Dennis Gaunt is a former seminary teacher and CES instructor who loves the scriptures and really understands them - a great combination. I first had the chance to meet Dennis through his amazing sister, Lisa Mangum, who works for Deseret Book as an editor and writes incredible YA books. Of course I thought Dennis was awesome because of association with his sister, and then I learned that he is awesome in his own right.
You may recall that I reviewed his book Bad Guys of the Book of Mormon last here - here's the link. Today I have the opportunity to review Dennis's fireside on CD, Feeding Consuela.
Consuela was a large, scary-looking spider who lived on the front porch of two missionaries' apartment. They were at first revolted by her, but became fascinated as they watched her catch insects and devour them. Soon they were contributing to her meals by tossing her the cockroaches they found in their apartment. This little game became an obsession, and they couldn't wait to get back to their apartment after tracting so they could feed her. She grew bigger and bigger, and probably freakier and freakier, but they thought she was pretty cool.
Dennis likened this true story to the addictions we have in our lives. We don't often realize it, but as we indulge in seemingly harmless behavior, we can be feeding our own Consuela, the habit that takes over our lives. The more we feed those addictions, the bigger they become, and we don't realize to what extent they are taking over.
Dennis stated that some of the biggest addictions we face today stem from the Internet. I know that I am on my computer almost all day - as a freelance editor, and as an author, it's necessary for my job. But I also have accounts on all the major social networking sites, set up so I could market my books, and sometimes I'm doing less marketing and more wasting time. He described what it's like to have an Internet or a texting addiction - you can't wait until you can get back on your computer, and you're just sure the world is going on without you. I've definitely felt that way in the past.
Our own Consuelas can be anything. They can be drugs and alcohol, they can be pornography, they can be computer game addiction or Facebook addiction - anything that consumes our thoughts and takes them away from the other things we should be doing can be a Consuela. I've struggled with food addiction quite a lot in my life. Some are addicted to serving other people. That doesn't sound like a bad thing, but when it becomes detrimental to how we view the world and the healthy interactions we have with it, then yes, it can be a bad thing. Whatever our addictions are, we can and must overcome them.
This fireside was very enjoyable. Dennis has a lot of natural humor and an easy way of relating to his audience. His love of the gospel comes through in his teaching style, and the CD was never boring or felt like a lecture. While the tone was geared toward the youth, I highly guarantee this CD for listeners of all ages - this is information we all need, regardless of our age. We are all tempted, and we are all susceptible to falling into the webs of addiction in all its forms.
I had the chance to ask Dennis a couple of questions the other day. Here's how that conversation went:
Tristi: Dennis, how did the idea for the story of Consuela come about?
Dennis: The whole idea came from the story of Consuela itself, which really happened to a friend of mine. (I explain that during the talk). When Alex first told the story, it really resonated with me. I saw it as a perfect metaphor for addictions of any kind that infest our lives and keep us from progressing spiritually. Addiction is such a prevalent problem that the Brethren have spoken repeatedly about it. And I believe it is growing among the youth as well, so I thought I might be able to give them some help to avoid addictions before they even start.
Tristi: You've been presenting this talk at firesides and now on CD. What kind of response have you been getting?
Dennis: The response has been positive. Every time I've shared this talk, I usually get a group of people who come and talk with me afterwards. Many of them want to know exactly what kind of spider the real Consuela was (I tell them I don't know, and neither does Alex--just that she was big, creepy, and dangerous!). Others want to share their own "creepy spider" story (an unintended consequence for an arachnophobe!)
But there's also usually one or two young people who wait until the rest have left, and they come up to shake my hand and thank me. Most don't say anything beyond that, but I can see the look in their eyes which says "that talk was for me." Knowing that I might have helped someone in however small a manner is truly rewarding.
I'd like to thank Dennis for sharing his thoughts not only with me, but with all of us through his fireside. It's great information, presented in an approachable and entertaining way.