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Exclusive: 'RHOSLC' star Heather Gay recalls her days as a Mormon missionary in new memoir

Heather Gay's new memoir, "Bad Mormon," details her journey from childhood to Salt Lake City housewife.
author Heather Gay and book \"Bad Mormon\"
Courtesy Heather Gay

Since the inception of Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City" in 2020, Heather Gay has been a fan favorite, offering a look at her personal life while simultaneously acting as comedic relief in her friend circle. Now, Gay is getting realer than ever in her forthcoming memoir, "Bad Mormon," sharing details about her Mormon upbringing, her marriage (and subsequent divorce), raising a family and joining ‘The Real Housewives’ franchise.

TODAY got an exclusive sneak peek at Gay’s book, focusing on her time as a missionary in France for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Read an excerpt of 'Bad Mormon' by Heather Gay

Excerpt Credit: BAD MORMON by Heather Gay. Copyright © ​2023 by Heather Gay. Reprinted by permission of Gallery Books, a Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Despite my blackening soul, or perhaps because of it, I was a very effective missionary. I could get butts in seats, or bodies in the font, if you know what I mean. I held the record for most baptisms in our mission: sixteen dunked in eighteen months. The average for other missionaries was one or less. My mission president asked me to train seven other sister missionaries while I served in France. I’d heard of other missionaries having the opportunity to be a trainer once, maybe twice, but for me, the hits just kept on coming. Being a trainer: Mormon flex.

Because of my impressive track record, the president granted me a few indulgences not available to the other missionaries. Normally, missionaries were expected to be within sight or sound of their companion at all times. If for any reason your companion became unavailable, the president would assign you as a third wheel to an existing companionship until you're able to pair off again.

'Bad Mormon' by Heather Gay

On my next to last transfer day as a missionary I was supposed to send my latest companion on a train to Perpignan at 11 a.m., but my replacement companion would not be arriving until five that afternoon. That gave me a six-hour window where I would need to be supervised or assigned as a third wheel. I explained my dilemma to the president, and instead of shuffling schedules to find a way to keep me tethered, he unlocked the leash and set me free. “Just go home to your apartment and wait until her train arrives,” he suggested. “I’m not worried about you getting into any trouble.”

And it was in that moment I realized that if you give a mouse a cookie, she takes the whole damn gâteau. I promptly repaid my mission president’s trust by immediately betraying it.

I dropped my companion off at the train station, bid her au revoir, and headed straight to the theater where the marquee was lighting my path brighter than the noonday sun. Titanic.

I slipped my name tag into my pocket, walked up to the theater counter, and squeaked out a timid, “Un billet, s’il vous plaît.” Before Bill Paxton in all his frosted-tip glory could say, “C’est le jour de payer lesenfants,” I was safely enveloped in the weighted blanket of the darkened theater. A real girl, really living in France, really watching a movie.

Rose talked about the Titanic being a ship of dreams for most, but she felt imprisoned. The well-brought-up girl screaming inside to everyone’s inattention, willing to fling herself off the top of the ship to avoid living a life as the wife of the arrogant Cal.

photo of Heather Gay
Courtesy Heather Gay

I was so mesmerized by the sweet relief of anonymity and darkness, that I failed to see the connection.

The movie was in French with no subtitles. I didn’t fully catch every word, but I did not care.

I was the king of the world.

I felt peace. I felt calm. I felt more like myself and closer to God in that theater than I had felt over the past sixteen months of prayer-filled, scripture-filled missionary service. No prior feeling in France compared to the tranquility I had while cloaked in the sanctity of the theater watching the iceberg sink the ship.

After the movie, I snuck out and didn’t put on my name tag until I was a safe distance from the theater and in my own neighborhood. I waited for my new companion to arrive, shadowed with shame about what I had just done. I vowed never to tell a soul. Loose lips sink ships. But still I was paranoid that the mission president would somehow find out and send me home. I feared that one movie would undermine all the good I had done on my mission and in my life. I would lose the crown and kingdom I had sacrificed so much for. It’s all there, black and white, clear as crystal! You stole fizzy lifting drinks! You bumped into the ceiling, which now has to be washed and sterilized, so you get nothing! You lose! Good day, sir! I buried the truth. A woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets.