When I was growing up in the 70s and 80s, my family’s New Year’s Eve tradition was to go to see a disaster movie at the theater. We would enter the theater in the old year, but we would exit in the new year. Our local ward usually hosted a party at the Church that started in the evening with music, tables set up for games, and lots of conversation, and ended with a breakfast for everyone in the early hours of the morning of the new year. With our tradition, we would just duck out for two and a half hours to see our movie, then return to the church building for breakfast.
It was a great era for disaster movies! We had The Poseiden Adventure, The Towering Inferno, Earthquake, The Swarm, and a series of Airport movies about airline disasters (that were later parodied so well in Airplane!). There were also some smaller scale disaster movies that I only saw on TV at other times of the year: Ssssss (about an imminent ice age that was coming, so a scientist was turning everyone into reptiles), and of course, everyone’s favorite, Soylent Green. Amityville Horror was another type of disaster movie (and the disaster was the Lutzes’ marriage! That priest could have also used some cardio.) After that time period, having a disaster movie during the final week of the year seemed to fade away. There have been more disaster movies since that time, but the formulaic small-scale disaster movie fell out of vogue, and of course, I grew up and left home, so that tradition didn’t continue.
You’re probably familiar with many of the more recent disaster movie titles. We’ve had Independence Day, Titanic, Dante’s Peak, San Andreas, Twister, Deepwater Horizon, Jurassic Park, The Perfect Storm, and a few others. In a way, Ghostbusters was a disaster movie, but with a comedic tone. When I first saw it, I didn’t expect the crisis at the end to be real. I kept thinking they were going to Scooby Doo it, and we’d find out that ghosts weren’t really real; it was just Mr. Jenkins and some tricky projectors (huh, that description is impacting my perspective on Spiderman: Far From Home that I thought was so inventive). Some of these movies were larger than the disaster genre, crossing into science fiction, some were just not very good, and in many cases, while the effects got better, the writing often got worse. The Reagan Era and beyond just didn’t have the same malaise I guess, the pervasive dread that made us obsess about the disasters that might curttail our lives or those of our loved ones, unless those threats were planet-killers. Maybe we were living in denial or materialistic comfort. Maybe disaster movies are popular in relation to gas prices. Maybe I was a less critical movie-goer at age 9 than at 49.
Psychologically, disaster movies are compelling because they give us closure. We become engrossed in a gripping tale that feels like it could happen, we imagine what we would do in the face of such danger, and then it is resolved, and we can feel good imagining that we would have helped and not hurt the effort against the threat. We would have seen it for what it was. We would have warned others and gotten people to safety. In addition to closure, disaster movies make the actual threats we face seem surmountable. After all, something even bigger gets resolved in around two hours.
There are some familiar tropes in most disaster movies, as detailed here:
- The noble scientist who was right all along, but nobody would listen!
- The stoic grande dame who faces her mortality with grace and poise while others lose their crap
- The idiot who dies an idiotic death (the lawyer who gets eaten by a T-Rex while he’s on the toilet!)
- The disgraced person who finds redemption
- The kid with moxie (and a doomed dog)
- The noble president (no matter what the threat, if the president is good, we will be alright)
This year, there were no disaster movies in theaters, but there was one on Netflix called Don’t Look Up! (SPOILER ALERT! STOP HERE IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT AND PLAN TO SEE IT).
While the tone of this movie felt distinctly contemporary and wholly different than, say, Towering Inferno, it still contained most of the tropes of a disaster movie, and there was definitely a planet-killing disaster hurtling toward us all in the form of an extinction-level comet impact. There were people in power who denied or were indifferent. There were people who scuttled plans to avert disaster. There were wide-eyed prophetic scientists warning others and being ignored. There were some who decided to spend their last moments enjoying their loved ones, like the old couple in Titanic, spooning each other as the water rises around the bed.
What felt different with this movie was that it was simultaneously an unsubtle look at the dangers of having narcissistic incompetent political leaders in charge when a real crisis hits. There was no square-jawed Bill Pullman, flying into the enemy spacecraft while speechifying about the human spirit. The problem with having incompetent leaders is that it’s not an escape from reality. That’s literally the world we live in. The crisis of a comet hitting the earth and killing all human life felt like just another Tuesday. (Also, they were going to put a bill forward to Congress to pass the plan to destroy the comet?? No, executive order that sucker!) The real threat was the lack of will and competence to avert the disaster; politicians at first were only willing to do anything when there was public outcry, but then changed their plans when a large donor wanted to profit from the crisis. In nearly all of the disaster movies that featured POTUS (and yes, it’s always the American President), the President sees the bigger picture and is a steadying influence, even if the threat is dire. The bigger the threat, the more gravitas and leadership shown. Not here.
There was also a plot problem at the end of the movie in that the elites were able to escape in a space ark that kept them in stasis for tens of thousands of years (another trope we’ve seen before), and yet, with this kind of secret technology, they couldn’t simply blow up a comet. The motive to save the planet was clear. Their bitcoin was destroyed along with the planet! Unlike the Ghostbusters ending, this ending really was just a joke, a poke at technocrats and autocrats, showing that whether their followers are duped by them or not, they are going to kill us all while saving themselves.
