Yearning for God, Trying to Love My Neighbor, Making Theatre and Beauty, Building a Life...

Sunday, April 2, 2017

A Compassionate Conference

Many critics of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints like to paint its leadership as a group of intolerant bigots that are ill-informed and ill-equipped to handle the modern world. This characterization has always felt false and grotesquely cartoonish to me, especially growing up, as I did, carefully watching and listening to the leaders of the Church. Even when occasionally I have disagreed with certain policies in the Church, or felt that certain rhetoric was unhelpful or even harmful, I have usually believed, earnestly so, in the basic honesty and integrity of the men and women within the various quorums and auxiliaries of the LDS Church, and believe that they are striving to live by the spirit of prophecy and revelation, to which God responds. Like many other leaders of world religions--Pope Francis, whom I really admire, comes to mind--they have heavy burdens and responsibilities, not the least of which is to petition God on behalf of their people.

I know many may see that as hopelessly naive--I know because I have read the books, papers, blogs, and Facebook posts of such skeptics. I have listened to their podcasts. I have sat down with them and heard their grievances. And I have had my own dark nights of the soul when a certain article, a particularly troubling historical tidbit, or what seems to me a benighted and backward policy rears its shadowed hooves to try and stamp my faith out of me. I do not take doubt or skepticism lightly, nor do I judge or condemn my friends and loved ones when they have left the faith... or stay, but stay in a constant state of intellectual and spiritual tension. I believe I understand them on certain levels, I believe I am at times part of their fellowship. If I had made a different turn here or there, if I had given way to a particularly bad attack of despair, it could have just as easily been me who abandoned ship.

Today, however, is not a day of doubt. Today is not the labyrinth of questions. I felt the Spirit of God burn peace in me as I watched a very remarkable group of spiritual leaders speak against many of the troubling trends popping up in our present-Trump, post-Truth, fake news, alt. right, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, Nordic Sunrise, Twitter-happy world. Instead of dodging troubling practices about women; or pushing policies against innocent children who should never be pushed away, should never be required to deny their parents, especially since the Church has no doctrine about original sin; instead of obstructing our faith with such distractions, I saw the leaders of the LDS Church rise to the occasion of the times and fulfill their calling in a way I have not witnessed since I was in high school and was continually invigorated by the likes of Neal A. Maxwell, Gordon B. Hinckley, James E. Faust, and a younger Jeffrey R. Holland.

Today current Mormon leaders like Dieter F. Ucthdorf, Thomas S. Monson, Dale G. Renlund, and an older Jeffrey R. Holland rallied to give us a spiritual feast with messages of kindness, love, tolerance, and forgiveness. When the political and secular world is on an unnerving precipice, but still dances on with an inebriated din of prejudice, conflict, fear, and wrath; when even those within our own community in Utah have disgraced themselves by turning away the poor in Draper; or when Jason Chaffetz turns a blind eye to corruption when he has been called as a political guard on the watchtower; our own prophets, seers, and revelators seem to have woke on their own watchtowers and tried to rouse the rest of us to a heightened sense of light, despite a dark world.

Monday, January 2, 2017

Mormon Schulz: Scott Hales' _Garden of Enid: Part One_ and _Mormon Shorts_

Sunday mornings were special. I would pad out in my awesome, baby blue, 80's footy pajamas, look through the Sunday paper, and find the color. For as long as I can remember, comics were a part of my life (I have the photos to prove it). Peanuts, Garfield, Foxtrot, Sherman's Lagoon, Mother Goose and Grimm, and Calvin and Hobbes were personal favorites, but everything from the irreverent Farside to the much more innocent Family Circus were all welcome additions to my time sunbathing in the warm window light on my belly on the living room floor, feet lifted and crossed above me. Even Bloom County/Outland was a source of fascination for me, though I strained to understand its political context at that young age.

As I grew older, my love for comics didn't die, it just changed. I eventually crossed over to reading comics of a different kind, like X-Men and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, yet if there is a newspaper handy, I still almost always flip to the comics section to look for my old friends. As newspapers are becoming rarer in my life, though, I am now getting in the habit of buying the published collections of old comics. I have started reading my initial volumes of The Complete Peanuts to my six year old for her bedtime, and I find it incredibly bonding. My kids may not grow up with newspapers, but they will know who Charlie Brown and Hobbes are.   

So with my love of the medium, when Scott Hales started publishing his web comic Garden of Enid, I was attracted to its mix of whimsical humor; literary undergirding; soul searching pathos; and obscure references to Mormon history, arts, and culture. Just blend up all my favorite things into one tasty smoothy, whydontcha? The writing is whip-smart, the references often subtle, and the humor human, humane, and hilarious.