Chicago, or Bust

Well, somehow the end of four years’ worth of stressing about deadlines, working at least two jobs, and (kind of) balancing good grades has finally come to an end.

I am surprisingly underwhelmed. I was as impatient for classes to end as ever; my last final was completely anticlimactic; my grades were better than they’ve been for a couple of semesters, and I hardly went to class.

Now that the days counting down to my exodus out of Utah are dwindling to the single digits, I’m feeling far more terrified than I thought I would. I am unbelievably excited to begin a new social circle in a giant city; I’m eager to foray into the wonderful world of Chicago opera; I’m looking forward to the privilege of assuming that I’m surrounded by non-Mormons, rather than the opposite.

But everybody I love is in Utah, and leaving my family and friend groups will be tough. However, I don’t foresee myself having any regrets. Updates will follow, concerning my bleak road trip out and my initial experiences. I don’t have a lick of furniture, an apartment, or a job; I only know two people, and they’re about twice my age. This should be interesting.

In the meantime though, don’t pray for me, send me positive affirmations, or any of that bullshit. I really just want your money. And for you to keep reading.

Bon voyage!

Pantsed: The Diseased Schlong of the Mormon Patriarchy Reveals Itself (again)

It is a sad truth that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a litany of sexual discrimination against women. From the Church’s inceptions, Joseph Smith Jr. (and many others) engaged in sexual relationships with multiple women, many of whom were underage, against the consent of his wife Emma. Women have never been able to hold the Priesthood, the magical Mormon man-power, and there was a even a brief ban instated against women saying prayers in local congregations, the offending principle being that it allowed women to preside over men.

That’s all old-hat, however. There are new issues bubbling to the surface of Mormon women’s troubles. Recently, a tough group of gals got together and made a Facebook page encouraging women to wear pants to church on Sunday. Big deal, right? Well, any LDS woman who’s attempted to wear even an excellent pair of suit pants to church knows that a slew of gossiping and judgment is sure to follow. Sunday means best dress; doesn’t it follow that women, acting in their divinely-bestowed feminine role, must wear a modest dress or skirt?

In all fairness, it’s been a long time since the Church said that wearing pants to Sunday service was acceptable. In the seventies, and again in response to the pants-wearing revolution, the LDS’s official stance has said pants for women are okay. However, as any honest Mormon woman knows, in practice this just isn’t true.

Interestingly, though, it isn’t just the pants that these Facebooking women were addressing. Despite the fact that they seem to be devoutly practicing members of the faith, they recognized that the pants served as a metonym for a much bigger issue: LDS women may not breach the age-old gender roles that have been rigidly preserved through generations of patriarchal organization.

In the year 2012, when more women are graduating college than men, LDS women still may not offer the opening or closing praying in General Conference meetings. Why? To do so would be to preside over an official Church meeting, a responsibility reserved for Priesthood holders. They may not hold certain Church positions where the Priesthood is not even required–such as Sunday School President–just because that’s the way it is. It goes both ways, too; men are not allowed to direct the children’s Primary Program.

And the women are most definitely not allowed to hold the Priesthood, the mystical power bestowed upon Joseph Smith Jr. by John the Baptist (who had just happened to stop by for tea). The Priesthood is believed by Mormons to be the literal power of God, and while twelve year old boys can hold it, the wisest women would be left without it.

The most commonly cited justification for this is that God gave men the Priesthood because they needed help to become more perfect. Women, however, have the sacred ability to give birth to children, and they don’t need divine inspiration to be wonderful.

This argument doesn’t hold much water when viewed in the context of evolution; with very few exceptions, every female insect, mammal, bird, and dinosaur had the Mormon woman’s divine gift of life-giving. Don’t get me wrong–the ability to have babies is an incredible thing indeed. But since it’s been going on as long as sentient life has existed, and since the Priesthood has only been extended to Mormon men during the last 250 years (and only the last forty of those have included Blacks), there can be no doubt that Priesthood isn’t exactly the verisimilitude of God letting men catch up with women.

The reactions of many Mormons, particularly men, to the Wear Pants to Church page were astoundingly revealing. Many men simply asserted there is no sexism in the Mormon Church. Others, however, turned ugly.

Tony said, “This is a prime example of wolf in sheep’s clothing. This is deceit at its prime and nothing you can say can change what I have seen in these hundreds of posts. Too many people are confused what this is….what it is, is blasphemy.”

Bret said, “FAIR WARNING: The SAME ‘SPIRIT’ that tells you to wear PANTS to church in OPEN REBELLION against the encouragement of God’s appointed leaders will NEXT tell you to STOP going to church…then FIGHT AGAINST the church!”

John said, “LMAO! Geez! haha…what the hell is WRONG with women in our society these days? If you’re going to wear pants, they might as well get penis implants too, to make them even MORE masculine.”

