A Mormon Family that Drinks Together, Stays Together

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A Mormon Family that Drinks Together, Stays Together

I was born of goodly Mormon parents. Sometimes, it takes getting drunk around them to realize just how good they are.

When I call myself the “Crossdressing Mormon Anarchist”, I’m only partially kidding around.  Like any Jew who carries the card but only attends Synagogue during Yom Kippur, Mormonism is my heritage. It’s basically an ethnicity. They are my people. My parents, and grandparents on both sides of my family all served missions for the LDS Church. My great great grandfather is a famous Mormon pioneer; he was one of Brigham Young’s hit men. The foundational stories of my parent’s lives as individuals, and as a couple, are rooted in The Church. Mormonism runs thick in our blood, which means that as far as orthodoxy is concerned, things like alcohol, should never run in our blood.

One of the main tenets of Mormonism is the idea that via Temple marriage,  families can be together forever – after death, in heaven. As a kid, that failed to make sense to me in several ways, but the foremost reason was that I really didn’t like my family that much. I regarded them as bunk mates assigned by the drill sergeant of life circumstance – and as soon as bootcamp ended, I’d leave and probably not give them a second thought. The Mormon Church attempting to incentivize righteous living with the reward of an eternal family felt like my mom trying to bribe me to clean my room by promising that she’d take me to have a root canal as a reward.

As adults, it was no secret that my brother and sister had left Mormonism by the wayside. My mother used to call me her “last hope” for having a kid that would carry on a legacy of “righteousness”.  Many years ago, my own falling away became known to the family. This was ushered in one Christmas night as we were wrapping up a family party. My parents went home, my daughters returned to their mother’s house, leaving just the three of us kids together. Wine emerged from Camille’s cupboard. Glasses were poured, glasses were raised and we partook of the goodness of the grape together for the first time. Something shifted in a way that’s difficult to account for – it may suffice to say that we found ourselves three grown adults with things in common that only we could have. It’s like some kind of pretense disappeared and left us honest. I found new friendship in my brother and sister. From that day forward, I’ve enjoyed their companionship in a way that starts to give ironic legitimacy to the promises of the church.

You need to know right now that my mom prays for me every night. And Camille. And Mikey… not just that we’ll be happy and safe, but a particular kind of happy & safe: In my Mom’s experience, Orthodoxy in the church is akin to getting enough vitamin C. I’ll say this – that absolutely IS her experience, it is her reality. The Church, the community of people that are the church – have been really good to my parents, and they’ve been good to it. I would never want it to go away, for their sake… it defines and supports their lives –  but that’s another story for another day. My sweet mother prays for us with the energy of a good mom whose sole desire is that her offspring thrive – thrive in the only way she knows how. She means really, really well. I seriously adore my Mother.  Every week that Camille, Mike, and I do not engage with The Church, I imagine she must feel like a failure. How can she not? Her purpose in life is defined in terms of dedication to The Church.

I have dedicated my life to authenticity. There are many rewards that come from living authentically (again, another story for another day). One of the dark prices I pay for living authentically is the knowledge that I regularly disappoint my mother, break her heart, even.

During a recent trip with the whole family to visit Camille, her husband and her awesome little boys in Mesa:

Mike and I decided to let everyone take a rest. We took over the kitchen to prepare a feast for our family. In preparation, we hit the grocery store.

One of the things I love about shopping outside of Utah is the experience of being treated like a true grown up.  The Kroger store was just like my beloved Smith’s at home, but had a very large isle of wine and liquor that echoed the candy isle in any Utah grocery store (we don’t drink our feelings away, but we eat them away like a motherfucker. Diabetes is our religion’s disease of choice).  IT WAS GLORIOUS. Mike bought thin sliced pork chops, whiskey, and a 30 rack of beer. I stocked up on  garlic, tomatoes, onions, basil, pasta, bread, and wine.


I adore the process of drinking, conversing, and cooking with, and for, people I care about.  Mikey and I spread out and started chopping, cutting, simmering and searing a spread of ciabatta with balsamic vinegar & olive oil; marinara from scratch over penne; seasoned & breaded pork chops . We took our time. Meal prep included a first course of cold beers, followed by whiskey. As dinner neared completion, I opened the wine and had a couple of glasses.  Four drinks just while cooking? Hell yes. We come from Viking stock and can handle our liquor. Let’s pour a fifth as we dish up and consider it an apéritif, shall we? Cheers!

