Monday, June 23, 2014

THIS MORMON SPEAKS OUT

Sometimes in my life there are things that I have a really hard time staying silent about.  I feel things so strongly, so passionately, that often I feel like if I can't get my feelings out there I'll explode.  Lately it seems like there are so many hot button topics flying around that have me feeling this way, and they all revolve around one thing: my religion.

I am Mormon.  I have been since the day I was born, but I like to think I was even before that.  I have never not been Mormon, and I know that because of this people think I am biased and unable to see outside of my little cushioned Mormon bubble.  And maybe this is true to some extent.  Obviously I only know what my life experiences have given me and allowed me to see and learn, including the things I have been taught every Sunday for 35 years, and every day in between those Sundays in my home.

But I am not an easy person to convince.  I am not a mindless, impressionable creature that just does something because I am told.  Sometimes I wish I was, because it would show great faith.  But I have always needed to know why, and how, and what will happen if I do, or don't.  I have always questioned everything, my entire life, and I don't just mean my religion.  When I was very young my mom was ironing clothes.  She told me not to touch the iron because it was hot and I would burn my finger.  I had absolutely no reason not to take her word for it, but a few minutes later the doorbell rang and my mom went to answer it.  The minute she was out of sight, I couldn't reach my little hand out fast enough to touch that iron.  I couldn't just take her word for it, I had to learn for myself.  And she was right.  It was hot.  And I burned my finger.

In high school some of my best friends were Catholic and we'd get into (mostly) friendly religious debates.  During one of these debates one friend I was particularly close to accused me and my Mormon friends of only believing what we believed because we'd been brainwashed our entire lives.  As I argued with him and demanded to know how it was any different with him and his religion, his words echoed in my brain, and stuck with me for a long time after, even now that he is no longer with us.  And I've never stopped pondering it.  It really got to me.  Was there truth to his words?  Do we all only believe what we believe because we've been told it by our parents and the people closest to us our entire lives?  If I'd been born into a Catholic family would I have been on the other side of those classroom arguments, calling out the Mormon kids on their "bizarre" beliefs?  I couldn't handle the thought.  I needed to believe I believe what I believe because I believe it, not just because I've never been told different.

My point is, I've always stepped back and taken a look at my beliefs from the outside.  I know how they appear to the world, now more than ever, with the Mormon religion under the microscope getting rotten tomatoes thrown at it day after day, so to speak.  Do you know how it feels to be a part of something that so much of the world hates?  Something that is so much a part of you you feel that you wouldn't be you without it?  Something you hold so dear to your heart that every time someone speaks ill of it you feel like a tiny part of your soul dies?  Well I do.  And for someone who cares so very, very much what people think of her, it's not easy, let me tell you.  So often I ask myself, "Can you do this?  When people start really, truly hating you for being who you are and believing what you do, can you stick it out?  Do you believe enough to stand by your church and not go running for the hills when the angry pitchfork-wielding mob comes?"  I want to believe I can, and I do, and I will.  Because I'm not stupid.  I know that day will come.  I know the day will come that even my belief in God will condemn me, and I want to be ready for that.

But mostly, I just want to be heard.  I want my weak little Mormon voice to be heard among all these other voices that are screaming and shouting and being heard 'round the world.  Because all anyone is hearing right now are those voices, Mormon and non-Mormon alike.  All they're hearing is "Mormon church is kicking out their own for wanting equal rights for women" and "Mormon church opposes gay marriage so obviously they hate gay people and don't want them to be happy" and every other possible negative thing that can be said about the Mormon church.  But what about what we have to say?  The scale is being tipped so far in the other direction, I think it's only fair that we be allowed to add a little weight to the side that's hanging high in the air.  Because what no one seems to be seeing is the inequality that is coming to pass in this fight for equality.  Am I really the only one who sees it?  Sometimes I feel like I am.

