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. Viewing most of the women in the church as “perfect” and “cookie-cutter” is just an outside perception and judgment that isn’t real. We are all different and it doesn’t do anyone any good to think otherwise. Everyone is a “misfit” in some way so that we can bring our own unique talents to the table. I have never sewed in my life, I rarely cook, and I don’t have any children but it would be a waste of my time to sit and compare myself to someone else thinking I didn’t fit a perceived mold. There’s a place for everyone here! Individuality is divine. It would do us all some good to celebrate it:)

    • You know, I absolutey loved this article. The one thing that made me sad was that you felt so left out. 😦 This has been my outlook for a very long time ” I am being the best me.” I do not care what the gal next to me is doing. I applaud those that can do what they do and have been blessed with. I say an inside ” Awsome for you!!” I am good at being ME. I have found that people tend to exclude themselves, saying exactly what you have said! STOP IT!! Please come sit at my table. Tell me about who you are and what you love to do. Let me live vicariously through you until I get home and get to lay down with my 5 yr old boy until he falls asleep. HEY YOU….the gals that work outside the home, the ones that are going back to college, the ones who have maids and cant cook and cant sew..lol come on over. I can sew, cook and bake while you chat about your lives and we can all be grateful for what we have and for friendships that don’t have to be measured by “are you the same as I am?” . I loved the talks too and appreciated that it was finally being said. ❤

      Thank the Lord we are all different!

      xo, shauna- a cali girl

    • I would agree that every person is a unique person that has their own talents and abilities. So in one way there is this myth about a “cookie- cutter” Mormon. On the other hand I feel that this comment is immensely invalidating of Sister Lemmon’s experience. She went out on a limb talking about this delicate matter of the heart. These are her thoughts and feelings and it would be shameful to not grant her the space for that. It is not an “outside perception” that the LDS faith has a strong culture around it that, like every culture, has norms and expectations. So to say she is “judgmental” is judgmental and to be fare so is this response (sorry). Sarah, I don’t want you to feel attacked here but I do want to highlight how this is not a positive take on this exceptional blog. Like you said there is a place for us all here, and the savior loves is infinite. I know that each and everyone of us has the ability to become like him and he is the only one who has the ability to look into our hearts. I know that you posted this with the very best of intentions and I hope that you can feel this as a loving reminder to make space for peoples feelings.

  2. I think this was a very good read, and I am saddened by the hostility in some of the replies. Obviously you struck a cord. I think that each of us is a misfit, unsure where they fit in. Even the ducks in a row…follow them home and you’ll be surprised. My Mom says, “The weirdness happens behind closed doors.” No one is perfect, no matter how perfect they appear. I am one of the more ‘cookie cutter’ LDS moms, I have 3 kids (and the waistline to prove it), stay at home, scrapebook, can and craft….but I often catch myself sitting in RS thinking that I have absolutely nothing in common with anyone in the room. Happily, I think the Lord not only puts up with but is thrilled that he has worship houses filled with misfits. Our diversity is what makes us what we are and helps us to grow during our mortal lives.

  3. I actually just wrote a blog post about a similar topic just a few weeks ago. I had been feeling pressure to be someone I wasn’t and had given into it without realizing. I was forgoing my ambitions, passions, and goals and instead trying to be to be a ‘typical’ wife and mother. And I was so incredibly miserable! It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t being me and that’s why I was so unhappy. It kind of terrifies me to actually be myself and let others see it because there will always be cruel and judgmental people who might make me feel less than loved. But I decided that I’d rather be judged for being genuine than for being an impostor. I try my best not to be judgmental either, and more often than not I’m judging and worrying about myself and how I come off to others rather than analyzing them in any harsh way. I’m doing my best to stop that and to simply see and love others for who they are, just as I hope they will do for me.

    Thank you for writing this. I feel like I practically could have written this post myself because your words resound so deeply within my own heart.

  4. I don’t know you. But thanks. 🙂
    – another black sheep – whose husband sews all the buttons. (and somehow I always get the cute mommies that stay home 24/7 to visit teach – they don’t like evening visits when it’s the only time I can after work).

  5. I call it the “Mormon culture.” If you read about the psychology of a group, you’ll understand why most of us feel that there is a “cookie cutter” and “misfit” just being in a group makes people feel the pressure to conform and “appear” to be perfect or they think they will be rejected by the group…..this is what we in our imperfect “natural man” state cause to happen but it is NOT the gospel. We really have to make sure that we separate the two. I’m a mom, can sew, cook/bake things from scratch but I’m the type that doesn’t like to go along with group pressure just to fit in. I’m constantly trying to make myself separate the gospel from the group b/c if it was the “group” that was true I’d have left a long time ago. If that even makes sense 🙂
    However I do think most of us don’t feel that we fit into the group but it’s our OWN selves makes us feel that way. When I hear from different people and their thoughts and problems that are different from the “mold” I honestly can say I that can completely relate to them and understand….we are all on that path, trying to figure things out, learning and I recognize a fellow traveler. I really just don’t care any more to fit into the mold. I’m a Christian, not a “mormon” I want to follow Christ and act as he would and I think that when we try to conform to what we think the group is we actually hold ourselves back from becoming what we could become……..hope some of this makes sense, I gotta run. 🙂 Good for you for sharing your thoughts!!

  6. Pat Holland gave a devotional forever ago about this subject, entitled “Filling the Measure of Your Creation.” It has helped me so many times, as did the subject of your blog. Give it a listen. 🙂

    • I searched for the talk you mentioned and the one I found was titled: “One Thing Needful”: Becoming Women of Greater Faith in Christ. It is a very good article.

  7. I worry that your comments make women who do sew and enjoy being a mother feel that they are some sort of mindless follower. I guess you could say that I am a little bit of column A and column B. I love being a mother yet I am also an ambitious business owner. I do sew but I think of it as a creative art form. No one would ever call Versace a Molly Mormon. I do question a lot but I think that is the best way to build your testimony. Please don’t feel that I am in anyway angry or criticizing. I just feel the term Misfit is a bit of a disservice. If you could really see in to the lives of the women you consider so perfect you may not feel so out of place.

  8. I loved your article & would have to say that i fit the molly mormon mold, ….. i am lucky enough to be able to stay home & raise our children. I feel so blessed for that. If i had to work, it would barely pay for child care… I sew only to make something for my children that they will cherish forever. I don’t make all their clothes… I can food because it saves us money & we have great food Storage because of it…… I take meals to sick people because it makes me feel good & i have the time to do it…I understand your point behind your article, but just wanted to add that i felt like i didnt belong in RS after graduating from high school.. I didnt want to be in there with all those “old” ladies ! But i soon learned some of those qualities from those old ladies who made me who i am today & i am forever grateful for what i have learned. Most of my talents have been self taught, but i learned so much from those ladies examples. It is possible to be on one side of the fence & climb over to the other side through the years. 🙂 Thank you for telling your story !

  9. As a child my mother said I carried an attitude of “I like you and so you probably like me” and was always completely shocked if someone didn’t like me. I think that oblivious attitude has often been a blessing. I suspect if I were to look closely, that I don’t fit the “mold” very well either. I teach English and love it! I have served time as a “union goon” and enjoyed that as well. I don’t sew well, and although I learned how to can and garden as a kid, I haven’t done so in years. But still, as I look around I see so many who don’t fit the mold, in fact more that don’t than do. I admire those who create beautiful primary bulletin boards and bake cookies (even before discovering gluten was a painful adversary, I didn’t bake), but if I do get time to be creative it is usually in a power point lesson pairing inquiry with the common core using Youtube or when I paint my toenails. Like some who have posted earlier I know my weakness is making a quick judgement instead of slowing down and searching to see and appreciate others as divine children. Thank you for your post as it reminds me that often those around me might feel as if they don’t quite fit, and that our responsibilities as sisters is to welcome each other and make sure that everyone realizes that she is valuable, loved and appreciated because of her unique attributes, perspective and talents.

  10. Oh, I am so very well-acquainted with this place you are in! I too loved Sister Reeves talk at the RS Broadcast. And, I sat and cried through pretty much all of President Uchtdorf’s address on the Saturday morning session. I covered most of my thoughts on being a misfit in this talk I gave on Mother’s Day. I usually feel like I have no peer group at church, but some of the responses prove that we truly are not alone on this road. And ps: if you (or any of your readers) are ever in the circumstance where you have exhausted or put to rest all the options for bringing children into your home and come to the understanding that children are not the plan that the Lord has for you, please come join us at Childless Mormons Support Group on Facebook. We have some wonderful women over there who are a rock of support and understanding for each other!

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/janell-jensen-gehmlich/an-lds-not-a-mothers-perspective-on-mothers-day/10151629608803566

  11. Thank you. Thank you so much. I could have written this exact article about me. And I had the same trouble at the stupid dinner before the broadcast. Thank you for being a misfit. Thank you for being brave enough to admit it.
    Thank you.

  12. I remember a talk given by a man in my ward in Sacrament meeting, several years ago. He said, we are told to live in harmony with the gospel. The harmony in music is not the melody, but it goes along with it, and makes it even more beautiful. We are all different, we all have something to add to the Lord’s beautiful masterpiece. We all do thing’s a little differently, but as long as we are in harmony with the gospel, we’re o.k. Be happy, my friend.

    • Thank you Chris… This response is exactly what I was thinking as well. The Lord gives each one of us l our own talents. And when we all put our talents together, we are able to work in perfect harmony. Priceless.

