Skinny Little Boys

March 18, 2014

Saturday night I was up late doing some work on my laptop, and I noticed someone had tagged me in a few photos on Facebook. It was a friend from my missionary days whom I hadn’t talked to in at least a year, but I looked to see what he had posted. There were two photos of a group of us, maybe 15 missionaries or so, at a birthday party for a welfare missionary, who at the time was my wife’s companion. Before then, my wife and I had discovered only two photos that we had in which we both appeared, but now I have two more. Granted, we’re standing behind the opposite ends of a long sectional couch, but still, there she is, and there I am. The third photo shows a busload of missionaries heading up to the ski resort at Mount Chacaltaya, Bolivia, a few weeks before I arrived in Bolivia. (Global warming has, unfortunately, melted away the glacier, and the ski resort is no more.) On the right side of the photo, toward the front, sits my lovely wife dressed as I have never seen her: she’s wearing a fedora and some black Ray Ban sunglasses (it’s now one of my favorite photos of her).

My friend (I’ll call him “Rob”) was online, so we ended up chatting for quite a while. He’s from Southern California, about 10 miles east of where I grew up, though we didn’t know each other before our missions. I had remembered that he ended up in Bolivia sort of accidentally. He was part of a group of missionaries who had been called to serve in Brazil and had learned Portuguese in the Missionary Training Center. For some reason, they were unable to get visas to Brazil before leaving the MTC, so they were sent to Texas to work temporarily while they waited. After several weeks, it became obvious they weren’t going to get their visas, so for whatever reason, they were sent to Bolivia. Not only were they going to a country they didn’t know anything about, but they also had not been taught the language, so it was a huge shock and adjustment to end up there. Needless to say, Bolivia is much poorer than Brazil.

Rob reminded me that he had converted to the LDS church when he was a teenager, and his family had not been pleased or supportive with his decision. He also mentioned that his mother had cried when she saw how thin (emaciated, really) he was when he came home. When I arrived in Bolivia, I was assigned to Villa Adela, a government housing development on the south side of the El Alto airport. Rob was just finishing his mission, and his area, Rio Seco, was just across the runway on the north side. I liked him instantly, and it was great to have someone from the same place I had grown up to whom I could relate. We had been to the same places, gone to the same dances, and shared a lot that you would expect to share with someone who grew up so close.

By the time Rob went home, I had lost 31 pounds as a result of intestinal parasites. I weighed 114 pounds. My wife always says that I was a “skinny little boy” back when we first met, and she is right. The photo at the birthday party shows me at about my lowest weight, and I look genuinely awful. But Rob looks much worse, almost skeletal, in those photos. I don’t wonder that his mother wept at the sight of him.

Knowing Rob was going home, I asked him to take some things home for me (slides, photo prints, and a few small souvenirs). He said he would drop them by my parents’ house, for which I was truly grateful. He ended up driving to my parents’ house and spending a few hours talking with them, telling them about where I was and what I was doing, showing them photos and slides, and telling them what they could expect from my time in Bolivia. To this day I am extremely grateful that he took the time to do that for me, but that’s the kind of man he is. (I note in my book that he also told my parents I was very ill, even though in my letters I had been telling them I was fine. My father was not pleased that I had lied, to say the least.) I had not spoken to Rob again until we reconnected on Facebook a few years ago.

Some time ago Rob came out as a gay man and joined the ranks of the “less active” in the LDS church, and he is now happily married. He told me that the bishop and the missionaries occasionally come by, and he’s always cordial but is never sure what to say. He said he felt lucky that he hadn’t grown up in the church like I had because he didn’t have family pressure and disapproval when he walked away from Mormonism.

As we were talking about the photos, he said, “I look at those photos and see so much love.” He went on to say that, because we were so far from home, in such difficult living conditions, and among a people who really didn’t want us there, we supported each other and stuck together. We were family, and we loved each other. Like me, Rob has mixed emotions about his mission, but we both recognize that deep love and bond among those of us who served together in Bolivia. The photos on Facebook elicited comments from people I hadn’t heard from or seen in years, and yet the bond was still there, and it was easy to reconnect with those people I have loved since then.

As we chatted, we agreed that neither of us regrets our missions, as much of who we are now came out of that experience. I’ve said before that my mission taught me a great many things, not least of all that I am much stronger and more resilient than I ever imagined. But as Rob and I talked, I realized that much of the strength I discovered in Bolivia I borrowed from people who loved and supported me. Yes, I learned to stand on my own and find inner strength, but I also learned to lean on others when I wasn’t strong enough–which was most of the time.

