Waking Up to the Gay Agenda

February 19, 2014

The blogosphere is abuzz with discussion of A Well-Behaved Mormon Woman’s unmasking of the gay agenda behind Disney’s hit film, “Frozen.” I say it’s about time people woke up to the shameless propaganda that has been cunningly spoon-fed to an unwitting public for a very long time. “Frozen” is just the latest in a long line of subtle and not-so-subtle attempts to promote the pernicious ideology of tolerance for sexual deviants.

The drum beat promoting perversion has a long and storied history, such that most normal people haven’t even noticed it. Sure, we all understood the thinly veiled gay undertones in “Will and Grace” and the more overt propagandizing of the Teletubbies, but now the Hollywood elites are so confident that they have brainwashed the public that we are being treated to Johnny Weir coordinating his admittedly stunning wardrobe with clueless (hopefully) Tara Lipinski during the Olympics. Just shut up and offer color commentary, Johnny! Better yet, NBC, find a real man, such as Brian Boitano, to explain the difference between a triple lutz and a triple salchow. Enough with the fabulousness.

How did we get to this deplorable state of acceptance and tolerance? The answer, sadly, is that we’ve been there for a long time. Before Will and Grace there were George and Jerry (“not that there’s anything wrong with that”) pretending that their show was about nothing. Oh, it was about something, all right: destroying the family as we know it. Lulled into passivity, we refused to see the obvious sexual relationship between “Home Improvement’s” Tim Taylor and creepy neighbor Wilson, the fence between them a clear allusion to anonymous public restroom sex and “glory holes.”

In the 1980s, things were a little less blatant, though the daddy-boy relationship between Coach and Sam on “Cheers” was unmistakable; all that was missing was a dog collar and a leash. And even Bill Cosby, supposed guardian of family values, subverted traditional values by wearing flamboyant sweaters, perhaps presaging Johnny Weir’s ensembles. It has been suggested that Cosby’s sweaters were used to exchange coded pro-gay messages with Ted Knight, whose “Too Close for Comfort” character would respond by wearing college sweatshirts. I believe this demands further research, which I will report at a later date.

From the earliest days of television and film, gay couples have been featured in a very positive light: Cagney and Lacey, Bo and Luke Duke, Mork and Mindy (Come on, does anyone believe Mork had male genitalia? I wasn’t fooled!), Starsky and Hutch, Mr. Roarke and Tattoo, and so many others. A particularly brazen effort to normalize homosexuality came in the form of Felix Unger and Oscar Madison of “The Odd Couple,” who were the very personification of gay archetypes: Oscar the hyper-masculine “bear,” and Felix the effeminate proto-twink. And let’s not forget Bert and Ernie (shudder) or the homo-erotic tension that pervaded the Brady household.

We might attribute this eruption of pro-gay sentiment to the sexual revolution, which is what “polite” (cowardly) people called the collapse of family values in favor of unbridled hedonism and sexual abandon, but unfortunately, it’s been in our culture from the beginning.

I like to remember the 1950s as a more peaceful, ordered, chaste time in our nation’s history, when the few homosexuals there were stayed in their dark corners and black people knew the order of things. But the gay agenda coursed along like an underground stream filtering into our cultural consciousness. Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello, and Amos and Andy blazed glittering trails of in-your-face gayness, the latter pushing a Communist-inspired movement to erase racial boundaries and create a nation of mongrels. And don’t get me started on that sick, twisted foursome of Ricky, Fred, Ethel, and Lucy.

I could go on and on, from Laurel and Hardy to Dorothy and Glinda (I know I’m not alone in seeing that one!) to Lincoln and Douglas to our founding fathers. The perverted even infected our nation’s Constitution with their sickness, insisting that a president was not enough but that we needed a “vice” president to serve “together” with the president. (Perhaps it’s time to amend article II of the Constitution to avoid such unseemly promotion of same-sex couples).

In the face of this onslaught of deviance, normal people must be vigilant and proactive, or we may find our most cherished institutions promoting sexual deviance. We expect our priests and vicars to be chaste and heterosexual, as they always have been. And we will never allow missionaries to serve in same-gender couples.


