I was coming down the stairs from my bedroom for a fashion show. A friend and her parents were over and we had been talking about my upcoming mission and how I would be wearing a suit for two years. They couldn’t imagine me in a suit. With short hair. And a perma-smile.
Between those sweet early childhood years and my mission, I was figuring myself out. I got into music. Like, really into music. At shows all over town, I was encircled by every church-taught bad influence that could possibly encircle me. I wrote music. I started a band. We practiced, recorded, and performed our brand of melancholy rock. My hair was moderately long and messy. I wore horn-rimmed glasses without lenses. My clothes came from the thrift store.
Somehow, thanks to my devoted parents (“Josh, if you dye your hair blue you might as well take a spoon from that drawer and scoop my heart out”), I followed the church program. I wore a white shirt and tie and slicked back my hair to bless the sacrament on Sundays.
As I walked down the stairs, days before my mission would begin, ready to show off my new P-Day clothes, I got all the laughter I had hoped to receive from the shock of the scene: Josh Rolph looking like a normal person for once. I told them my plan that went something like:
“I don’t want to be known for how I look. I want to be known for how I live.”
It was my way, I guess, of mentally preparing for a two-year lifestyle shock: a regimented schedule and strict dress code that would only allow me to dress like “myself” part of one day a week on P-Day or “preparation day.”
My decision was to conform on P-Day just like on every other day. No thrift store clothes. No markings of the eccentric style from my past. Moving forward, I was going to be known for how I lived. And I wanted to live better.
Twenty years later, I’m still trying to figure myself out. I’m much farther along in the journey, but sometimes there are surprises, like when David asked me if I wanted to be his first guest on the Mormon Misfit podcast.
“David, are you saying I’m a misfit? I dress like everyone else!”
But I knew inside that Mormonism shapes just about every facet of how I live. By default, as a self-identifying Mormon, I’m a societal misfit.
Let’s be perfectly honest: To be a Mormon is to follow a lifestyle that is obviously, strikingly, oddly and eccentrically so different than the way the majority of humanity lives. It is the messier-hair-and-horn-rimmed-glasses-without-lenses lifestyle, or something like that, only we dress that way on the inside, on our hearts and minds. It’s the religion that makes us peculiar even if we’re not trying to be so.
What is inspiring about my religion is how by living it, a peculiarity shows through our whole being much more powerfully than any fad ever could. Just living this brand of misfitism is a way of plowing towards a state of being that is uniquely exalting, pure, and just plain good. What I’m saying is, I’m learning that being a misfit is what Mormonism is all about, and that Mormon and misfit are virtually synonymous terms. Didn’t the Lord use the word “peculiar?” Same thing.
My wish is that of humanity’s many misfit paths – and there are many more – ours is the most obvious in appearance. So while I’ve changed a lot since my teenage days, I haven’t changed that much.