When it comes to Mormonism, do you feel more like an insider or an outsider?

Where you see yourself probably has a lot to do with whether you prefer being an insider or an outsider, and what the tolerance for deviation from the norms is from those with whom you most closely associate.

Personal Preference – which type are you?

  • Affiliation.  Some people want to belong.  They are called affiliators.  They like to be a part of a group, they want to fit in, and they do not like to be seen as “different.”
  • Differentiation.  Some people want to be seen as different or unique.  They can’t stand being like everyone else.  They will point out the ways they are not like the group’s norms.

The real solution here is that you have to own up to your preferences.  If you like being different or unique, don’t complain about being different and unique.  And if you want to fit in, own up to that and don’t blame others if your need to feel accepted outweighs the total amount of commonality you have with the group

Group Tolerance – which approach do you take?

  • Inclusive. Some people want to broaden the tent of Mormonism, allowing for everyone who has any interest to be “in” and to feel welcome.  They tend to find the universalist bent to the plan of salvation comforting and appealing.  They want to assure themselves that no one will ultimately be left out. They like to reach out to anyone at church who may be an investigator, or just have different or unpopular views.  They want everyone to be accepted.
  • Exclusive.  Some people want to police the standards and to “protect” the exclusivity of the community.  They quickly point out unacceptable deviations (sometimes directly or sometimes alerting lay leadership of the dangers posed by that person).  These individuals need to belong to an organization that is exclusive, free from infiltrators.  They might sniff with disdain when they smell cigarette smoke on someone’s clothes or whisper about that outrageous comment Sister Smith made in RS.  They might mention to the bishop the concern they felt when they saw Bro. Jones walking out of a store on a Sunday or that the YW president’s daughter was wearing a bikini to wash the family car in the driveway.

In reality, we are all insiders and outsiders throughout every conversation.  Things are said that we identify with (insider) and that we dislike (outsider), that we agree with (insider), and that we have no interest in (outsider).  These are probably the same categories whether you are at church or at work or hanging out at a family or high school reunion.  I have grouped these into a few categories:

  • Things you don’t believe (outsider) vs. shared beliefs (insider)
  • Things you haven’t experienced (outsider) vs. shared experiences (insider)
  • Things you don’t value (outsider) vs. shared values (insider)
  • Cultural differences (outsider) vs. shared culture (insider)

Christ would say we should strive to be more inclusive of others, while helping them to become the best they can be.  But first we must accept others on their own terms if they are at all interested in being part of the group.  To do that, we need to downplay the focus on shared experiences and shared cultural markers that are especially difficult for newcomers to share.  Focusing on shared values and beliefs seems the best way to be inclusive.

So, what do you think?  Are you more of an ousider or an insider?  Is that the way you like it?  How inclusive are you of others?  Are you sometimes surprised at how inside or outside you feel?  Discuss.