I am a fifteen year old girl and am having some troubles with the Mormon culture and NOT the faith. Lately I cannot stand going to young women’s or sunday school because it feels like they press upon you what to do and how to feel. All they are constantly telling me is that I have to get married (in the temple) and have children and I feel really frustrated by having to mould into the ‘perfect’ Mormon type. A bunch of my friends aren’t LDS (I live in a big town with few Mormons) and it seems like they are free to do with their lives as they please. I’m not saying that I want to drink, do drugs, or have a boyfriend before I’m sixteen because I wouldn’t do that even if I wasn’t LDS. It just seems like they aren’t as pressured as I am.
My best friend who is an inactive Mormon (her mom is LDS but her dad isn’t) is really fun to be around and lives life care free. Occasionally she’ll swear or have a boyfriend but I don’t feel that what she is doing is necessarily that bad. Sure, I would never do what she does but unlike my other two Mormon friends, I don’t see the harm in what she’s doing. She believes in the gospel and says prayers regularly by herself and with her family. It isn’t that important for her to marry into the Mormon faith or get married into the temple though.
I know that I’m only fifteen but I’m already worried that I won’t find the ‘perfect’ Mormon man to marry who will respect me and the way I view the Mormon culture and live it. Occasionally I will wear ‘short-shorts’ or wear a tank top, and I feel that if I ever told another Mormon guy or girl (besides my best friend who does it also) about the way I live, that they would think of me as not strong in faith (which I am) or truly LDS. My parents don’t have a problem if I wear shorts or tank tops in the summer (not during school) and love me the way I am. I would never lie to them and they are two of my greatest friends.
I fear that there isn’t another Mormon person who would respect my decisions and how I am. I would love to marry someone who is like my father (a convert) in ways that he is strong in faith but has an opinion that some of the religious rules can be flexible (mostly the dress code). I would NEVER wear revealing clothing to an event and when I wear the shorts and t-shirts, I do it to cool off in the hot heat (and usually in the concealment of my backyard). We also go to church every Sunday dressed appropriately.
I plan to go to Brigham Young University to become a lawyer – yet I am afraid that parts of my lifestyle will be prosecuted and I will be treated differently by the more rule abiding Mormons and I won’t find a ‘perfect’ man to spend eternity with. Thank you for taking the time to read my concerns. I deeply appreciate it.
Let me make sure I hear you right. You’re a 15 year-old Mormon girl with strong faith. You attend church. You love and have a close relationship with your parents. You have excellent long-term personal goals to attend college and have a profession. But you come away from Church carrying the feeling that you’re not good enough. So much so that wearing short-shorts and a tank top on a hot day (and usually in your backyard) makes you feel like your chance of a happy Mormon life and even a temple marriage is in peril.
It sounds to me like what you’re hearing at Church is making you feel anxious . . . so anxious that you’re not able to carry away the good messages you really need: that you are a beloved child of Heavenly Parents, that you have tremendous power to make choices that can bring joy and fulfillment to your life and the lives of others, and that faith can sustain you through whatever life will bring. I want you to plug into these kinds of messages and let them give you a greater sense of safety and peace.
So, first, I think you should talk to your parents. Tell them that what you’re hearing at church is making you feeling anxious and inadequate, even worried about your future and your ability to find someone to love and marry. Your parents love you and know you best. They are in the best position to put their arms around you and tell you that you’re doing just fine. They might even be willing to have a private chat with your Young Women’s leaders to let them know that the youth might need a little more encouragement and support along with the pressure.
Second, I want you to try to put the messages you’re getting from your youth leaders into a little perspective. KDP, I’ve never served as a Young Women’s leader, but I can only imagine how responsible they feel for helping you turn out right. Many Mormons perceive the world as an ever more wicked place that we must keep ourselves separated from as much as possible. Your Young Women’s leaders may be putting a lot of stress on the dress and grooming standards in For the Strength of Youth because dress and grooming standards serve as a way to keep ourselves visibly separated from the world and (they hope) keep us safe. But even Young Women’s leaders are human, and they too might be letting their fear of the world and their anxiety about helping you turn out right get in the way of the equally important goal of making you feel safe and loved.
In the long run, I hope you’ll learn that the best reasons for keeping the standards, or going to church come not just from what others tell you or from fear but from how you feel inside: from your faith. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: our religion was founded when a young man just about your age didn’t feel good about what he was hearing at church and went into a grove of trees to pray for an answer. You have the same ability to pray and get answers. Use it. Ask God if you are meant to feel anxious. Ask God if everything will turn out okay. I have faith that you’ll get the answers you need.
Now, readers: discuss amongst yourselves. What gentle words of guidance do you have for KDP? What musings on the state of Mormon youth, and their leaders?
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