Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Something for your Stocking: An Expert Textperts Christmas Quickie

The Expert Textperts are all busy with family, friends, and...their work (inside joke!), so creating an in-depth Christmas post tonight is a tall order. Instead, as a Christmas offering, I present the following, which is adapted from a narration I wrote for our ward's Christmas program last Sunday. This means it will be a lot less sarcastic than you may be used to seeing here--for that, I apologize in advance. Merry Christmas from your favorite political-philosophical-vaguely-LDS-themed blog!

There's a Primary song that asks: "How could the Father tell the world of love and tenderness?" There is no message humanity needs to hear more than this--to love one another, to love their Father in Heaven, to learn how to return home to him. Generations of men and women have lived on this earth without knowing where to find this love. They have lived in darkness, never knowing the light--kept captive by sin and ignorance. However, as often happens with the most profound problems, the answer was found in the least likely place; in this case, the birth of a tiny baby in a manger. And though the birth of every baby is a miracle, this one was particularly important, for that child was the Son of God, the prophesied Emmanuel--the Lord Jesus Christ.

"O come, o come, Emmanuel/ And ransom captive Israel." “Emmanuel” comes from Hebrew, and means “God is with us”--a fitting title, then, for the Son of God. It is first spoken of in the scriptures by the prophet Isaiah, who lived several centuries before the birth of the Savior. Isaiah was a man of righteousness, one of the great prophets spoken of in the Old Testament; and like all prophets in the scriptures, he looked forward to the glorious day when the Son of God would live among men and women, healing the sick, raising the dead, and restoring his gospel. In his writings, Isaiah gave his people hope in the deliverance that was to come. He wrote:

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

He also wrote,

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.”

That same hope and excitement that was felt so keenly by Isaiah was echoed in the exultation of the angels, and the joy of the shepherds with whom they shared the blessed news of the birth of Christ.

The Gospel of John, however, declares, “And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” In these words, we find a theme that can be traced throughout the entire life of the Savior. At his birth, the humble glorified and blessed him, while the proud took no heed of what was, to them, just another impoverished child. In his life, the obedient heard his words and followed his ministry, while the apathetic and the self-important alike ignored him or, worse, reviled him. In his death, the righteous mourned while the wicked mocked. In his resurrection, the daughters and sons of God found hope everlasting and peace to their souls, while the men and women of the flesh saw only another moral obstacle on the road to immorality. Today, some two thousand years later, Christmas can be a time for each of us to ask ourselves--if I were one of Bethlehem’s shepherds on that lonely night, or one of the wise kings from far-off lands, would I have rejoiced at the birth of this child? If he were born today, would I still sing his praise?

The birth of the savior was glorious in what it portended; the life of the savior was magnificent in what it presented; and the death and resurrection of the savior was inexpressible in what it demonstrated. Well do the words of the prophet Nephi take special meaning this time of year:

“And he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hi, I'm Infertile

Living with infertility is not something I planned on as a child. I knew life would occasionally be less than perfect, but I only ever thought I'd end up with really bad bouts of strep throat or pink eye (my worst enemies in those younger years).

It's not all bad. I mean, there are times when everything is wonderful. In these moments, I have all the hope in the world that everything will work out perfectly and soon I'll have new, simpler worries to deal with.

There are other moments when that vision crashes on my head as if to say, "Don't plan on it."

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Race, Police, and Other Bad News

If you're the type who follows the news, then you might have noticed that things seem a little down lately. Times may be confusing and depressing, but fear not: Expert Textperts is here as always to explain the most important going-ons goingses-on things happening in your world today. Here's your news update for December 2014.

Now with 500% more image captions

Saturday, November 22, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: A New Skin (Part 2)

This is a continuation of a piece I have been posting. For the first part of this scene, click here. To start at the beginning, read Scene 1. Also, this portion includes a video from rehearsal to show some choreography for the piece. Soon, I will add a similar video for the second half of Scene 2.


AllanFor all her service, talents, and leadership, because she was a woman, my grandmother would never be ordained to the priesthood. Not in the regular operations of the LDS Church, anyway. But in the temple and in the covenants my grandmother wore to her death, she wore the power of the priesthood and acted in its authority.

[Enter B and F]

Allan: But I think I would like you to learn about that from two women who have often been close to my family. This is Sister Kelley and Sister Jensen.

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Weirder Side of Evangelizing: A Journey Through a Jack Chick Comic Book

Late last week, while making my commute to class, I stopped at a gas station and found a Jack Chick comic stuck in a crack in the gas pump. If you haven't heard of Chick before, you very well may have seen his work, as he and his company create comic book tracts for Evangelical Christians that are:

a.) commonly handed out or left in public areas by, I'm sure, well-meaning people; and
b.) crazier than a sloth with syphilis.

Some of my personal favorites in his oeuvre include a scathing denunciation of that great abomination of the 20th century, Dungeons and Dragons; the classic "This Was Your Life," in which all of a man's sins are shown on a theater screen in heaven, including that time he checked his watch during church; and the ominously titled "The Visitors," in which a brave Christian girl tells her maiden aunt/strict librarian/Sarah Palin? that Mormonism is...well, take a look for yourself:
I am so looking forward to LDS.org's upcoming Gospel Topics essay on Baal worship.
Seeing this comic book gave me two immediate thoughts. One, leaving a tracting pamphlet in a gas pump is only one passive-aggressive step removed from leaving an anonymous note on your neighbor's windshield saying, "Hey friend, heard you weren't baptized! That's cool, nothing wrong with that, but you're totally going to hell. I love what you did with your yard!" Two, that I must take this pamphlet, read it, and share it with all of you, for the good of all the Internet.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: A New Skin (Part 1)

This is a continuation of the performance piece I have written. I invite you to read Scene 1: In the Beginning... and Scene 2: The Fall if you have not yet done so.


