Salt Lake Tribune – Keep a distance: Seminary, school should be in separate buildings

Salt Lake Tribune – Keep a distance: Seminary, school should be in separate buildings

In Lindon, a new charter school – a public school that operates with taxpayer money – and a seminary operated by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are occupying the same building.
That doesn’t technically violate the constitutional mandate that government not support or endorse any religion, since each organization separately leases its space. The Karl G. Maeser Preparatory Academy and the seminary don’t even share an entrance. But the perception is there that the public school is simply too cozy with the LDS Church. And that makes a significant number of people, already sensitive to the church’s influence in Utah, uncomfortable.

Given that precisely that perception is reality to so many, either the school or the church should look for other quarters.

I was a public school student in Utah about 30-40 years ago, but it didn’t matter one bit then that the LDS seminary buildings in junior high and high school were not in the same building – I still had to listen to what everybody else was hearing about. Every day in more than one class, I’d overhear what the other kids had seen or heard in their “sem” classes – gossipy stuff about the videotaped soap opera that was the big thing in junior high, and whispered stuff about what the high school seminary classes were covering about more adult topics like dating within vs. without the faith.

People talked around me as if I had been there, or more significantly, as if I wasn’t there at all. I was invisible.

It was not a comfortable place to be a “not.” It was not a friendly and fun place to be a “non.” I spent my entire school career feeling ever-so-slightly unwelcome all the time, and sometimes I felt like there was nowhere to hide from enemies who wanted to hunt me down for being “differnt”, and nowhere to find friends who might accept me without asking what church my family attended, before deciding if it was okay to be seen with me.

Before we actually attended any church, of course, I was almost completely on my own… once we started attending a Protestant church regularly and I joined a Masonic girls’ group, I had friends, but not at school. With one exception – Mark, who went to my church, also went to my grade school. We were buddies the last couple of years there, but he went to a different junior high although we still were in youth group together. And then when we got to high school, his family had moved, and we ended up graduating together.

My 30th high school reunion was supposed to be last year, but it was cancelled or postponed due to the very sad death of Steve Tempest, who had been student body president and was one of the organizers. He was a good guy, who did good things in his life. I ran into him unexpectedly on a trip to Salt Lake years ago, and was totally surprised find out that he knew who I was in school – actually knew my name.

You could have knocked me over with a feather, as it was a revelation to me to realize that I hadn’t been as invisible as I thought I was in high school. You’d think that a big, tall, red-headed girl with a goofy laugh would find it hard to be invisible, but I was, at least as far as I could tell. So to be greeted by name by somebody who was “somebody,” after so many years, was really odd.

I did attend one reunion at about the 10-year mark and amused myself by covering up my nametag and going up to former jocks and saying “You don’t know who the hell I am, do you?” That was a fun time, but the fact that there was alcohol probably made it easier.  Utah does things like that to you, or did then, anyway. If you drink socially, you drink as conspicuously as possible in order to show everyone else you’re “not” like them. It can make for some rather colorful stories afterwords (and worse hangovers than necessary).  If you use bad language, you use it as conspicuously as possible, too. I always start swearing more when on trips to Utah – it kind of creeps my husband David out, especially if I get together with my salty oldest niece, Holly (she’s David’s age). Then: look out.

During the time I was staying at Mom’s house trying to sort stuff out after she died in 2006, somebody called me to get my mailing address and email address so that I could be contacted for whenever the reunion happened. It was supposed to have been this August, but I never heard a word. I checked with Mark, and he never got a response to his emails, either.

Oh well. I expect there was some kind of event, probably locally organized and arranged, and someone dropped the ball on contacting the “unsocial” types such as myself and Mark, who were kind of non-entities in school because of our “differnts” and didn’t stay in touch with many other people after graduation. As a hopelessly disorganized person myself, I can understand if the information didn’t get collected and organized and used effectively, but it would have been nice to be invited, even if there was no way in Hell that I’d bother to attend. I don’t know anybody anymore, Mom’s not there anymore, I don’t want to see what’s become of our old house since it was sold, and I’m not skinny and gorgeous and well-preserved enough to show up with a glint in my eye at the classic reunion dance, in a kind of “wallflower’s revenge fantasy.”

