Most of us here at TWiM don’t live in the Mormon Corridor—the region across the Intermountain West with large and majority Mormon populations. (Look, Wikipedia even has a map of it!)
As such, it’s easy to forget how it is, particularly from a cultural aspect, to live in areas with a heavy (and oftentimes dominant) Mormon presence. Heck, one of us grew up in a county once originally created just for Mormons, only to have mobs drive them out.
With that cultural dominance comes friction with those not of our faith. Naturally, this could apply to any socio-cultural group setting, but the friction seems to be particularly strong between Mormons in largely LDS communities and their non-Mormon neighbors. This could be for a number of reasons, but invariably our somewhat insular nature can leave us acting unwittingly callous toward those who do not share our faith.
This unnecessary friction has been highlighted once more via a viral post from the blog My Investory entitled, “A Letter to Mormons.” The author, identified as “Reneé (your hopeful neighbor),” lives in Gilbert, Arizona, a heavily LDS area. She discusses her desire to know her Mormon neighbors and associate with them at a community level, and her frustration that Mormons appear to close themselves off to others when the neighbor is unwilling to listen to missionary discussions.
But beyond her own needs, most of the letter is geared toward Reneé’s desire for Mormon youth to associate more with their non-Mormon classmates. Admonitions include (quoting):
- Please teach your children to be inclusive of my non-mormon children and please guide them to carry that inclusion past grade school, into middle school, and throughout high school.
- Please encourage your children to sit with mine in the lunchroom.
- Please permit your kids to invite my kids to their slumber parties, birthday parties, and weekend get togethers even after my child has made it clear that he or she is not interested in attending fireside, seminary, or church with your family.
- Please allow your teen to go with mine to school dances, athletic events, and group dinners trusting that just like you, my husband and I have done the best we know how to raise a teenager who knows right from wrong.
- Please welcome my children into your homes and permit your children to visit ours.
- Please ask your kids to consider how isolating it must be on “Seminary (extra credit) Days” for those kids who do NOT come to school dressed for church.
- Please reflect on the fact that adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours comparing themselves to their peers, so when they recognize that it would never be “acceptable” to date your son or daughter or be your son or daughter’s best friend, it is, at best, damaging to their delicate self-esteem.
- Please call to mind your younger years when your primary objective was to be loved and accepted for who you were without having to pretend you were someone else.
- Please understand that my families faith also emphasizes the importance of loving others, giving of ourselves, forgiving those who have wronged us and seeking forgiveness when we wrong others, doing what is right and turning from evil, seeking a relationship with God, spending time in prayer, and living a life inspired by Jesus.
- Please support your children in having open, vulnerable, honest, transparent, loving, kind, accepting conversations with my children about what they believe and why. In fact, while our kids are having that “grown-up” conversation, I also hope to enter into this depth of sharing with you…the Mormon parent.
- Please know that I hold your child in the same regard as any other child who shares my family’s faith or who prescribes to no religion at all. Your child is special, and beautiful, and worthy of my love and caring regardless of doctrine or theology.
- Please believe that I see our differences as an opportunity for us to grow together in loving-acceptance. God did not call us to tolerate our neighbors. I love and welcome you, your family, and your faith because we are all children of God made in His image. Your faith is a sizable component of who you are, and you are God’s creation with gifts and beauty and a soul that has the ability to positively transform my life with each encounter.
(As a quick side note, I have no idea what extra credit Seminar Days are, and why they involve dressing for Church, but I’m also super against release-time seminary, in general.)
There’s some good stuff here, and it boggles the mind that in majority-Mormon communities there’s a perceived fear of intermingling. Look, Gilbert, your random Methodist neighbor is not going to burn down your store, steal your property, and make you move to *shudder* Chandler.
However, in truth we often fear others not because of the potential loss of property or life, but because too often we assume that associating with non-Mormons means we will dilute our pure Mormonness, as if our children will get evil ideas from their non-Mormon friends, or non-Mormon parents will indoctrinate our children with falsehoods. This is some Voldemort-level nonsense. If you’re a good parent, you will teach your child to acknowledge and even learn about everyone else’s faith, but to find the truth of the restored gospel for one’s self. And your child’s testimony can be stronger for learning how to empathize with those outside of our faith community. A homogeneous approach toward cultural and religious affairs weakens our ability to reach the one.
Also, shouldn’t we take a step back and realize that fearing negative influences from “outsiders” is just the inverse of outsiders fearing—or becoming exhausted from—our repeated efforts to Mormonize them? We certainly do it from a place of concern and desire to share what we’ve found to be true, but it’s blatantly hypocritical to assume we have a right to push our faith and culture on others while remaining unwilling to let others do the same to us.
The author goes on to say:
“For decades now I have felt an invisible yet palpable partition between my family and our mormon neighbors…a silent criterion that has said, ‘we can’t be that close…we can’t walk this life together too often, we can’t be intimate friends unless we share the same faith.'”
This is her opinion and it comes from her own experience. Of course there are good apples and bad ones, but shouldn’t we do our best to tend to the orchard? Missionary opportunities are important, but being a Christlike good friend and neighbor to the Mormon and the atheist are potentially more important. One is about sharing the good word, but the other is living it.
From the other side of the coin I echo Reneé. I’m grateful that I was raised with Mormon and non-Mormon friends. (If anything, I think I longed for better Mormon friends during my adolescence.) I like to think I’m a better person for it.
Don’t be like the Death Eaters in Gilbert or elsewhere. Embrace ecumenism. Embrace your neighbor. Remember that God loves all of His children equally, regardless of the covenants they have or haven’t made. Even if you never share a testimony, you can still share your love, memories, and lives. And that’s worth something.
Read the full article here.