Tuesday, January 08, 2008


A conversation in my Spanish class today, between Me and Dude I Suspected Of Being Mormon:

Me: Did you just learn Spanish in school or have you lived in a Spanish-speaking country?
DISOBM: Actually, I first learned Spanish when I was living in Central America for a couple years.
Me: Really? Where in Central America?
DISOBM: Honduras. Yeah, I was there from '01 to '03, then I went back and did a couple of internships in the summers of '04 and '05*.
Me: Cool. So those last two trips were internships. What were you doing the first time?
DISOBM: Oh, that first time I went as a religious missionary.
Me: LDS? [Assuming that if he's not he won't catch the reference.]
DISOBM: [Raising eyebrows] Yeah, are you LDS too?
Me: Yeah. Well, I used to be.

[Later in the conversation...]

Dude I Now Knew Was Mormon: You said you used to be LDS? So, um, have you just not gone in a while or did you, you know, stop going?
Me: I left.
DINKWM: Like, when you were a teenager?
Me: No, just in the last couple years. I actually served a mission in Spain.
DINKWM: Oh, okay. I thought your Spanish was too good to have learned in school.
Me: Yeah, my wife is still actively LDS.
DINKWM: Have you joined some other church or organization now?
Me: No. I was attending the United Church of Christ for a while, but now I'm pretty agnostic.
DINKWM: It's funny. When you first walked in the room, I thought, that guy looks like he could be Mormon.

This is the first time I've had this conversation. Since leaving the church I've been a little nervous to meet Mormons and explain that I used to be one. I was worried that they would immediately grill me on why I left the church, looking for the concern they could resolve and bring me back into the fold. Or else, like, not want to talk to me at all. But at the same time, I knew that if I met a Mormon I'd want to let him or her in on the fact that we have a bit of shared history. I was relieved today that my classmate seemed just as happy as me to have something in common to talk about, and he didn't seem to feel a need to reconvert me, at least not in this first conversation.

As for me looking Mormon, I'm okay with that. It probably had to do with my recently cut and neatly combed hair, my clean shaven face, and the white undershirt showing beneath my collar. I happen to find that clean-cut Mormon missionary look attractive, so I'll take his associating me with it as a compliment.

*Dates have been changed to protect those lacking photographic memories.


Rebecca said...

I find that most people don't grill me or avoid me - they do, however, tend to avoid the subject. A few ask why I left (most don't ask - just gloss over it as if it's something embarrassing that we wouldn't want to get caught talking about), but once I tell them that I didn't believe it there are no more questions. I really appreciate it when people ask WHY I stopped believing, but I think I've been asked that once. I'd much rather have an open discussion about it than this hush-hush attitude.

Over Christmas I said something about the church that was basically unrelated to my leaving, but my brother - whom you've met - for some reason felt the need to call attention to it by saying, "Oh, there's the elephant in the room!" which of course just made it WAY more awkward than it would have otherwise been. I think he thought he was helping. He SO wasn't.

Rebecca said...

Sorry - that's really only tangentially related to your post, I guess. Like an eighth cousin four times removed.

Mr. Fob said...

We gladly welcome all extended relatives, even the most tangential ones, here in the Fob family.

[əɪ̯ wʌndɹ̟] said...

Honestly, I feel similarly when I talk about why I know German. I dislike having to associate my knowledge of German with Mormonness - especially since I don't attend church and am openly gay. I'd rather be able to separate my language skills from my one-time religious beliefs/activities.

When in such situations, I often get the feeling that people are uncomfortable, and/or feel embarrassed because of this.

Or, when I talk to people who aren't Mormon, I feel like they get an unrealistic view of me when they find out that I was a missionary for a church - like they are associating me with something that I don't associate myself with anymore.

I guess the whole gay-mormon thing is just inherently complicated.

Mr. Fob said...

Yeah, I worry about giving people the wrong impression too. I still have my two years of volunteer service in Spain on my resume because I think it really is valuable, but I fear I'll shoot myself in the foot someday when a potential employer is either anti-Mormon or pro-Mormon.

Eleanor's Papa said...

You know you've really arrived as a Po-Mo-Ho when everyone instead begins to assume you're Jewish.

JB said...

One of my friends knows I used to be Mormon and she often refers to me as being Mormon or as some of the things I do as being Mormon and it kinda makes me wish I'd never mentioned it. I don't follow a lot of the bigger Mormon rules (the Word of Wisdom, and the rules on modesty, for example) and I don't believe the Mormon doctrine so it irks me. I keep thinking I should say something rather than just wincing. . .

As for talking to people who are still members, I've found that most people I feel comfortable sharing that information with (who are Mormon) are about as happy as I am to not associate me with their religion. Like you say, most of them just avoid the subject, which works for me!

Mr. Fob said...

EP--I'll start growing out my forelocks now.

JB--Yeah, I think I'd rather avoid the subject when it comes to the doctrinal stuff; I'm not interested in insulting someone's beliefs or getting into an argument. When it comes to the cultural stuff, though, I'm happy to acknowledge that I was raised Mormon and that I went to BYU--it makes for interesting conversations.

El Celo- said...

Hola Mr. Fob,

This would be the one and only Celo, yes el Dignisimo Gobernador!

It was good meeting you and it is even more interesting reading that our little back and forth we had the first day of class is posted on your fabulous FOBCAVE.

I find it extremely fascinating to read about your life. I am equally satisfied that you were extremely impartial on your recollection of our first conversation- I wouldn't have changed a thing (save it be the dates I lived in C.A. the second time).

When are we going to get together for dinner?

Mr. Fob said...

Thanks, Celo! You're much friendlier when commenting on my blog than when raping and pillaging my poor indigenous people. :)

I always worry about representing people and conversations here for fear they won't find my portrayal of them flattering or even accurate, so I'm glad you have only factual objections to this anecdote. I also appreciate that since day one you have been nothing but respectful of my ex-Mormonness.

I'll email you in the very near future about dinner plans.