The Unbearable Fragility of Mormons

| 23 Comments

I am so damn sick of the unbearable fragility of Mormons. EVERYTHING THREATENS THEM. Just off the top of my head, I've come up with a substantial list of commonplace stuff that threatens your average hardcore Mormon, at least until they get a decent exposure to it:

  • gay marriage
  • actual gay people
  • the f word
  • profanity in general
  • the phrase "Oh my god!"
  • R-rated movies
  • porn
  • sex before marriage
  • dating before you're 16
  • getting married anywhere but in the temple
  • the Equal Rights Amendment
  • uppity women
  • the idea that global warming might actually be real
  • single-payer healthcare
  • people who choose not to reproduce
  • the existence of atheists
  • dildos and other sex toys
  • explicit depictions of sex, whether on the page, stage or screen
  • face cards (not so much any more, thank the powers that be. But when I was young, it was SO EVIL to play with face cards, though the same game could be completely innocent if you played it with rook or uno cards)
  • tarot cards
  • Sunstone magazine
  • bikinis
  • Coca-cola
  • alcohol
  • coffee
  • Starbucks cups (I know, it's crazy, but it's true: I've seen Mormons get upset that someone dared to enter their home with a cup from Starbucks. Hey, it could be a hot chocolate, you know? But it's that "avoid the very appearance of evil" thing)
  • the very appearance of evil, which means not only something like simply walking into a bar oneself, but the dress and personal grooming of others,including
  • exposed female shoulders, midriffs, or thighs
  • sandals on men
  • jewelry on men
  • long hair on men
  • brightly colored shirts on men
  • multiple earrings on women
  • tattoos
to the point that they should NEVER be seen in an LDS meeting or on the campus of BYU.


the list goes on and on. But most threatening of all is

  • questioning the prophet
  • critical thought (because it could lead to questioning the prophet)
  • open-ended questioning (because it could lead to critical thought)
  • family members who lose their testimonies--because it could be catching! (It's especially upsetting and weird if these people who lost their testimonies are pretty happy and remain interested in their Mormon identity and heritage.)

Basically, the entire world is kryptonite to Mormons. They're supposed to be all stalwart and strong in their faith, these warriors engaged in a good fight, but in reality they're these delicate creatures whose ability to live in the world is undermined even by random words. (fuck fuck fuck!)

In order to protect themselves from the world (which is something they actually talk about), they immerse themselves in the spiritual and intellectual equivalent of that sanitizing hand gel that destroys not only germs but our own immune systems: they talk mainly to each other, and try not to think critical thoughts, and get married really young and start having children right away, so that they feel compelled to remain forever in Mormon marriages, even if they do get around to losing their testimony at some point in their 30s.

In other words, they have the shittiest spiritual immune systems EVER (except maybe for, say, Amish people). If they had robust constitutions, they wouldn't care so much what the rest of the world says or does and they wouldn't think that just hearing the F word does actual damage to one's spirit. They wouldn't think that a woman who has double-piercings in her earlobes or a guy who likes wearing a striped or patterned or colored shirt with his suit are really less moral than a woman with one earring in each lobe or a guy in a white shirt.

I admit to coddling Mormons from time to time--it's hard not to when they remind you of their fragility. One of my brothers-in-law FREAKED OUT when he learned that the friend I brought to his house was gay--my BIL was REALLY ANGRY that I "brought a f*gg*t into his house." (Yep. He said that.) He honestly felt that I had tainted his home and his family by introducing into it my very well behaved gay best friend. My reaction to that was to realize that my BIL was more of a dick than I previously knew. But what really upset me later was that I was initially sort of self-conscious about introducing my friend to my SISTER--who did just fine with the whole business. I should have just assumed that my sister could handle meeting my gay best friend. Same with talking about being a witness in Matthew's gay marriage: I didn't want to upset my family when I knew they found gay marriage such a touchy subject, so I didn't say much about it beforehand, aside from telling them I'd been asked to be Matt's best person (as opposed to best man). But it was such a great ceremony, so uplifting and inspiring, that afterward I made sure to tell people how wonderful and joyous it was. And sure enough, my mom managed to be happy about it, because like I said she's good at being happy for other people. (Or rather, she WAS good at it. Was. It's still hard to get used to talking about her in the past tense.)

