Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mormon History #1: The First Vision (As Told Through Twitter)

I've always believed that my responsibilities as a blogger are not only to myself, my readers, and the world at large, but also to posterity. To that end my ultimate goal is to one day see this humble blog join the likes of Wikipedia and the library of Alexandria as one of mankind's greatest treasures of knowledge and wisdom. Indeed, we're already part way there: I have learned in the course of events that Expert Textperts is known to some as "that blog that does posts with GIFs." And while I embrace that lofty title, I am not satisfied with it.

And so, I present to you our latest work: the tale of Mormonism itself, beginning with its 19th century inception and eventually continuing in future installments to the present day, or until I get distracted or bored. It is a tale of miracles and heavenly visitations, yet I also seek to maintain a dialogue with the latest scholarship and address historical problems in order to present the reader, insofar as I am capable, with all available facts. So enjoy this first of an indeterminate number of posts on Mormon History...as told through Twitter.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Poor Edith

As December 2013 draws to a close and January 2014 approaches on the horizon, I think we all know what will soon be upon us. What will haunt us all every Sunday night with its melodic opening sequence; its increasingly melodramatic and (dare I say) tedious plots; its ever valiant dowager. Kept in the dark recesses of some twisted Anglophilic prison made possible through contributions from viewers like you, Laura Linney shall be unleashed to cheerfully welcome American viewers back to Downton Abbey.

  Welcome to Masterpiece Theatre. I'm Laura Linney ... And y'all will not believe the shit that's gonna go down this season. The Crawley bitches and that tiny one downstairs in the kitchen go absolutely cray-cray.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

On Pants

This morning, I woke up undecided.

Last year, I couldn't do it. I didn't have the guts to put on a pair of pants to church. No reason why. I've never been told I couldn't; I just accepted that skirts and dresses were the normal thing to wear to church.

I showered, sent my husband off to Utah alone for the last time before our move, and stared into my closet. Which pants would I even wear? Did I have anything purple to at least show some solidarity with my Pants Day ladies? Nope, my only purple shirt did not survive our move here.

Friday, November 22, 2013

I Walked Away From A Car Crash

It was just after I reached the crest of the mountain pass that I noticed my big SUV drifting into the adjacent lane. Felt it, really, just a slight awareness that something was wrong. I was in the left freeway lane, with a semi truck a few dozen yards ahead. No other vehicles were close. The weather wasn't great, but it had been worse earlier. Just some moderate drizzle now. Visibility was decent, though the sun was beginning to set behind a grey swirl of clouds. When my vehicle began to drift I nudged the wheel back to left, just slightly. I’m not sure I could have stopped what happened next. It all happened in four or five seconds.

I’ve been making the six hour drive between Las Vegas and Provo, Utah every other week since we moved to Vegas two months ago. My wife, Brooke, is student teaching at a local high school this semester. My new job, an online marketing startup based in Provo, has allowed me split time working from the office and remotely from Vegas as Brooke finishes her degree. I don’t mind the long drives back and forth: it’s relaxing and lets me catch up on my podcasts.

Today marked the end of a week in Utah. Instead of driving my own car I borrowed my in-laws’ Ford Excursion so I could move a few things next week. I left work early, hoping to reach St. George before dark. It's been cold and rainy all week, and the central Utah freeways are treacherous this time of year. The rain cleared into an intermittent drizzle as I continued south. The road seemed safe enough. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

The Ordain Women October 5th Action as told in GIFs.

It's General Conference time, and today we've enlisted EOR for help explaining one of the big issues of the day in Mormondomism, the controversial Ordain Women movement and its attempt to obtain tickets to the General Priesthood Session tonight. EOR was a great sport, having only been given two days notice to write this, and was given unprecedented access to the Expert Textpert GIF vault. Enjoy the result, and as always, let the page load for a minute or two before scrolling down.

Casey asked me to do a write-up of the history of the Ordain Women October 5th Action in GIFs.  I am an ally, but am not otherwise officially affiliated with Ordain Women (hereafter referred to as OW) other than that I know very many members and love them all dearly.

So, it all started in early 2013 when OW was formed. All the Mo-Fems were like

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Rock N' Roll is Evil, I Tell Ya--Winning the Testimony War

A few months back I wrote about an infamous fireside that circulated in my mission which warned about the dangers of witchcraft, Dungeons & Dragons, and rock music. For a full introduction you can and definitely should read that post here. At the time I'd just gotten ahold of a recording of the fireside--which I learned was had been given by an LDS lecturer/musician named Lynn Bryson, who also wrote a book called "Winning the Testimony War"--but the recording was incomplete and cut abruptly cut out midway through a denunciation of Boy George. However, I was recently contacted by another former missionary who had a full copy of the so-called "Rock n' Roll Fireside",  and since my Google traffic stats show that at least a few dozen people have found that post searching for terms related to Bro. Bryson and his work, as a public service I've decided to offer the full thing as a download, in all its paranoid, homophobic, and undeniably sincere glory. Just click to play, or depending on your device right-click or long-press to save the files, and enjoy the weirder side of Mormonism.

Lynn Bryson - "Rock N' Roll Fireside"
Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Highly Factitious Overview of the U.S. Constitution

As all Americans know, our country recently celebrated Constitution Day, our most cherished holiday since Congress first declared it in...2004. Huh. Anyway, if there's one thing Americans love, it's loving the Constitution. Yet paradoxically, many of us don't actually know the text of our founding document particularly well. Shockingly few citizens can locate the famous "one text, one vote" guarantee, and many believe that the Constitution discusses rights it actually does not (such as the "right to party", which actually comes from France's 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man). Fortunately, I, a renowned expert on constitutionalness, intend to rectify the situation. I have studied the Constitution deeply, distilled it into its essence, and now present it to you in the clearest and, some might say, best, summary possible. So prepare to learn as I unfold the mysteries of the document Rolling Stone called the third greatest human achievement of all time, behind only the wheel and Abbey Road.

