Alternative Lifestyles


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.

  • jared

    Don’t worry about any callings that you may have held. If you are not there someone else will make sure that things get done. My wife and I plan to someday have an RV and travel.Many of the wards that the snowbirds (you called them sunbirds, I suppose them to be the same thing) have a policy that: if you want a calling for 6 months we will give you one, if you don’t want one while your here thats fine too because we are just glad that you came.

  • Anonymous

    I would LOVE to get into sailing!I don’t think you extended vacation plans are that strange. People move, have jobs that require travel, go on missions. Our day-to-day serving in callings is probably not as important as we think they are.

  • diahman

    Does any one know if work has been done on a “hermitage” tradition in Mormonism? Is there even anyone in Church history to set the precedent?One of the issues Buddhism has faced is how to incorporate social initiative into a theology that fundamentally asserts this world as illusionary. Buddhist scholars responded by articulating an “engaged Buddhism”.As Mormons, we find ourselves in quite another predicament–our tradition demands that we be “engaged”.I think the issue TrailerTrash is raising is, how do we navigate the tensions between self and community?In almost everyone there’s a desire to in some respects, leave society and retire to the ocean, mountains, woods, etc. How should we deal with this desire? Take short vacations? A summer trip? Would there be anything wrong with me leaving permanently?

  • Anonymous

    I’ve thought about the same things. It’s almost as though a person that wants to not have to live in the same place all the time is shirking responsibility, as we know that everyone is expected to have a calling/be a home or visiting teacher/attend and support Church functions, etc. There is also the unspoken expectation that if you have a position of more responsibility, you won’t move out of the ward. I actually once knew a bishop that did that. I unfortunately never learned the details, and it happened years ago when I was a teenager and didn’t really understand the significance of such a move. I also don’t know if that had anything to do–and I’m not making this up–with him developing brain cancer and dying within a few short years. I’ve always wondered about that.


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