I Can’t–I’m Mormon

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I went window shopping at the Gateway Plaza. We were still living in Utah, so a trip to the outdoor shopping mall in downtown Salt Lake City was a treat that we could easily afford. As we browsed through the shops we passed a display of t-shirts that poked fun at Utah’s Mormon culture. Usually I poke fun along with the best of them, but one t-shirt grabbed my attention, making a sad commentary on the general sacrificial perspective of those who have been raised with the should/should-not attitude of the pervading culture. It said “I Can’t– I’m Mormon.”

As a child, I had been taught not to smoke, drink, do drugs, or engage in premarital sex. Those were the things that Mormons are not allowed to do, and if I was going to be a good Mormon, I was not going to do them either.

I remember those days, while still in the general naivety of my youth, when I felt that I could dance around the edges of moral purity, and trifle with with the physical urges of the boys I dated, while remaining chaste enough for that coveted temple marriage. I particularly enjoyed what my dad called “huggy-bear and kissy face.” I believe that the generally accepted term in this generation is NCMO (a.k.a. non-committal make-out, affectionately pronounced “nickmo”). NCMO is too often given the wink and nod of ward-level church leaders who have “been-there, done that.”

I do know that even as I write this, I am treading over the general line of offensive opinion, but I make no apologies– general authorities have warned repeatedly against it, but many church members (such as myself) make excuses and allow for an occasional drift over the line, reminding themselves that they can “always repent.” I see it most often in the guys and girls who look for romantic commitment (and/or physical satisfaction) at incredibly young ages, because they haven’t learned how to bridle sexual urges. I understand it, because I was barely 19 when I was married the first time. I knew at the time that my husband-to-be was less than consummate, but those physical urges were over-powering, and being less than perfect myself, I naively believed that a temple marriage would save us from the disappointment of divorce.

Thirteen years, and four children later, I sat in my bishop’s office, with tears streaming down my face. I simply could not understand that my marriage could fail when I had done everything in my power to be the wife I thought my husband wanted. People close to me kept telling me that “it takes two” to make a divorce. Looking back, I believe that they were just as ignorant of reality as I was. I repeated this platitude to my bishop, and asked “I don’t get it, what did I do wrong?” My bishop leaned forward, took my hands in his, and said, “I don’t know, Marianne, what did you do wrong?” I thought for a minute, and suddenly the light went on– “I married him!” Continue reading