Recently I’ve read several articles featuring the “darkside” of Mormonism or how Mormons don’t get the “real world”. Really? I find these articles very, for lack of a better word, irritating. Most of the time they seem like they are grasping to make some point they can’t defend. I get to the end of the article and feel like they are missing their punch line. They gather the most random of rumors or the peculiararities of the faith and place them out of context. It seems they just want to point out every bad or strange thing they’ve ever come across pertaining to the LDS religion and spread more misconceptions. Half the time I don’t even know what the point of the article was. Yes, the Mormon faith seems mysterious, but it’s not secretive. There are certainly things that set it apart from other Christian religions. I think any religion can be viewed as strange from outsiders right?
The other articles I’ve read are on one person’s specific experience with Mormonism. They infer that the religion and its people in its totality are the way they were for that person’s specific experience. I’ll be the first to admit that people are not perfect… no matter WHAT religion they are. And yes, there seems to be a cultural singularity amongst Mormons that reside in Utah versus Mormons that live elsewhere. I also do not doubt that these people did have the experiences they write about. But I ask you please; do not say that all Mormons or that the religion is completely summed up by YOUR unique experience. Of course I say that and I will ask you to keep that in mind while I share some experiences of friends and myself. My experience and those of my friends will not be your experience.
First off, yes I am a practicing Mormon. I was not raised Mormon. I was not pushed into Mormonism. It was something I discovered on my own and believe and practice of my own accord. I also did not spend my entire youth growing up in Utah. I lived most of my youth in the Seattle area. I have also lived and attended LDS churches in Texas, Utah, California, Pennsylvania, Hawaii and Vietnam. I have attended church congregations in English, Spanish, Vietnamese and Tongan. I realize my experience is limited to the places I have lived and visited.
At present I reside in Vietnam. My impressions of members of the church are always changing. I live in a Communist country where members of the church are from all over the world. Some of these people have sacrificed everything to be a part of this church.
A few months ago a man was teaching Sunday school. The lesson was about sacrifice in reference to the ministry of Paul. The teacher asked us what things we had sacrificed in our lives. For the most part the class was fairly silent. We consisted of English-speaking foreigners, most of us American. None of us really had monumental sacrifices we had made in our lives. The teacher gave us this thoughtful expression and then began to tell us his story.
When he was nine years old and living in Korea, he happened upon some missionaries from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. They were lost. This young boy decided he would help them get to where they needed to go. Along the way the missionaries began to teach him about the gospel. By the time they had reached their destination, this boy had a strong desire to go to the church.
His family was strongly Buddhist. Both his mother and his father held high-ranking, paid positions within the Buddhist faith. The Sunday school teacher joked that when he grew up he could have been guaranteed a job within the Buddhist religion. The problem with this was that his parents could lose their jobs if their son converted to another faith.
This young boy asked his father if he could go to the LDS church on Sunday. His father got angry. Numerous times the boy asked to go to the LDS church. His father’s anger then succumbed to blows. This boy was beaten again and again, but still his desire to know more about the religion was undimmed. He finally managed to attend church. At some point his family disowned him for his belief in the church. The bishop of the ward he started attending took him into his family and raised him as his own son. That family eventually moved to Canada and he with them. The teacher with a look of deep sadness then said that he has no idea about what happened to his mother, father or brother. They never spoke to him again.
This Sunday school teacher is a pretty quiet man. He’s not ostentatious, but fairly humble. He’s a husband and a father of three young boys. I don’t think any of us knew about his past.
Many of the people here in Vietnam were all converted to the Church recently. Many were converted despite hard feelings that their families have against the church. In a country where ancestor worship, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism or Catholicism are the most prevalent, the LDS faith is somewhat of a novelty. It is quite different from anything else here. If you are a Mormon here… you definitely stand out.
In Vietnam most members don’t know about fry sauce, green jell-o with carrots, CTR or funeral potatoes. They do know about the importance of families, being good people, chastity, prayer, scripture study and of course one of the most important, the atonement of Jesus Christ and his role as Saviour.
I get so angry when people call Mormons bigots, racists, or sexists. Seriously? The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is a world-wide church. Let me say that again. WORLD-WIDE. There are over 14 million members of the LDS church in the world with church material printed in at least 166 languages.
I can’t speak for everyone in the church, but I enjoy having a diverse group of friends. I have friends that are LDS, Buddhist, Christian, Catholic, Sikh, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, gay, straight, married, single, young, old and whatever race or nationality they happen to be from. But whatever religion someone is I would try not to judge them by it, rather on the kind of person I see them being. I like learning about culture and different religions. I think over-all people would find more similarities than differences once you get to talk with them about their beliefs.
In my experience I have never been taught to feel inferior. I am a strong woman with a family and a career. Indeed I’ve been taught to educate myself and be the best person I can be. It is true that the LDS religion has a patriarchal structure with its organization and within the family, but that does not mean the wife submits quietly to everything her husband says. In fact, I think if you’d ask my husband who wears the pants in our marriage he’d jokingly say, “My wife.” The family leadership comes from both the husband and the wife. I’ve been taught numerous times that the husband should treat his wife with the utmost respect and love. The same goes for the wife for the husband.
People may call Mormon old-fashioned or “out of touch with the real world” (as one article stated). I have to completely disagree. In a world where promiscuity runs rampant and “love” is a four letter word, I find it sad that people would look down on those who would save themselves until marriage. People mock those who would dress modestly. I’ve been looked at strangely before because I want to wear shirts or dresses with sleeves that don’t completely expose my cleavage.
As far as not living in the “real world.” I ask “How do you mean?” Is it because I’m not completely plugged into pop culture? Is it because I don’t have an iPhone? Is it because I have chosen to take a break in my career to stay at home to raise my kids instead of having a day care do it? Is it because I give 10% of my income to support church buildings, feed the hungry, clothe the poor, aid those in distress, etc.? Or maybe it’s because I don’t buy things on Sundays because I believe it’s a sacred day and nobody should have to work. Is it because I believe chastity is sacred? Maybe because I believe love is something that means more than just sex? Or because I believe marriage is a life-long commitment that should be honored and cultivated everyday and not to be taken lightly?
I don’t really know what that writer meant when he said we don’t live in the “real world.” I guess I wish I could ask him what world he lives in. I’m not sure I’d want to visit his world, but then I guess he’d made it clear he didn’t want to visit mine either.
These are just my opinions. Everyone else seems to have put in their two cents. I guess I just wanted to add my own. I know I may not be a typical Mormon, but I guess I don’t really know what a “typical” Mormon is. I just want people to stop judging me falsely because I am LDS. Just because I’m Mormon doesn’t mean I’m Republican. Just because I’m Mormon doesn’t mean I want a million kids. Just because I’m Mormon doesn’t mean I’m anti-gay (the gay marriage thing could spawn a whole other blog entry about how I don’t think it’s the government business to define marriage for anyone: gay or straight). That one REALLY makes me mad because I have dear friends who are gay and I love them so much! Just because I’m Mormon doesn’t mean I’m Betty Crocker homemaker (though admittedly, I love to cook).
I am Mormon. I love my faith and the peace it has brought into my soul. I don’t claim to know everything. I know I’m grateful for the presence of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in my life. I think I’m a stronger, kinder, better person because of its influence. If people have questions about the church I implore them to go to the source. Don’t go to the haters to ask about it. Go to members of the church, the church websites (www.lds.org or www.mormon.org) or pray about it. Find out for yourself from credible sources, not from people spreading myth or rumor.