I watched a bemused smirk settle on Dan's face as Jim studied him carefully.

"You're never going to guess," Dan said.

"Yes, I will."  Jim cocked his head slightly to the side, as if looking at Dan from that angle might help him solve the puzzle.  "You're... not an atheist."

Dan refused to reveal any sign of confirmation or contradiction.  Not a single muscle in his face gave way to even the slightest twitch.  He was enjoying this.

As was I.

I don't know if it was actual curiosity or just boredom that led Jim to start his little game, but as the members of our screenwriting class gathered around the table a few minutes before class was to start, he had blurted out, "I want to try something."  Then he proceeded to go around the room and try to guess everyone's religion.

A couple of them were easy - Chris, for example, was writing his screenplay for the class about his experience with Judaism in the valley of the Great SL,UT.  Everyone knew that Amir was Muslim.  A lot of the other students in the class weren't religious at all.  But Jim was stuck on Dan, and understandably so.

Mostly because Dan was being purposefully difficult, and Jim knew it.  It wasn't a matter of figuring out Dan's belief system so much as figuring out what Dan would claim as his belief system.  And, as Dan was a highly creative individual with a deeply twisted sense of humor, the possibilities were endless.

Time was running out, and a big part of me hoped that Jim wouldn't be able to crack Dan before our teacher decided to start class.  I was up next, and I didn't want my religion brought to the attention of everyone else in the room.

It's not that I was afraid of being judged by the other students, not at all.  I knew that not one of them would care one way or the other.  But part of me had always felt kind of ashamed to admit that I was a Mormon.

And then I was ashamed to feel ashamed, and ashamed that I felt ashamed that I was ashamed, and it was a vicious cycle.

Growing up in the SLC suburbs, most people I encountered just assumed I was Mormon.  After all, I was a "good" kid.  I didn't drink or sleep around, or have weird piercings.  In the Morridor, it's often assumed that anyone who appears to have high morals must be a Mormon, and that those poor non-members stuck out like sore thumbs.  I was guilty of that attitude myself - I remember being surprised to learn that my high school friend was not a member after knowing her for several months.

"I give up," Jim conceded.  "What are you?"

Dan smiled.  "I worship the Great Sun God Balthu'ul.  Every morning I drink copious amounts of wine and sacrifice small animals in his name.  Praise Balthu'ul!"

Everyone laughed.  Jim rolled his eyes and then turned his attention on me.

"Well, at least Kristen's easy," he said.

"Spread that around, won't you?" I replied.

Jim looked me in the eye, pointed to me, and declared, "ATHIEST!"

I was shocked.  I had thought that my Mormon roots were as clear as day.  I mean, the most sinful thing I had ever done in front of any of my classmates was swear a bit.  I didn't think it could be any more obvious if I was wearing a sweater with flashing lights that read CTR!


Jim looked surprised.  "Really?"


"Agnostic, then."

"Well... no, not really."

At this point, Jennifer caught my eye and smiled.  She was the only openly Mormon student in the class, and often brought up her religious beliefs in our discussions.  When she gave me that smile, I knew that she knew.  I felt marked.

Dan opted to help Jim with his query.  "Are you a Buddhist?"

"What?  No."

"Presbyterian?" Chris joined in.



People!, I thought. We live in SALT LAKE CITY. Come ON.

Finally I admitted, "I'm... Mormon."

"Really?" Jim asked.


"Yeah, but... are you really?"

I thought about that on the way home that night.  Was I really a Mormon?  I felt so proud of the fact that my peers had been surprised, even shocked by my admission.  They hadn't known, hadn't pigeonholed me, and I felt a great sense of relief about that.  If I was so pleased by the fact that people thought I wasn't LDS, rather than proud of the fact that I was, than was I?  Really?

That was the start of a journey that would take me a couple of years to finish, where I made it a goal to find out what, if anything, I believed about the church.  It was the start of my quest to figure out: was I really a Mormon?

No comments: