My kids are high school dropouts, and I couldn’t be happier about it

My 17-year-old daughter has been awarded an academic scholarship to the university she’s attending this fall.

But she wasn’t mentioned in the assembly the high school held last week honoring scholarship recipients.

She’s leaving high school with a 3.9 GPA, but she won’t receive any honors.

She quietly walked away from school yesterday, and didn’t even attend graduation (she was working at Little Caesar’s to earn money for housing in September).

Why?

Because she’s not a senior in high school; she’s only a junior. And, like her two older sisters, she’s decided she’s done with the drama and tension of high school life. She’s skipping her senior year and heading straight for college.

Without a high school diploma, without even a GED.

And I love seeing the look of shock on the faces of our friends and neighbors when they hear that I now have five—FIVE—high school dropouts.

“But . . . but . . . they HAVE to have a diploma!”

No, they don’t.

“But . . . but . . . if they don’t graduate, they can’t get into college!”

Not a single university of the four that my kids have applied to has asked for a high school diploma. None of them.

“But . . . but . . .  they need transcripts showing they completed four years of schooling! How do you get around that?”

Easily. Our kids are part home-schooled, part public-schooled. I make transcripts for my children based on what they’ve studied since 9th grade, couple that with the grades they get from their high school courses, and send that to the universities. The admissions offices accept the documents, no questions.

“But . . . but . . . isn’t that illegal?”

Teaching my kids at home? Recording their scores? Nope. And there’s nothing illegal about dropping out of school.

“But . . . but . . . how do colleges accept them?”

Three little letters: ACT.

That test is designed to demonstrate how well a student may succeed in college. Four of my five kids scored in the high 20s and low 30s on their ACTs, and that was good enough for college. One child, who has struggled with some learning disabilities, didn’t score as well, but he’s been accepted to two state schools anyway.

Because college isn’t that hard to get into.

Seriously.

Every state has university systems with “open enrollment.” Essentially it means that if you have a heartbeat and a bank account, you can try a year of college. Having taught at these schools, I realized that this prevailing notion is a good one: maybe someone wasn’t top of his class in high school, but maturity, focus, and time works in favor for a lot of people. Just give them a shot at college. If they don’t succeed after a year, they’re put on probation, but most likely drop out on their own to pursue something else.

Several years ago, my oldest daughter scored the magic number on her ACT to be accepted into Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She had taken the test early as a 15-year-old, only so that we could gauge where her homeschooling had taken her.

I stared in shock at her score, then was surprised even more when she said, “Can’t I just go to college now? What’s the point of doing more high school?”

I had no answer for her except, “I guess you could go early . . .” She started her freshman year of college when she should have been at her senior year of high school.

My second daughter, not to be outdone by her sister in anything ever, also took the ACT early, and to her delight scored one point higher. She was attending our local high school part-time, and when her guidance counselor brought her in to choose courses for the next year, she told her, “I’m not coming back; I’m heading to college instead.”

The guidance counselor called me that day. “I don’t think that’s a good idea for your daughter to skip her final year. Most kids aren’t mature enough to move away to college at 17. Most kids really struggle.”

I answered, “Most kids aren’t my kids. I evaluate each individually, and my daughter is ready to leave, just as her older sister, who has a 4.0 at BYU right now.”

Where are my two daughters now? My oldest is completing her master’s degree in archaeology. She’s been published a few times, was the head TA for anthropology for many years, directing 20+ TAs who taught freshman anthropology, and is completing her thesis, despite having a toddler at home and another baby on the way.

my kids are high school dropouts

As my oldest daughter, Madison, received announcements of high school graduations, complete with dramatic photos, we decided to do our own photo shoot of her dropping out. (She’s holding a root beer bottle, by the way). Four years later she graduated as valedictorian of her class at BYU-Provo. Now she’s married, a mom, and finishing her master’s thesis. Not bad for a “dropout.”

 

My second daughter earned her associates’ degree with a 3.95, went on an LDS mission to Edmonton, Canada for eighteen months, and now is finishing her first year at BYU’s very competitive nursing program. She hopes to become a labor-and-delivery nurse, and eventually a certified midwife.

I think they were mature enough to leave high school, just as their little sister is.

