What I’m Thankful For: Being Mormon

There’s no doubt about it: I’m an unconventional Mormon.  I have a tattoo that says “grace” on my upper back.  I attend an evangelical Bible study every Friday.  I’ve even been known to drink the occasional chai latte, just because I can.  Over the past several years I’ve wrestled mightily with my testimony of Mormonism, my commitment to the Restored Gospel.  Eventually, I decided to stay…partly because I find deep beauty in many of our distinctly Mormon doctrines — doctrines which I genuinely hope are true — and partly because I feel there is value in loyalty to the faith community in which I was born and raised.

I am generally content with my decision.  I no longer question it every day.  Still, there are moments when I am discouraged, fearful: perhaps I’m fooling myself.  Maybe I’m settling when there is something Bigger and Better beyond Mormonism.   Maybe God would lead me elsewhere if I had the faith to follow Him.  I know this candid confession might come as a surprise to some who are reading this (to others, it might explain a lot), but I want to share the context from which the next part of my post emerges.

You see, tonight I had an experience that confirmed to me the wisdom of remaining Mormon despite my doubts, that instilled in me a deep gratitude for my Mormon identity, culture, belief, and practice.

A dear friend spoke in the evening session of her stake conference.  I rarely attend evening sessions (who needs extra church meetings?: boundaries, people), but I wanted to be supportive, so I donned my skirt and blouse, dropped my daughter off at the babysitter, and went.

What happened next might sound simple, even mundane.  There was a congregational hymn accompanied by the organ.  The organ. It has to be the most outdated instrument in the history of the world.  A cultural relic.  But as those harsh tones blared from the pipes mounted on the wall, something washed over me — a peace, a sense of belonging.  Of Home.

Next came the prayer.  A beautiful, simple prayer, couched in yet more archaic ritual: the “thees” and “thous” of Mormon prayer-speak.   “Grant us thy peace for our daily struggles,” he said.  And when he finished, I said “Amen.”  And meant it.

Next the talks — the counselor in the stake presidency with the oh-so formal announcement of the program.  Then the first speaker.  Then the next.   Some of the messages (like my friend’s) were spectacularly eloquent.  Others halting, even clumsy.  Some were deeply personal.  Others broad.  But each talk moved me with its sincerity, its genuine appeal to the God who gave us Life — and even in those moments when I disagreed with, or questioned, an approach or concept, I knew it came from a place of love.  And somehow, that made it okay.

The thing is, I believe that God deals in specifics.  He works with our specific needs, weaknesses, and in our specific relationships.  He is not an abstract God, but a God of context.  And what is Mormonism, but a vibrant, complex community thick with context?    Our vocabulary, our culture, our history, values, goals, problems, sins, fears, and struggles — some of them universal, some of them uniquely ours — are the very fabric of what allows us to relate to one another; and in one another, Him.

It’s hard to explain what happened to me tonight.  Merely that as I sat there in that room, surrounded by those people — people with whom I have more in common than not — I thanked God for giving me a community as distinct and a spiritual heritage as rich as Mormonism.

Yes, I am an unconventional Mormon.  But I am Mormon to my core.  And I am very proud of that.

This post is one in a series.  Get the rest of the posts here.

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About Katie L

Thirtysomething wife, mother, writer, runner, believer, and lover of good food and bad movies.

Posted on November 7, 2010, in Gratitude, Mormonism, Personal, Thoughts on God, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Docter Bubblegum

    and how does that doctrine go that you get a planet when u die?

  2. Doctor Bubblegum, not helpful, dude.

    Peace.

  3. What do you think about the way the Mormon church financed the fight against gay marriage in California? Do you agree with what they did? Do you think it was right for them to hide it? Just wondering….
    I appreciated reading your post because I know that Christians get a bad rap a lot of the time because of right-wing extremists who preach hate. Wondering where you stand…
    Thanks.

  4. @Bubblegum

    Um, how is that comment even CLOSE to appropriate after a post like that? Come on–I mean, she readily admits that Mormonism has doctrines that she doesn’t espouse, but why rub them in her face like that?

    @Katie

    I loved this post. I’m also grateful for my Mormon history. No matter what direction my life takes, there will always be a part of me that is inherently Mormon, and I have to attribute many of my successes in life to the culture and belief system in which I was raised.

  5. Katie L said:

    And what is Mormonism, but a vibrant, complex community thick with context? Our vocabulary, our culture, our history, values, goals, problems, sins, fears, and struggles — some of them universal, some of them uniquely ours – are the very fabric of what allows us to relate to one another; and in one another, Him.

    Excellent. Unlike you, I became a member of the Church as an adult. But it was just those things that I found compelling. The tale of the Restoration is quite a dramatic one — I think that in many ways as we’ve become institutionalized we’ve lost a lot of the fervor, the social conscience, the sense of being unique in a positive way that the early restored church had. But that’s still an important part of our heritage, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

    I must confess — and if I understand you right, this is part of what you’re saying too — that there’s a part of me that asks, what did I get myself into being a part of this Church? Some of the things that disturbed me about the evangelicalism I grew up with, particularly the tendency to be judgmental and to reduce spirituality to following the rules, are too a part of the LDS church. On the other hand, the more I study our doctrines, the more I study the Bible and the other LDS scriptures, the more I sense that this is where I belong. Despite all the negatives (and, indeed there are plenty), this is where I find my yearnings answered. And I too am grateful for it.

