A New, Non-Mormon Identity

For the first time in my adult life, I am living in a location where my status as a Mormon, ex or otherwise, is a non-issue. In a past life, my acquaintances knew I was Mormon, and then they knew that I wasn’t. It’s different now, and I find that being a non-Mormon does not mean much to, well, non-Mormons.

I’m still getting used to that feeling. Of course, this isn’t Utah, and a majority of folks don’t trot out their beliefs immediately after the first handshake, or start looking for garment lines when you turn to leave. But I find even with the new friends I’ve made, my religious status garners merely a nod, or a verbal acknowledgment, and then a gradual transition in the conversation. (There have been some exceptions, obviously. Several months ago, I was folding clothes at a laundry mat next to another fellow who was pouring soap into a washer. We exchanged pleasantries, and when he mentioned he was close to retirement, I asked about his future plans. The man’s face lit up. He and his wife had just started a ministry, you see. God’s work would soon be full time. I hesitated, but the fellow jumped right in.

Laundry Mat Guy: You said you’re new here, right? Do you belong to a church yet?
Me: No. I’m, uh, not affiliated with any churches.
LMG: You’re still looking?
Me: …No. I’m not really religious.
LMG: But what will happen when you die and you don’t accept Jesus now as your Lord and Savior?
Me: I guess we’ll see what happens.

The laundry mat got a little awkward after that.)

Mormons tend to be subsumed by the church. It’s the nature of the beast, and by dint of callings and home teaching responsibilities, the members are professional busybodies who are intimately involved in your spirituality. But here, as a new guy at a new job in a new city, I’m just Eric, and few care where I fall on the Mormon spectrum of activity.

Sure, in this “Mormon media moment”, I might get an errant question or two about Mitt Romney, but interest toward my connection with Mormonism is tenable at best. I suppose it illustrates how self-centered we can be. My initial reaction to the non-reaction tends to be one of mild shock, even indignation. At first I want to shout, “What do you mean, ‘Oh’??? This defined my entire life! I gave up money, time, and fantastic beer for this church! How can you not understand? I mean, I’m wearing BOXERS right now!!”

But I shake it off, and we move on. Suddenly we’re chatting about the weekend and the weather and a whole host of wonderfully mundane things, and it clicks. I get that “oh”. I like it, that “oh”, too, because I remember that Mormonism doesn’t define me now, either.