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Monday, January 31, 2005 

No I’m a Faulconer

When I was in Kindergarten a boy asked me if I was Mormon, I said no I am a Faulconer. I wish I still answered the question like this; in fact maybe I should start because it would make life a lot easier.

Now when people ask me if I am Mormon I say I am, but I haven’t always. If you think about it this isn’t an easy question to answer. I was baptized when I was eight and have been raised Mormon, this makes me Mormon. I don’t practice the religion or believe, so what does this make me? A non-practicing Mormon? Or not Mormon? I don’t want to deny being Mormon because I don’t have a problem with the church, or people knowing that I have grown up Mormon. Deep down I feel that denying I am Mormon is somehow denying the love I feel towards my parents, siblings, family and all of the wonderful Mormon people through out my life that have taught me and raised me to be a good person. I don’t want to deny their contribution to my successes in life and by claiming to be a Mormon I am able to incorporate all of them in who I am.

When I was 21, maybe 22, I was dating a guy who worked as a bartender for a restaurant in Orem, Utah. At one point my mom heard, through a series of people, “so and so told so and so that so and so heard that your daughter’s boyfriend tells people he isn’t Mormon.” This upset my mom, hurt her feelings, and so she asked me about it. “Why would your boyfriend claim he isn’t Mormon?” Well, after the trail of people that provided the information who even knows if he truly said this or not? But quite possible he did. At first I couldn’t answer her, one, I am not him so how should I know and two, I understood the difficulty of a question like this especially when you are surrounded by good practicing Mormons. If I am eating dinner and having a glass of wine and someone asks me if I am Mormon and I say yes, this looks bad. Does drinking a glass of wine make me a bad person? No it doesn’t, but it does make me a bad Mormon. I don’t enjoy starting conversations off with, “Hi my name is Rebecca I am Mormon, but I am a bad Mormon, but a good person…” It is quite a mouthful of a hello. Yet, this is the hello I provide every time I meet someone new. They ask me where I am from, I say Utah, they say Salt Lake, I say Provo, and they say Mormon?

When I was first struggling with my lack of belief in the Mormon Church I always answered that I wasn’t Mormon. It was easy because I didn’t have to explain why I was Mormon and wasn’t practicing, something I really hadn’t figured out for myself yet. But it always bothered me that the answer would hurt my parent’s feelings. That if so and so told so and so that so and so heard so and so ask me if I was Mormon and I answered no the so and so’s would let my parents know and they would think I was denying who I was, like saying I wasn’t a Faulconer. It is funny, though, because once I figured out how I felt about the Mormon Church, about god, about religion I began saying that I was Mormon again even though I was the furthest away from being a Mormon then I had ever been.

In the end, what is the answer? What is the right thing to do? What does a good Mormon think about me saying I am Mormon and then behaving like I am not? Is this fair? Would you prefer that I said I was not Mormon? I’d honestly like to know.

I, too, am infinitely curious about what other practicing Mormons think about this.

After all of the "Inactive" vs. "Less-Active" and even more archaic/derogatory "Jack Mormon" labeling... What do the single-labeled Mormons think? 

Posted by Kaycee

Rebecca & Kaycee: You are both mormon.

I'm not sure, but if I were in your shoes, I'd probably try to be humorous and lighthearted about it, that's how I am. I'd probably give myself a label like Kaycee mentioned, but deep down, I would know I'm mormon. 

Posted by Jess

Absolutely fascinating...what a juicy week this is goign to be. And what a great way to start it off!

I can see why this is such a tough question for you, and I, too, and suprised that after arriving at certain conclusions about religion, you choose to say that you are a Mormon.

Most of my friends from High School are Catholic and most of them struggled before and after Confirmation, knowing full well they didn't plan on keeping their convenants to the church (your situation is different), but they would still say they are Catholic. A few will add the "disclaimer" that they are not practicing, but Catholicism is also part of their heritage and culture.

