On Facebook This Morning

I posted an article whose headline was: “Mormon stake president gets political at church, laments election results.”¬† Assumptions emerged and a few comments followed. Six.

  1. Oh dear. Stake president FAIL.
  2. I read some of his talk, but then just couldn’t read any more. So awful.
  3. The lines quoted in the second paragraph are the only ones from the talk that I found inappropriate. I don’t agree with his pessimistic viewpoint, but I think that headline is incredibly misleading.
  4. Abortion and using tax dollars to do so, same sex marriage, take God out of the Goverment, leagalization of pot, forces alighning to stop school prayer, but allowing the handing out of birth control etc…Yeah…that sounds like something I want to fight for. Jesus would stand right beside me right?! … Matthew 24:24 Have you read his entire talk…He is quoting past prophets…. and you are offended?!
  5. The Church has made a statement that it is politically neutral, so going against that by sharing your political viewpoints over the pulpit in church is always inappropriate, whether or not you think their political party is right or wrong. There’s nothing wrong with quoting prophets, unless you’re using them toward your own personal agenda. It’s unfortunate is all, because even though they shouldn’t take it personally, some of the church members will probably be offended and turn away ūüė¶
  6. noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope

The article doesn’t necessarily represent me or demonstrate that my testimony is crumbling. I hadn’t read the article when I posted it. I put it on my timeline to remind myself to read it later.

This afternoon, I read the article and the talk that the author referenced. Then I reread the comments from the Facebook thread. Then I reconsidered my initial responses to the comments.

1.

  • Before: This sounds like a heavily political talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

2.

  • Before: This sounds like the stake president is ignoring any sort of neutrality in his talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

3.

  • Before: I’ll have to read the second paragraph of the article and read through the talk.
  • After: These are the statements that the stake president could have left out. The headline made the talk sound way more politically charged than it felt to me.

4.

  • Before: Knowing my heart, Jesus would have talked to me in complete sentences and with a lot less interrobang. He probably also would have given me a hug. Basically, I find your typos offensive. Also, thanks for your condemnation.
  • After: The world does seem to be taking a turn for the worse, the divide between good and evil is definitely more distinct, and I understand the stake president’s frustration. He could have left out a few statements and still have given a powerful talk.

5.

  • Before: The Church has taken a politically neutral stance, and I can’t stop thinking of how I was accused of being offended in the last comment.
  • After: It’s a shame that people get offended either way because of a talk. In a leadership position you really have to make matters more about the Spirit and less about politics. In a leadership position, you often find it hard to separate your politics from church. I’ve definitely heard much worse from the pulpit.

6.

  • Before: I can tell you have something articulate and inspired to say.
  • After: Without even saying anything else, I know what you mean.

Two Sundays ago a guy gave a talk in Church and he said he’s majoring in communications and political science so that one day he can have his own conservative talk show like Brother Glenn Beck.

He went on to tell stories about Bible bashing on his mission. He brought up the scripture about casting your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). He kept saying, “Why NOT cast your pearls? You’ll never run out of pearls.”

He made it quite clear that he referred to those against whom he Bible-bashed as swine. And then he pretty blatantly compared pearls to ammunition. You’ll never run out of pearls. You’ll never run out of ammunition. You can just keep shooting at the swine.

His talk was about studying your scriptures with faith.

The aforementioned Matthew 24:24 is about being deceived by false Christs and false prophets. Much of the chapter uses apocalyptic language to describe the world before the Second Coming. I would guess that my friend, commenter #4, attributes the decline of morality in the world to these falsities.

I was bothered by the politics in both talks, not so much because I disagreed with them but because I knew there would be people in each congregation (and now among those who have read the article) who would cling to those few statements and use them as an excuse never to come back to church.

It’s definitely easier to say to hold strong in a church regardless of its imperfect members. But part of the reason the Church has a stance on political neutrality is to protect its imperfect members from themselves, to help us to use our hearts, to look past politics and into souls. Our souls are bigger and worth way more than the limits this fallen world puts on them.

There’s definitely a lot more to say. I’m tired.

Because No One Knows How to Spell

No one’s going to get my response to a friend’s recent Facebook status.

Friend: Is it wrong that I want to put up my Christmas tree before I find our forks, knives, and spoons?

Me: The tree has to go up before the utinsels! Also, I love groaning and rolling my eyes at my own jokes.

And I just feel like I’m betraying myself to explain the wordplay between tinsel and utensils.

I’ve said too much already.

