Month: September 2012

An Interview With Vegas Showgirl Danielle Aveyard

Danielle Aveyard Is a Vegas showgirl, go go dancer and atmosphere model.

Q:. How did you become a showgirl?

A: I moved out to Las Vegas about 2 years ago and started auditioning right away. I found auditions listed on a web site and through agencies, and just kept at it even though I got really close in some jobs and didn’t hear back at all for others. I finally went to an audition for a brand new show, the producers liked my look and dancing and cast me and I’ve been doing shows ever since.

Q:  What is the most common misconception about your profession?

A:  I guess what I get sometimes from people when I tell them I’m a dancer, is that they think I’m a stripper.

Q: 3. What is your wildest work story?

A:  One night while I was working in a night club, which some show girls do after their shows, I had a woman come up and bite my butt cheek. Go go dancers typically wear clothing that’s a bit more revealing and just because I’m showing some extra skin, doesn’t mean I’m a buffet.

Q: What the hell is an atmosphere model?

A:  An atmosphere model is someone being paid to be at a party or location and enhance the atmosphere. They might be there to talk to guest that are at a party, to wear a costume to be a conversation piece or dance and have a good time. This is to keep things going and people having fun. It’s certainly not something I thought people would get paid to do, but somehow it’s a job.

Q: Why do you think go- go dancing has stood the test of time?

A:  I think go go dancing has continued to be popular because people enjoy watching attractive women dance and have a good time. What I usually experience from people watching you dance is that it makes them smile and feel comfortable dancing themselves whether it’s at a private event or a club. I as a dancer, personally enjoy watching other girls go go because everyone seems to have their own unique style, that’s what makes it interesting.

Q:  What do you like about working in Vegas?

A:  I like working in Vegas because there’s so many opportunities and different jobs to work. Not to mention there’s always something interesting to do when picking up work for special events or nightclubs. From dressing up in various costumes, to being a moving table or even being in a show dancing as a Vampire, you can’t really do that kind of stuff anywhere else that I know of, especially all in the same week. It’s a great place to be if you like having a variety of work in front of you.

Q: What don’t you like about it?

A: . The only down side I’ve experienced is that it is a transit city and geared toward vacationers. Some people come in thinking it’s Vegas and they can do whatever they want, that no rules apply and they can get away with treating people disrespectfully. It’s an adjustment to be treated that way while your just trying to do your job to the best of your ability.

Q: What kind of dance training have you had?

A:  My dance training spans over 21 years. I trained all throughout grade school, high school then decided to get a B.F.A. in dance. From there I studied with a pre professional dance company for a year while auditioning for various jobs with cruise ships, professional dance companies and theme parks. I frequently took master classes and trained under different teachers to achieve a wide variety of dance styles. It’s made me a well rounded dancer and comfortable trying new things when performing.

Q: . What elements make up a great Vegas show?

A:  The one important element you need to make a great Vegas show is entertainment. Whether your doing balancing acts, leaps and turns, singing a difficult ballad, you have to keep the audience wanting more. You have to be doing something that will keep the audience watching and glued to the stage. That’s what people come for, to not have to think about their own lives, but to think about whats being presented in front of them.

Q:  What famous Vegas performer would you most like to work with?

A:. I’ve had the opportunity to work with many Las Vegas entertainers. Everyone is so talented that working with people in general is a great experience. I can’t say I have anyone in mind that I want to work with next… I just enjoy working with other people that have such a love for their craft.

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Music Blogger Adam King

Adam King is a Portland based musician who runs the blog I shit music. Here is a link to the blog:

http://www.ishitmusic.com/

Q: What inspired you to start your blog?

 

A: I love and admire an enormously wide spectrum of music, and there’s nothing I love more than debating the universal relevance of an artist, album, or concert. I became so well known around my friends and peers for my constant and obscure musical conversations that people insisted I start a blog so there was a more organized collection of my rants. Plus, these days so many people become infatuated with hip trends and artists, that I felt that most music blogs out there operated under some degree of creating a bullshit image, or to blow smoke up someone’s metaphorical back-side. But you shouldn’t be afraid to be critical, or speak your mind, or tell one of your favorite bands that they just aren’t as good as they used to be. My goal and my hope is that I can serve as some sort of catalyst to push quality music further into its realm of infinitely untapped potential.

Q:  What was the best concert you ever went to?