  13. Thank you for writing this blog… it would appear that Heavenly Father speaks to me not only through speakers at the conference, but after. My thoughts were similar but a little different. I found myself resisting the gospel because I find Molly Mormon (if I use that correctly) to be so foreign to who I am. Maybe that’s kind of what you are saying, but I feel like the “image” is like that of the Stepford Wife, and that’s probably where that comes from. I sometimes feel like I’m losing my individuality, that following the Church and keeping the commandments was taking away from who I am. Now I can see the fallacy in my thinking… difficult to put into words. I’m laughing, I do sew but mostly mending and “altered design” like my altered books, and using sewing in my artworks/books… and I’m all about anything to do with recipes, although I burn everything once. I DO love knowing my Heavenly Father loves me as evidenced by all the answers I receive to my questions and prayers. The best message from the conference was that Satan wants me to cower and Heavenly Father and Jesus want to cover me, and remember my sins no more. My scars, like yours, and even His, are there only to remind us of our lessons, what we’ve learned, how far our journey has taken us, and how we can guide others to make wiser choices, and maybe avoid the pits/falls of life. I guess it all boils down to linking arms and walking this path together. Thank you.

    Oh, and my housekeeping sucks, my mood is more often than not grumpy and crabby (I’m really working on gratitude), and I’ve been a single mom since giving birth at 43, almost 9 months after my divorce. The Church/Heavenly Father/Jesus have been my partner. ❤

  14. I cook a ton of our meals from scratch and freeze them for busy nights. I sew a tiny bit, I can do anything requiring a simple straight line. I’ve sewed curtains and a few simple quilts. I like to decorate my home and craft cute things. I always volunteer to take meals to others because I love to cook. I can tomato soup and I have tried to coupon in the past. I’ve blogged, scrapbooked, etc. in the past as well.

    I also go to school for my PhD. My child goes to a babysitter every day. I paid a maid to come clean my house twice a week last semester, but I kept that a secret from my steriotypical Utah mormon neighborhood. Can you imagine the comments? She works/goes to school, someone else watches her kid, AND she has someone clean her house!!!! Burn her at the stake!

    I also was physically abused by my father for several years. That led me to reaching out to another man who was a youth pastor for a different religion. He acted as a father figure to me for two years before sexually abusing me for the following 4 years. I went to college with a “who cares about my trashed body” kind of mentality, and I made a lot, A LOT of dumb decisions.

    I don’t mean to share a lot of personal info., well, at least without a very valid point. To everyone else, I might seem like a “white sheep.” But I’m definitely not. Sometimes I think we all try to appear like we fit the mold, when in reality, most of us don’t.

    I think as sisters in the gospel, sometimes we do each other a huge disservice by never going out if our makeup and hair aren’t done, or never letting anyone come over if our house is a mess, or only volunteering for the things we are good at. We make it appear that we have it all together and then our fellow sisters feel they must have it all together and it’s one big misconception.

    I’ve realized now that I don’t want my fellow sisters in the gospel to see me only at my best all the time. I don’t want them to feel pressured to keep up the facade around me. I don’t feel like I have to fit into the gospel because I realize that most of us don’t fit in, when we are honest with one another about our lives.

    The gospel serves broken people the most. I’m convinced that there are more people that don’t fit the mold than do.

    • I love the part about “the gospel serves broken people the most.” Also the paragraph about how “we make it appear that we have it all together, and then other sisters feel they must have it all together and it’s one big misconception.” I love it when people are open and honest and share their hearts, making it possible for greater love and understanding and emotional intimacy between us and less judging.

  15. I can definitely relate to this, but in the opposite way. I am a stay at home mom, who loves to sew and do a few of those things you mentioned. I have never dreamed of being in the boardroom. I have a college degree, but I’m a homebody kind of girl. A few years ago I moved into a ward where I was in the minority. Sure, there were stay at home moms with similar interests as me, but there were a lot of really educated working women, and when I sat with them, I felt like the misfit. I was in that ward for 4 years, and it taught me a lot. At first I felt inferior to them. I felt like maybe I was doing something wrong, because I was less of a “modern” woman than they were. I would get blank stares when I said I didn’t dream of advancing a career. But I came to realize that it was ok. I learned a lot from these women, and I hope they learned something from me. It’s ok to be a misfit. We all are to some extent. It makes us more tolerant and loving. And I think it depends on what part of the country or world you live in. Not every area has a majority of stay at home, super glueing moms. The world needs all kinds of women, whether they are wiping sticky faces during the day, or presenting in the boardroom.

  16. Beautiful! Thank you for sharing. As another Mormon who can’t have kids now, and who doesn’t fit the typical mold I really related to your post. I didn’t watch the RS Broadcast but I think I need to pull it up now. It’s amazing to me how many women don’t feel like they fit “the mold”, even those who from the outside seem to be the perfect fit. I’ve learned a lot about not judging others, or assuming how they fit, but that hasn’t extended enough to where I feel I fit or how I judge myself. Thanks for the inspiration to go watch the broadcast! I needed that nudge.

