A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

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_Bob Bobberson
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Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


Outer Darkness

"The apostate is generally in need of self-justification. He seeks to reconstruct his own past, to excuse his former affiliations, and to blame those who were formerly his closest associates. Not uncommonly the apostate learns to rehearse an 'atrocity story' to explain how, by manipulation, trickery, coercion, or deceit, he was induced to join or to remain within an organization that he now forswears and condemns."

--Bryan Wilson, The Social Dimensions of Sectarianism


In the evening following General Conference, President Baylor retired to his spacious apartment atop the Eagle Gate building to spend time with his family. His wife was there, of course, along with three of their children and their spouses, and a dozen of the grandchildren. They had all eaten dinner, and now the women were frying up batches of homemade doughnuts. Some of them were topped with a confectioner’s sugar glaze, and others had a cinnamon-sugar topping. Baylor’s youngest granddaughter, Eloise, brought him one of the cinnamon-sugar doughnuts on a small paper plate.

“Here, Pop-pop, I brought you a doughnit.”

“Why thank you, sweetheart!” He took the plate from her and took a bite of the warm pastry. “It’s delicious! Did you make it?”

“I helped,” said Eloise. She was a toe-head, like her grandmother once was, and she’d just turned four years old.

“Well, you did a wonderful job,” said Baylor.

The girl smiled and skipped back to the kitchen.

The prophet sat in his chair near the fireplace and finished eating his doughnut. Both his family and his fellow Brethren had been concerned for him following his Conference talk. Baylor knew that it had been disjointed; he’d had trouble reading from the teleprompter. But he had assumed it was simply a symptom of his weariness, his lack of sleep in light of the stress he’d been under lately. Each night, as he tried to sleep, the visions continuously woke him. As for the talk: Baylor asked his two counselors if they thought he’d strayed too far from appropriate decorum, and they had both assured him that he had not. The talk had been slightly jumbled, but by no means was there any reason to read into it any more deeply than that. Elder Pitt had reassured him, as well, and had advised that he simply try to get some rest. And then there was Elder Talmadge Steele. Steele had asked, “Are you okay?” and had then proceeded to talk at length with Eleanor.
“Weariness be damned,” Baylor had said. The end times had arrived. There would be time to rest later. For now, he was the sole holder of the keys, and it was his responsibility to see the Church through this trial.

A log shifted in the fireplace, sending up a mist of orange sparks, and Baylor could very acutely smell something burning. Was it the wood, though? It didn’t quite smell that way.

“Eleanor? Is something burning in there?” The women’s laughter came from the kitchen. The smell wasn’t quite like burnt food, either. It was reminiscent of cigar smoke, or burning hair, perhaps. “What on earth is that smell?” he said.

Just then his 17-year-old grandson, Joshua, came out of the hallway.

“Josh,” said Baylor. “Come over here just a moment.”

“Sure, Pop-pop,” said Josh, loping across the room. “What’s up?”

“Do you smell that?”

“Smell what?” The boy’s nostrils moved as he sniffed the air. “I don’t smell anything.” When he looked down, he said, “Pop-pop, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” said Baylor, “I just want to know what this…” The words wouldn’t come, and what words would come were sludgy and unpronounceable.

“Dad!” Josh called out over his shoulder. “Dad, you need to get in here.” He touched Baylor on the knee. “Just stay right here, Pop-pop. Don’t try to move or anything. I’ll be right back.”

Baylor watched him go, unable to say anything, and still puzzled at the burning scent wafting through his brain. It occurred to him what might be happening, but he refused to give it any credence.

...Next time: Abandoned...or not?
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Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _bcuzbcuz »

Bob Bobberson wrote:“Eleanor? Is something burning in there?” The women’s laughter came from the kitchen. The smell wasn’t quite like burnt food, either. It was reminiscent of cigar smoke, or burning hair, perhaps. “What on earth is that smell?” he said.

Just then his 17-year-old grandson, Joshua, came out of the hallway.

“Josh,” said Baylor. “Come over here just a moment.”

“Sure, Pop-pop,” said Josh, loping across the room. “What’s up?”

“Do you smell that?”

“Smell what?” The boy’s nostrils moved as he sniffed the air. “I don’t smell anything.” When he looked down, he said, “Pop-pop, are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” said Baylor, “I just want to know what this…” The words wouldn’t come, and what words would come were sludgy and unpronounceable.

“Dad!” Josh called out over his shoulder. “Dad, you need to get in here.” He touched Baylor on the knee. “Just stay right here, Pop-pop. Don’t try to move or anything. I’ll be right back.”

Baylor watched him go, unable to say anything, and still puzzled at the burning scent wafting through his brain. It occurred to him what might be happening, but he refused to give it any credence.

...Next time: Abandoned...or not?

When it happened, my Dad said it smelt like burnt toast.
And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love...you make. PMcC
_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


After two nights at the Desert Motel and half a day spent searching the classifieds, Sam packed up his things and moved to a cheap studio apartment in Reno, just off Sutro. He went back to the house to get some more of his clothes, along with some books and the TV set, and some of his records and his stereo system (the latter of which they’d quarreled about). The whole time, Emily’s mother followed him from room to room, “Just watching,” as she put it, which struck him as both annoying and unfair. Sam had paid for the house wholly out of his own pocket, and now it had been colonized by his estranged wife and her Mormon relatives. It was like they were squatters who had moved in to assume control. Sam, at least, got the car. Emily’s parents would drive her around for the time being—either that or one of the sympathetic families from the ward would loan her a car. In the kitchen there were clear signs of solidarity from the sisters at Church: the fridge was filled with casserole dishes, and there were foil-clad plates of baked goods sitting on the kitchen counter. The Relief Society had banded together to help support this poor sister, whose husband had betrayed her by turning apostate. The whole thing made Sam sick to his stomach. Before he left, he made sure to spend time with his daughter. He held the baby in his arms and stroked her little cheeks. Who knew when they’d see each other again?

At work, Sam was told to take some time off. It was unclear if he would be kept on, or if the Mormon powers-that-be would hand him his walking papers. Regardless, it seemed clear that they were using the time to think over the spiritual and economic implications of keeping him on board.

So, he had a lot of spare time on his hands, much of which he spent drinking and watching the free cable that came with his apartment. In less than a week, he had completely de-evolved back into the state of a drunken, shiftless bachelor. There were empty beer cans and old fast food containers on the floor. There was a stain on the carpet where he’d spilled a regrettable portion out of a bottle of Jack Daniels. He’d been sleeping on the floor in a sleeping bag that he’d had since he was a teenager, and it had a vaguely meaty, sour smell to it. He hadn’t bothered to set up a phone line in the apartment, which was probably for the best, since he’d been tempted on at least a couple of occasions to drunk-dial Emily, begging her to take him back. He did genuinely miss her—her and Kaylee both.

But he also knew that there was no going back. Either he had to swallow the problematic aspects of Mormonism—to live what was, in his eyes, a lie—or he’d have to find some way to talk Emily into seeing the truth about the Church, which seemed like an even less likely possibility. There was just no way he’d ever be able to reach her—it was as if she was simple-minded, or closed-minded about all of it. She was convinced that what he’d learned was anti-Mormon propaganda.

And so Sam got angrier and angrier. He was angry at Emily, and he was angry at the LDS Church. He wished that he’d brought his Book of Mormon to the apartment, so that he could defile it. He wanted to rip pages from it, to crumple them up and burn them, to wipe his ass with them. It was the Church’s fault: he’d been lied to, deceived, and cheated out of money. One morning, badly hungover and with little else to do, he sat and attempted to calculate the amount of tithing and donations he’d given to the Church during the last three years, and the total came to well over ten thousand dollars. He thought forward to the future, how he’d no doubt have to pay alimony to Emily, and how the Church would take a chunk out of this money, too, since Emily would use it to pay tithing, fast offerings, and other things. The “widow’s mite” was a colossal, stinking pile of B.S.. The Brethren were greedy—feasting off the sweat and labor of the membership. It was all a big scam. A religious ponzi scheme. These were the thoughts that tumbled through Sam’s mind in those bleak autumn days.

He also kept waiting for Bishop Gladden to turn up at his door. The prospect of the Church disciplinary court was hanging over his head, and he knew it was only a matter of time before it happened. For reasons he couldn’t explain, he was afraid of it. What would happen? If he didn’t attend the Court, would they do it in his absence? He made up his mind that he wouldn’t go, and yet he wanted to know what they’d be saying about him, what sorts of lies and accusations they’d make up about his “apostate” behavior. He’d heard all the explanations dozens of times in Church: that apostates left out of a desire to sin, or because they were weak, or because they were offended by something that someone said or did at church. It was never actually the LDS Church’s fault: “the Church is perfect; only the membership is flawed,” went the old saying. So why was Sam afraid of the impending court, then?

Another part of his anger was based in frustration. In the beginning, in the wake of his first few meetings with the missionaries, and in the ensuing months afterwards, he’d been so happy. It was like he’d been given a totally new chance, and he’d felt clean and elated. All of that was gone, though, and it was this, he supposed, that angered him the most. At least sometimes it did. That was how the logic of his thinking ran: he bounced from one scapegoat to the next, looking always to lay blame somewhere, on someone, or some thing connected to the LDS Church.

Then, about a week after he’d moved out of the house, there was a knock on the door. It was Ray Haas.

“Hey, Sam,” he said, standing there in the late afternoon light. “How’ve you been?”

“Ray—Jeez. Come on in.” He moved aside and held the door open wide.

Ray stood in the middle of the apartment and looked at the mess that was Sam’s new life. “Well, I suppose I’ve seen worse.”

“Yeah, sorry. I guess I need to get some furniture. You’re welcome to the lone chair.”

“All right,” said Ray. He went and sat down and ran a hand over his thin blond hair, and then he went into his spiel: he told Sam about the things that had been going on at church, and tidbits of gossip he’d heard. Apparently, word was circling among the Relief Society sisters that Sam was a sexual pervert and a pornography addict.

“That’s complete B.S.,” said Sam. “I can’t even remember the last time I looked at any porn. What a bunch of lies.”

Ray held up his hand. “I know, I know. I believe you. Anytime something like this happens, the rumors start to fly. But I want you to know that there are still people on your side. People who care about you and your welfare, regardless of your status in the Church. I mean, even Chuck Gladden. He cares about you. Yes, he’s doing the whole Court of Love thing, but it’s really only because he has to—it’s the Stake President’s say-so. Everything has to be by the book.”

Sam just nodded. “Well I appreciate it, Ray.” He stared down at the carpet for a moment, and then: “You’re the first person who’s been out to see me.”

Ray nodded. “Look: you’ve got every right to be angry,” he said. “I know I sure as hell was angry when I started looking more deeply into Church history. And I managed to sidestep all the crap you’re going through now. But I know plenty of people who’ve been through pretty much exactly the same thing that you’re experiencing now.” Sitting there, with his round, soft-looking face and his eyes squinty behind his steel-frame glasses, Ray looked somewhat like a mole. “That’s the main reason why I wanted to stop by and talk to you.”

Then Sam remembered: the Apostate Mormons Conference. Sam had completely forgotten about it, but of course Ray had mentioned it back during General Conference. It was scheduled for this coming weekend, and Ray wanted to know if Sam was interested in going. “We could split the cost of the hotel,” he said. “You’ll meet a lot of people there who’ve been through some of the same things you’re going through now, and I’m sure you’ll make some friends.”

“What’s in this for you, though, Ray?”

Ray gave one of his sheepish smiles and shrugged. “I’ve been to the conference before,” he said. “When I was going through my big crisis of faith, I went and checked it out. I liked it well enough that I’ve been back several times.”

“I just don’t get you sometimes, Ray.”

He shrugged: “I’m a product of Mormonism.”

