Recently in Mission stuff Category

So, there's this bio-statistician here in Utah named Richard C. Bennett Jr aka Rick Bennett who blogs as Mormon Heretic, an absolute misnomer since he's a doctrinaire protector of patriarchy and promoter of orthodoxy. Mormon Heretic doesn't like me. He insists on going to my sessions at Sunstone and then complaining about how I do stuff he doesn't approve of. He has gone to social networking sites to find images of and information about me, and posted it on his blog. I am responding in kind. I figure, turn about is fair play.

Mormon Heretic/ Rick Bennett feels free to say all sorts of nasty personal things because he's managed to stay very anonymous, but here's the thing: I know how to find stuff out. Having discovered his name in real life, I am posting it here. Because douchebags who use anonymity to avoid consequences for their actions deserve to be outed.

Please feel free to pass on to any and everyone who might care (an admittedly tiny population) that Mormon Heretic is Rick Bennett.

Female Soldiers in the NY Times


This blog entry is intended to convince you to read this essay in the Times, about female soldiers and veterans with PTSD. But it has a very long intro before I segue to that topic, so I'm including the link upfront.

An essay I wrote is running today in the print version of the NY Times (at least, it's supposed to--I confess I haven't yet ventured out of the house to buy it) but the online version appeared Friday. I'm not going to link to it here, because my blog is semi-anonymous, meaning I keep my last name out of it, though I know most of the people who read it know who I am, or can figure it out pretty damn easily.

Story, Wikipedia, Story


Eight or nine years ago I submitted an essay to Sunstone that began "One day my companion Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal, who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk." It did not begin "One day when I was a Mormon missionary, my assigned working partner or companion (to use the term we employed for said assigned working partners) Sister Knight and I met a 'weird funky lady,' as I described her in my journal (which I kept because doing so was a religious commandment I was obligated to obey because angels might some day quote from my journal if I said something inspiring), who tried to explain to me her adoration of some reincarnated Buddhist monk, a conversations many Mormon missionaries wouldn't have had because they generally talked to rather than listened to other people about religion."

It's a good thing the essay didn't begin with the second sentence I offer above, because that sentence sucks. But if I had submitted that particularly essay to a mainstream secular journal whose readers weren't necessarily familiar with Mormonism, I would have felt obligated to provide lots of background and context--maybe not in the first sentence, but certainly SOMEWHERE in the essay. Whereas I knew that as soon as a Mormon audience was informed that I had a companion named Sister Knight, readers would assume, correctly, that I was a woman somewhere in my 20s who had elected to serve a mission.

Despite or perhaps because of their self-proclaimed and cherished status as a peculiar people, Mormons hate to be misunderstood. As a result, when they talk about their religion, they explain A LOT. Sometimes--perhaps usually--they explain TO EXCESS.

Two groups especially prone to excessive explanations are missionaries and Mormon writers.

Pagan Moon Stuff


Happy Easter, I guess. Not that I much care about the resurrection of Jesus these days, and I can't say I ever much believed in it, really. Easter just seemed such a second-rate holiday. It's supposed to be the holiest day in the Christian calendar, but it never felt convincing: Thanksgiving and Christmas were obviously so much more important, even though Thanksgiving was supposed to be secular and national rather than religious.

There were two things I always liked about Easter: getting a pretty new spring dress, and the way it moved around. Ever wonder how Easter is reckoned? Well, I learned long ago in a class on medieval literature. Easter follows the lunar rather than the date calendar, because people went on pilgrimage at Easter time, and they needed light to travel by, and the sun and the full moon were really the only things that provided much light long about the sixth century. So Easter is always the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox--the vernal equinox bit being important because Easter supplanted all sorts of pagan spring festivals--hence the bunnies and eggs and such.

Easter this year is about as early as it can be. The equinox was Thursday; the full moon was Friday. The earliest it could possibly be is the equinox itself, if that were also a full moon falling on a Sunday.

On my mission I went to church one Sunday morning in March and wished the elders "Happy Easter," because it was Easter. They told me it wasn't Easter, couldn't be Easter, because Easter was always the first Sunday in April. I explained about the equinox-full moon thing, adding, "Go home and ask your families when Easter is this year. They'll tell you I'm right," but the elders informed me--foolish, misinformed girl that I was--that there was no way determining the date of a holiday could be so silly or arbitrary. They were ADAMANT, and of course I had no evidence to support my claim, because there wasn't a single mention of Easter in any of the lessons or talks that day. The country as a whole didn't pay attention to Easter (and why should a non-Christian country bother with it?) and no one but me cared about observing the progress of the calendar, so no one but me knew it was Easter--even though, as I say, it was supposed to be our holiest day, the day on which the miracle that justified our entire religion occurred, some two thousand years before.

Yeah. If I ever forget why I found my mission frustrating or why I gave up on Christianity, thinking about that always helps me remember.

Anyway, if you celebrate and enjoy the holiday, I hope it rocks for you.

Continued from my post yesterday.

With the clarity of educated hindsight, I can look back at my life and see that I suffered my first serious bout of depression as a young teenager--serious enough that I ended up in the hospital, though not for depression. No, I was hospitalized because of the effects depression and sadness had on my body: I lost six pints of blood--half the blood in my body--through intestinal hemorrhaging, which the doctors, after conducting a slew of tests and subjecting me to unnecessary exploratory surgery, attributed to "stress."