The title of the film is based on a mantra the Trumpy POTUS (played with gusto by Meryl Streep) leads her followers in chanting to get them to ignore the warnings: “Don’t Look Up!” She tells them that unnamed elites are laughing at them and trying to control them (They are! She’s one of them!). Eventually, when they do look up, the comet is already visible, and the destruction of the planet is imminent. One doomed redneck in a “Don’t Look Up!” baseball cap who finally sees the comet yells, “They lied to us!”
Whether intentional or not, this paralleled the story in the Old Testament (a prototype for a disaster movie?) in which the Israelites were bitten by venomous snakes. Moses mounted one of the stakes on a pole and told the doomed Israelites that if they looked at it, they would be healed (the origin for one of our contemporary medical symbols, as well as being a type of Christ). Some of them simply refused to look up and died instead, lacking the faith to do such a simple task. Others looked up and were healed. Unlike that story, in this one, everyone died whether they looked up or not. The comet was not elitist and didn’t care if people had faith.
If this was a deliberate religious subtext, it paints those who deny the reality of threats (Covid severity, anti-vaxers, climate) as not only an existential threat to the rest of us, but as faithless, anti-religious actors, an irony that is not lost on me as a viewer. Some religious folks like to paint those who ignore invisible, ideological threats (e.g. the fruits of sin, not following religious practices, religious freedom) as the ones creating an existential threat. While it’s unsurprising that Hollywood and conservative religious movements would be on opposite sides of this argument, it’s dismaying that we can’t get everyone on the same page when it comes to facing very real, non-political threats, like a pandemic that has killed almost a million people, or accepting the outcomes of democratic elections.
Perhaps this movie is saying that if deniers weren’t such a distraction, there would be enough will to do what needed to be done. Perhaps that’s been one of the main themes in disaster movies all along. Those trying to solve problems can’t evacuate the unwilling, and until they can convince those in charge that the crisis is a real threat, the threat can’t be addressed. But then the movie adds another layer with the influence of technocrat (and political contributor) billionaire Peter Isherwell. After POTUS has devised a plan with a high probability of success, this important donor comes in and influences huge changes to the plan that lead to its ineffectiveness, implying that even if we knew the right thing to do, we would be persuaded by capitalism not to do it. Capitalism run amok is perhaps the bigger existential threat.
The disaster movie genre feels particularly poignant at the beginning of a new year. It’s a time to reflect on the last year, what we did well, what we didn’t do well, how things have changed in a one year time period, what the future might hold. We set personal goals to improve ourselves and our lives. We face things we’ve been avoiding. We buy gym memberships. We have closure on the year that is now gone.
I recently posted about living in a world in which interpersonal threats in society are increasing, and Bishop Bill’s post on 2021 also describes threats of the church’s increasing irrelevance and ideological splits between members and leaders. Then Dave B. posted about the likelihood that 2022 is going to be a harder year for the Church to weather (although he predicts eventual success). When it comes to these threats, as in a disaster movie, we might be on the side of those ringing alarm bells, trying to get attention from those in power to address what we see as an imminent crisis, or we might be among those who disagree that it’s a crisis or who disagree what the crisis is, or who feel that nothing can be done to avert the crisis, so we might as well live well until the end. We might deny the crisis, instead focusing on doing what we’ve always done, refusing to look up, vilifying those who claim there is a danger. Only time will tell if the threats are real, and if our efforts to avert disaster are effective.
- What threats do you see the Church avoiding? Are they existential threats? What’s at stake?
- What threats is the Church focused on? Do you find these threats credible and important? Are the actions being taken effective?
- Are Church members avoiding threats? Are they the same or different than what the Church leaders see as threats?
- Is it possible to avert disaster when you are not in power? Or will you eventually get sidelined for disrupting the peace?
- Is the pull of power and profit always too compromising for those in power to assess threats with accuracy and take action accordingly?
- What are your favorite (and least favorite) disaster movies?
Hawk Girl brings back some real memories of a time when disaster movies were about the disaster and the importance of people working together. Unfortunately, today’s disaster movies are full of gratuitous violence and sexuality. The disaster is just a vehicle for showing scantily clad women running in slow motion.
I also agree that the Church is facing disaster. Far too many young people have adopted the world’s view of seeking immediate gratification without regard for the consequences. Where will the Church find its future leaders? Among those with morals no better than Russian Princesses on safari?
Middle-aged members should not get a free pass. Sadly, many have used the pandemic as an excuse to stay home sitting around in sweatpants and crocs with Church zooming in the background. This is setting a terrible example for their children.
So yes, Hawk Girl, the Church faces disaster. Let us hope there are enough members left who believe in piety, prudence, and hope that at least a remnant of the Church may survive.
Many threats to the church come from inside.
From the false history to the lies and exaggerations still spewed forth in conference talks.
From self-importance to the worship of men.
From the church looking at members as cheap labor to members realizing there should be more to a religion than guilt and endless meetings.
