I have gotten more questions about my faith since coming to Louisiana then any time since Kristen, Beth, and I used to talk religion all those years ago at Managed Objects. Since I am never one to be preachy, I usually focus on the specific questions I am asked. But those questions run the gamut of my faith. From 'do we actually still practice polygamy' (No, not for over a hundred years) to 'can i see your special underwear?' (the answer to that was do I ask to see your underwear?) Saturday night, while walking through the French Quarter in New Orleans with some friends from school, I joked about what a bad Mormon I was, because all my friends must think I am weird. All they have learned is that, I wear different underwear, I don't plan to be a second wife (or third or fourth :P), angels don't have wings, and there were gold plates that came out of the ground. One of the girls turned to me, and after a moment said, "You know what I have learned? That you are normal." She then went off on what a tongue twister 'Normal Mormon' is. But her comment made me pause.
I learned a long time ago, that the best way for me to educate people around my faith is by my example. People who hang out with me learn quickly that, as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I don't drink, or do things that require others to work on Sunday. That is quickly followed by the understanding that I don't consider the term Mormon to be an insult. But beyond that I try not to push my faith. But I am willing to answer any question about my faith without taking offense. By openly answering one person's questions, it got around that I was willing to answer anything; even if that answer was I didn't know and would have to look it up. And the questions have come, including those mentioned above, plus our stance on marriage, our belief in the Savior, and of course the Book of Mormon. As a Mormon, we do have beliefs that differ from other Christian faiths but, when we treat ourselves as oddities, people begin to believe the crazy stuff that is said about us. No we don't sacrifice virgins in our temples in any way. Yes, my mother is a second wife, but only because my step-dad's first wife died and he remarried.
So I think one of the greatest things that we can be as Mormons is normal. We are normal. We are not extremist, or cultish, or any other crazy. We adhere to a high spiritual, moral and ethical code, but we aren't to judge those who choose to not live according to our stance. For me, what it comes down to is that, as a Mormon, I believe very strongly in free agency. One of the purposes of this life if to give people the chance to choose for themselves how they will act and what they will believe. In that vein, I believe making a well-informed choice requires all the available information. We send missionaries to inform and invite people to learn. Never to force or manipulate people into joining our church. Most people aren't planning to join our faith, but they do have questions. And religion has become such a touchy subject in our society, people fear asking those questions. Instead they are left to believe the second-, third- or even twentieth-hand knowledge.
Therefore, my name is Rae, and I am a normal Mormon.