III. A New Skin

[With lights out, projection reads: “III. A New Skin”. Lights rise on female figure]

D: I don’t care what anyone says: Clothes make the man. Naked people often have little to no influence in society.

[Projection reads: “I don’t care what anyone says: Clothes make the man. Naked people often have little to no influence in society.”  – Mark Twain, 1905]

D: Mark Twain, 1905

[Light fades on D. D exits and Allan re-enters. Lights up on Allan]

Thursday, November 13, 2014

10 Historical Issues The Church Still Isn't Discussing Openly (with gifs for some reason)

With the recent release and subsequent media coverage of essays on LDS.org addressing controversial issues in Mormon history like polygamy and the black priesthood ban, I thought it useful to remind everyone that while the church's steps toward greater candor and transparency are laudable, there are a number of troubling issues it is still reluctant to confront. In the interest of promoting dialogue and encouraging further progress, I've compiled ten of the most egregious examples along with reaction gifs to boost my pageviews as a visual aid.

1. Joseph Smith shot a man in Kirtland just to watch him die.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

On Being A Geek Girl

Our smart, funny, geeky friend Kate M. posted this fantastic post on her personal blog, and we now reproduce it here with her permission.

In addition to being a student at the University of Utah, Kate M. is a bibliophile, backpacker, international volunteer, and full-time adventurer. She firmly believes in the innate goodness of human beings, the power to change the world through art, and the dementor-alleviating properties of chocolate.

I am a geek.

It’s not always apparent in my day-to-day life, but here in my apartment, it’s obvious. I’m writing this while sitting under a Return of the Jedi poster and a Lord of the Rings wall calendar, wearing an Amazing Spider-Man t-shirt and Adventure Time pajama bottoms. My nightstand holds a reading lamp, an anthology edited by George R. R. Martin, and an illustrated Neil Gaiman short story. My many bookshelves are overflowing with classics and fantasy novels and comic books. Mounted on the wall across from me is a quote by the Tenth Doctor.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: The Fall (Part 2)

This is the second part of scene 2 from the performance piece I have written. To start at the beginning, click here. To start at the top of scene 2, click here.


[F exits]

Allan: From all accounts, my grandfather was a great man: kind, giving, a devoted husband and father, a loyal friend. However, I also know that my grandfather was very much a man of his time, a man that grew up in Georgia and northern Florida in the mid-twentieth century. That is basically to say that he was pretty racist. I don’t really know the extent, but I certainly remember growing up hearing the terms “nigger-rigged” and the rhyme “Eeny-Meanie-Miney-Mo” including the hauntingly violent image of “catch[ing] a nigger by the toe.” And for the most part, there’s a simple narrative you come to learn in the South—even the arguably pseudo-South of Northern Florida—that lets you reconcile yourself to this messy racial family history: “they’re from an earlier generation, they didn’t know better.” But something about that is not enough; I still struggle with what exactly I am supposed to do with this strain of mortal imperfection that disrupts the vision of familial sainthood. To be honest, I much prefer whitewashing the memory of my grandfather’s racist convictions—it’s just more pleasant to remember the nicer, more uplifting qualities of the man, of which there were plenty. I mean really, don’t most of us want in some way to redeem our ancestors or loved ones as we try to make narratives of their past? How many eulogies tend to erase flaws, errors in the past, ironically in honor of memory? And I know I am not alone in this. How do you deal with your progenitors own falls from grace? What’s your story of Garden when you are a son of Adam or a daughter of Eve? You don’t have to actually answer; that was pretty rhetorical. We’re not getting that participatory in the performance today. At least, not yet.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: The Fall (Part 1)

The following is a continuation of the script I wrote for a performance piece that explores the practice of proxy baptisms for the dead. This is the beginning of the second scene. For Scene 1, click here


II. The Fall

[With lights out, projection reads: “The Fall”. Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA” begins to play. Lights rise on female figure]

F: As my sister and I drive along the Trail of Tears, the most happiness I find is when we're in the car and I can blare the Chuck Berry tape I brought. We drive the trail where thousands died, and I listen to the music and think what are we supposed to do with the grisly past? I feel a righteous anger and bitterness about every historical fact of what the American nation did to the Cherokee. But, at the same time, I'm an entirely American creature. I'm in love with this song and the country that gave birth to it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

God's Middle Managers: Why General Conference Is Boring And Why That's (Maybe) Okay

As I write this post LDS General Conference is underway. Those of you who are Mormon or who have Mormon friends are probably seeing social media flooded with uplifting memes, quotes, and invitations to listen to a prophet's voice. There's no denying that General Conference is an important Mormon ritual, in which millions of the faithful willingly sacrifice the better part of a perfectly good weekend to watch a succession of fairly dry, predominantly male speakers teach what we take to be revelation from God's prophets.