So they made arrangements and then said goodbye to one another, and Sam had nothing to do but bide his time until the weekend. He did make an effort at getting himself together, though. He shaved and cleaned up and made a final trip back to the house in order to get a few last things. At least Emily and her mother were away, and Emily’s Dad was decent about everything—quiet and unobtrusive, and he simply allowed Sam to get his things and go.

When Saturday arrived, Ray pulled up to the apartment and Sam tossed his overnight back into the trunk. Ray insisted on driving so as to better provide a cover story for what he was doing. Of course his wife had no idea; she thought he was off on some business-related trip. Sam climbed into the passenger seat and they were off.

Ray put Sam in charge of the radio and they sped off through Reno and Sparks, and made their way past the red and purple rock walls lining the Truckee River canyon. They shot across I-80, straight through Lahontan, keeping their eyes peeled for any ward members who might be on the highway. If anyone from church were to see the two of them together, it would create all manner of problematic speculation and gossip. Both of them knew this, and felt a kind of giddy, irritated thrill at the idea of sneaking around. How had it had come to this?

On the other hand, as Sam argued: what difference did it make if anyone saw them? So what? The Church didn’t have power over him anymore—he could do as he pleased. There was no one to threaten to take away his temple recommend if he dared to drink a cup of coffee. No one would kick up a stink if he wanted to watch football on Sunday.

“Well, Sam,” said Ray. “I’m glad you feel that way, so I would just ask that you cool your jets for my sake. No offense or anything.”

Sam didn’t say anything in reply, though he somewhat resented Ray’s cowardice. Why should Sam have to go on feeling nervous and cautious simply because Ray was unwilling to stand by his principles and openly acknowledge the Church’s deceptions? Something wasn’t right about that, and yet, it was obviously unfair to ask that Ray undergo the same suffering with his wife that Sam was enduring right now. So Sam kept his mouth shut.

They roared past the alkali flats on the way to Lovelock, and then through the lonely sea of dirt and sagebrush, punctuated by distant, dun-colored mountain ranges. In Winnemucca they stopped for sodas and snacks, and Sam very briefly considered buying a pack of cigarettes, but Ray talked him out of it. “That’s one thing the Word of Wisdom got right,” he pointed out. They got back in the car and drove on, mostly saying very little, though with Ray occasionally telling stories related to the ward: about the sister with bad circulation in one of her feet, due to her horrible diabetes, or about the old couple out near Miller Lane, and how the wife had thrown out a ton of the accumulated junk from the garage, thus inciting such ire in her husband that Bishop Gladden had to be called in to intervene. Trivial stuff that nonetheless reminded Sam of the life he’d been cut off from.

When they got to Elko, they stopped and had lunch at one of the small casinos. Ray wanted to get out of the car and sit down and eat a “real” lunch, and so they went into one of the little casino diners and ordered sandwiches. Then: back in the car. Soon, they passed through the border town of Wendover, where, Ray said, BYU students would come to get married under Nevada’s lenient marriage laws so that they could have sex before annulling the marriages and skipping back across the border into Utah. It was crazy, Sam thought, and he wondered aloud how different everything would be if he’d actually grown up in the Church—“born in the covenant,” as they said.

“It would be enormously different,” was Ray’s reply.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right. Maybe I never would have bothered looking in to any of the strange things, eh?”

“Either that or you might be so deeply ‘in’ that there was no way you ever could have gotten out. Sort of like me. If you grow up in it, it’s so much more a part of your world, plus your family would be all interconnected into everything.”

“Seeing as how I didn’t have much family to begin with, the Church sort of became my family, Ray.”

“Well, then, just amplify that. You know what I’m talking about, I’m sure.”

...Next time: Tarry a while....
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Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _beastie »

I love your stories. They're the only reason I come back to the terrestrial forum.
We hate to seem like we don’t trust every nut with a story, but there’s evidence we can point to, and dance while shouting taunting phrases.

Penn & Teller

_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


Well, for me there’s always the question of what he—or ‘they’?—would be doing. I mean, are they just wandering the earth? If you have that much time on your hands, what would you do? I know that a lot of the tales and folklore have them doing good deeds, but I wonder if they would actually do pranks, too. Or commit crimes.

Did you see that movie
Groundhog Day, with Bill Murray? Well, what happens in it is that he’s this weather man, kind of an a-hole weather man, and he’s forced to live the same day over and over again. Like, all the people around him always do the same thing. And he gets stuck in this—it’s a kind of time-warp, I guess. He can’t get out of it. So he does all these things to try and snap out of it: he tries a bunch of ways to kill himself.

What? Oh, I don’t know. Like he drives off a cliff this one time. Or he drops a radio into the bath with him in it. Maybe he takes pills or shoots himself at one point. That kind of thing. Anyhow, why does that matter? The point of this is that none of it works. He still has to persevere and endure and live the same day over and over again.

Now, granted, this isn’t quite the same thing as with the 3 Nephites. They were told at the outset that they’d ‘tarry’ for however long—till the second coming, or whatever. Still, these are human beings, right? They still have desires and feelings. They’d still face all the trials and tribulations as the rest of us. So how do they manage? If they’ve been walking the earth for the past—what, 1400 years?—then what would they do? Do you think that any of the three has tried to kill himself, for example, like the Bill Murray character?

And what about wives? Or sex? Have they each had a whole bunch of wives? Ha ha, yeah: it’s like polygamy except just spread out over a really long period of time. But, no, seriously—how obedient do they have to be to the rules of the Church? The scriptures are pretty vague on the details, but for me it’s the details that make the whole predicament interesting. You just have to wonder what it would be like.

I mean, would they get depressed? Think of all the death that they would have witnessed. Did this ever make any of them angry? And have they just continued to grow smarter and wiser with time? And why is it that no one has ever “found them out”? Or tried to take pictures of them, like with Nessie or Big Foot? Are they just so used to being evasive?

It just really makes you wonder—er, well, it makes ME wonder. I honestly can’t say how much I would like it. If it’s like the way that the Plan of Salvation is set up for us, then I have admit that I’d probably find it pretty miserable. For us, this is a test, after all. It’s a joyous test, but there are so many challenges, and for us at least you know, more or less, when it’s going to be over. But if you were one of them? You’d never know. It’d be a matter of waiting and waiting until the Savior’s return. That would have to be a kind of torture, I think.

So you have to wonder if they’d start to feel resentment. I’m pretty sure I would. Then again, maybe Heavenly Father changed his mind and decided to summon them back? God works in mysterious ways, after all. Ha ha ha ha….

Next time: Meet the apostates!
_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


Sam had never before attended a conference of any kind. The closest thing to it was the “graduation” he and his fellow mixology students went through at the end of their coursework. It had been a very small, lightly catered affair in one of the rooms at Circus Circus—nothing special by any stretch of the imagination.

This, though, was different. At the hotel, which was surprisingly located quite near to the still-security-saturated Temple Square in downtown Salt Lake City, Sam discovered that a number of the ballrooms and gathering areas had been set aside to accommodate the conference attendees. There was something very strange about being suddenly immersed in an environment in which all the people knew everything and more about what Sam had just been through. All throughout the lower floors of the hotel were people attending the conference—many of them with plastic nametags hanging around their necks. Overwhelmingly, they were white, middle-aged, and friendly. There was a long table set up along one side of the main ballroom with snacks, soda, water, and coffee (coffee!), and people were milling about, talking to one another. There were various sessions and lectures set up over the course of the conference—talks on things like making the adjustment to life outside of Mormonism, and talks on the various problematic aspects of Church doctrine and history. Mostly, though, it seemed as if the whole affair had been arranged simply so people could talk to one another and exchange stories.

It turned out that Ray knew a fair number of the people there, and he guided Sam around, making introductions. Again and again, Sam found that these ex-Mormons wanted to tell their stories.


I grew up in the Church. I was born and raised in southern California, and both my parents were hard-core devout in terms of the Church. My ancestry goes back to the pioneers who trekked across the plains. So as you can imagine, the Church was always a huge part of my life and my environment growing up. We went as a family to church every single Sunday (there were four of us kids; I’m the second-youngest). I was heavily involved in scouting, did the Pinewood Derby, earned my Eagle Scout award, and so on. I was president of seminary. I knew from a young age that I would serve a mission. All of that. The whole shebang.

I suppose the real irony of my leaving the Church is that it came about as a result of me doing what the Church commands.

It happened like this. I had turned 19, and I get my mission letters. It turns out I’m being sent to Ecuador! I couldn’t have been more excited. I head off to the MTC, go through all the training, learn to speak Spanish, and so on and so forth. My mom buys me two brand-new suits from Mr. Mac, and it was just so exciting.

Both my parents cried—they just sobbed—when I left. Partly because they would miss me, and partly because, I suppose, they were just so proud. Also I was the only boy in the family. All my other siblings were sisters, and so, you know, they didn’t do the whole mission thing. A lot was kind of riding on my shoulders.

So off I go. Me and the other elders assigned to the mission get on a plane and fly off to Quito. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a third-world country, but I have to tell you that I was shocked by what I saw. At least at first. Filth and sewage everywhere. Lots of skinny dogs running around. Just the general state of disrepair everywhere. Like the whole place was broken and unkempt.

Anyhow, I digress. What happened was that we got situated, the mission president gave us all kind of a pep-talk reinforcing what a profound and uplifting spiritual experience we were all about to have, blah blah blah. After that, he cuts us loose.

I’m sure you’ve heard the horror stories from other former missionaries about Nazi-like mission presidents. The really bad ones can turn the missionaries’ lives into a living hell. How’s that, you ask? In some cases they make bizarre rules about what you can read. In some missions, you aren’t allowed to read anything other than Church-approved materials, which pretty much means the Book of Mormon and all your missionary training gear—the White Bible and that sort of thing.

Huh, what’s that? The White Bible? It’s like the rule book that’s given out to all the missionaries. It just is a big long list of mostly dumb and obvious rules. You know, the usual strange stuff about not going around water or swimming pools when you’re a missionary, because Satan has dominion over the waters, and that sort of thing. Heh heh, no I’m just kidding. I don’t think that is actually in the White Bible.

But again, I digress. My point is that some missions were ridiculously harsh and restrictive: no TV, no newspapers, no radio, that sort of thing. Excessive worthiness interviews with the mission president, etcetera. I’ve even heard that there were some missions where the companions were pitted against each other in the sense that they were asked to spy on one another. Yeah, yeah: like the one was supposed to report back if the other masturbated, or broke the rules and read a newspaper, or whatever else.

So, with all that in mind, my mission was the exact opposite of this. It was totally lax. Our zone leader was this weak, panty-waisted sort of a guy and he was a complete push-over so the elders kind of ran a bit crazy. It’s not that we didn’t follow any of the rules. All of my companions and I still fulfilled the basics of our duties. We still read the scriptures and did our tracting and service and everything, but there were basically zero restrictions of the kinds I described. To give you just one example: I know one elder who actually had in his possession a pornographic magazine. He and his companion tore out the centerfold and had it taped up in the bathroom! Can you believe that?

But I think that most of us still believed in what we were doing. It was about sharing the gospel and helping to bring people to Christ, and to teach them about the restored gospel. I guess the crucial problem is that you’ve got a bunch of hormone-riddled guys out there trying to do the Lord’s work, and this naturally creates something of a conflict. How spiritual can a guy be if he’s thinking about sex 24/7? And when you throw the prohibition on masturbation into all of this, it’s a recipe for disaster.

I’m sure you can see where this is going. For me, her name was Flora. She was the oldest daughter in this family we were trying to baptize. I guess she was about sixteen or seventeen. She had long, black hair down to her waist, and she was just really beautiful. She was also a flirt. She used to come by our apartment to quote-unquote “visit.” She would take her shoes off and walk around barefoot and ask us all kinds of questions. Obviously this was a huge violation of the rules. You’re not supposed to have females in your apartment like that, for pretty obvious reasons.

