Friday, June 28, 2013

Do Mormons have Christian Privilege?

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about privilege. If you're privy to feminism and feminist conversations, this term should come up a lot. There are lots of kinds of privilege, including white, male, Christian, cis, heterosexual, and probably more. You can learn more about it here, but I'm also just going to copy part of their definition here:
Privilege is notAbout you. Privilege is not your fault. Privilege is not anything you've done, or thought, or said. It may have allowed you to do, or think, or say things, but it's not those things, and it's not because of those things. Privilege is not about taking advantage, or cheating, although privilege may make this easier. Privilege is not negated. I can't balance my white privilege against my female disadvantage and come out neutral. Privilege is not something you can be exempt from by having had a difficult life. Privilege is not inherently bad. It really isn't. 
Privilege is: About how society accommodates you. It's about advantages you have that you think are normal. It's about you being normal, and others being the deviation from normal. It's about fate dealing from the bottom of the deck on your behalf. 
Basically, privilege is about where you fall in the human hierarchical food chain. Some of my high school friends used to have this joke (that they probably didn't come up with) that in order to be the biggest minority, you'd have to be a black Jewish female lesbian, or something like that. And that's kind of what privilege is.

So, that being said, let's talk a little bit about Mormons and privilege.


Mormons are kind of weird. We are Christian because we believe in Jesus Christ as the Savior who Atoned for our sins and etc. Lots of other Christians don't want us to call ourselves "Christians" because we don't believe in the Godhead the same way most other Christians do. We believe in the Bible, but we also have the Book of Mormon. Basically, we're half in and half out of the majority of Christiandom. 

Mormons are also frequently a minority. In my high school, I was one of four Mormons, one of which was my sister. I can remember very vividly the day we talked about Mormons in my U.S. history class. I sat silently while my classmates asked our teacher if Mormons were the ones who never cut their hair and other far-fetched rumors and misconceptions. Most of them had never even heard of Mormons - they were obviously confusing us with Mennonites, Amish, and even Sikhism (I believe). It was only at the end that I revealed to everyone that I was one of these fantastical Mormons. From then on out, I would be called "MormaGirl," or "that Mormon girl," and random students I had never met would come up to me in the cafeteria and ask me if I was "the Mormon." 
The only place where this isn't the case at all is in Utah. Last I heard, Utah is 60% LDS, though Salt Lake City is only 40%. There are obviously other parts of the country where Mormons may not be the majority of the population, but they also are common enough that most people have heard of us and know the gist of what we're about.


Christianity is a type of privilege, at least in most of the Western world. Certainly in the U.S. Find out what exactly this means here. My question has been: if Mormons are Christians, do they have all of the same privileges that Christians tend to have? 

Let's look at the article with the 35 privileges that Christians have.

#3 - It is easy to find stores that carry items that enable you to practice your faith and celebrate religious holidays. Finding stores that are specifically geared towards LDS members is extremely hard outside of Utah. I don't think I ever knew of one in Massachusetts. However, finding stores that sell Christmas items – which Mormons do celebrate – is easy.
    #8 - You can practice your religious customs without being questioned, mocked, or inhibited.

No, practicing our religious customs has not been inhibited, at least not in modern times. That is definitely a big deal. But our religious customs are generally questioned and mocked. “Magic underwear” anyone? That wasn't a fun phase to go through.
    #11 - Positive references to your faith are seen dozens a time a day by everyone, regardless of their faith.

Sure, there are positive references to Mormonism. Many consider Mormons to be hard-working, polite, and clean-cut, giving them a reputation of being excellent hires. But there are also lots of bad references. We've been called a “cult” lots of times. People still can't seem to get over polygamy, even though that was over a hundred years ago.
    #14 - It is easy for you to find your faith accurately depicted in television, movies, books, and other media.

No. This almost never happens. Polygamy, Joseph Smith as a gold-digger, polygamy again, missionaries … Mormonism is apparently great fodder for cheap, cliché, over-used jokes.
    #15 - You can reasonably assume that anyone you encounter will have a decent understanding of your beliefs.

Nope. This would be a refreshing surprise. Even in Utah, lots of people who aren't LDS have some confused ideas about us (not that I can blame them).
    #17 - Your faith is accepted/supported at your workplace.