We have to stop enabling Mormon fragility. No more coddling these delicate people. No more not drinking coffee around them because they fear the talisman-like qualities of the Starbucks logo on a cup. Like I said, they have crappy spiritual immune systems, and those of us who have left are the very substances they need to be exposed to in order to become healthier and more robust. It has worked for my family, damnit.

As for others who can't cope with foreign ideas or behaviors--well, if their faith is really that fragile, that susceptible to damage from the actions or words or beliefs of others, then it ain't much of a faith.

23 Comments

Excellent post. I couldn't agree more. It's time for them to wake up and smell the coffee, proverbially, if not literally.

Weird... I had a dream about this last night. (About being terrifying to mainstream Mormons.)

Your post made me laugh... One of those really good, happy laughs.

Yeah, I think exposing Mormons to world cooties will be good for their spiritual immune systems.

Yesssss! I am so tired of coddling Mormons and editing myself around them. Maybe if I just stopped it would give them the opportunity to develop thicker skin.

What you describe is typical of a "fundamentalist" (not in the polyg sense) mindset and there's plenty of it (too much?) to be found. But if that's typical of the Mormons you associate with, you're hanging with the wrong people. If Mormons were universally that fragile as a people we couldn't exist outside of Provo. That attitude's a significant part of why I don't live in the west, but even in Utah there are few rational people...not that you'd tell listening to the legislature...

Thank you for sharing your testimony of the blessings that await when we stop hiding our kryptonite under a bushel ;-)

Hi GayDot, ElizaRSnitch, Chino Blanco--glad you liked the post! JGW, I'm really glad I made you laugh. :-) Greg: So, you've never met outside of Provo a Mormon who shuns/fears/is uncomfortable with: gay marriage, alcohol, dildos and sex toys, R-rated movies, the ERA, explicit depictions of sex, and questioning the prophet? Really? I confess I must doubt in this instance at least your powers of observation and/or your honesty.

I went to visit a good friend from HS last summer (he is mormon). I ended up going to church with him, and wore tan slacks and a nice blue dress shirt and tie. I thought I would fit in... but did just the opposite. I think I was the only guy there NOT wearing a white shirt and dark tie. Everyone was looking at me, but I figured it was cause they had never seen me before.

Could it also have been that I was wearing a nice blue shirt?

Hi Zak--I would bet the contents of my bank account and my eternal soul that the nice blue shirt was indeed why everyone was looking at you. Not that it means they all had a uniform reaction: Some people were probably judging you; some were envying you; some were admiring you. But your shirt was, I am quite certain, the main thing they noticed about you.

Holly, Thanks for the quick reply!

What is the deal with bright colored shirts on men? Why is that so bad/looked down upon?

Hi Zak--

so, the shirt thing: in the 1970s there was a local leader in the town I grew up in who was something of a clothes horse: he liked to wear a charcoal gray suit with, say, a pink shirt and a bright purple tie, or dark green with a brown suit, or whatever. And hot shot from Salt Lake told him that it was completely inappropriate to EVER wear anything but a white shirt to church, and that he had to make all the men under his leadership wear white shirts too.

I can't say for sure what the reasoning is, but my best guess is that they'd say that it's more respectful and respectable to wear white shirts--'cause you know, God totally cares what you wear, and people don't think well of guys who appreciate colored fabric.

But I think another motive is uniformity and uniforms. They don't want people who stand out; they want people who are willing to blend in and do what everyone else does.

it's sad, boring, and, I think, a waste of time and energy, this business of trying to make all the men look alike. Is a little individuality really THAT dangerous?

The white shirt thing is so priesthood holders will always be ready to officiate in the ordinance of blessing or passing the sacrament. The white shirt is like the ceremonial "uniform" for the sacrament.
And, for the record, my husband just finished ironing his lavender shirt for church. He also never wears socks to church. Nobody has said a word, or given so much as a look to him. Come to our ward in middle Tennessee, and you will be pleasantly greeted by a man with a ponytail and who smells of cigarettes, several women in pants, and an autistic brother who shouts out obscene words during the sacrament. Nobody bats an eye at any of it.
My brother is a bishop of a ward in inner-city Philly that is made up of mostly African immigrants. The only thing that resembles a Provo ward is the hymnbooks. Mormons aren't ALL whacked-out.

