There's something that's been bugging me. I've been hesitant to blog about it because I want to think I don't care. But I do.

So, I've written before about whether or not I'm an 'active' Mormon. Over time I'm certainly becoming less insistent on calling myself active. I don't think of myself or label myself in that way anymore, really. Am I active in Mormon studies, in thinking about Mormon issues? Yes. Am I active in the LDS church? No.

But what really bugs me are these people in the bloggernacle (the Mormon blogosphere) who, whenever I write something, make these comments about how I'm not Mormon anymore. That's just not true. My name is still on the church rolls, and I still have a Home and a Visiting Teacher.

I don't know why it bothers me that they do this. I guess it's because I'm all about getting to define myself the way that I want to. It's like this discussion I had with some Friends on Sunday--one is a Hindu Quaker. She was asking me why I can't be both Mormon and Quaker. I was trying to explain to her how hard that is--that there are all kinds of ways that Mormon-ness is 'policed.' Yet the more I thought about it, I realized that if these same people in the Bloggernacle were, say, assigned to home teach an 'inactive' or less active Mormon, I doubt they would show up on their doorstep and say, "Hey, you're not Mormon anymore" or any such thing. So why is it that people will say this to me online? And why do total strangers care so much about my church membership anyways? How is it that they can know how 'Mormon' I am without even asking me personally (or w/o speaking to my bishop)?

The Church counts its membership in terms of how many people are listed in the records. I'm still there. I'm still being counted. And that's important to me.

And I'm also on the roster of my Quaker Meeting. And that's important to me, too.


Steve M. said...

Discounting what you say on the grounds that (as others may see it) you're "not even Mormon anymore" is a convenient and easy way to marginalize your views.

Anonymous said...

In the south, they say that a cat can have its litter in the oven, but that doesn't make those kittens biscuits.

You are what you are.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Steve M and dcb are right. They are the self-appointed MoPolice, patrolling their beat to ensure that their view of orthodoxy is the dominant one. Marginalizing you is a way to diminish voices they don't want to hear.

Anonymous said...

Clearly they have never "left" the church or they would know that whether you want to be or not, you will always be Mormon. I wish it had an on and off switch, that would be so clean and convenient. I saw those comments too jana and was bothered by them.

Anonymous said...

I think many people feel a need to define others. They want you to be Quaker or to be Mormon, they don’t want you to be both. For you to be both challenges what they think/know. Members of the church are either active or inactive-not people who consider themselves members but attend another faith.

I also think that some people find what you say scary and/or offensive. If it is scary then saying you aren’t Mormon affords them the opportunity to get out of thinking about what you have to say. If they find it offensive than you get the knee jerk reaction. I think if you said any of things in person that you have online they just might say you aren’t a member anymore-at least once they left anyway.

I think the reasons people care about your membership in the church are too great to mention. For some it is a way to make sense of things, for others it is a reason to discount your thoughts/feelings, and others just plain don’t understand.

In the past few months I have resigned myself to the fact that some people will never understand me. No matter how hard I work to make them understand me they never will. I think that some of these people are the same. They don’t understand you and they likely never will. Even if you work really hard to help them understand.

Anonymous said...

While it's not fair to try to marginalize your comments by pointing out your "activivity status," if you're commenting on the Mormon religion, isn't your background a significant part of the context within which your comments should be understood?

jana said...

I'm okay with people pointing out details about my faith journey (e.g. I'm currently a practicing Quaker and not a practicing LDS). What I don't like is when people say (and it's been done several times now) "she's not Mormon." To me there is a big difference between the two.
Does that make sense?

HP said...

To me, it seems a little like you are trying to have your cake and eat it, too. If it is your interest in Mormonism that keeps you "Mormon," why isn't Jan Shipps or Doug Davies Mormon? If it is your Mormonism is found entirely in the matter of whether or not you appear on the roles, then I suppose you are. Are you active in your local Mormon community? Are you seeking involvement in the doings of the ward?

It seems to me that you are negotiating a new identity and you are still not sure how much of your old identity you want to keep around. I am, of course, an armchair psychologist, so take that for what it is worth.

jana said...

Jan Shipps and Doug Davies aren't Mormon because (to my knowledge) they haven't been baptized and/or confirmed. They also haven't (to my knowledge) claimed that identity for themselves.

