Your Underwear Symbolizes Our Marriage

(Reblogged from August 2011)

Sometimes you have to write it down and actually look at it in print to confirm how bizarre, ridiculous and crazy something really is. My then wife actually said that to me.

Think about it…

None of these looks could be Mormon.

  • Sitting in a Mormon worship service you know exactly what underwear most adults are wearing (And who isn’t wearing it but should be). Where else could you say that?
  • At regular intervals your local Mormon leaders will ask you in a private meeting behind closed doors what underwear you are wearing and what underwear you regularly wear day and night.
  • It’s possible to evaluate a fellow church members’ “worthiness” or to check up on someone who might be straying from their temple covenants by copping a feel on the leg or shoulder. And I’ve experienced it.
  • Wearing clothing that wouldn’t hide the garment-covered areas (such as thighs or shoulders) would be considered “revealing” to Mormons… not so much because of the skin that is actually revealed but more for the fact that it reveals what underwear you are NOT wearing.
  • Mormons consider Michelle Obama to be immodest because she wears dresses and tops that show her shoulders… an area that “should” be covered by garments.

 The irony is that an out of shape, obese Mormon woman could look at her and ask, “Doesn’t she have any respect for her body?”

My ex-wife and I didn’t fight a whole lot in our marriage.  That was partly my fault because I’m non-confrontational to a fault. Even when I did stand up for myself on occasion and pick a battle here and there, I almost invariably ended up giving in after a time. My ex-wife’s distinguishing personality trait is to not take no for an answer. In fact, her family warned me about this before we even got married. And true enough, if she ever got an idea or had an opinion that conflicted with mine there could either be a short discussion that led to her getting her way or a long drawn-out months-long discussion that led to her getting her way. Family size, moves and large purchases often went this way. That’s not to say I never got anything I wanted or that she never acquiesced. It’s just that she picked her battles more skillfully than I did and if she picked one there was no backing down.

Men can”t wear weather appropriate clothes like this tank top either.

But ridiculous as it may sound, my underwear is where I drew the line.  THAT’S the hill I chose to die on. The biggest argument that my ex-wife and I ever had was over my underwear.

Explanation

See, for the uninformed or uninitiated out there, the rumor of “Mormon magical underwear” is true.

“Magic” just isn’t the appropriate word for it. Mormons really do begin to wear special underwear as soon as they are “endowed.” This means that they have participated in the 2 temple ceremonies called “washing & anointing” and “endowment.”

[Cut to Peter Griffin chuckling, "Eh eh eh! He just said "endowed!"]

This generally happens just before the highly anticipated mission or marriage, which ends up being between ages 19  – 21 for most active young adults. Before that time, Mormon youth and teenagers can wear whatever underwear they want…boxers, briefs, panties, boxer briefs, granny panties, even a thong I suppose.

She wouldn’t pass the Mormon garment test. Can’t you just tell she is so immodest?

Call me naive but it never dawned on me as a teenager that I might one day wear the same underwear as my parents. Since the Mormon temple ceremonies are so hush-hush, Mormon underwear, actually called “garments,” are never talked about in church and rarely discussed at home among members. I saw my parents in them and I knew they had something to do with being Mormon because other adults didn’t wear them.

Back then, they were dastardly one-piece “union-suit” looking things cut off at the knees, and the units my parents wore were made of this ugly polyester silk-like material that turned grey in the wash. They were nasty looking. I think it was the early 80′s just before I entered the temple for the first time when the Mormon officials modernized the design.

Before you get too impressed with how progressive Mormon leadership can be, their version of modernization entailed offering a greater variety of materials and offering 2-piece garments, a top and a bottom separately (but they still had to be worn together). What you ended up with was a t-shirt and boxer-briefs that extended to just above the knees (so that Bermuda shorts would just barely cover them).

The actual distinguishing factor of garments is that there are masonic symbols embroidered into them in 4 places: over each breast, over the navel and over the right knee. Each of these symbols is tied to a specific promise (Mormons call these “covenants”), a special name and a special handshake (called a “token”) which is explained during the endowment ceremony. One purpose of the endowment is to explain the marks in the underwear that you will wear for the rest of your life.

Marie is definitely NOT wearing garments here.

Both men and women are expected to wear this style of underwear 24/7 with only few exceptions: sex, bathing and sports (and apparently performing because Donny and Marie, BYU cheerleaders, dancers, etc don’t wear them).

What this means in everyday life is pretty significant.

You can obviously only wear clothing that covers your garments.  This is not too difficult for men but extremely challenging for women.

I know what underwear he’s not wearing!

Sex becomes encumbering and deliberate because garments are unappealing in the first place. Yet, garments even more dramatically affect touching and tenderness before and after sex.  There’s very little skin to skin contact when the great garment barrier needs to be crossed first.  And then afterwards, there’s a rush to put them back on – at least there was in my marriage. There was no just lying there, or sleeping together with skin to skin contact.

The garments are an ever present reminder that God and the Mormon leadership are there in bed with you and your spouse.

These are NOT garments

Still, I have to be honest that when I was living as a Mormon I never really questioned garments nor was I bothered by them all that much because they were just part of the life that I knew.

I never experienced or even anticipated anything magical out of them and I don’t think the majority of Mormons do. When I put them on that first time (with the help of an old Mormon temple worker dude who had just spent the previous 5 minutes touching me in uncomfortable places) I was promised that they would protect me from harm and be a constant reminder of the promises I made to God on that day.

I think most of us interpret that as protection from “spiritual harm,” not that they are going to be an imaginary cotton superhero blocking falling bridges or shooting flames (but there are plenty of faith promoting urban Mormon myths which do conjure up such images too) .

Personal Boundaries

But as soon as I stopped believing in Mormonism wearing garments instantly became at once ridiculous and oppressive to me. The light fabric seemed to weight 100 pounds each morning as I put them on after showering and I was disgusted at seeing my ex-wife in them.

As time went on I began to realize that garments, among other things, were one aspect of the religion that crossed a universal  personal boundary.

Another celebrity Mormon NOT wearing the regulation underwear

When I first came out as apostate and gay to my ex-wife, I was emphatic that there was nothing about ME that had changed and that I wasn’t planning on changing. At that point I was completely honest is saying it was enough to be open to myself (and her) and to stop beating myself up over who I was, and what I did (or didn’t) believe.

After about a year or so later, however, I couldn’t take the boundary violations anymore.

I had originally imagined that I could continue public displays of devotion (such as attending church and praying as a family), but it became clearer and clearer that expecting me to keep up the private actions of faith (such as wearing garments, paying tithing, reading scripture and praying) was unreasonable and out of line. Shedding my garments was the last one to go.

When I shared my intention to stop this personal worshipful act of devotion to a God and a church I no longer believed in,  my ex-wife blew her gasket.  It was the proverbial last straw.

She took my underwear removal as a slap in the face (even though her face never ever came close to those garments, believe me). And as I said, establishing respectful and appropriate personal boundaries is where I drew the line. It was the hill I chose and on which I died.

Months later and a few ultimatums later she filed for divorce. She apparently found the skid-marks in my underwear more symbolic of our marriage.

One more floosie picture

Some links you might like on this topic:

Mitt Romney’s Magic Underwear

Mormon underwear keeps body and soul together

Temple Garments

Posted in Divorce, Mormonism, Religion | Tagged , , , | 9 Comments

Discriminating In Favor Of

lds menHave you ever been singled out unfairly in your favor?