As a Mormon not living in Utah, your faith will probably be mocked and misunderstood in your workplace.
    #20 - Your faith can be an aspect of your identity without being a defining aspect (e.g., people won’t think of you as their “Christian” friend)

Like I said before, I've absolutely been known as the Mormon friend. This will change depending on where you live.
    #24 - You are never asked to speak on behalf of all the members of your faith.

I've done that many times. I've been trained to do that from an early age.
    #25 - It is unlikely you will be judged by the actions of other members of your faith.

Polygamy falls under this again, but also mainstream LDS political beliefs. People think that “Mormon feminist” is an oxymoron because of ultra conservative Mormons.
    #26 - You can go anywhere and assume you will be surrounded by members of your faith.

No. That's why we have special camps and conferences!
    #27 - Without special effort, your children will have a multitude of teachers who share your faith.
I've only ever had one teacher who had ever been LDS at any point in his life. That was the weirdest fluke ever.
    #28 - Without special effort, your children will have a multitude of friends who share your faith.

No, and that was sometimes difficult. But when I was going to elementary school in a very conservative part of California, I definitely had SOME LDS friends. As I've previously stated, that was not the case in high school. So again, this depends on your area.
    #29 - It is easily accessible for you or your children to be educated from kindergarten through post-grad at institutions of your faith.

I used to dream of a private elementary school that was LDS-run. Now I realize how weird that would be. But there are a few colleges that are LDS-run. BYU, BYU-I, BYU-H, LDS Business College, and Southern Virginia University (though that is not officially run by the Church).
    #32 - Your faith is taught or offered as a course at most public institutions.
Only in Utah.

So that's 14 out of 35 that I believe don't apply to Mormons. There are a few more on there, like having a jury of your peers that share your religious values, but I think in that case the fact that a jury of our peers would most likely be Christian counts as a privilege for us. (In fact, I think in Jodi Arias's Case, her defense tried to use her Mormon faith/culture in her trial.)

And obviously, almost all of these don't count in Utah. In Utah, Mormonism is the majority and the institution in power, so we do have Mormon privilege. That's an odd phenomenon, huh? 

What's the point of all of this? Absolutely nothing. It was honestly something that I was curious about. Obviously, while Mormons have endured lots of shit, especially in our early days, we are still higher up on the religion food chain in the U.S. than many other minority and misunderstood religions. I do not mean to lessen the experiences that those of real minority faiths. Though I do believe that being LDS in some areas can give us an idea of what it means to be a minority, we still enjoy many advantages that Christians in general have in this country.

EDIT: A few days later, this happened:

Then this:

I've never heard of that before. But I guess it happens.


  1. I just had a comment about #15: I feel like even some Mormons don't understand their beliefs fully. I have spoken with many friends who admit to not having read the Bible, or even the Book of Mormon. That blows my mind. I am not even close to being an active Mormon, so I definitely admire your ability to question and investigate and stand up for yourself and beliefs at the same time. But this is one problem I have had lately, is that people accept the Church as their religion, without knowing what they accept. (Kind of off topic, I realize). I feel like I understand the religion better than many people who are actually active believers. Sorry for the rambling, I guess I am just wondering if I am the only one who feels this way or if that is something other people have experienced?

    1. I think you're right. A couple of weeks ago, I came across a blog of a man who was very stalwartly LDS, to the point of posting pictures of girls in modest outfits, turning messages of pure love even for those who are homosexual into morality lectures, and posting hymns and scriptures. In my opinion, he used his religion to spread a lot of intolerance and criticism of lots of people who were different from him (even lifers). Yet at one point, he admitted that he hasn't read further than Alma. I'm not sure how common this is. When I was growing up, I participated in lots of stake-wide Book of Mormon and Bible readings. I guess not everyone does.
      It's frustrating when this happens. I feel like if you're going to make a huge life-altering decision, such as baptism, you should try to understand everything about the religion possible. However, Mormonism actually has a SHIT TON of information, and for lots of people, faith is enough for them to decide to convert. (I think this principle also holds true for lifers - if you claim yourself as LDS, you should be fully educated of what that entails.) So I guess I would just rather that everyone was humble, and realized that they don't know every facet of their own religious system, rather than being stubborn and filling in the blanks for themselves with ridiculous folklore nonsense - because that happens.
      So yeah, I understand your feels. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for you comments!