You're right, though, that I'm working through a lot right now, trying to figure out how/where I fit in. I've chosen to do this publicly, and I've got to be prepared for the ridicule and animosity of others. Like I said before, I wish it didn't bother me, but it does.

Anonymous said...


You are fully Mormon.

Those who claim you are not "Mormon" remind me of certain of our "Christian" brothers and sisters who claim that "Mormons" are not "Christian" because our beliefs do not fit within a very narrow box that they, and only they, define. A box, I might add, in which, for many, even Roman Catholics (or, heaven forbid, many Episcopalians) do not fit.


Anonymous said...

So why is it that people will say this to me online?

Might it be because people feel you are attacking the church and its beliefs along the way? Bbeing Mormon is more than birth and records, isnt' it? Isn't it also about belief and loyalty to some degree? I can completely appreciate, though, that you want to hold onto some of your Mormonness, but i think it's important to understand that it may not be just about people trying to marginalize you but that they feel you have marginalized the church in some of your writing. If you were to come to my congregation, I would want to welcome you, but if you spoke out against my beliefs and my faith and the church, it would be pretty hard to not feel some betrayal, ya know?

Anonymous said...


The Mormon community is a not a census list. It's also a community with shared aspirations and beliefs. Because you no longer share many of those aspirations and beliefs, you've relinquished part of what makes a person part of the community. So yes, you're a Mormon if what we mean by "Mormon" is that your names on their membership roles. No, you're not a Mormon if what we mean by "Mormon" is someone who shares Mormon goals and aspirations. When someone says you're no longer Mormon, that is what they mean.

Anonymous said...

To me, membership in a religion ulitmate comes down to the question of faith and belief--do you believe that GBH is the prophet for this world; do you believe that the aaronic and melchisidec priesthood as they now exists is in fact the unique authority to bless, seal, etc.; do you believe that the BoM, D&C, and PoGP are the word of God? I don't know exactly where you stand on these, but if the answers are yes, then, yes, you're a mormon. If not, I have a hard time seeing you as LDS, just as I have a hard time seeing people who reject the authority of the pope on moral issues as being meaningfully Roman Catholic. It's not a question of 'mere doctrine' or a fear of orthodoxy--its whether or not a person accepts the faith as it describes itself or not. The church is ultimately a faith; without the faith, there is nothing. And if not fully of the faith, one is at best a fellow traveler--and as a fellow traveler, one's role in the community is necesarrily different from those who fully embrace the faith, because a fellow-traveller cannot fully share in the things that bind the community together--their experiences as sharers in a set of beliefs.

Heather O. said...


You've said you are Quaker. You've said you've walked out of your ward in protest because women don't hold the priesthood. You've published articles about why we shouldn't wear the garment. You've posted a scathing Manifesto directed at the top leaders of the church, demanding changes and challenged church doctrine. You have discussed, at length, your journey out of the church. These are the reasons that people in the online community say that you are not Mormon.

If you were posting about your struggle to stay in the church, that would be different. But you have openly talked about LEAVING. That you have LEFT. You are struggling with it, obviously, and trying to figure out where you fit in now, but that is a different issue altogether.

And I know plenty of people who are still on the roles of the church who would adamently deny that they are Mormon.

jana said...


Thank you for your comment. Let me just clarify a few things, though:

1) You wrote: "you've said you've walked out of your ward in protest because women don't hold the priesthood."
--That's just not true. I've never walked out of any meetings (LDS or otherwise) in protest because women don't hold the priesthood. Or for any other reason, for that matter. Those who know me personally can vouch for the fact that I'm actually a pretty warm, friendly,and accomodating type of person. Though I might write strongly about issues I have with the church in an online venue, I've never disrupted any church meetings nor offered combative commentary in an LDS setting.

2)You wrote" "You've published articles about why we shouldn't wear the garment."
--Not true, either. I published one post on X2 with the personal stories of LDS who have chosen to no longer wear their garments. I didn't encourage anyone to follow in their footsteps.

3) You wrote: "You've posted a scathing Manifesto directed at the top leaders of the church, demanding changes and challenged church doctrine."
--As far as the Manifesto, I don't consider it scathing (YMMV,of course), rather it's written in authoritative voice, calling for change on specific points of church doctrine and practice. I didn't necessarily direct it at the top leaders of the church, but it would be interesting to know what their reaction might be.

