Of course, it's telling your mom that you're gay. I'm sure there are some fellows who own toy dogs and also like the ladies, but they're few and far between, right? But there's one step beyond just buying the dog: accessorizing. I mean, it's a waste to own a little pup and not dress him up. They look adorable in those little t-shirts and hats.
Now, if you're comfortably out of the closet, you might turn your eye towards knitting stuff for your dog. And, hell, why not make yourself a matching hat? Luckily for this burgeoning population, there is a book: Men Who Knit and the Dogs Who Love Them. You can buy this book for a mere 18 buck at Amazon.
Then again, these jabs are coming from a man who's about to spend an evening learning the honeycomb motif from his lacing teacher. I guess men in craft houses shouldn't throw skeins, should we?
Posted by alea at 10:56 AM
Got a guy on your holiday gift list that you just don't know what he'd like? Maybe you're sick of the usual gifts and want to impress him with something unique yet utterly tasteless. Why not get him an extra scrotum?
I'm not joking. You can buy, if you feel so inclined, a Saco de Toro. For the non-Hispanophones, that's a "sack of bull". For less than $30 you can creep out your friends, disgust your neighbors and openly show your virility.
The promotional material is classic, go check it out (and see the photo of "Bullie", as this product is charmingly known). And the double entendres! Or read the section below with some of my commentary:
"You can be assured that there is not another Bullie exactly like yours anywhere. They are as distinctive as fingerprints, and come in different colors, different sizes, different shapes and different textures. Your Bullie is unique, useful, conventional and expressive." [how, precisely, is a tanned ball sack "conventional"?]
Your bullie can be a mini-trash can or a candy dish or a pencil and pen holder. It can serve as an unusual hanging flower pot. You can hang it on your golf bag to store your balls. It holds stuff. ["want some candy? Just reach into my scrotum here and see what you can find?"]
Bullie is a tad less than 6 inches high, about 5 inches in diameter and hollow on the inside. It has a rawhide strap wrapped around the top. [Wait...it's hollow? Where the contents end up, then? Also, we all know that measuring from the base of the balls is cheating]
El Saco de Toro has "USA" written all over it (metaphorically). Saco de Toro was proudly born and bred in the U.S.A. It is available from BBHQ for $29.75, but it not available for export out of the country. The price includes gentle packaging and postage. [Dang it, it's only a metaphorical USA? What if I want to show the world that nothing beats a US-grown ball sack?]
It probably doesn't reflect all that well on me that I am actually a tiny bit tempted to buy one, does it? Also, the company bills itself as a purveyor of "the stuff boomers want". I guess if you're more than just a little over the hill, a reminder of better, ballsier days might just hit the spot. Or not.
Posted by alea at 8:55 AM
Katya asked me on my last post, what the top five Mormon movies would be. This is a tricky question to answer, and when my comment started getting super long, I figured, well, I maybe I should just write a whole post about this.
The first issue to tackle is what is a Mormon movie? There's various ways to slice it up: by intended audience, by subject matter, by religious affiliation of the creator and so on. I'm not sure which camp I fall into here, but I generally think it's a requirement is overt Mormon subject matter. This is why Napoleon Dynamite isn't a Mormon film in my book and why Saints and Soldiers is iffy. However, I see Latter Days, while an exceptionally bad film, firmly in the Mormon cinema range. Same with the remake of Trapped By the Mormons. Would September Dawn be a Mormon movie? Not having seen it, I'm not sure, but I think it's sort of like Saints and Soldiers for me: on the fringe and sort of questionable. So my top five list will be informed by a very personal, if not wholly self-apparent definition of Mormon films.
The second, and much more pressing issue, is what makes a top five list? Are they the ones I enjoyed the most? Are they the films that have been most successful on their own terms? Are they the best made movies? You could even argue that a top five list would be the movies that even a non-Mormon could go to and enjoy. In fact, that's a whole other kettle of fish, the top five will shift decidedly based on who I am suggesting the films to. For this post we're going to go with my favorite five Mormon movies. Different criteria would yield different lists.
Two more caveats. First, I judge Mormon cinema by a very different measure than I do films in general. I tend to take a more kindly approach to the efforts of our people, mostly because comparing amateurs with professionals is unfair and partly because I really want a Mormon to make a movie that'll stand on its own two legs some day. Second, I haven't seen every single Mormon movie, so there's a chance that I'm missing something from my list. But, from what I hear, the ones I've missed are bad, bad, bad, so I doubt they'd do much shake up to my faves. They're not ranked, so don't read too much into the order.
Here we go:
- The Singles Ward: This movie, despite all of Richard Dutcher's ranting otherwise, is really what I consider to be the genesis of Molllywood. Dutcher made an indie flick that was commercially successful, but the whole genre doesn't take off until we start marshalling the Jello Belt like the Halestorm folks could. And, to top it all off, this movie is genuinely funny at parts. Sadly, we have some impressively bad acting, hackneyed dialogue and lame soul-searching which try to take a romantic comedy and turn it into a seminary video. But these faults aside, I think this movie's a must-see for Mormons.
- Best Two Years: This film, apparently, is what happens when good acting, high production values, and better than average writing collide. This film looks and feels very slick and professional. It has an engaging, if slightly implausible, story line. I like how, unlike God's Army, the missionary experience is treated as a personal struggle rather than an assailing from outside. The accuracy of either viewpoint could be questioned, I realize, but this film feels more immediate and realistic than either of Dutcher's missionary flicks.
- Sons of Provo: You could try all sorts of angles to lampoon Mormon culture, but I highly doubt you'd find a richer approach than by creating a boy band of Provoans and having them sing songs that contain lyrics like "You know girl, I love you, but I hope you comprehend/This body is a Temple - and you don't got no recommend". It's funny only when it means to be and is a brilliant send up of Mormon cliches as well as the end result of a kind of performance art. During the production, the trio actually did go on tour as the group Everclean and some of their real concerts show up as footage in this film. It is a little confused, at times it's clearly a mockumentary, at other times it forgets these conventions. And, at the end, it does turn a bit too serious. But, even with these failings it's not nearly well enough known among young, cynical Mormons.
- Pride & Prejudice: Ok, so I love Jane Austen. So this movie pretty much had me from the concept. But the concept works out nicely, if there are some clear indicators that we've got some newbies at the helm of the film. Recasting the story of Elizabeth Bennet into the world of BYU is amusing for those who still cling to the notion that the Lord's University is not for anyone except the vapid and marriage-obsessed and even more funny to those of us who know better. For purists, there are some things missing from this adaptation, like the Bennet parents, which is too bad. But, it's a very charming film that plays to stereotypes without relying entirely on them and is, in turns, witty and slapsticky. Also, I defy you not to laugh about the classical music for dogs.
- States of Grace: This will probably be the most controversial movie to be included on this list. And I can see why. It's totally unbelievable, but pretends to pass itself off straight. The acting and writing falter when they really shouldn't. Dutcher is trying to be edgy with cinematography and other conventions, but fails to be provocative and ends up being derivative. And an overwrought suicide scene never improves a film. So, with all these problems, why does it get a spot here? This film focuses nicely on how easy sin is to fall into and the subsequent damage that ensues. It's a very "but for the grace of God..." feeling. Other Mormon films haven't done a very good job of portraying the grey zone between temple-worthy and reprobate sinner, relying instead on white and black hats to do all the effort. But here, we get introduced to all sorts of characters, Mormons and Gentiles, who struggle with real human failings. A better case for the Mormon understanding of the atonement (that we must work really hard and can feel like all is lost at the blush of sin, but that Jesus is there, doing something that can save us) or conversion (that it's not a single moment, but a lifelong struggle) has yet to be made in any Mormon movie. So, go out, suspend your disbelief, prepare yourself for a cringe or two and reconsider this film.
If you're wondering what movies you should avoid at all costs, do your best to not see The Book of Mormon Movie ("too bad they spent all their budget on that one camel"), Beauty and the Beast: A Latter-day Tale (overacting+alcoholism+modern slavery+cute coed=cinematic trainwreck), The Home Teachers ("...maybe if we throw in every juvenile joke possible, they won't notice how horrific this film is"), Handcart (people died for this film to be made and this is the best you can come up with?) and Latter Days (come for the gay sex, stay for the bad dialogue and weak acting!).
I'd be curious for those who care about these sorts of things: do you disagree with my choices? What'd be a better set if you had to come up with one?
Posted by alea at 12:40 PM
This weekend, I watched The Singles 2nd Ward, the sequel, of course, to the original Singles Ward, the movie which successfully proved that you don't have to be Richard Dutcher to make a Mormon-centric film. I'm guessing most of you didn't even know a sequel was in the works, let alone released. But, what I am here for if not to keep you up to the minute on your Mormonganda? Before I launch into my review, you need to know my thoughts about the first film: I liked it, but with reservations. Basically, I'm not the harshest critic of the Mollywood efforts, mostly because I see them as a beginning. That said, I find a lot of the original Singles ward very charming and funny, but there are parts that are bad, bad, bad. Such as the acting of just about every female in the cast. Or the serious "dialogue" which alternately was stolen from some poorly crafted Lifetime Original or penned by folks suffering from some major dissociative disorder.
I think the crew got wind of this last problem and decided the way to do away with this was to be aggressively flippant. And flippant they are. We rejoin the same motley crew who appeared in the first film at some indiscriminate point in the future (six or so years, it appears). Jonathan and wife Cammie are back in Provo, shooting the original Singles Ward film (the movie is very postmodernly compiled, and this is not a compliment in this case). Jonathan's story is a backdrop, however, to Dallen, the centerpiece of the film. He's a professor now of Mormon Mythology at BYU. And there's a new girl in both his class and his ward (I'm not sure, but I think there's policies at BYU keeping the profs out of student wards, but I could be wrong. And besides, this isn't the only plot problem). As you can imagine, romance ensues and they're slated to get hitched.
