Repost: Simian Anger

December 21, 2011

Some more thoughts on anger and how it relates to leaving the LDS church:

A few years ago, I had my little blog, and I got an email from a guy from California who went by the name of Simeon. He told me that he, like me, had experienced an epiphany regarding Mormonism. He was really distraught, especially considering the reaction of his believing wife and family. He had stumbled across my blog, and he told me that it had helped him navigate some difficult waters, which of course was extremely gratifying.

Shortly after that, he shared his feelings with his believing brother, who, to his surprise, told him that he had been struggling with the same issues. They both left the church together, and they were both very angry, feeling that they had been lied to and betrayed by their religion and its leaders. At one point, Simeon wrote a brief post on his blog that said “Fuck the morg!” Morg, of course, is a derogatory nickname some former members use to describe the church (it’s sort of a contraction of “Mormon organization” with a hint of the “resistance is futile” Borg collective from Star Trek). Simeon said he was a little worried that he was too angry, and several commenters roundly criticized him for his anger. But I understood. Anger is part of the grieving process when you lose someone or something important in your life, and we had lost perhaps the center of our lives. I told him it was OK to be angry, and I added a “Fuck the Morg!” of my own just to humorously emphasize my point.

That was the post some of my family members discovered, and it caused me no end of grief, but a couple of years later, I’m not sorry I posted it. To quote two of my favorite punk poets, “Anger is an energy” (Johnny Rotten) and “Anger can be power” (Joe Strummer). Anger can be a good thing if it is used properly. Unfocused, uncontrolled anger is almost always destructive and harmful, but even Jesus got mad once or twice. In Mormon-speak, Jesus’ clearing of the temple was an example of “righteous indignation,” which we are told is a firmness bordering on anger used for righteous purposes.

We ex-Mormons ought to own righteous indignation. We have every right to be angry at a manipulative and deceptive religion that focused our energies away from ourselves and our families and instead pushed us to grow and maintain the organization, whatever the cost. Daniel Peterson once told me that it was irrational to be angry at Joseph Smith simply because we didn’t know the man, and he’s been dead a long time. Of course, that would be like saying I shouldn’t have any feelings toward the truck driver whose negligence killed my two younger brothers just because I never met him face to face. Joseph Smith did what he did, and just as believing LDS have strong feelings of admiration and even love for him, we ex-Mormons have a range of emotions toward him, and that’s as it should be.

But if we are to be angry at all (and I have to say that the anger has pretty much dissipated for me, though it occasionally surfaces), we ought to channel that anger into something worthwhile. It does no good to stand outside Temple Square waving signs and screaming, and it does no good to try and force our families to understand where we’re coming from.

For me, the best use of the anger is to turn it into resolve. I have decided that I will not let the past ruin the present. I won’t allow the hurt and the destructiveness of the past dictate what I do. I think there’s a tendency for some people to react to their history in the church by acting exactly opposite of the way they were raised. Thus, some people end up indulging in drugs, sex, and alcohol and harder things like Sunday waterskiing. But doing that in some ways is still letting the LDS church dictate how you will live your life.

I’ve decided to keep the good and discard the bad, and then to the best of my ability stand up for truth and honesty. I do get angry sometimes when I see people behaving dishonestly regarding Mormonism. And this cuts both ways. I’ve seen critics distort the facts, and I’ve seen Mormons do the same. I figure if I stand up for truth, I’ll always be on the right side of things. And there’s no need to be angry when you have the truth.

Repost: The Right Way

December 21, 2011

I’ve been swamped the last few weeks, but a reader contacted me and asked about the hurt and sadness and anger that come from losing faith in the LDS church. She writes:

I’ve basically reached the same conclusion that you did, which is that the church can’t possibly be what it claims to be. On some level this was a relief, but it has also left me feeling very sad and confused. I wondered if you had put together any common experiences from the survey you were conducting a while ago as to what people do who leave the church? How do people handle the feelings of anger and grief and emptiness after leaving? What are their beliefs? I’ve noticed that feelings of sadness were also frequently mentioned by people writing in to the Mormon Stories blog, too, although I haven’t heard any practical suggestions on what to do about it yet.

I’ve written about this subject before, so I’ll repost something I wrote about 3 years ago in hopes that it will help:

The Right Way

Given the discussion my readers have been having about how it’s wrong for exmormons to be angry or feel hurt or whatever and that they should just walk away and shut up, I thought I’d share my thoughts on what the right way to behave is for someone who leaves the Mormon church.

Is it wrong to be angry or hurt? Absolutely not. Many of us gave everything to the LDS church, our deepest commitment, our faith, our lives. It would be absurd not to feel some hurt or anger when you find out the reality behind the church you gave so much to. It’s OK and probably quite healthy to go through a period of being angry. I know I did, and most exmormons I know went through that stage. On a very simple level, you can see losing your faith as a major loss worthy of grief, and most people understand that anger is part of the grieving process. But as I said, the sense of loss is compounded by the sense of betrayal. It’s as if you found out that your father, whom you love deeply, had been stealing from you all your life.

But the anger plays right into Mormon stereotypes about “bitter apostates.” If we show even the slightest resentment toward the church, we can be dismissed as having been duped by Satan into joining the Ed Deckers of the world with their wild-eyed rants against Mormonism. I’m not ashamed that I was angry. I had a right to be angry because the belief system I based my life around was based on a lie.

So what distinguishes the “good” exmormons from the “bad”? I’d say it’s honesty and respect. I do know of some exmormons so consumed by bitterness that they exaggerate, lie, and distort the teachings of the church to score points. Fortunately, I don’t know any of these people personally, and they seem to be in the distinct minority (Ed Decker is a good example). Almost all the exmormons I know have a very strong sense of honesty and integrity, and it was that commitment to truth that made it impossible for them to stay in the church. They simply could not uphold a lie. Granted, some of the exmormons I know are still angry at a manipulative and abusive institution, but their anger is very rarely focused on people in the Mormon church.

Mormonism deserves to be discussed on its own merits. In my judgment, it fails at every turn in its claims, from the utterly indefensible Book of Abraham, to Joseph Smith’s miraculous transformation from glass-looking grifter to glass-looking scripture translator, to the church’s institutionalized racism, sexism, and homophobia. Does that blunt assessment sound angry? Maybe to a believing Mormon it might, but I’m not angry. And I certainly don’t need to lie to discuss why Mormonism is not what it claims to be.

I expect honesty and integrity in discussing Mormonism, both from Mormons, exmormons, and nonmormons. Other than that, I don’t care how angry someone is. I don’t go out of my way to attack the LDS church, and most of my exmormon friends don’t either. But we’re not going to shut up about the central facts of our lives because someone thinks it’s unseemly to talk about the church.


December 21, 2011

What a brave man:

Bishop Resigns

I can’t imagine what he is going through, but it’s rare to see such courage on display.

Going on the Offensive

December 9, 2011

Mormon readers may be familiar with Sidney Rigdon’s famous “Salt Sermon” and his subsequent oration of July 4, 1838, given in Far West, Missouri. Perhaps some background is necessary. In 1831, a group of Mormons from New York, had arrived in Ohio (then the headquarters of the newly established Church of Christ), where they had been promised land on which to live. But the donor of the land, Leman Copley, reneged on his promise, and Joseph Smith told these church members they were to proceed to Missouri, which God had prepared as a refuge from their enemies and a land of their inheritance (see D&C 52:3-5, 42-43; 54:1-10). Further revelations from Joseph Smith indicated that the Mormon settlements in Jackson County, Missouri, would eventually become the New Jerusalem spoken of in the Bible, where the Savior would return to rule His kingdom (see D&C 57:1-5).

From the time the Mormons arrived in Missouri in June 1831, hostilities grew between them and their non-Mormon neighbors, who apparently became concerned at the influx of over 1200 LDS immigrants by the summer of 1833. As a BYU summary notes, “It did not help that some [LDS] members unwisely boasted that nonmembers would be driven from the county.” Mob violence soon erupted. “Under duress, Church leaders signed an agreement to vacate Jackson County…. When the old settlers saw that the Saints intended not to depart immediately but to hold their ground and defend themselves, they resumed acts of violence. After small battles erupted and led to several fatalities, the local militia succeeded in disarming the Mormons and driving them from Jackson County in early November.”

After an abortive military mission to regain the Saints’ lost land and property, church members relocated to communities farther north and east in Clay County, where they expected to stay temporarily until a more permanent settlement could be found. By 1836, large numbers of Mormons had gathered to Clay County, and once again the Mormons were told they were not welcome. The legislature created a new county, Caldwell, expressly for the settlement of the Mormons, and the Mormons began leaving Clay County in early 1837. By March of 1838, Joseph Smith had declared the settlement of Far West, in Caldwell County, the headquarters of the church, and the town’s population reached 5,000 that summer. Soon Mormons were streaming into other northern counties, and once again tensions grew with their suspicious neighbors. At the same time, financial setbacks among Mormons in Ohio and Missouri led to the emergence of dissenters within the church, who “stirred up trouble among the Saints through the first half of 1838.”

All this time, church members had not responded in kind to the violence aimed at them, but this time would be different. In mid-June, church leader Sidney Rigdon “publicly threatened [Mormon] dissenters in his June ‘Salt Sermon,’ intimating that they should leave Far West or harm would befall them. News of this threat reinforced anti-Mormon hostility throughout Missouri.” A few weeks later, on July 4, Rigdon signaled that the Mormons would bear no more oppression from their neighbors:

We take God and all the holy angels to witness this day, that we warn all men in the name of Jesus Christ, to come on us no more forever. For from this hour, we will bear it no more, our rights shall no more be trampled on with impunity. The man or the set of men, who attempts it, does it at the expense of their lives. And that mob that comes on us to disturb us; it shall be between us and them a war of extermination; for we will follow them till the last drop of their blood is spilled, or else they will have to exterminate us: for we will carry the seat of war to their own houses, and their own families, and one party or the other shall be utterly destroyed.—Remember it then all MEN.

We will never be the aggressors, we will infringe on the rights of no people; but shall stand for our own until death. We claim our own rights, and are willing that all others shall enjoy theirs.

No man shall be at liberty to come into our streets, to threaten us with mobs, for if he does, he shall atone for it before he leaves the place, neither shall he be at liberty, to vilify and slander any of us, for suffer it we will not in this place.

After some Mormons were forcibly prevented from voting on election day, August 6, in Gallatin, Missouri, over 100 armed Mormon men surrounded the home of a local judge and compelled him, the local sheriff, and several prominent citizens to sign a pledge that they would not “molest” the Mormons. Meanwhile, the citizens of Carroll County voted that same day to expel Mormon settlers from their county. Armed mobs soon began burning Mormon homes and farms, and by October 1, they had laid siege to the Mormon town of De Witt. Two days later, the Mormons surrendered the town and began the march to Caldwell County; several Mormon women and children died of exposure and illness as a result. LDS historian Alex Baugh describes what happened next:

Following the dislocation of the De Witt Saints, Missouri assailants continued to extend their threats against Latter-day Saints residing in Daviess County. But on this occasion. Church leaders decided to take decisive action to disperse their antagonists by removing the remaining handful of non-Mormons who continued to reside in Mormon-dominated Daviess County. They justified such aggressive actions because they clearly felt they had been pushed around long enough, and if they were forced to leave Carroll County, they should be entitled to occupy both Caldwell and Daviess counties exclusively. …

During the hours just before dawn on Thursday, 25 October 1838, a contingency of Mormon Caldwell County militia engaged in armed conflict on the Crooked River, situated in northern Ray County, with the Ray militia under the command of Samuel Bogart, a Methodist minister. This skirmish, later known as the Battle of Crooked River, resulted in a dozen wounded and the deaths of three members of the Caldwell company—including the Mormon commander Apostle David W. Patten—and one member of the Ray company. Although casualties were limited, a broader examination of the conflict indicates the battle fueled the civil strife between the Mormons and the Missourians during the fall of 1838, and consequently was a leading factor in bringing about the forced expulsion of the Latter-day Saints from the state. [Alex L. Baugh, “The Battle Between Mormon and Missouri Militia,” Arnold Garr and Clark Johnson, eds., BYU Regional Studies in Latter-day Saint Church History, Missouri (Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine, BYU University, 1994), 85-86]

The decision of the Mormon leaders to go on the offensive against the mob, while completely understandable, led to the Mormons being seen as the aggressors, not the victims of the violence. Reports of the battle at Crooked River reached the governor, who was already hostile to the Mormons, indicating that Bogard’s militia had been completely slaughtered by the Mormons. Boggs, accepting at face value that the Mormons were “in the attitude of an open and avowed defiance of the laws, and of having made war upon the people of this state,” issued the infamous Extermination Order instructing that “the Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public peace–their outrages are beyond all description.” By the spring of 1839, virtually all members of the LDS church had been forcibly expelled from the state.

