Monday, October 30, 2006

Dark at 4:30 pm

There is no more depressing day than the first Monday after Daylight Savings Time ends.

It shouldn't be dark when you leave work. Isn't there some way we can adopt Daylight Savings Time permanently? Just say, from now on, 4 is 5. Or better yet, just let me out of work at 4.

I'm getting depressed working my crappy temp job from 8-5 every day. The job isn't that bad, but it's depressing to be nearing 30-years-old and only making $24,000 a year. A year ago I was making 10 grand more and having considerably more fun.

I'm not complaining, I have a house and a wife and a car, all things that at one point seemed out of reach for me, but I like to at least have the illusion that my life isn't slipping away from me. And it's hard when it's already dark before you even leave work.

Friday, October 20, 2006

God hates the Mets: Tales from Game 7

I stumbled into work this morning a half hour late, unshaven, bleary-eyed and with a voice two octaves lower than normal. I blame Carlos Beltran. Had he been able to get a base hit last night, I might have been able to stumble into work triumphantly, still waving my "Let's Go Mets" towel above my head, and having no voice left at all.

Maude and I were able to get tickets to game 7 to watch our beloved Mets take on the St. Louis Cardinals. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out quite the way we had hoped. We left for the game at 3:30 pm and didn't get home until 3:10 am, a sacrifice that would have seemed trifling had the Mets won, but turned out to be grueling in defeat.

We decided to park at the train station and take the train in to the game, having learned the hard way during the season that driving to and from Shea Stadium on game night is best left to sociopaths and masochists. In the train station parking lot, we rode on the elevator with a young couple. The man, noticing our Mets shirts, asked if we were going to the game. Then he said, "We're going to a Broadway play; want to switch tickets?"

"Hey!" his date objected. "What about me?"

Two hours and two trains later, we filed off the subway and walked towards the ballpark, as spontaneous chants of "Let's go Mets" erupted along with deep-throated growls. We neared the stadium in an electric stream of orange and blue, walking behind two red dots: man with his five-year old son, holding hands and wearing matching Pujols jerseys. I imagine that at some point in the game the kid looked up at his father and asked, "Daddy, why do all these people hate us?"

Shortly after we had taken our seats, the game began. I have never seen a more keyed-up crowd in my life. The entire first inning, not a single person sat down, and every strike pitched by Oliver Perez was greeted with a roar that sounded like a touchdown had been scored. 55,000 people screaming in unison and whipping the air with our complimentary white towels for a 1-1 pitch. It was incredible.

Our seats, of course, were not. It didn't bother us as we were just happy to be part of that crowd, but the Mets should really be ashamed to sell the seats we occupied. We were so far under the overhang that any fly ball was instantly out of view; we had to read the body language of the outfielders to tell if it was a pop-up or a homerun. To add insult to injury, there was bedraggled bunting hanging from the upper-deck that blocked our view even more. These seats only cost $20 during the season (which is fairly reasonable) but it's a bit harder to swallow when you're paying 80 bucks a pop for this at a playoff game. Hopefully, our $160 went directly into the new stadium fund to ensure only great sightlines.

As the game progressed, social barriers came down. After great defensive plays by the Mets, the crowd would yell in elation and high-five any stranger in slapping distance. It was like a Catholic mass when the priest invites you to shake the hands of people sitting around you. I didn't know any of the people in my section, but I slapped all of their hands. There is something oddly satisfying about this, especially in a city like New York.

Ultimately, though, it was not to be. The combined voice of 50,000 people cannot make a bat hit a ball. We were dejected because we had come so close. Sure, the Mets and the Cardinals were just playing for the honor of getting thumped by the Tigers in the World Series, but it would have been nice just to be invited. The entire trip home, strangers would ask if we had been at the game and commiserate with us.

Sitting on a commuter train at two in the morning is not most fun place to be when you're thinking about how you have to be at work the next morning. I was deflated. However, as we drove towards the exit of the train station parking garage, we saw the same couple from earlier in the evening. They must have been in a different car on the same train, returning from their Broadway play. I imagined that they were glad they hadn't traded tickets with us after all, but, despite it all, so was I.

There is camaraderie even in defeat.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Commuting with Krakauer

Before moving last year, I had always commuted to work via public transportation. It wasn't always fun having to check the subway seat for urine, but it did have certain advantages. Leaving the driving to someone else, I could read books. In fact, the majority of my reading time came during my morning and evening hour on the train.

Now I live in the land of cars, and I have to drive 40 minutes to get to work and sometimes as long as an hour to get home. Sitting in gridlock for an hour and a half each day can get pretty old, but it's even worse when you feel like you're just wasting the time. In the beginning, I listened to NPR obsessively, but there are only so many stories I can listen to about Hurricane Katrina, the Bush White House, and the fascinating subject of porches. I had to find a more productive use of my commute.

Finally, about a month ago, I had an epiphany: I could check out audiobooks from the library and listen to them while I drove. There are so many books that I want to read, and I know I'll never get to them all. This is the perfect way to be able to get some "reading" done while sitting behind the wheel.

Audiobooks aren't perfect. You are at the mercy of the narrator's voice, which all too often is inflected with obnoxious mannerisms or over-the-top accents. Also, it's a lot easier to follow a complex thought on the page than to listen to it read aloud. Sometimes, when someone cuts me off in traffic and I'm cursing at them through my windshield, I'll completely tune out and have to rewind the CD to get my bearings again.

Since I don't get as much out of books on tape, I keep to strictly non-fiction. I figure it's kind of like attending a lecture in college. It doesn't matter if I don't absorb every word as long as I get the gist. So far, I've already listened to three books on CD: Stephen Greenblatt's Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare, Truman Capote's In Cold Blood, and most recently, Jon Krakauer's Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith.

I had never actually sat down and read Under the Banner of Heaven, though I had skimmed through it extensively when it came out in 2003. What surprised me most while listening to the audiobook version is the change in my reaction from then to now. When it came out I was full of righteous indignation even though I hadn't been to church once in the previous five years. I didn't really believe in Mormonism, but I still wasn't certain that it wasn't true either. I had unwittingly retained a vestigial belief and with it a great deal of defensiveness.

My objections at the time were that Krakauer: (a) didn't do enough to distinguish LDS from FLDS, (b) blamed on mainstream Mormonism the actions of a few madmen, and (c) delivered a particularly low blow on Elizabeth Smart. I didn't read the book all the way through (Maude had bought a copy and read it already) because it made me so mad.

Three years on, after losing all of my belief, the book didn't upset me at all. I still think non-Mormons could be confused between the FLDS and LDS, since Krakauer shifts from talking about one to the other frequently. However, I hadn't realized at the time how many of the FLDS in question were born mainstream Mormon and only became FLDS later in life. The Lafferty brothers and Brian David Mitchell were regular Mormons who somehow morphed into violent fundamentalists; this is not something that is acknowledged in most church circles. Because they had been excommunicated by the time they committed their crimes, they are seen as completely unconnected to Mormonism. This despite the fact that these heinous acts were overtly religious in nature and specifically tied to Mormonism and polygamy.

I still think Krakauer missteps badly in his almost casual assertion that Mormonism helped victimize Elizabeth Smart by making her conditioned to accept authority. It's certainly a plausible theory, but it seems unseemly and unnecessary to me to speculate on the mental condition of a sex abuse victim. There is plenty to focus on in the perpetrator and his religious motives for the crime.

Apart from these objections, I thought it was a very compelling book that did a good job of condensing 200 years of church history and highlighting the dangerous fringes of faith. I think a lot of my earlier hostility towards the book stemmed from my assumption that Krakauer was digging through the dirty laundry to try to discredit the church and imply that all of us Mormons were dangerous fanatics. Now I can see that he is simply trying to explain how extremism (in this case Mormon Fundamentalism) can appeal to some people and cause them to justify frighteningly inhumane acts.

There were a lot of things that I simply didn't want to hear or believe about the church three years ago, so it's probably a good thing that I didn't force my way through this book back then. I had to figure these things out for myself first, before I was willing to accept the word of an outsider.

The most important thing is that I learned a lot more in the week or so it took to listen to Under the Banner of Heaven than I would have learned listening to NPR. I think I'll take my pledge drive money and donate it to the library instead. Take that, Terry Gross.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Gratitude Group

A couple of us recovery-type bloggers have a little e-mail "Gratitude Group." The incomparable annegb got it started, and it's really small and kind of erratic.

It provides such a lift to my day when I get an e-mail with the subject "gratitude." One of the things that I really like about it is how personal it is. I would like to expand it a little bit, but I don't know how we could do that without losing its intimacy.

Is this something that could work as a blog? Why or why not?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Dear DKL: I love LDSelect.org, but...

I love the LDSElect aggregator. I will probably put a link here soon, if Ned says it's OK. I love being able to customize the boxes so I see VNF in Box 1. Yay VNF! I know it's in box 4 as a default, but self-delusion is highly underrated.

I have one teensy problem though. I tried to create a login, and I never was sent a password. I tried to create the login again, and it won't let me, because it says I'm already signed up. This may be true, but a login without a password is entirely useless.

I wouldn't mind so much, because my savings are "remembered" on my main computer, but I use other computers, too. I don't want to have to recustomize them all. Plus, my shameless self-promotion (VNF in Box 1! Huzzah!) has no effect if I'm not logged in when I set it up.

So, dear D., if you would be so kind as to let me know what to do to get my password, I would be pickled tink, as Ned would say.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

What Mormonism Left Me

It's tough on those of us who don't believe. I know, I know, we get to sleep in on Sundays and spend our extra 10% with abandon, but it's hard to turn your back on something that helped mold who you are.

Ambivalent is the word. I feel pulled in two directions. On the one hand, I can't imagine my life without the overpowering architecture of Mormonism looming over it. On the other, I don't like a lot of the shadows that it cast over my life.