The white shirt thing is so priesthood holders will always be ready to officiate in the ordinance of blessing or passing the sacrament. The white shirt is like the ceremonial "uniform" for the sacrament.

Right. 'cause the sacrament won't actually have any spiritual significance if it has been blessed or passed by someone in a blue shirt. What matters is not the soul of the person doing the blessing or passing, but his outfit.

that you can offer that as a serious justification, like it really matters, is a bit whacked.

love this post. love you! Glad I took a break from British literature to read your blog for awhile tonight.

And, I've lived ALL over the world and Mormons are the same EVERYWHERE. Gotta love 'em.

I am a “Hard Core” Mormon, Husband to a liberally tattooed woman w/ multiple piercings with whom I enjoy frequent and varied sex, friend of many Gay persons, Elder quorum president, and an occasional wearer of blue (and other colors) shirts to church.
Your original post has an interesting premise and one which I almost want to agree with. There is a truth in your words. Mormons can be very sheltered and closed minded, and sadly, can sometimes be insensitive and make others uncomfortable.
In the end however your words strike me as those of a small mind. You seem to make little effort to understand the culture you freely critique. Vis:“I can't say for sure what the reasoning is, but my best guess is that they'd say that it's more respectful and respectable to wear white shirts--'cause you know, God totally cares what you wear, and people don't think well of guys who appreciate colored fabric.” Have you ever asked a hard core Mormon about the shirt thing?
Perhaps I will enlighten you and we will see if you have the spiritual comfort to listen and try and understand another culture as I admit that some inside my faith do not. The white shirt is a symbol. For a Mormon it brings to mind purity and cleanliness as well as our temple experience where we wear all white. It is in fact a uniform of sorts of the priesthood much like the collar might denote a priest in another faith. While yes, the sacrament and other ceremonies would have equal significance being done in a blue shirt it would not be done without this symbol under normal circumstances.
I would also like to address those comments that fall under the group of overt sex. There are certainly social groups where these things are discussed as part of the norm, but there are also many, well beyond the boundaries of Mormonism, that would find these topics inappropriate and rude. I would submit that if your language or topic make another (Mormon or otherwise) uncomfortable or offend, you would do well to consider what value they bring to the discourse.
I would suggest that you approach your Mormon friends and family as you should anyone, as people. Surly they are flawed, but who can claim perfection? Only when one can love and respect people that are different than themselves can they asset moral high ground. As true of Mormons as it is of you.

Mark Ashurst:

You seem to make little effort to understand the culture you freely critique.

Actually, I've spent much of my life working--and succeeding--at understanding Mormons. You don't grow up Mormon, read the Book of Mormon a dozen times, teach relief society, and serve a mission without learning quite a bit about the church.

The problem with asking a Mormon why guys have to wear white shirts on Sunday is that no matter what they say the official reasoning might be, it's flawed and ultimately beside the point: the real reason is conformity.

And I've been to the temple, so I know very well what goes on there. I got my endowments back in the day when we all had to enact our own ritual executions, so I know just how "pure" that experience is.

The "small mind" you find in the discussion is your own. As I specified, and as you fail to acknowledge, Mormons find the items on my list intolerable "at least until they get a decent exposure to it." So I'm glad that you have had sufficient exposure to gay persons, colored shirts and funky female piercings that they no longer threaten you. I hope that rather than lecture me on the fact that people like you exist--because I do know others--you'll work as hard as you can to increase your numbers among your other "hard cord" LDS companions, because they are who need the help.

So next time you try to "enlighten" someone, first work a little harder at figuring out what they already know, and second, say something that isn't so damn trite.

For a Mormon [a white shirt] brings to mind purity and cleanliness as well as our temple experience where we wear all white.

if white shirts are such an important symbol and redolent of the temple, why aren't women asked to wear them to church, since women also wear white (and veils, for that matter) in the temple? Of course it's because women have no authority in the church, so no one gives a damn if they don't look like corporate clones.

Which is what I mean about how any reasoning a Mormon provides justifying the white shirt as an appropriate practice is flawed bullshit. You gave it your best shot, for instance, and you still failed to do anything but show that the church is a sexist organization that teaches its members to use bad logic and invest way too much meaning in silly practices.

