From the Annals of the Turley J. Hinton Institute....

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_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

From the Annals of the Turley J. Hinton Institute....

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

The Mopologist Also Rises

by Bob Bobberson


PART I: The Eye of the Needle

"This isn't good," said Dr. Jorgenson.
"How's that?"
"It's too high," he said, and he took the stethoscope away from the crook of Merlyn's arm.
Merlyn K. Young had come in for a routine checkup, and though he had been under a considerable amount of stress lately, he hadn't expected to hear bad news. Jorgenson went to undo the blood pressure cuff, and it made a tearing noise as he removed it.
"How high was it?" asked Merlyn.
"167 over 89."
"And what's the ideal?"
"Ideal is about 115 over 75."
"Oh, jeez."
By now Dr. Jorgenson had sat back down on the small black stool, and he was busy making notations on Merlyn's chart. The room was cold and spare and clinical. There was a black scale in one corner, with the sliding weights still set on Merlyn's weight. There was a translucent plastic medical waste case affixed to the wall, and through it Merlyn could see old, used syringes. He sat there, feeling half-naked in the cold office, with the air blowing through the open slit at the back of his medical gown. On his feet were a pair of brown dress socks.
"Okay," said Dr. Jorgenson. "What I'm going to do is I'm going to give you a pair of prescriptions. One is a diuretic, and the other is a beta-blocker. We have to get that blood pressure down."
"Okay, sure," said Merlyn.
"You need to get on an exercise plan, cut salt out of your diet, and eat well."
Merlyn nodded. "You know, doc, I do all those things. I'm really quite shocked that my numbers were so high. Could it be stress-related?"
Jorgenson shook his head. "I'm not really a big supporter of those stress theories," he said. He looked up and raised his eyebrows: "Why? Have you been under a lot of stress lately?"
"It's just work and things," said Merlyn.
"All right then." Jorgenson tore the prescription slip off the tablet and handed it to Merlyn. "You can go ahead and get dressed," he said, and he stood up and extended his hand. "You take it easy."
"Okay, Dr. Jorgenson. And thank you! It's good to see you, as always!"
The doctor left the room, and Merlyn hastily got dressed, pulling on his garments, and then the rest of his clothes.


Because he didn't have any classes until the afternoon, Merlyn had deliberately scheduled his doctor's appointment for the morning. Now, with lunchtime looming on the horizon, he made his way back into Provo. In spite of what Dr. Jorgenson had said about adopting a new diet, Merlyn made a pitstop at Arby's, where he ordered two Beef 'n' Cheddars, tater tots, and a large Sprite. He drove the rest of the way to the BYU campus, parked in his assigned spot, and hustled on up to his office. As he fished in his pocket for his keys, his hand brushed past the prescription slip. He would have to fill it later.
He plopped the Arby's bag down on the desk and nudged the mouse of his computer to dissipate the screen-saver. He immediately clicked on Firefox and navigated his way to MormonDiscourse.com. Most days, he surfed the LDS-related message boards while he ate lunch. In fact, most of his friends at the Turley J. Hinton Institute for the Defense of Mormonism were big fans of the message boards. They often read them, hunting for moments of idiocy on the part of the anti-Mormons. While Merlyn wasn't addicted to the boards on quite the same level as Howell Lambeth, he took in his fair share of the action. He took another bit of his Beef 'n' Cheddar as he scanned the threads, and one in particular caught his eye.

WHY MERLYN YOUNG IS A LIAR

He smiled and steeled himself against the criticism as he clicked on the link. For the most part, the boards were a nice, fun diversion. He enjoyed jousting with Church critics. He had a special penchant for rhetoric and witticisms, and he employed it to great effect in the face of criticism.
As he read over the thread, though, he felt his stomach turn. The thread had been launched by a poster who called him (or her?) self "The Needle," and Merlyn had come to despise this person. The Needle was the sort of small-minded, nitpicky person who took the time to comb through every last word, sentence, and footnote, all for the sake of locating errors, and Merlyn had been subject to his (or her?) scrutiny in the past. This time, though, it was bad. He scanned quickly over the opening post to take in the gist of it. When he say the phrase "The Tiresias of Anti-Mormonism," he knew immediately what had happened.
Some two years ago or thereabouts, he had been asked by Howell to write a piece for the Journal of HIDM that engaged with the work of a notorious athiest anti-Mormon named Jackson Gill. Merlyn had taken his time looking into Gill's work, but Howell needed the essay post-haste, and Merlyn had been forced to rush it into completion. This had been on top of his normal load of teaching, advising, and research. So he sent it in without checking all the details, assuming and hoping that the assistants at HIDM would submit it to more rigorous fact-checking.
Later, when he received his Contributor's Copies of the journal, he re-read his article with a vague sense of dread. As he looked over the endnotes, he realized that he'd made a number of critical errors. Some of the entries he couldn't remember at all. He spent some time during his office hours trying desperately to track down one of the sources he'd cited, but for the life of him he could not find it. He began to wonder if, in some half-delusional state, he'd simply invented the damn thing.
He had phoned Howell Lambeth in a semi-panic, and Howell tried to reassure him:
"Nobody reads the endnotes, Merlyn. Besides, we fact-checked everything."
"But Howell," Merlyn said. "Think about what happened with Nibley. Think about what the critics did."
"I don't have to think about what the critics did, because they always do the same thing. They lie, they misrepresent, and they distort. That's what they do."
He hadn't felt any better when he hung up the phone. But, as the journal went out into wider circulation, his anxiety began to dissipate. No one seemed to notice the bogus footnotes, and gradually he was able to sleep easy at night.
Now, though, as he sat staring at his computer screen, with a partially chewed hunk of Beef 'n' Cheddar in his mouth, Merlyn knew that he'd been caught, and he felt positively sick. First he felt a sense of terror: How many people had read The Needle's post? What if this got out beyond the confines of the messageboard? What if it got back to BYU administration? He felt as if his life were flashing before his eyes. Almost without thinking, he typed in his name and logged on to the site, his fingers ramming down on the keys. He clicked "Reply" and began to pound out a response.
But then he thought better of it as a calm and placid anger settled over him. Who in the hell did this "Needle" think he was? These people - these cowards - acted with impunity. Merlyn had seen both himself and his friends called every name in the book. These anti-Mormon critics on the Internet hid behind masks of anonymity and took potshots at anyone who dared to stand up for the truth of the Gospel. And that just wasn't right. It seemed tremendously unfair. Here was this "Needle," trying to impugn him. The Needle had attacked him numerous times before, but this took the cake. Once again Merlyn experienced a flash of paralysis as he wondered about the implications of what The Needle had said. If this were to have a negative impact on his career, what would he do? He had a vision of his wife leaving him, his children looking up at him in disgust. He pictured himself being forced to teach bonehead history and comp courses at UVU.
He balled up the greasy remains of his lunch and tossed it into the trash. Enough was enough. The critics had been taking potshots at faithful Latter-day Saints for far too long, and Merlyn Young had had more than enough of it. The Needle would pay for what he had done. Merlyn would see to it.


...To be continued in PART II: The Revenge of Merlyn Young
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part II: The Revenge of Merlyn Young

A flurry of phone calls followed in the wake of The Needle's posting, and at no time did Merlyn Young's anger diminish. First he phoned Howell, who had been hardened over the years on account of his having been threatened repeatedly with legal action by a number of anti-Mormons who'd been criticized in the Journal of HIDM. Howell did his best to calm him down, and suggested that it might be better if they met together in person over at the offices of the Hinton Institute.
"Better not to do this over the phone," Howell said, and Merlyn agreed.
But the meeting was still hours away, and Merlyn still had to teach his "Chiasmus and Poetics" class. It was a special, elective course only open to upperclassmen, and normally Merlyn loved teaching it, but he was so saturated with resentment that he wasn't sure how he would manage to get through it. Already the sweat from his armpits had penetrated through both his garments and his white, short-sleeved dress shirt. Nonetheless, duty called. He popped an Altoid into his mouth, and then he moved over to the edge of his office, where he kept a pillow on a chair, and he removed this and placed it on the floor and knelt down. He clasped his hands together and laid them in his lap, and then he bowed his head and spoke:
"Dear Father in Heaven, I ask of thee to help me in this time of need. Please bless me to have the strength and calmness to get through my class, and to teach my students to the best of my abilities. Please bless me so that I might reach them and nourish their minds. I also ask, dear Father who art in Heaven, to help me to withstand the aggressions of our enemies. Please help me to find a way to do the right thing, and to find justice in this world. I know that you are testing me at this time, and I struggle to do thy bidding. I ask thee to give me the strength to persevere. I say these things in the name of thy son, Jesus Christ, Amen."
He opened his eyes and looked up, and within seconds a newfound serenity washed over him. He took several deep breaths and got to his feet and straightened the wrinkles out of his slacks. Then he gathered up his things, pulled on his sports coat, and left to teach his class.