I paused and took inventory:

Beers: 2

whiskey shots: 1

glasses of wine: 2

crusty looks / lectures from parents: 0

There were my parents – enjoying time with us, loving us, without conditions – IN the conditions of us kids flagrantly behaving in ways that offend some of their deepest sensibilities, hopes, and dreams. This was a defining characteristic of Christ – he was criticized for breaking bread with sinners. Each week, my parents partake of bread and water (used to wine in the early days of the church, but any liquid will suffice for symbolism) that has been blessed in the following way:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.

They were, in the most literal, and possibly painfully personal sense, about to break bread with sinners. Not a single lecture nor word nor gesture nor any hint of disapproval. Just love. We had a wonderful dinner, told stories, and truly enjoyed one another’s company in a way that exceeded every lofty and empty idea of “family time” from my cold hearted childhood.  I raised my glass of wine to my lips and partook of my own personal sacrament of gratitude and witness that my parents were, in that very moment, not just claiming Christianity, but DOING Christianity. This is what it looks like to take up the name of Christ and always remember Him, and this is what it’s like to have His spirit.

Mom, Dad, you’ll probably never read this, but if you do, I hope you can see that the quality of your character has not been lost on me for a second. I’m profoundly grateful. Not everyone has been blessed like I have with parents as exceptional as you. To everyone else  – this is it. This is what it looks like. This is how it’s done.

much love –

Paul Duane

 

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I Am A Mormon

woody-allen

 Imagine if Woody Allen complained about being a Jew.

 John-Wayne-9525664-1-402

Imagine if John Wayne spent his time loathing the fact that he was raised Catholic.

stevejobs

 Imagine Steve Jobs bemoaning his own Arabic ancestry.

Do you think any of these men would become the powerful creators that they were, had they put any energy into such grievances?

Here’s what I’ve realized this week.

There’s something about arguing against MY own heritage that has made me less of a person.
As you probably know, the past several years have seen me angst-ridden over my relationship to the LDS Church.  The past year has brought many fascinating people, experiences, and epiphanies to me that have brought me a new kind of peace.

A few nights ago, I was shooting the Deseret Book Women’s Conference at BYU. During the program, they showed a trailer for a film that has just been made about my Great, Great, Grandfather, Ephraim K Hanks:

I descend from some truly extraordinary people who did unbelievably heroic things in the name of Mormonism.  It’s in my DNA. It’s the fabric of my family culture, and therefore, it’s part of my vocabulary. It doesn’t define me, but I’m also not immune to it.

Corporate Jesus

Jesus is awesome. He looks quite handsome in a suit, too.

Everyone has a different heritage. Eskimos descend from a different set of circumstances. Their ancestors dealt with and thought about different things than my ancestors did. Going back further, my ancestors, from both my mother and father’s side, are Danish.  My ancestry has marinated in a Christ consciousness for hundreds, almost thousands, of years. The ethos of Christ, his teachings, his intentions, all resonate deeply with me, without any branding from any institution.  It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am.

I accept who I am.

I honor it.

I give gratitude for it.

I am honored to be the offspring of a man who had such power powers of manifestation as did Ephraim K Hanks. These days, things like “The Secret” and “The Law Of Attraction” are popular buzz words. These are laws of human nature that have existed from the very beginning. Throughout the ages, and throughout phases in individual people’s lives, awareness of these powers ebbs and flows.  Ephraim understood these principles and used them to manifest healing, food, and life in the lives of people who would have otherwise died.

I know that one of my prime purposes in life is to re-acquaint myself with these powers, to exercise them in my own life, and to then be an example to others so that they, too, may become saviors of men. This is nothing special to me.  It’s your job, too, to align with these powers, exercise them, and then become an example to those around you.  The ubiquity of this call does not diminish from it’s grandeur.

I am humbled at the size of the task at hand. It feels so much larger than me, but I also know that there are powers in the Universe that I can align myself with that will magnify me – make me larger than I really am, so long as I am in correct alignment.

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Paul Duane – ethnic Mormon

I know what a lot of you are thinking. “WHAT?  Is Paul going back to church?”  Relax. You probably won’t see me in sacrament meeting or at the Temple.

