My Mormon Experience

A short-lived blog/podcast series about my upbringing in the LDS Church by Ethan Gregory Dodge

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

This is a series specifically written for what we in the ex-Mormon community call the nevermo — someone who never has been baptized into the Mormon Church. Since leaving the Church, I have found that nevermos typically know very little about Mormon culture and tend to be fascinated by it. That is not to say that others will not enjoy reading the series as well. I suspect that many exmos — ex-Mormons — will enjoy reading of my experiences. I also hope that my mistakes and findings described throughout can help those struggling with their beliefs find comfort and realize that it is completely normal to have doubts and questions regarding anything, but especially of a religion that demands so much of your time, energy, and thoughts. Lastly, I hope those true believing Mormons — referred to as TBMs by those that have left — can read and better understand the struggle and reasoning that happens before ultimately deciding to leave the Church. I fully believe in the words of Brene Brown when she suggests that stories are data with soul and that by sharing my story, others can achieve understanding and empathy.

There are dozens of sects of Mormonism, and I have learned it is important to specify where I come from. My ancestors followed Brigham Young and crossed the plains from Nauvoo, Illinois, to the mountainous desert of Utah. This sect of Mormons formally known as the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and if someone refers to the Mormon Church, it is rare that they are not referring to this Church. It is sometimes referred to as the “Mainstream Church” or the “Corporate Church” by members of other sects of Mormonism. It boasts over 15 million members around the world, is headquartered in Salt Lake City, has over 150 beautifully ornate temples all around the world, and yes, they're the ones that send thousands of young men in white shirts and ties to talk to everyone they can about the Book of Mormon. For clarity and brevity, in this series when I refer to “the Church”, I am referring to this Church. Other fairly well known sects of Mormonism include the FLDS Church run by Warren Jeffs, and the Community of Christ, formerly known as the Reorganized LDS Church.

I grew up astonished at how blessed I was to be born into an active Mormon family; now I wonder what the chances really are of being born Mormon, and I think how wild it is that it happened to me. I grew up feeling very privileged to supposedly have a truth that few others had, but now I feel deprived of much of my adolescence. I grew up wanting to share Mormonism with everyone that hadn't experienced it, now I dislike mentioning that I'm originally from Utah as people almost inevitably assume I'm Mormon. I lived the Mormon dream. I was baptized at eight, received the priesthood at 12, served a mission at 19, was married in the temple to another returned missionary at 21, had my first child at 23, and a second at 25. But by the age of 26, it became obvious to me that the Church was not what it claimed to be. I grew up an orthodox, devout Mormon, and now I'm a skeptical, free-thinking atheist. The transition was not easy, it was not short, nor was it without loss. But it has been one of insight, truth seeking, and ultimately liberation. It feels so terrific to listen to a song that I love that happens to say “fuck” and not feel guilty. Or to be able to choose what is right and what is wrong and not depend on others to do so. Sure, there is a lot more gray area, but that is where you really find yourself.

In this series, the doctrine of the Church will not be explained in depth unless it is needed; however, there will be links to official sources when doctrine is referenced. These stories are an intimate view into my life. But I feel strongly that sharing them is the right thing to do. I share them without shame and own them completely. As Brene Brown says, “tell your story with your whole heart”, and that is exactly what I plan to do.

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

As I said in the introduction, I remember growing up always thinking to myself how “blessed” I was to have been born into a Mormon family. And not just any Mormon family, but one in Utah of all places! When reflected upon, the odds are quite staggering. There were approximately 5.2 billion people in the world. 7.7 million of them were Mormon, about 0.15% of the world's population. Not to mention the even smaller percentage of those Mormons specifically in Utah. Of course in church on Sunday they taught me that this is all because I was valiant in the premortal life in fending off Lucifer's influence and I was likely a high ranking officer in the war in heaven. As an impressionable eight year old, I ate it all up.

Mormons born into the Church are typically baptized at the age of eight. They teach that it is the age of accountability and an eight year old is supposedly capable of understanding the implications of such a decision. At age three, all children start attending Primary — children's Sunday school. There they learn songs with lyrics like “I can't wait until I'm eight, for then I'll be baptized you see”, “I hope they call me on a mission when I have grown a foot or two”, and “I love to see the temple, I'm going there someday”. The indoctrination clearly begins early.

At the beginning of our marriage, my wife and I taught the class in which all the students were to be baptized that calendar year. I remember one boy who did not want to get baptized. After publicly expressing the sentiment, he was promptly called in to visit with the bishop — the leader of the congregation. He came out of the meeting wanting to get baptized. The obligation and shame begin early as well.

I personally loved going to Primary. I loved singing and playing games. I always felt like one of the smartest kids there because my parents taught me many of the Bible and Book of Mormon stories we talked about in class and I usually knew most of the answers to the questions being asked. By the time I was getting ready to turn eight, I never would have dreamed of not getting baptized. Not only was it what my parents, neighbors, and supposedly Heavenly Father wanted me to do, but all of my school friends, with whom I didn't even go to church, were doing it too. So I was baptized August 1, 1998 and became a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I would make it almost twenty years as an official, baptized member.

I remember recently seeing a gift given to a Primary-aged boy. It was a picture of him in front of the Christus statue in the Church's visitor center on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. It said “I Know That My Redeemer Lives”. It's the title of a Mormon hymn that was, coincidentally, my favorite when I was younger, and most likely the theme of Primary that year. As a TBM this would not have bothered me at all and I likely would have praised it. However, now understanding the indoctrination happening, it makes me rather sick. That boy was likely around the age of five and honestly had no idea if Jesus Christ lives. His understanding of the concept of Jesus was elementary at best, yet adults authority figures were telling him he knows Jesus is real and lives because he was supposedly resurrected after dying for this boy on a cross. Telling him, not presenting him with evidence and allowing him to make the decision for himself as many Mormons will claim happens, but telling him as if it was a provable fact that Jesus lives to this day.

