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Tuesday, February 01, 2005 

This Is Way Beyond My Remote Concern Of Being Condescending

I HATE telling people I'm Mormon. Hate it! There always seems to be some stigma attached to Mormonism in peoples’ brains and that stigma immediately gets attached to me when I tell them I am a card carrying, garment wearing Mormon. As I'm sure you are keenly aware by now, I am not your everyday, run of the mill LDS chick. I am so liberal it hurts sometimes; I'm brown (and NOT Pacific Islander), have a dirty mind and the mouth to prove it; I think the best way to dance is similar to sex standing up; I wear cleavage baring clothing etc. etc. etc. I love the gays, the woman's libbers, the tree huggers, the alkies, the British - the saints and the sinners alike. I consider myself rather undiscriminating. And so, when people discover my Mormon-ness I tend to get varied reactions. Some people think it's cool that I am so open to other thoughts while still remaining faithful in my own beliefs. Others though think I'm not so great, that I'm a "bad Mormon" for having the friends I have, listening to the music I do, wearing the clothes I do on occasion (though, let's be honest, I once put on an outfit I thought was rather racy, turned on the webcam and showed Aidan and he essentially shrugged his shoulders and said, "It's too conservative." So really, I think I'm dressing just fine.) But I just hate the idea of people deciding who I am based on something as abstract as my religion. There is a lot more to me than Mormonism, although my membership in the church does play a huge part in who I am.

When I first met Aidan I didn't tell him I was a member of the Church. He knew I was Christian, and that I didn't drink, smoke, do drugs or have premarital sex, but I couldn't bring myself to tell him I was Mormon. The first few weeks we were getting to know each other, I was the PICTURE of all things Mormon-y, but I never told him my religious preference because I had NO idea what he knew about Mormonism and I didn't want him to judge me because of it. I wanted him to just get to know ME. What I DIDN'T realize at the time was he had been reading my website since the first day we met and KNEW I was Mormon the whole time. I wrote a post (which I WILL NOT link to because it's so embarrassing, and honestly, I can't believe I'm even talking about it) a couple days after I met him that basically was me gushing to the internet the long list of reasons I thought he was great and the much shorter list of reasons it didn't matter - those reasons being that he lives in England and he isn't Mormon. I HATE that he read that. I hate that I wrote that. I hate that it matters at all. It doesn't matter one bit to me now that he isn't a member of the same church I am. What matters is he is one of the best friends I have ever been blessed with. The detail of my Mormonism didn't change the way he felt about me or treated me (though it has lead to some rather feisty debates), so in a way, my fears seem unfounded. But I have had experiences (oddly enough, mostly with other members of my faith) where my Mormon-ness was questioned - where my faith, my own personal belief was judged not based on the kind of person I am, but the shoes that I wore, or the word that I said, or the CD I had in my stereo. I would rather just not deal with it. I would rather just be a Christian.

I think a lot of knowing the details about people is so we can put them into categories... divide them up, put them where we think they belong. She's my lesbian friend, he's my Republican friend, he's my Jewish neighbor, she is my drunk-on-the-weekends pal. I suppose in a way, I just want to live a life without borders, a life without categories. A life where my faith defines part of me, but not me on the whole. A life where my religion is another addition to the sum of my parts, not the sole defining characteristic. I would rather be known as Sarah the good friend, or Sarah the semi-talented writer then Sarah the Mormon.

But that's just me.

Ditto, to everything you said, Sarah!

Most of my friends (those who aren't Mormon) never knew I was until weeks and sometimes months after started to hang out.

There have been so many times in my past where people wouldn't even bother to get to know me or take me seriously because they knew I was Mormon and let all their preconceived notions on Mormonism define who I am and what I could or couldn't like. I've always hated that.  

Posted by Lizzy

You're a Mormon?

Seriously, though. As many of us know, I'm just so tired of the "cookie cutter" shape that ALL MORMONS are supposed to take. I wish things were different.

BTW, I love me some Sarah...she's just the coolest. The liberal, sex dancing, gay loving, revealing clothes wearer Mormon that she is. LOVE LOVE LOVE SARAH!  

Posted by JP

I can be pretty naive...I don't know what the cookie cutter mold looks like.

Sarah darling (great, honest, wonderful post BTW), what is it that you think people think about us that is so bad or negative? We are obligated to take our fair share of punches in the religious world. We are NOT the only church to have weird rumors or lies spread about us. I would be much more embarrased to say I'm a Jehovah's Witness, because then people would feel sorry for me that I never had something so simple and fun as a birthday party. Or to say that I belong to one of those cults where you have to wear a sweat suit all the time, because people would feel sorry for me for being so unfashionable...