I got used to being in the minority for my beliefs a long time ago.  I've watched as the world shifted from accepting and loving of those with different lifestyles (a good thing) to taking it a step further and despising, judging, and condemning those of us who don't agree with certain aspects of those lifestyles (not a good thing).  I've watched as anger, hatred, and disgust became the common feeling amongst those fighting for equal rights, all in the the name of...love.  Seem backwards to you?  Because it sure does to me.  Fight for equal rights, sure.  Fight for everyone to be happy and loved and not judged.  I want all those things too, whether you believe me or not.  But please, please don't become a hypocrite by treating a group of people differently for their beliefs.  Because it won't be long (I promise you this) before we--those of us fighting for what we believe in, no matter how unpopular it is--will be the ones being treated as lesser people who don't deserve to be happy.  We will be the ones fighting for OUR rights to be equal.  And who will stand for us then?  Who will fight for OUR group that is being condemned for OUR beliefs?  It's a very thin line between fighting against someone for quote unquote "not loving" and becoming that person.  In the very, very near future, that line will no longer exist.  It's already beginning to disappear.

The bottom line is, I love my religion deeply.  Not just because it's all I've ever known, or because it's what my parents taught me or what I've been brainwashed to believe.  Because I look around at what else is out there, or I think about just not having it in my life at all, about what would happen if I walked away, and I feel sick.  I can't imagine the emptiness I would feel inside.  The happiness that would undoubtedly be sucked from my life, the uncertainty that would plague my very soul about so many things.  My religion is part of my chemical makeup, part of what makes me who I am.  I couldn't walk away from it any more than I could walk away from my heart, or my brain.  And the more people judge me, and push me, and argue with me for my beliefs, the harder my body wants to fight back.  Because that's what I do when something I love is attacked.  I fight back.  I defend.  I am fiercely loyal to the things in this life that I love.  And that will never change.

So now you've heard it, one little voice against a whole lot of big ones.  Maybe it will be heard, maybe it won't.  But at least I've said it.  And to answer the question of a recent attacker of my beliefs, THAT is how I sleep at night.

5 comments:

Rachel McClellan said...

It's like you took my mushy thoughts right out of my head and wrote them down! Loved this! It's exactly how I feel.

kaylee said...

Alicia I love this post and I love your passion for your religion. I always think it is silly for people to say " The Mormon church brainwashes its members" the truth is EVERY religion does. Isn't that the point? To indoctrinate the people. I mean everyone thinks their religion is right, but shouldn't they? As a convert to the church (raised baptist)I have struggled with many things about the church.. it is a weird place to be someone who has SO many loved ones that are LDS, so many friends that are LDS. I WANT to believe all I hear and truly believe it to be true. But I don't. I have very strong feelings about equal rights and the stance the church has taken. BUT I also believe that we all have the right to think and believe what we will. I am sorry you are being treated poorly for your belief that is wrong and totally hypocritical. I just had this conversation with another family member who left the church and is full of hate for it. By being so negative they are worse than anything they think the church has done wrong. There is ALWAYS a common ground somewhere... something to agree with. And I will say what I do BELIEVE to be true regarding the church is everything they do they are honestly doing from a place of love. A place of love for God, Jesus and all their children. I love you and your passion, keep up the good fight!

kaylee said...

oops ^ this is Cindy Brinkerhoff not Kaylee d'oh thought it was my log in :P

Em and Ms said...

I love this perspective, and I also love Cindy's comment and perspective. There is already way too much hate in the world. I may not agree with what many people believe or say, but I don't hate them. I don't cheer when bad things happen to people, I feel sad.

JenFielding said...

Great point of view. I just started rereading the BOM and read the part about Joseph being told his name will be had for good and bad throughout the world. I can't imagine what that would feel like, except on the group level when people hate our religion. I guess I get it a little more with Cory too. Levi Barber recently wrote to Elder Holland about defending the faith and how hard it is and got a personal letter back from him. I read it and loved a line he put at the at the end: "Sometimes we have to take a minute and lean on our swords, and then get back to the fight."