When the time for the afternoon meeting at the HI at last arrived, Merlyn's underlying sense of nauseous anxiety had returned. He worried a bit that he had begun to stink--that his sense of emotional and spiritual malaise was creeping out in the form of B.O. Nonetheless, he made his way to the edge of campus and went into the building.
Though there had at one time been talk of a massive fundraiser to transform the Hinton Institute into something more grand, they had fallen short of their goals and had opted instead to make over and update the building they'd first been given. It was a merely makeshift affair, and it reminded Merlyn of the utilitarian plainness of the Church Office Building in downtown Salt Lake. There were some among his colleagues at the HI who felt that the Institute deserved more lavish accoutrements, what with it being the seat of intellectual inquiry in the LDS church, but it seemed that there were more powerful elements who felt otherwise.
Merlyn went inside and walked down the hallway to the conference room and took a seat. Already inside were Mitch Findley, Herb McConkie, and Nephi Clark. Nephi was a stout, somewhat pudgy man with a deeply lined forehead, and he nodded somberly when Merlyn entered. Nephi, too, had felt the sting of The Needle's criticism. Some time ago, Nephi and Howell Lambeth had contrived to add a joke into one of the issues of the Journal of HIDM. Somehow, they had composed a paragraph that was similar to the back page of MAD magazine: if you folded a certain page in the Journal of HIDM over just so, the words would align to spell out:

DAN VOGEL
PICKS HIS
NOSE
AND
EATS IT.

Rumors of the joke had leaked out to local anti-Mormons in Salt Lake, and Howell and the other apologists had been forced to scramble to prevent copies of the "joke" issue from gaining wider circulation. And Nephi Clark had been attacked mercilessly for this. He would never live it down, which is why Merlyn viewed him as a close comrade in their private rhetorical war with The Needle.
Finally, Howell Lambeth came in and shut the door, and pulled the cord to lower the Venetian blinds.
"All right," he said, and he sat down and pushed his glasses up his nose. "Should we start with an opening prayer? Mitch? Would you offer a prayer for us?"
"Okay," said Mitch Findlay, and the men all bowed their heads as he prayed, and they all said "Amen" when he was done.
Howell went on to acknowledge what The Needle had said about Merlyn, and all the apologists in the room agreed that enough was enough.
"I think he's viciously attacked every single person in this room," said Howell.
"You would know, wouldn't you, Howell?" said Mitch, who had an impish sense of humor.
Howell chucked and blushed slightly. "Yeah--I know, I know. I waste far too much time on the message boards."
"So is there anything we can do?" said Merlyn. His voice had a tremor in it, and all the men seemed to notice this, and they grew quiet in response.
Nephi Clark cleared his throat: "I've thought about this in the past, but have never acted on it. One thing we could do is to contact Kay Rockwell."
Merlyn glanced from Nephi over to Howell, and he watched as Howell's face folded into a massive grin: "That's a helluva idea, Nephi. Do you think he'd help us?"
"Oh, I'm sure he would," said Nephi.
It took Merlyn a moment to digest what was apparently being proposed. He knew who Kay Rockwell was, of course, but it took a few seconds before in dawned on him that Rockwell worked for the FBI. He and Nephi Clark had been mission companions in France, hence the connection.
"What would Kay do exactly?" asked Merlyn.
"Well, I assume that he can find out who this Needle character is," said Howell. He looked supremely pompous and satisfied at the end of the table.
"So we're going to 'out' him, then? Or her?"
"Well, it only seems fair," said Howell. "If he--or she, though I genuinely believe it's a 'he'--is going to criticize us like this, and to this extent, it only seems right that he face up to a more public kind of exposure. Doesn't that seem reasonable to you, Merlyn?"
He found himself cracking a smile: "Yes, I suppose so. I suppose it does."
There was a kind of jubilation in the room. Everything had suddenly taken on a shinier, more radiant hue--everything from the dull fluorscent light on the ceiling, to the framed picture of President Monson hanging on the wall, to the brown sisal wainscoting lining the room. Merlyn would at last have justice for the wrongs he'd been dealt. The men in the room were all smiling and laughing and carrying on, excited over their plans.
Merlyn was smiling, too, but he didn't say anything. He was thinking. It was great and all that The Needle would be exposed, but Merlyn wondered if this would be enough. He wondered if it would be fully satisfying merely to unmask this old Internet foe of his. He suspected that they would need to do something more, but for the time being, Merlyn kept his mouth shut...

...To be continued in PART III: The Gleaming of Moroni's Trumpet
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part III: The Gleaming of Moroni's Trumpet

A few days passed, and another meeting was convened. The men, middle-aged and soft-bellied; balding, many of them, and some with liver spots, shuffled into the room. Some of them wore suits; others were in collared shirts. Howell Lambeth sat at the head of the table, and at his elbow was Oswald Tanner, and prominent attorney that most of them knew. Merlyn Young, still trying to adjust to the side-effects of his new hypertension medication, sat at the opposite end of the long, oblong, dark-wood table.
After Howell's introduction and after an opening prayer, Tanner cleared his throat. "Accountability," he said, leaning forward and stabbing his forefinger down into the table. "That's what this is ultimately about. Uh. Count. A. Bill. A. Tee." He jabbed the table after each syllable. "These people, these sons of bitches, have carried on with this game for long enough. They want to hide behind masks and take potshots at good, honorable, Latter-day Saints, and it's high time we put a stop to it."
The men around the table nodded and uttered noises of assent.
Tanner went on: "Now, we want to do this right. Howell asked me to step in in order to make sure that everything runs smoothly from a legal standpoint. Kay is doing us a big favor here, and we need to make sure he's protected."
Merlyn had clasped his hands together and was kneading them together as if they were hunks of dough. "What will we do once their anonymity has been taken away?"
"We can talk about that when we get there," said Oswald Tanner. He lowered his chin and stared back hard at Merlyn from beneath a pair of dark and heavy eyebrows.
Nephi Clark, sitting on the left-hand side of the table with his arms folded, raised his hand, and Howell nodded for him to speak. "These people would never say these sorts of things using their real names. And if they know that their is now a very real risk that they'll be exposed, and that they'll have their security blanket of anonymity ripped away from them."
"That's true."
"I agree."
"Yep. That's it. That's definitely it."
Merlyn was nodding, too, and he'd begun to lightly perspire from the excitement. "I just wonder--well, hope, really, if this will be enough."
There was an air of violent mirth in the room, and then Paul Fredrickson, skinny, obnoxious Paul Fredrickson, raised his hand. "May I make a suggestion or two, and the risk of sounding like a wet blanket?"
Merlyn muttered under his breath: When do you ever do anything besides act like a wet blanket? Merlyn and most of the others disliked Fredrickson, whom they saw as weak and spiritually deficient, and as too willing to make concessions to the Adversary.
Fredrickson continued: "I wonder if we wouldn't be better off just ignoring what these folks online are saying. You know, turn the other cheek?"
"Oh, give me a break!" Howell Lambeth slammed his palm down on the table; he was visibly angry, his jaws clenched and his face turning almost purple. "How far backwards to you want us to bend, Paul? How far? How far I ask you? Huh?"
"I'm sorry!" said Fredrickson, raising his hands as if to apologize. "It's just a suggestion."
Oswald Tanner, the lawyer, raised one of his eyebrows. "Do you have any other misgivings you'd like to share with us, Brother Fredrickson."
Poor Paul Fredrickson seemed to be withering in his seat. He was in his late forties, very thin and a sloucher, with a vaguely greyish complexion. He stared down at the table. "Not really," he said. "But I don't know why we don't just concentrate on the arguments and the substance."
Howell, still purple-faced, threw up his arms in exasperation and made a sputtering noise. "Pppppththbbbbtt!! You just don't get it, man! You are totally and completely clueless."
Merlyn was nodding and decided to try a different tactic. "It's really much more complex than that, Paul. You have to consider things like source and context. Without knowing who these anonymous cowards really are, we can make those kinds of evaluations."
"Well, I realize I'm clearly in the minority here. I just thought a dissenting voice might be useful this one time."
"What's that supposed to mean?" asked Merlyn, to nobody in particular.
There was more muttering all around the table.
Oswald Tanner rubbed the side of his nose with his finger. "It's probably best if you step outside for the rest of the meeting, Paul. I'm sorry, but it's for the best."
"Very well," said Fredrickson, and he let out a long, exhausted sigh before he went slouching out of the room.
"There now," said Tanner. "Isn't that better?"
And everyone agreed that it was. The meeting room, with all the Venetian blinds drawn, had grown rather hot and stuff, but no one got up to adjust the air conditioning. In fact, no one seemed to notice how uncomfortable everything was. No one seemed to care.

...To be continued in Part IV: Accountability
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part IV: Accountability

Pdddtat! Pddtat!