When you are told what to strictly believe from a young age you typically do not develop the ability to think critically. You are pressured to accept what any authority figure tells you is true, unless it contradicts a figure with higher authority. I do not think I had a legitimate critical thought until I was 18 years old, and even then, it was only minimally critical. Yes, it is entirely true when I say I accepted nearly everything any Church leader told me as fact until I was 18. Soon after having my first critical thoughts around my beliefs, I stopped because it made me feel uncomfortable. It made me feel shameful. Indoctrination is real and it is damaging. It stifles and discourages independent thought by giving people the false sense of comfort that the Church is the one source of all truth.

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

There are several major ages in the Church in which important rituals and practices are performed. The first being at eight, as I discussed in chapter one, for baptism. The next one is at 12, significant for all Mormons, but especially for the boys. It is when a young man receives what is called the Aaronic Priesthood. Now the Priesthood is a historically controversial topic for the Church. Joseph Smith claims to have received two priesthoods. One from John the Baptist, the figure who baptized Jesus in the Bible, presently referred to as the Aaronic Priesthood; and the other from Peter, James, and John 3 of Jesus' 12 disciples from the Bible, presently referred to as the Melchizedek Priesthood. But the date around which time he received the second Priesthood is questionable. Nor did Joseph Smith even mention it to anyone, including those in his close circles until nearly five years after he claimed that it happened.[^1] Additionally, when Joseph Smith died, it was not entirely clear who had the Priesthood authority to continue leading the church; the Priesthood was not given to people of African descent until 1978 (you read that right); and women have never been allowed to receive the Priesthood, much to many people's dismay. Yet, they entrust 12 year old boys with it.

For those boys, it isn't really a choice, but an expectation that you will receive it and perform the duties expected of you. As a 12 year old the only responsibility that anyone cares about is passing the sacrament to the ward members every Sunday. Scripturally, the sacrament consists of drinking wine and eating bread but later the Church began using water. This is usually used as a huge source of shame and fear to hold over the boys heads. I remember being told that people in the ward depended on us to get the sacrament every week and that it would be horrible for them to see us doing something that we shouldn't throughout the week. There I was, 12 years old, feeling like I have to act like an adult.

As stated, 12 years is an important age for all Mormons, not just the boys, because you can also enter the temple. In Mormonism, temples are different from the chapels where they attend church every Sunday. They perform special ordinances and rituals inside the temples that are not performed elsewhere. When someone turns 12, they don't get to participate in everything that happens in the temple, but they do get to represent deceased persons in baptisms. Yes, Mormons practice what they call baptisms for the dead. So yes, only boys get the important responsibility of allowing people to take the sacrament every week while the girls get to represent dead people.

Some youth in the Church make great efforts to go to the temple regularly, even weekly. I knew groups of friends in high school that went every Wednesday morning before school. I know some that oddly went to the temple on group dates. To clarify, that was not the norm by any means and I remember thinking it was slightly strange. The experience consists of being handed a white jump suit that is inevitably going to be too large or too small — never did I get one that was ever comfortable — changing into it, waiting your turn to be called into the baptismal font (a small pool of water), and be dunked again, again, and again for different people. Women stand in for deceased women and men for deceased men.

The experience could be very spiritual in nature, but it often led to public displays of “holier than thou” in which people showed exactly how reverent they could be inside the temple. It was spiritual peer pressure. I remember always being told that you could feel the Spirit stronger than anywhere else inside the temple. I always felt this pressure to have some sort of personal revelation or something. Often, I would make decisions in the temple. I was told that Satan had absolutely no power over you while you were in the temple, so I always felt extra guilty if I ever had a “bad” or “dirty” thought while inside. It led me to question what kind of person I really was and caused a lot of emotional stress on me as a teenager. After all, those kind of thoughts are not natural and are the influence of the devil, that's what I was taught anyway. So to have them by your own power means you're like him. That was the conclusion I came to anyway. I'm sure I'm not the only one.

[^1]: “I never heard that an Angel had ordained Joseph and Oliver to the Aaronic Priesthood until the year 1834[,] [183]5. or [183]6—in Ohio.… I do not believe that John the Baptist ever ordained Joseph and Oliver…” — (David Whitmer, quoted in Early Mormon Documents, ed. Dan Vogel, 5:137)

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

I have fond memories of attending BYU football games during elementary school years. My Dad had season tickets from the time I was seven or so and I loved going to the games with my parents. Occasionally I got to bring a friend and we'd think we were on top of the world watching the Cougars play at home. I remember when I was around the age of seven, there was an auction in my ward. I do not remember where the funds were being contributed to, nor did I care at that age. What I do remember was spending all of my paper route money bidding on a football signed by the entire BYU football from that season. I was the happiest kid in the room that night and I still have that football to this day. I do not think that any players went on to the NFL from that team and it is likely not worth much but it doesn't matter, it's mine :)

College football is immensely popular in Utah, there being no NFL team; however, at that point in time many Utahns were San Francisco 49ers fans because of Steve Young a Mormon, BYU alum, and three time Super Bowl champion. As a kid I idolized the guy and read every book on him that my school library had. I loved the stories of him drinking milk at parties where everyone else was drinking alcohol. My Mom once told me that he took the sacrament on Saturdays because he was playing football nearly every Sunday. I thought that was so cool that he still tried to do the right thing despite breaking the sabbath. To this day, if a Utahn is not a Denver Broncos fan, I'd bet money they're a 49ers fan.

I recall being slightly disturbed when I learned that John Stockton was not a Mormon. I was a huge Jazz fan (and I still hate the Chicago Bulls) and he was my favorite. I would always want to sport number 12 when participating in city basketball leagues. He undoubtedly was a great player and, in my childish naivete, I always assumed he was Mormon and played basketball for BYU before playing in the NBA, just like Steve Young. I did not however assume the same things of Stockton's counterpart Karl Malone. I'm sure there was plenty of unconscious racial bias at play in both of those assumptions, something which I am still trying to shake to this day. The fact of the matter is, I didn't know many, if any black Mormons. When an organization deprives its members of color of the same rights as their white members until the late 1970s, there tends to not be many members of color.

