Hills Like White Lamanites

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_Bob Bobberson
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Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

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


Hills Like White Lamanites

By Robert B. Oberson


PART I: Krista Severson

"Boy, that sure is good." Merlyn Young set his knife and fork down and looked around for the waitress. "'Scuse me," he said to a busboy. "We're still waiting on our drinks."

"Oh. Okay. Um, what did you order?"

"We each had a root beer."

"Okay, sure: no problem. I'll go check on it."

"Thank you."

Merlin and Howell were seated at the edge of the dining room at Spencer's in downtown Salt Lake, where, just a few hours earlier, they'd met with Elder Pitt to discuss Hinton Institute business. Howell cut into his steak, which was so rare that it was almost bloody. He forked up a piece of it and held it up in front of his face.

"Look at that. Just magnificent, I tell you." He put it into his mouth and chewed. "Just delicious. These morons: these enviro-whatevers? Who think that we have to cut back on meat to save the carbon footprint or whatever? Idiots. All of them."

"It's all about control for them," said Merlyn. He looked carefully across the table at his friend, who had seemed more tired and older late. He didn't want to pry, but he knew that things were going sour in Howell's personal life, to say nothing of the other issues facing the Institute. But now wasn't the time to dwell on such things.

Merlyn and Howell had ordered a full spread: 20 oz. bone-in ribeye steaks (rare for Howell; medium-well for Merlyn), hash browns, sautéed mushrooms, mac & cheese, creamed spinach, and prawn cocktail. They felt that they'd earned it, and that they needed it. At the meeting with President Pitt, they'd been complimented for their work responding to Dylan Cross, who, it was being said in certain quarters of the Church, had been very badly discredited. Now, it seemed, poor young Cross was having difficulty securing an academic job. "A pity it had to be this way," Elder Pitt had said.

And a lot had happened at the Hinton Institute in the past year: Franklynn Carmichael had disappeared, only to be found months later; or, rather, his remains were found, clear out in the desert. He had been missing for months when some people running land-speed tests out on the salt flats had discovered a skeleton. It was a horrible revelation, and everyone at the Institute had been shaken by the discovery, though they all knew that he had been on a slow slide for some time. Many had been concerned about his spiritual health, and towards the end, he had been reluctant to do any of the heavy lifting that his post at the Institute required. Merlyn had heard strange rumors, on the message boards and elsewhere, that some phantom "Danites" had killed Franklynn: rumors which he partly helped to inflame. It never hurt, he thought, to keep the anti-Mormons guessing, and to perhaps instill a bit of fear in them. Whatever people thought of Franklynn personally, his death meant that the Institute was without its principal Book of Abraham apologist, and criticism on the boards had been ratcheting up lately. Both Nephi and Howell had taken heavy hits lately on matters pertaining to women in the Church, and race issues. Howell had been called a "misogynist" after he made an off-hand remark about Hillary Clinton. Meanwhile, Nephi was in hot water over comments about "lazy Blacks" and "welfare queens." One of the nastier of the anti-Mormon critics had suggested that they read John Lund's classic, The Church and the Negro in order to get up to speed on the latest Mopologetic racial theory. Offline, it was agreed that Nephi should lay low for a while until the criticism died down.

As for Howell, he had a plan, which had, in actuality, been in motion for some time. Three years ago, as part of a short-lived initiative coming down from some uppity administrator, the Hinton Institute had been obliged to make a "diversity hire." At first they had protested, but after several meetings, they ultimately decided that it could work to their advantage, and so they ran a job posting, conducted interviews, and eventually settled on a newly minted PhD in literary studies from Duke: Krista Severson. She was in her mid-thirties, and was married to Todd Severson, who was the grandson of a mission president stationed in England. Some of her publications from her graduate school days caused concern: particularly one titled, "Feminist Voices and Homosociality in Djuna Barnes's Nightwood." It was her very earliest journal publication, though, and since then she'd been completely spotless. Further, he credentials were spotless, and they could be able to refer to her as "Dr. Severson." So they'd hired her and put her to work doing editing work, and occasionally writing the odd review for the Journal of HIDM.

Now, though, Howell had a plan to promote her to Associate Editor: to give her a higher profile so as to defuse accusations of sexism.

"It's really a win-win for everyone," he said.

