Thursday, November 10, 2011

Coolness 101 For Mormons

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Donna Banta
Subject: How to be cool

Two weeks ago the Thursday Styles section of The New York Times ran a feature entitled, To Be Young, Hip, and Mormon.  It outlined the dilemma for trendy young members who are constrained by LDS Church standards. The piece went on to describe how many of the faithful get around the restrictions in order to look like they're cool. For example, a male BYU student who wants to grow a beard may obtain a "beard card" by developing a serious skin condition, or he could land the lead role in a play about Jesus. A young, hip Mormon party girl could order a Pellegrino and not bother to correct anyone who suggests she's just out of rehab. Or a trendy youth might get a pass on the "no tattoo" policy if he's inked with an image of a beehive.

This whole "looking cool" baloney is nothing new. In my day, it was women fighting to be allowed to wear "feminine cut" jeans on the BYU campus. But here's the thing, Brother or Sister Hipster. Even though you're on-trend in your button-down plaid shirt, rolled selvedge jeans and boat shoes, underneath you're still wearing that dowdy magic underwear you received in a temple where you dressed up like the Pillsbury Dough Boy at a toga party and pledged all of your time, talent and resources to an organization that is devoted to subjugating women and "curing" gays. Do you get where I'm going with this Abbottsville Fourth Ward? Let me spell it out for you.

Looking cool isn't the same as being cool.

That's why I love Post-Mormon Sundays at the San Francisco Ferry Building. I get to hang with people who are truly cool, on their own, regardless of what they are wearing, and without advertising.

As I've said before, just because we're ex-Mormons doesn't mean we don't have testimonies. This month we shared how we gained the knowledge that being a Mormon wasn't "cool." These were a few of our red flags:

  • One young man realized that the temple ceremony wasn't going to be "cool" when the temple worker began by asking him to take off all of his clothes.
  • Another realized that Spencer W. Kimball wasn't a very "cool" prophet when he said (via The Miracle of Forgiveness) that masturbation leads to homosexuality, and that homosexuality leads to bestiality. (Hello? Bestiality?)
  • A returned missionary felt very "uncool" when his leaders ordered him and his companion to round up an elder that had sneaked away from his mission. Late at night under the cloak of darkness, they wandered the neighborhood peeking in windows and finally found him after they crawled under a family's house and heard the poor kid's voice. (I should point out that this was in Southern Louisiana where the houses are on stilts. Even so, definitely not "cool.")
  • A woman remembers being very "uncool" when she told the love of her life she would only date him if he sat through 3 hours of church with her every Sunday and took the missionary discussions.
Cool without an ad campaign
So there you are, Abbottsville Fourth. You may look cool at church in your Zooey Deschanel ruffled blouses, high collars and high-waisted pencil skirts. But we are cool at the Ferry Building. And we never worry about how we look because we're comfortable with who we are.

EVEN COOLER! Our nephew, Dan, got a shout out on Foxhole Atheist, Justin Griffith's blog!

Dan, the famous Air Force atheist.
And if I have offended any of you ... that probably means you're in the wrong crowd! Hang with us next month.


  1. Awh buddy, that is so funny. a beard card. wow, is that fer real. One thing that I have noticed for all the cool Christian kids here in Nor Cal is that they never look cool. I'm a musician and fo sho I have a 'look' as do all my friends. We don't try, it just is. When Christian kids try to look cool, they never do. They look like watered down versions of...well us. you can spot them a mile away. to me it looks like their parents dressed them, and that is not a good thing.

    Awesome buddy, hope everything is going well,


  2. You guys look cooler then anyone at church ever does! What a fun get together that must be.

  3. "It looks like their parents dressed them." Hilarious. Thanks Kriss, hope you're well too.

    Heather, we do have "too much fun" -- in spite of President Monson's warning against it.

  4. Yeah, there's nothing cooler than pretending one just got out of rehab.

    ::crickets chirping::

    I'll bet if their magic underwear actually looked cool more people would join their club. But that underwear does not look cool. Not even.

  5. Unholy Zombie Jesus, is that for real? That's gotta be a joke--a beehive tattoo? Beard card?

    Ick. Why are they so concerned with looking cool anyway? That seems to go against pretty much every church doctrine I can think of.

  6. @CD, I know, when I read the bit about rehab I nearly lost my breakfast. That absolutely speaks volumes about what they think of themselves.

    Diana, you're right, being Mormon is all about not being cool. I agree, the beard card is strange -- who do they show it to? And why would somebody get a dorky tattoo?

  7. You got it. Me likey.

  8. Makes me long to move back to California so I can hang out with you "cool" ex-Mormons at the SF Ferry Building. Maybe my roots are calling me???

    Donna, as always, you hit it all on the head. Those "I'm a Mormon" Ads really brings it all home. I saw one on TV last night and just about lost my dinner. A scientist talking about his search for truth - and then saying he's a Mormon. Rationalization anyone???

  9. Will, thumbs up!

    Diane, OMG, a scientist. Was he peering at Kolob through his telescope?

  10. I really liked learning about your group. As much as I love the more satirical posts (don't stop!), this one stirred big bunches of empathy.

  11. Thanks Nance, we do have a great group. So fun to have real friends after having so many "assigned" friendships within Mormonism.