The Preamble: In The Beginning....

Monday, September 9, 2013

The Transition of Terror: A Lovecraftian Personal Essay

Almost a year has passed, and yet still I see it, still I visit it in restless sleep.  No treatment devised by even the cleverest of doctors has yielded relief; laudanum gives no respite, and even the strongest opiates offer but trivial resistance to the horrors of my mind.  Madness, some may call it, and I agree more with every passing nightfall.  Perhaps the tale I shall tell truly is little more than ramblings born of lunacy, but if there be even a modicum of truth in it, then it must be made known.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Tumors, Fetuses, and Diseases oh my! A review of the Mϋtter Museum

Another great guest graces our blog! EOR is a full-time student and a writer at RationalFaiths.com. She believes in the one true universal principle, Keyboard Cat > Grumpy Cat.

I had the opportunity to go to The Mϋtter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania recently (hereafter referred to as “The Museum”). It isn’t really like other museums in that it is small, poorly lit, and instead of being filled with art it is filled with medical oddities, and other miscellanea relative to the study of the human body.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Modest is Hottest: A Latter-day Oxymoron

A friend of the blog since before she was born, today's contributor Madelyn is Brooke’s baby sister. Madelyn is in her last year of high school and spends most of her time participating in choirs and drama. As a current participant in the Young Women’s program, she’d like to add her voice and experience to the ongoing conversation on modesty and how we address it.

In my fourth grade class, we read a book about Lou Gehrig, who was described as being a modest man. My teacher asked the class if any of us knew what modesty was. My little hand shot up and I said proudly something along the lines of, “It’s when you dress to cover up your body properly!” which was followed by uproarious laughter from my classmates, and even a little chuckle from the teacher. I had grown up hearing all about physical modesty at church but I didn’t have the slightest idea of what the real definition of modesty was.

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Discussion on the New LDS Temple Movie

This summer Latter-day Saints are abuzz about the must-see event of the season, a film that some have described as "life changing" and "a treasured experience": the Temple Endowment. Yes, the acclaimed production that began as a one man show in an Illinois upper room, later adapted into into several wildly popular feature-length productions run daily in hundreds of LDS temples, has become the latest blockbuster to be rebooted for a contemporary audience. Today Brett and I decided to share our thoughts about it and what it means for us and the church. Obviously, given the secretive and for many highly sacred nature of the temple we've agreed to avoid spoilers. So let's dive right in: Brett, the Temple movie has been out for a couple of week nows. What are your overall impressions of it?

Brett: Normally, I'm pretty wary of reboots.  Sure, you get the occasional one that improves upon the original (I speak of course of Dredd), but more often than not you get a lackluster, computer-effects-heavy attempt at making something everyone's seen seem "new" again (see: the CGI-laden 2005 reboot of Pride and Prejudice).  However, I'm pleased to announce that that was not the case with this new production!

One day historians will note that we were the first to discuss the temple and Dredd in the same post.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Reflections of a College Graduate

When my parents dropped me off at the airport in Chicago back in January of 2005, I had no idea what I was in for. All I knew was that I was starting a shiny, new adventure at BYU-Idaho in which I would have no parents and few responsibilities.

While I was mostly right about my "no parents" assumption, I was very, very wrong about the responsibilities. Suddenly I had to meet new people, attend classes, do homework, and feed myself three times a day. Feeding myself was especially a struggle due to the strange hours kept by the Galley (BYU-I's old cafeteria).

Classes weren't much better. That first semester, my grades were so low that I was later able to petition to have the semester removed from my transcript.

I've learned a lot in the years since that fateful drop-off at Chicago Midway, and I'd like to share some of my insights. Even if you take nothing from this, at least I'll remember what I've been through.

1. A boy's maturity level can be determined by whether he knows any of the girls in his contact list.

I met a boy my first year who "collected" girls' numbers at the beginning of each semester, and if they never called him to hang out, they would be deleted after a month or two.

"Who is 'Girl from BK'?" "Oh, you can delete her, I never caught her name anyway."

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Facilitated Communication and the Spirit (redux)

There's been a lack of activity on the blog lately, for the simple reason that we are slackers. So in lieu of original content here's a repost of something Brett wrote in the blog's early days, before a lot of current readers would have known we existed. I also inserted a clarifying comment Brett left on the original as the second to last paragraph, because I believe it rounds out an already beautiful post. If we ever were to compile our best posts into a book (which would be really hard on the ones that use gifs), this might be chapter one. Enjoy!

In 1993, Frontline News produced a news documentary called "Prisoners of Silence." In this documentary, Frontline investigated a process called "facilitated communication," a method developed to help otherwise silent autistic children communicate with the world around them.

Autism is usually expressed with withdrawal, lack of imaginative capabilities, and, if profound enough, mental retardation and a complete lack of speech. Facilitated Communication is an idea that was developed to help people with profound autism be able to communicate. It basically consists of a specially-trained clinician who holds the autistic person's hand or arm and helps guide his or her index finger onto a little keyboard.

All of a sudden, these previously mute persons who had long been assumed to be entirely low-functioning were writing grammatically correct sentences, short stories, and poems. The Frontline program showed a few examples, including the following verse.

Am I a slave or am I free..
Am I trapped or can I be seen..
As an easy and rational spirit..
Am I in hell or am I in heaven.
As may be imagined, this gained a lot of press.

But facilitated communication had a darker side. All of a sudden, facilitated messages started cropping up all over stating that autistic children had been sexually abused by their parents. Warrants were issued for parents' arrest. Children were placed in foster care. Families were torn apart.

And it was all bogus.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Women, Feminism, Jesus, and You

Here's another excellent guest post, this time from our friend Samantha. She is proud, revengeful, and ambitious—like Hamlet! Just kidding, but we're not kidding when we say she is a brilliant person who is always on an adventure. Her next adventure will take her to Cuba, and soon after she will graduate from BYU.

Feminism is a pretty stigmatized topic even though it shouldn’t be. I like what The Encyclopedia of Mormonism says: Feminism is the philosophical belief that advocates the equality of women and men and seeks to remove inequities and to redress injustices against women.

Feminism in this light can be universally accepted in the church as something morally right. Doctrinally, it makes sense that before an omnibenevolent God women and men are, though different, completely equal. For the record, I firmly believe that He does not send one category of His children to the earth spiritually impaired thus requiring the bestowal of priesthood responsibilities to compensate for said impairment. Also, there is no monopoly on certain virtues depending on whether you are male or female. Men and women play different and equal parts in God’s great Plan of Salvation. We cannot come into this life without the combined power of a woman and a man and we cannot fulfill the requirements of the Gospel without that same combined power.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Goodbye, DOMA and Prop 8

Gay marriage is already legal in 13 countries, and not one of them has burned to the ground or begun persecuting straight couples. Two more countries will allow same-sex marriages starting in August, and an additional 11 are working towards it (12 if you count Wales) besides the US.

This is the world we live in.

When I was teaching US History to 5th graders last semester, the volatile topic of gun control came up. Nearly all of these kids have been raised in very conservative homes. When one little girl announced proudly that she was OK with gun control, the entire room was whipped into a frenzy, and one very sweet boy asked me, "Well, why don't all the people who believe the same things move to the same place? Like if you like guns you can move here and if you don't you can move to California."

I thought this was a brilliant response, but I've been thinking about that simple suggestion for months now. At the time, my co-teacher and I made some good points about diversity being a good thing, and he agreed that it's probably hard to move so far and not know anybody. But the real answer is so much more complicated.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

The Cruelty of the "Like"

I'm going to bring up a pet peeve of mine that seems to be spreading like the plague. It's the facebook "like".

The like is a way of minimizing major events from the amazing moments they are to one click. It's one word that doesn't even begin to cover the emotions associated with said events. It works okay with simple, funny statuses, but what about marriages? New relationships? Pregnancy announcements? Birth?

I have so much excitement I don't even know how to tell you on this social networking site!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Scripture, Ethics and Law: The Coexistence

Friend of the blog Jacob wrote us a guest post. He also writes for his own personal blog, The Experience Free Opinion.

Outside the most avid religious enthusiasts, nobody knows all scripture off the top of their head.

None but the keenest of ethicists espouses a consistent ethical code by which they rigorously abide.

Sure as your phone's been big-brothered, there's not one soul on Earth to recite every written law for the land of the "free."

And yet, uncertain as the lot of us "normal" folks remain, most- at least, among the Christians- have got a rough idea of what the Bible tells them; most have got some sketch of what they see as "good" and "bad"; most have got a pretty good idea about what gets them arrested-- and what they wish didn't.

It's trying to combine the three-- scriptures, ethics and law-- (or perhaps just a given two) into a single, unified, logical, consistent and self-representing philosophy that's got most of our thinking minds in a big, messy, politck-y knot.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Habermas and Mormonism: Speculation in Private and Public Spaces

Some mornings, while preparing my Sunday school lesson, it will occur to me how Habermas' discussion of the creation of public and private spaces can inform how correlated Mormonism polices speculation (suggesting you do it on your own time and not in church) as an effort to demonstrate or perform the faith's assimilation into a more traditional American Christianity ... Like you do.

I posted this status on Facebook a few days ago. After explaining my thoughts a little more, Casey suggested I share my sentiments as a blog post. I have tried thinking of a clever introduction--one that might include some commentary on recent NSA controversies--but honestly the Facebook post still seems like the best approach. I mention the NSA because the controversy hinges on some basic ideologies regarding how we as an American society think about public and private spaces as separate spheres. Ostensibly, there are public institutions and conversations or debates and then there are private spheres where information or organizations operate distinct from the public sphere. While I don't feign a commanding knowledge of the recent controversy, one source of dismay surrounding the topic is rooted in a sense of the violation of those spheres. While I am not going to downplay the implications of the controversy, the academic in me that loves social theorists like Michel Foucault and Louis Althusser believes that post-Enlightenment state apparatuses always already create not just public spaces but also the notion of their being a private space. In other words, you might take comfort in the notion that you have a private part of your life or private spaces to operate, but such space and time is always already generated by the public or the state to create subjectivity of citizens or other members of society. In other words, the distinction is not only an illusion but a somewhat purposeful strategy in order to make society function. As one character in the movie In the Loop proclaims, "Now, you might not believe it; and I might not believe it. But my God, it's a useful fiction."

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Uniqueness of the Sacrament

Friend of the blog Cory, who contributed to our epic election roundtable a while back, has returned with more musings and ponderings for the benefit of all:

Priesthood ordinances are very ceremonial and regimented in the church. Some must be said word-for-word, such as the baptismal ordinance or the sacrament ordinances. Other ordinances like priesthood blessings or confirmation have more freedom of wording, but still specify that certain things must be said in a certain way. Suffice to say, the wording of priesthood ordinances in the church seem to be very carefully considered by church leaders (and by extension, God, since his order comes through His representatives).

