Hi, I'm Kaylie. I'm not a Mormon.

*Disclaimer:  I have many Mormon friends and I love them dearly.  I am not posting this to be offensive!  I would be lying if Mormonism wasn't a huge factor in growing up where I live.  Dahlya posted the other day about how Mormonism is currently in the spotlight due to the musical Book of Mormon, so I thought I'd share my experience with the religion.

"Are you Mormon?"

I remember the first time I was asked this.  I was in daycare.  We were about to watch a movie.  I think it was one of the Home Alones.  I had never heard the word before in my life.

"I don't know.  I don't think so.  I will ask my mom," I replied.

A few months, or perhaps a year later, one of the daycare ladies (who was very good at French braiding my hair and therefore whom I liked) gave me a ring.  It was small, silver, and had a green shield pendant with CTR inscribed on it.  It was a ring, so I wore it.  I was probably six.

When my mom noticed me wearing it, I don't think she was angry, but I remember feeling embarrassed that I had no idea what it meant further than "Choose the right".  So it had begun.

This was not the last time I was asked if I was Mormon.  When I started second grade at my new elementary school, the first thing other students would ask me was "Are you Mormon?"  By this time I knew what it meant, but it wasn't until recently that I've understood the religion in more depth (and I know for a fact I will never truly understand every aspect).  At the time, Mormonism to me was, Something everyone else was; something I was not.

Growing up in a Mormon community had its definite perks.  Most Mormon kids were "good kids" and their moms always brought in awesome homemade treats.  I remember one mom even made individual cakes for my mom's Valentine's Day party for her class.  No complaints there.

Yet, behind all the tasty perks, there was a definite feeling of being an outsider.  I am completely comfortable in my own beliefs now, but growing up it was slightly intimidating being surrounded by so many people who were so confident in their beliefs (which I would say is one of Mormons' most admirable traits).  It is in the human condition to want to belong, and I didn't.  Yes, I know I wasn't the only one, but sometimes it could feel that way.  Until late elementary school, I spent most of my time trying to fit in with my Mormon friends.  I would accept their invites to their Ward for craft sessions (I remember telling my mom, "So THIS is how they are so crafty!  They learn it at church!") and when I realized how many rules they had, I began to feel like I didn't have enough (which I eventually realized was ridiculous of me to think).

By the time elementary school ended, I had settled into a non-Mormon group of friends in time for the already awkward experience of middle school.  At least I wasn't alone anymore.  Did I mention that the elementary school and junior high school I went to is separated by only a Mormon church?  Yep, you better believe it.

Well, junior high is awkward.  End of that story.  On to high school!

High school in my hometown is not the typical high school experience, especially dating-wise.  Mormons aren't allowed to date until they are sixteen, so when they do, they go ALL OUT.  I was never fortunate to be invited on an epic Mormon date, but I have heard stories from my friends... And they certainly do go all out.  Cue the "feeling left out" and "everyone is taken or Mormon"!  (Don't worry, I got over it... Eventually.)  Once they are allowed to date, most Mormons (at least, this is what I observed in many of my peers) go on dating sprees.  Like, really cool, creative group dating sprees.

The thing that always confused me is that this is greatly encouraged.  Mormon teenagers are advised to date around and not get very serious until they are ready to get married (which is often at a relatively young age).  The hardest part is when you're a non-Mormon and 75% of the boys you fall for are 100% Mormon.  Because yes, they are nice guys.  But the thing about Mormon boys is that even Mormon girls know (probably much better, because they were brought up with this mindset) not to get too attached because boys leave for their two-year missions three years after they are finally allowed to date.  I wish someone had explained this all to me before I started liking boys.  Oh well.

Mormon girls dress modestly (and really well, I might add), which is something I don't think twice about here, but in other parts of the country this would be unusual, especially in a place as hot as Arizona.  Being crafty and modest myself, I have often been an "assumed Mormon."  Sure, I wear modest clothes (that I sometimes sew myself), bake homemade treats, and am usually in good spirits.  In that aspect, people think I could pass for a Mormon (which I find flattering, I must say, because Mormons are so hip).  However, when they are in AP Government with me and realize how un-Mormon my viewpoints are... Then they start to understand that I am far from it.

I have nothing against Mormonism or the people who practice it.  If I did, I probably wouldn't have spent the time and energy to write this blogpost and I probably wouldn't have as many good friends that are Mormon.  Although I know it's not the religion for me, I will go as far to say that it has impacted my life, not only by being handed a CTR ring or Book of Mormon (because that's happened as well).  Through my experiences growing up, I have had the opportunity to not only deepen my understanding of a religion that is misunderstood by much of the rest of the world, but to strengthen and question my own belief system.  For that, I am eternally grateful for the Mormons in my life.

5 comments:

moonshinejunkyard said...

haha that is hilarious that you see mormons as "hip"!?! in highschool i was still a practicing mormon and that was about the furthest thing from hip. it's a funny religion, proud of itself, a wee bit defensive but also very kind hearted. as i've mentioned many times, i grew up mormon and had a very happy upbringing, but i am so glad and relieved to now have forged my own way. along with all four of my siblings, i might add. the only one still practicing in my family is my father, who was a convert in the 70s. i respect the culture and church but i do hope that all those "believers" (i am reading your post directly after watching this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vA1IMSRN2Xk&feature=youtu.be) don't just go along with the crowd and their parents, and do think to the truest depths about what they choose to believe in. that's my two cents. cheers to you for being YOU! it's so inspiring and valuable to be a healthy, cheerful and spirited youth and to create YOUR VERY OWN UNIQUE religion-creed-practice-way-path-whatever!

▲my• said...

I have a few Mormn friends, but I suppose in this area the Mormon culture isn't as defined, so I never really got to learn a lot about it.

It's always neat hearing stories like these from bloggers. You get a peek inside at part of their life, how they've become the person they've become. It's pretty awesome.

I relate to the "outsider-in-my-community" feeling, not in terms of religion, but in terms of heritage and culture. Growing up as a non-Greek in a Greek community wasn't easy sometimes. There's a pride Greeks hold with them that they don't like to share. Most people assumed I was Greek, but when they found out I wasn't something always changed. I still love all of the people in that community, and feel like I'm a part of this big Greek family even if it's not in my blood, but it was sometimes hard, or disappointing not being "in" on certain things.

Dahlya said...

Perfectly stated, as usual. I feel the exact same way. Although my post WAS offensive, I too am extremely grateful to have grown up in the Mormon community.

Emma Karen said...

Wow, you're seriously amazing. I'm so glad you posted this. It's great to read things like this and know that people don't just consider us brain washed freaks. haha. But in all seriousness, thanks for posting this. I liked hearing your experiences and the CTR story made me laugh. haha. I bet it turned your finger green. You rock. I like your blog.

Zoë B. said...

hahaha I had the opposite high school experience. People sometimes thought I wasn't Mormon because of some of my viewpoints. It's silly how people judge others by the way they think, look, or dress.

I'm sorry you felt like an outsider! I hope I never made you feel that way in high school! I think you're so talented and intelligent.

I like this post. It's always interesting to hear what people think about us Latter-day Saints and I appreciate your respect and tact about the subject. :)