On booking the clown show

On booking the clown show September 17, 2022


BYU to the NE from the JFSB
A view to the northeast across a portion of the Provo campus of Brigham Young University, from the building in which last night’s panel discussion occurred.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


I had an enjoyable time last night participating in a panel at Brigham Young University.  Camrey Bagley Fox (who played Emma Smith in Witnesses), and Mark Goodman (the director of Witnesses) and Russell Richins (the producer) and I (executive producer) took questions after a showing of the film in the Education in Zion Auditorium of the Joseph F. Smith Building.  We had a reasonably good audience — which surprised me, given that campus seemed incredibly deserted generally for a Friday night during the academic year.  I really do wonder where everybody was.  I don’t think that I’ve ever seen the academic campus and student areas look so, well, uninhabited.  We drove through and around campus a bit, wanting to take a look in particular at the new and nearly completed music building — we’ve hardly been in Utah for the past several months! — and saw almost nobody outside.  That was distinctly weird.  It almost felt as if the place were under a curfew.


Incidentally, if you’re interested in streaming Witnesses, for yourself or your family or for a group of invited friends or neighbors or colleagues at work, here’s a link to it on the Living Scriptures website:  Witnesses (2021).  I would think that Witnesses would make for a good Sabbath Day activity or for an entertaining and beneficial way of doing a Family Home Evening or two.  So, for that matter, would the docudrama sequel to Witnesses, Undaunted, which is available for streaming through Living Scriptures in both Part 1 and Part 2.


My own photo of Deer Creek Park
On the Provo River, about a half hour from BYU’s campus.

(Photo taken with my iPhone)


The infamous women’s volleyball game between Duke University and Brigham Young University — which, by the way, BYU won — is plainly the gift that keeps on giving.  Here are two more articles about it.  I particularly liked the second one:

Washington Post“The history behind why a BYU volleyball game went viral: The university’s history frames allegations of racism from fans.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette“Paul Zeise: BYU owed apology now that the facts of Duke volleyball ‘scandal’ are known”


Billy Sunday cartoon
I had a bit more hair then, but my oratorical style hasn’t changed much.

(Wikimedia Commons public domain image)


Since the question is occasionally asked of me, I think I’ll explain here what is required to get me to come and do a fireside.  However, I’ll leave untreated the even more fundamentally important question of why anybody would want me to come for a fireside.  That remains, perhaps, one of the insoluble mysteries of mortal life in this fallen world.


So:  What does it take for me to come and do a fireside or public lecture?


First of all, it requires an invitation.  I never invite myself.  (Left on my own, on the whole . . . well, let me simply say that I’m quite content to be left on my own.  I have plenty to do.)  If it’s to be at a private home or to a private group, a private invitation is all that’s necessary.  If I’m to speak in a chapel, though, somebody with appropriate authority needs to do the inviting.  Sometimes, the Interpreter Foundation’s fundraising people will set up a “cottage meeting” that involves me.  That’s rather a different matter.  But it remains true that I never simply invite myself.


Second, it needs to fit into my calendar.  I can only do so many of these.  And, since my calendar is complex, with lots of travel and other obligations, and since it tends to be filled up well in advance, the invitation needs to be extended fairly early.  If the fireside is close to my home or close to where I might be otherwise staying, that makes things somewhat easier.  But I’ve had to turn down quite a few invitations that I would like to have accepted, simply because they couldn’t be made to work on my schedule.


Next, although I never expect an honorarium or a speaker’s fee and have received one only on extremely rare occasions—perhaps two or three times in my entire life—if special travel and lodging will be required, they need to be covered or provided.  (I don’t know why, but my plan to become enormously wealthy by going into academics seems to have conclusively failed.)  I simply don’t have the budget, whether through the Interpreter Foundation or on my own, privately, to go out on public speaking tours.  Local travel is one thing; longer drives and airline flights are another.  Now, travel and lodging can be handled in various ways.  Some of my invitations to speak have come through the BYU Alumni Association; for all I know, I may still be on its “Speaker’s Bureau” list despite my retirement.  But maybe not.  Either the Association or one of its local chapters has covered my travel and lodging.  Sometimes, I’m hosted and fed by local people, in their homes.  Sometimes, when it works out, my wife and I stay with relatives.  It varies.


If the fireside or speech is to be given within a reasonable radius of my home—more or less along the Wasatch Front or maybe within the borders of Utah, or near where I’m staying if I’m traveling privately—I often simply drive and, usually, am not even compensated for gasoline or for the use of my car.  I never ask for gas money and have seldom had it offered to me.


That’s pretty much it, I think.  Nothing mysterious.  And, although my more oddball critics will pretend not to believe that it could be so — they’ve been vocal on this topic in the past — nothing sinister or underhanded.


Peter's late brother
Christopher Hitchens, speaking in Colorado in 2005  (Wikimedia Commons public domain image).  For what it’s worth, I agreed with him on several things, and I often rather admired his style.  His anti-religious polemics, however, were silly and poorly done.


I know.  I know.  It’s been a long, umm, dry spell since I’ve brought you any new electrifying horrors from the Christopher Hitchens Memorial “How Religion Poisons Everything” File©.  But I’m here for you.  And so I now offer you a re-energizing quartet of stories from the Hitchens File that are just about guaranteed to leave you exploding with deliciously righteous indignation:


“Elder Uchtdorf visits Navajo community where the Church is helping bring electricity and water: Project involving the Church, state of Utah, Navajo Nation and others has brought electricity to Westwater, next to Blanding”

“The Church of Jesus Christ Gives US$32 Million to the World Food Programme: Funds will provide critical food and emergency support to 1.6 million people in nine nations”

“New Deseret Industries, Welfare and Self-Reliance Services Facility Dedicated in Utah: The new facility in Saratoga Springs will serve 42 local stakes of the Church”

“Mormon team aids flooding victims in Eastern Kentucky”


When will the blight of theism go away?  When, oh when, will we see an end to these appalling religious crimes against humanity?  When will theists at last get out of the way, freeing secularists to make things better in this world rather than (as the God-believers do) merely sitting around dreaming of the next?



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