Plenty of people thought I was inactive at church as a teenager, some family members included, because I didn’t attend early-morning seminary. ALL good Mormon kids attend seminary and the fact that I didn’t obviously meant I was dealing drugs, never mind that I went to church every single week and never missed an activity. Truth is, I would have loved to have gone to seminary if it had been held at a godly hour, but few things on earth can persuade me to wake up at 5 in the morning and sitting in a cold metal chair is not one of those things.
I wasn’t a lost cause, though, because in every other aspect I was a textbook teenage Mormon. I lived for group dates and Stake dances. All of my friends were LDS. I looked forward to Girl’s Camp every year. I never once had an abortion. And most importantly, Wednesday night was my favorite night of the week. Mutual! A mini-weekend, a chance to spend time with my friends learning how to cook and how to plan fun dates and how to decorate cakes and all sorts of terrible things that seemed fun at the time that, in retrospect, were perhaps not the most fruitful ways to spend our Wednesday nights. A few offenders are obviously more egregious than others, and I hereby submit the three worst ones:
THE MODEST CATWALK:
We’d bring our moms’ wedding dresses and our leaders’ hideous old prom frocks and put them on over our street clothes, giggling at the huge bows and puff sleeves and crinoline, then sashay down the runway to the hoots and hollers of the crowd. I can safely say that whatever lesson we were supposed to take away from it – that you can be modest AND beautiful, I presume – was the exact opposite of what we learned. (Related: My feelings about the unhealthy obsession Mormons have with the word ‘modesty’ to be reserved for another post, or maybe just kept to myself entirely.)
THE DOLLAR DINNER:
I shudder just thinking about it, especially when I remember how much we girls LOVED this activity, how we BEGGED for it to be included in the schedule every few months. We were divided into teams and the objective was to feed the other group a two course meal with only a dollar to spend per person. We’d race around the grocery store looking for the absolute cheapest food available then return to the church building to prepare it, set a table, and pat ourselves on the back for feeding the other team a meal of hygienic, digestible substances. The most common Dollar Dinners were ramen, Totino’s pizza, and tacos from Jack-in-the-Box, and I specifically remember once serving pretzels as an appetizer. We’d smugly watch the other team eating our meal, thinking about what good wives we were going to be. We could cook noodles! We could feed five whole people for a dollar apiece! We were going to be able to keep our children alive!!!! (In all fairness, I get where the leaders were going with it, but a shout-out to vegetables and a little less assumption that we’d all grow up to wait hand-and-foot on husbands that make minimum wage would have been nice.)
THE TEMPLE-CLOTHING-CLAD FOOT MASSAGE*
Oh dear, this one was downright creepy. Luckily none of us brought non-member friends or a camera crew that night, because some leader thought it would be a great bonding experience if our moms gave us foot massages in a silent, dimmed room while wearing their temple dresses???????? And my mom wasn’t able to attend, so my feet had the honor of being probed by Sister Muscly Hands who was clearly trying to squeeze whatever demons prevented me from attending seminary out through my toes. (Now that I think about it, it’s really too bad that there WASN’T a camera crew there. I would like a video montage of all the Young Womens’ faces during this activity. Especially mine.)
SLIGHTLY OFF-TOPIC, BUT SPEAKING OF TEMPLE CLOTHING AT MUTUAL ACTIVITES:
One time, one of our leaders hijacked Young Women’s in Excellence, an evening for the teens to showcase their talents and achievements, to perform an interpretive dance in her temple dress. She got a little too close to an empty chair during a particularly emotive spin and whacked her hand so hard I thought she’d die on impact. Everyone startled.
*I texted my friend Christa to make sure this hadn’t been a dream.