Now, if you’ve done the math you’ll see I said FIVE high school dropouts, and I’ve mentioned only three so far.

I have two sons who also dropped out, but they went through their senior years. Almost.

My oldest son, who has learning disabilities and struggled like his dad to learn to read and write, took schooling slower and finished his high school courses with a 3.8 GPA. Seeing him earn As in English astonished me. Then he quit school, without a diploma.

Then he went to the oil fields of North Dakota.

Then he went on a LDS mission to Pittsburgh, PA for two years.

Then he went into the army reserves and trained in petroleum testing, where he was honored for earning the highest scores. IMG_5690

And now he’s going to college. He’s starting later than most freshmen, but with a wealth of maturity and experience behind him, and with eagerness that a lot of college freshmen, who are burned out from high school, don’t possess. 

I’ve had a few acquaintances surprised by this, too.

“But . . . but . . . he’s getting kind of late start, isn’t he?”

No. He’s only 22. I used to teach evening courses at a community college where half of my students were older than me. It’s never too late to start.

“But . . . but . . . students will be younger than him.”

So what? We’ve been programmed by our many years of public schooling to think that everyone should be the same age in the same grade. But once you get to college, you realize that your classes–if you’re lucky–are populated by a microcosm of the world: people of all ages and backgrounds and even countries.

My son’s starting college in a very smart way: with no debt. He knows he’s not getting scholarships like his sisters, but the army’s helping him pay for school, and he’ll eventually leave with money in the bank, not debts to his name. He’s learned from his parents that student loan debt is a killer.

And what about my other son? He dropped out a little bit early. He left before his third trimester of school. 050

Yep, right in the middle of it all, he waved good-bye and walked away.

He figured, what more could he get out of high school in one more trimester? Nothing, really. He wanted to get to serving as a missionary for the LDS church.

While the LDS church wants its missionaries to complete high school and graduate (the minimum age to serve for boys is 18), I pointed out to our local leadership that none of my kids graduated because they are home-schooled, and my son had been 18 since the beginning of the school year.

Our congregational bishop, a teacher at the high school who had my sons in his classes, scratched his head at my argument. Then, knowing me and our family too well, said, “All right. I guess we can submit his papers and see that the church says.”

By April of his senior year, my son was already serving an LDS mission in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. He missed all the graduation parties, just like his sister has, but he doesn’t care. He’s already moved on to real life.

I have four more children who will also likely make me proud by being high school dropouts. I’m not proud that they “dropped out,” but that they made decisions for themselves as to what they wanted to do with their lives.

My husband and I haven’t told any of them what we expect of them. I have, however, told them I want them to try at least one year of college, just to see if it’s for them. I want them to have that experience of learning from various people—even the liberally-minded, to help challenge and strengthen our conservative beliefs. When they do that year of college, and where, and how, is entirely up to them.

Back to my latest high school dropout. When she came home from high school for the last time, I asked her, “Any regrets? I heard your friends saying how much they’ll miss you next year, how they wished you’d stay.”

GEDSC DIGITAL CAMERA

All of my kids do things differently, like making a prom dress skirt out of storm trooper fabric.

Oh, if you could have seen her eyes rolling. Like planets falling out of orbit.

“No!” she declared. “I am done! Let’s get on to real life!” Then she pulled out her tablet, with yet another recipe on it, and headed to the kitchen where she’s been experimenting with meals she can make after a day of college classes.

She’s moving on when she’s ready to, not when some random bureaucrat declares her “mature enough.”

She, like my other children, is making choices for her life, based upon her needs.

I love having a house of rebels.

“Let’s hope there are still a few rebellious ‘teenaged’ souls out there,” Mahrree whispered to Perrin.

“Besides us, I mean.”  

~Book 2, Soldier at the Door

(Book 5 is published and available! Get Safety Assured Leaving East of Medicetti at Amazon, Smashwords, or here on “Start reading the books!“)

“Being offended” is not as admirable a trait as you may think it is

Taking offense and being insulted have elevated into national pastimes. Find any article posted online anywhere and read (if you dare) the comments. You’ll find a flurry of, “I’m so offended at . . .” or “I can’t believe someone would write . . .” or “Once again, another insulting article has been published by . . .”