Then, the film turns into a Meet the Parents for the Mormon set. Christine, you see, is a convert. Her parents are wealthy, urbane coastals with their own jet and who have had more marriages than they can remember. Therefore, they are, naturally, horrified that their little girl is going to marry a yokel and in one month to boot. I'm sure you can imagine the jokes that are played out as they arrive in Provo, UT. Being a Mormon film, there is a happy ending here, but, being a Mormon movie, this means we have some serious soul-searching before we get to that point.
There are some good things about this movie, Christine, for instance, is played by an actress you can, you know, act. Erin Chambers, it appears, has a BFA from BYU and the film is all the better for it. And there are some jokes that amuse. But there are also loads of problems with the film. I had high hopes that, since Christine is in charge of thoughtful voiceovers like Jonathan was in the first film, we'd be better a more female perspective on the LDS singles scene, but it never really materializes. Also, there's a lot of joking about the Mormon cinema market and the various films it's produced, which takes the Mormon in-joke a step further, feels a bit incestuous, and isn't really all that funny. I kept wanting to say, "yes, folks, we know you know you're making a movie. Can we please move on now?"
The main problem, though, is that the film wants so desperately to be funny, to be not serious, to make the audience laugh, that nothing is spared a joke or two, including Christine's conversion story. This is fine and all, but then when the movie suddenly wants to be serious, we have a hard time believing that they're being sincere. Let's put this another way: if you're going to joke about a two-day long courtship and praying about marriage, you can't also have the couple torn up when real problems come along and then fall back into the belief that their prayers were accurate.
The conflict, though, of a non-Mormon family dealing with not being able to see a wedding is compelling, though. It's one of the few uniquely Mormon conflicts seen in Mollywood cinema so far. Think about it. For most of the other films, you could replace a generic Christian or even an observant Jew and have the same conflicts. Here, though, we're firmly in the territory of the Saints. This mini-drama plays out rather nicely, and could have been part of a much better movie, if only the filmmakers didn't want to cram as many jokes per minute down our throat as possible.
All in all, I don't want my 86 minutes back. For those who derive some sort of satisfaction from LDS films, you'll probably want to check this one out, as it's far from the worst offering thus far. But for those who think the films too provincial, too in-jokey, or just don't find the constant ribbing of Mormon culture funny, leave it alone. If you do check it out, be sure to watch the outtakes. There is one jibe at Richard Dutcher that is, in fact, one of the funniest in-jokes I've heard in a long, long time.
Posted by alea at 9:19 AM
I'm sure you've all heard the joke before. There are variations, but basically it lines us nationalities with their roles in either side of the afterlife. Like, in heaven, you've got British policemen, French cooks, Italin lovers, Swiss bankers and German mechanics. But in hell, the Germans head up the law enforcement, Italians run the banks, the French fix the cars, the British own all the restaurants and the Swiss are your only paramours. Now, I'm not sure what role they'll play in Hades, but I'm pretty certain that in heaven, the Mormons are the custodians.
I don't mean this as a slight, far from, in fact. I am impressed, consistently, with how seriously Mormons take to heart the aphorism about cleanliness and godliness being close neighbors. For instance, go to any college campus of 30,000 students in the world and you'll be routinely appalled by any of the bathrooms. You'll treat them as a dangerous zone to be entered only in dire emergency and to be evacuated as soon as possible. This is not that case at BYU, where (almost) every bathroom is spick and generally span. It's practically surreal. As is the lack of litter around the campus itself. Or the fact that the groundskeepers (most of them student employees) change the flowers that decorate the landscape once every month or so. It's no wonder that, when awarded a landscaping award, BYU was called the Disneyland of college campus. I'm sure the super peppy student body and their undying belief in fairy tales doesn't hurt (I mean, where else would you find an on-campus housing project that includes a bas relief of a wedding ring with the word June underneath it?)
As another example, consider your average meetinghouse. They're clean inside, right? Which wouldn't be saying much if they were used once weekly for a few hours of church. But they're not. These are places where people have meals, play basketball, entertain children by giving them food and otherwise gather at regular intervals in activities that can, and do, produce messes. But it's pretty rare to see crumbs or other detritus laying about. And now, remember that most of the cleaning of these buildings is left to the good graces of members, who volunteer to spruce the place up every week. That's a pretty intense commitment to a mote-free carpet, if you ask me.
I'm guessing there are several reasons why Mormons keep their buildings up so well. Part of it is surely the missionary/PR push of the church. We want our visitors to be impressed with how well we treat our edifices, so it pays (quite literally, I suppose, if said visitors become members who give a faithful tithe) to make things clean. We also stress the concept of stewardship, which plays out much more narrowly than it probably should, but impels us to take care of the physical structures around us. Mormons are also a people quite fixated on outward appearances and are overly literal at times. This, coupled with talk after talk on being clean metaphorically, means dust and grime are not only unpalatable, but perhaps morally questionable as well. Factor into all of this the (irritatingly) prevalent focus on homemaking as the highest calling of women and you've got a people ripe for obsessive cleaning.
It's a pretty good virtue to have, I think. And a terrible one, with its goal of perfection. But, if it means that I can have a clean bathroom to go to any given Sunday, I think I'm for it.
Posted by alea at 11:16 AM
Yesterday, someone said I reminded them of Paul Giamatti. I'm pretty sure this is not a compliment. Though, I have apparently, "chunked out" since I was a teenager, if we are to believe what someone whose opinion may or may not matter very much to me said after seeing some snaps of a younger, thinner alea.
In other news, I have discovered a company that will be receiving a chunk of my paycheck once I finally convince myself that I really do need a secret box. And since I'm buying that, I may as well go for the brainteaser globe puzzle and maybe even the teapot set. Only problem? So many options. Observe.
Posted by alea at 11:40 AM
My sister was in town for the holiday. As part of her trip, she planned to rely on my mother's expertise in all matters home-related and get some help making a quilt. She's planning to give said quilt to her boyfriend as a Christmas gift. Now, my sister's not particularly craft-involved, so this is a pretty big project to take on, especially since she's never made a quilt before nor does she own a sewing machine. But those are minor details, right?
At any rate, she was busily cutting out squares on the bar in our kitchen while I was sitting at the table, quietly working on my latest bobbin lace project (a candy cane that nearly drove me to the brink). My little brother (aged 18, but still younger than me, thus the little appellation) came in and looked over my sister's handiwork. Then he said, "Elise, that's a lot of work, isn't it? I'm so glad I'm not a girl..." At this point he glances over my direction and adds, "or [alea]."
Posted by alea at 9:21 AM
If you're like me, you always sort of assumed that baby carrots were one of the best fruits of the work started by Gregor Mendel. That is to say they are a special breed of carrots, selectively bred to become compact and delicious and peel-free. Apparently, this is not the case. Why, they're nothing more than big carrots that have been peeled and cut down to size. I'll let this paradigm shift sink in for a few moments.
For the terminally curious, you can learn more about the history of baby carrots, which stretches all the way back to the mid-80s, by reading this article or this one.
Both of these articles mention that carrot consumption has increased in recent years, up by about 50% from the mid-1960s level of carrot eatin'. Now, here's my question: don't Americans just eat more over all now? I mean, has the percentage that carrots make up of the food consumed in one year's time gone up or just sheer volume?
In other, carrot-related tidbits, carrots are related to parsley. Oh, and every time you eat an orange carrot, you're tipping your hat to Dutch nationalism. Carrots, naturally occurring in all sorts of colors (white being the most common) were bred to be oranger and oranger by the House of Orange in 15th/16th Century Netherlands.
Yep, I spend a significant chunk of workday yesterday learning about baby carrots. Related to my duties? No. Informative? Certainly.
Posted by alea at 4:21 PM
I love Graham Greene. This isn’t news to anyone who’s ever had more than a three minute conversation with me, since that’s about how long it takes me to find some way to work him in. In one of his books, Brighton Rock, the character Rose is being duped into marrying a gangster whose alibi for a murder she can disprove despite being unaware of this fact. As a believing Catholic, Rose’s decision is made harsher when it comes about that their marriage will not be sacramental. Ida Arnold tried to save Rose and is having a discussion with her when the following is said:
“I know things you don’t. I know the difference between Right and Wrong. They didn’t teach you that at school.”
Rose didn’t answer; the woman was right, the words meant nothing to her. Their taste was extinguished by stronger foods—Good and Evil. The woman could tell her nothing she didn’t know about these—she knew by tests as clear as mathematics that Pinkie was evil—what did it matter in that case if he was right or wrong?
Right now, I’m sort of gripped in a state that’s the mirror image of what Rose was dealing with, minus the gangsters, the murder, the marriage and the Catholicism, of course. So we only adhere philosophically, ok? But bear with me. There is something I am pursuing which I am told is not Right, at least by my faith community. However, I’m utterly unconvinced that it is Evil. So what do I do? The answer that makes the most sense is rely on revelation from God. But, all I seem to be getting from Him right now is the terrible silence born of asking a question I already know the answer to.
Is the price of being properly disposed worth the price of being temporarily (or perhaps, if the planets align, not-so-temporarily) happy? I don’t know how to answer this or any of the other thousands of phrasings of the idea that I’ve considered of late. On the one hand, being in line with the requirements of the earthly Kingdom of God means that I can take the sacrament, exercise my priesthood, someday go to the temple, and ask for the help of the Almighty with some assurance that He’ll respond. On the other hand, I may just have a shot at being satisfied with my life. As you can see, there’s positives and negatives to both sides here. In other words, I’ve done the cost-benefit analysis and I’m entirely unsure which route is superior. They both seem wonderful. They both seem terrible.
