Saturday, February 27, 2016

“We called God for a comment, but he hasn’t returned our calls.”

The Latter-day Saints Church has been upsetting some of its members. Last fall a policy was issued from the church saying that members in same-sex marriages are “apostates” and their children cannot be baptized until they are 18 (Mormon kids are normally baptized at age 8), and then they can be baptized only after repudiating their parents’ homosexual lifestyle. The Church, which fought same-sex marriage for years, then ultimately lost to the Supreme Court, has come off as vindictive. And that was after a period immediately following the decision where they sounded (almost) conciliatory to gay Mormons. Some members, gay and straight alike, feel betrayed.

This caused a thunderstorm of emotion and upset for those Latter-day Saints. There were some demonstrations held, and there were members speaking to local TV news, voluntarily and publicly resigning from the Church.

In the LDS Church this kind of protest causes a lot of consternation on Temple Square. The Church is not in the business of arguing its beliefs, nor engaging in debate with its members. Devout members are there to believe what they are told. As the quote from the LDS magazine, The Improvement Era of June, 1945 says:  “When our leaders speak, the thinking has been done. When they propose a plan–it is God’s plan. When they point the way, there is no other which is safe. When they give direction, it should mark the end of controversy. God works in no other way. To think otherwise, without immediate repentance, may cost one his faith, may destroy his testimony, and leave him a stranger to the kingdom of God.”

This has always seemed very ham-fisted to me. Substitute “government” for church and it sounds like what would come down from the leaders of a totalitarian political regime.

After a few weeks of protest the Church issued an edict to silence the dissent. They went to the revelation card. This is from an article on the process they claimed they used to come to the decision to make apostates out of same-sex couples, and forcing repudiation from their children:

Quotes from “Mormon gay policy is ‘will of the Lord’ through his prophet, senior apostle says” by Peggy Fletcher Stack, Salt Lake Tribune, Jan. 23, 2016:
“After same-sex marriage became legal in several countries, including the United States, the LDS Church's top 15 leaders wrestled with what to do, weighed all the ramifications, fasted, prayed, met in the temple and sought God's guidance on the issue.
“. . . That led to the Utah-based faith's new policy regarding same-sex Mormon couples — that they would be labeled ‘apostates’ and that their children would not be allowed baptism and other LDS religious rites until they turn 18.
“‘Each of us during that sacred moment felt a spiritual confirmation,’ [Russell M.] Nelson, next in line for the Mormon presidency, told the faith's young adults in the first official explanation of the hotly debated policy's origins. ‘It was our privilege as apostles to sustain what had been revealed to President [Thomas S.] Monson.’”
“Nelson explained that revelation from the Lord to his servants is a sacred process.
“‘The [three-member] First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles counsel together and share all the Lord has directed us to understand and to feel, individually and collectively,’ he said. ‘And then, we watch the Lord move upon the president of the church to proclaim the Lord's will.’”
The way it is explained sounds much the same as another about-face in Church policy, when in 1978 the ban on black people holding the priesthood was reversed.

Here is an official LDS Church version of the 1978 revelation on allowing the priesthood for people of African descent:
“According to first-person accounts, after much discussion among the members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on this matter, they engaged the Lord in prayer. According to the writing of one of those present, Bruce R. McConkie of the Twelve: ‘It was during this prayer that the revelation came. The Spirit of the Lord rested upon us all . . . From the midst of eternity, the voice of God, conveyed by the power of the Spirit, spoke to his prophet. The message was that the time had now come to offer the fullness of the everlasting gospel, including celestial marriage, and the priesthood, and the blessings of the temple, to all men, without reference to race or color, solely on the basis of personal worthiness. And we all heard the same voice, received the same message, and became personal witnesses that the word received was the mind and will and voice of the Lord.’”
Neither of the explanations of these changes says that God appeared to the Apostles or First Presidency. And no reporter can ask for God's phone number. It seems that God is never around to answer questions when we need a statement or a clarification.

There are Mormons who claim the President of the Church (known as “Prophet, Seer and Revelator”) meets regularly with Jesus in a room in the Temple. But the Church leadership is careful not to spread that kind of talk. They “feel the spirit,” they don’t claim God approaches with a flaming sword and makes a proclamation. The stories about meetings with God and/or Jesus go back to Joseph Smith and his First Vision, which is pictured in this official LDS Church painting of the “event”:

For an American-born church, this depiction makes God and Jesus into Caucasians, and American-looking to boot.