Like a lot of Utah Mormons, my family was organized around the church almost exclusively. Almost all our friends were from the church, and almost all our free time was spent there or at other church activities. Between Scouts, Young Women, Relief Society and my parents' callings, church occupied more time than anything besides school for me or work for my parents.

When I was an adolescent, my father was called to be a mission president in a foreign country. (Incidentally, I think it's insulting the way they ignore the spouses of Mission Presidents, but that's a rant for another day.) Instantly our whole life was changed.

This came as quite a shock. First of all, we were a solidly middle class family in a middle class Utah ward and my dad was fairly young. He was nowhere near retirement age, had no assets to speak of besides our house, and was a Young Men's advisor. The highest calling he had ever held was 1st counselor in the Bishopric.

Nevertheless, my parents both quit their jobs with no prospects of getting them back and sold our house at way below market value--talk about a motivated seller. I left my school and all the friends I had accumulated since kindergarten and moved to a foreign country, where a new house, a new language, and a new life awaited me.

Needless to say, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was exposed to so many new people and places and experiences that I never could have had back in Utah. At the same time, being a Mormon and living in a different country always made me the outsider looking in. Adolescence isn't easy for most kids, but I think Mormon adolescents experience a special kind of hell. When you're just trying to figure out what's right and wrong, it doesn't help to have the constant pressure to be perfect weighing on your every decision. I wanted to be able to have fun, and not worry about whether I was procrastinating the day of my repentance.

It was hard fitting in as the outsider, and all the Mormon pressure weighed on me a lot; consequently or unrelatedly, I went through alternating cycles of depression and elation. I would be happy (due in large part to my new, exotic locale and friends) and then, suddenly, depressed that I was so unworthy and faithless. Like manic depression, Mormonism seemed to allow me to reach greater heights (by magically transforming my life through the move) but also reach new lows by drumming into me how unworthy and faithless I was.

I remember at one point casually asking my mom what would happen if I were to die accidentally. She said they'd almost certainly be released immediately and sent home. It sounds weird, but one of the factors that argued against suicide in my adolescent brain was not screwing up this sweet gig for my parents.

I hated going to Seminary and I disliked Church, but I loved hanging out with the office missionaries. My many friendships with the Elders passing through had no religious overtones; we were just normal friends who all happened to be in a foreign country for an overtly religious reason. Again, the Church brought all these great people into my orbit, but I didn't receive anything of value to me from the religious end of the Church, just the administrative end.

During one summer break during high school, my dad wanted me to do a mini-mission for a couple weeks. I had a blast doing typical missionary things, throwing rotten fruit off balconies, almost getting killed on my bicycle, constant practical joking living with three other guys, but I didn't enjoy the religious part. I fell asleep during scripture study, after lunch, and at church. I tried hard to follow the rules, but I didn't get anything out of it. I recently came across a letter one of the sister missionaries in my zone wrote me when I left after the two weeks. It said, joking of course, that I should be ashamed because I didn't give away a single Book of Mormon and that they all knew I was an apostate. (I know, she was very prescient.)

Similarly, I loved my real mission (a few years later) for all the friends I made on it, both Elders and families we met, and for all the places I would never have been able to visit without it. On the religious end, I struggled with faith and doubt and guilt, and ultimately, I came to hate the petty bureaucracy that seemed to dominate the Mission leadership. I had "spiritual experiences," but they seemed unrelated to the heavy-handed rules and dull lessons that the Church imposed.

So I find myself most deeply shaped by experiences that are uniquely Mormon, yet I am completely without faith in the positive influence of the very institution that made them possible. Mormonism turned out great for me--it let me live several years abroad and expanded my horizons--but it also made me more miserable than I can express. That is why I am ambivalent about my Mormonism; it made me who I am today, but it also made me an outsider. I'm too deeply marked by my upbringing and life experiences to fit in with others, but I can never be part of a believing Mormon community either.

I guess that's why I can't leave it alone, because it never leaves me.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Conversion Story, Part 2, in which I Figure Things Out

Baptism became the elephant in the living room very early in the How to Be a Mormon instructional process. It wasn’t a decision I took lightly. Joining the Mormons is not like joining Toastmasters.

My now ex-husband claimed neutrality on the matter. “Do what you want. But you really ought to just do it or not. Decide.” He had a point.

I had some serious reservations. Baptism would require me to make major lifestyle changes. Beer and pot would have to go.[1] I had quit smoking just before I got pregnant with the baby mentioned in Part 1, so tobacco cigarettes were no longer a concern. However, coffee and tea were problematic. At least nobody seriously expected me to only eat a little meat during the winter.

The Joseph Smith story was not one that sat well with me. Angels and gold plates that the angel took back when the translation was done. Riiiiiiiiiiiight. How convenient!

The doctrine of baptism for the dead did not make the decision any easier. Why couldn’t I just forego baptism in this life and wait for the next one? It offered the best of both worlds: I could have eternal life later, without giving up my entrenched word of wisdom vices. The elders responded that my refusal to be baptized would inform my spirit in the post-mortal world; having refused the ordinance once, I would not be likely to accept later.

On the plus side, I liked church. I felt like I could be part of something bigger than myself. I liked the idea of making a commitment to a path that looked like a good one. Those plusses made me take the issue seriously. I didn't feel like the negatives made baptism an obvious non-starter.

By the time I brought up the subject of being baptized to the elders, I had been thinking about it for a couple of weeks, but I’d never really prayed about it. When they assured me I was ready, I decided to decide.

That night, after I went to bed, I prayed. I wasn’t really sure where to start, or what to ask, so I asked God about the issue that was MOST problematic for me - if the Book of Mormon was really a scripture like the Bible. I didn’t ask about anything else; asking that part was difficult enough. The words caught in my chest and pressed on it like a weight on the inside. It was hard to catch my breath. I choked them out anyway.

I heard a very clear “Yes.” Not audible, but the thought, fully formed, along with the very strong impression that baptism was the right thing to do. The weight lifted. I could breathe again. I felt relieved.

The elders came back a couple of days later. I asked them when we could schedule my baptism. They practically jumped out of their chairs to pull out their planners. We set the baptism for after the next missionary zone conference, in less than ten days, so Jake could be there to confirm me.

[1] Well, beer at least. There was that whole “useful herbs” part of the Word of Wisdom that might act as an escape clause for giving up pot.

Part 3: Nobody mentioned that I needed to bring a towel...

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Conversion Story, Part 1, In which I meet some cute boys

According to missionary lore, circa 1985, you have to knock on a thousand doors to find one person who will join the church. I was one in a thousand. Elders Jacobson and Munsee, unbidden, unannounced, with no member missionaries to pave the way, knocked on the door.

Elder Jacobson was tall, handsome, and blond. Elder Munsee was taller, handsomer, and dark.

"We're from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and we'd like to share a message with you."

It was late June, hotter than hell, and I was severely pregnant. I really wasn’t in the mood for visitors, even cute ones. I was uncomfortable, swollen, and didn't have air conditioning. I told them to come back next week, after I'd had the baby.

They came back the next week. The scheduled c-section had been cancelled in favor of a trial labor, so I still had not had the baby and still did not want to talk to them. I recommended mid- to late-August.

In mid-August, they came back. I have since learned that if you tell the missionaries to come back later, they always will. I showed them the baby. They admired the baby and my (now ex-) husband’s record collection. They asked if I had a Bible. I pulled it out and blew off the dust. The blond one coughed lightly, then read aloud the two sticks thing in Ezekial. He told me they had a great message about the purpose of life and asked if they could come back when my (now ex-) husband was around to teach us. They really were cute boys. Also, my six year-old daughter had expressed interest in attending a church. I said yes.

My (now ex-) husband was not interested in taking the discussions, but had no objections to me doing so. The elders and I had a lot of fun visits and some interesting conversations. I enjoyed learning about the church. I liked reading the highlighted/Cliff’s Notes edition of the Book of Mormon. I went to church a couple of times. I attended a convert baptism. Jake gave me a tape of a re-enactment of a talk by J. Golden Kimball. The Relief Society President was stunned when I told her so.

Sometime in September, Jake left, and was replaced by Elder Fox. He was also very cute.

Early in the teaching process, I had made comment about “no way I’m paying 10% of my income to a church.” Jake and Munsee coincidentally stopped teaching real discussions after #4, “The Law of Chastity.” When Fox came on board, he assessed the situation and pressed forward with Discusion #5 – “The Law of Tithing.” There were only six discussions, so we wrapped up pretty soon after Fox’s arrival.

I went to General Conference on TV on a Saturday. I had a nice conversation after the session I attended with my junior high school algebra teacher. The elders were impressed that I knew him. Seems he was in the stake presidency.

Within a few days I asked how I would know when I was ready to be baptized. The guys said, “You’re ready.”

I replied, “I dunno. I'll have to think about it. I’ll let you know.”

Coming in Part 2: Figuring it out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Does Anybody Out there have a JOB?

Sometimes I think Ned and I are the only Mormon people who blog who also go to work for other people for money doing something other than lawyering or teaching.

I've always worked. I get up when I'd rather sleep and then commute (or not) to the office. I clock in and put on my headset to start the day. I write reports and SQL stored procedures and install software for customers over the internet and solve the tough technical problems that other people can't and occasionally, if I'm not going to be on the phone, listen to Live365. I need to get in my 40 hours a week, and I'm not allowed to work overtime, and I always have too much work to do and then, when I'm done, I clock out and start a different kind of work.

In my free time, I try to do some writing and I play stupid computer games to relax.

Do all the Mormon blogging university professors already have tenure? Have all the blogging Mormon lawyers already made partner? How do you invest any time in your own spiritual growth when there's no time to even BREATHE? Is the reason nobody writes about work/life balance because nobody is actually working?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

I HATE NED.... Lamont

I don't usually post about politics, because I have political views that are shared with precisely one other person in the world. But this post isn't about politics, it's about HATE.