    Oh, and there is a Facebook group called Childless Mormon Support Group that is amazing for those of us who don’t, or can’t have kids. It’s a nice place to feel like we aren’t alone. 🙂

  17. Ever think you might not be a black sheep but that only-humanity the world sees you that way; in the Eyes of God you are spotless, clean, holy, whole, perfect, His Good creation. A shining effulgence of soul, altogether a blinding thing of glory. Learn to see not through the eyes of humanity the world, their vision is clouded, learn to see Through God’s Eyes.

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  19. I love this:) I AM the cookie cutter image in almost every way, but never quite fit in with my age group– so I’m great friends with the older ladies and my husband is much my senior. I resented this in high school, but it’s served as a powerful blessing. Thanks for the great message you provided, it definitely refers to most of the women in the church because there are certainly more “black sheep” than we realize

  20. Thank you! We are in some very similar situations. I so appreciate this and glad to know that there are other people out there that heard the same things in those two talks. They are the most memorable to me.

  21. I loved most of this, being a misfit myself. I love to dance(hip hop, not ballet) and listen to punk music. I am pretty far from being the perfect mormon women but who is really? I’m fairly certain this “cookie cutter image” is something we have made up by picking and choosing a woman’s characteristics that make her SEEM perfect and creating this impossible standard by combining them all. Sure some women really seem to have it all together but when you catch yourself looking at a woman and thinking “she’s the perfect Molly mormon” that’s a fault of our own and really a result of a lack of empathy is and fairly selfish. EVERY single person on this earth goes through trials and sins. No one is perfect so by placing this cookie cutter image on women that you deem to be “perfect” is really belittling their struggles and being rather shallow. You’re looking at them face value rather than looking “on the heart” (for man looketh on the outward appearance but the Lord looketh on the heart). These are our sisters! Sure its hard to find something in common with mothers when you’re not one (I’m 19 and single, I would know) but we are all daughters of God and we’re all struggling and those are the only two things in common that really matter.

    I loved how you pointed out that we’re all different and go through different paths in life. That’s extremely true, we each have our own special divine purpose here on earth so its important to be yourself and act how you feel you should. You’ll never fulfill your divine destiny when you’re trying to be someone else.

    I just ask that you realize a few faults in what you’ve said. Don’t try to make excuses for not connecting with other sisters because you’re “different” from them. Differences are beautiful. We would never learn from each other if we all thought and did the exact same things. You were right when you talked about this phantom ideal. That’s not part of the church at all and Jesus Christ loves us no matter what but don’t forget your own words of wisdom next time you sit down at a table with mothers, grandmothers and sister missionaries. You most certainly do have things in common with them if you forget the stereotypes and the outward appearance. Just love them as the sisters that they are and understand that we’re all misfits in our own way.

  22. I am a “mis-fit of another kind I guess…I have been a single parent with disabilities for many years. I started out trying to be ths “Molly morman” that my mother was, but raising 4 kids under the age of 6, with out love and support from my family soon took up my time to where my major goal was to get out of bed and just be able to function! I always had a strong testimony and I knew Heavenly father was there to help comfort me which helped when I would come home from church feeling alittle down because no one talked to me, in a way they did with others, making me feel like they were judging my “single status”, without knowing my story! about 6 yrs. ago, after coming home from church pouting because no one listened to my Ideas for Homemaking night; I had one of my moments where I’m not really saying a prayer but talking to Heavenly Father, and was given a new thought through a small voice of the
    spirit; that there are always going to be those, even a group of those, in every ward who maybe are judging me…but there are many more who aren’t !
    Well, to make a long story short…..The more I stopped worring about those few, the more time I had to work on some of those Molly Morman skills””lol.
    I built up my self-esteem to where I went up to others and started the conversation. as far as my disability, I learned to not be embarrassed when I have to use my walker.

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  24. My sister shared this blog post on FB and I was intrigued. I am a 30+, single member, no boyfriend, a great career and found that I struggled to live in the area I grew up because friends and family would constantly ask when I would marry and settle down. I am a misfit… And it took me a while to accept that.

    Family is everything to me, I love the Gospel and the joy they bring to my life. I also love that we are free to ask and learn for ourselves… I loved the part where you mentioned you studied church history and went on a tour of church sites – I wish every member could do that! Religion is an important piece in the make up of a person but it is also an individual thing.

    It used to break my heart every year that I wasn’t able to fit a mold I truly wanted to try to fit. Until I realized that the mold was only in my mind… And I began to see the fires I have had to endure through my life to become the person that our Heavenly Father sees when he looks at me.

    Thanks for this lovely post! For the reminder that we are awesome misfits! 🙂

  25. Thank you so much for this article. Life challenges can be unbearable at times and I want to reject God and sometimes I resent the “perfect” sisters at church. I didn’t go to our Stake Women’s Day because of it. Now I will force myself to watch Sister Reeves’ talk too. I enjoyed your style of writing what a talent!