Assessment

Earlier this week I finished Anne Lamott’s book on writing, Bird by Bird. The author offers useful advice about the writing process, and I especially like what she has to say about paying attention and workshopping. The book has brought me to ask myself not only how I should write, but what I should be writing.

Lamott says that “there is ecstasy in paying attention…. Anyone who wants to can be surprised by the beauty of pain of the natural world, of the human mind and heart, and can try to capture just that – the details, the nuance, what is.” Annie Dillard’s writing demonstrates this kind of surprise and delight. I have been reading and rereading Dillard’s nonfiction since I was 16, and if someone decided to destroy all the poems in the world, I would still find solace and joy in Annie Dillard. I appreciate the intuition that goes beyond reason, all meanings manifest in a single word. What Hopkins did with inscape in his poetry, Dillard does in her prose. I don’t know if I could ever write like Dillard, but she always reminds me how much I like writing, because I really like paying attention.

Lamott also describes the value of getting people to read your stuff and providing honest, constructive feedback. I always get nervous whenever I have asked friends and reliable readers to critique my writing, but it’s ultimately beneficial to get another perspective. (I’m actually waiting on some feedback right now.) And people’s comments often emphasize that being a good writer also means being a good reader, and I need to revise my work with that in mind.

I’ve had the opportunity to give feedback on several projects friends have been working on. I can’t help feeling that these readings are little nudges to get back on the horse. A friend asked me to look over her blog post, six solid and enjoyable pages of funny anecdotes and observations of a roadtrip. For the past three years, I’ve been looking over a friend’s phases of a book he’s working on, at least 80,000 words. And I recently read the 30-page outline for another friend’s really fun-sounding book. I can’t get over how brilliant these friends are. They do so many incredible things with words, and I always feel self-conscious in my comments on their work. I always feel humbled that they would ask me to read their writing.

Whenever Reilly and I walk by the YA section of a bookstore, Reilly tells me that we could easily write a book better than most of those on the shelves. So what about my own writing? Writers use SO MANY different sources. Do I write about my limited, but really cool travels? Do I try to fictionalize intense personal experiences? Do I draw from mythology or a specific point in a culture’s history? Do I try to show up 98% of the YA writers in the world? I haven’t been participating in NaNoWriMo, but should I do it at least once? The short and not very definitive answer to these questions is: Yes. At least it has been affirmed that:

I have a pretty good sense of how to arrange words into sentences sometimes
I can write a blog/online journal post
I can write an outline for a novel/memoir

It’s time to saddle up.

A Few Updates

Remember when I used to treat this blog like a journal? Remember how particular I used to be about calling it an online journal and NOT a blog? Remember how nearly effortless it was for friends to keep up with my life just by visiting this site? Remember how I sometimes practiced writing on here, or at least thinking by laying out a few ideas?

Times change, and in some ways, so do I. I would like to return to practicing writing, because goodness knows this semester suffers from something wrong with it.

So lately I haven’t shared a lot of details about what’s going on here at the BYU. Part of that is deliberate, part of it is my packed schedule, and all I have time for sometimes is a cute, French video or a photo or general whining. Part of it is letting my inner hermit win, and at times for me, that’s okay.

In case I haven’t told you:

I have a job. I really like it, and the folks there like me, too. It’s taken me two months to figure out how to balance my schedule and moderate my stress level whenever midterms come around and papers are due. I still don’t have it down pat.

French class is kicking my trash. I’m getting used to the format and all the time it demands, from homework to writing labs to speaking labs, to cultural activities to going every single day. But, all that is why I understand and appreciate that BYU probably has the best foreign language program in the Milky Way. And probably even the Andromeda.

Speaking of, has anyone seen the inadvertent meteor shower that Halley’s Comet caused?

Today was a fine day for me commenting in one of my classes. The professor asked for other thoughts about a short story we were discussing. I had been sitting on an idea for a few minutes already, and I was feeling bold, because instinct told me this insight was worthwhile, and so I raised my hand.¬† I made an initial statement, after which the professor said it was very smart and wanted me to expound upon it. When I did, he followed along when I cited a passage from the text, and then he said, “That’s very smart. I have nothing to add to that.” I smiled, but I wanted to laugh, which is an occasional reaction to compliments. But still, I felt … smart.

And yet, I still have to decide on a favorite class. I like all my classes for different reasons.

The leaves are turning quite nicely. Autumn in Utah has delighted me so far.

There’s family stuff. But there’s always family stuff.

