And then, after church today, I remembered why we should sometimes take Sunday School lessons with a heaping serving of salt.
Mormons are weirdos. And I don’t particularly want to be friends with all of them. So (sorry, pioneer ancestors) I give you THE REASONS WHY I DON’T HAVE MANY MORMON FRIENDS.
Scenario One: Guy From Parents’ Ward
My sister Echo and I were chatting with two guys who very cleverly switched their names. (Ha. Ha.) Damn you Jack Weyland and your books, convincing Mormon youth the world over that being a dork is the equivalent of being charming. Bill/Brad was talking about how he knew our dad and uncle; Brad/Bill was sitting quietly next to him. It took me a minute, but finally I realized Bill/Brad was the Guy From Parents’ Ward Echo had previously warned me about.
Despite being kind of an oldster, GFPW had a bad case of the Mo-Bachelors, and was ward hopping in order to prey on the youngest and tastiest new freshman/sophomore meat. Having blown his way through one ward, the Mo-Bachelor will move onto the next, where hopefully none of the brand new girl YSAs (most of whom who haven’t even had the chance to take their Young Woman of Excellence medallions out of that red velvet box yet) will have heard of his exploits.
Bill/Brad was finally cluing into the fact that Echo and I are sisters. (Despite growing up surrounded by people who insisted You two look just like twins! a lot of folks now fail to make the familial connection altogether.) However, he quickly tried to turn the tables one me. “I’m hurt you don’t remember me!” he said with a grin I’m sure he thought was charming. (Again, Mr. Weyland, my displeasure is directed at you.)
I shrugged. “Well, I am four years younger than [your youngest sibling].”
Scenario Two: Endless Love … For School
Echo and GFPW were soon having a deep conversation about lending rates (zzzzzzz…), so I transitioned into conversation with GFPW’s roommate, Brad/Bill.
Brad/Bill actually seems like a real sweetheart, and he was definitely easy on the eyes. (OK, I’m he was actually really, really hot.) But any inappropriate day-dreams I might have indulged about Brad/Bill were immediately killed because within a few minutes of conversation, he started making awkward confessions. I don’t mean the “bless me father for I have sinned” type of confession, though those can also be a problem for the Mormon people. I mean the “holy cow, you should not have told me that, I will never be able to respect you” kind of confessions.
The kind of confession that the confessor probably doesn’t even realize is a confession, since it’s clear they aren’t ready to be ashamed of their lametown ways.
You see, Brad/Bill is studying for the MCAT. Not because he wants to be a doctor, mind you. Because he wants to go to China.
I blinked. “For med school?”
Yeah. For med school.
In the course of five mind-blowing minutes, Brad/Bill proceeded to explain to me his passion for China, and the fact that he had decided the easiest way to make headway behind the Bamboo Curtain was to apply to medical school. What kind of grades does an American need to get into Beijing U, you ask? Brad/Bill didn’t know. He want to ask the admissions people at the U medical school about it, and shockingly they didn’t know either.
This prompted so many internal questions on my part, I struggle to even list them:
- So are you into Asian girls? Sure hope so.
- You know there are easier ways of going to China than medical school, right?
- How old are you? I know you don’t have the rotting eggs problem, but seriously, do you want to throw out your back when you’re playing in the sandbox with your toddler?
- Have you mentioned this plan to any current medical students, to get their reactions?
- You know medical school is four years, and that’s just the school part, right?
- And you don’t speak Chinese yet, is that correct?
- What are student loans like in China? I’m assuming communism has got to have a unique take on that one.
- I suppose this is a silly question … but do you happen to have any friends or family in China?
At this point, Brad/Bill added that he had majored in governance (seriously … governance. As my friend Michelle* would later point out, her sister once met Brad/Bill and, having heard his major, burst out laughing and said, “You and James Madison, huh?” Unfortunately, it was a real thing.) and had once considered law school. Not, you know, because he wanted to be a lawyer. But because he wanted an “education of the law.”
The sad thing is, I think I really could have been friends with a Brad/Bill type had he not added the “education of the law” thing. I like to think I can respect ambition and unique perspectives, and Brad/Bill had plenty of both. And as I said, he was really pretty, which (let’s be honest) can make up for a ton of other flaws.
It’s just that being semi-delusional is a bit of a problem for me, and with the admission that Brad/Bill had essentially considered law school just for the sake of more school, it became abundantly clear that Brad/Bill was not merely someone with big dreams. Despite being obviously very smart, and very nice, Brad/Bill was a six foot tall Peter Pan. (With dreamy blue eyes. OK, I’ll stop now.)
Despite having clearly articulated goals (Med school, check. China, check.), I couldn’t escape the sadly inevitable impression that Brad/Bill didn’t know what he wanted out of life. Because, seriously—who besides a college freshman thinks up these sort of plans?
