28 June 2011

Individuality in Mormonism

My kids are making forts and watching Barney so I'm going to attempt to type something out really quickly that has been on my mind.

*And before I get started, let me just say that this is my blog and therefore I reserve the right to delete any hateful comments. You don't ever have to agree with me, of course, and I've never gotten a "hate" comment on my blog before, but it could happen.*

Are you nervous about what I am going to post now? HA! Calm down. It's just my thoughts... oh wait, maybe be nervous after-all. Here goes...

Ambrose is getting to a somewhat surprisingly philosophical age. One day he indignantly questioned me for about 20 minutes about why I didn't have the Priesthood. He just didn't believe that I didn't feel left out or even care. I don't understand the women who get hung-up on that and feel maybe theirs is a bigger issue, like, maybe their fathers/husbands are just chauvinists and they need to get more chances to do what they want in their lives. I feel upset for them in that regard as well. That is absolutely pitiable and wrong. I doubt anyone really envies the responsibilities of the Priesthood, but perhaps they do feel powerless and that is an easy complaint to make in that regard. To those women I would just say, consider the power that comes from a person who actively facilities the carrying-out of a blessing in the life of a loved one. Men and women can do that and that is what counts. That seems even more effective to me anyway. How did I get here?

Sorry, back on topic.

The other day in the car Ambrose and I had a conversation that went something like:

A: Mama, I love you most in the whole world. (He was a little giddy because I was taking him to the movies. A rare treat in our house.) You're my precious mommy.
Me: I love you too and you are my amazing Ambrose. Did you know that there is no one just like you in the whole world? Pretty cool huh. Only one Ambrose just like you!
A: But I want to be the same as everybody!
Me: Really? All the time?
A: Yeah.
Me: Even if everyone is smoking?
A: Uh, no. Not then.
Me: Even if everyone is being mean to someone who needs a friend?
A: No not then either! (He started laughing at this point.)
Me: Even if everyone is going to church?
A: (senses a trick) Yeah, then I want to be the same.

I guess I just had this on my mind, because living in an area that is so densely populated with Mormons is a new experience for me these last 7-8 years and this idea of individuality subconsciously pervades any area like it. I saw it in Rexburg, Idaho and I always sense it in Utah.

So many people are so similar in their core beliefs that everyone is dying for any stab at uniqueness. They'll take what they can get too:

-The Mormon with outlandish and sometimes painfully awkward clothing choices
-The Mormon with political beliefs that they may not actually believe
-The Mormon who wears the fact that they seldom keep the Sabbath day holy like a badge of honor
-The Mormon who has a past and is going make sure everyone knows about it
-The Mormon who hates everyone who is happy
-THe Mormon who seems to look for reasons to be offended by their "clueless" neighbors and ward members
-The Mormon like me who is amused by all of this so much that she blogs about it at the risk of sounding extremely judgmental, thus negating her entire purpose for posting it in the first place....heh heh
-The Mormon who is dying to be in a leadership position so much that all their interactions feel like a political campaign

etc, etc, etc

I guess my point is that it is all pretty harmless until we feel like we need to be so different from our "cookie-cutter, do-gooder, normal run-of-the-mill happy" LDS neighbors that we lose sight of why we are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the first place.

If you are an adult member of this Church, chances are you have felt the whisperings of the spirit and you know how sweet that is. You know that you need faith, but that you also need knowledge and it is up to you to find out the answers for yourself.

A solid testimony is YOURS, is unique, is personal and makes you who you are. No one will ever have the same one or be just like you. It is personal and makes you a true individual.

I love that I know this is true.


lizzie said...

Stephanie, I love you. Not only because of your strength and confidence in being who you are, but because I have had a similar but different post brewing in my mind for several weeks. I think maybe I should go ahead and write it. Thanks for inspiring me. :)

kimball said...

Well. You certainly are unique--in a good way. I love to hear your thoughts.

Janneke said...

So true. We have quite the interesting upbringing, don't we? We all want to be just like our Father and our Savior, so we are all aspiring to be the same but at the very same time we are all different. Maybe some people struggle with that. I fear that the Utah (or Idaho) Mormon syndrome has reached out to many other densely populated areas on the West coast as well. It's a blessing and curse to live with so many others close by.

Thanks for your thoughts!

Megan and Keli'i said...

My Mom always tells me that if women had the priesthood, then we wouldn't need men at all :). Of course, she's sort of joking but sort of not. We women are strong, get-it-done kind of folk.

Great thoughts, Steph. I always think that if someone is trying so hard to be so different then they are just fitting into some other mold, and what do you know, you just pegged at least eight different molds that are still, what do you know, molds and stereotypes. Funny that being different can only make you more or less the same. Just be yourself. And if you don't know who that is, it probably could start with that testimony that brought you to the Church in the first place.