Everyone, it seems, has reason to complain about their feelings being hurt.
Either we’ve become a nation of martyrs, or we’ve never matured beyond 7th grade.

I’m inclined to believe the latter. Even if no offense is intended, someone’s bound to twist another’s words and intents like a pipe cleaner into some hurtful shape, then complain loudly that they’ve been hurt.

This weekend I read about a high school which sent home a funny-yet-instructive letter explaining how graduates should dress for graduation (sadly, such direction is necessary because many people don’t understand the word “appropriate”) and naturally there were many students and parents who found it “offensive,” “insulting,” and “shocking.”

Clearly the attempt at humor—written by a teacher who had since retired, suggesting that this letter had been sent out many times before and was never met with such anger—was meant to lighten the mood of what could be an awkward explanation as to why boys should keep their pants pulled up and girls should keep their “girls” contained at the graduation ceremonies. Why people should choose to be offended at reminders to be appropriately dressed truly baffles me.

I also read a post by a man who was overwhelmed by the effort some moms put into craftiness, and how other women feel they have to compete with often over-the-top productions. “Just. Stop. It.” wrote Scott Dannemiller, because he had observed his wife struggling with her assignment for the treat bags of the 1st graders. (Since when do 1st graders need elaborate and decorated end-of-school treat bags?)

And what did women write in response? Oh, I’m sure you can guess: “He’s openly sneering crafty moms . . .” and “Why is it acceptable to openly mock people?” and “What an ungrateful, hateful rant!”

Personally, I thought the article was hilarious. Yes, some women believe everything they see on Pinterest and feel obliged to conform. And yes, I’m a “crafty person,” but the author made excellent points—

Ah, there’s the rub, I think: We simply can’t abide another person’s point of view, especially if it may border on pricking our conscience.

The idea that maybe we might be wrong about something is . . . hurtful?

Or are we too prideful?

The opposite of pride is humility, and while people give that a negative connotation, what “humble” really means is “teachable”: recognizing that we don’t know everything yet, that we aren’t perfect yet, and that we’re WILLING to be open to correction and suggestions on how to improve.

Oh yes—that’s not ANYTHING our society wants inflicted on it: humility? Blech!

Instead we throw a fit when someone suggests we (or our children) are dressing, acting, or saying anything inappropriate.

Instead of checking ourselves to see if we need to improve, we whine and whimper that someone’s being “judgmental” and “offensive” and “hurtful.”

Instead of allowing someone their own points-of-view, on any matter (we are a free-speech society, in theory anyway), we cry foul and proclaim “They hate us!” and in turn become bullies to those whose opinions we refuse to allow.

Aristotle once wrote, “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

What he means is, let people have their opinions; you don’t have to affected by them at all.
But instead we choose to take offense at ideas that we fear threaten ours.
We don’t have to.

Look at that phrase: “Choose to take offense.”

First, it is a choice to be offended. I’ve known a few people who can manipulate the most innocuous statement to insinuate offense.

“She complimented me on my shirt today. Does that mean she thinks my shirt yesterday was hideous?”

“He said I could borrow his new lawnmower. Clearly he thinks my yard isn’t as good as his and I need his help.”

“She said I looked tired. What did she mean by that?!”

Probably nothing!

No one thinks as much about us as we think they do. Many of us learn that back in junior high when our natural narcissism makes us believe everything in the world really is only all about us. And unfortunately a lot of people get stuck at that phase, even as adults.

That’s the problem with “taking” offense; when we actively take (an action on our part) offense, we get stuck. All forward progress in our day, our week, our lives comes to a grinding halt because we stop and decide to fight what we choose to see as a personal attack on something we love to do or believe.  Quite often that “attack” is nothing more than a weak perception on our parts that we overinflate to gargantuan sizes, and we lose traction and time pouting that someone hurt our feelings when 99% of the time no such thing actually occurred.

But occasionally a very personal, very sharp attack does come at us, fully intending to wound or even destroy us.

There are times when offense is clearly meant, and the aggressor stands there waiting for us to fight back.

Still, we can choose to take offense, or not.

Years ago I heard someone say, “Go ahead. Try to offend me. You can’t, because I simply won’t accept offense.

