staking a claim

Since moving away from the LDS church, I’ve explored how I feel about my new identity. Am I still Mormon? Do I want to identify as Mormon? Even if I deny that I am Mormon, am just lying to myself? Will I always be Mormon, somehow? It is, afterall, not just my upbringing, but my heritage. I grew up in Utah county, daughter and granddaughter to many generations of Mormons.

People who are from other faith backgrounds still think of me as Mormon, just non-practicing. Some faithful Mormons still think of me as Mormon, just not active. Still others would say, “She’s most definitely not Mormon” because I believe and act so differently from the “ideal Mormon.”

There are many ways to describe me and people like me. Ex-Mormon, cultural Mormon, secular Mormon, non-believing Mormon, ethnic Mormon, former Mormon, post-Mormon. Notice I can’t get away from saying “Mormon”?

As much as I’d like to erase that part of me some days, I realize, too, that I am Mormon. Part of the spirit of this blog is, I think, to stake a claim in Mormon-dom for those of us on the fringes. We are Mormon, too.

As my spouse said cheekily, “Hey, there are 8 million of us. Only 4 million of them.” We count for something.

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11 Responses

  1. Hueffenhardt says:

    I’ll always be a former Mormon. For thirty years of my life I was immersed in Mormondom, and it was an important part of my identity. And even though I have undergone a major restructuring of my worldview and belief system, my Mormon past continues to help shape who I am. For instance, I likely never would have had my interest in genealogy or value transcendence and elevation so much if I had not been Mormon.

    For most of my life I have lived outside of the Mormon strongholds in the Western US. When I was a member, I was sometimes embarrassed or shy to admit I was Mormon because I knew so many people thought Mormons were weird or a cult. But, now, I have no problem openly admitting that I used to be Mormon. It is something of a badge of honor.

    I don’t think I can forget or erase my past, nor do I want to. I am proud that I and my wife are starting a new tradition for our descendants of being free from a belief in god. I embrace the title “post Mormon atheist”. “Mormon” is still in the title, but it is the “post” that tells the story and makes all of the difference.

  2. mel says:

    Such a can of worms. It’s fairly clear how one becomes a Mormon: BIC and/or baptism. But doesn’t this ambiguity about the point at which one ceases being Mormon say alot about the nature of Mormonism?

    Hotel California comes to mind. 😛

  3. chanson says:

    I think it’s natural to retain an interest in a culture that formed or influenced you, and to feel a kinship with others of the same background.

    And by the way, if any of you are looking for ideas on what kind of Mormon you might call yourself, I’ve written a convenient handy guide to different types of Mormons. 😀

  4. Hellmut says:

    If Mormon means supporting authoritarian leadership then that’s not who I am. If Mormon refers to a culture and an identity then I am in.

    My values have not changed. I just found that there are institutional obstacles to living gospel values in organized Mormonism. Since the LDS Church is an organization where authority flows from the top rather than residing with the people, there is little that one can do from within.

    So I left because I did not want to become complicit in the persecution of speech “crimes” and gay bashing.

    There appears to be a pattern in LDS history. When leaders were socialized professionally at times where the LDS Church was poor then the members had a lot of freedom. If leaders were professionally socialized in times when they could be sure that the believers would fork over the money then authorities were a lot more assertive.

  5. aerin says:

    Many may disagree with this, but I no longer consider myself mormon. I guess I could be a “cultural mormon” – but even that seems a litle bit of a stretch.

    Usually, I just say that I was raised mormon and leave it at that – if the subject comes up. Luckily, living far outside of Utah it rarely comes up.

  6. WendyP says:

    Coming home from the gym Tuesday night, I was surprised to learn the bishopric was on their way over to our home. We’ve been considering baptising our child (her wishes) and I think this gave the bishop hope that maybe we were coming around to belief again and he offered my husband and I a calling in the Primary.

    OH MY.

    My husband, who really is the more eloquent of the two of us, stuttered out that that would be “a hurdle”. I took over from there and calmly explained that I haven’t had a testimony of the church for 17 years, and to my surprise added, that despite my disbelief, I still consider myself a “cultural Mormon”. I wanted those men to know I relate to them, even though, at times, I can be a downright angry apostate.

