Equality for all… even the Mormons

I cannot claim a clear understanding of what the cruelest forms of discrimination feel like. I do not know what it is like to be forced to the back of a bus because of the color of my skin. I’ve never had to use segregated bathrooms, or drinking fountains. I’ve never sewn a star onto my clothing, indicating my heritage or religious preference. I’ve never been turned away from a restaurant. I’ve never had crosses burned in my front yard. I’ve never been forced from my home, or driven to a strange land in search of life free from religious persecution.

I hope our country has come far enough that no one will ever have to endure such vile and intolerable treatment again. After all, we are a country that just elected a black man to the highest office of government, when just sixty years ago, men of similar heritage could not even attend school with the general population. We are a country that preaches tolerance and acceptance in all aspects of living. I believe, as a nation, we are better than such discrimination. But perhaps, as individuals, our tolerance and love is still lacking.

I do not want to set myself up as a victim. I live in a country where I am free to worship how I please, free to raise my family in this wonderful land, and send my kids to school where I know they won’t get punched because of their religion. I’m grateful for that. In the grand scheme of things, I have little to complain about. Except, maybe my kid will get punched because of his religion. I grew up here in the south, and can, if I felt so inclined share numerous stories where I have been treated differently because of my faith. There are millions of Mormons all over the world…

NOT so many in this here part of the woods.

Just today I went to sign some paperwork at an attorney’s office. He was a kind, generous man who told me he appreciated that I stay at home with my children. He loved that I’m a Tarheel fan and that I’m raising my kids to love the Tarheels too. We spoke for a few minutes about family, touched on politics and then mentioned religion. When he learned I was a Mormon, his kindness went from open and sincere to forced and a little uncomfortable; an educated, well respected individual treated me differently because of where I worship on Sunday. Weren’t we done with this kind of behavior decades ago?

Here’s the thing about the Mormon faith: I would guess near 50% of what those outside of our faith know about the Mormons isn’t actually true, and the other 50% is simply misunderstood. And that is frustrating. I wish, instead of treating me differently, that attorney today had told me why he found it so disturbing that I’m a Mormon. Seriously. Let’s discuss it. Because I do not deserve to go through life being relegated to the emotional backseat of everyone’s opinion. I don’t deserve to have notes left in my locker telling me I’m going to hell, or have boys tell me they can’t be my friend because their preacher told them I worship a different God than they do.

Lest I give you an ill opinion of the south, it’s worth mentioning that not all apples in the basket are rotten. There are plenty of respectful, tolerant, accepting individuals who do not consider one’s status as a Mormon as reason for disdain. And I’m certain that ill judgment heaped upon the Mormons is NOT exclusive to the south, though I’d guess it is a bit more prevalent here.

The thing is, when I’m done cataloging the frustrations of being misjudged and quite frequently misrepresented, when I’ve vented over the ridiculousness of unfair claims and assumptions, and occasional mistreatment, if you ask me if it’s worth it, I’m still going to say yes. If you ask me if I want to go live in a part of the country where Mormons live in large quantities, where congregations number in the thousands, rather than tens, and youth groups are large enough for eight team basketball tournaments instead of two on two volleyball, I think I’d still say no. Not because there is anything wrong with those parts of the country. I’m sure they are perfectly lovely (and probably have their own unique set of challenges), but here… here, you have to decide really early whether or not the persecution is worth it. You have to decide that no matter the opinions of others, you know what you know, and there isn’t any changing it. You have to stand on your own two feet, planted firmly on the doctrines of your religion. If you try to sit the fence, you’re most likely going to fall off.

And who wants to do that?

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19 thoughts on “Equality for all… even the Mormons

  1. InkMom says:

    Wow. That really stinks. How sad for him — he is so small minded. Think of all the fantastic people he will never know beyond “I’m a Mormon” because he is unwilling to allow the person to speak for the religion instead of his obviously ill-informed and prejudicial knowledge of the religion to speak for the person.Honestly, I hope we all have experiences like this one. Maybe one day, one of us will ask, why the bad attitude? And a conversation will be started that may actually change lives for the better.

  2. veronica says:

    Thanks for sharing that. I think those of us who are born and raised in Utah, where Mormons are the majority, don’t realize what others of our faith endure on a daily basis.You’ve opened my eyes.

  3. DeNae says:

    I'm sure, living in your part of the country, you are well acquainted with D&C 87. I am of the opinion that the south is still reeling from the spirit of contention and hatred that led to those events. (There's a whole conversation that goes with that statement.) This "promised land" takes the keeping or breaking of the covenants that make it "choice" very seriously, if I can say that without sounding like a crystal headed Gaia worshiper. But the last verse of section 87 is about you and your family. "Stand ye in holy places, and be not moved." Your faith and covenants will eventually help to heal that part of the country and make it a "holy place" again. Chin up! You're doing great work where you are!