Even so, it might not have developed into a problem if this had been the kind of mission where people follow the rules, but like I said, it just wasn’t that way. As long as your baptism numbers were on target, and as long as you put on enough of a show about being enthusiastic, everything was cool. But the big rule was that you always had to be in the company of your mission companion. You weren’t supposed to let each other out of your sight—ever. And that’s exactly what happened. My companion at the time was this super tall guy from Washington state. I don’t remember what his name was. Rick or Dick or something like that. The thing he had the most trouble with was the schedule—the getting up early and going to bed early and that kind of thing. He never fully adjusted to that and was always complaining about how he needed to take a nap. I’m sure you can see where this is going.

This tall elder from Washington would be asleep, Flora would come by to visit, and one thing led to another. At the time, I did have reservations about it. And when it first happened, I felt horribly, terribly guilty. But I got to thinking about it. It felt good, and I had to ask myself: Why would Heavenly Father give us this wonderful gift of sex only to make us feel guilty about it? Growing up, you hear all these lessons about the “power of creation,” and how it’s only acceptable to have sex within the confines of a temple marriage, and that even then it’s supposed to be strictly about procreation, and etcetera. But this just didn’t seem to square with other portions of Mormon doctrine. “God created man so that he might have joy,” and all of that. So in the end I concluded that the sex in and of itself wasn’t wrong, but the fact that I’d done it outside of marriage and the temple was.

At my next interview with the mission president, I told him about all of this. He’s obligated to ask about any sexual impropriety, and at first I thought I could get away with just sort of vaguely mentioning it, but he dug for details. Not in a perverse sort of way or anything; he seemed genuinely concerned for my spiritual well-being. So I confessed everything to him, and he just kind of sat there starting at me, nodding and clearing his throat. (This guy is currently a General Authority, by the way. I think he’s in the First Quorum of the Seventy.) Eventually he says, “Well, Elder B., this is really unfortunate. You’ve broken your covenants with the Lord, and we have no choice but to send you home and refer this matter to your local bishop.”

And that, for me, was the beginning of the end. I got sent home, where I had to face my parents. My mother cried and my father was just angry. I mean angry. He wouldn’t talk to me, or else his words were spoken through clenched teeth. I had to do the whole “Court of Love” thing, and they excommunicated me. Just like that. [Snaps fingers.] “Court of Love,” by the way, is a complete misnomer. There’s nothing “loving” about it. It’s just you, sitting in this room with 12 other men, with all of them casting judgment on you. My bishop, in particular, was a complete a-hole about it.

And I can’t prove this, but what I suspect is that he was jealous of me on some level. You encounter these Mormon men who are like, “I’m so glad that my wife hasn’t had sex with any other man, and that she’s totally pure.” Part of the reason they say this is out of possessiveness. But the other part has to do with their own insecurities and anxieties. They are jealous over the fact that they’ve only ever gotten to have sex with one woman. It’s like they’ve given up the opportunity to play the field in favor of their commitment to all the stupid and petty and arbitrary rules of Mormonism. So that’s why I think this bishop was so angry with me. I wish I could remember what he said exactly. It had something to do with me shaming the role of a proper priesthood holder. Blah blah blah.

Was I sad about being separated from Flora, you ask? Well, actually, no. This probably sounds really bad and insensitive or whatever, but the answer, honestly, is no. I guess I really did just see it as sex. I never would have considered her marriage material. And I know: that just sounds horrible. I have no idea what she was thinking. Maybe she thought I was a way out of the slums of Quito, and that’s why she came on so aggressively. But who knows? I do still think about her sometimes, but the fact is that I was young and horny and the situation is what it is. Mormonism has heaped enough guilt on me already. Why should I add anything more to that?

Sam and Ray drifted over to a table where three women were sitting around drinking coffee. When they sat down, one of the women threw her arms around Ray’s neck and kissed him on the cheek. “Who’s your friend?” she asked him, and Ray introduced her to Sam. The woman was middle-aged, with neck-length auburn hair and a soft, motherly build. Her name was Elizabeth.


For me it was a combination of intellectual and emotional aspects that did it in the end. In the Church, women are second-class citizens. You’re reminded of this all the time. The most obvious instance of this is with the priesthood. Why is it that only men can do this? It always bothered me that if, for example, I wanted to give my sick baby a blessing, I couldn’t do it. You have to ask your husband or some other priesthood holder to do it, and that just darn didn’t seem right to me.

Oh, sure, you betcha there are women who have no problem with any of these things, but my two cents is that they’ve just been conditioned to bury whatever problems they have with all of it. If you’re a girl growing up in the Church, you’re taught your whole life about how “special” you are, and how your goal in life is to marry a returned missionary in the temple, and then to be a mother to your children. It’s set up as this glorious, wonderful thing. In a lotta respects, I think it really is a sweet and wonderful thing, but my problem with what the Church teaches to girls is that it’s so rigid, and it’s based on shame, and all those kinds of things.

What do I mean by that? Oh, good heavens, let me think. Well, the lesson that really stands out to me is the chewed gum lesson. I remember being at church as a girl, in the Young Women’s class, and the teacher taught us this horrible lesson. She took out a stick of gum and told us how this represented our sexual purity: how it’s clean and shiny in its aluminum wrapping, and how this is something that you would actually want. Then she unwrapped it and put it in her mouth and chewed on it a few times, you know. Then she took it out and held it in her palm and went around the class holding it under our noses. “Would any of you want to chew this?” is what she said. “Because if you give up your virtue and your chastity, you won’t be any different from this piece of gum,” and she threw it away in the trash can.

Oh, my! That was an upsetting lesson. I’ve never been able to get it out of my head.

What’s that? Sure, sure. Repentance. Yes, you could have repented if you sinned. That’s true. But that’s pretty horrible, right? Would you want to be a young girl, in your teens, and have to go confess to the bishop? You’d be in that closed, small office with this older man, and he’d be asking you about your sex life? No thanks! I think that most girls would prefer to just keep it a secret and live with the guilt, but then again I’ve known at least a couple of women or girls who went through the whole repentance process and it was awful. Absolutely awful. Because everybody knows! Everybody finds out. The bishop tells his wife, and then she tells her girlfriends, and then the cat is out of the bag, and everyone knows about the slutty sister who messed up. I feel so bad using that word—“slutty.” But that’s what everyone’s thinking.

This is just such a toxic culture. It’s all about guilt. The funny thing is that the Church gets to have it both ways. The reason you feel guilty in the first place is because of the things the Church teaches you. In the normal world, there would be no need to feel bad about having premarital sex. Millions of people do it! And it’s fine and healthy. But the Church teaches that this is wrong, and so if you do it, you’re racked with horrible, awful guilt. And the only way to alleviate the guilt is to rely on the process of repentance which is provided by the Church. So the Church is both the disease and the cure. That’s just devious if you ask me. Sick.

So when I became a mother to two girls, I began to have serious reservations about continuing on in the LDS Church. The real turning point, though, was reading
Mormon Enigma. You know, that’s the book about Joseph Smith’s wife, Emma. Well, one of them anyway. His “main” wife. That was my whole entry into all the issues related to polygamy.

Yes, I had known about polygamy all along. You can’t help but hear about it, whether it’s in a Church lesson, or because someone is making a crass joke about LDS. But it was never really explained. You knew that Brigham Young had been a polygamist, but at least in my case I hadn’t really learned much more about it beyond the basics. What I began to realize after reading Mormon Enigma is that women have always struggled in the Church. I was disgusted, too, though, by the things that Joseph Smith did to Emma. I don’t know if you know, but—well, do you? Joseph had something like thirty wives. Sometimes these women were already married to other men, and he went ahead and married them anyhow. The worst case for me, was with Helen Mar Kimball. This girl was only 14 years old. Four. Teen. Years. Old. Can you believe that? The nerve of this man, to demand this girl as his own? It just makes me sick to my stomach. Even now, talking about it. The sheer arrogance. The presumptuousness. You know?

So that was the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as I was concerned. My husband and I had separated and so it was just me and the girls attending church at the time, so it wasn’t all that difficult. Yes, it was a little hard on them, since they had so many friends in the ward. Oh, no! No, I still let them do the activities and so on. I didn’t totally remove them from the life of the church. That would have been cruel. But I’ve been very, very careful to make sure that they aren’t indoctrinated with the kinds of toxic things that I mentioned earlier—all the guilt and sense of inferiority and second-class citizenship. I won’t tolerate any of that. And no Mormon bishop is going to be giving a “worthiness interview” to my little girls. Absolutely not.

Another woman at the table shared her story, too. She was older than the other two, and she had short, silver-white hair. And, Sam noticed, she never smiled as she spoke. Her face was forever frozen in a kind of squinting frown…


Oh, I’m still on the records. Every Sundee I’m in church. Every Sundee. They’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming if they want me gone. ‘Cause I’m not leaving. No chance in hell. I can trace my ancestry clear back to Brigham Young, and I’m not going anywhere. This church is just as much mine as it is anybody else’s. It’s in my blood.

They’ve tried to get me out, sure. I had one bishop who was on a vendetta against me. Said I was a snake in the grass. He had his own little network of spies that were supposed to catch me breaking some rule or the other. He tried to humiliate me in front of the congregation at various times, making snide remarks in front of people, or released me from callings and spread rumors. Trying to malign me within the community. He was mad because I refused to bow down to his so-called authority. He doesn’t have dominion over me. My relationship with my Heavenly Father is mine. It’s between me and Him and I don’t need any haughty bishop to try and tell me otherwise.

The troubling doctrines don’t trouble me, apart from the scummy things that Joseph and Brigham did. Beth already mentioned some of them. Fanny Alger is one that has stood out to me. These are the failings of men. The mistakes of men. This isn’t the work of God, it’s the failures of men.

I’m not going anywhere, though. I love my Heavenly Father, and my Heavenly Mother. Sure I know the Brethren have said that we aren’t supposed to talk about Heavenly Mother. And I say they can stick it where the sun don’t shine. My relationship with God is my own.

There are lots of things I love about the Church. Singing hymns in sacrament meeting. Ward potluck dinners. Listening to the primary children sing on Mother’s Day. All the traditions and family togetherness that the Church teaches and encourages. Family home evening. I love those things. They’re close to my heart. The canning and gardening and all the food traditions, though I don’t like the apocalyptic food storage baloney. It’s just stupid. The mistakes of men.

I’m here, I’m not leaving. I expect that one day we’ll have real leaders in the Church. People who will own up to mistakes and push for real meaningful change. I remember the days of Sonia Johnson and the ERA. We still haven’t moved past that. It’s an embarrassment. Our leaders are old, and our leaders are men, and they don’t listen to the membership. Especially the female membership. But I’m here, and I’m not going anywhere. I’ve passed my beliefs down to my children and on to my grandchildren. I’m skeptical and cynical and somewhat old myself, but I’ll always have my faith.

…Sam and Ray got up and wandered around for a while longer. It was mid-afternoon, and a lecture was convening in one of the conference rooms—a talk on the lack of historical evidence for the Book of Mormon.

“What do you think?” said Sam.

“Um, yeah, why don’t you go ahead? I need to head up to the room and make a couple of phone calls. I’ll come meet up with you in…” he looked at his watch. “Oh, half and hour or so.”

“All right,” said Sam.

