Tuesday, October 7, 2014

I'm a Mormon

I've been seeing several of the new "I'm a Mormon" profile pictures showing up on Facebook. Last year I wrote a brief post about how I never change my profile picture to anything beyond a photo of me. Heck, I won't even use group shots as my profile picture, and I have never used a logo or other graphic. It's not to 'hate' on those who decided to (both my sisters have decided to) or look down; no, it's just a preference. I figure, at this point, if you don't already know I'm a Mormon (i.e. a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also referred to as Latter-day Saints or LDS), you probably don't know me very well at all or haven't been paying attention. Seeing as my Facebook profile is restricted mostly to people I know outside the cyber world (and the few on there I haven't met in person I have interacted with to some degree beyond Facebook), using it on Facebook for me isn't necessary.  That said, I thought it would be a good idea to to a "Yes and No" blog post about being Mormon using some common questions I get, not only for those of who who may not know me as well, but even those of you I know a little better! (See my Mormon.org profile too!)

Were you raised Mormon?
As early Latter-day Saint
Parley Pratt in 2012
Yes. My parents both joined the Church about a year apart before getting married. I was baptized the day after my 8th birthday.

Do you have a problem being called "Mormon"?
No. It's a very common nickname and I find nothing derogatory about it. I usually use the terms (Mormon and LDS/Latter-day Saint) interchangeably. What's surprising is that a lot of people still don't know that Mormon and Latter-day Saint are synonymous or even that the term "Mormon Church" is a nickname for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Is your family originally from Utah?
No. I actually get that as much from members of the church as I do from those not in the church. I've always said I'm never quite sure who is more surprised that I was raised LDS in Ohio: Latter-day Saints from out west or non-LDS from Ohio. I do have extended family in Utah, but my family history is in Ohio and the eastern US. My aunt moved to Utah around 1980 and subsequently started her family there. My sister lived in Utah from 2008-12 with her husband and first two kids, but she grew up and went to college here in Ohio and has since relocated to Indiana.

Did you serve a mission?
As a full-time missionary in
Safford, Arizona, June 2002
Yes. I served in the Arizona Tucson Mission from December 2001-November 2003. While there I served in the cities of Oro Valley, Safford, and Sierra Vista in Arizona and the cities of Animas, Las Cruces, Alamogordo, and Ruidoso in New Mexico.

Isn't that a mission trip?
No, though there are some obvious similarities. A mission trip tends to be shorter and as much for sightseeing as it is for missionary work and service. A mission is pretty much putting your life on hold for two years while you focus on teaching people about the Gospel and doing service. We have limited contact with home life (call home on Christmas and Mother's Day) and while we do sight-see sometimes, it's not very often. I'd say it's much more intense than a typical mission trip.

Did you feel pressured to serve a mission?
No, but I did feel like I would've disappointed many people if I hadn't gone.

Was it the best two years of your life?
No. I actually dislike that phrase. If the best two years are around age 19, what do I have to look forward to? My mission, up to this point, was one of the hardest things I have ever done, but also one of the best decisions I made. I consider it a huge accomplishment, something I am proud of, and am glad I did. While I can't say I'd do it all over again, I have never regretted going on a mission and it still affects me in many ways both directly and indirectly!

Do you drink alcohol and/or smoke?
No for both. Never really wanted to either. Guess I'm in the right church!

Do you drink caffeine?
Oh blessed Vanilla Coke!!
Yes, but not on a regular basis. I really don't drink pop/soda very much out of habit. If I have a caffeinated beverage, it's in the form of Dr. Pepper, Coke, Vanilla Coke, Cherry Coke, Pepsi, or Cherry Pepsi. The Word of Wisdom (the health code most Mormons follow) actually doesn't prohibit caffeine, though many LDS either believe it does or interpret it to mean that.