I’m going to stick my neck out and say that the fruits of discrimination are harder to recognize but sometimes more poisonous for the recipients of the favored side of discrimination.

The most stark examples in my life happened in Japan… both at being discriminated FOR and AGAINST. Either way, these are pretty mild examples as discrimination goes, but they made a big impact on me.

About 2 months into my teaching job in Japan, I was assigned to attend a special regional training seminar in a neighboring city with one of my Japanese colleagues. It was a full day event. We traveled by bullet train into the metropolitan area and attended a full day of workshops. Before the lunch break, all of the gaijin (non-Japanese) teachers were invited up front to collect their lunch money. The company was paying for our lunch, but just ours. There was no such invitation for the native Japanese teachers. I looked at my Japanese colleague horrified and confused. Surely I had misunderstood.

Nope. I had gotten it right.

My very limited Japanese tells me it says "Foreigners make better lovers."

My very limited Japanese tells me it says “Foreigners make better lovers.”

The odd thing was that the Japanese teachers seemed far less surprised and disgusted than I was. They knew the company policy and something deep down told them that we were the specialists in the company and therefore we deserved the extra perks. Old timer westerners in the meeting didn’t even seem to blink and eye. It’s just the way things were. But none of the native English speakers had done anything to earn the privilege other than to be born in an English speaking country.

I did go get my money that day, but I split it and treated my Japanese colleague to lunch amid her protests that it wasn’t necessary. I would have felt dirty having kept it to myself, but stuff like this goes on every day in all corners of the world. The thing is that I later noticed something odd among some western expats in Japan. As they continued receiving unearned favors and perks over the years they seemed to regress in social maturity to become odd and lived in an English speaking bubble. I’d speculate that being the continual recipient of unearned privileges turns humans into assholes.

LuciaSignOn the other side of the coin, on the streets of Japan and in retail establishments I was occasionally followed by security because, being a westerner, I was profiled as a potential shoplifter. It was a minor irritation but completely unnerving to have one or two employees shadow your every move throughout a store or a mall. Again I’d done nothing to deserve the extra scrutiny but there’s something very demoralizing and unjust at being singled out like this.

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? It almost makes you want to go ahead and commit the infraction because you’re being targeted for it anyway. Of course I never did shoplift but I understand that train of thought.

I can’t imagine what it must be like in this country to get pulled over for a DWB or profiled in the airport for being too middle-eastern looking. I also can’t imagine what it feels like to be a Mormon woman who desires for  more meaningful contribution to the authority structure of the LDS Church only to be denied and called less faithful. I would imagine that that only creates an impulse to leave and become less faithful since that’s what they are being accused of anyway.

first pLikewise, LDS men have done nothing to merit their spot of privilege. From an outsider’s perspective they just look like privileged assholes – getting something by virtue of birth. I speculate that that image will only solidify as the males in authority retrench ever more strongly because the current setup is poisonous to both the men and the women. The men for being discriminated in favor of, and the women for being accused of something they aren’t in fact guilty of.

imagestubmanKeep in mind all you LDS women who claim not to feel discriminated against… It doesn’t really matter what you think or feel. In fact it’s common for victims of discrimination to be unaware of it. My Japanese colleagues were much more content with the status quo than I was. Their compliance neither adds nor subtracts from the fact that it was wrong and unfair of the company to pay for my lunch and not theirs.

I’m as worried for my son as I am for my daughters as they grow up and absorb the toxic effects of unearned privilege and discrimination in their mother’s LDS faith.

mDqHPx6

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“Why Oh Why Can’t You Leave It Alone?”

A Question from a Mormon reader:

Just my .02 but I have often wondered why so many of these ex-mormons spend so much of their time renouncing this faith. I’ve seen blogs, websites and fb pages devoted to this. I guess when I left my church for another, it didn’t bother me enough to devote my whole life to renouncing it. Of course I explained it to my friends and family. Of course my mother will NEVER get over it but I just kinda figured it was too bad for her, or “them”. I don’t want to rain on your parade, you have some funny posts, I truly am not bashing, fighting, ridiculing. Just more thinking out loud. I just wonder why all the angst and anger, instead of feeling released and free. Maybe it’s just the lack of mormon background but seriously, Jewish mothers NEVER forgive. Especially when the grandkids started coming. I just never thought about it again and didn’t feel guilty enough to devote so much time and anger to justifying my leaving. Good luck primal scream and may you truly find the peace you seem to still be searching for.

Before I answer your question, I’m going to call you out on your BS.

You already understand perfectly well the dynamics at play with ex-Mormons. What compelled you to visit my blog, to continue reading and then to comment? That’s the same impulse that leads ex-Mormons into a prolonged and sometimes public analysis of their change of faith.

Did you serve a mission? That’s also the same behavioral impulse that prevents ex-Mormons from keeping their mouths shut once they’ve encountered further light and knowledge. I find it odd that LDS members who support tens of thousands of missionaries at any given time with the message that “we’re more right than anything you believe in right now” somehow wonder, like yourself, why that same zeal is still apparent after friends or relatives find something better. I see LDS  “blogs, websites and fb pages devoted” to the message of “the restoration”, which is at it’s very core a renunciation of every other religion.

The doctrine of the apostasy is a renunciation of every other religion.

If you’ve read or studied anything about human behavior it’s quite obvious that it’s rare that someone just “gets over it” when a major life shift has taken place. In fact I’d suggest that your never thinking about it again, and apparent disregard for your Jewish mother’s unforgiving feelings is far more pathological than what you find in the typical ex-Mormon desire to process and understand their new stage in life and how their loved ones fit into it. It says a lot more about YOU than it does about ex-Mormons.

Lastly, to use me or any other blogger as a legitimate representation of all ex-Mormons is a logical fallacy where you take the loudest and most vocal of a group and generalize those opinions or feelings of “angst and anger” to the population of ex-Mormons as a whole. Numerically, the quiet ones far outnumber us.

For example, the LDS faith claims 15 million followers, but only a 1/3 of those bother to have any significant interaction with the LDS faith. In fact, census reports from abroad indicate that those 2/3 that still remain on the books don’t even consider themselves LDS enough to self report it on their national census. They are the silent ex-Mormons, the ones you won’t read about or hear from. They are the ones who silently walked away and “just never thought about it again and didn’t feel guilty.” They are the majority. In my family alone, I have 3 siblings and a father who, for all intents and purposes, have left but who are still counted as part of that 15 million. You won’t read a Mormon-themed blog or FB post by them. There are more of them than there are of vocal ex-Mormons like myself or even faithful Mormons like yourself so neither one of us should be kidding ourselves.

Now, to briefly answer your question, not speaking for every ex-Mormon alive, but for myself. I continue to engage with Mormonism because it is still forced on me. My young children are still being indoctrinated by their mother and ward family. It is shoved down their throats and they are being manipulated with half-truths. I couldn’t walk away from it if I wanted to. I live in a community swarming with Mormonism. There are more LDS chapels than Starbucks if that gives you an idea. It permeates my surroundings in ways that it wouldn’t if I were fortunate to live outside the Jello Belt.

Lastly, I was a good, faithful, true believing Mormon for 38 years of my life. The kind that accepted every calling, held a temple recommend and actually did his home teaching. When you realize you’ve been bamboozled for much of your life, it takes some time to get over.