He went and took a seat near the back as people filed in. On each of the chairs was a Xeroxed sheet of paper that outlined the speaker’s basic points. It mostly reiterated many of the things that Sam had already learned over the course of his own investigations into the authenticity of the Book of Mormon. As he read over the outline, he got the distinct feeling that he was being watched, and he turned and looked over his shoulder to see a well-dressed man with curly, neck-length hair slipping out the door. The man was vaguely familiar, and Sam turned away to avoid staring. He remembered what both Tyler and Cathy had said about “spies,” and he wondered if this were really true, and whether it extended up into the higher echelons of the Church. He knew that the Church maintained a private security force for the Brethren, but was there more to it than that? He wondered if he was simply being paranoid.

Eventually a man with a Styrofoam cup of coffee went up to the wooden podium at the front of the room and began speaking. He went over each of the points on the outline, adding observations here and there. It was nothing new, though he did have some interesting commentary relating to counter-arguments that had been advanced by the apologists from the Hinton Institute. He seemed especially amused at their speculation that the word “horse” in the Book of Mormon actually referred to tapirs, since there were no pre-Columbian horses in the Americas.

“Can you imagine?” said the speaker. “All these Nephite and Lamanite warriors riding around on tapirs? It’s absurd!”

And it was, of course. Sam again found himself feeling an odd sense of shame at having been taken in by all of it. He felt the same old, irreconcilable conflict between his spiritual experiences and the realities he’d come to face about the Church. He wondered if he’d ever get over it—if any of the other people at the conference had found a way past it. Obviously, on some level, they hadn’t, because here they were, looking for resolution and solidarity among their fellows.

As the talk segued into a Q & A period, Ray appeared at Sam’s right and he squeezed past the other audience members and took the empty seat. The speaker was responding to a question about some mythical person named Zelph, the White Lamanite.

“Well, did I miss anything good?” whispered Ray.

“Oh, I don’t know. It’s probably stuff you already know.”

“Okay, good.”

They sat and listened to the remainder of the questions, and then they got up and partook of the refreshments. In the main room, where the tables and snacks had been set up, a long line was forming near the bar. Apparently, it was now ex-Mormon happy hour. Ray demurred and opted for a Sprite, but Sam went and got himself a beer, and they went back to mulling about in the crowd. As they were meandering along at the edge of the room, Sam spotted something unusual: a black person.

“Look,” he said, nudging Ray.

“Oh, yeah. That’s Winston Lewis. Let’s go say hello.”

They went over and shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. Ray asked Winston how “the book’s coming along?” and Winston shrugged in response. Winston was dressed the same as most of the other men at the conference: khakis, simple and sensible shoes, blue plaid button-up shirt with a white t-shirt underneath. It turned out that Winston Lewis used to be a professor of political science at BYU, but he had been asked to resign after raising issues about the Church’s old policy on denying the priesthood to anyone of African descent. Sam already knew about this—that the priesthood ban had been lifted via revelation in 1978. But this was the first time he’d ever met—let alone seen—any black Mormon (or ex-Mormon, for that matter)…


No, I hold no grudges against the LDS Church. None whatsoever. I think that the Brethren are sincere in their faith, that they love the gospel and that they sincerely try to do what’s right. I think the Church does marvelous things in the world. It’s done a great deal of good at all levels: global, national, and personal. It has benefitted me in myriad ways, too, that’s for sure. I fully support and endorse the Church’s emphasis on families, and I genuinely believe that the doctrine of eternal progression—the idea that each faithful member can ultimately achieve godhood—is profoundly moving and beautiful. I have valued and I continue to value my membership in the Church.

All that said, I can’t imagine that there is any doubt that conflicts are present in today’s Church. “Opposition in all things,” as the scriptures inform us. I don’t see myself as someone who is deliberately contravening what the Brethren say. In actuality, I’ve merely been commenting on what the Brethren haven’t said. The whole affair with BYU was a consequence of much prayerful introspection on my part. I asked Heavenly Father for guidance to the extent that I ultimately felt that it would be wrong of me to stay silent any longer. And so I spoke up.

Essentially, I think that the Church hasn’t done enough to fully address and rectify its legacy of racial inequality. Yes: I do want to acknowledge the positive strides that have been made. Certainly the positives need to be identified and praised. The early case of the Prophet Joseph laying on hands and granting the power of the priesthood to Elijah Abel is one example. I don’t want to be seen as an ark-steadier here. But the Church can do a great deal more to openly deal with the history of—not just blacks, but other minorities, notably Native Americans—the problems and challenges it has encountered over the years.

This is not about me labeling the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints “racist.” It’s not about that at all. My feeling from the outset has been that this is an issue that pertains directly to the Church’s three-fold mission, specifically the dictum to “Proclaim the Gospel.” In order to successfully and faithfully execute this portion of the mission, we have to be sensitive and to be attuned to the vast array of differences that constitute the Saints. We are all of us children of God, but our Father in Heaven has blessed us with a multitude of diverse attributes and talents. A church that doesn’t acknowledge this is a church that cannot fulfill the three-fold mission.

It troubles me greatly that the Church has apparently tried to cover up some of the things I’ve been talking about. I think of Elder Poelman’s talk. Elder Poelman gave quite a humble General Conference talk in which he declared that the Church ought to be more sensitive and forgiving in terms of cultural differences. This seems more than reasonable in this day of the Church’s increasing global expansion. In spite of this, Elder Poelman was forced to redact his statement. From what I heard, they made him go back into the Tabernacle at midnight in order to re-record the talk! They added a separate soundtrack of coughing noises to add verisimilitude.

No, no, I haven’t made a direct comparison of the two videos myself, but I’ve heard it from enough reliable sources to accept it as being truthful.

But I love the Church. I value what it has done for me personally, in terms of my own spiritual development, and I value the gifts it has bestowed upon me and my family. It is truly Jesus Christ’s personal church on Earth.

It’s begun to sound as if I’ve been bearing my testimony, eh? Well, so be it. I speak my mind and I speak the truth, at least as best as I am able.

Why am I here at a conference like this if I’m a believing, faithful Latter-day Saint? A couple of reasons. One is that I have a number of friends in attendance here. People who live great distances away from me and whom I seldom get to see. The other is that I think there is a great deal to learn from people who have, for whatever reason, gone astray from the Church—whether that be on account of offense, crisis of faith, or whatever else. The Church needs to do everything in its power to bring these people back into the fold, and frankly I dislike the divisiveness that has characterized the Church’s relationship with wayward members. The first step in overcoming this is simply to get together. To talk. To have a dialogue.

So here I am.

They drifted. Ray made sure that they kept moving. Everyone seemed to know everyone—it was an ex-Mormon parallel of the world of Sam’s old ward. Some of the people were clearly getting quite drunk. A few of the women were dressed in outfits that they never in a million years would have been caught wearing as devout Mormons: blouses with low necklines, skirts with high hems—articles of clothing that would not have sufficiently covered up the women’s temple garments.

This was the subject that cropped up as Ray and Sam spoke to a trim, neatly put-together man named Tim.

“I guess you haven’t quite crossed that bridge yet, huh?” Tim was pointing to the lines of the garments that were visible through Sam’s polo shirt.

Sam hadn’t even thought about it. Over the course of his time in the Church, he’d grown so accustomed to wearing the garments that it hadn’t crossed his mind to stop wearing them. “No, I guess I haven’t,” he said.

“Did you get the Priesthood Grope on your way out?” asked Tim. He explained that bishops and other Church leaders would sometimes rather aggressively feel around on a wavering member’s shoulder in order to check whether he was still wearing his garments.

“I guess I never had the pleasure,” said Sam.

“Or you could just be like this guy,” said Tim, pointing to Ray. “A wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

They all laughed.


I guess it first occurred to me that I might be gay when I was in the 8th grade. I would imagine that it’s pretty much the same as it is for straight people. You just feel this attraction for another person, and it’s a feeling that’s not the same as friendship. It’s a sexual feeling, you know?

But, obviously, I knew it was a sin. The Church is pretty clear in its teachings on this. A sin next to murder, is what I think Elder McConkie said. An “abomination.” They say that too. So I tried to suppress it, which as I’m sure you realize, doesn’t work. You’re taught to try and banish these thoughts from your mind—as if you’re a conductor on a stage, directing when the oboe comes in, say—but all this does is cause you to think more and more about the thoughts you’re supposed to be getting rid of.

It’s bad enough to be horny and teenaged and male to begin with. It’s even more difficult to be horny, teenaged, male, and Mormon. But do you realize how difficult and painful it is to be horny, teenaged, male, Mormon, and gay? And this was in Utah, mind you. My folks had a home in Federal Heights, right here in Salt Lake. They were and are super-devout. My dad was a stake president for a while. One of my uncles was a Seventy. Super devout, super true-blue, through and through.

So I was indoctrinated. I believed it with all my heart, and I prayed and prayed to Heavenly Father to help me with these feelings I was having. I thought, naturally, based on what I’d been taught, that something was wrong with me. That I was broken somehow.

I didn’t want to tell my parents about this because I was afraid of how they’d react. So I made an appointment with the bishop to talk about it. This must have been when I was about sixteen years old, since it was around that time that I got my patriarchal blessing. So I get into his office and I start to tell him about these homosexual feelings that I’d been having. Lucky for me I had a really cool bishop. He was understanding and kind about it. I’ve heard some awful stories about other gay LDS who were treated miserably by their ecclesiastical leaders, but Bishop Overton was about as nice about is as you could expect.

What he told me was that this was a challenge that I had to face—that it was Satan’s particular way of trying to tempt me away from the teachings of the Church. He told me that he had no doubt in his mind—and this is something that has always stayed with me, and it’s one of the reasons that I think Bishop Overton was so great—he said he had no doubt that I was one with a very special and important calling in the Church. He said that I stood a great chance of becoming a General Authority one day, since Heavenly Father gives the toughest challenges to his most valiant children. “You must have been especially valiant in the pre-existence,” he said.

He went on to tell me that so long as I didn’t act on the desires, I would be considered in full-fellowship, and I could have a temple recommend, go on a mission, take out my endowments, and so on. I left his office feeling happy and confident, and I went about my business.

In retrospect I can see that his talk really didn’t do anything for me apart from the advice that I go on suppressing what are, in reality, completely natural feelings, but I think he handled the situation about as well as you could expect.

Anyhow. Flash forward a couple of years. I serve a mission to Puerto Rico, and that was pure hell. I don’t regret my mission at all. I became fluent in a foreign language, made really good friends with several of my companions, and I got to see a different part of the world. But the “best two years” of my life it was not. To go off what Bishop Overton told me, it was like I was being given the hardest challenge of my life. At least, that’s what it was like on the inside. Outwardly, I just went through the motions. I prayed every day and read my scriptures. We worked really hard to convert people to the church and to baptize people. I even had a girl back home that I wrote letters to. I think she met another guy—a returned missionary—about halfway into my mission, so her letters tapered off pretty quickly after that. Which was for the best, obviously.

But it was during my mission that I first started to experience the symptoms of depression. Just all the constant struggle, the inner fighting. The mission itself—the regimentation. What I’ve learned is that I’m a person who’s naturally creative, and I need to have a certain amount of independence and freedom. I’d been taught to follow the Church and all its rules, and it had been drilled into my head that obedience is a virtue, so that’s what I did, but it had psychological consequences for me. During the entire second half of my mission, it felt like I was underwater. It felt like I was on my back, laying on the bottom of a lake, staring up through the water towards the light. My movements all felt weighted down, and my whole life seemed muted. There really was a darkness in my life, and at the time I attributed it to Satan. I thought it was Satan challenging me.

Cut to a few years later, where I’m trying to finish up my degree at BYU, and I’m falling apart, literally. I had lost a ton of weight to the point that my friends and family were starting to worry about me. And you know how that environment was: it’s not like I could have opened up and talked to everyone about it. I had to make up excuses about having a stomach problem, which in a sense was kind of true, since I was worrying myself sick. I was going to my bishop, trying to get help, but he just dispensed the usual platitudes. Eventually I broke down in his office, just crying. A complete emotional mess, and I begged him to help me. He said he would look into it, and tried to offer me some comfort. Somehow, I pulled it together and thanked him and went back to my apartment.