Holly it’s funny. I got here today because I saw a comment you made about the NY mosque issue over at latterdaymainstreet.com and it seemed level headed and fair. I thought it would be worth my time to read more from you and then to contribute to your blog here, but I think I was mistaken. Level headed and fair doesn’t seem to be what you are about. You seem to have an ax to grind and I’m frankly too busy to be the stone. I’ll defend a few of my points and then be on my way.
I could tell by your post that you had intimate knowledge of Mormons but you said “I can't say for sure what the reasoning is, but my best guess is…” professing ignorance. You say that “the real reason is conformity” to which I say yes “It is in fact a uniform of sorts”. It’s a tradition in our culture. How does that make the official reason flawed or BS? It is about conformity. It is a symbol of the priesthood, a male power structure if you want to look at it like that. Like it or don’t but the reasoning is sound. The fact that you think it’s silly or dumb or not fair is not a reflection on the logic.
The assertion that the difference between myself as one tolerant of gays or whatever, and another Mormon that is bigoted against them comes down to the quantity of “exposure” is laughably weak. Bigots are bigots inside the church just as they are on an exmo blog. If your BIL is a jerk fine, but if you say “Mormons are” or “most Mormons are” or ”your average Mormon is”, you had better be sure the next words out of your mouth don’t win you the same title.
While you may have “learned quite a bit” I don’t see much in the way of “effort to understand”. Your defensive posture makes you seem overly fragile yourself.
I wish you all the best. If you are ever in northern California I’d be happy to meet you at a Starbucks for some civil conversation. Email me if you want, but I think I will not be back. I doubt you will miss the small minded, trite Mormon around here.

You seem to have an ax to grind and I’m frankly too busy to be the stone. I’ll defend a few of my points and then be on my way.

First, I make no apology for my willingness to point out the fatuousness and evil of Mormon doctrine, thought and culture when I see it. If you think that's having an ax to grind, so be it. Second, no one asked you to be the stone, so by all means, go away if you want.

I could tell by your post that you had intimate knowledge of Mormons but you said “I can't say for sure what the reasoning is, but my best guess is…” professing ignorance.

I was not "professing ignorance," I was stating a fact. I CAN'T say for sure what the reasoning is, because it's not consistent. People have justified the practice after the fact rather than advancing a valid logic in the first place. It's just what's DONE, and people are to figure out and explain WHY it's just what's done.

It’s a tradition in our culture. How does that make the official reason flawed or BS? It is about conformity. It is a symbol of the priesthood, a male power structure if you want to look at it like that. Like it or don’t but the reasoning is sound. The fact that you think it’s silly or dumb or not fair is not a reflection on the logic.

Oh, dude. It's not a tradition--it's something that was imposed about 35 years ago. That's not much of a tradition--especially given that people like you and mandi above are so anxious and proud to announce that "cool guys" violate it.

I can't help noticing that you don't try to defend the logic. You don't explain why insisting that men wear white shirts is really a good idea--and you admit that it's not such a good idea when you announce that you yourself violate the rule from time to time. You don't defend the logic; you just assert that it's "tradition," and therefore scrutiny of the original purpose is somehow impossible or unnecessary.

And have you really had so little experience with gender discussions that the best you can come up with to say is "It is a symbol of the priesthood, a male power structure if you want to look at it like that"?

The assertion that the difference between myself as one tolerant of gays or whatever, and another Mormon that is bigoted against them comes down to the quantity of “exposure” is laughably weak.

No, there are many studies that show that straight bigots' tolerance of the queer community increases as they get to know members of the queer community. It's not just an "assertion" on my part; it's documented sociology.

I wish you all the best. If you are ever in northern California I’d be happy to meet you at a Starbucks for some civil conversation. Email me if you want, but I think I will not be back. I doubt you will miss the small minded, trite Mormon around here.

Why would I want to look you up? I checked out your website, your resume and your blog, but I had no interest in leaving a comment or engaging you in conversation, because you have so little insightful to say. You're the one who showed up on my blog and wanted to engage me in conversation, not the other way around.