Was it this time last year I was dealing with a Craigslist scam paralyzing my bank account for two weeks?

All things considered, I’m in a much better place.

Ego Boost, the Sequel

This is what I had to read for my history class this semester. Yeah, the one where I’m getting the B.

I just returned from that class. It was every Wednesday from 5:10pm to 7:40pm, and except for the very first class that I missed because my best friend’s wedding was more important, I’ve been to every lecture.

We read Postmodern and Multicultural writers for today’s assignment. We talked about Thomas Pynchon, Raymond Carver, Toni Morrison and Gloria Anzald√ļa.

That bunch of students are among the most articulate and thoroughly thoughtful I’ve ever been honored to be in the same room with.

The professor is excellent, and he encourages dialogue and moderates debates. The class is so intellectually stimulating and intimidating at the same time.

Anyway, we got to the part of the classtime today where we focused on Toni Morrison. I wanted to be able to comment, because she’s one of my favorite authors, and seriously, she blows my mind and I can’t recommend her strongly enough.

The piece we discussed has racially ambiguous main characters. It is set in and around New York City.

So, there’s my first comment: With the names of surrounding towns in the NYC area, I tried figuring out the characters’ race, because we know some towns to have a certain economic status, and that status we typically ascribe to race. The professor responded with his fascination of the microcommunities and vast diversity of New York City.

That comment came out more clearly than I expected. Most of the time it’s “ga-ga, goo-goo.”

Regarding multicultural literature, the trope of the “usable past” describes parts of history that relate to us but cannot recover, so we use what we can recover and make the rest of it up for our own benefit, so we can feel we have heritage. The characters in the Morrison piece are a good example of this concept.

So, for my second, which was also my last comment of the semester for this class, because it was the last time we would formally meet, I related the idea to another trope from earlier in the semester. I said something like how the story makes me think of the nonrecoverable past as the “anti-frontier,” and the usable past is comparable to “imagined communities” in that it is an attempt to become part of a community we can’t access. So the professor responded saying he can follow the thought of “imagined communities” but could I talk more (and when he began that part of the sentence I looked down at my notebook and started to laugh, because I honestly hadn’t thought further on the idea) about the “anti-frontier.” Without pause, I clarified that the frontier is where we haven’t been, and the past is where we came from so it’s the anti-frontier, and the term was my trying to articulate the thought.

Then he said, “That sounds really smart. I’m going to write that down.”

The class giggled. I blushed. Then he wrote it in blue pen in the margin of his notes.

Not a bad last comment, for getting a B and all.

He concluded the lecture with a rousing speech about how he’s never had a brighter English 293 class. He’s enjoyed the dialogue throughout the semester. He encouraged us to go and do great things by being critics or writers, or just by continuing to have wonderful ideas. I felt a little heat in my throat¬† and my eyes well.

It was a truly amazing class.

Commenter Spotlight #AHM0920

I saw a good friend I haven’t seen in a while. We were at a chili cook-off at the ward building I used to attend, and we caught up a bit. She commented about having found my blog, and I confirmed the site for her, and she gave me her blog’s name.¬†It’s like exchanging phone numbers, except it’s on the internet, and it’s sometimes a person’s entire personal life lit up before your very eyes.¬†

Then she ever so casually suggested, since I teach the youth in the stake, that I should go to girls’ camp. I must have looked a bit uneasy at the idea, but she seemed quite intent on convincing me to go. So I said I’d consider it. Then she said she’d go to my blog and plug girls’ camp in every one of her comments. I didn’t¬† discourage her. let’s just say that.

Then I came home and logged in and found two (2) comments in the last post, the one about the trees turning and the whippersnappers. I was thrilled she came back here so quickly, and especially delighted she left comments. I love comments.

This friend is an extremely cool gal. She’s creative and articulate. She and her husband have lived here in the city for a good, long while. She’s quick-witted, and I really enjoy bantering with her. She’s beautiful and elegant, yet spunky and down-to-earth. I can’t even remember when we became friends, but, by golly, I’m glad we did. Even if she does give me a hard time about no longer living in the Inwood Ward.

She didn’t plug girls’ camp, by the way.¬†But I know she knows I know she wants to. Which means she does without actually having to. Subtle, that one.

Remind me to add her to the blogroll.

Commenter Spotlight #pp081308

This week’s schedule is a little wonky. With the Olympics and my forgetting to sleep and trying to fit a lot of quality friend time in¬†four more days, it’s hard to sit and crank out something coherent. Sorry.

