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Apr 10 2014

Bringing back Salt Lake memories

In anticipation of the American Atheist conference next week, many ex-Mormons marched and sent in resignation letters to the LDS leadership. The timing was key.

David Silverman, president of the American Atheists, said the Mormon church has too much influence on people’s lives, especially Utahns’. Officially leaving the church during General Conference sends a message, he said.

"They’re doing it during the General Conference to make a statement, and that statement is that they feel oppressed here in Salt Lake City, where the Mormon church governs so much of not just the Mormons’ lives but everybody else’s lives," Silverman said. "It’s not fair. It’s a violation of the separation of church and state, but it’s also a violation of religious freedom."

They did it during the General Conference? Risky. It might have gotten completely ignored.

When we lived in Salt Lake City, I remember the General Conferences as the times when a news blackout fell over the state. The local newspapers would all run big front page stories on the most tedious pablum: “SENILE OLD MAN SPEAKS FOR TWO HOURS ON HOW WE SHOULD BE NICE”. The LDS leadership was (is) all these older conservative fellows in the same dark suits who took themselves very seriously, and all the news organizations were expected to report in detail everything that was said…not that they ever said anything of any interest or importance whatsoever. It was the time of the year that felt closest to living in North Korea — although, of course, the LDS church never subscribed to purging undesirables with flamethrowers. No violence, just state-enforced veneration of the blandest boringest bureaucrats of the church.

Most of the time, you could ignore the Mormon leadership, especially if you were living in SLC, which was about half Gentile. Not during the General Conference. Even then, though, what was most striking wasn’t the actual leadership, which was facelessly tedious, but that there were so many devout Mormons who would reverently worship every word dripping from the White Geezers at the top. It was weird; it was the time of year when the pod people would start speaking synchronously.

22 comments

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  1. 1
    jamessweet

    There is a certain cadence and tone that all of the general conference speakers employ, have you noticed? It’s incredibly bland, probably almost hypnotic for some people. It certainly projects confidence, but a sort of tired confidence. It’s weird. I think, having grown up Mormon, I could identify a general conference talk even that I had never heard before with about a two-sentence recording. They just all sound the same, even if the content were entirely different (which it’s not, but…)

  2. 2
    PZ Myers

    It’s not just weird, it’s creepy. It was sort of strange to see this blanket of smug reverence fall over all the media and see nothing but General Conference ‘news’ put front and center.

  3. 3
    Gregory in Seattle

    For people who are interested, I recommend An American Fraud. One Lawyer’s Case against Mormonism by Kay Burningham, who was raised in the LDS, from a family that traces back to some of the very early converts. Part one, which makes up the first quarter to third of the book, recounts her life as a child and young adult woman growing up Mormon, and illustrates how she went from devoted believer to disillusioned skeptic. The rest of the book lays out the history of the church, its practices, how it has grown into the mega-billion dollar corporate empire that it is, and lays out a lawyer’s case for fraud from its founding to the present day.

    I’m a little more than half way through, and I think it’s pretty good. The first part gives a good idea of why that blind, worshipful devotion to church leadership exists.

  4. 4
    stevenjohnson2

    Get your facts…from NewsMax!

    Can North Koreans really afford to buy a flamethrower? And if they did, are they smart enough to use one?

  5. 5
    Thumper: Who Presents Boxes Which Are Not Opened

    @stevenjohnson2

    Yes, and yes. Is that our daily does of racism over and done with? Oh good. Bye then.

  6. 6
    Travis

    Get your facts…from NewsMax!

    At least that story did point out at the end that it could be yet another rumour that goes viral with having been verified. The DPRK is so odious we are often too willing to assume all the tales told about it are true. I had not seen newsmax before but it does not appear to be the most professional or even most honest news source. My fraud senses tingled quite a bit when I saw this link to The Franklin Prosperity Report. I found quite a few Scambook entries about it. A right wing news site that, like so many other slimy right wingers out there, is more than willing to engage in scams and shady dealings.

  7. 7
    raven

    A right wing news site that, like so many other slimy right wingers out there, is more than willing to engage in scams and shady dealings.

    They all do. As well as right wing xian ones. After all, christofascists have to eat and pay the mortgage on their mansions too.

    Their audience is gullible and that helps.

    It can be incredibly profitable. Glenn Beck was and is so loony that even Fox News got rid of him. Much of his content is simply made up. His net worth in a few years has gone up to an estimated $100 million. Pat Robertson is a billionaire.

  8. 8
    timgueguen

    Newsmax is World Net Daily’s less well known, less successful, perhaps very very very slightly less cranky cousin.

