Why being "cool" (liberal) and being a good Mormon are not mutually exclusive

Thank you so much for the overwhelming response for my last post. I am most touched by the civility of all involved. From thousands of hits on this post I only got one comment that was not positive and it really wasn't terrible.  Thank you for sharing it with your friends, thanks for the kind messages and comments.  It is always so good to feel supported and find others who understand or are trying to understand your point of view.

To clarify, that post was written mostly to reassure people who may be feeling marginalized within my faith, to let them know that there is room for them and they have friends there.   I was in no way trying to use the post to make my religion seem more liberal and mainstream or "normal".  Once again, I don't really care what the world at large's take on my religion is. I have no control over what other members of my church do or say and what others are going to take away from that. I can only speak for myself.  I believe the gospel of Jesus Christ is perfectly in keeping with many liberal ideals which is why I choose to be liberal. My interpretation of the gospel gives me no other alternative. I do however recognize and that I am among the minority in that interpretation of my faith and that the Mormon culture (rather than gospel) is extremely conservative. I'm not going to try to pretend otherwise.

That said, I think I speak for more Mormons than one realizes when I talk about being a liberal Mormon and today I want to address one misconception (usually from those within my faith) regarding why liberal Mormons like myself choose to be liberal.

There's a popular Mormon blog I read and the author has on several occasions alluded to those of us who take a more liberal stand on things as doing it in order to be "cool".  In contrast those who take a more conservative stand are considered by this author to be brave and noble and strong enough to do so even though it is "uncool".

A commenter on my last blog claimed that liberals like me claim to believe what they do in order to stay in favor with "society".  Being "liberal" apparently means being "hip" and "cool" and socially acceptable.  And really, that's the only reason we believe what we do, because we are so weak minded and immature and insecure that if we aren't getting props from the cool kids, whatever shall we do? Basically, we are accused by some as wanting to have our Mormon cake (I bet it's a jello cake..mmmmm) and eat it too.

Ok first. Let's just look at the logic to this argument shall we? If you are a member of a Mormon community, you can assume that if you choose to be liberal you are going to find yourself to be in the minority. You know, (because people like my Anonymous commenter and the bloggers I reference today and yesterday have all but come out and said it) that you are considered to be weak in the faith, someone who wants to fit in with society more than doing right by God.  A feeble and pitiable soul who will sacrifice what they know to be right in order to be considered "cool".

 So by being liberal you know, right out of the gate, that others within your own community are judging you and think that you are verging on apostasy. Who consider you a sell-out and your views as dangerous and evil, who may even be concerned about your influence on their children.

Now let me ask you this, if you were so concerned about your image, wouldn't you (particularly if you were a 38 year old mom of 5), be more concerned about fitting in with your Mormon community?  About being seen as upstanding and noble and brave and virtuous. As having ethics and integrity?

Wouldn't you be more concerned about being "cool" with them?  Despite popular misconceptions about Mormons there are actually plenty of conservative friendly, kind, fun women in our church who have kids the age of my kids and do fun things together.  They are dynamic and successful and pretty and fashionable and hip. They are smart and talented and creative and organized. They are athletic and trendsetting.  I think they are cool.  If I was so worried about being in with the in crowd, wouldn't I work harder to make sure that I had my liberal proclivities well covered just in case I offended them and I (or heaven forbid, my kids) got left out of their cool social scene?

If I was so determined to be "cool" and accepted by the non-Mormon community, that I was willing to  cast aside my moral convictions, I assure you that we would not be that pain- in -the- butt family who doesn't want their kids to play sports on a Sunday (do you have any idea how complicated that gets as kids get older and more serious about sports, and how many sacrifices have to be made by teams and coaches to accommodate them?) And that's just one place where our religious convictions make us stick out like sore thumbs, inconveniencing others and being "uncool".

I find it incredibly judgmental and condescending when people dismiss liberals as hipster wannabes.  What does "cool" mean anyway? To me someone who is cool is someone who is kind and genuine. I admit that I want my kids to be well-liked. I don't want them to have social problems.  I try to teach them (to the best of my ability) how to be socially aware and acceptable. After years and years of trial and much error, after lengthy and careful observation of what makes the popular people popular and cool people cool, after years of learning from my own considerable failures in this department, my best social advice to my kids is this:

People like the people who are genuinely and reliably kind. To be kind is cool. To make others feel good about themselves is attractive. When you recognize and magnify other people's strengths rather than their weaknesses they will want to hang out with you more.  People are drawn to people who care about them and are genuinely interested in them.  If you demonstrate these qualities you will always have friends you can count on.