Pornography as Addiction and the LDS 12-Step Program

February 18, 2014

This is a little embarrassing to talk about, but reading recently about how research shows that pornography is not an addiction reminded me of my experience with the LDS church’s addiction and recovery program. I suspect that some people are going to use this point as another angle to go after my character and so on, but I really don’t care. I am who I am, weaknesses and all, and I’m OK with myself.

A few years ago things weren’t going very well for me at home, and I started seeing a therapist in Provo. He was a great guy, a biker and former gang member with lots of tattoos who was also a high priest in the LDS church. Like most men, I have looked at pornography on occasion, and that subject came up because, obviously, it was a sensitive issue in my marriage. My wife had decided that I should attend the church’s 12-step addiction-recovery meetings, though I thought that was overkill. But I didn’t dismiss it because I wanted to respect my wife’s concerns.

I discussed this with my therapist, and he not only told me I wasn’t an addict and didn’t need the program, but he advised me against going to the meetings because, he said, the program tended to cause people to obsess about what was only a real problem for a very small number of people. He also said that there was a major lack of training for the people running the programs, who were not professionals but just people assigned to do it, which should be a red flag to anyone. But I figured that attending the meetings was something I could do to show I was making an effort in my marriage (things did get much better with time), so I went.

The meetings were held on Wednesday evenings at the massive student stake center adjacent to Utah Valley University. There were at least 4 rooms dedicated to men dealing with pornography issues, 1 room for women dealing with any kind of addiction, and 2 more rooms for “spouse support” meetings. Most weeks the 4 men’s meetings were filled to overflowing, with most of the participants young, college-age kids.

The meetings were presided over, more or less, by a missionary specifically called to run the meetings, always an older man whose wife was assigned to one of the women’s meetings. The real leader was the “facilitator,” someone who had been through the program and done well enough that the church assigned. The one I remember most distinctly was a white-collar professional who had been abused as a child and definitely had engaged in compulsive sexual behavior.

Meetings opened with participants reciting a pledge not to judge or interrupt or share information about what others had said outside the meeting, followed by an opening prayer. We then took turns reading each of the 12 steps. Each week focused on one of the steps, so each person would then read a paragraph from the chapter of the book covering that step. Then it was time for reporting how our week went.

The program continued just as you would imagine: each person would state his name and say “I am an addict” or something like that and then talk about how things were going. From my perspective, very few of the people there had a real problem with compulsive sexual behavior. Most of these young guys would say, “My name is Steve, and I am addicted to pornography,” or “My name is David, and I’m addicted to masturbation.” The ones that really got to me were the ones who said they were addicted to “lustful thoughts.” Then they would report how many days or weeks or months they had been “clean.”

It would have been funny if it hadn’t been so deadly serious. One guy kept berating himself because, a few years earlier, he had worked as a lifeguard at a swimming pool and had experienced lustful thoughts about the girls in their bikinis. Kids would literally weep as they talked about how they had been more than a year without masturbating but then slipped and had to start all over again. It was as if they wouldn’t consider themselves “clean” until they had banished all sexual thoughts from their lives–and you can guess how that would work out.

With the older men, it was always the same: their wives had caught them looking at porn. Pornography is definitely a problem for some people, but these were normal men who occasionally looked at porn on the internet, not guys spending all day obsessing over it. But the reaction was always the same: the wife was ready to throw in the towel on 10, 20, 30 years of marriage. I can understand the hurt and betrayal spouses might feel, but getting a divorce over it? That just seems crazy to me.

As I said, a few people I met in the months that I attended actually did have a problem with compulsive sexual behavior. They stood out, and I would always think that they really needed to be in therapy, not in this meeting.

At the end of the meeting, the facilitator spoke for several minutes about his experience and the process, and then the missionary spoke, followed by a closing prayer.

The program seemed structured less to control addiction than it was to guide people through the familiar repentance process. Milestones were such things as taking the sacrament again, getting a temple recommend, or putting in mission papers.

My therapist had been right, of course: the main effect was an unhealthy obsession with sexual expression, which ironically is what the program was supposed to help people recover from. There was so much shame in that room, and it was painful to watch. The worst was when these kids talked about admitting their addiction to their loved ones. Most normal adults would think that admitting that you’re addicted to masturbation is ridiculous, but these kids shamed themselves in front of parents and loved ones. I remember some of these boys talking about how they were dating someone and knew they had to tell them about their addiction. Still makes my heart hurt to think of all that pain they were putting themselves through.