Taylor said, “PENIS ENVY!”

Yes, there is no problem with sexism in the Church. I actually considered suffering through spontaneous combustion due to entering a Mormon chapel on the Wear Pants to Church day, just to see what the results were. Although I ultimately could not bring myself to attend, the Facebook event had over 2,000 attendees–an impressive number when outspoken Mormon feminists are regularly disfellowshipped or excommunicated.

Maybe the Church will take a leaf out of its own book and change its doctrine, again, to suit the times. Maybe it won’t–after all, holding a conference with a General Authority is notoriously difficult, and the Church is anything but a democratic society. But as an ex-member, and a former observer and sometimes victim of the damage that the overly patriarchal set up of the Church can create, I commend these women for taking a giant leap for LDS womankind in the spirit of equality.

You can visit the Facebook page here: http://www.facebook.com/events/144815455666087/

Modesty: The Spiritual Thought Crime Squad

The tenth commandment, in both the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy, states that thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, thy neighbor’s ass, thy neighbor’s wife’s ass, and etc. This seems like a fairly innocuous command until you accidentally peer across the street and see a new Corvette in the driveway, and then–BAM–you’ve busted up the Decalogue and made a sinner of yourself.

In a real-life scenario, nobody but you would ever know that you had wanted that car, or a few minutes alone with the new intern at work; our internal monologue flows so easily that without even paying attention to it, we covet things right and left on a daily basis. Wanting more encourages competition and hard work, principles strong cultures thrive upon.

However, in a religious scenario, the Big Guy upstairs is not only monitoring your every thought, but keeping a tally and punishing you for them as well. It doesn’t really matter that thinking about something doesn’t affect anybody else, no less harm them. The critical thing with the tenth commandment is that your thought can definitely bring you dangerously close to hellfire.

And that is where the concept of religious modesty comes in–the idea that it is a woman’s duty to cover essential parts of her body so that man doesn’t even have the chance to commit lusty thought crimes against God.

The idea that keeping one’s thoughts under control is noble in essence, since any kind of desperate, secretive wanting can fester into obsession, and God knows we have enough Buffalo Bills in the world. However, the idea of modesty falls under scrutiny because it is the women–who are typically not known for lusting after the neighbor’s wife–and not the men who are responsible for not only their own behavior, but that of the opposite sex as well.

The principle behind traditional Islamic burqas is the perfect example of this. Certain interpretations of Islamic text leads us to understand that women don’t have to wear their face covering in front of blind, gay, or asexual men. A statement by Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid on Islam QA states that, “…the woman’s face must be covered. It is the most tempting part of her body…”

The complete and utter nonsense of this concept is infuriating. That religion is continually allowed and encouraged to suppress a woman’s physical self-expression to prevent thought crimes against the Divine is totally ridiculous in the twenty first century, especially in developed countries. Unfortunately, Islam is not alone. Other uber conservative religions, such as the Mormon Church, maintain similar principles: the young women must not wear immodest clothing because it tempts the young men to have lustful feelings.

I read a story of a young Mormon woman, who, as she met with her bishop for the first time at twelve years old, was told by this man of God to bring her legs together under her skirt to the bishop wouldn’t be tempted to look at her privates.

There are numerous cases of men, high in authority, who have made statements something along the lines of, “If you dress appropriately, you are putting yourself less at risk of sexual assault.” Is this true? Probably. But it doesn’t in any way justify the fact that the perpetrators are men, making the decision to commit a heinous sexual crime, and the bottom line is that it just doesn’t matter what the woman is wearing. It’s not her job to protect herself, her thoughts, and her physical safety, and maintain an appearance suitable to religious standards so that the men can be spiritually safe, too.

But it is our job to try to put a stop to this spiritual double standard. France finally took a stand by instituting a ban against burqa face coverings in public; despite some social protests and several tragic violent acts against women who still choose to wear them, it is far better to take a stand against countries and cultures where the social pressure to wear a burqa creates much more violent responses towards women who don’t obey.

Although there are some women who are uncomfortable without wearing their head cover, it is finally an instance where people have said no to tolerance of religious bigotry. It is far too easy to allow the oppression of women and chalk it up to respecting religious rights; and it’s high time a government took a stand against it.

And it is a step in the right direction; it’s just fucking amazing it was the French who dunnit.

I’m an Ex-Mormon: Why leaving the Church is so difficult

Several weeks ago, I received a text from an acquaintance asking me if I wanted to hang out. Because this individual had never previously expressed any interest in me, I was surprised–but responded, “Sure.” As it turned out, he was asking if I wanted to attend an LDS fireside.

 

Shortly before that, I attended a Stake Conference in Provo for a friend. One speaker announced a serious problem: In the whole of Utah County, there are several thousand Utahns who are not LDS. “Bring them to the fold,” he said. “That is far too many.”