I am sometimes jealous of other "old time" religions because they are SO much older than ours (continuity speaking) and all the quirks and rumors and weirdness are worked out and accepted and it's no big deal, but for Mormons...we're still the new kids on the block and people are still getting to know us...and we're peculiar alright...

But are Mormons NOT supposed to be open to the gays, the woman's libbers, the tree huggers, the alkies, the British - the saints and the sinners alike? Did I miss that Sunday school lesson, or do I just have a severe case of rose colored glasses? 

Posted by Anonymous

It's not that I am embarassed to say I'm Mormon, that's not the case at all. It's that I am NOT the idea people have of what a Mormon SHOULD be... and that can cause conflict sometimes.

As for that Sunday School lesson you missed... Yes, Mormons are SUPPOSED to be open to everyone, but let's be honest... they aren't. Try growing up in a part member family, with a gay parent, with a drug addict sibling, etc. etc. The people we should be loving the MOST are the people that have the most difficult time fitting in in our congregations. I know, I've been one of those people.

The thing is, I see this as one of Satan's greatest tools. If he can make us feel uncomfortable, unwelcome, uncared for in the place where we should LEAST feel those things then he's totally accompishing what he has set out to. So, I stopped looking at people as Mormon or not, as good or bad, and just started loving people right where they are. I think THAT is the most Christian thing to do. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

I wish that this was one day earlier because at LDS.org all through January President Hinckley made reference to this. I'll post it later if I can find it.
Maybe we go through peaks and valleys as members when it's easier to be Mormon and proud. I remember the high school years not being able to stand up and be different. I wanted to blend in with the cool crowd. I definetly could have picked more moral people to want to 'blend' with.
Sarah, I remember you during your high school years being one to stand up and proud of your Mormonage. You too, JP.
I am very proud to be Mormon, and through the years have learned to love being an example and striving to be a 'good' example.
 

Posted by Jess

I found it!
President Hinckley, Jan. 2005 Ensign...

"I conclude with this question: Should we be surprised if we are called upon to endure a little criticism, to make some small sacrifice for our faith when our forebears paid so great a price for theirs?

Without contention, without argument, without offense, let us pursue a steady course, moving forward to build the kingdom of God. If there is trouble, let us face it calmly. Let us overcome evil with good. This is God’s work. It will continue to strengthen over the earth, touching for good the lives of countless thousands whose hearts will respond to the message of truth. No power under heaven can stop it."

 

Posted by Jess

The thing is... I don't think I'm being a bad example. I think I'm a fine example. I'm just not the kind of example maybe people expect, and I think that's always been true - even in my high school days.

When my old pal Duane got baptized the summer after we graduated from high school he and I had a heart to heart chat on the lawn of the Mt. Timpanogous Temple the night before he took the plunge. I sat there weeping, because I felt like I had been such a bad example to him. He put his hand on my back and said, "No Sarah. You loved me. And that was the best example of anything I've ever had."

I guess the point of all of my rambelings is, I think for me, my faith is less about being Mormon and more about loving people the way my Savior would have them loved: unconditionally and with hope for their happiness. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

There's a difference between standing up for what you believe in and being accepting of who people are. I have to dissagree with you, Anonymous...we ARE expected love and accept everyone. IT IS US NOT FOR US TO JUDGE.

"JUDGE NOT, LEST YE BE JUDGED."

Sarah has more Gospel Doctrine knowledge than most members of the church. Yet she is accepting of Gays and Tree huggers. HOLY COW...stop the presses! Members of the church are instructed to be accepting and welcoming. Just because you dissagree with someone's views or lifestyle choice does not mean you have the right to judge them. What Sarah said is that once she tells people she's Mormon, people automatically have preconcieved ideas about what a Mormon should act like. Is it wrong to want to be unique? Especially when you hold true to your beliefs?

What is so wrong with holding true to your convictions and your beliefs while maintaining your unique self? WHAT IS SO WRONG WITH THAT???

Also, Jess...thank you for those words. However, being critized for being Mormon isn't exactly what Sarah was talking about. She's a Mormon criticized for being accepting of Gays, Liberals, Tree Huggers, etc. I know for a fact that while you may dissagree with those groups as a whole, I have never seen you pass judgement on those people or their beliefs. That is key.

And Anonymous...what is wrong with Brits? I'm confused... 

