DiversifYA: Darci Cole

DarciToday, we welcome Darci Cole to the blog! Darci is a good friend of mine and writes gorgeous YA fantasy. She’s an editorial intern for Entangled, Sprint Leader at #WriteClub, and one of the YAvengers. Not to mention, she is also known for Colevanders, Makers of Fine American Wands since 2009. 

To top it all off, today she’s here to talk to us about what it’s like to be Mormon. 

1. How do you identify yourself?

I’ve reflected on this question a great deal in the last few weeks. Originally, I sent my interview in saying that if I’m asked about myself I identify as a wife, mother, writer, and then maaaybe, if someone asked me specifically, I’d tell them I’m a Mormon.

The thing is, when you meet someone and do the “tell me about yourself” thing, the first instinct is to talk about family, work, schooling, maybe a hobby. Religion is generally avoided because, being such a passionate thing for so many, it’s a touchy subject. So no, I don’t go around advertising my faith because I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable.

But that’s not what this question asks. The question is, “How do *I* identify?” I am, first and foremost and forever, a follower of Jesus Christ. A Latter-day Saint. A Mormon. And I realized I shouldn’t be afraid to voice that. Especially to myself. My faith comes first, then my family, then my writing, and everything else.

2. What did it feel like growing up as Mormon?

Honestly, I often felt like I didn’t know what was going on. I dealt with and mostly ignored it, because I didn’t know any different, but looking back I do recognize that it was uncomfortable This was mostly in situations where swearing or crude jokes were present. I remember a specific time in first grade, I was 6 or 7, when I got in trouble for writing out the words “F*** you Nicole” and passed the note to my friend in class. It was a word I’d heard, but I didn’t know what it meant. Needless to say, my parents talked to me about it and I never said it again.

Then a few times in 8th grade (I think I was 14) a bunch of my peers would laugh at me because I didn’t know enough about something to get a particular joke. People looked at me like I was stupid because I was 14 and didn’t know what oral sex or masturbation was.

In retrospect, I’m very glad my parents kept things like that out of my life until I was older, but it was uncomfortable when I got teased or bullied because I was sheltered from rather than inundated with media.

3. What are the biggest challenges? Conversely, what are the quirks/perks?

Challenges? Probably the biggest is misunderstanding. There are a lot of people even today who still see my religion as a cult or devil worship or something. There are actually seminaries of other churches that teach their students to single out and argue with missionaries of my church in an effort to tear down their faith. I experienced this firsthand myself, even being yelled at, told I’d been brainwashed, that my beliefs were a crock, etc. and it still makes no sense to me why anyone would do it.

Another challenge can be the backlash we sometimes get for our beliefs. We’re taught certain things from a young age with absolute clarity. A lot of our doctrines are very black & white, which makes explaining them to others difficult. Things like abortion, abstinence, even swearing, drugs, and alcohol can cause others to judge us for our perceived judgment of them. Even when it usually isn’t there.

Just as an example, take our views on homosexuality. We understand that an individual can’t control certain aspects and hormonal responses of their body, but we believe very firmly that the powers of procreation — and therefore the body parts we have as men & women — are God given and only to be used between a man and a woman, legally married as husband and wife. Therefore, to us, acting on a homosexual desire is wrong.

However, this does not stop me, or anyone else, from befriending GLBT people. We are Christians, and as followers of Christ we strive to love our neighbors. So long as other people’s choices aren’t hurting me or taking away my agency, what they do is their business, not mine.

As you can probably guess though, our strong beliefs are often misunderstood as bigotry or being judgmental. We try very hard to avoid that, but it’s a struggle we often face.

Perks would be that I have an amazing community of people who love and support me, as well as believing the same things I do about Gospel Principles. Where I live, there are a lot of members. My congregation is only about 1.5 square miles, and has about 200 active members (estimating) so while I’m still a minority, it often doesn’t feel like it. I know that in other parts of the world there are far fewer concentrations of members, and that can make it harder for people to stay faithful to their beliefs. What helps is when others outside our faith can respect us for our convictions and let us live them instead of fighting against us.

4. What do you wish people knew about being Mormon?

Most important is that we believe in Christ. Though modern media has given us a separate name, we classify ourselves as Christian. We believe that Christ lived, taught, suffered, died for us, and lives again so that we can too. The biggest difference between our teachings and other Christian denominations is our belief that the Priesthood Power Christ gave his Apostles when He lived was lost when they died, and needed to be restored. We believe that it was brought back through the modern prophet Joseph Smith. Today, we have the same organization that Christ formed when He organized his church. We have a prophet and twelve apostles just like they did then. It really is the coolest thing.

5. What are the biggest cliches/stereotypes you’ve seen?

Hahaha! Um, there are a ton of “Mormon Culture” cliches. Green jello salad inevitably appears at every church function. From an outsider’s perspective, probably the most obvious stereotype is the Big Mormon Family. We’re taught that the first commandment (the one given to Adam & Eve) is to multiply and replenish the Earth. So, yes. A lot of us have a lot of kids. But that doesn’t mean that EVERYONE has ten kids or twenty siblings. I’m the oldest of five, and I loved it. I currently have two kids and, while I’d like to eventually, the thought of having more right now terrifies me. So, we’ll see.

BONUS: What is your advice for writers writing diverse characters?

I suppose the thing to do is research your characters background and beliefs. Whether it’s cultural, religious, physical, or otherwise, every person will have a specific understanding about who and what they are. To make it real, a writer has to put those beliefs in their story in such a way that it teaches others about that person without feeling preachy. (Because no one wants to be preached to. You just ends up feeling scolded or something.) It’s another part of World Building and Character development like any other story, it just probably takes more effort to understand someone who isn’t you.

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