The Unorthodox Mormon

A dear friend of mine recently published an article in the Huffington Post about Mormon Pioneers. In one small line, she summed up something I have been feeling for a long time, especially in the way that I am viewed in the religious world. “As far as I’m concerned, my activity in the Mormon church is irrelevant to my identity as a Mormon.”

People, religious people mostly, like to know where I belong. Saying that I’m an unorthodox Mormon makes no sense to many and tends to upset most of those in my faith who are orthodox. I guess they like to call me ‘lukewarm’ or a ‘fence sitter’. Though I usually run hot and tend to speed walk every where I go.  It has been a challenge to realize that while I don’t participate in most of the “church” duties of my religion, I still am happy and proud to be a Mormon.

It’s been an envious realization that most of my friends in other faiths have the option of the level of activity in their faith. Yet, they also have no qualms in actually claiming that faith–even if they haven’t been to church in five years. Most of my Jewish friends are unorthodox and that is just fine. Their roots, their identity, is still solid in Judaism, without them having to wear a prayer shawl. And they don’t have a fear of ever being kicked out of the Jewish faith. Once a Jew, always a Jew. This goes for most of my Catholic friends as well. They attend church twice a year, use birth control, live with someone before they marry them (if they ever marry), and the like.  Most people my age do many things not authorized in their religion. However, never, but never, would they ever say they were not Catholic. It’s their foundation. It’s who they are.

It’s a little different if you are a Mormon. You don’t really hold that power. If you do not qualify to attend the temple, you do not pay tithing, you like the occasional glass of red wine,  you live with your boyfriend, and you are a little too outspoken about Prop 8.  Well, then, they could very well just give you the boot and tell you that you are no longer one of them. I find this simply unfathomable. I find it crazy that some panel of men could look at me and say, “You are no longer one of us.”

I’ve jokingly said, in a few passing conversations, that I’m trying to create a world where orthodox and unorthodox Mormons can all just get along. But why does it always sound like a funny joke when I say it? The terms that we tend to use are ‘active’ and ‘inactive’ (and the middle ground of ‘less active’). I do not subscribe to these terms and I do not appreciate all the stereotypes that come to mind from a simple label. I actually wish we didn’t have to be as obsessed by levels of activity in the religion as we typically tend to be. My level of activity still comes up at every single family event and it has been over three years now. Every time you meet with a Bishop–he questions you more on your sexual thoughts than on your actual passions and intents for your life’s path. He wants to know your “worthiness”…and yet, what does that word even mean in this context?

Many many things on my path do not subscribe to orthodox Mormonism. Yet, my very foundation of being raised Mormon is something I love, cherish, honor, and would never want stripped away. It’s at the core of who I am and it’s at the core of who I am becoming. The fact that I did not grow up to become an orthodox Mormon is not something that should be pitied or changed or solved or discussed or worried about or prayed over or be the reason for my parents to fast. The truth is, I AM a Mormon.

But, I am an unorthodox Mormon. I do things my own way. I will not apologize if I do not fit in the box that you need me to fit in. I will be me. Sounds simple…but it took me a long time to get here and I don’t take that simplicity lightly.

Stella

I'm an artist, writer, photographer, feminist, listener, lover, and a fighter. I believe that travel is fatal to prejudice, that skies are meant to be blue, and that the world is full of endless possibilities.

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40 Responses

  1. Andrew S. says:

    I’ve jokingly said, in a few passing conversations, that I’m trying to create a world where orthodox and unorthodox Mormons can all just get along. But why does it always sound like a funny joke when I say it?

    I like the way you put it. I dislike how it sounds like a funny joke, because it shouldn’t…

    I completely agree with your thoughts and conclusions, but I can see where many others will vehemently disagree and I regret that.

  2. Craig says:

    Great post Stella. This brings up a lot of thoughts in me – many of which are confusing and difficult to parse.

    I don’t call myself a Mormon because I don’t believe in anything the church teaches and I’m not a member of the church. I despise authoritarianism, censorship, homophobia, sexism, dogmas, doctrines, and hierarchies. I’m a gay atheist feminist communist. I am completely not Mormon.

