Tuesday, January 8, 2013

In Which I Inform You I'm Not a Lobotomized Frog

Photo © 2010 J. Ronald Lee

Why must I inform you that I am not a lobotomized frog? I don't even look like a frog (most days), and I hardly seem lobotomized (with enough caffeine).

Dear readers, it's because I'm a Mormon.

You've seen those commercials, yes? "I'm a skydiving, homeschooling, interior decorator...and I'm a Mormon!"  "I'm a bull fighting, jewelry making, lead singer of a punk band...and I'm a Mormon!"

So, I guess this is my ad.  I'm a blogging, humor-writing, non-lobotomized, non-frog human woman...and I'm a Mormon!

If you're not a Mormon, you're probably very confused. Let me explain.

Mormons, like Jesus, have a great love for the parable, the metaphor, the object lesson. If you're teaching a lesson or giving a talk in the Mormon church, you're practically honor bound to use one, and if you're like most of us, you're not so great at coming up with your own. No, if you're like most of us, you rely on one of the time-tested, much-used (sometimes abused), well-known, someone-stick-a-fork-in-my-eye-it's-THIS-ONE-AGAIN object lesson favorites.

And the favorite of all favorites involves a frog, a pot of water, and the incremental application of heat. This isn't a metaphor exclusive to Mormondom by any means, but it is much beloved by the LDS people. I'm not sure why. Maybe there's a green Jello/frog eye salad/potluck dinner connection. (We're big on those too.)

As an illustration of the way we can be induced to sin if the process is gradual, teachers and speakers say that a frog dropped into a pot of boiling water will immediately jump out, whereas a frog placed in a pot of cold water that is gradually heated will acclimate to the new temperatures until it is eventually boiled alive. You can believe it. It's science.

Except it's not.

Well, not entirely. There were scientists and frogs involved, but the frogs that didn't jump out of the water were also conveniently lacking in brains...of any sort...because the scientists had removed them.

You can see how the learner's connection to the object lesson breaks down when you learn the truth. If the devil wants me to sin, all he has to do is introduce the idea gradually.  And dig my brains out with a spoon or other implement. I hate when that happens.

Because I know I'm not a lobotomized frog, I declare this object lesson to be officially out of service.


I suggest testing birds in pots of milk. Or gradually replacing my chocolate with anything else. Wait. Don't do that one. People would get hurt.

Now that I'm thinking about it, there are some other object lessons I heard in church that also never worked for me.

- The Camel and the Tent: Along the same lines as the frog story, this one involves the acceptance of sin by degree. A traveler in the desert and his camel are overtaken by a sandstorm. Traveler hides in a tent, and the camel asks if he can just stick his nose in through the tent door so he can breathe. Little by the little, the traveler accepts more requests from the camel until the camel has taken over the entire tent and the traveler is on the outside (apparently dying in the storm).

Lovely story, but it always left me with more questions than anything. What are the laws of the region regarding the ethical treatment of camels? Can anyone just buy a camel and not ensure its safety against a sandstorm? Where is the camel's tent? And what's so wrong with letting a camel breathe? I like to breathe, don't you? How is this traveler not prepared for the eventuality of a sandstorm to the point that his means of transportation is about to be killed? Is he a total noob or what? How will the traveler get to where he needs to go after the sandstorm without his trusty talking camel?

Also, holy Bedouin! A talking camel!

- Stray Cats and Impure Thoughts:  I heard this one only recently, so I'm not sure if it's made the "tried and true" category yet. (If it was spoken in an LDS church meeting...and it was...you can bet it's on its way.) Impure thoughts are like stray cats. Of course, you wouldn't feed a stray cat that came into your yard because you know to feed it would be to encourage it to stay and encourage others to follow. The same is true for impure thoughts. If you feed them (cat food or tuna or something), they will stay and probably more will come.

As a cat lover with a personal rule to only own cats who would otherwise be homeless, they lost me pretty much immediately.  Stray cats are MY cats! You want my cats to die?! That is an impure thought. Stop feeding it right now!

- Dog Poop Brownies:  A plate of beautiful brownies is displayed for the class. Members are asked if they'd each like a brownie. Before eating them, the teacher reveals that just a teaspoon of dog poop was added to the brownie batter before they were baked. It's such a small amount. You probably won't even taste it. It's central to the plot and she's an Oscar-winning actress and...wait... Anyway, no one wants a brownie anymore, and the lesson is that listening to or viewing media that is almost perfect except for those two bad words or that one bad scene is like eating a brownie with just a little dog poop in it.

So, this one works as an analogy, I guess. It's just been done to death and I want it to actually die already. Kill it, Mormons. Kill it with the Spirit of God like a fire is burning. Brownies and dog poop should never, ever be used in the same sentence, unless that sentence is, "I pretended all of these brownies had dog poop in them, and now all those kids won't eat them. More brownies for me!"

Even then, no.