As far as I know, seminary classes are still conducted across the street from my old high school; Salt Lake has gotten more culturally diverse since my school days, but I bet the “nons” and “nots” still have a pretty good idea of what’s being taught and discussed in the building across the street. It’s probably still inescapable.

Salt Lake Tribune – A lot to improve

Salt Lake Tribune – A lot to improve

I am writing to agree with S.J. Moormeister's sentiments (Forum, April 3) hoping for a productive interfaith dialogue between Mormons and those of other beliefs in Utah. I also lament the tensions that General Conference protesters and DVD distributors have aroused. But, the Mormon cultural, social and political dominance in Utah has contributed to the fact that no such dialogue is taking place. From the intolerance seen in certain state legislators to the religious divisions in society beginning with grade-school children, Utah has a lot to improve on.

The LDS Church, with its power in Utah, is perfectly positioned to initiate such dialogue and promote tolerance, though it hasn't yet happened to any meaningful degree. Instead, many non-Mormon Utahns feel that they are either a potential convert, or quickly forgotten. Cooperative dialogue requires respect for the beliefs of others, a simple concept that could heal many divisions within Utah. Jason Kane Salt Lake City

I'm still struggling with issues that stem from my treatment during childhood as a "notty" kid. I was not LDS, I was not like the other  kids, and I was not included in a lot of after-school social events because I had made it clear that I was not convert material.  

There's still a fair amount of lingering resentment and even now I take a little too much pleasure in skewering what I view as the "simpering hypocrisy of the true believers." I'd like to think that I can get over this someday, and that Utah's people can too.

Good luck to this dialogue, if it happens. 

Why Do Gay Rights Matter? Here’s One Reason

Utah is a hard place to be "different." If you're not Mormon, it can be hard to make friends and be accepted, until you find the right religio-social pigeonhole for yourself. And if you were raised Mormon, but can no longer conform for some reason, it's even harder. If your family rejects you, but your partner can't legally marry you, it's much, much worse if you become incapacitated with a fatal illness. 

Some of this article may be a little hard to read without a box of Kleenex handy.  

Salt Lake Tribune – Lost to Lou Gehrigs disease: Even as her body fades, their love burns bright


Friends gave comfort, but in grappling with death, Jody also sought out spiritual sustenance. Tucked between the recliners cushions was a handmade rosary, a gift from a cousin.

Jody, originally from Southern California, had been raised in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. But she came out as a lesbian just after serving a mission in Chicago and felt she was no longer welcome. She took the embrace of West Valley City's St. Stephens Episcopal Church, where she was baptized in May 2005.

Because Jody was homebound, the Rev. W. Lee Shaw of St. Stephens brought the parish to her. Volunteers made weekly visits. Shaw came to offer prayers and Holy Communion. After he consecrated the bread and wine, Jess ground the wafer, mixed it with the wine, and by way of her feeding tube, Jody was blessed.

But visitors said they were blessed even more. "Just being with the two of them . . . added to my life, and I needed it," said Dan Herron, 60, a former Catholic and soon-to-be Episcopal deacon. "Here I was the minister being ministered to."

As a same-sex couple living in Utah, Jody and Jess weren't stupid. They knew they needed protection if their love was to count in the eyes of the state. So years ago, they met with an attorney to churn out legal documents. Jody gave Jess power of attorney and named Jess her representative after death. 

Jody died early Thanksgiving morning. She was 47.

Jess removed the catheter, the feeding tube and "got Jody looking more like Jody." She then sat there, alone with her partner, and said goodbye.  

It was Pam who offered to call the mortuary that morning. The response she got left her, and Jess, stunned.  

"They wouldn't even pick up her body," Jess said between tears. "I was so . . . angry, I couldn't breathe."