 

A: This is a fairly massive question for me to truly ponder as I have literally seen thousands of bands perform over the years. And of course there’s always the debate between one’s experience at a concert and the actual musical quality of the performance. But when it comes down to it I’ll have to go with the band I’ve seen 160 times – Phish. Specifically, their gig at Madison Square Garden on December 30, 1997. I was 17, I went by myself, and I had seats in the 4th row on the floor. The band was truly in peak stride at this point in their career, and the show featured breathtaking improvisational moments the likes of which I have rarely heard to this day. Most infamously of all on this night, the band played a nearly 2-hour long second set that went past the midnight curfew of MSG. Realizing they were already going to half to pay union-fines for the extension, they decided to play a 30-minute encore on top of the already marathon performance. I had to run to Grand Central Station to catch the last train to my brother’s house just outside of Manhattan, only to puke up psychedelic mushrooms once aboard and subsequently miss my stop while in my post-release haze. Phenomenal night all around.

Q:  What was the worst concert you have ever attended ?

A: This one’s even harder to field, as again I’ve had plenty of horrible experiences at amazing concerts. Sure, accidentally smoking crack in a New Haven bathroom at age 16 while seeing a Doors cover-band definitely ranks up there in epically horrible nights, but the worst musical performance I’ve ever seen has to be Kanye West at Tennesee’s  Bonnarroo Music Festival in 2008. After demanding that all the other bands playing at the festival’s 7 other stages stop during his performance, he pushed back his already insanely late set time and didn’t actually appear on the stage til 4:25 in the morning. Walking on stage to 50,000 heckles from the angered crowd, a mere “sorry about the delay, let’s party” would have kept the atmosphere fine. Instead he went into an elaborate, corn-ball performance involving a crashed space-ship and ridiculous costumes. It was an ultimate disaster, but nonetheless quite entertaining in its complete absurdity.

Q:  What is your strangest backstage story?

 

A: This story may not have happened backstage, but it’s definitely the strangest band-encounter story I’ve got. This was after seeing the awesomely insane band Ween at the Palace Theater in Albany, New York sometime around 2007. Friends of the band were throwing an after-party at a bar just a few blocks from the venue. After way too many hours of drinking, my girlfriend at the time and I were approached by Dave, the bass player from Ween. Expressing our admiration for the performance, he then went on to say what an attractive couple he found us to be. He then brought his girlfriend over and they both expressed to us how great they both imagined we looked while engaged in the act of physical love. Dave then proposed that we retire to his hotel room next door, where upon he and his girlfriend wanted to watch us engage in private acts while they themselves did the same in a separate area of the room. Laughing off such a preposterous notion, we let him by us round after round of more drinks until the point where the previous offer was once again suggested for the 50th time. My dear friend overheard the discussion, and thankfully pulled me and my girlfriend out of the bar and into a cab – while the bass player hurled comments of anger and disappointment at us
as we ran away.

Q:  What is the most common misconception about the Portland music scene?

A: Everybody gets so hung up on the highly visual proportion of “hipsters” there are in the town, that people neglect to mention how incredibly diverse it is. While PDX may be known as this NorthWest indie-rock Mecca, it’s also home to thriving musical scenes of metal, jam-rock, jazz, bluegrass, and even classical. On any given night in Portland, literally any night of the year, you have to make a decision between at least 2 different incredible bands playing on different sides of town. Whatever you are into, this town has an established community revolving around any said genre.

Q:  What was the best band name ever?

 

A: Rage Against the Machine. No four words have ever conjured up such a complete vision of a band, while at the same time establishing a vocalized statement about the inner sentiments of a modern world’s generation. I always thought it was a bummer that the band stopped making new music during George W. Bush’s presidency. He was literally the living embodiment of the evil, corporate machine they were referring to and I would have loved to heard a formalized version of the massive rage everyone was feeling against him. It was almost like the band’s presence in the 90’s was a warning shot and a wake-up call for the oncoming machine’s uprising. They’re easily one of the most important bands of all time, and their name sums them up perfectly.

Q:  What is your own musical background?

