Years ago, I went through a faith crisis. I won’t bore you with the details. I only mention it now because when I popped out the other side, I was still Mormon, albeit of a markedly different stripe. I was me. I was my kind of Mormon.
I can’t take all the credit. There are a number of people I should probably thank for the comfort I now feel in being my authentic Mormon self.
First are those who seized my crisis as an opportunity to convert me to another faith, or a more disparaging way of regarding the faith we once shared. Both of you helped me understand a lot, namely that you’re full of crap, too.
Second are gospel-gestapo Mormons, staunch members who proposed to dictate their own understanding as the only way I should think (and act) about the church. For teaching me what I would never want to be, I say thank you.
Finally, the people at my Mormon ward — which I regularly attend — who have accepted and loved my real Mormon self. From you, I learned what it is to love your fellow person even if you think he’s crazy.
I brought all that up to point out the futility of stereotyping Mormons. Say the word “Mormon” and if the first image that springs into your head is a negative one — suit, tie, short hair, self-righteous attitude about everything — then it’s your problem and not theirs.
See, not all Mormons are like that. We’re a variety of opinions, backgrounds, beliefs and interpretations. If what you see is only the stereotype, then you aren’t thinking deeply enough. But go ahead if it works for you.
Look, I understand that Mormons get on some people’s nerves, that we can be full of ourselves and even standoffish to the point of shunning. I hate that about us, too.
But the truth is that we run the full spectrum of belief and behavior. Evidence of this is the feedback I received from two recent columns — the first on my intention to continue using the word “Mormon” and the other on my use of illegal, marijuana-based pain-relieving ointments despite the fact that I’m a go-to-church Mormon in full fellowship.
In addition to high-fives from other practicing Mormons on both these matters, I heard from people on decidedly opposite sides of the street.
There was some acrimonious feedback from fellow Mormons bearing witness to my being led astray by Satan, and ex- and anti-Mormon readers who damned me for simply saying that I’m Mormon. Here’s a small sample:
• “I hope your [sic] excommunicated soon. You can’t really be a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints [sic] if you don’t follow the brethren in everything they say. Your [sic] disgusting.”
• “[Deleted] you and every other Mormon in the world.”
Of the two, I like the second one best. I don’t have to worry about sitting next to that person in church, where I plan on being true to myself, unless told otherwise, by a power far greater than my detractors.
And by that, I mean me.