Essay Online

Search History

Do Mormons promise you a mansion after death?

By Jordan Castro

  • June 15, 2022
Portrait by Yunia Pakhomova
In our Search History series, writers expose the disparate webpages in their recent past.

I usually use the internet to distract myself — clicking and scrolling aimlessly on social media or watching junk videos on YouTube — but I also occasionally use it to retrieve information. I don’t really “search” things, rather I type “t” for Twitter, or “y” for YouTube, and so on, then press enter when the website autocompletes and continue clicking from there. I scoured my search history in the week before the release of my novel, The Novelist, for a sampling of more direct queries. 

different ways to say looking forward to it

I usually say “looking forward to it” or, simply, “looking forward,” but recently I’ve been getting beaten to the punch, so to speak, re: “looking forward,” so I was curious if there was another phrase — which didn’t include the word excited, which in this particular instance would have seemed overeager — but unfortunately I did not find a good alternative, and so instead I typed “me too.”

do mormons promise you a mansion after death

On the Instagram meme page associated with The Novelist, run by various friends, someone commented “Mormon Jesus literally promises you a mansion in the afterlife. I think abt that a lot.” I don’t know much about Mormonism, except that it was started by Joseph Smith and there is a Tolstoy quote about how it would become “the greatest power the world has ever known,” but, seeing the comment, I felt immediately defensive of Mormons. When I Googled the mansion promise, I saw some links to things that seemed to reference Jesus’ quote, “In my father’s house there are many mansions” (John 14:2-6), but I didn’t click any. I didn’t feel interested in pursuing it further, in part because I sensed that I was wading into something that likely had to do with the difference between the literal and symbolic, and I didn’t feel like thinking philosophically. I also had no “skin in the game,” so to speak. 

jan 6 wall climbing

I wanted to make a meme about how, after The Novelist release, Barnes & Noble would be like the Capitol on January 6. 


After Dasha’s Chrismation, we ate borscht, kielbasa, sauerkraut, pork stew, pierogies, and more, in the basement of the church, and Dasha told us about how, in the late Soviet Union, people were doing sincerony (a term created by an admin of the aforementioned Novelist meme page, which means “sincerity and irony” combined), but in the USSR it was called stiob. The next day Dasha texted me pictures of pages from the book Everything Was Forever, Until It Was No More by Alexei Yurchak. Some relevant highlighted quotes:

“…[the] aesthetic may seem reminiscent of postmodern cynical detachment from everything, [but] their obliviousness, in fact, was a reversal of that position—it was based on a good-natured acceptance of everything.”

“…it was often impossible to tell whether [stiob] was a form of sincere support, subtle ridicule, or a peculiar mixture of the two.”

“The aesthetic of stiob among the last Soviet generation […] avoided any political or social concerns or straightforward affiliation with support or opposition of anything.”

Shortly thereafter, I texted @writers_life_tips, “maybe we’re just coping with mirth during the fall of our empire bro.” I googled “stiob,” to learn more about it, but I gave up almost instantly when I was confronted with an incoherent mess of non-sincerony-related results. 

feels like there’s a jagged rock in my throat

I am not one of these guys who goes berserk about every little ailment and thinks he’s dying or diseased. I am not, generally speaking, a catastrophizing narcissist. However, there is one thing that turns me into an annoying worrier: my throat. Twice in my adult life, my throat has started to hurt, and less than twenty-four hours later, I had a fever of 104. Both times I had to get surgery and then spent days in the hospital on IV painkillers. When I got sick recently, I was scared it would happen again. I kept telling Nicolette that I was scared, and frequently Googled variations of this type of thing, effortfully trying to convince myself that whatever I had wouldn’t turn into a peritonsillar abscess. Fortunately, it did not.

harvard book human skin

Nicolette was telling Evan and I about a person who called the Yale Divinity Library, where she works, claiming to know what the Voynich manuscript says. The Voynich manuscript, Nicolette explained, is a book at the Beinecke Library, written in a language that thus far no one has been able to decode. Evan asked if the Beinecke had “the book made out of human skin.” Nicolette Googled it, and found that Harvard has a book with a human skin cover, then I Googled “harvard book human skin,” because I wanted to make a Novelist-related meme about it. 

stihl ms211 start

After my release party, we went upstate to Walt’s house, where we had to cut down trees for logs for his wife’s raised garden beds. After Walt’s electric chainsaw got stuck in the trunk of a birch, the blade came loose as we wrangled it free, so we drove back down the mountain to retrieve his gas chainsaw, which we had trouble starting. Walt thought he just wasn’t strong enough, so my friend Kevin, who is stronger, tried, to no avail. I looked on Google how to start it and watched a YouTube video. The video showed us how to properly engage the choke. Eventually Kevin got it going. When he showed Walt how to do it, Walt said “I was actually doing it right, just the opposite.”


Jordan Castro is the author of The Novelist and two poetry books. He is the former editor of New York Tyrant Magazine.