Why do I tell this story? It’s a great illustration of my belief that, when tensions are escalating and emotions are running high, it is always best to try and defuse the situation, rather than responding in kind to attacks. Before someone points out that I’m being hypocritical, I will just say that I recognize that I don’t always follow my own beliefs, though I try. Every time I have let my emotions get the best of me and responded angrily or harshly to criticism, I have made the situation worse, and it has often come back to bite me. Would things have been better in Missouri had the Mormons not gone on the offensive? It’s difficult to say, but it is hard to see how it could have been worse.

Recently, Mormonism has been the focus of attention in the media and in popular culture. Two members of the LDS church are running for president of the United States, and the hottest ticket on Broadway is “The Book of Mormon (The Musical).” Some avowed enemies of the church have taken the opportunity to condemn Mormons and spread falsehoods about their beliefs and practices. Notably, Robert Jeffress, a prominent Evangelical preacher urged voters to choose a “real Christian” instead of voting for members of the Mormon “cult.” And of course, every time Mormonism is mentioned in a news item, the comments sections quickly fill with angry rants from opponents of the LDS church. For me, part of being a Mormon was expecting to be called a “deluded cultist,” “Satanist,” and “moron.” I’ve been accused of practicing black magic; engaging in orgies and human sacrifice inside our temples; and, worst of all, forbidding people to eat peanut butter. (Seriously, I’ve heard every one of these.) Most of the time, these misunderstandings come from ignorance, though sometimes they are deliberate. My response has always been to calmly and patiently explain the LDS position and correct any misinformation. It doesn’t always work, but then it’s easy to determine when you are talking to someone who refuses to listen. It doesn’t really bother me.

Although I have lost the simple faith in Mormonism I once had, I still feel it’s important to discuss Mormonism as it is, not as people want it to be. If I’m discussing LDS doctrine, I think it’s only fair to state accurately what that doctrine is. (I should say, however, that some Mormons have accused me of misrepresenting the church and its doctrines. They tell me I didn’t understand the gospel, or I’m just making things up to make the church look bad. It’s ironic, but I digress.) I try very hard to represent the LDS church accurately and fairly, but obviously, my views will always be colored by my experience. My efforts to be fair and honest have attracted criticism from some people who seem disappointed that I don’t hate the LDS church and think it is demon-spawned. An Evangelical friend once invited me to participate in a message board associated with The Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, as he believed I might be able to help people understand what Mormons really believed; I lasted a couple of days because I was seen as “too Mormon,” “not Christian enough,” and not hostile enough to Mormon heresies. Why? Because I tried to correct some misrepresentations of Mormon beliefs. So, rather than engage in a futile and increasingly hostile exchange, I chose to withdraw. There are a lot of groups and people like CARM and the unfortunate Pastor Jeffress who seem to come out of the woodwork when Mormons are mentioned at all.

Most Mormons I know respond as I would, by trying to correct misinformation and decrease hostility. But some Mormons have decided to go on the offensive. Some groups, such as the More Good Foundation, seem motivated by the belief that church members can positively share their beliefs with others through the Internet and other media. Of course, they do actively go after critics of the church. One of their sponsored web sites describes former Mormons as “definitely not the best source for information about the Mormon religion—they often distort its teachings” and insists that “books published officially by the Church are likely to be more accurate.” I used to get regular visits to my blog from the More Good Foundation, but not so much anymore. Perhaps they’ve decided I’m not worth worrying about.

More recently, the Foundation for Apologetic Information and Research (FAIR) formed the Mormon Defense League, which they said would track media reports for inaccuracies about Mormonism. As the Salt Lake Tribune explains:

If the MDL notices a misstatement or mischaracterization, the group will first contact the journalist, [FAIR president Scott] Gordon said. But if a pattern of misrepresentation emerges, the defense league will “go after the writer” by posting the piece or pieces on its website ( and pointing out the errors. (“New website to jump to Mormonism’s defense,” August 4, 2011.)

