Columns Jana Riess: Flunking Sainthood Opinion

What Mormonism taught me

A guest post by Mette Harrison

My bio reads, “I love Mormonism, but I don’t believe in the church.” Recently someone asked me about this, confused. How could these two things be separate? And also, they reminded me, we don’t call ourselves “Mormon” anymore.

But I do. I call myself Mormon, though I don’t attend church at the moment. And I love Mormonism as much as anyone.

I love the Mormonism that taught me when I was a child that any untutored young boy (and I thought then, girl, too) could go to a grove of trees and pray and that God would appear to that boy or girl and speak to them because God would speak to us all if we asked.

The Mormonism of my childhood taught me that being peculiar meant you were blessed by God. It was nothing to be ashamed of, but to be celebrated.

The Mormonism of my childhood gave me confidence in public speaking.

Mormonism taught young me that I didn’t need to be afraid of the wilderness, real or metaphorical. I could learn skills that would serve me well there, and in the rest of my life.

Mormonism taught me that families are forever, and even if I didn’t know what that meant, I clung to the idea that somehow, we were connected to each other deeply.

Mormonism taught me that motherhood was important, and that women’s skills, passed from mother to daughter or grandmother to granddaughter, were as great an art as any in the world, and to glory in the beauty these skills gave to me.

Mormonism taught me that education is something you keep forever, that knowledge doesn’t end in this world.

Mormonism taught me that science is not separate from religion, and that God makes sense of all the truths in the world and is bound by the laws of the universe.

Mormonism taught me that God would speak to me and tell me what my mission in life was. I listened, and God told me at a young age (5) that I was destined to be a writer, and that I would tell important stories, some of them about being Mormon.

Mormonism taught me that I wasn’t just a body, that my mind and my soul were housed there, but that seeing myself only as a commodity was diminishing to me.

Mormonism taught me that sometimes magic is real and can’t be explained by science, at least not the science we know now.

Mormonism taught me to ask questions, even if no one knew the answers, and even if other people told me it was rude or arrogant to point out that no one knew the answers.

The Mormon pioneers taught me that some things are worth dying for, and also that some things are worth living for. They taught me that I can do hard things, too, and that sometimes this means giving up my old world, even my old family, to go forward.

Mormonism taught me that the best parts of life are shared with people who are on this journey with me, and that no matter how hard it is, we can stop and sing a song. And no matter how meager our belongings, they will feel richer with sharing.

Mormonism taught me that there were always women and girls saving the scriptures, greeting the Christ at the resurrection, and bearing testimony to others of divinity.

Mormonism taught me to have courage and to use my voice.

Mormonism taught me not to accept what other people assume must be true, but to seek for deeper understanding.

Mormonism taught me how to knit and crochet, how to can peaches, how to bake homemade bread with food storage wheat, and how to make a recipe work with whatever I had on hand.

Mormonism taught me never to despair, but to have hope in myself and in the future.

Mormonism taught me that God’s love is never-ending and that God always wants us to return to the power of our role as children of God, as potential gods ourselves.

Mormonism taught me to look into the eyes of my children and see gods there, too.

I love these lessons. I cherish them still. I hope that I taught these lessons to my children.


Other posts by Mette Harrison:


 

 

 

 

About the author

Jana Riess

Senior columnist Jana Riess is the author of many books, including "The Prayer Wheel" (Random House/Convergent, 2018) and "The Next Mormons: How Millennials Are Changing the LDS Church" (Oxford University Press, 2019). She has a PhD in American religious history from Columbia University.

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