I'll add that the last guy to show up here and defend the temple and so forth is now a complete atheist. I give you three years before you admit to being a total unbeliever. At that point, you can drop me a line letting me know that I was right. You wouldn't be the first to send me such a note. Maybe then I might be willing to have coffee with you.

Hi,

I am a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and none of that scares me...but I haven't been LDS all of my life. The LDS culture breeds a "sheltered" lifestyle that is for sure, but being someone that definitely didn't live a sheltered lifestyle prior to my conversion I can't say that it is entirely a bad thing. As someone that has done plenty in my past, I know that I don't want any of my 3 kids exposed to it in my house when they get so much of it everywhere else in the world. I would have loved growing up in a home where I felt the way I try to make my home feel now. My parents did very little to shelter me, which sometimes was a good thing...but at other times I look back and wish I would have been sheltered from those things at home. I mean, a boy at 7 years old really shouldn't be seeing gratuitous nudity. The women in this society are already trying to adhere to a version of "woman" that is forced upon them by society...we don't need "tomorrow's men" growing up thinking that a woman bigger than a size 2 is fat.

So to address some of the "points" you make:
* I have never batted an eye at a Starbucks cup being in my presence.
* I use the f-word, not blatantly, and not directed at my kids...but I get angry and use it and I haven't been struck by lightning.
* Getting married anywhere but in the temple. Been there done that, and, my wife and I ended up getting married in the temple. Both are great experiences that I have personally never heard anyone speak ill towards (as far as the other lds people I deal with in my life).
* R-Rated movies. Having removed myself from watching those movies over time, I find that they go overboard. I feel that they show sex for sex's sake, not really adding to the story. In the "real world" people use the "f word" to replace nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. Just because it's commonplace, doesn't mean we shouldn't strive to speak English well...why not try for that goal in a movie once in a while, eh?
* "Oh my god"...this one is just a choice. I don't think of it as using god though, I think of it as using God. I choose not to use God's name in vain. Notice the little g versus the big G...that's the difference. If people use it around me, I don't shun them, I don't yell at them, I just don't join in.
* Tattoos. I had a bishop with Tattoos, who later became Stake President...think that covers it enough. We are encouraged not to get tattoos because we are supposed to be treating our bodies like temples. I know what you're going to say..."then why do you eat out", and "why do you drink coke"...got me there. We shouldn't really be doing that either...but imagine this, we are human and nowhere near perfect. I am overweight, but, on a diet and eating very healthy. I can say that I feel great physically, and even a bit spiritually.
* Gay Marriage/Gay People. This is one that would take a whole new topic to discuss. My sister, and an aunt or two of mine are lesbian, I have some gay cousins...it's whatever to me...I don't look down on them. Gay Marriage is such a huge issue, there are many moving parts when discussing this that I don't think any one law should encompass it all. I believe marriage has been between man and woman for centuries, ordained by God...with that being said, I think there are many legal rights that Gay couples should still be allowed. Like I said, I don't have the answer, but one law that says everyone is the same is not the way to go. This is directed at both sides.

Anyway, I find it easy to put a list together of things a group of people do that you hate or dislike, but that list is no better than if I put a list together of "the fraility of coffee drinkers" and then list all the different ways people act when they don't get their coffee. It's a commentary posted by you for the world to read, but I wonder if you really didn't want to get a mass Mormon uprising on your hands, so that this blog could make the news or be shared on Facebook for believers and non-believers alike to argue over.

I now live in Utah County and find there are many mormons that are "sheltered" but I also have to say that those same mormoms are the ones that I can count on to help me when the going gets rough. When my non-lds neighbor lost his job, you know what I did?...nothing. You know what my fellow mormon did upstairs from me? He found him some work...twice over! I'm not perfect, and I learned from that experience, and am doing much more to help my neighbor (starbucks cup or not). We are ALL on this earth together, and we shoudl all be trying to make it a better place. How about instead of perpetuating the hate, you write something insightful that expands all of our horizons...rather than just putting together a list of stuff Mormons do that piss you off? I went from believing that the bible can't be anything more than just a story, to the complete opposite...I, like many others out there, would welcome a mind-expanding conversation once in a while...but your list falls very short of that, sorry.

