Sunday, December 30, 2012

I'm A Mormon


We place my mother into a nursing facility on Tuesday, and one of the results of this is that I won't need to be a stay-at-home, unable to leave my disabled mother alone.  The thing I have missed most from this lack of being able to get out is going to church.  I've been practically inactive for the past two years, and this has made me very sad and frustrated.  I need my Mormon fix.

I was raised Mormon, cos my father was LDS (my mother has never joined the church).  I have Jewish ancestry on my mother's side (this was more obvious when I was a wee kid, above), and was raised in a Jewish neighborhood, and that is why I have, now, such a keen Jewish identity.  As a Mormon kid in the 1950's I was aware that my religion made me different, and this knowing became intense during the 1960's, when I attended high school with a lot of black kids, and the issue of the Mormon's blocking blacks from holding the priesthood was a growing topic during the era of civil rights.

Like most Mormon kids, I was raised with the idea that I'd be going on a mission for the church.  It's like an LDS rite-of-passage.  Some kids begin to save for their mission with their own Mission Fund when they are children (we pay our own expenses while on the mission).  I was sent to Ireland.
Above is me in Omagh, County Tyrone.  What may not be obvious is that I am wearing my plastic vampire fangs, that I wore when working as Count Pugsly at the Jones' Fantastic Museum.  When I wanted to be a real wanker, I would wear my fangs while knocking on doors, standing behind my companion as he made his introduction to whoever answered the door.  Slowly, I would reveal my fangs, and *bam* the door would quickly slam, and my companion had no clue why.  I also spent months knocking on doors in Belfast, where (below) I used to hang out in the sections that were scarred by the violence of the "troubles".
What a drag queen poser I was even then!  Eventually I came home, came out, and was excommunicated from the church for being queer, even though at that time I was yet a virgin.  I stayed away from the church for twenty-five years, became the big punk transvestite freak that used to walk the streets of Seattle in his obnoxious Boy George drag.  Then I had a couple of Mormon missionaries knock on my door.

Now, I've never bad-mouthed the church when I wasn't a member, I just said that I was too extreme to be a member.  I didn't know what I believed about god, if anything.  I went through a big Jewish phase in which I was going to convert to Judaism--this was before I discovered that I have Jewish heritage on my mother's side.  I've always felt a connection with the missionary lads, whenever I saw them in the streets, and so I was happy when they knocked on my door.  I invited them to come and give me the six missionary discussions, but I warned them that there was no way I would ever return to the church.
Above is one of those Elders.  After the third discussion, they challenged me to pray about things.  After they left, I thought, "Oh, what the hell could happen?"  Oy, was I clueless.  I didn't know what to ask in prayer, so my simple question to God was, "Do you exist?"  The answer came instantaneously.  It came like a fucking tidal wave.  I was overwhelmed with presence.  I felt the presence of God, but also of my dead father and grandfather.  My grandfather was the sweet man I have ever know, a true saint.  He accompanied me through the Salk Lake Temple services when I got my endowments just before going on my mission.  I began to shake violently, and there was a flood of tears.  And somewhere, inside me or outside of me, I seemed to hear the voice of God, proclaiming, "I live, the church is true, come home."  People say that I've been brainwashed, but that's bullshit.  I had absolutely no intention of returning to the church, and this "answered prayer" was the last thing I expected.  I was freaked out and annoyed.  I protested mentally, "No no no -- this is not what I want, I can't return to church activity, I'm too far from the church, too much of a freak." 

And yet I knew that I would return.  I didn't know how I would do it, and I knew it wouldn't be easy.  But punk rock has taught me to accept everything about myself, and Oscar Wilde has taught me that "Whatever is realised is right."  I could not deny this supernatural experience of an answered prayer--to deny it would mean I was a hypocrite.  So I began to go to church, and at first it was like stepping into a Twilight Zone episode, it was so far removed from what my life had been for over two decades.  But I grew to love it, and then, two years later, came the happy day of my re-baptism.
I love the challenge of being a gay Latter-day Saint, I love all of the complications and contradictions of such a thing.  I don't want life to be easy or make sense, and thus being a Mormon and queer is delicious.  It's punk rock.  It's my life.  Selah.
[wearing my Ensign magazine t-shirt shewing Joseph Smith]

4 comments:

  1. Willum - fascinating read and a pleasing saga of personal individualism and change in church tolerance as well. The presumed contradiction in belief in God while writing Lovecraftian fiction is also one I embrace and find makes exploring HPL's angular materialistic worlds even more exciting - and palpably frightening. Hopefully more churches and more faiths will choose to embrace the believer despite his or her individualism as God chooses to do. Bless you for always speaking your mind and for weaving such immersive spells upon we readers of the bizarre and arcane.

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    1. God Bless you, my friend, and many thanks for the support. I am determined to write many more books of Lovecraftian weird fiction, for as long as I am able. Grandpa is a never-ending fount of inspiration and delight!

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this. You are, in your own strange way, one of the best ambassadors I can think of for your faith.

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