Monday, June 10, 2013

Reflections on Eight Funerals

The first funeral I remember attending was on my mission. My companion and I had an investigator, Chris, who was a week away from baptism. Chris was wheelchair-bound and somewhat sickly, but seemed healthy enough that we were shocked when we visited one day and his brother, with whom he shared an apartment, told us that Chris had died the day before. We got permission to leave our area to attend the funeral at a nearby AME church, where we were the only white faces in attendance. After a very brief eulogy the pastor announced, "I'm not here to talk about Chris -- I'm here to preach to you!" before launching into the type of sermon that made ladies in the front row stand up while fanning themselves and men call out from the pews "That's right!" and "Preach it!" That night, when a zone leader asked how the funeral was I said something like, "It was a waste of time. Chris definitely wasn't there." Looking back I'm slightly ashamed of that attitude, which combined a self-righteous blend of missionary zeal and disappointment.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Ten Commandments of the Internet

I present unto you, readers, for your consideration, the Fifteen Commandments of the Internet.

Jehovah has given us these Fifteen..... Ten! Ten commandments for all to obey!

We live in dark times of trolls and 4chan, and if we abide by these rules, we can rise above the black holes they create.

1. Thou shalt have no offline entertainments before me.

2. Thou shalt not buy unto thee satellite internet.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Safe Haven: A Manly Movie Review

Every now and then, we men need to untuck our fancy dress shirts and be men. Sometimes, we need to loose the societal neckties that bind our masculine throats, smash the beer can of conformity against our stoic foreheads, and pummel the frozen side of beef of a belabored metaphor into oblivion with our Sylvester Stallone fists. Sometimes...we need a Manly Movie. Yes, put on your finest white cotton tank top and your least-soiled boxers, boys, because I'm going to review a movie so masculine it makes each theater it's shown in smell of weight room and wage inequality

Allow me to present my credentials. Please notice that I own Braveheart. Twice.
I speak, of course, of Safe Haven.

A Nicholas Sparks joint.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

American Political Roundup: May 2013 (The Bomb Dot Com Edition)

And now, the news from the source so incredibly balanced we've been called America's vestibular system.

-In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Republican legislators and pundits have called for surviving suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to be tried in a military tribunal as an unlawful enemy combatant, a legal category originally invented as a way to deal with enemy spies in wartime. Republicans, however, appealled to the broader definition introduced by President Bush after 9/11, which defines an enemy combatant as "an individual who is part of or supports the Taliban, al Qaida, MSNBC, or Saddam Hussein; or whose name is sufficiently difficult to pronounce."

-Satan, in a verbal statement from The Infernal Pit, congratulated the Tsarnaev brothers and noted that he was pleased to begin inflicting "most abominable [unintelligible screaming] torments eternal" on Tamerlan Tsarnaev. The Father of Lies also denied being in official contact with the aforementioned GOP leaders.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Movie Subtitle Game

Back in our college days we occassionally played a simple game (more a running gag, really), which I have retroactively dubbed the Movie Subtitle Game. The rules are simple:
1. Combine two movie or television titles in a clever manner.
2. Laugh at the results.
College maybe be over now, but we've decided to revive the game in blog format, so enjoy.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Playing Lamanite and Saving Whiteness: Embodied Disruptions of Post-Racial Rhetoric

The concluding entry for my series on the Mormon Miracle Pageant. If you have not read the Introduction, Part 2, or Part 3. You should do so before enjoying this epic finale.

The Mormon Miracle Pageant is not the only pageant that operates with recognition from the institutional LDS Church. In addition to Manti, there are five official pageants featured on the LDS Church’s website: two in Utah, one in Arizona, one in Illinois, and one in New York. Each expresses a different focus of church and sacred history. To examine how the bodies in Manti’s pageant disrupt the LDS Church’s post-1978/post-racial rhetoric, I am primarily interested in highlighting the difference between Manti and Palmyra’s Hill Cumorah Pageant.

Both pageants address the racial projects embedded in the religion’s foundational sacred text; however, the Hill Cumorah Pageant tries to refrain from representing racial distinctions. Palmyra employs costume designs to signify some relationship between Native Americans and The Book of Mormon civilizations, but they avoid the make-up. I point to the distinction not to commend Palmyra’s performance as a more ethical consideration of racial identities, but rather to assert that brownfaced bodies of Manti’s pageant challenge the post-race rhetoric the Hill Cumorah Pageant strives to assert.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Playing Lamanite and Saving Whiteness: Progressive Pageantry and Embodied (White) Morality

This is the third installment of my paper on the repertoire of Mormon racial projects in the Manti pageant. If you have not read the Introduction or Part II, you will want to do so before continuing. Enjoy: 

Pageants, as a medium, have their own historical and cultural context informed by a particular preoccupation with white bodies. Pageants were large, outdoor theatrical spectacles, primarily popular in America between 1905 and 1925. They responded to social and cultural shifts of the era. When modernization, urbanization, and immigration threatened a perceived cohesion of American identity, pageantry offered a salve through playful engagement with history and democratic principles. Progressive social reformers argued that the pluralistic society that played together would work together. According to historian David Glassberg, professionals of various backgrounds and often contradictory philosophies found common ground in pageants because they believed that “history could be made into a dramatic public ritual through which the residents of a town, by acting out the right version of their past, could bring about some kind of future social and political transformation.” History, physical education, democracy, community—all were proposed antidotes to a (fear about the) dissolution of American morality. While physical exercise was touted as a way to discipline the moral behavior of individuals and communities, the morality they trained was white. Contemporary Mormonism does not ascribe to all aspects of the Progressive era, but the utilization of pageants has continued to function on convictions regarding the necessity of disciplining the (white) morality of bodies.