    And yet, I am definitely Mormon. My family is super-orthodox. I was raised super-orthodox. I went on a mission and attended BYU for 4 years. My entire life is and will be irrevocably influenced by Mormonism.

    I no longer know how to navigate between these, nor how to express this. Am I Mormon? Definitely no. Also, definitely yes.

    I’ve not identified as Mormon since I resigned my membership in the church. Recently I’ve started re-examining what Mormonism means to me, and have realised that I’m not as “Not a Mormon” as I thought I was. And yet I do still feel very uneasy about identifying as a Mormon because of the assumptions that go along with that word.

    I’m probably just as unorthodox as Stella, but I think I feel less Mormon. Or at least, I’m less willing to completely embrace that part of my identity. A major part of the issue is that I feel very little positive coming from Mormonism – both from my own Mormon upbringing, and from the external Mormonism that affects my life (and my rights) in very negative ways. For several years I have sought to distance myself from Mormonism; to cut all ties with it. I’m beginning to see that that isn’t possible, as most of my family is in the church, and there’s no undoing 23 years of indoctrination and culture.

    Perhaps I need to not worry about labels (boxes) so much and just be myself. For someone like myself who has such compulsion to organise everything into neat categories, it’s not been easy.

  3. Stella says:

    Andrew S.
    Thank you for your time and your comment. This navigation through Mormonism–as you know–always has a bit of laughter, a bit of agreement, and a bit of vehemence.

    Craig,

    I agree. So many times I ask myself–well how can I be a feminist AND a Mormon? How can I be such and such AND Mormon? There is NO answer. In all honesty, there is no way to make those two things REALLY go together–as much as I wish there were.

    All of those things you despise, I despise as much–and I openly despise them. I’ve been trying to make restitution to all the parts of me until everything within me is harmonious and happy.

    Then I think–aw, screw it.

    • Denzil says:

      Thank you so much im mormon I believe in the bible book of mormon and ither scripture but I dont beliv beloved im the whole being God concept at all thank you for showing ne im not the only unorthodox mormon

  4. Craig says:

    “Then I think–aw, screw it.”

    Exactly.

  5. LuluBelle says:

    Thanks for the post. I totally agree with it. I am totally Mormon. I go to church most Sundays, the missionaries are welcomed in my home (and are there often), my kids were baptized Morgan and go to church, I even give the occasional talk and Relief Society lesson, and hold a “smaller” calling. That said, I don’t do visiting teaching, the tithing I pay goes straight to the humanitarian aid fund, I drink coffee almost daily (but adhere to the WoW than most strict Mormon’s in that I eat really healthy and exercise and maintain a healthy weight and have great blood pressure and cholesterol levels), a few times a year I’ll indulge in a glass of wine, and I only marginally attend extra curricular church activities. I often skip out on at least one meeting per Sunday to take a butt break. I believe in some of the doctrine but not a lot of it… I am a semi-feminist and anti Prop 8. I despise forced gender roles. But I am Mormon on my terms and I hope that the church can embrace even someone like me. Once a missionary asked me why I still belonged to the church, which caught me off guard. I am because I am– because I want to. And just ‘cuz I don’t follow every bit of Mormonism in the strictest sense, does that mean I can (or shouldn’t) be Mormon? I, too, find it unfathonable that a group of men could call me into a church court of love and revoke my membership. I hope it doesn’t happen but the thought it wholly unsettling.

  6. Stella says:

    LuluBelle,

    What an amazing comment! I love hearing about living on your own terms. I really appreciate the fact that you felt safe to comment here and contribute. I think comments like this are actually the “norm” in a religion and it helps all of us to share them with one another.

  7. JonJon says:

    Such a fantastic post and comments as well. There is so much of Mormonism that I despise and at the same time there is also so much of it that completely fires my imagination. I am both embarrassed and excited to claim Mormonism as a deep and integral part of who I am. Embarrassed because of where it’s currently at and excited because of the deeply buried promise it holds, and because of the beautiful beautiful people who come from it and who exist on the fringes. People who aren’t afraid to bring in truth wherever they find it, and as a result make it their own and slowly (seemingly glacially) exhume what Mormonism can be.

