homosexuality a capital offense.

One thing you touched on was the suggestion that all the hoopla and rage incited over homosexuality in places like Uganda is actually a carefully orchestrated ploy to detract attention & outrage from the genocide, corruption, violent crime, & economic difficulties that are rampant in these places. My first question is: Do you believe one of the motives of the C Street & possibly LDS leadership is to use homosexuality as a smokescreen over the dastardly deeds going on behind the scenes?
During the Bush era a considerable amount of money was given for AIDS assistance in Africa. Do you think there are connections between the Bush-Abstinence & Christian messages that may have contributed to the ignorance in some third world countries regarding homosexuality?

Do you believe the Christian agenda contributes to the ignorance & fear of using safe sex practices and thereby the spread of AIDS?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ambiguously Gendered Kitten Takes Own Life Following BKP's Conference Talk

Albuquerque New Mexico, October 5, 2010 by Insana Dee

In the wake of an incendiary talk by Latter Day Saint second in command General Authority Boyd K. Packer a fluffy kitten has violently ended its life by strangulation with a fuzzy springy cat toy on the end of a stick. In letters spelled in paw print (an ancient Reformed Egyptian language perfected in the Clovis era) the kitten described the shame and pain it felt when recently outed by Boyd K. Packer in his controversial talk.

Boyd K Packer said: "Years ago I visited a school in Albuquerque. The teacher told me about a youngster that bought a kitten to class. She had him hold up the kitten in front of the children. It went well until one of the children asked, “Is it a boy kitty or a girl kitty?” Not wanting to get into that lesson, the teacher said, “It doesn’t matter, it’s just a kitty.” But the persisted. Finally one boy raised his hand and said, “I know how you can tell.” Resigned to face it, the teacher said, “How can you tell?” “You can vote on it.”"

The kittens name has not been released pending notification of close relatives but those closest to the kitten have come out in protest against the church leader. One young first grade child at "Our Lady of Perpetual Grief" Catholic School where the kitten was recently an honored guest at show and tell said, "Boyd K. Packer is a filthy rat bastard and I hope he rots in Hell for what he did to XXXX (name withheld)". It seems a general attitude among many who heard the words of this powerful leader in the LDS community.
An investigation is underway to see if Boyd K. Packer made any unwanted or illicit gestures and sexual advancements toward the kitten. He is currently under investigation in several Western States for exposing himself as a complete douche bag.

We will report more information as this story unfolds. Contributions for the ambiguous kitten rescue fund can be made to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Death Of A Manipulative Friend

Losing one's religion and subsequent faith seems to leave a massive hole in the day to day workings of ones life. It's often the loss of connections to others still entrenched in that religion or faith and the loss of trust, not only in the leaders but in the concept of God and his purported words. For most of us, those things are very difficult to let go, especially if we know nothing else. We are often set adrift with little to model our lives after and few who support our decision to go alone into that big wide world.

But now, nearly a decade after leaving Mormonism and just a few short years after releasing my dependence on a mystical arbitrary all consuming God, I have begun to find that all the happiness, all the friendship, all the support and joy in life can be had right here, right now, with the people, animals, places we have access to in this life. I don't need to wait for my eternal reward because I am being rewarded right now for all the efforts I can put into those relationships.

Heaven is right here on this earth. It's what we make of every day and how we treat others. God didn't inspire that. Goodness inspired that. Be good for goodness sake. 

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Mormonism Tastes Like A Processed Meat Like Substance- A Poem By my friend

Mormonism tastes like Spam.
Frankly I don’t give a damn
Whether it is testified
Lightened, whitened, fixified.
I do not like that Joseph Smith.
I do not like the Mormon Myth.

You will like it, you will see:
Fill your bowels with charity.
Read the scriptures every day,
Fast, pay tithing, always pray.
Then you cannot help but know.
A still small voice will tell you so.

God must not have heard my prayer.
Or if he did, he didn't care.
I didn't hear him on my knees.
I didn't feel him in the breeze.
In darkest nights, no inner lights,
No rescues by the three Nephites.
I could not trust that Joseph Smith.
I would not buy the Mormon Myth.

They told me that I never tried.
God's non-response was justified.
I wasn't pure. I wasn't good.
I didn't do the things I should.
If I were worthy, then I'd see:
The Holy Ghost would comfort me.

God loves the soul who contemplates,
Unless, of course, he masturbates,
Or puts weird colors in his hair
Or balks at holy underwear,
Or kids who fib or laugh too loud,
Or sometimes want to join the crowd,
Or girls who show their midriff skin
And cause Aaronic priesthood sin.

Sometimes God gets kind of pissy
At the independent missy
Who speaks her mind and doesn’t find
A testimony meeting blissy.

God loves meek, he loves the mild.
The ones who trust just like a child
And give their pennies, pay their tithes,
Let the prophets take their wives.
God loves everyone, we’re told,
Unless they will not fit the mold.

Praise to Joseph in the grove,
Searching for the treasure trove.
Put his face down in the hat,
(Who the hell came up with that?)
In the eerie seer stone light,
Words came floating into sight,
Nephite testimony bearers
Quoting later King James errors.

Disregard all other views.
Sit your asses in the pews.
Pray some, say some, pay some more.
Claim to love the three-hour bore.
Follow those who chat with God.
Firmly grasp the iron rod.

What the fuck? That isn’t right.
I prayed with all my heart and might,
Repented fast and fasted slow,
Begging God to let me know.
Finally I’ve come around,
Standing back on solid ground:
I do not like that Joseph Smith.
I do not like the Mormon myth.