Proper Gander: Courting Mormons

Mormonism will be under the theatrical spotlight with the London debut of musical The Book of Mormon later this month. This provocative production has been written by the creators of SouthPark, which featured an episode lampooning the faith’s flimsy origins. In the 1820s, humble farmer Joseph Smith was supposedly directed by an angel to some magic golden plates inscribed with sacred texts, which no-one else ever saw. His translations of these apparently-real inscriptions formed the basis of Mormonism, a spin-off from Christianity with a morbid emphasis on judgement after you kick the bucket. The SouthPark episode made the point that nice, friendly people can have some pretty wacky beliefs. This was also borne out by BBC3 documentary Young, Mormon and Single.

The programme focused on the annual week-long Duck Beach gathering in North Carolina, U S of A. This is where hundreds of single Mormons meet up looking for love and marriage; a Mormon meat market, even. Getting hitched is central to Mormon beliefs, with marriage being what you aspire for. And there’s something else missing in an unmarried Mormon’s life as well as a ring on their finger. This is a ticket to the VIP area of their ‘Celestial Kingdom’ afterlife, only open to married (and deceased) Mormons. Aiming for this adds to the pressure to find Mr / Miss Right already felt by these no-sex-before-marriage hormone-bombs. So, when courting Mormons split up, their emotional fallout includes dealing with guilt that they’re not following their faith properly. It’s a shame that all the emotions that come with finding a partner are complicated and constrained by the far-fetched beliefs Mormons have. On top of these expectations, Mormons have to manage without alcohol and drugs as social lubricants at the Duck Beach gathering. But they prove that you can have a good night playing party games and dancing about without booze. And at least this means they can play beach volleyball the following morning, rather than waking up with a pounding head after downing seventeen Jack Daniel’s.

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