This is Brandon Flowers and Richard Dawkins. And this post is kinda Mormony.
Like, I use words that even I had to look up, and I know freaking everything.
Still, it's loads of laughs, and it also invites anyone who has ever attended a large gathering of members of your same faith without having protesters on every corner screaming at your children that they're going to hell for saying they love Jesus but doing it in the wrong Christian language, to consider what we deal with every six months.
Having lived in Las Vegas for ten years, I’ve pretty much seen it all. Well, not all of the ‘all’ that is available for viewing in Las Vegas—for example I’ve never seen Wayne Newton, nor have I seen the city hurtling toward me as I was suspended from a giant rubber band. One can now pay to BASE jump from the Stratosphere, which several otherwise rational people of my acquaintance have done multiple times, many on purpose.
But in all those years of living in Vegas, I never realized I was neighbors with Brandon Flowers—the front man for The Killers, a band I am assuming has nothing to do with Gadianton. It wasn’t until I saw him interviewed on a Swedish broadcast that also included a gentleman by the name of Richard Dawkins that his Las Vegas roots were mentioned.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Wasn’t Richard Dawkins the host of Family Feud?” And my answer is, “I don’t know. Let me check Google.”
No! It turns out that Mr. Dawkins is a scientist, atheist, and full-time naysayer who, during the course of the interview, called Joseph Smith a ‘proven charlatan,’ admitted to starting but not finishing the Book of Mormon, claimed that ‘biology explains everything,’ and then bungee jumped off the stage. It was left to the audience to decide whether biology explained why he forgot to cinch up his giant rubber band first.
Ha! I’m kidding about the bungee jumping one. But everything else happened just as I’ve described it. It was all terribly exciting.
Now Brandon, who undoubtedly thought he was on the Swedish version of Late Night with David Letterman and was likely chagrined to learn he was actually on Inquisition 2012 (a name I just this minute made up so don’t bother looking for it on YouTube), was given the opportunity to defend—on the spot—the LDS Church, Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon, and rock n’ roll. Wasn’t he lucky?
Given that he hadn’t been warned of the upcoming confrontation and spent the first part of the interview singing ‘mi-mi-mi-miiii’ behind his hand whenever the others were talking in Swedish, Brandon deported himself with great aplomb, which being interpreted means, he said, “Oh, yeah? You and me. Stratosphere. Tuesday.”
But this isn’t about Brandon Flowers, although I think that would be a great name for a Gadianton Robber. Do you think ‘Kishkumen’ was Nephite for ‘Pleasance Shadybrook?’ With a name like that, you really could get away with murder.
No, this is about Richard Dawkins, General Conference, and a job I hope my kids never find out about: The Professional Protester.
Those who have had the opportunity to attend General Conference at the Conference Center in Salt Lake City have undoubtedly passed individuals on the sidewalk waving pickets and shouting well-reasoned claims like, “The Bible says Mormons are big dumb jerks! Read it! It’s there, I’m not kidding!”
And for the most part, conference attendees manage to ignore these people, usually because one of their children has fled the thirteen-passenger stroller and is now licking a pigeon.
But invariably someone is filled to overflowing with righteous indignation and, like Samuel the Lamanite, leaps onto a decorative planter, determined to set the Professional Protester straight once and for all. (If this is you, please note that despite your good intentions you are probably not impervious to spears and arrows. Dress accordingly.)
No matter who is playing the role of Protester and who is playing Samuel, the script is nearly identical each time. The Protester quotes Revelation, strategically ignoring silly details like historical timelines, and decries the Book of Mormon as having broken the rules for showing up after the printing press was invented. Then ‘Samuel’ says, “What about the ‘other sheep’ Jesus mentions in John 10:16, huh? Didja ever think about them?” and the Protester responds with, “Since when was this about agriculture?”
Typically the intelligence level of the dialogue drops steadily after this, until Biblical language is hurled from both sides and not in a good way.
The problem is that the Professional Protester doesn’t care a bit about anyone’s religious beliefs. He may be interested in John, but only because he’s been chugging Diet Coke all morning and no one will hold his sign while he takes a break. Shouting inflammatory nonsense and annoying passers-by is his job. He gets paid to do it. Last weekend it was the LDS General Conference. Next week he’ll be protesting a political event, checking his script and selecting the appropriate dogma for whatever he’s been hired to feel strongly about.
Professional Protesting seems like a strange way to make a living, but I can see some advantages to it. For starters, anyone who was ever a teenager has already been through extensive training, including field work in Upper Division Ranting and Sass for All Occasions. There is almost no overhead; Magic Markers, poster board, maybe a thesaurus for when you run out of synonyms for ‘vengeance’—that just about covers the initial investment, near as I can tell. You get the chance to connect with a variety of people, or at least the parts with knuckles. And every day you’re spared the challenge of forming an opinion beyond the one your employers have assigned to you.
I wouldn’t want my kids to know that such a career option is available to them; they need to pay their dues first. ‘Complain for free, then whine for a fee’—that’s my motto. But there’s no reason why I, an experienced adult, couldn’t take it up, at least part time. I’d love to get paid to squawk about things, particularly since, on a productive day, I can find at least 764,000 reasons to be irritated. Here are a few:
· Pickup trucks with those purple-ish halogen headlamps. I assume the owners of these trucks went with halogen because they couldn’t afford nuclear reactors, since those headlamps essentially use your own rearview mirror to fry your eyeballs to dust. If I could get paid for doing so, I’d stand on the side of the highway and holler “turnoffthosestupid—” and “owmyeyesyourude—.” I’d have to yell really fast, of course, because the drivers of pickups with halogen headlamps don’t consider it a good ride if it doesn’t feel like they’ve been shot out of a cannon.
· Acquaintances who shop in the same supermarket aisles as you but move in the opposite direction, so that throughout the entire store you keep running into them and have to come up with new, clever things to say. For a nominal fee, I’d wear a sandwich board that reads, “Speed up or slow down, or so help me I’ll find a new use for this zucchini.”
· Sunday speakers who start their talks with, “When I saw the bishop’s number on the caller I.D. I almost didn’t answer, hrr hrr.” On behalf of that overworked bishop and his family, I would roll my bulletin into a little megaphone and announce that never, not once in the history of public speaking has that line ever been funny. Believe it or not (I’d say) we really don’t care how you felt when you were asked to speak. Just get on with it, because if we go into overtime and my roast burns, I’m suing you for damages.
· People who try to reform Professional Protesters. When the debate in Sweden got heated, Brandon Flowers just left the stage, presumably to warm up his band (or write a letter to the Chief Judge, demanding the immediate surrender of Zarahemla. I probably should find out just what kind of band The Killers really is). Please, just leave the protesters alone. It’s like waiting in line at Disneyland; the walk from the parking lot (“Conveniently Located in Nevada”) to the Conference Center is more fun when there’s free entertainment along the way.