“More than one way to Mormon.”
Recently I, along with several other Symmetry Providers, had the opportunity to attend the annual Sunstone Symposium. It was wonderful to attend great presentations and connect with other like-minded individuals, with people from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences. Given all the variety of people who go to Sunstone, I really appreciate one of the mottos that Sunstone has, which is “More than one way to Mormon.”
If someone had told me that was a motto in my late teens and early 20s, I would have been very confused and disagreed with it. I grew up in a very traditional Mormon household and then went to BYU for both my Bachelor’s and Master's. While I did see variety among people who were Mormon, I’m embarrassed to admit that I sometimes self-righteously looked down on others who weren’t “Mormoning” the “right” way.
As I’ve gone through various life experiences and events myself though, I’ve become very grateful for the space to show up in religious spaces in ways that work for me. When you’re going through a faith crisis or transition, or when a spouse or loved one is going through a faith crisis or transition, it can be really disorienting. What used to work for you church-wise may not work anymore. Not everything is as simple as it maybe once seemed to be. Things you thought you had a testimony of, you’re suddenly not sure of anymore. And it can be hard when you feel like you’re an outcast in a community that used to be such an important part of your identity and purpose.
However, there is space in Mormonism if you want there to be. I believe in “big tent” Mormonism. You can be a Mormon who attends every church meeting, event, and activity. You can be a Mormon that follows the Word of Wisdom to the point that you don’t drink any caffeinated beverages. You can be a Mormon who doesn’t have any tattoos or “not allowed” piercings. But you can also be a Mormon who drinks. You can be a Mormon who lives with an unmarried partner. You can be a Mormon who only attends church when there’s a baby blessing or other family event. You can also be a Mormon who has stepped away from the church (either temporarily or permanently) for their own well-being. All of those are completely valid options. All are ways to Mormon. If you want to claim Mormonism, it’s not up to me to tell you not to.
But I also get how complicated claiming Mormonism can be when you’ve been hurt by the individuals in the church or by the institution itself. It can be a tough road to figure out how you want to live; a road that can be full of confusion, hurt, and anger. For others, figuring it out maybe a pretty easy process. But regardless, I hope you can determine what works for you, your value systems, and your life. And remember if you’re having difficulty moving forward, we at Symmetry are more than happy to walk with you along this path.
Colette Dalton, LCSW is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who focuses on issues such as depression, anxiety, grief, faith and life transitions, and trauma. She is a member of the LGBTQ+ Affirmative Psychotherapist Guild of Utah and is LGBTQIA+ affirming. She offers therapy services and coaching/consultation to individuals and couples.