In life, we often have things that define us. People are often defined by events, education, and contributions given to society. We are defined by the people we keep and the associations we make or have been apart.
I grew up in Iowa and in my opinion Iowa is much like the rest of the midwest in that it’s very average. It’s not bad, but it’s not stellar either. For the most part, people in Iowa have the same amount of education, income, and their faith’s are pretty close to one another. Most Iowans are either Catholic, Lutheran or Methodist. My faith was very unique I was a Mormon.
Growing up “Mormon” in a place like Iowa brings a lot of questions. Questions ranging from “Do we have electricity?” to “Do you drink Coke?” I have always been met with curiosity and amazement from those who find out that I’m a Mormon.
In the last ten years America’s awareness of Mormonism has been heightened. This is in large part to South Park, Sister Wives, Glenn Beck, and Mitt Romney. I used to get questions about electricity and now I’m getting questions like “how many wives do I have?” and “why do we hate homosexuals?” These perceptions are not only damaging to the larger LDS church, but I believe it’s damaging to all who are part of the restoration heritage.
Recently, I have undergone a transition in my life. I no longer attend the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and now I attend Community of Christ. Although, the place where I worship has changed, I still see myself as a “Mormon.” I’ve always defined Mormon as one who believes in The Book of Mormon as scripture and is associated with a restoration heritage. Many of my Community of Christ friends do not see themselves as “Mormons” they see themselves as either Latter Day Saints or simply Christians.
Should we in Community of Christ, who are comfortable with the name, still refer to ourselves as “Mormons”? I believe we should continue to refer to ourselves as Mormons. Mormons should not be defined by the church in Salt Lake, Sister Wives, or Mitt Romney. I believe that we have an obligation to share with others what a “liberal” Mormon might mean. We may be surprised with the reaction we get. What an opportunity that we have to show that we are “Mormons” who believe women can have priesthood, accept homosexuals, and at the same time love the restoration as much as our LDS cousins. Mormonism is what attracted me to Community of Christ and although I’m very much a Christian, I cannot deny that I’m at heart by my definition a “Mormon” and will forever be.
“Should we in Community of Christ, who are comfortable with the name, still refer to ourselves as “Mormons”? ”
In my 23 years in Community of Christ, after leaving the LDS/Mormon church, I have come across very very few RLDS/Community of Christ members who ever referred to themselves as Mormons.
And I was 40 years in the RLDS faith; leaving in 1999 to join the LDS movement. What had to alter in my belief system was much smaller than what I’m sure had to with yours.
At one of the the Community of Christ world conferences that debated the church name change, before it actually happened in 2002, President Grant Mcmurray stopped me in the aisle and asked me what I thought of the topic/issue ( he already knew that I had been LDS/Mormon and had joined the RLDS. I told him that no matter what we decided to call ourselves (I was ok with it) but that I would always be a “Mormon”. But now almost 20 years later, I realize I am not comfortable calling myself Mormon at all. I usually refer to myself as a former Mormon disciple of Jesus.
Thanks for the insights. I think the definition of “Mormon” is fairly hard to define. It means something different to everyone. According to webster it means “Member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or a sect closely related to it ( eg. Community of Christ) and by that pure definition I believe one would be ok with using that term who is a member of Community of Christ. To me it’s like the definition of Christian for some it’s as simple as believing they’re a disciple of Christ where for others it may be something more finite ie believing in the trinity etc.
For many years, I used the phrase “Cultural Mormon” to embrace that part of my heritage and sub/semi- ethnic identity growing up — for example, that had been what I’d listed as “religious affiliation” on Facebook up until November 2008.
Unfortunately, the wake of the LDS hierarchy’s intense and ugly involvement in California’s Proposition 8, the term “Mormon” once again became too closely tied up with opposition to civil and human rights for my comfort level. I think it was the day after the election that I changed my FB affiliation from “Cultural Mormon” to “Community of Christ” — even though I didn’t actually get baptized until 2010.
I actually have the same problem with the word “Christian,” which I also don’t really embrace because it has been so railroaded and damaged as a brand by a huge mass of anti-science / socially intolerant fundamentalists.
That said, I agree with your point — it’s impossible to embrace our heritage and entirely reject the term “Mormon.”
John you and I are the same wave link on this. I too at times have felt very uncomfortable using the term “Mormon” and or Christian for the exact reason that you stated. They have been terms that have been closely associated with intolerance. When I decided I would seriously look hard in Community of Christ I dropped “Latter-day Saint” from my facebook page because the definition was totally linked to the LDS church. I for a brief period of time, changed to “Christian” as I’m a follower of Christ, however, I felt uneasy about that identification too because of the intolerance that many in that community have. I as you did settled on Community of Christ as my Religious Affiliation. I go back in forth at times between how much I want to identify myself as a “Mormon” or “Christian.” Ultimately, a decision was made after I read Scattering of the Saints I felt better using the term “Mormon” because there are many different types out there that have been tagged with that term. The majority may not see themselves as Mormons infact many in LDS church can’t stand the term because it was historically used by the enemies of the church. However, I’ve decided it is a term that people on the outside are most familiar with, so i don’t want to run completely away from it.
I have said, “We’re sort of like Mormons — but not.”