 

A: I’m a keyboard player, and always have been ever since I started taking piano lessons at age 5. I studied classical for years before branching into the jazz realm in my high-school
years. While in college at the University of Vermont, I formed a fairly successful rock band called Turkey Bouillon Mafia. We played for nearly 8 years and toured all of the East and Northeast playing clubs and festivals. I’ve played in about 10 or so other bands since then including national tours with Mice Parade, a continued successful Grateful Dead cover band known as Dead Sessions, and even a handful of 80’s cover bands. Since moving to Portland, I’ve started my own rock band known as Lesser Bangs, and continue a regular run of solo performances as well.

Q:  If you could only listen to one album ( I’m old, I call it an album)  for the rest of your life what what would it be?

A: While the Beastie Boys’ Hello Nasty comes in an extremely close second, I’d have to choose the first solo album from the Pavement front-man: Stephen Malkmus’ Stephen Malkmus. Pavement has always been one of my favorite bands, but I’ve come to like Malkmus’ solo work even better. His solo debut in 2001 has about 3 of my favorite songs of all time. And while his subsequent albums only got even better, this album hit me in a big transitive part of my live. I think we’ve all got that one security blanket album, and this is my go-to record when I need to be reassured that the world isn’t a horrible place.

Q: What indie rock song sums up your philosophy of life?

 

A: “Virginia Reel Around the Fountain” by The Halo Benders. There’s no doubt about it. The chorus of this tune is merely 8 repetitions of the line: “Don’t say no, just say you don’t know.” Written by one of my personal heroes, Doug Martsch for his side project, but further fleshed out in his main band Built to Spill, this song has gotten me through a lot of dark times in my life. While it was a literal inspiration for me when I was convincing a girl who lived 3000 miles away from me that we were in love, it’s come to even more represent an optimistic mantra I use to get through day-to-day life. You know – not giving up, not giving in, not saying no. Just say you don’t know and keep working on it – that’s basically how I roll.

Q:  With all the music blogs out there why should I read yours?

A: There are plenty of informed bloggers out there who will tell you what music is the catchiest, the best and what you should be listening to, but I’m the only one who tells people why they should be listening. I may cloud my commentary in sarcasm and dry wit, but I honestly believe that music is one of the most powerful and beautiful forces in the universe. Love, hope, and music. If you read my blog, I’m going to tell you about music that will rightfully change your life and help shape you into your full potential of a human being. This whole world is collections of intertwined vibrations, and only if we can have a better understanding of what we’re listening to will we be able to start hearing all those hidden patterns cycling around us. Plus, I hopefully will make you laugh.

 

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Blogger Brit McGinnis

BritMcGinnis is a writer whose blog is dedicated to “wit, snark, And living the examined Life”. Here is a link to the site:

http://www.happilycynical.com/

 

Q:  What inspired you to start your blog?

A: My blog was actually first started as a project for school — five years ago. After the project ended, it was abandoned. But when I wanted to get into actual blogging (as a way to develop my writing in a much more open way. Basically to lose my fear of having my writing judged and to grow more as a writer overall!), I remembered this one. After MUCH revamping (including two title changes and a major design overhaul), it became a project I really loved contributing to.

Q:  How did you get into professional blogging?

A: I honestly don’t consider myself a professional blogger. I feel more like a writer who uses blogging as a writing outlet. I initially entered the world of professional blogging because I wanted to write about things that mattered to me in a way that would be entertaining or insightful to someone else. That’s the main thing: It can’t just be about me. As a contributor to the Internet, I feel a duty to anyone who may read my stuff to be entertaining in some way. I didn’t want to be a blithering-diary sort of blog. Ever.

Q:  What is the strangest thing you have ever been asked to write about?

When I wrote for a weekly newspaper, I had to cover a story about whether or not a tree outside a long-standing city monument was going to be torn down or not. It was surveyed by experts, and there were people with very strong opinions on both sides. But personally, I was bored to tears. That was one of the stories that turned me against writing “hard news” stories — I can be too immature to write well about something I genuinely don’t give a sh*t about. It’s not a good quality, but it’s something I’ve learned to work around.

Q:  What makes someone a true cynic?

A: To me, a cynic is something that doesn’t accept anything at face value. Like when the iPhone 5 came out — a cynic is someone who would have wanted to know exactly why this new model was so special before getting excited about it. So it’s the latest thing from Apple. So what? That doesn’t mean it’s good for their needs or that it’s good technology. If a cynic went to an Apple unveiling, they’d be the ones who would look back at the audience in the dark. They’d see the astonished and eager looks on the peoples’ faces and wonder, “Is it really worth all that, people?”

