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Hi there! Welcome to my corner of the internets. I'm a 26 year old therapist, photographer, and shop owner currently living in Seattle, Washington. My online spaces are educational and lifestyle accounts dedicated to educating, engaging, and empowering women through digital art, home design, and travel.... with a touch of humor and personality sprinkled throughout. Stay a while!

Ask A Mormon-ish Girl: Part 1

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

    Good morning and happy Sunday! I'm so excited about this new series, because talking religion, politics and values is one of my favorite things! For those of you who may be newer here, I identify as a Mormon AND a democrat... I know. What a concept haha. 


    (If you are unfamiliar with what a "Mormon" is, it's a slang term for a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I'm sure a quick google search can tell you what our church believes. And if you're really curious to learn more, we have cute little missionaries who would probably love to come answer your questions/tell you more. These posts are going to be geared to people already familiar with the religion, as most of my questions come from members of the church who are struggling with their faith.)



    I call myself a "Fringe Mormon" or "Mormonish" (I've also heard the term "Mormon Adjacent"). What does this mean? Essentially, while I agree with a lot of the church teachings and still consider myself Mormon, there are also parts of the religion that bother me and I wish would change. "Mormonish" is my way of acknowledging that while I agree with and support many aspects of the religion, I do still push for it to become better in a lot of ways. It's the middle ground between being a solid "Molly Mormon" believer and leaving the church completely. 


    I post about a lot of these things on my Instagram account, but it's honestly just too much to talk about and I wanted my thoughts to live somewhere a bit more organized and permanent. So, I wanted to do this little Sunday series of "Ask A Mormon-ish Girl" where I take questions I get about the church and tell you my thoughts! 


    The obvious disclaimer is these are just that: thoughts. I reserve the right to change my mind upon getting new information or retract something that I may have phrased badly. And ultimately, if these posts bother you... click away, dear friend! I'm allowed to post my belief systems and you're allowed to not like it... and I'm allowed to not respond/care that you don't like it. :)


    Without further ado, let's get into some of the questions I gathered this past week. I got too many questions to answer all in one post. So I will list the questions to come at the bottom of this post! 


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What things do you struggle with?


    I picked this question first, because I figure it will give you a good intro into me and my beliefs. There are many things I struggle with:

  • The church culture and amount of "cultural" things that have been made to feel like they are doctrine.
  • The patriarchal structure of the church and feeling like I do not have any feminist icons whom I can look to for support.
  • The amount of variation in bishop interviews with what is "ok" and still gets a temple recommend and what is "not ok". 
  • The exclusion of certain groups of people and justification of judgmental attitudes. 
  • The focus on outward signs of faithfulness (garment wearing, church attendance, etc.).
  • Conservative belief systems when Jesus was the OG social worker and upheld many democratic values haha. 
  • The lack of respecting other people's boundaries and service culture/being shamed for saying "no".
  • The lack of transparency about where tithing funds go.
  • The lack of clearly outlined reporting systems for bishops who are bad eggs.
  • When church leaders get involve in politics (like the AZ leaders emailing people to vote against the marijuana bill haha).
  • The amount of things that have changed in the past 100 years, yet there is still a mentality that the church today is "perfect" and "how it is supposed to be".  

    I'm sure there are more things... but that's all the comes to mind. If you have any questions about any of those, please comment below or shoot me an email with your QUESTION. (Please, phrase a question I can answer and don't just tell me your opinion on my opinions haha.)


What keeps you in? (And I'm adding: What do I like?)


    This is obviously the perfect follow up question to the above haha. 
  • The entire church is service based and there is no paid clergy.
  • The strong sense of community and comfort in knowing wherever you go, you will be welcomed by the church members and have people who understand your values/culture. 
  • The kindness of the majority of people I've come into contact with in the church.
  • The amount of service/support we provide for active/inactive members. And just for the service the church provides the community in general.
  • The guidance to avoid drugs/alcohol. 
  • The focus on families being the most important thing. 
  • That we don't believe in a "hell" per say, or that too many people will actually go there.
  • Mormon culture overall is really funny to me. I like all those movies like "Singles Ward", "The RM" etc. and poking fun at our strange culture haha. 
  • Overall, I've been surprised at how when I am assertive about my boundaries AND respectful and involved in my own way, I have not had too much push back. (This may also be helped because I no longer live in Utah County, and I know the church dynamics in heavily populated Mormon areas can be a lot different than in more scarcely populated areas.)


