Being a Mormon misfit: And why that’s totally OK

When I went to school in Idaho I loved a certain spot in the Rexburg temple in the waiting area of the baptistry. Each time I went there I sat right there–in that same spot– just because of a certain picture.

It was a painting of the Savior holding a little black sheep, right beside the pew in the back. I would stare at it and think about everything that it meant to me. Essentially, it seemed that I was actually the one in the Savior’s arms in that picture.

The misfit. 

black

And if you’re reading this and you’re a misfit too–perfect. I’m glad there’s two of us. Or three. Or maybe even more than that. Either way, it’s good to know I’m not alone in the category of “Mormon misfits”. So welcome, friend.

How am I a misfit, you might ask? I simply don’t fit the conventional mold of what an LDS woman should be like, or I should say, what an LDS woman is often like.

I have a tattoo, to start. A huge one, actually, on my ribcage. I wasn’t always a member, and I have physical signs to show it–that also includes a scar on my bellybutton from a past piercing.

I work long hours while my husband goes to school and I have an “I want to be the CEO of every department” mentality *Well, I’m just a writer and not a CEO, but you get the point*

I can’t have kids right now. That doesn’t mean I don’t have the desire–it’s just the way my body works because of an ailment that can only be fixed with expensive treatments that we just can’t do right now. And it constantly hurts–like a bruise that just won’t go away because it keeps getting poked at.

I can’t sew. Like, at all. I can’t even hem a pair of pants. And during Relief Society craft nights I’m pretty darn useless. And I haven’t canned even one jar of peaches in my entire life.

I question pretty much everything. I’m not saying I’m a doubter–ok, sometimes I am, and that’s a downfall. But mainly what I’m saying is I’m the type of person who analyzes everything and tries to figure out why things are the way they are. I think that’s why I over-studied the history of the church and even went on a week-long church history tour where I spent over an hour staring out of the window that Joseph tumbled from. I just wanted to know and feel it for myself, not just hang on to the coattails of others.

I’ve never really fit in with Relief Society. I try–but it’s hard for me sometimes. I love the women, I do, and this isn’t me saying that I don’t. Actually, on the contrary–I find myself being overly critical of myself because I wish I could be more like them. They’re all so–perfect. At least in my mind, they are. They come in with their line of cute children on sundays like a mother duck and her ducklings, and they seem to know everyone and have time to make soup for all the sick members and cook for the missionaries every Tuesday night and do their visiting teaching every single month. Perfect Mormon women, in my eyes.

Anyway, I could go on and on with my list of how I’m so different–but I’m not going to turn this into a trilogy of me. But if you’re a misfit I’m sure you have your own lengthy list and together we could make a seven-book series.

But lately it’s been heavy on my mind–this whole black sheep thing. Because sometimes you just don’t want to be.

And just this last weekend when I forced myself to go to the Relief Society broadcast (and even the food and mingle get-together beforehand which is very un-Kayla of me) the nagging feelings were very prominent.

rsbroadcast

I sat down at a table that on one half had sister missionaries and on the other half had mothers. The sisters chatted about investigators, school before their missions, and how tight the waist bands on their skirts have gotten while out on their missions and being fed all these good dinners. They’re cute girls–but I couldn’t relate much. So I decided to tune into the women on the right side of me. One woman chatted about how she could barely take a shower today because of her colicky baby and one said she couldn’t either because of the puddle of Elmer’s glue her son left on the carpet and another lady busily talked about her last C-section and how she thinks she’ll be induced in this next delivery. With my freshly washed hair and newly painted nails and absolute absence of any glue-smearing child, I decided I didn’t really fit in at the table.