One of my roommates is leaving for law school on Sunday. She’s stayed with us over the summer and I’ve gotten to know her pretty well. I have also come to the conclusion this apartment is going to feel worlds of empty when she leaves. The Milky Way will probably cave in right at the Midtown Manhattan coordinates.

She comments on my blog verbally. But I can’t discriminate on¬†the spotlight¬†just because others can’t read her thoughts. She gives good feedback and can sustain an interesting¬†conversation. That totally counts.

She gets my sometimes crude sense of humor. I haven’t belched in front of her (yet), but sometimes we’ll exchange glances because we share the brain of a 12-year old boy. There are lots of things I won’t say, but I’ll think them, and this girl has the uncanny ability to sense when those kinds of thoughts enter my brain. But at least she laughs.

She also notices little things. Like the funny little things.

She likes arepas. So should you.

She sees the good in people, but for me it’s reassuring to observe some of her cynicism. She’s fun to watch once she gets going.

She’s going places with what she can do with crepes. Watch out, Cirque du Soleil.

She’s one to get things done, to make plans, to make informed decisions.

She’s a good friend. She’s on my side when it comes to the affections of a certain boy.

Yes, quite the advocate. She’s gonna be a terrific lawyer.

I’m gonna miss her.

A few brief notes

The video my roommates and I made last night is pretty awesome. Just some raw footage, really well-edited.¬†Funny, quirky, touching. Our work is progressing. I really can’t say anything more about it. Seriously.

If you’re going to pimp your blog in the comments, that’s fine. I do appreciate when you say something relevant to the post. And all you really¬†have to do is fill in the form with your url so that your name links to your blog. But, if you blatantly say “read me,” even if you say “please,” it comes off as a little desperate. Like a girl (guy) who wears skanky clothes just for the attention. I deliberately look away. I do carefully read all the comments, though.¬†I sometimes send the commenters a personal email (if¬†the email addresses are¬†legit) thanking them for stopping by. If they have blogs, I’ll click over and if I feel like commenting at the time, I’ll do so.

The Olympics start tomorrow. I really don’t want Dana Torres to be doping. I want her to be a 41-year old mother who’s swimming the best she’s ever swum in her life, smashing world records and claiming isometric or some other type of stretching is the key. I really want that to be true. It’s so hard not to be skeptical.

I’m going to see Radiohead tomorrow.

The sun will come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar.

Commenter Spotlight #km071408

I like this person’s comments even if she weren’t related to my roommate.
We met a few years ago. She and her husband (my roommate’s brother) came up to New York¬†for a visit.
We saw each other again at a family reunion in Utah, where I got to meet her absolutely adorable daughter.
She has pet rabbits, too, but I don’t think they have a blog. But she does.
She’s quite talented. Musical and crafty; educated in and excellent at¬†pedagogy. In fact, I believe she was Teacher of the Year at a school where she taught in Florida.
She lives in Florida. But she’s from Canada. Those two facts separately make her cool. Together? Beyond cool.
She was born on Canadian Independence day, which for some reason is quite appropriate.
Her comments are wonderful. I’m grateful for what she shares, and I’m glad to know her personally and in the world of blogging.

Business

People, Saturday is my roommate’s birthday. What should I get her? I’ve come up with the following:
-t-square
-abacus with flashing lights as beads and talks in algorithms in Stephen Hawking’s voice
-retro Richard Branson t-shirt
-Bill Gates decoder ring
-Latin dance lessons to go with her not-on-purpose seductive looks
-Anne of Green Gables airbrush tattoo
-giant key to the city with an inscription from Mayor Bloomberg, “Becky Rocks NYC!”
-Murder, She Wrote Mad Libs
-pita bread and hummus, where I’d write in the hummus with a butterknife, “How Pita-ful: Guilty of Hummus-ide!”
-one control for the Wii console, so at least she can pretend to play in front of the television
-jet propulsion lab

Do you have any ideas? I really need ideas. Please feel free to leave a comment. They won’t appear publicly until I approve them, which probably won’t be until after her birthday.

Speaking of comments, please don’t let the process for submitting comments keep you from commenting. Your opinions matter. You can leave whatever name you want, and the email address is to be sure you’re a human being, not some Dolly-the-sheep-Intergalactic-Planetary droid-clone robot trying to spam the account. The email address is never displayed. Then, if you have a website you want linked to your fabulous name, you can complete that part of the form, too.

Easy? Easy.

Thanks, everyone!