Throughout my time writing as a columnist for the Statesman, I have been asked these questions more times than I can count: You’re angry, aren’t you? Do you hate the LDS Church? You have a serious bone to pick with the Mormons, don’t you?

Yes. Yes. Yes.

These are difficult questions, with difficult answers; explaining what it’s like to be an ex-Mormon is complicated and fraught with emotional hang-ups. Explaining how something that makes you happy also makes me miserable is almost impossible; even more difficult is reassuring you that I know that the Mormon Church is not true, as equally as you know it is. I’m going to try anyway.

One of the primary reasons being an ex-Mormon is difficult is illustrated in the first example I gave: somebody who has zero interest in my personality is inviting me to Church functions. Because a fundamental part of the Mormon doctrine is the recruiting of non-members, this is a fairly common occurrence. But if all you can see in me is the potential for bringing a lost individual salvation, it cheapens our relationship and demeans your intentions–and any ex-Mormon can tell you how it feels to be ignored except for spiritual invitations.

We’d actually prefer to be let alone completely. But, as the second example illustrates, that doesn’t happen because the Mormon Church is everywhere. There is absolutely no getting away from it here. Pictures of caucasian Jesus hang in every window. Missionaries are sent by neighbors who have never taken the trouble to meet me.  My friend group, my dating pool, and my entire college experience is marginalized because I am not Mormon. The constant exposure is incredibly frustrating.

This is compounded upon by another common experience many ex-Mormons share: ostracization from family and friends. Often, in sacrament meeting, stories are told in which individuals overcome extreme familial hardships when joining the Mormon Church, and just can’t understand why their families don’t accept the transition. These individuals are made out as martyrs, who are unjustly punished for making a decision that brings them happiness.

Unfortunately, the pendulum doesn’t swing the other way. Although ex-Mormons hear from many of our Mormon friends that they still love us, we want to ask them: Then why don’t we talk anymore? Why can’t you empathize? Ex-Mormons don’t get invited to family reunions, life-long church-going friends abruptly lose contact, and false rumors spread like wildfire–will you pretend there isn’t a correlation?

Often, the rude behavior of Church members is brushed off with the mantra of, “The members may not be perfect, but the doctrine is.” Au contraire, my friends. The doctrine tells parents their gay son is living a sinful, intolerable lifestyle. The doctrine tells youth only to associate with those who hold the same “standards” as they do. The doctrine allowed racism to continue so far past the Civil Rights movement, and the extreme sexism to continue today.

No, the length between the Civil Rights movement and our reluctant acceptance of human rights has nothing to do with the fact that everyone in the General Authority Quorums are wealthy, racist, white men. Why would you think that?
No, the length between the Civil Rights movement and our reluctant acceptance of human rights has nothing to do with the fact that everyone in the General Authority Quorums are wealthy, racist, white men. Why would you think that?

Is that doctrine perfect to you? Because it seems only perfectly hateful to me.

Sometimes, ex-Mormons are told to leave Utah if we hate it so much. But if my church history isn’t much mistaken, it was the Mormon themselves not long ago that were systematically purged from entire states because they believed differently. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

Fortunately, I am leaving. But that won’t change the fact that I do have issues with the Mormon Church. I think it is a force most often not for good, and it does make me very angry to watch it wrong the people I love. I think the sexism, racism, and homophobia is intolerable and you’re damn right I have a bone to pick with anyone who promotes that kind of behavior.

Unfortunately, though, my time with USU has come to an end and so does my angry, bone-picking column writing. I would like to express gratitude to my editor for his patience, and my supporting readers who have encouraged me onward when I’ve wanted to flush my laptop down the toilet. If you’d like to follow me in the future, you can find my writing at lizeverything.com, but in the meantime–don’t psuedo-swear, harass porn users, or get married; but do cross-dress, tip your server, and keep those damn fraternity boys in check.

Why do children suffer? Dostoevsky’s “Rebellion” and what it says about the suffering of the innocents (PHIL 3600)

The God Who Created James Eagen Holmes:

Using Dostoevsky’s “Rebellion” to view the Aurora, Colorado shooting

On July 20, 2012, a twenty four year old man walked into a movie theater in normal clothing, carrying nothing suspicious. This man, James Eagen Holmes, studied neuroscience at the University of Colorado as a Ph.D. student. Intelligent but antisocial, he had no criminal record and purchased all of his weapons legally. Holmes sat down for the beginning of the movie but then left, propping an emergency door exit open, and went to his car to dress in heavily protective combat gear. Upon his return to the theater, he fired a 12-gauge shotgun, a semiautomatic rifle, and a handgun into the audience. Over seventy people were injured overall, and twelve victims died, including a six year old girl and a three month old infant.