Despite all of this, I took the steps seriously because I knew that in those small ways I could reassure my wife that I could and would change my behavior to repair some of what I had damaged in our relationship in other ways, not through any “addiction.” I was glad, however, that I never felt that overwhelming and, it seemed, debilitating shame that many of these guys felt. For me, the meetings were just a reminder to stay focused on my marriage, and I did commit to staying away from porn, which was a good thing.

I did, however, stop attending when I realized that the program was, in the end, a projection of the facilitator’s experiences and feelings. He saw all of us as being the same as he was: a seriously damaged and abused person who struggled with terrible emotional problems and compulsive behavior. The last straw for me was when he started talking about his son, who was serving a mission at the time. He had convinced his son that his occasional masturbation was evidence of a serious addiction, so his son had started attending the meetings at around age 16. When the son went on his mission, he apparently grilled every companion about his masturbatory habits until he became convinced that everyone in the mission was a sex addict. So, he went to the mission president and arranged for each mission zone meeting to have time set aside for all missionaries to go through the 12 steps.

As I recall, the meetings are supposed to help because they are voluntary; you can’t force people to attend meetings for an addiction they don’t have, but that’s what this kid was doing, and his father could not have been prouder.

In the end, that shark-jumping moment convinced me that, just as this man was projecting his life experience and problems on the rest of us, the church had built this program based on how it assumed that members live their lives. One look at pornography was an addiction. Even occasional masturbation was likewise an addiction. But behind the talk of addiction was the old cycle of guilt and shame, and I saw way too much of that.

As I said, I don’t minimize the effects of compulsive sexual behavior, but when you put all sexual expression within that definition, you can potentially destroy lives in ways that pornography and masturbation can’t.


Unabashedly Positive

February 11, 2014

I’ve been reflecting on something a critic of mine said in the comments here. He wondered when the last time was that I posted something “unabashedly positive” about the LDS church. I don’t keep score, and I don’t feel like I need to say something positive just for the sake of being positive. But he got me thinking about the positive things I took from Mormonism (and no, I don’t discount the costs of these positive things). Here are some thoughts.

The church of my youth seemed more like a community, in some ways like a large, supportive family than it did for most of my adult life. The things I remember aren’t sacrament meetings but how people came together to create things that, if not “great,” strove for greatness. Our chapel in my hometown was built with a lot of hard work from local members. The paintings in the foyers on either side of the chapel were done by ward members, both talented artists; to this day, when I read the accounts of Lehi’s dream, I picture the painting in the north foyer. Behind the choir seats was a large abstract mosaic stretching from the ceiling meant to represent the light of truth descending from the heavens. My mother tells me that ward members wept when the church was renovated and the art and mosaic removed.

We came together for such things as road shows, a one-act play competition (my first attempt at acting), and a huge dance festival held at the Rose Bowl. But we did things together that were completely unrelated to religion. Each summer 15 or 20 families from the ward reserved campsites together at a state park in Malibu, and we spent the entire week surfing, playing, and enjoying each other’s company. Our Scoutmaster took us on 50- and 100-mile backpacking trips through the Sierras each summer. And we came together for unhappy times, too, such as the terrible mudslides that destroyed several homes in our ward boundaries and took the life of a ward member, one of my mother’s closest friends.

It was the church that helped me overcome my shyness and fear of public speaking. By the time I served my mission, I was comfortable speaking, even at a moment’s notice, and that led me to excel in speech and debate in high school. There were two of us Mormon boys on the debate team, both of us doing Lincoln-Douglas debate, and once our teacher/coach noticed we were both wearing BYU shirts. She asked if we were Mormons, and we said we were. “That explains a lot,” she said. She said that we were both polite, well-intentioned young men who were always helping our team-mates.

During my senior year in high school, our Young Men leader and I worked together to plan a “super activity” trip to Hawaii. We organized the young men and worked hard for a year to earn enough money to do what we had planned and a little more. That accomplishment gave me a lot of self-confidence that I hadn’t previously had.

My mission taught me that I was capable of doing and enduring more than I had thought possible. Living in Bolivia put what I took for granted into perspective, and every time I feel myself getting too interested in material wealth, I remember Bolivia and check myself. And of course, I met my wonderful wife during those two years.