In the absence of a clearly better path, I’d normally retreat into my standard MO of just waiting until the decision was made for me. See, I agree with Joseph that we're designed to be happy (with the caveat that I'll probably not achieve the state in mortality, and we all know I'm bound for a torment of disappointment later on). I also, however, have historical proof that I'm a notoriously bad steward of myself and my happiness.
All this hemming and hawing would have been true this time last week. But, I had a meeting with my bishop this last weekend and I'm almost persuaded to go the way he thinks I should. So, I’ve decided to trust God a bit more and go with what he’s already told me time and time again. At least, that’s what I’m going to do if you were to ask me right now. But, I’m not fully convinced, so this resolve may erode. Or I may just run away to the Great Plains. I hear Omaha’s nice.
Posted by alea at 2:13 PM
Given the presence of two or more Mormon intellectuals engaged in a discussion of matters Church-related, it is only a matter a time before one of them brings up Boyd K. Packer. And this mention will not be in a positive light.
I've been asked more than a few times what my issue with Packer is, usually after asserting that it's rather unclear if we belong to the same church at all. There are so many things. Like, how about when he said, in reference to the LDS edition of the scriptures: "As the generations roll on, this will be regarded, in the perspective of history, as the crowning achievement in the administration of President Spencer W. Kimball." Now, sure, nothing bad here, but this was said in 1982. For those keeping track, four years after the blacks were cleared for priesthood ordination. Call me crazy, but I'd class that revelation as a little more important. To me, this assertion is like claiming that Woodruff's crowning achievement is the cessation of the law of adoption and not, you know, the Manifesto.
But that's just sort of a shiny, surface example. I'm disheartened by the shadowy role he supposedly played in the September Six debacle, but I'd rather not listen to rumors and possibilities. If you really want to know why this man will push me to the brink of leaving the Church, should he ever come up to be sustained as President, read the following two talks:
Talk to the All-Church Coordinating Council
The Unwritten Order of Things
I could also point you in the direction of "To the One", but the ridiculous false doctrine and just plain lies taught in that talk deserves to die immediately. Therefore, I refuse to point anyone in its direction. Plus, the Church has gotten about as near to repudiating what it teaches as it will whilst the speaker lives.
In all fairness, he has calmed down remarkably over the last few years. His last conference address, on how we are all equally important in the work of the church could even be read as a softening of his Unwritten Order, which is a very good thing in my book. Who knows, should he outlive Hinckley & Monson, maybe I won't have to go underground while he's at the helm after all.
Posted by alea at 9:19 AM
It's not every week that a girl passes out in sacrament meeting, right? Fortunately, she had the good taste to pass out right before the closing hymn, so we were able to wrap things up without too much fuss. The standard reading was that she was suffering from low blood sugar. I, however, prefer to think that she was carried away in the spirit. Not only because that's so 19th Century Mormonism but also because one brother's testimony was astounding powerful. I mean, we're talking, strong enough that I could understand why the father of King Lamoni fell as if dead. Seriously. I can only imagine what it would have felt like if I were in a state that didn't offend the spirit.
I figure the strangeness of the occurrence must have been what prompted the benedictor to go momentarily crazy. He must have been unsure of what to say, or at the very least, what he was saying. He inserted a "please bless the sister that fainted, that she can regain her strength." Fair enough. Nothing wrong there, but then there was an and. And the and was following "may know that Jesus is the Savior of the world." Wow, she fainted because she lacked testimony? Or something. Is this some doctrine I'm not familiar with?
As long as we're talking about crazy, we also had a guy bear testimony of cell phones (as far as I could gather, technology proves we're living in the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times, thus cell phones are true, or something). In Elders Quorum, we also were privileged to have explained to us just how much like an eager, all-loving puppy Jesus is. Now, I'm no expert, but that's blasphemy, right?
Posted by alea at 10:09 AM
Ever since primary, we are told that we should be excited for going to the temple. We aren't told what happens there or really much about it other than it's important and sacred and it helps us return to our Heavenly Father. We sing, "I love to see the temple, I'm going there someday." As teenagers, the temple gets lumped together with other righteous desires, either getting married or serving a mission. We go and do baptisms for the dead and thus learn about family history and the role of the ordinances performed in holy houses. Then, the temple's purpose shifts as bit as we become young single adults. It becomes a source of strength, a place to seek inspiration and a way to worship that ought to be frequently experienced. A temple is a refuge, is God's university, is the crowning representation of our worship. It should be clear that the temple is a good thing, and getting there is a righteous desire.
What about, though, those of us who are not married and did not serve missions? Surely the blessings of the endowment are open to us and the Church stands ready to swing wide the gates to all who are worthy to enter. I mean, God is no respecter of persons, right? I'm trying very, very hard to believe that in the face of a policy that frustrates me more than I have words for. I've heard it phrased differently, but it is essentially that members in their early twenties should not be cleared for endowment proper. Endowment connected with missions and marriages are cool, but wanting the temple on its own merits is out. Now, I currently have a bishop who does not adhere to this policy, which I am endless grateful for (of course, now when it's an actual option, I'm not worthy, but that's not the issue here).
What the hell is the rationale for this policy? And, can the Church and its leaders not see the damage it does? Usually, the reason given is that the Church does not want to endow members who are unready to make the covenants, who will treat it lightly or who are doing it for the wrong reasons (to see a sibling or friend sealed, e.g.). But the Church endows members like that all the time. They send off to the temple girls fresh out of high school who will be married at 18 or boys with mission calls that have never read the Book of Mormon. In rejecting those of us who are covered by this policy, they seem to be saying that we are spiritually immature, that we have made major mistakes in our life, that our offering of devotion just isn't good enough and that we have very little to offer the Kingdom. Even your righteous desires are misplaced, they tell us by their actions.
There are lots of times in my life where I could have said, "the Church is rejecting me." I felt an outsider as a young man not interested in playing basketball, like my quorums would do for a solid three months every year. After being kicked out of BYU and losing my four year scholarship because I was willing to admit that I had sinned, I felt like it'd be better to just cut my losses. Falling under Church discipline was a rough time, but I didn't just give up then. Getting my act back together and being told I still couldn't serve a mission stung. Becoming the pet project of Family Home Evening leaders when they thought I wasn't involved enough in the ward was an irritant. Having people question my testimony behind my back after sharing it one week made we wonder if my faith was good enough. Learning about the anti-intellectual sentiment and action of some leaders caused me to wonder if we belonged to the same Church at all. But, I stuck around through all of these. They weren't even that big of a deal, once I got over my initial pain. Being told by a number of bishops, however, that I was not in the proper age category to go to the temple was the strongest rejection I have ever experienced. These men, it seemed, were holding open the door to inactivity and getting irked that I was taking so long to pass through.
This policy needs to change, but sadly it will not any time soon, I imagine. Part of the problem is that those crafting it don't understand what it does to those of us affected by it. After all, it's been a long time since the First Presidency was endowed and, I'll grant, it's unfair of me to expect them to empathize with those of us who aren't. Also, it's a sadly self-fulfilling concern that it's based on. Someone who feels outside the care and love of the Church because they are not married or not serving a mission, etc, wants to be endowed and is told they can't be. And then, they drift into inactivity. Leaders can then lean back and think how good it was they didn't endow them, since they'd not be true to the covenants. Would letting them go through the temple have strengthen the tether between them and the Gospel? We are led to believe yes. So why deny them? And why not use the lengthy, involved interview process to weed out those who are going for the wrong reasons or aren't prepared?
I find it deeply, deeply troubling to see the number of people this policy hurts. It's even more bothersome that, with rare exception, these are the very people who I feel would most cherish the temple in their lives, who crave and need the spiritual strength we are promised by attending. If we are denied here, how, I wonder, can we be assured that God loves us, that this is our Church too and that we have something, anything to offer the Lord? I guess all we can do is stand and wait, hoping that all this is worth in the long run.
Posted by alea at 8:18 AM
Yesterday, during a training on sexual harassment we learned that sexual harassment is wrong. I'm always confused by these training because who are the people who think the examples presented are normal? And how did they get hired in the first place? But, for a brief moment I thought the training was going to be a little more interesting. One powerpoint slide had a list of "stages" of harassment. At the highest level was the bulleted point "evident personnel action (e.g. discharge)". When I first glanced at it, though, I read personal, not personnel. Now, that would be pretty serious, wouldn't it?
The second thing comes from my institute class. I do believe that, for the first time ever in my church-going career, the phrase "dilating and effacing of the opening of the womb" was employed and, even better, as a symbol for the end of the world. It was charming, really.
Posted by alea at 4:13 PM
From now on, when people question my choices in entertainment material, I am going to say, I watch x or read y so that I can, one day, stand atop my own Mount Olympus and "observe the stupid, bungling, relentlessly sinful acts of [my] children and still resist the temptation to thunderbolt them all to ashes".
This quote come from a devotional given at BYU in 2005 by the dean of the college of humanities, Van C. Gessel. The full text can be read here. I really like the underlying sentiment that Dean Gessel is presenting. Plus, the man quotes T.S. Eliot and references a Graham Greene novel in the brief talk, so I'm sold.
However, I am a little bit bothered by what appears to be a not so mild form of chronological snobbery. Is MacBeth really all that much better at showing us the end result of evil than, say, Requiem for a Dream? Or, can we not understand true sacrifice as well from Dancer in the Dark as we can from any work that predates the second World War?
