July 2010 Archives

The Unbearable Fragility of Mormons


I am so damn sick of the unbearable fragility of Mormons. EVERYTHING THREATENS THEM. Just off the top of my head, I've come up with a substantial list of commonplace stuff that threatens your average hardcore Mormon, at least until they get a decent exposure to it:

  • gay marriage
  • actual gay people
  • the f word
  • profanity in general
  • the phrase "Oh my god!"
  • R-rated movies
  • porn
  • sex before marriage
  • dating before you're 16
  • getting married anywhere but in the temple
  • the Equal Rights Amendment
  • uppity women
  • the idea that global warming might actually be real
  • single-payer healthcare
  • people who choose not to reproduce
  • the existence of atheists
  • dildos and other sex toys
  • explicit depictions of sex, whether on the page, stage or screen
  • face cards (not so much any more, thank the powers that be. But when I was young, it was SO EVIL to play with face cards, though the same game could be completely innocent if you played it with rook or uno cards)
  • tarot cards
  • Sunstone magazine
  • bikinis
  • Coca-cola
  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • Starbucks cups (I know, it's crazy, but it's true: I've seen Mormons get upset that someone dared to enter their home with a cup from Starbucks. Hey, it could be a hot chocolate, you know? But it's that "avoid the very appearance of evil" thing)
  • the very appearance of evil, which means not only something like simply walking into a bar oneself, but the dress and personal grooming of others,including
  • exposed female shoulders, midriffs, or thighs
  • sandals on men
  • jewelry on men
  • long hair on men
  • brightly colored shirts on men
  • multiple earrings on women
  • tattoos
to the point that they should NEVER be seen in an LDS meeting or on the campus of BYU.

the list goes on and on. But most threatening of all is

I shouldn't be blogging right now--I have a million things to do, and at the top of the list is "Finish three papers for Sunstone," the first of which I have to deliver in twelve days. But something is really occupying my mind right now, and I have to address it while it's an issue.

I wrote about Mormonism for a Mormon audience for a long time--like, two decades. And the non-mo forums I published in were mostly literary magazines, because that's where people with MFA's in creative writing and PhD's in English lit are supposed to get printed to have a respectable cv and get academic jobs. OK, it's respectable, but it means that your stuff gets read by, like, four people.

Last year I started thinking, "I want to get PAID for my writing, at least a little bit, and I want to write for bigger audiences." So I started trying for bigger venues. Since then, my writings on Mormonism have appeared in the New York Times, Bitch, Religion Dispatches, and the Huffington Post.

Engineers and Cats

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I'm not awake enough to think of a title that is anything but descriptive. I am, however, awake enough to enjoy this video. I found it utterly charming. it made me want not just a cat but an engineer.

Door to Door for Darwin

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Four years ago I posted a link to this great video from John Safran, about how annoyed he is when the Mormons bash on his door before noon at a Saturday, 'cause he might have been out dancing to "Yaz and the Plastic Population" the night before. It was a great video, and I laughed really hard, especially when he got on a plane and came to Salt Lake City so he could go proselytizing with a copy of Origin of Species. But apparently it violated some copyright, so Youtube took it down. Mercifully, however, someone just posted a link to another video site on my facebook page, so I can post a new link too! But just in case this is a rogue uploading as well, you better watch it FAST.

Told You It Was Boho

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Check it out! SLC is #7 in a list of North America's most bohemian cities.

In honor of SLC's boho cred, I'm posting a link to my favorite Dandy Warhols' song, "Bohemian Like You." Warning: NSFW.

Good at Good News

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My mom loved good news, and she was good at hearing it. That might sound silly but not everyone is good at hearing other people's good news. Some people feel jealous or resentful of others' good fortune, as if there's only so much good mojo to go around and your encounter with it diminishes theirs; some of them try to hide this and some don't.

But my mom could take genuine happiness in the happiness of others. If you got something that made you really happy, she was happy for you, even--and this is important--if she didn't entirely approve. She'd set that side in order to congratulate you and celebrate with you.

She wasn't always so great at hearing bad news. She got better at it, but especially when i was a teenager and REALLY UNHAPPY, sympathy was not really her strong suit.

But the good news? She was EXTRA good at hearing that. I loved calling my mom and telling her, "This good thing happened." I almost always felt happier after that.