But then the broadcast started. I chose a pew where I didn’t really know anyone and to be honest…yeah, I started watching it with a stink of an attitude. But that changed when Sister Reeves (The 2nd counselor in the General Relief Society) started talking.

couselor

Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly pinpointed the sister she wanted to talk to, out there somewhere in the world, who just doesn’t fit in to the cookie-cutter mold of an LDS woman or family. I felt like everyone had stepped out of the chapel as she spoke. She spoke about wounds you might carry that make you wonder where God is, and the things in your life that separates you from the norm. And then she told a beautiful story of the Provo tabernacle that was gutted with flames earlier this year. After the horrific event, members started questioning why the Lord allowed it to happen. But then, at the General Conference following the fire, President Monson announced that that gutted tabernacle would soon be revamped and dedicated as a new temple of the Lord. People couldn’t believe it. Mouths dropped. But it was true. And just like with us, she reminded, sometimes the Lord allows the fire so as to make us into a beautiful temple.

Provo-Tabernacle-fire

And then President Monson spoke–and he too, spoke to the misfit. Maybe not everyone caught that–but I sure did. He spoke about how everyone is in a different situation. Everyone has different journeys. Everyone is entirely different and sometimes takes a walk through the thorns. But no one is alone, for the Savior has walked the EXACT path you have, and continues to walk it, even now, WITH you.

prophet

With my face in my hands, I felt an overwhelming feeling of love wash over me. In that moment, I felt the arms of Heavenly Father literally wrap around my little misfit self and remind me that I’m EXACTLY who I should be and that being a member of the church doesn’t mean I’m supposed to carve myself into an ideal “LDS woman” image. It means that I can be just as I am–scars, questions, lack of sewing skills and all–and add to the rainbow of color that this gospel stands for.

You don’t have to fit in. We aren’t called to be the same. Yes, we all follow the same straight and narrow path and there are commandments we all need to abide by in the same way–but we can still be different.

I’ve always known it, I guess, deep inside. But often the culture makes you believe something that isn’t really even there. There seems to be a phantom ideal image that lurks in the minds of everyone and makes them believe they just don’t fit. But it isn’t true. Don’t buy into that thinking.

smiles

After all, as a member of the Mormon church, aren’t we really supposed to be misfits anyway? We’re supposed to think a little differently and all see the world a little differently, all the while on the same path toward salvation. I think sometimes we forget that–and that’s why we expect so much from others and ourselves.

As President Monson so sweetly said, the Lord has a specific love for you. Unique, different, beautiful, misfit you.

So, fellow Mormon misfit, come along this journey with me, because we all belong here on this path.

Bring your dinners that you often burn to a crisp, bring your lack of love for skirts, bring along your battle scars and wear them as a badge of how far the Lord has brought you, and bring questions and different perspectives that no one has acknowledged before.

Come along this journey, black sheep, and find comfort in the arms of the Savior of the world–the original misfit himself.

blacksheep

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389 thoughts on “Being a Mormon misfit: And why that’s totally OK

  1. Yesterday I was at choir practice and at the end the choir director said she was going to Washington DC for a few days. There were three of us who had been to Washington DC and began talking about places we had been but I soon became aware I wasn’t welcome in the conversation. The choir director had left and the other two woman were talking back and forth and didn’t give me a chance to talk and they didn’t seem interested in what I had to say. If I started to say something I was interrupted and treated as if I weren’t there. Of course they are happily married in the temple while I ended my marriage and I was the one who made the decision to end my marriage. I wonder if I’m judged. I’ve been on cruises and been places that don’t involved LDS people and I don’t have problems socializing. I am alone but I try to live the principles of the gospel and I do what is asked of me. People are very willing to give me rides places and bring me treats and treat me like a welfare project but what I’d really like is friendship. A few years ago when I came home from the hospital after an accident people dropped by meals but no one stopped to talk with me. When my mother died people brought meals but left me alone. One night I was supposed to get a meal from someone and the person didn’t show. I am capable of cooking my meals but I really needed some moral support. I’ve lived in Utah since 2005 and riding the bus and walking around I hear a lot of complaints how LDS tend to keep to themselves. I am very concerned that I am probably doing the same thing to others and I don’t realize it. I am concerned that I should be doing something for someone and I don’t see it or that I’m not aware.

