Monthly Archives: August 2010

I’m a gay post-Mormon trying to get along with my LDS family. Help?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I grew up in a conservative Mormon home in a small rural town of southern Idaho. I am also gay. After serving a mission in Russia and graduating from BYU, I am now attending a graduate school in the Bay Area. I stopped attending church within the last few years and now consider myself agnostic or atheist (depending on the day). Without going into details about my transition out of the church—which is rather complicated—I think it is sufficient to say that I am very happy with the path in life I have chosen.

While I am at peace with myself and happy with the relationship I am in, I find it difficult, as a non-Mormon (or post-Mormon) interacting with my devout Mormon family. I have to give my family credit for still loving and accepting me and how well they have adjusted. I think they generally understand that being gay was never a choice I made and not something any of us can change. I see that they also want me to be happy but I am unsure how they feel about my relationship and lifestyle.

I generally try really hard to respect my family’s religious beliefs and hope for the same in return. Recently, while traveling with my brother I was waiting for a very early morning flight. I stopped to get breakfast and without thinking bought coffee. My brother was deeply offended. Several days later, my parents called requesting that I do not drink coffee in front of them because of its offensive nature. I understand that some behaviors may be offensive to them, but to what degree should I change my life to accommodate them?

I am personally a little uncomfortable going to church, reading scriptures, and having family prayer with them. I never refuse to do so because I do not want to cause drama. I now try to avoid situations where things like this are an issue, such as not visit my family on Sundays. I love my family very much and want to be close and involved in their lives, but what is the appropriate boundary between respect for their religious beliefs and compromising my lifestyle?

–JM

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Filed under faith transition, family, lgbt

Ask Mormon Girl: My pro-gay-rights Mormon YouTube video is drawing heat. Help?

Dear AMG:

A few weeks ago I made my own version of the “I’m a Mormon” ads the Church has been running and put it up on my friends YouTube account. [Note:  The video ends with the words “I’m pro gay-rights, and I’m Mormon.”  See it here.]

Making that video seemed like a great idea at the time.  I got a lot of good responses at first.  Then, I started to get Church members telling me I’d be excommunicated.  And now the only people who seem to be viewing are hardcore Mormon haters.  I tried to ignore them and deleted most of the comments, but you can tell by the dislike count that I’ve been getting a lot of ridicule now.

I should have just ignored all the comments, but one person told me about a video with Bill Maher and Craig Ferguson. I watched it and it had too much in it for me to just toss aside.  I will admit, though I have a testimony of the LDS church, I don’t know as much about it as a lot of nonmembers apparently.

Bill talked about so many things I’d never heard of before. And he of course had to make a point that we are all extremely weird and something about how we ignore science and anything intellectual.  I hate that stereotype more than any of the others because I am an intellectual.

Anyway, I don’t know if you’ve seen the video already, but he made a lot of really short points that supposedly proved our entire religion wrong.  I’m sorry to bug you about this, but I can’t think of anyone else.  All the members I know personally will only slap me on the wrist for watching the video and tell me that it was Satan or something.  I don’t want to live the rest of my life just brushing these things off – I want to fully understand all of it so that I know my beliefs are justified.

Do you have any advice?

Sincerely,

SRK
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Filed under gay rights, intellectuals, internet, liberals, young women

I’m not LDS, and I live in Utah County. What is up with this place?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl:

I’m a twenty-something year old who lives in Utah County and am not a Latter-Day Saint (nor have I ever been).  I have recently embarked on a “quest” to try to better understand both the LDS Church as a whole, as well as what it means to be a LDS member. Is there something about the culture of LDS religion in Utah County that is different from your experience as a practicing member living outside of Utah? I don’t care how many different people I talk to, whether LDS or not, every time I bring up the culture of Utah County, I get smirks and knowing giggles, but no one seems to be able to put a finger on exactly what is different about this little county. There seems to be just something in the air that makes people want to differentiate between the LDS Church as a whole, and the LDS Church in Utah County in particular. Any thoughts on this?

Drew

Thanks for your message, Drew.  If you’ve lived in Utah County for very long, surely you’ve heard the the place described as “Happy Valley.”  As the home to Brigham Young University and the Missionary Training Center, two institutional icons of Mormonism, Utah County can feel like a company town.  It is a land of abundant Mormonness, a land flowing with Osmonds (or the residue of Osmonds), BYU Creamery ice cream and  fry sauce.

Utah County is also the solid demographic core of the Book of Mormon belt.  According to the best data I could find, about 85 – 88% of the county’s residents are members of the LDS Church.  Which gives Utah County top rank for Mormon-dense counties in the US (and, obviously, the world).  Thanks to a strong recent population influx, Utah County now even outranks smaller, more rural counties in northeastern Utah and southeastern Idaho that may have been more uniformly Mormon just a decade ago.  And that Mormon population density, Drew, makes all the difference.

