“When people talk to you, the first thing they want to talk about is Mormonism.”
Last summer I attended a writer’s workshop, where one of the participants made this comment over lunch. Of all the many things that I am – scientist, writer, ex-Mormon, victim of a freak auto-pedestrian accident – the primary information that my classmates wanted to know about was the Mormonism. It is, after all, the topic of a hilarious Broadway musical and also a source of confusion, sometime hilarious, sometimes heartbreaking, to a lot of people. Who are these crazy Mormons and why won’t they be honest with us? I suppose, as an ex-Mormon, they saw me as someone that could give a more nuanced answer than an active Mormon who just wants to convert others to Mormonism.
One of the workshop attendants was a black Puerto Rican woman, whose brother joined Mormonism shortly before the priesthood ban on blacks was lifted. She spent a lot of time talking to me about the effect her brother’s Mormonism had on her extended family as well as the personal toll Mormonism had had on her brother. I could sense her confusion, as well as some of her heartbreak. The Mormon Church has caused a lot of hurt over the years, from the racist teachings of past leaders to the current antipathy of the current leaders towards gays. I often feel torn between needing to come to peace with my legacy as a former Mormon and wanting to erase that part of my life like a stain.
I waver sometimes when bringing up my Mormon background and my post-Mormon status. Mormonism was a big part of my up-bringing. Leaving Mormonism was a big part of my growth towards adulthood. And yet, the minute I mention the subject, I feel as though I have been marked. The Girl With The Mormon Background. (Which isn’t nearly as cool as being, say, the Girl With The Dragon Tattoo) Maybe I should tattoo an M on my forehead and be done with the matter. But I still haven’t figured out the right approach and I’m not sure that I ever will.
So I suppose I shall just have to remain as The Girl With The Mormon Background.