From a church’s search for relevance to man’s search for happiness.
From thinking it’s a global religious leader to the understanding among members that it is nothing more than a creek that wants to become a mighty river but never will.
From men who claim to be prophets to words and actions proving they aren’t.
From saving $140+ billion for some mysterious rainy day of the future to a world overflowing with people whose rainy day is now.
From false prophets to a congregation less willing to accept their philosophies of men
I Am Legend and Cloverfield were two of my favorite disaster movies. I think some sort of man-made medical or technology disaster is entirely possible (disclaimer, yes I’m vaccinated with my booster), so I Am Legend probably falls in the “too soon” category. Also loved Interstellar (and the music in it!) which was more sci-fi but had hints of environmental short-sightedness and science denials.
One threat the church is avoiding, imho, is the threat on democracy in the US and in the world generally. Lots of threads to follow there (Covid, faulty leadership in church and country, etc). Another, perhaps unexpectedly related to democracy, is environmental disasters. As an amateur economist, I’ve found the work of Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen fascinating. He said “no famine has ever taken place in the history of the word in a functioning democracy.” I think if we’re not careful we could find ourselves with a lot of people going hungry between economic and environmental disasters. That said, I also think that Malthus-like prophecies of mass starvation come and go, and books like the Rational Optimist helpful on a dark day. Humans, as a species, have figured out how to survive many times in the past. The caveat is that some individuals won’t.
Yes, it requires the rare visionary and charismatic leader to get people to agree on anything. Search for profits is foremost in almost everybody’s mind, including me. Instead of me running for Congress or for the school board, or doing anything in politics besides casting a vote every November, the only disaster I’m worried about is running out of money in retirement and where I’m going on vacation next.
This is a fitting time to point out that the most gripping disaster movie I’ve seen was played live simultaneously on all the news channels on Jan 6, 2021. It was so gripping that Congress met to watch reruns a short time later. We are now living the sequel, a world in which people only accept the results of an election if they win.
The main threat the Church faces is apathy among the members. This won’t show up entirely in statistics since many of the affected are still attending (shout out to PIMOs). The emotional investment is simply not there anymore for so many members. Sure, we’ll still have the all-in TBMs and they will dictate the dominant cultural cues and define what is “acceptable”. But they will become a smaller and smaller percentage of the total.
I think the Brethren recognize what I’m postulating here. And one way to deal with this is to at least appear strong, appear to be growing. So we see more “units” created when membership is barely growing. And more importantly, we’ll see the construction of temples as some kind of indication that the Church is as strong as ever. Pro tip: look closely at where they are building them as ask yourself whether that would have happened 20 years ago. We’ve replaced the old “your growth will be rewarded with a temple” to “if we build it they will come”.
The Church will LOOK strong: temples, Ensign Peaks, units, etc. But the apathy will increase until we have a kind of Potemkin Village. In fact, when I look at our big empty temples I think that’s what we already have.
There is at least some truth in what both JCS and Josh h say. The Church likely cannot survive at its current level and will come out of the pandemic much smaller than it was.
Letting members watch church at home has caused many to become disconnected with their wards. They no longer feel the friendship and fellowship that kept them attending. That loss of connection will keep many from coming back.
There are also a large number who are frustrated. They are frustrated with the endless wearing of masks with no endgame. It is clear that the church has no plan for going back to normal and the leaders are just waiting to see what happens. The church is supposed to be a source of hope, not a source of permanent fear. If the plan of salvation is true, then why the endless obsession with the small risk of death that covid presents to those of us who are fully vaccinated and have our booster?
Ivy is right. Those of you who gave her a downvote don’t know your history. If the church had been governed by fear back then as it is now, not a single pioneer would have crossed the plains. Not one. The risk of mishap or death would have kept every single pioneer off the trail.
I offer this:
“There was no discernible difference in the rate of people who died of COVID-19 in areas that voted for President Biden and those who voted for former President Trump at the end of 2020, but that changed once vaccines were made available, and residents of red states are now dying at an alarmingly faster rate, the New York Times reported.
Americans in heavily Trump-supporting counties were more than three times as likely to die from COVID-19 in October than those in heavily Biden-supporting counties, with death rates of 25 per 100,000 people and 7.8 per 100,000 people, respectively, according to the New York Times report. Alaska and Washington, D.C. were excluded from the analysis because data was not available.”
Source: The Hill, 11/8/21 https://thehill.com/changing-america/well-being/prevention-cures/580607-the-death-rates-from-covid-in-red-america-and
Here’s the thing: There are facts. They tell us about who is likely to live and who is likely to die. Even if you’ve been taking advice from people who are spouting agenda and misrepresentations you can gather information yourself and choose better advice.
The church is not spreading fear. It’s captive to fools (yes, I mean that characterization) who are generating fear because that’s all they have to attract followers.
Be afraid. Be hopeful. Wear a mask or don’t. But you can stop allowing yourself to be deluded! Ignorance of the facts can be lethal
Ivy and Wayne showing constantly saying “covid, fear, fear, masks, blah, blah, the prophet is so dumb on this one, and you guys blah, blah blah” every post is SO spot on as it relates to this post: the stock character that dies almost universally first in the films while saying that whatever the threat is can’t be real or can’t happen to them, completely ignoring the main post, etc. Gotta love it.