    And being unconventional in the LDS church isn’t a bad place to be. I’m not completely typical either (my politics aren’t Republican and my face isn’t bare, just to name two of the most obvious things), yet strangely I have felt far more accepted, had more of a feeling of belonging than I ever did in evangelical churches. I’m not really sure why. But I do feel I’m both needed and wanted.

    Most important, though, this is where I believe God wants me. And as long that’s the case, this church is my church, warts and all.

  6. Elfcoll, thanks for stopping by!

    What do you think about the way the Mormon church financed the fight against gay marriage in California? Do you agree with what they did? Do you think it was right for them to hide it?

    Great question. I don’t want to derail this post into a discussion on gay marriage, so I’ll direct you here if you want a more in-depth treatment. I am more than happy to engage the question in detail there as well — it’s a fascinating topic.

    The short answer is that I am libertarian in my political leanings and believe that consenting adults should have the right to marry and establish households with whomever they wish. Having said that, while I disagreed with its position, I also believe the Church had every right to say what it said, do what it did, and take any stand it wished. This is America, after all, where people get to do and say things I don’t like — so that I may be free to do and say things they don’t like.

  7. Tony, completely. Mormonism is more than a belief system, it’s a subculture, heritage — on some level it is almost a distinct ethnic identity. No matter where life takes me, I will always be Mormon, and I value that.

    Eric,

    And being unconventional in the LDS church isn’t a bad place to be. I’m not completely typical either (my politics aren’t Republican and my face isn’t bare, just to name two of the most obvious things), yet strangely I have felt far more accepted, had more of a feeling of belonging than I ever did in evangelical churches. I’m not really sure why. But I do feel I’m both needed and wanted.

    I agree with you. Barring a few unfortunate experiences from my youth (and kids are just mean, let’s face it), I have almost always felt accepted by my fellow Mormons and like I belong. I know this isn’t everyone’s experience, but it is mine, and I am grateful for that.

  8. Eric, I realized I didn’t respond to your comment as fully as I would have hoped.

    I really liked this:

    The tale of the Restoration is quite a dramatic one — I think that in many ways as we’ve become institutionalized we’ve lost a lot of the fervor, the social conscience, the sense of being unique in a positive way that the early restored church had. But that’s still an important part of our heritage, and I’m glad to be a part of it.

    The tale of the Restoration is dramatic and exciting and revolutionary. I love the idea that a boy can go into the woods to pray and come out with a revelation from God that changes the world. I think you’re right, in the institutionalization of the story we might lose sight of its transcendent power: that each of us has the ability to go into our own grove of trees and seek (and receive!) close and intimate encounters with the Divine. Good stuff — and that’s just one point among many.

    I must confess — and if I understand you right, this is part of what you’re saying too — that there’s a part of me that asks, what did I get myself into being a part of this Church?

    Sure, that’s part of what I’m saying. I mean, being a lifelong member I didn’t exactly “get myself into” it, but there are certainly times I’ve wondered what I’m doing sticking around. When push comes to shove, though, like you, I feel as though my spiritual yearnings are best satisfied by my association with Mormonism. I’ve tried other options. Nothing has spoken to me in the same way. I am genuinely content and proud of the fact that I am an active, card-carrying Mormon. :-)

  9. Thank you for sharing this Katie. It is beautiful in it’s simplicity and it’s complexity.

  10. Thanks for the post Katie! Sometimes I feel this way. Sometimes I question everyday. But in the end I think I would be lost with out it. And at least we don’t play the harpsichord… :) Though I woudn’t put it past us.

  11. Mindy, you’re right, I’d be totally lost without it.

    Though if the Restoration had happened in 1620 instead of 1820, you bet your shorts we’d still be playing the harpsichord.

    That’s why I love us. ;-)

  12. Hey Katie Girl,

    I had no idea you had a blog. See? I am frighteningly unaware! I love the way you write and appreciate your candor. I have been a Mormon all of my life as well. I was raised in Oregon, however. The church is a very different animal there. Although I have lived in Utah for over 23 years I still find myself shaking my head and asking, “Wow, you really said that?” or “Amazing! You REALLY think that!”

    I have had my periods of question and uncertainty and have actually hungered for the Mormon life that isn’t so entwined with the culture we have created in “Mormondom.”

    That being said, I find that I have always had a sense of family in just about every Ward and Stake I have lived. I find that we are all striving for that same goal – eternal life. Each road is different. Each purpose uniquely defined through faith and love and patience.

    God Bless you, my dear friend. Keep writing. I love you!

  13. Thanks Edye! I concur about having found a sense of family just about everywhere I’ve gone in the church — even when people aren’t quite sure what to do with me (or I them).

    Love you too. :)

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