  4. fawndear says:

    You spoke my mind. I have family who lives in CA who have had vandelism done to their property and who have had their names and addresses posted on the internet because they were Mormons. Sadly, discrimination is alive and well.

  5. No Cool Story says:

    :(“I would guess near 50% of what those outside of our faith know about the Mormons isn’t actually true, and the other 50% is simply misunderstood.” ITA! I was part the former. I was totally misinformed by books, friend’s gossip and even church leaders.Your story makes me sad and so does fawndear’s.

  6. Claudia says:

    I’m not a Mormon but I’ve experienced the miss informed comments that can be so hurtful at times.I’m with InkMom, may be one day the question will be asked …Well said!

  7. Brooke Jean says:

    At work there are people who say “Mormons are all judgmental, oh except for George, and Ben, and etc., the ones I’m friends with.” It drives me crazy because the “all” they are talking about is 5% of them and the ones they are friends with make up the rest. It’s like they heard somewhere that Mormon’s are judgmental and so even though they don’t personally know any that are … all the ones they don’t know happen to be. (Did that make any sense?)

  8. Klin says:

    This stuck a nerve so I had to wait to comment. When I work with teens I often hear that Mormons don’t like them and then they start saying all these negative things that aren’t true. THEN they want those same people to NOT judge them.

  9. ucmama says:

    Hi MommyJ,I like your blog :)And I know what this feels like. Having been raised in Atlanta as a Catholic, and then becoming Mormon, I found it astonishing to be labeled in the way you described. I actually lost friends when I joined the church. I feel like it made me a better person though. And you’re right, everything I’ve gained, and most importantly my testimony, has been worth any ill will I’ve experienced. Thank you for this post.

  10. NOBODY says:

    Relegated to an emotional backseat eh? That’s pretty awesome.You know, I’ve gotten that sudden cold shoulder before, and I think this post has inspired me to ask why next time. There’s no reason an intelligent, and previously very friendly person, can’t answer that question, right?

  11. Code Yellow says:

    You’re a TARHEEL fan? What?!? (kidding)Prejudice and dislike are truly about 90% misunderstanding…and the other 10% is not realizing that you don’t have all the information (or correct information). For what it’s worth, I think you are doing a great job sharing your beliefs, clearing up a bit of the misinformation, and standing tall for your faith.And I’m with you – adversity makes a testimony stronger, especially when you have to develop that testimony early on and stand for it when it is really hard.

  12. Melanie J says:

    I just found your blog today from MMB, and I’m a little astonished at how much we have in common based on reading a few of your posts.1) I too have a deep sink.2) I’m a SAHM, trying to write. I’m finishing my second manuscript now.3) I grew up in Louisiana and I totally, utterly relate to everything you explained in this post.I am soooo coming back.

  13. iamwoman says:

    I'm just now reading this (don't judge me!;) and you really hit the nail on the head. It's a different world in the Bible Belt, for sure. I consider myself lucky because I moved so much growing up – and everywhere I moved had just about zero members of the church in my school or seminary. I had to be strong in my faith from the get-go. When I got married and moved to my husband's town in GA, I was already prepared. Although, it definitely didn't make it any easier to feel rejection.

  14. Kara Herron says:

    I just found your blog, and made my way to this post. Beautifully written. I grew up in Utah, and after marriage moved. My family spent 12 years on the East Coast, and then moved back. It was a difficult decision to make – do I keep my kids in a place where they are "special" and everyone watches them? Where they invite non-members to their baptisms, because ALL of their friends are different religions? Or do I move them nearer to family, and hope that the "uniqueness" of our religion in Utah doesn't hurt them? Quite frankly, I moved them, because I wanted them surrounded by LDS kids. My oldest was just starting Junior High, and I knew it was going to be rough. What I didn't expect was how weird it would be for them in Utah. They would come home from school, and tell me that the "bad" kids were LDS too. However, I'm glad we moved. Being closer to family is wonderful. And my kids (all 10 years older now), have thanked me. We've looked in on their friends from Pennsylvania, and almost every one has had major problems – drugs, alcohol, etc. I often wonder how difficult it would have been for my kids if we would have stayed there. I've got great kids, and I'd like to think that peer pressure couldn't touch them, but I'd be foolish if I did. However, I've thought often over the past 10 years, about the unique opportunities they had living outside of Utah. I miss that so much. I guess it isn't easy anywhere. I love what Denae quoted – stand ye in holy places. Teach your children that, and they'll be ok. Thanks for this post – it got me thinking.-Kara

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