Later he called me into his office to give me a couple of options. The first was this place called Sprucewood, and it was some kind of Church-run camp that was designed to help people cope with same-sex attraction. The other option was to go and see an experimental psychologist on the BYU campus who was doing work with aversion therapy. I thought it over, and it may sound crazy now, but I picked the aversion therapy. The reason I did it is that, for one thing, I had no idea what “aversion therapy” was. For another thing, it would enable to me stay there in Provo, still enrolled in the university. If I’d packed up to Sprucewood, more people would know what was up with me. It would be harder to keep it a secret.

That really is one thing that I truly hate about the Church: all the secrecy. This need for neat and tidy surface appearances. This fear of embarrassing people—your parents, your ward members, your peers, your missionary companion, the Church as a whole. It’s all about “setting an example.” This is a harmful attitude, in my opinion.

But I’m getting a little side-tracked. Like I said, I weighed the options and went for the aversion therapy, which was one of the worst mistakes of my life. The guy who ran the experiments was a man named Ferguson—Dr. Ferguson—and I’m convinced that he was a psychopath. He may have been closeted gay himself, and this was his way of lashing out at his “demons.” By inflicting pain on other gay men, it was his way of combating his own perceived “weaknesses.”

What would happen is that I would come in for a session and they would hook me up to this device—it was this kind of tube thing that went on your—on your penis. It was a device that was meant to measure your state of arousal, meaning that it could detect if you were getting an erection. They also had these electric stimulators attached to my arms, legs, and chest. You sat there in a chair, and they showed you pornography. Which is weird, right? In what sense is it okay to use something the Church so vehemently condemns in order to “fix” something else that the Church condemns? What it’s saying is that homosexuality is even worse than porn.

They had both gay and straight porn. It was a filmstrip and they sat you in this darkened room so that you could feel like you were alone in there, and they screened the films. For the straight porn, nothing would happen. If you got aroused, it was fine, but if you got aroused over the gay porn, they would administer a shock through those electric stimulators. You kind of felt like all your muscles were seizing up, and it was a really unpleasant experience.

But, you know, it was a dumb experiment. This guy Dr. Ferguson was an idiot. For instance, if you got aroused because you were turned on by the guy in the straight porn, they wouldn’t shock you. They just had these really archaic and oversimplified ideas about sexuality, and I think that’s true of the Church in general. The restrictions on masturbation, and the characterization of oral sex as this big sin that even married couples can’t indulge in it—it’s ridiculous, you know? I’m not even going to get into all the wackiness in The Miracle of Forgiveness.

Anyways. To make a long story short, the aversion therapy didn’t work. It just made things worse. I lasted maybe two weeks doing it, but it was just flat-out awful. It was painful and humiliating and all it did was make me feel even worse.

So I went back to the bishop and told him I wanted to try Sprucewood, and he helped to set it up. In order to do this, though, I would have to tell my parents, and I just wasn’t able to endure that. It’s awful, you know? I couldn’t stand the thought of disappointing them like that. It’s all bound up in the idea of the eternal family. I had been sealed, along with my sister, to my parents in the temple, with the belief being that we would all be reunited as a family in the Celestial Kingdom, and by confessing my sexual orientation to them, I would be putting all of this in jeopardy.

Anyhow, I couldn’t bear that. And that’s when I attempted suicide. I wound up in the hospital, got my stomach pumped and all of that jazz. But I also felt relief. It just felt good to be unburdened of the secret. As I already said, I think the secrecy is one of the most harmful aspects of the LDS Church. It is just pernicious. It’s like a cancer.

After I got out of the hospital, I went and did the whole Sprucewood thing. And I was glad I did. It didn’t “cure” me like it was supposed to. So much of it was silly. It consisted of stuff like these exercises where you were supposed to practice hugging another man without getting aroused, and that sort of thing. It was about as ill-conceived as Dr. Ferguson’s study, sans any of Ferguson’s sadism. But what the program did for me is introduce me to other gay LDS men. There must have been at least a few dozen men going through the program while I was there. Heck, I still keep in touch with several of them. Some of the men there went back to their lives as Mormons. They were considered a “success” and they re-integrated themselves into the faithful flock. They have wives and kids and they basically live as heterosexuals. Personally, I don’t know how they do that, but if they’re really happy, more power to them.

There were also those, like me, who eventually just arrived at their own separate peace with all of it, regardless of whether they chose to go on trying to live fully Mormon lives or not. Then again, in a sense, you never stop being Mormon. If you leave, if you’re excommunicated, if you join an entirely different faith—it doesn’t matter. Mormonism will still define you in some sense. You can never fully leave.

Anyhow. That’s what my journey was like. I’ve had spiritual experiences throughout my entire life, but none of them has ever compared to the day that I eventually let go of all my worries—the day that I accepted that the Church’s teachings were simply wrong, and that I was really and truly a child of God. That Heavenly Father made me in His own image, and that He wants me to be happy. So, what I’m saying is that even though I don’t attend church, and even though I’ve rejected so much of the doctrine, I’m still a believer.

I’ve always been a believer at heart, and I suppose I always will be.

A band had set up on one side of the main ballroom, and they were playing music from the ‘70s: songs like “Stayin’ Alive” and “September.” Also, the hotel staff had set up a buffet in the adjoining room, and Sam and Ray had gone to fill up their plates. When Sam set his plate on the table and realized that he had forgotten to get silverware, and as he was heading back to the buffet room, he saw a familiar face. It was a young guy—maybe 25, with a face that Sam knew had once been chubbier. Then, with a start, Sam realized where he’d seen this person before: it was Elder Cummings—one of the two missionaries that had introduced him to Mormonism.

He went up and tapped him on the shoulder.

“Elder Cummings,” he said. “I would have never have expected to see you some place like this.”

Cummings turned and looked at him; it was clear that he was having trouble remembering.

“Sam Younger,” he held out his hand. “You and your companion baptized me into the Church about three years ago. Don’t you remember?”

“Oh. Oh, yeah! Yes, I do remember. Samuel Younger. Yeah. From the Reno area, right?”

“That’s right.”

“Oh, wow. Wow. I guess the baptism didn’t stick, eh? Ha ha.” He was turning red.

“I just started digging into stuff about the Book of Abraham and the history of the Book of Mormon, and, well. I guess you know?”

“Yeah, I do. Sort of,” said Cummings. “I mean, I realized it all eventually, obviously, which is why I’m here.”

Sam realized that Cummings likely felt that he’d been put in a bad spot—as if he was being accused of having lied to Sam.

“I didn’t mean to imply that you and your companion—what was his name, again? Miller?”

“Yeah, Miller,” said Cummings. “And don’t worry. You have every right to feel deceived. To this day I feel like we lied to some of the investigators. It’s a tough spot to be in.”

Sam just stared at him.

“I hope you don’t mind me saying this, but you were a ‘golden contact.’”

“What do you mean?”

Cummings paused to drink from his bottle of beer. “When you’re a missionary, you’re taught to look for certain opportunities. Like, if there’s a funeral, that’s considered an especially good time to try and get converts. People are more ‘open’ to the spirit when they’re grieving, supposedly, but really you’re just taking advantage of them in a vulnerable state.

“So when we met you and you mentioned that you basically had no family, that was like a light bulb going off for Elder Miller and me. You were a golden contact. You were super-receptive to our message, got on board and actually read the Book of Mormon, and did as we asked. Everything fell into place. You were a golden contact. You got baptized pretty much right away.”

“Jesus,” said Sam.

“Yeah, and I’m sorry,” said Cummings. “I’ve changed a lot these past few years. Just matured a lot. The mission really changed me, I think.” He held up his beer bottle and drank: “As you can see.”

Sam looked at the former Elder Cummings. He seemed dazed somehow, or in some kind of a stupor. He looked, in other words, rather like Sam felt.

“So, I’m going to get some food,” said Cummings. “It was nice to see you.” He held out his hand and Sam shook it. “I hope there’s no hard feelings.”

“No,” said Sam, “don’t worry about it,” and Cummings turned and left. There were other things Sam wanted to ask him, but it was obvious that now wasn’t the time or the place, and so he re-joined Ray, Winston, Cathy and Beth at the table.

They all ate and talked and listened to the band. Some of the people were dancing in the middle of the floor. At least one of these was a spectacularly intoxicated woman whose breast fell out of her blouse twice during the time Sam was watching her. She laughed and tucked it back in and went on dancing.

Meanwhile, people continued to circulate, to network, to greet and meet. To connect and to bond and to share. One of these was a man named Leonard, who knew Winston and Cathy.


I was doomed from the start. I don’t know what it means to be a believer. Like, at all. I’ve never had a spiritual experience, I’ve never felt the burning in the bosom, I’ve never heard the voice of the Holy Ghost. All of that stuff is totally foreign to me. I don’t know what it’s like. After getting baptized? When they lay hands on your head and confer upon you the gift of the Holy Ghost? I felt nothing after that. Zip. Nada. Not a peep. One of the sisters there asked me if I felt different, and I said, “No.” She said that later that night, laying in bed, I might feel something, but I didn’t. So I really have no idea what it means to have a spiritual experience.

And that bothers me. A lot. It’s like I’m missing out on some vitally significant part of human experience. Billions of people are able to believe and to feel this closeness and connection with God, and I can’t. Is something wrong with me? I’ve looked into this a little bit in terms of neuroscience and psychology but the answers are inconclusive. It does seem like it at least in part has something to do with being in a trance-like state. Your brainwaves start doing something different. So, I have to ask if there is something different or wrong with my brain. Because I do think I’m different or strange in this regard. You go around and ask the people attending this conference, and I’m confident that well over 95 percent of them will tell you that they had spiritual experiences. But for me, I’m left asking: what is it like? I’ve heard their descriptions. It’s a “burning” sensation in the chest, like what St. Bernard of Clairvaux described. And I’ve seen the sort of physical rapture that overtakes Pentacostals, I’ve seen people speaking in tongues. You can say that they’re faking it, but why? To what end? Why would they do that? What is it that they are getting out of this experience? And why is it that I don’t have access to this?

I get that in Mormonism you become part of this faith community. That’s an obvious plus. It’s a tightly-knit, and even tribalistic community. It has its drawbacks, sure, but I think overall it’s a strength of the religion. But does that explain my suggestion that these people are perhaps lying or faking these spiritual experiences? That they’re doing this because it’s just what’s expected of them according to the expectations of the group? I don’t really think so, and besides, I think the most reasonable and decent thing to do is to give these folks the benefit of the doubt. So what I’m saying is that it’s best to assume that they’re sincere, and that they’re telling the truth. Which means, as I’ve said, I just don’t have access to this type of experience.

But does it have to do with susceptibility? Susceptibility to suggestion, say? Like how some people are better suited for hypnosis than others? But even then, I doubt there is as big of a discrepancy between those who are susceptible to hypnosis vs. those who aren’t. With faith experiences, it seems to be an overwhelming majority of people who are able to feel these things. This is especially true here in America, though I’m fairly certain that this extends out into most of the world as well. In Europe it would be less true, I guess. But Europe has an older and, I would argue, richer culture than the U.S.

And I wonder… I wonder… Is it possible that art can act as a substitute for a religious experience? You hear of people weeping after listening to—oh, I don’t know. Something by Debussy, say, or Beethoven. People can have these very profound and powerful reactions to art like this, and so I wonder if this is in any way analogous to the religious experience. I mean, you feel “uplifted” in the presence of this kind of art. We call it an “aesthetic” experience, but what, at base, is the distinction between this and a spiritual experience? Is it because of the specificity of the work? Is it that the work is there, in front of you, and you can contemplate it, and that you know it was made by a human being—is this what separates it from an experience with the divine?

