Episode 155c: Annual Essay Contest Part 3

Zilpha hosts the listener essay contest.

Essay Information

Episode A
1. Blinking In the Starlight: Jesse
2. I Am Pro-Polygamy: Seth
3.Thoughts on his 30th birthday about leaving his 20’s: Gardener
4. I want a Disney Romance, Not Polygamy!: Kate
5. Word of Wisdom?: Roger
6. An Outsider In Our Lovely Deseret: Travis
7. Thinking And Reasoning, Mikey!: David

Episode B
8. Not So Drab: Lauren
9. I Was Offended Vignettes: Anonymous
10. Polygamy and shifting beliefs: Jonathon
11. Allegory of the Campfire: Bryan
(Non-entry: Revealing your loss of faith to loved ones – Richard)
12. I Live in Questions: Elliot
13. Somebody Dunn Me Wrong: Tony
14. Bag of Gifts: Sara

Episode C
15. It’s Not Working Because She’s Gay: Gail
16. Mormon Temples are Not for Gays: Timothy
17. Special Conference at the Morley Farm: One Who Watches
18. Movies and Flies in Milkshakes: Alyssa
19. My Mission: Jacob
20. Walter’s Journal

Episode 155c

36 comments on “Episode 155c: Annual Essay Contest Part 3”

  1. Ryan Love Reply

    in the last essay he says in 1982 there was a sign at hauns mill that said “community of christ” the it was not called the community of christ until the year 2000. did he change his journal entry for the reading?

  2. Chino_Blanco Reply

    I’ve listened to the first two installments and am now into the third and listening to the “Fly in the Blender” essay.  OMG.  Some real talent on display here.   

    • Alyssa Reply

      Ah, thanks. I appreciate your kind words. This was my first stab at sound production and I had a lot of fun with it. It took me about a month to write and revise the essay and then another month to do the sound production. I wanted it to feel like an episode of NPR’s RadioLab or PRI’s This American Life. I learned a lot from it (like next time I’ll need to buy a better microphone).

      Special thanks to my husband on it. He gave me tons of helpful feedback and suggestions. 🙂

      • Zilpha Reply

        Alyssa, I loved your essay and was very impressed with all the sound effects. You did an awesome job!

        • Alyssa Reply

          Thanks, Zilpha. And I really loved the final essay. My husband and I both agreed that it was the best choice. I loved that it tracked snapshots of his thoughts about the church over 30 years. It felt very intimate and raw; it was like some of my favorite documentaries where you get the rare—and frankly, sacred—opportunity to glimpse someone else’s innermost thoughts and feelings. Even though he comes from a different generation and has a different social background from my own, I completely identified with him and cared about him. And the piece also had an element of mystery to it, like there was so much going on in between each journal entry that you wanted to know more about. But it wasn’t heavy handed about it—it just left you to wonder or fill in the gaps for yourself.

        • Alyssa Reply

          Thanks, Zilpha. And I really loved the final essay. My husband and I both agreed that it was the best choice. I loved that it tracked snapshots of his thoughts about the church over 30 years. It felt very intimate and raw; it was like some of my favorite documentaries where you get the rare—and frankly, sacred—opportunity to glimpse someone else’s innermost thoughts and feelings. Even though he comes from a different generation and has a different social background from my own, I completely identified with him and cared about him. And the piece also had an element of mystery to it, like there was so much going on in between each journal entry that you wanted to know more about. But it wasn’t heavy handed about it—it just left you to wonder or fill in the gaps for yourself.

      • Lindsey Gustafson Reply

        You should do your own podcast! I loved listening to your essay, the sound effects were awesome, and it was all very compelling!

    • Jacob Brown Reply

      I really loved that one too. Very high quality production in my opinion and an important subject too. These essays are awesome. Seems like they will get better every year!

  3. Alyssa Reply

    Hi there. In order to be compliant with Creative Commons Licensing, I need to give music credits to my essay (The Fly in the Blender). I used Kevin Macleod’s “Atlantean Twilight” and his performance of Erik Satie’s “Gymnopedia No. 2.” His royalty-free music is available at http://incompetech.com. All the rest of the music and sound effects used in the podcast were legally purchased and used with permission from the copyright holder. (Well, all except for Johnny Lingo, but that should be fully covered under fair use laws.)

