There was that one time that I was about to become a Mormon.
I was living in a 4 bedroom house with a batshit-crazy landlord (the homeowner), her son, and two other renters. I was doing important things like working night shift as a caregiver to patients with dementia, eating frozen dinners at 6 am, sleeping all day. I was doing important things like buying lifesize cardboard cutouts of Edward Cullen.
Then one day, one of my roommates approached me, “Want to go to church with me tomorrow?”
We had spent the night getting drunk off of Bud Light Lime. Of course I wanted to go to church. “Sure, I guess so. What kind is it?”
“LDS,” Linda replied, “That means Mormon.”
I wasn’t a religious person. As a child, I went to Lutheran church a couple times with my step-grandparents, but it was never really a thing. I grew up like an agnostic Fox Mulder, I wanted to believe … but I really never found my niche. Plus, I didn’t like the close-mindedness of most religions. Which is why it makes perfect sense that I was all ‘LDS, huh? Polygamist prairie-folk gathering in a barn to marry of child brides? Sign me up!’ (In my head, of course). “Okay,” is what I actually spoke. I’m polite like that.
The next morning, I walked out of my room in tight black slacks and a purple blouse. Linda looked me up and down in the ‘I am kindhearted, but also a judgmental bitch’ way only Linda could pull off. “We don’t usually let women wear pants, but since you aren’t a member yet, I think it will be okay.”
Good. Because I wasn’t going to change. “Okay, I could change if needed…” I said, in the ‘I swear I’m a stubborn a-hole under this frightened and weak exterior’ way only I could pull off. We ate some breakfast and then drove the 10 miles to church.
There were lots of old people. Old people and kids. Old people, married couples and kids. No one my age. In fact, Linda and I were the only single people there (well, besides the yet-to-be-married child brides). There was also a distinct lack of prairie dresses, and I was very sad about this. But also happy to see that Warren Jeffs’ wasn’t standing in front of the congregation.
Lots of eyes were on me, the newcomer. Most of them looked friendly, some of them like dicks. I couldn’t really be sure about the old ladies, their smiles and pinched frowns all looked the same. I had come on ‘Testimony’ day; the day where men would come up and speak lightly about how they found God, and also the day that women would have full-on seizures trying to tell their God-stories. I seriously didn’t know what the the fuck was up with every.single.woman. having a complete mental breakdown up on that stage when it was her time to talk. I mean, the dudes were all like, “Yeah, I found God. He’s a great guy. Now I’m a good guy. Yeah, go God!”
The women? “AHHHHHHHHHHH lkdflkf dlfkduuuuuuurrrrrp GOD GOD GOD, JEEEEEBUS, fleerrrrrrpble gurgle.” I get that that is a little mean, but you have to understand, I wasn’t yet equipped with what I like to call “Joseph Smith Tears.” So I sat through that two hours trying to not laugh, and trying not to pick the itch out of my nose. Somewhere in there, boys in suits brought around water and little pieces of bread. I felt really special because I got to eat & drink with everyone (something I never got to do in the Lutheran church!). It was delightful, and I felt like I was part of a really special club. I wanted to ask for seconds, because Jesus really tasted good, but I decided against it.
After the service, two missionary boys approached Linda and I. “Hello,” one of them said to me, “What is your name?”
“Erica,” I smiled. I had no idea who missionaries were or what they did .. but I got the feeling that they were important. Soon, the bishop came up and joined in on the conversation. Soon after that, random old people came up and hugged me. “Welcome,” they would each say. And that is what they did. They made me feel welcome. I really really really liked that feeling, because my life was a shitstorm at home. I was lonely, miserable, isolated. I was drinking too much, smoking too much, popping too many pills. I had no life outside of drinking 5 cups of coffee to keep myself up at night while I was hallucinating at work, and sleeping during the sunlight hours. And my family and I weren’t really speaking at the moment. So yeah, the welcoming hugs of those LDS old ladies really felt good.
“Maybe we will see you later?” One of the missionaries asked.
I nodded my head, without really thinking, and left with Linda. I didn’t yet realize that I had basically sealed my fate with that nod.
We drove off, lighting up our cigarettes, and planning a night at the bar. “You know, Mormons aren’t supposed to smoke or drink,” Linda stated, as she sipped her Pepsi, “Or drink caffeine.”
I could tell, at that moment, that I had chosen the perfect person to become Mormon with.