    Well, no primary calling for us, but it was heartening to know, even though we turned down the calling, those three men stayed and chatted happily with us for just under two hours. We could relate to each other on a different level than just Mormonism.

    Though “cultural Mormon” worked in that context, “post Mormon” seems a better description for who I am. My mom would probably label me “angry, ex-Mormon, apostate, heretic” however. 🙂

  7. Hellmut says:

    Congratulations, Wendy! That seems almost ideal.

  8. fta says:

    Wow! Thanks for all your comments.

    I have only just come around to being able to say “I am [insert prefix] Mormon.” But I have a very specific definition in mind. Like Hellmut, I am NOT Mormon in the sense that I am a part of the LDS church. I am Mormon in the sense that it is part of what shaped me, it is my heritage.

    I believe the LDS church would not agree with me, just as they do not agree the FLDS are Mormon.

    mel- Hotel California. Precious. 🙂

    I usually don’t use cultural Mormon to describe myself, because to me culture acting, believing, etc, the same. And I act, think, etc, much more like a secularist than a Mormon. But I still see the value in the terminology.

    I just found out Mormon has been listed as an ethnic group in the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, published in 1980.

  9. Hellmut says:

    just found out Mormon has been listed as an ethnic group in the Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, published in 1980.

    Who would have thunk it? I guess we are not that different from Judaism. You become a Jew by being the child of a Jewish mother or by conversion.

  10. Mayan Elephant says:

    wendyp said: “My mom would probably label me “angry, ex-Mormon, apostate, heretic” however.”

    this, to me, answers the question perfectly. i dont intend to pick on the mother of wendyp, or any other mother. what i think is relevant is if one were to insert “lds church,” or “active mormons,” or “mormon leaders,” or anything along those lines, we see that the mormon tag is elitist for those that are inside the church. the church is a snitchy, judgmental, elitist (we own heaven and the mansions of heaven are reserved for us) band of people. they use the mormon tag to identify themselves, and distinguish themselves from others, including family and friends that no longer believe.

    this is an institutionalized philosophy. here is a quote from – “When referring to people or organizations that practice polygamy, the terms “Mormons,” “Mormon fundamentalist,” “Mormon dissidents,” etc. are incorrect. The Associated Press Stylebook notes: “The term Mormon is not properly applied to the other … churches that resulted from the split after [Joseph] Smith’s death.”

    granted, they are targeting polygamysts in this instruction, but they included “mormon dissidents.” to the church, if you dissagree, you forfeit your mormon status. this goes all the way back to the beginning of the church where the biggest group (brighamites) claimed to the title, despite all having common origins. the title claim has new momentum now with otterson and the larger pr effort of the church. but, the message hasnt changed – if you obey, you are a mormon. if you disobey or disagree, fuck you, you are apostate.

    i think this is a damn shame by the way. i would love to be a mormon, despite failing to participate in the bigotry, misogyny and myths-as-facts bullshit in the church. my ancestors, like many of your people, built this church. it would be nice to have that identity for my own kids, without stigma. in the meantime, i would rather my kids know that i dont tolerate the nastiness of these old men.

  11. CWC says:

    I hear you, ME. I also think that there are certainly mormons in the rank-and-file who would still be fine if you wanted to retain your own label of ME the mormon, no matter how it looks. In a recent thread at FHM (here: by Margaret Toscano, she recounts her mormon history (which, as we all know, includes being excommunicated for her ‘heretical’ writings/beliefs about women and the PH and MiH) and asks three questions of the FMH readers. Her final question was:

    “What does it mean to be a Mormon woman? Though I am not a member of the LDS Church any longer, I still consider myself Mormon and I still care about Mormon women’s issues. Am I still part of the community?”

    Excellent questions. And I followed the thread closely over the few days it was active. It received 130 comments, and it was clear that the vast majority still would, or did, consider Margaret a mormon in the larger sense of the word. Granted, there may be some “celebrity effect” here, but the anonymity of things usually means people pretty much speak their minds. I know, in other fora they often write us all off as anti-mormons – but I think that’s a label of convenience, like “TBM” also is. If you get them to think about it, they realise mormonism is a subculture that sort of produces mormons, even unbelieving ones – and that all unbelievers are not “antis.”

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