Q:  Do you think cynicism is more acceptable in other countries besides America?

A: Oh, absolutely! When I was traveling and working in Ireland, I encountered many more cynical people abroad than I did at home. They knew exactly what was going on in their country and usually had an opinion about it. They took most advertising with a grain of salt, which was grand. But I think having cynicism in your blood was definitely more acceptable over there because of the overall national attitude. The decisions of government and economics directly and almost automatically affected the people, who were accustomed as a people to things not going their way. But whenever things went well, I noticed the Irish were genuinely happy and relaxed. That’s the thing about being a cynic — it doesn’t have to mean you’re negative all the time. It can just mean that you’ll only accept real joy in your life. No half-a*s happiness, so to speak.

Q:  What main difference between a blogger and a journalist?

A: This is a tough thing to answer, because I’ve wrestled with it for years. I’ve been a member of the journalistic community for years, but I do not consider my blog a journalistic endeavor. Absolutely not. To me, a blogger is someone who writes an unprofessional writing blog, mostly for entertainment. They do not mean to inform, and their blog/writing outlet doesn’t have the implicit credibility that comes with writing for a news outlet. It’s sad, but it’s true. There are definitely bloggers that act as journalists, and it’s a shame that their blogs do not have the credibility they deserve. But I admit that I am a bit old-school in terms of bloggers having that kind of journalistic credibility. I’ve been a journalist, and I’ve been a blogger. And 9 times of 10, I do not mix those aspects of my writing life.

Q: Why do you think so many people have blogs?

A: Honestly, the fact that blogs are so common nowadays used to annoy me.It felt like a lot of people suddenly started yelling, “Look at what I made!” and throwing construction paper projects at everyone else. But now I somewhat understand the urge for a non-media-professional to create a blog: It’s a way of being a witness. It’s a way of stating, “I was here; I did this.” I’ve written research papers about citizens in other countries, and blogs about daily life in those countries written by citizens were invaluable. And thank goodness the blogs are getting better and better design-wise. I don’t care if people are just blogging about their cat’s dinner — if the content is clever and the design is good, I’ll give it a shot!

Q:  What sort of day job do you have and how does it effect your writing?

A: My day jobs have certainly varied — I had to work all throughout college, which entailed a lot of barely-enough-hours jobs (and a lot of filling-in-the-gaps gigs). My last day job, however, was as a commercial painter and housecleaner. I hated that job with every corner of me, but the upside of that was the abundance of emotional energy that came to my writing. But I have always filled in financial gaps by working as a model, which always helps fuel my creative energy as an equal-and-opposite artistic endeavor.

Q:  What blogs do you follow?

 

A: Most of the blogs I follow are either industry blogs (Galleycat, the Muffin, etc.) or else blogs of people I have a personal relationship with. However, there are a few notable exceptions. I adore the Postsecret blog, and the Dublin Taxi Driver blog is lovely.

Q:  Who are some of your writing influences?

 

A: My automatic answer is Elizabeth Gilbert — she has the same birthday as I do! Victor Hugo and Juliet Mariller also deeply influenced me. But more than anything, comedians and masters of the spoken word have perhaps influenced me most. To reveal my inner public radio geek, the first time I heard Studs Terkel speak was a big inspiration for me (even if it was only on an e-book). I spent much of my adult life listening to podcasts, radio shows and stand-up comedy, and I detect that in my writing more than anything.

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

An Interview With Writer William Saunders

William Saunders is the author of the biography Jimi Hendrix: London. Here is a link to his blog:

http://caedmon-innkeeper.blogspot.co.uk/

  Q: What made you interested in writing about Jimi Hendrix?

A: I first became interested from talking to people who had seen him play in small London clubs back in the 1960s. At the time I often went to hear music in clubs myself and the idea of seeing someone as extraordinary as Jimi Hendrix in a small space seemed mindblowing. It was intriguing to think of someone so legendary in what for me was an ordinary environment.

I was a child in London during the 1960s and it was a strange era to witness. As time passed I found I wanted to write about it more and more because it was becoming buried under legend. The Austin Powers movies, for example, are great fun but based on what British television looked like in the 1960s. London in the 1960s, the London of my childhood, was a great grey, soot-stained city, very bleak in many respects. It’s hard to realize now how refreshing and glamorous any burst of color seemed.