Favorite disaster movie: San Andreas. And I love John Carpenter’s The Thing, but I’d put that more in the horror/thriller genre.
As far as threats to the church, I’d say it’s mainly leadership or the members, rather than any kind of external things. IMO, the church was founded as and designed to function as a nineteenth-century institution. That’s not to say that it functioned terribly well, but it grew, got along alright despite major challenges and, once headquartered in Salt Lake, prospered for a while. To my mind, the church hasn’t ever really gotten out of that mindset. We’re still full of misogyny, we’re still more suspicious of the world than we are engaged in it, and we have extraordinarily antiquated and naive (I can no longer call them “quant”) ideas about how to approach and fix problems, what really should matter to disciples of Christ, and what equality and equity look like. So as long as the leaders keep doing what they’ve been doing and as long as at least a majority of members sit there and receive leaders’ instructions without question, we’re going to stay where we are. I think it’s a very slow-moving disaster. It will take several more generations, I believe, for the church to truly diminish in influence and membership, but I certainly see it starting already.
I see the church as currently having a slow bleed, rather than facing imminent disaster. @Elisa mentioned in a comment a few weeks ago, the church seems to be accepting the bleed/loss of members who are leaving due to feeling lied to/dissolutioned about it’s history problems, and is not making a concerted effort to address that issue. If a slow bleed stops or heals, then disaster can be avoided. But if a bleed continues or gets worse without ever being addressed, that’s when disaster can occur. Blaming members doesn’t seem to be addressing the issue or helping anyone. I think a new strategy is needed.
“ Roughly two-thirds of patients who have tested positive at hospitals run by the L.A. County Department of Health Services were admitted for something other than the coronavirus, according to Health Services Director Dr. Christina Ghaly.”
@Toad, those are both such excellent disaster movies! Two of my favorites as well. Especially because for both, I had *no* idea what they were about, so they were so shocking.
Another quirky disaster movie I really liked was Warm Bodies. I thought the message – about the need for human connection – was nice too.
I’ve kind of talked ad nauseum about disasters I think the Church is facing, some of their making and some not. There were also some excellent comments on the most recent post with a laundry list of Church disasters. But I’ll throw one into the mix that I’ve mentioned before but isn’t necessarily one of my tops, but that’s the elimination of Young Men’s presidencies. I’ve yet to see one good thing come from it. Only disorganization, disarray and, yes, disaster for YM and YW organizations in my ward and in wards of people I’ve spoken with. Getting rid of names for YW was also stupid and strips the YW of a sense of cohesion and identity. I think it was a total boneheaded move and one we should walk back. But we won’t, because that would require Nelson admitting he was wrong about something.
@JCS, I generally don’t respond to you because I know you’re just being satirical or something. But seriously, I’m so sick of you referring to “scantily-clad women”. Stop objectifying women. Just. Stop. It. It’s not funny. I appreciate that one place you won’t go is justifying the mistreatment of LGBTQ folks and justifying racism, and could you please add to your list of places even you won’t go sexism? The way that you talk about chastity, even as satire and parody, is actually really sexist and it’s getting really old. Women’s bodies aren’t evil and they aren’t the butt of some joke or caricature. You know better. Knock it off.
@Ivy I don’t know where you go to church but it looks like you picked the wrong ward. I live in SoCal, and I have siblings in Sandy, Draper, Lehi, and Houston. NONE of their wards enforce masks. But unlike you, I wish they would. The pandemic will not last forever, but I think it speaks volumes about how we care about the vulnerable when we won’t do something so simple for them.
The church is focused on the following threats: feminists, intellectuals, and the queer community. They recently updated their list to add the erosion of religious freedom to their list. Literally every talk is about these threats. Since I check pretty much all the boxes, it’s no wonder I don’t feel a sense of belonging. I personally view these threats as being overblown, but that’s just me.
Elisa has a great about about eliminating YM presidencies. Poor bishops are now in charge of the adults and the kids along with their day jobs as husbands, parents, and white-collar stiffs. And poor YW presidents no longer have a colleague, as there is a clear power differential when you team with the Bishop. I agree that the elimination of YM presidencies is a huge head scratcher.
The most disastrous thing facing the Church is that there appears to be NO authentic prophetic foresight guiding this church. No true line of communication between God and his children coming from the leadership. Folks learned how to cut out the middleman recently.
The major doctrinal or policy changes over the last 132 years (1890 polygamy manifesto to present) can be traced primarily to legal pressures, American cultural pressures, trickle up programs, etc.
Review the amazing “revelations” of RMN’s short tenure (always hyped beyond merit) and you see a church that is a corporation. A logo? Merging adult priesthood quorums? Two-hour church? Home Teaching to Ministering? A restoration proclamation? Reversal of a major anti-LGBT policy that led to thousands of membership resignations? Come on. This isn’t an actual prophet’s primary work. These are the acts of a president of a company.
