Like kids from most Mormon families who leave Utah, I went to high school in a place where being Mormon ensures that you’ll have more relatives than friends. My entire self-concept revolved around religion. (Seriously, there were Mormonads up in my room everywhere where New Kids on the Block posters should have been- and my parents didn’t put them up.) To state it mildly, the move to Texas was a rough patch in my young life; I was used to a private school in which exactly one student—from kindergarten to 12thgrade—was not Mormon. Like the founders of the school, he was Catholic. I still remember his name, Adam, and he got his ass kicked every single day. I never hit him myself, but I’m pretty sure I would have if my uniform had involved khaki trousers instead of a plaid pleated skirt.
Now, it’s a fun fact that Southern Baptists hate Mormons. Another fun fact to emerge from this is that anti-Mormon propaganda is exactly like Mormon propaganda; the difference is that in one version, the music is scary.
If you watched the latter cartoon, (pun unintended!) you’re probably willing to wager on why Mormons irk Protestants in general. I’m still not entirely sure how those sects “all deny the power of God,” but as you can see, Mormonism isn’t orthodox Christianity. If more people knew the Latter-Day Saint version of Jesus, the Mormon church would be considered less mainstream in American culture, and even more problematic for our boy Mitt.
The problem for Romney is a sticky one, the same I faced in high school politics: what makes people prejudiced against Mormons is Mormon theology, rather than any notion that’s not actually true. So being known as a Mormon is a different matter entirely than being Jewish or African American. It’s hard to break a stereotype that you are actually dedicated to filling.
I’m not saying that people aren’t entitled to believe that they will get their own solar system if they play their cards right. But doing so requires them to wear sacred underwear, baptize dead people, perform marriages to each other on behalf of deceased couples, be polygamist, and turn (more) white-skinned in the afterlife. These are the “stereotypes” going around about what Mormons do that make them seem presumptuous, insane, insufferable, sexist, and racist; they are also the practices that define holy ritual for them, all the while they’re protesting those labels. Suffice it to say, it’s a difficult position to be in if you want to be popular at any high school outside Utah. Or President of the United States.
Sociology aside, all that really matters to high school kids (and probably voters) is where you fall on the spectrum between normal and weird. Southern Baptists being predominant in my student body meant that suddenly I switched ends of this spectrum entirely. I went from being so normal as to be generic to having two options: be one of the weird kids, or attempt to keep my Mormonism a secret.
And, as you may know if you’ve opened your door to two strangers anytime in the past 80-odd years, Mormons are not good at keeping Mormonism on the down low. Yes, I wanted to convert all my friends, teammates, teachers, fellow shoppers, bosses, bullies, enemies… you get the point. Some because I loved them and wanted them to be with me in the afterlife, some because I wanted them to admit that I had been right all along and feel sorry for teasing me, and others because they would be a great ‘get’ for my God. For having brought so many converts into the fold, I’d finally be popular. (At church, anyway.)
I’m not convinced that Mormons are discriminated against in any way, outside of maybe having a few awkward moments while running for this country’s highest office, for which a lot of us would be considered unsuited. The reason that people say Mormons are racist is because they believe that the whiter your skin is, the more faithful you were to Jesus before your soul was given a body. They’re not called racist because they’re not Protestants. They are called sexist because they believe women don’t have the power of God in them.
And I’m not sure how Mormons can complain that ‘everyone knows me as ‘the Mormon'” when all most talk about is being Mormon. Because of my Mormonism- or, to be more accurate, because I was constantly trumpeting it, I wasn’t allowed to participate in many of the various Christian school activities that did a little dance around, then pissed directly on, the separation of Church and State. The Fellowship of Christian Athletes turned me down; although I was an athlete, I was not a Christian. The FCA was the most popular club in school.