The idea was astonishing to me, and one that I’ve tried to adopt myself. I’ve lived around people who chose to take offense at every little thing, and their lives were needlessly exhausting as they perceived attacks on every side.

However, not taking offense at anything—letting people say and do and imply whatever they want, and letting that mud fling past me instead of stepping into its path—has made my life abundantly easier.

On many occasions people have nervously said to me, “I hope I’m not offending you, but . . .” and what followed was nothing anywhere near offensive. (Usually they’re offering me and my large family their hand-me-down clothes. As a woman who hates shopping and spending money, it’s Christmas Day when those garbage bags are deposited at my front door!)

I smile and say, “I’ve chosen to never be offended by anything, so you’ve got to try a lot harder than that.”

But back to the deliberate offenses, the calculated attacks: Even then, we do NOT need to take offense.

The best example of this to me is that demonstrated by the musical “The Book of Mormon.” Yes, it’s won numerous awards, has grossed millions of dollars, has been received worldwide, and yes—it’s a deliberate attack on the beliefs and ideals of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS). We’re also known by the name “Mormons,” the name of the ancient author of the compiled book which is lampooned and mocked in the musical. The whole notion of missionaries and morality is parodied by writers who openly hate the Church and brazenly stole copyright names to turn all which we hold sacred into the profane.

Yet the Church has chosen not to be offended.
They’ve chosen not to fight.

They’ve chosen to step away from the mud flinging and simply go on with doing what they believe is right.

There are no lawsuits over the copyright infringements. There are no organized protests. There is no money or time or effort expended in wrestling in this muddy bath. Mormons have been persecuted before, to the point of theft and rape and murder. Compared to the horrors early members faced in the 19th century, a blasphemous little musical is nothing.

There are too many far more important tasks at hand, so the Church continues to focus on building its humanitarian efforts, churches, temples, and going about business as usual. I see the attitude of, “We’ll leave the judgments to God, and be about doing His work in the meantime.”

Well, I confess that wasn’t my initial reaction to the musical. When I first read about the production, I was furious. As a mother of missionaries, future missionaries, and married to a returned missionary, I panicked that such an outright mockery would damage the efforts of tens of thousands of sincere people.

That hasn’t happened. In fact, I’ve read of several accounts of people who attended the musical, decided to contact missionaries to make fun of them, but ended up joining the Church instead. In every major market there have been critical reviews commenting that the musical is abrasive, offensive, and vulgar, and if it were directed toward Muslims instead of Mormons, jihad would have been declared on all fronts.

But all the Church said about the musical was this:

The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.

And that was it.
The producers of the musical state the Church is being a “good sport” about it, and blah, blah, blah, because what more can they do about someone who refuses to fight?

Frankly, I still hate the idea that the musical exists, and that people willingly pay ridiculous amounts to see Mormons and missionaries mocked. But I refuse to take offense.

In a fight, the one with the most power is the one who walks away from it.

“No one’s ever successfully insulted Rector Yung, because he refuses to be insulted. People do their best, but Yung won’t even acknowledge the attempt of an affront.”

The Falcon in the Barn, Book 4

Why I choose to be a Mormon

I haven’t been haven’t been coerced or brainwashed, nor am I stupid and delusional to believe what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches, despite what commenters on social media and articles about Mormons like to claim.

Instead, I’ve chosen to believe, and here are my six reasons why:

  1. Mormonism makes sense to me.

Straight off, I like what the LDS Church teaches.

Mormonism rings true in my mind and heart, more than any other philosophy, religion, or belief system I’ve researched. And yes—I’ve researched a lot of them, starting when I was a teenager. Even then I agreed with Socrates when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

While I was born into a family that was Mormon, I took it upon myself to make sure I wasn’t duped into believing all of this stuff. At the age of 16 I started a serious, focused study of the Bible. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, but I read every single word—even the entire Old Testament, and boy was I happy to get to the New Testament—to make sure I knew what was in there.

And I decided that I wanted to believe in it. Belief is a choice, after all. While I think that some of the Bible is figurative, I believe that most of it is literal as far as it’s translated correctly, and I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, making me firmly a Christian.

But still I wanted to know what else was out there.