I hate Ned Lamont. And not just for ruining the name Ned for an entire generation (or at least a news cycle). I hate Ned Lamont because he's a beady-eyed, trust-fund-baby, Joe-smearing, Senate seat-buying, know-nothing selectman. Seriously people, he's a selectman. That means he'll go from considering whether to grant TGI Friday's a liquor license to solving our nation's most pressing problems. God forbid he ends up on a Senate intelligence committee. We might as well appoint the City Manager as head of the CIA.

I feel I can say these things about Ned because I am a Connecticut resident, and I've put up with his beady stare for lo these many months. At first it was amusing, as the gist of his campaign ads was that Joe Lieberman personally helped George Bush drown people in New Orleans. In all seriousness, his ads opened with images of people on the roofs of their flooded Louisiana homes, and then segued somehow into "Joe Lieberman won't stand up to George Bush."

It was funny for a while, but there was no response from our man Joe. I dislike probably 90% of United States senators, but I like a few: McCain when he's not crazy, liberal Republicans, conservative Democrats. I like Joe. But he didn't respond to the negative advertising. Then Lamont started up the radio ads. The Lite FM station that my racist cubicle-mate listens to featured Ned Lamont's voice more than the actual DJ.

Joe started falling in the polls. People said it was because of anger about Iraq, or the infamous State of the Union makeout session, but from my perspective as a potential Connecticut voter, it was clear that it was because Joe had ceded TV and radio to his opponent. Every day was a relentless "Joe won't stand up to George Bush" mantra repeated in as many media as possible. There was no Lieberman response.

The week before the election, polls showed Lamont up 13 points on Joe. Finally, with just days to go before election day, I heard the first pro-Lieberman radio ad on Lite FM. Bill Clinton came to campaign for Joe. There might have even been an ad during the local news. It was too little, too late. Even so, Joe closed a large gap in just a week.

In the ten days leading up to the primary, Maude, a registered Democrat, received a different piece of direct mail from Lamont EVERY DAY. One featured Lieberman's scowling face and another showed flood victims in New Orleans (a favorite Lamont motif, it seems). Total direct mail received from Lieberman? Zero.

I have no idea why Joe ran such an anemic primary campaign. According to news reports, he still had 2 million dollars in the bank afterward, which is crazy. Had he defeated Lamont in the primary, he could have campaigned in drag and still defeated the Republican challenger in November. Why save your money for an expensive independent run without any party support, when you could crush your only serious competition in August? I think Lieberman was one serious campaign ad away from a primary victory, and he blew it.

So as for my despised doppel-namer Lamont, he is still trailing an independent Lieberman in the polls, 41% to 46% (with Republican Alan "I Do Not Have a Gambling Problem" Schlesinger at just 6%), but I am not optimistic about much more Joe-mentum picking up. Lamont now has the support of the entire Democratic party and can always dip into his large personal wealth to help close the deal.

But don't worry, if any zoning disputes come up in the Senate, Ned has the necessary experience to handle it.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Googled!

Thanks to the sharp eye of Jeff Milner over at Our Thoughts, I found out that VivaNedFlanders was mentioned, inexplicably, in this Google Current clip. For those of you who don't want to watch all three minutes of the video, they basically talk about various things that are popular searches on Google, like Simpsons references. Then they highlight a site where you can shoot Ned Flanders and his family. From that, they segue to:
But Flanders gets his share of love too, especially from Christians. For instance, VivaNedFlanders is the name of a Mormon blog with some very un-Ned-like postings.
I think the orthodox Bloggernacle, at least, will be relieved to find out the Google considers Mormons to be Christian. Onward Nedward Soldiers!

Friday, August 04, 2006

Hit by an Unlicensed Driver: Advice Needed

About an hour ago on my way home from work, I was rear-ended on the freeway. Earlier, I had noticed the car in back of me weaving aggressively, and I made a mental note to be careful. Unfortunately, there was a slow-down on a curve and BOOM, I got hit in the rear bumper.

After we pulled off the freeway, the driver came up and asked if I was all right. She was very agitated, and kept looking at the damage on her car. Fortunately, there wasn't a lot of damage to my car, but the back bumper piece had a huge dent in it and was hanging off the car.

"I don't have a license," she told me. She told me that she had to go before the police came. She said that it wasn't her car, and gave me the name and phone number of the owner. "Call him right now," she said. Then she got in her car and peeled out of there like a bat out of hell.

I've never been in an accident before, so I called my insurance company to make sure I didn't have to call the police to come to the scene. They said I didn't, and I started to file a report. I wanted to get off the side of the freeway, so I told the insurance company I'd finish the report later, but I haven't told them the name of the owner or license plate number of the car yet.

My question is what should I do when I call the owner? I don't know if he even has insurance, and I imagine he'll want to take care of it off the books (assuming he actually exists). Judging from the appearance of the woman who hit me, they might not even have enough money to pay for the repairs.

Should I just go through my insurance company? I can't imagine that she could get in trouble for driving without a license from just my report. Should I decline any offers by him to take care of it himself, since he probably doesn't have the resources or the intention to pay me?

Why oh why couldn't I have been hit by a Lexus?

Friday, July 28, 2006

A Persistent Idea

I had a persistent idea the other evening, and I couldn't make it go away.

Over on my other blog, I mentioned that my husband and I had exchanged memorized religious texts. I recited the Nicene creed, from my long ago time as a Catholic. He recited the first concept of the first missionary discussion, from his long ago time as an LDS missionary.

It was an interesting experience, listening to him talk to "Mr. Brown." He ripped through it pretty quickly, as if he was reading "The Cat in the Hat" for the 8,000th time. He didn't seem to stumble or hesitate anywhere. We exchanged pleasantries during the process a time or two, then he picked up right where he left off. Sort of like how Joseph was said to have translated the Book of Mormon.

The experience brought an idea to mind. It was a weird idea, and I had very mixed feelings about it. I tried to ignore it. But it wouldn't go away. All the next day, while I was working, it kept popping up. I decided to just go with it. Worst case scenario, I spend a couple of hours with my family doing something I wouldn't ordinarily do.

My husband is going to teach me the missionary discussions.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Washing Machine Blues

Frankly, there are only two good things about owning a house. The first is that you don't have to share any walls with noisy neighbors. I didn't really appreciate this aspect until a few years ago when an extremely amorous couple moved in to the apartment next door and installed a home theater with a sub-woofer that shook the entire building.

The other good thing is finally having a place for your own washer and dryer. No more trips to the laundromat, washing your pillowcases and sheets in the machine right after the family with the potty-training problems.

These two advantages may not sound like much, but they almost make up for a lifetime of grass mowing, wall painting, and snow shoveling. Almost.

Maude and I were fortunate enough to be able to buy a new washer and dryer when we moved into our new house last summer. The Monkish side of my personality was thrilled: I could drool on my pillowcase without reservation now. Only Ned and Maude germs would be present.

Our Kenmore washer and dryer have worked great for the past 11 months. On Sunday, after several days of procrastinating the day of my laundry, I finally decided to do a couple loads so I would have something clean to wear to work on Monday.

Thunk! That's the sound the dial makes when you pull it out and nothing happens. The hot water is flowing fine, but there is no cold water. Though I am not very mechanically inclined, I was able to disconnect the cold water hose from the washer and test the valve. The cold water shoots out of the hose without any problem once you've disconnected it from the washing machine. I even cleaned out the filter that's inside the washer next to the hose. Thunk!

I was out of ideas, so I scheduled an appointment for Sears to come look at it. I did it on their website on Monday night. I was disappointed that they didn't have any openings for Tuesday, but I scheduled a repairman to visit on Wednesday between 8 am and 12 pm. I took this morning off work and proceeded to wait. At about 10:10 am, I was getting restless, so I double-checked the email I had received from Sears. Sure enough, it said: "Your appointment is on Wednesday, August 2nd." Thunk!

Several swear words later, I called up Sears and confirmed that a week from today is the soonest they can get out here. It's rough; I had to wear a long-sleeved shirt to work today. I'm wearing clothes that I had put away for the winter, and now I find out that I have to wait another week?

I guess it's back to the laundromat for Maude and me. As for Sears, makers of the 11-month wonder machine, I think the least you can do is give me an Extreme Home Makeover. Just make sure you put in a Whirlpool. Thanks.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cast Out?

DMI Dave has defined the Bloggernacle - and Viva Ned Flanders is not in it. He didn't exile us entirely. We're in a new area he's calling "The Borderlands."

This is a really good illustration of what happens to New Order Mormon-types.
  • We realize, for whatever reason, that we no longer believe some or all of the church's exclusive truth claims.
  • We decide that we want to stay affiliated with the church: for family reasons, for the community, because we think it's as good a place to find God and worship as any other, or any combination of the above.
  • We tell people or not, depending on our own circumstances. "Telling" usually involves things like letting the bishop know we can't teach, but that we're willing to serve in other ways. We try to work out a place for ourselves in the tent.
  • We're marginalized. Our honest search for God where we find God isn't faithful enough, and after all, we might damage somebody's fragile testimony (like the third member of the Godhead can't stand some a little heat and light).
I asked Ned to let me co-blog with him because I thought it was a good fit - Ned and I are in different places in our faith journey, but we both seemed to be able to interact with believers that they didn't find threatening. I know that my participation in the bloggernacle has been an enormous benefit to me in helping me to continue participating at church. I think after a long period of wandering, I may have found God again.

Apparently, that's not good enough.

