I just had a conversation which has shifted my perspective. My neighbor and I were sharing bus stop chatter about life. Her experience as a black woman living in a very vanilla suburb of Philadelphia compared with my own experience as a Mormon living in a very non-Mormon area.
The comment that shifted my perspective? “You don’t act like a Mormon. You speak from your heart with no pretense. You’re very real and genuine.”
I don’t think of myself as any different from any other Mormon woman. Then I started to realize that perhaps I don’t fit the mold many people have in their minds of a Mormon. I’m a very direct, outspoken woman. My faith needs me to continue on this path of open honesty, so that we can be stronger and more relatable to those outside of our faith.
Here’s why. As I pondered this conversation with my neighbor and the experiences of my life, I realized that there is a certain mold that Mormons are expected to be like.
Happy. Always positive and upbeat. Filled with an energy that comes straight from God. A little oblivious to the reality of trials and struggles. A perspective of pink fluffy clouds and rainbows that makes everything sparkle with a slight shimmer of glitter. When life throws negativity in the path, we just sprinkle some gospel glitter on it and move forward with faith.
In therapy lingo, this is called emotophobia: I should never feel sad, anxious, inadequate, jealous, or vulnerable. I should sweep my feelings under the rug and not upset anyone.
Why is this self-defeating perspective so prevalent in our Mormon culture? I think it is because of the understanding that these negative emotions are usually ways the spirit communicates to us that something in our life is out-of-order and needs changing.
However, pretending that everything is sparkling as brightly as a glittered-filled ball of Pinterest joy is not the way to handle negative emotions!
There is a difference between denying the feelings of the spirit and addressing them. Addressing necessary changes in ourselves and our circumstances takes quiet time spent in introspection (like personal prayer and scripture study). It takes courage to honestly look at ourselves, listen to the promptings of the spirit, and be willing to see parts of ourselves that need changed.
I worry that perhaps our Mormon culture has embraced “fake it until you make it.” We act perfect so that we can become perfect. However, sometimes this causes us to deny any negative feelings. We worry that if we are feeling negative, then we must be ‘bad’ … instead of thinking that maybe our lives just need a tweak. Tweaks are not bad, they are normal! Every single one of us needs life tweaks, every day! It’s called repentance! It’s not B.A.D. It’s normal. It’s part of this learning process called life! Taking time away from scrolling through our social media to make some life tweaks is exactly what we need to be doing.
Continuing to deny any negativity in our lives makes us shallow and superficial. It shows we are afraid to plumb the depths of darkness within ourselves as a people and face some harsh, ugly realities.
As a people, especially in North America, we have become more focused on image than substance. We are to be a peculiar people—set apart, different. We should be unique, not imitating the shallowest. Not following blogs about lifestyles, but LIVING closer to God. The Savior wants us to serve and search out the weak and lift them up, not rub in their faces how put-together we are.
Our youth were saved for these latter days because they are warriors. Warriors do not go into battle worrying about what color their tunic is, they worry about how sharp their sword (of truth) is! Let us start focusing ourselves on who we are, not what we look like to others. Let us teach our youth, our future missionaries, to look within and embrace all that good.
Our youth and our people are strong. We are not fragile. We are strong enough to handle truth. We are strong enough to daily face the adversary. Let us be strong enough within to see what needs tweaked and do it.
My conversation with my neighbor was eye-opening in that it made me look at myself and my people in a different light. I saw beauty in the good we are trying to become. I saw tweaks that need to be openly addressed.
We need to stop coddling our youth, afraid that a mis-spoken word will offend. These incredible youth were saved for these latter-days because they are incredible. They want truth. Their souls hunger for honest guidance and genuine connection with those with more experience. Treating them like they are delicate little china dolls only makes them feel like they cannot trust us with the hard demons they face within. Let us be more open to helping our youth and ourselves honestly address the real issues.
Growing up all over the world gave Emlee Taylor an opportunity to see the incredible differences the Lord created in humanity; and even better, the passions we all share as members of the human race: love for family, faith, & a desire to make a difference. Emlee lives life with passion—focusing her time now on raising four children and teaching them to recognize truth and to live true to that truth, regardless of others’ expectations. Emlee is passionately in love with her bestest friend and husband of more than 20 years.