Ever since I moved away from Utah the first time about thirteen years ago, the first question of anyone you meet is always, “oh, so are you Mormon?” When they hear that the answer is “no”, most people are taken aback and they don’t know quite what to say next. It is usually, “wow, what was that like?” or “how does that happen?”
First, people are not used to meeting others who were born and raised in Utah and aren’t Mormon. And second, come to find out, the only thing many people actually know of Utah is that it’s filled with Mormons, and rumor has it, they have really silly liquor laws.
Allow me to give you a little look into the history of me. I was among five or six Justin’s born in my neighborhood back in the seventies. As far as boys names go, Justin was like Jackson is now, so my mom started calling me by my initials, J.D. Later, my family made it even shorter and just started calling me D.
My mom was a fellow non-Mormon who was born and raised in Utah, and her parents before her. My dad came from a very devout Mormon family, but he was always a bit of a black sheep, so when he turned 18, he was out like a trout. I guess I technically have some Mormon blood coursing through my veins, but a consistent schedule of blood donations has surely drained me of it by this point.
From a very young age we were given the option of going to church with our mom—I say “we” because I also have a younger brother—but were never forced to do so. It was our choice and we were always assured of that fact. On many a Sunday, we’d pack up and head to the neighborhood Presbyterian church with our mom and, what seemed like, maybe only 25-30 other people who drove in from all over the valley. There was an LDS ward on damn near every corner, but good luck finding anything else back then. They existed, but they were almost like secret societies that met in dark corners where people couldn’t find them. I kid, of course, but church services happened in many a rec hall basement or an office building after hours.
As I grew older and started elementary school I started to realize that there was something a bit odd about where I lived and went to school. Why did damn near every kid already know each another, yet we had just started school? Why would
some most kids avoid me like I was always covered in snot and smelled of urine? I bathed daily and definitely had no issues with incontinence, yet I couldn’t make a friend no matter how hard I tried. It wasn’t until my parents pulled me out of public school (aka: private school for Mormons) and put me in a Lutheran private school that I realized people similar to me did exist. Sure, we had one hell of a commute every morning, but I found people like me and discovered that there really was an underground of outliers that existed in Utah.
Now that I’ve laid the foundation to start this story, I plan on taking you down one hell of a rabbit hole in future posts. What was it like as a child growing up surrounded by people that looked like you, but were absolutely nothing like you? As I grew older, how did I learn to navigate the weird laws, general oddities of daily life, find friends, and eventually muster up the strength to move away? You will also see me dive head first into my continued love/hate relationship with the state in which I was born. And for you Mormons who may start reading this blog, stick with me, I think you may be surprised. Also, yes, I will eventually touch on the whole LDS vs.Mormon thing.