Lots and lots of this

I count myself as one of those Mormons (although I've missed a session or two for other activities in the past), but I have to confess: while I occasionally find General Conference inspirational, uplifting, and useful, sometimes it can be a little underwhelming. I remember talking up General Conference as a missionary. “Just watch ONE SESSION!” I would tell people. “You’ll be so hooked you’ll stay for the entire time! How long is that? Only 8-10 hours!” Once or twice people actually did watch. I remember asking one person how she liked a particular session. “It was nice,” she said. “A lot like what my pastor teaches.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: In the Beginning... (Part 2)

This is the second part of the first scene of the script for a performance piece I've written called For and In Behalf Of. If you haven't read it yet, you should probably start with the first part of scene one. Enjoy


Allan: When I was a small child, I had asthma. Respiratory conditions were not new in my family; I inherited them from my father and his mother. I remember receiving breathing treatments on a consistent basis, whether or not anything was wrong with me—just a necessary prescribed procedure. Every night, my mom would take this plastic box out of my closet, the Nebulizer, plug it into the wall, turn it on, and give me this nozzle to breathe in and out of. I grew out of asthma, but when I go home for Christmas breaks, I see this old dance play out with my nephew; though his Nebulizer is much smaller and is shaped like a penguin—it lacks the flashy 1980s aesthetics of my greyish, “portable” Pulmo-Aide, a model the Internet tells me was discontinued in 1993. I can still hear the old motor in that clunky square box, humming as it transforms my medication into wet air. And an old smile presses my cheeks as I see the slight puffs of white smoke billowing out the nozzle. It was an entertaining way to breathe as a kid.

But there were nights when my treatment was not enough. There were nights when I had attacks. Nights and attacks that warranted my parents purchasing my Nebulizer in the first place. I can remember a few times when my parents rushed me into the bathroom, turning on the shower and hoping the steam might help me breathe easier. But what I remember more is my dad taking me outside into the night air. He’d hold me in his arms and walk around our little boxed-in yard that was part of our townhouse apartment when we lived in Texas.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

For and In Behalf Of: In the Beginning... (Part 1)

Hello friends. So I have recently written a script for a performance piece that I am currently organizing to be staged twice by the end of this year. First, in a scaled down version, at an academic theatre conference in Baltimore. And then again at the University of Maryland towards the end of December. I figured since there are some people who would see this piece if they could but will not be able to, so this is a chance for some to read it. Also, last year I posted part of a paper I wrote on race in The Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti. That paper not only helped me get accepted into a summer fellowship program but also resulted in me receiving a graduate student paper award. So feel free to leave comments. It's a script in progress so is subject to change. I would appreciate feedback as I work on it. I will divide it according to scenes, and quite honestly this runs long so scenes will be divided too. But yes, here is the first part for my new script For and In Behalf Of.

Oh and here's the dramatis personae

Allan
A: Male
B: Female
C: Male
D: Female
E: Male
F: Female

For costume design, while Allan should appear in business casual academic conference attire (preferably with a cardigan and tie), all other characters should wear all white. The type of slacks, shirts, skirts, blouses, and dresses Mormons change into at the temple. As they take on various roles, a small add-on like a scarf, tie, or shawl should be sufficient.

For set design, the stage should be bare for the exception of some form of baptismal font at either center/center stage or center and upstage. Either a back wall or large screen should be used for projections.

Monday, September 15, 2014

I Don't Want To See Your Underwear: In Which I Complain About Garments

Let's talk about your underwear. Is that weird? I think that must be pretty weird. But I guess not that weird. After all, I'm Mormon. Chances are you are too. Depending on how you participate in the chuch, your underwear are kind of a big deal. It's possible, for example, that you participate in a biennial ritual in which an ordained church authority specifically asks if you're wearing your underwear in an approved fashion as defined by an esoteric ritual tying them with the creation of mankind. Yeah, that's definitely a little weird. So let's dive right in and talk about Mormon garments.

Garments essentially serve two roles in the LDS community. The first, which I'll call their explicit role, is as a personal reminder of covenants made in the temple. This is how garments are almost universally described in official talks and publications: they are outward but hidden. Sometimes garments are tied to modesty, with the assumption that they will be entirely covered and thus encourage proper, normative modes of dress. But I'd venture that most Mormons would agree that their primary purpose is to daily reinforce a personal covenant relationship with God.

Hey, hey. Let's cover those thighs, White Adam.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Religion on Broadway Part II: Repression

Author's note: This is a continuation of my review of The Book of Mormon musical. You can find the first post here: Religion on Broadway Part I: Arrival

Turn It Off perfectly highlights a common problem among Mormons (one we've seen a lot of lately). We have a lot of trouble with just accepting that people have problems and need to work them out. As I have been public about my support of OW and other more liberal ideas, I've been called an apostate and told I'm going to hell for not perfectly following every last word anyone above me ever said.

So jumping back into where we left off, the more experienced elders in Uganda are trying to help Elder Price through his confusion. The district leader takes the lead and compares Price's confusion over missionary work to his own struggle: his gay thoughts.


For this post, you need to at least read the lyrics to Turn it Off, (although I do recommend you listen to the song to hear the talented actors really bring it to life) so here you have the abridged version of the words:
ELDER MCKINLEY:
I got a feeling,
That you could be feeling,
A whole lot better then you feel today
You say you got a problem,
well that's no problem,
It's super easy not to feel that way!

When you start to get confused because of thoughts in your head,
Don't feel those feelings!
Hold them in instead

Turn it off, like a light switch
just go click!
It's a cool little Mormon trick!
We do it all the time
When you're feeling certain feels that just don't feel right
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light
and turn em off,
Like a light switch just go bap!
Really what's so hard about that?
Turn it off! (Turn it off!)

When I was in fifth grade, I had a friend Steve Blade,
He and I were close as two friends could be
One thing led to another, and soon I would discover,
I was having really strange feelings for Steve

I thought about us, on a deserted Island
We'd swim naked in the sea, and then he'd try and...

WHOA! Turn if off, like a light switch,
there it's gone! (Good for you!)
My hetero side just won!
I'm all better now,
Boys should be with girls that's Heavenly Father's plan
So if you ever feel you'd rather be with a man,
Turn it off.

ELDER PRICE:
Well Elder McKinley, I think its okay that you're having gay thoughts,
just so long as you never act on them.

ELDER MCKINLEY:
No, because then you're just keeping it down,
Like a dimmer switch on low, (On low!)
Thinking nobody needs to know! (Uh oh!)

ELDER PRICE:
But that's not true!

ELDER MCKINLEY:
Being gay is bad, but lying is worse,
So just realize you have a curable curse, turn it off!

ELDER MCKINLEY:
When you're feeling certain feelings that just don't seem right!
Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light!
Turn it off! (Like a light switch, shut it off!)

This song is a perfect example of one of the most interesting aspects of the entire production: the outsider's perspective.

There are so many parts of the show that are so perfect. The garment line under every missionary's shirt. The name tags. The naiveté. The companionship struggles. The general feeling towards being gay. The missionary apartment right down to the picture of Christ hanging above the door.

You know the one.

But there are some parts that are obviously coming from outsiders. Ancient upstate New York. "Praise Christ!" Spooky Mormon Hell Dream (okay, maybe some Mormons have had it; I haven't).

Turn It Off is a funny combination of both. I frequently see in my fellow Mormons that tendency to avoid hard questions and pretend they were never there. They turn it off. I have heard plenty of stories similar to the one in the song about Elder McKinley and his deep-seated need to turn off his feelings for Steve—even stories wherein Bishops and other leaders have recommended "turning off" those feelings. I don't see this everywhere or every time, but it's one of our problems that pops up now and again.

From the outside, these few strange stories combined with the occasional genuinely happy Mormon face in a sad world creates an outsider's perspective that Mormons are taught in Sunday School just how to turn off any and all negativity. While fun and interesting to see, I don't think this is at all an accurate representation of us as a religion. Part of getting to be truly happy is dealing with the negativity head on and overcoming it. We've all had hard or bad times, but with time and concerted effort, it's possible to rise above the bad rather than repressing it.

But repression always ends well!
A part of me wishes I could see the show as a non-Mormon to better understand that outsider view and why they say the things they say about Mormons, but I also want to underscore the fact that my Mormon perspective helps me understand that the writers Trey Parker and Matt Stone are not trying to make fun of Mormons. We're a prop, and my last part will help explain why they really prove in the end how much they love Mormons.

We Mormons are seen as a little strange and needy and may occasionally insist that our way is the best way, and then, sometimes, people believe us. When they do, and the timing is right and everything is working, we help them find a kind of paradise.

To be completed in Part III: Sal Tlay Ka Siti

________________________________
Cross-posted to Approaching Justice

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Religion on Broadway Part I: Arrival

For those of you who do not obsessively follow our facebook presence, my husband Casey and I recently returned home from a week and a half long vacation on the East coast. We spent 6 days in New York City, so of course our first priority was seeing The Book of Mormon on Broadway.


How do I even begin to describe this show? The experience?

If you've never had the good fortune of seeing any show on Broadway, I highly recommend it. I have now seen three shows on Broadway, and the performances, costumes, acting, singing, etc. are always spectacular. I don't know how the Tony voters ever manage to choose their favorites, because the presentations are pristine.

The Book of Mormon is no exception. Being the kind of Mormon who enjoys watching South Park, it was right up my alley in a lot of ways, but I'll start by giving a run down of the story and few thoughts before I dive into why I really loved the show (spoilers beyond this point, obviously, but I'll try not to ruin the whole show if you intend to see it some day).

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Ridiculously Early Primer to the 2016 Presidential Election

It is a truth universally acknowledged that Expert Textperts is a leading authority in modern political reporting, and as such it's our duty to inform readers about the imminent presidential election, which is (as of this posting) a mere 814 days away. Accordingly we humbly present a comprehensive preview of frontrunners in the race to become the next High Priest of America, the greatest nation ever. Read on and enjoy.

To begin, we'll cover the party of small government, liberty, and God (probably).

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Am I Sharing or Commenting On This Post I Hate? (A Checklist in Gifs)

First of all...you really want to do this? Like, really?


Well...okay. I'm not here to judge you. I'm just here to provide a handy way of sorting our your feelings on exactly why you're going to put yourself through this. Please check all that apply.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

A Quick Guide to Current Events (In Haiku)

Here at Expert Textperts, we know that the world is complicated. There's a lot going on, especially right now, and it's hard to keep up with everything all at once. That, as always, is where we step in: to provide you the hard news and insight you need in the mere seconds you have, while also providing the benefits of a solid cultural education in the ancient form of haiku (it is a sign of the mainstream media's utter depravity that very little of the so-called "news" you get from them is in verse. Can you believe those a**holes?)

So sit back and enjoy, knowing that in a mere 20-35 seconds you will be a better informed citizen of this great country, whichever based on my traffic statistics is for you probably somewhere in the former Soviet Union.


Monday, July 21, 2014

The Metaphorical Ton of Bricks

Most days in our lives, we go about our business. Everyone's day is different, but most of the 7.046 billion people on Earth have established routines.

Every day, some of those 7.046 billion people are going to hit a rough patch. Maybe a client yells at them, a lover's tiff upsets their rhythm, or the grocery store runs out of their favorite brand of chips. Small problems are a part of life.

Small problem for a small person: extra small. via

Unfortunately, there are big problems too. In the English language, many refer to the arrival of a big problem as getting hit by a ton of bricks. The imagery provokes a gruesome scene, but the metaphorical ton of bricks is not so bombastic.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Loud Music: An Odyssey of Aggression

This post has no particular purpose other than to broadcast my deeply held belief that sometimes the best cure to a bad day is some old fashioned loud, angry music. Today was a bad day--nothing major, just a culmination of minor frustrations incidental to capitalism and modernity and all that. So I invite you to join me on a self-indulgent musical odyssey through the healing power of rage from a baker's dozen of my favorite metal songs. Sometimes it's all the soul needs.