After all they'd done, legal documents didn't seem to matter. The mortuary required permission from "a blood relative" to retrieve Jody's body, Pam was told.  

   Fortunately, Jody's brother was available to call. And her mother, days later, faxed a consent form giving Jess full control of arrangements. Had Jody's mom insisted on a traditional burial and LDS service, all their plans would have been for naught or required court action. 


Romney Wants Gay-Marriage Ban on Mass. Ballot –

Romney Wants Gay-Marriage Ban on Mass. Ballot

BOSTON, Nov. 19 — Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney R said Sunday that he will ask the states highest court this week to order a ballot question on same-sex marriage if legislators fail to vote on the matter when they reconvene in January.

Oh, not THAT again! Just when you thought this issue would die down until the next election cycle. Or wait, duh… Romney's probably gonna run. Gotta rally that base! Push the button!

DISCLAIMER: I grew up non-LDS in Utah, and will always be irked by holier-than-thou types. 

Not So Fast: Our Growth Is Mything

Okay, okay, my sister Timmy wanted me to be sure I saw this article. But clever me, I had already stumbled across it elsewhere (names changed to foil “religious extremist” Googlers):

The claim that (Mmnsm) is the fastest-growing faith in the world has been repeated so routinely by sociologists, anthropologists, journalists and proud {Latte-less Aints) as to be perceived as unassailable fact.

The trouble is, it isn’t true.

Today, The (Charch of Latte-less Aints) has more than 12 million members on its rolls, more than doubling its numbers in the past quarter-century. But since 1990, other faiths – Seventh-day Adventists, Assemblies of God and Pentecostal groups – have grown much faster and in more places around the globe.

And most telling, the number of (Latte-less Aints) who are considered active churchgoers is only about a third of the total, or 4 million in the pews every Sunday, researchers say.

One of these days I’m going to get over the lingering resentment stemming from my experiences growing up a “not” in Utah…let’s see, I’ll be 50 years old Real Soon. So maybe by the time I hit the century mark it won’t matter? For now, the occasional article like this one(extremely rare for a Utah mainstream paper) is still worth noting.

And yeah, changing the names is probably a little childish, but if I don’t, the Defenders of the Faith Oh My Heck Brigade will stop by for a cozy one-sided, thank-God-for-moderated-comments, spammers-will-be-ruthlessly-deleted debate. So what they don’t see won’t offend them.

Via | Several Salt Lake Tribune articles about the reality of membership growth in the (La-LA Charch)| Tue 07/26/05 22:10 (several more articles of interest linked)

And My Mom Wonders Why I Moved Away

Wilson’s original goes:

“Well I ain’t never been the Barbie doll type
No I can’t swig that sweet champagne
I’d rather drink beer all night
In a tavern or in a honky-tonk
or on a 4-wheel-drive tailgate. . . . Let me get a big ‘Hell Yeah!’ from the redneck girls like me.”

The Eagle‘s version:

“Well I ain’t never been the party-girl type
I’d rather drink some homemade root beer
At a fireside Sunday night
Down at the ward house, or at a friend’s house
While tying up a quilt
I like green Jell-O and casseroles
And I wash ’em down with milk. . . . Let me hear a big ‘Heck Yeah!’ from the Relief Society.”

The spoof was written by Robert Lund, a Utah song-parody veteran who has penned dozens of witty tunes about the Utah Jazz, high gas prices and other topics.

I made a joke about green jello just the other day, at David’s parents. We had just shared a nice meal – not a Passover seder, but all the ingredients for individual dishes were kosher for Passover. One of the guests is an old friend of theirs whose ex-wife (formerly Jewish) converted to the dominant faith of Utah and moved there a few years back. He said she had since been struggling to fit in and reconcile her political views (Democrat, feminist, socially aware) with the local culture. That’s when I asked if she’d learned to like the taste of green Jell-o. He looked at me very oddly, so I had to explain.

