Monday, October 3, 2016

Conference Avenue

This past weekend was the semi-annual conference for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS or Mormon). This takes place in a large conference center on the North side of Temple square. On the South side of Temple square is the church developed City Creek shopping center. Pedestrian traffic and orange cones slowed traffic on North and South Temple (The roads that border temple square to the North and South) to a crawl. A few blocks north of North temple traffic was halted by a logjam of spastically jerking minivans all seeking free on-street parking.

I was driving East along 2nd avenue, just a little east of Temple square where it changes name from North Temple at the margin of the Salt Lake City neighborhood called the avenues, while the conference was nearing a close this last Sunday. 2nd avenue is a steep one way road from the church office building at the corner of State and North Temple to where it levels out at the intersection with B avenue. I was driving a large pickup truck and turning left onto B avenue when a woman with a cellphone to her ear while driving an older sedan North on B avenue ignored the “WRONG WAY” and “ONE WAY” signs and turned left onto 1st street. I honked to draw her attention to the fact that she was now traveling, in the rather inadequate space left between my truck and the curb, the wrong way on a one way street.

The day was warm, and windows were rolled down. It looked like the interior of the woman’s car was festooned with a couple more child seats than it should really support. I yelled at her to emphasize the message I had hoped my horn had gotten across:

“You are going the WRONG WAY on a ONE WAY STREET.” I yelled.

Without taking the phone from her ear she yelled back even louder:

“I know YOU IDIOT!!

She also said something less audible that could have been:

“I need to park”
“The videos must stop”
Or something about the marital status of my parents at the time of my conception. I did not really catch it. I was a little amused to have just been called an IDIOT –in all caps I assure you- by a woman bouncing her wheels off the curb so she could shoehorn her sputtering short baby bus the wrong way down a one way avenue.

I wonder what kind of moron I would be if she hit a parked car or poked herself in the eye with a stick?

If I had thought about it more at the time I would have focused on the strangely paranoid “The videos must stop” she may have added in at the end. What comes to mind when you picture a complete stranger saying that to you? How about a complete stranger driving frantically the wrong way down a moderately busy street? I wonder what the person talking to her on the cell phone thought.

Strangely enough the video statement would make more sense by the time I really thought about it. Shortly before the creative traffic event an anonymous leaker had released a dozen or so secret videos shot on behalf of the highest council of the Mormon Church. The so-called “Quorum of the Twelve Apostles” rules on all church policy that does not come unencumbered from the Prophet himself (The First President of the First Presidency). At the time of the videos (those I’ve seen) Boyd K. Packer was the president of “The Twelve”. Boyd K. Packer was made famous by his interest in encouraging little boys to stop masturbating.

I’ve watched the video entitled “In Which They Fret About Religious Freedom With Some Classic Bednar in the Last Five Minutes”. In this video a former Governor of Utah (1993-2003. Mike Okerlund Leavitt, who was also Administrator of EPA, 2003-2005, and Secretary of HHS, 2005-2009) spoke in conjunction with Robert Peter George who was founder and Herbert W. Vaughan senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute about religious freedom. By Religious Freedom they apparently meant preventing gay marriage and safe abortions, and by preventing gay marriage and safe abortions they mostly meant preventing gay marriage.

Mike presented a power point presentation on the plan to prevent religious freedoms by being eroded by “rights” and other anti-freedom evils. There was to be a grass roots organization of listening posts strategically placed around the US, and lawyers and lobbyists would swoop in whenever problems arose. He is a bit vague on problems. But a big one was allowing people to gay marry or not having religious exemptions written into all sorts of laws. The video was filmed in May of 2012; about two weeks after North Carolina voters passed their “Amendment 1” to their state constitution. President Obama famously came out and supported same sex unions the day after North Carolina passed their “Amendment 1”.

“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.” From “Amendment 1” aka ARTICLE XIV, Section 6 of the Constitution of North Carolina

“[North Carolina passed] a constitutional amendment in a very positive and affirmative way protecting marriage” – Mike Leavitt from the Religious freedom video (May 22? 2012)

Bob George was representing the AFPC of the EPPC and also NOM, but I’m sure he had a bunch of other acronyms to throw around to make his point clear. Bob wanted to tell the Twelve that they were nice people even if they were Mormon, and that that religious liberties were under attack by people that thought it was ok to gay marry.

“I want to pay tribute especially to the church for its heroic leadership in Prop 8” – Robert P. George from the Religious freedom video (May 22? 2012)

“[Without the LDS Church] we would be in no position to win it on either front; whether on the marriage front or the religious liberty front.” – Robert P. George from the Religious freedom video (May 22? 2012)

Bob and Mike found a receptive audience for their tender message of hate. Boyd was raised from whatever he was doing to grumble in support of Mike and Bob’s message; saying that:

"If they think we will move on these issues, they do not know us," – Boyd K. Packer from the Religious freedom video (May 22? 2012)

I am sure there are tons of illuminating statements by crusty old paranoid hate mongers in all the other videos.

The Deseret News (Both Bob and Mike are members of the Deseret News Editorial Board) said that the release of the videos was a good thing. The DezNews headlined their editorial page with a piece titled: “In our opinion: LDS Church leaks reveal an engaged and informed leadership”. The editorial goes after fellow blogger Hermant Mehta’s (The Friendly Atheist) post revealing the leaks; it does not identify the apparent conflict of interest suggested by the fact that several members of the same editorial board who wrote the piece were featured speakers in the videos.

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