Posted by JP

I think "Anonymous" meant that Mormons ARE supposed to be loving and welcoming to all the forementioned groups. I think the wording was just off.

JP Thank you for noticing that even though I am conservative, I try not to judge others (except maybe tree huggers and PETA people). What can I say, the apple didn't fall far from Dad's tree. 

Posted by Jess

For clarification: are we writing today more about non-members judging us, or other members who judge us? 

Posted by Jess

Jess... we're talking about ME! Sheesh! I'm such the ignored middle child. Breaks my heart.

Honestly, I didn't mean for this to turn into a discussion about judgement. Bottom line: I wanted people to talk about loving each other no matter what. I am ALL about the love. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

OH MY GOSH, YOU ARE THE MIDDLE CHILD! This revelation explains so much.
We love you. We love your quirks. We love your big heart. We love that you love others. We love your creativity. We love (except maybe Cameron) that you love to stir the pot and make us think.
 

Posted by Jess

I am so sorry. I didn't realize that I posted as Anonymous. Oops. Did I leave out key pronous or adjectives? Yeah, I just reread that comment and I can see how you misunderstood that last bit I should write more like a grown up and not a junior high schooler...I feel silly.

But you guys know me right? I WAS trying to say that there is room in Mormonism for individuality, and we need more Sarah Marinaras to shake things up for the poeple who haven't gotten that yet... I was trying to be facetious by quoting Sarah's various groups verbatim.

I was just trying so understand where all this discomfort comes from? To my mother's side of the family, our family is the party family, liberal, "walking the line" whatever, but to my dad's side of the family, we appear SO straight laced and "Mormon-y". It's all about perspective.

I have come to the conclusion that if I want people to accept my "unique" ways of dressing (lingerie on the outside), listening to music, the types of friends I have, etc. then I also need to be accepting that they might need more stringent "rules" to govern their own lives. This is where I am, that's where they are... and they're not the boss of me...

My mission taught me that there is more than one way to live the Gospel. People at different points and stages...And as my BYU roommate pointed out to me at the end of our two semesters of living together: "After knowing you, I understand that it is possible to watch R rated movies and still be a good person." Thanks, Hilary. 

Posted by Carrie Ann

Personally, I'm thrilled you posted as annoymous... I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE seeing JP get all fired up. It's a lot of fun.

Carrie Ann... I love what your roommate told you. I had a conversation with my own roommate last night about how she finds herself being dissapointed in people because they don't make the choices she thinks they should make. She HATES that about herself. But, she told me last night that she doesn't love me less because I choose differnt than her, she doesn't think I'm a bad person (where as I'm pretty sure I AM a bad person) because of my choices - we are just different, that's all. She loves me, I love her, and I also love me some rated R movies. ;) 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

I knew that anonymous comment was you, Carrie Ann, before I even finished reading it. I really did!

Love this topic. My eyes and heart are enlarged with every perspective I hear at VS of M. I think everyone can relate from one point of view or another. As for me, I have probably spent most of my life "judging" other mormons who didn't make the same choices I did. But, can I explain myself before you hate me? Until I became an "adult" (whenever that may have been)...and started to really experience the world for myself...

1) I was a people pleaser (and a middle child)
2) I never knew any less-active / non-active (whatever is politically correct. I forget..) members of the church. I really didn't know how they felt about gospel standards and why the did or didn't choose to live them.
3) I had a very safe (some may call it "sheltered") childhood. I didn't know what other kinds of trials other members of the church went through, and how this could affect their reaction to counsel given by the prophet.

All of that said, and knowing that I am coservative by nature, and not just nurture, I say if other members of the church are out-right making you feel bad for how you live the gospel, that is THEIR problem, and not your's. The human (and even Mormon) experience is larger and more complicated than most of us realize; whether we are conservative or not. That is why we ALL have been given the commandment to not judge each other. But even more importantly: to LOVE each other.

The "judging-type conservatives" could at the very least give Sarah WAY MORE kudos for understanding and living that MOST important commandment better than anyone I've ever met, rather than knit-pick at the lesser commandments they had a greater advantage at mastering.  

Posted by Suzie Petunia

GREAT, NOW I HAVE GUILT!!! I got so fired up at CA...my most beloved CA!!!! I told Sarah that I think I got defensive because it was her...like a protective mommy and her baby. Of course she was first to point out that I READ IT WRONG...dang.

I'm gonna go sit in a corner, now... 

