Thankful to be an Authentic Mormon

I’m planning Thanksgiving this week which got me thinking about previous Thanksgivings. They fall into pretty much two categories. Category One: Long plane rides home for a too short weekend with my family, consisting of doing lots of dishes while hoping that no one in my extended family is fighting. One memorable Thanksgiving red eye plane ride in law school found me sitting next to a very smelly little man who tended to cuddle after he fell asleep. Category Two: being a stray taken in by charitable people whose sense of duty probably outstripped their affection for me. Another memorable Thanksgiving found me in an apartment in Boston with a hostess with strep throat, who felt well enough only to bake a turkey. There was another Mormon girl there with me, who was so overwhelmed to be surrounded by Harvard Law Students that she had a “drunk Mormon episode” fueled by adrenaline rather than wine. She karaoked the entire Rent soundtrack at the top of her lungs while the authentically drunk law students sat around staring at her with mouths gaping open. On the way home some guy with a southie accent called me and my friend lesbians. A day forever emblazened on my memory.

This year will be different. This year, I’m cooking dinner with my urban Singleton family. (huzzah for Bridget Jones!) As I found out last year, Singleton dinners are wonderful. No family fights, no green bean casserole, and no football. And once I figured out I could cook a turkey without burning down the house, my enjoyment only increased. This year, riding on last years’ success, we’re doing it again. And possibly taking in some strays–only we will not play the Rent soundtrack.

So, here’s the thing I’ve realized while planning Thanksgiving for my urban Singleton family. They really are family. We take care of each other. Together we’ve gone through major surgery, job loss, illness, grief over (traditional) family tragedies, hookups, and breakups. Armed by our cell phones, we all know that help is one chain of kindly gossip away. Our families know it too. My friend’s sister called one of us the day of that friend’s emergency surgery. A quick phone conference to decide who could take work off, and we had someone at the hospital in 30 minutes. My roommates’ moms call, and talk to me about my job woes before they talk to their own daughters. My parents praise my friends more than they praise me. (Or at least my insecure self thinks they do.) We have some important things in common. We’re all committed to living gospel-oriented lives, and we check up on each other. There is safety in confessing both doubts and triumphs to an unconditionally caring ear.

I think I’ve always subconsciously bought into the idea that my gratitude was for the opportunity to simulate an authentic Mormon life in an unconventional environment while I waited for my chance to have a family of my own. But as I’ve been planning Thanksgiving for my favorite Singletons, I realized we’re all living authentic Mormon lives. We are taking the admonitions of prophets and scriptures and structuring our lives to fit them. We are committed “gospel livers” and not “gospel waiters.” We live in a world so centered around family that we forget that the perfect family doesn’t exist. All committed members living gospel lives inside or outside a traditional family are authentic Mormons, because we are all taking gospel principles and trying to apply it to whatever craziness life is throwing at us. And let’s face it. Life tends to throw the crazy right about this time of year. May all your holidays be filled with minimal craziness assuaged by your authentic Mormon convictions. And may you avoid both smelly traveling companions and the Rent soundtrack.


  1. cont.

    I’m a big fan of what I’ve taken to calling “litany of inclusion” scriptures, for lack of a better term. The best example is 2 Nephi 26:33 “…and he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.” This echoes Galatians 3:26-29 “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female; for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”

    So I guess authentic Mormons are “heirs according to the promise.” (A pretty radical take on inheritance for Paul’s time, by the way…)

    Anyways, my post was meant in the most inclusive, most Christian-loving sense that I could convey.

  2. geez, Steve, don’t pressure me. Oh, and check your inbox. :o)

  3. Hmm… yes, I can see that I’ll need to rephrase that.

    Thanks for the tip! =)

  4. I echo your sentiments, Karen. As a “single” myself, my best holiday experiences are when I’m with my friends.

    (I just have to work on convincing my family that just because I don’t want to be there for the holidays, does not mean that I am rejecting them).