Did you go to BYU?
No, but I did attend sister school (not a branch or satellite campus) BYU-Idaho for three academic years. I had no desire to attend BYU. Not the environment I was looking for. My bachelor's and master's degrees are both from Kent State University.

Did you like BYU-Idaho?
After taking my last final ever at BYU-Idaho in 2007!
Yes and No. I liked the teachers I had there and I am still in touch with many of the friends I made while there. I learned so much about myself, the church, the culture, and music (my field of study). I strongly disliked the overall culture there, however, particularly in relation to marriage. I could go on forever, but suffice it to say, I was glad when my time there was done. I don't miss the school at all and I really don't associate with it all that much, but I do miss the many people I got to know there (which is true pretty much everywhere I go). I don't consider going there a mistake, though.

Are you a BYU fan?
NO. Absolutely not! The only time I pull for BYU is when they play Notre Dame or Michigan. BYU-Idaho doesn't have intercollegiate sports, but I mainly follow my hometown and alma mater Kent State as well as the Ohio State Buckeyes. I almost attended the University of Utah twice, so I have a soft spot for the Utes too.

Have you ever felt like you didn't want to be Mormon anymore?
Temple Square in 2010
Yes. That's a normal part of figuring it all out and dealing not only with the doctrinal issues, but the cultural issues too. In the end, I am LDS because I want to be, not simply because I was raised that way.

Have you ever been offended at church?
Yes. As the old saying goes, "if you haven't been offended in church, be patient." The members of the church are imperfect human beings just like anyone else. You'll inevitably run into insensitive, rude, and sometimes downright mean people, but at the same time, you'll also run into some incredibly awesome, wonderful, and Christ-like people. I think a lot of people assume because I'm active in the church and really always have been that I've never really had a bad experience or even doubt or questions. That, of course, is nonsense as I've had plenty, many of which I would've been perfectly justified to most in just not going to church anymore. The difference is how I have chosen to deal with bad experiences and separating the Gospel from the people.

Do you ever question authority and/or doctrine?
YES. Sustaining a church authority doesn't mean blindly following them. In turn, questioning doesn't mean openly rebelling or being overly critical either. Good leaders always have logical rationales behind every decision and will be happy to explain them. If a leader doesn't, I'm going to be looking for one if something they said doesn't sound right to me. In matters of doctrine, I'm always striving to learn it better. Being open minded doesn't mean never coming to a conclusion, but recognizing that there may be additional information that could alter or enhance my opinion and being ready to do so if needed. I've also been learning what doctrine actually is. I've come to find that many things both members and outsiders think are doctrines of the church actually aren't (the use of caffeine is a very obvious one). Instead, many are simply cultural traditions.

Is being Mormon hard?
Cleaning the chapel can be hard, but being
LDS? Naaaaaah! 
No, at least not for me. For me it's something that I've always been, so I have never viewed it as hard, even living in an area where we are a very small minority (I think that makes it more fun!). That said, for people who convert to the church, I have total respect for them because I think many of our customs and norms might be hard for people who aren't used to them to adjust to (particularly the prohibition of alcohol and coffee).

Have you seen the Book of Mormon musical?
No. To be honest, it's not that I don't want to see it for any religious reasons, but more economic. If I see a Broadway-level musical (usually at Playhouse Square in Cleveland), it's because someone invites me. I'd go if invited, but I'not going to drop a bunch of money on a ticket (I want to see Wicked before I see anything else anyway!). I went on an actual mission and have read the real book...both are far more entertaining and meaningful than any musical could ever hope to be! I do think, overall, the publicity it's generating is good and the church has done well taking advantage of that publicity.

I'm sure I could go on for some time about all sorts of things I am asked on a fairly regular basis. I'm not claiming that my views and opinions represent "mainstream" LDS by any stretch; these are my opinions and mine only. And hey, if you have some questions of your own, feel free to ask in the comments or on Facebook if we're connected there, provided they're genuine and not seeking some kind of doctrinal debate or other kind of argument. Been there, done that!

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