By any measure, it’s a lonely cry into the void: On the mobile app Whisper, one user has posted this:
I have a child on a Mormon mission and I stopped believing while she was away. if I knew then what I know now, I would have never sent her. it’s going to break her heart.
Part of the Mormon faith requires young people to embark on a two-year-long “mission” to a far-away place, to spread the word of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. It may be a year or more before this parent will have to confess to the daughter that they believe the mission was a waste of time.
And traditionally, Mormons have excommunicated anyone who strays from the faith. Families never speak to their relatives again over issues like this.
For one girl and her parent, huge trouble likely lies ahead.
Dark and shameful, but evocative and moving, too.
Whisper is the app for anonymous confessions. Users make up a screen name, and then type in whatever dark, often shameful, secret they have for others to read. The app allows you to add a random stock-photo image or upload your own as a background to your message. When done well, a good Whisper can be evocative and moving.
And you can sort Whispers — as the anonymous confessions are called — by geography and by topic, so you can see who is Whispering in your neighbourhood, or who is talking about certain specific topics.
A lot of users seem to be teenagers. But regardless of the apparent age of the user, a huge portion of Whisper is about love, sex and dating. (And because you can message and respond to individual users, it should not be surprising that people are trawling Whisper for hookups.)
A live news feed of what Mormons are worrying about right now.
But if you search and click on the “Mormon” tag, you get a view into a world that few non-Mormons will ever get: a live, real-time, constantly updated news feed on what Mormons are actually thinking right now, but dare not say aloud.
Mormons and non-Mormons tend not to mix socially. Some non-Mormons regard the LDS church as an insular, slightly strange faith that has twisted American history to create a fictional third testament of the Bible. Mormons don’t drink alcohol or coffee — which tend to be non-Mormons’ two favourite beverages.
So Whisper is a fascinating, heartbreaking and occasionally hilarious glimpse of something that non-Mormons would never otherwise get to see.
We’re not saying Whisper is representative of Mormons generally, of course. Whisper is a self-selecting population of people who want to vent.
The most obvious thing about it is that Mormons turn out to be just like everyone else — fearful, arrogant, horny, and filled with questions they are afraid to ask face to face.
Here’s a random walk through “Mormon” Whisper.
(Note that Whisper supplies random photos for most confessions, so the people depicted in the background of the Whisper are usually NOT the authors or the subject of the Whisper.)
Whisper is often used by Mormons questioning their faith:
Anyone who has a religious faith sometimes has doubts, of course. But some Mormons have more than just doubts.
Some of them are losing their faith for very specific reasons.
And some have only vague, paranoid theories.
Surely every religious family has a teenager who is thinking this:
And anyone who has ever been to any type of house of worship has probably had this experience:
Non-Mormons are often barred from seeing the inside of Mormon churches. Mormons on Whisper know this.
There are ex-Mormons on Whisper, too.
Some doubting Mormons are scared of the consequences of leaving the church.
Not all of Mormon Whisper is about doubts. There are plenty of faithful on the app who just have something to get off their chests.
Often, what they need to get off their chests is somewhat unusual.
Mormon life tends to be very traditional, and Mormons are expected to marry early and have children. Young Mormons have a lot of questions about relationships.
Some of their questions are harder than others.
The mind of the teenage Mormon boy seems to be pretty similar to that of the non-Mormon teenage boy.
Whisper also seems to provide an outlet for Mormons who are frustrated.
There is no sex outside marriage in the Mormon faith.
This seems to be a frustration for the Mormon users of Whisper.
Homosexuality is generally not tolerated in the church.
Some Mormons have figured out a solution to the no-sex-before marriage rule.
Yet, there is hope that we can all get along.
Mormonism is surprisingly appealing to some people.
So appealing, that some non-Mormons feel they are better than everyone else.
Mormons know themselves best, of course.
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