I’m a Mormon.
It’s not something I talk about much, which is strange because my faith is actually a huge part of my life. I think the main reason is because I don’t like to feel judged, and I don’t want anyone else to assume I’m judging them. Religion is a very sacred and personal thing to most people, enough so that the mere mention of the word “religion” is bound to offend someone, or at least initiate a case of the cold sweats (I’m kind of a sweaty person anyway, but uncomfortable religious talk DEFINITELY gives me armpit tacos). I’m also pretty private (yes, blogging propels me far outside my comfort zone), and I’m typically not prone to talking about my personal life unless people ask.
But I’ve started to realize that a lot of my friends and family are actually pretty curious about Mormons, but are too afraid to ask.
I know quite a few people harbor some pretty deep-seated misconceptions about Mormons. Some can’t stand us (I hadn’t seen this type of animosity until I moved to Mormon Mecca (a.k.a. Utah), which totally surprised me). Many are confused by us. Probably an even larger number are unaware we exist (I was one of these. I grew up thinking Mormons were the predecessors of the Amish…Not totally sure where that came from). The thing is, I really love being Mormon–honestly, I do. But as a convert to this faith–I converted when I was 20–I’m fully aware of how our church and its members are perceived from the outside looking in.
I sat thinking today, and I realized that I desperately wished people knew more about my faith. And believe me, not in the hopes that they would denounce their faiths and dive into the Mormony waters of baptism; my motives are more selfish than that. I just want people to stop looking at me like I have three heads when they find out I’m Mormon. I also want them to know I’m a normal person, with faults and feelings and hopes and disappointments that make me just like everyone else. I could have made a really long, doctriney-based list, but I narrowed down five, super non-specific things I wish more people knew about Mormons:
1. Mormons are Christian (and while we’re on the subject: The Mormon Church Isn’t a
The actual name of the “Mormon” church, in case you didn’t know, is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (I use Mormon and LDS Church interchangeably, since most people are more familiar with “Mormon”). “Mormon” is actually a nickname that came from the Book of Mormon, a book of scripture which is another testament of Jesus Christ. We believe in God (our literal Father in heaven), in his Son Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost. We believe Jesus Christ is the Savior and Redeemer of the world, that He was crucified and was resurrected. We worship Him, learn of Him through the Old and New Testament, as well as the Book of Mormon, and strive to become more like Him.
On that same note, I’m not entirely sure why people think the Mormon church is a cult–more so than any other religion, anyway. Sure some of our doctrine may seem foreign to some, but ALL religions are built upon stories and assertions that defy science and logic. Christians actually believe a mortal was the literal Son of God, and that he was capable of healing the sick and raising the dead. Jews actually believe Moses parted the Red Sea. Hindus actually believe people die and continue to be reincarnated over and over again. Muslims actually believe Muhammad spoke to the Angel Gabriel. (I had a comment here about Atheism that several atheists informed me was inaccurate–so…it’s out. I don’t want to misrepresent others’ beliefs, especially considering the spirit of this post (yikes Kelly, way to be a raging hypocrite!)). It’s also worth noting that there are nearly 15 million Mormons worldwide, which is actually about the same as the worldwide Jewish population. We may not be “mainstream”, but we’re not small and we’re not extreme. As a whole, we have really traditional views on most social issues, which are pretty in-line with most Christian denominations. Not to mention, we wholeheartedly believe in free choice as well as freedom of religion for everybody, including Mormons who decide the whole Mormon thing just isn’t for them. I haven’t been asked to drink any Kool-Aid yet, but I’ll keep you updated.