Read between the lines of Church asset acquisitions, undisputed portfolio balances, and pitiful humanitarian aid relative to overall wealth, and you get the feeling money is the most important thing for the Church. Am I wrong in this?—then start giving us a bigger picture explanation (not BS like “we are saving for the second coming”) and full disclosure supported by scriptural maxims. Again, no real leadership (prophets) serving the people, but rather leadership serving the institution.
A very significant reason some are not returning to church activity coming out of lockdowns and Zoom church is because they finally were given time and space to think and explore spirituality for themselves, and to govern themselves in accordance with their (spiritual) promptings that matter in their personal lives. That exercise of agency feels so authentic and refreshing and returning to the same old church meetings and programs that focus on the institution is not satisfactory any longer.
I personally believe that only two things keep most members invested and participating in church activity: 1) access to ordinances requiring church authority, and 2) fear of loss of community/relationships. Those two things will keep the Church in business for a while longer. But without a leader who provides genuine prophetic leadership and gets rid of the superfluous requirements of membership, we will see diminishing numbers engaged or present on Sundays.
My favorite disaster movie? World War Z. It has all the delicious tropes.
I couldn’t agree more with Elisa. The removal of young men’s presidencies was not a smart move. Even if you double up on advisors there is still no president to take control. Bishops are already overworked, particularly since the church prefers to call men in their 30’s to be bishop so they can keep the leadership pipeline balanced. In my ward, we have strong young men’s advisors, but they can’t pretend to be the leader because that is overstepping the calling. Everyone stands around looking at each other and nothing gets done. The bishop simply cannot effectively pick up the slack. There also is this erroneous idea that the bishop should be spending 75% of his time focused on the youth. I guess adults are on their own or don’t need help? That idea is simply not consistent with reality as I have witnessed it. I have lived in strong Utah Valley wards that skew high in their socioeconomic profiles and the adults in these wards (like all wards I would imagine) have needed much time and direction and counsel from our bishops. The most complicated and taxing problems I have witnessed that are brought into the bishop’s office come from adult members, not youth. There is also this idea that the new mini-bishop (the EQ Pres) should be dealing more with adult members and their challenges. I don’t see that happening….at all. The bishop’s load is no different than it ever was. Eliminating YM presidencies was a big mistake. My son’s young men’s program functionally stopped when they made this change. I also fully agree and have seen the unintended consequences to the young women’s program as well. Everything Elisa describes I am witnessing in my own ward.
Sometimes it does seem like someone at a high level within the church got around to reading Michael Hammer’s book Reengineering the Corporation, and, seemingly inspired by it, decided to start moving things around and cutting positions. The problem is these ideas are more than a quarter century old. Par for the church, unfortunately.
Have you seen any recent disaster movies and paid attention Elisa? They are full of women in tight fitting, cleavage bearing clothes filmed in slow motion. JCS has you there. He is right to criticize movies for objectifying women.
@caroline, the issue is a lot more complicated than that. I agree that if a director chooses to exploit a woman’s body against her will then that is objectifying. But JCS’s constant railing against scantily clad women goes way beyond that. What if women choose to dress that way? He’s the one objectifying them. He’s the one defining women by how they dress and using women’s bodies and clothing (whether it’s clothing they chose or that someone else chose for them) as symbolic of moral decay.
He doesn’t “have me there” thanks very much and frankly you should read up on the issue which is way more nuanced and complicated than you or JCS seem to understand. You are hearkening back to outdated feminist theory.
@caroline you can start here with the link below and tons of other good resources on that website. Objectification of women doesn’t have anything to do with what they are or aren’t wearing. It has to do with how we think and talk about and use them and whether that’s as humans / subjects or as objects.
The way JCS talks about “scantily clad women” and uses them as “objects” to prove a point about moral decay *literally* objectifies women. Maybe those movies also objectify women but that doesn’t give JCS the right to do so too.
To get back to the point of the post, women in the Church are generally also perceived and spoken about and treated as objects which is also a disaster.
An exhibit of clothes women were wearing when they were raped. Tight fitting v modest has nothing to do with it.
@chadwick and @bigsky, those are both really great reasons that explain *why* eliminating YM presidencies was such a disaster. It’s not just a bandwidth issue but a structural and hierarchy issue between both the YW Pres and bishopric and the YM advisors and bishopric. So interesting. An organizational and ownership nightmare. We have a really excellent ward, deep leadership bench in our ward (like, half the YM advisors are former mission presidents) and the program is still shambles. And I was super frustrated in the YW presidency trying to figure out who I was supposed to work with too.
BigSky, your comment made me think of another “disaster” – one lurking under the surface, hidden, so a great disaster movie! The problem of ADULTS. In the church we seem to have this idea that our lives are make it or break it as teenagers. And yes, the teen years can be predictive of church activity as young adults and young adulthood historically as been when we’ve seen activity drop off. And yes, teens can do some dumb stuff that has lifelong implications. They are important years.