I am convinced that, whatever we think we have accomplished in this life, it is the human connections, the love, that matters. Most people who meet someone like Rob or me will never know anything about the time we spent together in a windy, cold, and barren plain among the mountains of Bolivia. But I will never forget. And I will always remember the kindness of good people like him.


I don’t need to listen. I’m right.

March 10, 2014

Yesterday I had a Facebook exchange with an old friend about the political situation in Ukraine. I shared my political convictions and values and applied them to the situation as I saw it. My friend was adamantly opposed to my take on things, and I reacted more harshly (and snarkily) than was warranted. From there, the conversation devolved into my friend saying I was self-righteous and ignorant. Needless to say, it was not a positive exchange, and when I realized that my next responses might possibly contain profanity and insults, I stopped responding.

This morning, however, I read the following post from my friend Seth Payne–who coincidentally also completely disagreed with my opinions on Ukraine–and it made me think about yesterday’s exchange and my behavior.

Advice for LDS Missionaries

It was a good reminder for me that, when challenged, even in a very personal way, it’s best to listen to what other people are saying, take time to investigate what they’re saying, and learn from the disagreement, no matter whether you agree with their position or not.

One thing I have learned over the years is that when people express their opinions to you, they are usually sincere. I particularly liked this section of Seth’s essay:

When you hear something unfamiliar or perhaps even something that conflicts with what a seminary or Sunday School teacher may have taught you take the time to ask questions rather than assume what is being stated is incorrect or false. Always remember that as a missionary you have not been trained as a Mormon historian or sociologist. You have been encouraged to be a representative of Christ and part being that representative is displaying humility. Unless you have been accosted by one of those General Conference protesters it is usually best to assume that a person with a different viewpoint or information you may not be familiar with is not out to attack you or your faith. Just as you want people to treat you with respect and give you a fair hearing, so to should you be willing to hear and discuss different ideas without accusing others of unstated motives.

I am often guilty of assigning motivations to others, particularly when I think other people are being unkind or unfair, but I think it’s the lack of humility that is the problem for me. It is pride that drives me often to believe that I am unassailably right and my “opponent” is wrong. When I am directly contradicted, I often tend not to listen but instead react defensively and sometimes with hostility. And, sad to say, I often come across as self-righteous.

Seth reminds me of a better approach:

You are going to be asked difficult and unfamiliar questions. Be prepared to be surprised. Learning and being challenged is one of the great things about being a young LDS missionary. Take full advantage of this unique opportunity.

Yes, a mission is a unique opportunity, but the rest of our lives we are going to be faced with difficult and unfamiliar questions, and life often presents us with surprises, sometimes devastating ones. You would think someone my age would have figured out how to deal with differing ideas, perspectives, and beliefs, but maybe I am still learning.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Jerry Seinfeld once described relationships as being like fish swimming upstream: the moment you stop working at it, you’re left with a dead fish. Learning is like that, too: once you stop learning and growing and changing, you are just waiting to die.

If life involves constant learning and growing, then obviously we have to acknowledge we don’t know everything. I’m not sure why that is such a hard thing for many of us to admit, especially for me. Here’s Seth again:

You shouldn’t expect yourself to know the answer to every doctoral or historical question. When you don’t know something or when something is unfamiliar it is always best to acknowledge your ignorance but promise to follow-up once you have had a chance to look into the question. Talk to other missionaries and your mission president. Ask questions in your letters home. Commit yourself to learn and view each unfamiliar question as an opportunity for growth.

Those around you will respect your humility and honesty.

I am grateful to those who offer to help me learn and grow, though I am sometimes too stubborn to accept their help. It’s much easier to try to find backup and support from others for my point of view than it is to simply acknowledge that I don’t know everything. There are only a few people I know who adamantly disagree with me but whom I know I can trust when I ask questions or want to learn. Generally speaking, these people have shown me their good intentions and kindness, and I know they aren’t trying to attack or hurt me. Of course, it takes much more confidence to be willing to learn from people I don’t trust, and sad to say, I don’t have that kind of confidence most of the time.