  5. I had never before heard of “authentic Mormon” as a description! I’ll have to keep that one in mind.

    And what on earth is “Rent”? It has to be a musical group of some sort, but have you ever tried Googling for something using a common word like that? All you get is websites where you can rent music. Reminds me of some fellow programmers I was listening to praising the newest tool CD, and I had in mind that it was a new Microsoft software tool CD (they do put them out for programmers). Turns out it was a musical group! Try Googling that one, too. Why can’t they name their bands so you know its a band and not just an object, or an infection of some sort? Ah well, I guess I’m showing my age. In my youth I was in a couple of garage bands called “The Entity” and “Morninglory Exit”. Nobody could ever mistake us for some prosaic object (nor, after hearing us could they mistake us for a band, either, but whatever…)

  6. Karen, do you ever check your email…?

  7. Karen, one of the (many!) odd and unexpected things about being in that “traditional,” or at least traditional-looking, family situation is how much I miss my cobbled-together, ad-hoc, bunch of single friends family. Once you have kids (especially if you’re dumb enough to have three of them in 3 1/2 years, I guess) it’s really hard to find time to make and keep friendships. I always found it soooooo annoying when married people with kids told me about how much less busy I was than they were, because I really did have a full plate then, too, but it *is* somehow a different kind of busy-ness, less schedulable and predictable once there are small dependents. And my friends now are more chosen by my children–other parents at school, parents of their friends at church–and our friendships seem more functional and less philosophical, which is ultimately less satisfying. (Hence my blog addiction!)

    So, I guess my rambling point is that, in some ways my pre-marriage singles ward “family” and community felt even more authentically Mormon to me than my current situation, because it was so thoroughly grounded in Mormonness and conscious, thoughtful effort at that Mormonness, not distracted or diluted by the vicissitudes of biology and convenience.

  8. Karen, what would make a mormon non-authentic, in your opinion?

  9. Kristine, I always get a chuckle out of the single/married grass is greener discussion. And I’m always happy to be reminded that my life is, for lack of a better word, fun. I really am grateful for that. Also, I have minimal exposure to spit-up and poopy diapers, for which I am also grateful! :o)

    D. and Steve, you bring up an interesting question–is the term authentic Mormon exclusive. I suppose that the point I was trying to make is that it is an inclusive rather than exclusive term. The images and themes that we are bombarded with may seem exclusive, while really, the message of the gospel could not be more inclusive. We are all invited to be partakers of the divine gift. So, I guess that anyone who chooses a Mormon life is an authentic Mormon. I choose not to let images of blond and smiling families define me out of my spiritual heritage. The message is too big for that.

  10. Mike, I googled for rent and the first result that came up was the site for the broadway musical.

  11. oh, and Lizzy, just as a practical matter, you may want to avoid telling your parents that you don’t “want” to spend the holidays with them…… :o) (Happy, peaceful, Thanksgiving to you!)

  12. D. Fletcher says:

    Sorry to be the naysayer here (I guess I’m grumpy today) but I don’t really like the “authentic Mormon” term. It sounds vaguely elitest and separatest, and it implies that someone can be Mormon who is not authentic.

  13. Thanks Karen — I love the Authentic Mormon term, and if it’s ok with you it will be a part of my permanent vocabulary. It’s a great way of being inclusive of people who share faith but not lifestyle, I think.

    One quibble: no green bean casserole?! Man, that stuff is pretty good!!

    Mike: “Rent” is a Broadway show. And that comment of yours was the most awesome craziest rambling thing I’ve read in a while.

  14. That line about the smelly man who liked to cuddle when he fell asleep cracked me up.

  15. Well, I’ve enjoyed my visit to Thankful to be an Authentic Mormon, but I’m not sure it’s what I was looking for. I was actually searching for articles on how to cook salmon – these search engines are weird! Just thought I’d say hello while I’m here :0)

  16. G’day Blogger
    I seem to have found Thankful to be an Authentic Mormon while searching for things on how to cook salmon. I can see why, but I’m not sure it’s exactly what I’m looking for. Just thought I’d say hello :0)