Happy Valley Hate: Everyone is a Sinner But Me

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After a year and a half of work a book that I wrote was finally published and placed on Amazon.  I wanted to give some insight to the book such as:  Why I wrote it & how it came to be created.  I grew up an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon faith).  I remember growing up enjoying youth activities with other Mormons within the Midwest.  When I was 19 I severed a two-year mission in Los Angeles for the Mormon church.  The Mormons I met in L.A. were awesome, great folks.  The other missionaries I worked with were generally (like 90%) amazing and genuine people.  Once my mission was over I returned to the Midwest and went to the unmarried congregation for young Mormons (known as a singles ward).  The people in the singles ward were mostly cool (there will always be a few bad apples in the bunch).  

Based on the information I've given (having mostly great experiences with Mormons) wouldn't it make sense that Utah (a Mormon haven) would be a place I would enjoy? In my young dumb mind, I thought so.  I had many friends in Utah already, had visited Utah, and always had great experiences during my time there.  

 In 2010 I moved to Orem, UT to continue my education.  I came to Utah from an 8 hour delayed am-track with $500, 3 pieces of luggage, and no real plan.  My friends who I knew prior to moving to Utah were so kind as to provide a place for me to stay and help me find a place a more permanent residence.  I am indeed grateful for my friends that helped me out.  Shortly after that though, I was in for a rude awakening to Happy Valley Culture.  

My 1st week in my new singles ward & school I was attending was really strange. I was expecting friendly people like I met while growing up, my mission, and home singles ward. That wasn't the case at all.  The people I met very exclusive, judgmental, and naive about reality.  It was like my train to Utah was actually a time machine and I went back to the 80's and everyone was super uptight.  I couldn't believe how rude most people were as well. It was as if all social norms were thrown out the window.

Not to brag, but I'm pretty good at making friends and building connections with people.  It's just something I've always been good at.  But I had a really hard time meeting and connecting with anyone here.  I was able to make a few great friends during my first few months in Utah, but overall it was a very dark time for me.  

I eventually moved in with my friend Jordan (who I knew prior to moving to Utah) in an apartment right next to Brigham Young University (byu).  Moving in with Jordan was a great move for me.  However, the people within our complex were awful.  It was if all the negative stereotypes about Utah were just pouring out of byu.   I eventually began working at the apartment complex.  I will most likely release the stories about my experiences there (Look for my next book: Working with Idiots! Which will be out hopefully in 2017) but for now all I will say is the kids living at my old complex next to byu were the most entitled, judgmental, and just plain awful residents I've had to deal with.  

I eventually moved to another apartment complex further from byu (the nice thing was all my friends from my old complex followed me to my new complex to live).  I spent my nights reflecting on the environment that I was in and realized although I had great roommates and friends, my self-esteem from living next to byu was damaged.  A year went by and I was feeling much better.  Being not so close to byu and the environment that it creates really made a difference in my life and honestly made me feel better about myself. But I still lived within the overly judgmental culture of "Happy Valley" , UT.  

One morning during the summer of 2014 I woke up around 5 AM.  I couldn't get back to sleep. My mind kept racing for some reason.  I pulled out my phone and started looking over my some of my personal notes.  I created a new note and just started writing. The things I wrote were things that I really saw and experienced.  As I wrote down each line I would laugh about how funny/sad it was but truthful at the same time.  As I finished the very last line I finally felt tired and went back to sleep.  

A few days later I went to Casey's home for one of our usual summer BBQ's.  I told him i wrote something quite funny and read him the first draft of "Everyone is a Sinner but Me."  Casey laughed, I laughed, the Toaster laughed!  It was funny stuff.  Casey expressed great interest in wanting to illustrate what I read to him and turn it into a book.  Over the next year we would exchange ideas about the book and Casey would then work on illustrated those ideas.  

Casey drew the book in Black and White on Paper.  We wanted to have the book in Color. So I contacted my friend Mikey Watkins. Mikey studied graphic design and photography at the art institute in Salt Lake.  But none of that really mattered to me. There is one reason I wanted Mikey to color my book.  Mikey is colorblind, and I thought it would be hilarious that a colorblind person did the color for my book (sorry Mikey). He also has a very good art skillset as well. 

I contacted Mikey.  I didn't tell him much about the project.  All I told him was I was doing a parody children's book about Utah.  I later sent him a rough draft of the book while he was working on it.  He thought it was hilarious.  Once I received Mikey's colored drawings I put the text to the drawings and began the book design.  I'm not going to lie, seeing the project come together as I was placing the text and designing the pages felt great.  Then came the hard part. I won't go into the details but working with publishers is awful.  

In mid December Casey and I both received the first copies of the book.  It felt amazing. It was great to see a project from start to finish. From small notes on my phone to a real book that I could hold in my hands and show to others.  I asked Casey what he thought of the finished product.  His words were something along the lines of "I'm just happy with how perfect it is".  

I've been asked "is the book Anti-Mormon?". The answer is "no". But I can tell you what is Anti- of.  In the times of Jesus there were people who would keep laws that were based off of the actual commandments and harshly judge others.  They were called Pharisees. The Pharisees were said to be very wise and intelligent but in truth the way they interrupted things were awful.  They would misinterpret God's law and would create their own version(s) of it.  I view the most of the people who live in Happy Valley (particularly byu. students) as modern day Pharisees.  I realize this is a bold claim but it's my personal view. 

The book is anti-byu/happy valley culture.  It's about not being overly judgmental about things that are not part of your religion/culture. It's about being aware of how being overly critical of others can affect you.  One point people have told me is that  "It's one of those books where if you live in Happy Valley, read it, and don't get it, then odds are the book is about you." Most people probably aren't aware of what they are doing as far as being overly-judgmental because it is such a casual thing for the culture here.  I'm hoping this book will help change that. 

I would like to thank everyone who has been supportive to this project.  I spent a lot of my own personal money into this book and at times I did want to give up and just walk away.  But it was the support of everyone who heard about this book that kept me going.  The support has been great.  Seeing the book on Amazon the first day, only to sell out a few hours later felt great.  Thank you everyone. Let's make this silly book go viral!