It becomes tricky, I agree with you, when people know about Mormons and what they believe/do/don't do and then know friends who do otherwise. That's a tough call. But I am bothered by the term "bad Mormon" or "Jack Mormon". It's icky and inexact. Bad has nothing to do with it. The term "less-active" to me is different. Although it is a euphemism for "not active", it is an "insiders" term, purely statistical. Can you be offended by being called less-active if, indeed, you are less-active? I am SURE that in my lifetime some committee has wondered out loud or labled me as "less-active", but it is because statistically, I wasn't present. I was in Mexico or something...

All I can say is what I would say in your situation. (But it is not what I would WANT you or anyone like you to say...say what YOU mean/feel...) I personally don't mind "not practicing" or "disengaged" or "disenfranchised" or "living-it-up" or "by birth and culture" or something much more witty. It seems more truthful in a sense, and makes for a good conversation starter if that is what is desired. If you don't feel like getting into it with someone, either say you are or you aren't.

Are you ever offended if you have told someone that you ARE a Mormon and, say, you have wine with dinner and they say "I thought Mormons don't drink?" What is your common response/emotion from those situations? We have SO much more to discuss! 

Posted by Carrie Ann

A couple of years ago JP and I were spending a Saturday together and ended up reminiscing about many people. Throughout the day I kept asking JP questions like, "how are they, are they active?"
When she pointed it out, I realized that it seemed like I was passing judgement, when in reality I was just wondering what they were up to. I wonder if others come across as 'passing judgement' but really they're pour communicators like me, and are 'just wondering what everyone is up to'.
I appreciate the loyalty to parents and others when faced with the questions "are you mormon?", but I bet the answer to the question should only matter to you. 

Posted by Jess

Very interesting Carrie Ann. When I first do meet people it is usually at a dinner, with a glass of wine in front of me, among friends and I usually do answer in some witty way, “yes, Mormon by default.” I try to convey as quickly as possible that I was born and raised Mormon, but that I don’t practice, so please do not turn to me as an example of a devout Mormon.

As to being offended, the only time I am offended is when people think they can talk poorly about the Mormon Church because I don’t practice. I can crack jokes about polygamy and my twelve moms and my uncle father, but when someone that doesn’t know what they are talking about explains Mormonism to me I get offended and defensive. I had a girl tell our entire office one lunch that Mormon’s can drink Pepsi but not Coke because all of the Mormon Church’s stock is in Pepsi… when I told her that what she was saying was garbage she responded with, “what do you know about Mormons?” Or when a boy I lent the book No Man Knows My History, a less then perfect portrayal of Joseph Smith, started explaining to me and others the “truth” about the Mormon Church I got offended and defensive, after all it is just one book… and I lent it out to you so really… But if someone wants to tell me how to live my life and that I shouldn’t be having a glass of wine, or cussing, or showing my shoulders I don’t get offended by their comments at all… I just feel bad for them (and I promise that is much worse).

Jess… I ask my mom that question about all of my friends from when I was younger that she keeps tabs on. “Are they active, do they have kids, did they get married in the temple?” I agree that it is just curiosity. I want to know, I don’t think less of them, How could I?
 

Posted by Rebecca

Don't you love sterotypes?:(
Someone also asked me about our having stock in Pepsi.
The one that really got to me was about 5 years ago some guy tried to convince me that I believe that when I die I'm going to one of three planets. 

Posted by Jess

This week is gonna be good.

Rebecca, the funny thing is that its really not up to us...you have to respond to people with how you're comfortable.

CA: Goodness, I think you're cool...

Jess: I DIDN'T MEAN TO MAKE YOU FEEL LIKE A BAD COMMUNICATOR!!!

Oh...the post I am writing in my head... 

Posted by JP

Maybe you could just say "I was raised Mormon, but am non-practicing at this time."

Just a thought from a random blog reader.

-Spade ♠ 

Posted by Spade

I think like most people have said that it depends on who you are talking to and how familiar you are with that person. As a general rule I don't give much personal information to people I don't know. In a situation where you do not wish to go into an long explanation I would that that non-practicing would be acceptable. You needn't say any more then that.

I refer to myself quite often I am a non-practicing Catholic (thanks Carrie Ann). Though I am more Agnostic then anything like you I will still defend the Catholic church and correct misconceptions whenever I can. I have great respect for MOST practicing Catholics.