So beginning in high school when I had to read Siddhartha, I’ve researched over the years the main tenants and theories of the major belief systems, from Atheism to Zen Buddhism, and just about everything in between.  In each sect and philosophy I found elements that rang my inner “truth bell.”
(Except for Karl Marx and Christopher Hitchins; they barely clanked my brain.)

But my inner truth bells rang constantly when I read The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and when I studied the ideology of Mormonism. All the truths I found in the other religions and philosophies were represented in the LDS Church along with so, so much more. It’s that depth that won me over, because . . .

  1. Mormonism is the kind of life I want to live.

I’m baffled when others who don’t even know me, or any other Mormons for that fact, take it upon themselves to mock and deride our decision to follow this way of life: to be morally clean, provide charity to our friends and neighbors, pay tithing, actively worship Jesus Christ, observe the Sabbath Day, and make covenants in temples in order to perhaps in some distant epoch of time eventually grow, develop, and mature to become even like God himself.

I would never, ever make fun of the way another person lives their life—it’s their life; why would I be so arrogant as to criticize their decisions?—so I’m not sure why it’s always open season on Mormons.
(By the way, “The Book of Mormon” musical is not written or endorsed by Mormons. Trust me.)

But I’m a Mormon because I want to live a deliberate and purposeful life, and the teachings of the LDS Church provide me with the most logical and inspired guidelines to do so.  

The way I see life is that I have such a short time to be here, and I want to do as much and as best as I can.

I look it at this way: I’ve always wanted to visit London, England. In my mind I’ve fantasized and romanticized about what London would be like and secretly wished I were British. (I’m German, may the Brits forgive me.)

Now, if someone came to me and said, “You will have 24 hours to spend in London next week,” I assure you I wouldn’t just step off the plane in Heathrow, buy a six-pack, and sit on the banks of the Thames watching the boats go up and down for the day.

No, I’d start planning now for the best 24 hours ever. What would be the best and most important places to visit? Once I got there I’d ask the locals, where should I eat? What tourist traps should I avoid? Is Shakespeare playing in the park? Where’s the park? I wouldn’t want to waste any of my time idly.
(As you can imagine, my idea of a vacation isn’t the same as everyone else’s. We once vacationed at the beach, and by lunchtime on the second day I was bored out of my mind. “Isn’t there a museum or national park anywhere?!”)

I see my entire life in the same way. I get the feeling that my soul is very, very old, and that I waited for thousands of years to come to this earth. My existence after this life will also extend for thousands of more years, and beyond.

The line, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience,” by the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, also rings true to me, as does C. S. Lewis’s statement that “You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

Because this is my ONE shot at life (I couldn’t get behind the idea of reincarnation, unfortunately), and I’m sure I’ve been waiting for this chance for several millennia. I don’t want to waste it.

I’ve also decided (a choice, again) that Jesus Christ was the best example of how to live fully, and no other religion or ideology I’ve explored follows His example closer than the LDS Church.

Follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the way I want to spend my life.

  1. The LDS Church doesn’t require blind obedience.

This is another trite, overused cliché leveled against those who are Mormons: we’re non-thinking and gullible.

One man, trying to point out how stupid I was for following Mormonism, claimed that if the prophet said to jump, I’d ask how high.

I shrugged and said, “I thought that was only true in the armed forces.”

Silly me, I’d forgotten he was career military. What ensued next was a brief but lively conversation about the difference between commanders expecting absolute obedience to commands, versus people obeying prophets of God.

When I pointed out that the LDS Church never requires blind obedience as the armed forced did, the gentleman changed the subject because he really didn’t know that much about Mormons, which is my experience with most detractors.
They know hearsay, and little else. 

The truth is that the LDS Church emphasizes, again and again, the importance of individuals discovering truths for themselves; “gaining a testimony” is how it’s frequently phrased.

Here are some of the most often quoted scriptures in the church:

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right . . .”

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true . . .”

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . .”

It’s a church that encourages its members, and those investigating it, to ask, ask, ask; to find out, find out, find out for themselves.

No blind faith. Put God to the test. Try it and see.

Back to my military friend; one thing he did admit was that the reason the soldiers obeyed their commanders was because they trusted them implicitly.