The article states that the defense league is “modeled after the Anti-Defamation League, created in 1913 “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure justice and fair treatment to all,” according to its website (” However, the name evokes the more militant Jewish Defense League, founded by radical New York rabbi Meir Kahane in 1968. The JDL’s website states one of its guiding principles:

JDL upholds the principle of Barzel — iron — the need to both move to help Jews everywhere and to change the Jewish image through sacrifice and all necessary means — even strength, force and violence. The Galut image of the Jew as a weakling, as one who is easily stepped upon and who does not fight back is an image that must be changed. Not only does that image cause immediate harm to Jews but it is a self-perpetuating thing. Because a Jew runs away or because a Jew allows himself to be stepped upon, he guarantees that another Jew in the future will be attacked because of the image that he has perpetuated. JDL wants to create a physically strong, fearless and courageous Jew who fights back. We are changing an image, an image born of 2,000 years in the Galut, an image that must be buried because it has buried us. We train ourselves for the defense of Jewish lives and Jewish rights. We learn how to fight physically, for it is better to know how and not have to, than have to and not know how. (Five Principles,

(I should probably mention that, because I grew up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, I’ve known several members of the JDL, hence my shock that the MDL had chosen that name.) Perhaps recognizing the unwanted connotations of the name, in November 2011 the league changed its name to the far more benign sounding “Mormon Voices.” Their stated mission:

MormonVoices has been created to respond to false information put forward in the media.

The intent is to assist journalists, authors, bloggers, producers, and others in the media in getting their stories right, and to correct misinformation and distortions about Mormons, Mormonism, and other faith communities.

Reading through their web site, I was impressed that their guidelines and suggestions were reasonable and helpful, encouraging civility, and keeping the emphasis on positive ways to correct misinformation and “offer constructive suggestions in a helpful manner.” These guidelines are in keeping with recent counsel from LDS leaders about sharing beliefs online. But given the public statements and actions of some Mormon Voices members and leaders, I’m left feeling that there is a much more aggressive attitude involved.

Some of the rhetoric reflects a sort of siege mentality. FAIR president Scott Gordon, for example, stated in the BYU Daily Universe, “Mostly the critics are looking for quotes that shock and awe when they are making these stories. Their goal is to make it as negative as possible.” Clearly, that is the goal of some critics, but in my experience, they are generally the exception. When we assume that those who criticize us or our beliefs are mostly trying to attack and show us in the worst possible light, we tend to become defensive; instead of opening a dialogue, we want to shut them down. Another Mormon Voices leader stated in the same article, “A Mormon saying this is what we really believe can really discredit anything else the author has to say about us.” I don’t know if he really meant it this way, but the implication is clear: if you can show one misconception or falsehood, you can destroy the credibility of whatever else is said.

Indeed, picking one minor point in order to discredit the rest of the message seems to be a pattern among some Mormon defenders. I came across an example of this tactic the other day. Time Magazine published a former Mormon’s photos of his family and life in “Happy Valley” (the local nickname for Utah County, Utah, where I live). I thought the photos, though unconventional and seemingly mundane, were moving and evocative. I loved the unself-conscious display of what to me are obvious realities of life here in Utah: cluttered bedroom floors, “kid art” on bedroom walls, and the ubiquitous blue tarps covering stored items in the yard. The first photo hit me hard: a family sitting on a couch in the waiting room at the Mt Timpanogos Temple while their loved ones are inside being “sealed” (married for time and eternity). Behind them on the wall is a painting of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, where Mormons believe he took upon Him the sins of the world. The juxtaposition of the Savior atoning for our sins so that we could be clean and enter into God’s presence against the family excluded from the sacred–well, it was heartbreaking to me.

I admit that I did not read the accompanying article, which was obviously written by a non-Mormon, until after I had seen and absorbed all of the pictures. But I was taken aback by the contempt and hostility from some LDS commenters. Here are a few examples from different commenters:

I suppose the mediocrity of Mr. Shumway’s photographs would be easier to forgive if it weren’t for the intellectual pretentiousness of the accompanying article. I mean, Wow. Like, umm, he read Friedrich Nietzsche (note the correct spelling) and Jean-Paul Sartre and Erich Fromm at sixteen? So did I. In California. And now I’m a believing Mormon academic.

And no, I have never encountered a Mormon family that thought or taught that it was sinful to watch television on Sunday — “Eeek! Turn the Tabernacle Choir off! Turn general conference off! Don’t you know it’s the Sabbath?” — let alone a family that held it a sin to visit others on Sunday.

