This is a now defunct blog series and podcast meant for my friends that weren’t familiar with Mormonism and were curious about my upbringing. I originally had more definitive plans for it, but other projects — mainly Truth & Transparency — proved to take up my time. Perhaps I will revive it in the future in a different medium.
This is a series specifically written for what we in the ex-Mormon community call the nevermo — someone who never has been baptized into the Mormon Church. Since leaving the Church, I have found that nevermos typically know very little about Mormon culture and tend to be fascinated by it. That is not to say that others will not enjoy reading the series as well. I suspect that many exmos — ex-Mormons — will enjoy reading of my experiences.
As I said in the introduction, I remember growing up always thinking to myself how “blessed” I was to have been born into a Mormon family. And not just any Mormon family, but one in Utah of all places! When reflected upon, the odds are quite staggering. There were approximately 5.2 billion people in the world. 7.7 million of them were Mormon, about 0.15% of the world’s population. Not to mention the even smaller percentage of those Mormons specifically in Utah.
There are several major ages in the Church in which important rituals and practices are performed. The first being at eight, as I discussed in chapter one, for baptism. The next one is at 12, significant for all Mormons, but especially for the boys. It is when a young man receives what is called the Aaronic Priesthood. Now the Priesthood is a historically controversial topic for the Church. Joseph Smith claims to have received two priesthoods.
I have fond memories of attending BYU football games during elementary school years. My Dad had season tickets from the time I was seven or so and I loved going to the games with my parents. Occasionally I got to bring a friend and we’d think we were on top of the world watching the Cougars play at home. I remember when I was around the age of seven, there was an auction in my ward.
Rituals such as the sacrament, baptism, and going to the temple are very important in the life of a Mormon. But before any of these things can happen, one needs to pass a what is often referred to as a worthiness interview. These interviews are conducted by the bishop and he asks you a series of questions to gauge your worthiness to perform these things. The interview typically takes place in the office of the bishop in the church where one attends every week.
Like baptism, I never would have dreamed of not receiving the priesthood once I turned 12. It was just what you did and I was quite excited for it. As a little, aspiring priesthood holder, you come revere the 12 and 13 year old Deacons who pass the sacrament every Sunday. In my childish imagination, they almost seemed like Army soldiers marching up and down the aisles, handing the first person in every pew the trays of bread and water, strictly staring straight ahead waiting for the tray to be returned to them, taking it back and continuing in their assigned route until the entire congregation had partaken.
As I explained in chapter 5, the young men’s duties concerning the sacrament change as they get older. Once you turn 14 you are no longer a Deacon and become a Teacher. The Teachers are responsible for preparing the sacrament. This entails several of them arriving about 30 minutes or so before church, placing dozens of little plastic or paper cups into trays, filling them each with water, dividing a loaf of bread between several other trays, placing both the water and the bread trays on the sacrament table, and covering them all with a white clothe.
Mormons attend three hours of Church every Sunday. It generally consists of three, hour-long meetings that typically occur in the following order: Sacrament meeting Here they take the sacrament as talked about in previous chapters. After the sacrament, talks and sermons are given from leaders and various members of the ward. It is often a dreaded assignment to speak in sacrament meeting. Sunday school Here everyone goes to their assigned class to learn about the gospel and church doctrine on various subjects.
In chapter 2 I mentioned some differences between the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. To recap and give some additional context: the Aaronic Priesthood is given to young men at the age of 12 and the Melchizedek Priesthood is given to men at the age of 18. When you receive the priesthood you are assigned to your respective office. As previously stated, Deacon, Teacher, and Priest are the most common offices in the Aaronic Priesthood and are dictated by your age.
This chapter is one that I have looked forward to writing. It is a topic that affected so much of my life and brought so much shame and guilt. Not to mention, I personally think it is one of the most dominating and invasive parts of Mormon culture, especially in Utah, and more specifically Utah County where I was raised. Because of the dominating population of Mormons, there is a social peer pressure to keep all the standards perfectly and everyone knew if someone didn’t.
In chapter 7 I addressed the schedule for church every Sunday. On top of those three hours, Mormons typically have activities throughout the week, especially for the teenagers. Every week, typically on Tuesday or Wednesday nights, all the youth will go to the church for what is called Mutual. I’m not exactly sure why they call it that, and I actually think they may have discontinued that name, but that’s what I grew up calling it and that’s is how I’ll refer to it in this chapter.
I once had a bishop who told me that if I read a chapter of the Book of Mormon everyday I would never leave the Church. I agreed with it at the time, which isn’t the case now. But I can’t necessarily argue against it, because I sure as hell didn’t read the Book of Mormon every day, so I’m simply a validation of the sentiment. I’m sure TBMs reading agree and also feel validated.