Mormon Hipsters: How to be Mormon and Not Mormon at the same time

There was a very interesting article in the New York Times yesterday.   It was titled To be Young, Hip, and Mormon.  To be honest, I was a little upset as I read the article, the very premise seemed to be “How to be Mormon and not Mormon at the same time.”  Okay, it wasn’t really that bad, and I have no problem with people who want to be Mormon and Hipster, but the people they interviewed in the article all seemed to have the same mentality — they want to reconcile their faith and their popular culture.

I was reminded of the scripture in the Old Testament, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” (1 Kings 18:21).  These people are looking for ways to bend the rules of Mormonism in order to fit in with what is cool, what is ‘hip’.  They complain that they can’t wear the cool clothes and still be in compliance with the modesty standards, they complain that they don’t like going to parties because they feel out of place not drinking.  But what got me most was the guy who opened a tattoo shop and eventually got a tattoo on his arm, of a beehive — so it’s okay.  He said, “It’s a complicated way of saying I still love the church.”  My thought was, ‘No, it’s a simple way of saying I don’t care what the church has taught, I’m going to do my own thing anyway.’

And the most offensive part of the article was at the end where the New York Times writes about What the Church Says and How to Get Around It.  The very idea that you want to “get around” the commandments and doctrines of the church, just so that you can fit in with the cool kids, is just unthinkable to me.  Either you are a Mormon, you want to be a part of the faith, you want to believe and accept the tenets of this faith, or you do not.  And if you do not, then don’t.  No big deal.  There’s no one forcing you to be Mormon, there’s nothing, other than social pressure, which is, ironically, the only thing encouraging people to be hipster.

And that is another one of the blaring ironies of the article.  These people want to be different and fit in as well.  One guy who worked hard to get a beard card while at BYU because he really wanted to wear a beard and be different, complained, “I felt like people were constantly staring at me.”   Really?  You want a beard at BYU because it makes you different, and then you complain when people stare at you?  You can’t have it both ways.

I will state again that I have no problem with people who are Mormon who want to be hipster (or people who are hipster who want to be Mormon).  Dress as silly as you like, be who you want to be.  But don’t sit around and complain that you can’t be as hipster as you want because you’re Mormon.



7 thoughts on “Mormon Hipsters: How to be Mormon and Not Mormon at the same time

  1. To me, being “stylish and cool” isn’t the thing LDS kids need to hear they can be. Not to say they can’t look nice and some fashions are appropriate, but especially the “being different” factor bothers me (and they quoted several people who definitely were missing the point: spending excessive amounts of time and money on designer labels, calling jeggings appropriate, covertly getting away with long hair on campus, laud of the tattoo industry, non-alcoholic beer for “shock value”, poor language). People that try to circumvent or be different for the sake of setting a trend or standing out are missing the fact that the Church is all about conformity and abandoning one’s own desires. Not to say I’m perfect on that count, but agency isn’t about making your own choices to do what you want, it’s about having the choice and choosing what the Lord wants.

    I wish they had chosen the people they interviewed more careful: Mormon culture exists, but subculture to me is never a desirable area to spotlight.

    P.S. I love it how people like this describe their relationship with the Church as “complicated”.

    1. Thomas M. Bradshaw,

      I think you may be right that the Church (as popularly held now) is about conformity and abandoning one’s own desires. But the church of Christ is about coming unto Christ and denying oneself of all ungodliness. When we get in the habit of rewording scriptures to match our interpretations, we can block ourselves out from ever seeing them in a different way. And that can lead too unrighteous judgement. Which leads to the same fate that you fear non-conformity leads to. Thankfully, though we oft tend to forget it, the atonement of Jesus Christ is the central piece of his church. So, my having a beard, especially one that conforms neither with the Church nor with the world, even if it is folly, will not deny me salvation, because I know in whom I trust.

      1. The hardest part is to judge the actions without judging the people. That is essential to our progression, and that’s what I mean to leave at the core there, but I too am not perfect. It’s not about non-conformity being evil, it’s about the blessings of choosing to conform.

        By analogy, we are called to be ants. Many are mindless ants that do what they are told. Many others think they are better than that, and choose their own path. Better yet is to think about why you are doing it, and continue on the path outlined by choice.

        P.S. Disclosure…I’ve got a nice beard myself, thank you very much ;^) I wouldn’t say that the beard does not conform with the Church, but it doesn’t conform with certain standards (i.e. BYU, barring a beard card), and it definitely isn’t (at the moment) socially acceptable, so it makes sense to me when I get stares. It’s coming off very soon because it has served its purpose and I have no desire to be different for the sake of standing out. If one chooses to be different because that’s what they like, and it doesn’t conflict with the Church, go for it. If they do it to “rebel”, which will in essence deny exaltation for the motivation, not the act, then they should stop.

        1. I think that statement of your belief is much clearer, so thank you for elaborating. By the way, absolutely agree with you that “being “stylish and cool” isn’t the thing LDS kids need to hear they can be.” It’s something that really causes a lot of self-image problems and, I believe, an incorrect understanding about the natural man and what it is we’re trying to over/be-come

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