Metal aficionados will note that this list as a strong early-aughts bias. Congratulations: you have correctly identified when I attended high school and actively sought out this kind of music! Enjoy.

1. Killswitch Engage - Self Revolution.


Slow down the fast paced world
And you will see past the illusion

Sunday, June 29, 2014

The First Presidency Strikes Back (A Few Scattered Thoughts on Priesthood)

The First Presidency has finally spoken, albeit indirectly, on the matter of Kate Kelly and Ordain Women. Here are a few thoughts this Sunday morning, presented in list form to spare me the trouble of having to organize my writing into cohesive paragraphs:

1. It's genuinely nice to see something directly from the Office of the First Presidency rather than another statement from paid spokespeople. It's not Pope Francis visiting the poor and the marginalized, but it's not nothing.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Equality = Sameness. Let's Get Started.

You know what I'm sick of? Differences between the sexes.

Ugh. You can't spend five minutes around a bunch of men and women before noticing that they're just so frustratingly, ineffably different. It makes me sick. That is why today, in the name of feminism, liberalism, and all that is good, I'd like to issue a call to once and forever eradicate all differences between men and women.

Why would I advocate this? I want to make my reasoning perfectly clear: I believe that men and women should be fully equal. Equal in civic matters. Equal in business. Equal in religion. And the one thing standing in the way of that is that men and women are just too damned different. This has to end.

UGH

Sunday, June 22, 2014

A Message

Today is a hard day. I, like many others, have endured a lot of trials in the last week and a half since the news broke that Kate Kelly and John Dehlin were facing excommunication.

Fortunately, not everyone has been cruel or unkind, and this is what I want to bring to others today. We need strength as a community, so I am sending this missive into the void in hopes that it brings happiness to my friends today.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Perceived Threats

As any of my close friends (and several not-very-close friends) can tell you, I have spent a lot of time working in restaurants.

If you have worked in a restaurant before, you know that every person serves an important purpose in the restaurant. If you haven't, let me demonstrate: The cooks work together to prepare the food before a shift, then cook it together on a line of anywhere from 3 to 10 men. They place their hard work in a "window" under heat lamps where a manager, assistant manager, or food runner add the final preparations: spoons, knives, napkins, or other small embellishes. Once the plate is picture perfect (at least it had to be in most of the places where I worked), either a food runner or servers will take the food from the window to the specific table and seat number, placing it neatly in front of the diner. The diner has at this point already given their order to an exhausted server, hopefully with minor modifications if any, after having been shown to a free and clean table by the host or hostess on shift. The table was cleaned by bussers probably only minutes (at times moments) before the diners sat down. So, bringing you a good dinner at a restaurant takes about 10-15 people working together, not including the staff behind the kitchen endlessly cleaning dishes and bringing them back out for use in the kitchen and on the restaurant floor.

Hopefully all 10-15 of them cleaned their hands. via

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Response To The Mormon Newsroom: Why Lie?

Well, as a blogger who sometimes writes about Mormon stuff I picked a terrible day to drive from from California to Utah. While Facebook has exploded with opinions on the church's decision initiate disciplinary action against Mormon activists and lightning rods Kate Kelly and John Dehlin, here I am in the hellhole of central Utah trying to keep up on a 1x data connection (regular readers might remember that I once rolled an SUV in this part of the state--don't worry, my wife is driving this leg. Also, to any residents of central Utah, I sincerely apologize that you have to live in this hellhole).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Jesus' PR Department: Context Missing From Pharisee Accusations

The following is a recently discovered letter from the little-known figure of antiquity, Michal Ottiah, managing director of Public Affairs for The Way of the Kingdom of God of Jesus the Messiah, ca 33 CE, when the Master was unavailable for comment.

Comments at various synagogues over recent months about what Jesus and his disciples should or not think about believers' roles as chosen people of the LORD prompt me to provide some context from an insider's perspective that may be helpful.

Recently, a Pharisee said the following:

"This man is not of God, because he keepeth not the Sabbath day." Others have said, "How can a man that is a sinner do such miracles?"

The point is a noteworthy one, namely that Jews who describe themselves as Pharisees don't necessarily seek to condemn Jesus, but rather to genuinely follow the entire Law of Moses as they understand it.

There are three specific criticisms that have been raised that will be addressed here:

Criticism 1: Jesus does that which is not lawful to do on the Sabbath day.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Playing Favorites

After feeling marginalized and left behind by the PR department of the LDS church over the last couple of months, Mormon feminists are still feeling marginalized and left behind by the PR department of the LDS church.

Two days ago, the Mormon Women Stand (MWS) Facebook page excitedly announced that they had held two meetings with PR representatives, including Jessica Moody--a name already familiar to Mormon feminists due to her dismissive letter in March--and a man named Michael Otterson who apparently looked down from his manly position to the women and "took the time to sit in." There has been hope among the group Ordain Women (OW) for a similar chance, but despite numerous requests for such a dialogue none has occurred.

