Are Mormons allowed to have fun? Of course we are–but our concept of fun might take a little getting used to.
When I first became a Mormon, someone asked what I did for fun, since I didn’t drink, smoke, use drugs, or participate in a number of other activities common to college students. When I teasingly—but truthfully–told him I’d been on a hayride the night before, he stared at me as if I’d lost my mind. He didn’t think that sounded like fun, but it had been (and it was where I met my husband, making it even more fun in retrospect.) I became Mormon the last year of high school, and soon after starting to visit Mormon activities, I said to a friend, “I’ve figured out why Mormon teens don’t get into trouble. They don’t have time.” I was always busy with the Church’s many activities for teens, including dances, parties, sports, service projects, campouts, and canoe trips.. There was always something fun to do and something new to work on.
As an adult, I don’t find my life limited at all by the things I can’t do, because the things I can do keep me very busy and entertained. Fun is a subjective thing and we enjoy what we’re good at and do regularly by choice. As children and young people, we are exposed to a variety of choices and from those we choose the things we like best. Our adults lives are filled with the hobbies and activities we discovered when we were young as well as the ones we added as adults. No one can do everything the world has to offer, and I personally try not to worry too much about the things I can’t do. To be honest, those things never appealed to me anyway. I saw early on how immorality impacted those around me, and long before I was Mormon, I decided not to make life harder on myself than it needed to be.
Mormons have many options for good clean fun. Many Mormons love music—singing, dancing, and playing instruments. Yes, Mormons can dance. Brigham Young University, a Mormon-owned college, has a very successful ballroom dance team and a variety of other dance programs. Chesea Hightower is a professional dancer who appeared on So You Think You Can Dance. Mormon teens have regular dances they can attend at no cost.
Many Mormons enjoy sports. Basketball is a regular part of the youth programs for both boys and girls and Mormons of all ages play a variety of sports as hobbies or professionally. Brigham Young University is noted for its ability to produce outstanding quarterbacks.
Sometimes the youth sports programs look a little different from your average youth league, however. Everyone plays, no matter how good or bad she is. I remember a game in which a mentally challenged girl was taking her turn on the court. Whenever she got the ball, she simply handed it to a teammate, which was accepted even if she took a few steps to do it. However, one day she unexpectedly turned toward the basket and everyone realized she was going to shoot. Both teams stopped moving, without being told to do so, and waited patiently while she worked up the courage to let the ball go toward the basket. No one intercepted the shot and everyone cheered for her, even though she missed the basket. That’s what makes Mormon games different—it’s a people-first program.
If you spend any time hanging around Mormon congregations, you’ll note they’re extremely fond of parties, and even tend to turn meetings into parties, given that they’re nearly incapable of holding the simplest, shortest meetings without serving refreshments and allowing time to eat and socialize. Of course, the parties might not be quite what you’re used to since there is no alcohol, and many of them—most of them, actually—include even the youngest family members. They tend to have games, chatter, and entertainment. At a typical party, you might learn to hula dance, be introduced to food and music of another country, listen to surprisingly good singing and violin playing, or play a silly family game. Sound corny? It grows on you, and when you wake up the next morning, you don’t have a headache and you can remember everything you did.
Mormons also find service projects fun, because they know how to make them fun. When I was new to the Church, I was invited to help out a new family who had just moved in. The mother had broken her leg and was confined to bed. Nothing was unpacked and everything needed cleaning. It sounded terribly dull and un-fun to me, but I went. To my surprise, I had a great time. We were laughing, singing, and talking as we worked. We helped the children get their rooms unpacked and set up by turning the work into games. Mormons know that everything is a matter of attitude. If you make it fun and are determined to have a good time, it will most likely be fun.
Of course, not all our fun happens at church. Mormons live in their regular communities and participate in them. Because they are a diverse people, they have diverse ways of having fun. They join clubs, tackle community service projects, go on outings with their families, and participate in the hobbies of their choice. They garden, read (for fun and for education) travel, write, paint…anything moral is open to Mormons. And when you start looking, you’ll be surprised at how many moral things there are to do that are fun.
Not convinced? Make a list of all the things you currently do that don’t require you to violate God’s commandments. Then think of things you don’t do but that might be fun, and see how many you can come up with. If all else fails, ask a Mormon if you can tag along when he’s having fun. Once you get used to the types of things they do, you’ll probably discover you’re having a great time with great people. The trick is to first treat it like being a tourist—you don’t expect people in an exotic new country to be doing what you do—and then give it all a fair chance. Chances are you can do the same things you always did, but differently. You can still dance, but you’ll possibly dance to different music and maybe a little differently, for instance. You’ll replace your alcohol with cocoa, but the conversation will still be just as good. After a while, you’ll find out that morality can be a lot of fun. Fun is more a matter of good company and pleasant or meaningful work to do than it is of any particular activity or drink.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.