Mormon writers take stab at Web humor zine

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    By Rebecca Kellogg

    A new life has emerged on the Web-entertainment front. This on-line Mormon humor magazine is taking an offbeat approach to LDS life.

    It”s called the Sugar Beet, and like the vegetable of the same name, it is trying to establish itself as a mainstay of Utah culture.

    The Sugar Beet, which most recently appeared on July 24, is the brainchild of Christopher Bigelow.

    Bigelow, an Orem resident, said he developed a desire to lampoon the cautious, earnest way Mormons present themselves while he was news editor at the Ensign magazine.

    “I think we need more edgy, adult humorous outlets in our culture,” he said.

    Others have also helped develop the Sugar Beet.

    “Stephen Carter thought of the Sugar Beet name, which is a play on the Onion,” Bigelow said. The Onion is an online satirical newspaper.

    “Todd Petersen designed and runs the Web site. So there are three principal Sugar Beet owners, plus a staff of writers,” Bigelow said.

    The Sugar Beet started small, said Todd Petersen, a Sugar Beet editor from Cedar City who teaches English at Southern Utah University.

    “We had a core of interested people who knew each other through the Association of Mormon Letters,” he said. “Now, as needs come up, I go looking for people with particular gifts.”

    The Sugar Beet staff members stress their publication is careful not to mock Temple ceremonies or other sacred aspects of LDS life. It focuses instead on Mormon culture.

    “We deliberately avoid making fun of any doctrine or leader,” said Chris Giauque, 26, of Salt Lake City. “You”ll notice that all our general authority quotes come from fictional quorums of seventy.”

    Responses to the Sugar Beet have been mixed, Bigelow said.

    “We get some people who say we are irreverent and not uplifting, but most feedback is positive,” Bigelow said. “People seem to be hungry for a way to enjoy Mormonism on a more humorous level.”

    The role of Mormon satire has pros and cons, as does any job.

    “Some LDS people have absolutely no sense of humor about themselves or anything even remotely connected with the church, and they really take this holier-than-thou attitude because they think that the Savior would hate this and that we should be doing something better with our time,” Petersen said.

    Kathy Tyner, a columnist for the Sugar Beet, said that some cons for her have included learning that not everyone”s sense of humor is the same as hers.

    She said she is learning to “balance that tightrope on what may be good stuff that pushes the envelope a bit and what may be going over the line with things.”

    “I think we”re still feeling that part out as we go,” she said.

    However, the positives outweigh the negatives.

    “It is really a joy to look around my world trying to find the funny side of things,” Petersen said. “It”s made me a happier person.”

    Stephen Carter, 27, an associate editor, and a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said there is some anxiety he associates with the Sugar Beet.

    “I am honestly and deeply frightened that one day I will stand before the judgment bar of God with the prophets sitting in their glorified thrones around me, and God will pierce me with his all-knowing eyes and say, ”Why didn”t you write more articles for the Sugar Beet?”” Carter said. “It”s that whole making use of your talents thing that they”re always talking about in Sunday school.”

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