Wednesday, February 22, 2012

How I joined the Mormon church.

For the adult onset atheist the transition from refusing to be identified with something to identifying as a member of some reason-driven group like the humanists does not translate well. Being something is only as well understood as the group one is being is.

People tend to understand the label “Atheist” despite the fact that it is just a special label for putting religion onto the impressive pile of things that I am not. Sometimes I try to liven up being a simple “Atheist” with colorful trimmings of secular ethics or humanist ideology, but the fact that simple Atheism is just not being something bleaches them out.

It is easier for many people to resolve my atheism as not being a particular thing. I live in Utah so I am not a Mormon.

For some reason people who feel the need to tell me that “they are not an atheist” don’t understand me when I tell them that their statement is a double negative.

Not being something creates a description of what one “is” using details of what one is not. In many parts of the US the Mormons are less interesting than local crazies, and little is known about them. I know that my relatives would know more about Mormonism if the quorum of twelve wrangled rattlesnakes or insisted they had cloned Jesus Christ from UFO-supplied DNA. Not being a Mormon simply means that I am: “some guy who lives in Utah, doesn’t drink or smoke, says he is not a polygamist, and reads the disjoint ramblings of some dead guy from New York” except for the part after “lives in Utah”. Unfortunately for this description I don’t drink or smoke, and moved to Utah with two print copies of HOWL. So, unless I start dating heavily, I am a Mormon.

This puts me in the strange position of communicating details of Mormon belief to identify myself out of that group. In order to effectively communicate a subject it is important to understand it, which means, given the nature of Mormon beliefs, that I may remain a Mormon for some time.

In Utah it is not at all uncommon for a stranger to ask if you “are LDS”. In the hopes of finding a way out of the Mormon Church I’ve taken to answering “I’m apparently an inactive Mormon, do you have a daughter who is at least 18 years of age?” Judging by people’s reaction it is also not uncommon in Utah for people to ask this question though I’ve yet to score a phone number.

I am not the only person who is having trouble leaving the Mormon Church. It is even worse if the official church authority has recognized you as a member. The church apparently only excommunicates people who want to remain in the church. In order to be separated you have to write a letter to someone and have them approve your separation. Since many people are recognized as members simply because of family ties there are potentially hordes of people who do not even realize they are members; you may be a member!

Do you think you are safe because none of your relatives were Mormon while they were alive? They may have converted posthumously. You may now be the spawn of a long line of Mormons. Just ask Anne Frank. I think she talks about her conversion in a newly revealed addendum to her diary discovered by translating from its original “reformed Yiddish” a long buried golden scrapbook discovered in Provo.

I suppose I should become more comfortable with my position in the Mormon Church. It looks like I have little choice. I should accept the gift of this Ironic priesthood. Perhaps I can develop some new-age-Mormon fusion spirituality involving full-contact-Reiki or start a trade in slightly used seer stones.


The Vicar said...

Thankfully, I live well outside of Utah, so I don't have to deal with proselytizing Mormons on a regular basis. If someone asked me "are you LDS" I would have a very strong temptation to pretend I was hard of hearing and say (imagine rising intonation in indignation) "am I on LSD? This person is soliciting drugs from me! Police! Help! I've got a drug dealer here! Put this person in prison! He's asking for LSD!"

I'm not sure I would have the courage to pull that off in person, though.

adult onset atheist said...

It only takes a few times being asked that by strangers to lose many of the inhibitions that moderate response. Although, I'm not sure I could go full LSD either.

One of the things that is almost always said in response to a denial of one's LDS membership is a slightly smug "That's OK". I have responded quite a number of times with a "I think it's GRRRREAT!"

The Vicar said...

Or maybe you could respond, "I switched to DVDs years ago. I have nothing to do with LaserDiscs."