Sunday, January 11, 2015

Mixed identities

At church today there was a baptism and I was struck by how different the covenant system of the Episcopal Church is compared to the LDS church.  So when I went to work I grabbed a Book of Mormon and the Book of Common prayer so that between calls I could really spend some time comparing the baptismal covenants contained in each.  While I was at work, a coworker asked me what book I had out and I explained it was the Book of Common Prayer.  He left before we could discuss it further so I have no idea what he thought of it, but if this coworker knows anything about Anglicanism he now can be pretty sure I'm an Episcopalian.  But if he had looked over just a few minutes before, he would have seen me with a Book of Mormon and been certain I was LDS.

Yesterday another coworker asked me out of the blue whether we were "doing Ezra Taft Benson" this year.  Though taken aback, I'm still connected well enough with Mormonism that I knew exactly what he was asking and why and could answer appropriately as if I were still Mormon.  This employee has reason to think me LDS since I started laughing when someone at work claimed that Orin Porter Rockwell delayed baptism until late in life so as to avoid having to give up his smoking, swearing, and drinking for as long as possible and I had to explain why that was so funny and why interpreting the historical context of something like the Word of Wisdom can be so difficult.  These kinds of things happen regularly.  I know the language of Mormonism enough that when I can follow along with the in group conversation, people assume I'm Mormon.  Even though I no longer believe or attend, the LDS church itself still considers me a Mormon by its own standards, making any discussion of the subject complicated, awkward, and socially dangerous depending on how judgmental the mormon is of former mormons.   I'd practically have to pretend not to understand what people are talking about around me to avoid this situation.

Part of me feels the tug of years of training that I am supposed to testify of my religious opinions and as a result make sure everybody knows where I stand whether they want to know or not.  Another part of me knows this is socially blunt and risky and would rather let people make what assumptions they want to as long as they don't hurt me.  Another part of me isn't sure how to be true to the new me that is becoming if I can camouflage chameleon style to whatever belief system the people around me want me to have.  I want to be able to accept myself not just in the privacy of my own mind, but also in sharing my thoughts and beliefs with other people as is reasonable to the situation.

There is no easy answer.  I want to just feel free to be me, but how to do so is simply a mess because my identity is mixed.  The fervent Mormonism of my past will always be part of me.

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