After I wrote the title of this post, I turned to my little half-black adopted sister, Trinity, and asked the seemingly loaded question, “What are you?”. Her first response was of course that she didn’t know what I meant. I asked again without clarifying and asked “What are you?”. At that point my friend, and our replacement nanny for the day, Lauren, chimed in, “You’re an Oakey.” I asked Trinity again “What are you?”, to which Lauren moved herself in front of Trinity and made a face, which to me meant she assumed I was asking what color Trinity was. After Trinity reaffirmed that she was an Oakey, I asked Lauren what she identified as. She said she was white.
Here in this example we see two distinct answers to my question. We have the answer that is familial, and one that is racial. My question then becomes for others, “What are you?”. I did a scientific study by randomly asking people that appeared on FB Messenger within a 7 minute period of time that question, and here were some of their answers:
Keri: A Redhead
Chris: A Mormon, Same-Sex Attracted
Paige: A Girl Human
Ryan: A Redhead
Kevin: A Redhead
Mallory: I am a female. I am a UVU student. I am the Vice President of Academic Senate for UVUSA. I am a behavioral science major. I am a daughter. I am the best friend to Hope and Baylee. I am also one cool kid.
From these results it’s easy to see I have an oddly disproportionate number of redhead friends… but also that their answers varied. All of these friends are LDS, yet only one said they were Mormon (though it was clarified with their sexual orientation). I got one answer about gender and species, a few about hair color, one about race, one about a job, and one about how awesome they are. Mallory had a lot to say about who she was lol.
My purpose in asking these questions was to see how my friends identify themselves. Are they identifying themselves in physical, racial, familial, emotional, sexual, or spiritual ways? What should they be identifying themselves with? And are we doing enough to change the way we identify ourselves?
When I pondered this question in the shower the other day, as the shower is often the place I contemplate on the weightier matters of eternity, I asked myself “What are you?”, the answer seemed simple and clear to me, I’m Mormon. I thought that was a pretty good answer to that question. As I pondered more, other personal identifiers swelled to the surface: gay, fat, white, poor, a student, Co-Founder of Millennial Mormons, Apple fan boy, etc. Sadly, the most important one for me wasn’t even on my list. I forgot that I am a Child of God.
You would think that would be more ingrained into my psyche. I mean, it was the first song they make you memorize in primary, it’s drilled into you in lessons and seminary, yet it wasn’t on my list, nor was it on the list of the people I surveyed.
In the aftermath of the Ferguson, MO riots, there are more and more people grasping firmly to the identity of being Black in America. With gay marriage prevailing across this country, being open and identifying as gay or lesbian is becoming an increasingly popular identifier. When the 2016 elections start up, friendships will be tested, and Facebook statuses will become the battle ground between those who identify as conservative, moderate, and liberal. Some titles like mother, homemaker, Christian, and Muslim are being given bad connotations, and people are afraid to identify themselves as such.
Everything is about identity these days, yet the most important one is being left on the table as folks rush to make a name and a niche for themselves. What are you doing to expand the identity of Children of God? How are we helping those around us remember that they are more than their sexual orientation or race. That they are more than their career, or their hair color? That there is more that ties the human race together than the religion one adheres to? We are a family composed of God’s children. We have an eternal destiny and existence. As we YOLO though life we forget we are in the midst of one life that began with our organization, and continues with our salvation. I want to see less status updates about race riots, or “I can’t breathe”. I want to see less about our individual struggles and more about our collective strengths. I just want to be able to answer the question “What are you?” with the answer “A Child of God”, and not feel a quiet shame. I think these things are possible, but only if we remember our true eternal identity. We are Children of God.