  8. Angie says:

    Being a Mormon and a not-a-Mormon is painful. I understand a little of that. I am definitely a Mormon, because I believe in the doctrines of the church. But I am definitely not a Mormon socially or culturally. You know those testimonies about the “special glow” that Mormons have, that special something that set them apart? Well, my entire life, people have said to me, “YOU’RE a Mormon?!?!?”

    For me, religion has always been intensely personal. As I’ve said in this blog before, my dad is agnostic, and my mom is a Mormon convert. There’s no long history of Mormonism that hangs over my head. It sounds like both Craig and Stella feel family pressure to believe in Mormonism and follow the Mormon rules. I have a couple of questions about that:

    1) Do you think your families (and whoever else seems to have an interest in you staying “Mormon”) would be satisfied if you did the Mormon behaviors (church attendance, modest clothes, Word of Wisdom observance), even if you didn’t believe the Mormon doctrines?

    2) What do you think is the source of your conflict between “Mormon” and “not-a-Mormon”? The people in your lives? Your own beliefs? Your actions? The actions or others? (For me, the angst comes from believing in Jesus Christ/Book of Mormon/temples and attending church with people who don’t act like they believe in Jesus Christ/Book of Mormon/temples. Sometimes, I feel like I don’t belong to the same church as most self-professed Mormons! I mean, do they even read their own scriptures?)

    • Craig says:

      Good questions!

      1) Yes, I think they would be satisfied, ecstatic even. In my view, belief is a far second in orthodox views of Mormonism to obedience. If you DO all the right things, even if you doubt, you’ll still be exalted. I definitely know they’d rather I do and not believe than believe and not do. But I’m never going to be either a believer or doer, so it’s moot.

      2) What little conflict there is comes because 1) Mormonism still affects me in some very negative ways (Prop 8 for example). 2) At least some part of my family will always be Mormon (probably very orthodox). Conflict comes because much of my family is unable or unwilling to treat me with respect and equality because of my differences.

      I am completely at peace with my beliefs and my actions. They are not beliefs and actions many Mormons would agree with, and I’m fine with that.

  9. nat kelly says:

    Wow, I love this! Love it! Especially this bit:

    The fact that I did not grow up to become an orthodox Mormon is not something that should be pitied or changed or solved or discussed or worried about or prayed over or be the reason for my parents to fast.

    My living in accordance with my conscience does not necessitate your sympathy or worry. Really. That’s sweet, but no thanks.

    Excellent post.

  10. Ansley says:

    Lovely girl –
    Thank you so much for saying what I am still figuring out. You are so many steps ahead of me in this process. I’m glad to have someone as thoughtful as you a a guide.

  11. Murray says:

    Very interesting comments. I now have this site in my favorites. Having been in and out of “activity” these comments are enlightening. Thanks.

  12. Bro. Jones says:

    Very cool post. I particularly connected with this statement: “Every time you meet with a Bishop–he questions you more on your sexual thoughts than on your actual passions and intents for your life’s path.” Bishops that I’ve felt much closer to have stopped to actually get to know me a little bit before rattling off the list of recommend questions. Most haven’t done this, but a couple of great ones really went out of their way to be welcoming and supportive.

    On another note: lulubelle, what’s a “butt break”?

  13. aerin says:

    Great post. I think it goes back to who defines the terms. Gordon B. Hinckley once said that there were no fundamentalist mormons, there was no such thing as fundamentalist mormons.

    Hopefully it’s not too controversial to mention here, but I believe that LDS leadership would not like to acknowledge just how many LDS are unorthodox.

    If you don’t mention a third path, another option – does that mean it doesn’t exist? And when I say unorthodox, I mean things like, swimming on Sunday, drinking diet coke or dr. pepper, watching r rated movies, not wearing garments all the time, etc. etc. Or more open ways of being unorthodox.

