I used to be Mormon, or Latter-day Saint, as we sometimes preferred to call ourselves. And while religion is not entirely quantifiable, I tried to be very Mormon. I had a convert’s zeal instead of pioneer ancestors, and there was plenty of social pressure to overcompensate. I would be rebellious against Mormon cultural norms that were not official (or at least not enforced) doctrine: I’d wear blue dress shirts to church or sport a beard or vote Democrat or be a vegetarian; but when it came to the rules and the expectations, I “knew” Mormonism was “true” and I was trying to “endure to the end”–to use the cultural lingo.
I served as a missionary to San Diego. I accepted and loved my callings (assigned, never requested, church responsibilities). I spent two of the happiest summers of my life working for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints youth conference programme, EFY. I married a fellow EFY counsellor in the Newport Beach Temple. I worked for the seminaries and institutes. I was as all in as I knew how to be. I said my daily prayers. I read the Book of Mormon. I wore my temple garments day and night. I kept the Word of Wisdom (Mormon prohibitions on alcohol, tobacco, coffee, tea, and maybe, but probably, not caffeinated soda pop; I erred on the side of safety). I paid my often impoverished tithing. I obeyed the law of chastity. I went to the temple at least monthly.
In the depths of my devotion, I, like so many Mormons, saw those who left the church as less valiant, perhaps easily offended or perhaps morally weak or perhaps exhausted from righteousness. In Mormonism, there seem to be two colossal failures one can achieve: divorce and apostasy. I had already committed suburbia’s greatest failing–dropping out of high school, so I had to double down and get these right. No matter what. Continue reading »