I have an enormous amount of respect for Dave. For a guy whose last name I don't even know, he's been a huge influence on my ability to continue to see the good in the church. After a couple of years in the DAMU, finding DMI was a revelation to me. Here was a guy who talked about church stuff dispassionately. He talked about culture, history, and practice in a neutral tone. I didn't get the feeling that he had an agenda - that he was just interested in the subjects, and that he was writing down what he had learned. What a refreshing change of pace from the apologetics/polemics wastelands! And then the Bloggernacle emerged around DMI (at least, that was my perspective) and when BCC turned up (Democrats!) and Feminist Mormon Housewives hit, I figured maybe I can make this Mormon thing work after
all. Maybe these folks will have something to offer and will treat me like an equal, regardless of whether I buy into onlytrueness.

Apparently not.

I'm not sure where I'll go from here. When VNF moved to an "other islands" category on the Mormon Archipelago I thought maybe something was cooking. Now I suspect that it's just a matter of time before we're quietly dropped. The audience here is pretty small anyway. Losing our listing might just kill it. Maybe that's the point.

I do appreciate the folks who take us seriously and share their perspective without being obnoxious (Seth R. especially. That man can tell a story and share an opinion without setting off my BS meter even one little bit.) And my "New Order Mormon Guide to the Doctrine and Covenants" has been perking along in my brain for over a month now. I had thought that the experience might make a good essay to submit elsewhere, but the way the material was shaping up, the bloggernacle was looking more and more like the right venue.

Except now I'm not in the bloggernacle any more.

I'll try not to let the door hit me on the butt on the way out.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Disingenuous Fellowshipping?

I was taking out the garbage the other night when Maude brought me the cordless phone.

"It's the Mormons," she said. "They said something about game night." These last two words were pronounced with something I can only call bemused horror.

I turned on the phone and discovered that, sure enough, one of my previous visitors from the church was on the line. The guy was very nice and said he was inviting Maude and me over for desserts and games at his house along with the other man and his wife. I immediately felt bad. First, because I knew that this proposed event would never happen. And secondly, it's hard not to feel a little guilty that four people are willing to give up their Friday night, and possibly hire a baby-sitter, too.

I would be open to going to something like this, but I know Maude would not be. I have a lot in common with these people, but she does not. I can understand not wanting to be submerged in an alien social setting, with people who probably have half an eye on converting you into their strange religious sect. She doesn't know the extent of my deconversion, either, so she probably fears that I'm a couple of lemonade socials away from falling back on the wagon.

At any rate, I plead prior commitments to the nice guy on the phone. It was difficult because he tried to use the commitment pattern on me to schedule a new date. (I catch my parents doing this all the time, invariably about secular things, but it is still annoying.) Eventually we settled on the polite fiction that I would call him when I found a time that would work for us.

After I hung up the phone, Maude looked at me. "Game night?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.

"They're Mormons," I said, trying to explain. "They can't drink, so games are the only way they can socialize."

Reflecting on this episode later, I realized that the whole reactivation process can't help but sow seeds of mistrust. During their previous visit, I explicitly told my visitors (are they home teachers or reactivators? Who knows?) that I had zero interest in anything religious. Now, their invitation to Maude and me may be completely sincere and secular in nature. But how can it be? We were probably assigned to them in an effort to get some more priesthood holders active in the ward. They probably have to report on their progress with us during Elders Quorum. At first it's just Jello and Pictionary, and the next thing you know they'll be inviting the missionaries over.

Is it possible just to have a regular friendship between former Mormon and a current one? I think so, but probably not in these circumstances. The specter of reactivation will always loom over us.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is suicide preferable to Lite FM?

I'm currently temping at a company until I can find something more permanent. Lots of temp positions are awful, so I feel pretty happy about my current situation. It's at a good company, the work isn't stressful, and the people are really nice. Well, most of them.

I share a cubicle with a 60-year-old woman. She lives alone except for the company of five cats, and I can only assume that she sees me as her main source of human interaction. At first, I felt bad for her, and tried to be friendly. Sometime between my first day and the day she forwarded me a racist email, I became less sympathetic. In that brief period of time, I was regaled with hundreds of stories, all told in mind-numbing detail, with absolutely no prompting from me. I know everything about her, her two daughters, and especially her five cats. I probably know more about her grandparents' lives than my own.

Dealing with people who cannot (or simply refuse to) recognize social cues from others is frustrating. I've become adept at not giving her any opportunities to start conversing at me, and being only minimally responsive when she starts anyway. I know I sound like a jerk, but I challenge anyone to spend five minutes with this woman and retain any charity towards her. Jesus himself would be tapping his watch, saying "I've really got to go."

Anyway, one of my many problems is that she listens to Lite FM radio. We share a large cubicle, so whatever she is listening to, I am listening to.

If I were Satan, and I was trying to settle on the soundtrack for hell, I would hesitate between Country Western and Lite FM. However, considering a large percentage of hell's population (possibly even a majority) will consist of country music fans, I would have to settle on Lite FM. That's nobody's favorite. It's the lowest common denominator of music.

If that isn't bad enough, the local Lite FM station has an extremely narrow playlist. I hear the same songs every day, only shuffled up into a different order. I'm sure some people are saying to themselves, "Surely, Ned is exaggerating. A radio station wouldn't play the exact same songs five days a week."

Unfortunately, I am not exaggerating. There is some rotation in and out of the playlist, it's true, but there is a hard core of songs that are played without exception, every day.

They are:

"In the Air Tonight" by Phil Collins
"Hotel California" by the Eagles
"Live Like You Were Dying" by Tim McGraw
"Escape (The Pina Colada Song)" by Rupert Holmes
"Someday" by Sugar Ray
"Rocket Man" by Elton John
"The First Cut is the Deepest" by Sheryl Crow
"The Heart of the Matter" by Don Henley
"Complicated" by Avril Lavigne
"Another Day in Paradise" by Phil Collins (yes! two by Phil!)
"Leader of the Band" by Dan Fogelberg
"Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett
and last but not least, "Kokomo" by the Beach Boys.

Mix liberally with Air Supply, Seels and Croft, and Rod Stewart and you have my day. (And no, I can't listen to my iPod at work.)

I think the worst part is that my cubicle-mate (I'll call her Angela) doesn't even like the music. She only listens because it's the only station she can pick up on her radio in the building. I'm convinced she only listens because they periodically give things away to callers.

I could really use a vacation to Aruba, or Jamaica...

Monday, July 17, 2006

One of the many reasons I love my wife...

Maude and I were watching the World Cup on TV when Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" started playing over the loudspeakers at the stadium.

"It's sad, but you know what I think of every time I hear this song?" I asked Maude.

She replied, "Die Hard?"

It's important to point out that I haven't watched Die Hard in ten years, and I certainly can't remember ever watching it with Maude. Sometimes it's scary how we know exactly what the other is thinking.

Maybe we need to start hanging out with other people.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Being Sustained and Sustaining

I was sustained for a calling yesterday. Building Scheduler and Ward Webmaster. I think it's an excellent fit; I spend about half my life on a computer anyway. I think the tasks involved will just be making sure there aren't any building use conflicts, and keeping the calendar up to date. I told the bishop I considered this calling a wonderful opportunity to send uplifting messages to everybody in the ward with an e-mail address. He kind of paused for a minute, but then I laughed and said that it wasn't really my style. He sort of exhaled and agreed with me – that it wasn't really my style.

On the other hand – sustaining. When my husband got his calling, we talked about it very carefully, and I decided that I was going to support him in doing it. And mostly, I do. The only thing that really bothers me are the Sunday morning meetings. Under the old regime, the morning meetings started an hour and a half before our first meeting. Plus, he got a Sunday off every month. That didn't interfere too much with him cooking my breakfast, so it was OK.

However, under the new power structure, he doesn't get a monthly Sunday off. Also, on the Sundays when women attend the regular meeting, there is a separate PEC meeting a half hour earlier that he needs to attend. Even though it's only twice a month, for only a half hour, I really resent the extra time. I think it's because they need an extra meeting without the women in order for it to “count” as PEC. I'm sorry; that just sets my quills ready to fire.

I told him how I feel about it, because there's no sense simmering in resentment – that would just make it worse. I'm not doing anything to put obstacles in the way of his attendance, or being mean about it or anything. I do feel, though, like this is an obstacle for me – that I'm not sustaining him as I agreed I would when he took the calling. And I'm being petty. Ick.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Healthy Skepticism

The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than that a drunken man is happier than a sober one - George Bernard Shaw

I seem to be quite easily troubled by stories from people who see the sacred in the mundane. Such behaviors are certainly not limited to Latter-day Saints. For example, I once read an essay about a Christian woman who used to give God credit when a parking space would open up at the grocery store - as if parking spaces in a parking lot were a miraculous thing.

I know I benefit from people who are able to see the miraculous in the mundane. They help me to see possibilities that I may have missed. Stories of miraculous printer repair remind me that there are people whose focus is ALWAYS turned toward God, and that they are happy and feel blessed. They remind me to look for God in my life.

However, I think the world also benefits from having people firmly grounded in reality. After all, sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar.

The main advantage the Earth-bound folks have is that we do not feel the need to squish every life event into a box labeled "God's Plan." For example, I don't believe God sent Hurricanes Katrina and Rita to Louisiana to implement some grand purpose for the South. I don't believe AIDS is a plague sent to punish homosexuals. And I don't think George W. Bush was elected to bring to pass the last days (though I admit I could be wrong about that one.)

It requires less theological gymnastics just to accept that Bad Things happen. Free of the need to assign Divine Purpose to the minutiae of life, the Earth-bound can take things at face value. We can invest our mental energy in working to solve our problems, and to enjoy our good fortune, instead of trying to figure out what God is trying to tell us by sparing our house from hurricane damage, when so many better people suffered so much.

Sunday in sacrament meeting, several people shared testimonies that bothered me. By "bothered," I mean that they shared stories that were powerful and sacred to them, and my inner teenager rolled her eyes and thought, "Yeah, right, whatever." I don't think of myself as more enlightened than the people who shared their stories of a miraculous (for them) experience. Quite the contrary: I felt bad for sitting there, listening to their sacred accounts of their miraculous experiences, and not really seeing anything miraculous at all in the event.