Q:  What was the most interesting thing you learned about Mr. Hendrix when researching the biography?

A: What I learned over and over again was how charming and sweet-natured he was. I have never come across anyone who disliked him. He had an appalling childhood and many disappointments in his youth, so it would be understandable if he had been bitter or scarred in some way. If nothing else his life shows that nobody need be a prisoner of a terrible past.

The most bizarre thing I learned is that he was roped in to play Santa Claus at an infant school as a publicity stunt to promote his second album in December 1967. Apparently he looked a bit eccentric (then again he looked a bit eccentric when he wasn’t dressed as Santa Claus) but lived up to the role very well.

Q:  How did you go about finding a publisher for the book?

A: They found me. I heard Roaring Forties Press was doing a series of books about artists and cities. I pitched them a couple of conventional ideas and then added “I know this might sound odd but I think there’s a really good book to be written about Jimi Hendrix and London.” To my surprise that was the idea they went for. I later learned that they had already decided that if anyone pitched them a Jimi Hendrix idea they would take it, without even sight of a synopsis. This goes to show that you should never stifle an idea just because you’re afraid it will sound crazy to someone else.

Q: What makes someone a rock star?

A: In a word: image. A star is someone in whom we see qualities we’d like to see in ourselves. Not necessarily good qualities either, vulnerability is very much part of stardom. A star of any kind is someone who lives out our desires and faults on a much greater scale than we could, or would. Stars are a modern phenomenon of mass media but the rules of the game were written down in Aristotle’s Poetics over two thousand years ago: hubris and nemesis for them, catharsis for us.

There is no doubt that Jimi Hendrix’s image ran ahead of his music and still does. He was an icon before he was famous and still many, many people know who he was without knowing very much about him. I’ve done my best to recover both the man and the talent from the image, because powerful as the image is, both are far more interesting. I’ve tried to show there was nothing inevitable in the Jimi Hendrix Story, not even his success. He didn’t particularly want to be a star, and didn’t enjoy it all that much when he became one.

 

Q:  How did London influence Jimi Hendrix?

A: London allowed him to be himself, he’d been an outsider all his life until he came to London. The Blues, the music he loved, was out of fashion in the United States, but there was a lot of interest in London. He also found his voice as a songwriter. Many people are confused when they encounter the various and often weird ways English is spoken in the British Isles, he was fascinated. He liked word-play, and as he said himself, hearing English spoken in England opened new possibilities of language for him.

 

Q:  There has been much controversy surrounding Mr. Hendrix death. What do you think was the real cause of death?

A: I think he died of accidental barbiturate poisoning, just as the Westminster Coroner originally decided. Barbiturates were widely and legally available in the 1960s, they are very toxic, and accidental overdoses were not unusual. The rumors that he was murdered are just preposterous. Some of his close friends believe that the overdose might have been deliberate. Barbiturate overdose was a frequent and effective method of suicide, and he had many troubles in the last weeks of his life. Suicide can be an impulsive decision too, so I can’t entirely rule this idea out, although I see nothing to suggest it.

If people want a mystery, how about the question where was his friend Devon Wilson when he died? She had been seen with him earlier but then she vanishes from the story. I’m not suggesting she caused him any harm but if anything was covered up, it might well be that she was present at his death. She died in NYC in 1972 from a fall from a balcony, which might have been suicide.

Q:  What other kinds of writing do you do?

A: Every kind that there is. I’ve published poems, written advertising copy, been a magazine and a newspaper journalist, I write short stories, and longer works of fiction, and recently I’ve been working on a couple of short screenplays with a movie director. Come to think of it, I’ve never written for the theater, but there is an idea for a play I fool around with now and again.

Q:  Why do you think blogging has become such a popular hobby?

A: Because it’s so open, and that’s also what’s so good about it. With Blogger and WordPress anyone with internet access can start a blog instantly. As someone with a MSM background I should be intimidated with the influx of new talent and fresh competition, and sometimes I am. My own start was in alternative media so to see the opportunities for self-expression blogging brings is a dream come true. In any craft, art or occupation you learn by doing, more than anything else, and blogging allows people to start doing straightaway, without having to beg someone to give them a chance.

Q:  If Jimi Hendrix were alive today and you could only ask him one question, what would it be?

A: I wouldn’t be able to resist asking him what he thought of my book.

Q:  What contemporary bands have strong Hendrix influences?