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

The fact is that most people would never allow themselves to admit it even to themselves. It’s far easier not to allow yourself the thought that you’ve been wrong in such a dramatic way and that you’ve testified of events you once believed but that you now know to be falsehoods. It’s rare. Those of us that have passed through that eye of the needle remain with bruises that take years to heal. And the angst and anger that you detect is as much at ourselves for being so bamboozled for so long as it is at the ones perpetuating the bamboozle even now.

There IS the feeling of being “released and free.” The other logical fallacy you’ve succumbed to is believing that my being vocal on this blog represents the entirety of my life. If you read my “About” page, you’ll see that this is the one place I come to vent. I have so much more to my life and to my relationships with my loved ones than is reflected in being ex-Mormon and gay. I just don’t feel the need to vent about that part of my life because it comes so easy. So, your question is like the physician wondering why everyone in the world is so sick. If you visit ex-Mormon blogs, you’re going to see angst.

I hope that helps you understand.

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Cuddle Parties and Passionate Kisses

I read recently in my friend’s blog, Gay Mormon Southpaw about a phenomenon I’d never heard of before, “cuddle parties.”

WHAT?cuddle-parties03

Gay men get together just to cuddle?

OK…..

I don’t get impersonal intimacy.

I’m just as gay as the next homo, but I can’t wrap my head around the prevalence of some things that are stereo-typically gay.

I assume they all cuddle and just pretend that they’re not getting boners and that that’s all going to help them to feel whole?

And it’s not just the Mormon gays either. Out here in Gentile or heathen land, personal online gay dating profiles often list “passionate kissing” as something the headliner enjoys. REALLY? With anyone? You’ve got to be super hot and we’ll need a lot of chemistry on the first date if there’s going to be any “passionate kissing” going on. I’ll kiss you, but it will be in line with how I fell about you. Am I the weird one?

As my kids will attest, I’m a touchy-feely kind of guy. Anyone I’ve been in a relationship with will agree. I’m not stiff or afraid of touch but enjoying that with some random stranger or even an acquaintance gives me the willies. Without the meaning and context, touch just seems creepy to me.

“Impersonal Intimacy” … sounds like an oxymoron I know. That’s because it is!

As an example, everyone has a social comfort zone or personal space. Depending on the culture, this zone dictates how comfortable we feel when approached by another person and how close we allow them into our space.  Here in the U.S. loved ones can usually touch or get 0-18 inches from us and we’re OK with it. Friends have a wider zone and mere acquaintances an even wider one.

This plays into many parts of our lives, even going to the bathroom. If there are 3 urinals, no socially savvy man would be the first to arrive and select the middle one. If there is a row of 7 urinals and only two men, there are personal zoning rules that dictate where each should elect to use. Rules change depending on gender and culture. (The International Center for Bathroom Etiquette). At a sporting event or concert they are all used shoulder to shoulder and there’s no problem with that. Context is everything.

I’m not even a prude. I’m guilty of the most guiltless random of random sexual encounters. I’ve done and seen some really weird shit…but I won’t brag or embarrass myself here by describing it. My “rules” are kind of like gigolo or prostitute rules. No kissing or “true” intimacy unless I mean it. I admit it’s strange how my dick can touch something less worthy of my lips or my entire body for an extended period of time, but it makes sense to me. I don’t think I’m different from any man in that sense.

I’ve told 2 people that I love them. EVER. That’s excluding family members such as my kids of course who I tell at every opportunity. That’s my goodbye on the phone and theirs. “Bye. I love you!”

Actions and words mean something to me.

If I were poly-amorous I could see joining a “cuddle party” and passionate kisses with more than one person.

I’m not.

I don’t really see the point otherwise. Enlighten me please.

 

 

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North Star

Due to the recent news about North Star, I’ve elected to republish this post from 2012. An excellent blogger, Gay Mormon Southpaw, linked to this post in his most recent post titled:

How a gay Mormon “support” group really screwed me up.

Go read it. It’s excellent.

Now, for my repost….

Did you know that some people have survived going over Niagara Falls?

In fact the majority have survived the drop. From what I can tell, 12 people have gone over the Falls and only 5 have died. Four of those survivors to date have accomplished it without any protection!

Still, I’m pretty confident in saying that you’d have to be a suicidal moron to attempt it. I’d be incredulous at anyone giving advice to swim upriver.

I’m incredulous today.

Unwise Advice

I’ve been sick to my stomach for a full day since I landed on a website that in my opinion is the equivalent of those 7 survivors telling fellow tourists to take the plunge…figuratively.

North Star, “a peer-led, community-driven organization—a grass-roots effort with a mission to empower men and women who experience same-sex attraction, as well as their friends, spouses, or other family members, to more authentically and healthily live the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

More about it later, but the organization’s web site is filled with straight-married gay Mormons, LDS therapists and celebate singles helping others “struggle.”

If you want to know how to survive going over Niagara Falls go here. It’s really cool speculative advice by some guy who thinks he knows what it’s all about. You can even read all about the 7 people who have done it and lived and so I’m sure it’s reliable information. Ready to jump?

Please don’t.

If you want to know how to navigate being a gay Mormon go to North Star. It’s really cool speculative (and contradictory) advice by a bunch of people who think they have it figured out for themselves, so I’m sure it’s reliable information. Ready to jump?

Please don’t.

Why I Care

When I started writing this blog two years ago my intent was purely personal. I was merely attempting to get some things off my chest regarding homosexuality and the LDS Church and deal with them in a productive way so as to not impact my relationship with loved ones, namely my children. That’s still my main motivation, but along the way I’ve also recognized that there are visitors to my blog in my same shoes.

So, writing this blog has become a calling of sorts to provide a voice and contribution to gay ex-Mormon fathers… or maybe even just gay ex-Mormons…or maybe just gay fathers… or maybe just fathers… or just gays… or just ex-Mormons…or maybe even an actual Mormon or two.

Whoever.

I’m not saying I make a big impact, but I do know that I provide a testimonial to others thinking of walking the paths I have walked. And that means something significant to me at least because it’s mine and it’s true.

Don’t Do It

There’s so much I want to say in this post but I’m going to start off just cutting to the chase:

    • If you are gay, don’t marry someone of the opposite sex. Ever.
    • Celibacy is no way to live a meaningful life.

If you came here just to get the meat of my message you can leave now.

But if you are a gay Mormon still reading this you most likely already have a laundry list of rationale in your mind why marriage or lifelong celibacy might be a wise choice just since reading my advice two lines above. They’re not wise. EVER.

In their defense, North Star isn’t overtly about getting gay Mormons to marry. To their detriment, saying as much is merely the LDS custom of plausible deniability. But the truth is actually very simple…

    • North Star is about convincing gay folks they can follow “the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
    • To achieve “exaltation”, the pinnacle of the current Mormon version of “the gospel of Jesus Christ” one must be opposite-sex married.

The problem is that you know, and I know and the even the well-meaning folks over at North Star know that no amount of mental or spiritual gymnastics is going to make that an attractive or viable option for you.

You already know that. Trust yourself. Don’t take the plunge.

I’ve been there. I know. I know what it’s like to claim all the while that I really am less attracted to men and that I am deeply in love with my “beautiful” wife. I know how to give the impression that “all is well in Zion.” I don’t believe them any more than they believe what I am saying here.