  26. Thank you for your insightful words. Yes, feeling like an outsider is a really familiar feeling, and it is astonishing to be so drawn in to so many Mormon activities. The time is often really enjoyable and the words of Gandhi are often before me, “To find yourself, you must lose yourself in service to others”.

  27. Someone just sent me this. Maybe they just posted in on Facebook. I found it interesting – and I missed the women’s meeting, so I appreciate the report you gave of it. No wonder the women I know told me to go watch it. I haven’t yet. But I mean to. The thing that’s interesting to me about people who are – I’ll say – like us, is that there’s always this little hint of reverse snobbery in what we write. I heard it in your description of the perfect women in Relief Society – the ducklings in tow. There’s always this tiny sneer in the tone when these reassurances about it being okay to be different, aimed at those who are “the same.” I actually said that in RS about thirty years ago, sick of having women say to me, “you’re just so DIFFerent.” I looked at them all (I was teaching that Sunday) and said, “Would everybody here who is The Same please raise their hands?”

    Anyway, what I’m saying is that the sneer is all about the boring good people, or the boring mothers-with-children. As though we, in our self-doubt, have spice, while they are all white bread. But I’m fairly sure you, if you were visiting, would have thought I was one of them, with my four ducklings. What you wouldn’t have seen from the outside was that I was educating them at home (misfit), teaching the oldest ones trigonometry, running our recording studio at the same time (misfit), never wearing makeup (misfit) (never had the time (except on Sunday – which strikes me as ironic, a that should be the most honest day of all) – that I, with my almost Master’s degree, was almost isolated because of my educated vocabulary, and because of my peculiar view of things.

    You wouldn’t have seen, from the outside, what even the women who thought they knew me couldn’t see – my struggles with self doubt, sometimes self-loathing, the fact that being stuck anywhere alone with tiny children inspired deep anxiety (I actually said NO when people asked me to watch their kids, and suffered agonies of guilt, then anger, over it, every time), the struggle I had with my husband, with the not-very fairytale life we were living, the sometimes hopelessness, fatigue, the constant feeling that I was failing in everything.

    I wouldn’t have worn those things on the outside at RS. I would have looked in control, stable, confident. And must have, because there were people who were resentful of me because they felt like I thought I was so superior to them.

    It’s in giving up the outside position, in entering into the ill-fitting conversation, in buying a flipping meal to take somebody who is sick, in putting ourselves out to serve – being the one to shell out the love instead of wanting that love to come to us – that we pierce our own pre-conceptions, our own idea of the “normal” that we feel so outside of. It’s then that we begin to see other people, and in seeing, begin to realize that very few people are not haunted, not self-flailing – very few who are simply good, in control, clean, compliant, unmarked, confident, satisfied. And in wards where the women coagulate in “cliques,” as they sometimes do, there is really such a level of fear and uncertainty in self, we have to be certain that none of them actually fit – and each one is utterly terrified of anybody seeing them for what they really are.

    Being human is not for the faint hearted, not at any level. But this what you have already said. I am only thinking out loud, mulling over the things you said – and said very well. If you have felt those arms around you, by the way, you have had that experience I kept hearing about through all those college-ward testimonies meetings, that thing I longed for – but have never once felt. And yet, I stay, and I believe, and try. The way it looks, I probably always will – doggedly, hopefully, counting every tiny blessing as a major miracle.

  28. I was a wanna be Molly Mormon. Then I was a Molly Mormon. Then I was a divorced single disillusioned former Molly Mormon. Then I wasn’t even a good Mormon. Then I was a repentant Mormon. Then I was Molly Mormon goes rustic. And now I’m finally a very happy individual Mormon Lady completely immersed in turning my life & direction over to my Heavenly Father’s plan & will, and all my Mormon Sisters THINK I’m the Model Molly Mormon! You can’t win this game of comparisons. Stop wasting your precious energy on these pointless goals. Concentrate on HF, His Will, His Plan for you & the happiness factor in your life explodes into realms you won’t even believe!

  29. Very well said. As a single, never been married male, its very hard for me to find a place in the church. I’m effeuctively blocked from any kind of leadership position and I’ll always be a “what do we do with him” situation for whatever ward I’m in. Its an imperfect world. The gospel isn’t less true and my testimony is stronger than its ever been. But I will say that its hard to go to church every week when I’m just on the sidelines. I can’t relate what what the others in church say. They’re always talking about family life, their children, their spouses and I just have no connection to any of that. I’m a loner (not that I want to be) and I really don’t have a lot of people directly in my life. Still, I don’t go to church for positions or chit-chat. I go because there’s a chance I’ll learn something or that I’ll be able to help someone else. Thank you for this post. It was felt by more than just childless women, I assure you.

  30. The Fern and the Bamboo…..

    One day I decided to quit…. I quit my job, my
    relationship, my spirituality.. I wanted to quit my
    life. I went to the woods to have one last talk
    with God.

    “God,” I said. “Can you give me one good reason not to
    quit?”

