The Mormons have attached themselves to the phrase “a peculiar people” in regards to their devotion and their being chosen by God. The phrase comes from the New Testiment in 1 Peter 2:9
9 But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light:
They not only ascribe themselves to that name but they revel in it. I can remember sitting in a dark gymnasium as a kid watching the talking heads that were broadcast at us from Salt Lake City for General Conference. I remember them saying proudly that we are a peculiar people, that we do things differently and strangely. We don’t shop on Sundays, we don’t drink tea or coffee, we don’t partake in alcohol, we have a whole language of our own to describe ourselves.
This self identification as being different and strange made me feel special. It made me feel like I wasn’t like the other people at school and in my neighbourhood. I felt isolated from everyone around me except for the people at church. At school I often choose to be on my own and do solitary activities or things that didn’t require me to engage very much.
I remember being in grade 2 and being asked to play with a group of friendly girls and thinking that I wasn’t like them and saying a polite no thank you. I was super lonely though but I didn’t think that I would have been able to relate to them. I was peculiar. I also didn’t give them a chance. I just kept walking balancing on the wooden retaining edge of the sandbox walking around and around in circles.
On the flip side I also had a huge pride in my church family. That’s not just my family that go to church, but the whole congregation. Where I live one would be lucky to have one or two Mormons that go to the same school. I had no contact with any of my church friends during the week and I lived for Sundays. When I walked through those crowed halls as a little kid I was popular, I was a rock star, I was well liked and people knew me and my family well. I could hear my Grandpa singing hymns in the back of the chapel, because yes he was that loud, I could see my brothers navigating the aisles in a complex pattern of ceremony to pass out the sacrament, I could see my mother directing the music, I could see my father teaching sunday school, I could see my cousins running around the halls in my hand-me-down dresses. I was somebody there. I could relate to the systems and groups in place. It was where I felt peculiar just like everyone else, until puberty.
All those feelings of pride in my church and affection for the safe place that it provided me started to dissolve very slowly. I always had good friends at church, but when I started to get crushes on the Mormon girls that became a problem. I first realized that it was a problem around 13 years old. I had a beautiful and fun and encouraging Mormon best friend. Her Dad died when she was little and it was just her, her sister and her Mom at home. I went over after school every day and hung out until it got dark when I had to call home and get going. She had brown shoulder length hair, dimples in her round cheeks when she smiled, and a spunk and disregard for the rules that I loved. When she told me about a boy she liked, I liked him too. When she told me about a song she liked, I liked that song too. When we went out one day and she stole a pair of sunglasses, I stole a pair too. I didn’t know what to do with these feelings of wanting to be super close to her. I didn’t really have any idea what to do with it or why I was feeling that way. I knew that my friends were getting boy crazy and I started to get obsessive about her. She attempted suicide at least once. Cutting. I started cutting too. After a year or so of this we went to different high schools and she stopped coming to church. I moved on.
This sort of pattern happened a few times as I was a teen. I couldn’t name it, I couldn’t say what I wanted, I couldn’t even pray about it. To say it even in that way was too much. I only prayed about things I should pray about, not any of my actual problems. I journaled but it was all facts and times and places and names not really very much about how I was feeling. I was told that “your posterity will want to get to know you better through your journals” I didn’t want this shame to be communicated to my children and their children. There wasn’t any safe places to think or hash through these feelings. I felt scared to be judged by myself, by God, by my community, by my crushes, even by my unborn children. I started playing guitar. Only sad songs. Only in my room on my own. Only other people’s lyrics. It was very lonely.
I feel really at home with the peculiar vibe of gay culture. The being slightly out of place in normal society. Growing up Mormon with not many other Mormons around made it easier for me when I did come out to be just fine with that. At church there was a lot of emphasis on missionary work because the church was so small in proportion to the rest of the population in my city. One of the methods that I used all the time was to get rid of my mental scissors. To let people in and know about what I do and who I am. Now, at church they were talking about letting people know about being Mormon, but I take that way of behaving and apply it to my life as an out lesbian. Not that I’m trying to further any sort of agenda but I also don’t want to have to censor myself just because my life doesn’t fit a cookie cutter shape. I have the right to be exactly the way I am just as you have the right to live your life the way you choose.
11th Article of Faith
We claim the privilege of worshipping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
I claim the same privilege as the church claims. I just choose to do it differently. Regardless of actual religion I think that I continue to live generally by the 13th Article of Faith which talks more about just being a decent person.
13th Article of Faith
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul-We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
That’s not so peculiar is it?