You're right that I've often talked about having left the LDS church. But I guess what I'm wondering is if it has to be so black and white? Where I'm in or I'm out? Is there any space in Mormonism for hybridity? Can I (somehow) be both Mormon and Quaker?

If you were assigned to be my Visiting Teacher, how would you broach the topic of my relationship with the church? Would you find any reason to visit me and engage in a discussion about Mormonism? Or would you dismiss me as someone who has 'left'?

Anonymous said...

I think one of the difficulties here is the difference between what you need in order to be taken seriously as a commentator on Mormon matters and what you need to still get visits from your visiting teachers.

Your question, Jana, about how a VT might broach the topic of your Mormonness seems to me to be completely different than how someone at BCC or TandS would broach it.

In VT matters, hope springs eternal. They always hope to get you back to church. They're always willing to let you into the building.

However, it seems to me, in forums where belief is important in order to be part of the discourse, that the participants won't be willing to take you seriously unless you operate on their same premises. It's like someone coming in from a protestant chuch hoping to get in on the Catholic conversation. The group is willing to listen to you as a curiosity, but not as someone who could seriously influence the conversation.

Here's where I think my good buddy that I've never met, Wayne Booth (he did email me a few times during the online Sugar Beet days, he said things like, "As author of "The Rhetoric of Satire" I am unsure of what you are trying to do with the Sugar Beet. Would you mind explaining?" Ouch.)

Anyway, in Wayne's autobiography he explains in detail how, during his mission he worked hard to dig under the places where he and his orthodox Mormon conversation partner seemed to be conflicting to see if he could find common ground beneath it. It took great suppression of his ego to let go of the surface conflicts, however, to meet the person at that level. And I'm sure he wasn't always successful.

Heather O. said...


I thought John mentioned somewhere (I'm not sure which blog) that you two left your ward in protest about the priesthood. I didn't mean to imply that you were disruptive to any meeting in any way, just that you made a personal statement about the priesthood by no longer attending your ward. If I am mistaken in your protest, please accept my apology.

I wasn't trying to be antagonistic, either, I was just trying to put into perspective how some of the things you have discussed in the Bloggernacle have been received. You do not engage in the online debate as a believing Mormon--in fact, you have gone out of your way on many occasions to point out that you are in fact, the opposite. At least you have definitely come across that way, and so the question is naturally asked, "Why is she even here if she has already decided she's not going to participate?" It has little to do with marginalization, or silencing people who disagree with Mormonism, it is simply a matter of questioning your motives in the debate, and, as has been mentioned, your background and context.

If I was assigned as your visiting teacher, however, I would of course love to visit your home and discuss anything you want to, provided you were willing to even receive such a visit. From the tone of some of your posts, though, don't be surprised if people would assume you wouldn't even want that. Still, you have to remember that visiting teaching and personal contact is a far, far different thing (and rightly so) than Bloggernacle personas. The Bloggernacle persona you have built for yourself includes the idea of "I'm not Mormon, I'm a Quaker."

You can argue that you have never actually used that sentence,and I'd believe you. Still, I'm just trying to reflect to you the reasons why people are so quick to pull the "She's not Mormon", and how some of the things you have written, for better or for worse, have been perceived.

jana said...


Thank you for your reply.

The reasons for John and I no longer attending church are different. In my case, yes, a large reason for my not being active is because of the inequity for men and women in the Church. But I guess I still wouldn't say that I left "in protest." It might just be semantics, but I think "in protest" makes it sound as though I made a scene or expressed outrage publicly towards my leaders.

I guess I'm trying to understand how I'm perceived in the bloggernacle. I have this sense of being continually misunderstood, and writing this post was an attempt to uncover some of that misperception. I think it must have to do with stereotypes of 'feminazi' women or some such thing. That's so different from how I act in 'real life' that I'm uncomfortable with being thought of that way online. Does that make sense?

And just because I'm no longer a practicing Mormon, it doesn't mean that I no longer care about Mormonism. I see my participation on Mormon venues as a way of continuing to engage in the questions/issues about the Church that intrigued me while I was still active. Don't you think it's possible to still care about the Church even though I sit elsewhere on Sunday mornings?