Or think about the idea of the sublime. This idea of being overwhelmed by the largeness and splendor of some aspect of nature. Like Bryce Canyon down there by Cedar City. You look into that canyon, with all those hoodoos, and that orange and red rock, and it’s just gorgeous and huge and immense. Is that what it’s like? Is that sensation at all similar to religious feeling?

In the end, I don’t know. I can only guess at it, and to a certain extent, I envy the people who are able to feel this. It seems to benefit and enrich their lives in ways that I don’t understand.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I think there’s a lot that gets sacrificed, too, especially with Mormonism. I was a little kid when I started to have suspicions about the veracity of the Church’s truth claims. I can remember being maybe 9 or 10 years old, and the teacher—Sister Shaw was her name, I think—told us about Joseph Smith’s handling of the Gold Plates—how he wouldn’t let anyone see them. According to her, this was somehow evidence that his story was more truthful. I guess she thought that this provided evidence in favor of the importance of Joseph’s supposedly God-appointed task? That the secrecy just shows how sacred his mission was? Well, in my kid’s mind, I thought this was suspicious. It seemed like the sort of thing that someone does when they’re trying to trick other people.

And I was just flat-out embarrassed about being a Mormon, as a kid growing up. People really do judge you. They think you’re weird, or different, or freakish. They make cracks about polygamy, or they ask you if you believe you’re going to become a God and have your own planet, or they pick on you for being a goody two-shoes, regardless of whether you are or not. It’s a kind of prejudice or bigotry, but to my mind, I thought their criticism was totally valid and fair. A lot of Mormons are annoyingly earnest and “nice.” It can come across as phoniness. And the Church has done a really poor job of dealing with polygamy. Just look at the way it gets dealt with in the news. Every year or so it seems like, some story about one of the crazy, fundamentalist sects pops up in the news, and predictably the Church dispatches some PR hack to dispense this boilerplate about how the polygamists have “nothing to do” with the Mormon Church. This is nonsense, obviously. Both groups trace their origins back to Joseph Smith. Both groups rely on the same sacred texts. Both groups believe in and follow the same basic doctrine. The polygamists are just a more archaic and more extreme version of mainstream Mormonism. So, when these LDS PR flunkies turn up, I always get a little disgusted because it seems to me that they’re essentially lying. They’re distorting the truth.

Furthermore, the actual LDS Church still practices a form of polygamy. Just look at the Brethren. At least two of the apostles—Stevens and Pratt, I think—have been married more than once. That is, their first wives died, and they were married and sealed to other women. So what this means is that they expect to wake up in the afterlife in a polygamous relationship. Elder Stevens is on his third wife, if I recall correctly, so I’m sure he’s expecting that he’ll be reunited with all three of these women in the Celestial Kingdom. If the LDS Church is still engaged in a practice like this, how can they very well go on TV and claim that there is no relationship between the Church and the polygamists? They ought to just own up to the truth.

So that’s my biggest issue with the Church, I suppose—kind of like what you mentioned earlier. The dishonesty and covering things up. The whitewashing. And it’s not just polygamy, it’s all kinds of things: Book of Mormon history, the Book of Abraham, the Kinderhook Plates, the Adam-God doctrine, Church finances, blood atonement, all of this stuff.

Huh? What’s “blood atonement”? Oh, jeez. Well, it was a doctrine that was delineated by Brigham Young, I think. The gist of it is that for certain sins “water will not do.” It meant, in essence, that a priesthood holder would need to shed your blood so that you could be absolved of your sins. So if your sins were bad enough, a priesthood holder would be dispatched to basically execute you.

The sins included things like murder. Sexual stuff, too, like pedophilia or bestiality. Anything that was an encroachment of priesthood authority, too, such as if you got caught boinking one of the apostle’s wives—that could be grounds for blood atonement. According to some sources, apostasy would be grounds for blood atonement, too. Speaking ill of the Lord’s anointed.

Yes, it’s true that there is some debate over whether anyone was really “blood atoned” or not. I would just say that you have to bear in mind the Church’s historical secrecy. And obviously, anyone who got blood atoned wouldn’t be around to talk about it, and any of their associates were probably sufficiently scared off by the blood atonement itself to testify or write about it. And Brigham Young was a firebrand. A hot-head. He had an enormous ego, and he was surrounded by zealous people like Hosea Stout who was a known murderer. If any Church leader was going to order up a blood atonement, it would have been him. And then there’s the social context. You have to remember that Mormons in this era were embittered by the persecution they’d faced ever since the religion’s inception. Haun’s Mill, all the tarring and feathering of people, the murder of Joseph Smith at Carthage, the murder of Parley Pratt: all of this had left a really bad taste in the Mormons’ mouths, and sure, they wanted revenge. They had to protect themselves, and it makes sense that blood atonement would be used as a means of maintaining order. It was a means of helping to ensure loyalty, and to prevent defection from the tribe, so to speak.

But I leave it to you to judge whether or not blood atonement was real. In a sense, it doesn’t matter if it was real or not, just as it doesn’t matter all that much whether Joseph Smith had real gold plates, or whether Nephites and Lamanites really existed here in the Americas, or whether there truly is a Celestial Kingdom. The reality of it—the material, empirical reality of these things just flat-out doesn’t matter in the end. The sheer force of people’s belief makes it real; it’s what makes it relevant. Belief and faith have the power to reshape people at the individual level—these spiritual experiences are powerful enough to radically alter people’s lives. And that’s the spark, the tiny Big Bang that sets everything else in motion.

By this time, Sam was drunk. The ballroom had taken on a blurred, slushy aspect, and Ray suggested that they step outside for a bit of fresh air. Sam climbed to his feet and Ray put his hand on the back of Sam’s neck to help steady him. They went out into the dry, cold, autumn air, and they could see the dark humps of the Wasatch mountains hovering over the skyline like a stone curtain. Along the sidewalk were a few of the conference attendees, laughing and making merry. One person was smoking a cigar.

“So how you doing? You all right?” asked Ray.

“Yeah, Ray. I’m good.”

“Maybe we ought to hit the hay, huh?”

“Yeah, maybe so. It’s more of the same with this stuff tomorrow, yeah?”

“Yeah,” said Ray. “Why, are you enjoying yourself?”

“I am. These are good people here.”

“Yeah, they are. There’s still a couple more people I think you should meet, but that can wait till tomorrow.”

“All right,” he said.

They stood in the chill air in silence for a few more moments and then they went back in. As they were walking to the elevators, a man with a beard said, “Did you guys hear? They caught him. They caught the guy who set off that bomb at Temple Square.”

...Next time: What is Pitt's next move?...
_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


Once again, Elder Talmadge Steele made his way through the hospital, just as he’d done scarcely a month prior. There had been two major developments in the past 24 hours, the first being the arrest of a man who was believed to have been behind the car bombing. Steele hadn’t yet been briefed on the matter, but it was nonetheless a welcome message. The other bit of news seemed to act almost as a counterbalance. Eleanor had told him over the phone that President Baylor had suffered a stroke. It wasn’t clear yet what the full extent of the damage was. Eleanor had asked him to come and give the prophet a blessing, though Steele wondered privately if this was the beginning of the end for President Baylor. Eleanor’s phone call hadn’t been the only one. Steele had also spoken with Elder Marshall, who had told him that he and Elder Walker had both been summoned to help evaluate the prophet’s ability to continue functioning as the leader of the Church.

At the door of the prophet’s room at the hospital, Steele was greeted by a pair of Church Security men, who nodded to him as he went inside. Eleanor was seated in a chair at Baylor’s bedside, and in the chairs opposite were Elders Walker and Marshall—the two counselors in the First Presidency. Two of the prophet’s daughters were hovering in the corner near the window, and on the opposite side of the bed, clutching the prophet’s hand, was Elder C. Rigdon Pitt, who gave Steele a puzzled look as he entered the room. The prophet himself was sitting up in bed, looking very old and fragile and dazed. His hair had been neatly combed—probably by Eleanor—but apart from that he looked crazed and lost. He raised his arm as Elder Steele approached, and Elders Walker and Marshall both rose to their feet.

“What news dost thou bringeth?” he said.

“My prophet, you must try to rest,” said Elder Pitt.

“President Baylor,” said Elder Steele, stopping at the foot of the bed. “How are you?”

“What do you want from me?” he asked. “Who are you?” He looked over to Eleanor as a kind of query, and then up at Pitt.

“It’s me. It’s Elder Steele. I’m one of your apostles and servants, President Baylor. Talmadge Steele. We’ve known each other for over thirty years. It’s me, old friend.”

The prophet’s eyes were moist with incomprehension. He looked again at Eleanor.

“Yes,” she said, nodding. “Yes, it’s him. He’s an old friend.”

“Yes,” said President Baylor, squinting. “Okay, then, yes. I know you. You’re one of us. Aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am,” said Steele. “I most definitely am.”

Elder Pitt spoke up, hoarsely: “And who is it that you are, my prophet?”

Baylor thought about this for some time. “I am the prophet, seer, and revelator,” he said. “I am the prophet John Taylor. The bullet intended for me was stopped by the Book of Mormon in my pocket.”

The four Brethren looked at each other, and then Steele looked to Eleanor. Her face was lined and weathered and she looked exhausted. She bore the expression of a wife worn out by hoping too long for things to improve.

“What have the doctors said?” he asked her.

She shook her head and dabbed at her mouth with a Kleenex. “They don’t know,” she said.

“Of course they don’t know,” said the prophet, waving his hand in the air. “They don’t know anything. They never did. I alone hold the keys. I and I alone. No one else.” He seemed to grow more agitated and excited as he spoke.

“President Baylor,” said Pitt. “The Brethren have gathered here to give you a blessing. Is that all right?”

“Yes, of course,” said the prophet.

“Shall we?” said Pitt, nodding to Steele, Walker, and Marshall. The four old, dark-suited men gathered around Baylor’s bedside, and they each in turn laid their hands on his head. Baylor was instantly calmed by this. Everyone in the room closed their eyes and lowered their heads, and Elder Pitt began to speak in his low and raspy voice. He asked that Father in Heaven bring comfort to President Baylor and to his family, and he asked that the Prophet might heal in accordance with the Lord’s will. He cited his authority as President of the Quorum of Twelve apostles, and he referenced the 1st Presidency’s authority in the form of Elders Marshall and Walker, and he called forth the full power of their collective priesthood power as a means of blessing President Baylor’s health and welfare. Pitt concluded by asking specifically that the Lord work to mend the prophet’s broken mind, so that he could finish carrying out the work that the Lord had commanded him to begin.

“I say these things in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen,” he said.

Everyone in the room quietly said, “Amen.”

The General Authorities removed their hands from Baylor’s head, and there was a brief pause as they stood and took in the ambience of the room. The prophet himself remained placid and silent, his eyes still sealed shut.

Steele turned to Eleanor: “Please keep in touch, and let us know if you need anything.”

“Oh, I will,” she said. “Thank you for coming.”

“Of course,” he said, and he embraced her.

Elders Marshall, Walker, and Pitt all followed suit, wishing Eleanor well and giving her hugs of comfort.

“Do take care,” Pitt said to her. “The prophet will be in our prayers tonight, as he will be in the thoughts of Latter-day Saints across the globe. This is a good man, and he’s beloved by millions.”

“Thank you, President Pitt,” she said, and she touched the Kleenex to her nose.

In his bed, the prophet seemed to have fallen asleep, as a light snore was emanating from his mouth.