Don’t take the plunge even if there are folks at North Star who have survived it. You’ll get bruised, bleed and collect permanent scars. It’s unhealthy physically, emotionally and spiritually. And that’s just celebacy. If you marry you’ll not only damage yourself that way but you’ll also cause collateral damage on those you love… some beautiful straight girl, your kids and extended family relationships.

You know Who You Are

As a teenager, my Mom used to always call after me on my way out the door, “Remember who you are!” Except that no teenager truly knows who he is. What she really meant to say was, “Remember who I expect you to be!”

That’s what North Star is doing. They and a boatload of old straight men they follow believe they know you. They only know who they expect you to be. That’s neither “authentic” nor “healthy” as they claim to be in their mission statement.

For every testimonial on that web site, I can introduce you to a dozen men who sincerely believed and tried that path. We took the plunge and survived but now we and our families are left with the scars and bruises that come from a lie well-followed.

Full Disclosure 

The best rebuttal that a North Star devotee will be able to say about me and my argument is that I’m apostate. It’s true. I do not believe that the LDS Church is what is claims to be.  I thank my lucky north star every single day for that fact. I consider myself fortunate. You can read that story by following the links in  “Why I left Mormonism” in the menu above. But even if you can’t go there, don’t let my disbelief scare you away from trusting the rest of my story.

But make no mistake, I did once truly truly “know” that the gospel was true. I believed in the Restoration with the full extent of everything that that meant. I served a faithful mission, taught for 2 years in the MTC, graduated from BYU, married in the temple and went on to accept every calling extended to me including in the Elder’s Quorum, Young Men’s and Bishopric. I worthily kept a temple recommend that whole time.

If you’re like me, that rock solid testimony will have to be dismantled before any true homosexual self-acceptance can take place. Still, that isn’t why I investigated the church’s truth claims. Accepting myself as a gay man is just the fortunate bi-product of wanting to know the unpolished truth.

For others, in fact for the majority of men that I’ve met, they seemed to have been able to recognize the truth about themselves and the ramifications of that truth without ever having to re-investigate the LDS truth claims. How ever it needs to happen for you, remember to search, ponder and pray to discover the path that you need to take to  reach your authenticity and good health.

North Star Critique

In all honesty I spent several hours in the North Star web site but I did not read every single post about every single topic. I’m a fast reader so in those few hours I read at least  a dozen testimonials, blog posts and stories. Here are a few random thoughts, reactions and  impressions that led to my post above. In no particular order:

  • The North Star web site is chock full of Boyd K Packer quotes. Need I say more?
  • Like all ex-gay snake oil salesmen, the language regarding homosexuality is desperate and homophobic. Let’s be clear. It is the LDS church and these North Star men who are “struggling” with “unwanted” homosexuality, or “same sex attraction.” I haven’t “struggled” or needed “help” with it for years. I’m not “living with” anything like one does with cancer and my daily activities are just a normal life, not a “lifestyle.”
  • No matter how many effusive adjectives used to describe their wives as “wonderful”, “beautiful”, “amazing” and “understanding” it is still WRONG to marry a straight woman, even if she knows of your homosexuality beforehand and even if she wants it. You don’t invite someone you care about to jump off Niagara Falls WITH you!
  • Every time I read something about or by one of the “amazing” wives, the thought that went through my mind was, “Thou doth protest too much, methinks.”
  • Rex Goode on North Star,  is the Dan Peterson of “same gender attracted, but faithful Mormon” apologetics. Ten years ago I remember him from earlier versions of “same gender attracted” forums and online groups. Like Peterson, the conclusion always proceeds the hypothesis.
  • For a support group that is “fully supportive of the prophets” its mere existence isn’t. The LDS Church’s same sex attraction pamphlet God Loveth His Children states clearly, “One of these adverse influences is obsession with or concentration on same-gender thoughts and feelings. It is not helpful to flaunt homosexual tendencies or make them the subject of unnecessary observation or discussion.” Seems to me that North Star is all about observing and discussing their homosexuality and you don’t get any more “flaunting” than doing it on the internet.
  • What North Star members mean is that they are supportive of the prophets in the “weightier matters” but will make personal decisions about being on the web site and managing their homosexuality however they please. For example, the church no longer advises marriage for gay men but a lot of these men are married.
  • Beware of the false dichotomies that you see all over ex-gay web sites like this…“It was a choice between beliefs – between hope and despair. Do I continue to believe that God could maybe, someday love me and I can be forgiven? Or do I resign myself to being cast off, and, like King David, appeal that God will not leave my soul in Hell forever?” The truth isn’t all that melodramatic. There’s a lot of room in the middle. Some of these North Star men claimed to have spent time “living the lifestyle”, but in truth what they did was have a young adult Rumspringa when they flew off the deep end and felt horrible, so they crawled back. One can be a good, clean, productive citizen and be gay. That’s not the kind of life they experimented with. Look for the people who challenge the stereotypes. They’re everywhere. By the same token, beware of gay men who claim that all these ex-gay Mormons are self-hating, tortured nuts. I am NOT saying that. Some of them are nuts. Some of them aren’t. I believe they are all incredibly unwise.
  • “The purpose of life is to learn to be happy. ” REALLY? This epitomizes the small difference between my life then and now. Back then I was struggling to “learn to be happy.” Now I’m just happy.
  • Straight married homosexuality IS compatible within a Mormon framework just as these men claim… It comes from the common Mormon belief that just about any two faithful people can make a marriage work. A Mormon marriage is a threesome, two people facing God and so they’re right. Just about any two people can face the same direction. But not many in the rest of the world desire that kind of marriage.
  • One blog poster postulated, “the problem with homosexuality is a lack of heterosexuality.” I wanted to hug him and tell him that there’s nothing missing, that he’s not deficient in any way. Don’t let anyone lead you to believe you are lesser-than.
  • A general impression? As a father of young kids, the North Star web site reminds me of my kids fighting over the most trivial of issues… and then lying about what really happened. “Dad! Tommy put his arm on my my side of the armrest!” “Did not!” “Did so!” You know what worked? I bought a bigger vehicle and they don’t sit next to each other anymore. Sometimes it’s the environment that’s the problem.
  • Neither life path is devoid of faith. There’s a lot of self-congratulatory back patting at North Star for being faithful Mormons.  It does take a lot of faith to live on the outside in a manner inconsistent with how you really feel on the inside, but it’s also cruel to those you are dragging in with you. It took faith for me to come out, believe me.
  • That thought above reminds me of a joke:

Q: Do you know what’s even better than winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics?

A: (See bottom of the page)

  • Steven Frei the North Star President, Media Relations has served in numerous callings over the years, including Scout Master, Gospel Doctrine Teacher, Bishop, and Dad. Is he aware that as a gay man in the LDS Church today that he shouldn’t be allowed to be Scout Master or anything involving the youth?
  • North Star bottom line: Homosexuality “doesn’t define who you are. There is a difference between ACTION and ATTRACTION.”  I hate to burst someone’s bubble but back when I was a married, straight-acting, “worthy” priesthood holder my homosexuality was as much a part of who I was as it is today. In fact I’d claim that the “struggle” against it made it a great monster in my life even when I wasn’t “acting” on anything. The truth is that this sort of thinking nurtures and creates more of an obsession than it prevents.
  • The joke:

Q: Do you know what’s even better than winning a gold medal at the Special Olympics?