It’s a cultural thing. Any weird green food or drink is “okay” and anything red might be “not okay” at mixed gatherings. I remember once at a wedding reception in Utah, there were people of the Saints persuasion and people of the, well, Sinners persuasion. All the Saints drank the green punch, which had a little “angel” placard. All the Sinners drank the red punch, which had a little “devil” placard. It was straight Hawaiian Punch with a little ginger ale, but the hordes of the ungodly drank it anyway in the faint hope that there might be some booze in it to ease the wheels of social discomfort.

This friend of David’s parents and I had a good long talk about all kinds of things, but he was interested in knowing a little more deep background about the culture his wife had chosen over her own. That it was coming from someone like me, with a pretty jaundiced view that comes from long-ago hurts and rejections, just made it easier for him to ask more questions. I went on and on, as far as I remember. Must have been something to do with all that devilish red grape juice I’d been drinking. What was it? Shiraz.

I left Utah for college in the fall of 1976 and quickly became more of the “party girl” from the original version of the song. I was never into country music but I definitely recall hanging out in honky-tonks in Eugene. And, yes, there were large quantities of beer.

But back to the conversation with Steve, the friend of the family. He mentioned that a son of theirs was visiting with his mom now, and he was getting ready to leave because he just didn’t feel comfortable there or feel like he wanted to stay long-term. So I started telling him about the Jewish community in Salt Lake – I actually have good memories of a few things about growing up there, and one of them was that people who were “not” tended to bond socially in ways that might not have happened anywhere else. So in the church I grew up in I remember our pastor having a really great relationship with the rabbi from the Salt Lake Jewish Community Center, which was just down Foothill Drive from us. The rabbi came once a year to speak, and Rev. Lobb spoke at services over at the JCC or the old synagogue downtown (I don’t remember which). I think the two men originally met at a ministerial prayer breakfast thing for clergy and religious leaders – which functioned as an ad hoc club for “nots” who enjoyed getting together to compare notes and probably commiserate not a little.

It’s funny the things you remember when you dust off all the junk in the lumber-room that is your mind. Or at least, my mind.

I was telling Steve about all the JCC stuff because although Utah can be a great place to live for the outdoorsy recreational stuff, it can be a really lonely place unless or until you find your “niche” social group – be it a ski club or a faith community or a bunch of bowling grandmothers. Once you’ve found your particular tribe there, you’re okay. At least for a while. It’s easier for adults than for kids and younger people, though.

Anyway, having been to a few too many receptions and gatherings where green Jell-o and green punch were de rigeur buffet table offerings, I was happy to give that all up. And having known a few friends and family who go the latter route (as in the song parody, not the original), I’m left wondering not how they can reconcile themselves to toeing the line of spiritual perfection… but in how the heck they can bear to eat and drink that hideous green stuff. It’s utterly vile.

Rad Radio

There are pockets of insane sanity in Utah – some of them are served by KRCL. I ran across the station one sleepless night on a trip “home” to Utah, at a pre-David time of my life when I’d end up sleeping in my old room at Mom’s house. There was usually a moment (usually late at night) when I’d start scanning for a radio station that sounded like it wasn’t based in Utah (translation: liberal politics, flexible musical format). And so I found KRCL, which intrigued me. It’s typical for a small :NPR station in the mountain states – underfunded, but passionate. Another such is the excellent little station in Carbondale, CO – KDNKwhich also has an Intenet streaming feed. And then there’s my all-time favorite public radio station in Colorado, KUNC – and they also have a feed, too. Yay!

And now the KRCL website has led me to check out WinAmp at last. I know nothing about what I’m doing with it, but it’s sure cool to play with. Shame I can’t use it on the work computer (no downloads allowed).

(About an hour later)

Good doG. I’m IMing with my sister, blogging, and watching the pilot episode of Futurama on something called Next up: Monty Python. After that: the first episode of Cowboy Bebop, in Japanese with English subtitles.

I will never be able to explain this to my mom.

