On Being Strange
When I was younger, I was very judgmental.
There was a woman in my ward growing up who always wore pants to church. She was not married, and would always say that she was better off on her own. That did not compute in my young Mormon lady brain. She was loud in every way – in her speech, her dress, her opinions, her laugh.
We moved to a new ward, when I was about 7, where there were more weirdos. There was a family of 6 who were only in the ward a few months because they were permanent travelers. There was a young women’s leader who was a psychologist and insisted that we learn car mechanics…like the actual science of a combustion engine, not just how to change a flat tire, and unapologetically wore two-piece swim suites at girl’s camp.
We moved again when I was 16 to a ward with still more strange people. My mom’s visiting teaching companion read crazy books like A Rough Stone Rolling, and went off script when giving the monthly message.
I would listen to other women, young and old, talk about the ‘strange’ ward members in hushed tones. And I agreed with a lot of the gossip: they were doing Mormonism wrong. There was something they weren’t understanding, or they weren’t thinking things through, or they didn’t have a strong testimony, or if the would only listen to the Prophet, or they were taking the lazy path. We should love them, but be careful of their influence…
As I got a little older, and my worldview developed, I started to notice other things about these Strange Sisters. My old young women’s leader kept tabs on me after we moved away and helped me process my parents’ divorce. My mom’s old visiting teaching companion lovingly visited each of her assigned sisters every month and quietly gave meaningful service to others not on her list. The things that they did different from the rest of us started to seem less and less important. I came to accept the truth that there is more than one way to Mormon.
Now I am one of those weirdos who wears pants to church, reads crazy books, and goes off script when teaching gospel doctrine. However, I generally feel that I am doing what God wants me to do. And I am now so, so grateful for all the unorthodox examples I had in my life. Today, I salute you: you who took your own path, who asked hard questions and made me think, you Sisters who didn’t fit the mold. Thank you.