But like Jesus said, any time two or more are gathered in his name, He is in their presence. That’s sufficient for me. And to that end, I go to “church” all the time… and I love it.

One aspect of Mormonism that has always resonated with me is the 13th Article of Faith:  [quote ]We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.[/quote]

The pursuit of excellence is a part of Mormon culture. One thing I’ve learned from doing a few photography jobs for the Church is this:  When it comes to giving a shit, the Mormons might just own the patent on it. When they do something, they do it RIGHT.  Go walk through any building they own. Watch any film they have produced.  Put your theology aside and just observe the craftsmanship – it is superb, every time. My Grandfather once said,  and it stuck with me, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right”.  This pursuit of excellence is a tradition that resonates deeply with me.  I mess up all the time. I’m almost devastatingly aware of my shortcomings… but this is where my sights are always set, and I’m grateful to those who taught me this tradition.

I am A Mormon.  It’s my ethnicity.  I’m not fighting it anymore. I like myself,  and if I’m going to feel that way about myself, I’ve also got to completely accept my heritage. Not just tolerate it – but honor it.  For some reason it’s been easier to honor the heritage of other people more than it has been to honor my own.  I believe that 2013 is a gateway year for me, as I move into this new place of honor for everything that makes me who I am. I believe that in more fully honoring my heritage, I will more fully tap into the powers of Manifestation and Creation that my Great, Great Grandfather, Ephraim K Hanks was a master of.

That’s the experiment that’s on the table right now. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Much love-

Paul Duane

* Admittedly, one of my wish list items is to establish residency in California, get my medical marijuana card AND my Temple Recommend back. I’d like to attend the temple a couple of times HIGH AS A KITE.  It’s not that I miss the Temple, it’s just that I’m curious how my mind would experience the symbols of the Temple while in a more enlightened state.  This is probably already happening in California. If you know any members of the Church who attend worship services of any kind while blazed on “medical marijuana”, I’d like to hear their experiences.  Imagine hot boxing in your car, in the church or temple parking lot with some friends before going in to the Temple or Elder’s Quorum…. I think that the eventual and inevitable nationwide legalization of pot may be a necessary catalyst in refining the human family (and thus, the church), and making it more Christ-like.

cheech-and-chong-up-in-smoke

I’d like to introduce you to your new home teachers, Brother Cheech and Brother Chong.

Go ahead, get stoned. You’ll find those commandments and beatitudes easier than ever to abide by.

 

 

 

Mormonism and Islam: faiths of peace and love?

Here is a video of a man and woman being executed by members of the Muslim faith in Iran for having a love affair.  This “sin” according to Islamic law, is punishable by death.  The video is grainy, but you’ll get the idea. Do all Muslims practice this? Of course not. It’s just the most radical and depraved Muslims that carry this out:

Okay, now that we’ve seen that, take a moment to read what Mormon Prophet Heber J Grant had to say about the issue of sexual purity:

“There is no true Latter-day Saint who would not rather bury a son or daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity—realizing that chastity is of more value than anything else in all the world.” Prophet Heber J Grant, as quoted by another prophet, Spencer W. Kimball, in his book Miracle of Forgiveness

christ and the woman taken in adulteryIn John Chapter 8, we read about Jesus’s encounter with the adulterous woman and the people who also felt that adultery should be followed by death, just like some Muslims and Mormon Prophets. Here’s what Jesus Christ said about the matter:

 

1 Jesus went unto the mount of Olives.

2 And early in the morning he came again into the temple, and all the people came unto him; and he sat down, and taught them.

3 And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst,

4 They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act.

5 Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?

6 This they said, tempting him, that they might have to accuse him. But Jesus stooped down, and with his fingerwrote on the ground, as though he heard them not.

7 So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

8 And again he stooped down, and wrote on the ground.

9 And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst.

10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?

11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.

 

If you are an active Mormon, this part is specifically for you. Feel free to comment below. Heber J Grant was a PROPHET OF GOD, in the view of Mormons. His words were then quoted again by another Prophet, Spencer W Kimball, in his seminal work “The Miracle Of Forgiveness” (which is de facto required reading for any who commit sins of a sexual nature in the church). Mormons are fond of quoting 2 Corinthians 13:1 “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established” as a way of establishing the veracity of doctrines. This idea that it would be better for your own child to DIE, than to commit a sexual “sin”, has been established in the mouth of 2 witnesses: Prophets of God

Do you agree with this?

