A fiction sadly far fetched

I haven’t posted here in a long time, but I wanted a place for this piece, which originally appeared as a Facebook post. Because who blogs anymore?

In a yet unwritten novel the opening chapter shows a reporter at a Mormon baptism, because one of those joining the LDS church is a gay, married man. It’s the first such baptism in the area, so it’s historic. It obviously takes place far enough in the future that those in charge of the church today are serving missions in Spirit Prison. It’s near enough in the future that newspapers still exist.

Before the baptism the gay man, still dressed in a white jumpsuit, postpones the event. I won’t tell you why, because that would spoil the most important part of a book I haven’t written.

The story was based on a trajectory I predicted. Throughout the story Mormons are presented as kind and welcoming. They become some of the gay man’s best friends, even though for years he would be forbidden from joining the church. It was fiction, but not far fetched.

For some time I saw the church’s proactive stance on some gay rights, its outreach to gay members and individual localized cases of acceptance of gay people as evidence that one day the church’s policy on gays and marriage would change dramatically, just like it did on blacks and the priesthood. We would see gay marriages solemnized in LDS temples, which would necessarily mean women would be getting the priesthood, too. Bonus!

Others warned that instead the church would double down on its anti gay stance, and despite some signs of hope this year, it appears that I was wrong and they were right. Following the news of the LDS church’s policies declaring gay married couples “apostates” and making children of gay couples unfit for a baby blessing or baptism, I must admit my own prophetic powers are defective.

For some of you it will make no sense that this policy bothers me, because I’m not a believer anymore. I became convinced that the church was, to put it gently, “not true,” in 2011. When I made that conclusion I stopped going to church for a while, but because I love my wife I went back, except for the weeks it just felt too heavy to go. I got value from some of the lessons and the service I rendered not near enough of.

Mormons themselves are exceptional in service and often in compassion. They helped us move, once again in great numbers. When we disclosed that our oldest child was transgender, there were only a few instances of anything other than amazing support. Even though I didn’t believe in the truth of the church, I believed in its goodness and in most of its people.

But this year, after a post Prop 8 lull, it seems that the church as a whole really is doubling down on its stance against gay and transgender people. This most recent development has been by far the most crushing blow. If you haven’t seen the heartbreak and real-life consequences, read the stories Jerilyn Hassell Pool is compiling. https://www.facebook.com/Jerilyn.Hassell.Pool?fref=ts

All of this is ironic to me, because the first place I learned to show some level of respect to gay people was not in my home or my school. It was at church.

A man who would become bishop told my class of teenage boys that when he was a kid he had a gay scoutmaster. This being the 1970s we were repulsed, wondering aloud how our future bishop had escaped being raped. This man, who could hardly be considered evolved, disabused us of the idea that being gay makes a man a pedophile. It was a wakeup call for me, a chance to set aside my own prejudices and consider the humanity of people I had seen as evil and disgusting.

It was a great moment in a church, a Christian moment, the kind of a moment that helped begin a personal evolution. I see that evolution happening with other church members, too, with true believers. I had hoped there would be more of that.

For me the disclosure of the policy marked a moment to grab a microphone. I do it with some trepidation. I’ve been in the habit of withholding, mostly, because of the old job, the new job, Story Night and a general revulsion to my own piety. The one exception I’ve made has come as a result of my son. Family trumps everything.

Since the news of this policy broke there have been millions of people commenting on it, some of you several times. I know that what I’m saying might not add a lot and runs the risk of being as long as a Mormon Stories podcast or another in a long line of manifestos. But it’s important to me for a couple of reasons.

One is that I want my friends to know where I stand. It gives you the option of dismissing my views from here on out, if you like, or reconsidering your own. I hope we stay friends. I also hope this helps others of you who might feel like I do, but felt you were alone.

You’re not.

None of us should have to be.

The ‘gap’ offers answers

Over the past several months as I pondered the future of the Field of Steve podcast, I decided I wanted the main “Field of Steve” page to be the podcast page. That meant I would need to take this blog and give it a new address. I knew that would be FieldofSteve.com/blog. Not a real stretch.

The stretch for a guy like me, though, is in handling the IT work necessary to make the change. One day I might have someone handle the web presence. But a successful $300 Kickstarter campaign doesn’t quite get me there. So I do this work myself.

