Monthly Archives: December 2011

My fiancé is new to Christmas. How do I ease him into my Mormon family’s over-the-top holiday style?

Dear AMG,

I am engaged to truly wonderful man who was baptized into the LDS church a few years ago. My fiance was not a member of a Christian faith before he joined the church, and he has never really celebrated Christmas before. Not even in a secular way. This may not seem like a big deal, but allow me to illustrate: we could have been set up by a mutual friend six months before we eventually met, but we weren’t, because the mutual friend thought my fiance didn’t get Christmas and, remembering that my mother replaces every piece of decor in her house with Christmas decor during December, was convinced that the relationship could never work.

I have a big, loud, loving Mormon family that does not believe in halfhearted Christmas celebrations. We’re talking matching pajamas and rhyming, multi-stage treasure hunts and nativity re-enactments and Danish aebleskivers from my great-grandmother’s recipe and grandkids bolting to bed after sighting Rudolph’s nose in the sky and a laundry list of other traditions. And I’m afraid that this might be a little overwhelming for an adult’s first Christmas. My fiance’s heart is in the right place: the commercialism of Christmas is off-putting to him, he wishes the crowds at Temple Square would go inside the building and serve in addition to looking at the lights, and he went to two church Christmas parties last year where talk of Santa and presents abounded but there was nary a mention of the baby born in Bethlehem. I should say, too, that though he’s a little nervous about the prospect of my family’s enormous Christmas celebrations, he has prepared in the best way he knows how: research. Months ago, after a conversation about some of my family’s Christmas traditions, he got online and bought for himself one of our favorite Christmas storybooks. The book is out of print and probably cost him a small fortune, but it was very sweet. He is trying to understand why this holiday is important to me. 

So here’s the trick: How do I help this man I love understand this celebration that is important to my faith, to my family, and to me? 

Merry Christmas,

Anxiously Engaged

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What’s up with Mitt Romney’s $10,000 bet? I thought Mormons weren’t allowed to gamble.

Dear AMG:

I’ve heard that LDS aren’t allowed to gamble or bet, which includes playing the lottery or even making a person-to-person bet (such as on a sports game).  However, I just heard Mitt Romney make a $10,000 bet with Rick Perry.  What is going on, then?

Thanks,

Daniel

What’s going on, Daniel, is that people who don’t plan to vote for Mitt Romney are poking around for ways to make him even more miserable than he already is, bless his pointy head.

And what else is going on is that Mitt is having a hard time coming up with clever verbal maneuvers to put away a Republican field that he and most American voters find utterly ludicrous.

Mitt’s been running for president since 2006, at least.  It hasn’t worked yet.  And he’s getting prickly about it.  Is it fun to watch?  No.  But even less fun are attempts to make every Mitt blunder some kind of moral issue.

Yes, it is true:  Mormons aren’t big gamblers, and somewhere in the handbook it says gambling is a no-no.  But plenty of us put a few bucks in the office NCAA basketball pool, or play a few rounds of nickel slots when we pass through Vegas (which is, by the way, a historically Mormon town).  Even a friendly $20 bet with a neighbor is nowhere near as serious a transgression as drinking a cup of coffee in the Mormon moral universe.

But Mormons are definitely allowed to talk about gambling and even to make metaphors about it.

Just like Mormons are allowed to use an idiomatic phrase like “Put that in your pipe and smoke it” without breaking the LDS prohibition against tobacco use.  Or even “That guy makes me so mad, it makes me want to strangle him!” without breaking the Biblical edict against murder.

Am I voting for Mitt Romney?  No.  I’m a stone cold Mormon Democrat.  I’m such a Democrat that I’ve already gotten two—that’s right, two– Christmas cards from the Obama White House.

But I do think that even Mitt deserves to make all the mistimed, uncharismatic, stiff debate one-liners he wants without having someone make it about his religion.

And I bet you a million dollars my readers will have something more to say. Readers?

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

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I’m back in the LDS ward I grew up in, and my mortifying teenaged past haunts me. Help?

Dear AMG:

I was raised Presbyterian in Tennessee, started dating a Mormon boy, and was baptized in August 2003 at the age of 17. I dated him for two years, until I found out he had been cheating with numerous other girls–and in a town this small, everyone knew but me. I was embarrassed and hurt, and I hightailed it to Utah.  I am now 25. After graduating from BYU, I have moved back to this small town in Tennessee and am now living in the ward I was baptized in with my husband of two years.  (My ex-boyfriend eventually served a mission and is now happily married.)  But I am still mortified to be surrounded by his mother, cousin, brother, aunts and uncles, and friends.  My family is here, and I have a job with benefits, so I can’t move.  But I serve on the ward Christmas party committee, and four out of six women on the committee are related to my ex-boyfriend!  I know this sounds childish, but it really is driving me crazy.  Help? 