Do you feel like the prophets were right?

Have you committed any sexual sins?

Do you think you should be murdered for them?

Would you be willing to kill your son or daughter, if you found out that they had sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend?

If you hold a temple recommend, you’ve answered these next two questions in the affirmative before:

  • Do you have a testimony of the restoration of the gospel in these the latter days?
  • Do you sustain the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the Prophet, Seer, and Revelator?

If you have answered YES to these questions, you have also accepted what Heber J Grant and Spencer W Kimball have said about your own child’s death.

…Now, what were you saying about The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter-day Saints being Christ’s true church?

 Addendum:

This next part is for some specific people. You’ll know who you are…. There is someone in your family that has “committed the ultimate sin” by having sex with someone she loved, and is now expecting a baby. The parents are not married.  You continually refer to your first grandson as an “illegitimate child”.  When are you going to stop calling your own posterity “illegitimate”?  Is this the legacy you want your grandson to grow up with, knowing that you loathed it’s very existence? You continually say things that bring shame and guilt to your daughter. Though you have not picked up any physical stones, you have been casting stones all the same.  You profess to be a Christian, a proud member of the Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Paul taught that you should be an example of the believers, and in this, you have failed miserably. Is it any wonder that your children despise the church? Your own Lord and Savior taught on countless occasions that, “by their fruits, ye shall know them”.  A good branch does not bring forth bad fruit. Every word from your mouth has been foul and devoid of love. It is time for you to start acting like Jesus would. You make a mockery of your own faith. .  

If you can’t even attempt to walk the walk,  you really need to stop talking the talk, thou hypocrite.

It was you of whom Jesus Christ spoke when he said,

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips, bu their heart is far from me”  (Matthew 15:8)

 

wrestlers, winos, and wisdom

Is there a spiritual realm that we can tap into, and gain wisdom & direction that is beyond our own capacity?

Joe Rogan recently interviewed Maynard James Keenan on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.  Maynard recounts being awakened in the middle of the night by a strange dream and a strange sensation. Later on, the moment of his awakening turned out to collaborate with the exact moment of Bill Hick’s death.  Though they were friends, MJK did not know Bill was sick.  His dream revealed to him the cause of Hicks’s death (pancreatic cancer)  before it was ever actually told to him.   The discussion turned to psychic phenomena and the ability to obtain information from a spiritual realm. It should come as no surprise that in discussing this great man, the following wisdom came pouring from their mouths:

JR: Is there a dimension, a next door neighbor, that you can tap into? 

MJK: “I do firmly believe that

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Unsuspecting Charletains

Last night I was invited to photograph a seminar that was given to a group of local musicians and artists. The featured speaker is a life / career coach, and has helped many people see huge gains in their lives. One of my good friends hired him for some coaching, and saw his income triple over the next few months. My curiosity was piqued and hopes where high.

During the presentation, the speaker relied a lot on gently nudging up against the mormon sensibilities by “almost swearing”, which would elicit laughs from people.  He took a very long time to finally get to one of his main points:As an artist, we have to learn to be honest with ourselves – and in doing so, we can then be honest with others through our art.

This is all fine and well, except for:

By virtue of the ilk of the event organizers, this seminar series has a very mormon flavor to it.  By virtue of THAT, there is an undertone of “be sure to tell the truth, as long as it doesn’t contradict with the LDS church’s views”.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to get up there and shout, “You idiot!  These people must be free to reject any and every idea they were brought up with.  They must be prepared for the truth to completely alter who they are, should they discover it!  Anything less than a 100% commitment to that principle will ass fuck every creative endeavor and turn it into mediocre pig slop”.

There is nothing darker and more unintentionally deceptive than a religious person – a dogmatic person – urging other p

 

Porn, Pie, and St. Paul

I just had a dialogue on Facebook with a friend, and I ended up blurting out some things that I feel are probably worth sharing in a state less transient than a Facebook status update. Here it is:

Status update: Whoah!! So I’m hanging out w my girls at my moms house. Flipping through the channels, and found Dane Cook doing a routine where he is imitating a woman masturbating, rather explicitly. Damn…. I had no idea stuff like that was on regular TV. No bueno.

