A Mormon Among Catholics at BC 

I’m Mormon. More appropriately, I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints—and I know of only four other undergraduates at Boston College that share my faith.

Sometimes it feels alienating to be the only sober person in a room, or the only dancer skipping Sunday rehearsals, but most often this uncommon aspect of my identity is the one most compatible with BC’s mission. In whatever way we embody the motto—whether through religious or secular motivations—we are “people for others.”

Before we begin, I’d like to summarize the answers to all your questions: I am not a polygamist, I do not have horns or magic underwear, and I am not a swinger, I was not born in Utah, and I do not conform to the menace that is closed-minded Christian America. As you might have guessed correctly, though, I do not drink.

The expectations of my church—whether abstaining from drugs or dressing modestly—do not inhibit me from enjoying the BC experience: I party, albeit soberly, and I engage in controversial, thought-provoking conversations with my peers and professors. These conversations have been my favorite part of the first-year experience at BC.

One of my earlier discussions with friends centered around religious affiliation, which is a common topic in BC classrooms. A devout Catholic, a Catholic on technicality, an ex-evangelical, and a Mormon—myself—sat down and discussed our faiths. While explaining my faith, I reverted to the “we believe…” statements that children in my church memorize to better and more concisely know what it is they’re meant to believe.

“You keep saying, ‘we believe,’ but what is it that you believe, Elise?” the Catholic on a technicality asked. Big question.

It’s hard to see clearly what I believe—or what we believe, for that matter. I even find it easy to half-jokingly “pilot” new beliefs with my friends that might directly conflict with everything else I hold dear. At 2 a.m., my friends and I would delve into the inner-workings of Karl Marx, become momentary communists, and realize we like money too much to be devoted to the cause. When we walk to Newton Center, we might vent about the American economic system that many of us benefit from—but, on the walk back, we always return to the institution that maintains our privilege. I might eat a salad at Mac, only to interrupt myself with a crisis about whether my friends and I are feminist enough. BC has not stopped me or my friends from questioning our beliefs.

But I do know that, like many BC students, I believe in service for others. I am among the 90 percent of BC students who volunteer in one way or another. When I do this, I feel proud to have helped society in some small way. Still, there is a constant weight that I am not doing enough. After all, when I work to help others, I always leave my volunteer work to return to my studies, my career advancement, and my life. My life is so nearly perfect that it often fills me with guilt.

While the Jesuits have done me good, placing me at a school with students eager to inquire, excel, and give back, I feel I must make a radical change in my life to end the guilt that follows failed, performative activism and underwhelming service events.

The expectations of the Church of Latter-Day Saints that I listed earlier are not all radically uncool. In addition to not drinking and dressing modestly, we are also expected to love our neighbors as ourselves, show kindness, seek to be peacemakers in a world of turmoil, aim for financial stability, give back after taking care of your family, and live a life full of joy.

Young adults of my faith are also encouraged to serve missions. I knew growing up that I would do this someday, but my first year at college—a most wonderful experience—did not make me all that eager to leave. A mission would place me in a formative scenario where I am meant to think and act for the good of others. In this mission, I must think of myself only when it pertains to my relationship with God. I have realized the past few months, however, that this would be the perfect opportunity to epitomize what my heart has been longing for: time to think of others and ask tough theological questions. How can I best serve someone today? And, do I believe what we believe?

I will return in the fall of 2025 a sophomore, while all my friends are preparing to graduate. The awkward timing of my college experience, though, will be minor in comparison to the growth I will have made in becoming a “person for others” after my mission.

September 10, 2023