Friday, March 28, 2014

Throwing the Baby Out With the Bathwater

I really don't have time for these conversations right now.

Lucy: I don't want to break up.
Me: What? Who said anything about breaking up?
Lucy: You're graduating and looking for a job. I still have a year of school to go.
Me: I'll find a job here.
Lucy: What if you don't?
Me: I dunno, we'll work something out.
Lucy: Long distance relationships don't work.
Me: ...
Lucy: I'd consider transferring to another school, but not for my boyfriend. I'd only do that for my husband.
Me: Are we seriously having this conversation? How long have we been dating? And the church wouldn't even let us get married in the temple. We'd have to have a civil marriage. Is that really what you want?
Lucy: You know how I feel about that.
Me: ...
Lucy: Is it that you aren't sure God is really okay with mutants getting married? Do you think the church's policy is right?
Me: No, it's not that. I've been thinking about it a lot--even though I should be thinking about graduating--and I'm pretty much 100% that the church's policy is wrong. I can't imagine a God who would tell us that marriage is so important to our eternal salvation, then deny those blessings to a significant portion of his children.
Lucy: Absolutely. I agree. Then what's the issue.
Me: ...
Lucy: What? You can tell me.
Me: It's just, well, if the church is wrong about that, and they're wrong about how God feels about mutant powers, then what else are they wrong about?
Lucy: What do you mean?
Me: I mean, like, did you know the papyri Joseph Smith supposedly translated the Book of Abraham from has since been examined by Egyptologists who say it has nothing to do with Abraham? That it's like the Book of the Dead or something?
Lucy: What difference does it make? So he was inspired to write something directly from God, instead of translating like he thought he was doing. What's the big deal?
Me: Never mind.
Lucy: What, are you going to go all Shawn on me now, and throw the baby out with the bath water?
Me: ...


Like I said, I really don't have time for this right now.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Mo' Mutants, Mo' Problems

Longtime readers with a sharp eye for detail (and who care about these things) may have noticed an addition to my sidebar: I've added a link to the MoMu Directory.

MOHO Directory

To any new readers who came from the MoMu Directory, welcome!

MoMu, if you're not familiar with the term, is short for "Mormon Mutant." I'm more a fan of "Latter-day Mutant" myself, but I'm biased because that's the term I made up. Still, doesn't "MoMu" sound ridiculous? Alas, the interwebs have spoken, and MoMu it is. As I learned back in November, there is a significant online community of people who have some level of affiliation (current or past) with the LDS church and who have mutant abilities.

Honestly, it's kind of overwhelming. In the first place, five months ago I thought I was the only one in the world. Not literally, but it sure felt like it. And now, reading through the oodles and oodles of MoMu blogs out there, I feel like everyone is a Mormon mutant. I seriously wonder sometimes if every single person on the planet is a mutant, but only a small percentage of us admit it. It's a ridiculous thought, I know, but still the sheer number of Mormon mutants out there makes me feel at once comforted and... I dunno... unspecial.

All those MoMu blogs are overwhelming in another way too. I see all the different ways people choose to reconcile their faith with their mutant power, and I get selection anxiety. There are active Mormons who "struggle with UPP," angry ex-Mormons who openly identify as mutants, and everything in between. To make it worse, it seems everyone is convinced that their way is the right way. How the heck am I supposed to decide what I'm going to do?

I can't tell you how much time and energy I spend stressing about this. I can't concentrate on school because in a month school will be done and I'm going to have to decide what I'm going to do with the rest of my life. I'm going to have to choose who I'm going to be, and suddenly I feel unprepared. Four years of college and even my two years of missionary service did not get me ready for this. But, as I keep reminding myself, I can't make this decision now, precisely because I'll be done with school in a month. I have papers to write, books to read, finals to study for. If I want to graduate, the rest of my life will have to wait.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Lifestyle

This afternoon I was eating lunch outside the library with some friends from the English department, watching the reconstruction of the Wilk. There were three of us, all seniors graduating next month, not a single one of us with a clear idea of what to do with a BA in English. "I should have done the English Education degree," I said. "At least then I could teach."


"Blech," said Jose, who meets the hipster-poet stereotype better than any of us, with his dark-framed glasses, tight jeans and t-shirt, and hair as long as BYU will let him grow it. "English Education is so..."

"Practical?" I offered.