There is also a story of Lorenzo Snow, Church President from 1898 until his death in 1901, meeting Jesus in the Salt Lake Temple. That story may have been the genesis for a comment I read on a Facebook posting about the Church’s new policy on gay married couples being apostates, as “I trust President Monson, because he talks to Jesus every day in the Temple.”

At the time of the 1978 change in granting the priesthood to black people, most Mormons believed that black people were cursed with a black skin by God. It was what was taught, and a belief held, even though it is now claimed it was never from God. A couple of years ago the Church released an official explanation that it was a policy put into place by Brigham Young, who was following the racial prejudices of the era. So why petition God to remove the policy?

We shall have to see whether 40 years from now there will be another “revelation” in regards to the policy on same-sex marriage apostasy.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

More dumb jokes to tell at a party

A magician worked on a cruise ship, and the audience was different each week, so he did the same tricks over and over again. The captain's parrot saw the shows each week and began to understand how the magician did every trick.

Once he understood, he started shouting in the middle of the show, “Look, it's not the same hat!” or, “Look, he's hiding the flowers under the table!” or, “Hey, why are all the cards the ace of spades?”

The magician was furious but couldn't do anything. It was, after all, the captain's parrot. Then one stormy night on the Pacific the ship sank, drowning almost all who were on board.

The magician found himself on a piece of wood floating in the middle of the sea, as fate would have it, with the parrot.

They stared at each other with hatred, but did not utter a word. This went on for a day, then two days, and then three days.

On the fourth day the parrot could not hold back any longer. He squawked at the magician, “Okay, I give up. Where's the fucking ship?”


 A man was sitting at home on the veranda having drinks with his wife. He said, “I love you.”

She asked, “Now, is that you or the beer talking?” He replied, “It’s me...talking to the beer.”


A successful rancher died and left everything to his devoted wife. She was a very good-looking woman and determined to keep the ranch, but knew very little about ranching. She decided to place an ad in the newspaper for a ranch hand. Two cowboys applied for the job. One was gay and the other a drunk.

She thought long and hard about it, and when no one else applied she decided to hire the gay guy, figuring it would be safer to have him around the house than the drunk. He proved to be a hard worker who put in long hours every day and knew a lot about ranching. For weeks, the two of them worked, and the ranch was doing very well.

One day, the rancher's widow said to the hired hand, “You have done a really good job, and the ranch looks great. You should go into town and kick up your heels.” The hired hand readily agreed and one Saturday night went into town. One o'clock came, however, and he didn't return. Two o'clock and no hired hand. He returned at three-thirty. Entering the room, he found the rancher's widow sitting by the fireplace with a glass of wine, waiting for him. She quietly called him over to her.

“Unbutton my blouse and take it off,” she said. Trembling, he did as she directed. “Now take off my boots.” He did as she asked, ever so slowly. “Now take off my stockings.” He removed her filmy nylon stockings gently and placed them neatly by her boots. “Now take off my skirt.” He slowly unbuttoned it, constantly watching her eyes in the firelight. “Now take off my bra.” Again, with trembling hands, he did as he was told and dropped it to the floor.

Then she looked at him and said, “If you ever wear my clothes into town again, you're fired.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Beware, brothers, beware

Men, Valentine’s Day is over for another year, and that gives us a year to continue walking on the eggshells that are relationships. While on February 14 we can bestow on our wives and girlfriends flowers, candy and cards, those other 364 can be fraught with peril for us. We have to tread carefully through the minefield of communication with our distaff side, and we can freeze with terror (at least, those of us with experience) when we hear that awful question: “Does this make me look fat?”(1)

So many jokes have been written about this simple question that whole sitcom episodes have been based on it. But it really is no laughing matter. That question, answered improperly, can cause much pain, argument and tension. I think it should be specifically banned in wedding vows for the bride: “And do you, Daphne Jane, promise to love, honor, and obey and to never ask your husband if your apparel makes you look fat?”

There are variations on the question, though, which are equally loaded for an unsuspecting male. Those may be as simple as “Do you like my new hair style?”(2) or as deadly as, “Do you think my legs are as good as your secretary’s?”(3) Better rehearse some answers in your mind before opening your mouth. Beware, brothers, beware.