I'm glad for them that they felt God's presence in the happenings they described. Maybe I'm missing something really important by not seeing things the same way. But in the words of Simone Weil, "the poison of skepticism becomes, like alcoholism, tuberculosis, and some other diseases, much more virulent in a hitherto virgin soil."

Maybe in my case, a skeptical point of view is inoculating me against a purely cynical one.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Scary new project

My husband and I are sort of reading the Doctrine and Covenants together. It was my idea. Unlike the Book of Mormon, I don't have any issues with the D&C. I think I can read it at face value. Reading with my husband may help me to have some insights I might overlook if I were to read it on my own. He respects my ideas, he has my best interests at heart, and I am usually on my best behavior with him. I think those are ingredients for an interesting, perhaps uplifting dialogue.

I probably won't be blogging too much about this. I am going to do some writing, but I will keep it private until I'm either done, or I quit. At least, that's my plan. However, I expect that my thoughts and concerns and inspirations and despirations about reading the Doctrine and Covenants will be varied and disconnected. So, if I feel the need to blog about the project, it will probably be the process rather than the content.

I plan to read hopefully, and with an open mind.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The Best and Worst 2006 World Cup Jerseys

Living overseas as a teen, I'll never forget the day my sleepy town's soccer team won a promotion to the country's top league. The whole city was electrified, and my father brought me home two of the team's new jerseys. Thus began my passion for soccer and for soccer jerseys.

Technically, it doesn't matter what you wear when you play soccer, but I find it hard to cheer for a team that has an ugly jersey. I think this holds true not only on the club level but also on the national level. If I am going to buy and wear your replica jersey, the least you can do is not make it hideous.

Obviously, sometimes you are just stuck with a country that has an unfortunate color pattern going. For example, I am a huge fan of the Argentine national team. Unfortunately, light blue and white vertical stripes are not the most aesthetically pleasing combination. That is why I would only purchase and wear the Argentine team's second jersey, which is usually a sharp-looking navy blue.

Since this is the last day of group play in the World Cup, and half of the teams will be going home now, I thought I would round up the best and the worst of this year's team jerseys.

Some generalizations first: if you are a very poor country, or an Islamic country, your jersey will probably be made by Puma (Ivory Coast, Ghana, Angola, Togo, Paraguay, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia). Switzerland, Italy, Poland, and the Czech Republic buck the trend by also using Puma jerseys. Puma is by far the largest manufacturer at this World Cup, and I think they've done a decent but boring job. I like that all of the jerseys have the same design in the back and lowercase font for the names. The African jerseys are cool because of the nice colors (green and orange for Ivory Coast, yellow and green for Togo). Unfortunately, Poland and Switzerland have basically the same red and white boring jersey. Italy's all-blue outfit is an abomination with it's gold numbers and lettering. Also, I think the Puma jerseys look cheap because they don't seem to absorb any sweat at all. The players look like they've been doused with a bucket of water.

If you're wearing a Nike jersey, you're probably going to the second round (Brazil, the Netherlands, Portugal, Mexico, Australia) (sorry U.S., Korea, and Croatia). Nike's jerseys are always clean and classic. I especially like Portugal's wine and green colored jersey.

Umbro has only two teams, England and Sweden, and they decided to stitch into the shoulder seams an awful-looking St. George's and Scandinavian cross respectively. Umbro is usually a quality manufacturer; I don't know what got into them this year. England's second jersey is solid red and thankfully doesn't have the cross in the shoulder seam, but it does have reflective gold numbers on the back. I think Umbro really dropped the ball.

My wife commented favorably on Lotto's Serbian and Ukrainian kits. I don't like the asterisk pattern, but I have to admit that these are the only jerseys that take advantage of the shorts.

Adidas runs the gamut this year, in my opinion: from boring (Germany) to sublime (Trinidad & Tobago) to classic (Japan, Argentina) to awful (France and Spain). The new Darth Vader collars are really ugly too.

The two dark horses are Costa Rica sporting an amateurish jersey by Joma, and Ecuador with an even worse jersey by Marathon. It looks like a jungle cat has scratched the Ecuadorian national colors into the middle of the jersey.

Best Jersey: Trinidad and Tobago. Classic and simple with bold piping, and I love the asymmetry of the design around the neck.

Worst Jersey: (tie) Ecuador and Italy.

What do you think?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Prayerfully

The other day, I read one of my husband’s secret priesthood papers. I was looking for a phone number I had thrown away, and found the priesthood paper in the process. Hey, if he doesn’t want me reading his secret priesthood stuff, he shouldn’t throw it in the trash can in the same office where I work all day.

It wasn’t anything super secret, like home teaching reports or the official 2006 high priests’ chant. It contained some guidelines and instructions. A word that was used repeatedly in the text was “prayerfully.”

My prayers of late have been pretty perfunctory. Not thoughtless, but certainly not heartfelt. The emphasis on prayerfully and lovingly following the guidelines in the secret priesthood document struck me as quite a contrast to how I’ve actually been praying. I haven’t even been praying prayerfully, let alone pursuing any of my other activities that way.

Since reading the guidelines, I have been trying a little harder to be more intent with my prayers. I visualize myself reaching up with my prayers, like the evangelicals do with their hands during their praise music, except with my heart. I think it helps. If nothing else, it helps me to feel like I’m not talking to myself.

However, I wonder what other things besides praying I ought to pursue prayerfully, if any. The agnostic thing is a real obstacle. Praying is usually an end to itself, not an approach to another task. I’m a pretty secular person; I would find it awkward to ask God to bless or direct things as I do them.

Maybe a good place to start would be with my Mormon stuff. Most of my Mormon stuff is on the internet now. Maybe I could approach my Mormon internet stuff prayerfully.

Do any bloggers out there blog prayerfully?

Monday, June 12, 2006

Goooooooooooooooool!

My goal this year was to watch 56 games of the World Cup. (There are 64 games in total, but on the last four days of group play, FIFA schedules the games simultaneously to avoid having meaningless games.)

Four years ago, I had just moved to a new city and was unemployed for the entire month of June. I probably watched two-thirds of the World Cup matches from South Korea and Japan, even though I had to set my alarm to wake up for most of them.

So, as the 2006 World Cup approached, I seriously considered taking the month of June off from temping and dedicating myself to the circular deity of football. However, I am in a pretty good temp situation, and I can't really afford to take the whole month off. So I am doing the next best thing, and Tivo-ing all 56 matches. I don't have enough time to watch 4.5 hours of soccer after work each day, but I can watch at least one game a day (and all the games on the weekends) and fast-forward to the good parts in the others. Also, I watch an hour of soccer during my lunch-break at work due to a projection TV in the lunchroom (I told you it was a good temp situation).

Anyway, these are my World Cup thoughts so far:

It's about time we abandon this silly notion of "own goals." I think an own goal should only be termed as such when a player directs the ball into his own net. When the ball glances off a defender and into the goal, it doesn't make a lot of sense to call it an own goal. Sure, it takes some responsibility off the goalkeeper, but I can't think of any other advantages of our current system. It's ridiculous to credit Beckham's thunderous strike against Paraguay to the defender who barely touched it.

Speaking of the England-Paraguay match, it was not fun game to watch. First of all, the Jumbotron and it's spidery supports threw all kinds of horrible shadows on the field. They should really only be allowed to play night games at that Frankfurt stadium. There are billions of people watching on TV, as opposed to the sixty-thousand people who can see that stupid Jumbotron. Let's have some perspective here.

Secondly, the game was unbearably boring. England looked painfully stiff, and Paraguay played just awful. Comparatively, the Argentina-Ivory Coast match was a beauty to watch. I was pessimistic about the Argies since they always seem to choke, but despite some suspect defending, they look good.

My final complaint is about the American broadcast announcers. Are there any worse announcers than Dave O'Brien and Marcelo Balboa? They sound like they aren't even watching the game and continually call players by the wrong names. Dave O'Brien is a BASEBALL announcer. And just because former baseball players make good color commentators, it doesn't mean you should dig up some player from America's soccer wilderness years and give him a microphone. I can't believe this is ABC's "A" team. That means these idiots will be calling the final. Embarrassing. Especially since ABC has two great announcers who would make a superb team, JP Dellacamera and Tommy Smyth. I'd watch Nascar as long as Tommy Smyth was calling the action. He makes every punch in the onion bag exciting. There plenty of qualified soccer announcers; why are you giving us amateur hour, ABC? Shameful.

11 games down, 45 to go. Now if you'll excuse me, I've got a Tivo full of soccer to watch.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Reasons to stay

My list of reasons to stay waxes and wanes. It's been waning lately. It was pretty much down to one thing:

1. I love my husband, and I think he would like me to go to church with him.

However, today, another reason appeared:

2. In support of D. Fletcher, who has every reason to leave, and yet, stays.

Life is really complicated.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Nice people don't make Mormonism true, but they don't hurt either

I was sitting at home this evening, reading blogs and waiting for my wife to come home from work when the doorbell rang.

Since I haven't ordered anything lately from Amazon.com, I knew it was the Church. Which should tell you something about the state of our social life, but that's not the point.

It's been almost ten months since I moved and they finally tracked me down. I suspect my parents were involved, but who really knows? Maybe some data-mining retiree on a second mission for the church finally turned up my postal forwarding order.

I actually recognized the two men standing on my doorstep. When I went to church twice last fall, I only talked to three people, and now two-thirds of them were here. So when they asked if they could come in, I felt like it would have been rude not to let them. After all, I had come to church of my own free will just a couple months ago, it would have been weird to say that now I didn't want any contact.

Both of the guys were very nice and we only talked about our families, sports, and home maintenance. It reminded me that I don't really have local friends or a social network since I moved. I don't know any of my neighbors and I don't have the opportunity to meet new people besides at work.

