Dear Ask Mormon Girl:
Just wanted to tell you that I enjoy your blog. I think you do a nice job dealing with people’s difficult questions in a non-threatening, honest and clear way.
I had one question as I read some postings: what is a “non-Orthodox” Mormon? Or, “unorthodox” depending on usage?
Is this a rejection of Mormon “cultural” behaviors; e.g., green jello, white shirts, clean shaven, Colas? A political issue? A rejection of some Church doctrines? An attempt to weed out “practices” versus “doctrine?” I’m sure it’s different for everyone and I hope it starts a broad discussion thread, but I’m trying to figure out how one can logically create a “Mormon” and “non-Orthodox” pairing.
I’m glad you enjoy the column, RB. It’s true that I sometimes use the word “unorthodox” to describe myself and my point of view, even though I practice my religion the best I can and joyfully partake in many of its cultural behaviors. (Ask my non-Mormon friends about my frog-eye salad. It’s epic. And so is my home garden.)
So here’s what I mean when I describe myself or my point of view as “unorthodox”:
- I envy the Jews.
What Mormon doesn’t have a thing for the original chosen people? (Even though, in my experience, most Mormons don’t really have a great grasp on contemporary Judaism.) As I got to know the world of contemporary Judaism through Jewish friends and (later) Jewish relatives, one thing that struck me was the bandwith of the tradition. Over the last millennia or more, Judaism has generated a number of threads and channels that can accommodate a number of modes of belief (including non-literalist and atheist standpoints) and practice (ranging from ultra-orthodox to modern orthodox to conservative to reform to reconstructionist to secular humanist).
And, unless you’re hanging with some pretty observant folks, simply eating a hot dog does not un-Jewish you.
The world of Mormonism, by comparison, can be a bit more categorically rigid—a bit more black-and-white, in-or-out. Lots of people have experienced that rigidity, and it doesn’t feel good.
Calling myself an “unorthodox” Mormon is one step I take to create a less rigid, more forgiving, and more robust Mormon world for myself to inhabit.
Which brings me to the second element of my “unorthodox” self-labeling.
2. Sometimes I don’t fit the Mormon mold, but Mormon is who I am. Absolutely.
There is a lovely blog called mormonwoman.org that has an “Ask A Mormon Woman” feature, wherein a team of bloggers answer questions about Mormon beliefs and practices. They quote the apostles and do a great job producing answers the LDS Newsroom could be proud of.
Me, I write in such a way that I hope no one could ever confuse my words for official anything. After all, since starting this column in January, I have quoted the Grateful Dead, Sarah Silverman, and St. Francis of Assisi. And my column generally attracts questions from other misfits like me.
My Episcopalian friend Jim is fond of quoting Rumi to me:
Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing,
there is a field. I’ll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’
doesn’t make sense any more.
That field is where I live.
And now, see—I quoted an Episcopalian and Rumi. In one sentence. That would never happen at “Ask a Mormon Woman.” But still, I’m a Mormon. Yes, I am. If you want to study a Mormon, I’m a living specimen.
In the past few years I’ve noticed a proliferation of terms used by Mormons to describe their various dispositions to this rich and, yes, internally diverse movement, from New Order Mormons to Legacy Mormons.
Friends, readers, what do you call yourself? Is the beautiful word Mormon enough? Or do you too wear a modifier?
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