I likewise trust the leaders of my church. Their admonitions and suggestions have been correct again and again, and I’ve decided (choice, again) that they are prophets who receive revelation from God.

Here’s one example of thousands I could give. A president and prophet named Gordon B. Hickley said these words in a general conference of the church: Hinckley 2

“I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

“So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

“We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.”

He said this in 1998.
He was right.
It’s been storming for 17 years now, with little relief in sight.

You can see what Mormon leaders have been saying for decades by clicking here and doing a search. Try it for yourself.

So yes, if the prophets of the LDS church says jump, I will, because I already trust their judgment.

And not blindly, but with my eyes and ears wide open.

  1. The LDS Church gives me great comfort.

No other religious organization or philosophical ideal I’ve encountered can provide the depth and breadth of explanations about life and death than the LDS Church. They literally have the meaning of life.

This understanding—that life is a brief but a very important point in our eternal existence—helps me understand why I’m here, what I’m supposed to be doing, and where I want to go afterwards.

This life is a test—a critical, calculated examination—of the nature of our hearts. What do we really, really want? Placed in this mortal state, with problems and struggles, we can truly see what we’re made out of based on how we treat our brothers and sisters.

We’re here to be tried, not to be partying. 

Years ago I worked with a woman who asked me, with the obligatory sneer, why I wanted to be a “good girl” to go to heaven where it undoubtedly would be boring because all anyone ever does is sit around strumming harps and singing. She was planning on going to hell, where all the “cool” people would be.

Befuddled by her overly simplistic ideas of heaven and hell, I hemmed and hawed for a minute before explaining that I believed heaven is a extension of this life where, with our friends and family, we continue to grow and are given greater responsibilities and abilities, whereas hell was a place where all of our regrets and failings torment us with what could have been.

She blinked at that, never having given any real thought to heaven and hell beyond what she saw in Saturday morning cartoons, and never again disparaged my beliefs. In fact, she asked about a few more details over the next few months, and I sensed she was looking for comfort for a pain she couldn’t yet admit feeling.

I recall the song by Eric Clapton called “Tears in Heaven” about the loss of his 4-year-old son. The lyrics are heartbreaking: “Would you know my name/if I saw you in Heaven,” as if the relationships we have on earth would somehow be lost in the next world.

Mormons know that not only will we recognize each other when we die, we’ll know far more about those we love because we’ll remember our relationships we had before we came to this earth.

And additionally, Mormons know that all pain in this life is temporary. 

All frustrations, all troubles, all disappointments will be rectified in the life to come. 

I can’t imagine how I’d live without that understanding. I think I’d be constantly depressed, like the older woman I met at her mother’s funeral.  She knew—knew—that everything about her beloved mother was gone forever. The Mormon bishop conducting the service for the family (because they weren’t affiliated with any religion) tried to assure her that her mother’s spirit was alive and well, and they could be together again someday.

But this woman shook her head and said, “That’s just too good to believe. I can’t accept it.”

Heartbreaking.

She didn’t dare take the comfort, too broken down by this life to imagine any other. I couldn’t live like that.

I need comfort to survive.

  1. What I “sacrifice” to be a Mormon is no sacrifice at all.

You’ve heard it all: Mormons don’t drink, don’t smoke, believe in chastity, fidelity, modesty, charity, and are focused on keep families strong.

Boooorrrring.

When I was 19 I worked in a mall on the east coast where I was the only Mormon among a lot of college students. Frequently they came to work with hangovers, slipped outside to smoke, and complained and fretted about their one-night stands.

I listened to the conversations but never said anything because it wasn’t a world I was part of. Dutifully I’d fold shirts, help customers, and just do my job.

One day a huge shipment came into the store, which meant pizza and beer as we unloaded. After a couple of hours most of the staff was impaired, and when customers rushed the store for the new products, I was the only one sober to deal with them.

The next morning we had to clean up the mess left behind the night before (the manager was as undisciplined as the kids he managed), and as one employee threw up in a trashcan and on a woolen sweater, and another sobbed uncontrollably in the corner because she and another worker had become “too involved” in the back room, someone asked me if I regretted being a Mormon and missing out on all of the fun.

I laughed until I realized he wasn’t being sarcastic.