Imagine moving through your daily life—work, school, grocery store—safely assuming that at least 75% of the people you encounter every day share your religion.  And not just any religion, but a religion with a discernable multi-generational ethnic component, a religion capable of functioning as a holistic culture, a religion that stresses its difference from the rest of the world and the importance of unity among its members.  That sense of social totality is what Mormons in Utah County—those who were born there as well as those who have self-selected in—can experience every day.  By contrast, most Mormons worldwide are tiny minorities in the communities where they live.  (In Southern California, where I grew up and now live, Mormons make up about 2 – 3% of the population, enough of a population group for us to be recognizable to one another and have our own social geography. It feels like the southwestern edge of the Book of Mormon belt, and it is.  Not so in Austin, Texas, where I lived for five years, and where Mormons barely register on the demographic map. And I felt it.)

There’s a term I encountered when I was studying the New England Puritans in grad school years ago that seems to apply to the Utah County situation:  Assurance.  In Puritan terms, one observed signs of the grace of God in one’s life as evidence or assurance that he or she was among those chosen (or predestined) to be saved by God.  But assurance was not just an individual phenomenon:  it extended to the whole community.  When the Puritans of Plymouth looked around and saw a well-ordered community, set apart from the rest of the fallen world, populated with others who shared the same views on the world, how could they help but feel some assurance that they had it all figured out?  On a beautiful spring Sunday afternoon in Utah County, when cherry trees are blooming, and everyone’s come home from church, and the streets are so very quiet, and everything is in its place, how could one not feel a profound sense of well-being?

But living in a Mormon social totality can have its downsides too, among them insularity and, well, how shall we say it, a lack of appreciation for the more complicated facets of human experience?  Which is to say that if your life falls outside the majority patterns, Happy Valley can be a very lonely place indeed.

That’s why LDS folks beyond Happy Valley refer to the place with a wink and a smile.  It’s a fairly intense Mormon immersion experience, a wonderful place to visit, but not a place some of us would choose to live.  After all, if it’s great to be a Mormon among majority Mormons, being a Mormon among non-Mormons has its own distinct pleasures too.

Readers, let’s talk about Utah County. How shall we explain it to Drew? Besides the fudge at the BYU Bookstore, what do we love about it so?  And what makes it a difficult place for a cos-mormo-politan soul to be?

Send your query to askmormongirl@gmail.com, or follow askmormongirl on Twitter.

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Filed under Utah

I’m 12. Church is driving me crazy. Help?

Dear Mormon Girl:

I am only 12 years old, but have recently been learning some of the truths about the church. I’ve been raised all my life as a member, so it’s somewhat part of me, but I am starting to “lose faith.” My parents both have learned the truth but stayed as active members, but somehow I just don’t think I can bear it any longer! I am sick of having to pretend that I believe everything my sunday school teachers are telling me, and I have always had to keep my mouth shut when my LDS friends are talking about Joseph Smith and Brigham Young. I like some aspects of the church, but I feel as if I’m living a lie. Sometimes I wonder if there’s anything worthwhile I’m being taught. I wish I could talk about my feelings with someone my age, but my sisters don’t want to hear about it. I’m still really curious about more real church history, so is there a website or something that could help me read more on it? Is there a way that I can be Mormon without driving myself crazy?

MD
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Filed under faith transition, young women

I’m dating a Mormon man. Can you help me understand him better?

Dear Ask Mormon Girl,

I’m writing to ask you for help understanding the Mormon man I’ve been dating over the past several months.  He is a lawyer who recently divorced from his wife of twenty years.  At first, I was impressed by his strong work ethic, sincerity, excellent kissing skills, impressive knowledge of basketball, rugged all-American good looks, and one-generation-off-the-farm pragmatism.  He seemed so emotionally tuned-in at first. When we briefly broke up after only four weeks of dating, he even cried!  However, as I have become more engaged and smitten, he has maintained his distance, unable to commit emotionally (although he does say he “likes me a lot” and finds me “adorable.”).  I can’t help but think that there might be something about his Mormon background and culture that is keeping this from developing any further.  What could be going on?

Jenn in Phoenix
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Filed under Love, social connectedness

My daughter and I have different religious needs; how can I do right by us both?

I realize that I should probably be sending this dilemma to “Ask a Methodist Girl” or “Ask a Protestant Girl”, but please do the best you can with me, under the circumstances.

I grew up in the Methodist church, and have taken a few spiritual detours along the way, but have always been steadfast in my belief in God. I have always been curious about the LDS church, and have attended church services, a baptism and more recently have met with the missionaries.  I also attend a United Methodist Church, one whose membership includes many people that knew me as a child.  There is comfort there.  I am a single mother of two daughters, and attend church with my 12-year-old (my 20-year-old daughter is on a spiritual quest of her own…).  We have attended both churches together, and while my daughter liked the LDS service (she thought Primary was great!), she has expressed that she feels more comfortable attending church where she knows people, and where people know her…I can understand that, so we are trying to become more active in our UM church.

My problem, if it is a problem, is this:  I think about the LDS church all the time.  I’d love to say I felt the spirit in the sacrament service, but I really felt it during Sunday School and especially during Relief Society. I miss that!  The women in that ward are wonderful, and while I thought I would feel a little out of place (since unlike most members of the ward, I am not married or caucasian), I really did not.

So I have this dilemma.  On the one hand, I want to foster my daughter’s spiritual growth, and I think the best way to do this is by going to a church where she feels at home.  On the other hand, I wish to grow spiritually as well, but without excluding (or confusing) my daughter.  I do not wish to convert at this time, but is there a middle place?

Anne

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Filed under family, parenting