As another Education Week comes to a close on the BYU campus, let us take this opportunity to reflect on all the knowledge we have gained these past few days. For example, I now know that if I plan to do anything special, such as eating at a restaurant or leaving my house, I should do it before Education Week begins, as these activities are impossible once the education-seekers have “visited” Provo, in much the same way the Vandals “visited” Rome in A.D. 455.
Also: Education Week is NOT the time to walk casually around campus without pants on. You’d think I would have learned this the first time, during freshman orientation back in 1992, but man, I can be so dense sometimes.
Anyway, since it would be physically impossible and psychologically unwise to take ALL the classes offered during Education Week, I thought I’d summarize for you some of the lectures you may have missed.
“Choose You This Day Whom Ye Will Root for: Selecting a Sports Team to Follow in a Post-Steve Young World.” We all know that whichever professional sports team has Mormons on it, that’s the organization that deserves our loyalty, even if we live in a city with a competing team, and even if the team with Mormons on it blows chunks. Now that Steve Young has retired, which football team deserves church-wide support? Also, with Steve’s recent marriage, which LDS bachelor now deserves our petty rumor-mongering? Instructor: Shawn Bradley
“The Garden of Eatin’: 1,001 Uses for the 1,001 Zucchini Produced Daily by Your Massive Backyard Garden.” Following the prophet’s counsel to plant a garden is rewarding and exciting. Unfortunately, the only crop that seems to grow in the harsh climate of Utah is zucchini, which, also unfortunately, no one enjoys eating. Class focuses on ways of thrusting zucchini and zucchini-based products on unsuspecting neighbors as acts of “charity,” as well as tips on avoiding being a victim of similar charitable acts. Instructor: MinDeeLynne Christiansen Johannsen Kapp Perry
“If I Don’t Like It, It Must Be Evil: Why Personal Preferences are Always Based on Inspiration.” If a newspaper article, television commercial or roadside billboard doesn’t strike your particular fancy, there can be only one reason for it: It’s of the devil. Class addresses arguments such as “Just because YOU don’t happen to like it doesn’t mean it’s bad,” and “Different things appeal to different people,” dismissing them with the irrefutable fact that if it leaves you cold, Satan himself must have authored it, and anyone who disagrees is a bad Mormon. (Bonus lecture: “How to spread the word on who’s a bad Mormon.”) Instructor: Gayle Ruzicka
“We Believe All Things: Stuff We Keep Passing Around Even Though It’s Not True.” Especially for new members of the church, who may not have learned some of the more important Mormon myths. Among them: There are more Mormons in California than in Utah (actually, there are 750,000 in California, 1.5 million in Utah); Joseph Smith said the telestial kingdom was so marvelous you’d kill yourself to get there (if he said it, no one can find a record of it anywhere); J. Golden Kimball was the “swearing Apostle” (he was a Seventy, not an Apostle); Mike Wallace’s wife took the missionary discussions after President Hinckley’s appearance on “60 Minutes” (oh, come on); and many young men have received special three-year mission calls to China, which they obtain only by calling a phone number mailed to them by the church, and that phone number puts them on the phone with President Hinckley (again: oh, come on). Instructor: Steve Martin
Additional classes: “Democrats: Who Are They, and What Do They Want from Us?”; “The New Priesthood/Relief Society Manual: Does This Mean We Can Forget All That Stuff We Learned About Brigham Young the Past Two Years?”; and “Robert Kirby: Do We Really Need Another One?”
This is a milestone: My first official "Snide Remarks" column for the Daily Herald was on the subject of Education Week, and was printed one year earlier (Aug. 20, 1999). So to mark my anniversary, I thought I'd revisit my first topic.
I didn't plan on having "instructors" for each lecture (I didn't have them in my first Education Week column) until I realized that Gayle Ruzicka would be perfect for the "If I Don't Like It, It Must Be Evil" class.
To you non-Mormons, I apologize for all the inside jokes. To you Mormons, I hope you understand the difference between making fun of our religion (which I wouldn't do) and making fun of our culture (which I do all the time).
I won't try to explain all the jokes to the non-Mormons, but I will explain this one, because it's interesting: The reason Steve Martin is listed as instructor for the "We Believe All Things" class is that it's a common Mormon urban legend that famed comedian/actor/writer Steve Martin converted to Mormonism a few years ago. It's untrue, but you'd be amazed how many people have a "friend of a friend" who can confirm it.
Also, Robert Kirby is an LDS humor columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune. He writes three times a week; the Saturday column is always specifically about Mormon culture. This edition of "Snide Remarks," in particular, is reminiscent of the sort of thing he likes to do, as is the renegade, "walking around campus without pants" attitude.
Did I just happen to know when the Vandals sacked Rome? Of course not. I looked it up. And people think writing this column takes no effort.... What's strange is that this turned out to be only the first time I would mention that bit of trivia: The Vandals' sacking of Rome in A.D. 455 was to be noted in at least three later columns.