Episodes

Radio Free Mormon: 181: The Illusion of Agency Part 2, The Gay Devotional

RFM dissects the world-wide young adult devotional given on May 3, 2020 by Elder And Sister Gay.  This devotional is a classic study in how the LDS Church gives its members freedom to choose with the right hand while simultaneously taking it away with the left.

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65 thoughts on “Radio Free Mormon: 181: The Illusion of Agency Part 2, The Gay Devotional

  1. The story about the dead gnat had me in stitches. I’m perplexed by the amount of guilt Elder Gay feels over killing a bug. He participates in a church that has oppressed minorities and contributes to suicidality in LGBT members and he is presumably ok with that but this guy is literally straining at gnats.

    • Gnats are literally the foundational structure of the Earth’s entire interwebinal ecosystem. No gnats, no…pecan crusted rainbow trout. How do you sleep at night? 😉

    • It was probably a special gnat. Maybe it was Gnat King Cole. I would have felt bad to squash Gnat King Cole. Not that bad though.

    • I came “this close” to singing the first verse of “Jesus of Gnat-areth” in a high-pitched, buzzing voice.

      Followed by, “Help me! Help me!”

      You guys got off easy. ;^)

    • Doubting that Gay is a vegan. As such, his gilt over a gnat seems so completely unaware.

  2. Literally straining at gnats!

    That, and the cheesy comedy – “never let people tell you what you should do! Now, this is what you should do” – and the Monty Python style black comedy – “I had a friend who stopped believing: he got drunk, fell of a cliff and died!” – and the names, watch out for Teh Gays – Makes me wonder if talk is all some Andy Kaufman level trolling.

    • Gnat King Cole?

      “Smile though your head is breaking.
      Smile even though it’s aching.”

      Monty Python?

      The Dead Parrot Sketch?

      “He’s not dead. He’s pining for the fjords!”

  3. RFM. How do you stand to listen to more than 5 minutes of general authorities talking? It is not so much the content of the talks, but the cadence and tone. Every GA is like a clone in this respect. It is like nails on a chalkboard for me now.

    • Scott–It is honestly not easy to listen to these talks. It was the sheer mind-numbingness of the exercise that made me change my plans half-way through and not subject my audience to everything that was said, but instead to pick and choose a few choice tidbits for your listening pleasure.

      With an order of gnat-relish on the side.

  4. Let me get this straight. Sister Gay talks about the Spirit possibly awakening her from a deep sleep to warn her of their daughter’s possible impending danger, Brother Gay talks about resurrecting a gnat… and Sister Gay’s the dip?

    • Was I the only one bothered by having taxpayers resources wasted by sending the police out to investigate promptings of the spirit?

      • Hi, Scott Duke!

        I seriously doubt the local constabulary sent a unit to the sorority house based on Sister Gay’s phone call.

        Not unless it was a really slow night. ;^)

        I still have no idea why Sister Gay didn’t just call her daughter.

    • Hi, E.Woo!

      First, i did not call Sister Gay a “dip.” I called her a “ditz.”

      Second, I did not call Sister Gay a “ditz,” I said Goldie Hawn should play her in the movie.

      Third, I said Sister Gay seemed to have found a suitable husband in Elder Gay.

      I was trying to choose my words carefully. ;^)

  5. O my Goody Goodness!!!…….

    Look what Mormonism is doing to perfectly good men and their masculinity! After hearing about his crying jag over a stunned gnat, no wonder Capital “A” Apostle was so easily able to guilt trip him into flushing the best efforts of his entire life and family for 3 years in Africa with 10 lb. tarantulas.

    What on earth was he thinking in sharing such a bizarre , unflattering story about the gnat?????…and worse, what that might have revealed about the fragility of his mental health. What he should have done those many years ago was reassess his medication levels! LOL.

    ..Yes, that makes sense….trade in feeding hungry families for peddling a story of lies to people who will certainly be starved to death spiritually and raped of anything else they have remaining…..in a country already greatly disadvantaged…..yes, you do that Bro. and Sis Gay!!!!!

    The male hierarchy in the church is very emasculating to most of the men, unless you are in the very tiny minority at the top in the old boys network. The rest of the men are pretty much turning their balls in, and living as ‘yes’ men if they want to keep their membership.

