A professional skateboarder, the front man of the popular band Killers, an American NFL player, an Australian pro Rugby Player, a Manhattanite stand up comedian, a British Soap Opera Actress, an Austrian film maker, A New Yorker fashion designer and business woman, an American high-thrill Amusement park ride designer, a Hawaiian surfer – that sounds like a pretty fun and interesting group I’d enjoy mingling with at a party. And guess, what? They are all “Mormon” – members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Mormons Around the World Are All Unique
These members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (inadvertently referred to as the Mormon Church by others) represent just a small sampling of the wide variety of interests and experiences pursued by members of the Church from all around the world. The Church of Jesus Christ has grown from a handful of members in a log cabin in the 1800’s to 14,782,473 members worldwide with 29,014 congregations and Church publications in 177 languages. And each of those millions of members are completely unique with a different set of interests and life experiences.
Some people think “Mormons” can’t have fun. I know when I was going to highschool I got this a lot. People thought that because I chose not to drink, smoke, do drugs, participate in inappropriate music and movies, drink coffee and be unchaste that I “wasn’t allowed” to have any fun. And you know what? Reading that list, you might be thinking the exact same thing. But I think when observers of my religion can’t look past what they see as a “list of rules” they really are missing out on the big picture and are just getting a shallow, misunderstood view of things.
Can Mormons Have Fun?
I have lived an extremely fun life. I have experienced things in life that I felt were wondrous and exciting and I am so grateful to have been a part of.
I almost got my hand eaten by a lion in Tunisia; a spontaneous, gargantuan wave took me out during the winter in Cinque Terre, Italy; I’ve rocked out at concerts in Brooklyn; I scaled the back of Lion Hill at waterloo; I’ve gone cliff and waterfall jumping in Eastern Idaho / Western Wyoming; I’ve danced the night away next to the Mediterranean in North Africa; I rode a train in Europe once that actually got lost and ended up in the wrong country; I’ve shopped til’ I dropped in New York; and I definitely love to go to parties. And I am happy to say that I have all these fun life experiences and more without ever having to “break” one of my so-called “rules”.
In fact, I feel that my life choices have enhanced these experiences. Sometimes, people I have met are shocked by the things that I have “never” done. Usually the fact that I have never drank coffee in my life is the biggest shocker of all! But, for me, I am happy about some OTHER things I have “never” done.
I’ve never woken up somewhere I didn’t know and couldn’t remember how I got there. I’ve never regretted a choice or mistake after a night of “partying”. I’m grateful to have avoided addictions in my life that can come from certain lifestyle choices. Foregoing certain media venues makes me feel secure – not left out when I don’t participate in violence and sexual content. And I’ve never had to spend a fortune on drive through coffee! (I say playfully).
Mutual Respect: You Don’t Have to Be the Same To Have Fun
I understand that not everyone has lived a life with similar standards. And I truly do not believe that I am better than anyone who doesn’t follow a similar code. I studied abroad in Florence, Italy during college. My greatest experience there was rooming with wonderful, beautiful women from schools all across the U.S. I attended a private, church University at home – which I loved – but I was so happy I was able to add my Florence time with members not of my faith to my educational experience as well.
When I first moved to Florence, I will admit I was nervous about what people might think of me because of some of my more obvious lifestyle differences. It’s not something I feel I have to highlight or go around and announce, but in a wine and cheese culture it becomes pretty obvious, pretty quick. I would never have changed my standards, but I certainly didn’t want anyone to think I was weird either.
My experience turned out to be just the opposite! My roommates were the most kind, respectful people to me. They never pressured me to do anything I didn’t want to and we’re completely respectful and understanding when I didn’t participate in certain things. In fact, one time we had a visitor to the apartment who tried to pressure me into drinking wine and my roommates all defended me and basically told the guy to “back off”.
We went out all the time with lots of our good guy friends from school and my memories are of kicking soccer balls in piazzas, dancing in funny Italian discos all night, traveling, getting gyros at 2:00 in the morning and laughing our heads off all the time. I respected their choices and they respected mine and when we were together, we never felt like everybody had to be doing the same thing.
In The Church of Jesus Christ one big part of our standards is being in good places and surrounding ourselves with good friends in order to help ourselves make good choices. In all my fun in life there have been times when I have left a party, walked out of a movie or declined invitations to certain events. One reason I loved my still strong friendships from Florence is that those sweet friends never tried to persuade me to do something I felt was wrong.
“You Can Have a Good Time”
Former President of The Church once said to the youth:
You can have a good time. Of course you can! We want you to have fun. We want you to enjoy life. We do not want you to be prudes. We want you to be robust and cheerful, to sing and dance, to laugh and be happy.
But in so doing, be humble and be prayerful, and the smiles of heaven will fall upon you (Gordon B. Hinckley, “A Prophets, Counsel and Prayer for Youth”, Ensign, January 2001).
I do believe in high standards and try my very best to uphold them. I believe they bless my life. An overview of some church standards can be found in the For the Strength of Youth publication.
I’ve never felt like my standards have inhibited me from having fun and I truly believe that this lifestyle can coincide with a robust, fun enjoyable life.