Recently a co-worker was amazed at all the knowledge I had about BYU basketball and football players and their subsequent professional careers. And he had good reason. Here are some facts about Mormon BYU athletes that I can honestly name from the top of my head:

As you can tell, I'm definitely a sports fan, and being raised Mormon, I tend to know much more than the average person about Mormon athletes. Growing up in Provo, BYU is my hometown team, and I still enjoy watching their games even as an exmo. However, I will admit to a very real internal ethical struggle concerning my support of their programs. This is driven by the institution's homophobic, racist, and all around oppressive history. For this reason, I will not sport any paraphernalia with their name or logo in public, which I often do for other sports teams I follow. Even so, the strict implementation of the school's Honor Code to students that are not athletes versus the lax implementation of it to those that are have made me question the ethics supporting their athletics by simply following their teams.[^1]

[^1]: Unfortunately there is not a lot of documentation around this topic of the Honor Code implementation, but I recommend listening to Mormon Stories episode 788 for a terrific discussion around it.

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

Rituals such as the sacrament, baptism, and going to the temple are very important in the life of a Mormon. But before any of these things can happen, one needs to pass a what is often referred to as a worthiness interview. These interviews are conducted by the bishop and he asks you a categories of questions to gauge your worthiness to perform these things. The interview typically takes place in the office of the bishop in the church where one attends every week. These interviews start early and happen more frequently for the youth of the Church. If I recall correctly, the one for baptism at age eight is the first one, but it's simply the bishop verifying the eight year old can recite the reasons to get baptized. The next one happens at age 12, and then yearly after that until you're 18. In adult life, they typically happen every other year to obtain a temple recommend. This is a card, signed by the bishop that signifies you have passed the interview and are worthy to enter the temple. You cannot enter the temple without it. The bishop will also occasionally call for an interview to extend certain assignments as well.

Usually, the interview is just yourself and the bishop, even when you're younger. Many parents have recognized the potential problem of letting their 12 year old child into a room with a middle aged man alone. It can be intimidating and dangerous. These fairly progressive parents insist on accompanying their child in the interview. When I was growing up, this would have been viewed as a taboo and defiant — it likely still is depending on the geographical region — and my parents never attended an interview with me. I never had an especially negative experience, other than arguing with the bishop in my late teenage years — we'll get into that in a later chapter — but I also have the privilege of being male and having the confidence society typically helps instill in men. Society is not as kind to females, especially Mormon society.

Many young women I knew growing up typically did not enjoy meeting with the bishop. At the time I didn't understand, but in hindsight, it's obvious. He was an intimidating, older man and was asking intimate details about their life that were private. Unfortunately, bishops often cross many lines, especially when talking about a teenager's romantic life. Some bishops will ask specifics about the physical aspects of romantic relationships. They feel entitled to do so because Mormons teach very strict abstinence before marriage and even the slightest sexual activity is enough to deem you unworthy to enter the temple or even take the sacrament on Sundays. If you want some examples of horror stories, just head over to the ex-Mormon subreddit — specific examples found here, here, and here.

To give you an idea of the questions asked in these interviews, here are the official questions asked when an adult is interviewing for their temple recommend.[^1] The bishop is advised to ask any follow up questions to clarify the person's position if needed. I provide commentary and context between each question.

Do you have faith in and a testimony of God the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?

This is a simple question to make sure you believe in the Godhead as Mormon doctrine defines it and is typically answered with a quick “yes”.

Do you have a testimony of the Atonement of Christ and of His role as Savior and Redeemer?

Mormons, like Christians, believe very strongly that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. This is also normally answered quickly with a “yes”.

Do you have a testimony of the Restoration of the gospel in these, the latter days?

Mormons believe Joseph Smith restored the church of Christ as he had supposedly implemented it in the Bible. This is important to them and this belief sets them apart from all other Christian religions. If you cannot answer yes to the this question, there would be some serious concerns from many bishops.

Do you sustain the President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as the prophet, seer, and revelator and as the only person on the earth who possesses and is authorized to exercise all priesthood keys? Do you sustain members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators? Do you sustain the other General Authorities and local authorities of the Church?

This one contains a lot of Mormon buzz words, but basically asking if you believe God can talk to the current president of the Church as a prophet and if you support him in that role.

Do you live the law of chastity?

This obviously applies to the sexual life of the interviewee and is often where lines are crossed. One would typically bring up concerns here if they weren't married but sexually active, were married but having an affair, were gay, were masturbating, watching porn or doing anything else the Church deems sexually inappropriate. As a youth, had I made out with a girl, I likely would have felt guilty and brought it up here. The first time I was asked this question, I actually didn't know what the bishop was referring to. I was likely 13 or 14 at the time and he clarified by just asking me if I was looking at pornography on the Internet.

Is there anything in your conduct relating to members of your family that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church?

Here they want to make sure everything is alright at home and that everyone is happy, healthy, and safe.

Do you support, affiliate with, or agree with any group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?[^2]

This question is fairly controversial, even among members of the Church. They want to make sure the interviewee isn't associating with anti-Mormons, cults, or promoting something against Church doctrine. Many people in the late 2000s were excommunicated for not complying with this question simply for supporting their gay sibling or child and publicly supporting gay rights. It would not surprise me if some, with a more fundamentalist mindset, would say they could not associate with me because of my feelings towards the Church. I once had somebody tell me that if you wore a shirt with a beer logo on it, you could not answer this questions confidently.

Do you strive to keep the covenants you have made, to attend your sacrament and priesthood meetings, and to keep your life in harmony with the laws and commandments of the gospel?

They want to make sure you are going to Church.

Are you honest in your dealings with your fellowmen?

Another typical, not surprising question.

Are you a full-tithe payer?

Mormons are asked to tithe 10% of their income to the Church. This is the Church's main source of revenue and if you're not paying, you can't enter the temple. This tends to be a conflict of interest for lower income families as they feel the need to enter the temple and participate in the rituals when seeking spiritual guidance in hard times, but they have an extremely hard time paying tithing, for obvious reasons. Tithing, to me personally, is a hot button issue.

Do you keep the Word of Wisdom?

The Word of Wisdom refers to a commandment recorded by Joseph Smith dictating things Mormons can and cannot consume. This is the law that states Mormons can't drink coffee, tea, or alcohol. This is also a very controversial topic and probably the one left the most open for interpretation within the Church. This topic will be addressed in depth in a later chapter.