    Look what happened to Bro. Gay when he DARED to kindly decline the “invitation”, thinking his was probably on track in his life. He was humiliated in front of his wife as her support of him was summarily dismissed with an insulting, condescending comment affirming her future value as a missionary in Africa!!! (AFTER they had together declined !!!)

    The “A” apostle and Alpha male, was aghast that Bro Gay, (from the eunuch class) failed to realize just who he was talking to and what an elite group he was being permitted to be a part of…..how dare he not realize that his agency was a silly rhetorical formality.

    It’s like the psychology of polygamy culture, where the highest ranking males will have premium control of who will breed with who, or even if one will breed at all.

    It’s like turning down the Mafia when they decide you are ready to be “made” There’s no turning that down without great peril.

    Where else are volunteers treated like this????

    You covered the topic so well, I just wanted to go off about this a little. Everyone thinks that the Mormon set up is so favourable to men and it just is not.

    • Hi, Angie!

      You raise an interesting question, that of “why” did Elder Gay feel compelled to share this story about the gnat?

      His proffered explanation is to show how God really loves and cares about all of us; if he loves a gnat enough to bring it back to life, he surely cares about people at last as much!

      But I think the unspoken reasons are more interesting, and of course, more speculative. There may be virtue-signaling going on about how righteous he is, not only to care about the little darling, but to pray it back to life

      I mean, how spiritual does a guy have to be to care about killing a bothersome insect? And he was really broken up about it!

      Also, it suggests that in his bag of miracle stories accumulated over a lifetime of church activity and leadership, this is probably among the best he has.

      Or if he has better stories like praying actual human beings back to life after killing them in anger, he doesn’t want to mention it.

      The other main story he told about initially declining the Apostle’s call to be a mission president in Africa showed how righteous he was, after being called to repentance for being unrighteous. This is like the “humble brag.”

      What I took away from it was that he didn’t have the spine to stand his ground, and that this Apostle was a real dick.

      But that’s just my take.

      • There’s so much that could be said about what these talks reveal about these people and the LDS church, it’s endless. And I agree, it usually boils down to some kind of phoney humility and nauseating self-righteousness chased with a nice dose of weirdness.

  6. Yes! A podcast on all the times different generations have been told they’re the chosen generation would be funny.

      • I shouldn’t have brought that up! That would take an awful lot of research! I already have people weighing in who were youth in the 50s and 60s telling me that they were the most righteous generation and not mine.

        The funny thing is that Elder Gay grew up an active LDS through these time periods.

        He knows perfectly well that his generation was told this way back when, and that every new generation of youth has been told the same thing.

        What goes on in a person’s mind when they keep spouting this same old message knowing it has been said to every generation before?

        Or maybe the generations of youth in the LDS church are just getting better and better?

        Yeah! That’s the ticket!

  7. I looked Robert Gay up on Wikipedia. He has Ph.D in business economics from Harvard. The article certainly points to an intelligent, and probably wealthy man. It appears that he has done much sincere and good hearted work. I find it curious that such bright people are so thouroughly convinced of the rightness of the church but I was the same way a few years ago. I don’t come anywhere near his Harvard degree or net worth, though. So these folks are 100 percent bought in and it seems to work for them. I can’t envision that these nice folks are deliberately putting out misleading stuff but if they are Academy Awards are due. I remember reading in the biography of Matthew Cowley how he
    asked to be released from a calling. He asked to be released from a calling because other things in his life were overwhelming him. He was released. My wife and I were being considered for a calling and after explaining things in an interview the interviewer said that he felt that no call should be extended. That was kind since I believe the calling would have overloaded us and also because I had the idea that you should never turn down a calling. I have family and friends who are among the kindest, Christ loving people in the world who are also 100 percent bought in. This is not meant to exaggerate so please modify it a bit but I think about different propaganda programs in history and the power of information control and spin. Nazi Getmany comes to mind only as an extreme comparison. People buy into stuff, me included, that might be beyond reason but that’s the way it is. The part about glasses and seeing things clearly reminded me of the song “I Wear My Sunglasses At Night.” An interesting thing tucked into statements goes like this: a kind person would… an intelligent person would… So the feeling I got from well intentioned Brother Gay was, “An intelligent, spiritually in tune person would see it the way I see it.” I got this loud and clear from Dallin Oaks when he said about the same thing. So back to the glasses thing not everyone needs the same prescription. One person’s prescription might make things blurry or dark for someone else. More and more I am trying to come closer to Christ. That’s what it boils down to. The Mythical Jesus podcast and the Christ of Faith site by Bill Reel have been most helpful. I like to listen or relisten to one of those almost every day. They are only about 15 minutes long and give some good things to think about.