At the end of the day, you shouldn’t go to medical school because you want to go to China, and you shouldn’t consider law school because you want the opportunity to think about laws for three years. First, it's just too hard to gut it out through med school or law school if you don't really want to be a doctor or lawyer. I loved law school, but I, along with plenty of other people I know (guys and girls), admit to crying a time or two over it. The thing is, we actually wanted to be in our program. I can't imagine doing it for some other reason entirely.
But the real problem with Brad/Bill's plan was that only people who seriously debate these futures are people who, deep down inside, still don’t know what they want out of life. And I really can’t handle people who don’t want to grow up, which unfortunately, is a big problem for the Mormon people.
If I can, I'm going to try to think of a way to blame Jack Weyland for that.
Scenario Three: Buzzkiller
Finally it was time to get our baked potatoes, brownies and punch, so we wandered inside for some much needed sustenance. (It’s hard work, mingling with Mo-Mos.)
My friend Michelle and I sat down at the dinner table and were discussing our upcoming road trip to Vegas for the Utah-UNLV game. I had just finished explaining how my friend April is a genius blackjack player who had helped me win $50 in Wendover when Mr. Buzzkiller came over for a chat. He sat between us, and for a few brief seconds seemed content to munch on his carrot cake in silence.
But as soon as the words “Las Vegas” passed Michelle’s lips, Mr. Buzzkiller said, “I have not so much as put a quarter in a slot machine.”
Michell and I kinda trailed off and stared at him. Part of me thought, He’s got to be kidding. (Not so much about the never having gambled, but the fact that he’s going to bust out that information in old-timey language.)
Awkward pause. Then, because sometimes I don’t know how to not say things, I joked, “Well, now I kinda feel bad, I’ve just spent the last five minutes trying to convince Michelle to play blackjack with me in Vegas!”
He looked at us sternly. “I believe it’s very important to follow the Prophet’s counsel on this issue.”
Mr. Buzzkiller continued to go on about how the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles have really stressed the importance of not gambling for the last seven years (“Seven?” Michelle said teasingly. “Seven,” responded Mr. Buzzkiller firmly.) Michelle and I had to kind of sit there awkwardly, and finally Mr. Buzzkiller asked, “Why are you guys going to Vegas?”
“The football game,” Michelle answered distantly.
Now, the point is this. I guess I can’t blame Mr. Buzzkiller for his sanctimony—gambling is not exactly on the up-and-up in the Mormon church. (I’ll save my defense for the good, wholesome recreational activity of gambling for another day.)
But the point is, no one likes to be brought down. Michelle and I were having fun, joking around, and Mr. Buzzkiller turned our conversation into an impromptu Sunday School lesson. A lame Sunday School lesson at that.
It would have been on thing had we already been talking about a church topic, but we weren’t. We were talking about a vacation.
And have I mentioned I don’t know Mr. Buzzkiller that well? Michelle does, so I guess that was an OK transition. But seriously—no where else but in the Mormon world would a guy feel comfortable dropping into a random conversation with two girls (one with whom he is friends, one with whom he has a passing acquaintance) and busting out his spiritual opinions with little to no transition.
Boys and girls, I don’t like talking about religion with my best friends, I certainly don’t like to talk about it with people I barely (repeat: barely) know. Just because we’re at a church function does not make this activity church. It’s not ok to try to turn it back into church or some other version of sharing-and-caring time. This is chatting time, the social equivalent of work or school. Leave the church out of it, unless you’ve been invited (think: Are the current social cues facilitating me pulling up the new Ensign on my iPhone? No? Ok, I’ll not do that then) to throw in a spiritual thought.
PS - Just because you think it’s an uncontroversial topic (like gambling) does not mean anyone around you wants to try to navigate it. For some reason, it seems like many Mormons don’t understand this rule.
And it’s not like Mr. Buzzkiller, who started lecturing instead of sharing, was interested in anyone’s opinions in our conversation but his own. In case you all didn’t know, dropping “The Prophet said” into a conversation is the Mormon equivalent of Godwin’s law. The other people may still not agree, but you have effectively shut down the argument and now there’s nothing else for anyone to say. People will trail off and start talking about something else.
So there you have it. The reasons why I don’t have many Mormon friends. Because they’ve let Jack Weyland influence their social interactions. Because Mo-Bachelors are not only common, but freshman/sophomore girls will inevitably continue to line up for them. Because they share inappropriate information without being aware that it’s inappropriate. Because they want every conversation to be a seminary lesson.
And most of all, because talks about the pioneers make it so normal Mormons like me can’t just shut them down with an icy glare, which is what I would do in any other situation.
Do I wish I were better at making Mormon friends? Sure. In fact, I remember once telling my friend Chris that I could list all my Mormon friends on two hands, and even then, I had to count three people well on their way to excommunication.**
But it may just be that I’m not meant to get along with all my fellow Mos.
And that’s OK. Because we're never going to have to cross the plains.
* Names have been changed
** Not really. Most likely a soft disfellowship.