11 February 2007

More About Identity

I was discussing with my husband why TBMs act like they have special rights to define anyone who is or was ever connected to Mormonism. Why can't I be a non-believing Mormon the way that a non-believing Jew is still a Jew? No one is going to complain if someone calls Asimov an athiest Jew. That is what he was. So why not an athiest Mormon? The morthodox community doesn't accept that. DH brought up that
  • there isn't a genetic/ethnic component that qualifies someone as a Mormon regardless of belief the same way there is for Jews, and
  • also related to human categorization and ethnicity, there isn't the historical precedent for outsider wanting to mark someone as Mormon if they don't believe the Mormon gospel. No one wants to persecute the Mormons that much.
So it's left to the largest and most vocal group of insiders to define Mormons. There's a theological reason too; Mormonism is set up to let a few rulers define membership. In my theology studies I learned about religions that define membership by the members' admission and will. Islam, for example, uses the latter method to define membership. There is no panel of old men to kick you out.

I'm still not sure what parts of my heritage can figure positively in my present life. (And in my future, if I ever spawn, what heritage will I give my children?) I'm still trying to sort myself out. I probably always will be: I'm a person with questions, not with answers. But whatever I do, it's on my own terms now. I simply do not give a panel of old men the power to decide what kind of Mormon I am. I can laugh about my heritage, I can cry about it, I can fight it, embrace it, deny it while the cock crows, or I can tell stories about it and weave the beautiful elements of the old into the new tapestry of my life. Whatever. Whatever I want.

Right now I think I'm at the best point I ever have been: usually, it's "Mormonism? Oh yeah! That." But if it gets brought up, I'm an "I-was-raised-that-way" Mormon. I think it has helped me that my boss sees me as a non-Mormon Mormon. When I realized she thought that way, at first I was resistant—NO, let me explain, I'm not Mormon. But I realized her categorization of me as a Mormon was allowing for that athiest Mormon.

I think it's not in my best interest to believe that my heritage gave me nothing. When I left Mormonism, I felt robbed. I lost a lot. I struggled. Privately and painfully I strongly rejected it all. But there are some pearls in the pigsty that I can rescue. When someone keeps some little bit of Mormonism in their lives (journal writing, or genealogy) I usually hear—and I have said—"well, that doesn't really have anything to do with Mormonism." Maybe it doesn't, but it's a distinction that plays into a dichotomy about Mormonism: it can't have anything good. I don't need that kind of dichotomy in my life any more.


At 3:30 PM, Blogger Liseysmom said...

This blog really resonated with me. The same thing has been on my mind a lot lately. I've really moved past a lot of my anger and am now at a place where I can start to see some good in how I was raised. Thanks for giving me something to think about!

And I'm glad you are blogging!!


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