Brother Jake Explains HimselfBy: Bro. Jake
Truthfully, I donāt have a specific origin story for how I came up with the idea to create my (ongoing) YouTube series. But when I think back, it does remind me of an experience I had on my mission in Peru.
In my final exchange, my missionary companion received a package from home that happened to include a favorite food item of mineāroot beerāwhich he offered to share with me. At that point, it had been almost 2 years since I had last tasted of this nectar of the Gods, so needless to say I was pretty excited. I poured it into a glass and stuck my face near the top while the foam settled, letting the carbonated droplets tickle my nose. After what seemed like an hour, I lifted the glass, winked at my companion (no homo) and took a drink.
It tasted like medicine.
Now, thereās a very simple explanation for this: root beer actually does taste like medicine. No, really. It does. Itās just one of those thingsālike football, or vegemiteāthat people love because they grew up with it and fostered an appreciation from an early age. And once you internalize that appreciation, itās very hard to see it from an āoutsideā perspective. I knew dozens of Latin American missionaries who had tried root beer and found it strange and (most of the time) gross. āThatās crazy!ā I would think. āItās delicious! Plus you always have it with pizza! And who doesnāt like pizza?ā But after a 2 year root beer fast, I got a glimpse of root beer from the āoutside,ā and it permanently changed the way I see it. Sure, I still enjoy root beer (thereās really is nothing like it with pizza), but whenever I do, I can still taste a faint hint of medicine and the shocking sensation of seeing something I thought Iād never second-guess from an āoutsiderāsā perspective.
Such has been my experience with Mormonism. Now, Iām not saying that the Church is secretly a revolting beer byproduct and we just donāt see it; but over time, I slowly began to realize that there are certain aspects of Mormonism, such as the verbal heuristics we give each other (āthe gospel is simple!ā), the ways we approach difficult topics (sexism, racism), or our explanations of Church doctrines (the origins of the Book of Abraham) that, to someone coming from a critical mindset, can seem strange, off-putting, or downright ludicrous. Now, some will likely speculate that my drift toward the āoutsideā was a result of a personal shortcomings in gospel living, and they may be right. Maybe I didnāt pray or fast or study long or well or hard enough. But whatever the reason, the experience of hearing those things through the ears of an āoutsiderā is what inspired me to make my videos.
Iām often asked what exactly Iām trying to accomplish with this stuff, and I think itās a fair question. There are really two main motivating factors for me: first, I was looking for an outlet for the frustration I felt when I heard Mormon platitudes that I found harmful or nonsensical. Second, I wanted to create something that might jolt more traditional members into seeing how their language, arguments, and reasoning sounds like to an outsider. Honestly, Iām not sure Iāve been successful on both fronts; in fact, based on several conversations Iāve had with more conservative (religiously, not politically) believers, Iām probably prioritizing the first motivation over the secondāthe levity of my approach is too thick, the satire too biting, for traditional believers to feel anything but defensive, despite the fact that I only use arguments and ideas that originate in mainstream Mormonism.
The responses to my videos vary, largely based on the individualās relationship with the Church. Many of the strongly positive reactions to the videos come from those critical and/or disillusioned by the Church, who see them as a humorous vindication of their own struggles within the belief system, while most of the negative reactions originate from more traditional members, who see them as an attack. The most interesting thing to me, however, has been the aspects of my stuff that each side of the spectrum chooses to focus on. Those who enjoy my videos consistently comment on the content of the videos themselvesāhow I was able to accurately articulate this or that aspect of an issue. Those who do not, on the other hand, seem to focus almost exclusively on identifying Brother Jake as an āanti,ā a wolf in sheepās clothing, and rarely comment on the content of the videos at all. And while Iād be lying if I said I wasnāt a little disappointed that critics overwhelmingly opt for ad-hominem attacks, itās understandableāafter all, my videos are satirical, so I canāt say their defensiveness is unjustified, and by being intentionally ambiguous, Iām inviting speculation about where exactly I āstand.ā
Speaking of which, I imagine that many of you are wondering when Iām going to just man up and tell you what my personal thoughts and beliefs about the Church are. I know I would be. But you know what? Iām not going to, mostly because I feel it would feed into an aspect of Mormon culture that I truly hate: the reliance on external indicators to determine how one should react to something. If you want to know what to think about my videos, watch my videos. If you want to know what my personal thoughts and feelings are, send me an email; Iād be more than happy to have a conversation.
All that aside, hereās the bottom line: Iām perfectly happy with what Iāve made thus far. Brother Jake is exactly what I want him to be, and I plan on keeping him around for the foreseeable future. So, in the words of the Terminator:
āIāll probably be around here again at some point.ā Or something like that.