Do you feel like you are welcome in the Mormon community?

    This is the last question I'm going to answer this week, so make sure you check back next Sunday for more! And ask any of your questions in a comment below, on my Instagram story (@emmycoletti), or email it to me (emmycoletti@gmail.com).


    This is an interesting and tricky question. I think my answer would be: yes, but it has depended on where I live. I know people get defensive about the whole "Utah Mormon" stereotype... but I will say my life in Utah County was A LOT harder than it was in New York City, Connecticut, Salt Lake City, or Seattle. I will also mentioned I did a lot of therapy after leaving Utah County, so who's to say what the real change came from.


    I grew up in Utah County and lived there for a couple years as an adult. I would say I felt welcome *most* of the time. I did find it harder for people to accept that I wasn't going to show up to church every Sunday, as well as all the activities throughout the week. I did once get chastised for not showing up to my calling in Young Women's, but to be fair, I probably shouldn't have accepted that calling in the first place hahaha. And I did immediately ask to be released after the conversation with that individual and all was well. BYU was tough for me and I'll get more into it later. But, it was harder to feel accepted/belonging there. My roommate eventually stopped asking if I wanted to go to church after she realized I wasn't going to go haha. And I stayed out all night and/or slept at home the bulk of that semester... so I wasn't really too "involved" in BYU single life. I also got married fairly quickly and started going to a student married ward, but ended up skipping a lot because I didn't love that vibe either haha. We moved back in with my mom in Utah County for 1-2 years, and there I went to my childhood ward, so that was a bit easier due to already having friends/people who knew me. Overall, I do think it felt harder for me to *Be MySeLf* in Utah County/Provo/BYU. I do think part of that was the intense/judgmental church culture around me... I'm not going to lie to you haha. However, I also think a part of that was me caring about people's opinions and being accepted by people who don't value what I value, so I didn't put myself out there as much. 


    After moving outside of Utah... OMG. I can't even explain to you. We lived in New York City for a few months and that ward was AMAZING. I think like our first or second Sunday, some other young couples reached out to us and asked if we wanted to eat Thai food on their roof and it was on a Sunday. I remember thinking, "They order out on Sunday?! And it's not a big deal?!" And just immediately felt like I could be myself, because there were people who weren't going to live by every single little suggestion/cultural law. We were only in this ward for a little while, but I had really great experiences. We were in primary the whole time, and I don't think I went to any of the activities, so I don't know how many opportunities I had to "speak my mind". But, I did have a lot of great chats with other members and realized a lot of them had similar viewpoints to myself. That was really the first time I realized not everyone who identifies as Mormon is a cookie cutter member and that maybe there was more of a place for my authentic self than I had previously thought.


    When we moved to Connecticut, I also had good experiences. A young family immediately started chatting with us and were super friendly. Other older women in the ward reached out to get to know me. I LOVED Relief Society in this ward because there was such diversity. There were mothers who worked full time, immigrants, stay-at-home moms, converts, etc. I thought it made for such great conversation! I definitely felt for some of the teachers hahaha, but I do think it was nice to hear the perspective from mothers who worked full time and/or women who were converts. They weren't afraid to challenge some of the more "traditional" suggestions/comments and I loved that open dialogue. Also, some women wore pants (or even sweat pants!) and no one cared or whispered about it. One lady would even eat a full sandwich haha and I didn't catch anyone giving her the side eye.