Finally, Seth reminds me of what matters:

Christians are not to be judged solely by their words but rather, by the love they show for others (see the entire Book of John ). People will always be more impressed by your example than by your words. Be kind and generous. Always look for opportunities to serve those around you. Allow others to see how the Gospel of Jesus Christ has worked for good in your life.

Your mission is an opportunity for tremendous spiritual growth. As you look back on your mission experiences it will be those moments of kindness (both given and received) as well as the service rendered to others that you will remember most. If you are anything like me you will remember the “bible bashing” sessions or arguments but they will all run together as ultimately unimportant. You will, however, remember those whom you served and those who served you in great detail and with fondness.

That is absolutely true. What we remember is love, service, kindness to each other, not disagreements, not fights, not who “won.” The only “Bible Bash” I was ever involved in on my mission occurred about 3 weeks after I arrived in Bolivia, and I remember it only because I learned so much from my companion. The man we were visiting was stubborn, sharp with his words, and completely certain that he was on God’s side and we were in the devil’s employ. I got very defensive and upset, having never been raked across the coals like that about my beliefs. My companion, on the other hand, just smiled, listened, asked a few questions, and then suggested we bear our testimonies and leave. “He was a funny little man,” was all my companion said about it afterward.

I’m not sure why I let that lesson from my mission fade away and picked up the “bashing” club in the last few years. Maybe I needed to be right, to come out on top, because I felt I had been spectacularly, humiliatingly wrong in the past. Or, most likely, it was just pride.

Looking back on my days as an amateur Mormon apologist, what I remember is the friendships I have made. Once, for example, I reached out to someone who was as hostile and disrespectful to Mormonism as anyone I had ever met, and as we came to understand each other, we became fast friends and still are today. At the same time I met my friend Ray, who has called me everything from a Nazi to worse and has been as critical of me as an ex-Mormon as he was when I was a believer. I love Ray like a brother and always will; that’s what I remember, not our disagreements and sometimes hurtful comments to each other. I cherish the friendship, and I’m ashamed of the unkind things I’ve said to him.

Yes, I understand that there are people who genuinely wish me ill, but they come and go. They aren’t important, and it’s not worth my time to argue with them or get defensive. But as Seth reminded me, I can learn from them if I am patient, humble, and kind.

I’m working on it. (And I apologize, Hellmut.)


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


Another Book Review

June 18, 2013

A friend pointed me to this review on, of all places, a message board I was banned from a few years ago.

Book Review: “Heaven Up Here”

My book will never be a bestseller, but I’m so pleased that readers have enjoyed it and taken something positive from it.


Shameless Holiday Reminder

December 5, 2012

I feel kind of mercenary posting this, but I just got laid off, so what the heck? I’ve been told that my book, Heaven Up Here, makes an excellent Christmas gift for people who have served LDS missions, will serve missions, or simply want to read a good book.

At less than $10, it even makes a good stocking stuffer.

OK, I’m done begging for the year. Merry Christmas!


NPR Heralds the Missionary-Age Change

October 31, 2012

I’m not sure why I haven’t commented on the change to Mormon missionary-age requirements, but hearing NPR’s take on it got me thinking about it, and as anyone who has read my blog knows, I rarely pass up an opportunity to express my opinion. (National Public Radio is the public radio service of the United States.)

Since 1960 young LDS men have been eligible to serve missions at age 19, while women had to wait until they were 21. As of the recent LDS general conference, the age requirement has been changed to 18 for young men and 19 for young women, so long as they have graduated from high school or its equivalent. This is a pretty big change for a number of reasons.

First the obvious difference is that young men can enter missionary service directly after high school, avoiding that strange sort of limbo between graduation and a mission, when you know you are supposed to be getting on with your life, but you can’t really do that until you know where and when you will serve your mission. As I mentioned in my book, Heaven Up Here, I graduated from high school when I was 17, so I had more than a year before I could leave on my mission. During that year, I worked two summers and attended three semesters of college, but I felt like I was just biding my time before my mission. My heart really wasn’t in school–and it showed in my grades–and I worked mostly to save money for my mission.

So in this respect, it’s a good thing for young men who are planning on serving missions. It will still disrupt education and work, but perhaps less so. On the other hand it will probably make it more difficult for some young men to save enough money to serve missions (they go at their own expense, with the church picking up the tab only for training and travel to and from the assigned mission), so less-affluent missionaries may have to delay their missionary service until they have the financial means to serve.