A: Not being retarded*.

Your “struggle” and “faith” don’t impress me. No matter what your mental capacity is, stay away from the falls!!!

*Sorry for using the word “retarded.” I don’t use it in my daily speech but the joke doesn’t work with “disabled” or other words I thought of.

See Also:

The (gay) Mormon pursuit of happiness: find the box that’s gay and crush it

Posted in Homosexuality, Mormonism | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

No. I’m Sorry. I Don’t Want to Tour the New Mormon Temple with You

Dear Never-Mo friend of mine:

Thank you so much for the invitation to attend the new local Mormon temple open house with you! I know the offer comes from a good place in your heart, but I’ll regretfully have to decline. Here’s why.

Been there. Done that.

You see, unlike you, the temple holds zero curiosity for me. I’ve easily been in more than a dozen of them in my lifetime as a full-fledged participant. In fact, (a rare known fact) I, myself, even acted as an officiant or ordinance worker in a temple for a brief period of time.TEMPLE FRONT

In short, I know all about it. Some temples are handsomely appointed and even pretty, but I know exactly what happens inside them and so I’ll have to respectfully decline. I’m more than happy to host a question and answer period afterwards, but I won’t be going on the tour this time.

Perhaps the following analogy will help you understand:

Let’s pretend that when you were born your parents belonged to an exclusive, elite country club. You naturally became a member of this club by virtue of your higher birth.

Growing up, you felt special for being part of this awesome country club. Not everyone around you understood the specialness of this club, but you were convinced that they were just jealous of your membership and of the privileges you enjoyed.

pants man

Part of this club membership involved the wearing of special club pants, but only the adults wore them. You weren’t quite sure what made them so special because no one talked about them in specifics, but early on you became convinced that these were some awesome pants!

These pants were spoken of so highly that they became the only pants you’d ever want to wear when you grew up. In fact, when adults talked about wearing these pants, they’d get teary eyed and choked up about how amazing the pants felt inside. Whenever you caught glimpses of someone just about to wear these pants, or after just having taken them off, they’d have a very “special”, secretive look on on their faces. It was something you’d never seen anywhere else. Because of this testimony of others, you just knew that these were the very best pair of pants ever!

pants women

The thing is… that getting permission to wear these pants took a lot of concentration and preparation. The country club didn’t let just anyone wear the pants. The experience of wearing them was reserved for those people who kept all the club rules.

And there were a lot of rules!

You had to eat certain food. You had to keep your hands off of certain body parts, both your own and of others. You had to have complete faith in the guy who first designed the pants. You had to have complete confidence in the dude who made the current version of the pants. But most importantly, you were required to pay your country club dues if you hoped to wear the pants one day.

No dues. No pants.

Then, the day came when you were grown up enough that you’d get to wear the pants yourself! You’d eaten all the right food all your life. You only touched the approved parts of your own body. You’d believed in both the past and the current pants manufacturers and you were up to date on all your dues.

Finally! You’d get to wear the pants and experience them on the inside!

So, you joined the adults in a private meeting and finally got to put the pants on, one leg at a time just like all the other adult country club members. You actually experienced the inside of the pants for the first time!!!!

At first, they felt like butter. Smooth. Beautiful. Easy.

You looked around at all the other adults smiling calmly, knowingly and completely confident in the experience they had finally allowed you to join.

And then once the pants were on, the country club leader said,

“You’re about to have the one and only, true pants experience. If you don’t want it, you can take the pants off right now. But if you do indeed want the one true pants experience you’ll need to promise that you’ll never tell anyone about it and never even talk about it among yourselves when you’re not wearing the pants.”

You looked around nervously at your parents, siblings and other loved ones who have done this dozens of times before you. So, clearly you just knew deep in your soul that if they’d had the pants experience and loved it so much, then it could only be good.

You confirmed that you were ready to proceed.

The entire universe seemed to be in approval that not only had you prepared so well to wear the pants but also that you wanted to proceed. You were ready, prepared and able to handle the pants experience, whatever it entailed.

And then the country club leader spoke again and said,

“That is good.

Now, take a big shit in your pants! Right here, right now!”

WHAT?!!!

You looked around and all your loved ones seemed to be… taking shits in their pants!

Wait! This can’t be happening!

But, it was.

shit pants

Mom, Dad, Aunt LaRue, Uncle Lorn and even Grandma Packard all seemed to be taking a long, robotic, fulfilling shit in their pants. The country club leader even came around to check that everyone had deposited a nice warm dookie in their pants.

You panicked!

But before the shit-checker got around to you, you realized that the decision to proceed had already been made for you, and you were so sure that it would feel good. So, you too… shat in your own pants that day!

i-kinda-shit-my-pants

During the next 90 minutes you shat in your pants a couple more times, sat in it, rocked back and forth and spread it around to make a nice thick, chunky racing stripe in your underwear. And after you took the pants off that day… and showered… you never really got to talk to anyone about what happened inside those pants because you promised that you wouldn’t. And everyone else who shat in their own pants with you that day just had big huge knowing smiles on their faces. But they never ever talked about it.

Oh, they talked a LOT about the pants! All the time! They gave lessons about them and they sang about them in country club meetings. They showed them off to others who weren’t members of the club, but only without the underwear and without the shit.

Just the beautiful pants.

K primary program

They encouraged their children to sing about the pants and hope for the day when they would wear them… They sang how beautifully made the pants were, about the original designer and the current manufacturer and how nicely they smelled.

They gave long, flowery speeches  about the pants. They lauded anyone who was strong and brave enough to wear the pants.

But no one ever, ever talked about the shit, or the underwear. Ever.

Fast forward several decades to the day when after much searching, pondering and praying you realized that there’s nothing really true or special about this country club. It’s really just like all the other country clubs, but with some weird rules, strange traditions and some bat-shit crazy, shitty pants!

Then, it dawned on you that while wearing the special pants you’ve been shitting on yourself for 20 years and you are embarrassed, ashamed and only slightly amused. So, you vowed to never ever shit on yourself again. You decided not to even look at the pants again because it just caused you to remember the smell and feel of the shit.

That decision to turn your back on the special pants led some of the active pant-shitters in your life to secretly resent you and to openly reject you.  After all, they’ve painstakingly prepared and concentrated so hard to be able to shit in their own pants like they do.

And they know that you know.

10 years, much happiness and heartache later a good friend excitedly tells you that your former country club is hosting a display of their new special pants in the neighborhood. Would you like to go and try them on with her?

the-show-must-go-on_1327828900

Of course, you’ve worn the pants before and you know that they are well made and beautiful, but it also irks you that the special pants display won’t be saying anything about the shitting in the pants or the thickly coated racing-striped underwear.

They’ll only be showing the clean version of the pants and talking about how special they are and how experiencing the pants can bring families closer together.

Funny. Because my not wanting to shit in my pants anymore made some of my family of pant-shitters reject and ridicule me. Apparently, not shitting in your pants means you are unclean, weak, angry and selfish.

Would I like to go with you to see the new and shiny pants on display?

No thanks. You go.