For those who believe a benevolent God created the universe, including Mr. Holmes, the ever-present problem of reconciling the existence of evil with God’s goodness cannot go unaddressed. How could a God who has humanity’s best interests at heart bless a man like Mr. Holmes with the intelligence and ability to carry out such a wicked crime? Why would He, in His omniscience, refuse to interfere and stop Mr. Holmes from achieving his violent objective? And why would he allow the death and injury of innocent children as young as six years and three months old?

Dostoevsky’s “Rebellion” asks the question especially pertinent to the case of the Colorado shooting: even if the suffering of the adults was a consequence of their sin, how could a loving, omniscient, good God allow those children to suffer? For it wasn’t just the two killed in the shooting, but the children of the parents who died, the siblings of the young adults who were murdered, who are made to suffer for the rest of their lives as consequences of James Holmes’.

Because I don’t believe in God, it is easy for me to say that the suffering of children is a result of decisions made by faulted individuals. But a close address of those who adhere to western religious philosophy, who believe that God is omniscient, omnipresent, and perfect, must be made because this is a great and terrible question to ask: Why do children suffer? In attempting to answer that question, I prefer Dostoevsky’s ultimate conclusion: that the suffering of even one child, for the sake of the rest of humanity’s happiness and success, is unacceptable—even if God is the one who causes it.

“Rebellion” is a chapter from “The Brothers Karamozov,” a story about two brothers, Ivan and Alyosha. Ivan is an atheist, while Alyosha is a Christian who tries to bring Ivan back to the truth. “Rebellion” mostly consists of dialogue between the two brothers, although Ivan does much of the talking as he surveys the suffering of humankind and attempts to explain it. He observes that, despite humankind possessing more intelligence than other animals, they are decidedly wickeder. “The tiger only tears and gnaws, that’s all he can do,” Ivan says sadly. “He would never think of nailing people by the ears, even if he were able to do it.” He then goes on to give numerous details of abominable acts committed by humans against one another, more evil because of the creativeness with which they are carried out—tossing infants and catching them on bayonets before their mothers, making a baby laugh before shooting it in the face, and nailing people by their ears to fences all night before hanging them. This is directly comparable to the actions of James Holmes; brilliant enough to study neuroscience at a graduate level, he designed and carried out a massacre that even the most violent of animals could never even conceive. He even set up his apartment with explosives to kill the police when they arrived (although he did eventually warn them of this danger).

The adults, Ivan says, know the difference between good and evil; they have partaken of the apple, and “They go on eating it still.” Adults inflicting suffering on other adults is much less evil than adults inflicting suffering on innocent children, so Ivan focuses his discussion on violence against children and the purposelessness it entails. He describes several instances of children who, for no other reason than the wickedness of the adults, are abused, beaten, and even torn to pieces by hunting dogs (or, in the case of the Colorado shooting, murdered with a gun).

After he speaks for several paragraphs about evil inflicted upon children, he begins to arrive at his conclusions, which I completely agree and relate with. I, too, want to be there when an explanation is offered about the purpose of all the suffering, when incidents like the Colorado shooting are finally justified. I wish I could understand it. But, if the answer is simply “God is just,” and then everything lives in harmony, I have to agree with Ivan—I think that God would be wrong. I can’t accept the harmony that will suddenly accompany the “understanding” of suffering.

I do not believe for one second that a good, kind, all-knowing God would allow a three-month old infant to be shot for any purpose, including the good of humanity. Neither do I believe that creating a hell for the oppressors, and thereby allowing more suffering, is a solution. I, too, would rather be without harmony and remain with my own “unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation,” even if I am wrong—because the price asked for harmony would be too high.

I love the questions that Ivan asks Alyosha at the end of the excerpt. Would you, if you were creating a world where the end goal of mankind is happiness, allow the torturing of even one child in order to ensure that happiness? Is the eternal satisfaction of everyone else worth the death of one innocent child victim? Alyosha, Ivan, and I agree—it is not.

It is interesting that, in the course of the brothers’ conversation, the issue of God being able to forgive everything doesn’t come up until the very end. When, as Ivan believes, God is the construct of the human mind, His “ability” to forgive the suffering (note that it isn’t even an ability to relieve the suffering, only to forgive it) becomes irrelevant when events like the Colorado shooting occur. What do we care about eventual justice right now if, in this very moment, children are suffering? How could a good God possibly allow an intelligent adult to carry out such an attack, even if he plans to make it right later? Why would He?

I also think the same way Ivan does—I haven’t entirely shut out the possibility of there being one Creator, because I certainly don’t know how the universe came to be. If such a being exists, and we are eventually made aware of its existence, there isn’t a possibility of not accepting it. But, like Ivan, if this Creator or God is the kind of being that allows children to suffer the way they did as a result of James Holmes’ actions in Colorado, I don’t want to believe in or worship that God. And if He does exist, I, too, will follow Ivan’s example and “respectfully return Him the ticket” to heaven.