Sunday, July 25, 2010

Between Heaven and Hell

I know what you're thinking, empty blogging space, "You said you'd go chronologically and cover your journey out of the LDS church!" Well...I'll get there...eventually. Right now I have something interesting that occurred the other day. And don't worry, it's religion-related; I'm not going to bore you with my less-than-exciting life of cleaning animal poop in a pet store day in and day out while Godzilla breathes fire down my neck between cigarettes. Sorry, I kind of hate my job and can't wait for school to start.

Anyway, I found that I am a child in limbo and it is highly possible that I will remain their until the end of my days. I was an insider, the overwhelming majority of my extended (and obviously immediate) family remains "on the inside," and my adult life and most of its favored people remain on the outside. I am caught in between.

I recently accompanied my partner to his parents' house where some of his father's cousins were visiting. One of them asked my partner what it was like to grow up out here and his response included the phrase "it's very Mormon out here." Well...that is a simple fact. It's Utah. There are a lot of Mormons. Mormons will tell you there are a lot of Mormons. Most of his friends growing up were not LDS and he knew people who wanted nothing to do with him when they found out he was not a member. Sadly, this is a common experience and my partner is certainly NOT the first person to communicate it.

What was odd was that I found myself wanting to defend the people, maybe because I am finally learning to separate my immediate family from my Mormon stereotype. I'm not proud to admit that I ever placed it upon them, but hey, things have been kind of rough. Anyway, my family are not Utah Mormons and that is something that I, unfortunately, say with great pride. All I could say to this inquiring man, who I will probably never see again was, "It's not supposed to be like that. Southern Mormons are so different than the ones out here. It's not supposed to be like that." And this is true. It isn't.

So here is my question: How is it supposed to be? One of the phrases I struggled with most as I left the church was "By their fruits ye shall know them." I saw the fruits of a large concentration of LDS members and they savored strongly of bitterness. In the region of the church headquarters, the city of its best-known university, and the two states with its highest concentration of faithful members, I saw a culture that even my still-devout family did not care for. To utilize the metaphor of the olive tree, it seemed to me that the tree had become wild. This idea was further cemented when I watched the church's actions in support of Proposition 8.

My quandary is this: who are the true mormons; the ones in the South who are loving and accepting, or the ones out here who are members of an exclusive club? Yes, it may be evident that the Southern mormons follow more closely the teachings and actions of Christ, but who are the Mormons? What are they really about anymore?