For people who are closer to you you can simply give the explanation you gave us...you were raised mormon and feel it is part of who you are even if it is a religion you have no faith in, you have much respect for it, the values it taught you and so on and so forth.

I can't wait to read everyone else's post's...No late reading/commenting for me this week!!!

Great job as always Rebecca!!! 

Posted by EJ

I think people ask if so and so is active because of the importance that they place on the church, and the gospel in their lives. I do it every time I hear about someone that I have not seen in awhile. Why? Because the joy I find in the gospel, and the beliefs I have because of the gospel. I want that simple happiness to be with everyone.
It's not a judging thing, except for with that Becca!! Man it makes me so mad that .... Never mind, I am sorry. 

Posted by Cameron

I, too, think it's a personal choice. So much of being Mormon is a cultural thing that I can understand how it would be hard to seperate yourself from it without, therefore, dening a part of who you are.

For me, when I stopped going to church, I stopped associating myself with anything Mormon. If someone asked me, I just said "No". That worked for me (of course, I was really bitter at the time, so that might of had something to do with it).

And now that I'm "active" again, I haven't given it much thought. So, I'm glad for your post, Rebecca, and like others have said, am looking forward to this week's posts. 

Posted by Lizzy

As a person who is not religious it rarely ever crosses my mind to ask if a person is Mormon, or Catholic, or Buddhist, etc. I tend to find myself more curious about where they grew up, what college they attended, their extracurricular interests. I think it is natural to inquire in others about things that are important to you. It's interesting to see that everyone continually benchmarks people, and how this benchmarking defines your relationship in the end.
I think whatever you find out about a person, shapes how you will perceive them, and how they will fit into your life. So I think knowing what you "are" and then expressing that accurately to someone is very important. That said, I don't always know what to say I "am" religiously, especially when it doesn't seem very important to me. I think the answer is sometimes more important to the one asking, than to the one giving an answer.  

Posted by Marta

JP: you didn't make me feel like you thought I was a bad communicator, but you did seem annoyed, as if I was basing their success in life on whether or not they were active.

I want to echo what Cameron said so well because there is so much happiness in having the gospel in our lives. 

Posted by Jess

I think it's hilarious that you ask about the activity of friends Becca. I have a friend who is no longer practicing the Mormonism and everytime I talk to her she asks me about people's religious status. It cracks me up.

This week is gonna be good.

It's nice to get back to the pot stirring stuff :D 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

Sarah: Why do you always have to be so "pot stirring" Why can't you just get along? 

Posted by Cameron

I have been through many, many stages of "mormonism" in my relatively brief lifetime. I guess I can only offer my opinion and perspective from this place I am in right now in my spiritual journey...I really see the term "Mormon" being used more as a description of cultural background or upbringing rather than deep personal conviction or commitment. I came to a very specific place in my life where I had major life decisions demanding to be made and the course of my life determined by my convictions and beliefs. I knew that whatever I decided at that point had to be what I was willing to live and believe. I either had to be a "mormon" or not a mormon but I realized I couldn't ride the fence. It became black and white. Either I was and I claimed all convictions and practices and beliefs that it held or I wasn't. I guess if someone states that they are a Mormon that I want it to really mean something to them. Whether or not we want to believe it, a name is a power. Sometimes we take the language we use too lightly or want to assign less meaning to the words we use. When someone states they are a Mormon, I want it to reflect what they know and believe and practice. I don't want it to be a tradition or "easy" answer. Being a Mormon is not easy...I have to work every day at living in accordance with the things I know are true. I want people to know what I am by the things they see me do and live every day. I don't know if I have expressed myself very well here...sometimes the words of the heart are so much more difficult to explain than the simple words in my head! Thanks for your thoughts and ideas!  

Posted by Amy

Thanks everyone for your comments they are all very interesting.

Amy, I am glad you commented because this is what I struggle with, referring to myself as Mormon even though I don't practice. I don’t by any means want to offend the person that exhibits the spiritual commitment that is Mormonism, but I think it is without a doubt true that the Mormon religion has an interesting and unique cultural background that sets us/them apart from much of the general public. I grew up a part of this, I grew up Mormon in every sense of the word, but the piece I have taken from Mormonism is the cultural aspect… When someone asks me if I am Mormon it is very difficult to say no, I feel rotten inside saying no.

