What is/was your relationship with Mormonism?

This is a question I just had for everyone…because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from all this blogging, it’s that people have such widely differing relationships with Mormonism. I’ve taken for granted that people are looking for the same “things” from it as I was/am, but that is not the case.

So, my question is: what is (or was) your relationship with the church and Mormonism? (I asked this question on my blog too, and there were a few answers, but I wanted a different audience.) What purpose did it/does it serve…what do you look for (or what did you look for) from it?

To give an example of what I’m trying to think about, let’s take three different people, whose positions I hope I have correctly surmised:

Person A:

Person A looked for something that spoke out to him internally. Subjective experience and validation were principally important to him. He wasn’t concerned about historical issues or theological issues, because those weren’t what he got or was looking from Mormonism. Rather, a pursuit of personal authenticity, personal peace and joy was what he was looking for. To the extent that the church did not lead toward these things, this disharmony was a dealbreaker.

OK; that’s person A.

Person B:

Person B had a different view from Person A. The subjective experiences person B got from Mormonism weren’t necessarily all that good, but these weren’t the matter of principal importance to him. Rather, he dealt with whatever personal discomfort that came by recognizing that the church is simply true, so it is a “necessary” (as a result of its facticity) “evil” (as a result of the personal pain it causes). However, if the church were not true (or if Person B sufficiently doubted such), then it would not make sense to continue to bear the burden.

OK.

Person C:

Person C had a different view from both Persons A and B. For C, again, the actual truth of historical events or theologies weren’t vitally important…and neither was personal peace…so to the extent that there were uncomfortable or controversial parts in either of these, the “reason” for being Mormon woudn’t be threatened. Instead, Person C’s relationship with Mormonism was that it was his community first and foremost. As a beneficiary of that community, he owed an allegiance to the community.

Now, I’m sure I could come up with quite a few more scenarios…(and maybe the people who represent these anonymous archetypes will post [hopefully they won’t come and say, “No, you’ve got it all wrong!”])…so my question…does your relationship fit into one of these or is it different? If it is different, what is your relationship with Mormonism?

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Andrew S

Andrew S grew up in a military family, but apparently, that didn't make much of an impression upon him because he has since forgotten all of his French and all of his Hangungmal (but he does mispronounce the past tense of "win" like the Korean currency and thinks that English needs to get it together!) Andrew is currently a student at Texas A&M who loves tax accounting, the social sciences, fencing (epee), typography, presentation design, and public speaking, smartphones, linux, and nonparallel structured lists.

76 thoughts on “What is/was your relationship with Mormonism?

  1. I don’t really see it like that, MC.

    I see it as, “I’m uncomfortable with the fact that I am attracted to men/women/men and women. The church labels me as same-sex attracted and claims that my action needs to be X. Other people claim my action needs to be Y. But what does this really mean? Is X an authentic action? Is Y? Where does my attraction place me? Who can I talk to more information on how it affected them?”

    I think that the church’s worldview only creates a black-and-white, good-and-bad mentality if the person accepts it. But we know that people don’t *necessarily* accept the church’s teachings hook, line, and sinker. We are all here, right? Instead of on some believing blog, right?

  2. Andrew (#51)-

    I think that the churchs worldview only creates a black-and-white, good-and-bad mentality if the person accepts it. But we know that people dont *necessarily* accept the churchs teachings hook, line, and sinker. We are all here, right? Instead of on some believing blog, right?

    Obviously you and I and Alan and everyone else on this blog who debates this issues has fought with these questions. But I am 31; I don’t know how only you and Alan are, but I doubt you are adolescents (the time period during which many LBTG individuals question their sexual orientation). In a typical Mormon family environment, such sexually questioning adolescents would not be encouraged to think along the lines of “What does that mean for me?,” they would be encouraged to chastity – defined in this case as “no meaningful, physically intimate relationships with people of the same sex”.

    These aren’t adults I am talking about; its teenagers and pre-teens. I don’t think that labeling these individuals as same-sex attracted helps them to have a healthy conception of their sexuality, at a time when it is most necessary.