    • Thank you for sharing your story! I am also a “misfit” because of most of the reasons listed in the article. I honestly never thought that maybe I could help fellowship other people who are misfits too. I have said many times it feels like some sisters are afraid they’ll catch career cooties from me (I work and am career focused and husband is home with the kids) and for you they are probably afraid of those strong woman cooties (because you had the strength to leave). I hope you find friendship from another sister because I think that is so important. Good luck to you on your journey.

    • I’m a 35 year old male that has never been married nor even dated a mormon girl. I lived a life of sin from the age of 18-32 when I finally decided that I was completely miserable and needed to change my life.
      I started going back to church 3 years ago and decided to go through the repentance process which was an extremely difficult time for me. Looking back, it was one of the most amazing periods of my life. Though it was difficult, I had some of my most absolute greatest spiritual experiences during that time period.

      Living in Florida, there is a population of approximately 1 million people that live within my stake boundaries. The closest singles ward is over an hour drive, so I decided to start attending the family ward. Needless to say, I felt like a total misfit/100% odd duck for quite some time. I had no friends, and nobody to talk to. There were awkward feelings at church no my behalf each and every week. Crazy thoughts would go through my head. I wondered if people judged me.

      One Sunday, after listening to a conference talk given by Pres Monson, I made a personal decision that for at least the next 3 months I was going to make “Service” the absolute #1 Top Priority in my Life in any and every way possible. I started praying for Service Opportunities. I started volunteering for every Single Service Opportunity announced at church. I volunteered for everything. I showed up to every Ward move with a soft heart and a smile on my face…in the name of service. I attended an Eagle Project that involved planting large trees at a park I didn’t even know existed for a ward member I had never even seen…in the name of service. I started seeking out single elderly women in the ward and would ask them to please allow me to come by and clean out their garage, fix something at their house, or I would just flat out ask them if they would please just give me an opportunity to serve…all in the name of service.

      Those 3 months CHANGED EVERYTHING. Looking back, I don’t think anybody judged me. I really don’t think anybody cared. In hindsight, I really just didn’t have a whole lot in common with anybody in my ward (and I still don’t to this day)…that is…until it was time to Serve!

      I am still a member of this ward. I’m still single. I’m 35 years old, and I just barely got my patriarchal blessing. I’m 35 years old, and I just barely became an elder. I’m 35 years old, and I still haven’t been through the Temple.

      Despite all of these things, I don’t feel like an odd duck anymore. I have developed and fostered some amazing friendships/bonds with ward members that I still, to this day, don’t have anything in common with.

      I’d have to say that just about every single one of these relationships took root through service.

      That being said, if you feel like an odd duck, I suggest that you start doing more service!

      • I loved your perspective. I don’t know you, but I sure wish I did. My children could really learn and grow from your words. Thank you

      • Bryan, thank you for your example of service…and getting out there and being proactive in the gospel. And thank you for having the courage to come back to the fold. We need you, the Savior needs your good and willing heart. I wish you were in our ward here in the South Pacific. But I guess I need to follow your example and get out there and serve! Thanks for sharing!

      • Thank You for sharing that was absolutely awesome, I am going to tell of your experience in our RS Christmas Party, Our Theme is something that we don’t fit the same cookie cutter mold.

    • Shasta, I prayed for a friend, ( not an acquaintance) for over 10 years. It took a very long time of loneliness before I finally got the friend I needed. Now I look back and I see little ways that I needed to learn to depend on me. I see that at least one of my children needed my attention that may have been interrupted or shared with a best friend or their advice. I’m sure our reasons and life experiences are different but I really understood what you were saying. Keep swimming my friend. Keep praying. Heavenly Father is aware of your needs and will bless you as he has me. He sent my friend right when I needed her more than ever. And she’s needed me too. I/We see Heavenly Father’s hand in our relationship all the time.

    • Get out of Utah!!!! Members in other states and other countries are much better friends! I’ve lived all over and have had some of my worst experiences in the church in Utah.

      • That is really good advice. I lived in the Northwest for most of my life. My mother in Utah got old and I lost my job and I realized I was needed in Utah. She has passed away. I want to take early retirement and move back to the Northwest.

      • Some of my best friends have been in Utah wards–and it was nice because we actually lived near each other. I’m sorry it has been a bad place for you. There have been a couple of wards there that have been pretty bad though; I think it may just depend what neighborhood you end up in.

    • Shasta, I know your comment was posted 1 year ago but I still wanted to comment on your comment lol
      I think it is great you were looking inwards to see if you too were keeping to yourself. I too live in Utah and I’m more successful befriending non lds. It came to a point where I would avoid saying hi or talking to anyone at church because I just got tired of being hurt of other people’s indifference. I feel sometimes you need to “quality” for something in order to have friends in the church. But by acting like this I am sure I missed opportunities to extend a hand to someone in similar position. I’m sure we are not the only ones!
      About your experience with people dropping in meals and not giving verbal support, my guess is that people feel they don’t want to “bother” others. Especially with death, people are extremely uncomfortable when they see somebody else in distress. I recently lost a loved one, a lovely couple came by to drop cookies and they wanted to leave immediately but I begged them to stay. Sometimes they think they know what the best thing is to do for others instead of listening and paying attention to cues. I think it’s plain ignorance!

      • I live alone and I realize that people may be afraid of invading my privacy. Believe me, I have all the privacy I need! There are other single people in my ward and I hesitate to call on them or visit them or whatever because I don’t want to intrude on their privacy.

  2. I really enjoyed this article. Everyone needs to realize that everyone that’s a member of the LDS Church has these feelings and doubts. It’s heartbreaking to know that people feel so out-of- place in a place where they should feel the most comfortable. I promise you that Satan and the third of the hosts of heaven who follow him spend the largest part of their efforts on this tactic of telling people they don’t belong and they are not good enough. It is the single biggest way that people let themselves get lead away. Every one of us has certain things that we have to face and overcome as part of our earthly experience. Those who buy into these thoughts of being insignificant and allowing themselves to be led away by blaming others for offenses and how they were treated are going to have to answer to the Savior at judgement. You can blame others all you want but the truth is that the ultimate decision to leave the Church is made by the person who was offended not by the one supposedly doing the offending (and most likely not even knowing or realizing that they hurt someone’s feelings). I go to Church and believe the way I do for myself and my wife and kids and no one else. I feel like a misfit sometimes when it comes to associating with my Ward members (WE ALL DO!!!!) but that suits me fine because I’m secure with who I am and don’t base anything on what other Ward members might think of me. I’m not going to let Satan discourage me into believing that I don’t belong at church, or that I’m not good enough to be a Latter-day Saint.

    • Dear Jelmstreet, Each of Heavenly Father’s children makes up OUR family. While we need to be united in fellowship and love for each other, we are each an individual and need to understand we go to church and to our meetings to be spiritually fed and educated for ourselves (to have our oil lamps replenished). We shouldn’t require the acknowledgment of others. No one else can climb the ladder for us. Thank you for standing up for individuality.

  3. I am a student in Rexburg right now, and it made my heart so, so happy to see a blog post about that painting in the baptistry. I am a huge fan of your writing, and I just want you to know how much I appreciate your insights and commitment to the Gospel despite feeling very different. Your words are inspiring to me, and I’m sure your circumstances help so many others relate and feel comforted! I’m not what most people would probably consider a “misfit”. I’ve been raised in the church my whole life, I love to cook and sew, I have my Young Women medallion (barely!), etc., etc. However, regardless of how long we have been raised in the church or what hobbies we enjoy or how much we fit in to the description of the “cookie cutter” culture, I think that in being a true, converted disciple, each of us experiences feeling out of place or different. We are each unique spirits, and I love that painting, too! I know there have been times when I have felt like that black sheep being comforted by the Savior, and I am reminded to be more like Christ and extend love to those who feel alone or hurt. Thank you for sharing what you do!

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  6. I’ve been a “Mormon Misfit” all my life, and that is probably why I wear the label like a warm fuzzy sweater. I’m more than ok with not being a Suzy homemaker. Actually, I just tell people something along these lines- “I would love to make dinner for you, but…well…do you really want to put yourself and your family through the torture of eating it.” It’s a running joke now that I’m no Betty Crocker (I started it). It sure gets me out of last minute calls to make meals. Is it wrong that I’m ok with that? I serve in other ways. I’m also ok now that I was never able to have my own kiddos, but adopt all my friends kids and the kids I’ve served in the YWs, Seminary. Was a foster parent and still connected with one kiddo that is now grown with a kid of her own; I’m mom and nana. I’ve walked beside some of these DEAR ONES 12-15 yrs and they are stuck with me. I could take every point you made and fit it into my experience and add a few of my own, and I’m ok with that. 🙂 There are certainly people that don’t know how to puzzle me out or take it all in, so they keep their DISTANCE but that is ok, too. I just love them from afar and connect with those that do “get me” or accept me. P.S. I loved Sister Reeves talk, too, and what our dear prophet added. So happy to have found your blog. I admire your open heart.

  7. Wow, beautifully written Kayla. I started a podcast that is actually called The Mormon Misfit podcast (mormonmisfit.com) I’ve felt for some time that those of us that felt this way, needed to be more vocal and make sure that the misfits that surround us know that they are not alone and that they are needed in this gospel. My take on the podcast is that we all have a little misfit in us. I’ve assumed things about people in the church and that I couldn’t relate to them. Or even that they were the “typical” mormon. I’ve learned that we have more in common than we think. The beauty of the gospel is that it can take a bunch of misfits and somehow get a lot of good done in the world. I proudly call myself a Mormon Misfit but the truth is, in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we all fit perfectly.

  8. Please check-out Tattooed Mormons on Facebook. I created both a page and group for my misfit brothers and sisters several years ago. We’re not alone, Jesus is with us and does hold us like the black sheep in the picture.

  9. We are all misfits in our own way. A friend of mine got me thinking the other day… What if there were an “odor” (like cigarette smoke) associated with all our bad habits or weaknesses? A scent that was immediately recognizable if you were to indulge in say, pornography? Or another smell that clung to you long after you shared a bit of gossip? What if those who speak cruelly to their spouse or children had a pungence as distinctive as cigar smoke? Sometimes it might help. I think it would give me incentive to quit watching those inappropriate television shows if I showed up to church with the scent of it all over my clothes and hair. But what if it were something truly destructive, something I was struggling with and just couldn’t shake easily? I would not want to come to church with the stench of it on me, annoying those around me, announcing to those around me of just what I cannot yet overcome. I think though, that we would not be able to all gather in the same room due to the overpowering effluvium we would each emit.

    • The LDS church is for people who smoke and drink alcohol. It is for people who watch inappropriate TV shows. It is for young and no so young women who wear their skirts six inches above their knees. The LDS church is for sinners. I’ve been guilty of criticizing the bishop’s daughter or Stake President’s daughter for wearing short skirts. I have been told that being the bishop’s or stake president’s daughter is not an easy position to hold because there is constant criticism.

  10. I think that if you can cook and sew and are a homemaker doesn’t mean you feel like you automatically fit in. I love cooking, I sew Halloween costumes, and I stay home with my kids, but I still don’t fit in. I don’t think we can assume any stereotype automatically is the majority and fits in. We all have insecurities and Satan loves to use those to keep us from feeling a part of the the fold. The best way to fit in is serve others and be the kind of friend you would like to have to others. Realize that no one is actually a misfit. We all fit into heavenly father’s family. Fitting in doesn’t have to mean being the same.