The Pageant of the North-West at Grand Forks on the campus of the University of North Dakota. May 24, 1914. Over 200 performers represented more than 300 characters. And a river flowing through campus separated the stage from the audience. They floated actors down it on canoes pictured here.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Playing Lamanite and Saving Whiteness: Early Republican Content and the Whiteness of Lamanites

This is the second installment of my paper on the repertoire of Mormon racial projects in the Manti pageant. If you have not read the introduction, you will want to do so before continuing. Enjoy:

During the early years of the American Republic, white men, as Philip Deloria explained, utilized “noble” Indian identities to explore new American identities. They needed to articulate themselves as separate from Europe. Putting on costumes styled after Indian tribes and enacting their version of Indian rituals facilitated cultural engagement with new economic markets and political parties forming the nation. Donning the costumes and performing the rites allowed the white Americans to suggest that “in their dying moments, Indian figures offered up their lands, their blessings, their traditions, and their republican history.” [1] Many of these narratives course through the national and racial projects of The Book of Mormon as a text of the 1830s. 

The Book of Mormon primarily gives the account of two civilizations that lived on the “American continent” between 600 B.C. and 400 A.D. The Nephites and the Lamanites, initially related, came from Semitic families exiled from Jerusalem. God led the families to America and revealed to them tenants of Christianity centuries before Christ’s birth. The account is a record of the Nephites; however, they die out by the end, leaving the Lamanites to live on to become the primary ancestors of the Native Americans. The narrative of The Book of Mormon effectively hands the baton of stewardship from the white Nephites to the white European settlers. 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Playing Lamanite and Saving Whiteness: Embodying Racial Projects in the Mormon Miracle Pageant

Over the next few days or week, I will be sharing parts of my paper that I have recently submitted for an academic theatre pre-conference. The American Theatre and Drama Society (ATDS) will host a two day event in Orlando before the Association for Theatre in Higher Education (ATHE) conference officially begins. This paper was part of my application and if selected, I'll get to do some networking with other scholars interested in American theatre and performance as well as receive feedback from them regarding my ideas. By I figure why wait until then; people of the Internet (who follow our blog or are stumbling across it now), share with me your responses as I unfold my ideas. This first part is my introduction. There are three more parts to come. Enjoy:

In June 2011, I received a text from Brett. It read, “Blackface might not be socially acceptable; but in Manti, brownface is alive and well.” He attached a photograph of a young, white man dressed in some sort of eclectic, Pan-American Indian costume, equipped with a wig of long, black braided hair. He also wore make-up, browning up his skin. Brett sent the text while sitting in the audience of the Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti, a town in the dead center of Utah. Every year, in a matter of hours on each weekend night at the end of June, the pageant manages to chronicle the foundation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (LDS Church), the contents of the five hundred page Book of Mormon, and the exile of the Mormon pioneers from the United States to the Utah territory. The subject of my friend’s photograph—and ridicule—was a member of the nine hundred person cast. Specifically, he was a Lamanite: a Semitic ancestor of the Native Americans discussed in the Book of Mormon. 

The kind face that launched a thousand ideas about what to write about this event.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

On Marriage and Family

I love my marriage. Having my husband nearby at any moment is fantastic, and my life has been enriched by his presence in it. I adore him, and I don't know what I would do if I couldn't be with him.

Doctrines taught in the Mormon Church teach that marriage is the beginning to the epitome of human existence. This is how families start their journey together through the eternities. Those doctrines won't change. Men and women together are meant to start families.

But that is only one definition of family, and it's a definition the LDS Church can and will stick to. I don't mind that; it's what the church has taught for generations and it's a part of life.

I have been blessed with so many families. They are not all recognized by the Church, and I don't expect to be sealed in the temple to all of my "extended family" for eternity. There are simply too many of them, and they have other families too.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Downcast Emo Kids, Computer Algorithms, and the United States Constitution

I've been on Facebook for a few years now, and if you have too, then you know that that means I've seen my fair share of pictures with words on them.  Some try to be funny; some are utterly saccharine; most attempt to boil down some complicated social issue into, at most, a single sentence.  I don't think I'm alone in saying that I never thought I'd learn something from one of these pictures; today, though, I discovered I was wrong to think that way.

Yes, thanks to whatever algorithms Facebook uses to arrange the posts on my newsfeed, this image...

...was immediately followed by this image:

Ladies and gentlemen, today I learned that the US Government is a shaggy-haired emo kid, and that the asinine break-up poem scrawled in the back of his school planner is actually the Constitution.  Makes you think.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Witchcraft, Rock 'N' Roll, and Mission Lore

The Rock 'N' Roll Fireside was possibly the most enduring urban legend on my mission. Elders spoke of it in hushed tones. Some claimed to have heard it, or to having a previous companion who'd heard it, or to know a missionary who had a companion that had it on CD. Everyone seemed profoundly affected by it, although nobody I spoke with ever seemed to own a copy. Most missionaries agreed that it was simply insane, though a few took it very seriously. Demons. Witchcraft. Devil worship. Sorcery. Dungeons & Dragons. Ouija boards. And rock 'n' roll. For the longest time I doubted that it even existed. Sure, I was certain that somewhere out there was a recording of a speaker denouncing popular music. Two minutes on Google helped me find this from then-apostle Ezra Taft Benson, so clearly fear of rock 'n' roll is an established, if somewhat outdated, component of certain strains of Mormon thought. Surely, though, the rest of the lore surrounding the alleged fireside was just gossip and exaggeration, two things missionaries are very good at.