Merlyn Young, wearing safety goggles and ear protection, stood just behind Herb McConkie. The springtime desert winds lifted tufts of hair from his head, and for the first time in a while, he felt better about the world. The wheels were in motion: Kay Rockwell and Oswald Tanner were busy putting together their plan to oust "The Needle" from his lair of cowardly anonymity. To pass the time, Herb McConkie and Nephi Clark had proposed an outing. As both of them were avid gun collectors, they suggested a Saturday afternoon of testing out their small arsenal of weapons out on the Bonneville Salt Flats. "Got to get in some shooting' time," said Nephi. "You don't put these things to use, they'll rust up on you. Use it or lose it."

So they all piled into Herb's Dodge Caravan and drove out. Merlyn even brought along the AR-15 that had been given to him as a gift several years back, and Nephi, it turned out, was anxious to shoot his new Desert Eagle for the first time. "You could take out an curelom with this thing," he said during the drive out. Later, Herb explained that he had a crossbow he was interested in testing.

When they arrived at their destination, Merlyn helped to unload the gear.

"The plan is that we shoot for a while, then have lunch, and then shoot a little more and then pack it in. Sound like a good deal to you?" said Herb, and the other two men nodded.

Nephi found several rocks and used them to prop up a trio of plywood boards to use as targets. "Now it's time for the big reveal," he said. Back in Provo, he'd emerged from his house carrying a long cardboard tube, the sort of thing you'd expect an architect to use to transport blueprints. Now he brandished this as if it was a sword, and he popped off the plastic end cap. Out came a long tube of paper (or several of them, actually) and he used duct tape to fasten them to the plywood targets. One of them was an image of Ginny McFarris, a woman who had been agitating with greater and greater shrillness for a change in LDS Church policy such that women could receive the priesthood. The other two pieces of paper had blown-up likenesses of Igor DeSilvio and Smithfield Christenson: two notorious anti-Mormons who'd received apt treatment in past issues of the Journal of HIDM. Herb and Merlyn roared with laughter when they saw this. Merlyn doubled over, clutching his heaving stomach with one hand and slapping the knee with the other. Tears sprang to the corners of his eyes and a small drip of drool escaped from his lips as he laughed and laughed and laughed.

"Pretty good, right?" said Nephi. "Well, all right, then. I'm taking first crack at ol' Igor." He had taken up his Uzi, and now he took careful aim at the central target, and then he let off a stream of rounds: bap-bap-bap-bap-bap. Igor DeSilvio's likeness was suddenly pockmarked with acne, and a small cloud of dust rose from behind the plywood, where the bullets had struck the earth.

Next up was Herb with his 12-gauge. "Haw, haw, haw," he said, still laughing, and he wiped at his mouth with the sleeve of his shirt. "Home is where the heart is, Sister McFarris": ka-boom! The entire upper-left corner of the target was chewed away, and the image of Ginny McFarris was suddenly without its left temple.

"All right, Merlyn. Your turn," said Nephi, breathing audibly. "Give Christenson a taste of that AR."

In spite of his elation and excitement, Merlyn was too ashamed to admit that he had little experience with firearms. When he raised the gun and pulled the trigger, nothing happened. Nephi and Herb stared at him, waiting. "What's with this...?" he said. "Why won't?"

"Here," said Herb. "You left the safety on." He reached over and clicked a switch. "You should be good to go now, Brother Young."

Merlyn could feel himself reddening, but he nonetheless lifted the weapon to his shoulder and squeezed the trigger, tentatively at first, and then more aggressively. He must not have been holding onto the gun firmly enough, because as soon as it began to fire, the barrel flew wildly from side to side, spraying bullets all over the place.

"Whoa, whoa!" screamed Nephi, and he and Herb dove for cover.

"Sorry! Sorry!" said Merlyn. "I'm so sorry. Didn't mean to scare anyone!" He had lowered the gun down to his side.

"Jeez, Merlyn, are you trying to kill us or something?" said Nephi.

Herb climbed to his feet and was dusting the white, alkaline dirt off his clothes. "Maybe we should start you off with something a little less powerful, huh?"

"It's okay," said Merlyn. "I think I have the hang of it now. It's just a matter of familiarity."

"Sure, sure," said Nephi. "I'm sure that's it."

They stood around for a moment, glancing at each other. Finally Herb said, "Well, should we pause for lunch."

Merlyn had been staring at the ground. He felt like a weakling and a coward: this was meant to be a bonding experience and he'd messed it up. He couldn't help but wonder if this was the result of weakness, weakness in the face of adversity. He noticed that his shoulders had tensed up.

"Lunch sounds great," he said. "Just let me get in one more round." Herb and Nephi exchanged glances, and then watched Merlyn stride over and face the Smithfield Christenson target. Christenson, as they all knew, had once been a CES instructor who turned into an apostate and published several articles online about his supposed familiarity with the inner workings of the Church. It was widely understood among their inner circle that Christenson had lost his faith with he was still teaching impressionable members of the Church, meaning that he was effectively lying to all of them, and posing as a loyal member when, in fact, he was not. Merlyn planted his feet firmly, shoulder-width apart, and he raised up the barrel of the gun and aimed it at the target. Then he pulled the trigger, again and again, in controlled bursts: bddttat! bddtat! bddtat! bddat!. The bullets cut across the visage of Smithfield Christenson: back and forth, back and forth. Herb and Nephi were saying something to him, and after a bit it became clear that they were hooting and hollering and cheering him on. Back and forth, back and forth he went, until at last, the magazine was empty.

He pulled the ear protection down so that the earphones were down around his neck, like a big scarf. He used his knuckle to wipe the sweat from his brown.

"Hot darn," said Herb. "Just look at that. That is some serious marksmanship there, Merlyn."

"Thanks Herb," he said, and then Nephi said, "Get a load of that."

They all looked out at the target and watched as the desert breeze blew over the top half of the plywood. Merlyn had shot it up so badly that he'd cut it in half with bullets. All that remained of the poster of Smithfield Christenson was his chin and his faint smirk of a smile.

"Good shooting, Brother Young. Good freaking shooting," said Nephi.


...To be continued in Part V: Just Another Sunday Morning
Last edited by Guest on Tue Apr 15, 2014 12:49 am, edited 1 time in total.
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

PART V: Just Another Sunday Morning

The soft morning sunlight broke through the drapes and filled the kitchen with a warm glow. Everything was spotless: Jessamyn had scrubbed the linoleum and the countertops and the kitchen table, and everything felt bright and clean and home-like. At last the winter cold spells were retreating, and the mornings were warm and fresh. It was here in the kitchen that Mark Hightower was feeding his young son Dempsey, spooning small bites of pureed carrots into the child's mouth.

"Open wide! Here comes the buzz bomber! Bzzzhhh!" The boy, messy-faced, opened his mouth for the food and took it. Mark was already wearing his slacks and dress socks; they still had a half hour or so before they needed to leave for Sacrament Meeting. Meanwhile, Jessamyn was still getting ready, and Colby and Jayden were reading books in the family room. Mark fed another bite of carrots to Dempsey, and nudged some of the Cheerios scattered on the highchair tray closer to the boy's chubby hands. On the table, next to the baby food jar, was a copy of the Deseret News and Mark's iPhone. He picked up the phone and then he glanced over his shoulder and listened to the noises in the house before he used Safari to navigate to MormonDiscourse.com.

Mark Hightower had served a mission in Latin America; he married Jessamyn, who'd been loyal to him during his entire mission and had waited patiently for him to return back at BYU; and the two of them had married in the St. George Temple. He had a good, steady job doing PR work in the Church Office Building, and he and Jessamyn had three beautiful young children. To look at them, living peacefully in their craftsman-style home in Sugar House, you'd think they were the picture-perfect image of contemporary Mormon family bliss. But Mark was a closet apostate. Both on his mission and during his time in the COB, he'd begun to learn more and more about Church history and doctrine, and eventually he found his way online, where he discovered the dark recesses of Church criticism. Early in the process of his reconversion, he approached a member of his bishopric, but it was immediately clear that he was most definitely not to be looking at anti-Mormon materials.

"I'm not looking at things that are anti-Mormon," Mark had protested.

"Then what, exactly, is this all about, Brother Hightower?" the Second Counselor had asked with a heavy note of suspicion in his voice.

And so Mark dropped it. He kept reading, kept exploring, until at last his testimony was in shreds. He no longer believed that the Church was true, and yet he couldn't say anything to anyone. Jessamyn would leave him if she knew what he'd been doing; she'd feel completely betrayed that the priesthood holder in their home had gone and done such things. And one afternoon, after coming home from work, he went for a long run: close to ten miles. When he got back home, completely exhausted, he climbed into the shower and crumpled into a ball on the floor of the tub, sobbing, the hot water dripping from his hair and running down his shoulders. He stayed in so long that Jessamyn eventually came by to knock on the door and ask if everything was all right.