  3. Although, in rereading my previous statement, the obvious retort is that the Church isn’t trying to help people develop a healthy sexuality. I just think it shouldn’t be hindering the process, either. Labeling can hinder.

  4. re 52:

    MC:

    It is true that in a typical Mormon family environment, such sexually questioning adolescents would be encouraged to chastity, but it’s not family is the only thing. They have so many other influences. I probably tip my hand, since I don’t live in Utah, although I still live in states that are probably conservative enough to be stifling.

    REGARDLESS of what their family environment pushes, what I’m saying is that individual will ask himself these questions as a result of internal struggle…even if they continue to act in “safe” ways to “fit in” with the church or family. So, I think that this discussion mimics my conversation with aerin…just because children can be in family environments that discourage them from ACTING on their doubt, they can still doubt. They can still question. They can still believe something other than the LDS line. They can be aware that the LDS party line doesn’t seem to fit their experience and it makes them feel terrible.

    I don’t get what you’re trying to say in your last paragraph of 52. If someone is attracted to people of the same sex, how can someone pointing this out not be a healthy conception of their sexuality? My question is this: what is harmful about calling a spade a spade? The label “spade” is very useful. It would be one thing if the spade (gay individual) actually weren’t a spade (weren’t attracted to the same sex). But if he/she is…then REALLY, how can there be an issue with labeling this?

    I really don’t get it.

  5. I agree that postmodern thought seems to reach a barrier when considering life and death, but trust me, there is talk about the constructedness of these boundaries, too.

    I know this quite well. It’s a great deal of what I studied in my graduate work, and I wrote about it extensively. That’s why I’m aware of what Butler said about it.

    I must point out that saying that an idea is a construct, which is what you are saying now, is not quite the same thing as saying it’s a *fiction,” which is what you said earlier. For one thing, ALL ideas are constructs to some extent. Even the ideas of fiction and construction are constructs, but that doesn’t mean that they are fictions.

    Similarly, the “fact” that “death” is not merely a physical event but an idea laden with constructions does not mean that it is a “fiction” or that its factuality is merely “alleged.”

    Part of the challenge in discussions like this is to acknowledge and deal with the flaws and inadequacies in the critical theory you read, rather than perpetuating them.

  6. Andrew (#54) – I dont get what youre trying to say in your last paragraph of 52. If someone is attracted to people of the same sex, how can someone pointing this out not be a healthy conception of their sexuality? My question is this: what is harmful about calling a spade a spade? The label spade is very useful. It would be one thing if the spade (gay individual) actually werent a spade (werent attracted to the same sex). But if he/she isthen REALLY, how can there be an issue with labeling this?

    Its not just the labeling – its the labeling and lumping, as well as labeling with the intention of neutralizing. First, labeling and lumping – I would argue that it is harmful to lump transgendered individuals with gays, or to lump gays with bisexuals, or to lump bisexuals with lesbians, or what have you. These groups of individuals all have distinct and different sets of challenges. It doesn’t matter whether they are all attracted to members of the same sex; the challenges that a gay individual experiences are going to be leaps and bounds different from the ones that a bisexual experiences. Lumping them together, giving them a name that makes them all classified as the “gay problem” – I think this is harmful.

    Second, labeling inevitably leads to stereotypes and assumptions. That’s just what it does. When someone comes out, they fully accept that in doing so they are taking on a label – and everything that comes with that label. That can mean everything from ostracism to assumptions that are simply untrue to who knows what else.

    Third, the labeling with the intention of neutralizing idea – Would you agree that the church has purposefully chosen to rename these individuals as “SSA/SGA” rather than “gay”? Why are they doing that, if not to neutralize a threat? Where is the harm in letting these people be gay or lesbian or queer or whatever label they would choose for themselves? I think the issue here is that the Church leaders feel that these terms (gay, lesbian, etc.) have lifestyle connotations associated with them that they want to dissociate themselves from. This shows a huge misconception on the part of church leaders in terms of how gays live their lives. The Church shows its hand in things like Prop 8, where it makes clear that the love that committed same-sex couples feel is never “as good as” the love that heterosexual couples feel.