    Perhaps it’s also that mormonism hasn’t been around for as long of a time as the Jewish faith, or Roman Catholicism. It’s also more conversion oriented than either of those two.

  14. LuluBelle says:

    Bro Jones: A butt break means that my butt gets tired of sitting for so long and I just need a break 🙂

  15. Deja says:

    Thank you for this. I’ve been called an unorthodox Mormon because I married outside the church, and I resist the term, but your post helped me see how needful it is to have something like it, some way to make sense of the two worlds. I’m still doing that, still deciding what it means for me to live the gospel in a way I’m comfortable with. What a messy journey that is (for me, anyway). Thanks for writing about it with such honesty and clarity.

  16. Stella says:

    JonJon–amazing words. If you ever want to write a guest post, please let me know.

    Angie–great questions. I echo Craig–my family would be overjoyed if I started going through the motions again, no matter what my inner convictions. I am trying to slowly teach them to look at me differently than a set of daily tasks to check off a list. Also, I have a lot of doctrinal/feminism concerns about the church that keep me from feeling comfortable supporting it heart and soul. It is a journey and a process to create your own path.

  17. Angie says:

    The OP is about being an “unorthodox Mormon,” with the focus on the person who feels out of the loop. But I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the obligation of the orthodox church members – the faith community. In my ward, we have three families breaking up because of closeted homosexuality and/or abuse. (I am not stating a generalization linking homosexuality and abuse; however, they are both present in two of the three families mentioned.) My question is: what is wrong with us as a ward, as a church, as a group of self-proclaimed Christians? Why are we not a safe place for people to lay their burdens down? Why must people pretend for so many years, instead of feeling safe to share their struggles and receive compassion and care?

    Craig said:

    “Conflict comes because much of my family is unable or unwilling to treat me with respect and equality because of my differences.”

    The essence of Christianity is loving each other. If this is impossible within our wards or even within our own families, then what is the point in calling ourselves followers of Christ? To tell you the truth, it makes me sick.

    Now, let me qualify this – “loving each other” does not mean absence of consequences. If a baptized Mormon chooses to drink wine or coffee, then he or she is not meeting the standards of temple attendance. But he or she is absolutely meeting the standard of church attendance and Christian fellowship!!! So why do “orthodox” Mormons judge the “unorthodox” as unworthy of common decency, kindness, and respect for basic humanity?!?!?

    Of course, it’s not a problem unique to the Mormon faith or even to religious people. But I don’t think I’m wrong in holding Mormons to a higher standard. After all, we do say we have the truth…

  18. Stella says:

    nat kelly–yep. you get it. thank you so much for your comment!

    Ansley–you, dear friend, continue to raise the bar for me. I really appreciate how authentically you live your life each day.

    Murray–welcome. It is good to have you here and sharing, please come back.

    Bro. Jones–leaders who try to see you as a person and not someone who must fit a certain standard almost always make more of a difference.

    Aerin–you raise excellent points. I do think the church needs time for many things to take place, but I think it comes down to the hearts of the members to make sure the good changes are happening. I see them slowly but surely.

    Deja–thank you. And thank you for navigating your life in a way that is right for you. I love those journeys!

  19. Stella says:

    Angie,

    I love your passion for what is absolutely essential to bring into the churches around the world at this time. What you say is SO logical that it seems crazy it would even need to be voiced in such a way. It has a big “DUH” written all over it–and yet–there is a disconnect. I think once unorthodox Mormons become ok with who they are, then it makes it so much easier for others to accept us. I go to church, the rare time that I do, and I have no inclination to pretend anymore. People can take me at face value or ignore me. I make people uncomfortable with just how easy it is for me to NOT fit the mold. People like to know what others are all about and I think when they walk in that church house they expect to find a certain type of person and they are thrown off a little when they don’t.

    But the core is love–and I found when you can love yourself for every nuance that you have, then you don’t care as much if others love you or not–but when they do–well, that’s just icing on the cake!

  20. kmillecam says:

    Stella,
    Thanks for writing this post and for being unapologetic about who you are. It’s the only way to claim Mormonism for the larger group.