I used to say that Mormonism didn’t mean you no longer had problems, but it provided a framework for dealing with them. That part of it was a mixed bag for me, but I believe my faith got me through a lot of heartache and upheaval in my life. For a time, my wife and I drove 70 miles each way to the Houston Temple once a week. The temple wasn’t that memorable, but the time we spent together talking strengthened our love and friendship at a time when it would have been easy to get so caught up with kids and work and church callings that we forgot to make time for each other.

I know, none of these things are exclusive to Mormonism, but then, I was a Mormon, so they were benefits to me. But I’m glad someone reminded me of these things. Thanks.


Mudslides in Cochabamba Department

February 10, 2014

My wife mentioned this to me last as we were going to bed.

http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/bolivia-mudslide-buries-village-dead-missing-22436090

She said she wished we could be there to help during this time of crisis. I realized that, for many Bolivians, every day is a crisis because they lack food, shelter, clean water, and other things we take for granted.

Several times on my mission, I had experiences that brought into stark relief the differences between the way I lived in California and the way Bolivians lived. Once, we held a “Noched de Hermanamiento” (Fellowship Night) in a tiny adobe chapel in Pampahasi, a little village perched on a hill overlooking the city of La Paz. My companion was in bed with an IV in his arm, so the welfare missionaries and I took a taxi up to Pampahasi to show a filmstrip called “I’ll Build You a Rainbow.” Most Mormons have seen this filmstrip about a boy whose mother dies, but she promises to watch him from the skies and “build you a rainbow” to remind him that she’s always there.

The place was packed: the room in the rented adobe house was probably fifteen by twenty feet, with a swept-dirt floor, plastered walls painted a dark teal, and a dais made of wooden shipping pallets. A decrepit piano with half the strings missing sat in the corner.

At the end of the filmstrip, the hermanas were teary-eyed over the orphaned child in the filmstrip. I stood in front of the crowd and explained how God had a plan for all of His children, and then I asked if there were any questions. They came quickly.

“Do people in the United States really live in houses like that?”

“Do people there really have that much food in their refrigerators?”

“Does everyone have a nice car like that boy’s family?”

I hope someday my wife and I can return to serve the people there and help in a small way to alleviate the hunger and the misery.

More about the mudslides (it’s in Spanish): Deslizamientos dejan 5 muertos y 10 desaparecidos


Beyond a Serviceable Grace

February 7, 2014

“Vigorous writing is concise,” wrote author E.B. White in his invaluable book, The Elements of Style. But concise writing is extremely difficult. A friend of mine who teaches writing at a university told me that she considers herself to be a competent writer–until she’s required to cut things down to 500 words or less.

Recently I stumbled across a music critic, Robert Christgau, who writes “capsule reviews” of popular music for The Village Voice and more recently, Barnes & Noble. These capsules are never more than a paragraph long, but Christgau’s prose is so spare and yet so evocative that readers get everything they need in that small space.

Here’s his review of Robin Thicke’s “Sex Therapy”:

An amusing fellow getting her into bed, kind of a bore when he’s done, and what else is new?

The Killers’ “Hot Fuss” merits:

If only A Flock of Seagulls could do their hair.

Mercifully, he doesn’t write anything about records he rates “bombs.”

Lest anyone think he saves his best writing for negative reviews, take a look at this review of Poly Styrene’s 2011 CD “Generation Indigo”:

Life after “Oh Bondage Up Yours” began with Poly’s dreamily unpunk 1980 studio-rock Translucence, a sui generis switcheroo absurdly accused of presaging Everything but the Girl. Now there’ll be claims her easy-skanking groove is a “dubstep” breakthrough, once again obscuring the main reason her music has connected since she wore braces, which is that it’s exceptionally tuneful, if not the main reason we care, which is that she’s an exceptionally good soul. She never tops the vegan opener “I Luv Ur Sneakers.” But the four humanist protest songs she rolls out just before an unnecessarily dreamy closer seem so unforced you feel for all those who have striven so hard to do nothing more. Ari, Viv, Exene–because sisterhood is powerful, this one’s for you.

In one elegantly constructed paragraph, Christgau summarizes Styrene’s career from early punk icon to her abrupt but “dreamily unpunk switcheroo” to her final album (she died of cancer a month after its release); describes the musical style of the CD; and gives a moving tribute to her “exceptionally good soul” while placing her in context (sisterhood) with the great women of punk music–and he still manages to review the CD. He makes it look so easy, so unforced, damn him.