Merlyn nodded. "She's been with us a long time. She's reliable. It may be that it's time to give her more responsibility."

Just then the waitress came over with their two large root beers. "So sorry about that! Things got a little backlogged over at the bar."

"Oh, don't worry about it, sweetheart," said Howell, winking at her.

When she left, the two men hoisted their glasses and clinked them together.

"'Once you make a decision, the world conspires to make it happen'," said Merlyn, clearly quoting something.

Howell squinted: "Emerson?"

"You never fail to catch them, Howell," he said.

They both laughed and tucked back into their steaks, eating and talking and quietly burping into their napkins. When they finished, they were full and satiated, and they paid the bill and charged it to the Hinton Institute, and made their way outside, where the late September air was dry and warm, and they got into the car and went home.



Later that evening, Merlyn sat in his study, listening to Gustav Holtz's The Planets and chuckling contentedly to himself as he thumbed through a copy of The Five Thousand Year Leap. How he savored quiet moments like this! He realized that the only way to improve upon the situation would be to get up and get some dessert: he thought there was likely a pint of Cherry Garcia (which he ate because he loved it, in spite of the name, which he hated so much that it was almost enough to prevent him from eating it) in the freezer. But just then, his phone buzzed and he saw that he had a text message. It was from Herb McConkie:

check the boards. now.

Merlyn held his breath for a moment and then he hauled out his laptop and opened it and navigated over to MormonDiscourse.com. There, at the top of the forum, was a relatively new thread that already had over 1,700 views:

EXTRA EXTRA!! Administrative changes coming to the Hinton Institute?

Do they just make this stuff up? Merlyn said to himself. He clicked on the thread and read on. Mostly it was pure speculation, though some of it seemed eerily accurate: particularly an assertion that the Institute had been "ordered by the Brethren" to adopt a more "liberal" stance, such as being friendlier to women. Was it possible that someone had told this anti-Mormon, whose screen name was "Zelph Junior," about their plans to promote Krista Severson? It couldn't be: the circle who knew about such things was limited to himself, Howell, and three or four others. Severson herself likely didn't even know yet, though there were plenty who could perhaps have guessed about or anticipated such a move. But this complicated matters significantly. A meeting would have to be convened.

Merlyn logged in and typed out a laconic post:

It's amusing to me that 'Zelph Junior,' who seems to have no relationship to the Hinton Institute whatsoever, is insinuating that he knows anything about its inner workings. As someone who happens to actually and truly work there, I can say with a good degree of confidence that these rumors have little to no basis in fact.

He submitted it and watched the replies for another hour or so: a long-time poster called "Skeletor," (whom he'd told, on multiple occasions, "I don't like you very much") was particularly strident tonight.

Skeletor: Look, I'm sorry Dr. Young, but your blithe dismissal of this doesn't mean a whole lot. We've seen you stretching the truth on this board way too many times for us to just take what you say at face value. You remember the Hiram Sanderson letter, don't you? Or the Vogel Picks His Nose fold-in?

Merlyn Young: Sigh. Why do I bother at all? I clarify matters, but them I'm called a liar. I might as well not say anything at all. You're demonstrating quite an overactive and paranoid imagination this evening. I probably shouldn't interfere any further."

He checked his watch: it was 12:05, and he had to get up in order to teach a 9:00 AM class, and yet he was fuming. A "liar"? He'd been participating on the boards for decades, and had, he thought, developed quite a thick skin, but every so often, the criticisms: the same tired, unoriginal, repetitive criticism, got tiresome. And Skeletor had been at it for years. As he logged out and closed his laptop, Merlyn made a promise to himself that he would pursue the matter of Skeletor, and of Zelph Junior, for that matter, more aggressively in the coming weeks.


To be continued in Part II: In Sickness and in Health
_Dr. Shades
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Dr. Shades »

Yet again, Bobberson delivers!!
"Finally, for your rather strange idea that miracles are somehow linked to the amount of gay sexual gratification that is taking place would require that primitive Christianity was launched by gay sex, would it not?"

--Louis Midgley
_annie
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _annie »

I've been lurking here for years and years. I hardly ever comment, but I had to say how much I enjoyed this. The steaks (and the hash browns, sautéed mushrooms, mac & cheese, creamed spinach, and prawn cocktail) the quiet burping into napkins, Dr. Severson's graduate publication "Feminist Voices and Homosociality in Djuna Barnes's Nightwood", Merlyn's righteous indignation - it's all so deliciously funny. Well done Bobberson.
_Equality
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Equality »

Commenting only to help push this up to the top where it justly belongs.
"The Church is authoritarian, tribal, provincial, and founded on a loosely biblical racist frontier sex cult."--Juggler Vain
"The lds church is the Amway of religions. Even with all the soap they sell, they still manage to come away smelling dirty."--Some Schmo
_Bob Bobberson
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Bob Bobberson »

Part II: In Sickness and in Health

"It's set for December, once the semester lets out for Howell, but I don't know if I can even wait that long."

"You're having second thoughts about giving it another chance?"

In the three years since she had joined the Hinton Institute, Krista Severson had become a close friend and confidant to Lilith Lambeth. Lilith had told her everything: about Howell's issues, about her affair with Steve Corkman, about her sense that the younger of her twin sons might be gay. And when Lilith had finally decided to tell Howell about the affair, Krista stood waiting in the wings to support her.

"He didn't yell or scream or throw anything, believe it or not," Lilith had said. "At first he seemed to think I was lying, but once the truth of it settled over him, he curled up in the fetal position and sobbed and sobbed like a little baby."

Krista just nodded when Lilith told her this: support was what she needed, but Krista had to hold her tongue as well. A crying, blubbering Howell was the exact opposite of the man she had to deal with routinely at the Hinton Institute.

That had been a few months ago, though, and in the meantime Lilith and Howell had been contemplating what to do next. Lilith wanted to file for divorce and to leave with Steve Corkman. "Over my dead body," had been Howell's reply, and he had threatened to rat them out to the Stake President: "You're inviting your own spiritual death," he'd said. So, Lilith stalled, and they eventually arrived at the idea of taking a trip to Europe around the Christmas holiday. Maybe a trip was just what they needed to rekindle their relationship, but Lilith thought it was a dead-end.

"At least it's a trip," said Krista. "Have you been to Denmark before?"

"No. I've been to Paris, and to the south of France and to Italy, but not Denmark."

"Well, there's that. Go for you. Do some shopping. Pamper yourself. And who knows what'll happen?"

Lilith sighed. "I just don't know why Heavenly Father has burdened me with these challenges."

"It's the burden of having the priesthood!" said Krista, and they both laughed and laughed and laughed.



At the Hinton Institute, a meeting had been convened. Two days after 'Zelph Junior's first post, a new thread had been started in which Zelph Junior claimed to have inside knowledge that Merlyn and Howell had met with the Brethren. "They were told that their behavior has been un-Christlike, and that they would face Church discipline if things didn't changed." Howell had shaken his head at this: he was looking more and more ashen as of late, but Merlyn was incensed, and matters were made worse by 'Skeletor's taunts. This is a fantastic development, he had written. It's been a long time coming, but it seems that the Brethren have finally wised up and decided to put the Mopologists in their place. Merlyn Young is a toad and a scum bag and I'm glad that he's been called on the carpet.

"I've had more than enough of this," Merlyn had thought to himself, but he didn't reply to Skeletor's taunts. This time, matters were more complicated: the anti-Mormon critics made wild speculations all this time, but this new thread, as hyperbolic as it was, was still too specific to be pure invention. Someone, both he and Howell agreed, had to be leaking information out to the critics. Still, it was too early to start making accusations at the Hinton Institute, and so Merlyn had proposed a different tactic. Thus, they all sat in the Hinton Institute's conference room, where the air felt stale and close, smelling faintly of mothballs and Old Spice and disinfectant. Howell, at the head of the table, looked tired and disheveled, but he nonetheless led the meeting in the usual manner, calling on Herb to give the opening prayer.

"Thank you for that, Herb." Howell folded his arms and leaned forward so that he was resting on the table. "So, first of all, I have a few announcements to make. After prayerful consideration, I've decided that a change is in order, and I am going to be stepping down as Editor in Chief of the Journal of HIDM, and Merlyn is going to take my place."

Herb, Nephi, Jon Trout, Krista, and the others applauded.