  21. Two of Three says:

    “I will not apologize if I do not fit in the box that you need me to fit in. I will be me.”
    This is what I am currently working up to. Thanks for giving me courage.

  22. a says:

    i come to this site often. i was close to attending one of the midwest conferences, but i didn’t. partly why i didn’t attend the conference is that i don’t feel i have the same angst – i don’t have the same internal ire. in reading through the post and the comments, i guess i’m unorthodox – but that label never really crossed my mind. i guess i figured that at some point didn’t we all just carve out our own gospel (even those less introspective to realize)? i guess it’s called cafeteria mormonism. i guess i’m lucky to not live in utah or california or arizona where i would’ve been more overtly forced to reconcile differences. i’m actually still registered in az so voted against their prop8 like amendment – no one from my pulpit said anything other than vote your conscience. i guess i don’t feel the pressure of obedience – or any real authoritative pressure. i’m just supposed to keep trying to follow the promptings i get from the Holy Ghost, right? i guess i’m naive to think that a group of men wouldn’t/couldn’t tell me i’m no longer a member. my sister is still in the church records, though she doesn’t consider herself a mormon, hasn’t been to church for 20 years, and doesn’t follow the word of wisdom or the church’s rules for chastity or tithing. but i guess i’m also kind of scared – we may move to utah in a year or so. my fear is that i’m going to be mad all the time, frustrated, and saddened by my newfound alienation. has it all been location?

  23. jks says:

    As an “orthodox” Mormon this is a little difficult for me. If I belong to a bookclub I want it to be a bookclub. Being a Mormon is supposed to mean something. Of course it doesn’t matter whether you eat green jello with shredded carrots, vote Republican, or like Janice Kapp Perry. But being Mormon has the assumption of certain beliefs (or believing in most of it) and trying to live a certain way (or coming close to it).
    For those Mormons who didn’t believe or care about living Mormon commandments, the old-school terme was “Jack Mormon.”
    My sisters are not practicing Mormons (both are very different cases). I think growing up Mormon is a big part of who they are. But now Mormonism is who their family are, not them. Sure there were growing pains, but our family worked them out and there is happiness and love.
    This is really, really difficult for me because Mormonism is my religion and I believe in it strongly and it is the number one part of my identity. I can understand my sisters deciding that they don’t want to be Mormon because they don’t believe and that is not how they want to live their lives. It would be hard for me if they insisted that what they believed or how they lived WAS being Mormon.
    I do not mean to be exclusive, exactly, and I can’t pin-point where the line is. Where would I draw the line that this side is a Mormon that is having doubts or is imperfect, and on the other side is someone who is rejecting her religion and choosing a different path. But, apparently, I feel like there is a line somewhere……
    I’m raising children in the church and my daughter is the only Mormon in her grade at school. As I think about what I want out of YW’s for her, it makes a difference who these girls are. While random visitors are nice, they are not the same as other girls who believe or are committed in some way to living the gospel. Other girls whose families believe or who grew up Mormon would have things in common with her, but if they are uninterested in learning or living the religion then she won’t have a Mormon peer support group.

  24. Naismith says:

    “It’s a little different if you are a Mormon. You don’t really hold that power. If you do not qualify to attend the temple, you do not pay tithing, you like the occasional glass of red wine, you live with your boyfriend, and you are a little too outspoken about Prop 8. Well, then, they could very well just give you the boot and tell you that you are no longer one of them.”

    Theoretically, this might be true. Realistically, not so much. None of those things are likely to cause some sort of disciplinary action to be convened. Most people who do that just go on with their lives.

    What DOES cause issues is when people speak out against the church, actively teaching false doctrine to others. An example of this was Sonia Johnson, who was having sex with her ex-husband for some time, and no action was taken. What DID cause the church to get involved was when she told people to turn the missionaries away.

    And let’s be clear that church discipline is not “kicking out” someone. It is clearing the record so that they can take the steps to be repent and be rebaptized if they so choose. I’ve known a handful of people who did that, and saw what a joy it was for them to fight their way back to full fellowship. It really meant something to them at some point.