But you’ve hit on something so important. Guess what. Being a teenager feels hard. But being an adult is so freaking hard too. And I’ve heard adult after adult say that parenting adult children is harder than parenting teenaged children ever was. And that problems just get more and more complicated and stakes get higher and higher. But we as a church seem to utterly ignore adulthood. We ignore it as a developmental stage. We act as thought once you’ve served your mission and married in the temple, poof, you’re done! You’re fully grown and developed and all that’s left to do is “endure to the end” and raise a bunch of kids to go do the exact same thing you did.
But it turns out that being an adult is hard, that we don’t stop changing or having problems, that a lot of mental illness and physical and emotional problems just get worse not better as we get older, etc. But I feel like we focus SO much on children and youth at Church to the detriment of adults and so perhaps one lurking disaster is “adults.”
And even when being an adult isn’t super hard, guess what? Many healthy adults grow out of “for the strength of the youth”. Pretending that it’s a useful set of “principles” (except it’s rules not principles) for a 40 yr old woman is insulting and stupid and vapid and spiritually stunted. Pretending that general conference talks are engaging for the millionth time is useless. We don’t offer any mature spiritual models for mature faith stages at all, and curious and inquiring minds will eventually go elsewhere for spiritual sustenance.
So for all those teens leaving (who we are failing anyway) I know a whole boatload of middle aged women checking out and guess what happens to their kids?
So yes we should totally do a disaster movie where everyone was so focused on the teens (but doing all the wrong things) that they didn’t realize that the REAL problem was the mothers (who were bored, angry, and underutilized in a sexist church) until it was too late and all the mothers had left, along with all the people of color and feminist men and proLGBT folks and then all that was left was a church full of old white conservative men. And then they turned into zombies and ate each other.
Elisa. I didn’t have time to get your permission or my post today would have been titled “Continuing the Conversation” and would have then quoted you.
Honestly, I’m not qualified to comment on what you have said, but I think it is worth discussion and I’d love input from others.
@stephen marsh permission granted, agree that an entire conversation could be had on the issue of adulthood and infantilization in the Church and I would love to hear people’s thoughts.
I’m not qualified either from a professional perspective but I’ve read a lot from people who are – like Richard Rohr on two halves of life / adult development, Thomas McConkie and Brian McLaren on Faith stages, and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife who makes a compelling argument that the Church often infantilizes adults and stunts their development. I’m sure there’s more out there as well, but the idea of adult development has gained a lot of traction in recent years and Church hasn’t caught on. And personally I’ve seen in my own family and extended family that the problems we saw with teenagers that seemed huge at the time pale in comparison to what we’re seeing with adults. We were worried about kids getting caught with boys late at night and skipping school and now with adult family members it’s more like oh meth addiction and suicide and prison (this is more in extended family with serious mental health problems that worsened as people aged but boy have they blown up and boy is it painful to watch, and the Church has absolutely no capacity whatsoever to support or help). On the healthy adult side, it’s more like people who have a ton to contribute and have been active for decades turning to other spiritual traditions / sources and disengaging with a church they now find shallow and corporate caught up in the thick of thin things and unable to feed them spiritually where they are now in their development. And taking their kids with them.
Just wanted to throw out a friendly reminder that we don’t like sock puppets (when people comment multiple times in the same thread under different names). FYI, similar comments from the same zip code begin to look suspicious. Thank-you!
My favorite disaster movies are actually both video games: Outer Wilds and Horizon: Zero Dawn. The second one has the most shocking disaster because it feels so palpable and *possible* — (discussed below to leave space for spoilers). The first one, Outer Wilds, turned out to be one of the most moving, earnest considerations of death I’ve ever encountered. A bit more on that also below.
As for church: I remember when I was executive secretary my bishop once said in Ward Council, with utmost gravity —“Brothers and Sisters, our youth are UNDER ATTACK. They must be the primary focus of our ward.” I said nothing, but thought to myself: “I am suffering on a daily basis under crushing stress and anxiety from work and family issues. I suspect others my age are feeling this as well. And your primary concern is that we need to get the youth into early morning seminary and keep them away from porn—noble, I guess, but how exactly does that meet my own pastoral needs in any way? Or that of my other brothers and sisters?” Sigh.
Outer Wilds appears to be a space exploration game on its surface. Except that exactly 22 minutes after you start exploring, the Sun goes nova and burns you to a crisp. And then you wake up 22 minutes earlier, retaining full knowledge of what happened (nobody else has noticed it seems) and go through the time loop again, only to burn up again unless you find another way to die first. And each time you wake up again, armed only with whatever additional information you learned on your last loop. As you loop over and over again, you eventually learn about an ancient alien civilization, quantum physics, the end of the universe—and what comes next. It was gorgeous and unexpected and one of the greatest stories I’ve ever encountered.
Horizon: Zero dawn starts after the disaster—you’re in a post-apocalyptic society compete with ruins and technology from 21st century America, but nobody has any idea what transpired. You learn that a military contractor developed an autonomous drone combat system designed to self-replicate using any available materials. When a drone swarm malfunctions, it refuses to shut down and appears ready to literally consume the entire earth and everything on it. A noble scientist says she has a proposed solution that will require all the resources — human and financial— of the entire world. For most of the game you assume that her solution worked, since you’re alive, but that something didn’t work quite right.