I'm pretty sure my kids think I am trying to trick them into being good people by wrapping it in the pretty packaging of popularity, but really and truly, this is my best social advice.  I don't have anything more effective to offer them.  Something better may be out there, but I don't  know what it might be.

I wrote an epic post a couple of elections ago about why I am a liberal Mormon and how I think our faith lends itself more to be liberal than conservative so I won't rehash that here.

Suffice to say that I don't believe what I believe in order to gain popularity in the eyes of "the world". I don't write posts like this to get a ton of hits on my blog. I have a degree in Marketing, I've blogged for years, I have learned a lot about blogging and growing readership over those years.  I have had many opportunities to make my blog a much bigger deal than it is, and I guess I have just never been motivated enough to make that happen.

I believe what I believe and I write posts like this because believe it or not, it feels right to me.  It is in keeping with the dictates of my conscience.  I believe these things because I imagine Jesus Christ embracing them. I share these beliefs because I think that He wants and expects me to. I think He has given me the opportunity, the forum and the ability to talk about these things because He wants people who are in pain to hear them. I believe and share these things because I take my baptismal covenants to mourn with those who mourn and to comfort those who stand in need of comfort, seriously.  I believe and share these things because I strive to be a witness of Him at all times, and in all things, and in all places.  I fail dismally in my strivings, every day, but that is my goal.  I am very proud to be a member of a church bearing his name...the church of JESUS CHRIST of Latter Day Saints. I emphasize the Jesus Christ part because to me, that's what it is all about.

I would be a hypocrite if I did not admit here that I have been guilty of judging those who have conservative beliefs harshly and unkindly at times. Of attributing unChristlike motives to their beliefs. I need to do better with that. I'm trying to.  At the end of the day, I believe that heaven will be filled with members of every political party.  It will be filled with people who did their best to love one another, to feed his sheep, to take care of the one.  To do what they felt was right.

As a liberal Mormon, just like any other Mormon,  I am just doing my best, just trying to do what I feel is right.  If that makes me cool, then that is an awesome by-product, but it's definitely not the motive.

Giving people the benefit of the doubt is a decision that one rarely regrets. Not judging others is incredibly liberating and it frees up a ton of time and energy to do more good in the world.

Have a great day m'peeps.... be cool.

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Anonymous said...

Glad to be the first to comment. And remember, I am Anonymous because I don't have an account or whatever, not because I am afraid to be named! Dad and I loved your post and think you worded your opinions clearly and very well. We are proud that you are our daughter. Well done! I loved the comments of the second Anonymous who says that it her tag because she is too tired to get involved with the hoo-ha (I paraphrase) and I guess I share her sentiments. Love really is the key. An overused and abused word, often very far from what was taught by Jesus Christ. Marmie aka Gina Randall.

Janelle said...

Once again... magnificent! Tip of the hat to you, Kirsty. I appreciate the voice you give to us in the Mormon minority... and the courage you lend me when it's my turn to speak out. <3

Amanda House said...

A while after being baptized, I had a little freakout about what my friends would think of me being Mormon. I didn't want my gay friends to think I suddenly was against gay marriage or their general happiness. (It's actually quite funny when I think about it. Who becomes Mormon and then is terrified that their gay friends will find out??!!) I had a bit of a crisis and though I didn't leave the Church, I was seeking the understanding that you offer here.

Thanks so much for being an amazing example and putting words to what some of us aren't quite sure how to explain. Liberal Mormons exist and we're not just trying to be cool (although, not gonna lie, I often get enjoyment out of being a Liberal Mormon. I hope that's okay!!) xo

Julie Nelson said...

Thank you!! I have missed your previous blogs on being a liberal Mormon, so this meant SO MUCH to me when I found it. I know a couple of 'closet liberals', but to have someone else speak out is amazing, supportive, kind, inclusive . . . It is so comforting to have a sense of community (albeit a small one!) within the Church. I cannot agree with you more, and am "so grateful" that you spoke out! ;-)