Return and report.

man dancing

Posted in Mormonism, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Helping the Ex-Mormon Progress

Due to there being “opposition in all things,” many of you will find as you exit Mormonism that that there is eternal progression outside the gospel that counter-balances the “celestial progression” you experienced within it. This is to be expected. It should be welcomed and it should be cherished. Here’s a brief overview of what some significant milestones have looked like in my heathen progression:

    • First time going “Hmmm?” when something about the church didn’t seem right.
    • First time deciding that my “testimony shelf” was full enough already and I couldn’t put one more thing up there without searching and pondering.
    • First time reading something about Mormons, not written by Mormons.
    • First time allowing myself to consider the question: “If the LDS faith were not true, would I want to know it?”
    • First time pondering the obvious follow-up thought, “If the LDS faith were not true, how would I know it?”
    • Briefly occupying the no-man’s land where I admitted to myself that the LDS faith is bogus but that it does so much good, so I’ll stay in it and stay quiet so as to not make waves.
    • First time pinching my own child so that I’d have to take her out during sacrament meeting because the talk was unbearably ridiculous and false.
    • First time saying, “No” to a calling.
    • Realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to maintain the facade peacefully for very long.
    • First paycheck I didn’t deduct 10% for tithing.
    • First full month of no church.
    • First cup of coffee.
    • First taste of alcohol.
    • First time not wearing garments all day.
    • Resigning from the church officially.
    • First guilt-free sex outside of marriage.
    • First time having to replace secular underwear with secular underwear.
    • First full month of no visits or participation in any Ex-Mormon board.
    • First time I blew it in a big way and I realized that there was only me to make it better, no invisible sky daddy to pray to who could take it away. Just me and my better behavior in the future.

And now I come to where I have arrived in my progression recently…

    • The first time finding the ex-Mormon comments on a bulletin board to be as irritating as a True Believing Mormon’s.

I know that foolish comments are part of ANY large group of people and there are no exceptions that I can think of, so here’s a look at some common ideas, comments or posts on ex-Mormon boards that should be purged but likely won’t.

Mistaken targets

Missionaries : “The missionaries just stopped by, I told them they were liars and slammed the door shut!”

Having been a naive missionary myself and knowing that my own son is likely indoctrinated enough to agree to it himself after high school, I hate seeing them mistreated. Most of them have no idea about the shady side of Mormonism, as I didn’t. They are not the enemy. When they stop by or talk to me on the street my instinct is to be friendly, but honest. I’ve even invited them over for food (never accepted). I’ve never had the opportunity to share much more with them because my priority is to be polite.

Home Teachers: “My home teachers just shared an Ensign article with me that got my blood boiling.”

Here’s one I understand, but I still believe the onus to set boundaries and expectations lies with you. You want to be rid of it? Then resign from the church. I did and haven’t been bothered once since. But if for some reason you can’t or don’t want to resign then it’s up to you to establish appropriate boundaries in your home. If that means no home teachers, then say “no”. If it means they can’t just stop by without an appointment, then tell them so. If you welcome social visits without prayers and a lesson, open your mouth and have the balls to establish that boundary in your own home.

Relatives: “They always have to say a damn prayer or have some sort of lesson when we’re at their house!”

Location. Location. Location. It’s their house. They’re not obligated to modify their behavior because of you. Even if you are their daughter, son, parent, brother, sister, in-law or guest. Be polite and gracious for God’s sake! Or, alternatively stay away and keep your distance.

In your home, however, the onus is upon you to set the boundaries. If you let them railroad you in your own home, you need to grow some balls. “Thanks for the offer, but in our home we don’t do that.”

Word of Wisdom

Coffee: “Help. I tried coffee for the first time and I hate it. What do I do?”

Then you stop drinking it, moron! If you don’t like it, don’t do it! There are a lot of non-Mormons who don’t like coffee or who don’t drink it for one reason or another. It doesn’t make you any less of an apostate if you choose not to drink coffee.

Still, a little online research wouldn’t take long to help you discover the type of coffee you might like. Think of it as chocolate. If you’ve ever tasted pure cocoa (chocolate) it’s nasty. But maybe you’d like that bitter kick. If so, try an espresso. Some people like dark chocolate and some people like milk chocolate. If you are the former, try coffee with sweetener, but no milk or cream. If you are the latter, add milk or cream or try a latte with any of the popular flavors.

Alcohol: “What are you drinking?”

As with coffee, it’s not necessary to drink alcohol to live in the world. A lot of people live happy Mormon-free lives without it. But in the case of alcohol there’s a lot more to it. An education course might be helpful. You know that saying “everything in moderation”? I’m convinced alcohol was the reason someone first said it. It will take a few times to get the idea of what you like and how much you can handle, but ALWAYS pre-plan your ride home before you take a drink away from home. A cab ride or a hotel room are both cheaper and safer than a DUI.

I also think the verb “drink” is mistakenly applied to alcohol. It’s why people in this country have such an unhealthy relationship with it. In the case of beer and wine especially, they are best experienced as a long sipping session. Think of them as the cranberry sauce of a Thanksgiving dinner. Alone, not so good. But together with a full plate it adds a balance. Beer and wine enhance another food item or even just add something special to an experience. Alone, without friends or food, it’s quite nasty.

Alternate pathways:

Skeptics

We all walk away from Mormonism with a healthier sense of skepticism but there are some on those ex-mo boards that are just asses about it. Many now mistake experience with authority. If someone like Steve Benson writes something of his experiences, he’s often taken down as if he were assuming some sort of authority over them. Take also the whole Tom Phillips “surprise.”

For those who don’t know, Tom Phillips is a former LDS Stake President in the UK who  experienced a faith crisis, left the church and then related his experience of receiving the “Second Anointing” at great person cost (in written formTom’s four hour podcast on John Dehlin’s mormonstories). He’s been claiming for months that there’s more shocking news to reveal but because it hasn’t happened yet there’s name calling and doubt.

I certainly wouldn’t hold my breathe or base my entire life on it, but I’m willing to give the guy the benefit of the doubt… or anyone else who relates an experience on those forms. These people no longer hold any authority over me regardless of their higher connections.

Born-again Christians

If you think something is bullshit, the answer is not more bullshit.  I’m ok being around and having believers as part of my circle of friends, but quoting Biblical scripture or imagining what God said regarding Mormonism it utterly a waste of additional time.

 New Order Mormons

As they say, you can’t polish a turd, but I am able to allow that not everyone has experienced the extent of negativity that I have in the Mormon faith. I left Mormonism because it’s what I had to do for my own integrity and peace of mind. But I don’t know what is best for others who encounter the same truths. Take the in and out experiences of John Dehlin and there’s so many people who have no tolerance for someone like him. I say he’s entirely unreliable regarding his position towards Mormonism but the contribution he’s made towards Ex-Mormon progression is undisputed. I’ll take it and cheer him on regardless.

Posted in Reality, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 15 Comments

Is Everyone Who Opposes Gay Marriage Homophobic?

I confess I stole the question from an episode of 1 Girl 5 Gays.

The TV show 1 Girl 5 Gays is a fun 1/2 hour romp with a female host, Aliya-Jasmine Sovani, interviewing a panel of 5 young gay men. It’s a guilty pleasure.  Aliya-Jasmine makes an easygoing host and the panel of guests spans all the stereotypes of gay men – some interesting, some embarrassing.