Sunday, February 24, 2013


Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

Casey and I are coming down to the wire--with 3.5 hours until the Oscars begin, we just finished watching the 9th and final Best Picture nominee. Due to the nature of the film and each of our family experiences, we've decided to write together (appropriately enough) about Amour.

Casey: Amour, for those who haven't seen it, is a film about an elderly French couple, Georges and Anne. Anne suffers from a stroke early in the film, and the rest is about them coping with her impending death.

Brooke: What struck me most was the simplicity of the entire film. No pretense, no push for drama or excitement. It's a simple, down-to-earth look at a couple trying desperately to cope with the difficulties presented them near the end of a long, happy life together.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty: The Morality of Amorality

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

For ZDT I asked Brad Kramer if he wanted to give his thoughts, and we agreed to do a back-and-forth exchange on the movie.

So, Zero Dark Thirty. I was very excited for this, being a big fan of director Kathryn Bigelow's last introspective war movie, The Hurt Locker, and having finally seen it I was not disappointed. What most struck me, in the movie's immediate aftermath, was the way it denied the viewer the kind of closure and catharsis you might expect from a movie about the successful killing of America's #1 enemy. It's interesting to contrast ZDT with last year's other CIA thriller, Argo, where I left the theater happy and satisfied, as the movie intended. With ZDT, I felt exactly like Jessica Chastain's Maya looked: Well, we did it...now what? The movie asks viewers to confront the question of what has really changed, and possibly whether the whole endeavor was worth it, which about sums up the current state of whatever the War on Terror is these days.

Not pictured: easy answers

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Django Unchained: Unlike Anything

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

Django. D-J-A-N-G-O. The "D" is silent. Django Unchained starts off with Django's unchaining and from then on addresses old-school racism, the way slaves were treated, just how much blood can come out of one person, the possible origins of the KKK, and the effects of dynamite on various substances.

A large number of people will never see this movie because of violence, swearing, slavery, and violence. If you are one of these people, just stick around for a minute anyway so I can tell you why the movie is fantastic. In bullet points:
  • Christoph Waltz plays a dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz.
  • Schultz buys and subsequently frees Django (Jamie Foxx). He treats him as a friend and equal through thick and thin.
  • Slavers and slaves alike are shocked, and some react forcefully to the fact, that Django is free, rides a horse, and is equal with Schultz.
  • The dentist teaches Django the art of bounty hunting and the two become partners in crime. Well, not really crime. They're sort of stopping crime, I guess.
Not exactly what I meant.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lincoln: Or, You'll Probably Like This Movie (Unless You're Me; Then You'll Love It)

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

There comes a time in everyone's life where they need to take an unpopular stand.  A time when they must turn away from friends and loved ones and defend what they believe to be right.  A time when they must counter the scorn hurled by relentless masses, when they must tighten their jaw and stand defiantly alone.  You understand, then, how completely devoid of sarcasm I am when I describe the courage it takes to admit that I liked Lincoln.

I've gotta say--and I understand if you disagree--but I think this Spielberg guy could turn out to be a great director.
Or...you know, maybe it's a film that pretty much everybody likes, and I'm being as controversial as a vanilla milkshake.  Who's to say.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ladders...Oh, and I'm new here.

First of all, may I say what an honor it is to be writing a blog post for Expert Textperts.  When Allan invited me to contribute, I felt like I had been asked to join an exclusive club.  Though I have never been a blogger myself (Should I say something like that on my first post?  Is that kind of like admitting that you’ve never held a steady job in a job interview? Or admitting on a first date that you’ve never been in a serious relationship?  Should I hide information like that until I’m more confident about my standing?), and though I don’t follow any blog religiously, I have read several posts of Expert Textperts and thoroughly enjoyed them.   For a moment, I speak directly to the contributors of this blog: I do hope that Allan asked your permission before he invited me to post here.  If not, and some of you are dubious, I hope to win you over with my witty and clever discourse…and when that fails, I hope you’ll hide your hesitations so I can safeguard my false sense of security.

And now, on to the main event.

By request, my debut post will be about ladders.  Yep—ladders.  I do, in fact, mean the wooden or metal structures with steps that one can climb up or down. 

Before I go any further, though, I must do a bit of disclaiming.  The idea behind the ladder metaphor I will explain here is not mine.  I have expanded on it, but the original thought is not mine.  I don’t know who the genius behind the idea is.  All I know is that it is the best relationship metaphor I’ve ever heard. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beasts of the Southern Wild: Unleashing My Inner Colonialist

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

Having watched Beasts of the Southern Wild about a week ago, here's the plot as best I can remember (and trust me, Spoiler Alert is not the kind of warning that applies to a movie like this): There's this adorable little girl named Hushpuppy,who lives behind a New Orleans levee in a poor swamp community. Her father, an emotionally abusive drunk, forces Hushpuppy to live by herself in a shack until, unsupervised, she burns it down in a kitchen fire (although "kitchen" is a generous description). Then there's a storm and the community floods. The small community of destitute alcoholics band together and rebuild until government-types show up and force them to abandon their homes for a refugee shelter in the civilized world. They escape and return home, then Hushpuppy and some other children swim out in the ocean where they are picked up by a hobo on a boat who takes them to a brothel. Hushpuppy meets a hooker/mother figure, then decides to return home to her father who is now dying. He dies, and emotions are had. Also there are giant boars (the titular "Beasts") rampaging through the countryside, which may exist only as metaphors in Hushpuppy's mind. So, if you're the kind of person who likes movies with gripping narratives and engaging characters, you can skip watching it now.

