So lately there’s been all this stuff everywhere about people who would vote for Rick Perry being in a cult.
Sorry. The issue at hand is whether Mormonism is a cult. My mistake.
The best man at my wedding, Keith, was a Mormon. I loved that guy. Keith was my best/only friend all through high school. I missed him terribly when he went on his mission trip to France. France! The closest I’d ever been to France was being rude while ordering french fries.
I don’t know if on his mission trip Keith converted any French people to Mormonism. Probably not. The French are a pretty fashionable people. And I think while there Keith still had to wear that Mormon missionary outfit so favored by guys who’ve come to your office to fix the copy machine.
Then again, uber-geek fashion was a bit of the rage back when, like, Talking Heads were first popping. So who knows? Maybe the French thought Keith was an ultra-chic representative of Le’ House of Dork.
I dunno. I know Keith’s extremely lovely family never tried to convert me. Ever. I think they were afraid I might become a Mormom. I think they used to coach Keith on what to say to make sure I was never tempted to become a Mormon.
“Read to him that part from The Book of Mormon about the magic stones,” I imagine them telling him. “Tell him about the crazy underwear we wear. That should do it.”
If that was their plan, it worked. I loved Keith. But I was about to become a Mormon like I was about to become an Eagle Scout. Which Keith also was.
How Keith and I ever got to be best friends is beyond me. Well, it’s not, really. Keith was easily the funniest person I’ve ever met. So that’s why.
Keith’s parents had seriously mixed feelings about me. On the one hand, they were happy their decidedly nerdy son had a friend from high school. On the other hand, that friend was me. I came from a home not just broken, but shattered. I smoked cigarettes. I smoked weed. I drank. I seemed to have a million girlfriends. I drove a car you could hear coming from blocks away. I looked like the cover shot from Every Mother’s Nightmare magazine.
Keith was their eldest son, of five kids. In high school he was already taking college classes. I barely attended our high school. On the first day of my senior year of high school, I saw this small, skinny kid, a freshman or sophomore, pretty upset because he couldn’t get his locker to work.
My locker was just a couple down from his. “Here,” I told the kid. “You can have my locker. It’s fine. It’s yours.” I gave him the combo to my locker, and then tossed my books in some bushes right beside the lockers.
That was my new locker. Bushes. Until I left high school six months later, that’s what I actually used for my locker. And they’d water those bushes. I’d show up to math class, and my book would be all wrinkled, and wet, and dirty, with little branches and leaves stuck all over it. And slugs. Seriously. Baby slugs. Who apparently strived for a better life.
Meanwhile, Keith was already deciding which college scholarships to take.
One time, when I was having Thanksgiving dinner at Keith’s house, I looked around the table, and saw the happiest, healthiest, most loving family I’d ever even imaged could exist. They actually liked each other. And I knew this family. I knew how good they were. I knew how much their religion meant to them. They didn’t talk much about Mormonism, but they sure lived it. In an emergency, theirs was the house you wanted to go to, for sure. Their dad, like, built their house. And their Mom made June Cleaver look like a drunk prostitute. Their whole family was amazing.
Maybe Mormonism is a cult. I don’t know. (Well, I do: it’s not.) All I know is that when I was a kid, it was a Mormon family who showed me what a real family, operating at maximum capacity, looks like. It was the first time I’d ever seen that. And I can’t say I’ve seen it that often since.