Sunday, December 28, 2014

Silent Stupidity

While I visited with my family over the holidays, it somehow came up in conversation that I didn't know who invented the television.

I could have guessed the guy's last name was Farnsworth, although I must admit that's only because it came up once on Futurama.  But I had no clue about the first name.  Apparently it's Philo.  Poor guy.
Professor Hubert Farnsworth (left) and his distant ancestor Philo T. Farnsworth (right)
Everyone was shocked that I didn't know the man's name.  Apparently Farnsworth was a Mormon and a BYU alumnus, and my oldest sister couldn't understand how I could have possibly gone to BYU and never learned about the guy who invented the television.  Without really meaning to, she made me feel incredibly stupid.  She didn't actually call me stupid, she just got a little carried away with her tone and her insistence that it was something I should have known.

That day, I learned that I don't like being treated like an idiot by Mormons.

I like to think that I'm a reasonably smart guy.  I'm used to being the smartest guy in the room but I also have plenty of experience being the dumbest guy in the room.  And I think I'm pretty good at telling when I'm intellectually outclassed.  I try not to push things when I realize that I'm arguing with someone who's better informed than I.  I have gaps in my knowledge and I have plenty of stupid moments, but I try to accept my mental shortcomings gracefully.

This time, it was a struggle.

I was furious.  What I really, really wanted to say was, "Okay.  I wasn't aware of a particular historical factoid.  You belong to a cult started by a horny nineteenth-century con man, but I'm the stupid one, right?"  I didn't say it.  But it was the first angry thought to flash across my mind the instant I felt insulted and it very easily could have slipped out.

I couldn't let it go for the rest of the night, either.  Any time it turned out that I knew something that someone else didn't, I relished it as a vindicating (if immature) triumph.  That same sister had never heard of the little plastic balls they make for you to put your hamster in to let it run around.  HA!  I'm smarter!  I know what a hamster ball is!

Anyway, it really got under my skin.  I was genuinely surprised by how much it got under my skin. It's clearly not important, but it seemed so important at the time only because the implied accusation of cerebral inferiority came from a source whose own faculties have been hindered by decades of brainwashing.  I'm starting to think that maybe I need to sit down with some of my family members and start laying out in detail my personal beliefs and my problems with the church, because keeping quiet and biting my tongue is starting to become more difficult.  

Then again, opening up a can of worms by initiating an "anti-Mormon" discussion could prove even more difficult.  It's crazy that even though my journey out of the church has been tamer and less dramatic than many others, I'm still left with lots of situations that leave me with no desirable solutions.


  1. That is really stupid and unfair to single out a fact you don't know and hammer you for it. Frustrating!

    Here's the deal. The only people who know and celebrate Philo Farnsworth as the inventor of the TV is his relatives and Mormons. It's a big deal for both, but it's also an obscure fact outside of Utah. I'm guessing you probably could have asked your sister who the father of stereophonic sound was, and I bet she couldn't name Harvey Fletcher, a man who has a building named after him at BYU.

    It's Mormon and BYU snobbery to expect a person to know those kinds of facts.

    You leaving the church is the giant elephant in the room. You have many valid reasons for leaving with science and logic to back you up. The only answer they will be able to respond with is their spiritual witness and testimony which came as a result of brainwashing and indoctrination. Good luck!

    1. It's funny you should say that--Harvey Fletcher was the next guy they asked about because he was so famous there was a BYU building named after him. After all, Karl G. Maeser is totally a household name, right?

      In her defense, though, if Philo Farnsworth really is that celebrated at BYU, then it makes sense to be surprised that I didn't know his name, considering I lived there for three years.

      But as much as the church complicates things, I do think that this situation was mostly a plain old personality conflict. But it was that elephant in the room that made it inadvisable for me to voice my anger the way I'd wished. Even if I'd managed to say it with a twinkle in my eye, you can bet they wouldn't have a sense of humor about it.

      Oh well.

  2. Maybe they wanted to fluff themselves up by making you feel small, even over a small thing? Do they do this sort of thing often?

    1. I don't think so. This was just a personality conflict. That sister and I butt heads a lot...and it's always been that way. I'm lucky in that my family tends to only rarely act like the stereotypical bullheaded, passive-aggressive TBM fanatics you read about.

  3. Oh my. So this is what happens to people who leave the church. They don't even know that the TV was invented by a Mormon. DUH! …sigh… Don't let it get to you. ;)

    1. Haha, thanks!

      The Book of Mormon is full of implications that unrighteousness causes poverty. I wonder if there are any verses that point to apostasy as a cause of limited historical knowledge or diminished cognitive function.