For perhaps the first time in my life, I felt comfortable around my would-be reactivators. I think it was because I knew that the possibility of me regaining my belief is zero. But that doesn't mean that I can't be social with people who still do believe. There is no reason people with a lot in common can't be friends without any religious overtones.

I realize that part of my ease comes from the fact that I know my wife is an unlikely candidate for Mormonism and my children are still safely ensconced in the future (hopefully). The dynamic changes completely when other family members are involved. But for now, I feel good about our interaction. The only time they even broached religion was to ask me if I wanted home teachers or if I wanted to be informed of ward activities (I swiftly nixed both ideas). I told them that I was completely uninterested in anything religious.

It's kind of nice when church recedes into its proper place (in my opinion) in your life. How much unhappiness could we avoid by just treating church like any other social society? As Ann says, it's just church. It's only taken me 29 years to finally believe it.

How out of the loop am I?

Last night, I was leaving the pool/club after water aerobics. I saw a guy who smiled and nodded.

I stopped. "How do I know you?" I asked.

He look surprised. "Uh, from CHURCH."

"Oops."

I have no clue what's going on in the ward. I don't know who well over half the people are.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

in case your still not sick of talking about SSM

i don't understand why the brethren are so hung up on the whole SSM issue. growing up in the church it was quite obvious that a temple marriage was the only kind of marriage that mattered in jesus' eyes, so i can't understand why it is so important that we try to clarify the definition of a civil marriage. whether or not gays are allowed to enjoy the legal benefits of marriage really has no bearing on what kinds of marriages the church can choose to perform and sanctify within the walls of the temples. just watch the expression on a mormon's face the next time someone talks about a young mormon couple having a civil ceremony and you'll see just how high of a regard the average member has for non-temple, civil marriages.

to me it's largely a legal issue. is there any good reason why same sex couples shouldn't be allowed to file taxes jointly, be assigned social security death benefits if their spouse dies, or be denied any of the other privileges given to married hetero couples? to me that's all it really boils down to.

i don't buy the argument that by legally recognizing SSM will somehow undermine "traditional" marriages. it's like kinky friedman says, "i support gay marriage. i believe they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us."

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Deja Vu All Over Again

The flyer said: Legislation is being debated in committee to vote on whether to send a defense of marriage act for the state of Texas to the legislature for a full vote. Members should write or call the committee members and urge them to vote to send the bill to the full legislature. Here are the committee members names. A list followed.

The origins of the flyer were convoluted. Area Presidency guy asked Stake President to let the wards know about the committee meeting. Stake Pres was to get the word out to members; he did so by advising the wards’ stake high council representatives. One of the folks along the way wrote up a flyer with the particulars.

During ward council, a member of the bishopric passed them out. I received a stack of about ten flyers. “Please announce this during your meetings, and hand these out to the adults in your organization.”

I was the primary president. I didn’t announce the information during primary closing exercises. I did hand out the flyers to the adults. I felt lousy about it for days.

A few weeks later, an interesting counterpoint arose. One of my favorite cousins is a lesbian. Her partner was not an American citizen. Partner had finished school, and had been unable to secure a green card for long-term employment here. The United States would not allow her to remain as a “spouse” for immigration purposes. However, the two of them could go the other way: the partner’s country allows the same-sex domestic partners of citizens to live and work there. Documentation of the partnership can include leases, bank statements, and letters from people testifying to their relationship.

My cousin asked me to write a letter for her. I did. I wrote that I had observed them living as a couple for five years; buying a house, raising dogs, planting a garden, planning a future. Writing the letter was cathartic. I was cleansed of the flyer.

Five years later, I feel like I’m reliving that ward council meeting. While the stage is national this time, and the request doesn’t seem so cloak and dagger, the issue is the same. My feelings about that issue have not changed.

I did not attend church on Sunday (I did not see any point in attending just to walk out). I have opted out of church attendance for a while. I don't want to get my hands dirty again. I did follow the instructions in the letter and write to my elected representatives; however, I don’t think I wrote what the first presidency had in mind.

I am not as angry as I was three days ago. Mostly, I’m disappointed. Every time I think I can make a place for myself; that the church has a pretty big tent and maybe I can worship with the Mormons as well as anywhere else, the suits in Salt Lake muck it up.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Me=You (or, Me=Everybody)

Here in the bloggernacle and on the DaMU, writers mesh their personal stories with ideas about doctrine and politics and current events. The personal experiences adds intimacy to the medium, and can give us new ways of thinking about both ideas, and each other.

Sometimes, in our posts and discussions, we take our experiences and use them to support general statements. But anecdotes do not equal data. Personal experiences are not global. Other people know all the same things I do about church history, and yet have not come to the same conclusions as I have about the mission and character of Joseph Smith. While I tend to look at my experiences as "normal," that doesn't mean that my responses are "the norm." They're just mine.

A comment exchange starting at #71 in the FMH Trailer Trash thread brought this subject up for me. It was a good exchange, about God-as-cosmic-vending machine. The statement "this is what happens to me" received the reply "that doesn't mean what you are saying." It all resolved very nicely, and interestingly, with a reference to Buddhism (so it must be true). But the initial exchange is one I've seen over and over: "This happened." "That doesn't mean what you say."

"Lead balloon moments," when contradicting data comes up in a class discussion and the room falls silent, are a well-worn experience in the DaMU. My own LBMs, however, have been few and far between. In one Gospel Doctrine class, when I piped up with "I don't agree with that at all," and went on to explain why, it resulted in an interesting and insightful lesson. I didn't add much beyond my initial disagreement; the other participants really moved the discussion forward. I wasn't the only one who didn't believe the premise being offered, and the resulting discussion led us to explore a richer variant of that premise. Just the same, only different.

Personal conversations and lessons have the advantage of immediacy. We don't really have that here in the 'nacle. It takes longer to get through the dialogue:
"This Happened to Me."
"That doesn't mean what you say."
"I know that. But it's what happened."
But as the discussion on FMH shows, we are often able to get there eventually. I think it's an example of what's best about the 'nacle: moving from sharing experiences to understanding, and thinking of old ideas in a new way.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Preparedness and Fear

"If ye are prepared ye shall not fear." (D&C 38:30)

I don't believe it.

I do believe that if ye are prepared, ye are prepared. That seems pretty obvious, though. Being prepared is good for its own sake. It's good to have water stocked up. It's good to have a ready supply of non-perishable foods. It's good to know where the sleeping bags are stashed. It's good to have lots of size D batteries for the flashlights, and a rechargeable lantern. A grill. Charcoal. A portable stove.

Some people are more prepared than we are: they have a generator, firearms, and ammo.

Even with all the preparation, though, I'm still afraid. Afraid that the levees won't be repaired in time. Afraid that even if they are, they won't hold. Afraid that next time, the trees WILL fall on my house. Afraid that if it happens again, there will be no recovering; that the people who want to write off the city as a bad investment will prevail; and the city will be lost. Afraid of the nightmare of bodies floating down Canal; search and rescue hieroglyphs, meaningless except for the occasional "1 body"; 24/7 footage on CNN of the city dying. Again. My city.

I'm prepared. I'm as prepared as I can be. But I'm still afraid.

Hurricane season begins June 1

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Discernment

How do you tell the difference between divine inspiration and your own ideas?

My best friend tells me he can tell the difference, but he can't explain how. I, on the other hand, have no idea where the boundary is. Maybe that's because I always get such great ideas.

I don't think it's enough to say, "well, if you're being prompted to do something good, it's from God." Because I sometimes want to do good things all on my own initiative.

Does it even matter what the source of an idea is?

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Hyperbole

I use a lot of hyperbole, myself. I'm sort of a drama queen. Things aren't "nice," they're "awesome." I don't get nervous, or concerned, but rather, "scared witless." To be fair, it's not an act. I'm an emotional person. I react fast and hard, and I'm over it, whatever it is, in minutes. I'm quick to anger, quick to beg for forgiveness, and very sincere about all of it.

So, as someone who is given to grand sweeping statements, I am a little unnerved by how irritating I find the Hyperbole of Holiness. The latest annoyance popped up last night, when I read somewhere a reference to breastfeeding as "sacred." Huh? Since when is lactation holy?

The same subject came up over on the DAMU in the form of snarky comments about Russell M. Nelson's new wife. I don't have any direct quotes, and I've never read her stuff. It's not unlikely that what I've read about her writing may have been taken out of context. Even so, I found her purported admonition to remember that God is the third person in the room when you're having sex with your spouse a little over the top.

I think the reason the hyperbole of holiness is so irksome to me is that I'm inherently suspicious of those who live on a "higher plane" than I do. Breastfeeding was a great experience for me, but I wouldn't describe it as sacred...just rewarding. Sex is great, but I don't think of it as exactly "holy," either - maybe "divinely approved," but not holy.

Maybe there are people who are able to sense the divine in everyday matters. I think, though, that by elevating all experiences to the level of sacred, the sacred is rendered mundane.

"Holier than thou" is not a pejorative without reason. I think it makes those of us muddling along in the mundane world, awaiting experiences that we feel are sacred, feel like there's just no point. We obviously aren't on the same level, so why bother?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Church in my Dreams

When I dream about church stuff, it almost never bears any resemblance to the church in real life. For example:

Last night, I dreamed that DH and I were in charge of a big ward activity, so they direct deposited $10,000 into our checking account, in advance, to cover our expenses. Alas, I did not also dream that they said, "Keep the change."

As part of the same dream, the closing song in Relief Society was "California, Here I Come."

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Michael Stipe as a Vehicle for personal revelation

I woke up on the wrong side of the bed Sunday. I had considered foregoing church the day before, but decided to suck it up because something good might happen. But I slept late and we were running late because I made DH fix me breakfast even though it was fast Sunday. He can fast some other Sunday, when he can't make me breakfast because he has an early meeting, right?. So he was anxious and rushed, and I HATE being rushed, even though he wasn't rushing me.

