I’ve been procrastinating this post for some time, under the pretense of being busy. But really, I’ve been putting it off because it’s a little scary. It’s personal. People I know read this, both inside and outside the church. But I feel that honesty is best, and I shouldn’t be afraid to share my experience. Do one thing every day that scares you, right?
A little background on me. My mom and dad divorced before I can remember much of anything, and I spent most of my living with my mom as a pseudo-only child. I actually had five siblings, but there was a huge gap in age between us. Before I was nine years old they were all fully grown and out of the house.
We moved all around the country, loosely following my siblings’ erratic migration patterns. We lived in California, Tennessee, Michigan, and Utah, and it seemed like we moved houses and/or changed schools at least once every year. For an awkward little kid like me it wasn’t easy. But it forced me to learn how to adapt and make friends. Eventually.
My mom was a convert to the Mormon Church. I was raised going to church meetings on Sunday, but never particularly liked it. I hated singing primary songs and none of my closest friends were Mormon. I agreed with their view that the whole thing was pretty weird. When thirteen hit, I started pushing boundaries. If personal agency was really so important to the church, then I needed to start exercising it, right? (Even when I wanted to use that agency to stay home from church and play video games all day.) My mom wasn’t pleased but I was stubborn. Eventually I won that battle and started skipping church.
Things seemed to be finally stabilizing in my life. We had been living in the same spot for much longer than usual, allowing me to go to the same middle school for multiple years in a row. I found I could get all A’s without really trying, and I was promoted to high school level English classes. I had friends who were admittedly delinquents but still a lot of fun. A couple girls even started showing interest in me (even although I was still hopelessly awkward around them). However, my mom had a trump card up her sleeve… Utah.
We moved to the Holy Land while I was still in 8th grade. Our world went topsy-turvy again, and this time I was in full-swing pubescent awkwardness to boot. I got put into what was known as the area’s “jock school”, which didn’t think that my English cred was good enough for any kind of advanced placement. It was also cliquish to the extreme– we’re talking steel-clad, double-reinforced societal structures that were established since kindergarten. I was more of an outsider than ever before.
But I found other outsiders- a couple of guys who were just as awkward and nerdy as I was, and didn’t really care. They weren’t practicing Mormons, either. We bonded over our mutual lack of faith.
I held out for a long time. It was all well and good through sophomore year, despite numerous attempts from my dad and stepmom to bribe/cajole me back into church. (I can’t remember the exact terms, but there was a definite quid pro quo exchange of goods dependent on me getting my “Patriarchal Blessing”. Fun fact, a patriarchal blessing is basically a personal prophecy– you get it from a high ranking patriarch, who lays his hands on your head and tells you how your life is going to be. IF you’re good, that is. That caveat can used to explain a lot of prophecies that don’t come true. Oh, and it also tells you which tribe of Israel that you belong to. That’s right). But I digress. I was holding out just fine, until I met my first girlfriend. She was beautiful, she was down to earth, and she was Mormon. It was all downhill from there.