- The strongest force binding me to the Church, however, wasn’t religious, but hormonal. I found the girls of my ward more attractive than the girls at school. Perhaps because Mormon custom encourages young folks to marry permanently and early, often when they’re barely out of their teens, the girls were precociously skilled at self-enhancement, favoring leg-slimming, grown-up-looking shoes, and eye-catching, curling-iron-assisted hairstyles. They also permitted discreet erotic contact that stopped just short of actual intercourse. The girl I liked best of all was Carla H., a hell-raising cheerleader two years my senior. Carla had sinful menthol-cigarette breath and a scandalous reputation. A couple of months before I fell for her at one of the ward’s monthly Saturday night dances, she’d run away from home, the story went, and shacked up with the married manager of the franchise restaurant where she worked. The better brought-up boys avoided her because of this, but I, a new convert, was undeterred.
- I’d never been a good Mormon, as you’ll soon learn (indeed, I’m not a Mormon at all these days), but the talk of religion spurred by Romney’s run had aroused in me feelings of surprising intensity. Attacks on Mormonism by liberal wits and their unlikely partners in ridicule, conservative evangelical Christians, instantly filled me with resentment, particularly when they made mention of “magic underwear” and other supposedly spooky, cultish aspects of Mormon doctrine and theology. On the other hand, legitimate reminders of the Church hierarchy’s decisive support for Proposition 8, the California gay marriage ban, disgusted me. Deeper, trickier emotions surfaced whenever I came across the media’s favorite visual emblem of the faith: a young male missionary in a shirt and tie with a black plastic name-badge pinned to his vest pocket. The image suggested that Mormons were squares and robots, a naïve, brainwashed army of the out-of-touch. That hurt a bit. It also tugged me back to a sad, frightened moment in my youth when these figures of fun were all my family had.
In fact, I'm tempted to visit the Hill Cumorah Pageant, happening this week about fifteen minutes from where I live and blog, where the religion began, if only to see if what Mr. Kirn says about "leg-slimming, grown-up-looking shoes, and eye-catching, curling-iron-assisted hairstyles" still holds true.