Mortified

Dear Mortified:

Let me tell you a true story.  There once was a Mormon boy who was cute and smart and perfect, and a Mormon girl in his ward who was a few years younger and also cute and smart.  And from the time she was seven years old, the girl was totally crushed out on the boy.  Dedicated.  Destroyed.  Wrote about him in her journal.  With hearts and stars around his name.  Froze when he whispered witty remarks under his breath during Sacrament Meeting.  Fast forward:  same ward, eight years later.  On the eve of leaving for college, after dating every other no-count female in the stake, boy shows up on girl’s doorstep and admits that he might like her back.  And what does she do?  Fifteen year-old girl fumbles.  Miserably.  Then cries.  Fast forward: same ward, eight additional years later.  Mormon boy’s mother holds a wedding reception for her son and his new bride.  Mormon girl is too nauseous to attend.  Fast forward another decade, stake reunion:  Mormon girl has a smashingly happy marriage and an interesting, adventure-filled life.  She enters stake youth reunion prepared to exhibit smashing happiness and adventurousness but finds herself instead utterly speechless when Mormon boy strikes up a conversation at the punch bowl.

Ah, wards.  The small towns of Mormondom.   No matter how far I travel, when I return to the Orange, California Stake, I might as well be fifteen years old and sporting a bad perm.  And I tell you this story from the Ask Mormon Girl personal archive to help you feel not so alone.  Inside every one of us lives an utterly mortified teenaged girl.   You can move across the city.  Grow out your perm. Dye your hair.  Change your name.  Marry.  Travel the world.  Earn degrees.  Win prizes.  But she lives on—awkward, moody, embarrassed, and self-despising.  And ready to leap out at the most untimely moments.  There’s nothing we can do but pity her, pity ourselves, have a good laugh with a girlfriend, and then move on.

But there’s a crucial difference between your story and mine.  I was mortified by my own desperately poor communication skills.  You were mortified by the rank perfidy of a no-good boyfriend! You were a sweet young thing, and he was a lothario!  You have nothing to be ashamed of!  And you have returned to your hometown victorious:  with a husband, a job, and (most impressively) health benefits!  You win!  When you enter that ward Christmas party in a few weeks, I want you to say a few reassuring words to that mortified teenager inside of you, but forbid her to speak. Hold your head up high.  Be your most charming and delightful self.  Behold your ex’s relatives with a regal but undetectable form of condescension.  They are, after all, the relatives of the young scoundrel who ruined his family name by running around with all the girls in town, and you are the girl he wronged years ago, and this, my dear, gives you one of the most powerful forms of cultural currency in the Mormon universe:  rightness.   Use it sparingly, and with mercy, for you must remember that inside every one of them too there lives a mortified, self-loathing teenager.  We all have embarrassing elements of our pasts.  The most gracious gift we can bestow upon our fellow wardmembers—the fellow inmates of our Mormon small towns—is to pretend we remember only the good parts.  We call that gift dignity. Claim it!

What about you, dear readers?  Any mortifying moments your inner LDS fifteen year-old is dying to admit?  What words of courage do you have for Mortified?

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

 

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Filed under Love, Mormon Youth, social connectedness

Welcome to the world of Ask Mormon Girl!

Greetings!  Stopping by after listening to All Things Considered today?  So glad you did.  This is Ask Mormon Girl, a question-and-answer column I write for folks (non-Mormons and Mormons alike)  from my own *personal* *unorthodox* *not-official* *flawed* and *human* point of view.  This site has also grown a wonderful community of commenters who often give better answers than I do.  I thank them all for their kindness and wisdom.

If you’d like to stay in touch and get news about the January release of The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith on Audible.com and iTunes, please be sure to follow @askmormongirl on Twitter, or send a “howdy” to askmormongirl@gmail.com.  I’ll be sure to message you when the audiobook is out.

Here are links to two recent columns that will give you a feel for what we do here.

A few weeks ago, a non-LDS AMG reader asked “What do Mormons believe about African-Americans?”  My answer is here.

And this column gets lots of questions from folks inside the faith who are experiencing a faith transition–a change in the way they are thinking or feeling about their relationship to Mormonism.  Many Mormons experience a time when they need to step away from the faith and evaluate their beliefs.  And many of us come back.  Here’s a question from an LDS reader:  “After seven years away from Mormonism, I’m hungry to come back.  But how?

For writing on Mormonism and politics, please visit my column at Religion Dispatches. The Ask Mormon Girl column also runs every other Monday at the legendary Feminist Mormon Housewives.  I am very proud to be a part of the FMH community.  Mormonism is our home, and places like FMH and AMG strive to make it a place welcoming of honest exploration, kindness, humor, and humanity.

Thanks for stopping by. Please come back soon.

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Filed under social connectedness