One of my favorite lines to say to my friends whenever they complain about being single or some other drama is “You think you’re misunderstood? Try being Mormon!” They laugh it off, make jokes about it, and pretty much ignore the basic meaning of it. Sometimes I wonder if they truly understand what it means to be Mormon.
A Mormon is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. We believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost, but a lot of our beliefs are different from other churches; we aren’t a splinter group off of any other church, we are just ourselves.
Some people don’t get that; they think that we worship Baal the sun god or some other random god, just because they nicknamed us “Mormons,” which only reflects what outside society thinks we worship and believe. Our real name, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, reflects our Christian values and better identifies us.
The stereotypical view of Mormons, as people have told me through the years, is that they’re polygamists who can’t do anything fun because they’re restricted by rules and aren’t very much fun to be around period. We can’t do this, we can’t do that, we just have no life. We act like naïve little children because we know nothing about “real life.”
We are not polygamists, and anyone that says differently doesn’t know the Church very well. And I can only speak for myself, but I know all about real life. I see it around me every day; it’s actually pretty hard not to notice it. I’ve learned from experience that I can live “in” the world, but not be “of” the world – meaning, I see the stuff that goes on around me, I understand it, but I’m never part of it.
Personally, I like it that way, being able to say that I’ve never drunk alcohol, never smoked, and never done drugs. People may say to me, “You’ve only got one life, live it to the fullest.” Being a teenager, for me and most of my youth group, doesn’t mean to go out and party all the time, go drink and be merry. It means to set a good foundation for the rest of our lives, to get a good education and to learn good habits now so that we don’t get caught in bad habits later.
I’ve gotten the question a lot, “What is it like to be Mormon?” In a single word, different. But you can’t really smash a whole religion into one word. We’re not even strictly a religion. We are pretty much our own culture. We have our own celebrities (David Archuleta, church president Thomas S. Monson), our own jokes and our own values.
There’s an inside joke among my friends in our youth group that we were all forced to grow up so fast that we try to relive our childhood by watching Disney movies and acting like children whenever we can. True, on our 16th birthdays we hang around, watch Tangled or Brave, sit at the piano and sing The Phantom of the Opera and then go play tag in the backyard. It sounds goofy. But we try to be fun-loving so that when the time comes to be serious and responsible, we can sober up and be the rock that helps other people stay on their feet.
That’s not the only thing that identifies us as Mormons. One of my friends on Facebook posted one day:
“To a friend who needs an answer: You asked me once what being a Mormon meant, and I gave you the really stupid answer of “different.” I’ve been thinking about your question a lot lately, and I decided that you need a better answer.
Being a Mormon is:
Being there for others
Being willing serve people no matter the cost to you
Being willing to stand up for someone else
Standing as a witness of God at all times, in all things, and in all places
Being there for your best friend
Being able to (or at least trying to) love everyone
Being an influence for good
Being an example for others.
That’s what being a Mormon is all about, friend.”
I think that sums it up rather nicely. We stand for our beliefs, no matter what other people say or think. We’re very much a group of strong, independent people. We try to care for others and serve them. We believe in God, we believe that He wants us to be the best we can be, and that we should try to be an influence of good in the world.
People may question our beliefs, why we act the way we do, and they may think that we’re weird. But if they only understood a little bit of our mindset, then maybe they’d get why we’re such a peculiar people.