Thursday, January 9, 2014

Three People I Hope are Now Ex-Mormons

I've lost touch with almost all of my Mormon friends.  I still have a few on Facebook, but our interactions are rare.  But every now and then I'm reminded of someone that I used to know (and now I have Gotye stuck in my head) and I wonder how my old friends' lives have developed.

1.  That Kid I Grew Up With But Was Never Really Close To
I'll call this guy Nick.

Nick and I were in all the same classes at church from nursery on up through the priest quorum.  We weren't very much alike.  I was the nerdy suburban kid and he was the outdoorsy country boy.  I was completely brainwashed but I always felt like he never really believed in the church.  I don't remember him ever serving as a quorum president or giving anything more than a brief, awkward testimony.  He attended church, mutual, Scouting, and stake youth events dutifully, of course, but he never seemed to enjoy or take much interest in the gospel.

Right around the time I left for BYU, his family moved out to Utah.  Nick was going to submit his mission papers but didn't pass his doctor's physical because of some disease he apparently had (I want to say Crohn's but I'm not sure).  The last I heard of him was that he'd gotten a surprise visit from a general authority and had received a blessing that would cure him of his disease so that he could serve a mission.

I feel like Nick spent his childhood having to sit through countless hours of meetings that he hated.  We were never really friends, but looking back, I'm kind of jealous of his disbelief.  I wish I'd acquired a distaste for the church as quickly as he did.  I really hope that rumor that he wound up serving a mission is false, because I feel like he really deserves to be done with boring himself to death for the sake of his firm-in-the-faith family.  Of course, I hope his disease got cured, too, but I'm sure it wasn't at the hands of a general authority.

2.  That Girl I Had the Biggest Crush on in High School
I'll call her Felicity.

Felicity's family moved into our ward around the time I became a priest.  She was drop-dead gorgeous, although kinda big.  My horny teenage preference was generally for the closest I could find to swimsuit models, but her face (and...ahem...upper body) was so hot that it didn't bother me that she was on the chubby side.  She's probably the first girl I liked who wasn't straight-up skinny.

She also had this awesome sense of humor, and I considered asking her out many times (although I was far too timid in those days and it was never actually a possibility).  The big problem was her mother--her mother was perhaps the archetypal image-obsessed Mormon mother.  One of the reasons that Felicity was so attractive was because she clearly took after her mother's predilection for snappy dressing, careful hairstyling and heavy (though not slutty) makeup.  Her mother supplemented her family's physical appearance by boosting their spiritual cred with frequent references to her father's position as a Temple President and the deep doctrines that he'd related to them.

Even as a faithful Mormon, I thought that her mom was shallow and that she'd gone off the deep end with her deeper doctrine.  But Felicity clearly admired her mother.  Clearly.  I couldn't figure out why Felicity would want to grow up to be just like that hot mess.

I think Felicity married a member of the old ward, and I'm pretty sure she's still in the church.  But I hope she's realized that her mother really isn't that admirable.  I hope she's realized that what made her cool was that she was an individual and not a Mormon Stepford Wife-To-Be.  I hope she's realized that her grandfather was a president of a pointless monument to greed, bigotry and brainwashing.

3.  That Guy Who Pretty Much Got Me Through BYU
I'll call this guy Ethan.

Ethan was my roommate during my second year at BYU (the year I came back after not going on a mission) and my next-door neighbor during my third year.  He's pretty much the best male friend I've ever had in my life.

He was a returned missionary and a faithful member, but he wasn't too uptight about things.  As I began to struggle with the church's culture and the social stigma involved with being a nineteen-year-old Mormon who's not on a mission, Ethan became a good listener.  He agreed with me on a lot of my criticisms of how the church works (and I wasn't really focusing my anger on the church itself yet so much as the members) and tried to help me cope.  He didn't judge me for my decision not to serve, and he didn't bother me about it when I seemed uncomfortable talking about it.  He listened to my complaints, made me feel like they were valid, and treated me like a friend instead of a pariah.

Last I heard, Ethan was doing graduate school somewhere in the northwest.  I hope he did some more thinking on the things that we discussed and maybe continued depressurizing from the spiritual frenzy he admits his mission instilled in him.  I hope he's realized that he can help himself finish school a lot faster by keeping ten percent of his sparse income.  I also hope he realized that his ex-Mormon brother was onto something. Because he was a huge help to me during what might have been the most miserable stretch of my life and he definitely deserves something better than the church that rushed him into a marriage that ended within six months.


  1. One of the things that keeps people in the church is the social network. You got to know each of these people because of the church. I agree with you that they would all be better off outside of the church. As I move deeper and deeper into inactivity, I wonder what I can do to replace those lost acquaintances and the missing social life I've had for so long. I wonder about that for my kids as well. I mean, I don't want to teach them the false doctrine, but I do want them to have a solid circle of good friends with strong ethics and values. I hope I'm wrong, but I find it hard to find community groups for that outside of churches, which are all false. I don't want to "keep one foot in the door" just to maintain the social life. It's not worth the time commitment, the lifetime of shame and guilt, and the 10%.

    1. I haven't really gained much of a social network since I left, either. Just a few good friends, some of whom live thousands of miles away. But at least my friends would help me because they wanted to and not because it was their calling or duty to.

      I imagine that, in your area, there's a decent number of ex-Mormons who might be willing to help someone who went through what they did. Or maybe we need to join gyms or clubs or something to get that network back. I don't know.