    His answer surprised me…

    “Look around”, He said. “Do you see the fern and the
    bamboo?”

    “Yes”, I replied.

    “When I planted the fern and the bamboo seeds, I took
    very good care of them. I gave them light. I gave them
    water. The fern quickly grew from the earth. Its
    brilliant green covered the floor. Yet nothing came
    from the bamboo seed. But I did not quit on the
    bamboo.

    In the second year the Fern grew more vibrant and
    plentiful. And again, nothing came from the bamboo
    seed. But I did not quit on the bamboo”.

    He said. “In the third year, there was still nothing
    from the bamboo seed. But I would not quit.

    In the fourth year, again, there was nothing from the
    bamboo seed. But I would not quit.
    He said. “Then in the fifth year a tiny sprout emerged
    from the earth. Compared to the fern it was
    seemingly
    small and insignificant.

    But just 6 months later the bamboo rose to over 100
    feet tall. It had spent the five years growing roots.
    Those roots made it strong and gave it what it needed
    to survive. I would not give any of my creations a
    challenge it could not handle.”

    He said to me. “Did you know, my child, that all this
    time you have been struggling, you have actually been
    growing roots. I would not quit on the bamboo. I will
    never quit on you. Don’t compare yourself to others.”

    He said. “The bamboo had a different purpose than the
    fern, yet, they both make the forest beautiful.”

    “Your time will come,” God said to me. ” You will rise
    high!”

    “How high should I rise?” I asked.

    “How high will the bamboo rise?” He asked in return.

    “As high as it can?” I questioned.

    “Yes.” He said, “Give me glory by rising as high as
    you can.”

    I left the forest and brought back this story

    • What a wonderful story. It is much like the poem “Rose above the Circumstance” in that you take what you are given and rise with it. Thank you for sharing this.

  31. Thanks for sharing in such an honest way. As soon as I saw the picture of the sheep, I thought, “There’s me, the black one”. Not the ‘bad’ sheep in the family, simply the ‘different’ sheep in the family. I can relate to you on so many levels, especially in relation to being a questioner. Not a disbeliever, I have a strong and abiding testimony, but a questioner nevertheless. I want scripture to back up blanket-type statements, and I have to study things out in my mind, read my scriptures, ponder and pray to gain my own testimony of the principles of the Gospel many times. To be completely honest, I can get a bit irked with people who seem to just float along and accept everything they hear in church, never studying to find out more about it. I get really frustrated when politics starts being the topic of discussion in Sunday School or Relief Society. I have come close to leaving class when I hear others make what I consider to be insensitive and not necessarily factual ideas about things like gays. Finally, one of my sweet, but opinionated teachers called me and said he could tell I was visually upset by remarks he had made along these lines in class. We had a long and tearful discussion together and he realized that he needs to be more sensitive about the approaches he sometimes takes about sensitive subjects and should probably refrain altogether from discussing certain subjects that lend themselves to opinions by class members that are often not based in fact.

    I admit, I am pretty crafty, but don’t make clothing and do not can fruits or vegetables, nor do I care to learn how to make candy on Homemaking nights. I have finally given myself permission to stay home from Homemaking nights (or whatever the heck they call it these days) if the subject being taught holds no interest for me. And I have been Homemaking Leader in more than one ward. I thought I was going to be kicked out of one of those meetings when I tried to convince the sisters that it’s okay to cook with a little wine, because the alcohol cooks out, leaving only the flavor behind. Yikes.

    I am so happy that our First Presidency and Apostles seem to be focusing more on loving and serving one another and not being judgemental. I always despised that old lesson that used to be given in Young Women’s, using the analogy of girls who had made some poor choices being compared to chewed gum that nobody would want. And I may be shot for admitting this, but I also bristled at the talk Brother Bednar gave , encouraging a returned missionary to dump the girl he brought to General Conference when President Hinkley asked women to stop wearing more than one pierced earring. The young woman he was with did not immediately remove her second earring during Conference and Brother Bednar suggested that he shouldn’t hook up with someone such as this. Well, I did not Immediately remove mine either– I went home and prayed about it and thought about it, and considered the reasons the Prophet might have for this suggestion. Yes, a couple of weeks later I followed the advice and counsel of the Prophet, not because I completely understood everything about his request, but out of obedience to the Lord’s mouthpiece on earth. Do I think less of myself for my actions versus those who took their earrings out during the Conference Meeting? No.

    I have been a Gospel Doctrine teacher several times, a teacher in Relief Society, and have taught Sunday School for various age groups. I served in a Relief Society Presidency in our local jail where we are called to teach and serve the brothers and sisters who are incarcerated. I am a convert to the LDS Church and have been a member now for almost 40 years. I love my Father in Heaven with all of my being and strive every day to become more and more like Jesus Christ. I felt like ‘odd woman out’ for many, many years. One of the things that helped me immensely was attending Women’s Conference about a hundred years ago when the keynote speaker showed slides of “different women” who served in her stake in southern California. She showed a woman who teaches early morning seminary during the morning and sings at nightclubs in the evenings. She showed a single African American woman, surrounded by the rainbow of children she had adopted who had special needs, etc. The speaker assured me that I did not have to bake my own bread nor make my own Levi’s in order to fit into Relief Society. I could finally stop feeling guilty for not wanting to be a Molly Mormon.

