Friday, April 12, 2013

Conference Demonstrating

Saturday, April 6th, 2013

I couldn't help it.  I had to be out there, doing something.  I ended up holding the two signs shown above for most of the time.  I had one guy pass by, "Oh no!  I'm afraid to think."  I didn't say anything, but if I was Mormon, I would be.  Think about the question, "if the church was false, would you want to know?"  Many Mormons wouldn't.  It's their life, it's their family, it's their culture.

The guy standing next to me was with me all of Saturday.  Church security came out and took our pictures.  Funny thing, they don't have any cameras in that particular corner that we were standing at.  It's only after we appeared friendly that the guy began talking with us, especially after I pointed out that he was church security based on his ear piece and pin.  Church security asked us whether we were pro or anti LDS.  That means that we were doing it right.  We wanted to appear LDS.  I didn't take any pictures of the other demonstrators, but generally they are just over the top and push people more towards the church.  We looked Mormon.  Even though we are no longer LDS, we are still very culturally LDS.  We would blend in at any Church function.  We talk the talk, can think the think, and can look the look.  Our families are LDS.  It's still our culture and background.

Our goal was to look friendly, Mormon enough, and not crazy.  The point was to show that there are friendly apostates around.  There's tons of people who are attending conference who no longer believe are or on the verge of belief.  I stood out there for those people, so they can find more information and other exmormons if they need it.

Our look and posters worked.  On top of that, my friend discussed with the over-the-top protestors.  He used very Mormon language when arguing with them.  When he did that, we both looked much more Mormon.  Huge swaths of crowds would stop and stare at me.  They would look at me for plenty long, often smiling after they read one or another sign.

A 5-year old girl went to my friend for a hug.  Her mom was very against it, but eventually let the little girl go.  The little girl gave my friend a hug, and then tried to hold the "hug an exmormon" sign.  Hahah.. oh man.  That made us uncomfortable, because we don't want any trouble.  We tried to get the girl to go back to her mom as quickly as possible.

There were people standing around trying to get conference tickets.  There was one guy who looked like he belong in the 1930s, with a brown fedora.  He started preaching about the book of mormon, and how people shouldn't believe the other protesters but they should believe us.  We then corrected him.  He then started yelling, "But don't believe these guys!  They are adulterers."  I then yelled back, "Unfair! Unfair!  I can't be an adulterer!  I've never been married!"  He then yelled, "These guys look for a sign!"  I then yelled, "I have plenty of signs right here!  I'm holding two!"  (I thought it was very Mormon of him to be so presumptuous about us -- he had never talked with us and didn't know any of our positions on anything.)

When my friend talked with one of the other demonstrators, he got called "just as bad as the rest of them" and a "liar" because my friend called himself an atheist.  I got called by that same demonstrator a "snake" a couple years ago, because I looked Mormon.  (I hung out at conference then, around the demonstrators to see how they behaved.)

Sunday, April 7th, 2013

I asked a young Mormon couple to take my picture here.  It's a cool picture, but still kind of crappy -- I think they were uncomfortable doing it.  (There's nothing that makes a Mormon uncomfortable like an exmormon!)

You'll notice my cough mask, sunglasses and hat.  Well, I was alone.  And Sunday is a much bigger day.  People probably took my picture because I stood out.  Church security took my picture again, but didn't talk with me this time.  I took their picture as well.  I don't mind my picture being taken.  I actually usually hope they end up on facebook or some site like that, because it means that more people will see the sites.  This time, I didn't want to associate Postmo stuff with me, because I stood out so much.  Truth be told, I'd rather be there with that look than not have anyone or anything there at all.  If other people had shown up with me, I probably wouldn't have looked that way.  But since I was alone, I made a gargantuan sign that I could hold up very high, that could be seen from a distance.  That's also something that other demonstrators don't do.  Even with my cough mask, sunglasses, and hat I still looked Mormony.  It actually did confuse some people, because some people did ask me whether I was LDS.  

One lady came and talked with me, "Are you LDS?"  
Me - "I served an LDS mission."
Lady - "Are you LDS?"
Me - "No, I'm not."
Lady - "Well then you must have done something wrong on your mission."
Me - "Whoa, that's a strong accusation!  I worked my butt off on my mission."
Lady - "Well you must have done something wrong on your mission.  Do you read your scriptures?"
Me - "No, I don't."
Lady - "Well that's your problem."

I understand that people are like this normally, just by the sake of being human.  But I believe that Mormonism amplifies looking down on people, and finding unreal flaws in others like this lady did.  Immediately she jumped to me having done something wrong.  She would be surprised at the number of people who attend church regularly who don't believe.

My feelings about protesting are probably best shown by another conversation with a guy.
Guy - "So, what is that site?"
Me - **handing him a pamphlett** "It's a history site."
Guy - "Is it pro LDS or anti LDS?"
Me  - "It's written by both LDS and former LDS people."
Guy - "Are you trying to deconvert us?"
Me - "I don't care whether you remain believing or not.  I think society is generally better when everyone understands and knows more."  Truth is, I also want to reach those people who are stuck in bad family situations who don't believe, who have no one to reach out to.  I wanted to hold a sign that said, "Postmos:  A group trying to prevent suicides by people who stopped believing by giving them friends." 

Guy - "Isn't this a little in your face?"
Me - "Well, your missionaries knock on my door at 10am on a Saturday morning.  This is a lot more benign than that."   If there's ever anyone who isn't Mormon at work, they usually end up with a minimum of three Book of Mormons -- that's a lot more in your face.  

Guy - "Did you go to BYU?"
Me - "No, I didn't."
Guy - "Then why are you wearing a BYU hat?  You look like a Mormon.  You're lying to people."
Me - "Well, I'd argue against you, but I won't.  But I am culturally a Mormon.  I was raised and am practically still Mormon."  
Guy - "Heh, yeah, look at your clean shaven face."  He then took off.

I'm not an antagonistic person, which makes it somewhat ironic that I was the one standing out there.  He was right, the BYU hat was lying.  But I felt that no other action of mine was lying.

The amazing part though was that the church had some very strong talks against the internet.  They even said that you shouldn't have emails that you don't share your password with your spouse!  That's CCRAAAAZZZYY.  First, that shows a lack of trust.  Second, that makes it much harder for people in horrible spousal situations to actually get out of them.  I think that's insane.  So, having me, stand out there, with one large website, for everyone to see, hopefully made an impression on a lot of people.

I then left when the afternoon session started.  I figured it was a good time to leave, as most people would have seen me leaving the morning session or going into the afternoon session.  I wouldn't reach any new people.  Besides, I didn't want to have to deal with traffic.  

When leaving, a bunch of really big guys asked to take a picture with me.  When taking a picture, one guy said, "The church is true."  I said, "Cool."  He then repeated, "The church is true."  I repeated, "cool" again.  They said something else, but I just wished them an enjoyable conference.  I encountered other protesters and they said that I was ineffective, especially since I had a quote from a feminist, ("The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off." - Gloria Steinem)  I'm glad they think that, because I don't want them to realize how effective I was.  I passed one church security guy.  He just sort of glared at me.  One protester said that church security told him that he would be better off dead.  Church security slightly scares me. 

When it boils down to it, I've been happier and more fulfilled as an apostate.  That's why I was out there.  Utah is #1 for antidepressant use (and any number of other things).  Mormons would be so much happier if they just weren't Mormon.  If they want to be miserable, they are welcome to it, but I'm going to try my darndest to see if I can't get them to see something better, more honest, and more open.  

I'll likely be back in the Fall to demonstrate, because I can't help it.  When I see something that I think will improve society, it's just in me to do what I can to help it along.

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