Reading Sister Mary Lisa's blog has brought back a lot of memories. I'm the oldest of 5 children and I grew up Mormon. Presently my two sisters still attend church while my two brothers do not.
Being Mormon isn't like being Catholic or being Baptist - I've known Catholics and Baptists. Being Mormon takes nearly every moment of every day, it's a lifestyle, it's an obsession, it permeates every thing you do, watch, say, or read. Some Catholics are devout and some Protestants are devout, but every active Mormon is swept up in an obsessive community of belief and activity.
There are no Mormons with free time.
In the church, every active member (and even some inactive ones) have callings. See, there aren't paid positions in the church and there isn't any clergy in the traditional sense. Sunday School teachers, ward leaders (a ward is the name for each congregation), Primary teachers for the young children, Relief Society leaders for the women, Priesthood leaders for the men, clerks, librarians, scout leaders, and even people who work at the welfare-style food banks and farms are called, affirmed and ordained to their church positions. And I mean everyone. I was getting official church callings from the time I was twelve years old - standing up during the main meeting (Sacrament) and announced that I'd been called, everyone raises their hands in affirmation, and then after the meeting is a handshake parade of congratulations.
And the jobs aren't ever gimme's. There are phone calls, reports, and responsibilities. Not to mention meetings. You have to go to three standard meetings every Sunday. You have to go to at least a couple during the week. As a child, Wednesday was the main meeting night for young adults. You have to spend Mondays getting in fights with your family members at Family Home Evening. Saturday mornings are rarely free from fellowship and "helping out." On top of all that, you have to make time for Home Teachers (also called) and Relief Society visitors to speak to all, or some, of your family and you have to go out on those visits to other member's homes.
You won't find Mormon families socializing in your neighborhood because they're just scrambling around on church business ALL THE TIME. The Mormon Church doesn't have to make a policy of isolating its members from the rest of the world . . . all their other policies do that effectively already.
Because of that I never had close friendships growing up.
Besides the fact that I was also raised as a military brat and that we moved frequently, and all the other kids moved frequently as well, I never had good, full days to make friends with the neighbor kids because every evening and every weekend we had something important to do for church.
"Want to come over and watch movies at my house?"
"Because of church?"
"Yes. We've got to go to ______________"
And I'd get a blank stare in response. Besides, I thought, if your mother or father drinks alcohol I wouldn't be allowed to come over, or if there's even the slightest chance I'd be offered a Coke or something else with caffeine in it I wouldn't be allowed to come over, or if the movie wasn't approved by my father (which was rare because I don't think he ever watched anything that didn't have John Wayne in it) I wouldn't be allowed to come over. So, "No" was the easiest answer anyway.
My mother was a convert and I think she understood the frustrations. She was often sympathetic to made-up illnesses that'd keep me from some random church event or the other even when I'd gone to school that day. She'd grown up Lutheran in North Dakota and converted to the church when my father came back from Vietnam with his reaffirmed religious addiction.
When you grow up Mormon you're taught that you're a member of a Peculiar People and that being different was a mark of righteousness. "All those people having fun now will be jealous of us when we're in the Celestial Kingdom and they're on the outside looking in," I was told. Peculiar. My friends didn't think I was Peculiar so much as I lived a really strange life. They felt sorry for me and they were always glad for their own lives and families compared to mine.
- rick, grown up and nonmormon