Sweat & Co founder on leaving Mormonism, being a missionary in Iowa—and learning to drink at 40
Jeff Sweat is the founder of Sweat & Co, the public relations and consulting firm previously known as Mister Sweat. He is also the author of the young adult novels “Mayfly” and the forthcoming “Scorpion,” set in a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles where all the adults have died.
In this episode of the “Ad Block” podcast, Sweat talks about growing up Mormon and leaving the religion with his wife and family as an adult. “It was during the 2008 election in California,” he says, when Proposition 8—which banned same-sex marriage in the state—was on the ballot. The Mormon Church was one of several religious groups that supported the initiative.
“It was something we were very opposed to, but it was kind of, for us, the last straw,” he says. “We looked around and realized we’re quite different from what is taught over the pulpit, so this is time to say goodbye.”
It was a change that had been a long time coming. “I knew for a while that this was something that probably needed to happen and that I needed to make a break, but the reality is I didn’t know who I was if I wasn’t a Mormon,” he admits.
Sweat grew up in Idaho as one of eight kids in a family that can trace its roots back to Mormon settlers in the 19th Century. Most of his family still belongs to the church. “As a culture, it’s actually a pretty cool one,” he says. “Every religion has its drawbacks—certainly Mormonism has its. But I think the part that I still warm to is the fact that the people that I know who are Mormons have bailed me out more times than I can count.”
Once no longer subject to the strictures of religious life, it took a while for him to acclimate to things like drinking alcohol and coffee. Growing pains can be more difficult when they happen in your fourties, he says.
Sweat also talks about his disappointment at being sent to Iowa for mission work, his proclivity for climbing tall objects and his thoughts after seeing the Broadway musical “The Book of Mormon.”