I’m starting a short series of “A Mormon in..” to share with readers my experiences living around the world. And as a Mormon. Lindsey totally beat me to the punch in a previous post, but the world is large and perspectives are many! Let’s get to it.
First location: London
In some ways being a Mormon in London is like being a Mormon anywhere: changing geographical location and culture doesn’t shift my religious beliefs any more than it does change where I was born and the family I belong to. What living there did was provide me with many experiences for growth and maturity in every aspect of my life, including spiritual.
In other ways, it was different. How can I best describe what it’s like being a Mormon in London? Let’s try this simile… I really got into urban cycling in London and covered about 100 miles a week…the London I saw is much different–not better, mind you–than those who take public transportation. We are all getting around, but we see the same things from different angles.
Mormons and the UK. What a cliche, right? Many Mormons can spout out lists of ancestors who converted in Great Britain, including my great-great-grandfather‘s family. While being in the land where my ancestors walked and talked is undeniably cool for any person, that’s not why I went. (okay…one quick side story about my ancestors: While I was traveling in the Isle of Man I couldn’t find the local youth hostel. I ended up sleeping overnight in a cemetery where lots of my ancestors are buried!)
I moved to London because I have an insatiable appetite for living abroad. Not visiting abroad. Living. It’s such a good way to experience a place.
I spent 2007-2010 in London working on my Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis in Arab cinema. It’s an incredible way to view the region and its people. I speak Arabic and have studied Islam in depth. London is the best place outside of the Middle East to meet people from there. I hung out with lots of Moroccans, Egyptians, Syrians, Lebanese, etc.
Over the three years I lived with a few incredible families (non-Mormon at that) with beautiful kids that I helped watch in exchange for cheap rent. For the last year I lived in a flat full of Mormon peeps my age–both guys and girls. It was awesome. We played video games late into the night, planted a garden, made dinner for each other, made home movies, stole each others’ food (guilty), and had barbecues on the roof overlooking London’s skyline. On Sundays, some of us would jump on our bikes and trek through Regents Park and Hyde Park to get to church while the others took the Tube.
As for weekly church, I attended a congregation for Mormon singles in London. It is the only one of its kind in Europe. It is a huge group, and no less than 30 nations were represented. There was me, the American girl who’s been a member her whole life, sitting next to George, a Bulgarian laborer who’d joined the church a few months before. There was our bishop (a ward’s main leader) who’d lived in India for years, and also a bunch of Brits who hadn’t even been across the English Channel. In many ways there was no difference between any of us. We were all there because we wanted to worship the Lord.
I thought there weren’t a lot of Mormons in west Texas, where I’m from. Think again. A drop in a bucket in Texas became a drop in a lake in London. I found that although Mormons are few in number in the UK, they are incredibly strong. Never once did–or do–the statistics deter me from my faith. The Lord created a diverse world that we can enjoy all together.
The Gospel is there for everyone, no matter where you live. Those who want it and need it will find it by praying and searching. In the meantime, I’m gonna go study my Arabic grammar book and rest my legs after cycling to and from work today.