Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Alternative Lifestyles


One of the constraining aspects of Mormonism is that it seems to shut down alternative modes of living life. By "alternative lifestyles" I don't mean to refer to experimental sexual/social relationships like hippie compounds or anything. Rather, I am interested in the way that a true Mormon cannot choose to live a nomadic or solitary life. We must exist within communities. But our communities are not just any kind of community, they are local communities.


The reason that I have been thinking about this topic lately is because I have recently been interested in sailing. I had the chance to sail competitively on a modest yacht this summer and now dreams of owning a boat have taken over my life. Fortunately my spouse has caught the bug too and we have set a goal to some day sail around the world (or at least to Europe and back). But in the back of my mind I keep worrying about my callings at church as well as the lack of contact with LDS communities for potentially months at a time.

I imagine that cattle ranchers, corporate road warriors, and people who dream to live in a cabin deep in the wilderness face the similar problem of connecting their dreams or work obligations with the constraints of LDS community life. I suspect that sun-birds share a set of these problems since they can't hold a calling for more than 6 months. I know that I would be frustrated if I were staffing a ward full of sunbirds. Part of the problem is that one's membership in an LDS community is necessarily local. Even if I were to go to church every week in my travels around the world, I still wouldn't fully "belong" at any of the congregations I visited. Conceivably the internet may one day de-localize LDS community life, at least for a certain mobile portion of the membership, but I don't suspect this will happen anytime soon. Besides, half the reason for sailing around the world is to get away from any consistent set of surroundings, including ward members.

8 comments:

jared said...

Don't worry about any callings that you may have held. If you are not there someone else will make sure that things get done. My wife and I plan to someday have an RV and travel.

Many of the wards that the snowbirds (you called them sunbirds, I suppose them to be the same thing) have a policy that: if you want a calling for 6 months we will give you one, if you don't want one while your here thats fine too because we are just glad that you came.

Anonymous said...

I would LOVE to get into sailing!

I don't think you extended vacation plans are that strange. People move, have jobs that require travel, go on missions. Our day-to-day serving in callings is probably not as important as we think they are.

diahman said...

Does any one know if work has been done on a "hermitage" tradition in Mormonism? Is there even anyone in Church history to set the precedent?

One of the issues Buddhism has faced is how to incorporate social initiative into a theology that fundamentally asserts this world as illusionary. Buddhist scholars responded by articulating an "engaged Buddhism".

As Mormons, we find ourselves in quite another predicament--our tradition demands that we be "engaged".

I think the issue TrailerTrash is raising is, how do we navigate the tensions between self and community?

In almost everyone there's a desire to in some respects, leave society and retire to the ocean, mountains, woods, etc. How should we deal with this desire? Take short vacations? A summer trip?

Would there be anything wrong with me leaving permanently?

Anonymous said...

I've thought about the same things. It's almost as though a person that wants to not have to live in the same place all the time is shirking responsibility, as we know that everyone is expected to have a calling/be a home or visiting teacher/attend and support Church functions, etc. There is also the unspoken expectation that if you have a position of more responsibility, you won't move out of the ward. I actually once knew a bishop that did that. I unfortunately never learned the details, and it happened years ago when I was a teenager and didn't really understand the significance of such a move. I also don't know if that had anything to do--and I'm not making this up--with him developing brain cancer and dying within a few short years. I've always wondered about that.

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