    You can identify socioculturally however you want. Nobody is going to demand to see a temple recommend if you say you’re a Mormon.

    But most of the current Mormons are first-generation members, and many of these people gave up a lot when they joined the faith. They were shunned by family members, written out of wills, unwelcome at family events. Although my own birth family are pretty accepting, I definitely have pain over not being Catholic any more–I went to see the play Nunsense alone, since none of my current family would understand it, and I cried through much of it.

    So having paid that price, we may not “get it” when lifelong Mormons claim that they don’t believe or aren’t willing to do, but still insist they are entitled to the title. Okay, if that’s what you want. I’m not gonna say you can’t.

    I agree, “Jewish” is seen as more of a sociocultural identification than religion per se, and even in Israel most Jews do not practice their faith. Is that all you want “Mormon” to mean, a sociocultural thing?

    It doesn’t work so handily, since there are few converts to Judaism, whereas most Mormons are converts.

  25. Alisa says:

    I believe that it’s important for Mormons who were born under the covenant, baptised at 8, and given the doctrines of the church when they were 3 or younger to be able to have the space they need to work out their own beliefs as adult members. These growing pains may be different than the sacrifices of other types of converts. But in the end, everyone makes sacrifices to live their authentic life, no matter where they end up.

    I don’t have the stats on how much of the active church membership in the U.S. comes from those who converted as adults b/c the Church doesn’t keep close stats on activity. Based on numbers presented in our Stake Conference, I do know that here in Utah, only 20% of Mormon adults in my stake have ever been endowed at any point in their lives. Only 30% of the population of my city is Mormon, so that means only 6% of Salt Lake City might fit the belief and outward requirements of being Mormon, according to the requirements some people have left on this and other recent posts (the collection of Mormon beliefs, and practices that make being Mormon “mean something”). If people want to define Mormonism so narrowly because they feel their identity as a certain kind of Mormon is threatened, I think it would be a mistake. People need their space to feel things out. It may be hard for adult converts to understand, but *everyone* needs to come to a spot where they define what the believe for themselves. I don’t see how wanting to exclude people from the Church helps anyone.

    This is my Church too, and if Stella wants to be a Mormon, then I say she can be. She doesn’t have to believe like I do, or go to Church like I do, but if she has even the desire to share and be apart of her ancestor’s sacrifice, this culture, this heritage, this history, this great movement, or pick and choose what’s best for her right now in the Church’s teachings, I won’t turn her away.

    You’re a Mormon in my book, sister! Take pride in it!

  26. Holly says:

    But most of the current Mormons are first-generation members, and many of these people gave up a lot when they joined the faith.

    that’s because the church has such a hard time retaining people. If it weren’t for those of us who remain on the roles even though we no longer believe, its membership numbers would really, really suck.

    You wait and see how you feel about it all when a couple of your kids or grandkids (because statistically, that’s quite likely) decide they don’t want to go to church or wear garments, but still want some connection to the religion you joined.

    Alisa–you’re awesome. People like you are one of the reasons I’m still interested in Mormondom.

  27. Rebecca says:

    I’ve been quietly listening in for the past couple of days, reading then rereading Stella’s post. Thanks so much. It really resonates with me. A Jewish friend of mine once asked me if there is a reform congregation in our faith. I had to laugh at that. Maybe the polygamist/fundamentalist sects see the mainstream church as the reform congregation! A wise friend once pointed out to me that perhaps Mormonism is too new as a faith. Who knows what the church will look like in another couple hundred years. I agree that for now most introspective Mormons tend to worry and fret about any issue large or small where they can’t develop a deep and abiding testimony. There is no peace if we don’t completely fit the paradigm. My Catholic or Protestant friends don’t seem to do that to themselves. I’m happy to report that I’m feeling a lot of peace these days and it feels really good.