Faith, a girl who has been in several of my classes over the years, including this semester's creative writing class where I workshopped my essay about being a mutant, chuckled. "If we were practical people, we would major in computer science." She brushed aside a tuft of long, brown hair that had blown in her face. "But you couldn't teach high school anyway, could you, Ben?"

"Huh?"

She sat up. "Because of your... lifestyle. I mean, I know you're a good person, but if I had a kid and one of the teachers at my kid's school was... like you, I'd be concerned."

I stared at her, feeling like I'd been punched in the gut. Jose stopped mid-bite and gawked at her.

"Don't get me wrong," Faith said, "you're my friend and I know you would never..." She vaguely gestured toward the destroyed Wilkinson Center. "But people are understandably careful about who they expose their kids to."

Jose looked at his lap and continued eating his sandwich. I looked to the Wilk, trying to wrap my head around what exactly Faith was saying. That mutants shouldn't be high school teachers because they might blow up the school? You know, despite the fact that most of us don't have blowing-up powers? Or that by exposing children to us, they might learn to blow up schools? And lifestyle? Really? What kind of lifestyle do I have? I go to BYU. I do homework. I hang out with my girlfriend. I hate that word. Lifestyle.

"Hey," Faith said, breaking the awkward silence. "We're cool, right? I mean, I'm just trying to be honest."

I nodded. I was too paralyzed by shock to do anything else. I should probably be angry now, but more than anything I just feel depressed. Faith isn't a bigot. She doesn't hate me. She wasn't trying to be mean or hurtful. Faith is an intelligent, kind person. She's my friend. She's a good person. The depressing thing is that I live in a world where it's the good people who say things like that.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Gray, Revisited

Recently I joined a Facebook group for LDS mutants and allies (a few months ago I had no idea such a thing existed!). Today someone posted something making fun of Cypher, which is an organization that provides support for Latter-day Saints who deal with unnatural power proclivity (presumably named after the X-Man who is purportedly Mormon). The gist of the post, and the ensuing comments thread, was that this organization is the most horrible thing in the world because it encourages Mormon mutants to suppress their abilities rather than embracing them. And I'm just like, "Hey, at least they're talking about mutant issues in a Mormon context, which is something I would have loved to have a few years ago."


The conversation reminded me of yesterday's discussion with Shawn. I feel like some people recognize that they've been blinded by black-and-white thinking their entire life, only to embrace white-and-black thinking instead. Okay, so you've traded "mutant=bad/church=good" for "mutant=good/church=bad." Is that really any better? You're still missing an entire world of grays!

To be honest, I'm not sure how I feel about the church right now, or about mutant stuff, or about anything. But I'd rather be unsure than be an arrogant jerk. Being unsure is just part of being human.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Napkin Religion

Lucy and I had dinner with a friend from UUPP this evening. It was a fairwell dinner. The friend, whom I'll call Shawn, had been on academic probation since he confessed to his bishop that he was regularly using his mutant power. Shawn is a telepath and it's really hard for him to turn his power off--he just hears people's thoughts, without trying. So over the past two months he's had to keep going back to his bishop and keep admitting that he's still "acting out." The Honor Code Office has warned him several times that if he doesn't get his behavior under control, he'll be kicked out of BYU. Finally, Shawn had enough and said, "Forget that." (He actually used much stronger language, which I won't repeat here.)

"It's all a load of B.S.," Shawn told me and Lucy tonight over Thai food. (And yes, I'm still censoring.) "The Honor Code Office, BYU, Bishop Rawlins, the whole effing church. They're all just trying to brainwash us, to keep us down. You know why? They're afraid of us. They're afraid of our power. Effing afraid."

I have to admit, I'm something of a swear wussy. I winced every time Shawn cussed. He seemed to notice my discomfort--or perhaps he read it in my mind--and he grinned at me. "See how brainwashed you are? They even control what language you can and cannot use."

Lucy reached across the table to squeeze Shawn's hand. "I can understand why you're angry, Shawn. You've been at BYU for two and a half years. You put a lot into your studies here, and now all of a sudden you have to uproot yourself and start over. And all because of some people in the church who don't understand that your power is a beautiful part of who you are. But don't let the people distract you from what the church really is. This isn't man's church. It's God's church. He'll make everything right."

"Forget God."

Even Lucy, with all her empathy, flinched at that one. She jerked back, pulling her hand away from Shawn.