  4. DefyGravity Reply

    Alyssa, loved your essay! As a theatre person, I get so irritated when people judge a piece simply based on the language, etc. I worked a fantastic show, and invited a friend, and the only reaction I got was ‘they swore 3 times.” I’m still mad about that. Often it is the “bad stuff” that makes the piece profound, beautiful, and useful! You’re discussion of bleeping out language to make the movie more “Mormon” reminded me of the reaction to the King’s Speech in Provo UT. I saw the original (gasp) and think it is one of most incredible films made recently. Friends of mine saw the edited version, with the f work bleeped out of the scene where he’s attempting to get over his stutter. Bleeping the words out kills that scene completely, but people were utterly missing the point of the scene in their obsession with swearing. Thanks for the awesome essay for people in the arts! 

  5. John Moore Reply

    Alyssa,

    This same approach is how too many see church leaders.  ‘If Joseph Smith was a prophet, then polygamy was/is a commandment’ they say.  In their mind, there are two kinds of prophets, true prophets and false prophets.  True prophets can have some minor flaws, for sure, but they cannot be liars, murderers, and rapists.  They’ve got to pass the temple recommend interview I grew up with.  So what about a guy who revealed great truths, communicated beyond the natural world, and perhaps exploited his religious genius for the purpose of creating a theocratic society so he could coerce otherwise-unwilling women into having sex with him?  This kind of Mormonism is unappealing (as I have to admit it sort of is to me too).  Whether it is Thomas Jefferson’s history of raping Sally Hemings (sex with a person who cannot deny consent is rape), or Martin Luther King’s cheating on Coretta, I don’t need great figures to be good.  Maybe Joseph Smith will burn in hell, I don’t know, but that doesn’t mean everything he said was false.

    • Anonymous Reply

      That’s an interesting idea, John.  I agree that we shouldn’t dismiss what someone says or does based upon character flaws.  Mormonism didn’t fall apart for me because of Joseph Smith’s sexual exploits or his megalomania.  Mormonism fell apart for me because of the Kinderhook Plates, the papyri, the anachronisms of the Book of Mormon, the blatant plagiarism of the Bible, and other things of that nature.  

      I’ve never 100% bought into the argument that god is necessarily moral, kind, loving, or good.  If god exists, he could easily be angry and exploitative.  In the same vein, I’m sure it’s quite possible for someone to actually receive revelation from a god (either a good god or a bad god) and also be a bastard.

    • Anonymous Reply

      That’s an interesting idea, John.  I agree that we shouldn’t dismiss what someone says or does based upon character flaws.  Mormonism didn’t fall apart for me because of Joseph Smith’s sexual exploits or his megalomania.  Mormonism fell apart for me because of the Kinderhook Plates, the papyri, the anachronisms of the Book of Mormon, the blatant plagiarism of the Bible, and other things of that nature.  

      I’ve never 100% bought into the argument that god is necessarily moral, kind, loving, or good.  If god exists, he could easily be angry and exploitative.  In the same vein, I’m sure it’s quite possible for someone to actually receive revelation from a god (either a good god or a bad god) and also be a bastard.

    • Alyssa Reply

      I think you’re right, John. I was talking with an older woman recently about journal writing and she told me she had made a pact with her best friend that whoever died first would burn each other’s journals so that their kids couldn’t read them. And I just wanted to cry when she said that. I think it’s so much more valuable to see each other fully as human beings, people with strengths and moments of glory—but also with complex emotions, flaws, and genuine challenges. I prefer real people over one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of people.

      The church’s correlation program does a disservice by not allowing us to see the individuals who shaped the church as the complex human beings they really were. For me, I’m not as bothered by the actual flaws of Smith or Young as much as I’m bothered by the fact that the church doesn’t think I’m mature enough to handle looking at them in a more nuanced way. I also wonder if it has started to make church members “self-correlate,” if you will—become so obsessed over appearing to be perfect at all times and in all things and in all places so that others can’t discover our personal flaws (in other words, the very things that make us real human beings).