    Angie asked “Why are we not a safe place to lay our burdens down?” That becomes the most important question to ask. I know I really appreciate it when someone shows their humanity a bit at church. I’m not suggesting that people engage in “top that sin” types of discussions but there is a cultural expectation that whatever is said publicly needs to come from a position of belief, of “bearing testimony.” Any experience with doubt or a faith struggle is seen as unhealthy. I found a lot of comfort when I was introduced to James Fowler’s Stage theory of faith development a couple of years ago. The idea that we can accept our struggles as a healthy part of growth was really liberating. Unfortunately, I think that the church isn’t ready to go there. That position, together with a rigid adherence to so many cultural norms makes the laying down of one’s burdens much more difficult for all those people Alisa mentions in her statistics. Thanks for the numbers Alisa – fascinating.

    In many ways the church is still in a “cementing the in-group phase”. The message might be unintentional but it’s still pretty powerful. I’d like to see more inclusion and acceptance and less judgment with regard to outward appearances and practices. The scripture could read, “Come unto me all you heavy laden and you will find acceptance and love, even if you are wearing that striped shirt that makes you so hard to categorize.” Ah, we can dream.

  28. zellion says:

    I think part of the problem (and I realize it isn’t really a “problem” but something the church has done intentionally) is that you don’t choose your ward. They’re geographic. You can’t do like most Christians in america do and choose your congregation. If you have friends in the same city who live in different wards, too bad, you can’t be in the same congregation with them. It kind of bothers me sometimes. It’s frustrating when I’m in a ward (like I was for three years in another town) where I have literally nothing in common with any of the people in my ward except breathing oxygen and being Mormon.

    This post has really resonated with me, and I keep coming back to check comments. A way to think about myself that doesn’t involve going back to mindless conformity (what my mother wants) or leaving the church all together (what my sister did). Just hearing how many other “Unorthodox” Mormons are responding to this message gives me a happy feeling. Maybe I can start feeling more comfortable in church knowing I’m not alone.

  29. Dora says:

    The church seems to be going back to fundamentals. A great case in point would be the class manuals for Relief Society/Priesthood and Gospel Doctrine.

    I just wish we could start with the most basic principles of the gospel, namely that we are all children of our Heavenly Father, and that we are all invited to partake of his love.

    I wish we could focus less on what separates us from other religions, and more on having a Big Tent style of sharing whatever part of divine love our brothers and sisters are willing to accept.

    I wish there was less focusing on other’s motes and more focusing on our personal beams.

  30. Jessawhy says:

    Dora,
    You’re right, but church is going back to fundamentals, but it seems to me they’re not the Christ-centered fundamentals of “love others”: they’re they Pharisaical fundamentals of “follow the rules.”

    To me, the gauge of how we show our Mormon-ness is how we react when our brothers or sisters struggle. If they’re sick, we bring them dinner. If they lack faith, do we show them compassion or judgment? It’s clear to me what Jesus would do, but I’ve heard calls to repentance for women who’s faith fails to measure up in the Mormon church.

  31. Craig says:

    @Jessawhy

    I completely agree with you. My entire life in the church it wasn’t love and acceptance that was taught, but obedience. Blind obedience. “Obedience is the first law of heaven.”

    Which isn’t actually a scripture, but just something Joseph Smith said. It seems to directly contradict the New Testament, but that hasn’t stopped the hierarchy into making the first commandment not “Love god with all your heart, might, mind and strength” or “Love your neighbour as yourself”, but rather “Obey everything we say, without question.”

    It’s a very sad thing. This obsession with rules and ideological purity is what originally drove me out of the church. Even though I don’t believe in gods or Jesus anymore, I would rather have a Mormon church which focused on love and acceptance than one obsessed with obedience and rules. It would be better for everyone.