"Yeah, honey. I just ran a little too far, I think," he said. He used Visine on his eyes and then he got dressed and joined the rest of the family for dinner.

His online activities, then, remained a secret. He still attended church, he still led his family in prayers and in Family Home Evening activities. He still fulfilled his callings and did his home teaching. The only outlet he had for his non-belief was the Internet, and there people knew him only as a pseudonym.

Thus it was only a matter of time until he encountered the work of Howell Lambeth, Merlyn Young, Nephi Clark, and the rest of the people who published the Journal of HIDM. He had, of course, seen each of these people criticized viciously on some of the more rabid ex-Mormon websites. Some of it was undeserved, he thought; then again, he'd seen them act dismissively and even cruelly towards people with legitimate complaints and criticisms. And this angered him. He used his pseudonym, "The Needle," to parry and counteract their actions, and to his surprise, they reacted. They snapped back at him, and grew angry. Mark wondered at the source of this anger, and began reading their past work in the Journal of HIDM, where he encountered yet more problems. He began to see that the entire edifice of what they were doing was very, very wrong. Some of it was outright dishonesty, and so he posted on this as well. All the while, they grew angrier and angrier; more angry than he could have anticipated. At that moment, sitting in the kitchen, feeding pureed carrots to his toddler son, he never could have guessed in a thousand years that, at that exact point in time, a quorum of LDS men were using their connections with the FBI in an attempt to expose him.

"Daddy!" cried Jayden, and Mark quickly exited out of the browser on his phone. "Yeah, buddy?"

"Colby took my book."

"He did? Well, that's not very cool, is it?" He used a washcloth on Dempsey's face and then he scooped up Jayden, already getting tall at four years of age, and set him on his lap. "I'll tell you what," he said. "If you stay really chill about this, I can let you read any book you want at Sacrament Meeting. Does that sound like a good deal to you?"

"Any book?" said Jayden.

"That's what I said."

He scrunched up his face, thinking about it. "All right, Daddy. If you promise, then I guess that's cool."

"Okay, kiddo. Good deal. Now you go put on your shoes."

Just then, Jessamyn came padding into the kitchen, her bare feet slapping on the linoleum, as she fastened on her earrings. "You just about ready, sweetie?" she asked.

"You look pretty great," he said, and smiled at her. She rolled her eyes: "Thanks."

"Let me go put my tie on and then we'll go," he said, and then he called out to the two older boys: "Colby! Jayden! You guys get your shoes on, pronto." Jessamyn had already taken over the duties of cleaning up Dempsey's highchair and dishes. Mark leaned in to give Jessamyn a kiss and she tilted her chin away: "Here on the cheek," she said. "I have lip stuff on."

Then he turned and went upstairs to the bedroom and found a tie that suited his mood, which was a combination of warmth and dread. Ever since he lost his testimony, church seemed almost unbearably long. At least he could always slip away for a moment or two with his iPhone, he thought. One way or another, he would grin and bear it. He popped up his collar, and wrapped the tie around his neck, looping it around, tucking the end through the loop, and then cinching it tight. It didn't quite seem to be laying right, so he lifted it up into the air and smiled palely at his reflection, because it looked like he was lynching himself.

...To be continued in Part VI: A Dish Served Cold
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

PART VI: A Dish Served Cold

"I love you too, sunshine." Merlyn Young hung up the phone. His wife, Shaylene, was away in Boise, visiting their youngest daughter, who'd given birth to her second child several months back: this was Merlyn and his wife's fourth grandchild. What this meant was that Merlyn was on his own this Sunday evening. He'd gone to church earlier that morning, and had spent the rest of the day reading and listening to CDs from his collection of classical music. After almost three decades spent raising their four children in this house, it now felt more lonely than ever when he was alone in it.

Just then the timer on the microwave went off, and Merlyn climbed to his feet and shuffled into the kitchen. He opened up the oven and pulled out the cookie sheet upon which his three corn dogs and pile of tater tots had been baking. When she was home, Shaylene prepared good food, and food that was increasingly healthy since his diagnosis, but alone, he ate like a college student. He went to the refrigerator and helped himself to a generous portion of leftover jello salad.

As he put together his plate, he couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation. Any time now he expected to hear from Kay Rockwell, Oswald Tanner, and the rest on the identity of The Needle. It was only a matter of time. Meanwhile, he'd been keeping a close eye on the message boards. He half-feared that The Needle would vanish before he got the opportunity to confront him (or her?) online.

With this in mind he was in a somewhat celebratory mood, and so he fetched one of his Schott Zwiesel wine glasses. Though he'd never had a taste of alcohol in his entire life, he'd been given these glasses as a gift during a trip to Europe some time back, and he enjoyed using them: he found they added a touch of refinement to whatever he was drinking (in this case, caffeine-free Mr. Pibb), and the shape of the glass helped to focus the bouquet. He lowered his nose down into the glass and took a big whiff: caramel, vanilla, notes of toffee and cinnamon. Bubbles from the carbonation tickled his nose and upper lip. He took a drink and then set the glass down and went to the refrigerator and got the mayonnaise and ketchup, and mixed them in equal parts in a small bowl so that he'd have some fry sauce for his meal. (This makeshift fry sauce was one of the few things he actually knew how to make). He took his plate, his bowl of sauce, and his wine glass of Mr. Pibb off into his study and set them down at his desk.

This had always been his favorite room in the house: masculine yet subdued and furnished with dark wood and leather. There was a decorative globe in a stand in one corner, and all the walls were lined with bookshelves. Atop one of the shelves was a ship in a bottle that his son Nathan had made for him some years back. Next he went to his CD collection to pick out the proper music to accompany his meal: would it be Mahler tonight, perhaps? Or maybe Rimsky-Korsakov? Berlioz? Mahler it is, then. The 3rd, that is, the Leonard Bernstein version. Perfect. Plus, he had been dipping into the Romantic poets. "Tintern Abbey," a piece he'd enjoyed since his undergraduate days at BYU, would be the icing on the cake. He pulled it off the bookshelf, and then he sat down at his desk and pressed "Play" on the stereo remote, and let the sensation wash over him.

It was glorious: he held open his copy of Wordsworth with his left had and read while he dipped his corn dogs and tater tots into his fry sauce with his right hand. And he washed it all down with the redoubtable Mr. Pibb. "Exquisite," he said, licking his lips, and chuckled at himself. It was silly, sure, but enjoyable too. He was enjoying himself: the superb symphony, the crunch of the corn dog, the creaminess of the jello salad, the salted-caramel finish of the soda. What more could a person want? This was living.

The first movement of the symphony came to an end and Merlyn dabbed his mouth with his napkin and let out an enormous and deeply satisfying belch. Just as the CD began to segue into the second movement, he thought he heard the phone ring. That could be Howell, he thought, and he hastily shut off the stereo and darted down the hall. He glanced at the caller ID before he picked up, and sure enough, it was Howell.

"Hello?"

"Good evening, Brother Young!"

"Same to you, Howell. What's going on? Do you have good news for me."

Howell let out a long, long sigh: "I'm...afraid...that...I..." he was drawing it out, making it as unendurable as possible. "Do indeed have news on our mutual friend, Merlyn."

He was holding his breath. "You do?" he said after a few moments.

"I do."

"Do you have a name?"

"We do indeed have a name."

He didn't know what to say; his mind was racing. "Well, that's fantastic!" he said. "What more can you tell me?"

"It's best if I don't say too much for the time being," said Howell. "Not over the phone, anyway. You were the first one I called. Once I get off with you I'm going to make a few more phone calls and we'll arrange to meet at the Hinton sometime tomorrow afternoon."

"Okay, that sounds like a plan," said Merlyn. "Are you sure you can't tell me anything more?"

"What more do I need to tell you? We've got the son of a bitch. That's all you need to know."

Merlyn hung up the phone and stood there for a long, long time, staring at nothing in particular. At last. At last. He pumped his fists in the air and howled with delight, and then he went scampering back to his den, where he turned Mahler's 3rd Symphony up to full volume, and danced about the room until he was out of breath and dampened with sweat. He felt like a child before Christmas, he was so wound up, and he didn't know how he'd be able to sleep.

And then he paused and went over and shut off the stereo because he knew what he needed to do. He dropped to his knees and folded his arms across his chest and bowed his head, and offered up the most profound thanks to his Father in Heaven that he could muster. He knew with a surety that this was one of those moments when one's faith is amplified. He had to offer up thanks, because here, now, tonight, this very evening, his prayers had at last been answered.

...To be continued in Part VII: Aleksi from Finland
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

PART VII: Aleksi from Finland

You are just another dead-beat scumbag scrap of anti-Mormon spittle. I very much doubt that you will ever be able to drag your carcass out from beneath the rot that your apostasy has created for you.