Shawn looked to me and grinned again. His grin was unnerving, like it knew things about me I didn't know myself. "Ben knows what I'm talking about, don't you, Ben?"

I didn't respond. I didn't know how to respond. Honestly, I didn't know what he was talking about. But I feared that I did.

"Ben sees it too," Shawn said to Lucy. "He sees how the hierarchical structure of the church empowers a select few while keeping the masses down. He sees how all that 'testimony' B.S. they feed you in Sunday school is really just circular logic and self-fulfilling prophesies. Honestly, Lucy, think about it. Let's say I tell you..." He searched around the table for a moment, then picked up a napkin. "Let's say I tell you this napkin is a magic napkin, that all the truth you need to know about God and the universe is in this napkin. And you say, 'Why should I believe that?' And I give you my best salesman smile--" He demonstrated a convincing impression of a car salesman. "--and I tell you, 'It's simple. God will tell you himself. Just ask. But I know this napkin is true, Lucy. I know it. And I know that God will tell you it's true if you ask him sincerely and with a pure heart.' So you take the napkin, and you pray about it."

Lucy, always a good sport, took the napkin from Shawn and thanked him politely.

Source: http://www.lepirateesthete.com/2011_05_25_archive.html
(And how awesome is it that this image exists? I searched for "holy napkin" and didn't expect to find anything this perfect to go with Shawn's little diatribe.)

"Now," Shawn said, "one of two things will happen: One, you pray about it and my sales pitch was so convincing and you saw how happy the napkin made me, so you want it to be true. And, because that's how the human brain works, you convince yourself that God has answered your prayer and told you the napkin is true. Or two, you're maybe not 100% sold on my pitch, or maybe you're a little more logical than the average Joe, so you don't get an answer. Or maybe you convince yourself the answer is 'no.' Either way, is my faith threatened? If I were applying the scientific method it would be. The scientific method requires experiments to be repeatable, with the same results every time. But I'm not using the scientific method; I'm using magical thinking. And in my magical world, promises from God come with a caveat: They only work if you're faithful. So if you didn't get an answer, or you got the wrong answer, then it's because you're unworthy. Or you were deceived by an evil spirit. It's never because the whole effing system is B.S. But that's exactly what it is--effing B.S."

Undaunted, Lucy smiled. "So if I only believe because I want to believe, because it makes me happy, then what's the problem? You know, like they say, if it makes you happy, then how can it be so bad?"

Shawn shrugged. "Until it doesn't."

I focused on my mussaman curry. Shawn was right about me--I had had those thoughts before. I do have those doubts. But I'm not about to go apostate, join the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, and start dropping F-bombs all over the place. Doubt your doubts, right?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Gray

Life used to be much simpler:

  • Mutant powers=Bad. 
  • Priesthood power=Good. 
  • LDS Church=Right. 
  • X-Men=Wrong. 
  • Mutant marriage=Not An Option. 
  • Lifelong celibacy=As Good As It Gets.
Then Jan came into my life, and now Lucy, and suddenly the lines are blurred

But you know what? The black-and-white picture I had of the world was always just an illusion. It's like old, pre-color TV shows. Everyone calls them "black and white," but in reality they're filled with grays. If you only use black and white to make a picture, the best you can do is a two-dimensional cartoon. It's the grays that give life depth. 


Monday, March 17, 2014

Flight Anxiety

Lucy wants me to take her flying. "Wouldn't it be lovely?" she says. "Like Superman and Lois Lane, soaring through the clouds above Metropolis. Except, you know, Provo. And there's no way I'm letting you hold me with just one hand. Because gravity."


I tell her I'm not ready to do that. She says I need to accept the gifts God gave me. I tell her I'd feel better about waiting to act on my power until the church officially changes its position on mutant behavior. She says personal revelation trumps church policy. I tell her I'd get kicked out of BYU. She says BYU doesn't need to know. ("You don't have to announce EVERYthing you do on your blog.")

