By Orson Scott Card
There is a sort of comfortableness that can settle in with majoritarians. A complacency that allows one to be picky and exclusive.
I remember getting this feeling when I lived in Utah. I moved to the town of Orem, where Mormons were an estimated 98 percent of the population. That should certainly have made me feel at home!
However, I was also a Democrat, and in Orem, Democrats in 1980 were about as common World Series pennants in the Chicago Cubs clubhouse.
So the local Mormon congregation had no idea what to make of me. I clearly didn’t have a job — freelance writer? Of science fiction? — and I did something so eccentric as joining the Democratic Party, so how could I possibly be a good member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints?
My opinion was that the two questions were really unrelated — my identity as a Mormon was, I thought, secure. I kept the commandments. I fulfilled my callings in the Church. And — here’s the clincher — I sang tenor in the choir. Good tenors in church choirs are almost as rare as Democrats. I expected to be embraced with open arms.
Unfortunately, my ward (congregation) did not have a choir at that time.
Nor did they have a single calling that they thought I could fulfill.
Now, this is one of the peculiarities of Mormonism (which is, after all, the subject of this discussion, yes?): Because we have a lay ministry, every single member is expected to serve in some ministerial role. We teach or supervise or perform other services as part of an official “calling” in the Church.
In fact, that’s much of the way that we create our identity — by our callings. No matter where we move in the Mormon Church, our congregation will have a “Relief Society president” and many “Primary teachers” and a “ward clerk” and an “executive secretary,” and so on.
Even if these people are complete strangers to us, we know who they are in the ward — the function they fulfill, and what we can expect of them, and even some information about the kind of person who is usually given such a calling.
But in my ward in Orem, they couldn’t think of a calling that a science-fiction-writing Democrat could possibly fill.
In their minds, because I was such an unfamiliar creature to them, I couldn’t really be counted as “Mormon.”