    Now, with age and wisdom, I actually find myself worrying about the younger generation of sisters in the Church who seem to be striving too much to blend in with the world and who don’t value being part of a ‘peculiar people’. We change, we grow, and progress. We are tried and tested and purified. I pray we can all appreciate the differences in our members and become a richer, more diverse, and more accepting people.

  32. Sister Chieko Okasaki was in the General RS Presidency when I was young, and I had an opportunity to hear her speak a few times in a more intimate fireside setting. I was so enamored by her! She didn’t speak to us like Primary children, she was poised, professional, and had wonderful things to say. When her book, “Lighten Up” was released, I listened to it on tape because I loved hearing her speak.

    Sister Okasaki did everything opposite that our culture teaches us. She married a nonmember (later joined), chose to work as a teacher and then advanced in her career to administrative capacities, hired another woman to care for her children and her home, and served in the church. She was also Japanese-American, and experienced racial prejudice from people within her own faith.

    Sister Okasaki was a misfit, but gracefully carved out her own existence. I am using her example to carve out my own. I can relate to your blog post almost word-for-word, and have experience the same things. Sometimes, I wonder why we misfits are spread all over the world? I think we would have great conversations together!

    I find that Mormon most misfits think very deeply and carefully about everything and tend to question authority. They see things as they really are – no rose color glasses and sometimes it makes them seem cynical or they battle that cynicism within themselves. They can read people like a book, want to make relationships with people that do not center around motherhood and child rearing, and loathe shallow chit-chat conversation that has no empirical value. We crave the ability to talk about and delve into the gospel truths we have been thinking about with people who have something to offer and share as well.

    For my own sanity, I don’t do the dinner before the RS broadcast anymore. I also avoid RS meetings that do stupid things like making baby onesies and cookie dough for expectant mothers, or those “get to know you” activities that seem to happen every month that never do anything except reinforce cliques that already exist. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been a RS president and have served in many RS presidencies. I’m looking for more meat and substance, not a lot of fluffy dessert. I think General RS President Julie Beck said something about RS getting out of the business of entertainment and into the business of salvation.

  33. I just found your blog and wanted to comment on this post. I just wanted to say how much I appreciate when people aren’t all the same. It makes life so much more interesting and enjoyable. I love people who share a different perspective than me. I just read a non-fiction book about someone’s life. It was so different than mine it was shocking. I just couldn’t believe that people’s live’s were like that. It made me realize that I had all these incorrect assumptions about other people and there lives and it made me want to change that. So thanks for being “different” and realize what a wonderful thing that is. I think we are all “different” in some ways and we need to embrace those things and share them with others.

  34. One more thing 🙂 I think my last comment made it sound like this is easy to do, and being different isn’t that big of a deal. I know that it isn’t that easy. I’ve sat at tables with people different than me and tried to find something to talk to them about. And I’ve had times where I just felt so out of place. But, once we’ve gotten past those differences, these relationships are the ones I have treasured the most.

  35. I’m no longer an LdS member, I grew up in the church, the majority of my family is Mormon. I left the church because of some personal reasons that were looked  the other way at. Even after CPS took us away , I always loved the people and the environment youth group but never fit into the mold. I’m a tomboy through and through. Zero cooking skill but my husband loves to. Completely domestically challenge. Not the sewing canning want to wear dresses and pop out 10+ kids as soon as I possibly can and get married at 18,19 or even 20. I want to go to school become a nurse. I did 2 years of college before entering the Air Force. First female in my very large family to. I remember my sister telling me that a woman place was in the home and her telling me I was being wicked. My family is the extremely extremely extreme Mormon family, you all know the type im refering to. I had a neice bust out crying because she saw me drinking coffee. Well all of that put a bad taste in my mouth. I left the church and I quit honestly didn’t want anything to do with any religious group. After 4 years in Japan I fell in love with the people the culture and most surprising budhsi faith I stepped in to a church/temple for the first time in several yrs. I always had trouble believing in certain areas of the LDS history and creation. That being said I loved the values the family oriented believes. I still talk to the missionaries when they come by and respect their views because of the respect they give me on mine. I will never go back to the LDS faith but will always love the people of the church. Even the domesticly challenged black sheep that can’t sew cook scrapbook. It’s much more fun to be yourself and know god loves all of us no matter what you call him or what faith you belong to. So thank you for being you. As my very wise grandpa use to. You are you; you are the only you there will ever be, so be who you are and love being you. If you do this happiness will always follow. He told that to me when I was debating doing what I wanted to *joining the military* I took his advice 13 year ago and my life has been happy ever since. Some people believe that in order to bea good Mormon you must fit in stay in line and do what every one else does. This is simply untrue. I have 2 bachelor degrees now been around the world. Worked in a job that I loved. I still had kids but not until I hit the ripe old age of 26. Still working on not setting the house on fire when I cook. I have more than one tattoo and bleach out my hair can’t tell you when the last time I wore a skirt or a dress. But I am happy more than I ever was trying to be what others told me to be.

