Hairless monkeys in magic underwear — “Somehow they called me on a mission”

When you’re born into the Mormon church, you get a baby blessing. You’re usually only about a month old when this happens. A group of men who have the “priesthood” stand in a circle to give the baby a name and a blessing. At that time, your name goes on the church records. From that moment on, the Mormon church basically takes ownership of your life. You belong to them. Your life is planned out for you, you do what they tell you to do. As a little kid you get thoroughly indoctrinated about Joseph Smith and “eternal families.”

At age 8 they baptize you. Mormons believe that one day you’re 7 years old and then the day after you turn 8 and suddenly you have a good enough understanding of how the world works and you are capable of understanding the gravity of what it means to be baptized as a Mormon. Because Joseph Smith said so. By the way, if a child said ‘NO’ to being baptized, the parents would probably punish the kid and dunk them anyways. #notacult

If you’re a male, which I am, I became a deacon at age 12. Age 14, I became a “teacher” and at age 16, I became a priest. And at age 19 I was sent on a two year proselyting mission for the church. This was exactly how Mormonism wanted my life to go. For the first 25 or so years of my life, I did my best to follow Mormonism to a ‘T.’ My life belonged to them, I didn’t realize that I had choices to follow my own path. At 19 years old, my choices were basically to go on a mission or be socially shunned by all my friends, family and neighbors. For some teens, the picture is far more grim. More and more stories are coming in that teens are at risk for losing their place to live, their college funds, inheritances etcetera if they don’t go on a mission. Even if they don’t believe that the church is God’s true church, they are still expected to go and convert people to something that they don’t believe themselves. Even if they have mental health issues or other limitations, they are still expected to go. #notacult

Mission life is grueling. It is a physical, mental and emotional grind. You are basically the property of the Mormon church. Every single day you are out there trying to convert people to a cult. Mission leaders check on you, make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re not allowed to call home, you’re not allowed to talk to friends and family except through letters and emails that you only get to write and send one day out of the week. You’re given a miniscule budget to live off of. Back in 1998 when I was a missionary I was given $150 a month to pay for all my food, personal hygiene products and a haircut. Oh yeah, and I was expected to use my limited funds to keep the car that I shared with other missionaries vacuumed and washed.

Mormon’s, especially Utah Mormon’s, love to foster the delusion that the Mormon church is growing so fast they can barely keep up. They like to tell stories about missionaries baptizing people constantly; as though they just keep the baptismal font filled while people are lining outside of the building and they just can’t wait to jump in and get dunked. This couldn’t be further from the truth when I was a missionary. Nobody wanted to listen to us and nobody wanted to give their lives up to be a Mormon. We had meetings every month where we would be pressured into making unrealistic goals for the large number of people we were going to baptize in the next 30 days. They would tell us to push ourselves and increase our faith and when we re-convened a month later, we were chastised for not having enough faith. We never met our crazy unrealistic goals and when we didn’t we were shamed and belittled. Never mind the fact that people just don’t want to join a cult. There are dozens of reasons why people don’t want to join, none of which they accept, talk about or try to change.

I barely made it through my mission. It was, by far, the hardest thing I have ever done. I was unbearably homesick and while I never learned to like it, I did learn how to survive it. Every single day I was homesick, exhausted, anxious, hungry, depressed and lonely. But going home meant that I would face my parents, my family, my friends and my neighbors. I knew I would be treated differently, talked about differently, regarded differently. So I stuck with it till the bitter end. I couldn’t get home fast enough. Couldn’t get out of my suit fast enough. Two years is a long time to spend trying to get strangers to join a cult. But I completed my right of passage only to look back on it with regret and resentment. My life is mine, it belongs to me. Not them.

So if you ever encounter some Mormon missionaries. Tell them you don’t want to join their cult but please do offer them a glass of water and maybe a snack. Maybe offer to let them use your phone so they call people at home that they miss. Hell, maybe even give them a shot of whiskey, God knows they need it.