But seriously: D'awwwww

Friday, February 15, 2013

Finding Life in Pi

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

We are pleased to introduce a dear friend and today's guest blogger, Laura.

Laura Joy Carter will be graduating from Brigham Young University - Idaho in the fall of 2014 with a bachelor's degree in English Education and a minor in Spanish Education. She plans on studying further for a master's in literary analysis so that her mind might have a run through the complexities of literature. She was born in Utah, but has already traveled throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Spain. She has a great desire to travel on to Thailand, Japan, Lithuania, and Greece so that her understanding and compassion of humanity might be broadened.

I was a little reluctant to go see Life of Pi when I first saw its posters. Perhaps this had something to do with the comment I had heard from my professor: “Ugh. It’s receiving good reviews, which makes me think it can’t follow the intent of the book.”

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Les Miserables, Mor Funs!

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

Les Miserables (or, as those of us who didn't take high school French like to call it, "Lay Miz") is a heartwarming, family-friendly, laugh-a-minute comedy.  If slapstick's not your thing, you may want to avoid this film.  For me, I found it charming, and I admit to smiling whenever the ol' slide whistle was coupled with someone slipping on the festering grime of post-revolutionary France.

Oh, wait, did I say any of those things?  I actually meant none of those things.

(Except the festering grime part, that's pretty accurate.)

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Textpert Archive: Surviving Valentine's

With Valentine's Day coming tomorrow, I thought this might be a nice reminder to everyone trying to figure out how to make it a special day for their significant other. I wrote this last year as a guide for men from women, but the advice applies to everyone. Here's hoping you do something nice for your Valentine this year, and maybe you'll even keep him/her around until next year!

As we come up on the most widely loved/hated holiday in the history of everything, I can’t help but notice that some males (definitely not my husband) (read: my husband) seem to be floundering with what to do for their sweethearts. For many the plan seems to be nothing more than to avoid failure. I have compiled a guide of my own opinions that may or may not reflect the opinions of other females, but just might be helpful for a few of you floundering males out there.

Really? All you have to worry about is which Ninja Turtle will be on your Valentine.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Argo, or the SciFi that Wasn't

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

Having already won the Golden Globe for Best Director and Best Drama, it's no surprise that Argo is a pretty good show.

Going into the theater, I knew only three things: I wanted to see it, most of it takes place in Iran, and the people the movie is about did make it out. What I did not expect was: it is fantastic, it kept me on the edge of my seat, and it made me want to hug and/or high-five everyone in the real-life situation as well as in the cast.

Warning: Spoilers ahead

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Silver Lining Playbook: Love and Other Broken Things

In preparation for the Oscars on February 24th, we decided to do a post on each of the Best Picture Nominees, along with maybe a few other shows we liked. For the next two weeks we'll try to run a post about every other day on each of the nominees. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Best Picture Roundup: Silver Linings Playbook | Argo | Les Mis | Life of Pi | Beasts of the Southern Wild | Lincoln | Django Unchained | Zero Dark Thirty | Amour

Silver Linings Playbook is a story about love and broken things, and how the two relate in sometimes unexpected ways. The movie begins as Pat, played with on-the-edge intensity by Bradley Cooper, checks out of a mental facility after a violent incident triggered by his wife's infidelity several months before. He returns to his parents' house to rebuild his life, his psyche, and his marriage.

Jennifer Lawrence is in it too. We'll get to her.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Expert Textperts: An Exhaustively Ridiculous History

With a growing readership base, I realized that it was probably time for someone here at ExpertTextperts.com to fill our audience in on the back story of this delightful little blog.  Consider me, if you will, your helpful Bonobo monkey, peeling back the inedible rind of secrecy to reveal the succulent truth-fruit buried within.

Most people believe that Expert Textperts began in the fall of 2011; this is a mistake, as the earliest mention of Expert Textperts dates to around 1250 CE.  Found in a marginal note of a vellum manuscript of the Bible, "The Fratternal Brutherhode of the Experttes of the Sacrid Textes" is credited with placing a humorous caption below one of the slavishly-drawn illuminated images.

"Good gentlemen, I bid ye permit me access into yon building."
"Nay, Brother William, for we perceive that thou art flatulent, and surely it doth offend us too greatly."

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Best of the Bloggernacle

Those of you who follow the comings and goings of the bloggernacle are probably aware of the recent Wheaties awards given to the top vote-getters in various categories of Mormon blogging. Now, I'm the last person to criticize the validity of anonymous internet voting, which the recent re-election of President Ron Paul proves is unfailingly accurate, but I do have a few stray observations about the results.

Best Big Blog: Feminist Mormon Housewives.
So I guess there's, like, a thing going on about this. See, the 900 pound gorilla of the bloggernacle, By Common Consent, was initially declared winner, only to get Thomas Deweyed, which led to a fairly hilarious meme war between the two sites. I can't feign objectivity here, having written and co-written a couple of guest posts for BCC, where I also lurk and comment occasionally. Meanwhile I can barely get anyone to respond to my comments at FMH. I don't understand it: I always explain very clearly, logically, and confidently when and why their opinions are incorrect, which for some reason they react badly to. I guess it's a feminist thing.

I didn't say you're wrong because  you're female, just that we can't rule that out as a possibility and how come that's off-limits, ladies?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

A Four-Year Glimpse Into the Future of America

Recently I helped deliver some predictions on what 2013 would bring to Mormondom. In the same spirit,  I'm casting my net a little wider here. With ongoing political clashes between Democrats and Republicans, a sluggish economy, and increasing ubiquity of trashy TLC reality shows, people are concerned with what the next few years will bring. Luckily, my powers of perception make me uniquely qualified to foresee the future, so I now present to you a timeline of America's next four years (sorry, international readers, you're on your own. Just watch out for Lesotho; that's all I can say). Plan accordingly.

