“We just want to know what it means to be a Mormon, beyond the official name that we seem to come up against whenever we ask.”
So began my interview with an Italian news crew today in Salt Lake City for a few days hoping to get a glimpse of Mormonism. And when the reporter asked, I was honestly taken aback for a moment. What does it mean to be a Mormon? As the “I’m a Mormon” campaign illustrates, being a Mormon encompasses a whole gamut of activities, hobbies, interests.
But what of the faith? Of belief? I struggled to explain that Mormons can be ultra-faithful on one end to those holding onto their faith or traditions by a thread or even perhaps those who do leave, but to use the annoying phrase, can’t leave it alone on the other end, with many different individual faith interpretations in between. I explained that belief-wise, it can also vary, but the core doctrines of priesthood, baptism, the hoped-for forever-ness of families, and a belief in the Savior are requirements.*
As we finished the interview she turned to the temple and asked about it, saying that she imagined the inside being a grand cathedral-like space. I said, “Well there are larger rooms inside, ornately decorated in 19th century style, but it is mostly ordinance rooms for marriages and such with a few chapel-like spaces. Although there might be a large space in the topmost floor, since I’ve never been there, I wouldn’t know.”
So Mormondom really is still a mystery to outsiders. I hope I did a bit in dispelling some of it today for the Italian audience, but even as we all tire of this Mormon moment, I realize that we still have a long way to go.
*I’m not overly pleased with my answer, but hopefully the most important thing I conveyed was that Mormonism encompasses much more than perhaps first thought.