This is lame. I lived in Utah County for several years and am an amateur photographer. Real life kept me from “briefly attending” an academy of art but I’ve taken and sold enough photographs to know these photos are not good. Mr. Shumway seems to be going out of his way to paint his family as nut job white trash. These photos and his descriptions are not consistent with my personal experience with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints or life in Utah County. Really? This is what TIME holds up as art? And Mr. Shumway’s credentials are…?

To me, this kind of aggressive attack isn’t helpful and may in fact backfire. I understand that at some point, you get pushed too far. I have. A couple of years ago, a couple of LDS posters were aggressively attacking me any time I wrote anything, anywhere on the Internet. They attacked my character and integrity and made subtle hints about violence toward me. I didn’t think much of it, but eventually when the attacks kept escalating, I responded more harshly and aggressively than I should have. They seized on my response as a sign of my mental instability, paranoia, and tenuous grasp on reality. When my wife began receiving threatening emails (she is still a believing Mormon), they said I was making things up. In short, adopting a more assertive and aggressive stance accomplished nothing for me, and in fact made things worse.

We don’t live in a time when Mormons are under physical attack from roving mobs, but we can learn from the mistakes our ancestors made. I am not suggesting that the aggressive stance of some Mormons is the moral equivalent of mob violence. However, we can stand up for ourselves and for truth without hostility and aggression. And I am convinced we will all be better for it.

Repost: Evidence Trending in Frosty’s Direction, FARMS Says

December 7, 2011

In honor of the season, here’s something I wrote a few years ago:

Researchers for the Foundation for Arctic, Reindeer, and Magical Snowmen say that, despite the claims of skeptics, more and more evidence supports the belief that Frosty the Snowman really did come to life that day. Food Sciences professor and FARMS president Daniel Midgley-Welch summarized discoveries in 2008 as “very promising and encouraging, indeed. For more than half a century,” Midgley-Welch said, “scoffers have ridiculed the idea of a living, breathing snowman, but these days, there’s just too much evidence for anyone, except the hardcore anti-Snowmen and ex-snows, to ignore.”

Midgley-Welch explained that the best evidence for the reality of Frosty is the warm feeling children everywhere get when they sing “bumpety-bump-bump” and think of the “jolly, happy soul” frolicking in the winter snow. But no longer must believers rely solely on their own personal knowledge of the Snowman.

“First of all, the production of the text is miraculous in and of itself. After the success of 1949’s ‘Rudolph the Rednosed Reindeer,’ writers Jack Nelson and Steve Rollins had only months to write, produce, and record the song for the upcoming 1950 Christmas season. There’s no way two ordinary mortals could have accomplished that without some kind of divine intervention.”

“But perhaps the strongest evidence of divinity is the text itself,” said Russell Thwetwipes, professor of Greek History. “Our first clue is the use of very specific items in the construction of the snowman itself.”

Several things stand out initially as anachronistic to 1950. Corncob pipes, silk hats, and coal had all been supplanted by cigarettes, fedoras (which were on their way out), and central heating. The use of these items suggests a deeper rooting in the past, which would be unusual for popular writers of the 1950s. But the images seem to have been chosen with care. A corncob situates the story in the Americas, which squares nicely with the use of the word “cop” to refer to a policeman (how could Nelson and Rollins have scored such a bullseye?). The coal for the eyes suggests the Biblical idea of coal as burning fire and life being breathed into mortals (see Ezek. 1:13). And of course, the old silk hat has reference to the ancient practice of using seerstones to connect with the divine. Indeed, the text specifically places the “magic” (which here may refer more to spiritual power) in the hat itself.

The text also anticipates skepticism. “Frosty the snowman is a fairy tale, they say” speaks to the song’s prophetic nature. The writers (Thwetwipes prefers “transcribers”) expected that their claims would be ridiculed, and indeed they have. “Once you have heard ‘Frosty the Snowman,’ you are no longer on neutral ground,” said Midgley-Welch.

Expecting a poor reception in an increasingly godless world, the transcribers made sure that there were witnesses to the miraculous event. We are told that the children “know” that he really did live and breathe. Their testimony is clear and specific: “Frosty the snowman was alive as he could be, and the children say he could laugh and play just the same as you and me.” There is no equivocation, no hesitation in the testimony. “We aren’t sure how many children there were, but the use of the plural indicates more than one,” said Thwetwipes. “And none of them ever denied their testimony. They had plenty of opportunity to deny what they had seen and expose the fraud, if there had been one. But they remained faithful to the end of their lives.”