Some of the first steps came easy. I created a subdirectory, a task not at all within my comfort zone. Then I struggled, but figured out how to load WordPress onto that directory and export all the content from one site to another. I messed up, though, when I tried to delete the content from the old site and ended up deleting all of it. And I probably wasted an hour trying in vain, struggling to think of a solution, to fix the problem.

Eventually I stepped away from the task, calling on something I remembered reading from Deepak Chopra in Creating Affluence. Here it is from the audio version:

“Perhaps you recall an instance when you were trying to remember a name, and you struggled and struggled but with no success. Finally you let go of your attachment to the outcome and then a little while later the name flashed across the screen of your consciousness.

“This is the mechanics for the fulfillment of any desire. When you were struggling to recall the name the mind was very active and turbulent. But ultimately, out of fatigue and frustration ,you let go and the mind became quiet, and slowly quieter. And perhaps so quiet that it was almost still and you slipped into the gap, where you released your desire and soon it was handed to you.”

This is called “stepping into the gap” between thoughts. You stop fixating on the task and solutions appear. You might not know how this works, but you know it does.

I went downstairs, got a snack and parked myself in front of the TV for the final three episodes of The West Wing. Sometime during all of that, and I can’t recall how, the term “uninstall” came to me. When the shows were over I went upstairs and found out how to uninstall the WordPress blogs from both places, then reinstalled it and put all the content back.

It took just a few minutes.

The second issue came with moving the podcast from TheNarrativeArts.com to FieldofSteve.com. At one point I thought I would have to essentially recreate every page, including loading the podcasts from my computer to the site. Knowing that would take way more time then I already wanted to on a night I was already up way too late, I threw up and “under construction” notice on the page and linked to the blog and the place where the old podcasts were.

Yesterday at the day job, while working on something else I began wondering if it could be as simple as dragging folders from one place to another. I went home and tried it.

It was.

By stepping away from the task I had stepped into the gap between thoughts and twice found solutions I couldn’t get through struggle.

You need instructions? Chopra provided them:

Step 1: You slip into the gap between thoughts. The gap is the window, the corridor, the transformational vortex through which the personal psyche communicates with the cosmic psyche.

Step 2: You have a clear intention of a clear goal in the gap.

Step 3: You relinquish you attachment to the outcome, because chasing the outcome or getting attached to it entails coming out of the gap.

Step 4: You let the universe handle the details.

Under durress, I forgive the Internet trolls

Some people don’t like this story.

Some even suggest it’s a fabrication on my part. This, in spite of the fact that finding the survey is easy for anyone with chimp-level Internet skills. I didn’t make it up. We don’t do that. Sometimes we get things wrong, which if done enough or in spectacular fashion is a fireable offense. But reporters get axed quickly and without question for making stuff up. I would never make stuff up because I like A. Money, and B. Sleeping at night. I know people wearing tin-foil hats won’t believe that, but seriously? I’m making it up? That’s what the commenter wrote.

So it is another story, that is at best,
a fabrication by the writer.

I love anonymous story commenters, but only because Jesus said I have to if I don’t want to go to the same place they’re going.

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven.

It’s another story about how religion isn’t much of a thing in the Pacific Northwest. The survey is from the Gallup organization, which I’m pretty sure would notice if a newspaper reporter made up stuff about it. In this case there was a special Kitsap County touch to the piece. In these parts we surveyed the least religious of all. Take that, Eugene, Oregon!

Here is the link to the survey for those who don’t want to bust out their inner chimp.

Actually, the LDS Church’s Stand on Prop 8 Is Ironic

In the Deseret News publication Mormon Times, journalist Joel Campbell wrote commentators finding the Mormon Church’s support of California’s Proposition 8 “ironic” is itself ironic. I disagree. There is plenty of irony there.

The ballot measure, which passed Tuesday, defines marriage in California’s constitution as between a man and a woman. The irony some commentators see, as illustrated by Campbell, isn’t on target. The church no longer practices polygamy. And likening the persecution same-sex marriage supporters get now to what the LDS pioneers saw in the 19th century is at least a stretch in terms of degree. The church is backing a democratic ballot measure. It’s not legalizing the extermination of those who would marry someone of the same gender.

But by the definition of irony Campbell himself offers, the church‘s support does indeed demonstrate irony. Campbell wrote, “By definition, to have irony you need to have incongruity between what might be expected and what actually occurs.”