-Economic recovery slowly continues, unemployment approaches 7%, and the Dow-Jones reaches record highs.

-Democrats and Republicans have various showdowns that unfold in entirely predictable ways.

-Alabama wins its third consecutive BCS National Championship.

It gets worse before it gets better

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Emmylou Harries and Patsy Feline; Or How Allan Became a Deranged Cat Lady

I, Allan Davis, perhaps lacking both a sound mind and body, attest today that I, despite what I consider a long--nay, a life-long--commitment to my self-expressed dog-person identity, have of late turned to the ways of the cat lady. I here both confess my own lapse in prudence and accuse the culprits who have so surreptitiously undermined my sanity. And so, with a heavy heart but necessary fortitude, I press forward: J'accuse Emmylou! Et tu, Patsy!

Pictured: The Shadowed Silhouettes of Feline Felons

It all started five months ago when I moved into a house with three of my friends. Sara brought the kitties. Their names are Emmylou Harries and Patsy Feline; named, respectively, after Emmylou Harris and Patsy Cline. (Sara has remarked that if she ever got a male cat, she'd name him Steven Se-claw.)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

All I Wanna Do Is Pew Pew Pew Pew: Guns and GIFS

Several times now I've started and then stopped writing a post about the big issue of the day: Football stars' fake girlfriends guns. But I've held off for a few reasons. One, I don't really have any solutions to offer, just the same observations and complains made by others more eloquently elsewhere. Two, the thoughts that I do have are somewhat muddled and incomplete. So instead of a reasoned, intelligent series of arguments, I decided to fall back on every blogger's favorite pageview magnet: GIFS! Here, then, are my reactions to some of the most common arguments I keep hearing in the gun debate. For best results, wait a minute for everything to load.

Americans have constitutional rights to firearms

Saturday, January 12, 2013

On Fairy Tales and Netflix

A few days ago, I returned to Maryland from my Christmas break in Florida. I found most of my vacation rejuvenating if for no other reason than because I spent most of it in bed with the cold that would not end. I was not stuck in bed long before I decide to renew my Netflix account. Originally, I planned to spend my time in Florida learning how to drive and possibly taking a test to get my driver's licence. Instead, I worked through three seasons of Doctor Who in two or three days (it's hard to remember exactly because there was a lot of coughing, spitting up phlegm, and watching Community as well). I was not in a state to spend much time with anyone in a meaningful way, but the desire to recuse myself into the comforting realm of episodic narratives probably devoured more hours than it needed to as 2012 drew to a close. These circumstances--as well as behaviors in the past that inspired me to delete my account a few weeks ago--prompted my desire to articulate a New Year's Resolution that addressed my addiction to Netflix marathoning. 

However, on the penultimate day of my trip--a point by which I had felt better for a while--I used my Netflix account for good. I introduced my six-and-a-half year old niece to Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods. Notes on my niece and Sondheim's masterpiece are important. Stella lives with my parents and has enjoyed a Disney upbringing. From seeing her Christmas presents and room decorations over the years, I can assure you that Disney has more to offer girls than their stock princess line. In fact, they almost design the princess model for an older aged girl, the age Stella is becoming now. Prior to that there's a big emphasis on fairies--Tinkerbell and her cadre of friends. It's the line of products that comes before the princess parade. Which now that I think of it is genius not only for marketing purposes (I think three to five year old girls would be inclined to like fairies more than princesses) but also for consumption--the switch will mean that the same customer will be willing to buy a new line of merchandise since they no longer are interested in the previous permutation you sold to them. Well, there's Uncle Allan and his jaded but realistic understanding of the Disney corporation's economic agendas. The point is Stella is a child of the Disney demographic and is getting ready to enter her era of the princess. As a card-carrying feminist, I have my feelings about the princess persona which are fairly predictable; so I don't feel like I need to rehearse them here. 

Pictured: Spice Girls Reunion Tour Poster

Monday, January 7, 2013

The Lord of the Weekend

Ice and shadow descended upon the land. Long was the winter, cold the days. It was as though some malevolent enemy had spread its dark will across the earth, covering the ground with frost and snow, obscuring the skies in a blanket of grey, forcing men inside where the only respite was found in Netflix and ever-increasing power bills. In the fourth day of the first month I strode through my living room fortress and beheld the desolation before me. "It is too cold to go outside. Darkness has taken from me the will to leave," I said to my wife, Lady Brooke.

She nodded. "Troubling have been my thoughts of late. The apathy and ennui of these days weigh heavily upon me." She paused. "And yet, even in this dull hour, all hope is not lost. Did we not recently commemorate the birth of the celebrated Tolkien of old? Can we not find reason to further celebrate his honorable life?"

My brow furrowed as I stared intently at the entertainment center. "Perhaps," I whispered. "Perhaps." A thought began to form, beginning in the deepest parts of me as something primal and unspoken, until it spread through my entire being. Below the television, in the DVD stack, were the Chronicles of Tolkein, in their extended glory. But did I dare? For I knew that once began, the Chronicles had the power to ensnare our minds and capture our attention span to the exclusion of all other activity. Sleeping, eating, shopping: all of these would be lost forever until Tolkien's creation freed us from its grasp. And yet I knew that it was meant to be. The burden was ours to bear. "We will watch the Chronicles," I declared. Brooke nodded in solemn agreement. And so it began.