Heather O. said...


This is what I think you are saying. You are engaging in Mormon issues and questions that intrigued you when you were active. You care about the Mormon church, and have given much to it. You still think about some of the heavy issues, and want to talk about them. You are still on the roll of a Mormon congregation. This, in your mind, makes you Mormon. Am I on the right track?

In many people's minds, however, these are not sufficient for you to merit the term "Mormon", or, at the very least, it makes it easy for people to say, "Well, she's not really one of us". I won't pretend to know why being labeled as something other than Mormon bothers you so much, but you have to understand that to many of us, being Mormon implies much, much more than what it does to you. Chief among these things, of course, is continuing to partake of the sacrament covenant, attending our meetings, and, for those of us who have received our endowment, continued faithfulness to our temple covenants, which includes wearing the garments. (Your post may not have directly condoned choosing not to wear the garment, but posting on such a sacred topic in such a way certainly does not shout, "Hey, I think wearing the garment is a fantastic idea!") The fact that you have deliberately chosen not to continue to engage in these activities makes it much harder to accept your "Mormonness" when it applies directly to a discussion about the Mormon faith.

We may be simply arguing semantics at this point, however, and the ultimate decision of how "Mormon" you are is of course something that only you can really decide.

FWIW, I don't think that your lack of Mormon-ness, or however you want to describe it, has made you less welcome in the Bloggernacle. Everybody is of course welcome to share in whatever debate she wants, and all perspectives are (or should be) appreciated.

Caroline said...

This whole thread made me feel weird since I'm your less than stellar visiting teacher.

Anyway, I think being 'Mormon' is a much bigger and more expansive category than many LDS tend to think. (And on that note, I think God is also much bigger and more expansive than our church.)

It is an interesting question though. I think you can and should identify yourself as a Mormon-Quaker, if that's what you want to do. You treasure some Mormon ideals, just as you treasure some Quaker ones, and you are and have been intimately involved in both cultures. So Mormon Quaker seems perfectly appropriate.

Though since you've stopped attending LDS services, I think I have sensed you depicting yourself in opposition to Mormon ideas more strongly than you did before. (Do you think this is fair?) Perhaps this is why people are so quick to write you off as not Mormon. It just makes it easier for them to discount your ideas that way.

JohnR said...

If I understand Heather and some of Jana's critics right, they're trying to draw a well-defined line between what is Mormon and what is not. This is a losing battle (and parallels perfectly the Christians who say that Mormons aren't, as someone said earlier). I agree with the anonymous commenter who said:

The Mormon community is a not a census list. It's also a community with shared aspirations and beliefs. Because you no longer share many of those aspirations and beliefs, you've relinquished part of what makes a person part of the community.

This way of looking at Mormonism meshes more with my experience. It's something you can transition out of or into, which matches my experience. Mormon identity is strong and complex, with belief, practice, cultural aspects. For example, one can lose your membership and still identify with Mormonism and have others (relatives, bishops) identify them as Mormon.

As for me, I've been actively trying to shake my self-conception as Mormon, and I'm finding that it's difficult to do. When I'm with a group of LDS friends, it's hard for me to not identify with them as a Mormon. Maybe I should come to terms with the fact that I can never lose the shared experience: serving a mission, serving in callings, going through the temple, wearing garments, feeling as committed and believing as I did--these all will remain with me and make me 'Mormon' to some small degree.

Anonymous said...

I was thinking about this last night, and I agree that there is a space inhabited by those who leave the church that is neither "mormon" nor "not mormon" (or maybe "non-mormon).

I don't think it's that unusual for people to think that someone who doesn't attend meetings and doesn't believe in the essential truth claims of the church fails to comply with their definition of "mormon." After all, I think if you walked up to people not associated with the church at all and asked about the "mormon-ness" of such a person, they would probably not see it.

Labels like "mormon" exist as shorthand to communicate something. I think for most members it is something like, "this is someone who shares membership in my church and believes much of what I believe." It is true, however, that mormonism can influence identity in more than just this way--why else would so many people describe themselves as recovering mormon, ex-mormon, cultural mormon, etc.? Obviously, being a part of the church at some point influences identity.

