by Jen Wood
Illustrations by Kristen Koedyker
“Mormons love their alcohol.”
This, from a 19-year-old self-described “street pharmacist” and ex-Mormon who says the biggest misconception people have about the people of his former religion is “since they have a lot of kids, the girls are horny. This is not true.”
As was the case with everyone interviewed for this story, the street pharmacist (“Mark”) wanted to remain an anonymous source. Even church members who stick by the religion — like a 20-year-old girl who attends college in Pennsylvania and doesn’t have any complaints about Mormonism (although she might complain about us calling it that) — didn’t want their names to be used.
Why? Because one of the suggested headlines for this article was “Mormons Gone Crazy” and sources familiar with the Church of Latter Day Saints don’t want people to know they also are familiar with drugs, alcohol, and premarital sex — all things that practicing Mormons are quite against. “Not like I give a shit, but my grandma just might come across your paper for some weird reason and read my shit. Like I said, not likely, but it would kill her if she did,” wrote a 5th-generation Mormon (“Sara”) who hasn’t been to church in five years.
While it is impossible to know how many Mormons have gone crazy, are going crazy, or are about to go crazy, most know of at least a few members who have gone against church teachings. Not that people haven’t been known to betray religion before (need we mention Judas?), but when Mormons rebel — as any non-LDS who has witnessed a Mormon mutiny will tell you — they don’t mess around.
“Of the Mormons I know that are ‘inactive’ most of them are having sex, drinking, smoking, and maybe even pot. Most aren’t ‘horrible’ ex-Mormons, but wanted to go against the grain a little. I think this is common for those that leave the church. Many that leave will participate in these things, but few leave and don’t do at least one of the major ‘bad’ things — sex, drinking, or smoking. Otherwise, they’d just stay in the church,” explains Sara, that last point warranting at least 27 red flags.
Mark, whose hobbies include “music, photography, doing drugs, and drinking,” believes the strict rules placed on young Mormons, both by the church and by their own parents, is cause for rebellion. “But I also believe that many act out due to the fact that their eyes are opened to religion at such a young age that when new things come into the picture, they explore them.”
Neither Mark nor Sara have plans to return to the Church of Latter Day Saints. And not just because he has found success in street pharmacy, and she in pre-marital sex with her longtime boyfriend.
Mark not only hates how LDS act like “they are always right no matter the case,” he doesn’t appreciate some members’ hypocrisy: “I find it funny how male Mormons party hard until their missions, and then the week of their mission, put on an angel face for their entire mission. Then, upon their return, they transform back into the assholes they were before and drink just as they did before departure.”
Sara, on the other hand, just doesn’t agree with the church’s central beliefs: “Mormons believe that only Mormons can reach the highest degree of heaven, through temple marriage in the Mormon church. I don’t believe that God is so exclusive. I don’t even know if I believe in God or Heaven anymore, but if I did, it wouldn’t just be for Mormons.”
Because the Church of Latter Day Saints is really, really against drugs, alcohol, and pre-marital sex (things some refer to as “fun”), members who do engage in those evils are often riddled with guilt. Sara put on her Sunday Best for years, pretending to go to church for 3 hours, before admitting to her parents she was no longer practicing the faith.
But just because a young Mormon makes a few mistakes here and there doesn’t necessarily mean he has to say goodbye to the prospect of a two-year mission, followed by marriage at an early age. Take, for example, the 20-year-old LDS who has no complaints against her religion (“Martha”).
Martha was relating her passion for movies when she changed gears and wrote, “Switching to the dictionary of Jen, I have spent many a weekend out on the exciting streets of Scranton, drinking with my friends.”
I was a little offended by the first part, but her example brings up an interesting point. There are Mormons out there who have gone crazy, and are still practicing members of the church. Whether they* will be able to resist drugs, alcohol, and sex in the future is up for interpretation: “I had freedom, I have my agency, I exercised it. Do I regret things that I did now? A lot of it, yes. But I wouldn’t change the past for anything. I learned a lot because of those experiences. I learned that I do believe the teachings of my church concerning drugs and alcohol. I’ve learned that parents aren’t stupid, and know when their daughter is experimenting with college life. I’ve learned that they’ve done it too, and so has everyone else, and it’s not a tragedy as long as you eventually find your footing. Oh, and I’ve learned that while I can hold down up to 8 shots of rum and play 4 games of beer pong, for some reason the citrus nature of Smirnoff Ice makes me puke.”