Monday, March 26, 2012

Reality? Check.

I’m going to talk about being a “Mouthy Mormon Woman” in this post. It will either interest you, disturb you, or bore you. You have been warned. Enjoy :)

Yesterday the King’s returned to church. Since everything has changed, and yet not much has changed since the last time we returned to church, I would like to pull out the nametags I made for that post:


Well, they mostly apply. Russell doesn’t hit anymore. In fact, I might even say he is the most religious person in this household and a big reason I had to scrape opaque tights over my hairy legs yesterday. He has such a naturally golden soul! He likes the rituals of religion, he says fervent prayers about breakfast cereal and has been known to host tiny funerals for dead birds in the backyard.

But, erg… church. One of the things that is hard for me about organized religion is that I don’t need to believe in God to be a good person. This was firmly instilled in me when I was a 1st grader in Provo, Utah, minding my own business as what I like to call a “not Mormon,” when a group of children told me that my family couldn’t go to the Celestial Kingdom. I was six.

A complimenting sort of know-it-all bratty-ness was instilled in me as a reaction to those bratty know-it-all children that I have carried my whole life, especially since those kind of helpful critiques followed me through my entire Grade School education, including when I joined the the church at 17 and immediately stopped going. I‘m not mad at them, I wasn’t even mad the time, but I feel like a lot of my life was spent in a cloud of confusion about why Mormons have to hold themselves apart from non Mormons.

Now that I’m older, I know it’s not Mormons, it’s religion. Going to to church is hard! A whole day off and you want to spend it in your starched clothes on a hard bench? I think there is an element of religious people holding themselves apart simply because they need to know the sacrifice of their Sundays is really what is going to save them, and that guy over there in the fishing boat is going to burn.

Hahaha, hey, this is what it looks like in my brain. I could say more socially acceptable things here, but then what’s the point?

Recently our bi monthly visits feeding the Mormon Missionaries for the last three years culminated in my idea of a nearly perfect Mormon Conversation. It was delightful, interesting and honest. The whole conversation moved around the house through the evening and was interrupted more than a few times by mosquitos, children and dessert. In the scheme of things this only adds to the honesty of life/religion for me and I appreciate that it happened that way.  

We had one of our ‘regularly scheduled’ missionaries, Elder Snow, and a new visiting Missionary, Elder Hafen. I love feeding the missionaries, especially since I became a mother of a boy. I don’t care who you are or what you believe, it’s admirable that in this day and age that there are so many 19 year old boys willing to interrupt the flow of their young lives, school, dating, careers, to do something like this. Since we moved to California they have been welcome at our table, where we try to have decent hot food and lego’s at all times. We also do our best to be respectful as we remember they may be sitting here in their Sunday best, but they are just as much on their spiritual journey as we are. Since I know a million Mormons, it’s not a surprise I have wonderful friends and relatives who served LDS missions and are no longer what you might call active members. I don’t like people to make assumptions about me, so I try not to make assumptions about the events in someone’s life that have led them to my living room.

Add those paragraphs up, and what a new missionary can expect from our house, is probably nothing they expected. For the most part, missionaries love us because we love them, but we’ve still had a handful of what I call “Patriarchal” missionaries. I don’t hold that term exclusive for missionaries, I coined it years ago in Utah, and you might need to have lived my life to understand how perfectly it fits. It’s a Mormon man who seems to have a holy opinion of his own opinion, and he would like to discuss that opinion with other men, not this Mouthy Mormon Woman.

I wasn’t totally sure where this Elder Haffen was going to end up on either the Patriarchal spectrum, the no sense of humor spectrum, or the “if we aren’t discussing the gospel I’m uncomfortable” spectrum, which is when we started talking about this blog. I told him with the help of my blog I’ve lost 70 pounds, realized despite my less than stellar church attendance, I’m a Heck of a lot more Mormon than I realized, and though still struggling, found a much greater footing with this whole ADHD thing.

I told him he is welcome to look it up when he goes home, but he might not like all the things he reads. In fact, I have past posts about my religion that I would change if I was writing today, but I will not edit them. Not to make other people comfortable, or to put a rosier shine on my own memories. The things I think and feel out loud here make me accountable for the choices I make tomorrow.

