Chapter 3

A Mormon Flunk

I knew I was different growing up.

As bitty, Mormon, clean slates, we are taught in sunday school

that the Latter Day Saints are different. We follow different rules,

we dress differently, we have a certain code of conduct. (We can’t

drink coffee for the love of all that’s frickin’ holy!) And it does take

a lot of doing (or more importantly, abstaining,) from doing things

most people want to do to be a good Mormon. For that reason, it is

“known” within the church that we are special, and will be rewarded

in the afterlife for our behavior, if not this life as well.

We stand out in a crowd, like a couple of tall, white and blonde

missionaries wearing white shirts and name badges in... well, ....

anywhere outside of Utah and Scandinavia. (Mormons no longer

have predominantly blonde hair and blue eyes, but the stereotype


Having now lived away from the Utah motherland for 15 years,

I’m frequently reminded that the rest of the on-looking world has a

fascination for Mormon stories. I left, and forgot after a while that

deep down, I’m still weird due to those cultured roots and who I am

now. There are still things that creep up in my previously LDS brain

that are not conscious choices.

For instance, after 10 years of living away from Utah, I was learning

about the retirement benefits at a new job when this thought hopped

from my deep, dank, mushroom-spawning subconscious: “Hmmm,

I don’t need to invest too heavily in a 401-K right now—the second

coming of Christ is supposed to happen soon, and I’ll just wish I had

kept it and spent the money on food storage or a bomb shelter before

the shizzle hit the fan.”

So there it is—I solved that allocation issue.

Financial irresponsibility is actually the furthest thing from the

Mormon way. But I have heard the second coming of Christ and the

end of the evil world as we know it prophesied since my infancy.

These concepts were made so real in my mind that they still affect

my day-to-day subconscious outlook if left unchecked.

It’s so ingrained that no amount of cerebral Clorox or time away

can stop it from rearing its ugly head. I don’t even see it coming—it

just lurks in the shadows and then, BAM! Out of the cobwebs from

crazy-town, the thoughts I have but don’t claim as mine. Pushy,

brainwash-y imposter thoughts that don’t ask permission to interrupt

my conscious flow. I’m glad others can’t hear my messy inside voice,

or I fear I would be sequestered as a protege to the ranting bag lady

you can smell from any part of my neighborhood, who stops traffic

to bellow to unsuspecting drivers that she is destroying evil empires

with her mind as you drive along in your stupid “go-wagons”, and to

watch out for the colored lights in the sky and “boo hags”, cause they

want to steal your mind. And for this sage advice, gimme some dollas.

That’s all you got? Psshhhhh.

No one can stop the leaky, accidental expression of what was

infused from childhood, even if it’s not something you agree with as

you age and make your own choices. You can only hide the recurring

thought, laugh about it, or try to assuage it into submission. Or re-

evaluate which parts of it you will and will not embrace. Mormon

practice has a great deal of intelligent design that I don’t take for

granted. I still pause to consider things such as the importance of

disaster planning and earthquake preparedness, I just don’t mention

that Mormons link being prepared for the second coming of Christ,

when the righteous shall be lifted off the earth while the evil burn

below, then replaced to survive for a time until righteous community

resources are restored. Fifteen years hence, I like to think that the

righteous are the majority of us doing the best good that we can, and

not the few who are good, and who are in a certain religion.

Anyway, this outside interest in Mormonism is repeatedly

demonstrated not only by television shows and Broadway plays

but also in conversations each time I meet someone who asks me

where I’m from. Add the super scoop of sticky intrigue that being

gay and (ex-)Mormon provides, and it’s a spicy blockbuster pausing

for repeated applause.

Don’t get me wrong; I don’t always mind.

“Oh, you’re from Salt Lake City?”

“Yes, I was raised a Mormon.”

I do sometimes welcome it as a mindless escape from awkward

conversations at parties. It allows my brain to switch on auto-pilot,

and I can perhaps even seem interesting while putting no sweaty-

palmed effort or original thought into the conversation that ensues.

“No, I’m not practicing—I’m a recovering Mormon. M-wa-hahaa.”

They laugh. It’s entertaining.

“Did you ever go into one of their temples? I hear they don’t let

people in unless they have a special card and pajamas.”

They are leaning in, engaged and interested.

“Yeah, the card bit is true. I rebelled before I got my card, so I only

went in twice to a protected enclosure within the temple where they

baptize for the dead. I was 12. But I didn’t get the whole tour.”

At this point my new acquaintances usually have looks on

their faces like they are walking the line between wanting to ask

more questions and not really knowing where “going too far” is.

They consciously evaluate how many drinks they have had before

speaking. They are also wondering actively if I am pulling their leg

with the baptizing for the dead bit.

Then they look on expectantly, and with not just a little trepidation.

I can throw them a bone if the conversation is still serving us

well. “Yes, they baptize dead souls who did not accept the church in

this life, so it allows them to be baptized by proxy in the afterlife.

Then they can still score Celestial kingdom-hood in the afterlife.

It’s like a back-up plan (soul insurance) for the dead. We would go

to a big hot tub–type structure in the center of 12 life-sized, carved

granite oxen and literally be dunked for each name read out. The

temple and the oxen were artistically stunning. It was weird, but


“What’s with the Oxen”?

“I think they represented the 12 tribes of Israel, but I couldn’t

swear by it.”

Sometimes they stop there, or tell me that they were raised

Episcopalian, or that their grandpa raised oxen when they were

kids on a farm in the Midwest. To which I grasp for an appropriate

response, conjure a courtesy laugh to follow, and linger until it’s

polite to go.

The best is a spirited, tipsy guy who’s wife is not at the party and

he doesn’t have to drive home. He asks it all. Conspiratorially, with a

sideways shiz-eating grin, he half whispers, “Is it true that you can’t

even have sex with the girl before you marry her? You just have to

cross your fingers it’s good?”

“I know, right? Talk about a gamble,” I chortle back if he doesn’t

seem too dirt baggish about it.

Like I said, it can be a party favor. I don’t always mind it.