Have there been any sins or misdeeds in your life that should have been resolved with priesthood authorities but have not been?

This is the time where you confess something you have done that may not have been covered in the other questions.

Do you consider yourself worthy to enter the Lord’s house and participate in temple ordinances?

This one is pretty self explanatory. Although, I have heard of people answering no to this question even after answering appropriately to all the others.

Now, how strictly these rules and questions are enforced will vary greatly from bishop to bishop. In the ex-Mormon community we call it leadership roulette because when you get a new bishop, he may do things completely differently than the old one. It especially feels like roulette when you move into a new ward and have no idea how the bishop is going to be. To help conquer this, I once had an idea with my friends to launch a Rate My Professor style website called Rate My Bishop where members of a ward could leave reviews of their bishop for potential new residents. The idea never got off the ground.

[^1]: Preparing for a Heavenly Marriage, Robert D. Hales [^2]: Temple Recommend Questions,

Andrew Seaman / Unsplash
This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

Like baptism, I never would have dreamed of not receiving the priesthood once I turned 12. It was just what you did and I was quite excited for it. As a little, aspiring priesthood holder, you come revere the 12 and 13 year old Deacons who pass the sacrament every Sunday. In my childish imagination, they almost seemed like Army soldiers marching up and down the aisles, handing the first person in every pew the trays of bread and water, strictly staring straight ahead waiting for the tray to be returned to them, taking it back and continuing in their assigned route until the entire congregation had partaken. Also in the public eye were the Priests, the 16 and 17 year old boys, who reverently sat at the sacrament table in front of the entire congregation until they had to break the bread and bless the sacrament. The blessing consists of one of them kneeling down in front of a microphone beneath the table and reciting word for word the sacrament prayers as found in the scriptures. They too seemed to exercise these tasks with such precision that I marveled as a kid. The Priests handing the trays to the Deacons always seemed so well executed and orchestrated. I remember being let down when I found out that the Priests actually read the blessings from a card or sticker underneath the table. The Teachers, 14 and 15 boys, prepare the sacrament. As a child, I don't think I ever saw this happening due to the fact that it took place before everyone arrived.

When it came time for me to become a Deacon and pass the sacrament, all fantasies and expectations of executing the sacrament as swiftly as I had always perceived it were shattered the first week. I was assigned to pass the sacrament to the bishop, his counselors — basically his two right hand men —, and everybody else on the stand. I was nervous about getting things right because the bishop is always supposed to take the sacrament before anybody else in the room. He's the presiding officer in the meeting. Sometimes leaders that out rank him would visit the ward and they would preside and receive the sacrament first. If I recall correctly, I performed that part just fine, but in my nervousness, I missed the fact that I was also supposed to pass to the entire left side of the chapel as well. I lined back up in front of the sacrament table expecting my friends to do the same, but they didn't. Eventually they all lined up, we returned our trays of bread to the Priests, and received new trays with water. I performed my route again and awkwardly stood to wait for everyone else in front of the sacrament table. It didn't occur to me that I had only passed to about five people and left the other boys to pass to the remaining 300.

After standing there for about two minutes, a gentleman sitting close to where I was standing stood up and whispered to me that I should go help the other boys. I know his intentions were good, but I think that may have flustered me a bit more because I didn't know where to go from there. I did manage to figure it out and properly fulfilled my assignment. The next week, I made sure to get the same route again in order to redeem myself as I knew exactly what I was doing. As time went on, I was called to leadership positions and would direct the new and lost Deacons in similar situations. I remember once being complimented by a ward member for the way I handled myself and directed other boys while passing the sacrament. I was proud of that compliment. By the time you turn 14 and become a Teacher, you have all eight routes down perfectly.

The idea that I had that the Deacons were disciplined enough to reverently perform their sacramental duties was farfetched. Most 12 year old boys have a very short attention span and rather than looking straight ahead while waiting for the tray to return, they'll look around aimlessly, play with their hands, and probably be thinking about Minecraft. Occasionally there would be someone who looked so intently forward that they wouldn't even notice the tray had reached them again. Or sometimes a slightly socially awkward boy would look directly at every person as they place the bread in their mouth and the water cup to their lips. Normally, Deacons are instructed not to do that, as the sacrament is supposed to be a personal and private matter. Eventually, with coaching they learn not to do those things.

As with the temple, the sacrament often became a contest between us boys of who could be more reverent. As immature 12 year olds, we publicly called out those who failed at this. Looking back at it, I personally feel bad for doing so. It promoted a culture of comparison, which is terribly toxic and and potentially traumatic. That aspect of Mormon culture only thickened as I got older until it completely climaxed during my mission when there were 300 of us 19 year olds competing for the attention of one 65 year old man. But that's a story for another chapter.

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

As I explained in chapter 5, the young men's duties concerning the sacrament change as they get older. Once you turn 14 you are no longer a Deacon and become a Teacher. The Teachers are responsible for preparing the sacrament. This entails several of them arriving about 30 minutes or so before church, placing dozens of little plastic or paper cups into trays, filling them each with water, dividing a loaf of bread between several other trays, placing both the water and the bread trays on the sacrament table, and covering them all with a white clothe. In my ward, one boy was assigned to bring the loaf of bread each week. Being the absent minded 14 year olds that we were, it wasn't rare that the assigned boy forgot and the bread wasn't in place until minutes before, or even after, the meeting started. For a while, we just started keeping several loaves of bread in the freezer in the church and move one loaf to the refridgerator on Friday or Saturday. One week, that somehow resulted in one of the loaves getting moldy, but the Teachers didn't notice before it was too late. We got a serious talking to from the bishop that same day.

