We visited my aunt a few weekends ago and one of her kids, my cousin, is living there with his kids for now. First question after not seeing each other in a year? "Are you still Mormon?"
I email a friend from high school for tips about visiting Hong Kong, remembering that he served his mission there. "If you are still Mormon, a lot of people like to see the LDS temple there," he replies.
I am an active member of the church, a temple recommend holder, mostly every Sunday kind of gal. I keep getting questions from people in my life about my current religious state of being. The first few times I brushed it aside has a reasonable catch up question, but it keeps happening so I'm thinking about it a bit more deeply.
- I wrote about my general sense of God last year for MMM
- I don't talk about my faith on Facebook or pretty much anywhere. It is close to my heart and not something I feel casual about. I feel guilty about this, especially with all the emphasis on sharing the gospel.
- I feel like I exemplify a Christian life through my actions and life choices. Is that not clear to those around me? Is there something I am doing or saying that leads others to think I am no longer a practicing Mormon?
- Many of my friends and associates have left the church, for a variety of reasons. I think I have been less obnoxious about it than most so these people feel comfortable talking to me, which may explain some of the questions I get. Am I a magnet for the disaffected?
I try not to be offended when asked about being a saint, except that it makes me doubt myself a bit. From some, the assumption is that I am 'edgy,' I have just two children, I work in academia, any number of signs that they don't think match up with being LDS.
I can't imagine asking anyone outright if they are still a participating Mormon. Clues usually come up in conversation, like invitations to Starbucks to meet for coffee. I also believe that life is long—while a person may be taking a break or not affiliating with the church at one point, that doesn't mean it is forever. Even when I have been marginally active, I have always identified as LDS.
As for those who ask me about my church membership who are looking for solidarity for their decisions? I understand that too. It is human nature to seek out connections. In any other circumstance, I love finding commonalities with people—where I'm from, favored activities, musicians we hate.
Somehow the word still carries judgment with it for me, though I'm not sure if it is intended or me being overly sensitive. I am a Mormon, still. I still believe that Joseph Smith saw Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. And that Brother Joseph was full of flaws as well as grace. I still believe that the LDS church is the best place for me to learn to follow the Savior.
If you wonder, it is ok to ask. I'd rather we talk than you make assumptions. No matter what it seems at times, there's a wide variety of saints trying to do their best with what they know.
Eliana Osborn was raised on cold weather and wild animals in Anchorage, Alaska, setting the stage for her adult life in the Sunniest Place on Earth in Arizona. She grew up in the church and didn't know there were places where conformity was preached. She has degrees. She writes. She teaches. She has some kids. She even has a husband. She's trying to do her best.
Image credit: fallingwater123.