“It’s best that he rest, I’m sure,” said Eleanor. “Thank you again—all of you—for coming.”

They all bid each other goodbye a final time, and then the Elders filed out of the room. Outside, Pitt turned immediately to one of the Church Security agents: “Take us to the room,” he said. The man began to lead the way, but Pitt stopped and pressed his palm against Steele’s chest. “Not you,” he said. “You don’t have sufficient authority in this matter.”

“’Sufficient authority’ in what matter, Elder Pitt?” said Steele.

“With all due respect,” said Walker, “I believe he should join us. This really ought to be a matter for all the Brethren, as it no doubt eventually will be. But for the moment, in the interim, it seems desirable that Elder Steele should join us.”

“Sister Baylor asked that he be here,” said Marshall, and his saying this seemed to anger Pitt. Behind him, the Church Security agent regarded them with a mixture of impatience and befuddlement.

“Sister Baylor’s opinion is irrelevant,” said Pitt. “This is a priesthood matter.”

“Elder Pitt,” said Steele. “We should all seek to face the same way. You would agree with that, would you not?”

Pitt thought it over for a moment, and then he grumbled and licked his lips and turned and patted the shoulder of the Security man, who continued on down to an empty office room at the end of the hall. He unlocked the door and held it open for the Elders and shut it once they were inside. They pulled out chairs around the round laminate table and sat down.

“Let us not mince any words,” said Pitt. “The prophet is no longer in his right mind. It is therefore up to us to ensure that there is proper leadership at the top of the Church.”

“That authority rests with the First Presidency,” said Walker.

“It does not,” countered Pitt. “As the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, I am to assume control of the keys, and not you, President Walker.”
“You are next in succession,” said Steele, “but President Baylor isn’t dead yet. Moreover, there is another matter that bears—”

“Elder Steele,” said Pitt, his voice rising. “You are speaking out of turn, and I hereby rebuke you for your presumptuousness. You are here primarily as a favor to Eleanor Baylor. The matter at hand is a matter of importance chiefly for the First Presidency and the President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles. If your opinion is wanted, you’ll know it.”

“I see,” said Steele. He looked across the table at Elder Walker, who was indicating via his glare that he should keep quiet for the time being.

“Good,” said Pitt. “Come Thursday, then, I will announce to the rest of the Brethren that I have assumed leadership over the day-to-day operations of the Church, and that this will be so until President Baylor recovers.”

“I wonder if that’s wise, Elder Pitt,” said Walker. He was leaning forward on the table. “Perhaps it would be best if authority was divided for the time being. Until, as you say, the prophet recovers.”

“This isn’t a matter for the wisdom of men,” said Pitt, “and it’s not up for debate.” He cleared his throat and looked back and forth at Marshall and Walker. “You will both carry on in your roles as counselors in the First Presidency, but I will assume leadership over the Church as a whole. Does that seem reasonable to you, Elder Marshall?”

“It does,” he said. “This is the way of things in the Church. The order of succession has long been established.”

“And what do you say?” Pitt turned to Walker.

Walker let out a long sigh. He stared at a spot on the table before answering. “This is indeed the order of things.”

“And what about you, Elder Steele?”

“I have no choice but to concur,” he said.

“Good. Very good,” said Pitt. “We will inform the Brethren at our regular meeting on Thursday. We shall all pray for a speedy recovery for our prophet.”

“Yes, of course,” said Elder Marshall.

Pitt climbed rather laboriously to his feet. “Good, good,” he said. “I’m sure that all of us have a great deal of Church business to attend to.”

The rest of the Brethren stood up, too, and they all shook hands. Pitt and Marshall left together and Steele and Walker lingered behind in the room.

The Church Security man poked his head around the doorjamb: “Should I close this, or do you want me to leave it open?”

“Go ahead and close it,” said Walker. After it had clicked shut, Walker said, “Well, that was interesting.”

“Yes, it was,” said Steele. “It seemed to me he was trying to gauge the extent to which he can throw his weight around.”

“Do you think he intends to announce the revelation to the Brethren on Thursday?”

“No, I don’t, though we cannot be certain. With the prophet incapacitated, his hands are tied. He lacks the full authority to declare a revelation of that kind, and the Brethren would never go along with something like that unless it came from the lips of President Baylor himself, and now it seems as if that won’t happen. Even if it did, there would have to be a great deal of deliberation and prayerful inquiry on the part of the Brethren. It never would be a unilateral decision. I’ve no doubt that President Pitt has been hoping all along that the combined force of his and President Baylor’s testimonies would be enough to persuade the rest of the Brethren.”

“This represents a setback for him.”

“Yes, it does. But not a defeat.” Elder Steele had crossed his arms across his chest. The two men looked at each other for a moment.

“Have you been given the impression that he has been engaged in anything?” said Walker.

“I haven’t been able to determine anything concrete. Grant said that he’s met privately at least a couple of times with Roger Smoot, but that could be completely benign. We really don’t know much of anything.”

“Perhaps he’ll come to his senses,” said Walker.


Again there was a pause.

“What if,” Walker began, his breath catching. “What if the revelation was legitimate?”

Steele looked up at him. “Is that what you think?”

“What do you think?”

“I prayed on the matter, Lehi. The answer, for me, could not be more clear. Have you not prayed on it?”

“I have.”


Walker shook his head. “The Lord has not seen fit to provide me with a clear answer.”

Steele put his hand on Walker’s shoulder: “The answer will come. It always does.” Walker looked concerned—afraid, even. “In the meantime, keep in touch. I will begin reaching out to the other apostles.”

“Yes,” said Walker. “That seems a good idea. President Pitt will say something to the Brethren on Thursday. It may be best if we pre-empt him as much as we’re able.”

“Okay, then.”

They shook hands, and then they opened the door, and the Church Security agents led them out into the night.

...Next time: "Is that far enough, do you think?"...
_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


Day two of the conference unfolded in much the same way as the first one. Ray and Sam met up with Cathy and a man named Christian for breakfast, and then they spent the day chatting with various people, sitting in on the talks, and just generally enjoying themselves. There was quite a buzz among the crowd about the arrest of the Temple Square bomber. Most of the conference attendees seemed glad that the man had been caught, though some of them appeared to have a deeper curiosity about him that verged on admiration. Sam overheard one man saying, “Hey: you can’t blame a guy for trying,” and his companions laughed and nodded in agreement.

When evening rolled around, there was once again a live band and dancing, and the buffet meal this time was somewhat more lavish, with a meat-carving station and cracked crab legs on ice with a big tureen of warm melted butter for dipping. Prior to dinner, Sam had been involved in a lengthy and impassioned conversation with Cathy—telling her about his experience as a convert to the Church; about his meeting with Bishop Gladden and the BYU apologist, Richard Garland; and about the difficulties with his wife.

“Do you see yourself getting back together with her?” asked Cathy.

“Not unless I find my way back to the Church,” he said.

“Or if you fake it.”

“Yeah, or if I fake it.”

“There’s plenty of people who go that route,” she said.

“I would if I could,” said Sam. “But I think it’s too late. Even if I were to go back, she’d constantly be suspicious of me. Besides, I think they’re looking to excommunicate me for apostasy.”

Cathy actually smiled for once, breaking up her stone-faced expression: “Oh, well then. There’s that,” she said.

Past her shoulder, Sam noticed the same man he’d seen yesterday—the impeccably dressed man with collar-length wavy brown hair. He was shaking hands with someone who had a camera slung around his neck. Then he stuffed something into the photographer’s breast pocket, and the photographer nodded, turned, and left.

“Hey, who is that?” asked Sam.

“Who?” Cathy turned to look.

“That guy there. In the gray suit.”

Ray, who had been involved in a separate conversation with a man named Colin, spoke up: “That’s Bennett,” he said.

“Bennett who?”

“I don’t know. Just Bennett is all I’ve ever heard. Maybe he just has one name, like Madonna.”

“Bennett is someone you should probably meet,” said Cathy, and Sam, who was well into his third beer, noticed that she exchanged a strange glance with Ray. Before he knew it, he was being dragged off in the direction of Bennett’s table before he could ask anything more.

As they approached, Bennett watched them with interest. Bennett himself was tan, or simply dark—olive skinned. His face was smooth and unlined, despite the fact that he seemed to be in his mid-fifties or thereabouts. He had a strange air about him—something vaguely foreign or exotic, and for reasons he couldn’t name, it made Sam uncomfortable. Cathy led him around to the side of the table.

“Bennett, I’ve got someone here I think you should meet.”

“Well, now, what do we have here?” His eyes were an unnatural shade of green—like he was wearing green contact lenses over very dark irises. He extended a slender hand and Sam took it.

“Sam, meet Bennett. Bennett, this is Sam Younger.”

“Sam Younger. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Sam Younger. Please, take a seat. If Cathy says I should meet you, I have every reason to believe she’s telling the truth. So please, by all means. Sit down.” He had a measured, precise way of speaking.

“Thanks,” Sam said, and he sat down in the chair at Bennett’s right. Cathy took a seat at the opposite side of the table, and Ray and Christian came to join them as well. There were a few other people at the table that Sam didn’t know, and Bennett quickly set about getting everyone acquainted.

They made small talk for a while, and Bennett noticed that Sam had finished his beer.

“I bet you’d like another of those,” said Bennett. “You look like a man with a thirsty soul,” and he signaled for one of the waitstaff who’d been lingering off near the corner.

“I probably shouldn’t, but since you’re offering. Thank you,” said Sam.

They continued to chit chat, and before long, Sam found himself telling Bennett the entire story of his conversion and his indoctrination into the LDS Church. The words came pouring out of him. He told Bennett about settling comfortably into the routines of Mormon life, and about meeting Emily—how they’d fallen in love and gone to the temple together—how everything had seemed so perfect. Then he came to the part where he began to look more deeply into questions of LDS doctrine and history, and where his questioning had led him.

“It is terrible that this happens to people,” said Bennett. “Absolutely terrible.” He frowned slightly, but apart from that his expression was placid.

“I think what I realized,” said Sam, “is that the Church offered such a different way of living for me. When I was younger I got into trouble a lot. I mean, I did a stint in jail for robbery.”

“Really?” said Bennett. He leaned forward. “That’s certainly interesting.”

“It’s not that interesting.”

“It’s not something you hear every day. But please, go on.”

Sam talked about his meeting with Merlyn Young, and about the impending Court of Love. About the uncertainties with Emily, how it seemed that the Church had given him a new life only to turn and take everything away from him.

“It must anger you,” said Bennett, “that you weren’t told about the problematic aspects of the Church prior to your baptism.”

“Oh, it absolutely angers me. It pisses me off to no end. It’s screwed up is what it is. Wrong. They’ve got these missionaries out there lying to people.”

Bennett nodded, but Ray, overhearing, interrupted: “Well, in all fairness, that’s not completely true. A lot of the missionaries are oblivious to the problems, so you can’t blame them for failing to tell what they don’t know.”

“Who’s to blame then, Ray?” asked Bennett, leaning back slightly.

“I think it’s a complex question, and I don’t feel comfortable laying the blame at the feet of any one person, or entity, or group of people.”

“Oh, come on, Ray,” said Sam. “What a colossal bunch of B.S. that is. This is the Church’s fault. There’s nothing controversial or ‘problematic’ in pointing that out. Nothing’s stopping the Church from putting this stuff into the missionary training stuff.”

Ray shrugged and looked down at the table. “I’m just saying, I think it’s a little more complicated than some people make it out to be.”

“I don’t think it’s complicated at all,” said Bennett. “I think it’s very simple. The Church is a vast, powerful, wealthy organization, and it abuses its power. It spins lies and deceives people. The Church uses its money to buy up land and businesses, and its ambitions are to cover the globe. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Brethren won’t be satisfied until every last person has been converted.”