I think it's fine to want to have whatever label you choose for yourself convey how your identity is influenced by mormonism, but I woulnd't be too hard on those who think that how you are defining mormon is different than how they do. Just as you chose to put space between you and the mormon church, they are putting space between you and the mormon label. I don't think it's (always) meant as a dismissal or attack.

Tigersue said...

I somewhat go along with Heather here. I have tried watching your posts here to get a feel of what you are going through, and I seem to remember a post where you talked about your honesty about leaving the church. That to me sounds like you don't want to be a member any more. Your name may not be off the records but your desires are not there and I have seen what I define as hostility to those of us who do not have issues with what you are so concerned with. Likewise you have seen hostility in the same frame.

I also think that what we see in blogs is not what a person is in life. I would be your VT if I was assigned. Frankly I would not want to discuss feminist issues because that would become a great divide between us, we would have to find other common ground. Maybe that is the problem with blogging. I have a hard time seeing any common ground with your beliefs and stands. It is a deference of opinion, and maybe even a difference in faith. That is to not say mine is greater than yours, we just see things differently and I have no clue how to harmonize the two.

Anonymous said...

Jana, I first found your site through the 'nacle. I've been wondering for a few days now what my response is to this post, and I think this is it. I have greatly benifited time and again from various comments and posts of yours, here and elsewhere. I think you do have a significant contribution you can make to the Mormon community (and I bet you'd agree.) I am sorry that you don't feel understood, and that people have been dismissive. I completely see where most of these commenters are coming from, on both sides. Which is the problem. That there are sides. The truth is, we need people -like you- to keep pushing and expanding the envelope of how we define Mormon. I happen to ascribe to the doctrines of the faith, and I see why people find community in that shared adherence. BUT I don't see why I have to be threatened by your relationship with or your desire to identify with Mormondom different than I do. Isolationism is never productive, nor is it godly. Just some thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Sides are never good. And to get rid of some of that, both "sides" need to do something, I think. I sense your desire to not be pushed aside, and that seems valid to me. But I've seen comments here from those who seem to want to push aside those who aren't struggling somehow with their Mormonism-- Accusing people of marginalizing, of being critics, of not being Christian, of looking for ways to not hear what you have to say. That is no more fair or kind than the behavior you complain about, is it? It seems to me that both "sides" have something to say that might help eliminate some of the feeling of me vs. them or whatever the divide might be.

If I came to visit you, Jana, I would want to show love and concern and friendship. And I would hope you would be patient if I was awkward in wondering what to say about your Mormon-ness, because I'm sure I wouldn't be quite sure. I would have the hope that if you stuck with it with me (not just me giving you some room to express and explain and respect but you doing the same for me -- ) that we could find a loving place of understanding and respect and friendship, even if it wasn't all about agreement (which it wouldn't be, but that is ok, right). I fully understand that you want to hold onto some of your Mormonness and don't want to be pushed aside. But others don't either if that makes sense.

I don't think we need to redefine Mormonism or push its boundaries; we need simply to redefine how we interact with each other as we may see things differently and maybe see each other as people rather than simply labels.

Anonymous said...

I can't speak for anyone on the 'nacle who may have discounted or even insulted you and your beliefs. But I can say why I am sometimes annoyed by your posts, both on your blog and on other blogs (then, I will say why I continue to read *anything* written by you).

First, I am a believing Mormon. But a believer who has and continues to have some severe struggles with the doctrine and the culture. Enos & I have a lot in common. Belief in the doctrine, for me, is never easy, but the struggle is worth it. Accepting the culture (accepting, not agreeing with it) is also a struggle, similar to accepting one's family of origin and all their warts and understanding that they may not change to fit me, but I have to eventually learn to accept and forgive them, in order to have peace in my soul. I cannot just leave the doctrine and the culture--I can really understand how you and others can do this (I was at that point in my life, once), but I cannot amputate the doctrine and the culture and find peace.

