If you haven’t already, please read the introduction post. That will give you context for this page.
Like last week, this topic is another of the top 5 I’m most hesitant to post. As I’ve been writing these, I’ve become more aware of which I see (sometimes just in my own mind and sometimes based in my actual experiences) as having the most negative impact when people learn them about me. And this is one that, when someone learns it, seems to obliterate everything else they know about me.
And this is the only one that has caused even those who call me a friend to belligerently berate me for it. (Sometimes nearly frothing as they shout insults and stereotypical accusations at me.)
And this is the one that has cost me relationships. People who said they loved me but wouldn’t be with me because of this or friends who progressively became too aggressively opposed to me being this to talk to me anymore. (And, no, these weren’t cases where I brought it up. I just lived my life and let them live theirs and they, out of the blue and without it ever actually affecting them or how I treated them, decided it was a problem.)
I even have beloved family members who have flat out said things like “I love you even though you’re…”
Now, pretend you hadn’t already read the title. Pretend you’re just going on what you already know of me. Maybe what you know because you know me in person or maybe what you know based just on what I’ve written. Sure, you’d have to take my word that the thing behind the label in question isn’t a thing I bring up constantly or that leads me to treat others poorly or whatever…But, if I were looking at the topics I’d written so far, I’d look at my description and wonder if the label in question was “serial killer” or something equally horrible.
Religion is an odd thing.
I grew up Mormon, but in a household that valued personal study. That valued asking questions and looking for satisfying answers. That didn’t freak out when my questions had to do, for instance, with something I’d found in Buddhism that I appreciated. That maybe didn’t love my personal aesthetic choices but, unlike some other friends’ households, didn’t kick me out for my style choices or try to send me to an institution or even allow doctors to drug me for them.
I went on to get a degree in Philosophy at uni, which is all about questioning everything, and did so with the enthusiastic support of my parents. I learned to question everything even more rigorously than before and to evaluate my sources and the answers I thought I had. My peers questioned me about my beliefs, but in the straight-forward and demanding way that a good philosopher questions, not in a nasty way.
So, when people assume I’m just Mormon because it’s my habit, I can tell you that’s not the case.
When people assume that I never questioned (maybe never even thought to question), I can tell you that’s not the case.
When people assume I do it to please my family or be in a community, I can tell you that’s not the case.
When people assume I’m blind to problematic issues and areas and they just need to berate me enough to “help” so that I can be free, I can tell you that’s not the case.
When people assume that I’m sheltered, that I have lived my life in what I call “the Mormon bubble,” with all my friends and family also being devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can tell you that’s not the case.
I absolutely understand, having seen it happen to friends or having done the logic exercises in courses, that people have had legitimately bad experiences or that the truth claims of some or all religions don’t make sense to some people.
I know that there are Mormons who have done bad things, even made people I love feel horrible.
I know that there are some issues around my religion that are problematic, even if you do believe in a higher power.
I have, as a person who doesn’t tend to fit the normal societal moulds, much less the normal Mormon moulds, had negative experiences with individuals at church and struggled with some doctrinal issues. I probably always will deal with both those.
But, here’s the thing…
In my course of study for my Philosophy degree, I came to realise and accept and embrace that my membership in the LDS church is entirely grounded in faith. I’ve had some nice experiences and what I perceive as some powerful spiritual moments, to be sure, but mainly my membership is due to faith. I don’t claim that there is logic there, and I’m okay with that. (In fact, I think I’ve alienated some neighbours because they tried to explain why it was logical to believe in God and the reasons they gave didn’t actually live up to the standards I’d been taught are necessary for something to actually be considered logic…so I noted that and noted that my belief was all rooted in faith and that that, from my reading of scripture, was what was actually expected of Christians. I get that it makes sense to some people, but “making sense” and “logical” aren’t the same thing. And I’m not out to undercut anyone’s beliefs, but I actually do care about the integrity of logic.)
I also have never intentionally pushed my religion on anyone or even assertively offered it once it’s been rejected. My preferred method of sharing is to be my best self, to not try to hide that I’m Mormon, and to not blot out this piece of my life in conversation when it’s relevant to, for instance, a discussion of my motives for some choice. (I’ve actually had people I’ve known for a while express surprise when they learn I’m Mormon because I don’t seem the way they think Mormons would be and, obviously, I wasn’t pushing my religion on them.)
Whilst I don’t believe at all that religion or spirituality are necessary for a person to be good or to do good, I know that my religion has been a positive motivational factor in my own behaviours. One that was especially useful, in hindsight, as I tried not to completely ruin everything as a teenager. A good influence on my life that even the relative who once hugged me tight, kissed me goodnight, and said, “I love you even though you’re Mormon,” went on to acknowledge.
I have never judged another to be lesser than me due to them not being LDS. My religion doesn’t make me superior. Not at all. And I don’t think it makes anyone else have greater worth. Sorry, Mormon people who are reading, but a shared religion isn’t really going to get you any advantages with me.
Now, I’m not here to argue in general, and I’m certainly not here to argue with anyone about their issues with the church of which I am a devout member. As I said, I respect that people have had bad experiences and that there are problematic issues. But, as for me personally, the only thing my religious beliefs ever took from another person, as far as I can tell, would be all those people who wanted to have sex with me and didn’t get it. People have, when berating me, suggested other negative things it’s caused me to do, but the things they claim haven’t ever actually been true and applicable to me. (That’s not a challenge; please don’t scramble to find another thing that me being Mormon has made bad. I’m probably just going to delete that rubbish.)
So, whilst I am truly sorry for any bad experience you have had with Mormons or the LDS church, I am not ashamed to be devoutly Mormon. I love having faith and I am grateful for the good experiences I’ve had and the positive feelings my religion have engendered in me.
I once dreamt that I was given the chance to have what I want most in this world. All I had to do was say that I didn’t believe what I believe. And I’ll tell you now what I said in my dream: Me saying it wasn’t true wouldn’t change that I believe it; it would only make me feel dishonest and dirty.
My whole “Not Ashamed” effort could read like a really long and awkward (extra awkward?) version of those old adverts. “I’m a rockstar, a bisexual, bipolar, autistic, a geek, and I’m a Mormon.” Ha!
Hi. My name is Amber, and I’m a devout, Sunday school-teaching (for real), weekly-service-attending Mormon. And I might be nervous to tell you that based on past experiences, but I am not ashamed.
Cross-posted to the Not Ashamed section of my site (so that it’s all tidy).