At 16 you become a Priest and get to bless the sacrament. For many, this was a nerve-racking experience. Imagine sitting in front a group of 300 people, all of them listening to you, knowing what you were going to say, and the bishop reading along with the prayer to make sure you get it right. But to make it even worse, it has to be exactly right. Not even one word can be wrong or else it has to be done again. There are several words and phrases in the prayers that are similar and easily confused. As an example, here's the prayer for the bread:

O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify this bread to the souls of all those who partake of it, that they may eat in remembrance of the body of thy Son, and witness unto thee, O God, the Eternal Father, that they are willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them; that they may always have his Spirit to be with them. Amen.[^1]

It was very common to accidentally say “that they may eat it” rather than simply “that they may eat”. Or “and always have his Spirit” rather than “that they may always have his Spirit”. In both cases the Priest would have start over and say it again. Once, a kid in my ward had to start over at least five or six times and got more frustrated each time until eventually he asked someone else to do it. I think that was his first time trying to do it too. Talk about scaring.

To add to the pressure, many times we would be lectured on the importance of our tone when reciting the prayers. It wasn't appropriate to simply read it off quickly like a routine, but we were told to speak slowly, reverently, and thoughtfully. I have memories of members publicly expressing how important it is to them that the Priests said the prayers with conviction and sincerity. I personally prided myself in my ability to do so and was often personally complimented by others for the way in which I performed. Yeah, I was pretty self righteous.

This only added to the culture of comparison and shaming that I mentioned in the previous chapter. It was frustrating to mess up and have to start over not only because everyone was listening, but because it felt like the other Priests were judging you. Granted, not all of them were, but I couldn't help but wonder.

[^1]: Doctrine and Covenants 20:77

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

Mormons attend three hours of Church every Sunday. It generally consists of three, hour-long meetings that typically occur in the following order:

  1. Sacrament meeting

    Here they take the sacrament as talked about in previous chapters. After the sacrament, talks and sermons are given from leaders and various members of the ward. It is often a dreaded assignment to speak in sacrament meeting.

  2. Sunday school

    Here everyone goes to their assigned class to learn about the gospel and church doctrine on various subjects. The children go to Primary, the youth are split up by age into different classes, and the adults are normally all together.

  3. Priesthood, Relief Society, and Young Women's classes

    Here all the men attend classes with their respective Priesthood offices, i.e. Deacon, Teacher, Priest as I talked about in previous chapters. The young women attend classes dictated by their age, and the women attend Relief Soceity, essentially an all women sunday school class.

The content and style of the second and third meetings will be addressed in later chapters. For now I am going to concentrate on sacrament meeting, more specifically fast and testimony meeting. Fast and testimony meeting is a special sacrament meeting that occurs on the first Sunday of every month. Members of the ward are supposed to fast for 24 hours this day, though the only time I went the entire 24 was during my mission. It was normal for me to completely forget until the night before and just skip breakfast and lunch the next day. I'm positive I was not the only one that did this. Regardless, members are supposed to be fasting and typically should fast for something. For example, when I was ten my grandfather had a heartattack and the next fast Sunday we all fasted and prayed for a healthy recovery. This is a spiritual practice not unique to Mormonism.

In fast and testimony meeting, after everyone takes the sacrament, anyone in the congregation is invited to approach the pulpit and bear their testimony. This legal-sounding phrase, “bear testimony”, is extremely common in Mormonism. In fact, if you search Google for those two words, the first link is an article from the Church's website entitled What does it mean to bear testimony?. Here's the first paragraph from the article:

A testimony is a spiritual witness, given by the Holy Ghost, of the truthfulness of the gospel. When we bear testimony, we declare to others what we know to be true by the power of the Spirit. The foundation of a testimony is the knowledge that Heavenly Father lives and loves us, that Jesus Christ is our Savior, that His gospel has been restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Savior’s true Church.

In summary, the basic idea is that the Holy Ghost has supposedly told you that these things are true and you are able to claim that you know them to be true. The extreme majority of testimonies typically start out with “I'd like to bear my testimony that I know this Church is true.” Other common statements and sentiments expressed include “I know Joseph Smith was a prophet”, “I know Christ lives”, “I know Heavenly Father answers prayers”, and “I know he loves me”. The word “know” is very important in this situation. If you had prayed to God and felt that what you were praying about was true, according to Mormons, you know that it's true. Yes, this leaves plenty of room for confirmation bias and self-deception to take place, but I was taught that this was a legitimate and valid way to determine truth.

Testimony meetings tended to be powerfully spiritual in the sense that as someone was bearing their testimony with conviction, many others in the room were inspired and touched by that conviction and understood that to be the Spirit confirming the truth of what this person was saying. The Church teaches that the best way to help someone to feel the Spirit, and therefore know of the truthfulness of the Church, is to bear powerful testimony. Here is a video that I showed regularly to people I was teaching on my mission. It's the story of how Brigham Young supposedly found his testimony of the validity of the Church. The story goes that Brigham was skeptical of the Book of Mormon and the teachings of Joseph Smith. Then a man said to him that he knew the Book of Mormon was true and at that moment Brigham said he knew it was all true. Here is this idea summarized straight from Mormon scripture[^1]:

...for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men.

In the Mormon community, there is almost an inside joke that there is always some 12 or 13 year old boy in every ward who gets up every testimony meeting and becomes emotional while bearing his testimony. In my ward, I was that boy. I remember the first time I got up to do it at the age of 11. I believe my Mom had just gone to the pulpit — which in hindsight seems wrong because my Mom hates public speaking — and gave her testimony and I followed suit. I got up there and began spitting off what I had heard everyone else say. “I know the Church is true. I know Joseph Smith was a prophet” etc. I remember making eye contact with a woman in the ward who served with the Primary children, so I knew her fairly well. She had a tear in her eye which triggered my emotions, which I credited to the Holy Ghost. I often cited that as the moment when I gained my testimony.

Right before I turned 12, we moved to a different city in northern Utah County. After a year or maybe two of attending Church there, I got very comfortable standing up and bearing my testimony in front of everyone. I'm a fairly emotional person and it is not rare for me to cry when talking about things I am passionate about. As a 12 year old feeling the Mormon Spirit, I was a total water faucet every time. I quickly adopted quality public speaking skills and was able to powerfully bear testimony of the things that I supposedly knew to be true. Many times after fast and testimony meeting, adults in the ward would approach me and thank me for what I said and that they felt the Spirit. As time went on and I got older, I learned to control my emotions to some extent and got better at public speaking and continued to bear my testimony regularly, though not quite as frequently as when I was younger. On my mission when teaching people about the Church, I would do so daily, up to a dozen times a day as missionaries are taught to do so very frequently.