That said, I have found your posts about the inequities of women in the church, the materialism of your ward members, and your manifesto fairly annoying. (Not *you*, the *posts*.) Why? Because it seems like you are trying to educate us poor, dumb Mormons on something that you are enlightened enough to discover. But, at least for me (and many of the Mormons I know), we are already aware of everything you are talking about. We are *painfully* aware, in fact, and your posts do not help us figure out a way to reconcile or forgive the culture (or doctrine). (This would be so helpful! I do realize, however, that because you do not feel the need to have the doctrine in your life, you are probably not interested in helping us.) Instead, your posts come across as smug (the dress standards of Quakers vs. your LDS ward), demanding and illogical (the manifesto on Exponent II), critical, and a little pedantic (I can't think of any off-hand right now; I have a baby on my lap, and can't do any research one-handed!).

Another reason why many Mormons on the net may be critical of you is because ours is a culture that is steeped in persecution. I don't think that can be underestimated. We are a people whose greatest stories are of our founding parents, the pioneers, who were persecuted. I think there must be a little PTSD in our spiritual genes, because we seem to be a culture that is hyperaware of persecution. And if we get even a whiff of someone trying to stomp on us/our beliefs, we get pissed. I'm not saying our hypervigilence is a good thing or a bad thing, I think it just *is*.

I think people on the net may be a little more likely to drop the diplomacy because there is a degree of anonymity, similar to the way people are more likely to flip off a stupid driver in the anonymity of their car, but outside of that safety zone, they'd be slightly more tactful.

Finally, I must confess that I *do* read everything you write. Why? Because you are a great writer, you write of interesting things, most of your writings make me feel great inside, I love the insights into your life, and I love the next-door neighbor feeling I get from your writings. I think if I were to meet you in real life, we'd probably be friends (well, maybe not on your end, not after this comment! :^) )

Anonymous said...

I think you need to look at what you are holding onto from The Church of Jeseus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Are they principles that are unique to the church, or are you only holding onto beautiful truths that are apparent in all religions? In that case, why say you are mormon? Why not just say Christian? Or why not just say you are an open-minded spiritualist? Why do you feel the need to label yourself? Labels are an efficient way to describe yourself, but it sounds like the "mormon" label has lost its efficacy in your current situation.

jana said...

My Mormon-ness has less to do with belief than with the fact that I have been Mormon for much of my life and I am still embedded in the culture even if I'm not active. I'm not entirely satisfied with the label Mormon and I'd certainly qualify it to anyone that I met in person, but I also don't feel post-Mo or Ex-mo either. The DNA Mormon thing doesn't resonate with me, either.

To anonymous: I find it difficult to respond to your comment fo a whole variety of reasons---I've thought about a reply for quite some time and I just haven't come up with one. For now let me say that I hope we do get to meet in person sometime. If you're at Sunstone this summer or ever in SoCal on vacation, please let me know and let's have a cup of tea & some scones together, ok?

John White said...

I'm still searching for the appropriate "You're not really Quaker" joke.

Anonymous said...

I've been a mormon since birth. I've spent 30 years being nurtured and uplifted in the LDS community. I have found safety and direction. I have found great truth that has led me to God. I've studied the Book of Mormon extensively, and the messages of love and service will always be a part of me. To me being LDS means continually seeking light, knowledge, and truth, so I can become like Christ and return to God. As I have sought to understand God and His will concerning me, I have come to see some things differently, and some may not consider me a mormon anymore. However, I see great value in the mormon path, and as I teach the primary children each week about love and their divinity, we are all edified. So for now I am an active Mormon. Right now, my family needs me to be an active Mormon while we fervently seek God and seek to know the path He would have us take as a family. To me being a "true" Mormon has always meant seeking truth and having the integrity to live it.

Anonymous said...

I am a Mormon who considers myself active, and I also attend my weekly church meetings. It makes me a bit sad to hear that Mormons would consider somebody not quite as faithful as the rest because they doesn't attend church - or anything for that matter.

Church attendance is definitely an indispensable statistic we can use to gauge the level to which a perosn lives their faith - but it is just a statistic. I have known members who haven't been to church for years who are more 'active' than those who attend weekly.

At the same time, I can attest to the happiness I feel when I get an opportunity to worship each Sunday and take the sacrament to renew my covenants. Church attendance is not required for membership, and the leaders have counseled members from the General Conference pulpit to beware of judging others who might not attend.

I'm sorry that happened to you. I think it's comments and judgements like that which lead to so many of the misconceptions people have about "Mormonism."

Best wishes with everything; I ran across your blog by accident and appreciate your sincerity.

~ Kurt Manwaring ~