  7. re 56:

    So, MC, do you have just as much problem with “LGBT” movements (and the acronym is actually much longer than that every time I see it), because they are “lumping”? Do you have a problem with speaking about “minorities” in any sense, because they are “lumping”?

    The distinctness and differences in challenges do not completely negate the similarities in and sharedness of other challenges.

    Again, just because we do recognize these similarities doesn’t mean we have to accept a framework hook, line, and sinker. We don’t have to say it’s the gay “problem.”

    That there are stereotypes and assumptions is a human flaw. OK, so humans are flawed…so what? Since this is something we just have to deal with, it doesn’t mean we have to throw everything out. We just work to adjust and redefine, reunderstand and make the labels more fitting and more accurate.

    I agree that the church has chosen to say SSA/SGA rather than gay. They are doing it for *control*, I think. The issue is that even though language does exert a lot of control and influence, it’s mercurial. Language can switch back and be used against. So, even though the church tries to make a distinction between SGA/SSA and gay or queer or whatever else, they don’t have a 100% lock on this. You can be SSA and “have the lifestyle association.” You can be gay and “not have the lifestyle association.” The words are just tools…but tools can be repurposed.

  8. I don’t have a problem with the LGBT “label” because people can choose to take it on themselves (by coming out, joining collegiate LGBT groups, blogging about experiences, participating in Gay Pride day, etc.) or to avoid they label if they prefer. I don’t see a lot of “choice” involved for the person who is lumped as an SSA/SGA individual by the Church.

    Say you are 10 years old and you tell your dad, mom, friend, whoever that you are confused about your sexual identity. Next thing you know, the bishop and primary presidency are using the “SSA/SGA” approach towards you and your interviews with the bishopric, and you have been “isolated” and “neutralized” with regards to others at church.

    Furthermore, LGBT individuals can choose to further sub-identify within the group, as gay, lesbian, transgendered, bisexual, etc., and thereby deal with the individual challenges distinct to that group (At Cornell, by the way, the acronym was LGBTQ). I don’t see a whole lot of further sub-identification within SSA/SGA, since the GAs are specifically asking people NOT to identify as gay or lesbian or bisexual. For Pete’s sake, I know of precisely one blog that deals with Mormon lesbian issues, and NONE that deal with bisexual Mormon issues. My husband and I have just been making it up as we go along… and as we head out of the Church.

    At the end of the day, I think the Church leadership are ill-equipped to deal with the issue of same-sex attraction. Simply giving people a label and telling them that if they “pray hard enough, they will be changed” or “marry someone of the opposite sex and you will get over it!” doesn’t work, and it doesn’t allow people to live up to their full potential. The issue isn’t in the nomenclature. The issue is in the actions and intentions intended with the nomenclature.

  9. MC & Andrew: I don’t want to jump into your conversation in a big way because you are both arguing positions I find interesting and thought-provoking. I will, however, offer a somewhat flippant (and borrowed) but (I hope) nonetheless useful response to this question from Andrew:

    what is harmful about calling a spade a spade?

    Sometimes you can communicate a lot more information, and do it more forcefully, by calling a spade a fucking shovel.

    The point being that MC is right when she notes that “labeling inevitably leads to stereotypes and assumptions” and that “When someone comes out, they fully accept that in doing so they are taking on a label.” If, however, they can somehow explode that label and make people react to it more viscerally, that can be extremely useful–both for those who use the label as it is/was, and for those who use the explosion.

  10. re 58:

    No, MC, your argument doesn’t seem consistent.

    If someone can “take upon the LGBT label” by choosing to take upon it themselves (instead of by virtue of being attracted to same sex, same sex and opposite sex, or being transgendered — however you will look at that), then to be consistent, you would say that someone can “take upon the SSA/SGA label” by choosing to take upon it themselves. So, if they don’t take it, or they don’t come out, or they don’t participate in the church events toward SSA people, then they have just as much choice.

