Letter to the Editor

(Editor’s Note: We regret that we even need to do this, but we would like to state up front that this column is SATIRE. Eric D. Snider doesn’t really think most of the things he says here. We’re not entirely sure what he does think, but it’s not this. Got it?)

To the editor:

I am writing because I am shocked and dismayed at the lack of good taste you showed in running an advertisement in Thursday’s paper for a video store that is known to carry R-rated movies. Isn’t this the Lord’s University? I thought I was safe from such purveyors of smut when I moved to BYU from Kuna, Idaho. I guess I was wrong.

I also think it is outrageous that people think caffeine shouldn’t be sold on campus. There has never been any official Church doctrine saying we can’t drink caffeine. So why doesn’t the bookstore sell Jolt Cola, Mountain Dew, or pure, crystalized caffeine, the kind you can smoke? These people need to chill out and stop acting “holier-than-thou,” and stop making up doctrines that the Brethren haven’t declared. This is a university, not a seminary.

And speaking of BYU policies, how can BYU show R-rated movies in the Varsity Theater, and yet refuse to show naked people carved in stone in the Museum of Art? If something is artistic, then it cannot possibly be pornographic. How can people get “turned on” by a work of art? That’s just sick, if you ask me.

When I was a missionary in Gomorrah, France, we went to the Museum of Nudity every other P-day, and it was always a beautiful, uplifting experience. My mission president encouraged us to go there. The only part of it I couldn’t condone was any work of art depicting homosexuals, or painted by homosexuals, or with any pink or lavender in it, which of course are the colors worn by homosexual gangs, as prophecied in “Odd Prophecies Spoken by General Authorities’ Relatives, Volume 3,” which I have never actually read, but which I saw quoted in an anti-Mormon pamphlet once. Homosexuals should be rounded up and shot like dogs, even if they’re only homosexuals in thought and not in deed — in fact, if they even have FRIENDS who are guys, or if they liked “In & Out,” that’s close enough, shoot ’em. Any man who wants to have a celestial marriage should only associate with women, and no men at all, and anyone who thinks otherwise obviously must be a homosexual himself, or else he would get himself in line with the Brethren’s thinking.

Sure, modesty is important. But even still, people shouldn’t get so worked up over whether or not students’ shorts are the right length. One’s spirituality is not determined by the length of one’s shorts. It is determined by the amount of facial hair a person has, and of course they should have none, at least not if they want to have a temple recommend, because none of the Brethren have facial hair, and we’re supposed to be emulating them in every way, except when it comes to living in Utah, because everyone knows that Salt Lake City will eventually become the most wicked city in the world, thanks largely to all the “Utah Mormons” who are corrupting it. To prove this point, I would like to share the following obscure quote from a member of the Second Quorum of the Seventy who died in 1871 and who said this while he was under heavy anesthesia: “Somebody get these spiders off of me!”

I’m a member of the LDS Church in good standing, but I don’t see why LeMar’s shouldn’t be allowed to have nude dancers if they want to. I won’t go see them, of course, but there are people who would want to, and anything people want to be able to do, there should be an opportunity for them to do it. Who are we to judge? We should be less judgmental, and allow purveyors of smut to operate here if they want to. I thought I would be safe from such narrow-mindedness when I moved here from Bangladesh, but I guess I was wrong.

I would like to point out also that there has never been any official Church doctrine saying we can’t whack off our fingers with hatchets. So why doesn’t the bookstore sell hatchets? I would like some answers, and I would like them now. If someone thinks we shouldn’t be whacking off our fingers with hatchets, then I hear there are plenty of spaces open at Berkeley. Take your radical ideas someplace else, and I’ll pray for your soul.

And while I’m on the subject, the other day I was walking into the bookstore, and the person who walked in ahead of me allowed the door to swing closed behind him, rather than giving it that half-push that you’re supposed to do to make it easier for the person coming in after you. Sure, both of my arms work fine, and I’m in good health, and I wasn’t carrying any packages. But that’s beside the point. Don’t the scriptures say to “open thy doors for thy brethren”? No, they don’t, but that’s exactly my point. This person wasn’t being very Christ-like, and to that I say shame on you, sir. I thought when I moved to BYU from off the surface of the moon that people would be nicer and more door-opening-er, but I guess I was mistaken. I am ashamed to call myself a BYU student today. Tomorrow, I may feel differently.

This was the first column I ever got a lot of e-mail about -- around 20 messages, compared to the usual three or four I would get before that. (Eventually, 15 or 20 became the norm, but this was the first time.) I also got more in-person compliments for this column than almost any other. I knew I liked the column, but I was honestly surprised at how much everyone else seemed to like it.

It came at the perfect time, really. The Rodin thing had inspired a lot of letters, as had the subject of same-sex attraction. Both topics created a great deal of passionate feelings on the part of the letter-writers, resulting in some great fodder for satire. Many phrases in this column are directly from specific letters published in The Daily Universe, with slight variations to them.

The only negative response I got was from someone who didn't get the point. He dashed off this e-mail early Monday morning, indicating that he hadn't thought about it very much before sending it. (That's the trouble with e-mail -- no time to get rational and change your mind.) Here's what he said, with his original spelling and punctuation intact:

What is this article all about?? It is non-coherent. It has no meaning. It is just a rambling of idiotic and contradicting ideas. I was totally lost as you jumped from one subject to the next. At one point you said all homosexuals should be shot and then you say that we should not be judgemental? What is up with that? If your purpose in writing this article was to hurt peoples feelings I'm sure you have succeed. If you wanted to make people upset you've probably done a good job at that too. I don't understand why the those who run the daily universe would even let your be in the paper. Not only because it is extremely offensive, but mostly because it makes no sense at all. I don't know if this article was ment as a joke or not. I sure hope it was. And if so I hope that another joke like this never shows itself in the daily universe again. If there is some explaination for the letter being printed please let me know because I don't understand it.

I wrote back to this fellow and explained the point of the column, how it was a joke, and how the editor's note at the beginning (which I wrote) had explained that pretty well, I thought. He wrote back a while later:
Thanks for writing back. You're right it say that at the beginning didn't it? I see your point.

No harm done, and another soul converted.

"Purveyors of smut" and "shame on you, sir" are two of my favorite phrases, and I was glad to be able to use them here.

There was a space of about six months during which every single letter The Daily Universe received contained the sentence, "One's spirituality is not determined by the length of his shorts." It had been a while, but I was glad to bring it back. Honestly, I think this is my favorite Daily Universe column. It seems so packed-full of satire and humor and social commentary and doctrinal teachings. I can't believe I wrote it.

Though the specifics of this column are very 1997 (including the reference to the Kevin Klein film "In & Out"), I note that if you read the letters to the editor published in the Daily Universe now, a decade later, they contain the same themes.