On Being Young and Mormon

Hello, all!

I wanted to write a short post on something that has been swirling around in my head for a couple of years now (and Stephen might help me). I was talking to a friend yesterday on what it is like to be a young member of the LDS church. She said that when she tells people she's Mormon, she feels like she has to qualify, "I'm also a feminist." or, "I'm not one of those Mormons who seem deeply conservative and narrow minded." I understood what she meant. When I was little, I was extremely proud to be a Mormon. I still am, but I feel like there are labels and stereotypes out there that I don't want to be associated with: narrow mindedness, bigotry, misogyny, etc.

There are many reasons that the culture of our church has instilled these stereotypes in some people's minds, and some of these stereotypes do exist--I mean, nobody's perfect. But I've personally noticed a couple things that might have aggravated this view of Mormonism (or orthodox religion in general).

First, I've noticed an abundance of irony. Let me put it this way, have you recently watched a 90s movie/TV show and been completely turned off by it? The 90s were all about taking sincerity and trying to translate it in various ways. Disney movies during the 90s renaissance were filled with heartfelt music, dialogue, and storylines. Now, we've been so pumped full of pop culture that any attempt at sincerity makes us think words like sappy, cliche, overdone, corny, etc. We are such an ironic culture, and as we see people share more conservative views, we come to think they're being archaic. I feel myself joining in a generation that has come to be extremely cynical and sensitive. In other words, I think we're becoming quick to simultaneously see the worst and feel offended by someone's sincerity, seeing it as offensive and old-fashioned.

Second, due to this digital age, we have a hypersensitivity to what everyone else is thinking. This generation of mine is one that is being steeped in blogs (yes, like this one. Take me with a grain of salt), status updates, tweets, opinion articles, Buzzfeed lists, and on and on. Now that we have platforms, we have all come to think that our own opinions are extremely important and valid. Opinions are important, but they're not always right. Every time I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed, I see dozens of editorials, blogs, and status updates that are aggressively communicating someone's opinions. The internet, while vast and expansive, is unstable and made up of inconstant people. It is always changing and hardly reliable.

This life is so short! We have barely a blip on this planet and then we're gone. Do we honestly believe we can know and authorize everything with which we come in contact? This is why I live by faith. My absolute knowledge entails only three things:

  1. I know that I don't know very much.
  2. As Matthew 7:17 says, "Every good tree bringeth forth good fruit." I know that following the teachings of my church--reading the Bible and the Book of Mormon, praying to my Heavenly Father, repenting of my mistakes, and living as my gospel preaches--makes me happier than anything else I've sought after in my life. Anything.
  3. I know that someone out there knows more than me, and, thankfully, He loves me enough to guide me to make choices in my life that bring me peace and happiness. As Neal A. Maxwell says, "Isn’t it marvelous, brothers and sisters, that God, who knows everything, still spends time listening to our prayers? Compared to that cosmic fact, what does the world really have to offer us? One round of applause, one fleeting moment of adulation, or an approving glance from a phantom Caesar?"
With these three pieces of knowledge, I lead my life as best as I can. I try to base my beliefs on what is constant and speaks peace to my spirit. I try to be humble, because I'm working through life and I'm just as dense as the next person. I try to remain close to our Heavenly Father because I feel His hand in my life when I'm doing my best, and I know He loves me infinitely.

So, to my generation who reads blogs and opinion editorials and facebook status updates, I want to say that I'm proud to be a Mormon. I'm proud to root my beliefs in something constant that brings me joy and peace. And I know from where this joy and peace comes.


Makayla said…
Interesting post. I guess I might as well admit upfront that I'm a tribalist. I made up my mind a long time ago that I was on the Church's team, because I believe the Church is the Lord's team.

So, some thoughts:

First of all, there's a little part of me that thinks it's strange that so many react so negatively to deep conservatism, but not to... well, "deep" liberalism seems an ironic term, so how about "limitless" liberalism. Both can be very dangerous. I suppose that because the Church is currently more conservative than most organizations, we direct paranoia that way.

Also, I think when people have to say stuff like, "I'm Mormon, but I'm a feminist" that indicates both a certain lack of trust in their own understanding of the gospel (because remember what Elder Talmage says? Jesus Christ is the great champion of womanhood, and I believe that), and also too much fear about what other people think. I think if we would stop labeling ourselves and just ACT the way we believe, that there really wouldn't be any question as to whether someone believed in the gospel and also believed in equal rights for women.

I also think that conservative has been equalized with narrow-mindedness, and that is completely unfair. We need conservatives in this country as much as we need liberals, because they provide some balance for each other. There are principles of conservatism that are REALLY good. And there are principles of liberalism that are REALLY good. And there are some REALLY bad principles in both of them as well.

I also think that conservative has come to equal "archaic" or "old-fashioned" which is both strange and unfair. What's the old adage? Those who don't know their history are doomed to repeat it, or something like that? Elder Holland has also said that the past is to be learned from, but not lived in. At it's best, I think conservatism is the effort to take the best lessons from the past and propel them forward.

Finally, I don't think conservative has to be the same thing as Republican either (which is also what happens, to my dismay). And liberal does not have to be equated with Democrat. When people do that, they make HUGE assumptions about each other. I think it's totally fine, for example, to be in favor of equal pay in the work plays, and access to birth control, and believe in the importance of environmentalism, and still be pro-life and in favor of fiscal responsibility.

In the end, I hold on to my testimony too, like you do. And I also try and keep myself calm and patient -- with myself and with others-- by remembering this comment from Elder Oaks:

"Those who govern their thoughts and actions solely by the principles of liberalism or conservatism or intellectualism cannot be expected to agree with all of the teachings of the gospel of Jesus Christ. As for me, I find some wisdom in liberalism, some wisdom in conservatism, and much truth in intellectualism--but I find no salvation in any of them."

I don't think we should ever have to make excuses for our membership in the church, and if and when we do, I really think we need to check ourselves carefully.
Benjamin said…
Beautifully put. I'm increasingly weary of the tendency to qualify one's beliefs right out of the gate. "I'm a Mormon, but..." is such a bloodless, aw-shucks way to introduce a central part of one's identity.
obey623 said…
I am non-LDS Christian. After reading your blogs, I just shook my head and say, "Wow! Why are non-LDS Christian are not that committed to their faith as much you and your husband are committed to yours?"

Enjoy your post.
MissiMay said…
How can I get you and Stephen to come and do a fireside for our Youth (on a Stake level)? We are happy to pay for your travel expenses!;o)
Whitney said…
If you covered traveling, we'd love to! Stephen and I have done a few firesides and it's always a wonderful experience. You'd just need to clear it with your stake president and we'd have to come during a time that wouldn't conflict with filming.
MissiMay said…
This is great news! Who do I need to contact to get things arranged? :o)
Whitney said…
You can work it out with Stephen and me. We plan our own firesides. (: do you have a Facebook? You want to just send me a private message on my studio c Facebook actor page to get more details? I don't want either of us to have our emails put up here. (:

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