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What Puts the Mormon in Mormon Girl…at Wheat & Tares

March 21, 2012

My latest post, “What puts the Mormon in Mormon Girl?” is up at Wheat and Tares. It’s another post about another review of Joanna Brooks’ The Book of Mormon Girl, but this time, the reviewer is Dave Banack of Dave’s Mormon Inquiry and Times and Seasons.

Since Dave’s post (and the comments in response) is mostly positive to Joanna Brooks and her work, there’s not much to comment on there…nevertheless, Dave still ends up with a few points that I was interested in exploring further. A snippet from the W&T post after the break.

Dave uses language that functionally classifies Joanna as someone who was an ex-Mormon who came back. (Well, I don’t know if it goes that far, but labels a section of the review as leaving the church and coming back. But his description of Joanna’s “leaving the church” seems pretty active to me):

“…she went back to California and lived the life of a graduate student while largely avoiding mainstream Mormonism but lingering on the fringes: reading LDS journals, writing a piece here or there, sneaking into the back of LDS meetings now and then.”

In the sense, I see that Dave is identifying “the church” with “mainstream Mormonism” — so since Joanna indeed was “largely avoiding mainstream Mormonism” her lingering involvement with LDS journals do not count in her favor.

…I think this is really interesting. What does it mean to leave the Church? (For example, what does it mean to leave the church as opposed to ”being inactive,” or “being on hiatus” or even “being a Mormon on one’s own terms”? Do any of these blur into one another?) I haven’t read the book or a lot of Joanna’s own comments about her story, so I don’t know if she would classify that period of her life as having “left the church,” but my gut reaction has never been to classify Joanna as someone who has “left the church and then returned.”

But for more discussion there, check out the post at W&T.

One thing I wanted to comment on was a really interesting comment from Adam G:

Psychologically its hard, maybe even impossible, to really commit to beliefs, to make them part of your core, and them to treat them as externalities for the purposes of conversation. When beliefs become convictions, finding a community that share them is wonderful.

I see the wonder and beauty in diversity of views and in the love that comes from actively overcoming the barriers that different viewpoints create. But there is a level of intimacy, trust, and understanding possible with people who share your core because its their core too. I don’t see any reason to privilege the former beauty over the latter.

Needless to say, calling an opinion on where the line should be drawn between diversity of views and shared convictions ‘the Church of People Just Like Me’ is an attempt to shut down that opinion, not an attempt to understand or tolerate it.

I think it’s very easy to dismiss one kind of community or another. Especially in communities that privilege diversity of thought or background, there is a charge leveled against communities that share convictions — they must be “echo chambers” that “preach to the choir” and so on.

…but let’s face it…everyone wants to be validated. Everyone wants to have a niche where they do feel validated by others. They don’t want to feel a part of an intellectual, emotional, or experiential battlefield all the time. And what’s more, it’s not *bad* to seek such places where there are like-minded individuals.

The only question is…which kind of community ought Mormonism be? It’s interesting to think that the difference between orthodox and unorthodox members may drill down to this difference in orientation…

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