Now, That’s What I’m Talking About

Oh, boy.

We’re going to Salt Lake for a visit in late March and again in May. I have to get the space booked for the first trip booked next week. I’ve been putting it off.

Oh, boy.

I’d better take along all my medication — I always get a horrible sinus infection whenever I return, for example.

And I have to take my special anti-headexplody medicine when I go there, too.

The occasion will be a lovely family celebration (no irony) at the home of a family member and his partner (again with the no irony). The family member used to be married to one of my nieces but is still a member of the family (no irony was used in the construction of this sentence).

No, the part I’m not looking forward to is the sinus infection. And the head-explody thing, of course.

On the other hand, here’s a cool article about The Right Rev. Carolyn Tanner Irish, Bishop of Utah. Maybe I’ll have a chance to get to St. Mark’s on one of the trips to Salt Lake this year.

I like Bishop Irish, she seems like a neat lady. I wonder what’s going on with the “unspoken divide” task group she was involved with. I hope it hasn’t stalled out, it really had potential.

I think reading about it it helped me get my head together the last time it exploded.

Crossing The Unspoken Divide

“Here’s a Health to the Company,” The Chieftains: Celebration

Well, here’s to us all. The beermaking kit finally arrived (actually, it had to be reordered, the original was lost by the Tibetan Postal Service)

In looking over the instructions, they seem pretty straightforward, so we probably won’t kill anybody with our first batch. And Scott, the engineer-boot wearing bass from church, has offered his able assistance with “getting the baby’s head wet.” He brought over some of his own homebrew last summer, most of which was quite, quite tasty.

Me, I’m hoping eventually for a batch of Black Raspberry Hefeweissen, but we have to start small with the two varieties of beermakings supplied with the kit. One is a nut brown ale of some sort, and the other one is a red ale (naturally). And there seems to be a possibility of making hard cider, too. Oooh.

I probably wouldn’t be as into beer as I am if I hadn’t grown up in… okay I’ll just type it: Utah. I had a real problem growing up there, but it didn’t really have a name until recently. In fact, people didn’t want to hear about it, especially if you were on one side and they were on the other. So you if you just wanted to get along, or forget about it, you didn’t talk about it. Which was no solution, either.

Well, it’s now called “The Unspoken Divide,” after a groundbreaking series of articles in the Salt Lake Tribune. The Divide is the social misconnect/disconnect between those Utah residents who belong to the “majority” religion in the state, and those residents who don’t.

Not only does it screw up people over their beliefs, it screws up political discussions, land use, environmentalism, entertainment, you name it. And it’s hard to shake – look at me, I moved away for good in 1976.

The Alliance for Unity was created out of the public reaction to the articles, and also out of the emotional reactions born of the Sept 11 attacks. It consists of several religious and political leaders, of various faiths and beliefs (or lack thereof).

I keep hoping the Alliance will put together a website, but nothing so far. I applaud their efforts and wish them luck of it.

As for me letting go of my own feelings, I’ve cherished them over like a broken tooth for long enough now, I think.

Maybe the next time the nice mishie boys come to the door, I won’t spit vitriol in their faces – they’re just harmless 19 year olds far from home (and even farther from a clue, but that’s okay, they believe what they want).

I don’t want to debate with them or freak them out with solid arguments. I want to let that part of my life go, along with the “those mean kids didn’t like me when I was a kid” mantra that’s been sooooo convenient a hook for hang-ups.

The original articles are buried in a “pay to view” archive at the Trib, but Beliefnet archived them. Note – some of the comments from LDS contributers along the side refer to something called “the mission field.” Just so you know, that’s anywhere that’s not Utah. 😉

The sideroll makes for interesting reading, but it’s the same old same old “defend the faith against all and sundry/you people are religious nuts and you discriminate” debate that is just the thing this Alliance is supposed to address.

Locally, they’re still squabbling over the Main Street land swap with the church and nuclear waste dumps. Hope they get around to doing more to bridge the divide.