The cultural Mormon: Beyond a belief system

The cultural Mormon: Beyond a belief system

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GLENN LANDBERG/THE ARBITER
GLENN LANDBERG/THE ARBITER

In a house sitting on a hill in Ashton, a piano faces the Tetons on the Wyoming border. At that piano is an elderly woman staring out the large bay window with her delicate fingers tickling the ivory keys of her grand piano. She takes in more than inspiration from her perch. It is a way of life, spirituality and history meshed into an unwavering faith that reaches back to Joseph Smith and the roots of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints as she plays Mormon hymns.

Growing up, I was saturated with religious history and doctrine. My grandfather was a bishop in the LDS church who found solace in his horses and faith. Grandmother was a wonderful housewife and mother. She could outcook Emeril and feed an army of grandchildren, aunts, uncles and family friends during occasions of gathering.

I’m not your typical ex-Mormon. I don’t hate the religion or preach believers in the LDS faith are being led astray by a false history. I don’t slam the Book of Mormon, Pearl of Great Price or the Doctrine and Covenants. They have built a history around me.

I fell away from the church at about 14 to question where my heart and mind were regarding God. But when you are raised Mormon, your lifestyle doesn’t simply walk away from it as a whole. The principles, such as loving your family above all other earthly possessions and a solidified value system focused on integrity and preparedness, carry with you for a lifetime.

The lessons of thriftiness and hard work have transferred into my adult life. I still love God and have the deepest affection for my family. The more I go forward, the more I choose to live the core principles of the Mormon faith. Good deeds and being neighborly have become actions that are priceless in a world where people are selfish.

I can’t stop cussing. I drink coffee and alcohol and have the occasional cigarette after a cocktail. I only attend church upon the request by my devout LDS mother or my father, who is an evangelical pastor. Needless to say, they are divorced. Religion has little interest in my life today as a result.

Regardless of my resistance to one organized belief system, the LDS values have carried me through countless trials. I often rely on my mother’s faith in the church and transmit it into my own life during trying times.

I am proud of my heritage. I love that my ancestors braved the wild, pulling handcarts across the Great Plains into Salt Lake City. I embrace the experiences of entering the temples doing baptisms for the dead and being baptized by my grandfather when I was 8 years old. And I admire my brother’s decision to leave home for two years and serve an LDS mission, something I failed to do as the oldest grandson. Multiple people were disappointed in me, without question.

Those who observe the LDS religion from the outside fail to see the good coming from a relatively new, but rich, belief system. To them I say, invite a missionary into your home. Make a new friend and understand a religion that perplexes you. The worst thing that could happen is you ask them to leave and they thank you for your hospitality and time.

The LDS religion is much more than a belief, it is a culture made on the backs of believers who were persecuted and exiled. It is comparable to the effect revolution has on a culture and what you take away from it, and it’s valuable to who Mormons are.

I am an ex-Mormon and proud of where I came from. If the LDS belief is more than a belief, if it extends into the realm of culture and values, I guess I might still be Mormon.