As of 10:12 a.m earlier in the morning, this was the last thing that had been posted to MormonDiscourse.com by a poster named "Ammon." Ammon was a long-time message board participant who'd developed a reputation over the years for what the anti-Mormon critics called "viciousness," and the apologists and faithful members of the LDS Church called, "telling it like it is." Ammon was merciless in his denunciation of all criticism: he held no punches, and had been known to sometimes swing below the belt, such as the time when "MayBlossom45" had announced to the board that she was divorcing her Stake President husband. She had slowly but surely been describing a gradual loss of faith, and when she wrote that a recent medical exam had found a lump in her left breast, Ammon pounced on her, telling her that he "hoped it was cancer," and that it would metastasize and eat away her body precisely in the same way that her apostasy had eaten away her faith. This earned him a one-week suspension from posting, but it also cemented his reputation in certain circles as a person who was 100% reliable, someone who could always be counted on to go to bat if necessary. Howell Lambeth, in particular, was very fond of "Ammon."

Of course, that wasn't his real name: his real name was Aleksi Jokinen, and he was a Latter-day Saint living in Helsinki, Finland. Howell, Merlyn, Nephi, and the others at the Hinton Institute simply called him "Aleksi from Finland," and by the day's end, Aleksi would be a crucial part of their plans.

As Howell had promised on the phone, a folder of materials on "The Needle" had been put together by Kay Rockwell and Oswald Tanner, and so the key stakeholders convened once again at the Hinton Institute conference room to discuss their next move. Oswald, dressed in a pinstripe grey suit, was seated at the head of the table, produced a set of manilla envelopes from his briefcase and he sent them around. The folders were sealed shut and had an adhesive sticker with the word CONFIDENTIAL affixed over the seal.

"Here," he said, and he stood up and went and locked and deadbolted the door. "Nephi, would you get the blinds, please? I have to warn you, gentlemen, there's some sick stuff in those folders." He was still standing, with one hand in his pocket. "I have to admit that I'm a bit ambivalent about where to go from here. It may be that the Lord will soften our hearts and this alone will be enough to explain the situation for us." He raised his eyebrows. "Then again, I understand if some may feel differently."

Merlyn, Nephi, Herb and the others tore open their envelopes. Before looking any further, Merlyn made sure to pause and look up: "We all owe Kay a debt of gratitude for doing this for us."

Oswald said nothing and his face was impassive. He lifted a nondescript mug of something and drank from it.

Merlyn, meanwhile, was trembling slightly from the excitement. Here, at last, was The Needle. The first page in the file was a very brief write up that someone, perhaps Rockwell, had typed up. There was a small photo (possibly a driver's license photo) in the upper-left corner of a slightly overweight individual with a mullet haircut. The document identified him as Cameron Hendricks, of Draper. The write up explained that he attended church sporadically; that he'd served a mission in northern California; and that he had dropped out of Weber State after his freshman year. He either lived alone or with a roommate in a two-bedroom apartment in Draper, and it was unclear whether he was employed or not.

Merlyn took all this in, and thumbed through the pages. Some of them were screen-captures from MormonDiscourse.com: things The Needle had said, criticisms he'd offered, insults and accusations he'd made. Howell, across the table, was laughing and massaging the bridge of his nose.

"My, my. What a shocker. Of course this guy's a pervert. What a sick bastard."

"What do you mean?" said Merlyn.

"There, there: go a little further along in the packet there, Merlyn." Howell was pointing for him to go towards the end of the stack of documents.

Oswald had sat back down and was drinking plaintively from his mug. "That's what I was referring to earlier," he said.

Merlyn squinted down at the text in from of him: it was a list of some sort. And then as he looked more closely he realized that it was a list of websites that The Needle had visited. He swallowed audibly and went on reading. A good half of them or so were porn sites, notably ones having to do with "trannies."

Nephi Clark looked up, his face reddened and smirking: "'The Fudge Highway Triple X.' Now, do I even want to know what that is?" The men laughed uncomfortably. "This is absolutely sickening," he said.

Oswald shrugged and held up his hands. "Like I said." He took another sip from his mug and then he went on. "The next question is what to do. This is clearly a young man with a lot of problems. It may be that an ecclesiastical intervention is in order here."

Howell interrupted: "Well, wait a second. Kay went to a damned lot of effort to collect this material. We're not honestly thinking about doing nothing with this, are we?"

"That does seem to be the question," said Oswald. He shifted in his seat so that he faced the table directly. "Look: this guy has been gunning for us for years. And now we've got him. We've got him. He's clearly a troubled person, and my vote is that we hand the material over to his Stake President and let them deal with it from that point on."

"Do we have a connection to the Stake Presidency in Draper?"

"I haven't looked into that yet."

"No, no, no," said Howell. "Let's hold up a damn, flipping minute here. Ratting this son of a bitch out to his Stake President is the coward's way of doing this. Wasn't it you, Oswald, who gave us the big speech about accountability a week ago?"

"Yes, I did, Howell, but for me things have changed."

"Changed how? You're not the one who's been under this guy's microscope. You do your lawyering while we are tasked with defending the restored gospel. We, Oswald, not you."

"That's fine, and I understand that. I knew that there were some here who might feel that way. Nevertheless, this is my view. You can take it or leave it. My personal and professional opinion is that this material is just too sensitive, and there's too big of a risk of there being blowback."

"Fine," said Howell, and he scanned the other face in the room. "Where do the rest of you stand on this? Nephi? Herb? Merlyn?"

"For me this has always been an issue of justice," said Herb. "While a court of love might address some of the young man's spiritual problems, it doesn't address the years of things he's been doing to us."

"I agree," said Nephi.

"So, what, then?" said Howell. "Merlyn, you were the last one to get the treatment from this guy. What do you say?"

All eyes in the room were on him. He took in a deep breath and let it out slowly. He looked down at the paperwork on the table, and then back up at Howell and the others. "I think it would be best," he said, "if we at least let him know that we know. We don't have to drag any of this...stuff..." he was gesturing at the file "into public, but we can at least let him know that he can't hide behind the shield of anonymity anymore."

"I'm listening," said Howell. Beside him, at the head of the table, Oswald was expressionless.

"Well," Merlyn went on. "We really don't even have to do anything ourselves, when you think about it. We've built up a small army of allies over the years, and they'd be eager to help us."

"What are you driving at?"

"Again, I think Oswald is right to be cautious. We don't need to use everything that Kay has given us. We can still have an 'ace in the hole,' so to speak. But my vote is that we get some other people involved. In particular, I have one person in mind." Some of the other heads began to nod in disagreement. "This would provide us, here, in this room, with a bit of a shield, but we would nonetheless get the results we're looking for."

Oswald was nodding. "That doesn't sound unreasonable, but I hate to be a spoilsport. I can't help but feel we're overlooking something here. It's not that this doesn't feel right, believe me. This S.O.B. has got this coming to him. Still, I can't put my finger on it."

Howell waved a hand at him: "Silly paranoia."

Merlyn leaned forward: "In that case, I think I'm going to get in touch with our dear friend, Aleksi from Finland."


...To be continued in Part VIII: The Number 7
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part VIII: The Number 7

In spite of Oswald's reservations, Merlyn and the others didn't waste any time. Emails were exchanged; phone calls were made; and extensive use was made of the private message system at MormonDiscourse.com. By the end of the week, at the behest of the Turley J. Hinton Institute apologists, Aleksi from Finland was ready to make his move. The stage was set.

Back at Sugar House, Mark Hightower was relaxing at the kitchen table with his laptop. Dempsey had been put down for the night and Jessamyn was reading a bedtime story to the two oldest boys, and so he was unwinding with some quiet time surfing MormonDiscourse. He had been participating on a thread dealing with the question of the LDS Church's funding of the City Creek Mall:

ArGyLe77: I don't see why apologists claim that no tithing was spent on the mall & the genetically engineered salmon that are in it. I don't see what the big deal is, of course it was tithing that got the funding together.

Merlyn Young: This is really getting old. Critics have absolutely zero evidence (and by "zero" I mean none, zilch, nada) and yet this is an issue that seemingly will not die. Furthermore, it's striking to me that the people complaining the loudest are at the same time people who apparently don't pay any tithing at all.

Howell Lambeth: That's a good point, Dr. Young. I pay tithing. I don't complain how it's spent. Funny that these anti-Mormons should have such a problem with this.

Reading this, Mark Hightower chuckled to himself and logged in as "The Needle."

The Needle: For me the issue is one of honesty. The Church ought to simply tell us how the money's being spent. I see no reason to hide any of this information. I'm sure all of us recall plenty of talks from the General Authorities reminding us of the importance of honesty. This hand-waving from the apologists feels like a distraction. It seems, if I may be so bold, a little dishonest.

