Not Your Average “Molly Mormon.”
Definition: A Molly Mormon is thought to be the "perfect Mormon woman" – an attractive woman whose life revolves around the family and marriage and the social demands of Mormonism…and who embodies the cheery, chipper and domesticated female in Latter Day Saint culture.
I have had a crisis of faith. Many in fact. And I recommend it.
“Too many people believe and do, just because someone told them too.” –April Frresh
As a child, your parent might have told you to do something, and more times than not you did it. If you asked why, as children often do, you might have gotten the response of, “Because I said so.” As a child, maybe this was enough of a reason for doing, but at some point you “put off childish things,” and needed to find a reason for doing and believing that was more than simply because someone told you to.
“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” –1st Corinthians 13:11
A few years ago in Sunday School, I challenged someone, saying, “You have to have more of a reason for doing than simply because someone told you too.” An awkward silence ensued. My statement was out of line with the “primary answers” — “say your prayers,” “read your scriptures,” “keep the commandments,” “follow the prophet.”
Rewind to a few years earlier; several months after Proposition 8. The Mormon Church, along with its practices and belief, was front and center in the media. Controversy surrounded the Church, ranging from its stance on homosexuality, to its position on black Mormons and the role of women in the Church.
These topics are front and center once again, and I remember what I learned years ago during one of my crisis of faith:
1. First, almost every religion has its skeletons in the closet, its shadowed past…and guess what? That’s ok. It doesn’t mean that its “right” but it means that it’s okay to keep believing what you know. Because when you know, you know.
2. Second, even if you might believe something on a fundamental level, that doesn’t mean that you’ll always fit the mold. You might be considered different, and outsider, not your average run-of-the-mill “whatever.” And that’s okay too.
3. Third, and the most important—but hard— part, is feeling happy, feeling good and feeling “among,” despite your “otherness,” your differences.
And that’s where “doing good” comes into play.
Gay and Mormon
Around the time when the Church was working on Proposition 8, I was dealing with a crisis of faith—I had researched and questioned and sought and prayed, and even made of list of all the things that I had a cognitive dissonance on with the Church, as I mulled over my growing dissatisfaction.
I remember sitting on the beach, the cool breeze blowing against my skin, soaking in the warm sunshine while staring into the ocean. The scripture kept replaying in my mind: “Adam fell that men might be, and men are that they might have joy.” And I recognized that I was not happy. I could not reconcile being true to myself as a person with the things that I’d been taught to know and understand—and that I still believed were true.
So I asked the question of my beach-going companion: “What do you do, when you believe everything you’ve been taught about the Church, but living the Church does not make you happy?”
The response: “If you aren’t happy then you must not be faithful enough. Or steadfast enough.”
Another “primary answer.” I imagined how a gay Mormon might feel living the gospel in a Church that didn’t accept the homosexual lifestyle—still believing the core foundational principles of the Church, but not being able to be true to who they were as a person—and as a result, not being happy with who they are as a person. As I saw it, God made all his children. And God doesn’t make mistakes.
As someone rather bluntly told me at the time, the “choice” about who I was as a person and what I believed as a person was either conform or get out. Neither resonated with me. I was a person who dared to question, who wasn’t satisfied with “primary answers,” but I was also a person who profoundly believed in the fundamental principles of my Church.
I felt as fundamentally shut out of my own world as any gay Mormon might feel.
Black and Mormon
There was another group that was shut out of the Mormon world at one point in time—Black Mormons. My dad joined the Church before blacks could hold the Priesthood. Holding the Priesthood is a privilege that allows worthy men to have certain positions in the Church, give blessings, perform baptism, go to the temple, and oversee various religious ordinances. If you were a Mormon black man in the early 1970’s, none of those privileges were available to you. You couldn’t be married in the temple to you wife. You couldn’t baptize your own children. You couldn’t stand on equal ground with your white counterparts in the Church. And yet many blacks still joined the church.
My dad’s conversion story, then and now, was “when you know something is true, you know—and nothing else matters.” In light of that, I was raised with the subtle, yet common sense understanding that the Church’s views on race and the Church had come from men, and not from God.
A few days ago, the Church brought to light something I’d known all along—race relations of the past were more “personal policy turned quasi-doctrine,” than official Church policy. Many in the Church had just used prior leaders’ unsupported beliefs to justify their own outmoded position on race.
In light of the announcement, some members feel vindicated. Some feel validated. And then there are those on the other side who feel the need to rally behind the Church’s past stance, justifying, explaining away or minimizing the importance of the announcement or trying to postulate that the Church doesn’t “owe” anyone any type of apology for its past positions.
Female and Mormon.
The need to validate personal policy turned quasi-doctrine doesn’t just gain play on the race issue. Unpopular views on woman’s roles still fight for life and are vigorously defended, most notably when it comes to Mormon feminists.
A little over a year ago, an outlier Mormon group cropped up toting itself as “Wear Pants to Church Day.” Their message dealt with women and the Priesthood, modesty issues, inclusiveness in the Church and a whole host of other things. In an effort to champion their cause they started a “Wear Pants to Church” movement, where one Sunday a year women are encourage to wear pants to church. The outcry from some members over something as simple as wearing pants was swift and vicious.
“Do Good” and Mormon.
My biggest problem with the Church when I was having a crisis of faith was not about having different views on homosexuality and Mormonism, being Black and Mormon, or even being a feminist and Mormon. My crisis of faith dealt with being me and Mormon.
I wanted to be true to myself at my core and still feel like I could worship without feeling that cognitive dissonance, or worse, the judgment or contempt of others because I fell outside the norm.
I was not, and never will be, okay with “primary answers.” My core is to search and question and challenge—because I want to ask the hard questions and still have that be okay; because I don’t always accept the easy answers; because each time I’ve had a crisis of faith, I come back to the fundamental principles of my faith and know that they are true. And when you know, you know.
So my challenge with this “do good” post is to encourage others to be good to those around them who may be different. To make them feel among. To show that the purpose of our faith is to feel joy whether a gay Mormon, a Black Mormon or a Feminist Mormon.
So do good my friends. And Happy “Wear Pants to Church” Day this Sunday!
Work It Girl