Eventually you learn the shocking truth: the scientist had considered the data and concluded, “There is no solution. No mega weapon, no secret project. Our mission now is to preserve genetic material and cultural information deep underground in the hope that centuries from now, when the drones have finally shut themselves off, automated systems can restore human, plant, and animal life to the world, and educate them about our shared heritage.” What’s left of humanity devotes all their resources to this goal, only for a Bad Guy (who happens to be from Utah!) deciding that while humanity should get a second chance, they should jettison the fallen culture and history that defined them, and he erases the store of cultural knowledge. When at children emerge into a drone-free world centuries later, they have no guidance or references or education, so things quickly turn into Mad Max insanity. Quite a wild ride.
Also of note: at one point you encounter the ruins of the Provo temple. A tribe of metal workers has set up an encampment nearby.
Think my comment got stuck in moderation. I’ll check later to see if it’s here and then repost if needed.
Regarding eliminating ward Young Men presidencies — I support it. By scripture, the bishopric is the presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood, and since the Aaronic Priesthood quorums and Young Men are synonymous, I think having a separate Ward Young Men presidency is superfluous.
The reason ward Young Men activity programs have become so pitiful is not because of elimination of ward Young Men presidencies (there are still adult YM advisers) — it is because (1) we scrapped Scouting and replaced it with nothing; and (2) bishoprics still largely ignore their responsibilities as presidency of the Aaronic Priesthood. At least, that’s how I see it.
@ji, no one said that scrapping YM presidencies was non-doctrinal or counter to scripture. Only that it’s not actually working or serving the population it’s intended to serve.
Anyway, why does YM need to be so tightly tethered to priesthood quorums? My son chose not to be ordained a teacher. Does that mean there is no place for him to participate in YM because YM is purely a priesthood quorum? I think that would be an unfortunate and unnecessary conflation that not only marginalizes boys who choose not to climb the priesthood ordination ladder but also further separates the YM program from the YW program and treats girls differently. Let’s just have YM with a YM presidency.
I don’t agree that scrapping scouting is the problem. Scouting pretty much ends around 13-14 and after that church YM activities were independent of scouting. As for bishoprics ignoring responsibilities, I think it’s a bigger issue than that for the reasons shared above.
I don’t think the scriptures ever contemplated that the offices of the Aaronic priesthood were tied to a young men’s program. We have an accident of history that way back at some point (I’m sure others know the specifics on this) it was decided to use the Aaronic priesthood framework and ordain teenagers. For most of the early church, if I understand correctly, these offices were filled by adults.
So now, decades later, we look at the scriptures again and, because of our previous changes, decide that the scriptures mandate that bishops be mainly responsible for the YM, only because we administratively tied YM and Aaronic priesthood together.
I don’t think that’s what the role of the bishop is supposed to be at all according to scriptural guidance, but it is what we’ve made the calling in to.
why are the Aaronic priesthood quorums and YM synonymous? Is that necessarily scriptural? In addition to Elisa’s example of her son, when every adult man who joins the church first receives the priesthood, he is given the Aaronic priesthood office of priest. In my view priesthood is one thing, and development of young men is quite another.
In our ward, the dissolution of YM leadership rendered a moribund youth program terminally dead.
I was 17 during the memorable summer of 1998 when not one, but two similar apocalyptic blockbuster disaster films (Deep Impact and Armageddon) were released. Titanic hit theaters the year before and was still running in many multiplexes. It was the dawn of Michael Bay’s big-budget action film career, when Hollywood really started to take CGI special effects to impressive new levels. I remember being in awe of the ambitious scope of those movies, while at the same time being a bit unsettled by the existential ideas they brought up–like about how my life or a loved one’s life, or for that matter, all life on earth, could be wiped out in an instant, and what’s the point of it all? What does it say about God and the purpose of life on earth if a stray comet could come along one day and put an end to humanity? Or would He intervene to stop it? A couple years later, 9/11 happened, tones shifted and tastes changed, and we didn’t see too many more movies like that anymore. Life goes on.
As suggested by the OP, disaster films are products of their times, and typically are also critical disasters, and do not age well. They may manage to capture a zeitgeist and find commercial success, but usually don’t become beloved classics years later. If I happen to run across any of those late-90s blockbusters while flipping channels in a hotel room, I will probably keep flipping and find something else to watch.
One of my favorite disaster films is The Omega Man, which is a not-so-faithful adaptation of I Am Legend, but stars the most badass version of Charlton Heston ever captured on film. In many ways, it’s awful, but so hard to look away. Honorable mention to Snakes on a Plane; everything you need to know is in the title. I suppose that, for me, disaster movies work best when their situations are over-the-top implausible.
What does any of this have to do with the Church? Well, one of the common themes of most disaster movies is hubris–that excessive self-confidence has disastrous consequences, whether from the builders of the “unsinkable” Titanic, the politicians who think pandemics just go away on their own in a few weeks, or the leaders of any religious organization who claim they are the only ones on earth authorized to speak for God.