Merlyn Young: Blah. Here comes the Nitpicker again. Maybe you should find something else to nitpick for once, eh?

The Needle: Funny you should say that, Dr. Young. I'm still curious to hear what you have to say in response to my analysis of your article, "The Tiresias of Anti-Mormonism." I don't suppose you'd be willing to open up a new thread? Or I can bump the old one, if you'd like.

After posting this message, Mark scrolled down to see who was perusing the board, and saw that "Ammon" was logged in, which gave him pause. Just then he heard Jessamyn calling to him, and so he quickly logged out and exited his browser and went to see what she wanted. And when he returned, some three hours later, after Jessamyn had fallen asleep, the thread was grown. He navigated back to the point where he'd left the conversation, and saw that, sure enough, Ammon had entered the discussion.

Ammon: Speaking of dishonesty, I wonder if anyone here would know anything about the sins of the flesh, and lying about these things to one's bishop. There wouldn't be anyone here who happens to know about this, would there? Someone here on this thread?

The Needle: I can't say that I know what you're referring to, Ammon.

Ammon: Speak of the devil! Or of Sodom and Gomorrah, maybe, right Needle? Let's just say that a Little Birdie told me something about a certain someone's interesting in absolutely disgusting pornographic filth. This is filth that would turn any normal person's blood to ice. This person shouldn't be a practicing Latter-day Saint and should be in some kind of doctor's office as soon as possible. Sick.

The Needle: Uh, are you talking to yourself, Ammon? This seems off topic. Maybe the moderators can move this post out of this thread?

Merlyn Young: What you're describing sounds troubling indeed, Ammon. In my experience, which I admit is limited, I've found that apostasy leads to all kinds of perversions.

Nephi Clark: Here, here! Aye, it does. Aye, it does.

Ammon: So, Mr. Needle, I have to ask you. What is your opinion on all of this.

The Needle: To be honest, I have no idea what you're talking about. All I know is that it has nothing to do with the topic of the thread.

Ammon: I happen to know for a fact that this abomination applies very, very well to a notable poster on this message board. I know that, along with a lot more. All will kneel at the final judgment. As for those who willingly submit themselves to the worse kinds of filth out there, you would be better off dead. You have already began the process of rotting away your spirit. Might as well be finishing the job by eliminating yourself in the process. Pull the trigger. The World would be better off without you.

Mark Hightower knew, or was at least fairly certain, that Ammon was looking to get a rise out of him, and yet he couldn't quite puzzle out what he was hinting at. What "filth"? Of course he'd spent some time here and there perusing pornographic websites on the internet, but how would Ammon know about this? Or the Hinton apologists, for that matter? He considered typing out a reply, but decided that it was better to do nothing, and so he logged out. Later, when he checked again, the moderators had heavily censored Ammon's comments, but Mark nonetheless felt a growing sense of dread.

Meanwhile, some miles away, in Provo, sitting in his armchair in his den, with Wagner on the stereo, Merlyn was unsure as to what had happened, exactly. He was still trying to read The Needle's, or more properly, Cameron Hendricks's, reactions to the provocations from Aleksi from Finland. Perhaps the hints had been too vague? He kept refreshing the page, watching and laughing to himself as the moderators deleted Ammon's really quite fair and reasonable criticism. That really was the state into which apostasy placed a person; it just wasn't "politically correct" to say so. Still, he wasn't sure what to make of any of this, and so he decided to sleep on it.

The next day, midmorning, he got a call from Howell Lambeth, urging him to look in on the site. Merlyn clicked over from some lecture notes he'd been working on and saw that The Needle had launched a brand-new thread:

POSSIBLE RACISM IN THE WORK OF HOWELL LAMBETH?

"This guy is absolutely impudent," said Howell.

"Yeah, I can see that."

"After all that, you would think he'd have a little more common sense, and yet look at this. He's spitting into our faces."

Merlyn scanned over the text of The Needle's new post; it dealt with several of Howell's articles on Central American culture, and on the phrase "white and delightsome" in the Book of Mormon. It was the same old, tired, liberal argument about how the truth-claims of the Book of Mormon were a form of "cultural imperialism." The Needle was beating a dead horse.

"Well," said Merlyn, "I guess Aleksi's hints were too vague. We'll need to be more explicit and amp things up."

"You're damn right we need to amp things up," said Howell. "I've half a mind to call this son of a bitch's Stake President right this second. I don't have to put up with this... this crap." He hit the top of his desk and Merlyn could hear it over the phone.

"I hear what you're saying, Howell. But maybe we don't need to go that far." He licked his lips. "We don't know what his emotional state is. It could be that he's squirming and terrified right now, hoping we won't say anything more. If that's the case, don't we want to extend the suspense?"

Howell let out a long sigh and then he started to laugh. "As always, you're right, Merlyn. The voice of reason. As always."

"If it becomes necessary, we can even pay him a visit. Draper's not all that far away, and I believe I've got some time to spare."

"Now you're thinking," said Howell, and the two of them said "Goodbye" and hung up.

Merlyn gazed out his office window a moment and then returned to the work on his computer, and for whatever reason, he was thinking of the concept of miracles. Of course all believing Latter-day Saints accepted the principle of miracles. But a miracle and a coincidence are not quite the same thing, and if Merlyn or any of the other Turley J. Hinton Institute apologists were fully aware of the true facts of the matter, it's hard to think that they would have pursued the course of action that they did.

As it turned out, Kay Rockwell hadn't been quite a thorough as some might have hoped. As he poked around in various departments at the FBI, looking for a means of finding information on The Needle, he managed to get very brief visual access to one of his fellow agent's workstations. Time was limited, and he had to work quickly, jotting down what he saw on the monitor, and in his haste, he wrote the number "7" when he should have written "1". Thus, when he later went to run the trace on The Needle, his search led him not to Mark Hightower of Sugar House, but to Cameron Hendricks of Draper. Since both individuals were registered posters on MormonDiscourse.com, there's no reason why Kay Rockwell had any reason to doubt himself. Miracles were one thing; one-in-a-million coincidences were quite another.

....To be continued in Part IX: 3 Nephi 13:15
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part IX: 3 Nephi 13:15

For as long as he could remember, Cameron Hendricks had been lonely. It was the feeling he knew better than any other. As a school child, he often came home to an empty house, since he had no siblings and both his parents worked. And as a teenager, he was largely ignored, or else he was picked on and made fun of: he wasn't athletic, he never had much to say, and he wasn't good-looking. The situation wasn't much better at church, either, since the worlds of school and seminary tended to blur together. At pickup games of church basketball, he was always picked last. And as a priest, he'd been asked seemingly more than any other boy to re-read the sacrament prayer due to foul-ups. So he turned inwards and found refuge in Anne Rice novels, and in Japanese Anime, and in the music of The Cure, and eventually, in the internet. It was here online that he finally found a community of people who would listen to him, and regard him with some measure of humanity. Of course, he had to hide in order to do it, but that seemed like a fairly small price to pay.

He played World of Warcraft, and contributed here and there to Wikipedia entries, and as time wore on, he began to read things about the LDS Church, which led him eventually to MormonDiscourse.com. Here he learned about all the historical and doctrinal problems that challenged the orthodox norms of Mormonism. He also learned that he had been sexually stunted and repressed by his experience in the Church, which resulted in a gradual loosening of some of his old inhibitions. Some six months after he first began posting to MormonDiscourse.com, though, his father was snooping around on his computer and found what he'd been reading and looking at, and kicked him out of the house.

"I love you and your my son, but I can't have that sort of filth in my home. You're supposed to honor your priesthood gifts. And besides, it's high time that you found your own place and started acting like an adult. I had hoped to have grandchildren by now."

His mother took pity on him and helped him find a new place to live, and some people at his ward helped him find employment, but that didn't last. He was lonelier than ever, and tended to dawdle and daydream too often. So he went to the nearest Smith's and bought a bottle of Tylenol PM and ate the entire thing. For whatever reason, right before he began to doze off, he phoned his mother, and the next thing he knew, he was awake in the ER, and his father was looking down on him.

"Son, I guess it's high time we had a heart-to-heart."

Although he wouldn't be moving back in, he would be attending "mandatory" counseling sessions with an LDS therapist. He was prescribed medication and began to feel better for a time, but he never felt comfortable discussion the new kinds of desires and feelings that had arisen from his explorations and discussions on MormonDiscourse.com. He needed the anonymity of the internet; he needed the community he'd found there.

As for the truthfulness of the Church itself, Cameron was unsure where he stood. He'd read arguments from both sides and felt in the end that it probably didn't matter. He was happy in the Church, even if he regarded himself as a mediocre Latter-day Saint, at best. He thought that, apart from a few flaws, that the Church was mostly good, and good for him: that it helped him to be a better person.

