I'm one of the originals here on FLAK, but you don't know my story. No man (or woman) knows my history. That's about to change. Ready? Strap in, it's going to be a long bumpy ride.
Raised in an LDS home, but with only one LDS parent (for 16 years.) My mom was born and raised in Weber County, Utah, my dad was an inactive Southern Baptist from Chicago. I was born in Los Angeles and grew up attending church with Mom, and later my little sister.
I sang all the songs about "Choose The Right" and "I Hope They Call Me On A Mission." By the time I got out of Primary I was almost 6 feet tall, so I inwardly cringed when I sang the line, "...when I have grown a foot or two..." I was totally indoctrinated in the party line.
At age 11 the family moved to an upscale community. The local ward had just been upgraded from a branch, and still met at the local Women's Club. That was where I was ordained to the Aaronic Priesthood offices, and served the ward in every way I could. I participated in every program, even performing in roadshows! Remember those? We struggled through several years of substandard performances, but when I was 15 a little-known actor joined the church in our ward and took over the roadshows. The theme for this year was "We need..." - and he went to town, writing original music and a killer show about "We Need A Chapel!" We won first place - first time in our history we'd taken the top spot! We repeated that accomplishment with the same director/writer for the next 3 years, winning Regional two of those years.
When I was 16 the ward started building a chapel. Exciting times. Watching the building go up, and it was exciting for me to see my Dad get involved. He became Ward Building Chairman, even though he wasn't a member yet! He and I spent many hours at the new building, and I was asked to design, procure, and install the sound system for the chapel and cultural hall. When the chapel was built it was dedicated by then Seventy (now apostle) Robert D. Hales. I stood in line to shake his hand after the service and my impression was that of an insufferable prick. But of course I kept that to myself.
During this time my Dad had decided to join the church. We were all so happy at his decision.
I was called as Audio-Visual director and Choir Director at age 16. I had keys to the building and was considered a responsible young man. But little did they know.
I had been hanging out with some friends who introduced me to the evil brew. It took a couple of times, but I discovered I liked beer. Still do, in fact. I was living a double life, going to church several days a week, and going out with my friends and drinking beer. I still had not tried coffee yet, and heaven forbid sex was a few years off in the future for me.
When I was 18 my folks moved again. I went with them, but informed them that I was not going on a mission. My doubts about the church had started to grow. I was questioning long held cherished beliefs and finding them lacking.
Age 19 passed by. I was working two jobs, going to school part time, and actually enjoying life. Why would I want to go on a mission? But the pressure increased from my parents, the local leaders, my church friends, and my girlfriend at the time, so I got myself as ready as I could , turned in my papers, and waited anxiously to find out where I would go.
I remember filling out the section on the mission application papers that I have a terrible mental block against learning the Spanish language, and to please assign me to an English speaking mission, as I was unable to learn a foreign language. When the envelope arrived from the church, my mom called me at work to tell me the news. I told her to open it and tell me where I was going.
"Guatemala." My heart sank. "I'm not going, I guess." I said, and hung up with a pain in my middle. How could the Lord have done that to me?
When I got home my parents met me at the door. "What the hell do you mean, you're not going?" my Dad said. "I'm not going," I replied. "I can't learn Spanish so I can't perform as a proper missionary."
Needless to say between my folks, the bishop and my girlfriend I was talked into it. I was taken through the temple by my uncle, experienced the usual WTF feelings, and left for the LTM.
What a fiasco. At that time you spent 8 weeks learning your language. I was held over for an additional 8 weeks. At the end of almost 4 months, the LTM mission president called me into his office.
"Elder Babalu," he pompously stated, "the Bretheren have had a revelation from God that your mission is to be changed. You have been reassigned to Albuquerque. You leave in the morning."
Just what I wanted! An English speaking mission. My prayers had been answered. I flew to Albuquerque, where I was assigned to Las Cruces. My companion, call him Elder Surly, was not the easiest person to get along with, but I attempted to do so, trying to learn as I went.
In my studies, I started to question the basic LDS beliefs again. Reading the scriptures did nothing but confuse me further. I spent hours praying, studying, and thinking. One night about 6 weeks into Las Cruces it hit me.
"How can you teach this stuff when you don't believe it?" I instantly felt a big relief come over me. This was, I felt, the sign that I was correct in my assumption. The next morning I told Elder Surly that I was leaving. He immediately called the ZLs and they came down and split off with Surly and me, while this little guy (about 5' 5") we called "Squirrel" was regaling me with horror stories about elders that had left their mission, stating that they had fallen into not only inactivity, but lives of crime and prison.
I held fast to my intention, though, and was sent home. My folks met me at the airport, and were very supportive, though disappointed. Two days later I went to St. George, Utah to live, where I had made several very good friends.
I got into St. George and called one of my best friends. He met me and we went out driving around the city. He told me that two elders from Las Cruces were killed when their car was struck and crushed by a semi, and did I know them?
Of course I did. They were the other elders assigned to our district. We had spent several P-days together. I liked them both, and was devastated by the loss of two fine friends.
I took ill a few weeks later, and returned to California, where I spent the next 8 weeks in bed. On my mission I had contracted several diseases, and the substandard food, crappy apartment, long hours, and stress had caused them to bloom with a vengeance. According to my mom, I almost died one night when my throat was so swollen I couldn't breathe. Mom fed me ice chips while Dad gave me a blessing. My throat opened up and I could breathe again. It was, according to Mom, the blessing and not the ice chips which allowed me to recover.
Once I left the house I no longer considered myself LDS, and except for a year or so where I re-affiliated myself with the church because of a girl (we married and divorced in less than a year) I have not been back to a service (if you don't count the obligatory nephew baptisms and mission farewells.)
In 1999 I took a job at a TV station and finally got broadband internet access. One night I googled "Mormon" and started following some of the links. WOW! Eyes wide open! Everything I believed about the church was confirmed, as I visited UTLM, RFM, and several others and started to read the stories of others. I finally felt vindicated. I was right after all!
I became more and more active on boards. Some were more friendly than others, one actually banned me. Didn't bother me one bit. After going through the kerfuckle with TVFTF, I found FLAK and became acquainted with Solistics. This has been my home ever since.
You guys have been present as I introduced my TBM wife to my beliefs, and watched as she has slowly accepted that TSCC is not what it claims to be. You were there when I resigned from the LDS, and celebrated with me when my letter from Greg Dodge came.
In other words, thank you. I feel a strong almost family-like bond with most of you. And the rest are simply friends I don't know that well yet. I appreciate all of you and promise to attempt to help you in your journey through life, whether it involves the mormons or not. But expect some levity along the way, as I've always been partial to loud laughter.
People Who Don't Want Their Beliefs Laughed At Shouldn't Have Such Funny Beliefs.