I glanced around at the chaos and the employees still quite impaired, and said, “I have yet to see any of you have any fun.”

There was a full minute of silence in the store as they contemplated my statement, and since that day I’ve realized that what the world considers a sacrifice to be a Mormon isn’t any sacrifice at all. 

While I may have given up what the world considers “fun,” what I’ve gained instead is peace of mind.
Purpose.
Joy.

If you’re considering investigating the LDS Church, but worry about how difficult transitioning to that life may be, consider this weak but parallel example.

Over a year ago I was tired; bone-weary, deadly tired every single day and needing a two-hour nap just to get by. My brain was also fogged so much that I couldn’t think. I was forgetting important things, such as my 6-year-old out at a friend’s house until they sent her home at 9pm. Plagued also with constant bowel issues, I began to search for some solution to this daily misery that was robbing me of life. I was growing desperate and deeply worried.

I discovered that I was gluten intolerant, and I willingly gave up—for just a week—all the bread that I so dearly loved. In only two days I noticed everything in my life improving, and I made the change permanently. No, it wasn’t easy at first, but it was definitely worth it.

Fast forward to a dinner I had with some friends last month. One of them, enjoying a fluffy roll, apologized to me and said, “I don’t know how you gave up bread.”

“Because once I gave away bread,” I told her, “I got back my brain and my energy. Whenever I’m tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I think ‘Do I want bread or my brain?’ Even though I’m not a zombie, it’s an easy answer: brains! And while I occasionally miss all things containing gluten, I’d give it up again in a heartbeat.”

Then it hit me: What I gave up at the time seemed like a sacrifice—I still struggle to find worthy equivalents to the food I loved, and would kill for a slice of thick, chewy pizza. But what I got in return was much, much more. I literally got my life back, and I feel 15 years younger (and have even lost weight to boot).

I invite you to find someone who joined the Church, and ask them if they miss what they gave up. Like my mother, they’ll likely say they had to give up alcohol, smoking, or something else, but what they received in return more than made up for what they lost.

In fact, they’ll wished they had “sacrificed” earlier to enjoy sooner what they have now.

  1. I love what I believe.

Some will still think that I’m delusional, that choosing (choice, again) to believe in golden plates and additional scriptures and visiting angels and temple worship and the notion that God still speaks to people is all absurd.

But you know what?

I love all of that.

And this is why Mormons want to tell you all about their religion: we want you to love it as well. 

Think about this: if you find a fantastic restaurant, or watch a movie that blows you away, or read a book that rocks your world, you tell everyone you know about it, right? You want them to share in what you’ve discovered.

So do Mormons. That’s why we send out missionaries (my third one is getting ready to leave at the end of the month for two years), make videos, extend to you invitations, and write blog posts about what we believe.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to embrace what we do. Maybe you don’t like that restaurant your friend recommended because you aren’t keen on curry, and that chick-flick doesn’t have enough car chases, nor do you like to read long books without pictures. No problem. Appreciate that your friend wanted to share with you something they love, then move on.

Same with those trying to share Mormonism with you. Just tell us you’re not interested, and we’ll still be your friend. 

But I’m warning you now–we may try to wave that curry bowl under your nose again every now and then, not because we don’t respect your decisions, but because we have hope you might change your mind someday.

Forgive us. We’re just too darn enthusiastic sometimes.

All people are free to choose what they want to believe—how, where, or what they may. We don’t want to infringe upon your right to believe what you want, nor do we want you to infringe upon our rights. We’re a “live and let live” kind of folk. Works best that way, we think. Let’s just all do what we think is best, and let God sort us out later.

Yet deep in my soul, I feel—scratch that, I know that being a Mormon is the best way to go, at least for me.

Call me delusional, I don’t care. 

But if—if— I wake up dead some day and discover that all of what the Mormons teach was pure nonsense, I still would have believed, because this “nonsense” gives me great joy, and I’d rather eke out my meager existence in delusional joy rather than in the quiet desperation I see ruling the lives of so many that I know and love.

That’s why I choose (choice, again) to be a Mormon. There’s simply nothing better in the world for me.

(7. Bonus reason: The LDS Church makes cool memes; I got all of these from lds.org.)