Lovely, lovely thoughts.

Meg said...

I love this post and I totally agree with you. I've been thinking about this a lot myself. My testimony and spiritual beliefs are uniquly mine, and what bugs me is all the other trendy stuff that people do that are "so mormon". I will never have a tile square with a quote from a prophet in my house, or a Greg Olsen picture on the wall. Because I don't want people to know that I'm mormon because I do mormon "things". I want them to know I'm mormon because of the way I live my life and treat other people, hopefully the way that the Savior did. I hope to not fit into the cookie cutter mold... because those things have nothing to do with the gospel, but the trendiness that people can be sometimes. It's not that I want to be "unique" but that I want to be myself.

martin said...

why would any woman want to hold the priesthood!? if it's to bless her family, then she doesn't understand how the blessings of the priesthood come. if it's to be a leader of some sort, then she doesn't understand gospel leadership. any woman can serve people as Christ did.

is there any desirable function of priesthood leadership that women can't have? i say no.
Christ showed us so many times that women can by faith and prayer bring blessings and miracles into others' lives. can women teach and preach in the Church? absolutely! my personal observation is that a woman who wants to preach and teach will have more opportunities in the the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints than anywhere else.
you know..., the bishop's calling in the Pleasant View 8th congregation is temporary! will he have it in heaven? no! that congregation won't even exist, anyway. but his family will! and so will every woman's family.

the priesthood as i understand it in the LDS Church is an order to bless men and women completely.

it is impossible for men to benefit from the priesthood more than women!

martin said...

i think you're right, steph, that if a woman is upset about the priesthood not being "held by" women, then there is another more important concern in her life.

is it possible to be like someone else?

we don't have to accept dogma or culture, but we can't be so grossed out by it that it keeps us from considering ourselves as equals with our...equals.

Karen in Progress said...

Hmmm.. I'm not Morman so I found this post to be very fascinating. I have always been curious about other religions and why people think and believe the way that they do. I love that you take the time to reflect on your personal views and beliefs instead of just blindly following or thinking the way some other women in your church do. I also find it funny when people try so hard to be "unique" that they just end up fitting into a "group" anyway. Also, your son is adorable... and so intuitive.

i. bloggit said...

hi stephanie! i think it's hard/impossible to understand the behavior of others, so kudos for your attempts. i think individuality is something everyone can struggle with and remind themselves to appreciate, no matter their theology. no one else has lived my life, nor will they ever -- how simple and marvelous, even on the hard days!

Alli said...

I'm so proud to call you cousin. You nailed it!

Anonymous said...

I am offended on so many levels--Brent

stephanie joy said...

Yessssss! Mission accomplished! :)

Melissa said...

I like your testimony at the end, thanks for sharing! And I agree with you.

I think that sometimes people forget that what makes us unique is the fact that we are ourselves and no one is quite like us nor will they ever be.

We are born with unique personalities (any parent can attest to that). We all have different experiences and perspectives in life that make us unique. We have different interests and abilities, and those make us unique too.

Heavenly Father made it that way for a reason. We learn from each other, we help each other with our unique perspective, talents and skill set that we acquire throughout our lives. And that helps us to be more well rounded, and closer to our purpose here, which is to become like Heavenly Father.

One of the best things that I have learned and of course am still learning in life, is that when I try to be more like the me Heavenly Father wants me to be, I am the happiest me. Not when I am trying to be "unique" or something that really isn't me at all.

When I am doing that I lose sight of WHO I really am, and why I'm really here. And focus too much on things that don't matter at all.

I think about this often, and it really is an interesting topic. Thanks for bringing it up.

The Prigmore Family said...

Wow steph! Bold and saucy and strong. This boldness makes me more attracted to you. Is that weird? LOVED your thoughts. They made me think. Mostly because I was complaining to Dan the other day about how much I hate vinyl lettering. Bleck.

Truth be told I found a little of myself in a few of those labels like the hating of happy people and awkward clothing choices BINGO. Someone at church asked if I was gothic because I always wear dark colors. But it's my unique ability of my right armpit to shoot out cup fulls of sweat that limits my wardrobe to black, dark blue and dark green. Sure I dream of wearing a light lavendar blousy top like the next girl but deep down I know righty will sweat straight on through. But hey, that's what makes me unique right?!
Love your blog and your brain. Happy 4th ol chum!

Carrie said...

I think I might be the first type of mormon on the list. ;) It actually made me laugh out loud and consider my thrift shopping habits! hahahahahaha

I like you.

AJ said...

I appreciate your two cents.