Why I’m Writing about MormonsPosted: November 9, 2011
Somehow after spending a week desperately trying to finish (and, let’s be honest, start) the last four, ten-page papers of my college career I wasn’t in any rush to start writing again. But I do like to write, and I do need the practice, so I’ve decided to start blogging about the one thing about which it’s really hard to get me to shut up: the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I know this is a weird fascination for a mostly-Evangelical Christian to have. I use my large amounts of free time at work to peruse General Conference talks or websites that advertise modest wedding dresses (Facebook has caught on–I’m now being hounded by ads for Mormon dating sites). I devote one night a week to attending class at the Santa Barbara LDS Institute of Religion, and lately some friends and I have been meeting weekly with a couple of missionaries and another friend from Institute. I even spent my last spring break traveling to Utah with four other Westmont students to engage in interfaith dialogue with Mormon students.
No, I assure concerned friends and family, I’m not interested in converting. The LDS church did look pretty attractive to me in high school, and sometimes even now my conservative, domestic-sphere-idealizing, really-wants-a-man-now tendencies (perhaps Paul would call them my “old self”) draw me to the homey, all-American image the church tries to cultivate. I genuinely appreciate the level of commitment required by the LDS church in a time when too many Christians approach the Church as passive consumers. And I genuinely like Mormons!
But–no offense intended to my Mormon friends–there are approximately one million things that would prevent me from ever getting re-baptized. The short list:
- inadequate and simplistic theology (especially as regards Christ, Trinity, Church, and, my favorite thing of all time [literally]: eschaton)
- feelings-based epistemology (had enough of that in youth group)
- the idolization of the family, and limited roles for women and singles (LDS Elder Boyd K. Packer once delivered this talk, naming feminism [and, for that matter, intellectualism] among the three big areas into which Mormons “are being caught up and led away.”)
- a picture of a god who is far too limited to worship
I’m sure I could devote multiple blog posts to any of these reasons, so I’ll save more detailed explanations for later. Suffice it (for now) to say that I really respect most Mormons, but I have very strong reasons for not being a Mormon (and, positively, for being the kind of Christian I am!). Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Seminary, talks about speaking with “convicted civility,” and that’s the phrase I hope characterizes my interactions with the LDS church.
I’m still not sure why I’m so compelled to seek out Mormons, but I really, really am. And I want to share what I’m excitedly discovering, what makes me angry, and what little moments of (pseudo-?)Christianity shine through and complicate the distinction between Mormon and Christian. I want to share my experiences as a religious minority, along with my experiences of welcoming a religious minority into the Church.
These past few months have been a time of disappointment, heartbreak, and ambiguity for me, and somehow these confusing, complicated moments with the Mormons are helping to keep me sane. I might freak out when I try to plan my own murky future, but I relish the challenge of navigating the nuances of Mormon theology and their implications for Mormon-Christian relations. I might have a menial job that has nothing to do with my interests or skills, but I’ve taken the initiative to attend Institute and arrange missionary conversations with my friends. I’m doing something that moves me forward, that gives me hope that there will be more to my life than sitting behind a reception desk and wishing I were still in college.
Welcome to my blog!