But NPR’s focus was on the lowering of the age at which female missionaries can serve to 19. In my view this is a much more momentous change, particularly because I know how Mormon culture has traditionally looked on “sister missionaries.”

When I was a college student and missionary back in the early 1980s, relatively few women served missions, as the church did not encourage them to serve, and most definitely did not create the expectation that boys had growing up that they would serve missions. The President of the Church in my youth, Spencer W. Kimball–whom we considered a prophet–made it clear that serving a mission was a commandment for young Mormon men:

“The question is frequently asked: Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer has been given by the Lord. It is ‘Yes.’ Every young man should fill a mission. …

“… Every man should also pay his tithing. Every man should observe the Sabbath. Every man should attend his meetings. Every man should marry in the temple” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 8).

Reading through President Kimball’s talk, I notice that there is not a single mention of women being involved in converting the world. That wouldn’t have crossed his mind, I would think, as it probably wouldn’t have occurred to me, either. In those days there were very few sister missionaries, and in my mission in Bolivia, most were serving nonproselytizing welfare missions.

The attitude a lot of people had then was that women served missions if they were 21 and had no prospects of marriage, for marriage was supposed to be the focus of young women, not missionary service. As the NPR reporter put it

At age 21, a woman is nearly finished with college, and historically there’s been pressure to marry rather than set out on an 18-month mission, which is optional for both men and women.

Sister missionaries were considered almost like old maids at 21. I know a sister missionary who despaired at 22 that she would probably never get married because it was getting too late. When I was in the Missionary Training Center, a sister missionary announced in our “culture class” that she was serving because she thought it would help her find a husband.

Over the last 30 years or so, it has become more socially acceptable for women to serve mission. No longer were sister missionaries considered spinsters-in-training at 21, but rather as a valuable part of the missionary force. Consequently, more young women had begun to plan on serving missions, and it became common to hear teenage girls talking about their plans to serve a mission when they were old enough. The shift in age requirements may reflect the church’s acknowledgment of this cultural trend.

National Public Radio (the public radio service of the United States) covered the story and rightly concluded that it signaled a big shift in attitudes towards women serving missions. It’s pretty clear to me that the church has decided that having more missionaries is at least as important, if not more, than marrying women young, and that is an unprecedented change.

In LDS theology, marriage between a man and woman is essential to exaltation in the highest level of the celestial kingdom (the Mormon expression for “heaven”). Indeed God is God because He is married. He is literally our Heavenly Father, who is married to a Heavenly Mother–together they are God and have spiritually begotten all human beings. For the leaders to  encourage young women to delay marriage in favor of missionary service thus has theological implications.

NPR interviewed a young woman, Hannon Young, who is a freshman at church-owned Brigham Young University (my alma mater), who was understandably emotional about the change.

“I wanted to go on a mission since I was 16,” she says. “And the thought of waiting two more years was really difficult for me. So, it was such exciting news.”

She is one of the rising generation that not only sees missionary service as a positive thing, but also has been planning on serving.  Her mother, Jane, opined

“I do think what it allows is for women — Mormon women — to have it all,” she says.

That may be a bit of an overstatement, but clearly the church’s view of the role women play in the church has changed.

Jane says the new policy represents a philosophical shift in how Mormon women are viewed by the church — and by themselves.

“I think women will see themselves differently,” she says.

Hannon agrees.

“I think I do, because it’s empowering to think that they want more women serving,” she says. “It feels like a call to really join the ranks.”

Yet the church has been careful to remind sisters that they do not have the same obligation to serve missions as the young men do. Current church president Thomas Monson said recently

A word to you young sisters: while you do not have the same priesthood responsibility as do the young men to serve as full-time missionaries, you also make a valuable contribution as missionaries, and we welcome your service.

The policy change suggests to me that the church is beginning to encourage young women to serve, rather than merely “welcoming” their service. But this does not signal a sudden movement toward equal status and treatment for LDS women. Only men are ordained to the priesthood, and women in the church are called and serve under the direction of priesthood leaders. That’s not going to change.

But what is the reason for the new policy? Perhaps some statistics will help explain. At the end of 1980, there were 29,953 full-time missionaries. By 1990, there were 43,651, an increase of 45%. By 2000, the ranks had grown to 60,784, or nearly 40% over the previous decade. However, in 2010, there were 52,225, a decrease of 14% in ten years.

