Tuesday, October 11, 2011


I believe in living authentically.
I believe in being honest with the world about who I am and what I believe.
Over time, some of my beliefs or feelings about various things have shifted, and I have always tried to be honest about those changes. Nearly a year ago I "came out of the broom closet" with my intention to integrate aspects of paganism into my spiritual path. I have continued on that path. I celebrate the sabbats and actively participate on the MotherWheel blog, I shared my story on a Daughters of Mormonism podcast, I have connected with the Feminine Divine in a lifechanging way. I have associated with friends who have inspired me in my authenticity with posts such as this and this and this (and I am proud to acknowledge that I am one of the 'coven' mentioned in the first post, and I am the friend 'Buzzy' mentioned in the last).

Today I would like to share something else that is a deeply-felt part of who I am. I suspect that some of my readers will be uncomfortable about it. It may "shatter the safe sweet way you live" because it certainly goes against some familiar habits, but that does not make it any less valid or important. I hope that you will read on with thoughtfulness.

Most people know that I am Mormon. What a lot of people (including some Mormons) don't know is that there are many kinds of Mormon. I fit with some, not so much with others. Some accept all the kinds, some not so much. But we are all Mormons, and as a "Big Tent Mormon" I accept them all as my Brothers and Sisters. ♥

The Open Stories Foundation (the npo which funds Mormon Stories and Mormon Matters podcasts, as well as helping arrange assorted "Open Mormon" or "Big Tent Mormon" conferences around the country) produced this Shared Values Statement this last summer, which they shared at the SLC conference. I strongly recommend listening to Carol Lynn Pearson's excellent speech "No more US verses THEM" which was delivered at the same time.
This is the Shared Values Statement:
  1. We claim the right to self-identify as Mormons if we so choose. We may claim this identity based on our genealogies, upbringings, beliefs, relationships, and other life experiences.
  2. We believe that one can be Mormon or claim a Mormon identity without necessarily adhering to the teachings or doctrines of any religious organization.
  3. We acknowledge the richness of Mormon heritage, teachings, and community in all of its diversity.
  4. We seek spaces where we as Mormons can live lives of intellectual and spiritual integrity, individual conscience, and personal dignity.
  5. We acknowledge and honor different spiritual paths and modes of religious or non-religious truth-seeking.  We respect the convictions of those who subscribe to ideas and beliefs that differ from our own.
  6. We recognize the confusion, distress, emotional trauma, and social ostracism that people on faith journeys often experience.  We seek constructive ways of helping and supporting people, regardless of their ultimate decisions regarding church affiliation or activity.
  7. We affirm the inherent and equal worth of all human beings.  We seek spaces where Mormons (and all people) can interact as equals regardless of race, gender, or sexual orientation.  In this spirit of egalitarianism, we prefer non-authoritarian and non-hierarchical means of organization and affiliation.

I am here to say that, as a self-identified Big Tent Mormon, I agree with these statements. I believe that God loves everybody, and actually I'm no longer convinced of the idea that there is only "one right way" to find or worship God; it seems logical to me that a loving Parent would accept his children via whatever route they come.

I believe that it's time for us all to accept the term "mormon" in a broader way. As columnist Joanna Brooks so brilliantly explained:
What do you call a Catholic who grew up going to CCD but now attends mass only on Christmas, Ash Wednesday, and Easter, and supports gay rights? Catholic.

What do you call a Jew who loves bacon, doesn't believe in God, and attends shul only on High Holy Days? Jewish.

And so with Mormons. Some people are active, orthodox members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, others are orthodox Fundamentalist Mormons, or there are those who are mormon by culture or heritage, whether or not they are literal believers in the doctrine. There are Reform Mormons and New Order Mormons and the Community of Christ (formerly RLDS), and I'm not saying that they should all be considered LDS--they should not because they are other sects. But they should all be considered Mormons.

Just because the CoJCoLDS is the biggest sect doesn't give them/us any right to say that the others who are different have no right to the name "Mormon." If we have a right to do that, then the Catholics have a right to say that nobody else is Christian--they were here first and they're the biggest!

