But I’m not posting to tell you about my own travails with the Church and its followers (though I have a story or two that would fit here). I would like to introduce the younger folks, at least, to the hilarious stories of Playelder, an ex-Mormon who blogged about his experiences in the Church and its culture before blogs even existed. He posted his classic tales, and bravely battled trolling Mormon apologists, in the Usenet newsgroup alt.recovery.mormonism during the late 90s. Many of you have probably heard of him, but I couldn’t find any references in exmormon, so I figured that enough people hadn’t to justify posting some of his Usenet posts here. His best work cannot be found on the Net by the usual means; I had to plumb the Wayback Machine to find my favorite stories.
I have here Playelder’s best, and perhaps first, anecdote from his LDS days. If this one is well received, I’ll periodically clean up and present some more. I pieced the version below from two sources: the original 1998 text, now available at exmormon.org; and a much cleaner 2006 revision, which, sadly, is missing the punchline. (The latter appears at the top of a huge, jumbled mass of Playelder works. The page format renders them nearly unreadable.) I originally posted it to my own LJ, after considerable discussion on the Mormon missionary program. (Condensed version: I oppose it.)
For the benefit of any other never-Mormons reading this, I added footnotes explaining some of the Mormon lingo that may be unfamiliar to the uninitiated. (Please let me know if I got anything wrong.)
As I said in my LJ, I hope that Playelder forgives me for copying this delightful story here, and that he understands the necessity to preserve it so that Mormons, and especially potential Mormon initiates, may read his words of wisdom and be enlightened.
How I Stayed Domestic (or, God Bless America)
Revised March 30, 2006 by Playelder
I have nothing constructive, intelligent, or well thought out to add here. Just a stupid story.___________________
I vividly recall hearing prospective missionaries claim how they always wanted to go on a foreign mission, but would humbly accept the calling should it be of a rather "telestial"1 nature and keep them here in the U.S.
They chose their words as if they were setting aside what they wanted and instead chose to selflessly pursue the greater good. Kind of like getting called to the Burns, Oregon Mission when your personal revelation2 had you all set to serve in the Melbourne, Australia Mission, mate.
And thus we have one of the great debates known unto these Saints of Latter Days…
Foreign vs. Domestic.
Now, to the rest of The Children of Man, that means we’re talking beer. To the faithful flock of The Good Shepherd Gordon3, it means we’re talking Netherlands or Nebraska, Tokyo or Tennessee, Madrid or Montana, South Africa or South Dakota. You get my drift. Its funny how everyone wants to go to Britain or Australia, but no one wants to go to Boise or Arkansas. Picky little servants, aren’t we?
When I was about to receive my "inspired" call in 1986—actually, hold on a second. What's so inspired about it? One guy leaves, one guy takes his place. It's not like The Great Creator of The Universe is going to take the time to deliberate whether this dumb kid from Utah gets sent to Japan or Jackson, Mississippi.
Personally, I think that whoever it is in SLC that makes these “callings” are actually expert dart throwers who secretly belong to a citywide bar league and regularly kick ass in whatever tournament they enter.
"Oh, no, Jake! Our next match is against 'The Callers'!! There's no way we can win! We might as well forfeit because we're screwed!"
That's right. One flick of the wrist and you're off to Bangladesh, boy.
Having been out of the country before, I was in no hurry to take my chances at an extended visit. My experiences eating dogs and cats in China was more than I bargained for, and I wasn't about to wait for something that came straight out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
Don't get me wrong: other countries and cultures are just fine for two weeks, but two years is an entirely different matter. I like speaking English. I like eating food that won’t kill me. And I like knowing that doing something as simple as reaching for something with my left hand is not an offense considered punishable by death according to local customs. I’m just kind of weird that way.
When it became my turn to go thru all those pre mission call rituals, I noticed many guys in my small ward in Burns, Oregon were going to places like Italy, Ireland, South Africa, Spain, and The Philippines. There was a real good chance that I was going to get sent to Dogburger, China. NO WAY!!!
I want to eat at Denny's on P-Day4!!! I want to ride my bike on the right side of the road! When people yell and swear at me, I want to know what they're saying! I don't care if I come back and can't bear my testimony in some kooky tongue or have no cool stories to tell and have to settle for a sweet spirit5 for a wife because of it! To hell with that dart with my name on it! I'm going to make a stand!
It was then that I came up with a plan. A wicked, evil, unrighteous plan that would have made Korihor6 himself think twice.