A: I believe he has influenced every guitarist since. Prince and Lenny Kravitz are very obvious examples. His influence is also felt in some places nobody would expect. The violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy is a Hendrix admirer. The classical Kronos Quartet have performed some of his music (which would have delighted him, because he liked Baroque music). He is also the founding father of funk music, or at least its grandfather via Bootsy Collins.

 

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)

 

An Interview With Mormon Blogger Kirk Caudle

Kirk Caudle is a Mormon scholar and blogger. Here is a link to his website:

 

www.feastuponthewordblog.org

 

Q:  What inspired you to start your blog?

A: The inception of www.feastuponthewordblog.org was in 2007 and I was invited to come on board as a permablogger in early 2010. There are many Mormon themed blogs on the internet or the “bloggernacle.” as we affectionately call it), but I was inspired to join the folks at the Feast blog because of its unique nature. While most of the other Mormon blogs deal with politics, the Church, and social issues, we focus on the message of the scriptures and the meanings of difficult and interesting passages. The blog speaks to a wide-range of readers, from the well-versed scholar to the novice.

For those that may not know, Mormons do believe in the Bible (The Old and The New Testaments). However, Mormons also believe in additional books of scripture: The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine and Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. Additionally, some Mormons believe that contemporary Apostles and Prophets provide modern-day revelation that provides authority equal to those works.

The blog is great for teachers and students preparing for Sunday School lessons. Lessons notes are posted each week for all adult classes. That is the first thing that hooked me to the blog as a reader.

Q:  What is the most common misconception about Mormonism?

A: The most common misconception about Mormonism, in my eyes, is that Mormons are all the same. Mormons come in all different shapes and sizes. It is becoming harder and harder to pin down exactly how to come up with a picture of a typical Mormon. Once upon a time the Church was predominantly a west coast, and specifically a Utahian, phenomenon. That is changing. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints now boasts over 14 million members worldwide, with over half of those coming from outside of the United States of America.

Many people outside of the faith are surprised to learn that American Mormons can be found supporting the Republicans and Democrats, while worldwide members of the Church are made up of Socialists and Capitalists. Some Mormons drink Coke, while others don’t. There are feminists Mormons, homosexual Mormons, intellectuals, and anarchist Mormons. In a nutshell, Mormons run the political gamut, reaching all the way from the far right to the far left. To be fair though, the majority of American Mormons have political views that often mirror those of conservative Evangelical Christians.

Q:  Do you think Mitt Romney’s policies as a governor and agenda as a candidate are consistent with the basic principals of Mormonism?

A: This is hard question. Personally, I do not agree with Romney and his policies and I will not be voting for him in November. However, I cannot in good faith go on record as saying that his political agenda is inconsistent with the principals of Mormonism. The basic principals of Mormonism are found in the fourth Article of Faith (a set of thirteen beliefs, similar to a creed, set out by Mormonism’s founder Joseph Smith in 1842). There we find that the basic principals are: faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the reception of the Holy Spirit. My problems with Romney are strictly political in nature and have nothing to do with attacking his religious convictions on these four issues.

I am an advocate of “big tent” Mormonism. I believe that there is room enough in the Church for those with a variety of different beliefs (spiritual and political). It is impossible for me to know what is in someone’s heart when they are making decisions. That goes for Mitt Romney as well as Barak Obama. I vehemently oppose Mitt Romney as a Presidential candidate. At the same time I would whole heartily accept Mitt Romney as a member of my congregation.

Q:  The Book Of Mormon is one of Broadway’s biggest hits. How accurate is the song, “I Believe”?

A: Let me preface my answer by saying that I have not seen The Book of Mormon musical. Although, my wife is a huge fan of Broadway musicals and the music in this play is extremely catchy! I just went back and listened again to the song “I Believe.” The song is comedic and boils down very complicated issues into one sentence. Believe it or not, and this might make some Mormons uncomfortable, I think that the song is pretty accurate. There is really only one claim that I readily dispute.

The claim that Jesus has his own planet is not a common teaching of the Mormon Church. In fact, I grew up in the Church and I do not ever remember hearing such a thing taught. Mormons teach that humans lived before this life in a spiritual pre-existence. To become like their parents (a mother and a father God) these spirits needed to come to earth and gain a body. This earth “life became a probationary state; a time to prepare to meet God”(Alma 12:24). After death, some humans will receive deification. The official doctrine on this issue of deification is unclear.