This being 1978, I was told I had made myself ill, and that I better make myself well, or else next time, I'd probably die. No one offered me any counseling or therapy; and so I dealt with the whole thing the only way I could, which was to become anorexic and even more obsessive and weird about religion than I'd previously been.

Why I Need Glasses, At Least Tonight


A million years ago--OK, 16 or so months ago--I posted a picture of the reading glasses I finally had to get, because right on schedule, I began developing mild presbyopia in my early 40s. I like my glasses OK and wear them when I remember to put them on, which isn't that often. I keep them by my bed, so about the only time I remember to wear them is when I read before I (try to) go to sleep.

But tonight I tried to read something and there was just no freakin' way I could do it without glasses. Here's a photo of what I was trying to read:


My fingers mark the particular character I was looking for. Just for the sake of scale, here's another photo, including not only the book but my cat, so you can see how tiny the text actually is:


Looking up a character in an Chinese-English dictionary was always a challenge, particularly with older dictionaries in Taiwan, because to use them you had to know one of three things: 1) what the character's radical is (sometimes hard to determine even if you're thoroughly literate, and I never was--I was merely fluent), or 2) how to "spell" it with bo-po-mo-fo, a system I never mastered, or 3) how it is romanized in the wacky Wade-Giles system of romanization (which I didn't learn--at the MTC, we only learned Yale, which, despite being the easiest system for actually learning to pronounce Mandarin, is not the most popular system).

It was always an adventure to find a character even when I could read the tiny print of the dictionary, but now, well, it's quite the challenge. I finally found the character I needed, using a bo-po-mo-fo chart to help me sound out the phonetics of the character. It's this, ku, meaning suffering, bitterness, pain, a word I know well from my mission, because we were always being admonished to be "sying ku," to "toil bitterly."

Just thought I'd share.

This Wasn't Going to Be About Cheese


A sweet tooth is not the easiest thing to satisfy in China. I had to work very hard in both Taiwan and Shanghai to assuage my sugar cravings. I couldn’t find any decent Chinese sweets in Mainland China; I had to content myself with buying a bag or two of Skittles or M&Ms (both of which were imported and therefore very expensive) each week. Things had been markedly better in Taiwan, though I still had to make some accommodations. I ate a lot of chocolate O’Smiles, this sandwich cookie with a truly great name; there was also this flavored powdered milk drink I thought was OK. And then there were bings, these concoctions of fruit, shaved ice and sweetened condensed milk--they were pretty lovely, especially on a very hot day. And there was passion fruit juice--I’ve never tasted anything quite like fresh passion fruit juice, which was sold in baggies with a straw dropped into them, around which a string was tied so you could dangle the bag from the handlebars of your bicycle. There were also these sticky rice things that I found revolting if they had red bean in them--they were so very vile--but quite liked if they contained a paste of sweetened black sesame. But ain’t none of it the same as a really moist chocolate chip cookie or a nice big square of fudge so rich and sweet it makes your teeth hurt.

Baring Their Chests and Testimonies


I got this link from my friend Troy, who sent it to me with the note "as if missionaries weren't gay enough...."

It's for Mormons Exposed: Men on a Mission, a retailing enterprise promoting a calendar featuring a buff, bare-chested RM (returned missionary) every month. The faq page (an acronym I always read "fag" unless it's capitalized) states that "the calendar celebrates these missionaries' great looks and beautiful bodies, as well as the amazing stories of service of these deeply spiritual men," adding that

Behind the eye-candy, this calendar has a deeper story - one that can reshape perceptions, heighten awareness, and perhaps encourage and inspire a broadened acceptance of human and religious diversity. The fact that twelve young returned missionaries are posing shirtless will certainly raise eyebrows, but may also help to sort out some common misconceptions about Mormons. The shock value of what these traditionally conservative young men have helped to create has the power to build a dialogue that encourages people across every belief system and walk of life to defy stereotypes, step out of judgment and embrace tolerance.

It also notes that the "This product may be the must-have stocking stuffer of the year, or even be the gag gift of 2008"--or do they mean the "gay gift" of 2008?

Email from My Mission President

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In her comment on my post about the death of my mission president, Janet noted that it's hard to lose those "rare individuals who embody more than the institutions they represent."

As I mentioned in an entry a few days ago, I'm going through files on an old computer and deleting or transferring everything on it. One of the things I found was a message from President Carlson, written eleven years after he finished his stint as mission president and almost eight years after I left the church, a fact he was very well aware of.

But it's a nice message--warm and honest and caring. I would never do what I'm about to do now with a message from someone whose privacy I might be betraying, but President Carlson is, unfortunately, dead, so I feel at liberty to copy his message here.

Someone Who Was Really Good to Me


My mission, as anyone who has read my blog for very long knows, sucked for the most part.

But one part that didn't suck was my first mission president, who was as good a man as I ever knew. He was extremely kind to me, and I loved him and his family very much.

I found out last night that he died Sunday. I hadn't spoken to him in at least a decade (though he did stay in touch with me fof a good while after I left the church, just call me up every so often to see how I was doing, which tells you something about why I loved him), and I'm really bummed.


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