What Do Mormons Believe? Part I

I am a Mormon, did you know?

I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t know—I don’t write much about it on my blog, chiefly because:

1. I like to keep my blog light, and I don’t take my religion lightly, and

2. People can say whatever crap they want about me—in fact I encourage it [keeps me humble]—but I don’t like people saying crap about my religion. And sometimes people like to say crap about my religion. So if I don’t write about it on my blog, I don’t have to deal with that. (Non-confrontational, holler.)

However, due to a perfect storm of circumstances brewing lately within both my own personal life and the world at large, I feel like the time is over for me to keep quiet about my religion.

Circumstances of The Storm Leading to This Decision (in no particular order):

1. This post was published and the internet sort of exploded for a couple days.

2. The aftermath of same, including but not limited to this moving post by my e-BFF Megan.

3. The fact that I recently got a new assignment at church, which requires regular interaction with the teenage girls of my ward [Mormon word for congregation], and which interaction strongly encourages that I ought probably to set a good example for said teenage girls.

4. The fact that, in order to set any sort of even slightly good example, I need to make sure I know what, exactly, I believe.

5. The other fact (and this much to my own personal dismay), that I might not be sure, exactly, what I believe.

6. The logical conclusion, therefore, that since I’m on a quest to pinpoint my beliefs, I might as well two-birds/one-stone it and get some blog posts out of the deal.

7. And finally, because Why Not? I ask you: why not?

I suppose this might be distressing to some of my fellow Mormons, and maybe even to readers not of my faith—this fact that I, a (for all intents and purposes) grown up member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, do not know exactly what it is that I believe. The fact that I have sort of just fluttered around on the faith of my family for the greater majority of my life. That I have done what I was supposed to do because I was supposed to do it and never really questioned any of it.

I suppose this reflects poorly on my piety and devotion. Perhaps I will be judged—likely will lose a couple readers.

Here’s what I have to say to that:

Judge me.

When I was in high school I was really active in sports. I joined a sport for every season. Volleyball, basketball, track, the like. As part of the requirements for being involved in extracurricular high school athletics, I would on occasion be forced to put in an appearance in the high school weight room, which was equal parts miserable and humiliating for me because, despite the fact that I was active in sports, I was generally pretty lazy and really a spectacularly pathetic athlete, as in the picture of failed potential, and also I hated working out and therefore had very puny upper arms.

I struggled tremendously just to bench press a couple of reps with even the ultra-light bar. With no added weight. Just to give you an idea.

Often during my sessions of enforced public shame, I would complain to the weight room coach, a singular-looking man with hands down the shiniest, baldest head I’ve ever had the privilege of seeing my own reflection in. (Also he had a handlebar mustache, which, coupled with the aforementioned shiny head, lead me to think of him as more of a walrus than a man.)

My usual complaint to the WR coach was something like this:

I’m so weak!

And Walrus’s usual response was exactly this:

It doesn’t matter if you’re weak as long as you don’t stay that way.

Shall I say it again, to reiterate the value of this lesson?

IT DOESN’T MATTER IF YOU’RE WEAK. AS LONG AS YOU DON’T STAY THAT WAY.

If every day I could push that vile 15-pound rod of steel (iron? copper? magnesium?) off my chest even ONE MORE TIME than I did the day before, I was doing all right.

And so I bring this lesson to my blog: I am sorry that my own testimony is not very strong right now. (And when I say I’m sorry, I do mean sorry in the sense of sorrow. This is not an apology to my Mormon friends who are probably disappointed in me. I don’t owe you anything. This is an apology, an expression of real regret, to my own self for going so long without figuring it out. I have cut myself short. I deserve to know what I believe. And I am sorry that I’m a little weak right now.)

But the point is not to wallow in self pity or self loathing or abjection. The point is not to moan about how weak I am.

The point, just like in old Walrus’s weight room, is to get stronger. To buck the apathy. To shake the stasis.

The point is to get a little stronger every day.

I believe that.

And I am a Mormon.

**********************

I don’t expect that my quest to self-actualisation will come overnight. I suspect this will take some serious time, thought, meditation, prayer—y’know, real soul-searching type stuff. I will blog about it along the way, and if that turns you off, I understand. Come back when you’re comfortable.

But know this: I am not trying to convert you. I am not trying to shove my beliefs down your throat—how could I, when I have just confessed to being a little hazy on them myself? This series is solely for my own enlightenment and spirituality, with the added benefit of blog content. If you don’t care to read the Mormon posts, I encourage you at least to stick around—I’ll be mixing them up with the same vintage AoOL content I’ve always written.

Also—I don’t know how many posts will be involved in the series. I have no idea the order in which I will approach it. I am posting this on a whim, and I’m just going to see where it takes me. If there’s something you’ve always wondered about the Mormon church, feel free to ask me and I’ll add it to my own research queue. If I don’t know the answer, I will find someone who does. I am treating this quest for knowledge like I treat any class toward my university degree, because in the scheme of things, it really is more important. At least for me.

Roger. Over. Out.

