Not so long ago, when I would hear about someone who didn’t go to church at all or have any interest in returning would refer to themselves as Mormon, I would be annoyed that they still identified themselves that way. I used to see being Mormon as a choice, as a religious path, and if you aren’t choosing it then you only make a bad name for the rest of us… or so I felt at that time. Yet, it seems there is something deeply cultural about being Mormon, especially those raised or at least members from a young age. How much does your activity in church determine how “Mormon” you really are?
Sinead O’Conner identifies herself as a Recovering Catholic, but there is still a “Catholic” in that. Its a deep rooted aspect of her. The faith of her parents informs her life, even if to avoid it.
Jerry Seinfeld might be one of the first names that come to mind when I think of a Jew. He is Jewish, but he has never indicated that he’s particularly religious. He’s certainly a far cry from his Hasidic brethren.
OK, it might be different for Jews, since that is technically an ethnicity as well as a religion. But try driving up the I-15 along the Wasatch front sometime and stop at the Walmart. If being Mormon in Mormon country is not ethnic, its as close as you get. Mormons trade anatomical traits (no, I’m not going to make a list) for things like knee-shorts, khaki, cap-sleeves, 3-eye Doc Marten’s, and denim dresses. Maybe we trade phrases like “oy vey” and “mashuganuh”, for “oh my heck”, “fetch”, and “Gol!”. But you can usually spot another Mormon instantly. In Arizona during Summer, just look for the ones with multiple layers on.
Some of the cultural things I mentioned are hallmarks of active Mormons, but how can you grow up in that world and not have any residual “mormanity” left in you? Michael Quinn described himself as a “DNA Mormon”. Is that possible? Can you be so Mormon that you are still a Mormon even if you don’t go to church, or if they kick you out? Is being Mormon in this sense an American Mountain West thing? Do Mormons in Prague or Rio De Janeiro still feel Mormon when they leave?
What does “being Mormon” mean to you?