A Mormon influencer overcame religious guilt after getting pregnant out of wedlock. Now, she's using TikTok to debunk misconceptions about her community.
Paige Arminta grew up in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Last year, Arminta found out she was pregnant out of wedlock, with her boyfriend of three months.
She has been sharing her story to debunk stereotypes about guilt and judgment in her religion.
When she was growing up, Paige Arminta, a full-time social media content creator and a lifelong member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as LDS or Mormonism) always imagined that she would get married and start a family straight out of high school.
But her romantic life didn't turn out that way, and last year, aged 32, Arminta found out that she was pregnant, and the father was a man that she had been dating for three months and was not married to.
Knowing that sexual activity outside of marriage is strongly advised against in her religion, Arminta was extremely nervous about telling her family, who were all active members of the church living in Salt Lake City, Utah.
"Not only do they not know that I've been having sex with this guy, but now they're going to find out that I'm pregnant. I was freaking out," she told Insider.
Arminta said she experienced religious guilt and shame prior to telling her loved ones, but has since overcome those feelings and is sharing her story with her 48,000 TikTok followers. She told Insider that she hopes her content will dispel misconceptions about judgment in the Mormon community, even ones that she once believed herself.
Arminta discovered that the people in her community were accepting of her relationship and situation
Arminta told her family about her pregnancy straight away, and they responded with acceptance and love, she said.
"I should have been thinking, 'great, my family is on board,'" she told Insider, "But I was so stuck in my thoughts of caring what everybody else in my community, Mormon or not, was going to say. You want to believe that people aren't as judgmental as they are, but the world is really cruel. I was terrified of sharing it with the world."
Having grown up in the LDS Church, Arminta said she feels that guilt and shame tend to spring up in a lot of different religions, despite the fact that many of them have a doctrine that is focused on love and kindness.
"I think a lot of people, in general, have these judgy glasses on no matter what. We all judge, but when it comes to religion I feel like a lot of people are on their high horses," she said.
Arminta said she felt she had a responsibility to tell her followers the story of finding out she was pregnant, and posted a TikTok video on January 5, explaining it for the whole internet to see.
She was prepared to receive an onslaught of negative comments but found that very few arrived, even after her post had been up for several days. A number of commenters praised Arminta for being open and addressing the topic of religious guilt from her perspective.
However, some commenters started to question whether Arminta was still a part of the LDS Church given her circumstances, suggesting that they thought she might have been "disfellowshipped" from the community, a form of discipline from religious leaders where a person remains a member of the Church but loses some privileges of participation in proceedings.
@paigearminta story time 🤰🏼 #knockedup ♬ original sound - Paige Arminta Watts
Arminta told Insider she is still a full and active member of the Church and attends meetings regularly with her mother.
"So far, no one's turned their nose up at me," she said.
The 32-year-old influencer said she thinks some people have incorrect preconceptions about what the LDS Church is like and are "just looking at the extremes" of what they have heard about the community, assuming the worst about it.
The influencer wants to dispel misconceptions about Mormonism using her presence on social media
Arminta said that while there are plenty of incorrect stereotypes about all religions, she feels that misconceptions about Mormonism seem to be particularly rife on the internet.
She said she thinks this because the LDS Church has accrued a big online presence, that has left it open to online criticism and mockery, from "Mormon mommy bloggers" who emerged in the 2010s, sharing tips and insights into their family lives, to the large group of influencers sharing their lives on TikTok in a prevalent online community that has become known as "MormonTok."
The MormonTok community exploded into the mainstream in May when Utah-based influencer Taylor Frankie Paul, one of the biggest creators in the space, admitted to being in an open relationship that caused her marriage to fall apart. Various influencers who were close to Paul made public statements distancing themselves from the controversy at the time, and by August, Paul said in a TikTok that she lost some of her closest friends over the scandal.
While Arminta, who said she does not see herself as belonging to the MormonTok community, said she was only loosely familiar with the online drama around Paul as it unfolded, she told Insider that the positive reception to her own story, which significantly differs from Paul's but is similar in the way it involves stepping outside of religious norms, shows a different side to Mormonism, and how accepting its members can be.
"I think it's been a good insight into how awesome this community is," she said.
Arminta is hoping to one day marry her baby's father, Tevita Gerber, who is not a member of the LDS Church, after she's given birth, and to raise her child to "know, love, and lean on God." While she is unsure how much she wants to post about her new family, due to concerns about her child's privacy, she hopes that whatever she does share will work to "overcome stereotypes" about what an ideal family looks like.
"We both think we could build a great community where we show that, yeah, we're not the norm, but we're getting through it as a team," she told Insider.
For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.
Read the original article on Insider