Posted by JP

One of my close friends and I were talking about dating once. She was at the stage where I was wondering if she and so and so were boyfriend/girlfriend. Everyone had been asking her and she really didn’t want to say one way or another, really didn’t know one way or another. After many long discussions on this issue (re-hashing and over-hashing is our thing) we decided that the reason it was important for her to figure out where her relationship stood was for me and all of our other friends. We all felt like we needed a term by which to understand what was going on in our friend’s life. It wasn’t that we were trying to force her, or even put her into a new, “can’t hang out with the girls as much any more” category, we definitely were not trying to judge her… we were trying to understand her and we needed some type of familiar guideline by which to measure where her relationship was at.

This type of “defining” is simple communication. The bottom line is that terms are necessary for communication. Unfortunately language, like everything, is imperfect and you will find yourself labeled, judged, and just as you will also find yourself labeling and judging. Life isn’t perfect and it never will be. Even though maybe I shouldn’t, even though some may wish I didn’t I WILL refer to myself as Mormon because it means something to me that I WANT to convey to other people… other people may call me a non Mormon, a jack Mormon, never a Molly Mormon, because this is what I represent to them… language will fail us, but who we are and what we stand for will always set each of us apart, make us individual, where as language never will.
 

Posted by Rebecca

Seriously Becca... all I can say is WOW. Wow. 

Posted by Sarah Marinara

Becca, that was beautiful...thank you. 

Posted by JP

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

yeah i should really read the rest of the comments before posting.... sorry carrie ann...i have a short fuse somtimes...erm..oookay i will just go back under my rock....sorry babe :( 

Posted by Aidan

Aidan...you and me, Baby...you and me.

I'm in my corner...and you're under a rock. GOOD JOB US!!!

Seriously, this is definitely a good topic for all of us...its gets us thinking... 

Posted by JP

I understand where Sarah's coming from. I think that for her being labeled is just no good. She doesn't fit into stereotypes that people have about a lot of the labels someone might give her.

I'd be tired of being labeled, too, if I were her.

I used to love my Mormon label because I totally fit the stereotype and I didn't have to explain so much.

(Undesirable) Non-member guy hitting on me: Hey buddy.. I'm Mormon. Yeah... that's right... we're never having sex. See ya.

Curious Student Not Believing I've never tried pot: Well, I'm Mormon and that just goes against the things I believe.

There are a lot of scenerios where I found the labeling helpful... but if I was Sarah, I'd be damn tired of it, too. 

Posted by Kaycee

Sarah, I have nothing particular to contribute on the substance of your post--I'm just responding to your throwaway description of yourself as a "semi-talented writer." I hope people (including you) don't think of you that way, because you're not at all "semi-talented." You are a damn fine writer!  

Posted by Kristine

Ok...I just don't have time to read all the comments...there's too many and I'm at work...BUT.

Sarah I just love you, you have such a beautiful heart and beautiful faith. If I met you nearby where I live I would want to be your friend. Judgement is one of the many things wrong with religion and you are as far as I can see (I love all of you now)you are one of the best examples of a "good" mormon I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

I no longer believe in any form of Christianity...but if I did or if I was interested. You would be the person I would talk to.

Thanks. 

Posted by EJ

Rebecca...I think you basically summed up the whole discussion in one beautifully written comment. I need someone like to you to take all the pieces of life I don't understand and just give it to me in one "comment". I'd probably get on much better...

Sarah, here is a little experiment...and you HAVE to promise to be honest in what your initial reaction/response/thought was to what I am about to tell you.

I grew up in a totally, totally saturated to the bone Mormon family, attended Ricks College for 2 years, served a mission, came home and went to BYU where I graduated in Elementary Education. I taught school for 4 years, got married, have had 3 kids in 4 years and am now a stay at home mom.

There are some serious judgments most people make about the choices I've made and what they think it says about me. I spent alot of years defending my choices and trying to make people understand that my majoring in education at BYU wasn't so I could get married quick and have great child-rearing skills (whoever started spreading that stereotype ought to be hung out to dry somewhere). I finally came to the conclusion that I could either spend my life trying to make everyone understand me and defending my position or I could get on with the business of living my life and let other people spend their time doing whatever they want. If people choose to pass shallow judgments on what I APPEAR to be, than they are missing out on all the quirky fun! I'm proud to be everything I am.

I really don't feel like being a "mormon" comes with any baggage. I think we have to make a conscious choice in life about who we are and what we represent and then refuse to carry around anyone else's luggage. I do feel sometimes that people want the best of both sides of the fence though and I don't believe in being a fence rider.

It is so late at night...I don't know if I'm making sense. Does anyone else feel like their brain is deteriorating? 

Posted by Amy

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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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