"Hey, now," said Howell. "I'm sitting right here. Don't be so anxious to get rid of me just yet." He smiled and everyone laughed. "But this is a good move for the Journal. Merlyn's intelligence and wit and scholarly acumen are unmatched. This move will almost certainly anger a number of our critics."

More laughter, and Merlyn blushed.

"Will you still stay on as Director?" asked Jon Trout.

"Yes. I'll stay on in that capacity," said Howell, "but it's time for me to pass the torch for the Journal. Let's inject some fresh blood into the editorial process."

More applause.

"Merlyn! what do you have to say for yourself, Dr. Young? Speech! Speech!"

"Oh, now, now. I'm completely flattered, of course. But these are big shoes I'm being asked to fill. I doubt that I'll ever live up to the edifice you've built for all of us here, Howell. I can only hope to do my best."

"We wouldn't ask anything more of you than that, Merlyn."

Several of the people at the table seemed to be tearing up.

Merlyn shifted in his chair and clenched one of his fists and set it on the table. "We have to take the defense of the Church very seriously. Critics are on the rise, and as we all know, the Internet has been a game-changer. So, we need to make a move immediately." He turned to Krista Severson: "Dr. Severson, you've been an absolute asset to us during your time here, and we'd like to ask you to serve the Journal at the rank of Associate Editor."

Her eyes widened and she brought her hand up to her mouth: "Oh! Oh my goodness! What a huge honor! Of course I accept. Thank you, Drs. Lambeth and Young!"

"It's the right decision," said Howell, nodding.

Nephi, Herb, and some of the other, more senior members looked somewhat disgruntled at this development, but they didn't say anything.

"We need to get to work immediately," Merlyn went on. "As my first act as Editor, I am hereby announcing a Special Issue of the Journal of HIDM devoted exclusively to online anti-Mormonism. It's time to lift up the rock and expose the dank creatures dwelling underneath."

Everyone nodded soberly.

"So, after this meeting lets out, I ask that each of you spend time brainstorming ways we can tackle this challenge. It's time that the anonymous cowards online were answered properly."

There was a moment of quiet, and it was clear that everyone was thinking, planning out the ways they would go about their assigned tasks.

"Well, then," said Howell. "I guess that'll do it. Sister Severson? Or, should I say, Associate Editor Severson, would you offer us a closing prayer?"

She did, and everyone said, "Amen!"

They were standing up to leave, and Jon Trout said, "You know, I guess that thread on the boards was right after all: there wasa change. Every once in a while the antis get one right, huh?"

A few of them laughed uncomfortably, trying to make light of it, but Trout could sense immediately that he'd said something that he shouldn't have said, and as he walked away, he could feel Merlyn's and Howell's eyes boring into him.


To be continued in Part III: "By the Power of Greyskull!"
_Equality
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Equality »

Please, sir . . .
Image
"The Church is authoritarian, tribal, provincial, and founded on a loosely biblical racist frontier sex cult."--Juggler Vain
"The lds church is the Amway of religions. Even with all the soap they sell, they still manage to come away smelling dirty."--Some Schmo
_Everybody Wang Chung
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Everybody Wang Chung »

I'm hoping that Howell and Lilith take that trip to Europe. And, while there Howell receives an email from Merlyn telling Howell his services are no longer needed.

One can always hope.
"I'm on paid sabbatical from BYU in exchange for my promise to use this time to finish two books."

Daniel C. Peterson, 2014
_moksha
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _moksha »

I would be interested to find out whether or not Merlyn Young ever performs the song and dance number "I love to Dance a Little Sidestep" in one of the chapters.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRdr_jp-d9c
Cry Heaven and let loose the Penguins of Peace
_Bret Ripley
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Bret Ripley »

*cough*
_Doctor CamNC4Me
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Re: Hills Like White Lamanites

Post by _Doctor CamNC4Me »

Fantastic stuff. Capturing the whiff of Mopologetics isn't an easy task, BUT Mr. B. Oberson does it every time perfectly. Bully for him...

- Doc "Harper's Ferry, WV" Cam
In the face of madness, rationality has no power - Xiao Wang, US historiographer, 2287 AD.

Every record...falsified, every book rewritten...every statue...has been renamed or torn down, every date...altered...the process is continuing...minute by minute. History has stopped. Nothing exists except an endless present in which the Ideology is always right.
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