  9. 9
    Travis

    perhaps very very very slightly less cranky cousin

    I think this might actually be true, I don’t think WND would admit that a story might not actually be true, it would just say “look at this, look at this story, it’s true, 100% true, believe it and be outraged”

  10. 10
    moarscienceplz

    Kirk: [Explaining Spock's odd behavior] Oh, him? He’s harmless. Back in the sixties, he was part of the free speech movement at Berkeley. I think he did a little too much LDS.

    Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

  11. 11
    Lynna, OM

    PZ, there is less of an all-mormons-all-the-time news cycle in Utah and in southern Idaho than was common in the past, but …. we still have saturation coverage.

    More than a dozen articles in the Salt Lake Tribune, many of them front page. Here’s one of the most pablum-like: http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57781603-78/love-christ-god-lds.html.csp

    My local NPR station broadcasts the entire General Conference, all day Saturday and slightly more than half a day on Sunday. In the process, they bump all other regular programming.

    Two of my local secular TV stations broadcast the entire conference, plus there is a BYU-TV channel that broadcasts the whole thing. All of the local radio and TV stations include coverage of the conference.

    Mormons in Utah and Idaho flood social media with conference trivia and gushing word salad. It’s depressing as well as boring. Example:

    conference was so good! all the talks were awesome. i loved saturdays sessions the best. i really liked elder holland’s talk just how bold he was! i love how all the speakers ended with a really simple but bold testimony of jesus christ. i loved how it was talked a lot about daily scripture study and daily prayers. those teeny things that really affect us. it also seemed that a lot of the speakers talked about being on the solid foundation and keeping it strengthened. it was all really good! this whole week was a spiritual high for me.[…]

  12. 12
    Lynna, OM

    This is a cross-posted comment from an earlier discussion on the [Lounge] thread:

    This weekend is mormon General Conference time. I’m sure you want a taste of that, right?

    So far we’ve seen one woman’s sob fest while describing how hard it was for her and her husband to care for four children — but she has 13 children.

    she sobbed as she related that she and hubby felt overwhelmed as parents of four young children. Well, actually Sister Reeves is mother of THIRTEEN

    http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1229072

    Also the persecution of prophets was a topic taken up by more than one geriatric male:

    Jesus, ancient prophets and, by extension, Mormon apostles, considered “prophets, seers and revelators” in the 15 million-member faith, are often unpopular because they have to tell uncomfortable truths and insist on upholding moral standards.

    These modern LDS leaders “know full well that the road leading to the Promised Land, ‘flowing with milk and honey,’ of necessity runs by way of Mount Sinai, flowing with ‘thou shalts’ and ‘thou shalt nots,’ ” Jeffrey R. Holland of the church’s Quorum of Twelve Apostles, said in the opening session of the church’s 184th Annual General Conference.

    LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson did not announce any new temples when ushering in Saturday morning’s session. But he noted that when all previously announced temples are completed, the Utah-based faith will have 170 such edifices throughout the world.

    “We are a temple-building and a temple-attending people,” the 86-year-old Monson said. […]

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57778654-78/church-lds-women-leaders.html.csp

  13. 13
    Lynna, OM

    During the recent General Conference, mormon leaders banned news media from Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City. Mormon leaders really do like to control the flow of information. The atheist march around Temple Square helped to breach the mormon control barricades simply by getting media coverage.

    Now the mormons are looking for yet another way to influence or control media in Salt Lake City. The mormons want to buy the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper/website.

    The U.S. Department of Justice is scrutinizing a deal between owners of Salt Lake City’s two daily newspapers, at least in part for its apparent similarity to a past attempt by the Mormon church-owned Deseret News to buy The Salt Lake Tribune.

    Two sources confirmed the DOJ’s inquiry, which comes as Utah’s largest newspaper faces another round of budget cuts mandated by its corporate parent, New York-based Digital First Media. […]

    Attorney Justin Dempsey also sought legal background from a nasty fight over Tribune ownership more than a decade ago, said Joan O’Brien, a former Tribune reporter and editor and daughter of the late Tribune Publisher Jerry O’Brien. […]

    Since last fall, the community group led by O’Brien has launched utahnewspaperproject.org and held several community meetings in an effort to draw attention to its cause. […]

    http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/news/57791269-78/tribune-news-digital-deal.html.csp

  14. 14
    playonwords

    One Saturday in Helston about the time of Mitt Romney’s campaign there were 2 missionaries walking with intent to convert. Whilst I watched they approached a house with a lad of about 10 in the yard. As they walked toward the door the boy said something and they politely stopped to reply, at which point slightly elder sister appeared at the front door shouting,

    “Come in, Billy, Mum says it’s those nutters with the spikey church and the funny underwear,”

    I nearly pee’d myself

  15. 15
    Lynna, OM

    Follow up to my comment #13.