      • I was in a singles ward and in Relief Society something was posted on a bulletin board. it said Our Goals…Wife (showed a woman in a wedding dress, Mother (showed a woman holding a baby) Grandmother (showed an older woman surrounded by toddlers). A few weeks later someone had scrawled “Are not limited to…: I thought that was great.

  11. This is such a wonderful post. As someone who has served a mission and is a mother I’m still a complete misfit! I feel like the moms in my ward think I’m a little crazy because I choose to not send my kids to preschool and I can’t have babies whenever I want, or I choose to have another child when my husband is in between jobs. I use to try to fit in, now I’m working on embracing myself and my slightly askew opinions. It’s hard to do. I’m praying and hoping to find a friend (in or out of the church) that can embrace me for my differences and value my different way of looking at things instead of just ignoring me and staying close to the mainstream crowd.

  12. I am sure that at this point in my life I look like the perfect little Mormon woman. I am a stay at home mom of two kids, I have a calling in the Primary, I am basically the ward seamstress, I take meals to people, etc. However I have never really felt like I fit in most wards that I was in. I spent all of my childhood and teen life in the church but on the outside of all the cliques. I gained my testimony early on which is why I didn’t leave the church. I knew it was true no matter how people treated me. I was always a good bit weird and so I didn’t really fit into most normal female LDS circles.

    When I got married my husband had cancer and had to have a bone marrow transplant, because of that it took us 10 years till we were able to afford In Vitro, so we had many years of having people ask us why we didn’t have kids, and we were called to the nursery about 3 times almost as if to “encourage” us. I worked since the time we got married, I only quit my job this year because my husband’s work paid enough that I could finally be home with the kids. I craft like crazy because I love to make things and I don’t really have any friends to spend time with. One thing I have learned during my time as a “black sheep” is that everyone in their own way is a black sheep, everyone doesn’t fit in. Even those who look like they do are really struggling too.

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  14. I to am a misfit. My husband is not a member and I have children who have gone astray. I have a wheat allergy and when ever they have food any time, I am told Oh yeah you can’t eat anything here. Sorry.
    I love to do service. I love to share my talent of doing flowers in small simple surprises. I have been in the same ward/stake for 15 years and yet I have no friends. I have been told I will never be in a presidency (which is fine with me, but they are missing out on what I have to offer) because I am not spiritual enough. How do you know what my relationship is with my Heavenly Father.
    I have been snubbed daily by members.
    Why do I stay? I stay because I know the gospel is true. I know my Heavenly Father loves me. I go to church to learn.
    I came from an abusive home where I was beaten daily among other things. I met an amazing family who loved me enough to share the gospel with me. That was 40 years ago and they still are an important part of my life.
    Do I have friends I do things with? No not at all. Not here. I have life long friends who I keep in contact with. But then again, I don’t go to church for friends. I go for me and for gaining knowledge.
    I have come a long way from the young girl who was beaten and told she was worthless. I look to the love I have of the gospel and of a loving Heavenly Father.
    I serve where I am given the opportunity. I give of myself to those who accept it. Most of the time that service is outside of my ward. I have a big heart I would love to share with others. My motto in life is “People don’t care how much you know til they know how much you care”.
    Life throws us curve balls every day. Sometimes we have to duck or jump out of the way. Sometimes we just have to get hit.
    Thank you for this beautiful article. I am and always will be a misfit. I am good at doing flowers and taking pictures of the beauty that we are surrounded with. I am thankful for those talents. I am thankful for knowing I am a beautiful daughter of a loving Heavenly Father. He doesn’t make ugly. I am glad he helped me see my beauty I have inside even tho others don’t care to.

  15. I wonder if every single woman who reads this relates in some ways. But Kayla–you said “darn it” so you fit right in. It made me feel good!

    On a more serious note, I think many of us have quiet things hidden in our hearts that we feel make us very different. I am so glad you found solace during a difficult time.

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