It's just a matter of logic I think.

Over the last year or so I have come to know a variety of people who are not orthodoxic/orthopraxic LDS, and yet still identify as Mormon by culture or heritage or belief, they just don't fit the current LDS mold. One couple I know is fundamentalist (not in a compound someplace, but a very normal couple who believes that the modern leadership has gotten lost and that it's better to stick with the early leaders). They identify as mormon. If I believe that Joseph and Brigham were prophets then I should accept them as fellow mormons, don't you think? Because they are. And so are the feminist mormons, the gay mormons, the social mormons, the cafeteria mormons, the tattooed and pierced mormons, the non-literal believing mormons, the inactive mormons, the former mormons, the polygamous mormons, the buddhist mormons, the pagan mormons...and of course the literal-believing/orthodox mormons.

Elder Ballard's talk at this last LDS general conference led me to feel the need to speak about this. Of course the LDS church has every right to determine who is or isn't a member of their records, and to be possessive of their (copyrighted) full official name. I'm not arguing that for a second. But the larger term "mormon" isn't copywrited; it was a nickname in the first place, given by others, and which (intended or not) has come to mean a much broader group. So yes, I am saying that I disagree with Elder Ballard on this particular point.

As per the Church's style guide, "The official name of the Church is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This full name was given by revelation from God to Joseph Smith in 1838.
While the term "Mormon Church" has long been publicly applied to the Church as a nickname, it is not an authorized title, and the Church discourages its use."
Find and good. I am on board.
However, in that same guide, they go on to say that "The term "Mormonism" is acceptable in describing the combination of doctrine, culture and lifestyle unique to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other ... churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith's death." THAT is where I heartily disagree.
It is hypocrisy to say "please call us christian" on the one side and on the other side to say "you can only be called mormon if we say so."
We ARE christian. And we--the much broader-than-just-LDS-members group--ARE mormon.

I'm sure there are those who will consider me fringy or even apostate for thinking these things, but the more I study Christ the more I believe that we should look at the world through love colored glasses, and invite people into the tent rather than shutting people out.

Juliet said "what's in a name" and I admit it seems kinda paranoid that an organization as big and strong as the church would get uptight over a little thing like a nickname... I appreciate the desire to be called by one's proper name (trust me I do, I've been mis-called my entire life!). But when it comes to nicknames, or looser cultural designations, such as the term "mormon," I think that self-classification matters a whole lot more than what somebody else says. If testimony is individual and personal, should not classification be equally personal?!

So I choose to welcome all sorts of mormons into my big tent, realizing that we are different in many ways, but that that thing we have in common, that "mormon" thing, is glue enough to make us family. Even if some of the second cousins seem kinda weird. ;)


chibbylick said...

What an eloquent post. You are awesome! I'm glad to know we share a tent, even though we live in different hemispheres! Thankyou, from the land down under the Land Down Under,

Jeanette said...

Meetinghouses owned by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Have the words "Visitors Welcome" on the outside wall under the name of the church. To me that means that everyone who wants to is welcome to come and participate in the services as they are carried out under priesthood leadership of the area as directed by Jesus Christ.

Dryad said...

I love this post. I am linking it on my blog so I don't have write out how I feel in my less polished way. You're brave and loving, and I really believe that our Parents and Brother fully approve of this version of charity.

Janeen said...

One thing I find difficult right now is that I have almost no freedom to figure out just what I believe and how I believe it. I married a man who sees one acceptable set of beliefs and ONLY one acceptable set of beliefs. I KNOW that I don't believe what he believes though I did try to for the sake of having some peace in my home. It didn't work; I only became resentful and angry. Unfortunately, because he will not allow anything outside of HIS beliefs in his home, our marriage is very quickly falling apart. I hope that one day, I will be able to figure out just what I believe because I know I need that. I have spent too many years now being cast adrift because I can't freely follow any of the beliefs I DO have. It's hard to really feel like an authentic person when you don't have that permission. It's like a part of you is missing. Having beliefs is SO important but more important is having YOUR beliefs, not beliefs that you take on because you HAVE to.

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