On the most basic level, a church that once embraced a tweaked version of marriage, polygamy, now approving laws against another version, same-sex, could easily be seen as what’s expected being disconnected from what occurs.

Campbell responds to a Washington Post-Newsweek blogger who made that case by writing, “For us Mormons, the blogger could have just as well asserted that he found it ironic that Catholics support peace because Catholics once supported the Crusades.”

It’s a tempting argument, but the problem is that Catholics themselves argue among themselves about the rightness of the Crusades. Those wars have their defenders, too, but few today would argue for a similar campaign. They would think it wrong.

No one in the LDS church, no one who is intent on remaining in good standing in the church, is arguing for the reinstatement of polygamy, either. But I joined the church at age 11 and the adults talked openly about the possible return of the practice one day. Some still talk as if it might happen, as distasteful as that may sound. Our temple marriages reflect that belief in that a man can be sealed to more than one woman, but the same is not true of women being sealed to men.

The LDS church does not teach that polygamy is wrong, except that it violates the law. It was the vision of the destruction of the church entirely that was the large factor in the church’s decision to abandon the practice, not any recognition that the practice itself was unholy.

Among the church’s resources for journalists on the Internet is a publication of a Q&A from the Los Angeles Times and another primer on polygamy. From the
Q&A in the Times

“Question: Is polygamy gone forever from the Church?
We only know what the Lord has revealed through His prophets, that plural marriage has been stopped in the Church. Anything else is speculative and unwarranted.”

From the primer:

“. . . the standard of the Lord’s people is monogamy unless the Lord reveals otherwise.”

So the church’s position is that monogamy, one man and one woman, is the rule unless God wants it otherwise. This is the sticky point. In the blog Campbell references, LDS Apostle Dallin H. Oaks acknowledges that if you don’t recognize revelation, communication from God dictating the activities of those in His church, then the irony is “profound.”

Further ironic is that the ballot measure not only affected gay marriages, which the church teaches is wrong, it constitutionally outlaws polygamy, which the church does not practice but also does not categorically condemn.

So what’s prohibiting the church from practicing marriage as it might see fit is now the California constitution, based on an amendment the church itself supported. That God would accept polygamy being illegal in order to prevent gay marriage from becoming legal is a point you could argue, but there is most certainly room to recognize the irony.

Dutcher’s Exodus

Richard Dutcher, who made the films God’s Army, Brigham City and States of Grace, is no longer active in the LDS church. I have thoughts about it, but I think enough has been said here that I don’t feel obliged to weigh in on it just yet. I will say I understand the boat metaphor.

In the mid 1980s Dutcher was a clerk at a 7-11 Brant, Byron and I used to frequent on late-night “Big Gulp” runs. He was nice. He was quiet. We knew about his acting aspirations. I’ve enjoyed all his films.

About “Why?”

One of the fears I have, even as I demand answers, is that my quest for understanding begets more of the same. Schoolyard killers in the past have spawned discussions of bullying and the like, yet I haven’t seen much to answer why one kid out of a million who get bullied decide to kill innocents.

An answer as good as any I’ve seen comes from Time Magazine’s David Von Drehle in his piece “It’s All About Him.”

“I’ve lost interest in the cracks, chips, holes and broken places in the lives of men like Cho Seung-Hui, the mass murderer of Virginia Tech. The pain, grievances and self-pity of mass killers are only symptoms of the real explanation. Those who do these things share one common trait. They are raging narcissists. . . .

A generation ago, the social critic Christopher Lasch diagnosed narcissism as the signal disorder of contemporary American culture. The cult of celebrity, the marketing of instant gratification, skepticism toward moral codes and the politics of victimhood were signs of a society regressing toward the infant stage.”

Let’s be honest, even this blog is an exercise in narcissism to some degree. I’d say many politicians are narcissists. Anyone who writes an autobiography should be suspect. But I’ve always known about my self-absorption. I suspect we all have it to some degree and that we keep it in check. As a little kid I always knew there were other people in the swimming pool with me. The day I stopped peeing in the pool was when I realized those other people mattered.

In my life I have had a few moments of feeling disconnected, most notably with fellow members of the LDS church. Even as I served an 18-month mission, deep in the throes of seeking more to join us, I sometimes felt disconnected with the larger Mormon culture. I still do. Yet it has never occurred to me to punish those who seem to feel fine in it. I’ve always assumed it is more about me, both the good and bad parts of me, then it is about them.