About Camille

I'm Camille. I have a butt-chin. I live in Canada. I was born in Arizona. I like Diet Dr. Pepper. Hello. You can find me on Twitter @archiveslives, Facebook at facebook.com/archivesofourlives, instagram at ArchivesLives, and elsewhere.
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15 Responses to What Do Mormons Believe? Part I

  1. Liz says:

    I’m glad to read this series, Camille. We are all on our path, discovering and refining exactly what we believe every day. I think it’s awesome. The introspection will make you that much stronger in your beliefs once you do manage to pinpoint them all! :)

  2. krystal says:

    all i can say is Kudos!

  3. Chloe says:

    I think this is a great idea, Camille :)

  4. Shesten says:

    Fantastic idea. I’m eager to see what you discover.

    Lucky for me, I had a mother who shoved me out into the world and said, “Figure out what you believe,” when I was 18. Most Mormon mommies aren’t like that. I feel supremely lucky to have one that is.

  5. Ros says:

    That was a really interesting read. If you have time I would be interested in hearing about what its like to actually belong to the church? If that makes sense. A lot of public opinion over in the UK is ‘thats a bit weird’, or ‘some one tried to give me the Watchtower once, what up with that?’ Although I realise that it won’t be the focus of your series I would be interested in hearing about what it is like as a church to belong to?

    I can honestly say that without consulting Google I know very little about the Mormon church, aside from Donny Osmond, polygamy, people who knock on your door and for some reason my head says getting a world after you die!?

    Yeah I know, pretty appalling, so it would be really interesting to get some actual information!

    Excellent post!

    xxx

  6. geevz says:

    Good for you! And I can’t for the life of me remember the name of that strength coach, but he was quite a character :)

  7. “It doesn’t matter if you’re weak, as long as you don’t stay that way” – I LOVE that. And I’d love to hear more about your journey.

    p.s. SO glad you liked the post – I was scared of posting it, that it might be poorly worded and offend people.

  8. afton says:

    i’m the gospel doctrine teacher in none other than the infamous 54th ward. (i was terrified to do it because i don’t know actual doctrine! but two years later it’s definitely my favorite calling eva’) yesterday i taught a lesson and this post about not staying weak reminded me of one of the quotes. it’s by president joseph fielding smith and it’s talking about how our perfection will not come in this life but “it is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday.” and i just like that because it’s something i can handle. and who doesn’t want to be a better person? the gospel to me is about progression and moving forward no matter where you are. so in essence, i think you are extremely brave and am excited to read what you discover.

  9. jami says:

    I am so impressed with your honesty. I think you would be suprised at how many people in our church have blind testimonies. They have never sat back and thought what they really believe.
    After Kristin died I really struggled with my testimony. I am so glad that I did, so that I know what I know today.
    I just love love love the honesty.

  10. Irene says:

    I agree with you and I think it is perfectly normal to question yourself and your faith, specially when there’s so many controversy about that Mormon mommy blogs…
    we are humans and need to go through a period of question and reflection in our lives. I did myself, I thought about what I was and what I thought I believed in . I was supposed to be Catholic, but I wasn’t. It didn’t make me happy and I didn’t believe it. So you have to make your own decisions, I think it is your blog and you can write about anything you want, your life too, and this is part of you and your life.
    I will read them all (the posts) because I might not be a believer (of any faith) but I am a respectful, tolerant and curious person, so I like to read about every kind of faith, lifestyle, etc. I can learn so much from anyone in the world.
    I respect you Camille, no matter what you are, I think you’re quite interesting and I think Mormons are just as good as any other.

    xo

  11. Alaina says:

    Being a cradle Catholic myself, I encourage a discovery of one’s religion, because I could use this myself. It’s always just been a given in my life, something that’s a part of my identity but not always something I truly understood. So good for you, and I look forward to reading more about your journey!

  12. Deanna says:

    Through my own “religious discovery” (anyone who doesn’t have one is pretty lame and people go through it at different times) I have discovered that your spiritual side is like any other muscle. Even the seemingly strongest spiritual person you know can grow weak if they don’t excersize their faith. (Why can I never figure out how to spell exercise?) Anyway…. It doesn’t matter how weak you are now or how strong you become through this experience. If you stop pushing yourself you will get weak, no matter how strong you started out. It’s like the river analogy…. you can never stay in the same place you are either moving forward or the tide is carrying you backward. So start working at it now, but never stop. It can be exhausting exercising your spirit muscles (like sometimes you seriously don’t want to do it like you don’t want to go to the gym) but you ALWAYS feel better afterward. :)

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  14. Katie says:

    I am really excited to read this series! I am not Mormon, but I am always interested in learning about other faiths and faith journeys. I admire you for writing this, and I will definitely be reading, as always.

  15. Jess says:

    I think once you figure out the big stuff, you should look at the smaller stuff that really just seems silly to me. Like spirit babies, and being baptized after you’re dead.

    I don’t mean that to be rude in any way, just saying. Also, I’m happy for you and proud of you for finally doing this for yourself.

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