  32. lsc says:

    I agree with Naismith’s comments and in my opinion it all comes down to choice. If you choose not to keep the covenants you enter into at Baptism, then there is a consequence to that choice. The Savior does not berate anyone over the choices they make, in fact quite the contrary. His invitation is always…”Come unto Me”. Socioculturally we can identify however we are most comfortable….(for example, I am about as Anglo-Saxon as they come but I very much identify with the Native American aspect of my heritage) it doesn’t change the doctrines or the standards of the chuch. These doctrines and standards are not set by the presiding Brethren of the church and thus will not change just because a group of people or individuals make a choice not to follow them. They are the Lord’s standards and He invites all of us to partake. Does that mean the we as humans are perfect at emulating His example of unconditional love? absolutely not and it has been my experience that people who have made the choice to live outside the doctrines and covenenants required are actually much harder on themselves than those they whom they think are being judgemental. Bottom line, I have too much within myself to improve and focus on to get right with the Lord to spend time judging someone else for the choice they are very entitled to make. It’s all about choices and whether you choose the consequences attached to the choice.

  33. Tam says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot over the last week since reading this article and the comments and it really saddens me. Not everyone is perfect, but the Savior sacrificed his life for us. We should all be so grateful that we are willing to put away our petty temporal weaknesses to take advantage of that sacrifice.

    The difference between being LDS and being any other religion is that we are the Lord’s covenant people. It is the ONLY true church on the earth and the ONLY one that has the authority from God. That said, our members are the only ones who have covenanted to keep and uphold the commandments and live the way HE wants us to live. If you don’t want to keep the covenants you made, fine, but don’t help other people justify doing the same.
    Turn your life over to the Lord completely and you will be able to partake of the great blessings He wants to give you. If not, you will be consider the tares among the wheat. Personally I would like to move beyond my comfort level and rise above my weaknesses and take advantage of that gift. Being LDS means a lot more than having FHE and going to church on Sunday. Step up to the plate so you don’t get left in the dust.

  34. Dora says:

    Hi Tam and Isc. I’m glad that you were able to stop by, and felt engaged enough in the discussion to comment. Are you first time visitors to our blog? If so, I would like to direct you to our comment policy (http://www.the-exponent.com/2006/01/02/comment-policy/). Especially part 4, which states, “Try to stick with your personal experiences, ideas, and interpretations. This is not the place to question another’s personal righteousness, to call people to repentence, or to disrespectfully refute people’s personal religious beliefs.”

    I did like ISC’s oblique reference to beams and motes. In the end, I’m relieved that we will be “judged” by those who will know our hearts … who will see the difference between private and public acts, inner and outer beauty, and protestations of faith and honest and charitable living. I find comfort that even the lowliest among us will not be “left in the dust,” and that we are all encouraged to approach and emulate deity.

  35. Scout says:

    Thank you Stella for this post. I have been thinking a lot about this idea of cafeteria/unorthodox Mormonism over the past year. I appreciate that I am not alone in the way I choose to live the Gospel.
    I am lucky to live overseas and attend a great congregation that is free from the shackles of overbearing Mormon culture. We are just people from all over the world, meeting every week, trying to become better followers of Christ. I may not keep all of the commandments, but I am a happy, loving, faithful person who attends regularly, teaches often, and participates actively to ensure that our ward is that “safe place” where members can come and bear their souls without the fear of judgment.
    I realize I am in a fortunate position, but I believe that we, the “unorthodox’ of the lot, can and should make a difference in our congregations, wherever they may be.
    My mother is a strong feminist who has ruffled many a stake president’s feathers and taught me valuable lessons in the art of civil disobedience in the church: Be there, speak up, know your scriptures like nobody’s business, share your truth, and love people. And if you don’t like something, change it or change wards. Things aren’t always as rigid as they seem. Cheiko Okasaki one said if you don’t attend, you create a void, that only you can fill.
    So, let’s fill the voids! Fight the good fight! And don’t let a bunch of jerks hijack our church! 🙂

  36. Stella says:

    Scout, thank you! I lived over seas at various times in my life and MOST of the congregations tended to be full of unorthodox people like me. There was an amazing level of acceptance (probably because members were so scarce!)

    Thank you to all who commented.

    Peace and love.

  1. July 29, 2010

    […] stick to, or which eventually I must give up. It is spoken about eloquently at this Exponent post: The Unorthodox Mormon. Stella writes about it so succinctly: I’ve jokingly said, in a few passing conversations, that […]

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