Forthcoming research will explore the relationship between the broom Frosty carried (perhaps symbolic of a sceptre?) and the ritual dance he performed. “This dovetails rather nicely with what we know about Egyptian kingship rites,” Midgley-Welch asserted. “And we are aggressively researching the etymology of those two strange phrases, ‘thumpety, thump-thump’ and ‘bumpety, bump-bump.’ We expect to release our findings in a forthcoming edition of the “Journal of Elf, Easter bunny, Reindeer, and Snowmen.”

Asked of skeptics’ claims of a lost Gene Autry manuscript, Midgley-Welch was dismissive. “That’s been floating around for years, and so far we have nothing but a few unfounded word-print studies. I’m confident that Rollins and Nelson will be vindicated in the end.”

Gratitude and Kindness

December 5, 2011

I hadn’t been to high priests group meeting in a while, so of course pretty much only the high priests group leadership knew who I was yesterday. The topic of the lesson was Henry Eyring’s First Presidency Message in this month’s Ensign, “The Choice to Be Grateful.” I hadn’t read the article in question (my Ensign subscription has sadly lapsed), but in general I like Henry Eyring, whose talks often emphasize kindness, and charity.

Our high priests group does not have an assigned instructor, so each first week they ask a different person to teach. The instructor yesterday was an older man, and before he began, he asked us to be patient with him. Not too long ago, he had a stroke, and it affected his ability to recognize and recall words. Reading is difficult, and even speaking extemporaneously often leaves him struggling to find words. “I can picture it in my head,” he said, “but I can’t get the right word.”

Immediately, I felt bad for this man. I thought it was slightly cruel to ask him to teach the lesson, and I wondered what the high priests group leader had been thinking. Just as he said, he struggled mightily throughout the lesson, searching for words and trying to articulate his thoughts. But it was interesting to see the response of the rest of the group.

When he struggled, the men in that room helped him along, providing words when he needed them and praising him for his lesson. At the beginning, he had been nervous and a little embarrassed, but I could see him becoming more relaxed and confident as the men in the group helped him with the lesson. I didn’t know this man, obviously, but the other men in the room did. If they had been strangers, it might have been cruel or a bad idea to have him teach the lesson.

But he was among friends who love him, and it was really nice to see. I came away grateful for having seen kindness in action.

In church yesterday

December 5, 2011

Before priesthood meeting, I spoke with a visitor from Manchester, England, and he made my day. I told him my favorite philosopher is from Manchester: Karl Pilkington. He replied, “I wonder if he’s related to our former stake president, President Pilkington.” Now, that would be amazing to have Karl Pilkington as your stake president.

So, in honor of President Pilkington, here’s Karl on Christmas gifts:

Deseret News is at it again

December 2, 2011

I know this is kind of minor, but it’s indicative of standard practice at the Deseret News.

Philanthropists Eye LDS Model of Self-reliance

This morning I read in the Deseret News that a group of philanthropists toured the LDS Church’s Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. They quote the CEO of the Philanthropy Round Table as follows:

“‘We came to Utah to see Welfare Square because it is one of the nation’s greatest models of cultivating self-reliance, not only for members of the Mormon faith but for people everywhere,’ said Shannon Toronto, CEO of The Philanthropy Round Table, a national network of individual donors, corporate giving officers and foundation trustees.

“Previous stops on The Philanthropy Round Table’s economic opportunity tour included Lemonade Day in Houston, which teaches children business skills, and Florida’s Positive Coaching Alliance, a nonprofit that teams up with athletic leagues to teach principles of family and community.

“The Philanthropy Round Table, which is based in Washington D.C., seeks to improve charitable outcomes by educating donors, Toronto said. Self-reliance is one of the organization’s pet initiatives.

“‘The best programs are those that help people to move along a continuum where they not only no longer need charity, but also have the skills and the means to give to charity themselves,’ Toronto said.”

High praise from an outside source, right? Not exactly. I happen to know Shannon Toronto, as we went to grad school together at BYU.

Would it have made a difference if readers had known she is LDS? I think so, but the impression is left that a bunch of impartial outsiders were impressed enough with the church’s welfare program to come and tour it and then extol its virtues. The church should be proud of its welfare program, as it does a lot of good (including helping me when I needed it). It does not need to write an article that would more correctly be titled, “Mormon thinks Mormon welfare program is awesome.”