  36. Again another wonderful blog post. My feelings lately have been if you want to feel bad about yourself go sit in Relief Society every Sunday. I really don’t like church anymore. I see the cute families with their little girls with their hair curled and in bows and I’m just happy my daughter is showered and her hair is brushed. My husband is inactive, so I sit with just my 6 year old and feel even worse seeing all these husbands sitting with their families. I live in Utah under “the bubble” and feel the eyes on me wondering why this tattooed husbandless woman is in our chapel. So I struggle too with feeling like a black sheep. I appreciate everyone’s comments. They help me feel not so alone.

  37. Another beautiful print that is available at the Church Art Museum that I have hanging in my home is Minerva Teichart’s painting of the Savior holding a black lamb among the white flock. While my daughter was struggling as a teen, it soothed my heart, but now it sooths my heart for me. In the different seasons of life we can feel we are misfits in the church – it’s important to remember that we don’t all have to do everything at every stage. I loved choir and led many for years, but getting off estrogen after 35 years took a terrible toll on my voice. We live in a ward with lots of young families, and with a ward division have very few friends our age now. Other new challenges as well – no matter! I am finding other avenues to feel a part of the church. Hang in there!

  38. You know, everyone feels separate or “other” at least sometimes. You are a welcome addition to the church, and your voice is important. Thank you for speaking up and sharing.

  39. I wonder what would happen to dispel feelings of being a misfit if we just simply brought back etiquette and manners. At any function, formal or casual, it is good manners to strive to find out a little about those sitting near you and then make sure the conversation turns toward something everyone can relate to. And especially at a RS function where our motto is “Charity Never Faileth.”

  40. I remember, all too well, being that misfit. Working full-time, or going to school full-time, or both and then dreading relief society. I definitely felt like I didn’t fit in. And we couldn’t have children. We tried, and the more we failed, the more I felt like a total misfit. I didn’t have anything to talk with the “Mommy” group with at RS. They didn’t care about my job, and only vaguely about my schooling. There were other reasons I felt like I didn’t fit but those were the two main one. Also, having a husband who is a convert, and being from an inactive family myself. It was hard, and I would sit at those meetings, hating it, and often leave early. Now, from the surface, I fit in perfectly. I have 4 children, all 2 years apart (after 4.5 years of trying), and I hate that my “perfect” exterior of a family, often prevents me from helping others. They write me off as a friend just by looking at my family or my calling. And I don’t know how to change that, even having lived it. I try, and just fail. I so enjoy the diversity in my ward, and in my friendships in and out of the church. I think we often place the barrier there ourselves. We think nobody can relate, that we don’t fit in, but most of us don’t feel like we fit in. I still feel like a misfit, even wit my “perfect” family of 4 kids. But it sure is nice to know Heavenly Father loves us for exactly who we are. I love the song Better Than a Hallelujah because it reminds me that Heavenly Father loves our desperate pleas, our differences, just as much as the perfect prayer, or Hallelujah.

  41. I was not a follower of your blog but a friend shared this on facebook and it called to me. You spoke right to my heart and I was moved to tears. I think there are more of us black sheep out there than we realize and that’s a comfort. It may be more of a perception than a reality but when you feel this way, it’s very real. I try to remember this short saying I have seen several times, “comparison is the thief of joy.” For me, I have always felt the way you describe when I’m at church and I have not only blamed myself for being the “black sheep” but also for comparing and possibly judging others. In my case, it was never meant as a judgement of others but more of a condemnation of myself. I think that’s what you’re saying and some people are misconstruing that as you being judgmental or critical. I don’t feel or hear that from what you have written and from your spirit which jumps off the page. Thank you so much for writing this… I do think it was inspired and a message that many of us need to hear. I have been inactive for a while but after reading this today, I think this little black sheep is going to try to rejoin the flock. ❤ Blessings to you!

  42. I really love reading your article! I think in some way we all are misfits. We all have our talents as well as our differences. If we were all the same wouldn’t we all be a pretty boring lot?!! But the one thing that ties us all together is our love for our Savior. Thank you for sharing some of your thoughts. I’m sorry that you didn’t feel like you fit in, but I so appreciate your courage to share with us those thoughts. Today, I needed to hear what you had to say! Thank you for being who you are! 🙂

  43. Please, Please, Please read the talk given by Patricia Holland titled “One Thing Needful”…It will speak to your heart! She even talks about how she hates to sew! I love it, and keep a copy of it close by. In diversity is our strength!

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