    • This is indeed a recurring question. How do proven intelligent and successful people get so caught up in such cult (yes, I said it, cult) behaviors? If they followed the same bizarre logic and feelings-based decision making in their professional lives as they do in their church lives, very few would had successful careers. The lack of consistency between leaders, either past or present as well as the lack within the same person’s comments remind me of a certain generic minister who would make a temple film appearance and bemoan the state of other churches and then finish by saying, “It’s a mass of confusion.” I used to be in the group that thought the LDS Church had its good points. I’ve come to see that the harm caused by the church might be greatest in those that appear to be the most devout. The perfection culture and slavish devotion to follow-the-leader at all costs has caused serious mental health problems to some of my children and grandchildren.

      As far as doing good I see members doing some good things. The central church is devoid of any empathy or kindness or giving.

    • Dear Jim,

      You raise some good points. I think it fairest to say that a person’s abilities and skills in one area of life do not necessarily transfer over to other areas.

      In other words, just because somebody is good at investments doesn’t make them a good theologian, or dentist or car mechanic, for that matter.

      Like Will Rogers said, “Everybody’s ignorant. Just on different subjects.”

      But it is hard to reconcile an absolute dearth of simple logic when talking about church-related subjects when you know darn good and well Elder and Sister Gay use logic in other aspects of their lives.

      I always have to remind myself that I used to be in the same boat. And that boat is like the Titanic. Which was a masterpiece of compartmentalization.

      Which is why it could never sink.

      Until a run-in with an iceberg caused all the different compartments to start taking on water at the same time . . .

  8. I’m sorry RFM but I’m a decade or more older than you and David O. McKay told us that WE were the chosen generation, blah blah blah. The brethren like a church full of rubes.

    • Hi, Steve.

      Good to hear about David O. McKay.

      But it was only true when Spencer W. Kimball said it.

      So there.

  9. RFM – I thought for sure your exit song on this one would be ‘Land of Confusion’ by Genesis. This is one of the absolutely most bonkers devotionals I have ever heard. Unbelievable! I’m still trying to process if it was real or not, or if that was a Saturday Night Live episode you were playing.

    • It was kind of crazy, wasn’t it, Neal?

      But it is still up on the churchofjesuschrist.com website for you to listen to in its uninterrupted insipidity if you have any doubts!

      I didn’t even include the part where Sister Gay said she is not a gospel scholar.

      Some things go without saying.

  10. Dave
    I have withheld my comments for several podcasts but after listening to Elder and Sister Gay I could no longer maintain my silence.
    First I had to find out how big is a gnat in the USA and as usual Google came to my rescue. I asked “What is a gnat USA” and this is the answer I got.
    Basically it’s an airplane just like the ones the big boys in the military use for target practice, but much smaller and specifically designed to be shot at with shotguns.
    Imagine it. After a session of shooting conventional clays, a nippy little target plane comes zipping in from the right, shows a flash of belly as it jinks and pulls up into a steep climbing turn. The guns bark and a hit from an ace shot sets off a pyrotechnic charge onboard the aircraft. A huge cheer goes up as the guns reload for another teasing pass, followed by another and another until either the time is up, or the unfortunate target is downed by the sheer fire power.
    Once you have shot at the Gnats, plain old clays will seem, well…a little dull.

    Now it makes sense Elder Gay should have used a shotgun not his hands no wonder the gnat flew off again.

    However, maybe the impossible did happen I know it’s happened to me on more than one occasion but the most bizarre unbelievable impossible event happened to me that to this day I cannot explain.

    This event was wrenched from my memory banks as RFM once again could not resist sharing another of his many talents with us and revealed that he was once in a musical production and had to sing the lyrics from Abe Lyman’s Dance hit from the 1930’s “Never Swat a Fly” and I couldn’t help thinking gosh my mother also had a unique singing voice like this flat and completely out of tune and this would have been a perfect song for her.