So, yeah. I'm starting to feel like I'm being irrational, like I'm not being fair to Lucy. I mean, if my power really is a gift from God, shouldn't I be sharing it? But I'm just not ready yet.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Gravity

I went jogging tonight. I often go jogging when the urge to fly is so strong I can hardly breathe. It's a coping mechanism I learned from a therapist I saw for my "unnatural power proclivity" before my mission. Jogging clears my head, expels some of that pent up energy trying to escape, puts my focus somewhere else besides on the desire to act out, and forces me to breathe. Except tonight it was windy. As I ran between the MTC and the temple, scattered raindrops hitting my glasses and wind rushing past my ears, it felt like all I had to do was let go and the wind would carry me away. It took all my concentration to force each step I took to connect with the pavement. It was like gravity was pulling me up and I had to will myself down. Each step could easily have launched me up, up, and away.


Somehow, I managed to stay on solid ground. I jogged for half an hour, then came home and showered. I might even make it through the night without levitating above my bed. No matter how much I tell myself that mutant powers come from God just as much as any other gift, no matter how cynical I allow myself to be about things I've never thought to question before, I can't bring myself to give up and fly. Because that's what it would feel like--giving up. Gravity is pulling me upward and I'm clinging for my life to what I know. Is this the iron rod protecting me from the mists of darkness or is it an iron shackle keeping me from freedom?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Today's Inspirational Story

The surgery went well. My mom will likely take a few weeks to recover, but she'll be fine. No mutant powers were involved so the priesthood blessing must have worked.

Or, you know, the surgery just worked, the same as it does for the majority of people who have it done sans blessing.

Ugh. I'd make a horrible EFY speaker.


Monday, March 10, 2014

O Me of Little Faith

My mom's health has never been good, so it wasn't a complete shock when my sister called this afternoon to tell me Mom is in the hospital. She's had back problems before, leg issues, a weird circulatory condition, and chronic migraines, but this time it's her stomach giving her problems. Apparently some kind of blockage in her intestine. They're removing it surgically tonight.


"Don't worry," Marsha told me, "Mom's home teachers have already stopped by to give her a blessing. She'll be okay."

How horrible is it that my first thought was I wonder how quickly Jan could get to Arizona? Four months ago I had no doubt that real power lies in the priesthood and that mutant powers like Jan and I have are counterfeit. But how many blessings did Lucy receive? Yet she just got worse and worse until Jan healed her. Using her "counterfeit" power.

I know, I know. God answers prayers through his servants. Jan's power is the tool God used to fulfill the promises he made in all those priesthood blessings Lucy received. It's no less miraculous than if a doctor had found a cure as a result of a patient's faithful prayers. I'm the one who made that argument two months ago.

But still. I'd sleep better tonight if Jan were in Arizona with my mom.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Marriage

Lucy and I have been talking about marriage. We're not getting engaged or anything--we've only been dating for five days and even at BYU that's fast--but just talking about marriage in general. Well, I guess a little more specific than that. Talking about mutant marriage and interspecies marriage. Lucy's thoughts are along the same lines as Jan's, that the church's opposition to mutant and interspecies marriage is a policy, not doctrine, and that one day it will change. But she's not quite so willing to wait for that to change.


"We could get married civilly now," Lucy told me last night, "then get sealed in the temple when the policy changes."

We were lying on the grass, staring at the stars. I sat up. "I don't think you can have a temple recommend if you do that. I mean, until the policy changes."

Lucy shrugged. "I'd rather do what I know is right and be with the person I love than wait for an unjust policy to change just so I can have a temple recommend."

This seemed so strange coming from Lucy, who just five months ago was a complete Molly Mormon. She still is, in most ways, and I like that about her, but she's also got this rebellious streak to her and I kind of like that too. Well, that's not even it. It's not rebellion. It's more that she's extremely confident about what she believes is right. Most of that lines up with what the church says is right, but she's bold enough to follow her conscience even in those few areas where she doesn't agree with the church. It's not about the organization for her. It's about her relationship with God. I really dig that in a woman.

As for marriage? I don't know. I'm still undecided. Maybe one day I'll be as bold as Lucy.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Less Miserable

Had an honest-to-goodness, no-more-holding-back date with Lucy tonight. I invited her over to my place, made beef stroganoff (one of the few things I know how to make well), and then we watched Les Miserables (the recent version with the dude who played Wolverine in that biopic about the X-Men). After the movie we cuddled on the couch for a while and talked. Thankfully, my roommates left us alone. And... she may have just left now, a few minutes after curfew. Shh! Don't tell.

Image source: http://clearlycaneda.wordpress.com/2012/12/28/wolverine-crashes-les-miserables/