My only hope here is that Dean Gessel was being provactive. That, if pushed into a corner, he'd admit that Ian McEwan's Atonement explains beautifully our inability to manage the consequences of our actions, despite the pressence of a vulgarity so base it doesn't even seem to register in his (Gessel's) world. But, at any rate, check it out. It's a very strong case for why avoiding evil in literature and art isn't what we're here to do.
Posted by alea at 12:20 PM
I'm uncertain how to feel about this. On the one hand, it's mildly amusing. On the other, it borders a bit too close to oversexualizing something that probably would best be left pretty unsexed. Though, it's not the first time Mormon missionaries have been put in...compromising positions. A GayVN Award went a few years back to a threesome scene involving two unsuspecting missionaries (To preempt questions: I watched a documentary about the gay porn industry, ok?). Granted, those "actors" weren't actual Mormons.
Are these guys here really, true-life returned missionaries or is this another case of selling a type and image but not a reality (cf. the Calendario Romano, which is staged by actors)? This is another reason to be a bit leery of the effort. The creator claims up and down that this Men on a Mission (irritating because it seems to suggest they're current missionaries) is legit. Though, some of his commentary on the missionary experience seems to suggest he has a slippery, at best, understanding of how it all works.
However, it's not all smoke and mirrors. One of the models just had his records transferred into my ward, as he's engaged to a nice young lady of the flock. And, the mission he wrote down on his intro card lines up with the one on the site.
We learn two things here. A. there are real Mormon men willing to disrobe for softcore and B. the Mormon world is really, really small.
Posted by alea at 4:48 PM
Even before getting dressed this morning, I knew it'd be a bad day. My first tip off was that the ground outside was white. Yep, that's right, only October 18th and Zion has snow on her stones. I'm pretty sure I want my money back, Brother Brigham. So, after realizing that this mean that people on the freeway would drive like idiots, I gave into the fact that I'd be late to work. I mean, seriously, if it's not currently snowing, why do you have to go 40 mph? Why?
Alright, so strike one. Strike two was getting to work and realizing, holy crap, I have nothing to do today. These days are never good. If I don't have some silly little project I'm working on (printing shelf labels, reorganizing my collection, typing up minutes from a meeting), the day is interminable. Fortuantely, I did get a little respite at 10 when two boxes of books showed up. So, I got to unload those. But afterwards, I just couldn't pull it together to get anything else done.
Looking back on the last nine hours, it's pretty clear I don't deserve the money I'm being paid. However, at the same time, I don't really get why I'm here at all. My job could (essentially) be done by someone coming in somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 hours a week. Hell, a trained chimp could do most of what I do (I mean, the selection of books'd be sort of tricky, but teach him to type and we'd be good to go).
My job, it turns out, is not as thrilling as it sounds on paper. People keep telling me this is a librarian's dream, building a library from scratch. Oddly enough, it's not really my dream. I became a librarian because... Actually, I don't really know how to finish that statement. I think part of it was fear that I couldn't hack real grad school and after that, a general sense that I wouldn't be hired in a market as competitive as academia (though, my track record on applying for library jobs may indicate that my unemployability is systemic and not context-specific). But, fear of failure aside, I became a librarian for the lame reason that I actually like to help people. I really do. I get off on doing reference interviews, on connecting people with information, on knowing not only how ISBNs work, but that you can search in the library catalogue on them using MARC tags. Oh, and being able to say things like, "Well, we'll just see what Ulrich's has to say about that, EBSCO."
More pressingly, I actually enjoy working with people. At my current job, I'm holed up in a library all by myself (though, I do have an underling now). This means very little interaction with anyone else. I'm not a fan, I'll be honest. Even if I were a drone in some technical processing area, I'd have others around me to talk to and complain with. I feel a bit like I've been banished. Or that I was never really wanted in the first place, but was hired out of a sense of obligation.
I'm starting to regret taking the job just a wee bit. But, I think we'll soldier through and stick to the original plan: staying here until I'm debt-free and then going to rack up some more costs getting a frivilous degree. Either that or, you know, dying.
Posted by alea at 3:29 PM
How much do you think an annual subscription to the New York Times costs? I'll save you the trouble of actually looking this up and just tell you: right around $750. Ok, I'll give you a moment to ponder the absurdity of that figure.
And then, I'll tell you this story. I subscribed to the NY Times for my library. I got a couple a few weeks back, but they were hideously out of date (like a week and a half behind). I thought this must have been some issue getting the subscription started, so I just waited for more to show up. Nothing happened, but I promptly forgot any ways. That is, until yesterday. I saw my school's receptionist carrying some newspapers to the garbage. She tossed them out. I was in the midst of some other project, so I didn't give it much thought. (I was hanging up artwork behind plexiglass. Did you know that plexiglass, given half a chance, will give you nasty paper cut-like lacerations? I have the bloody knuckles and thumbs to prove it)
When I got back to my library, I spotted the NY Times on the shelf and though, I wonder... Turns out, yes, she had just tossed two days of NY Times (how many more did we lose this way?). Oh, but it gets better. She admitted to not looking at the papers, which can be the only reasonable explanation for why the papers did not make to the library. After all, they have a mailing label on them that lists not only the name of the school, but also my name and the word, very clearly LIBRARY.
Posted by alea at 12:27 PM
I sometimes find myself thinking of the following situation. If I were in a car accident or my car was found abandoned in the middle of nowhere and people had to try and figure out something about me based on the contents of my car, what would they think? I'm not in the habit of storing things that are really all that strange in my car, but I am a bit, well, let's say different, shall we? Plus, I'm loath to clean up any space, let alone one that I spend about 40 minutes in a day. I think right now would be one of the most bizarre times to have a stranger try and conjure up an image of me based on my automobile.
The following is a list of items in my car. Let me know what, as if you didn't know me, what you'd make of it:
- a number of cardigans strewn about the floor
- several bottles of baby food
- an entire trunk-full of fabric swatches (seriously, it took me four trips to the car to fill it up, that's how many there were)
- an assortment of cds, to wit: Fifth Gear by Braid Paisley, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Chutes too Narrow by The Shins, Beloved Hymns of the Restoration by some guitar soloist, Taking the Long Way by The Dixie Chicks, Avenue Q and a compilation cd of various Death Cab for Cutie songs
- a beach towel, which was obviously recently used
- four packs of gum, all open with only one or two pieces missing
- a set of empty picture frames from Ikea
- three empty water bottles
- a sandwich baggy full of granola
Posted by alea at 2:35 PM
A couple of weeks ago, my ward held a joint meeting for the Relief Society and the Priesthood. Given the fact that my ward is only RS and Priesthood, we met in the chapel. This made the session feel much like another sacrament meeting, sans the ordinance, natch. We had two speakers and the topic was service. Like all good committees in singles wards (of which you'd think the scripture read, "groups without number have I created"), the service committee is headed by one sister and one brother.
The sister (we'll call her M.) went first and did a fairly good job. Granted, she stayed a little too close to traditional definitions of service (raking widows' yards, feeding the sick, calling up friends when prompted, etc), but it was presented adequately. She was, however, noticeably nervous. At one point, she even lost her earring (it flew off when a gesture, possibly inexplicable, went a little awry). She bore a nice testimony about the value of service and, all in all, was about what was expected.
Then, the brother got up. He started out by saying, "All those in favor of sustaining M. as hottie of the week, please make it manifest." His arm was raised to the square and a few others here and there joined in. Some people laughed. I was dumbfounded. I could not believe how inappropriate this was. He gave the rest of his prepared talk, even soliciting comments, a feat made tricky in the chapel, but I was having none of it. Now, I can't decide if I like this guy or he if just irritates me (he's the bloke of "are you an intellectual?" fame).
Regardless of my personal feelings towards him, what he did was wildly offensive to me, as a Saint. Not only did it call undue attention to someone uncomfortable with the spotlight to begin with, which makes it quite uncharitable, I found it profane, blasphemous and taking way too many liberties with something very, very central to the Church and its mission.
A lot of folks probably don't think much of the weekly sustainings and releases. Some might think it's a nice way to be informed of changes in the ward. Still others might just think we're raising our hands to show that we support those called. Both of these are probably true and the second one is definitely a crucial part of the act (though, the language there is not strong enough and I'd go so far as to say we're vowing to support them in their church duties). However, what's really at play here is common consent. We have this straight from the Lord when he said "For all things must be in order, and by common consent in the church, by the prayer of faith." (D&C 28.13)
In essence, common consent is what makes us a church and, more pressingly, a ward. Our vote is necessary for any person to be placed into any position of service, be it Relief Society President or hymn book organizer. Nor is this voting just pro forma; people can oppose, and have. Usually, granted, their worries are insubstantial enough to be placated by authorities (except in rare, terrible cases where genuine concerns went unheard). To make light of the very glue that holds us together as an ecclesiastical unit is much, much more distressing than even teaching false doctrine across the pulpit.
At the heart of my frustration here is that so much of Church instruction and focus is given over to what we must do personally to reach salvation. This, I agree, is important and we need to be taught to live the commandments. But, we're not just here to save ourselves. We're here to build the kingdom of God. To do this, we practice common consent. We home teach (and, fyi, YSA EQ Presidencies the Church over, the brethren need home teachers just as much as the sisters do). We visit teach. We commune with the Saints and help them in meaningful ways. Mormonism used to be so-community oriented, it's a little sad to see that go. I understand that insularity is not the best state, but the push towards the overly personal isn't the right direction, either.
As always, I don't really have a solution. I just hope that others are equally repelled by the flippant use of common consent. And I just needed to voice some frustration over its misuse.
