We grew up Mormon. Mormons started out all rebellious and revolutionary, with wildly awesome ideas about God and choice and equality of women and the Divine Feminine (God has a wife, yo) and illumination. Really, it was so out-of-the-box crazy cool that they were chased (and not by people who wanted to give them a hug) across the entire continent from New York to Illinois to Missouri to Salt Lake City for talking about their revolutionary beliefs out loud. Mostly by Protestants who had fought for their own revolutionarily awesome ideas against the Catholics who had fought for their own revolutionary ideas against the Jews who had fought for their revolutionary ideas against the Heathens.
Mormons have crossed every cultural barrier there is. Going out into the world in the form of virgin teenagers knocking on doors, talking about the meaning of life, even though everyone over 30 knows you don’t get even close to the meaning of life until you’re at least 30, hell, you can’t even construct a legitimate thought until you’re 27, and you don’t come even close to being a decent human until you’re around 40.
Despite all this, Mormons like all religions, get stuck in conformity to what was. I can’t explain this to myself or to anyone else. Despite their respect for personal and individual choice they get stuck in conformity to the standards of 1835. In other words, you should make choices consistent with the cultural and artificial political norms of 1835, with the exception that women can now wear pants. They get extraordinarily attached to what choices other people should make and assign assumed and inexplicable consequences to such choices. Because, for some reason, they believe they have this right. Which is something I do not understand. Which does not negate my love for them, because they still totally rock.
I want to give a shout out to those in my extensive Mormon family who are their authentic selves anyway. Even if they are just exploring it, even if they are burdened by the disappointment of their families. Their families who are those same revolutionaries turned conformists who have forgotten they started as revolutionaries. These wonderful humans still have the gloriously beautiful audacity to be their authentic selves. They have done things that didn’t turn out quite how others expected it to. And they just rocked on.
I’m calling out the gay cousins; you know who you are. The only obligation you have is to be your authentic self, and to be loving. More love in the world? Not a bad thing. It’s soooo much easier to be straight, but it’s not the truth. And what to Mormon’s believe about the truth? Tell it. Own it. Be it. I’m trying to think of a reason to deny you rights like marriage and the other legal privileges of heterosexual couples and I’m coming up empty.
To the ones who have done the time in jail because they just plain screwed up. But a screw up isn’t a person’s identity, is it? It’s not permanent. It isn’t who you are. I know this lesson, I have learned it, not in jail, but in other screw ups, and it is hard. The hardest part is letting the mistake go and not making it your identity.
To the ones who got a divorce or want a divorce. Good choice. Look, people with our conservative background don’t get divorces lightly. We agonize over it. It’s sooooo much easier to stay married and put on a pretty smile in public. But, it isn’t the truth. And what do Mormon’s believe about the truth? Tell it. Own it. Be it. I know you, I am you.
To the ones who have struggled with addiction and have overcome it. To starve or puke, to snort or shoot, to guzzle or take shots, or to shovel sugar and salty fat into your mouth to stuff the pain underneath the largest rug you can imagine, to pop the pills, because. you. just. can’t. think. of. another. way. out. of. the. pain. is (y)our choice. Some of us have hit rehab. Some have gone cold turkey. Two have died. Some hit addiction and recover, but relapse. and do it again. and maybe again. Some go from addiction to addiction. Maybe it’s genetic. Maybe all this pressure to be perfect is just overwhelming. Line right up ladies and gentlemen, do you want to be a fatty drunk or a skinny bitch? My advice: Keep on quitting. Pick better addictions. I know you, I am you.
To those who have started families by not being traditional families. In other words, you got knocked up or you knocked someone up. The crazy cool thing about it is that it’s still a family. You and your family are showered with gifts, love, well-wishing and loving attention. Yes, it’s hard to deny the love of babies, no matter how they choose to come. None of you is loved less. And what do Mormons believe about families? They are eternal. They are the most. important. thing. ever. Love them.
To the ones that have married into this expansive family of perfect flaws. You’re in. To those who have divorced members of this expansive family of flaws and their perfect personas. You’re still in. There is no way out. This is a life sentence. Actually we’re Mormons so this is an Eternal Sentence. You can run here on earth but you’re knocked right back in as soon as you die and there. is. no. way. out. It’s like the Mormon Mafia. Except we’re Mormons so if you go off and die you have to spend more time with us, rather than the less you were hoping for. This is your family. Period. Come to Thanksgiving. It won’t be the same without you. No excuses. We miss you.
To those who are hiding secrets, you’re not hiding them very well. And it’s not because we love to gossip, well maybe we do, but mostly it’s because we love you and want the best for you and want to spend time wishing the best for you out loud. Your secrets are dark (he hits you), your secrets are silly (you don’t scrub the baseboards often), your secrets are passed down (you hate your stomach), but they are yours and we share them with you. We hold the burden with you, you have permission to let them go and come right out of the closet with your imperfections.
As a “black-sheep” member of this big Mormon family I have this to say to all the crazy-ass aunts, uncles and cousins — you are loved.
To those who are the perfect conformists, who read the right books everyday, whose prayers sound exactly like they should, who go to church every Sunday and pay their tithing to the exact 10%, to those who choose submit to their husbands because they want to or because it’s easier than standing up or because they think it’s their ticket into heaven, and the husbands who don’t abuse or manipulate their wives who choose to submit, to those who struggle hard to do. the. right. thing. all. of. the. time. and have to deal with the complications of those of us who don’t. To the Model Mormons in our family . . . Thank You.
Because, like I have explained to my cousins who have asked me about how to be being their authentic selves in front of you; to those who were getting the divorce that’s best for their own emotional, physical and spiritual well-being; to those who made families unconventionally; to those who have struggled with coming out about their homosexuality, and to those who worry that their mistakes have tarnished them forever, I have always had this advice:
Just be who you are. They will love you anyway. Because that is just humanly, flawlessly, perfectly who we are. A Family.
And we have proven it to be True.