Jonathan

You have everything from the effeminate, opinionated male bitches to the seemingly genuine, but hilarious cuddly boys that make up the heart of the show (Jonathan S. and Jean-Paul are my two favorites). The premise is obviously 1 girl asking 20 provocative questions to a panel of 5 gay men.

JP

I wish I had seen something like this when I was 16; it could have prevented a lot of poor choices on my part and pain for others.

In a recently aired episode, Aliya-Jasmine posed the question, “Is everyone who opposes gay marriage homophobic?” I don’t even remember what the panelists said because I was so intrigued by the question and how I’d respond to it.

I’d say, “Yes… and… No.”

Yes, opposing gay marriage is homophobic.

No, homophobia is not necessarily the root problem for everyone who opposes gay marriage (a marriage ceremony being a state or a religious issue is a post for another time).

More often than not I think opposing gay marriage is only a symptom of a much more serious and dangerous disease. It is like a runny nose.  Sometimes it really is just a cold; But sometimes, a runny nose might be a symptom of hay fever or a more serious flu.  It could even be: food allergies, measles, whooping cough, swine flu, sinus infection, roseola, etc.

In trying to alleviate an illness if you just go after the symptom then you only bring temporary comfort, instead of a cure or full recovery. I think the same goes for gay marriage and a host of other social issues.  If you try to isolate it and squelch homophobia or racism alone then you might be missing a host of other much  graver problems at the root.

Years ago when the campaign for Prop 8 in California was in full swing I was driving down a familiar road near my old home and noticed all the “Yes on 8″ signs on lawns of all the homes of Mormons that I knew. They were former “friends.” As much as that hurt to see, I don’t think homophobia was their deepest problem. In fact, I think most Mormons I know could be cured of their opposition to gay marriage in an instant. I don’t think someone with true homophobia could get over it as quickly as Mormons could.

All that it would take is for their “prophet” to tell them to accept it and in an instant most of these people would switch on a dime. As an example, look at what happened with people of African descent in 1978. In fact I’m going to say that if the Mormon church had attacked the root of their true problem in 1978, then a long litany of social issues in the entire country would have resolved themselves much more easily and our world would be a much better place today (the facts show that Mormons had a disproportionate political and financial influence over Prop 8 as well as the ERA. Without Mormons, the outcome of both would likely have been different).

I was old enough to remember the LDS church environment prior to this monumental change in 1978. While the LDS church and its members certainly embraced racist policies, their racism was only a symptom. I remember my LDS parents and the environment in our home back then. We lived in the suburbs and exposure to African Americans was pretty scarce; I remember my brother’s black teacher at school (whom he loved) and the rest were only on TV. I don’t believe my parents were racist to the core, but I’m sure they would have voted exactly the way the LDS Church expected them to and I’m sure they were opposed to full religious integration like all good Mormons. Racism wasn’t the most distasteful flaw of the adults in my life.  Their blind obedience and lack of independent thought was the bigger cause of their unfortunate racism.

Suddenly there was a “revelation” from above; the leaders spoke and people obediently followed… but just on the issue of racism. They still had to yet to be told what to do regarding Equal rights for all, gay marriage, immigration, etc…

What if, instead of the monumental but isolated move to undo the racism in the church in 1978 the leaders had instead  encouraged a greater universal equality for all of God’s children? They could have created a pathway whereby members could be taught to develop a moral compass all their own and not wait to be told to choose the right. They could have spent the last 35 years giving members encouragement and critical thinking skills to find their own sense of justice, empathy, compassion and equality, rather than maintaining their inherent fear and obedience to the hierarchy at all costs.  This would have cut to the root of their problem.

If that larger, deeper and even more corrupt illness had been eliminated back in 1978 instead of the symptom of racism we would probably have avoided several battles in the meantime such as this current battle over gay marriage; The US would have also passed the Equal Rights Amendment back in the 80′s and our mothers, sisters and our families would be better off for it.

No. Mormons are not inherently racist or homophobic.  They are inherently unable to think for themselves and lack the moral compass to make choices that haven’t been made for them. It’s horrifying to watch actually. I saw it in 2008 when LDS folks admitted that they personally saw nothing wrong with gay marriage but they felt the more powerful tug of loyalty to to a man who did have a problem with it…and so they voted according to the instructions rather than according to their consciences.  You saw the same thing with the ERA Amendment in the early 80′s, and the civil rights movement of the 60′s and 70′s.  In fact, I think you could come up with dozens of issues like this through the years as far back as 1857 and the Mountain Meadows Massacre.

There’s a lot of silly arguing over whether that particular religiously inspired terrorist attack (it happened on September 11, 1857 by the way) occurred due to explicit instructions from the leader Brigham Young or not.  I think it’s irrelevant.  What is clear is that the attackers THOUGHT that their behavior was what their leaders would want them to do. I don’t think anyone cares that Muslim leaders never actually called for the 9/11/01 terrorist attacks.  What is significant is what the actual attackers THOUGHT and UNDERSTOOD. Even in the aftermath of the Mormon event, healing has been at the mercy of the direction from LDS leaders.

I attended the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference in 2007 where the documentary film Burying the Past was presented. It’s a look at the descendants of the Mountain Meadow Massacre – the descendants of both the victims and the perpetrators. The thing that stood out to me  in this film was the behavior of the LDS descendents of the attackers. They were virtually paralyzed from any action such as working together with the victim’s families on a memorial. I can’t fathom how such a coordinated effort to encourage healing and forgiveness would have been an improper choice, but they wouldn’t move forward without getting the OK from Salt Lake City.

When doing the right thing is subject to approval or leadership sanction there’s a corrupt system. It proves that there’s a whole lot more going wrong than just a few unsavory attitudes and behaviors. What a horrible lesson for our children to learn that they need to put off doing the right thing until some corporate figurehead nods.

Again, imagine if in the later half of the 19th century Mormonism had learned from September 11, 1857 and changed their course from a top down Pharisaical, procedural and obedience-based organization to one whose purpose were to teach moral principals.  What if, instead of fighting for their own narrow freedom to practice polygamy they had instead fought in the larger war of equality for all? If that had been the case, Mormon history and US history would have been dramatically different when it comes to civil rights.

Instead of rules and standards pamphlets that the LDS publish today there would be thought provoking questions, lessons and discussions on making a positive impact in the world without “right” or “wrong” answers provided. So-called “christian” principles of empathy, compassion, forgiveness and justice would find their seed and nourishment from within individuals rather than as a a directive from above.

Homophobia isn’t today’s problem.  It is just today’s prevailing symptom.

Most pundits predict that the battle for gay marriage will be won soon.  But I say that the larger war against injustice won’t be won until organizations like Mormonism that breed inequality, immorality and blind obedience are changed or wounded enough to remove their power over individuals. It’s a power that they aren’t going to give up willingly.

Posted in Critical Thinking Skills, Mormonism, Reality, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Work, Money & Poverty

Jack of all trades, master of none.mmedia

That’s me.