Some pretty good stuff has happened to me lately. Personally, professionally, artistically: I'm pleased with how things are going.

And it just kills me that I cannot tell my mom about any of the reasons why.

No Way, Yahweh!

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Hopefully you have already discovered Sassy Gay Friend on your own, but in case you haven't, and in case you haven't yet seen the "Eve" episode, here it is:

(If you haven't already seen it, watch the "Romeo and Juliet" ep--love the line "you took a roofie from a priest!")

Remember when I wrote about the bad logic employed by another person's facebook friend? Someone who stated things like "FACT: Adam fell into mortality about 6000 years ago:" or "FACT: Only four people I know of on Earth can actually tell us what the planet was really like 2000 years ago. (John and 3 Nephites)"?

I admit it: I had signed on for the project of getting this guy to admit that these things weren't "facts" at all. Luckily circumstances removed this person from my experience, so that now he is only a vague, unpleasantly memory. Because chances are, I would never change his mind. Nor will anyone else.

Here's a study, discussed in the Boston Globe, that addresses why: people with wrong opinions don't want to change them. They actually reject facts when confronted with them. In fact, "facts could actually make misinformation even stronger."

This bodes ill for a democracy, because most voters -- the people making decisions about how the country runs -- aren't blank slates. They already have beliefs, and a set of facts lodged in their minds. The problem is that sometimes the things they think they know are objectively, provably false. And in the presence of the correct information, such people react very, very differently than the merely uninformed. Instead of changing their minds to reflect the correct information, they can entrench themselves even deeper.

"The general idea is that it's absolutely threatening to admit you're wrong," says political scientist Brendan Nyhan, the lead researcher on the Michigan study. The phenomenon -- known as "backfire" -- is "a natural defense mechanism to avoid that cognitive dissonance."

The good news is that there seems to be at least one way to counteract this trend: boost people's self-esteem:

Nyhan worked on one study in which he showed that people who were given a self-affirmation exercise were more likely to consider new information than people who had not. In other words, if you feel good about yourself, you'll listen -- and if you feel insecure or threatened, you won't. This would also explain why demagogues benefit from keeping people agitated. The more threatened people feel, the less likely they are to listen to dissenting opinions, and the more easily controlled they are.

But how do you make people feel good about themselves when the entire world mocks them for the silly underwear they wear? I mean, how do you make them feel good about themselves in a legitimate way, and not in the "oh, wow, you're so oppressed, and that's proof that you're extra special and God really loves you" way?

A Famous Guy at Sunstone

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For the last few weeks I have been helping out at Sunstone, preparing for the August symposium. I couldn't help but be impressed by the name Reverend Dr. C.Welton Gaddy, but it wasn't until I had to track down his contact info and realized that he had a secretary and a bunch of assistants, that I started to figure out that this guy is kind of a big deal.

And then I did some asking, and I realized that I already knew about this guy, and thought he was pretty awesome. He has made many appearances on the Rachel Maddow Show, which is where I heard about him. He says things like this:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

or this

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Gaddy is the president of the Interfaith Alliance. He has a national reputation of the stature that makes him an appropriate candidate for being the symposium's keynote speaker, and being feted and honored and all sorts of things. But this guy is so decent and dedicated that he is paying to attend the symposium, so that he can present a paper on this topic, which is ever so relevant to Mormonism, politics and human rights:


While many faith traditions, including Mormonism, have grappled with issues of equality, such as same-gender marriage, much of that work has been viewed through a traditional or scriptural lens. Our goal is to shift the perspective of LGBT equality from a place of "problem" to "solution," from a scriptural argument to a religious liberty agreement, and to address the issue of equality as informed by the US Constitution.

There are lots of great sessions at the upcoming symposium--you can check out the preliminary program here (and hey, if you're planning to attend, please register sooner rather than later!)--but this one is, in my opinion, one you cannot miss. (Though I just might miss it anyway since it's up against a presentation by a really good friend. Oh well. At least Sunstone records the programs and lets you download them to listen to at your leisure, for a small fee.)

Magic Underwear, Explained

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Huh. I learned stuff from this. I never knew what the various markings meant.


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This page is an archive of entries from July 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

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