Paul Duane: I mean, I’m all for women masturbating… but I think it should happen in a place that requires you to be 21 to see it, or to pay, or after a fun evening together with her, or something like that… but NOT on TV where my kids can get to it. Seriously.

Jessica Schultz Lemon:
Not entirely surprising. I remember babysitting and flipping through the channels and seeing some “racy” stuff. And that was back then! When pornography was circulating the bus of my kids’ elementary school, we decided to create an open dia…log with them. We decided that since we can’t always protect them from it, we should prepare them for the times when they do see it. Since they have a plan, it’s easier to stay away. They all talk to us about it when they have a concern, and vice-versa. Of course, we still do our due diligence, keeping internet filters, checking their phones, ipods, etc from time to time. It’s nice that they talk to us about just about every subject. I totally believe in explaining the “why” behind the “do’s and do not’s”.

Paul Duane:  Totally agree, Jessica. Trying to keep kids from it is preposterous, it’s just so pervasive. I think all you can do is be super frank about it and keep a really open conversation going. Shrouding things like porn in shame and secrecy is a fantastic way to foster an addiction to it.

Jessica Schultz Lemon: Exactly. I wish our society was more open about the addiction. The people who struggle with it are not bad people, just like alcoholics are not bad people. Recovering alcoholics are respected for their strength much more than those addicted to porn. And a porn addiction is so strong. It would also help the spouses. As it is, they can’t get a good support either.

Paul Duane: Here’s the ironic thing that I experienced in my life. All growing up, and during my marriage, I struggled immensely with “porn temptations”, shall we say. Once I had the spiritual experience that inspired me to let go of organized religion, I found that my desire for porn pretty much went away. I mean, I absolutely love seeing a beautiful woman… but it’s different now. For instance, I went to lunch with a gorgeous woman yesterday. I got far more pleasure out of just being around her and enjoying her beauty, than I ever do from looking at a Playboy.

I believe that the porn “problem” has a few aspects to it, and I think it’s worth outlining them:

1. Whatever you do… DO NOT think of a BLACK CAT right now. What? You thought of a black cat? I told you not to. I think that one reason I could never stop thinking about porn is that I was constantly bombarded with reminders of it at church. They never shut up about it! Geez!

2. A great number of people in our culture are suffering from cognitive dissonance. They know that they are not living in a way that is 100% congruent with what their inner compass tells them. There are a lot of people that agree with 90% of what the church teaches, but feel like the other 10% is not true. I’m one of those people. There is very little difference between me and 98% of the active membership of the church. People who suffer from cognitive dissonance develop depression and anxiety. People deal with cognitive dissonance / anxiety / depression deal with it by medicating themselves. Some people use apple pie. Some use Xanax. Some use Prozac. Some use chemicals that are identical to what they could get from the pharmacist, but choose to get them from people who produce them in home laboratories. Some people bury themselves in self sacrifice, overburdening themselves with church callings, to create feelings of self importance or to otherwise distract themselves from their dull pains. Very related to using applie pie, some use their genitals to create changes in brain chemistry to temporarily relieve the suffering.

3. A change of heart: It has been my experience that Paul, in the New Testament, was really onto something when he talked about becoming “born again” and becoming a “new creature” and losing the desire to do evil. I believe in this process. I believe that people are amiss when they presume that this human experience is limited to the context of Christianity. I assure you that a great many people in Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Agnosticism, and a hundred other traditions, have experienced this change of heart. This is a human experience that happens between you and your Source. None of us really comprehend the full and true nature of our Source, but, we all can connect to it and realize our true relationship to it. That relationship transcends description, it defies language, and truly is something that cannot be spoken. I believe this is what is being referred to when various spiritual texts refer to spiritual truths that “cannot be spoken”. The problem is… that they then proceed to do JUST THAT! As the Tao Te Ching says, “The Tao that is named is not the true Tao”. I believe that in most cases, organized religion keeps people from connecting to their inner compass, because organized religion institutionalizes that compass and tries to impress it upon the hearts of it’s constituents. The message is essentially, “Listen to the still small voice… as long as it agrees with us”. There are few more spiritually destructive concepts in this world than that. HENCE…. the cognitive dissonance and self medication.

Paul Duane These have been my experiences and observations. I’m not sold on an objective reality and accept that other people have experienced life differently.