    If you are ten years old and you talk to someone not in the church, you will STILL have people using the LGBT/queer/whatever approach to you. Your relationships with others outside of the church will change. There is little difference.

    You say there is no room for sub-identification in SSA. But again, you’re acting as if the church has the only say on it. Obviously not. People can still be gay and SSA, even if the church says, “don’t take the gay label.” SSA people can still differentiate between gay men and lesbian women. They can still note that they are not the same as a transgender person. You talk about there being only one blog about Mormon lesbians…but you know what’s interesting? THAT WE CAN TALK ABOUT THIS. That gay male Mormon blogs ALSO ask, “What’s up with this?” BECAUSE THEY UNDERSTAND AND RECOGNIZE THE DIFFERENTIATION! If SSA could not be differentiated — if the church had 100% control — then how could we even begin to talk about the dearth of lesbian Mormon and bisexual Mormon blogs? We would be paralyzed and invisible to this. And I mean, obviously I’m invisible to a great many things…but this isn’t one of them. The facts on the ground are clear. We are not completely, totally, and irreparably impaired in this aspect.

    At the end of the day, I agree with you that the church is ill-equipped, and the leaders don’t get it (or they do, but don’t care.) And you agree with me: the problem isn’t in the nomenclature…so what I’m wondering is WHY are we continuing to assert this?! The problem is in actions and intentions with nomenclature…but individuals ALREADY negotiate this!

  11. re 59:

    Holly,

    Can we explode labels and make people respond to them more viscerally through our *actions*? For example, if labels are at risk of having a bunch of stereotypes lumped with them, wouldn’t our actions to defy those stereotypes speak pretty loudly?

    Spades generally can’t speak or act for themselves, so if we have to call it a fucking shovel, then we have to do that. But people *can* speak and act.

  12. Andrew (#60)- so what Im wondering is WHY are we continuing to assert this?! The problem is in actions and intentions with nomenclaturebut individuals ALREADY negotiate this!

    You lost me here.

    I agree its not in the words “same” “sex” and “attraction,” but I still don’t like the label and I don’t like to label (I am anti-labels, if you can’t tell). I think the Church should stay the hell out of the LGBT issues entirely, rather than potentially doing more harm than good.

  13. re 62:

    MC,

    I think the issue is this: “the church is getting into LGBT issues, trying to project actions that LGBT people “should” do and is wrapping them up in its nomenclature.”

    The issue is the actions that the church is getting into and the projections of what LGBT people should do or be like. That they wrap it up in concepts like “same sex attraction” is just our familiar way of dealing with it and communicating with it.

    We can oppose the actions the church has done, the attitude the church has, and the things they’ve wrapped up. But the label isn’t necessarily something that should be thrown out.

    After all, without labels, we could not even BEGIN to communicate. So I really don’t understand this whole “anti-label” position or war on words.

    Sure, sure, people misuse labels. But this doesn’t mean throw it all away.

  14. Andrew (#63) –
    After all, without labels, we could not even BEGIN to communicate. So I really dont understand this whole anti-label position or war on words.

    C’mon, Andrew, after 60-odd comments, you still don’t understand why people don’t like labels? 😉 Surely I have communicated myself better than that. You may disagree with my being anti-label, but that doesn’t mean you don’t understand it.

    Holly hit the nail on the head – I don’t like labels because labels lead to stereotyping.

  15. re 64:

    MC, ut’s not simple disagreement. It’s misunderstanding.

    I don’t see what the comprehensive deal is behind it. I can’t even put my fingers around it. I don’t understand enough to disagree.

    it’s probably a me thing :3

  16. Andrew (#65) – MC, Buts not simple disagreement. Its misunderstanding.

    I dont see what the comprehensive deal is behind it. I cant even put my fingers around it. I dont understand enough to disagree.

    Perhaps it stems from differences in personality.

  17. Andrew (#67) – If only we had terms to describe these differences andhow should I say it

    Smart aleck.

