What do the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Cannibal Corpse have in common? I love them both.
Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Mormons, tend to have popular stereotypes: they all have nine kids in their family, they all go on missions and they all eat funeral potatoes.
However, my personal lifestyle has broken several of those stereotypes. I am an avid metal fan and I am a Mormon.
Since I was 13, I have been drawn to heavy metal and its hundreds of subgenres. I love the passion, aggression, art and freedom associated with it.
From an outside perspective, I seem like a walking contradiction. My musical lifestyle contrasts with my religious ideologies, seemingly heretical or damnable.
I grew up in a religious family where individuality and a lust for life were priorities. After I launched myself into the perpetual mosh pit that is metal, I felt at home. However, that feeling was tried and tested throughout my youth.
When I was a teenager, I would hear the whispers of peers and their parents as I would attend youth events wearing band shirts that carried a disruptive and aggressive message.
I recall not being invited to join certain out-of-church activities with the kids my age because I listened to “music that would drive the Spirit of God away.”
As I entered high school, I found it difficult to make friends with other students in LDS seminary classes. They would talk about new church artists they were discovering, and I would interject with a thought about Slipknot.
While sitting in church, the kids my age would discuss P!nk, Coldplay or other radio friendlies, and I would attempt to carry on the conversation by talking about As I Lay Dying’s newest album.
I felt as though what I enjoyed in life stood in the way of me fitting in and being a faithful Mormon. Instead of resenting those around me or the church itself, I instead further embraced my musical lifestyle and decided to pave my own path.
Being a metalhead changed from the cross I bear to the badge I wear. It’s what made me different from anyone else around me. My parents saw my desire to be different and taught me, “If you don’t want to fit in, then you better stand out.”
I embodied the life of both a metalhead and active church member and found an infinite number of ways to combine teachings from both.
I was taught by The Holy Bible and The Book of Mormon to be proud of who I am and to stand up for what I believe in. Bands like Lamb of God, Unearth and Killswitch Engage carried the same messages in their music.
I was taught in church about the parable of The Good Samaritan and that we should always help each other when in times of need. While moshing at a Children of Bodom concert, I helped a man who had fallen down out of concern for his safety.
I was taught about the importance of serving your fellow man and letting them serve you. After I had fake blood spit all over me while watching the band Behemoth, my heart softened as several strangers approached me in genuine concern and asked if I needed medical attention.
Although certain metal bands have anti-religious messages, I have found my faith strengthened. My appreciation for metal increases as I go to church and my church experience improves as I listen to metal.
It’s common for me to talk about concert experiences in my church meetings. I often attend church events wearing death metal band shirts. I’ve even gone so far as to teach a church lesson relating spiritual strength to the history of grindcore.
My experiences in church buildings and my experiences in mosh pits have taught me one vital lesson: love the life that you lead. I am a metalhead. I am a Mormon. I am proud to be both.