“Here we go,” muttered Ray.

Bennett leaned forward. “What’s that, Ray? Tell me, my friend—how am I wrong? The LDS Church has always had grandiose ambitions. You know that as well as anyone here.”

Ray rolled his eyes but said nothing in response.

“What you are, Ray, is naïve. You’re weak. You are a fence-straddler. You know in your heart what’s right but you fail to act.”

“I’m not going to get into it with you, Bennett. It’s not worth the time or the effort.”

Bennett smiled. “There are simple questions a person can ask. What good does the Church do? Is it a net positive for the world? Or would the world be better off without Mormonism?”

Christian, who’d been listening across the table, said, “It sure would be less interesting.”

Several people at the table laughed.

“We can always keep praying for change,” said Cathy.

“The Church is hard-headed and intransigent,” said Bennett. “And one has to ask what sorts of changes would excuse the pain that Mormonism has inflicted on so many of the people in this room. And elsewhere, for that matter.” He waved his arm out expansively, and then he smiled again, in a calm and self-satisfied way. “What do you think, Sam?”

“I don’t know,” he said. “I want to keep drinking beer. That’s what I think.”

Everyone laughed, except Ray, who was quiet and saturnine.

“I’m sure you’ve got an opinion,” said Bennett. “Just last night, news broke about this bomber, this ‘terrorist.’ Do you agree with that label? Was the man a terrorist?”

“It’s screwed up is what it is,” Sam said.

“Yes, he was a terrorist,” said Ray, looking up. “He’s a psychopath who killed innocent people. End of story.”

“Is it possible to separate his methods from his motivations?” asked Bennett.

“No, it’s not,” said Ray. “You seem to be assuming that he actually had some kind of personal connection to the Church, and we don’t know if that’s the case.”

“Who’s ‘we’?”

“Are you saying you know something more than what the news has been saying?”

Bennett said nothing.

“All right,” said Ray. “I’ve had enough and I need to take a leak.” He pushed his chair away from the table and left, casting a worried look at Sam as he walked away.

“Ray’s a good guy,” said Bennett, dabbing at his mouth with his napkin, even though he hadn’t eaten or drunk anything. “Misguided and indecisive, but basically good.”

“What about you?” asked Sam. “What’s your story?”

“I don’t have one,” said Bennett, looking away. Then he quickly added: “Let’s just say that you and I share a similar interest in the truth. Also: you never answered my question.”

“Which question?”

“About the Church. Do you think the world would be better off without the Church?”

He thought about it, realizing how drunk he was getting. “I don’t know,” he said. “It’s hard to even conceive of such a thing. How would you get rid of it? That’s why I think this bombing thing was screwed up and stupid. What did the guy accomplish? If his aim was to harm the Church in some way, he totally failed.”

Bennett nodded, slowly. He was watching Sam very carefully. Studying him.

“If he’d killed President Baylor, it just would have been another martyrdom, like with Joseph Smith. Everyone would treat it as a sign that the forces of Satan are out to attack God’s One True Church, and it would end up being a rallying call. ‘Opposition in all things’ and all that clichéd B.S.” He paused for a second and then went on. “I look at my own self in all of this, and with me, it was a simple matter of just thinking about what the Church was saying. The truth claims it was making. That’s the key, you know? Making sure that people have access to the full truth. Sure, for some people, like my wife, nothing is going to make a dent in their faith. But for most people, I would think, just having the truth about the Church would save them from having to go through all the crap that so many people here at this conference had to endure. So I guess what I’m saying is that the simple truth—getting it out there—that’s the biggest weapon anyone could use against the Church.”

Bennett laughed slightly. “I wonder if you realize how much you have in common with Ray,” he said. “How similar your views are on certain things.”
“Well, I don’t know,” said Sam. “It seems like you and Ray know each other pretty well.”

“We go back a few years,” said Bennett. He had signaled once again for the waiter to bring a fresh beer to Sam.

“He’s part of the ‘group’,” said Cathy.

“What group?”

“There’s no formal group per se,” said Bennett. “It’s just that many of us have formed friendships over the years, and we like to meet up when we get the chance.”

“We talk, eat, share gossip,” said Cathy.

“You ought to join us,” said Bennett. “We’re meeting at Wardell Griffin’s house in Reno in a few weeks. You ought to come.”

“I’ll think about it,” said Sam. “If I can make it, I’ll try to swing by. It would probably do me good.”

“Yes, I think it would,” said Bennett.

“I’ll have to see what’s happening with my job and relationship situation, but I’ll definitely try to make it.”

“Where do you work?” asked Bennett.

“Oh, it’s nothing. I’m actually on hiatus. I got the job thanks to the bishop way back when I was being courted by the missionaries.”

“You’re probably going to lose it,” said Bennett. “Not to sound cynical, but they’re probably looking as we speak for a reason to let you go. I assume there are other LDS on the job, too?”

“Yeah,” said Sam.

“I wouldn’t count on that job being there when your ‘hiatus’ is up.”

“Well, you know what? “F” it. I mean, Jesus. When it rains, it pours.”

Bennett nodded. “I can’t say for certain what’ll happen, but please do make an effort to come to the meeting in Reno. Given your background, I may have work for you, if you’re interested.”

Sam tilted his head: “What sort of work?”

“I’ll explain later. Now isn’t the time or place.” Again, he gave his placid, emotionless smile. “But,” he said, pushing up his sleeve to look at his watch, “I’ve got to be somewhere.” He stood up, and Sam did the same. “It was great meeting you, Sam.”

“Likewise.” They shook hands.

“Come to the meeting,” said Bennett.

“All right. I’ll do my best.

“Very well then. I’ll see you.” He bid farewell to the rest of the people at the table, and then he walked away.

Just then Ray returned to the table. “Where’d Bennett go?” he asked.

“He said he had to be somewhere.”

“Yeah, that guy always has to be somewhere. A weird guy, huh?”

“A little,” said Sam.

“Bennett invited him to Wardell’s,” said Cathy.

“Oh, yeah?” said Ray. “Moving up in the world of anti-Mormonism, I guess.”

“What do you mean?”

“As Bennett would say, ‘You’ll see.’”

...Next time: the final chapter in Part IV--Thomas Child and the Meaning of the Sphinx....
_Bob Bobberson
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _Bob Bobberson »


It was a cold, bleak afternoon in mid-November, and tiny, icy flakes of snow were falling as Elder Brotherton’s black Towncar pulled up beside the curb at 749 East 500 South. The Security man in the passenger seat climbed out and went around to the back to hold the door open for the Apostle. Brotherton had on a dark overcoat and he tugged on a pair of black, fur-lined leather gloves.

“Thank you, young man,” he said, and he moved up the sidewalk toward the gate.

There was another Church Security agent stationed at the gate, and Brotherton nodded to him as he passed. Inside was Gilgal Garden, a set of sculptures that had been created by an LDS man named Thomas Child some forty years ago. There were a variety a pieces scattered about what was essentially a spacious, residential back yard. Overhead hung the thin, fingerlike branches of a denuded weeping willow tree, and on the horizon, above the sculptures, were the snow-dusted peaks of the Wasatch.

Thomas Child had created the various sculptures as a testament of his faith. One of them was a cave based on his reading of Malachi 4:5. Inside the cave was a pair of anatomically correct human hearts—one red, and one white. Elsewhere was a stone altar, which represented Child’s belief—and Brotherton’s too, for that matter—that life and faith demand sacrifice. There were various other sculptures, too: a monument to the artist’s wife; a huge self-portrait of Child with a Bible under one arm; an arch representing the significance and power of the priesthood. Most striking and unsettling, though, was the bulky sculpture of the prophet Joseph Smith as a sphinx. The prophet’s frozen face stared out from the head of the roughly hewn animal. It looked very much like the Egyptian sphinx, apart from the difference in the face, obviously.

Just past this sphinx stood Elders Pitt, Marshall, and White. All of them wore topcoats similar to Brotherton’s, and they stood huddled together, their breath escaping their mouths like puffs of smoke.

“Elder Brotherton,” said Pitt. “At last we can begin.”

Brotheron moved over to them, and the four men stood so that they formed a circle. They were directly adjacent to a sculpture that had to do with the second chapter in the Book of Daniel. The piece represented Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, and the colossus that had been destroyed by a giant rock which in turn had transformed into a mountain. Bits and pieces of the giant’s body were scattered throughout the location: a foot here, a hand there.

“It is quite fitting, I think,” Pitt said, “that we stand beside the stone carved from the mountain without hands. The prophet Daniel foresaw a time when the bickering of worldly men would be replaced by the permanent reign of the kingdom of God. And as I testify before you now, my brothers, the time has come at last. I called this meeting that we might make final preparations before we proceed with setting apart our men.”

Elder Victor Samuel White was a rotund man with a pendulous waddle of flesh beneath his chin. He had been the most recent addition to Pitt’s circle, and Brotherton had been surprised to see him standing there beside Marshall and Pitt. “I am concerned about proceeding without the express approval of President Baylor,” said White. “I don’t doubt what you and President Marshall have said concerning the revelation, but I would feel a great deal more comfortable if we had further acknowledgement and guidance from the prophet himself.”

“I understand your concerns, Elder White,” said Marshall, “but President Baylor is incapacitated, and the Lord dictates that we carry forth His plan. President Pitt is next in the line of succession. He holds the keys and has authority to act as our leader in carrying out this task.”

“The scriptures are clear on this matter,” said Pitt. His face was pale and drawn against the cold.

“Very well,” said Elder White. “What are we to do next?”

“We are to proceed with the appointment of the quorum. I have selected six, and each of you is to offer up two men of your choosing, just as I asked you to do. Now, have you gone and done this?”

“Yes,” said Marshall.

“I have,” added Brotherton, nodding.

“I have as well,” said White, “and I can put in two alternates, if necessary.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” said Pitt. “In two days’ time we will gather together at a pre-arranged location and we will lay on hands and set these men apart.

Brotherton frowned and interjected: “Are they to be given the fullness of the priesthood?”

The other three Brethren looked up at him.

“I would think that would complicate matters unnecessarily,” said Elder White.

“The Lord will bless the men in this quorum as a matter of course,” said Pitt.

“If they are to execute their callings to the full extent,” said White, “it would violate one of the key provisions of the ordinance.”

“No, that’s not correct,” said Pitt, shaking his head. “The provision specifies that it be the blood of the innocent in order for the covenant to be broken.”

“Ah, yes. Of course,” said White.

“Nonetheless, Elder Brotherton, you raise a good point. We will see to it that these special emissaries are given the 2nd anointing once their tasks have been carried out. It seems only fitting, after all.”

“It does,” said Brotherton.

“Very well then,” said Pitt. “As always be sure to exercise caution in your dealings. I will send word of our meeting place once the final arrangements have been made. Are there any further questions or concerns to be addressed before we adjourn?”

The other three men shook their heads. “No,” muttered Elder White.

“Good. Until then. Be vigilant,” said Pitt, and the small group disbanded, and the General Authorities filed out of the garden.

Pitt lingered for a few moments, gazing at the sculptures, feeling the cold wind blowing down out of the mountains and the flecks of ice whirling in the air. Behind him he heard the crunch of Church Security agent Henderson’s shoes on the gravel of the path, and he knew it was time to go.


Coming Soon: Water will not do for some sins in Part V: Blood Atonement
Posts: 8261
Joined: Tue May 17, 2011 1:40 am

Re: A Great and Dreadful Day, Part IV: Outer Darkness

Post by _SteelHead »

Ooooh nice. Send them out then give them the 2nd anointing.
It is better to be a warrior in a garden, than a gardener at war.

Some of us, on the other hand, actually prefer a religion that includes some type of correlation with reality.
~Bill Hamblin
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