Someone with unchecked narcissistic traits just wouldn’t go there. If I’m a true narcissist, I blame people I reject for my disconnection.

I don’t understand it, and that’s probably a good thing.

At Least They’re Just Asking

Greenleaf, Idaho is not content with 80 percent of its residents owning guns. They want complete compliance, but the ordinance the city council passed only asked residents to own guns. Their fear? Being overrun by Katrina “refugees.”

They’re serious, as are some of the commenters who posted their remarks for the story. The city leaves an out if you have religious or “other” objections.

What might be some “other” objections?

  1. I’m too busy.
  2. Guns don’t go with my sweater.
  3. Regis Philbin doesn’t have one that I know of.

I’m unfamiliar with “ordinances” that don’t require something. Resolutions don’t always, but I thought ordinances were by definition mandatory. I could be wrong. I could be experiencing long-distance bystander trauma from the hurricane.

I want an ordinance requiring people to subscribe to my newspaper, or this blog, unless they have religious or other objections.



Friday’s Clip File

reidHere’s your Senate Majority Leader.

“Britney Spears,” Mr. (Harry) Reid said, shaking his head. “She loses a little weight, and now she’s getting all cocky about things.” He added, “Britney has gotten her mojo back.”


High-water mark

You may be aware, some of you well acquainted, that we had a big rain here, even for Seattle standards. On Wednesday Gov. Chris Gregoire was in Bremerton for a chamber luncheon. She stopped by the mayor’s office and talked of what she’d seen the day before. Of a town called Hamilton, “It’s gone.” Here’s a Seattle Times story about a family that lost at least a decade’s worth of work.

“Work started in the mid-1990s, (Mike Nichols said, and it progressed as he had time. He often worked 12-hour days on weekends and vacations. Every fixture was bought through husband-and-wife shopping trips, with all the countertops, cabinets and faucets placed with their own hands.”

Port Orchard Has a Council Opening

When I was a kid the Los Angeles Rams fired George Allen as head football coach. I’ve not really ever forgiven the organization. I wrote Allen a letter telling him he should coach at Covina High School, because the program there was miserable. I seriously thought he’d be interested. Instead he moved east to coach the Washington Redskins, taking his family with him.

His son, who thought about running for president in 2008, lost a Senate race Tuesday. Here’s more on that.

stranger than fictionOff to the Box Office

Happy am I — happy, happy, happy — that Stranger than Fiction is getting good reviews. The story has an interesting conflict, so I’m glad to see that if I spend two hours of my life in a movie theater, it will be worth it.

Here is Eric D. Snider’s take.

NYT – Credit Due

Many of us have concluded Republicans blew this election. I still think that’s largely true, but Thursday’s New York Times shows the inside baseball account of how much Democrats did to orchestrate their win.

Across the country, at the urging of Mr. (Rahm) Emanuel and his Senate counterpart, Charles E. Schumer of New York, Democratic candidates began demanding the resignation of Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld. As they did, Mr. Emanuel would later admit, he gave private thanks that the president had not robbed the Democrats of a potent issue by firing Mr. Rumsfeld before the campaign was engaged.

Read it to the end.

Decipher This

Interesting story about people who speak in tongues, again in the New York Times. The story includes this:

Contrary to what may be a common perception, studies suggest that people who speak in tongues rarely suffer from mental problems. A recent study of nearly 1,000 evangelical Christians in England found that those who engaged in the practice were more emotionally stable than those who did not.

So what are you saying?


Howard Jones’ Appeal to Mormons

On Friday five of us went to the Howard Jones concert. We had seen him twice before when we were living in Utah. When I was an intern in DC I used to listen to him a lot, but Diana made me a fan again.

Diana kept in touch with the news about Howard Jones and most of his U.S. shows were in Utah. We noticed the connection, but didn’t think much of it.

When we went to the show on Friday, Diana said wouldn’t it be funny if we saw people from our ward. Well, we were the only ones from our ward, but there were two couples from our old ward and a former high councilman from our stake.

So what is it? He’s got good messages and he’s a decent guy. But there are lots of those out there. His music is also good, but there are lots of good musicians, and a fair amount that are decent people.

So why does Howard Jones have so many Mormon fans?

Field of Steve