Time wore on and he got a job at the Home Depot, and was subsequently fired after showing up late one too many times. He picked up his last check and went to get his bike only to find that someone had stolen the front tire. So he walked all the way back to his Draper apartment, close to five miles. Back at home, he opened up a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos and a bottle of A&W and settled in at the computer, and noticed that he'd received an email from Dr. Merlyn Young.

He knew Young from reading his posts at MormonDiscourse.com: knew that he was a professor at BYU, and knew that he was active as a scholar and defender of the faith. But why was he emailing? As far as Cameron knew, Merlyn Young didn't even know he existed; he wasn't even sure that his MormonDiscourse.com moniker, LDS LeStat, was on Dr. Young's radar. He opened the email and read it:

Dear Mr. Hendricks:

I notice that your activity on MormonDiscourse.com seems to have become....shall we say, "sporadic" lately. Please tell me that you're not about to deprive us of your special brand of depravity. That would be just too much to bear.

Warmly,

Merlyn Young


Cameron sat there staring at the screen. "Depravity"? He wasn't aware that he'd said anything to upset anyone, especially not recently. He logged in at MormonDiscourse and read back over his old posts. What was Dr. Young referring to? Next he read over Young's posts as well. He and some of the other BYU professors were arguing with a stuffy critic called "The Needle," and "Ammon" was alluding to Sodom and Gomorrah for some reason, but he couldn't see what this had to do with him. So he wrote back to Merlyn Young:

Hi Professor Young. Not sure what you're referring to. Don't really know why you're writing to me at all, to be honest.

Roughly a half-hour later, Young responded:

Dear Bro. Hendricks:

I'm sure it suits you just fine to play dumb, but you can rest assured that I and my colleagues have long grown tired of your games. That you've chosen to do the things you've done from behind a mask of anonymity strikes me as the very definition of cowardice.


And Cameron replied:

Honestly, I have no idea what your talking about. I do use a screen name, but I don't know why you think that makes me a coward, or what games you think I've been playing. I'm sorry if I've done something to offend you.

As he sent off the message, he saw that he'd received a new message from one of the other BYU professors, Howell Lambeth:

Dear Brother Hendricks,

Dr. Merlyn Young has been kind enough to share some of your mutual correspondence with me. I had a good laugh over it, and your feigned innocence. But let me tell you this, my friend: your time is up. Your days are numbered. We know who you are, and you will be exposed. You will be exposed, and you will be forced to face the music.

My suggestion is that you publicly apologize immediately and hope that we have it in our hearts to extend you the clemency that you clearly don't deserve.


Reading this, Cameron began to panic. What did they know? What were they planning to do? What was it they wanted him to apologize for? Since Merlyn Young had been CC'ed on Howell Lambeth's email, Cameron his "Reply All."

Please, I don't know what you're talking about. Can you please tell me what it is I've done? I'll apologize, I swear. Just please don't do this to me. I never wanted to do anything wrong.

Now there were two more emails, one from Merlyn Young, and one from Aleksi Jokinen.

Dear Bro. Hendricks,

I have to admit that there's something satisfying in seeing you being forced at last to account for the numerous, malicious things you've said about me and my colleagues: calling us liars, charlatans, racists, and what have you. We'll find out what labels are best suited for you, won't we?

Very respectfully yours,

Merlyn Young


Cameron,

It's no surprise to me or any of us that an apostate swine like you has been wallowing in pornographic filth. What would your stake president think were he to learn that you look at these "transexual" internet sites? Is there no end to the depravity of the apostate?

Aleksi "Ammon"


He started to write out a reply and stopped. He could scarcely see straight, and he was fighting back tears. How did they know these things about him, and why were they doing this? Why are they doing this to me? he said. The room began to spin, and to keep himself from losing it, he flung himself on his bed and covered his face with his hands and stayed that way for a long, long time. In the morning, when the sun came up, having slept only intermittently, the phone rang and the answering machine picked up.

Hello, uh, Brother Hendricks! This is Stake President Greene. I, uh, I just wanted to get in touch with you. We need to talk. About something very important. So, uh, please give me a call back at...."

Cameron sat up, rubbed his red-rimmed eyes. He felt sick and his stomach was in knots, but he nonetheless made his way back to the computer, not to write out a reply, but to look something up.


That same morning, in Provo, Merlyn Young ate his breakfast of scrambled egg whites and whole-wheat toast. He polished off the plate but let out a sigh: it just wasn't the same. Shaylene cleared the table while he finished reading over the paper.

"What do you think about a movie tonight?" she asked him.

"Hmm, what's that?" he said.

"I said: how about a movie tonight?"

"That sounds like a possibility. What did you have in mind?"

"I don't know. Maybe that one with Jon Hamm?"

"Sure, why not?" he said, and he smiled at her, his center and his joy for almost thirty years. He folded up the paper and put it away, and then he went and got his sports coat and briefcase before kissing Shaylene and heading out the door. On the way to campus, he made a pit stop at the AM PM to buy himself a bottle of caffeine-free Mr. Pibb. He felt light and happy as he made the drive, like a huge weight had been lifted from him. He imagined that he must feel the way a prizefighter feels at the end of a grueling match. For a moment, a very brief moment last night, he'd felt himself feeling a tiny bit bad about watching Cameron "The Needle" Hendricks groveling. But then he simply reminded himself of the years and years that he, Howell, Nephi, Herb, and all the rest had been tolerating. It was only fair.

He made his way up to the office and unlocked the door, and then he opened up the blinds to let the light into the room. He turned on his computer and got his papers settled and quietly eased off the cap of his Mr. Pibb. According to the clock, he'd have just over two hours to get some of his own work done before he had to hold office hours. Then it would be time for lunch, and his "Chiasmus and Poetics" class.

First things first, though: he checked his email for a reply from Hendricks, but there wasn't one. There was, however, another in the chain of emails from Howell, Nephi, and Aleksi, wondering what to do next. Howell seemed interested in going to the man's stake president, but Merlyn doubted if that would be necessary; as long as The Needle curtailed his actions on MormonDiscourse, there was nothing more to be done. It would just be a matter of monitoring the site to ensure that he ceased and desisted. So that's what he did, and sure enough, there were no new posts from The Needle. Merlyn read the board for several minutes longer, and then he exited the site and focused on other tasks.

Some forty-five minutes later, he saw something in his peripheral vision, and someone came slouching into his office. It first he thought it was one of his students from his "Book of Mormon Cultures" seminar, but when he looked up, he realized that it was someone he'd never seen before, or rather, it was someone he'd only seen pictures of: there, in the flesh, was Cameron Hendricks. It took him a moment to register this information, and then, very slowly, he sat backwards in his chair.

"You're...You're Merlyn Young."

"What do you want?" said Merlyn.

Hendricks had disheveled hair and bloodshot eyes, and he had on a maroon, hooded jacket and dirty blue jeans. Both his hands were stuffed into the pockets of his jacket.

"Why?" said Hendricks. His eyes were ablaze, and they were filling with tears. "Why are you doing this to me? What did I ever do to you?"

"What you mean 'why'? I don't have to listen to this from you! Who in the hell do you think you are, coming into my office like this? Huh? With all the crap you've pulled?"

"I never did anything," said Hendricks. "I don't deserve what you're doing to me." He drew out his right hand, and he was holding a pistol.

"Hey, now," said Merlyn. "You put that thing away. You don't want to do this."

"Do what?" said Hendricks, and he pointed the gun at Merlyn. "This?" Merlyn held up his hand to protest, and then Hendricks pointed the gun at his own temple. "Or this?"

"Are you out of your mind?" said Merlyn. "Put down the damn gun. You can't come in here, trying to manipulate me like this! You are the one who's been attacking me!"

Hendricks sniffled, lowered the gun, and wiped away the tears. "This isn't about you," he said. "You think it's all about you and it's not. I just wanted you to see this." He put the barrel into his mouth and pulled the trigger.

Without blinking, Merlyn watched it all. Hendricks's head snapped back and a spatter of red erupted on the wall. And then Hendricks was staring back at him, with eyes as distant and cold as a doll's, moving his jaw very slowly and reflexively, like he was chewing on a final thought, and small gouts of smoke came from his mouth.

After what seemed like a long time, there was a wailing: "No! No, no, no!" Merlyn realized that he was the one who was speaking. "Oh, my lord, my God! Help! Please, God, help! Somebody call the police!"


To be concluded in Part X: "This is My Last Post"
_Bob Bobberson
_Emeritus
Posts: 110
Joined: Thu Apr 14, 2011 6:39 pm

Re: The Mopologist Also Rises

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part X: "This is My Last Post"

"My God, my God…" he was hyperventilating. Then he was on his feet and moving towards the doorway. "Call the police!" he cried out again, and then he was at his office door. He stepped out into the hall and shut the door behind him. Further down, Bill Jenkins, a junior colleague, had poked his head out.

"What on earth was that, Merlyn? Did I hear a gunshot?"

Merlyn was doubled over, with his hands on his knees, shaking his head. "Just, just call the police," he said.

Indeed, the police were called. As were Howell Lambeth and Oswald Tanner, who came over as quickly as he could. He herded Merlyn off to a spare office and instructed him on what to say to the police: "You don't know this man. You never saw him before. He seemed crazy to you, and no, you can't recall if he said anything or not. Okay? You got it? Good."

Merlyn did was he was told. The police went over the room and the medical examiner came and eventually they carted Hendricks's body away on a gurney. Later that evening, a closed meeting was convened at the Hinton Institute. Oswald sat at the head of the table, drumming his fingers irritatedly.

"Really, really dumb move, guys. You should have consulted me on this. Emailing him was a dumb, stupid move. Amateurish. You realize, of course, that the police are going to want to look at this guy's computer, don't you?"

Howell was smirking slightly, and rolling his eyes. "Just get to the point, Oswald."

"No, I think you need to listen to me, Dr. Lambeth. Your failure to listen is what landed us in this position in the first place."

On the other side of the table, Nephi Clark had his arms folded across his chest, and beside him, Merlyn was ashen and fatigued-looking.

"You all need to cool your jets," said Oswald. "Lay low for a while; no more message board posting, for a week at least." He clasped his hands together. "The good news is that we've got Kay Rockwell on our side, and at this very moment he's gathering together the paperwork to seize Hendricks's computer in an obscenity investigation, so he can wipe it clean before the local cops get a hold of it. But we really dodged a bullet here."

Merlyn stared back at him forlornly, his mouth slightly parted.

"Oh, sorry," said Oswald. "Bad choice of words on my part." He ran a hand over his hair and stood up. "Well, we've all had a long day. You guys go on home to your wives and families. I'll be in touch if there are any loose ends to tie up."

They all shook hands. Merlyn and Howell were the last to leave. "I'm sorry you had to see that, old buddy," said Howell.

"Me, too," said Merlyn.


For the next two weeks, Merlyn had difficulty sleeping, and he struggled to make sense of what he was feeling. Shaylene looked after him and tried to get him to talk, but of course he couldn't tell her anything. Late at night, as he lay staring up at the ceiling, he would plead with the Lord to help him come to terms with what had happened. Why did it have to happen this way? he asked. He kept telling himself that Hendricks was crazy, and that this fact best explained what had happened in his office. All I've ever wanted to do is to defend the Church of Jesus Christ. Isn't that what you want me to do, dear Lord? Please, please help me to understand…

Later, he picked up the phone, and it was a detective from the police department, and a cold terror swept through him. "I just needed to check a couple of details with you," said the voice on the other end of the line, and these wound up being fairly trivial: the time that Hendricks had shown up, how long he was there before he shot himself, and that sort of thing. When Merlyn hung up, he realize that he was clinging onto the fear of being held accountable for something that hadn't been his fault. He was afraid that someone would try to pin Hendricks's death on him, but he was innocent, and so his fretting had been misguided.

Meanwhile, Oswald Tanner, Kay Rockwell, and the rest took care of all the loose ends. It turned out that one of the partners at Oswald's law firm played tennis on weekends with the bishop of Hendricks's parents, and so he was keeping an eye on that aspect of the situation. And amidst everything, all of them kept a quiet eye on MormonDiscourse.com, waiting to see if The Needle was really and truly gone for good. A part of Merlyn doubted that Hendricks had been the right man.

But things weren't yet back to normal. Merlyn had difficulty working in his office. They cleaned it very thorough and had painted over the wall, but Merlyn thought he could still smell the cordite smell of gunfire and the iron smell of blood soaked into the carpet. And he swore that he could see the outline of the blood spatter on the wall, showing through the new paint job. So he had taken to carrying his laptop over to the Hinton Institute and working in the spare conference room. He told Kristilynn at his home department to have the maintenance people paint over the wall one more time.

Then one day his cell phone rang and it was Nephi Clark.

"Hey, Nephi. What's up, old friend?"

"Have you seen MormonDiscourse lately?"

"No, why?"

"Get on there. Right. This. Second."



Mark Hightower looked at the screen of his computer, his hands lingering over the keyboard. Over the past few weeks he'd been hearing rumors about something big going on with the apologists, but no one seemed to be sure what had happened. He asked some of his friends about it, but no details were forthcoming. What's more, he wasn't sure he cared anymore. Two weeks ago, he'd finally told Jessamyn that he didn't want to go to church, and as he steeled himself for her angry reply, she simply smiled, said "Okay!" and gave him a kiss. "It doesn't hurt to take a break once in a while," she said, as cheerful as a ray of sunshine.

He was baffled by her response, and so he sat her down and they talked about the Church: about their level of commitment, about how much they really believed, and everything else that he'd been dwelling on. As he spoke with her, he realized how wrong he'd been to worry that she'd reject him over his disbelief. To the contrary, it was their relationship, and their family, that she valued the most. "I will always want the Church in my life, and for our kids," she said. "Don't get me wrong about that. But I think that Heavenly Father loves us all, in spite of our faults, and whatever you want to do, so long as you respect my feelings, too, I think we can work it out."

They smiled at each other, and she touched his thigh, and he took the cue. With Dempsey asleep and the two other boys playing video games, Mark scooped up his wife in his arms and carried her off to the bedroom as if they were newlyweds.

Late that night, he logged into MormonDiscourse for what would be the very last time.

The Needle: Greetings, friends. I always promised myself that I would never be one of those posters who would do one of these obnoxious posts, but unfortunately, I'm going to have to be a promise breaker. I've arrived at a point in my life where I think it's best that I devote my time to other things. I wanted to thank everyone here for all the good times (including the apologists!), and I wish everyone all the love and happiness they deserve.

Well, I'm not good with goodbyes. This is my last post. See you beyond the veil!

A few days later, he checked in and saw that, for the most part, people were kind, and bid him a friendly farewell. There were a couple of posts from the apologists:

Ammon: Good riddance to someone who was little more than rubbish.

Nephi Clark: I was wondering what rock you'd been hiding under. I'm guessing you'll be back.

Mark Hightower had instructed the site administrators to delete his account, and he tried logging in to be certain, and sure enough, they'd done as he requested. He looked at the main forum a final time, and then he closed his browser, and turned off the computer, and closed his laptop shut.



More time passed, and the apologists at the Turley J. Hinton Institutde for the Defense of Mormonism returned to their normal duties. Conference were held; articles were published; trips were taken; firesides were given. The Needle's final post was, naturally, a subject of great concern to them.

"So it wasn't Hendricks," said Merlyn, with a sinking feeling.

"Well, at least we've eliminated one potential suspect," said Howell reflectively.

"I bet he's using a sock puppet," said Herb McConkie.

Merlyn let out an exasperated sigh and waved his hand. "Eh," he said. "I don't have the stomach for this anymore. I have no interested in anything The Needle has to say. If he's gone, I hope he stays gone. If he's back, he's beneath notice, as far as I'm concerned."

The apologists looked at each other, shrugged, and then went back to the conversation they'd been having, which had to do with ways of countering a new set of books published by a small Evangelical publisher operating out of rural Tennessee.

That afternoon, Merlyn walked across campus to teach his graduate seminar on Mormon Scripture and Semitic Parallelisms. It was getting ever closer to summer and the afternoon sun was downright hot. When he got to his classroom, he was sweating. He sat down and took attendance and collected reading responses from all the students, and then he began leading a discussion on the Book of Ether. He had one of the students read chapter 15 aloud, and his mind began to drift.

And it came to pass that they fought an exceedingly sore battle, in which Coriantumr was wounded again, and he fainted with the loss of blood.

Merlyn knew what was coming, of course: he'd read the passage dozens of times, but he felt uneasy, and looked up from his text. All his students were staring back and him, and they all looked exactly like Cameron Hendricks.

And it came to pass that Coriantumr fell to the earth, and became as if he had no life.

He was breathing heavily as the student finished reading the passage. "Thank you, Katelyn," he said, and then Greyson raised his hand. "Yes, Greyson?"

"I was wondering about the connection her to ancient Sumerian liturgical texts, and I wondered what you could tell us about nham unnam nhmmmm…."

Merlyn nodded soberly, looking from face to face. "Well, yes," he said, but the words caught in his through. "Um." He swallowed hard.

"Professor?"

He put his fist to his mouth and coughed and squeezed his eyes shut.

"Professor, are you all right?"

He opened his eyes back up and looked at his class. "Yes, yes, I'm fine," he said. He cleared his throat and looked at all his students, from right to left.

"Professor, you were saying?"

"Yes, of course," said Merlyn. He always had an answer or an explanation. But now as he sat there, in this classroom, as he'd done dozens and dozens of times, he had to confront the fact that he had forgotten what he meant to say.



THE END.
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