I do want to know what everyone thinks on the issue. I am grateful for all of the comments and I am continually curious about questions such as these. But for now I think I am going to stick with answering I am Mormon, I suppose I could go with I am a non-believing Mormon… seeing that it is my stage of Mormondom, but regardless Mormon is going to be somewhere in my answer.
 

Posted by Rebecca

I love this discussion. Marta: I am one of those people that ask. And I never really knew why. "I think whatever you find out about a person, shapes how you will perceive them, and how they will fit into your life." Thanks for spelling it out for me.

Amy: This is great! As some of you may know, I am what they would call a "dry Mormon". I guess the reason I don't officially join is because I want so bad to be a fence sitter. I know that I don't like to do anything that isn't 100%...and I don't know if my 100% is good enough to go thru with it.

Does this make any sense at all?
Sandy 

Posted by Sandy

Great topic, VSMers. And interesting discussion, Becca.

One possibility that comes to mind is how I hear people from other religious beliefs refer to themselves. This isn't just a Mormon issue, you know, it's a general issue. Friends who are Jewish are going to think you're judging them as they eat their ham-and-cheese sandwich, friends who are Catholic are going to think you expect them to mark their forehead on Ash Wednesday and are judging them for not doing that.

So what's the verdict?

I hear people refer to themselves as a "lapsed Catholic" or a "secular Jew" or a "reform Jew." I think that any of those labels would work fine for someone in Becca-Dammit's position. A "Secular Mormon" or a "lapsed Mormon" get the point across without any painful, lengthy discussion. And "reform Mormon" does the same and might even get you a laugh.  

Posted by Kaimi

For new people I've met in the past year or so, my formulation has been "I was raised Mormon, but lately have become something of an unbeliever." But I like Carrie Ann's "Mormon by birth and culture" and also Kaimi's "Secular Mormon", which sort of say the same thing but more succinctly.

My current `stage' is that I'm leaning atheist, while attending all three hours of Church every week for my wife and children and the fellowship, but not practicing openly (not taking the sacrament, performing ordinances, or holding a calling---though I participate in socials and service projects, and will pray in Church if called upon). A little messy, especially because it's a "transition" and I'm sure everyone's talking behind my back wondering what's going on.
 

Posted by Christian Cardall

Rebecca, I'm glad you still say you're Mormon, because I like to think of you as part of my "tribe." You and I have a lot in common, even if we spend our Sunday mornings different places. Mormonism is such a young religion that we just haven't figured out how to deal with people in various stages, as Kaimi's looking to Jews or Catholics for working terminology suggests. And, as I discovered from some not terribly friendly comments at T&S yesterday, you can never be Mormon enough for certain stripes of Mormons. I say claim your heritage as it feels right to you, and don't worry too much about what other Mormons will think. 

Posted by Kristine

I like Kaimi's suggestions. I have a friend who refers to himself as a "Roman Catholic atheist." I have also heard the phrase used "emeritus member of the Church."

But whether you practice or not, if you consider yourself "Mormon", you are "Mormon" as far as I am concerned, and I, like Kristine, I'm glad you are part of our "tribe." 

Posted by DavidH

Thanks for sharing, Becca! Glad to hear you still claim us as your people : )
I think there is a huge value to people claiming their tribe, even if they don't hold to norms such as WoW or church attendance. The church isn't just about complying with certain behavioral standards. It is also about fellowship and loyalty to each other. I think that loyalty calls those who don't comply with the norms to be respectful of the commitments of those who do (as you've shown, Becca, in your feelings about, say, wine), and not to pretend those norms don't matter, but it also calls those who do comply with the norms (church attendance, tithing, etc.) to respect the agency of those who do not feel those norms are a priority for them just now, for whatever reason.
Thanks for the window into your distinctive kind of integrity. 

Posted by Ben H

Wow, this is a really hard question to answer.I like what a few of you have said. How you are so happy actually knowing that the gospel is true. If I were you I would become active again. That way there wouldn't be such a complicated question.

Just a suggestion from a random reader. Good Luck! :)

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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