Mar 24, 2008

Mormon Misfits?

I'm not sure whether "misfit" is any more endearing than "dissident," but I definitely have misfit qualities and would venture to guess that there are other Mormons who have felt at times like they just don't fit into traditional Mormon theology and/or culture. The two are, I believe, distinctly separate yet closely intertwined and even a lifelong Mormon like myself can confuse the two.

We all know what we ideally should be in life: model Christians, return missionaries, loving spouses (married in the temple of course) and parents whose greatest joy is rearing a family where "the more the merrier" is the norm.

And yet we all know what we really are: sometimes lousy Christians, mission dodgers, spouses trying to keep their marriage from falling apart, not necessarily married in the temple, or perhaps dreading spending the eternities together with someone we can barely stand in this life, homosexuals who are trying to envision a life and perhaps afterlife of being single, parents of dysfunctional or troubled kids, or those of us who are childless not by choice, and yes, those few who are childless by choice.

I'm going to "come out of the closet" and admit that I'm a Mormon Misfit. Yes, I love to see happy couples and families around me, knowing that they of course aren't perfect, though some seem to come pretty darn close. I would never dare to imply that people living the "Mormon Dream" aren't happy. Most of them are probably some of the happiest people you'll ever meet. Enough to make anyone envious, right?

Well... what if it doesn't???

I'm not a return missionary. I didn't marry one either. Neither did I get married in the temple. I've never really truly felt the driving force to have children that I think other Mormons (and non-Mormons alike) are generally born with.

For as far back as I can remember, I seemed to be lacking in some common instincts, while others surfaced that my peers didn't always share. I've always been a misfit, but I'm happy with the unique insight and experiences it has given me. If anything, I've learned empathy and compassion for other misfits that I don't believe can be learned in any other way. Christ reached out to misfits and sinners alike. I try to do the same, though I may at times fail miserably.

Adam said “in this life I shall have joy” (Moses 5:10) and we know that "men are, that they might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). Unfortunately, sometimes, one man's joy is another one's sorrow. Can we define what is "good" joy and "bad" joy? Many would like to define the two and write a recipe for how to be happy or miserable in life, but I'm not so sure. Perhaps what causes each one of us to be joyful is as unique as our individual DNA.

I'd like to hear from all you Mormon Misfits out there and perhaps we can share some coping skills with each other.


Sanford said...

When I was younger I would not have considered myself to be a misfit even though it was pretty clear I was an atypical Mormon. Rather, I would have considered myself somewhat eccentric or an individual. I would have taken pride in such a distinction. But perhaps misfit is a more fitting description.

As time goes by, I feel I have less in common with those I worship with. Sometimes I don’t think we even speak the same language. During conference this weekend a couple of times I asked myself, what is he talking about? As a lifelong Mormon, I am not unclear on what is being said, but sometimes the words just seem like – well – words – words without meaning. I wonder why they talk the way they do. It seems so contrived at times. But I am willing to acknowledge that the problem in translation may be with me rather than the speaker.

My idea of what makes for a meaningful church experience is so much different than those I worship with that I wonder how I ever came to expect what I do. I really wonder what a misfit like me is doing in this church. Oh well, I loved President Monson’s closing remarks. I understood him perfectly. Maybe that is enough for another week.

Anonymous said...

I am for sure a mormon misfit (married a non-member (rocket scientist atheist) inactive for several years, now endowed and fully active)(liberal democrat kind of), and identify with a lot of your issues. But unlike the last commenter, the older I get, the more compassion I have for the "general body" of the church (members). They just do not KNOW...(a LOT of things!!!)But then they Do KNOW some of the same things that I KNOW. I am genuinely not being patronizing, but so much EARNEST cluelessness gets tiring, but the earnest part is endearing and strengthening to my testimony. And what I bring to my ward/stake family, is a different perspective, and a little more colour.

I really have enjoyed your thoughts.

The Faithful Dissident said...

Anonymous, thanks for sharing your thoughts. A rocket scientist atheist? Your situation sounds like the makings of a good book. Do share more. :)