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.