Growing up, I remember there being a distinct pressure put on the youth to “gain a testimony”. As I said, I had mine from a young age so I don't remember feeling it, but I remember seeing more intellectually honest friends stressing out over it. I believe that if I had not gained it, my anxiety to do so would have been through the roof. As was said in chapter 4, several of the questions in the bishop interviews are regarding one's testimony of the Church and Joseph Smith. Typically if a youth couldn't affirmatively say that they had a testimony of those things, the bishop would ask if they had a belief in them which they would then answer, yes. With my current worldview, the distinction between knowledge and belief here sounds so silly to me because they were the same thing. But Mormon doctrine teaches that you must have a knowledge and not just simply a belief. To be fair, some more independent thinking Mormons will counter that statement and say that it is Mormon culture that teaches that and not Mormon doctrine. While I currently disagree with that rebuttal, I think it is a fair assessment.

The pressure to have your own testimony only intensified in testimony meetings and especially in testimony meetings that happened outside of sacrament meetings. Every summer the youth go on what the Mormons call youth conference. The planned activities vary from ward to ward and year to year. A couple times we went river rafting in Southern Utah. Another time we did a bunch of service projects around our neighborhoods. But almost inevitably there would be a testimony meeting at the end of it all. All the youth would get up one by one and bear their testimony as well as relate an experience they had that validated their beliefs. Often people would be overcome by emotion and be crying. In a way, I still find it beautiful: the idea of a group of dozens of people finding common belief and conviction and sharing it with each other. But then I remember the inadvertent shaming that would occur when one youth struggling to find their testimony would feel the pressure to get up in front of everyone and talk. Often, there would only be one or two at the end of the meeting that hadn't done so. Sometimes on top of being the only one not to have spoken, there would be verbal peer pressure to get up and speak. I'm not comfortable saying this was common, but I definitely saw it happen more than once. Again, the Mormon culture of shame and guilt is strong.

[^1]: 2 Nephi 33:1

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

In chapter 2 I mentioned some differences between the Aaronic Priesthood and the Melchizedek Priesthood. To recap and give some additional context: the Aaronic Priesthood is given to young men at the age of 12 and the Melchizedek Priesthood is given to men at the age of 18. When you receive the priesthood you are assigned to your respective office. As previously stated, Deacon, Teacher, and Priest are the most common offices in the Aaronic Priesthood and are dictated by your age. The offices of Elder and High Priest are the most common offices in the Melchizedek Priesthood. When you enter the Melchizedek Priesthood, you are assigned to the office of Elder and remain so until you are called to be a High Priest. Each person holding these offices is to attend their respective class every Sunday. These groups of men in their respective priesthood offices are most commonly referred to as a quorum (yes, fellow fans, the creator of Battlestar Galactica was Mormon).

Now, each quorum has what is referred to as a presidency. This presidency consists of a president, two assistants — more commonly referred to as counselors —, and a secretary. Their duties are to oversee that lessons and activities get planned and executed as well as keep an eye out for their fellow quorum members. As small teenagers, we were encouraged to respect, honor, and look up to the members of the presidency. I remember wanting to be called as president. I have always been ambitious and, as a little 12 year old, I felt this was a great way to fulfill those ambitions. I was disappointed the first time a new presidency was called when I was a Deacon and I was not chosen. The president is chosen by the bishop and then assigned to go a pray about who the two counselors and secretary should be. I even approached the other kid who had been called as president and expressed my desire to serve to no avail. But eventually my time came and I was called to be president of the Deacon's quorum.

I remember the member of the bishopric on the other side of the phone telling me that, as president, I was entitled to the “ministering of angels” and would be inspired as to who to pick to be my two counselors.[^1] I am fairly positive that there were only four boys, including myself, in the quorum at the time. Thus, it was quite obvious who the rest of the presidency was going to be, but the question was who was going to serve in what position. Of course, I channeled my inner holier than thou and examined who was the most worthy of the other three to be my first counselor. Naturally, I picked my best friend. I later told him that I got a particularly strong feeling when praying to know if he should be my first counselor. I now have little doubt that it was just my confirmation bias that was particularly strong. For future reference in the storyline, I will refer to this friend as Darrell. I called the next oldest kid to be the second counselor and the youngest of us four to be the secretary. I honestly can't remember much that I did as Deacon's quorum president other than stress out when one of the other Deacons didn't show up to church, and making sure we had enough boys to pass the sacrament.

When I became a Teacher, I was called into the presidency fairly early on. I was called to be first counselor to another very close friend. I often referred to this friend as my best friend as well. I'll call him Shawn. To this day, if you ask me who my best friends were in junior high, I'll say Shawn and Darrell. Although, when high school came around, Shawn slowly disappeared from my social life while Darrell did not. I was a groomsman at Darrell's wedding and still refer to him as one of my best friends. But that is getting off topic. Some time after Shawn became a Priest, I was called as Teacher's quorum president. I am not positive if it was immediately after Shawn left the quorum or not, but I know that I was president again at some point and my 15 year old self was giddy as hell. As teacher's quorum president my duties shifted from providing sufficient hands to pass the sacrament to ensuring enough boys would arrive on time to prepare it. Oh and getting the bread there on time, a problem I touch on in chapter 6.

Like I said, the other boys were encouraged to admire and follow the example of their quorum presidents. If you were picked as president, it was a sign that Heavenly Father was pleased with you and a signal to the other boys that you must be doing something right. It encouraged the Mormon mold. Before doing something that I thought questionable, I would often ask myself if I could see my quorum president doing it. It was normally something really benign such as listening to a song with a cuss word. Like many things in my life, this feeling only amplified in my mission when I was supposed to be a spiritual giant 24/7 and would constantly compare myself to the best and highest ranking missionaries. As a teenager though, the best and ultimate example was the first assistant to the bishop. This was essentially the equivalent of the Teacher's and Deacon's quorum president to the Priest's quorum, but technically the bishop was the president of the Priest quorum. That is just Mormon semantics that I'm not going to get into. The point is, I revered whoever that boy was. His assignment to me communicated that he was the most spiritually sound adolescent person I could associate myself.

