Yesterday, while I was reading a particularly combative thread in the Bloggernacle from a few years ago, which ended with everyone more or less apologizing to one another, it dawned on me that one element of religion the Bloggernacle has never really incorporated is a mechanism for public confession. I believe that the existence of such a mechanism is needed to make this a Zion Bloggernacle, where we are all truly of one heart and one mind and one keyboard. Catholics have their booths, and Mormons have their Bishop’s offices, but an internet Mormon has not a place to confess his or her sins. Therefore, because it is Friday, and because we at By Common Consent are all about exercising power and authority that is not ours to exercise, we say unto you: Come unto us. Confess your errors of yesteryear, yestermonth, or yesterday. Repent of that thing you did that one time, and laughed, even though you totally knew it was mean. Be made whole in the Bloggernacle. We shall absolve you of your misdeeds, and send you away guilt-free. Or make fun of you.
Because I believe in setting a righteous example, I lead off with 3 of the Worst Things I’ve Ever Done.
1. When I was 15 years old, I spread six melted squares of chocolate Ex-Lax on a single cookie and then convinced a neighbor of mine–who looked up to me for reasons I’ll never understand–to eat it. I didn’t really know what “doses” were at that point in my life, and actually didn’t really expect much to happen to him–I figured Ex-Lax cookies were one of those jokes that get passed around at Scout camps, but didn’t actually work. So later that evening, when I was informed that this young man’s father would like to talk to me, I actually didn’t even connect the two events. I was disabused of that notion when, as I walked up the sidewalk to my neighbor’s house, his father was sitting on the porch and said, in a voice I shall never, ever forget, “Scottie, you better sit down fast, ’cause you’re gonna get your butt chewed.” Apparently my friend had not stopped pooping since noon, and had actually been admitted to the hospital for dehydration.
Chris, if you’re out there, I feel really, really bad about what I did.
2. Baptisms as a missionary in Finland are few and far between. Actually, come to think of it, even discussions as a missionary in Finland are few and far between. In mid-2000, I was a newly assigned Zone Leader, and was taking advantage of my assignment for the first time by going on splits with another pair of Elders. As luck would have it, the arrangements of that day required that I would accompany the junior companion, who spoke very little Finnish at that time, to a discussion with an older gentleman–probably 55 years old–who had, out of the blue, a few days earlier, declared that he would like to be baptized. The senior companion gave me some ideas for a lesson, and alerted me to a few potential concerns going forward–tobacco, meeting attendance, etc…and we departed, while he and my junior companion went to a different area.
As we arrived at this man’s house, the smell of old, rotty tobacco was almost overpowering, and the apartment was a veritable mess. In my arrogant youth, and to my everlasting shame, I judged him from the moment we entered, and ceased to take him seriously on any level. We started talking about the reading assignment he had been given in the Book of Mormon, about Joseph Smith, and suddenly this man became very excited and said that he had figured out the origin of the gold plates. Our conversation from that point went as follows:
Man: I know where Joseph Smith got the Gold Plates!
Me: You do?
Man: Yes! He made them out of coins.
Man: Yes–he took all of his gold coins, melted them down, and made plates.
Man: Yes! Coins!
Me: (blinking…thinking…blinking again) Coins?
Me: That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.
He blew up. Within about 7 seconds, we had been booted out the door and were standing in the hallway of a large apartment building in shock. My temporary junior companion–who again, spoke and understood very little Finnish–peered at me cautiously and asked, “Elder, what just happened in there?” As we made our way home, the reality of my horrible behavior and un-representation of the Savior destroyed me. I phone the Mission President, who just days earlier had asked me to train an incoming new missionary and serve as Zone Leader, and informed him that I was likely not the best man for the job. He gave me a few pieces of stern counsel, some instructions regarding apologies to the man I had insulted, and told me to keep working hard. Later that evening, when we met up with our right companions, I had to explain what happened once again. I didn’t even bother trying to save face, because there was none to be saved. The pain in the eyes of the other Elder who had trusted me with his newly progressing investigator crushed me–even as he shook it off and said, “No sense in crying over spilled milk–I know you didn’t mean for this to happen.”
Elder Smith, and Old Finnish Guy, if you’re out there, I feel really, really bad about what I did.
3. When I was 11, I had a Blazer scout leader who worked the night shift at a local factory, and because our scout activities were right after school, the bus would often drop us off 15-20 minutes before this man woke up. He lived on a fairly busy street, where cars would drive by at high rates of speed. One Tuesday afternoon in the middle of winter, several of us decided it would be fun to throw snowballs at the cars as they drove by. There was one fellow in our crowd, who apparently had a conscience, for he objected to our activity and refused to join in the fun and took to other activities in the front yard. Despite our buddy’s protests and non-participation, another friend and I simultaneously heaved massive armloads of snow out into the path of an oncoming sedan.
As we watched the entire windshield suddenly become caked with a layer of snow, and as we heard the car’s tires begin to screech, we realized that our course of action was clear: Flee the scene. While we hid beneath the back porch of our scout leader’s house, we realized that our conscience-oriented friend was missing. We could hear the driver of the car–apparently a very, very angry woman–scream STOP RIGHT THERE!! at our poor friend, who had not realized what was going on in time to run, and was in any case entirely innocent of wrong doing. As she ripped him from head to toe for recklessly endangering her life and just generally being a bad human being, we laughed ourselves sick.
Sam, if you’re out there, I feel really, really bad about what I did.
I will now turn the time over to you, the Bloggernacle, for the remainder of the weekend. I hope it is obvious that truly Bishop’s-office-worthy-misdeeds are NOT welcome. Keep it fun, or
the Bishop one of the admins will tap you on the shoulder and ask you to return to your seat.
[Author's note: I will once again, after a few mishaps, remind the congregation that your confessions are not supposed to be, you know, actual sins for which you should truly repent. This is supposed to be fun, okay?]