Some Mormons believe that to become like God means to become independent, doing the work of Gods, creating planets and raising spirit children. Other Mormons believe that humans, although receiving all that God has, will eternally be under the jurisdiction of God and are unsure of claims surrounding other issues such as creating planets.

Despite the claims of many of those people that are unfriendly to the Church, Mormons are given relatively little official doctrine concerning issues pertaining to the afterlife. Much of what is said about the afterlife is pure speculation, this goes for Mormons and non-Mormons.

Q:  What was the most challenging question you ever had anyone ask you on your blog?

A: I recall a question concerning Sabbath day observance and whether or not it matters what day the Church decides to observe the Sabbath. Currently, the Mormons set aside Sunday as the Sabbath day.

The time/day of Sabbath observance was debated in early Christianity. In the year 321 A.D., Constantine decreed, “On the venerable day of the Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let all workshops be closed” (Codex Justinianus lib. 3, tit. 12, 3; trans. in Philip Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 380, note 1). Constantine ended the debate and Christians started observing their Sabbath worship on Sunday instead of on Saturday.

Interestingly, it appears from New Testament times that Christians meet in groups on Sunday, “on the first day of the week we came together to break bread” (Acts 20:7). However, it is unclear if those early Christians viewed Sunday at the “sabbath” or just a meeting day.

This might seem strange at first, but even in Mormon history members have meet on non-Sabbath days. For many years, adults and children had separate church meetings that were held during the weekdays.

So why do Mormons have a Sunday and not a Saturday Sabbath? I think that Mormons would agree with Dr. Adam Clark, in his
Commentary on Revelation 1: 10, “The Lord’s day” the first day of the week, observed as the Christian Sabbath, because on it Jesus Christ rose from the dead: therefore it was called the Lords day; and has taken place of the Jewish Sabbath, throughout the Christian world.

I’m not sure if that is a great answer, but that is my answer. Then again, if I had a great answer then it would not have been my most challenging question!

Q:  What is your educational background in Mormonism?

A: I received my MA in Interdisciplinary Studies (Spiritual Traditions and Ethics) from Marylhurst University, a small Roman Catholic liberal arts school founded and run by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary.. Additionally, I hold a BA degree from Cascade College, a satellite campus of Oklahoma Christian University, in Interdisciplinary Studies (Bible and History). I am active in interfaith dialogue and in presenting papers at academic conferences on Mormonism and other aspects of Religion and Philosophy. My professional teaching experience includes two years teaching New Testament courses as a guest instructor at the Portland LDS institute of Religion and as a New Testament instructor for the BYU Continuing Education program

I wrote my Master’s thesis on, “Joseph Smith and the Eternal Possibilities of the Immortal Soul in Western Philosophical and Theological Thought.” I am an active member of multiple scholarly organizations including the Mormon Scholars in the Humanities, the Society for Mormon Philosophy and Theology, and the American Academy of Religion. The national executive committee of the American Academy of Religion recently named me as a co-chair of the “Mormon Studies” section of the Pacific-Northwest region. I now co-chair this section with Susanna Morrill, associate professor of Religious Studies at Lewis and Clark College.

I am currently looking for teaching positions. If anyone out there is in the know…*hint hint*

Q: I have often heard it said that Mormon’s believe that black people are cursed. Was this ever a doctrine; if so has the doctrine been changed?

A: Every faith tradition has at least one historical black eye. In my opinion, for Mormonism, this is one of them. The idea that the African race was descendants of Cain was a common theological teaching during the ninetieth century for Christianity. Apparently, Brigham Young, Mormonism’s second President and Prophet, agreed with those teachings. Under Young those with males of African decent were denied ordination to the Mormon Priesthood. This was important because this is Priesthood was otherwise available to all worthy males in the Church. Without the Priesthood, black males could not participate in leadership positions in the Church and/or attend Mormon sacred (and essential) temple ceremonies. Joseph Smith never taught such a doctrine about the African race and personally ordained at least one male of African decent (Elijah Abel) to the Priesthood before his death in 1844.

Throughout the years, the leadership of the Church provided various reasons for this Priesthood ban before it was lifted in 1978. Current Church leadership has backed away from justifying the ban on theological or historical grounds. The Church released an official statement after a professor from BYU provided some outdated justification concerning the ban to the Washington post. A letter dated February 29, 2012 reads:

“The Church’s position is clear—we believe all people are God’s children and are equal in His eyes and in the Church. We do not tolerate racism in any form.