I was aware of a language aptitude test that I'd be given. Not as secret as the temple, so I knew what to expect. Does anyone know if they still do this or has a revelation changed and now they don't? My test consisted of sitting in an empty room listening to a guy on a tape. He was an old guy, of course. I think he'd been a sheet rock worker on the Tower of Babel back when they invented all the different languages. He would say a word in English and then say the word in a different language. The other language wasn't real—just something they made up.
No! They didn't say "pay lay ale!"7
They said other things that they made up! The old guy would say some words and phrases and I would write down the right words for what he said. The only word I can remember was "sherm". It kind of sounded like a Dr. Seuss book.
"The sherm had a glerm with derm on its verm."
Knowing what was at stake here, I proceeded to totally bomb that test. I made every wrong answer that I could. I even had the audacity to say,
"The sherm had a worm with sperm in its perm!"
I cackled to myself as I wrung my hands in a Mr. Burns-like fashion, "Excellent!" These guys won't let me out of the stake!8 I'll be lucky if they even let me ride a bike.
When my call finally arrived, I opened it with dread and anticipation. Where had my dart landed? Did my caller have a bad commute to work and was so pissed that he was going to send 20 guys to the Tapeworm Jungle Bug mission?
Did my dart maybe just bounce off and hit the floor, thus making me exempt? (yeah, right)
As I opened the letter I couldn't help but feel like Charlie Bucket as he opened up his Willy Wonka chocolate bar looking for a golden ticket. Had my sherm plan saved me from cat casserole for two years? Two long, miserable, Slim-Fast years?
My dart had landed in, drum roll please…
GEORGIA!!! WOOHOO!!! U-S-A!!! U-S-A!!!
Burger Kings and Dairy Queens! Piggly Wiggly grocery stores with Froot Loops on aisle 12 and Spam on aisle 9!!! National Enquirers to pretend I wasn't reading as I stood in line!!!!!!
Awhile later it occurred to me that I must have REALLY done bad on that language skill test to have been sent to the deep south. There's no way they're going to trust this enemahead with sacred doctrines in Europe or Asia. It kind of sounds like the spy biz. Agent 007 gets the cool foreign assignments because he's suave and sophisticated and good looking. He's what the US wants everyone else in the world to think what American men are all about. Meanwhile, Inspector Gadget gets the domestic assignments because we don't have to worry about him stealing away the member's daughters.
Yep, I reckon I done went to Georgia cause of them there language scores I got me on that test. A year later my brother was a'fixin' to head on out to his mission, so I says to him, "I reckon if'n's y'all bomb that there language test, y'all can stay here in the good ol' US of A." So he did and got sent to Mississippi.
I reckon me and my brother done went and fooled them callers real good this time, yessir.
1The Telestial Kingdom, in Mormon doctrine, is the lowest sphere of Heaven. It's not actually a bad place—nothing like Hell—but rather a second-rate afterlife from which the departed souls gaze mournfully across the tracks at the opulent Celestial Kingdom, to which all Mormons aspire to go, and which is only achieved through living a "saintly" (i.e., obedient) life. While the true-blue Mormons are driving brand-new Escalades in the Celestial Kingdom, we unbelievers will be puttering around in a rusted out 1968 Dodge Dart. Here, Playelder is using the term telestial to mean "inferior."
2The president of the LDS Church supposedly receives revelations directly from God. (You probably already knew this.) Less widely known is that anyone can hop on the divine party line, though the reception is rather spotty, as you might expect. Of course, your personal revelation only counts if it affirms the absolute truth of the Church and/or the wisdom of behaving exactly as the Church elders say. If your revelation tells you to smoke a bong in your local church parking lot, as it did to me some two decades past, something obviously got garbled in transmission.
3Gordon B. Hinckley, Church president from 1995 until last January, when he gave up the ghost unexpectedly at the tender young age of 98. It wasn't until 1994 that the Mormon Church had a president born in the 20th century.
4Preparation Day, the day of the week during which missionaries are allowed to relax—briefly—from their duties, and to go shopping and take care of other necessities. If they're lucky, a missionary and his partner might get to go see a movie. A Church-approved movie, of course.
5Sweet spirit is a versatile Mormon cliché, here used as a euphemism for a nice, but plain-looking, woman.
6I had to look this one up. Korihor, an apostate and general rabble-rouser, was deafened and muted by God for his outrageous skepticism, according to the Book of Mormon.
7One of the "secret handshakes" in the Mormon temple endowment ceremony, before sweeping changes were instituted in 1990, involved chanting the words "Pay Lay Ale" thrice. In the Adamite language this meant, "O God, hear the words of my mouth."
8A stake is the second smallest administrative unit in the Church, consisting of several wards (congregations). When I lived in Utah a stake encompassed about 500 families.