Sometimes people have an image of Mormons that makes them all seem identical. After all, with so many rules, how can there be any diversity? Mormon is a nickname sometimes given to members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Mormon rules do create some similarities among those who try to live the commandments. For instance, a practicing Mormon will make traditional family life a critical part of his life. He will avoid alcohol and tobacco, do a lot of volunteer work, and try to be honest in his dealings, for instance. He will attend church on Sundays and have prayers and scripture study every day.
The rules actually cover only a small portion of our days, however, except in terms of integrity and character. That leaves a lot of time for personal choices. I like to compare Mormon life to a sonnet. A sonnet is a poem with a great many rules regulating its rhythm and line length. All the same, despite the many rules, there are millions of sonnets and they are all different. Although the rules of the sonnet dictate the basic framework of the poem, the content is very different in each one because the content is the work of the individual poet.
Mormons Can Be Diverse
Mormons are like that. We share an eternal perspective that frames our lives, but within that frame, we can build the life we want. Mormons once lived in communities that were mostly Mormon, but that was due to the circumstances of the time—communication was very difficult and the dangers to Mormons were great. Today, however, Mormons live wherever they want to live all over the world. While some attend church colleges, there are no Mormon schools below college level, so they send their children to public or private schools or they homeschool. They choose any career they want and work wherever they choose.
There Isn’t One Right Way to be a Mormon
The late Chieko N. Okazaki, a former female Mormon leader, said,
Let me give you an example. Here are two quilts. Both are handmade, beautiful, and delightful to snuggle down in or wrap around a grandchild. Now look at this quilt. It’s a Hawaiian quilt with a strong, predictable pattern. We can look at half of the quilt and predict what the other half looks like. Sometimes our lives seem patterned, predictable in happy ways, in order.
Now look at this second quilt. This style is called a crazy quilt. Some pieces are the same color, but no two pieces are the same size. They’re odd shapes. They come together at odd angles. This is an unpredictable quilt. Sometimes our lives are unpredictable, unpatterned, not neat or well-ordered.
Well, there’s not one right way to be a quilt as long as the pieces are stitched together firmly. Both of these quilts will keep us warm and cozy. Both are beautiful and made with love. There’s not just one right way to be a Mormon woman, either, as long as we are firmly grounded in faith in the Savior, make and keep covenants, live the commandments, and work together in charity (Chieko N. Okazaki, Strength in the Savior, October 1993, General Conference).
This applies, of course, to Mormon men as well. Listen long enough to any group of Mormons (or follow them online) and you’ll find an extraordinary diversity of life choices, politics, hobbies, reading preferences, and lifestyles. Mormons have lots of opinions and aren’t afraid to express them, so when you listen to Mormons talk, you’ll find they often don’t agree on subjects that don’t have an official stance. Mormons believe God does not reveal everything and where there is no official pronouncement, we are free to believe as we choose—and we do.
Take me, for instance. I am not the stereotypical Mormon, even though I’m a very practicing, believing, and mainstream Mormon. I am a political moderate and independent, I homeschooled my kids, I have my own business, I don’t live in Utah or even in the west…and I hate to cook and clean. I don’t fit the world’s picture of a Mormon but I am one all the same. Once you start talking to real Mormons, instead of just reading what other people say about them, you may be surprised by the range of diversity you find, just as you do in your favorite sonnets.