Darrell's birthday is just a matter of weeks before mine and he was called as first assistant. I want to say that I was disappointed because this meant that I likely would never get the official title of first assistant and that I would only serve de facto in the position for a few weeks before leaving the quorum. However, I can't honestly say that I remember being disappointed. Sure enough, that's exactly what happened. Darrell turned 18, became an Elder, and I became the fall back first assistant to the bishop for a bit.

I'm not sure how much I can argue that this desire to be in a leadership position was instilled in me culturally by the Church and how much of it was just innate to my personality. However the fact that I became disaffected with this desire while still faithful, felt completely liberated from it upon leaving, and no longer struggle with it — at least not consciously — strongly suggests to me that it was more of a cultural influence. To be fair, many Mormons will report that they did not feel similar desires or much competition at all. But many others will admit to experiencing nearly the same thing and it having similar psychological effects on them as it did on me. Ultimately, it probably stemmed from both cultural and natural influences, but the cultural influence simply magnified the negative effects.

[^1]: Doctrine and Covenants 13:1

This is part of a short-lived blog/podcast series written in fall 2017 about my upbringing in the LDS Church. A lot of my writing still centers around the evolution of my Mormon identity.

This chapter is one that I have looked forward to writing. It is a topic that affected so much of my life and brought so much shame and guilt. Not to mention, I personally think it is one of the most dominating and invasive parts of Mormon culture, especially in Utah, and more specifically Utah County where I was raised. Because of the dominating population of Mormons, there is a social peer pressure to keep all the standards perfectly and everyone knew if someone didn't. A large chunk of high school gossip had to do with who was and wasn't keeping these standards.

To begin, I want to lay out a few of these standards and expectations. All of these can be found in a pamphlet published by the Church entitled For the Strength of Youth. It covers 19 different topics that the Church leaders want youth to be conscious of. I remember being encouraged to keep a copy of this pamphlet on my nightstand and read a section every night before going to bed. I don't know that I ever did that, but I definitely took everything in this book very seriously. I will quote excerpts from the pamphlet and then expand. These are all taken directly from the sections entitled Dating and Sexual Purity. There are other topics in the pamphlet that will not be explored in this chapter.

You should not date until you are at least 16 years old. When you begin dating, go with one or more additional couples. Avoid going on frequent dates with the same person. Developing serious relationships too early in life can limit the number of other people you meet and can perhaps lead to immorality.[^1]

The whole “don't date before your 16” idea was taken very seriously. I remember there was one girl in my high school who had skipped a grade. She was in one of my classes and the teacher always teased her that she couldn't go to homecoming until her Senior year because she would turn 16 just after her Junior year Homecoming. That's how expected it was. Even the teachers promoted and talked about it. Typically everyone assumed that everyone else wasn't going to date until they were 16 and the standard was just expected whether you wanted to follow it or not. If someone made the decision to go to a school dance before their 16th birthday, everyone knew about it. I remember a friend who regularly challenged that thinking. Their argument was that there wasn't something that magically happened at midnight on your 16th birthday that suddenly made you mature enough to date. I remember thinking something like “But the prophet says so!” but in hindsight I am actually very impressed that they would challenge the group think around them at such a young age.

Now, I want to effectively illustrate what was considered dating. Growing up, there were many kids my same age in my ward. It was a fairly even mix of girls and boys. We would hang out together all the time. It usually consisted of us walking around the neighborhood in the middle of the street talking, joking, and laughing. During the summer we'd play night games every night. I'm not sure if it's common to call it “night games” outside the Mormon community, but it consisted of us playing games like capture the flag, kick the can, and sardines after sunset. Almost all of our parents had a strict rule that if there was the same number of boy as there were girls, then it was a group date. Apparently they felt that there was too much risk of us pairing off. So before we were 16, this was forbidden. And even if someone's parents didn't care, it didn't matter because it was enforced by, not only everyone else's parents, but by the community. Often there would be comments from other adults who weren't related to any of us telling us to be careful or pointing out that there were three boys and three girls. One of us would feel guilty enough and go home. I'm completely serious when I say this was a regular occurrence.

Once you actually turn 16, as stated, it is highly discouraged to go on dates alone, or what are often referred to as “single dates”. Every date had to be planned with at least one other couple. At school dances, sometimes these groups of couples would exceed 50 people. I'm not joking.

It wasn't rare that kids would want to go on their first date on, or as close as possible, to their 16th birthday. Because my birthday is in the summer, on my sweet 16 I was with my family on a vacation in Nauvoo, Illinois — a city founded by the early Mormon Pioneers before going to Utah. So, naturally, I still found a way to go on a date on my 16th birthday. 2 years earlier, I had met a girl at EFY — Mormon summer camp — that I had kept in contact with who actually lived in the region near Nauvoo. I had a crush on her, so I asked her if she would be my first date on my 16th birthday. Man, I was so Mormon.

Up until writing this, I had actually forgotten that we broke the rule of no single dates that day but I had justified it because we were going to see a movie in the Church's visitors center in Nauvoo. Not just any movie, but the Church's most recent, awe-inspiring movie about the life of Joseph Smith. This movie was powerful. Sure, it leaves out the fact that he practiced polygamy, destroyed a printing press, and many other things they don't you to know about, but as a TBM, I loved this movie it. It was my date's first time seeing the movie and she also enjoyed it. That is how Mormon I was. My first date was on my 16th birthday, with a girl I met at Mormon summer camp, in the Mormon city of Nauvoo, and watching a full-length movie about Joseph Smith.