It was fascinating to me to read Ji’s comment and Elisa’s response and analyze my own thought process. When the YM change was announced it initially made sense to me that the young men president was not a scriptural position. (Neither is the young women president By the way, nor primary, etc). I agreed with Ji, in my head, that the position was of YMP was not doctrinal, although I don’t think that is necessarily a reason to remove the position.
But then Elisa’s comment reminded me that even the fact that young men are ordained to the priesthood is not doctrinal. For many years the deacons, teachers, and priests were all adults, even I think into the late nineteenth century. There is a sunstone article that traces the history over time, but the gist is that initially not all men got the priesthood, but gradually over time it was given to more men and at younger and younger ages until the offices were standardized at 12, 14, and 16. None of those changes are scriptural, but not necessarily anti-scriptural either.
In our own lifetime, we saw it shift once again. My own son became a deacon when he was just barely 11 due to a late-in-the-year birthday. Also not scriptural. Not necessarily against scripture either.
My opinion about the young men’s presidency removal is that the real reason for it is so that a ward can be run with fewer temple recommend holding men. I think the merge of the elders and high priests groups was done for the same reason. The leaders are trying to avoid consolidating and dissolving wards. I’m not making a statement here about whether it is a good change or not. But certainly a lot of wards are struggling with their youth programs.
Sorry to be a nitpicker, Jack Hughes, but the causation works in the other direction. I Am Legend is an adaptation of Omega Man, which, I will agree, was terrifyingly good when it was released. The concept, at least, scared the crap out of me. They gave Will Smith a canine companion Heston lacked to soften I Am Legend, if I recall correctly. Heston didn’t need no stinking dog!
Re “The problem with having incompetent leaders is that it’s not an escape from reality. That’s literally the world we live in.”
Not so. That’s fantasy talk. In the “world we live in” it isn’t a matter of “incompetent leaders” but “psychopathic leaders” — https://www.rolf-hefti.com/covid-19-coronavirus.html
If the world we live were filled with incompetent leaders rather than psychopathic leaders humanity would have some genuine hope of things turning into a constructive direction….
Rockwell, I think you might be thinking of the William Hartley article, “From Men to Boys: LDS Aaronic Priesthood Offices, 1829 to 1996.” I know it was published in the Journal of Mormon History and may have been published in Sunstone for all I know. It’s available here: https://digitalcommons.usu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1026&context=mormonhistory
Not a cougar. In think That’s the one. I guess I don’t know if it was in sunstone. I was going off memory.
jaredsbrother, The Omega Man itself is the second adaptation of the original 1954 novel I Am Legend. The first adaptation was The Last Man on Earth starring Vincent Price from 1964. I do have a fondness for The Omega Man, especially him driving around in the powder blue Mustang convertible.
Thanks, Not a Cougar. I sit corrected.
I hope others read this, although I am 2 days late to the blog.
Long attending church members are taught and primed for “disasters”.
We were taught that the world was going to end and the Jesus and coming soon. We were the last and choose generation (I was born in 1970’s) as it has been for the past 4-5 generations. We prepped with food storage (mostly wasted) for generations. We lived our lives in fear. Not living in the present, but living only for the future. We gave our tithing to the church to prepare for such a day.
Well many individual and institutional disasters are here. The institutional church is still living for the future disaster, not recognizing the multiple individual and societal disasters at their feet. When these are the headlines of current LDS Saints, the LDS church should be ashamed.
These are headlines from other churches:
Christ would have us live and serve in the present. Christ would have us recognize and ask for mistakes of the past.
The institutional church will continue to bleed members and people who want to live a Christ Like life in the present and not in fear for the next disaster. We need to be serving others in the present and not having arguments over “lazy learners”, “Mormon”, “covenant path”, or other wasteful Mormon topics which accomplish nothing.
Oh, I realized that while Cloverfield is a fine movie, I actually meant 10 Cloverfield Lane.
10 Cloverfield Lane is one of my favorite disaster movies, really different, incredibly performance by John Goodman … and some eerie parallels to organized religion but I won’t go into details because that wild spoil it!
Now, a real disaster has occurred in Tonga — worse than any movie. And Tonga is so far away — the Pacific Ocean is huge — even if relief ships were already pre-loaded, at 10 knots Tonga is 6 days from New Zealand and 11 days from Honolulu.
Just read through the comments here and have a couple to add.
Longtime scout leader (now former) here and I can tell you the breakup with the BSA was inevitable and already discussed in the 90s when I was a scout. It was clear they weren’t really going to replace it with anything the boys would want to be a part of, so that wasn’t a surprise. What was a surprise was how much the BSA had to go downhill before the church finally followed through and left. The BSA is a dying organization and they did it to themselves.
Second, I always thought the youth AP program was intended to prime young men for missions at 19, but that AP change was in 1908 and the young missionaries weren’t a big thing until the 1960s. I think it’s largely a product of trying to give people a job so they feel responsible for being there. That’s actually a good strategy in general for retention.