One morning I showed up at school early–directly after our 6am seminary class was over–to See You at the Pole. The name speaks for itself; you’re a nobody if you’re not seen holding hands and praying around flagpole in front of the school. That day was the first time I ever saw a brightly colored, horribly tacky rubber bracelet all the cool kids were wearing. It had the fish symbol on it, not the cross, so I could have actually worn it without getting in trouble at Church. (Mormons don’t wear or display crosses, I shit you not, because The Cruxifiction was sad, and good Mormons don’t think about sad things.) I wanted one of those goddam fish bracelets so fucking bad. They turned me away. A group of hundreds of evangelicals about to embrace and sing and pray together turned me away.
That morning was a watershed for high-school me; I had no where to go. Literally. The people that I normally hung out with were either praying or just waking up. Or Mormon. And despite having the requisite Jesus headshot posted in my locker as all Mormons were instructed (to remind us to Choose the Right, and I may have been denied a rubber bracelet, but wore a diamond and gold CTR ring, thank you very much) I did not hang out with Mormons. I wanted to be popular.
I was a snob. To the core. Still am. I had a whole bunch of people to feel superior to and nothing to wear. Desperate, I went to the classroom where I had a required Public Speaking class. I knew that people hung out there before school started. Yes, folks- the Forensics League. Otherwise known as Speech and Debate. Otherwise known as the biggest nerds in school.
When asked what I was doing there, I didn’t have anything to say but the truth. One of the girls replied to my story of most brutal religious persecution with, “I don’t know how they get away with doing that anyway. If the Islamic Student Group tried to pray together, they’d evacuate the entire building.”
“Are you a Muslim?” I asked cautiously.
“I’m an atheist.” She replied.
I stared at her, blinking. She was pretty even without any makeup on. Her clothes were very plain and neither feminine nor associated with any particular sport. She was acting friendly. And she was not on fire.
I went on to join the Forensics League. (Any connotations of The Justice League that brings up are completely valid.) My solution to the same problem Romney is facing right now was to ally myself with the nerds. If brought upon myself, the social stigma was easier to bear.
Plus, all Mormons have instant nerd credibility due to their religion being two parts Battlestar Galactica (leaving out the third that has strong female characters). Under the autocratic rule of the postmortem country club that is the Quorum of the Twelve, you learn about God- that is, one of many gods, but this one lives on a star called Kolob (not Kobol), which the twelve tribes (of the galaxy Israel) are trying to fly their fancy-ass ships back to.
It was a fairly easy transition; no story arch seems so very ridiculous, convoluted far-fetched, fanciful, made-up, or just plain… well, gay… when you’re raised to believe that the following is the true origin story of Native Americans:
Ancient Jews built submarines, floated from Israel to Mexico, got cursed by God with brown skin for drinking and dancing, became the mighty Aztec empire, killed off all the white people and left a record of all these events written in Egyptian on solid gold plates buried in upstate New York. (From there, obviously, they were dug up by an illiterate farm boy, with the help of the angel of the guy who buried them, and translated with magic “seer stones”) It’s all very straightforward. Certainly at least as inspiring an insight into the human condition as the Bible. And most sci fi has got nothin’ on it.
Well, this story has a happy ending; I won some speech meets, left the Mormon church, and among the many nerds who have offered me acceptance over the years I found the nerd who is the love of my life. He treats me in every way as an equal. I like learning about the stuff he’s into. But I’ve never joined ranks with nerd culture. I don’t belong. And unlike my former, scandalously single Relief Society President and her “roommate,” I’m not one of those change-the-organization-from-the-inside types. I’m just not that patient. Or optimistic.
Let sold-out slutty housewife Mary Jane here paint a picture for you. She’s done pretty good for herself. She’s got a great rack, some pearls on there, she’s literally on a pedestal. And she’s banging Spiderman.
Well, cleaning up after him, at least.
Set aside the bullshit excuses guys make and fact that we all might sleep with Superman–or just offer to do his laundry- if given the chance. The sad reality is that generally in nerd culture, women are regarded pretty much the same as they are by the barbaric, outdated institutions like fraternities and the Mormon church that nerd identity rebels against in the first place. And in American culture, we’d be much better off dropping the fantasy of the nerd getting the pretty girl in favor of pursuing another seemingly impossible scenario: the girl getting treated fairly by whomever she ends up with.