“If I Weren’t a Mormon”


Without the Church, I wouldn’t have to pay tithing, get up for seminary, and I could party with my friends all weekend. But was that what I really wanted?

“If I Weren’t a Mormon”

“If I weren’t a Mormon” seemed to be my favourite phrase this month. If I weren’t a Mormon I wouldn’t be getting up at 5:30 in the morning, braving 6° C. and less temperatures just to go to seminary. If I weren’t a Mormon I’d be more accepted at school, and I’d have fun going to “all weekend” parties with friends, and I wouldn’t have to put up with all those jokes aimed at my religious beliefs. If I weren’t a Mormon life would be so much easier.

When I finally reached school that morning I was cranky, depressed, and tired. I wouldn’t be like this if I weren’t a Mormon, I thought. I missed the bus because Dad likes long family prayers. And Mum couldn’t drive me because she had to go to some Relief Society meeting.

I was late for class so I took a shortcut through the back of the library where I saw my ex-boyfriend embracing a “perfect 10” blonde. We had stopped going out because I wasn’t willing to compromise my standards. Seeing those two together was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I ran into a nearby empty room and cried.

When I finally made it to class I slipped into my seat just before I was marked absent. The daily notice sheet was read out loud reminding us of the upcoming long weekend and the camp planned at The Entrance, a coastal holiday town about five hours north of Sydney, Australia. That’s just what I needed. I wondered if Dad and Mum would let me go? No, they wouldn’t because I have to go to church Sunday and I have to go to family home evening Monday.

I was so bored in maths that I calculated how much more pocket money I’d have and all the things I could buy if I didn’t have to pay tithing.

The next morning the alarm went off at 5:30 as usual. Time to go to seminary again. Why should I have to go? Why get up at 5:30 every morning? Then I heard Mum’s cheery voice telling me that if I didn’t get up I’d be late.

The topic that morning was, “What has Joseph Smith done for you?” I could answer that easily. If it weren’t for Joseph Smith I wouldn’t be a Mormon.

“Will you read Doctrine and Covenants, section 122, verses seven and eight, please?” my teacher asked.

Wearily, I took out my scriptures and started reading. At first I was not really listening, but then something made me start to pay attention to the words.

“And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”

I choked out the last verse, tears brimming. “The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?”

A few days later I was standing on the balcony of the Opera House, watching the boats on the water under the harbour bridge. I couldn’t remember why I had felt so restricted because of my religion. My problems seemed pretty small and insignificant compared to those of Jesus Christ and Joseph Smith. I felt selfish as I asked myself, “Art thou greater than he?”

I was standing on a balcony overlooking the greatest harbour in the world in the greatest country in the world. The lights of Sydney seemed to be towering and challenging the stars above. “I’m so proud of my country,” I said to myself. “It’s so full of unique beauty, people, and culture. I thank God for our beautiful flora, fauna, and freedom. And I’m proud to be a part of the ever-growing and only true church in the world.”

My favourite phrase still is, “If I weren’t a Mormon,” but in a different way. If I weren’t a Mormon I wouldn’t have such a wonderful family, such great friends, and such a clear understanding of the purpose of life.

By the way, I calculated how much tithing I have paid, and when I look at how much God has given me, there’s no comparison.

[illustration] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch