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It’s like missionary work, only without having to defend weird stuff.

February 29, 2012

One of the things that led to my crisis of (lack of) faith was the terrible feeling I would always get trying to defend Mormonism throughout junior high and high school from my Protestant “friends”. (I put “friends” in quotes because of another event that happened in junior high that I still have never really gotten over so I keep pretty much everyone who was involved in that event at something of arm’s length. But that’s neither here nor there for this post.)

…Anyway, back to the topic, I’d always feel sick to my stomach at the prospect of having the defend the church. Not because I didn’t think I was up to the task, because I could certain comb the scriptures and come up with the LDS “answer” to what other people were trying to say…but rather because I recognized (without being fully conscious) that I didn’t believe any of the answers I would be giving. And so, the bad feeling so often came in the form of a question like, “Why do I feel obligated to defend something I’m not even sure about?”

What was most freeing for me about disaffection was not feeling obligated to defend anything I wasn’t sure about. As a side effect, that has actually made me a lot more comfortable with a lot of things related to church.

For example, it’s just really freeing when you realize that you don’t “have” to go to church. That may seem obvious. After all, you have agency, free will, blah blah blah. But scriptures like that have been closely related to scriptures pointing out that even if you’re free to choose, you’re not free to choose the consequences, and those can be liberty and eternal life…or captivity and death. (Yikes!) And so, growing up, I knew that I had a choice, but it was really no choice because the right choice was a no-brainer.

But with disaffection, if I go to church, it’s not for anyone. It’s not for anything. It’s not because I’m trying to maintain an appearance with ward members, with the Bishop, with my parents, or with God. It’s because I think it would be fun to engage in the community. And so, because I don’t have any expectations or standards for myself, I’m not weighed down by those.

But just like going to church (which I’m not saying that I actually do that on any sort of regular basis…but that’s because I’m a shut-in, haha) becomes radically different when you don’t hold yourself to any of the expectations you once had, so does talking to people about Mormonism.

I have been having some conversations with my apartment mates about all sorts of stuff about Mormonism, and it’s just been really fun. The one roommate I talk to more happens to be a freemason or mason of sorts (I don’t really know the details because he doesn’t share too much about it), and he was intrigued to find out some of the old pre-1990 LDS temple endowment language because of some of the similarities he recognized. I won’t go into details here — not because it’s “sacred” or “secret” but because it’s simply not that interesting to me…and I have  never gone through the endowment either pre- or post-1990 anyway, so I only know snippets spoiled from online anyway.

While he obviously doesn’t dig a whole lot of things about Mormonism (he wouldn’t last too long under the Word of Wisdom, for one), he was actually pretty interested in the various things I mentioned. Normally, I would assume that non-Mormons would simply be either too disinterested or too uninformed to really appreciate certain aspects of Mormon history or doctrine, but there we were, having a conversation.

I think what made the conversation work was that whenever he would ask about something controversial, I didn’t feel like I had to become defensive…so, I could freely answer, “Well, I think you don’t have the full story, and here’s how things actually are, but ultimately I don’t believe in it anyway.”

In completely unrelated news, I’ve had a few posts about people I meet at work who happen to be Mormon. One of the people I now work with on a pretty regular basis is Mormon. On Monday, he was sharing what he had to do on Sunday with respect to church — it appears he was was doing something of an audit for his stake. Since from his perspective, I am probably just like any non-Mormon to him, he was trying to explain things as he would to a non-member, and at times, I had to catch myself from revealing that I “knew” too much: (for example, he said that he was simply asked to help with the audit…I wanted to ask him if it was a responsibility of his calling or just something they asked him to do separately. But if I had gone in using terms like “calling” my cover would have been blown.)

…Maybe I’m not giving the average non-bloggernacle-surfing Mormon enough credit, but somehow, I don’t think that I would be able to have anywhere near as fun a conversation with someone like my coworker as I can have online or with my roommate.

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5 Comments
  1. It’s because I think it would be fun to engage in the community.

    Okay, I’m going to say this.

    As a Mormon, I thought the community sucked.

    Maybe it’s because I’m a bad person, or it was the ward I was in, but there were only a couple of people I would have wanted to hang out with, and I seldom did. It was like I was in a co-worker relationship with them, and not a friendship.

  2. I just loved the bit about not wanting to blow your cover. Too funny.

  3. And I feel the same – it’s a lot funner to talk about and try to explain Mormonism with the pressure off to defend it.

  4. Seth R. permalink

    Just a point of interest Andrew.

    The Stake itself doesn’t “call” people to be stake auditors (the guys who go around and audit each ward’s finances). The auditors actually fall under the LDS Church’s audit department which is a separate entity not under the direct control of the ecclesiastical chain of command. So the auditors report to their own audit organization, not to the bishop or stake president, or regional representative, or Boyd K. Packer, or whatever else.

    So your acquaintance likely didn’t have an actual “stake calling” to be part of the auditing committee.

    I also found it liberating when I didn’t feel like I had to defend the LDS Church about everything. As it happens, I end up defending them a lot of the time anyway. But that’s just as much because a lot of the ex-Mormon nonsense going around irritates me on its own merits, rather than any desire to help the Corporation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints save face.

  5. Daniel

    I think it’s pretty situational…I mean, if my ward wasn’t the same people I’ve grown up with, then it would be a lot different. (So, for example, now that I’m living in a completely different city, I think it would be a very different experience, for better or for worse. I’d need to spend years building personal credibility that quite frankly, I don’t really have much reason to do.)

    Therese,

    Interestingly enough, I find stories where people specifically do let on that they know more (like ProfXM’s airport story at Main Street Plaza) to be quite amusing as well.

    Seth,

    See, that’s exactly the kind of thing I wanted to know. It’s good audit principles, at the very least. Perhaps my ignorance of how things are set up would’ve kept my cover intact after all. :3

    I think it’s interesting to read your comments over at places like LDS & Evangelical Conversations (which is why I still think you should collect them all up and put them in an archive somewhere)…because it’s as you say, your defense is for you, not from any desire to help the corporate institution, so far (which makes it hilarious when others are flustered that you aren’t answering how they *think* Mormons should answer.)

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