“So you’re Mormon, then?”
“Well, not exactly. I’m in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.”
“You see, when Joseph Smith, the founder of both churches, was murdered…”
This exchange was an intermittent refrain of my wonder years. I was always having it — at six, ten, seventeen. When the question was put to me, Mormon tended to get a superfluous and probably unintended emphasis, lending the usually innocent query a tone of minor accusation, of a probe for shame at my inexplicable oddness. I actually relished the small correction, highlighting my truly supererogatory deviance by introducing and embracing a minor subcategory of strange. I got pretty good at it.
“We stayed in the Midwest, waiting for Joesph Smith’s son to become a man, so he could take over from his dad. We didn’t go to Utah with Brigham Young, who was very vulgar, by the way. We never practiced polygamy. We don’t perform secret rites or wear funny underwear. We don’t pester people at home. Our example is our testimony. We believe in the Book of Mormon, yeah, but I’m not really Mormon in the way everyone understands.”
I took comfort in both the fact that I was more exotic than a regular Mormon — “No, not ‘reformed’… ‘reorganized‘” — but also less doctrinally weird, much more like a Presbyterian than the boy Deacons down at the Ward. But when I went to work for my church over my first two college summer terms — first in Nauvoo, then in Kirtland — and ended up learning too much of the truth, I came to wish, I guess a bit perversely, that I’d been a real Mormon all along.
To have once believed that Heavenly Father (and Mother!) lives on Kolob and that I too would be rewarded with dominion over a celestial realm of my own — that makes for a better story than having been part of the non-Polygamist, non-Exodusizing, non-eternally-marrying Mormons, even if Brigham Young really was a douche. At least I can say that as a lad I did believe the Navajo and Choctaw descended from Jews who came over the Atlantic in boats. That’s something! But I was never really proud to not have ridiculous magical underwear. I wanted magical underwear. “Mormon” is something I sort of was, but not really. Something I both claim and reject. A leather-bound Book of Mormon embossed with my initials sits on my bookshelf. But my memory is dissapointingly ungirded.
[Up next in “What you’re searching for”: “My partner,” “delibertate.com,” “sex,” and “political correctness.” Whoever wants “Gordon Tullock” needs to work harder.]