A very special letter from the AskMormonGirl mailbag, plus introducing Ask Catholic Girl!

Long-time reader?  Welcome back.  New to Ask Mormon Girl?  Welcome!

Big news today:  I am thrilled to announce that Ask Catholic Girl is live, thanks to Mary, Nadia, and Carmen–offering love and guidance to their fellow Catholics in the trenches.  Nadia is a long-time Ask Mormon Girl reader who made a stunning debut here last week.  She’s joined by two sharp-witted, irreverent and reverent Catholic women named Mary and Carmen.  Long time friends of Ask Mormon Girl.  Send them a question or a friendly hello at askcatholicgirl@gmail.com.   We may not have ordination, but we do have wisdom  . . . and the internet.

Second bit of news:  ever since this story ran at CNN.com a few weeks ago, the mailbag has runneth over with many kind messages and curious questions.   I wanted to share with you one letter that really touched me.  With the permission of the author, here goes:

Hello Joanna,

Although I know many people who are Mormon and had many Mormon friends growing up, I never truly understood your faith.  I also read the beginning of [Jon Krakauer's book] Under the Banner of Heaven but was so upset over it I had to stop reading it.  Truthfully, and I’m sure you’ve heard this quite often, the Joseph Smith story and magic spectacles seemed like a complete joke to me and I couldn’t understand how on earth anyone would believe such an outlandish story.  The “One True Church” belief bothered me too as my thought was Mormons believe their religion and faith is better than others and only Mormons would go to heaven (Can you see my ignorance?).  I will also admit I have been one to connect the Mormon religion to an occult.  (I should note – my husband said I needed to read the entire book as what I read was not a good representation of the the book or the religion – okay, I get that I was wrong).
 
The reason for my email, I’ve been experiencing a bit of anxiety over the presidential race, particularly when it came to possible presidential candidate Mitt Romney.  I was so worried about him becoming our next president because of his Mormon faith.  Honestly, it would almost make me sick to my stomach. (I also know a lot of people had their doubts about JFK and his Catholic faith–which I am as well).  In fact, I had even admitted this fear to my best friend, saying it out loud for the first time.  I think subconsciously I knew how bad this sounded and how ignorant and judgmental it was –two things that are totally not how I view myself.  On the contrary, I consider myself to be very accepting and open but isn’t that what they all say? 
 
Then the VERY next day I was reading CNN.com and came across the article about you, read it, and loved it!  This is going to sound crazy, but I truly believe it was a sign from God.  My anxiety, worry, and bigoted beliefs went away instantly.  I knew right there regardless of the presidential outcome it was going to be okay and I became accepting of the Mormon faith.  I definitely believe it was God’s grace working inside of me.  I have let go of those feelings and have found myself at peace.  I have also taken to reading your blog regularly now as well, as I feel we have a lot in common…doubts on faith, going back to our faith, motherhood, liberal beliefs, Obama supporter, etc.  I have let go of my ignorance and irrational thoughts about the Mormon religion and have replaced them with a search for a deeper understanding of your faith.
 
Thank you for doing what you do.  I look forward to reading your blog and now feel, I am closer to living a life in Jesus’s image…loving and caring for one another, regardless of religion, as we are all brothers and sisters in faith.
All I have to say is thank you–to the author of this letter, to the readers of this blog, and to the bigger forces that make grace, change, and understanding possible.
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5 Comments

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5 responses to “A very special letter from the AskMormonGirl mailbag, plus introducing Ask Catholic Girl!

  1. Tawnya

    Oh man, what a great letter. I have a few friends who I know really care about me, but still…get a few drinks in them and they start telling me what they think about Mormonism and it’s always kind of hard for me when that happens. Anyway, the author’s opinions sound like a lot fo folks I know and love and I’m just glad she wrote that letter. And thank you for sharing it, Joanna. Thanks to you both. So cool.

  2. The letter writer expresses a concern about Romney that many Americans share, but then says “I have let go of my ignorance and irrational thoughts about the Mormon religion.” The reason for letting go? Seeing an article about Joanna, the day after having mentioned the concern. So was the article a “sign from God” or is seeing it as a sign just a comfortable thought that side-steps a more profound process of critical thought? Doesn’t it make more sense to recognize that the article, and the concern about Romney, and the recent surge of interest in this blog are all related to the fact that Romney has been the front-runner for the Republican nomination?

    In fact, many people are concerned about Romney because of his Mormonism. Is this necessarily bigotry, or can there be valid reasons for concern about a candidate’s religion? For instance, if an Islamic mullah became a politician and did not renounce purdah and the other profoundly sexist beliefs and practices of extreme Islam, I would be very concerned if he became a popular candidate in the U.S. Wouldn’t every feminist feel the same?

    Mormonism isn’t Islam, but many fair-minded people do see some strongly anti-feminist elements. If that is a misconception, isn’t this the place to talk about it? What about the current policy of defending past racism as obedience to God? What about treatment of first wife by Joseph Smith-does that open fair questions about his claim to be selected by God as Prophet?

    If the “authority” of this blog limits content to positive affirmations of Mormonism, then that tends to confirm the suspicions that Mormonism is about repressing dissent and encouraging groupthink. Unfortunately, despite what the letter writer said, it is not possible to just “let go of ignorance about the Mormon religion.” No, it works the other way; ignorance is what you continue to have until you actively gain knowledge. That active process involves some dangerous questions. Here is one: Do Mormons who are not true believers in Joseph Smith feel a need to hide this truth about themselves from their community?

    • Irwin

      I’m not sure you’ve fairly characterized her letter. As I read it, her point was not to say she’s decided to ignore the oddities of Mormonism, but to say she’s been able to let go of some bigoted and irrational thoughts–presumably as a result of some of the knowledge gained from this blog–for which she deserves commendation.

  3. Irwin, your presumption is unsupported; the letter writer said nothing about “knowledge gained from this blog” as a factor in the letting go. No, that’s just you rewriting her letter, perhaps because making her sound more rational fits some agenda you hold. Let her speak for herself, “This is going to sound crazy, but I truly believe it was a sign from God. My anxiety, worry, and bigoted beliefs went away instantly.” This magical thinking happened PRIOR to reading the blog, as you will see if you read for discovery, rather than reading for confirmation of your own assumptions.

    in other words, Irwin, you seem to have chosen to believe what you want to believe, even though the truth is right in front of you, contradicting you in black and white. This type of thinking illustrates an objection that many have to religion: It is a school of thought that fosters making up your own facts and coming to conclusions by following desire, as opposed to an epistemology founded on observation and reason.

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