Posted by alea at 10:45 AM
They don't make movies like they used to. This is objectively true in the sense that they use different equipment now to shoot and edit the movies. But, also true by virtue of the fact that there is no more Production Code and that it used to be that dialogue and insinuation were much more heavily required. And, a lot more was asked of actors than good looks and the ability to read. More's the pity, too, since some movies made during the era of Code are exceptional not in spite of but because of the tight strictures.
Take The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, for instance. A girl feels it's her patriotic duty to wish the troops farewell as they head off to WWII. In the course of the evening, she gets drunk (though, the picture claims she's woozy from hitting her head during a particularly acrobatic dance move) and ends up getting married. Problem is, she can't remember to whom ("It had a z," she tells her sister when asked the name of her husband, now off in Europe). Not knowing anything about her husband becomes slightly more of a problem a few weeks later when Trudy discovers she's going to have a baby. For an idea of how careful and crafty this film is never once does it use the word pregnant. In fact, "I'm going to have a baby" is said only once, quite late in the film, and the rest is all suggestion and double entendre. Trudy decides to get Norval, the local army reject and all around much too nice guy, to propose to her.
What we have here is Knocked Up, circa 1944. What's more, Miracle was made in an era when you couldn't even say virgin on screen. Or girdle. Or show a birth, even in silhouette. Or exhibit "lustful kissing". Take that, directors who think you need violence, sex, swearwords and/or the mocking of policemen and clergy to make a good film!
To give more of the plot away would ruin the real treat watching this film is. Seriously, it's hilarious. It's a great combination of fast talking, visual gags and slapstick humor. The scene of the newspapers where the Russian one spells out СРАЗУ or the Chinese one comes in backwards the first time is one of the best lampoonings of film conventions I've seen in a long, long time. Basically, this is one of my new favorite movies, but then I love Preston Sturges, so it wasn't a very hard sell. It's too bad he had studio troubles so soon into his directing career.In essence, Preston Sturges is a genius. Check him out as his best here or as the director of The Lady Eve or Sullivan's Travels. I defy you to be disappointed in his work.
Posted by alea at 9:54 AM
First of all, is there anything more horrific than child abuse? I am at a loss to name something. And, if that abuse is sexual, it almost passes the imagination about the pain, damage and scarring caused by the actions of the abuser. Since this is so far removed from my experience, I cannot even begin to understand what a victim must go through. My heart does go out to them and I wish it never had to happen to any child. Sadly, it still does.
Now, I have a question, though. Yesterday, another sexual abuse lawsuit was filed against the LDS Church. (Story here). The victims, six boys who were systematically abused by their Scoutmaster are seeking $25 million dollars plus punitive damages. Here's the question: what is the purpose of this lawsuit? Will the money really make the horrific, evil thing perpetuated by this man less destructive in these men's lives? As I said above, this is something (thank God) that I've never had to deal with personally, so maybe money is a sort of balm. Or perhaps the money is just a signal of regret on the part of the organization (now, whether the LDS Church ought to be held liable is questionable in my mind, but that's another debate for another time).
I could see some value to these large figure abuse cases if the Church was continuing to willfully ignore abuse and place abusers around children. This, I see, is part of the problem with the Catholic Church, as they continue to be a bit shadowy in terms of reforms. I'll admit that the LDS Church in the past probably did much, much less than they should have for victims of child abuse. But hasn't that changed? Haven't they responded? Aren't the new policies working? Granted, I don't have full answers to these questions, but I tend to think that the direction the Church has gone will have the effect of drastically reducing the chances of repeat offenders. Of course, it's a little harder to stop the first time folks, since you generally don't know who is going to do this sort of thing and under what circumstances.
Of course, maybe the new policies aren't working. One of the greatest liabilities that the Church faces, as an organization, the transient nature of its clergy and the surprising free reign local authorities are given. Also, the fact that members are very quickly assimilated into new wards and given positions of trust is another sticking point here, as an abuser could float around from stake to stake for quite a while before getting caught or even detected. But this veers to closely towards the question of whether the Church should pay at all.
I am not a litigious person. So these lawsuits for huge sums sort of baffle me. I'm equally baffled by most lawsuits, to be honest. However, in this case, it seems particularly strange to be able to affix some dollar figure to the irreversible injury that has plagued these men ever since they were molested.
I'd appreciate any ideas you can offer as to the end goal of this lawsuit or others of its ilk.
Posted by alea at 9:40 AM
The gym I somewhat infrequently frequent in the mornings is hiring. They have signs up all over the place advertising this fact. What I love about these signs is that they are brutally honest. You know those signs that say things like "Have fun and get paid!!!" or "Earn $3K/month part time from home!"? Well, it's a page of that book, but as if that book were written by a very clear-minded realist.
At the top of each of these signs is the simple: Get Paid!
That's right, the major selling point of this job is that, on some level, you are remunerated. They're not promising good times, a fast lifestyle or even particularly good pay. Instead, they guarantee that, if you show up for work, you will receive a paycheck.
To be fair, they might be banking on the notion that people will see these signs and think they are for something else, like a paid medical experiment or something, and then will be lured into reading about the employment opportunities at the fitness center. But, do they really want to hire the kind of person who's looking for paid medical experiments? I guess bottom-barrel scrapers can't really be choosers, can they?
Posted by alea at 9:23 AM
Whenever a new Ensign arrives I have a flash run through my head. Basically it goes like this: what in here this month will bother me? It's usually not hard to find something, but I worry that I'm being a little negative at times. I mean, the editors of this magazine are surely trying their best to do the right thing, aren't they? Fortunately, the official mag of the Church has improved dramatically in recent years, both in production quality and content. For instance, a really puzzling and quite offensive story about modesty wasn't published there but rather in Church News, the newspaper supplement. (See here. But be forewarned).
At any rate, a new Ensign appeared this last Saturday and I decided to open it up and poke around. Elder Holland, one of the Q12 I actually rather like, has a piece in there on Same-Gender Attraction.
The Church seems to be putting a lot of focus on this issue, with sadly little depth. Is this issue really all that pressing for the general membership? I sometimes wonder if the recurring use of it serves other purposes. I think a lot of members use this as a sort of internal barometer on their own sinbound nature. They can look to the gays and feel disgust. Being reminded of this frequently reminds them that they're not so bad off after all. On the other hand, the gays can serve as a sort of latter-day leper. If you're willing to interact with them, serve them and love them, you're following Jesus' example. Both of these, for obvious reasons are horrific ways of thinking about gay members, so I hope this isn't why the Church prints these articles.
Perhaps, more simply, the Church is trying to soften its hardcore stance. Interestingly, the rhetoric of choice in sexual orientation has been replaced with an one of lack of knowledge. That is, we don't know what causes this problem. Gone with this, also, is the insistence on marriage as a cure or that the trial is specifically a mortal one. While this improves the situation, it doesn't really help non-gay members understand the complexities. And it leaves open the idea that it could be a choice. However, in turning away from blaming the sufferer, the Church doesn't look quite as homophobic. It's a long, long road from "being gay may be caused genetically" to actually accepting it as a possible spiritual reality that should be celebrated (or ritualized in an ordinance), but the change is a very, very slight step in that direction.
I do not doubt that most, if not all, of the Church leaders do in fact have concern about the gay members. The trouble is that you've got a bunch of married, late middle age to elderly men talking about an issue so far removed from their experience. I feel that single women (or women in general) must feel a little bit of resentment as well, when they're given advice from this same group. How can they really know what they're talking about? I know, I know, they're bright men who are inspired and all that. I just think it'd be really interesting to see how the church would change if you put different people in charge. Even on the ward level, a single sister who has succeeded in the business world as the Relief Society president, or a divorced man as the bishop, for instance, would surely change the timbre of the ward.
In all the muddled advice and simple answers ("love them", "talk with them", "don't blame"), Elder Holland offers one gem that I think should be emblazoned below Visitors Welcome on every church building: "When our actions or words discourage someone from taking full advantage of Church membership, we fail them—and the Lord." Clearly this applies well beyond the realm of same-gender attraction, but I think all Church members would do well to remember that the table has been spread and everyone has a place at the feast. Don't let's pretend the chair they're about to sit in is saved for someone else. Oh, and remember, it's not just your Church. It's our Church, too.
Posted by alea at 3:15 PM
When I'm a famous restaurateur, I hope to come out with a book of Mormon-themed & Word-of-Wisdom-friendly recipes. These dishes will approximate the tasty things we're not allowed as God's people without all the guilt. In other words, it's very much letter of law abiding. So far I've come up with the following items to be included:
- In the Seasons Thereof (a seasonal fruit and vegetable guide, including a diatribe against canning)
- White & Delightsome Forest Cake (all the decadence, none of the Kirsch)
- Noli Me Tangerine tea
- K'fear Not (non-alcoholic fermented yogurt)
- G-Rated Fusion Fruit Juice (see here to catch this one)
- Chai on a Mountain Top (without the black tea, natch)
- Teacunmisu (lady fingers soaked in something that isn't rum, custard and a sprinkling of something that isn't espresso)
Any one else have ideas to include?
Posted by alea at 8:58 AM
Since this time two years ago, I have gained roughly 30 pounds. I'm not sure the cause of this increase in mass, but it probably has something to do with the fact that my sweet tooth requires a barrel for me to get from place to place. Maybe.
In order to counteract my inevitable expansion, I've taken to attempting to go the gym regularly. Notice that I'm not actually in the habit yet, but I am in the habit of trying. The main problem right now is that I work at 7.45 am. Which means, getting to the gym by 6.30 if I want it to be worth it. And, because I work someone between the boondocks and the back of beyond, such an early arrival at the gym means waking up before six am. The early morning and I do not get along. My bed rarely feels cozier than it does when my alarm goes off.