    My mother, who passed away 18th January 2006 was a sweet innocent lady with the sort of childlike qualities that would guarantee anyone a place in the celestial worlds, however, to receive a telephone call from her on my 65th birthday 3 years after her passing was totally unexpected. Very early in the morning 14th October 2009 I was awakened by the telephone ringing in the lounge downstairs, I did not leap out of bed but later that morning I checked the answer phone to be met with an elder lady with children obviously playing and laughing around her singing Happy Birthday to me and she finished by saying “You be a good boy Love and I will see you sometime”

    I know my mother’s voice and especially her singing voice it was unmistakable it could not be anyone else and she always referred to me as Love and no-one else would know that.

    Later without saying a word I played it back to Christine and asked her who it was and without hesitation she replied “It’s your Mother”

    Totally impossible, totally unbelievable, and yet totally true

    There are a few things I could comment from the Gay’s talks but I will concentrate in just two.

    Elder Gay tells us “You had better want the consequences of what you want”

    When I agreed to listen to the Missionaries back in 1980 I wanted the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I had already dismissed the J Dubbs and the Christadelphians and I thought I had found the truth in Mormonism and my years of service and a small fortune in cash certainly suggests that I wholeheartedly accepted the consequences. I did not want lies and half truths but that’s what I got and the consequences of those lies mean that we and millions of others who do not yet know have being going down the wrong road to no-where.
    Elder Gay do you want to continue to promote the lies and half truths of Mormonism then I suggest that you had better want the consequences of what you want.

    Now the joke elder Gay promotes “The only valid personal revelation that we will ever receive is the confirmation that the church is true”

    In my experience we have been encouraged time and time again by church leaders to seek after Personal Revelation and I have had many instances of such revelation that have helped me in so many ways and I can not accept that they originate with, him who was a liar from the beginning, Satan. In fact, there is only one such revelation that I could attribute to him because it turned out to be a pack of lies and that is the one that, yes, you’ve guessed it, it’s the one that confirmed to me that the church was true.
    Elder Gay you got it badly wrong again this is the one revelation we should have ignored.

    • Hi, Dave!

      What a wonderful story about your mom and the phone call!

      Although I am critical by nature, I always try to leave room for the unusual and even the unexplainable.

      My guide, as with many things, is Shakespeare.

      “There are more thing in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
      Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

      My first mission companion, Elder McKay (now a seventy!) used to say a variant on this in the mission field.

      He would say in an English, possibly Yorkshire, accent:

      “There are more things in heaven and Earth, Horatio,
      Than will fit in your coin purse.”

      I still think that’s funny.

  11. I think Elder Gay grossly exaggerates his account of the meeting with the senior Apostle (with a capital “A”) when he was called as a mission president. The invitation to meet with a senior Apostle is an indication that there’s going to be a big ask of some sort.

    I think rather than push the hard sell, the apostle is going to talk to the Gays about their availability, and specifically when they can be available. In contrast to youth missionaries, successful people like the Gays can’t just drop all their commitments at the drop of a hat. Most wealthy people need some lead time to wrap up personal affairs to prepare for a mission.

    I therefore don’t buy that Brother Gay initially declined the call to be a mission president. He may have been surprised or requested additional lead time to wrap personal affairs, but he certainly didn’t say no to a senior Apostle much less. He’s embellishing the story to make it much more meaningful and grand than it actually was. Circumstantially, if he would have said “no” there’s no way he would have eventually made it to be a general authority and in the presidency of the 70.

    I’m going to file this under “apostolic cherry picking” of taking an event and making more out of it than actually happened.

  12. Dave

    RFM

    I have had two complaints, off line, from two different people who, having read my comments, have told me that I have been very mean and insulting to you by criticising your singing voice and this came as a surprise to me as I certainly had no intention of doing so. However, I will be honest and say that my intention was to poke a little fun in your direction that another Yorkshire man would parry with a little friendly poke back. Trouble is you are not from Yorkshire so you may not understand that insulting each other is a way of life for us. The more insults one gets the more well-liked you are.
    Many years ago when I was Ward Mission Leader one of the missionaries serving with us was a farm boy from Idaho who was built like a gorilla and he too did not understand my little friendly insults so my description of him as a mentally challenged Idaho farm boy resulted in me having three cracked ribs as he grabbed me from behind in a bear hug and didn’t let go until he felt my ribs give way and then he dropped me to the ground.
    Ouch! I dare not laugh or sneeze for a few weeks but it seems maybe I have not learnt my lesson so to avoid you sending your enforcer over to break a few ribs I apologise now for ever daring to liken your voice to my mother’s who had the heart of an angel but sadly did not have the voice to go with it.