    After that we moved to Salt Lake, which was harder for me, just because I wasn't happy to be back in Utah in the first place. So, who knows how my bad attitude affected things. But, when the Relief Society said they hadn't seen me around lately and I said, "Yeah, sometimes I go and sometimes I don't." I feel like they handled it really well and we had a great subsequent (non-mega-religion filled) conversation and just bonded as humans. This was also one of the first wards where I specifically asked to not be put in a teaching calling or something that would make me HAVE to be to church on Sundays (lol). The bishopric were really cool about it and put me on an activities committee. I went to a few activities on my own and people were generally nice. I think in this ward they knew I was less active and I don't feel like anyone really tried to fellowship/reach out to me. They pretty much just left me alone, but were friendly when I showed up and I really liked that.


    And now we're in Seattle! I am pretty quiet in most of the classes, but honestly, the Relief Society I am in already has AMAZING feminist, progressive lessons, so there's not too much that bothers me anyway haha. People probably know I am less active and see my husband at church alone sometimes, but I also don't get grief about it or reached out to. I volunteer where I feel comfortable and feel like I contribute. Although, since writing the first draft of this post, J did tell me that someone from the ward reached out to him to check in on us, because we don't attend any of the online Zoom churches lol. (Oh, and side-note, I took my email and phone number off the church directory a LONG time ago and that was a goo decision.)


    So, all of that to say, I do feel welcome in *most* Mormon communities I have been in. I still hear whispers here and there about my lifestyle/opinions on stuff, but I just roll my eyes and move on. It's a "whatever" thing for me now. The biggest shift for me came when I stopped doing what I thought I "should" and started doing what I felt I could authentically show up for. Ex: I'm not going to show up to many activities or have the visiting sisters over, but I'll drive an hour on a Saturday to pick corn for a service project, or pick up and drop off 50+ loaves of bread for the congregation every few weeks. (Although with the pandemic and being out of town, we haven't been able to do this as much anymore.) One of my favorite things about boundaries: You can be so sweet and nice, and still say no to someone. I feel like being able to give respect while requesting respect in return has changed a lot of my perspectives. 


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Wow! That was a lot, but that's ok. Overall, I feel in a really good place with the church lately... and maybe that's because I'm not going due to the pandemic hahahahha. No, but really, I don't think it's ever going to be my personal biggest support system. I don't think I'm ever going to be the most reliable member. BUT... as long as I'm upfront with people about what they can expect from me, I feel ok about where I'm at. 


If any of the above were your questions, I hope I answered them to your satisfaction! If not, please comment below any follow ups and I'll make sure to get to them. 


XOXO,

Your Mormon-ish Internet Friend

P.S. If you haven't already read the book Book of Mormon Girl by Joanna Brooks, I'd highly recommend it! It helped me on my *FaItH jOuRnEy* a lot haha. 


Questions to be answered in the future...

Thoughts on tattoos? Should Mormons be able to have them? How do you feel about garments? What do you drink on the pics with the mug if you can't have tea/coffee? How do you deal with super black and white thinking in the church and with family members? When did you start seeing some things differently than the church? How does your religion impact your political views? How did you handle BYU? Do you believe the Book of Mormon was translated or just 19th century text?

Comments

  1. I think the realization that not all Mormons are the same is an important one. There is definitely a Mormon culture mold, but I know SO MANY members who don’t fit that mold, and I live in Utah.

    I personally have often felt like a square peg at church, but more and more I’m learning that most everyone is more complex and interesting than they appear on the surface.

    I’m really grateful that social media has allowed me to learn about and connect with Mormons with a variety of personalities, beliefs, and opinions.

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  2. Emmy,

    Love love love this! I'm going to look forward to your blog posts every week! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  3. Emmy,

    Love love love this! I'm going to look forward to your blog posts every week! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  4. Love this so much! So relatable! I just moved to Utah county and I’ve never struggled more with my faith than right now. This helped me understand why I might be struggling and that it’s okay to stand out and be Mormonish :)

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  5. I just want to say THANK YOU for expressing all of this. It is SO comforting to feel like other people can relate to where I stand with the church when I've been made to feel guilty about it so many other times. I love that you recognize you don't have to up and fully leave the church if there are aspects you dislike and disagree with. There is space for those of us who don't want to be cookie-cutter members but don't want to leave it all behind either!

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