      • John Moore Reply

        My late father kept an honest mission journal, that I have had for ten years.  The record of his foibles have always been by far the most helpful passages to me.

    • Alyssa Reply

      I think you’re right, John. I was talking with an older woman recently about journal writing and she told me she had made a pact with her best friend that whoever died first would burn each other’s journals so that their kids couldn’t read them. And I just wanted to cry when she said that. I think it’s so much more valuable to see each other fully as human beings, people with strengths and moments of glory—but also with complex emotions, flaws, and genuine challenges. I prefer real people over one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs of people.

      The church’s correlation program does a disservice by not allowing us to see the individuals who shaped the church as the complex human beings they really were. For me, I’m not as bothered by the actual flaws of Smith or Young as much as I’m bothered by the fact that the church doesn’t think I’m mature enough to handle looking at them in a more nuanced way. I also wonder if it has started to make church members “self-correlate,” if you will—become so obsessed over appearing to be perfect at all times and in all things and in all places so that others can’t discover our personal flaws (in other words, the very things that make us real human beings).

  6. Lance Reply

    Timothy’s essay was very touching and heartfelt.  Very well expressed.  I also enjoyed the very though-provoking essay from Alyssa.

  7. Jason Reply

    The June 1831 Conference always fascinated me since I first read about it for the first time in Bushman’s Rough Stone Rolling. I appreciate your faith-promoting interpretation because you remain consistent with the facts. However, I believe an alternative explanation is more plausible. Namely, Smith actually believed the Melchizedek Priesthood was restored for the first time in 1831 when he declared it so at that time. It isn’t until later that Smith retroactively claimed that he received the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John in 1829. In his traditional fashion, Smith fashioned a more charismatic, more grandiose story of priesthood restoration to gain a following at a time when members were leaving in droves. Martin Harris and David Whitmer had never heard of angelic beings who restored the higher priesthood until quite later. Indeed, few members had ever heard of this account until well after the alleged date of the priesthood’s restoration in 1829. Indeed, Oliver Cowdry and others later retrofitted the Book of Commandments with the higher priesthood’s restoration by the hands of Peter, James, and John. D. Michael Quinn thoroughly addressed this problem in the first Mormon Hierarchy book. However, Smith’s problem was that he already claimed to have received the Melchizedek priesthood “for the first time” in June of 1831. It’s a quandary that even Bushman couldn’t really comfortably resolve in Rough Stone Rolling. 

    • OWIW Reply

      “It isn’t until later that Smith retroactively claimed that he received
      the Melchizedek Priesthood from Peter, James, and John in 1829. In his
      traditional fashion, Smith fashioned a more charismatic, more grandiose
      story of priesthood restoration to gain a following at a time when
      members were leaving in droves.”

      That is an interesting theory Jason.

      Can you be more specific about when Joseph changed his story at a “later” time, because people were leaving in droves?

      I don’t think he ever changed his story, I think there was perhaps a problem with semantics. Joseph did say that all priesthood was Melchizedek. In that context, it is true that the patriarchal priesthood restored by PJ&J was a portion of Melchizedek, however, I think it is easily documented that Joseph did not deviate from the concept that there were three separate and distinct divisions of priesthood, nor did he deny that the Melchizedek priesthood was restored for the first time at the Morley Farm.

      Joseph Smith gave a very detailed explanation of the three divisions of priesthood very late in his life, during the Nauvoo period, on August 27 1843. http://www.boap.org/LDS/Parallel/1843/27Aug43.html

      Additionally, section 124 also indicates that the fulness of the priesthood had been lost from the earth, yet the second priesthood which governs the saving ordinances was clearly still on the earth and being used and spoken of in revelation during the Nauvoo period.