    • First, I am happy to know that I have listeners who came to my defense.

      Second, I tried to take it in fun, as I know you are a good fellow.

      Third, I hope Guido gets my message calling him off in time.

  13. 1) You referenced this at the beginning and later on, but as you talked about the couple’s lack of agency, I thought of how their personal revelation was ignored, also. I’m sure they prayed before giving an answer.
    2) Calling the life that couple was living “convenient” is disgusting. This means no one can do enough for the church.
    3) I also wondered if they were “invited” to give this little talk to help all members understand free agency a little bit better 🙂
    4) The gnat story!!! You killed me. It wasn’t enough that the story is so pathetically stupid, you were so funny! The Savior Gnat! I laughed good at that one.

    Wow, great episode.

    • Thanks, Bryan!

      I definitely had more fun with this episode than any human being should be allowed.

  14. This makes me wonder how many rejected callings for high offices have actually occurred in the exercise of free will that we will never hear about? Perhaps this would be revealed in a like-minded podcast… but never in an official corporation of the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints publication. Thanks for serving as a modern day Nauvoo Expositor!

    • Navuoo Expositor, It makes me wonder when RFM’s press will be burnt to the ground…

  15. My brother swears he resurrected a cockroach on his mission. I guess that could be him in 20 years.

    Is that GA bi-polar?

    • A cockroach? Really?

      Elder Gay uses this story to show that God cares about us at least as much as he cares about a gnat.

      So how come God is only bringing dead gnats back to life?

      Sounds like nepotism to me.

  16. Hahahaha. Hahaha. Gnat savior :). This earned another donation 🙂

  17. As I was going down the list with my bishop why I no longer believe in Mormonism, it included the notion that god directs Church callings. Church history includes 40 years of the polygamous Church leaders claiming god’s hand in successfully dodging the feds, only to cave to them in the end anyway making it all pointless. And I’m supposed to believe that god is directing them in Church callings? Ever hear the phrase from you bishop “the Lord wants you to serve in the ……. ” My bishop responded that he’s never made that claim. If I would have bee quicker on my feet, I would have replied that I have been fed that line many times. There are way too many examples of apostles being wrong to believe that god is directing them on callings. Including mission presidents

    Excuse me while I hunt for my Styx 8 track tape.

    • Like J. Golden Kimball said, “Callings in the church are 10 percent revelation and 90 percent relation.”

  18. RFM: I liked the Styx signoff song but you should check out a song called Free Will by Rush. I think you will appreciate the lyrics.

  19. RFM! What an excellent episode. I listened to this one while I was working and it made my day so much better. Thank you for your insightful comments on agency in the Mormon church. It’s very frustrating that when I was Mormon, I was told agency was one of the most critical principles of the gospel, but in reality, life as a Mormon, and especially as a Mormon woman, doesn’t have a whole lot of options when it comes to acceptable life paths. And the Gay’s story about politely turning down the calling, and the GA basically pretending to not hear them—wow. It’s just another example of the Mormon church saying one thing and doing something else, or even the complete opposite thing.

    I sometimes like to play devil’s advocate to your podcasts—that is, I like to thing about how I would have responded to your statements when I was a TBM, or how I think TBMs might respond to some of your comments. I think it was on Part 1 of The Illusion of Agency that you mention coercion, and how when one coerces another, they are robbing that person of agency. If I recall correctly, you gave some kind of example that said something like, if you put a gun to someone’s head, and tell them to do something, do they really have agency? And I would agree with you. If you put a gun to someone’s head, or in the case of the Church, if you hold someone’s eternal salvation over their head, that person doesn’t REALLY have complete free will. But I could just hear the little apologetic mormon in my head saying, “Yeah, but even if there’s a gun to your head, you can still TECHNICALLY make a choice. You still technically have agency in that moment.” Haha. I am happy to say I have adopted a slightly more nuanced perspective since separating myself from mormonism.

    Also, I appreciated you noting the misogyny in Elder Gay’s story about the car and the glasses. Goodness gracious, there is so much casual sexism baked into Mormon culture. Of course, there is overt sexism in the doctrine, even in 2020. I’m very glad to no longer be a part of a system where I’m looked down upon and not trusted.

    And of course, the story of the gnat had me ROLLING. I would have to agree with you, RFM—even as a TBM that story would have had me feeling extremely skeptical at best. It’s been fun to pass that story along to friends of mine; we’re all just getting a kick out of how seriously this man took the death and “resurrection” of a freaking gnat. I’m laughing right now just thinking about it.

    Thanks again for this excellent episode! I appreciate all the work you put into this podcast!

    • Thanks for all your great comments, Millie!

      The Gay Devotional is a gift that keeps on giving!

  20. His friend drank too much one night and accidentally fell off a cliff and died.

    I hate it when that happens, so common among non-mormons.

    • Right? I hear about drunk people dying in a variety of ways, but just walking off a cliff seems so jejune.

      • I do feel like hurling myself off a cliff when I hear Mr. Gay speak.

        • I did throw myselfboff the cliff mid podcast, luckily the gnat savior protected my fall and I walked away unscathes! Praise Gosh, the Lord of the flies😂

  21. So this is where all the fun happens.
    I typically leave my comments at MormonDiscussion, anywho…

    To be fair, I think Elder Gay realized that his prayer didn’t actually resurrect the Gnat but it was his thought process and how he felt over the whole incident.

    Surely God cares more for us as his children than this fly.

    I too often play the defensive lawyer role to RFM’s argument… although I would hate to have to face RFM in court. Although I’m sure I can play many defensive delay tactics to tire him out.

  22. RFM,

    Truly a great episode. So many things to say about this topic, but thought you’d enjoy this one thought. I recently had a conversation with a friend that put into stark contrast the illusion of agency you have eloquently discussed in this podcast.

    Having seen some recent random acts of violence in his residential area, my friend asked if I could recommend a good pistol for him for home defense. I responded that that is a very heavy question and that the decision (and its consequences) should best lay at his feet. I continued with giving him a several step process to study out his needs, relevant state laws and then available options. The process would take some time, but it would definitively get him to a place where he could make a good choice.

    However, my friend continued to press that he ‘really was wanting a recommendation to just go and buy’. I ultimately told him straight up-‘this is a decision that will literally change your life and that it could literally mean life or death (hopefully not, but that’s something fate will decide). That’s a lot of responsibility to lay at my feet.’ In an effort to keep the conversation friendly and short, I did give him a recommendation. If I had to bet his life on one model, I would recommend the standard issue firearm I had a few years back in the service.

    The next day my friend apologized for his seemingly lack of interest. Stating he just doesn’t have much time and needed/wanted me to make the decision (otherwise he would have just “hired a consultant”). These were some of his exact words “Thanks Brian, [this is] exactly what I needed. I just needed someone I trusted and who knows a ton to make the decision for me.” I sarcastically posted back, saying “Going with Satan’s plan:)” – to which we both had a good laugh.

    Anyway, the problem with Church leadership is that they are continuing to be quite comfortable in taking the position they ‘know a ton and should make the decision for us’. There’s no evidence that I can see that they are called of god. And they especially don’t ever give us any processes to come to the same decision they made (for us in our lives). They only provide the same hollow assurances that if we just do what we’re told, we will be saved in the last days. But isn’t that Satan’s plan? I’m so confused.

    • Great story, Brian! Thanks for sharing it.

      It is a strange thing, isn’t it, that a church that has as a foundational myth the story of a premortal war in heaven fought over Satan’s plan for the salvation of humanity should be the same church whose plan of salvation so closely resembles it?

  23. A gnat’s life span is 7 days. So at most, his prayer that let the gnat live again, bought it 6 more days.

  24. I have already made a snarky comment here, but on a more serious note I am aghast at what kind of person would feel incredible guilt over a gnat but shrug his shoulders over the many suicides of LGBTQI people because of the teachings of his so called god. SMDH.

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