    This is also excerpted from the SL Tribune article:

    […] The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which already dominates the Salt Lake City market with an influential TV station and website, three radio stations and broadcast facilities through church-owned Brigham Young University, as well as print and online editions of the News.

  16. 16
    Lynna, OM

    On another forum an ex-mormon posted that the atheists had to walk through a “tunnel” of mormons singing mormon hymns. I think he/she meant that mormons, having been apprised of the atheist march, lined the walkways around Temple Square and formed a corridor of hymn-singing true believers for the atheists to walk through.

  17. 17
    Lynna, OM

    As one of their many efforts to control the flow of information that pierces the mormon bubble, mormon leaders have recently commissioned a series of essays that purport to address information their sheeple are finding on the internet, information that contradicts mormon dogma.

    One of these essays addresses, (actually, fails to address), mormon teachings that connect Native American people to Middle Eastern people (as in, descended from). Simon Southerton has posted an excellent debunking of this essay, and he also clearly summarizes mormon difficulties with evolution and history in general. http://exmormon.org/phorum/read.php?2,1235001

    Excerpt below:

    Most of you are aware that the LDS Church recently published an essay to address the growing awareness among members that DNA evidence does not support genetic ties between Native American and Middle Eastern people. https://www.lds.org/topics/book-of-mormon-and-dna-studies?lang=eng

    The essay relies heavily on the work of LDS scientist, Ugo Perego, who’s own research has led him to believe that Native Americans have lived in the Americas for more than 15,000 years and virtually all of their DNA is derived from Asia. You read that right. Perego is an evolutionist. Perego, like the majority (>99%) of biological scientists, believes that humans evolved from a common ancestor shared by all primates and he believes that our recent ancestors migrated out of Africa about 100,000 years ago and colonized most of the globe during the last 50,000 years.

    Ugo believes that Book of Mormon people were absorbed into Native American civilizations soon after their arrival and their DNA was diluted away to undetectable levels. Many Mormons find this difficult to reconcile with the text, however, Perego’s views also appear to conflict with other widely held LDS beliefs (no death before the fall, 7,000 year old earth and the global flood — see D&C 77, 2 Nephi 2:22).

    Not only does the essay not answer the troubling DNA question, it raises a host of new issues. After punishing and marginalising scientists and dismissing evolution for decades, the Church is now relying on an evolutionary biologist to defend itself in the face of the DNA problem. Contrast this with how the church treated another evolutionary biologist a few years ago.

    […] I received letters from Area Leaders in Australia in which I was chastised, called to repentance and warned of the dire consequences of my actions. […]

    I am now hearing reports that members of my extended LDS family have been reassured by church leaders that the things Simon was troubled about 16 years ago have been “disproven”. Like many Mormons, my family have been conditioned to avoid talking about “issues” with questioning family members. […]. They want one way conversations about things they want to talk about. […]

    My response to the Church’s DNA essay
    http://simonsoutherton.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/response-to-president-newsroom.html

    Some comments on the Church’s double dealing with respect to evolution.
    http://simonsoutherton.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/ldsorg-essay-exposes-corporate.html […]

  18. 18
    jabes

    jamessweet, if you haven’t seen it already, google “How General Authorities Eat Their Reeses.” The guy doing it really has their specific cadences and ways of addressing the topic down pat. It is very funny in a horrifying way.

  19. 19
    brett

    I watched the General Conference and Men’s Meeting with some Mormon friends (there was free food involved). They did at least sort of address the Ordained Women issue, although it was the usual patronizing “blah blah we believe men and women are equal but separate in their duties, women have priesthood power in certain ways” bit that ignores the fact that women have no actual -power- in the church hierarchy except for particular areas as missionaries and in the Relief Society. As I told one of the Mormon friends, the leadership could disband the Relief Society tomorrow and no women would have any say about it, because they’re not in any of the top councils of the church.

    Also they addressed pornography. Again. As they’ve been doing that since I was literally 14 years old and still an active member.

  20. 20
    Rey Fox

    i really liked elder holland’s talk just how bold he was! i love how all the speakers ended with a really simple but bold testimony of jesus christ.

    Do you think it might be…bold?

  21. 21
    Lynna, OM

    jabes @18, here’s the link:
    YouTube link.

    The subtle reference Thomas S. Monson’s stories about widows in the last segment is awesome. The smacking lips, the ridiculous reliance on semi-relevant quotes, etc. — all well done.

    Boyd K. Packers creepiness and veiled warnings against homosexuality were well done, but damn, I didn’t want to be reminded of this particular fossilized speaker.

  22. 22
    U Frood

    If God faked all the evidence of evolution and the Earth’s geological age in order to mess with scientists, why can’t you use the same excuse to explain why Native Americans aren’t genetically related to Middle Easterners.

    God chagned their DNA to fool those silly scientists!

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