2. Mormons Aren’t Judging You
Obviously, this is collectively speaking. I’m sure there are Mormons that judge you, just like there are inevitably atheists, Catholics, Muslims, and Jews that judge you. I think most of this perceived judgment comes from the fact that we’re encouraged to live a pretty straight lifestyle–we commit to abstaining from alcohol, coffee or tea, smoking and using drugs. We believe in chastity before marriage. We’re commanded to avoid pornography, and we’re encouraged to dress modestly, to not swear, etc. etc. etc. Not surprisingly, people assume that because I say “no” when I’m offered a beer that I’m secretly condemning them because they drink beer. I get it. I’m guilty of that line of thinking. My brother recently became a vegetarian, and I just knew at every meal he was thinking I was Satan for enjoying tasty animal flesh while he gnoshed on beans and lettuce. But the truth is, 1. I don’t think most of the things I abstain from are truly bad, I’ve just made a commitment to not to do those things 2. I don’t have the time or energy to judge you and 3. That’s not what Christ would do; I love President Uchtdorf’s (a member of the presidency of our church) thoughts on judging others:
“When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. ”
What it comes down to is that I respect your choices, and I hope you can respect mine. So let’s just be friends.
3. Mormon.org Can Answer Most of Your Questions (So can…Mormons)
When I find people spouting off negative, inaccurate information about the LDS Church, I’m never surprised to find that it typically originates from websites whose sole intention is to promulgate negative, inaccurate information about the LDS Church. If you wanted to learn about black history, you wouldn’t check the KKK website first, would you?? Likewise, if you have a question about Mormons or the Mormon church, wouldn’t it make sense to go straight to the source? Mormon.org and LDS.org are sponsored by the LDS Church and have a ton of information for both Mormons and non-Mormons. (2nd Edit: This is not to say that people should ONLY view websites sponsored by the Mormon church–there are MANY great non-church sponsored websites that have a lot of good information about Mormons, and allow for candid discussions about the Mormon faith. I would caution, that people need to be aware (especially those who are completely unfamiliar with Mormon beliefs) that there are many sites that are FULL of misinformation about the Mormon church, and as far as learning the fundamentals of our beliefs, I still think Mormon.org and LDS.org are the place to go). I think you’ll also find that most Mormons are happy to have you just ask them directly if you’re curious about something. I don’t get offended when people have genuine questions about my religion; I appreciate the fact that they consider me a reputable source, and I’m honored that they feel comfortable enough to ask.
4. We’re Not (Always) Trying to Convert You
I had one friend tell me she thought most Mormons were really nice, but she couldn’t stand feeling like they were always trying to get her to convert. The fact is, our church is HUGE on proselyting; so much so that boys over 18 are expected to serve a two year church mission (I’m sure you’ve seen them in suits with backpacks, bikes, and name tags). Aside from our missionaries (whose actual purpose is in fact to introduce people to our church and the gospel of Jesus Christ), most Mormons are just normal people who are really excited about their faith. Why? Because most find it to be extremely meaningful and fulfilling, and it makes them happy. Yes, listening to them might be overwhelming, but if it is, politely change the subject or tell your friend or neighbor you’re not comfortable having that conversation. There’s no competition or reward for conversions or baptisms. If someone has a hidden agenda to befriend you in order to get you to convert, that’s wrong. And it’s crazy. But if in the normal course of your relationship religion comes up, and your Mormon friend shares things about their faith, it’s not because they’re trying to suck you in or brainwash you. I would hope most Mormons are just as interested in learning about your faith and the things that are important to you as they are about sharing their own.
5. Not All Mormons are Like that One Weird Mormon Person you Know
I’m never sure how I should feel when I’ve known someone for a little while and they say to me, “Wow, I never would have guessed you were Mormon!”, especially when they say it as a compliment. On the one hand, I’m grateful to NOT fit whatever horrible stereotype they’ve bought into and project on every Mormon person they meet. But on the other hand, I REALLY REALLY like being Mormon, and I’m not ashamed of it. The fact is, stereotyping someone because of their religion is the same as stereotyping someone for being black, or Asian, or Muslim, or female. All I ask is that you see me as a human first, that you give me the benefit of the doubt and get to know me first before you decide whether or not we can be friends.
Thanks for making it this far down the list. I hope you now know that if you have questions about Mormons, here’s one you can ask 🙂