I got to church in time to take the sacrament in the foyer. I went into the chapel during the first testimony. The second testimoney was from a person who moved here after the storm. The first few sentences out of this person's mouth were how much better his other ward was. Not in those exact words, of course, but I was in a bad mood, remember? That's how I heard it, so I looked at DH and said, "Well, I think I'm going to go." It was probably the shortest amount of time I've actually attended a church meeting. I think I was in and out of the building in under ten minutes.

After I got home, I put on some streaming audio and started to clean the kitchen. The kitchen was a mess. I worked on it in fits and starts, stopping on occasion to sit and browse the internet. I thought off and on about the annoying testimony, and the person who had borne it. This was not the first time this person had annoyed me, and it wasn't even the most annoying. Why did this bother me so much? Why was I giving this person so much power over me?

During one of my sitting down times, REM came on. I like REM. I cranked up the song very loud, and sang along.

A couple of minutes into the song, I thought about this person again. It was during a chorus...
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it
It's the end of the world as we know it and I feel fine

...and I remembered driving into the City on Lundi Gras, and the indescribable devastation I saw there. This person is from an area that has been almost entirely wiped out, and has probably lost everything.

This person is probably not going to be less annoying to me in the future; he just has that kind of personality. But I am not him, and do not live his life, and do not have his struggles, and actually know almost nothing about them. But I do know one thing: he has lived through the end of the world as we know it.

Maybe I can cut him some slack.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Guest Post: What's Next?

I have known Square Peg for several years, in the way you know people you've only met on the internet. He's a wonderful writer, and I'm glad he's allowed me to post his story on Viva Ned Flanders.

At the beginning of the year over on LDS Liberation Front, RoastedTomatoes ran a series called "What's Next?" The series told the stories of people who had undergone a change in faith, and discussed where their journeys could or did take them. (Full Disclosure: I was a major instigator of this series.) Not all the stories that were written were posted. This one was one of my very favorites. You snooze, you lose, RT! :)



My So-Called Heretical Life

An episode of the public radio program This American Life featured the story of Carlton Pearson, an Evangelical pastor in Tulsa, Oklahoma who—until sometime in early 2003—was widely regarded as “a rising evangelical megastar.” Reverend Pearson had it all: a thriving congregation in Tulsa with more than 5,000 members, close personal ties with leading members of the Evangelical elite, a seat on the Oral Roberts University Board of Regents, financial security, respect, honor.

Less than a year later, Reverend Pearson’s congregation had shrunk from 5,000 to 250. He had been denounced and rejected by virtually every leader in the evangelical movement, including Oral Roberts, the man who often used to refer to Pearson as his adopted son. He stood on the brink of bankruptcy and financial ruin. He had been rejected by many of his closest, most intimate friends. In what must have seemed like the blink of an eye, Carlton Pearson had gone from a celebrated leader to a complete pariah in the eyes of the only religious community he had ever known.

So how could this sad tale of a fallen Bible Belt preacher have anything to do with my own spiritual journey as a 5th-generation Idaho Mormon? The answer starts with the reason for Pearson’s dramatic downfall. There was no salacious sex scandal or financial misdeed. Nope. Carlson Pearson’s whole world came crashing down around him simply because, after a period of intense reflection and prayer, he stopped believing in the traditional Christian version of Hell—and started preaching that Christ’s atonement is sufficient to redeem “all of creation, including all human beings.” Because he refused to keep quiet about these (from an evangelical perspective) shocking beliefs, Pearson was branded a heretic and unequivocally rejected by the community he had dedicated his whole life to.

On the surface, I have very little in common with Reverend Pearson. I have spent most of my life as a quietly devout, believing member of the LDS church. I’m not particularly charismatic. I probably couldn’t give you a respectable AMEN! or PRAISE GOD! if you paid me. And I’ve certainly never aspired to any kind of leadership position—either inside or outside the LDS church. Until recently, I was one of the quiet, unassuming masses who simply tried his best to keep most of the boxes on the official “Worthy Mormon Male” checklist dutifully checked.

But despite our differences, Carlton Pearson’s story profoundly moved me for reasons that transcend our backgrounds and experiences. First, I too am a heretic—in my own quiet, low-key way. A couple of years ago, after an intense period of study and reflection, a gradual accumulation of vague doubts flowered into full-blown disbelief. I won’t bore you with the details—the circumstances and experiences that have led to my disbelief are as personal and unique as my own fingerprints. It’s enough to say that I no longer believe most of the foundational claims of the LDS church, and although anything is possible, I think it’s highly unlikely that I ever will.

But despite my heretical beliefs, I still feel deeply connected to the only religious community I have ever known. My wife, children, and extended family on both sides are all devout, active members, and I live in the heart of Utah County, where so many aspects of daily life are inexorably intertwined with the LDS church. I long to feel comfortable and accepted in the church as I once did—despite my unorthodox beliefs.

I have spoken with or read about many who remain active, faithful members on their own terms—often in spite of doubts and unorthodox views. These stories offer me hope that perhaps there is a place for me in the church—a place that will allow me to be true to myself and doesn’t force me to choose between my beliefs and my religious community.

But then I hear stories like Carlton Pearson’s (or Grant Palmer’s or Michael Quinn’s or Lavina Fielding Anderson’s) that remind me how much conservative religious communities fear and distrust heretics, and I realize that unless my beliefs somehow change, I will never again be completely accepted by (or acceptable to) the LDS community. In practical terms, this means I will probably never hold a temple recommend. I will never be able to participate in most cherished LDS rituals. In my very conservative ward, I will be gossiped about, strategized over, and fellowshipped. I will most likely not even be able to participate in my own children’s weddings, which frankly, seems inconceivable to me.

Of course, the costs of my private, low-key heresy are trivial compared to what Carlton Pearson and many others have been forced to pay. But they still feel pretty damned steep to me. So from my perspective, the answer to “What’s Next” boils down to two possibilities: I can continue to participate in the LDS community as a quiet heretic—and simply live with the fact that I will always be partially unaccepted and unacceptable. Or, like Carlton Pearson, rather than quietly going along to get along, I could choose to leave my religious heritage and begin the painful process of finding or building a new community that is more compatible with and accepting of my beliefs. The first option seems easier and more convenient—but also possibly less fulfilling over the long term. The second option feels more difficult and much more painful—but possibly more rewarding, honest, and meaningful.

Right now, I’m straddling the fence, considering both options but choosing neither. Someday, probably soon, I will make my choice, and I can honestly I don’t know which road I will choose. In retrospect, Carlton Pearson says that if he’d known, when he first started preaching his gospel of inclusion, that it would cost him so much, he would never have opened his mouth. But he also says that God doesn’t show you everything at once for a reason. And now that what’s done is done, there’s no way he’d go back. After I complete my journey, whatever I decide and whatever the outcome, I only hope I can say the same.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Dialoguing with the Others

My first contact with internet discourse about Mormon stuff was on soc.religion.mormon, a Usenet group that is moderated for topicality and civility. SRM was my earliest model for what conversation between believers and non-believers should look like. Two years as a moderator showed me how this model behavior was cultivated: through the miracle of software and a dedicated moderation team, discourteous posts never get through.

Prevention is built into the charter. One hot button is defined as discourteous: Is the church a cult? Another is defined as off-topic: Are Mormons Christians? Discussion of the temple ceremony is prohibited.

This is not to say that everybody who posts on SRM is a believer, or even supportive or positive about the faith. Posters have come and gone who are adamantly opposed to the teachings and practices of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but they were unfailingly civil in how they presented their disagreements. That's because if they weren't, their posts didn't see the light of day.

Over at LDS Liberation Front, I got my underwear in a bunch about the reasonableness of divorcing an otherwise acceptable spouse because said spouse doesn't believe any more. The discussion made me think about discourse between Mormons and Former Mormons.

The stereotypical conversation is a shouting match between the prissy, offended LDS who thinks the ex-mo "can't let it alone" and should just go away quietly, and the angry ex-mo who thinks all those &%*$(#@! Mormons are *$@!*%+ idiots. But if you're outside the corridor, isn't that kind of confrontation rare? Isn't it pretty rare on the internet, too? I've been impressed, overall, by how pleasant most of the folks on the 'nacle have been to me, my Transitional Mormon status notwithstanding. Even the occasional uber-Mormons have been very polite.

I contrast this with the way each group talks about the other in their "safe spaces." Some places on the DAMU* would be downright horrifying to a believer to read. I have read some assumptions about ex-Mormons in believing spaces that are not exactly charitable, either.

Are we being fake in our dialogues with the Others? Are we putting on the show that's expected in our "safe spaces"?

Do you restrict your reading to believing blogs? Do you read boards like FAIR? Do you ever peek in on RFM? How does the discussion of the Others among themselves affect your perception of them?

I sense the need for a poll.
---------------
*DisAffected Mormon Underground. It's a great acronym; admit it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Full-body Singing

I filled in for the ward chorister yesterday. She's a friend, and trusted me not to switch the lyrics to "Praise to the Man" to "Scotland the Brave." Maybe she knew we weren't singing "Praise to the Man."

Leading the music is different from singing with the congregation. One major difference is that everybody is singing toward me. The sound is focused toward the podium, which is where the chorister stands. I found myself singing louder than I usually do (and I'm not usually a shy singer). The congregation seemed to sing louder to drown me out. Most of our songs were of the enthusiastic nature, so "loud" worked for everybody.

Leading the music also means I get to pick the tempo. If the organist slows down, I tend to just follow along, but she seemed to like the pace, too. Since the songs were enthusiastic, "fast" worked well with "loud."

