One of the constraining aspects of Mormonism is that it seems to shut down alternative modes of living life. By “alternative lifestyles” I don’t mean to refer to experimental sexual/social relationships like hippie compounds or anything. Rather, I am interested in the way that a true Mormon cannot choose to live a nomadic or solitary life. We must exist within communities. But our communities are not just any kind of community, they are local communities.
The reason that I have been thinking about this topic lately is because I have recently been interested in sailing. I had the chance to sail competitively on a modest yacht this summer and now dreams of owning a boat have taken over my life. Fortunately my spouse has caught the bug too and we have set a goal to some day sail around the world (or at least to Europe and back). But in the back of my mind I keep worrying about my callings at church as well as the lack of contact with LDS communities for potentially months at a time.I imagine that cattle ranchers, corporate road warriors, and people who dream to live in a cabin deep in the wilderness face the similar problem of connecting their dreams or work obligations with the constraints of LDS community life. I suspect that sun-birds share a set of these problems since they can’t hold a calling for more than 6 months. I know that I would be frustrated if I were staffing a ward full of sunbirds. Part of the problem is that one’s membership in an LDS community is necessarily local. Even if I were to go to church every week in my travels around the world, I still wouldn’t fully “belong” at any of the congregations I visited. Conceivably the internet may one day de-localize LDS community life, at least for a certain mobile portion of the membership, but I don’t suspect this will happen anytime soon. Besides, half the reason for sailing around the world is to get away from any consistent set of surroundings, including ward members.