Now, I have nothing against the women of MWS (except for maybe Kathryn Skaggs). I think it's a great idea for like-minded people to have a place to talk to other like-minded people, but what bothers me about the meeting is the feeling that the PR department is purposely avoiding meeting with OW. It doesn't feel like they just forgot about those other liberal women who wanted a meeting; it feels personal.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Godzilla, In Review

When I was a kid, I loved Godzilla. I would check out books from the Boise Public Library that were essentially bestiaries of Godzilla's kaiju brethren. I devoured Marc Cerasini's wonderful series of Godzilla novels. I watched as many of the films as our local Blockbuster had on its shelves, which wasn't a lot, and I even liked the 1998 American remake with Matthew Broderick.
I was young. I didn't know better.
I had a falling out with this particular fandom right around 1999 or 2000, but even still, when I saw trailers for the current American Godzilla reboot, I got goosebumps. It looked like they were doing everything right that the 1998 version did wrong: they stayed pretty faithful to Godzilla's traditional look, they got his roar right (a surprisingly big issue, believe me), and the cinematography looked very classy to boot. Learning that Bryan Cranston was going to star was just a cherry on top of a deliciously destructive sundae.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Apologetics Without Apology: A Response To My Critics

It seems that my critics are at it yet again. My Expert Textpert cronies and I have been accused of so many misdeeds lately that one wonders when we ever find time to blog at all. No doubt it will soon be "revealed" that we ate the last cookie, orchestrated Benghazi, and never saw The Godfather Part 2. I should note that I have never visited the blogs of my attackers to criticize them; I don't leave comments or engage in their petty "debate" challenges. Yet they feel compelled to bring their nonsense here repeatedly, no doubt to the delight of their comrades who would revel in the dissolution of Expert Textperts. Still, while their opinions mean little to me, I find myself fascinated by them and I'd like to respond to a few comments on a recent post I wrote to give an insight into their thinking. The reader can ultimately decide who is correct.

Pictured: My last selfie

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

10 Life Lessons from Comic Con

Salt Lake Comic Con's Fan Experience (aka Fan X) was a couple of weeks ago from April 17-19, and I'm still thinking about it. The Con took up the entire Salt Palace Convention Center, flooded City Creek with costumes, and was the 3rd largest Comic Con of all time.


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Something Something Death Penalty

If you hadn't heard yet and have a strong stomach, here's what happened during an execution gone seriously wrong in Oklahoma.

Many have said plenty on the topic, so I'll keep my comments brief.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Mormon History #2: The Angel Moroni (As Told Through Facebook)

A few months back I wrote a speculative history of Joseph Smith's first vision as told through the medium of Twitter. Today, after long months of arduous research, I return with the next volume of my sporadic and (probably) ongoing Mormon History series, Volume 2: The Angel Moroni and Facebook.




Wednesday, April 9, 2014

A Very, Very Serious Response to Ordain Women

In the lead-up to and aftermath of the recent General Conference Ordain Women action, many Very Serious Mormon Men have taken it upon themselves to critique the movement for reasons they assure us are entirely benign and even helpful. In that spirit I decided to add one more voice to the ongoing conversation at about women in the church.




Just to establish this up front, I'm not against Ordain Women.

Now, that's not to suggest that I support what they're doing or how or why they did it, but I get their concerns. I sympathize deeply. I also don't question their sincerity, that they're doing what they think is right.

In a sense, I'm on their side: if the Lord ever extends priesthood to women, I'll be the first to celebrate it. I know many women who'd make excellent administrators, teachers, and leaders in the church.

In fact, some of my best friends are women.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

A reminder: What to keep your peepers on today and tomorrow...

Just a reminder to tune in to Conference today...

Peeper F. Uchtdorf will be watching. Won't you?

And while you're watching, be sure to spare some of your attention for the sugary sweet wit and insight (or, as we call it, winsight) as we livetweet Conference. Follow us @ExpertTextperts and enjoy.

Monday, March 31, 2014

General Conference: What Are The Odds 2.0

A couple of years ago, in what became one of our more popular posts, I thought it would be fun to handicap LDS General Conference for the ludomaniacs who comprise a surprisingly high percentage of our readership. Of course, chronic gambling is no laughing matter but Conference...well, if you're going to stay awake for all 8-10 hours a few yucks and a few bucks might not hurt. This year we included predictions from (in no particular order) all of our contributors: Allan, Brett, Brooke, and your humble editor, Casey. Enjoy.

(As with last time, if you're unfamiliar with betting odds, think of it as potential dollars earned per dollar bet. So, 10-1 means every dollar bet earns ten if you win. Smaller ratios mean better odds, and 1-1 is Even or no odds, i.e. nobody would ever bet against it. Over/Under refers to whether you'd bet a result is greater or less than the number given) 


Fun for the whole family!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Why I Support OW

The last week has opened up a flood of information from the voices of amazing, strong women who are not afraid to stand up for what is right.

It has also opened up a flood of depressing attacks from others who do not believe that these women are in the right. Women are speaking out on topics that are strange and unfamiliar, and many fight back because they are not ready to hear new ideas. The paradigm they cling to is not ready to shift. They call out "apostate" and other unkind terms at these wonderful women who want to make changes that will improve their experience in the Church specifically and in the world as a whole.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tom Phillips Speaks. Kind of.

Regular readers (hi, mom!) know that in the last few weeks we've written once or twice about the fraud charges brought against LDS President Thomas S. Monson in the UK by one Thomas Phillips, a British chappy widely known for being quite unhappy...with Mormonism. Well, in an outcome literally nobody predicted, the charges have been dismissed as being (and I paraphrase) "utterly and completely without any merit whatsoever. I mean, really? REALLY? Take up knitting or something, you insufferable boor." Awkward, right? Anyway, what our aforementioned readers (hi, mom!) might not know is that the esteemed Mr Phillips actually deigned to comment on an earlier post. In response to Brett he wrote,

Thank you for your "expert" analysis. If I had come to you for legal advice I could have saved myself a lot of time and money that could have been spent on more worthwhile pursuits.
I also think comments about a 'half brained' judge extremely unsettling when aimed at a very experienced district judge sitting at the pre-eminent Magistrates Court in England and Wales.
Maybe the 'half brained' remark should be reserved for anonymous internet posters who pontificate on a matter they know nothing about.
See you at trial.