Since the congregation is facing me, that also means that I'm facing them. I enjoy watching the congregation sing. I pick out faces and watch how they are responding to the music. Lots of beaming countenances during our loud, fast version of "The Spirit of God."

The best thing about leading the music, though, is that my whole body is singing the song, not just my brain and my voice and my breathing. Leading the music means a lot of flailing, but it's rhythmic flailing, and it connects my self with the music and the message in a way that just singing doesn't. It's really cool to be fully engaged with
"And then, wondrous story, the Lord in his glory, will come in his pow'r in the beautiful day."
I just can't be immersed in a song like that and not be joyous about it.

Later in the day, I had another transcendent experience with full-body singing. I saw Bruce Springsteen at Jazzfest in New Orleans. After all that's happened here, and how hopeless things still seem sometimes, he sang "My City of Ruins," and the audience wept, and raised hands in Hosanna during the chorus,
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
Come on, rise up! Come on, rise up!
I'm not much of a fan of popular praise and worship music; I think it's manipulative. I do sometimes wish, though, that there was a way that more people could experience, during a normal sacrament meeting, how profound it can feel to become part of the music. Because not everybody gets to be the chorister, or to pray in unison a song for the healing of your city on a beautiful spring day.

Announcing New Perma-blogger: Ann!

VivaNedFlanders is thrilled to announce that Ann will be joining on a permanent basis (or at least until she gets sick of me).

Ann's posts and comments in the bloggernacle have always been intelligent, thoughtful, and kind, and I think I'm pretty lucky to snag her as a co-blogger. I had to trade away most of my draft picks for the next couple years to get her, but it will all be worth it.

Thanks for joining, Ann.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Guest Post by Enochville

I'd like everyone to offer a kind welcome to Enochville, who has graciously allowed me to post his story here. I think this makes an interesting companion piece to Ann's guest post earlier in the week.

Without further ado, here is Enochville's post:

Leaving the Church was a lot to give up, but I am pretty much at peace with that now. The only thing that is making things hard now is the way my wife's family and my family are dealing with it. The greatest consolation is that my wife is leaning towards the same conclusions about the Church that I have come to. It is just taking her a little longer to give up the desperate hope that her old beliefs might still be true. It is one of those things that one has to study out for one's self, and I had about a six month head start on her. She knows where her research will lead her; it is just a matter of emotionally preparing to accept it.

What caused me to come to the conclusion that the Church never was true had nothing to do with my inability to become ok with something Joseph did. I had the capacity to become ok with Joseph using his magic peep stone in the translation of the Book of Mormon, his hiding his plural marriages from Emma, and a host of other things. It was not an inability to match the scriptural record with any hard archaeological evidence. I found ways to perform mental gymnastics around no DNA evidence for a common ancestor for all humans that lived 6,000 years ago, or no DNA evidence that any native inhabitant of North or South America descended from the Hebrews, no evidence of pre-Columbian horses, elephants, or barley, etc. I could look past or around a ton of things and found the uncertainty or ambiguity in the arguments against the church so that I still had enough room for faith, however unlikely my explanations had to be.

But, I eventually came across evidence so strong, so indisputable, that it left no room for doubt/faith. I read all the pro-LDS explanations from Hugh Nibley to John Gee and none of them worked because they each ignored parts of the evidence that made their theories untenable. I emailed informed apologists to try to discuss these things, but the case is too strong. I combed it through, checking and rechecking, examining every assumption that might be flawed, trying to get my hands on every source material that I could. Eventually, I had to come to the conclusion that Joseph Smith was not a prophet, seer, or revelator.

I went back and re-examined all the evidence I thought I had that the Church was true. I found that I could no longer rely on the what I used to call the Spirit as a reliable source of truth, and all the supporting evidence of multiple witnesses of heavenly manifestations, the reintroduction of "lost truths" held in the primitive church, the "miracles of the Priesthood", the archaeological findings that supposedly support the Book of Mormon or other scripture had easy non-supernatural explanations.

Once I knew that I could no longer believe I talked with my wife about it and when she knew that she could never believe again either we discussed what we should do now. We considered faking it, acting like we believed and going on like nothing happened. But, I could not do that. I had to act with integrity. I could not knowingly mislead my friends and children. We considered just being released from our callings and being the "foyer members". But, that is too uncomfortable, because everyone suspects that you have sinned and keep trying to encourage you into greater activity. So, I decided that I would talk to the Bishop, turn in my recommend, and leave the church altogether.

The Saturday following conference, we talked with my mother-in-law about it. She wanted me to fast and pray, so I did, but by that point I had no faith in the Spirit. She did not understand that I had already been through all that and that I can still feel "the Spirit" just fine, but recognize the "burning in my bosom" as the psychological emotion of elevation, which is no more a reliable source of truth than any other emotion, such as confidence in your answer to a quiz question that you later find out is incorrect, or the sensation of your dreams being real.

I miss the sense of community in the church, the moral values that are reinforced in the Primary and Youth programs, the emphasis on service, and the feeling of elevation. And though I do not believe in God anymore (which would require a separate explanation), I am learning how to create the feelings of elevation and reverence and awe without a belief in the supernatural. I spend my Sundays now creating family home evening lessons for my future children that reflect my new beliefs and my new foundation for morals. I am in a sense creating an Atheist church, of which there are a few already in existence, but I am dissatisfied with them and they are far from here.

I purposely have not shared with you my evidence. I respect the right of Mormons to believe as they wish. Leaving the church ruins a lot, and most would rather stay content with what they have, and I can't say that I could blame them. I began this quest so that I could be a great apologist and help struggling members resolve their concerns. I had been good at that on my mission and when I taught in the MTC. I thought the church could stand up to any criticism, or at least that the anti's could never disprove the church was true so I would inspire faith in that opening. The church does not have a banned book list like the Catholics so I felt free to read anything so that I could point out the flaws in their arguments. I never dreamed in a million years that it would be the anti's who were right all along.

Anyway, I am doing fine and will be better when my family finally accepts that I am no longer a part of the Church. I am so glad I have my wife. Strangely, she means even more to me now than ever before.

-- enochville

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Guest post: Believing again

Many thanks to Ned for allowing me to post this entry on his blog. I don't have a Mormon blog, and Ned's is really good fit for my status with church stuff.

Church stuff hadn’t been going well since we returned from Katrina Exile. I had been having suicidal thoughts during Sunday meetings. I had a singularly awful experience during a terrible Relief Society lesson about the Proclamation on the Family. A minor kerfuffle in the Disaffected Mormon Underground caused me much more anguish than it warranted. Because both ends of my Mormon experience were equally miserable, I decided that the best solution was to abstain from all things Mormon.

I went on sabbatical from Mormon Stuff. I stopped posting on the DAMU discussion boards, scaled back my reading on the Bloggernacle, and left church immediately after the sacrament was passed. I did not take the sacrament. I went to church only to deliver my little boy, because my husband has morning meetings. I took a trip out of town that caused me to miss two Sundays entirely. I got a more realistic sense of my “place,” and it wasn’t nearly as central as I had imagined. It was a useful and pleasant experiment.

Palm Sunday was my first week “back” at church. I had not planned to stay, but when the bishop announced that a local ward had been dissolved, because the whole parish had been destroyed, it hit me hard. I cried for a few minutes and decided to stay. My husband was there. I wanted to be with my husband.

During the sacrament, while on sabbatical, I have allowed my mind and thoughts to wander where they will. On Palm Sunday, I do not know what I had been thinking, but while the sacrament was being passed, something happened. In my believing days, I would have experienced the “something” as the presence of the Holy Ghost. It was not my typical sitting-in-sacrament-meeting feeling. I felt connected.

I have experienced this feeling of connectedness before. It hasn’t come often. The last time it happened, I decided very consciously not to try and hold on to it, or analyze it. I did the same thing this time: I just experienced it. I noticed my thoughts and ideas without examination. I followed the thoughts where they led.

The thoughts and ideas that crossed my mind this time were unexpected. I watched the young men pass the sacrament. I observed the trays moving down the rows, the Saints taking the sacrament, and remembered what it means to them. Unlike other times I’ve observed this, I did not feel alienated or “other.” I felt like I was one of them.

I thought, “I used to be a part of this. I used to believe this.” And then the thought came to me: “You can believe again, if you want to.”

I didn’t turn away from the thought, or embrace it. I tried it. “Joseph Smith is a prophet.” Yes, that was fine. “The Book of Mormon is a Scripture.” That worked, too.

I didn’t pursue the matter any further. I just continued to notice the experience, to “be,” and waited for the feeling to slip away.

The rest of the meeting was pretty uneventful, (lame, even) except for the final speaker, who said some inspiring things.

I wanted to talk to my husband about this after the meeting, but he got waylaid by a quorum buddy. So, I left, just like I always do after sacrament meeting.

I did not relate this experience to anyone. I mentioned to my husband that I wanted to talk about something, but didn’t follow up.

The following Sunday was Easter. I didn’t experience anything out of the ordinary. I did have the nagging memory of Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s comment in her essay Lusterware, about how the Bible speaks of bits of leaven. I enjoyed the congregational singing very much. Leaven.

I have written that losing my faith was like losing my arm. I’m starting to think this isn’t a good analogy. Apparently, some part of my brain or the Collective Unconscious or God thinks it’s possible for me to grow a new one.

I don’t know if I want to believe. I am a cynic now. It’s like being fat: I don’t like being fat, but it’s hard work to lose weight. So much is expected of believers. Do I want to work that hard? Will I suddenly desire to pay tithing; attend the temple; serve in callings; pay attention to the GAs? I don’t see any of that happening, so what difference will believing make?

On Easter, I talked to my husband about the Palm Sunday experience. I told him that I don’t know how I should proceed. Rather than admonishing me to desire to believe and to pursue faith, he has suggested I just see what happens.

I don’t have any expectations. But I’m interested to see what comes next.