  18. Can we explode labels and make people respond to them more viscerally through our *actions*? For example, if labels are at risk of having a bunch of stereotypes lumped with them, wouldnt our actions to defy those stereotypes speak pretty loudly?

    of course. Don’t forget, however, that speaking and writing are both actions–often very politically loaded and dangerous actions. That’s why they are among the first rights protected by the bill of rights.

  19. I first wanted to agree with Andrew that this is a good discussion to be having. I also wanted to appreciate what Madame Curie has written about this specific position of the LDS church. My assumption (from the comments here) is that many/most of us both notice and disagree strongly with the LDS church’s position on these issues; and many might also have very personal experience with the results of those positions (on a personal or larger group level or both).

    I haven’t read Butler, but I did want to point out that language, the language we use, when we use it and what the language means is a part of the postmodern theory I was talking about earlier.

    I can’t remember which postmodern philosopher talked about “the signifier” (Lacant?? Foucault?); but if I understood those essays correctly (not sure I did), that’s part of what we’re discussing (I think). I would recommend that people here read them, as more of an understanding (please note, I found them very difficult to get through, and still am not sure I understood more than half of what was being discussed). Linguistics is pretty fascinating, the study of why various cultures/people use certain words, and what those words mean.

    I also wanted to agree completely that words and labels have power. Yet some of the power is also in the eye of the beholder. Take the “n” word, for example. So many intellectuals have denounced that word, attempted to retire it, but it’s still being used. To some extent, like Holly said, it’s been taken back by those groups who were labelled that in the past. But I believe it’s an explosive issue (the use of one word), a very complicated one (who gets to use which word, what is offensive, etc.) I bring my own perspective on the use of the word, where as other people have a completely different perspective.

    I am not trying to divert this conversation, simply wanted to point out that these issues (what words/labels to use, what they mean, who gets to decide that) are incredibly complex and can be powerful.

    Then, another thing that’s going on (it seems to me) is that people naturally resist being grouped or labeled.

    And, from my experience, mormons and former mormons especially resist being grouped and labeled (sp). It seems to me, most people have an individualistic streak, but they also want to be part of a group – there’s a balance. Which would explain (again, this is my perspective) why a discussion of how various people relate to a church or religious organization digressed (not sure if that’s the right word) to a discussion about words, labels, beliefs, control, etc.

  20. I cant remember which postmodern philosopher talked about the signifier

    It was Lacan. There’s the Real (which is what we can’t get at with language), and the Symbolic (which is what we do get at and think through). I agree that language has power, and I also agree with Andrew that people can shape the language to their own choosing (for example, blogs by those with SSA). But frankly, “SSA” only exists terminologically in Mormon culture because of the failures to eradicate homosexuality throughout the twentieth century. Before (1960-1980s) Church leaders were like, “Don’t use the word gay, because then you’ll become gay!!!” and now it’s like “Hmm…there doesn’t seem to be a choice in the matter, but you can always choose your actions.”

    Madame Curie, where/who’s the LDS lesbian blog? I’d be interested. In terms of there being no LDS bisexual blogs, you can see the power that “SSA” is intended to have in Mormon culture in this regard. The point is not to let people take on these identities and embrace them, but for them to be transitional to the hetero-only way of life. If you’re bisexual, or open to being bisexual, you are categorized as having a certain level of “SSA” that should not be acted upon, and should be ignored in service of “what God wants.” But there are those who have embraced it, because Church leaders have embraced it, and our shaping the term and their lives, which I find fascinating. If you went around and said, “I’m bisexual,” people would raise their eyebrows. Some people like to bring up Kinsey to talk about how we’re “all bisexual,” but of course the point of doing this is not to truly embrace sexual diversity, but to “give hope” to those with SSA in their “transition.”

  21. Alan (#71) – The one and only lesbian blog I am aware of is Evolution of a Lesbian, located at http://evolutionofalesbian.blogspot.com/

    If you know of any bisexual Mormon blogs, I would be interested in reading them. Not that I so much identify as Mormon these days, but it is helpful to find other people on the ‘Nacle who go through similar experiences.

  22. In addition, although I may not self-identify with Mormon, my husband thoroughly does, and I think it might be helpful for him as well.

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