Pictured: Tom Phillips, I assume

Monday, March 17, 2014

Which Conversations Were Those Again?

Some wonderful conversations have been held over recent years, and are continuing to be held, relative to women in the Church and the invaluable contributions we make...Declaring such an objective to be non-negotiable, as you have done, actually detracts from the helpful discussions that Church leaders have held.



con·ver·sa·tion noun


1. an informal talk involving a group of people : the act of talking in an informal way

2. exchange of sentiments, observations, opinions, or ideas

3. A form of interactive, spontaneous communication between two or more people... It is polite give and take of subjects thought of by people talking with each other for company...Contributions to a conversation are response reactions to what has previously been said. They are essentially of an interactive nature

Synonyms :
chat, colloquy, converse, dialogue (also dialog), discourse, discussion, exchange





(Source. Other Source. What the heck am I talking about?) Any relationship between this post title and that of adjacent ones on LDSBlogs.org at the time of posting is entirely intentional but is not necessarily meant to be read as a response to said posts nor to foster ill will with writer[s] thereof.)

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tribute to Meridian Magazine (a Flowchart)

Lately, as periodically happens in the Mormon blogo-world (someone should think of a catchy nickname for that, like "blogference" or something. Like, blog conference. Get it?)...anyway, lately the venerable Meridian Magazine has been a topic of discussion in some circles. The online independent LDS magazine has recently produced, among other things, a...fascinating...attempt to harmonize a literal Genesis flood account with modern science, a fawning paean to...err...men, and a scathing attack on the Ordain Women Movement and its secular media enablers. However, I've noticed that some people seem to miss the point of articles like this when discussing them. Therefore, as a community service I produced this thoroughly researched yet immediately accessible visual aid demonstrating Meridian's manifest value to the online LDS community, which in many ways goes to the very core of our religious identity. Enjoy.







Saturday, February 22, 2014

Tom Phillips Vindicated: Shocking New Revelations on Mormon Leaders' Nefarious Schemes

In light of the recent lawsuit filed against LDS President Thomas S. Monson by disaffected Mormon Thomas Phillips, owner of Mormonthink.com, Expert Textperts has elected to released the following, which was transcribed from a secret recording device in an undisclosed location in Church headquarters. For legal reasons the exact date of the recording and its participants will not be disclosed.

Voice 1: Thank you for stopping by today.

Voice 2: Good to see you, <redacted>

Voice 3: How are you?

V2: Good, good.

V3: Well, let’s get down to business. Shall we start with a prayer?

(sound of all three chuckling)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

A Manifesto on Gay Marriage: Testifying the Truth

This post began as a kind of dark satire, but instead morphed into an (admittedly twisted) attempt to write the worst Mormon blog post ever. Or maybe it's still a satire. Either way it's definitely an exercise in seeing how many people actually read italics.


I want to make it clear that I harbor no animosity towards homosexuals.

I shouldn’t have to include that disclaimer, but in our relativistic, liberal society there are those who believe that any opposition to the gay agenda is motivated by anger or hatred, just as any opposition to their president is motivated by racism. They'll call me hateful. They'll call me a bigot. It just goes to show how “tolerant” those kinds of people really are.

But in a fallen world, sometimes you have to stand up.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

My Brief Rebuttal to Tad Callister (A Flowchart)

"Women particularly can dress modestly and in the process contribute to their own self-respect and to the moral purity of men. In the end, most women get the type of man they dress for."
-Tad. R. Callister.


(by request, click here if you don't get it)

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day in Five Stages (of Grief)

I have never liked Valentine's day.

Okay, maybe that's a lie. When I was a kid, I loved that there was a day on which every other kid in my class was required to love me and give me a small token proving it. I put all my creativity and effort into creating an adorable "mail" box into which all my tokens of love would enter.

Okay, so mine were never this good, but they were still pretty good.

I remember in second grade when Matt*, the only boy in class who was taller than me, gave me a valentine. I thought I would die of happiness then and there (never mind that this token of his affections was essentially an assignment). He had included a chocolate Hershey's Kiss, and I knew then and there that it was meant to be. He never actually spoke to me, but, really, I knew his affection for me ran just so deep that he just couldn't bring himself to talk to me for fear of dying of pure elation. I would go out during recess knowing that despite his outgoing, bubbly personality with everyone else in the school, he was just being coy with me, trying to heighten my excitement.

Alas, when the end of the school year rolled around and I asked him to sign my yearbook (yes, they gave us little yearbooks in elementary school), all he wrote was something along the lines of "Have a good summer." Have a good summer? How could I?! He didn't even leave me his phone number. I was heartbroken. Sure, there was next year, but at the rate I was growing, there was no chance he'd still be taller than me come fall. So, for the second time in my young life, I accepted that the boy I adored did not adore me and moved on.

Other heartbreaks came and went. Usually they followed a similar path; I noticed a boy, he never noticed me, school year ended.

In high school, it suddenly became apparent that the all-inclusive Valentine's days of elementary school were long gone. I would carry a bag of Hershey's Hugs to school and hand them out to my friends, few of which ever had something to give me in return.


And so, I entered the first stage of grief: Denial and Isolation. I realized that not everyone appreciated me the way I thought they did or should and instead, I started to wear all black and, once I got to college, skip school on the dreaded V-day. I often made myself an entire cake and admired it all day before demolishing it, occasionally sharing only with my other, Singles Awareness Day (SAD) celebrating friends.