What brought this whole subject to mind were these two items from my local daily newspaper, which coincidentally, appeared on the same day. They reminded me that even after 47 years of marriage I need to always be on my guard.

Click to enlarge.

My advice for answers to loaded questions:

(1) To any question with the word “fat” answer with a smile and a soothing voice: “You look wonderful, honey. I think you look fabulous.” Avoid the word fat at all costs, even when she uses it. Even saying, “No, you’re not fat” puts the word in her mind as coming out of your mouth.

(2) Answer to new hairstyle should be, “It makes you look much younger. I love it.”

(3) For a question such as this, fraught with danger, always say something like, “I have never noticed her legs. You’re the one with sexy legs.” A further admonition might be that when this question comes up, it is because she has already caught you eyeing other women, and this is a trap. There may be no answer that will satisfy her, and your Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination does not apply in a domestic matter. Better have a bag packed.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The prescient Playboy cartoon, and a doctor's view through rose-colored glasses

Since the Supreme Court upheld lower courts on the legality of same-sex marriages, the idea of gay people marrying has been fair game for cartoonists. This is an example:

Or is it? I have misled you, because the cartoon comes from the October 1968 issue of Playboy. Cartoonist Dennis Kennedy appears prescient. If he is still around, I hope he realizes how his punchline has a meaning now he probably wasn’t aiming for in 1968.

On the same page of that issue is a letter from a physician who saw the need to end the abortion laws that varied from state-to-state in 1968. Basically he was calling for a federal mandate, like the same-sex marriage debate of nearly 50 years hence, that would make abortion legal in all 50 states. Here is the letter:

We must put an end to all abortion laws. Liberalization is insufficient, expecially when one considers that total repeal of abortion laws would produce the following benefits:

The increased number of abortion requests would make the medical community aware of the need for extensive contraception and sterilization programs, and this long-standing need would at least be responded to.

Illegal abortion would almost disappear. Most abortions would be performed in hospitals that, by their standards of safety, show proper regard for the ‘sanctity of human life.’

The status of women would be improved, because each would be allowed to regulate her own bodily functions. (No woman should have to plead a case to obtain an abortion.)

Mental health would improve, because sane attitudes toward sex would eveolve as a result of lessened anxiety about unwanted pregnancy.

Poverty would diminish, since families would be smaller and better suited to their incomes. An important side benefit would be happier homes.

The era of wanted children would arrive at last. Almost every child would be planned and joyfully anticipated.

Appreciable amounts of public funds would be saved, because there would be no less need to wage war on poverty and to provide welfare support.

As these primary benefits spread their beneficial effects throughout our society, the general rise in happiness would be incalculable. Is it any wonder that so many physicians and clergymen favor the complete recall of abortion laws?

H. B. Munson, M.D.
Rapid City, South Dakota”

Dr Munson thought out his argument, but was wrong on almost every point. Abortion was made legal by the United States Supreme Court five years later in 1973, and has had heavy pushback ever since. The doctor’s optimistic predictions did not take into account those who see abortion for any reason as murder. That hasn't stopped some individuals from themselves committing murder against abortion providers, and five doctors have been killed. Munson was partially right about contraception improving. I remember when a man had to travel to a neighboring state for a vasectomy because it was illegal in Utah. Laws can change as society changes, even in Utah.

The idealistic view of what life would be like after abortion was legal across America reminds me of the same sort of talk before Prohibition was inflicted on the American public in 1920. Instead of the rosy future the anti-liquor forces were promising when liquor was abolished, what really happened was it turned America into a nation of lawbreakers.

A well-known side effect was it made organized crime even more organized, and left us with a deadly legacy probably as bad or worse than the nation of drunkards we had before Prohibition. It also established a template for criminals on how to handle the illicit distribution of drugs a few decades later.

I don’t pretend to know the answer to handle that problem. Many people love their liquor and drugs. No one claims that either or both are not harmful. Banning them and making users into criminals hasn’t worked. It is the Law of Unintended Consequences in action. One hundred years ago when Prohibition was becoming a reality, its proponents were caught up in their view of it being a universal answer to an age-old human problem. No one thought that the problems caused by the law would have repercussions that so far have stretched out for nearly a century.