Patrick:

I'm glad you're not as pathetic as many of your neighbors. I wish you were able to edit and be succinct. Your comment is too big a mess for me to do anything but skim it, especially after this bit of incoherence:

I mean, a boy at 7 years old really shouldn't be seeing gratuitous nudity. The women in this society are already trying to adhere to a version of "woman" that is forced upon them by society...we don't need "tomorrow's men" growing up thinking that a woman bigger than a size 2 is fat.

Thanks for stopping by, though.

Ha ha this is funny. I'm a Mormon and I don't want to go against my own religion or anything because I beleive it to be true, and that's my personal choice so please no comments about how terrible I am or that my reliogion is not true. I respect your choice religion or lack there of, so please respect my choice. I believe this article to be true, mostly. A lot of Mormons just need to wake up and join the world and see what's going on around them. It is possible to do some of the things on that list and still be a great person. Although I wouldn't personally look at porn, or drink coffee, (don't really like the taste, but I love the smell), and I'd probably never get a tattoo, or turn gay.

A few things I wanted to kind of clear up, or corrections if you will. Face cards, like you said, are not such a big deal to the Mormon culture anymore. I was at a Mormon church conference thing for the youth in my neighborhood one year. We went camping and the boys and I spent the whole night playing poker. We didn't gamble any money, just candy and i'll tell you something, it was probably the most fun I had there the whole time, and we were at this bueatiful prestine fresh water lake. My leaders found out what we did and they wanted in on the next one. So not such a big deal anymore. Another topic I wanted to clear up is the coca-cola thing. 95% of all Mormons drink soda pop with caffiene it it. (The lame ones at BYU don't. Fragile Mormons?.......YES) One of our church leaders during a speech he gave one time, had one under the poduim he was standing at. When he was thirsty he would pull it out, take a gulp and say "refreshing". They are also starting to lighten up on the color shirt think, but they still frown upon that for some reason. In my opinion, do you really think that God cares what color of shirt you're wearing to church?

I'm completely opposite so to say from this list. I think that if a movie is rated R, then that's a really good movie, I've seen some really great R-rated movies before. I could care less is you say the f word or drink alcohol. So I guess according to this article I'm not one of those fragile Mormons. Yes!!!!! I dodged a bullet because I would hate to be one of those Mormons. The really only Mormons that are as bad as you mentioned in this article are the ones that attend a BYU university campus, or had graduated from BYU. They are the worst of our religion, honestly I'm not even joking.

Great article!!!! I enjoyed reading it, well put together and well thought out, everything except those I mentioned are pretty much true. Hopefully some other Mormons will stumble accross this and lighten up a little bit.

While the claim for the ‘priesthood uniform’ is often one of white shirts equaling purity, I don’t buy it. If that were the case, missionaries and priesthood holders would wear white suits to church. Instead they wear black or blue suits with a white shirt underneath. This is not representative of purity. Garments are all white. Temple suits are all white. Baptism clothes are all white. I can buy that these are representative of purity. Instead, the current ‘priesthood uniform’ of a dark suit and white shirt is representative of the corporate nature of the church. It is a corporation first and foremost with conservative business suits as the required dress code.

By contrast, women are allowed to wear essentially anything EXCEPT for a business suit. They are treated as my first mission president treated the sister missionaries: with a pat on the head and a condescending remark about how wonderful they are for just being there. He would scream at the Elders to do more, but was just happy to see the sister missionaries, never caring whether they did any work at all. Women in the LDS church are not a part of the corporation, but peripheral to it, as evidenced by their required dress code.

hi ptah--

No, I don't buy the purity claims for white shirts either, and I appreciate your pointing out the gender difference, and the fact that women are expected to look anything but corporate.

I think the current dress code for sister missionaries is "frumpy librarian." One of the things I actually really liked about my mission was my wardrobe. Clothes in Taiwan were really, and I bought lots of fun outfits. A favorite involved a shirt with burgers and fries printed all over it; I wore it with yellow culottes and these cool red sandals with lots of straps. I also had a pair of shoes that had a zipper in them; you could zip each shoe up so that it looked sort of like a toothbrush case. It was great!

Leave a comment

Pages

OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.12

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Holly published on July 31, 2010 2:45 PM.

Why the Church PR Department Needs Me and Other Secular Saints was the previous entry in this blog.

I'll Believe They're Servants When They Change Their Names is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.