Enter Anger.

2006 and 2007 were particularly bad years. In 2006, my perfect red velvet cake complete with sprinkles was whisked away by a roommate who claimed she desperately needed it for a dinner, and swore she would save me a piece or two. She did not. In 2007, I received one nice text message from a boy I had gone on a few dates with before returning to college for the winter semester. The rest of the day was shattered by the only migraine headache I have had in my life, the worst person in the world dragging me to what I thought was a hang-out but was a double date (who tricks a girl into going on a date? On Valentine's Day while she is dressed in all black?), and a few other mishaps.

The years 2008-2009 were spent in a foreign country that does not celebrate Valentine's. Usually I call this period of time  my mission, but today, we can call it a nice break from grieving my loss of childhood romantic hope.

After I returned from my mission, Bargaining began. I begged God to make future Valentine's days less terrible, but 2010 was the year of Depression. I found out the day before Valentine's day that my boyfriend had been lying to me about some very large problems, and even worse, I found out via facebook chat. I spent that day in my blackest blacks, pondering my terrible dark romance-free future.


Late in 2010 I married Casey (the fantastic creator of this blog) and I started to have hope again. As we approached the dreaded day in 2011, I realized that Valentine's was not the big, romantic holiday I had built it up to be. I finally moved into Acceptance. I came to terms with the fact that he would not know my whole, dirty Valentine's history telepathically and would need some direction. I wrote a post detailing ideas for the day, and was only slightly disappointed compared to previous years**.

Perhaps I have not entirely gotten over my childhood loss, but I have at least moved on to enjoy a day on which I can make a nice dinner, write a sweet note to my husband, and expect nothing. At least if I have no expectations, there's no room for disappointment**. I moved from an all black wardrobe to black with some deep red, and hopefully this holiday will mean less and less to me every year.


__________________________________
*Names have not been changed due to their extremely common occurrence.
**I'm exaggerating the disappointment for the purpose of humor, which is likely falling flat. My only true disappointment today is the fact that this holiday still exists.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

On Thomas S. Monson's Court Date

The Mormon Internet, as glimpsed through the lens of my Facebook feed, has erupted recently with news that a British judge has issued a summons to none other than Thomas S. Monson. As can be expected, this has been accompanied by a flurry of opinions expressed via electronic invectives. I quickly found that I, too, had opinions on this matter; however, rather than express them on Facebook like a mouth-breathing plebeian (hi Facebook friends who might be reading this!), I'm going to put them on a blog. Like a sir.
"I believe I shall use the word 'Plebeian!' Jolly good!"

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Wibbly Wobbly Doctrine-Woctrine...Stuff

The idea for this post has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and it’s all David Tennant’s fault. I’m not a huge Doctor Who fan, but my wife is, and as a result I’ve seen a decent number of the show’s post-2005 reboot episodes. One of the best is a fan-favorite episode called Blink, and while I won’t go into all the reasons it’s an entertaining episode (hint: has something to do with these guys), I will highlight my favorite part of the episode, a small discourse from David Tennant’s Doctor on the nature of time:

Phone readers, see the gif version HERE 

Besides being a great way to hand-wave away the tremendous amount of retconning and timeline bending a show like Dr. Who requires, that line has also given me a useful way to conceptualize Mormon doctrine and religion and general. My take, with thanks to The Doctor, is this: People assume that Mormon doctrine is a strict progression from eternal truth to prophetic teachings, but actually, from a non-correlated, non-subjective viewpoint, it’s more like a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, doctrine-woctrine…stuff.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Tacitus the Unwitting Apostle

As part of my ongoing effort to sound more impressive when beginning blog posts, I was recently reading Tacitus' The Annals, where he lays out the history of Rome encapsulated in the reigns of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius, and Nero, respectively the second, third, fourth, and fifth Roman emperors.

As recorded by Tacitus, during the reign of the emperor Nero there was a six-day-long fire that devastated Rome.  You may have heard of this particular fire: it's the one during which, supposedly, Nero played the fiddle.

Nero, Emperor of Rome
In the aftermath of the conflagration, public opinion of Nero was abysmal.  A popular rumor went so far as to suggest that he started the fire himself, possibly to make room for a luxurious palace he had been wanting.  Desperate to find a culprit that was not him, he announced that the true cause of the fire were members of this weird foreign mystery cult--you know, Christians.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Dulcinea: On Dreaming and Ally McBeal

I hate packing. I hate deciding what to take and what to leave behind. I hate figuring out how to arrange everything in the suitcase(s) to optimize space so I can fit all of the things I finally decided to take into a limited space. And I hate that after successfully optimizing said space to fit all those things, that I have to take everything out and rearrange those items because I did so well that my suitcase is now overweight or too fat to fit into the approved carry-on dimensions. I hate packing.

So when packing, I try to do everything I can to distract myself from this tedious and agonizing first world problem of a task. Sometimes this allows me to catch up on podcasts I've fallen behind on. However, I usually want to defer that option to the actual time of travel, when I'm on the plane and whatnot. So more often than not, while packing, I turn to the altar of Netflix. I have taken such recourse at other times of similar tedium and frustration. Once when I constructed a bookcase from IKEA, I made it through nearly half of Matt Smith's first season as the Doctor. My second time through Battlestar Galactica started with a desire to have the comforting presence and leadership of President Laura Roslin while I worked on my taxes. Recently, I've ironed my way through various mad cap hijinks the NPH pursued on How I Met Your Mother.