Thursday, October 16, 2014

Re-Learning Normal: Post-Mormon Edition

        When I was twelve, my Sunday School teacher was a very sweet woman with short silky hair and a wry sense of humor. One day she mentioned how happy she was in her marriage. At the time, I doubted her words: after all, her husband wasn’t Mormon. How happy could she be, really?
        Now, I cringe when I think back to that moment, with its casual bias against non-Mormons. I had been raised in an environment that taught me to dismiss anyone who wasn’t Mormon as second-rate, even really nice husbands. But this was normal. This was the attitude I heard echoed around me every-day. The first Sunday of every month, members would stand up and talk about their belief in the church and then express how sorry they felt for the nonbelievers who hadn’t seen the truth of Mormonism.
        I’ve been invited to a wedding this weekend. Perhaps the strangest thing about this wedding – at least, to me – is the fact that I am allowed to attend. This is not a close friend, but rather my husband’s coworker. We don’t share a common religion. To be honest, the subject of religion has never come up. And yet, I am invited. I can go and see the wedding. It sounds like a small thing – and in the outside world, it is – but given my post-Mormon background, this is not something I can take for granted.
        When my siblings got married, my non-member status relegated me to sitting outside the temple while everyone else went inside for the wedding. This is what passes for normal in the Mormon world. Worthy Mormons are allowed to attend the weddings of their loved ones. 
        The unworthy or the unbelieving ones? Not so much. We ask for time off work, pay our money for a plane ticket, buy our wedding gifts, and then sit outside, in a weird painful sort of heartbreak, as our loved ones exclude us from an event that is supposed to bring people together. Then, if our loved ones make note of the fact that we can’t come into the temple, we are usually told something along the lines of “But you could come inside if you wanted to!” (Translation: if we wanted to fake full membership in a church we don’t believe and sit through a probing interview about our worthiness, during which we would have to lie about our beliefs, we would be allowed to attend the wedding.) But most of the time, we don't say anything. This is a wedding and for the sake of our loved ones, we will keep quiet about how much this practice hurts. In the Mormon world, this is “normal.”
        Perhaps the hardest part about leaving the cocoon of Mormonism is re-learning the concept of “normal.” It’s normal to respect people of different religions. It’s normal not to talk too much about religion. It’s normal not to try and convert others to your religion. It’s normal to have a wedding where everyone is allowed to attend, regardless of religious belief.