      • Jason Reply

        OWIW,

        Richard Bushman raises this theory in Rough Stone Rolling when he writes, “the late appearance of these accounts [referring to the accounts of restoration by Peter, James and John] raises the possibility of later fabrication.” (Pg. 75). The current version of Priesthood restoration does not appear until around 1835. The Book of Commandments was a chronological recording of all of Joseph Smith’s revelations and would have covered the time that Smith alleges to have received the Melchizedek Priesthood in 1829. However, such an account makes no appearance. Grant Palmer writes in, An Insider’s View of Mormon Origins, that “Accounts of angelic ordinations from John the Baptist, and Peter, James, and John are in none of the journals, diaries, letters, or printed matter until the mid-1830s.” Pgs. 223-24).  When Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery complied the 1835 D&C, they added a significant amount of verses to D&C section 27 from the original chapter in the Book of Commandments. Of the 649 added words, Smith and Cowdery provided account of the visit from Peter, James, and John. This link provides a comparison of the later additions and alterations of the 1835 D&C with the original Book of Commandments: http://www.saintswithouthalos.com/s/d&c_27.phtml. 

        Anyway, Mormonthink.com provides a comprehensive review of this problem and raises other significant issues that suggest Smith retroactively added the angelic account of priesthood revelation after the June 1831 conference. As for the members leaving at this time, I believe that information is generally accepted, but I cannot provide an immediate source. As discussed above, we know that no account of the angelic restoration appeared until the mid 1830s, and I believe that this was a time of great upheaval in Kirkland. It’s also the same year in which Smith tells more grandiose stories of the First Vision and purchases the Egyptian Papyri and announces that he found a text written by the hand of Abraham. Add all of these events together, and we see a pattern of Smith making grandiose claims as a method to instill zeal and belief in its membership during a time when doubts and disenchantment with Mormonism pervaded. 

        • OWIW Reply

          Jason

          Thank you for a more detailed response.

          I am not questioning that people left in droves during the Kirtland era. Indeed I have seen estimates of up to 50% of the membership and 30% of the leadership that left during the Kirtland apostasy.

          My point was that the Kirtland apostasy was pretty much completed by 1838-9 and yet we have Joseph still teaching about the three levels of priesthood in 1843. Joseph was still clearly teaching about the three levels of priesthood long after the Kirtland apostasy.

          I also agree with you that Joseph did not speak about certain things until later in his ministry which understandably causes lots of people indigestion.

          One of the intriguing aspects of the LDS restoration movement is how Joseph intentionally withheld information at times and then revealed it later.

          I realize this makes him look like a deceiver who is back tracking and trying to revise history… Your logic is very understandable… I get it.

          I am simply suggesting that there is another possibility. Not the sanitized possibilities provided by the corporate apologists, but rather a third possibility.

          In one of the very early meetings of the church, 1830 or earlier, Hyrum got up in front of the first elders and invited Joseph to get up and give all of the particulars of what had happened to bring the church up to the point of having it ready to be legally organized. Hyrum saw this as an incredibly fortuitous opportunity for Joseph to strengthen the testimonies and knowledge base of the new converts who were to take the gospel to the nations.

          To the shock and dismay of Hyrum, Joseph flatly declined and said something to the effect of “it is not necessary that the elders should know all of the particulars at this time”.

          I apologize for not having the exact quote and the reference handy on that event, I suspect that you may be familiar with it since you appear to be pretty well read in the history of the church.

          Again, Joseph’s decline to take that opportunity to clearly lay out what happened in the first vision and the visitation of angels restoring the priesthood is disconcerting at best.

          A similar scenario took place with the visitation of angels in the Kirtland Temple many years later.

           How strange that the two people who experienced the visitation and the scribe who recorded it NEVER ONCE PUBLICLY MADE MENTION OF IT DURING THE REMAINDER OF JOSEPH’S LIFE!!!!

          It would be published for the first time about 16 years later and not canonized for 40 years!

          There was apparently a congregation of people sitting on the other side of the veil during the visitation and yet Joseph and Oliver quietly got up and left instead of sharing the event with the congregation… go figure.

          Why would Joseph not want to the contemporary saints that event??

          They had labored hard to complete the Temple and the Savior accepted their efforts… why not publish the event?

           Yet he obviously wanted future generations to know about it by virtue of the fact that he had it recorded and documented in the history which obviously had a good chance of surviving him.

          I believe that skeptics of the restoration movement, who reject it, view and judge the scriptures in modern revelation through the eyes of their own interpretation of the associated historical events… thereby assuming that Joseph was simply making up the revelations.