But not only the number of missionaries has declined, but also the number of baptisms per missionary, which has dropped by half from a high of 8 per missionary in 1989 to between 4 and 5 in the last few years. Together, these two statistics show that missionary work in the LDS church has not kept up with membership growth as a whole. (Church membership increased from 7,760,000 in 1990 to 14,131,467, or nearly 100%.)

What has caused the decline in missionary numbers? I don’t have any idea. My guess is that a lot of young men have been dropping out of the church in that year between 18 and 19, which would make sense because it’s the first time most of them will have been on their own, either going to college or making money. Perhaps two years of unpaid missionary service seems less attractive. I honestly don’t know. Whatever the reason, the numbers are down, and I am assuming the church did some internal pilot programs to see if sending missionaries out at 18 decreased the number of young men opting out.

Given the decrease in baptisms per missionary, it seems logical that the church would try to increase the number of missionaries serving, which is where the young women come in. Most LDS young women will not get married before age 19 (the average is somewhere above 22 for women), so the pool of potential missionaries has increased significantly, and indeed, the article notes:

Some 4,000 young women applied in the two weeks since the announcement. Overall, applications have quintupled — and fully half of them are women. Until now, only about 20 percent of missionaries have been female.

Given the total number serving in 2011, there were 11,000 young women serving as missionaries, or 20%.  Assuming that the number of young men stays the same, and I would bet it will increase, if young women constitute 50% of missionaries, that would add some 33,000 missionaries, for a total of around 88,000, or a 60% increase.

In the end, the new policy doesn’t so much reflect a change in status for women but simply indicates a need the church has for more missionaries. And who knows? Maybe young women make more effective missionaries than do their male counterparts, so we may see an increase in converts per missionary.

I’m happy for those young women who wish to serve as missionaries. My daughter is thrilled, though I have reminded her that this means she has less time to save up for her mission. Unlike the stake president the article quotes, I don’t envision a big increase in mission “romances.” Of course, I married a sister missionary, so who am I to talk?


Bolivia’s Big Brother Is Watching

October 26, 2012

I admit that when Evo Morales was elected president of Bolivia, I was hopeful. After centuries of being marginalized and disenfranchized, Bolivia’s indigenous population finally had some real representation in government, and at long last change could come.

Unfortunately, much of the change has been in the government’s consolidation of power at the expense of freedom and openness. Bolivia’s press has long been threatened by a hostile government, but now the government is going after social media.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/25/world/americas/bolivia-social-media/index.html?hpt=hp_bn2

“I am always going online, and I am writing down the first and last names of the people who insult him on Facebook and Twitter,” Vice President Alvaro Garcia Linera said in remarks widely reported in Bolivian media this week.

The message is clear: watch what you say because the government is watching you. Not so, says a government spokesperson:

Constructive criticism is fine, said Franklin Garvizu, a congressman from the president’s party. But officials have seen something more nefarious, he said.

“We are very worried because this is a case of systematically using communications mechanisms to plant hatred against the government, to harm the image of our president,” Garvizu said.

So, as long as you say nice things about the government, you have nothing to worry about.

 


French Television

September 9, 2012

I can’t remember what I said, so I hope it came out OK.

http://www.france5.fr/c-dans-l-air/videos/36958


Surprises in Romney’s Acceptance Speech

August 30, 2012

Thanks to my insider status, I’ve been given an advance copy of Romney’s acceptance speech, and it contains some interesting stuff;

10. Romney’s speech will be preceded by a youth speaker and a “rest hymn.”
9. First lines: “I’ve been asked to speak tonight about presidents. The dictionary defines the word “president” as …
8. In a Romney administration, “hearts will be gladdened, spirits will be lifted, and taxes will be lowered.”
7. Romney reminisces about telling Boyd K. Packer about that time he punched his companion.
6. A reference to Joe Biden as “Master Mahan” has been edited out in the final version.
5. To help Romney feel more comfortable at the podium, 15 decrepit old men will be seated (and sleeping) in large, red wingback chairs on the stage behind him.
4. Part of the speech was written by Bill Hamblin, who contributed the witty acrostic, “Obama is a wanker.”
3. The nomination will not be official until the delegates “indicate by the usual sign.”
2. No mention will be made of specific budget and tax proposals, as these items were outlined on a missing section of the speech that may have been up to 41 feet long, according to Dr. John Gee.
1. The speech will be given by an animatronic robot while Romney stays at home to watch the BYU football game. No one will notice.


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