Since my very first summer job at the age of 15 working in the mountains of Southern California for the Youth Conservation Corps, I’ve done almost everything you can think of to make my own way. Some of them skilled jobs, some not so much. Just off the top of my head, here are a few jobs I’ve held, in no particular order:

    • San Diego Tour Guide 
    • Lexicographer (Computer translations Portuguese-English)
    • Teacher (ESL)
    • Janitor
    • Marketing analyst
    • Newspaper In Education Manager
    • Account Executive (Sales, educational software)
    • Pizza restaurant worker
    • Clerk at University Bursar’s office
    • Guy Friday (I cut pictures from newspapers and magazines for a weird dude in a penthouse in NYC)
    • Motel Night Clerk
    • Cab driver
    • Insurance sales
    • Real Estate sales
    • Videographer in a hospital
    • Missionary Trainer & Teacher Supervisor (MTC in Provo)
    • Actor
    • Small business owner (franchise)
    • Funeral Director’s Assistant

I share this to explain that I have always been willing to do anything and everything to pay my own way in life. I’m not too proud to do ANYthing. Even within certain jobs I’ve always been the person to say, “Yes! I’ll do that!”

While teaching ESL, for example, it always shocked me when new teachers would only agree to teach certain classes. Some would refuse the advanced classes or the test preparation courses but I never understood the attitude that there were restrictions on what you should be willing to do to make a buck.

In my working years and fluctuations in income I’ve learned a thing or two about work and money:

  • There are basically 3 categories of people and money:
        1. Those with NO MONEY. These are what we consider poor people. Yes, money occasionally touches their hands but it’s not enough to cover the basics of food, shelter, transportation and healthcare. They have to cut corners on those basics.
        2. Those with SOME MONEY. These are considered the middle class. Some handle their money poorly but they can cover the basics.
        3. Those with MORE MONEY. These are the people saving for retirement, owning more than one property and able to put their kids through college.
  • The gulf between NO MONEY and SOME MONEY is far greater than between SOME MONEY and MORE MONEY.  Those with NO MONEY live without hope of ever getting SOME MONEY.
  • Most people with SOME MONEY or MORE MONEY  have no clue regarding and couldn’t give a shit about those with NO MONEY.
  • Most people with MORE MONEY mistakenly believe that the same traits and abilities that carried them from SOME MONEY to having MORE MONEY are the same ones that will help those with NO MONEY get SOME MONEY. Not true.
  • The category you are born into is generally the category you will finish up this life in with a few nice anecdotal exceptions.
  • Having NO MONEY leads to poor decision making and a person in this state is a huge drain on society.
  • Each category contains equal numbers of liars, cheaters, slackers and creeps.

mormon homeless

Having thought about this a lot lately, 5 recent news stories about money caught my eye:

First, a Mormon Bishop in a ward populated with folks having SOME MONEY disguised himself as someone with NO MONEY. A few people tried to give him money but most of the congregation either ignored him or asked him to leave. Does this surprise anyone? I’m certain that it could have been any other denomination among the same economic level and the reaction would have been the same

Second, a Japanese truck driver discovered recently that he had been switched at birth with another baby who had been placed with his very wealthy biological parents. A Japanese court awarded him $317,000 in damages for the switch. I don’t think his counterpart, the rich one, got anything. Of course, the baby with poor biological parents and wealthy real parents had a much more lucrative career path.

Check out the movie trailer of a similar storyswitched

The fascinating part for me is to consider how the one man raised poor is a victim any more than the other baby would have been if the switch had never occurred. Shouldn’t all babies who end up in desperate circumstances receive some sort of compensation? Unless you assume that inequality in society is a mark of social justice and poor “deserve” their fate.

Third, that brings me to the new Pope’s recent comments regarding caring for the poor.

“How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points?” 

pope

“I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security,” 

The most recent Oxfam data shows that up to 146 million Europeans are at risk of falling into poverty by 2025 and 50 million Americans are currently suffering from severe financial hardship. (http://rt.com/news/pope-francis-capitalism-tyranny-324/)

Fourth, A study published last week in the journal Science shows that the stress of worrying about finances can impair cognitive functions in a meaningful way. And “Why I Make Terrible Decisions,” a comment published by a person in poverty, is a great illustration of the Science study.

“I make a lot of poor financial decisions. None of them matter, in the long term. I will never not be poor, so what does it matter if I don’t pay a thing and a half this week instead of just one thing? Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain. It’s why you see people with four different babydaddies instead of one. You grab a bit of connection wherever you can to survive. You have no idea how strong the pull to feel worthwhile is. It’s more basic than food.

(Note: There has been some question raised as to the actual poverty of the blogger above. I believe it’s irrelevant. Her ideas should be criticized, not her).

Women and men in traditional costumes dance during the folk dance festival at the Unspunnen festival in InterlakenLast, given the political climate in America, this would never be a serious topic of discussion here, but in Switzerland the population will soon vote on giving every adult in the country a $2,800 check every month. That’s everyone, rich and poor. Even over there it has a slim chance of passing, but given my recent observations it actually seems like a fascinating idea.

“This would allow people to survive and to live, with dignity, assuming that other systems stay in place. It puts a floor under wages — people could say, “I don’t have to do that job if you’re not going to pay well.” People could pursue a lot of activities that are not particularly well paid but that have a lot of social use or personal satisfaction: art, creative work, volunteer work, working with people who have disabilities.

So if we were a very rich world, which I think we are to a certain degree, it would be a remarkable way to make sure that people could maximize their ability to express themselves but also maximize their ability to participate in the communities that they live in in a full way. Stay home and take care of kids if that’s what you want to do. Take care of your parents when they’re old and sick.”

Before anyone cries the dirtiest word in America, “Socialism!”, this is not socialism. Look it up. It is basically an unconditional income, not a forced redistribution of wealth, nor is it public ownership of production or distribution. And it’s already being done here on American soil…

Native American tribes with successful casinos pay their tribe members a monthly stipend for merely being a member. I had the chance to speak recently with a few local tribe members and they told me they each get about $3,000 a month, comparable to the Swiss proposal. I couldn’t finds any standard of living reports about the tribe so I’m going to guess on a few things based on my observations:

  • None of them are homeless.
  • None of them starve to death.
  • They all have a car.
  • Their houses are nothing spectacular.
  • Many of them don’t work.
  • Many of them DO work and use their extra money wisely.
  • Their incidents of drug and alcohol abuse are about the same as in tribes that don’t get a stipend. No more, no less.
  • Their sum total effect on the larger community is a positive benefit rather than a drain. 

I couldn’t find any reports with facts on this social experiment currently under way with the Indian tribes, but there are facts that lead to the conclusion that SOME MONEY can go a long way to eradicating the social ills of poverty. What a great potential solution to poverty, homelessness, starvation, malnutrition, etc.  Ensuring that everyone has SOME MONEY wouldn’t take away anyone’s free will or desire to succeed.

Government transfers of money have proven successful in Mexico and Brazil, for instance. In particular, attaching conditions to these transfers—such as requiring school attendance, regular clinic visits, and savings behavior—may allow for an end to poverty traps that too frequently seem to end with the poor making unwise decisions.

And can someone who’s Christian explain to me why that doesn’t align better with Jesus’ biblical approach to the poor as confirmed by Pope Francis’ recent remarks?

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Things That Make Me Smile #4

!! Warning: At the end there is a NSFW image and video link, but it’s not pornographic either !!

The Sound of Music…in Dutch!

Sound of Music

This interview of Bette Davis

bette

Roasts

Roast

Creative Insults (warning: strong language)

insults

Culturalist

Culturalist

Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee.

comedians in cars getting coffee

Naked Dancing in Sweden

naked

See Also:

Things That Make Me Smile

Things That Make Me Smile #2

Things That Make Me Smile #3

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