Which is when he asked if he could quote a scripture… and I groaned inwardly so loud I think I ripped a hole in my sock. We were talking about how blogging builds communities that replace the fast food culture we live in, but how we have to be honest for it to work, then he quoted this rather popular scripture:

Matthew 5:13-16

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall it’s saltiness be restored? … You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. Let your light so shine before men…

The scripture goes on, but he stopped there because he wants me to know he thinks my blog is my little light. Well played, Elder Haffen. What followed was, as I mentioned, just good conversation. If you spend your life pretending that you’re something, how are you supposed to know who you actually are? We talked about Mormons who are closed off to all the ways the spirit or the universe can talk to you, or move you, if it falls outside of their religion because they truly believe that everything they need falls inside these four walls. We talked about the importance of asking why, and of practicing faith and gratitude and charity. Russell is learning how to read and it requires repetition and practice and one day it will be part of him… for both of my children the act of thinking about why you are here, practicing looking into yourself for your still small voice, and memorizing religious texts that tell them they are not alone and how sacred their spirits are, I see it as part of my job as a parent.

I guess for now, one of the ways I’ve chosen to do this is in the religious institution where, almost twelve years ago, I set an appointment with my cute boyfriend at an alter in a beautiful Temple, and married him. I can tell you right now, I will never schedule my children’s spiritual growth. We are going to church for now, if they want to study scriptures, go to seminary, attend Mass, do yoga on the beach? I will support their spiritual growth. I will pray with them when we are sad or scared or joyful. I hope to show them that giving back to your community is important, for now I will show them performing church service can do this in the way it builds bridges between family’s, and by being hands for the larger organization of the Mormon church that has a stellar reputation for community assistance and aid.

I’m glad for the honest conversations we have with the missionaries, and for a few of the very real friendships we have gained over the years, Elder Thornell? Are you home yet? Call us! But I also know I am hard on them because I make firm boundaries, and they are so desperate to give us the discussions and label us “less active.” There isn’t really a nice way to say no to someone who really thinks they are helping. I appreciate your need to offer, and I need you to respect that we do not need to be saved and, personally, I think more about my spiritual growth on a daily or even hourly basis than some of the most devoted straight A church attenders on the planet.


I’m crazy cause that’s true.

Truth be told, as bratty as I feel, I want to go to church. I hope it’s true. I feel so overwhelmed by the moments in my life when something greater than myself has intervened, and maybe someday I can come by an honest understanding of what it all means. In the mean time, I just want to go to church. I want to find a way to ignore the nice elderly gentleman who laughed at me when he was inquiring why Alice is not on the church records and I told him she was blessed in Utah. Since I didn’t come prepared with lies to make old men feel comfortable, when he asked me who blessed her I honestly told him I did. I gave her a mothers blessing at my grandmothers house with all the important women in my life, and he laughed at me and asked me “What church I was a member of then.”   It made me uncomfortable, and my husband uncomfortable, and I don’t blame him. I’m just out of practice protecting my tender spirit within church walls where certain things are allowed to be said that would never be said if he were a guest in my home where we value people’s spiritual journey’s.

I’m going to focus on the rad primary president who went out of her way to make us feel like we have always belonged there, the GAGGLE of surfer haired 6 year old boys who were squirming like champions, the shiny lacquer that could blind you with cuteness adorning the tiny feet of more three year old girls than I could count, and the women. I don’t know enough about them, but I’m intrigued and cautiously already a little befriended.

I surrender to the universe that I have no idea who will visit this site and see these words. I know this may not be the thing that people want to hear from me, as I once again make a line dance out of being too Mormon for some, not nearly Mormon enough for others, but if I’m going to shine a light at anyone, this is the only light I’ve got right now .

And now I’ll turn it off so you can sleep. Goodnight :)


Lorraine said...

My sister is frickin amazing, and I love her so much it makes me cry. The end.

Jon King said...

I love the way you think. I need to print out that name tag so I can wear it everywhere, and if someone does ask me to pray, I may need to borrow Russell's name tag as well. :)

Erin said...

As a former missionary who is not currently an "active member," I can't tell you how much it means to me that you share your spiritual journey.

I know that I'll be back to church. And then I'll stop and end up going back again. Going to church IS hard! But we're all trying to find our truth, and that's what makes it kind of fantastic.

Sharron said...

This is very wonderful. I am very proud of you. You give a voice to many people who feel just like you do but who are not articulate like you (me)! Your family, your community, your 'ward', the world, is very lucky to have you! Love you so much!

Alissa Rae King said...

Sometimes all a girl need, is four of her favorite people on the planet. I can explore the scary truths and mysteries of the universe because I do it from a place of such loving support and safety. XOXOXO.

Really :)

Andrea said...

You starch your Sunday clothes?! No wonder you haven't been going regularly!! :)