As far as avoiding “frequent dates with the same person”, this one was interesting to see how people interpreted it. Some just didn't care and dated one person exclusively, but would still make efforts to go on group dates. Others would make sure to go on at least one other date with at least one other person before going out with the same person again. This created a very interesting environment. Just like any high school, there was the desire for more serious relationships, but the titles of boyfriend and girlfriend were taboo and hardly ever used. They signified that you were dating someone exclusively, which was against the rules. So it was more common to say that two people “liked each other” or that they were “going out”. Some would keep these relational dynamics between a group of trusted friends and typically didn't like to address them. Others were publicly known and if you were to ever go on a date with someone in that type of relationship it was just socially understood that the date was as friends because they really were with someone else. If in this type of relationship, the biggest school dances, such as homecoming and prom, were saved for your significant other, while all the other ones were typically reserved for friends. All of this got very confusing very fast.

I myself consciously decided to go on dates frequently and never to date anyone exclusively. I never had a serious girlfriend until age 21 when I started dating my the woman who is now my wife. In high school, I would go on at least one date a month but often more frequently and I never took the same girl out twice. It was very common for Darrell — from chapter 8 — and I to double together and just go get ice cream or something simple. Once we got a bucket of Laffy Taffys and just read the jokes off of all of them for an hour. That was fun. As you know, I was way into my Mormonism and keeping the standards, so I was typically attracted to girls who were of similar attitudes. Whenever I tried to enter a secret, delicate Mormon relationship like the ones I just explained, the girl usually didn't feel comfortable because of all the rhetoric and pressure related to not dating exclusively. As a TBM, I completely agreed and didn't blame her. So I was never in any sort of meaningful relationship in high school.

The dating world in Utah Mormon culture is definitely strange, embarrassing, and shaming. But what only magnifies it is the Church's teachings and standards around chastity. For the Strength of Youth says this under the categories of sexual purity:

Before marriage, do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not do anything else that arouses sexual feelings. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.

Avoid situations that invite increased temptation, such as late-night or overnight activities away from home or activities where there is a lack of adult supervision. Do not participate in discussions or any media that arouse sexual feelings. Do not participate in any type of pornography.[^2]

There are lot of things in there that can be very hard for hormonal teenagers to follow and, as demonstrated in chapter 4, the Church takes all of these things extremely seriously. Of all the shame that was brought on me in my life from the Church, this was the topic that brought the most, and I kept these rules. I can't imagine how I would have felt had I not.

In my youth, my bishop would meet with all the boys regularly to talk about chastity. He told us that we couldn't touch a girl anywhere that a bikini would cover, which honestly sounds pretty reasonable for a religious leader to be saying. Pornography was addressed frequently as well and it was strictly forbidden. I went my entire adolescence not purposefully looking at pornography. I naively thought this was normal among other Mormons as well until I left the Church and have since learned that I was an anomaly. I remember once a pornographic image popped up on my computer and I was terrified. I immediately closed the window and stepped away from the computer. I was too afraid to tell my parents and I felt very guilty.

Church leaders will typically encourage families to put their computers in an open place in the home. The idea is that a kid won't feel that they have the privacy to search for pornography. I had a computer in my bedroom for a couple of years but it didn't have an Internet connection. I've always enjoyed writing and that's what I used it for. I remember one day coming home from Church and telling my Dad that my leader said I couldn't have the computer in my room because it wasn't safe. I didn't even consider the fact that I had never had a problem with pronography, but I was convinced that if the computer was in my room where no one could see me, I would develop a problem. My Dad told me he wasn't worried about it because of the lack of Internet connection and nothing changed.

On top of all of this, as the pamphlet says, we weren't supposed to do anything that would “[arouse] sexual feelings”. I remember at the age of 13 hugging a girl my same age and feeling very guilty because of how it made me feel. Or at 14 and holding a girl's hand. By the time I kissed a girl just before turning 17, I must have gotten over that shame because I didn't necessarily feel it then. But I never would have dreamed of using tongue, or as the pamphlet says “passionate kissing”. There were many times in which I would try to justify my actions by asking my friends about them. “Do you think I was dancing too close to her?” “Is it ok to be alone with her for that long?” I'm still trying to overcome comparing myself to others.

I know that all of things are harmless and many reading are probably laughing, but the stress and shame were real. After all of these group meetings with the bishop talking about chastity, we would leave somber and down because the topic was rarely discussed in an uplifting way, but in a condescending, hopeless way. To capture the essence of the rhetoric, here's what the For the Strength of Youth has to say about not keeping these standards:

Do not allow the media, your peers, or others to persuade you that sexual intimacy before marriage is acceptable. It is not. In God’s sight, sexual sins are extremely serious. They defile the sacred power God has given us to create life.[^2]

It then goes on to quote the Book of Mormon on topic saying that “sexual sins are more serious than any other sins except murder or denying the Holy Ghost”.[^3] Yes, Mormon doctrine literally says that sexual sin is only slightly less worse than murder. I was told this as early as age 12. No wonder I never masturbated.

The temptation to break the rules only grew as you approached marriage. Many people will blame these strict rules as the reason that many Mormons get married so young. While there is no data supporting the claim, I tend to agree it is a large factor. Typically if a couple has sex before marriage and ends up getting pregnant, the bishop will encourage them to get married before the baby is born. I know several people this happened to, and thankfully it has worked out. But I have also heard my fair share of stories where it didn't work out. Sometimes the couple is really young and the relationship doesn't end up working well or was even abusive. To be fair, not all bishops would encourage this and some would analyze the situation and recognize some may not work out. But the number of Mormon couples with premarital pregnancies that end up getting married seems to suggest it is some sort of unwritten policy.

Before ending, I feel very compelled to point out two things. First, women and girls in the Church are shamed much more on this topic than men. Countless women have reported being told to dress modestly so that boys would have an easier time keeping their thoughts clean, implying that they are responsible for other people's thoughts. Additionally, I can't begin to imagine how it must be to hear all of this as a member of the LGBT community. To further quote For the Strength of Youth:

Homosexual and lesbian behavior is a serious sin. If you find yourself struggling with same-gender attraction or you are being persuaded to participate in inappropriate behavior, seek counsel from your parents and bishop. They will help you.[^2]

At least I, as a straight man, knew that I was going to be able to express my love intimately with my partner after marriage. Gays in the Church, currently do not have that hope.

[^1]: For the Strength of Youth, Dating [^2]: For the Strength of Youth, Sexual Purity [^3]: Alma 39:5