But the wee hours of the morning is not the only impediment to my aerobic endeavors. I'm also hideously out of shape. I get winded opening doors sometimes, so you can imagine how hard a treadmill is for me. I was swimming nearly daily when I was up in Canada, To be fair, I do have some respiratory problems, so it's not all just lack of practice. Fortunately, the gym I go to is one that is preferred by the elderly and/or equally infirm. When I'm there I feel downright hale. Until, of course, I notice that the octogenarians are using heavier weights on the machines than I am.
I made it out this morning and even got the one good elliptical machine, though I was a touch later than I'd like. I did my thing and showered (the shower facilities of this gym could be the subject of another post, but I'll just say this: I've never seen a spot more apt for fungal growths). When I entered my car I notice something odd: blisters. On my palms. I wasn't even going that hard this morning and I was only at it for about 25 minutes. Maybe if I'd ever done a day of work in my life this wouldn't have happened. Or maybe I should just take it as a sign and give up now before I seriously damage myself.
Posted by alea at 12:52 PM
So, the last two posts were pretty long and basically boring. So, let's talk about something less serious, shall we? Like the prêt-a-porter lines for this fall. I'm only partially joking. A few days back, in an attempt to find a bow tie for my nephew who is turning eight in just over a week, I was at the mall. As we know, I don't like the mall. But, I do like specialty neckware stores, so I really have little choice but to patronize my local commercial center.
I had no luck finding a bow tie for my nephew, as the only style they had for little kids were the kind you see at weddings, all shiny and solid colors. Not the best for every week apparel. But, can I just take a moment to put in a plug for Tie On One, a local store? For me, the tie is one last vestige of personality allowed to the man, especially since I hate French cuffs and refuse to wear most jewelry on principle. And, if you want an excellent selection of ties that are both gorgeous and more or less affordable, hit up Tie One On. They're also, hands down, the best place to buy bow ties.
But, haberdashery is not the focus here. The cardigan is. Apparently, button cardigans are in this fall, if we take South Towne Mall as a representative sample of what the moderately well-off hipster is wearing. For me, this is a mixed bag. On the one hand, it means I'll most likely be able to pick up a number of cardies for a song come spring, and I do love a bargain. On the other hand, the cardigans I wear as both as subculture identifier and practical accessory may cause people to think I'm some sort of couture poseur. I'm not cool or attractive enough to pretend like I was doing this whole open sweater thing before everybody else, despite the fact I was. Nor, it turns out, am I the type of person who simply looks in style when the weird things he does (like colored undershirts with oxfords) actually come in style. Fortunately, I'm not trying to impress anyone, so it doesn't really matter.
See, isn't my life the hardest ever?
Posted by alea at 12:05 PM
Last Sunday, I managed to cause my first kerfuffle in my singles ward. That it took over two month is either commendable or suggests that I'm losing my bite. It came about in Elders Quorum, where the topic of the week was the marriage lesson in the Spencer W. Kimball manual. This is always a sort of confusing subject to address in a singles ward, as none of the members nor the teacher are married. Usually, it devolves quite quickly into a discussion of why we should want to get married, how we should go about it and so on. Again, advice here must be taken somewhat skeptically, since if there were experts on this topic, they'd probably have put it into practice and therefore be ineligible to attend the ward.
So, the lesson started off in that direction and then the President (who was giving the lesson because of a failure of communication with his teachers) called on this new-ish guy in the ward. This guy was really keen to teach the lesson. I mean, REALLY keen. So, the President stepped aside to this brother's desire. This eager beaver started out by asking what our families have contributed to society. So, people made comments that ranged from inane (we're loved by our family) to traditional (they teach us values, discipline, how to interact with other people) and the ones that actually answered the question (my family produced a number of children who are now working). At this point, I raise my hand to ask, "Why do we need a family for us to learn these things or to have these impacts on society? I mean, we'd still know love and discipline and values if we were all raised on highly functioning communes. So, why families?"
You know your comment is heterodox when, before you've even finished framing the thought, half a dozen hands shoot up and the people raising them are practically falling off their chairs. Oh, you also know you're out in left field if four of those six people basically rephrase this idea: that's the way God likes it. Oh, come on, people, we can do better than that, surely. To be fair, the Deus volt argument is not without merit. Perhaps the only reason is because God's personal opinion. My problem with this approach is that there is no way, at least not that I've found, to really counter it. Especially for Mormons, a people so certain they know God's will that I honestly wonder how the term revelation can even be understood in the Church today.
Well, after these comments, the teacher asks if that answers my question. I'm honest and say, "Not to my satisfaction but we can move on." Which he does, to something about breaking a cycle of dysfunctional families and how if we all had strong families there wouldn't be any troubles in the world. I start shaking my head, thinking if he continues, he's veering dangerously close to getting a sigh from me. But he notices my head shaking and calls me on it.
"It's a true principle. How can you disagree with you? Do you not believe the principle?" Frankly, I don't. Just because families are happy and love each other doesn't mean that trouble evaporates. Life is way too complicated to be boiled down to the disintegration of the home as the source of all ills. When I share my opinion here, I get called Doubting Thomas by the teacher. Which probably suggests he's got pretty negative impressions of doubt, which is a shame.
Right after this lesson, which fizzled out shortly after my last disagreement due to time constraints, the counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency leans over to me and says, "Good comments. If you ever have any questions or want to talk about this some more, I'd be willing to help you understand it. I mean, seriously, any questions and I won't think less of you for them." Great. It's a very small step from this patronizing to project. I wonder if I'll actually finally be assigned home teachers or something. Oh well, at least people know me now as the apostate I am.
Later that day, I was fulfilling my calling as welcoming co-chair and one of the people we had to visit was the guy who taught this lesson. I don't want you to get the wrong impression, he was a very good teacher and took my statements entirely in stride with a laugh. So, he's not one of the strictest steadfasters. But we go to visit him and we're having a nice little chat, during which I've just told a very brief description of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Don't worry, I didn't implicate Brigham, but I didn't exactly clear him either. After this, this guy turns to me and says, "Can I ask you a tough question?" I'm suddenly gripped with a worry about what he's going to ask me. Maybe he's wondering what sin is keeping me from accepting the truth. Or perhaps he wants to know if I actually have a testimony or support the Brethren. Or maybe it's more secular and he wants to know if I've ever been diagnosed with some mental disorder. It's none of these. In fact, "are you an intellectual?" is not really what I'd consider a mind-bending query. I answered in the affirmative and he left it at that.
I guess there's worse things you could be considered than an intellectual. But not many, if you're a Mormon. I'll just have to be careful to not let anyone know I'm a Democrat, or a libertine, or a feminist. Wouldn't want to be called to repentance before I've even done anything, now would I?
Posted by alea at 3:29 PM
Yesterday we had the obligatory annual chastity lesson. This differs from the annual chastity talk given some fifth Sunday by the singles ward bishop in only a few ways. Most notably, it takes quotes from some dead President of the Church out of context but pretends that they flow together (seriously, check out the footnoting next lesson) and tends to be much less uncomfortable for all parties involved. Plus, there's not much chance of being told to only buy a pony that catches your eye, if you know what I mean, brethren, as one high councilor once did in my ward at the Lord's University.
The lesson was pretty standard, with the exception of the guy who wondered why church leaders don't urge women to dress like pioneers and/or why the US doesn't enact Muslim-state style laws of morality. I am not making this up. He disparagingly compared Mormon women to Middle Eastern women and honestly thought that bonnets and prairie dresses were the better part. Let's just say that, should he ever start dating a girl in the ward, I will break my nonintervention rule to tell her to get the hell out and now! There was also a guy who very bravely shared how he had had trouble with the law of chastity in the past and that it can be "sweetest fruit you'll ever partake" but that it's not worth it. He's recently engaged and everything's on the up and up now. This kind of sincere, honest, personal approach to a topic which most people would prefer to present as so shameful and removed from any one present to allow for individual examples was amazing. That, I feel, is what church should actually be like.
The real point here, though, is the lust v. love distinction that always comes up in these lessons. We hear it over and over again. Lust is all about physical attraction and leads only to pain, suffering and pregnancy. While love, on the other hand, leads to joy, fulfillment and pregnancy. The issue I have is that this strays a little to close to the chewed gum/nailed board/handled white rose theory of sex. In other words, it's the "sex is disgusting and awful so save it for the one you love" school of thought. I'm bothered because crossing lines of chastity is not exclusively about lust, about women fondling for attention or men using women as playthings (actual phrases employed by President Kimball). Or, to crib another wording of his, love does not always fly out the door when lust sneaks in.
This view presents that love is love and lust is lust and ne'er the twain shall meet. But the way lust is defined makes it sound like all sexual feelings and actions are lustful. The logical conclusion is that love has no basis in the physical plane. Clearly it does and should. Basically, what we need is a more complex understanding of premarital sex. Let's start by ditching this whole notion of not mentioning PTs, shall we? There is good reason to not dwell on what you've done wrong in the past, but there's great danger in pretending like nobody who's not a craven, twisted loser has chastity problems. We need more members in the church like the brother who was willing to admit that he'd fallen and gotten back up. After all, isn't that the message that Christ died for, that we can be lifted no matter what we stumble on? While we're at it, we might want to create a position that harmonizes our position that you can be married in the temple to someone other than your legal spouse if divorce isn't possible in the country you live in but a man still gets excommed if your legal marriage is to another man and not a woman (see here). Because, frankly, our current position doesn't make much sense. Lastly, why does sleeping with someone you love before marriage mean that you're hurting them? Surely it's not that simple.
Now, despite my libertine views and lifestyle, I actually do believe that unrestrained sexuality leads to a whole host of problems and should best be avoided in most cases. And I can see some rationale behind teaching this way. For instance, how do you teach teenagers to really tell enduring connections and quick fixes apart? Or how can you allow for legal same-sex marriages to be tolerated but not solemnized in your temples? And what about all those grey areas of intimacy, like when kissing and holding enters necking and petting? The list could go on and on. But this area is particularly thorny. Shouldn't we take the time to address the underlying issues. For example, why is chastity so important? The only reason I can come up with is that it's a requirement for the kind of marriage that God wants to happen (a temple one for time and all eternity). Are there other reasons I'm missing?
I guess this falls into the same class as all other topics taught in the Church. I wish we were just a little more complex in our handling of these things. We are, after all, supposed to learn everything we can while we're here, not just the same thing over and over again.
Posted by alea at 1:00 PM
There is some debate about whether Canada has a culture. And, if it does, what parts of that culture are not just a reaction to their lumbering southern neighbor. I would like to think, though, that Canada has at least one or two classic recipes handed down from mother to daughter and cherished as either national dishes or family traditions. The editors of "Saveur", however, are not quite sure.
My main question, though, is why include a link at all (see the bottom of the page) if there are no recipes? Are the writers trying to mock Canada (both Anglophone & Francophone)? One must assume the dishes posted are only up for so long. Maybe there were once Canadian dishes. But, as for right now, Canada, you'll have to find something other than food to give us Americans a compelling idea to not de facto annex you. Well? We're waiting.
Posted by alea at 8:27 AM
I have this weird perversion. Now, don't fret, this blog is still work-safe reading, as this perversion has absolutely nothing to do with gonads. Rather, it's food-related. Here it is: I don't like hot food. And I don't mean spicy-hot, since the more a dish causes my orbicularis oris region to burn, the better. I mean temperature hot. I prefer my foods colder, ideally around room temperature. For some things, this isn't all that strange. Cold pizza is considered nice by large swaths of the population, as are certain Chinese leftovers. But fish sticks? tuna casserole? barbecued chicken? Clearly, there is something wrong with me.
When I was living alone up in Canada, I would often cook dinner about 4pm, just before going to work. Then I would eat a little bit of whatever I had made, just so that I wouldn't pass out at the reference desk or lose my wits when a guy at the train station offered to fight me for my tuque. But I would leave the remainder out on top of the stove for when I came home. I loved coming home to a pot of lukewarm spaghetti, some cold twice baked potatoes, or tepid beans. I'd even make and butter my toast in the morning before getting in the shower so it wouldn't be piping hot as I grabbed it and dashed out the door, late as ever for class.
I'm not sure what this preference stems from. Was I born this way? Is it a choice? Like all great nature v. nurture debates, we'll likely never know. Part of it surely comes from hating the way a microwave turns food all soggy and from being too lazy/incompetent to calculate how much food I need to cook so I'm not left with a week's worth of leftovers from every meal. What I do know is that I'm pretty lucky for not having contracted some hideous foodborne sickness. As all card-carrying food handlers know (and I was once one of that class), you're supposed to keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold and never ever just leave food sitting out. Maybe years of this habit and an already very iffy digestive system have caused me to be able to stomach these potential pathogens.
Oh, and it could be a lot worse. Like the case study I read in the sanitation and safety textbook used at my school. Apparently, an employee with diarrhea didn't wash his hands after using the bathroom. He then proceeded to mix an entire vat of buttercream frosting with his bare hands and arms. Estimated number of people infected: 500. Think about that next time you're eying that frosted sugar cookie. See, now lukewarm fish sticks don't sound so unappealing, do they?
Posted by alea at 9:32 PM
I wish this subject line were witty and I was about to regale you tales of my creative use of aluminium. Like making hats or, better yet, depressing bathroom toys for my brood of children and all the other younguns in the trailer park. Sadly, this is not the case. Rather, I seem to have not lost my knack for ruining my own life. Despite having an advanced degree where I took whole courses on the organization of knowledge and learned to respect me some fonds, despite thinking the whole world should be indexed and given a controlled vocabulary AND despite my near neurosis about putting stacks in order of size and clothing by hue, I have managed to misplace a whole slew of electronic files. Not least of these was a half-finished blog entry about bathrooms cleaned by Mormons. Which is what I was actually hoping to complete and post this evening.
What's particularly galling for me is that, were this a physical document, I could riffle and shift until I found it. However, you can't really riffle through megabytes (unless you're really small and made out of binary code). So, I just keep opening all the files on my flash drive, hoping one of them will change. It hasn't happened yet, but hope springs, etc.
So, instead of humor, you get complaint. But isn't that what you've grown to expect from me? I'm off to drown my frustration with some Wii-playing.
Posted by alea at 12:49 PM
When I first returned home in April, I was attending my parents' ward. This is the ward I grew up in and, until very recently, was mostly old people. Sadly, a lot of the people who were there when I was young have moved or died, and there's been quite a bit of home building in the boundaries, so now we have a much large contingent of children than has been the case in the last few years. I felt very out of place in this ward. Partly, this was because I'm single and the only one of the folks my age (there were twenty of us or so) still living at home. Oh, and there were guys in the Elders Quorum who were younger than me, happily married and already producing offspring. So, it was awkward.
I considered attending the local singles ward, but had my hesitation, most notably that I wanted to be left alone when not in church meetings themselves. Another drawback to moving was that I really, really liked the guy just called to be the bishop of my parents' ward. Since it seems inevitable that I will have to shrive every so often, I was tempted to stay and just suffer the uncomfortable questions from people who keep forgetting how old I am and/or the generalized lack of integration into my Elders Quorum as an unmarried guy. Then we had a particularly bad lesson about raising our kids properly and I knew I had to get out.
My experience at the singles ward has sort of been hit or miss. The lessons have been illy prepared and not interesting, sacrament meeting is held last, and my records only arrived this week, after letting them know over two months ago that I'd be attending this ward. Oh, and I've been given a calling that dangerously approaches the made-up camp. Despite these bumps and bruises, I felt sort of compelled to stay in the ward. I'm not sure why, and, like all my crazy spirit-driven initiatives, I don't really look for answers.
But I may have found a possible reason yesterday. Remember that ineluctable shriving of mine? It happened yesterday. I met with my bishop and had the standard talk. But his responses were far from standard. I wasn't sure how I felt about this guy. Whenever he's conducting, he's always really funny and since Mormons aren't known particularly for their pulpit humor, this made me furrow my brow a bit (metaphorically and literally). However, yesterday, he managed to put the words "kick you in the nuts" appropriately into the mouth of deity and said a story about President Packer caused him to think, "what a sanctimonious twit". He also gave surprisingly good advice grounded not so much in the spiritual mantle he bears but in his experience as a person, which I really appreciated. Lastly, he swept away one of my greatest frustrations with church policy with a promise to help me get to the temple ASAP.
It's little times like these where I'm reminded that my testimony is grounded not only in graham crackers, cultural inertia, beautiful writings and answers to seemingly inane prayers. I really think God's trying to help me here. Here's hoping I'll allow that help to stick.
Posted by alea at 9:16 AM
Due to the nature of book vendors, my accounts guy being on vacation, and general institutional inertia, my job right now consists mostly of trolling the web, making lists of magazines and books I'd like to purchase. This leads to some surprising discoveries. For instance, some dvds cost over 4 dollars a minute to purchase! Which makes me wonder, do I really want to spend over 700 bucks on a series that sounds interesting but may be tangential to the curriculum we teach here? And, where, exactly does PBS get off charging so much? I mean, I love PBS (seriously, I'd marry it if it were a person), but the cost is awfully high, don't you think?
I also get to stumble across little tidbits that I think are worth passing along. I'm not sure how I fell into towleroad.com (a premium site for modern gay men), but they have this story about a new levi's tv ad with two versions. In one, the guy pulls up his jeans to bring a sexy woman (and the entire street) through his apartment. In the other, the same actor pulls up a sexy man. Levi sees this as true equality, which may be true. Sex sells both ways, it appears.
On the Details blog (my library was supposed to consider which "men's lifestyle" magazine to subscribe to--answer? none.), there's a wacky, wacky story about an adult male pedophile posing as a 12-year old boy. The strangest turn in the story is that he doesn't seem to have gotten access to any victims through his charade, but he was being kept by two much older men who were under the impression that he was a pre-teen. There are so many freaky things about this. There is also the legal question of these older men. Can they be tried as pedophiles if they only thought their victim was 12? And, how did they not realize he was older? Not to get too graphic, but I feel like there's some significant differences between a naked sixth-grader and a naked 29 year old. But then, I'm not a pedophile. Read the full story here.
This is what I am paid to do. Well, either this or something very close to this.
Posted by alea at 9:54 PM
So today I experienced what many have called a librarian's dream. And it pretty much was. I got to go to Barnes & Noble and send just over 2k dollars on anything I wanted. Now, granted, what I wanted here means "materials to support the curriculum and students" of the school I work for. You see, I was hired all of three weeks ago and we need something that looks like a library for when students show up. Which is Monday. Yeah, it's a lost battle. I don't even have shelves! I mean, what I am supposed to do, splay my recent purchases across the floor and kindly inform students not to step on them? It's absurd. But then, I feel like I'd really have to screw up to get in trouble. This, dear Reader, is the joy of low expectations. Well, low expectations and my well-trained ability to make others think I know some librarian secrets. But, as most of you know, there are no librarian secrets not a one.
Case in point: collection development. In library school, we make a big deal about how librarians are specially trained to match patrons and information packets. This may be true. However, in B&N today my primary qualification for buying a book was thickness. Yep, how many pages. Preferably a low ratio of cost per page. I got some great cookbooks and some gorgeous interior design tomes out of it though.
How unethical would be to keep some of those books for myself?*
This experience, like many others as I've started getting this library going has shown me just how clearly ridiculous library school was. Nothing useful was learned. Sadly, neither was much interesting. But, the job is good. So, just keep it under your hat that I don't know what I'm doing, ok?
*N.B. That is not a real question. I would like to keep my job (for now).
Posted by alea at 2:39 PM
Today is my Membership Day. Exactly 16 years ago, I became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I don’t really remember much about the day, apart from a changing room with dark brown tile, my father seeming really big when he dunked me under the water and some candy dispenser my aunt gave me as a gift. Oh, and my older brother had tried to convince me that the bishop would use torture to get me to agree to be baptized. That, after all, is what big brothers are for. I don’t really remember thinking that it was all that big of a deal to be baptized. I’m not sure I even knew what all I was promising. But I was buried in the stream regardless. I think it was a good decision, but the jury's still out on certain aspects of this whole Sainthood thing.
The arithmetic of this milestone is one reason why I think the year a Mormon man turns 24 should be a much, much bigger deal than it is. For us BitCers, this year marks the point at which we have officially been members twice as long as we were not, as Mormons baptize at 8. Also, at age 24, a worthy male Saint has held the priesthood for exactly as many years as he did not, assuming he was ordained at the standard age of 12. For me, this year is also the point at which Elder becomes the office I have held the longest in the Priesthood (I was ordained back in summer of '03, having been a priest for twice as long as is typical). For certain LDS men, 24 could be the tipping point between years in the Aaronic versus Melchizedek. However, generally the higher priesthood is conferred closer to 19, so that one just an added bonus rather than a standard pattern.
If all these anniversaries were not enough, we also know that 24 is a numerological significant number. It’s the number of hours in a day, books in the Tanakh, the number of blackbirds baked into a pie, and the number of elders who will judge all the world at The End. It’s pretty clear that something big should be done to celebrate the twenty-fourth birthday of Mormon men. The only sticking point is that I’m not sure what that celebration should be. I’m very open to suggestions. I’m sure whatever anyone comes up with will be remarkably better than how I spent my birthday just over a week ago: spending nearly four hours to rack up massive debt in depreciating commodities, attending the family reunion for the descendants of my great-great-grandfather and then narrowly avoiding an intense family fight about whether we could gather to eat cake or not. So, it wasn’t exactly my best birthday ever.
Also, someone needs to designate a traditional Membership Day celebration. Go to.
Posted by alea at 4:14 PM
By my estimation, I have sent out roughly 40 applications since I started looking for employ in earnest. This process began in late February and didn't really abate until a couple of weeks ago. Sure, I had a few dead spots, like the end of classes and a brief, shimmering moment after I landed my part-time job at the Lord's Junior College. However, incessant fretting over health insurance (mostly by my mother) and a desire to have a bit more money, threw me back into the fray.
Before three weeks ago, I had had exactly 4 interviews. One rejected me, one was offended, one offered me a job and the last regretted that I couldn't start immediately as full-time. Then, at the beginning of the month, I had an interview for a position which seemed a touch out of my league. A bit to my surprise, I was offered the job. I start on Friday.
However, since accepting the position, I have had five other interview offers. Where were these people when I wanted a job? How do people survive such a long hiatus from work if they're not skinflints while students with the option to live at home like me? (I can only assume credit cards are involved) Most pressingly, is the job I took really the right one for me? What if something better came along? I mean, what if I was supposed to move to Ogden or Durango, CO or Maine?
I'll probably never know. I'll just have to trust that the same force which lead me to BYU, to stick with linguistics, to library school, and to Edmonton really does have my best interests in mind. Though, based on the track record, that seems unlikely. On the plus side, I get to politely rebuff these interviews. A much improved situation from the "you sucks" that were pouring in before.
Posted by alea at 11:25 AM
Some people use the term "gay" to mean that something is lame, unfortunate, or generally bad. I don't use the term thus, for what I hope are obvious reasons, as well as strongly believing that only things with sexual orientations in the first place can be called gay. However, I do strongly think there are a set of things you can do to be considered gay. Naturally, having relations with the same sex is a good one.
However, there are some things that transcend even that level and, if you take part in them, you are gay, regardless of your sexual preference. For instance, belonging to the "Organized Bodies of American Racing Pigeon Fanciers". Sadly, this organization is defunct. But back in WWI, they gave a medal to a very heroic pigeon.
In other, animal-related news, Louisiana banned cockfighting. I'm glad that they've entered the 21st Century. Or they will next year, when the ban comes into effect. Apparently, the businessmen who ply the cockfight trade got lawmakers to agree that it's an undue hardship for the ban to be immediate, what with all the cocks and equipment they've got.
Rest assured, though: in 17 states there's nothing illegal about "possession of cocks for fighting". Also, New Mexico, who banned the sport last year, is currently trying to decide if their law runs afoul of the Treaty of Guadelupe-Hidalgo. Good for the cockfighting advocates to assert that this treaty ensured the same life that existed in 1846 Mexico would be protected in perpetuity. Though, technically, speaking, only western New Mexico would be cockfighting country according to this logic. And, sadly, no mention of cockfighting was made in the treaty. I bet Nicholas Trist, had he not died in 1874, would be pleased to know that his struggle to remove the phrase "and cockfighting for all" from the treaty has ensured that most New Mexicans don't look like complete hayseeds.
Posted by alea at 10:56 PM
I've been offered a job. And it terrifies me. Not just the prospect of work, which, granted, stresses me out. I mean, full-time employ? That's something I've done a good job of avoiding thus far in my life. Unfortunately, I suppose this is what my education was building up to.
What really freaks me out about this position is that it's a solo librarian position. As in, I'll be the only librarian in the establishment. I mean, for a fresh-out-of-school MLIS, that's kind of a scary thought. No support system. No networking. No people I can blame for being old and out of touch.
It gets worse, though. The library doesn't even exist yet. The first step in this position? Build a collection. The next step? Catalogue it. Of course, before doing that, I'll need to establish all policies for the library (remember, no interaction here with fellow librarians).
Oh, and it's for a for-profit education organization. I don't know how I feel about that.
To be fair, it's part of a network of schools and I would have support from remote overlords.
To make things even more sticky, it pays a touch less than I'd hope.
It's going to be a rough night. Hopefully I can figure it all out by tomorrow.
Posted by alea at 2:04 PM
I had the whitest lunch ever today. And by white, I mean the color. It consisted of: a croissant with a tasty chicken salad filling that contained blanched, slivered almonds, a mozzarella cheese stick, an apple, some tortilla chips, and a bag of peanuts. Even my napkins were white. All I lacked was Aryan Oreos and I would have officially felt like a white supremacist. I guess my peanuts had a sprinkling of paprika and there were flecks of green in the chicken salad, but still. I had to go buy a candy bar so I wouldn't feel like a total racist. Well, that's what I told myself, anyways, to justify spending nearly 75 cents on a Skor.
Completely unrelatedly, this makes me laugh. Do you think they'd help me if I wanted to sue God for injuring me?
Posted by alea at 9:19 AM
My brother checked out Joan: The Mysterious Life of the Heretic Who Became a Saint from the library. The book description on the inside flap includes this gem:
Neither wife nor nun, neither queen nor noblewoman, neither philosopher nor stateswoman, Joan of Arc demonstrates that anyone who follows their heart has the power to change history.
Would you really say the lesson learned from the Maid of Lorraine is that following your heart changes the world? I would have thought it was something more along the lines of "visions from God end in death", "the French were once much less sissy in matters military than today...despite being led by a young woman" or what I find to have the most impact on my life, "if sentenced to death for crossdressing, claim that you only do so in order to preserve your chastity".
I also like how it's not the story of Joan that demonstrates the proposition, but Joan herself. You see, despite being illiterate and dead for over 550 years, she's still plugging away, reaffirming modern tautologies wherever she can.
Posted by alea at 9:04 AM
I face a rather frequent conundrum in church. Well, I face several, but this post focuses on just one: the Amen. You see, I really think we should only say “amen” when we actually agree with what has been said. So, when a person’s testimony centers on the fact that everyone else in the world is lost because they’re not LDS or the closing prayer implores God to kill a law allowing same-sex unions, I would feel dirty offering up my “so be it”. This position is quite the minority one in Mormonism. In fact, disagreement at all seems to be anathema to the Saints. How many times have you seen a dissenting vote for sustaining? Or had a Gospel Doctrine class where differing opinions were raised, let alone considered? So, most folks just mumble their amens every time someone offers one. Not saying one generally implies that you weren’t paying attention, not that you’re actively abstaining.
But here’s the crux of the problem: what if someone has borne a testimony that is great except for one or two minor problems? Saying amen implies, at least to me, that you accept the full package, irritating false doctrine and all. Or if the lesson you’ve been taught was offensive but the witness shared at the end is bang on? Is it enough to say amen and know for yourself that it applies only to the last bit? I tend to keep my amens robust and for those things which I honestly agree with. Obviously, I shouldn’t bother worrying so much, since no one notices one way or the other what I do. Or if they do, it's only to remind themselves of why they think I'm bound for hell.
Maybe the solution needs to be a complete cultural overhaul. Instead of amen as the only possible response to an amen, we can expand into things like kimat amen (almost amen), amen im bayot (amen, with problems), or ani mesarev (I refuse), etc. Now, when I’m President of the Church…
(bonus points if you catch the title's meaning)