Today's Special is... "Identity"

Food for thought...

I posted an article on my boyfriend's wall a couple of days ago.

A mutual friend of ours commented:

"Hey Ash! Remember how your life still revolves around the church, I mean, I am an active Mormon and I don't post, blog, talk about or even think about the church half as much as you do. Will you ever find a way NOT to be defined by the church?"

My private reply to this was:  

"So to respond to your question about how much I talk and think and post about the church...
Breaking away from the church was like losing an arm or a leg, even if I decided to chop it off myself. If I'd lost an arm, I talk about it a lot and what life would be like without it, thinking about my arm more than I thought about my arm when I actually had it.
Breaking away from the church is also like a divorce. I still talk about my divorce from Matt a lot, because I'm still dealing with how I have changed because of it. I was married to Matt for only 13 years. I was 'married' to the church for my entire life.

Maybe you and I were different kinds of members.
Also, I lost the investment I made- my Mormon ideal. You have not."

A couple of months ago, a friend of mine commented on a post I wrote with this:  

"Ash, forgive me for saying this, but as mad as you are at the church, and/or it's members, eventually you're going to have to take a step back and decipher how many things you can realistically pin on them. We all make our own choices."

That is not the only time someone has made that type of remark to me.  And I get what they're saying.  But what about this:  

Growing up Mormon, when done 'properly', it becomes a part of your identity.  I mean, like your last name.  Or middle name.  Whichever you prefer.  The church intends for this to happen.  Let me present exhibit A, a primary song that was taught to the children when I was Primary President:  I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints/I know who I am/I know God's Plan.  

That is merely a drop in the bucket of how we were taught to really own that identity.  

I'm not saying that Mormonism is the only religion that does that.  Again, I'm sharing my experience specifically.  

We are taught to base every decision on the gospel, and growing up, the church and the gospel are synonymous.  No question.  And no decision or issue was too small.  Having a bad thought?  Sing a Mormon hymn.  Someone asks you to join them at a party with alcohol?  Proudly proclaim that you are a Mormon and you cannot do that!  I'm not angry about this or saying that it was bad, per se.  I bring it up to point out how much of the unfolding of my life's events had to do with my identity as a Mormon.  


  1. Mormonism is fascinating to me, partly because it seems really difficult to half-ass it. My 24-year-old niece (one of the 2% of Catholics who truly do not believe in pre-marital sex) and I (former Catholic, current atheist) used to say this about Islam, until we watched the TLC series "All-American Muslim," and saw that, yes, there are variations in strictness. Obviously there are in Catholicism, too, but by far, my niece (obviously) is in the minority in how hard-line her beliefs are. Growing up, we were sent to Catholic school and attended Mass on Sundays, but that was it. My family was even considered pretty strict (we weren't), because basically you had to be bleeding from your eyeballs to miss Mass. (I sprained my ankle once in a basketball game on Saturday; by Sunday it was enormous. My mom slapped an ACE bandage on that sucker and off to church we went.) By the time I "officially" left the Church (which isn't actually official... if I died and my mother chose to have a Catholic funeral and burial for me, she could), it was so far from my life that the only difference for me was telling my mom, "Nope. I don't believe in it anymore." (I waited a couple years to "come out" as an atheist - no need to give her two heart attacks at once.) Now of course the Catholic Church has PUH-LENTY to answer for, but this comment is already WAY too long.

    tl:dr; thanks for giving a little insight into the Mormon Church. It's certainly fascinating.


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