But it’s not unforced, and it’s definitely not easy. His review of a Weezer album yields this description of the punk ethic, which applies just as well to his prose:

[The album] totally misses the point, which from the Ramones to the Libertines has been to achieve concision and economy while just barely remaining erect. Onstage, that is. How Cuomo has comported himself in other areas of endeavor I haven’t a clue.

As with punk music, it’s the concision and economy that make his prose work. He writes in one book review that good writing “achieves lucidity and a serviceable grace,” but great writing can “have the impact of revelation among the uninitiated” and give them a “sense of discovery.” Christgau almost always transcends the ordinary.

I really work hard to approach that kind of brevity and depth of meaning, but it’s very difficult to achieve, and I rarely get anywhere close. Nathaniel Hawthorne once said that “easy reading is damn hard writing”; it takes a lot of effort to make your writing seem effortless. I’ve appreciated the compliments I’ve received for my book’s writing style, but that took a lot of work: I wrote the initial “draft” of blog posts in 5 weeks, and then I spent 6 months editing and rewriting. Recently a reviewer (and friend) lamented that I didn’t spell everything out in the book and spoke disapprovingly of the spare prose style. He thought I might be offended, but I was thrilled. I understand a lot of people won’t like my approach to writing, but his review told me I’d done what I’d set out to do. But I can’t do that all the time, no matter how hard I try.

If you want to understand how hard it is to do what Christgau does, try this exercise: Pick anything you really like (an activity, film, food, music, or anything else) and try to explain why you like it in 200 words or less.


Conflict of Interest

February 5, 2014

Just noticed this little blurb about the Monson summons on the MormonThink web site: “Note: The MormonThink website is not involved in this private lawsuit. We merely report the news.”

Fair enough. But let’s look at the court document itself, which begins, “Information has been laid by Thomas Phillips of Kemp House, 152-160 City Road, London EC14 2 NX, UK.”

Who is this Thomas Phillips? you might ask. MormonThink reported on November 29, 2012, “Tom Phillips has agreed to act as the managing editor of MormonThink.”

Oh, that Thomas Phillips.

The frustrating thing to me is that I like the MormonThink web site. It’s as fair and balanced as anything out there, and yet they will forever be associated with Tom Phillips, who is anything but objective about the LDS church. Fairly or not, Mormons will now dismiss MormonThink as the site run by the guy who wanted to put Monson in jail. And that’s a damned shame.

Update: From David Twede’s (former managing editor of MormonThink) blog: “However, what Tom (primarily) and the MormonThink team (supportive) have done is truly amazing.”

Mormon apologists must be celebrating today, as Twede et al. have just given them a huge gift.


February Surprise

February 5, 2014

For quite some time I’ve been hearing that there would be a major development in the Mormon story any day now, which some breathless apostates have dubbed the “October Surprise.” The source of the rumors has been Tom Phillips, an outspoken ex-Mormon from the UK, who in the past suggested something big was coming, only to back off.

Now we know what the “surprise” is:

Mormon Church Leader Thomas Monson Summoned To UK Court Over Claim Of Church ‘Fraud’

In other news, the Pope is to be arraigned for teaching that Jesus was resurrected.

Try as I may, I cannot summon the words to express just how ridiculous and pathetic this is. My eyes have been rolling so much that I fear they might become permanently stuck mid-eyeroll. I’m not going to bother with the “substance” of the charges, as many others have done so already, but I will simply say that the folks at MormonThink.com would do well to distance themselves from Mr. Phillips if they want to maintain any credibility.

I have appreciated MormonThink for its relative fairness in its treatment of the LDS church. Obviously, their website is critical of the church, but they at least provide readers with “faithful” responses to the issues they discuss. MormonThink is certainly fairer than FAIR or Utah Lighthouse Ministry, and they have always prided themselves on being as “objective” as a critical site can be. That’s why I am baffled as to why they would hitch their wagon to someone who seems interested in self-promotion and some weird kind of revenge against the church.

I’m pretty sure this case will go nowhere (the surprise for me is that it has gotten this far in the first place). You can’t prosecute religious leaders for preaching their religion’s doctrines, and that is basically what is happening. The real loser here is MormonThink, not Thomas S. Monson