My Mormon Reeducation/A Third Way

In the past year, I’ve used this blog as a place to express my frustration with my religion, to criticize other members for behaving badly, and, more or less, to jump around and yell, “Hey! I’m different!” I’ve been quiet for the last few months, though, and not just on the blog, but in life. In my conversations with Robert and with my mom and in the spiral notebook I use at church. A big reason for my silence is that I’ve been absorbing the deluge of public discussion about Mormonism and sorting out my response. There’s this thing going around that the media and also members of my faith are referring to as a Mormon Moment. Maybe you haven’t noticed, but we have. How can we not? For 26 years, my spirituality was a matter of relative obscurity. Now it’s on the front page of a major publication every other day. And even though a lot of the coverage has been neutral, or even positive, some of it has been painful to read.

It’s the hard stuff that’s changed the way I relate to other Mormons. Because when a wacky right-winger starts hurling around the four letter c-word (cult, what were you thinking), he doesn’t differentiate between hardcore Mormons in the mountain west and progressive Mormons in urban centers. (If anything, he’s probably more distrustful of progressive Mormons. When pressed, he defined a cult as a religious sect that does not adhere to the teachings of “traditional” Christianity. I don’t know exactly what traditional Christianity is, but I know Christianity that’s compatible with Darwinism and Democratic politics ain’t it.) And when Christopher Hitchens goes beyond his usual “religion is incompatible with intellectualism, not to mention dangerous and crazy” routine (which I can totally take, by the way), and singles out my faith, calling it one of the most egregious, sinister systems of religious belief and practice on the earth? Well, I know he’s not making an exception for “cool” Mormons. The thing is, all of us Mormons lay claim the mantle of this particular, peculiar religion. We wear it differently, but we share it. And I can’t bring myself to find fault with my brothers and sisters right now, not when so many are eager to do it for us.

At the same time, I am compelled to proclaim more loudly than I did before that I am A Different Kind Of Mormon. Not by calling out what I don’t like, but by telling you, with no reservations, exactly what I am: a feminist and a LGBTQ ally. I’ve been these things for as long as I know, for years before I had the vocabulary to call them what they are. And I want you to know that, even though I grew up in Utah and Arizona and knew all of one Democrat during my formative years (hi Grandma!), I never felt a shred of dissonance between my faith and my politics. My liberalism was and is as deeply embedded as my religious beliefs and identity. More than that, I am a feminist and an ally because I am a Mormon, not in spite of it. My politics inform my faith and my faith forces me to write and act and vote the way I do. Why am I telling you this? Why am I outing myself as an unorthodox Mormon? I’ve kept more or less quiet about it for years, not having had too much trouble reconciling my religious and secular beliefs. I am happy because I know this religion is big enough for me. Through this Mormon Moment, though, with the intense scrutiny, and the multitude of voices chiming in on matters of faith and culture, I’ve come to know that there are people like me: feminists and liberals and Mormons at the same time. People who are neither of these things but find themselves on the outskirts of this faith just the same for one reason or another. And I think that we need each other, because otherwise we’ve got no place to call home at all, outside the faith or in.

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1 Response to My Mormon Reeducation/A Third Way

  1. melanie says:

    Excellent post as always. I also saw that Fashionable Mormon/Mormon hipster article. I read stuff like that and think “Awesome. How come I don’t see them at church?” And, then I read the article again and realize they’re mostly using examples from people who don’t go to church. I mean they got a quote from Elna Baker, who wasn’t even “Mormon” by the time she published her book. (She brings that up in a story at the end of the book.) The truth is you have to take people person-by-person. A religious identification is such a small part of who someone is.

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