          Conversely, I  believe that skeptics of the restoration movement (like myself), who accept the basic storyline, as presented in the scriptures, view the history through the eyes of modern revelation.

          I believe that is why skeptic believers and skeptic non-believers interpret historical events in an opposite way.

          I really appreciate the fact that you have researched these issues and that you have sound reasons why you are rejecting the storyline.

          Although there is little chance of either of us changing the views of the other, I love to dialogue with people like you because I love having my views challenged and I love challenging the contrary views… that is how we all pick up additional information that we may not have previously had and we have the ability to examine things at a deeper level.

          Regarding the claim that Joseph really did not make mention of the first vision or the restoration of the priesthood by angels until years after the fact,.. I agree. However, regarding the claim that he did not do so until approximately 1835ish, I don’t think that is accurate.

          Here is a quote taken from one of the journals of Joseph Smith. I believe he is in fact alluding to the first vision, the restoration of the priesthoods by angels and, interestingly enough, he then alludes to the restoration of the third priesthood, making a distinction between the third priesthood and the previous two priesthoods.

          The statements in brackets are provided by believing contributors of Boap.org who seem to be somewhat baffled by what is being said…
           
          “When Joseph Smith dictated his first attempt at a personal history in 1832 he made this remark:

          ‘A History of the life of Joseph Smith Jr an account of his marvilous experience and of all the mighty acts which he doeth in the name of Jesus Christ the son of the living God of whom he beareth record and also an account of the rise of the church of Christ in the eve of time according as the Lord brought forth and established by his hand firstly he receiving the testimony from on high

          [The first vision]

          secondly the ministering of Angels

          [Moroni -Book of Mormon plates]

          thirdly the reception of the holy Priesthood by the ministring of Angels to adminster the letter of the Gospel – the Law and commandments as they were given unto him – and the ordinencs

          [John the Baptist (are Peter, James and John included here?)],

          forthly a confirmation and reception of the high Priesthood after the holy order of the son of the living God power and ordinence from on high to preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit the Kees of the Kingdom of God confered upon him

          [visit of Peter, James and John, or is this a reference to the restoration of the office of high priest?]

          and the continuation of the blessings of God to him &c”

          http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:2dSfQm6XxWsJ:www.boap.org/LDS/History/HTMLHistory/v1c7history.html+%E2%80%9CA+History+of+the+life+of+Joseph+Smith+Jr+an+account+of+his+marvilous+experience+and%22+site:www.boap.org&cd=2&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

          As you can see from the comments in brackets, it was difficult for traditional Mormon scholars to believe what they were reading but they had no other alternative than to accept the possibility that the reception of the “holy” priesthood, by angels, (plural), had to probably be referring to BOTH of the first two priesthoods since the Aaronic priesthood was the first to be restored, and it was restored by just one angel.

          This set up the next part of Joseph’s statement which speaks of the restoration of a “high” priesthood which is separate and distinct from the two previous priesthoods that were both restored by angels.

          He identifies it as the “High Priesthood after the holy order of the son of God“

          Again we see question marks in the brackets from the LDS scholars postulating that the third priesthood was possibly referring to the restoration of the office of “High Priest” which is how the modern corporate church inaccurately defines the event that took place at the Morley Farm.

          Finally, notice how the first two priesthoods were for the purpose of administering the “letter of the Gospel – the Law and commandments.. and the ordinencs” while the priesthood after the order of the Son of God was to “preach the Gospel in the administration and demonstration of the spirit”

          I believe the above entry by Joseph Smith in 1832 demonstrates that he did in fact make reference to these experiences long before 1835.

          OWIW

  8. Beckstrandjake Reply

    Love the last one, especially the “no one ever thinks about the welding.” You were right to pick that one. 

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      I am embarassed to admit that Walter’s essay made me cry. Luckily I was alone at home, making Lasagna, while my wife and kids were at church. His journal entries somehow reminded me of my own and I started crying – partially because I likely felt sorry for myself, and partially because it is always sad to hear of innocence lost. By the end it hit me so hard I just started bawling. I guess I’m a big baby. Then, before I went to bed last night, I got out my old mission journal and started reading. Pretty heartbreaking stuff. Glad he won. Walter really deserved it. Special thanks to John (his boss, not Larson) who got him to enter! 🙂

  9. don't know mo Reply

    Wow! I thoroughly enjoyed all the entries. I have to agree with the choice for the winner. Walter’s journal entries are so profound in their raw simplicity. Thank you everyone for sharing your experiences, insights and talent.

  10. FullyWashable Reply

    Zilpha, could you perhaps put up a list of all the essays somewhere? It might help with the voting. It is hard to remember them all once you get to the end of the whole set, just because the ones near the end are right there in your mind.

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      Good idea. If Zilpha hasn’t had time to do this by the end of the day today (Sept 12) I will trow together a list tomorrow and place it at the top of each essay page.

  11. Zilpha Reply

    After listening to all the essays, select your favorite and then vote for it by writing to mail@mormonexpression:disqus .com by the end of September. Here are the essays:

     Essay Information

    Episode A
    1. Blinking In the Starlight: Jesse
    2. I Am Pro-Polygamy: Seth
    3.Thoughts on his 30th birthday about leaving his 20’s: Gardener
    4. I want a Disney Romance, Not Polygamy!: Kate
    5. Word of Wisdom?: Roger
    6. An Outsider In Our Lovely Deseret: Travis
    7. Thinking And Reasoning, Mikey!: David

    Episode B
    8. Not So Drab: Lauren
    9. I Was Offended Vignettes: Anonymous
    10. Polygamy and shifting beliefs: Jonathon
    11. Allegory of the Campfire: Bryan
    12. I Live in Questions: Elliot
    13. Somebody Dunn Me Wrong: Tony
    14. Bag of Gifts: Sara

    Episode C
    15. It’s Not Working Because She’s Gay: Gail
    16. Mormon Temples are Not for Gays: Timothy
    17. Special Conference at the Morley Farm: One Who Watches
    18. Movies and Flies in Milkshakes: Alyssa
    19. My Mission: Jacob
    20. Walter’s Journal

  12. Hermes Reply

    I loved all the essays.  However, I have to point out a new perspective from which the story of the fly in the milkshake is bad.  Flies are actually a good, relatively clean source of protein (especially if you are cooking them rather than blending them).  They don’t even taste bad.  All of us eat insects like flies without meaning to all of the time (e.g. when we sleep with our mouths open).  So, if I had been offered an otherwise fine milkshake with a fly in it, I would probably chug it without a thought.

    • Richard of Norway Reply

      I was thinking exactly the same thing! Hehe. I’ll take two fly milkshakes. 😉

      Still an excellent essay. It’s not her fault church leaders come up with stupid analogies like that.

  13. Randy Snyder Reply

    Thanks Zipha and John and all the participants for this podcast.  It was truly enjoyable.  I need to get off my ass next year and submit something.  

  14. Nathan R Kennard Reply

    I will list my favorite essays followed by my “listener’s choice”.
    Episode A
    6. An Outsider In Our Lovely Deseret: Travis
    7. Thinking And Reasoning, Mikey!: David

    Episode B
    8. Not So Drab: Lauren
    (Non-entry: Revealing your loss of faith to loved ones – Richard)
    14. Bag of Gifts: Sara

    Episode C
    18. Movies and Flies in Milkshakes: Alyssa
    20. Walter’s Journal

    All of the essays were outstanding. These stood out for me.
    6. Travis presented some fun background and a fun essay. I liked the singing.
    7. Think! Is it harder to think or reason?
    8. Drab – well spoken praise for an individual with admirable qualities.
    non-entry – Useful lessons were expressed for individuals navigating the troubled waters of mixed faith couples.
    14. Bag of gifts – Positive way to look at things.
    18. Movies and Flies in Milkshakes – Excellent production. Interesting combination of audio clips with discussion. The production struck me as of a professional quality. The bar seems to be rising.
    20. Walter’s Journal – Walter’s voice was unique and insightful.

    My listener’s choice is
    [6. An Outsider In Our Lovely Deseret: Travis].

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