For a time in the Church there was a restriction on the priesthood for male members of African descent. It is not known precisely why, how, or when this restriction began in the Church but what is clear is that it ended decades ago. Some have attempted to explain the reason for this restriction but these attempts should be viewed as speculation and opinion, not doctrine. The Church is not bound by speculation or opinions given with limited understanding.

We condemn racism, including any and all past racism by individuals both inside and outside the Church.”

Now let me get back to your questions. Do Mormons believe that black people are cursed? No, that is not the official doctrine or the official stance of the Church. Was this ever a doctrine? I guess that depends on who you ask, but I would regrettably, and sadly, say yes. If you asked Church leadership that question during the 1950s, I would say that the majority of those leaders that you asked would respond in the affirmative.

Q:  What are the differences between Mormonism and regular Christianity?

A: I get this question a lot. I think that there are two essential differences, the conception of God and the existence of prophets.

Some people say that Mormons are not Christians. Why? Because many Christians do not think that Mormons worship the same version of Jesus Christ as they do. Mormons reject historical Christian creeds created by counsels that define the nature of God. Mormons reject the concept of the Christian Trinity. Mormon doctrine teaches that God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit, are not made up of one spiritual substance as they are in the Trinity. Rather, Mormons see the Godhead as existing as one in purpose, while still existing separately. Jesus Christ came to earth as the literal Son of the Father and they both possess physical bodies of flesh and bone. In other words, if God the Father and Jesus Christ were to appear to you today you would theoretically be able to touch them.

So are Mormons Christians? I guess that would depend on who you would ask. The majority of Mormons define themselves as Christians. I think that there are at least two ways to define a Christian. (1) A group of people who all agree on the nature of Jesus Christ and stake exclusive claim to the Christian label or (2) A group of people all working towards the same goal of following Jesus Christ while admitting that none of them truly and fully understand Him. These people claim the Christian label only for themselves as individuals and cannot take away or bestow the Christian label on others.

The second essential difference involves prophets. Mormons believe that after the New Testament Apostles died off the Christian church lost the guidance of prophets. In the nineteenth century Joseph Smith arrived as a modern-day Moses, one that spoke directly to God. Mormons believe that ever since Joseph Smith restored the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth there has been an unbroken chain of prophetic authority on the earth. The current Prophet and President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Thomas S. Monson.

9. Why is it important for Mormon’s to do missionary work?

As one who is involved in the academic study of religion one question immediately pops into my mind whenever I hear Mormons talk about doing missionary work,“Can’t these people still be just as happy (if not happier) than I am in my church?” I then answer myself, “yes, I think that they can.” I have spent time visiting and worshiping in Hindu and Buddhist temples, Muslim mosques, Catholic masses, and in a host of other places. Through these experiences, I know multiple members of these other congregations that I believe are happier, more content, and often times more spiritual than I am. Yet, I think that I have the“true” gospel and they do not. Given all of this, I must then ask myself, “Why should I preach to them if they are already so happy?” I believe that I must share the gospel with them because what I have to offer has little to do with happiness in this life. What I have to offer has everything to do with happiness in the next life. Anyone can find happiness in this life if they live the “rules” of our institutional church (develop love, exercise charity, make healthy relationship choices, only put good things into your body, etc.). We, as Latter-day Saints, are offering a different sort of happiness; we are offering a happiness that extends past this life.

I believe that every person who is seeking the truth will eventually embrace that truth if given the opportunity, whether that is in this life or the next. One thing that I always tell my students is that only seekers find. The only people that find the key to happiness are the ones that are looking for the key. The irony here is that the key can never be found, it can only be received through grace. All that I am trying to do with missionary work is help those seekers through their own spiritual journeys and allow them to experience something greater than themselves.

10. If you could ask God one question what would it be?

Hmmmm…that is a hard question because I have so many!

I guess if I had to narrow it down it would be something very personal (and perhaps a bit egotistical). Something like, “why am I here? I mean, why was I born at this time and in this location rather than being born 4,000 years ago in China? And if I was, would that even matter in the eternal scheme of things?” That is more than one question I suppose, but I think you get the idea!

 

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)