I think a lot of Mormons, including myself, have been put on the defensive lately because of all the media buzz surrounding Mormons. It seems anyone that has an opinion about Mormons is sharing it via news outlets, blogs and facebook. It is normally not hard to get a Mormon to feel and act defensive, it kind of goes with the history of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Historically Mormons have had to defend themselves on just about every issue pertaining to the Church, and many times these conflicts have resulted in violence and even death.
I hate feeling defensive all the time. I hate feeling like I’m going to have to combat all the false information that is out there about Mormons that I seem to run across everyday online or on TV. But, I realized something a few days ago, I don’t need to feel defensive all the time, or really hardly ever. I was trying to remember the last time I felt falsely judged or personally attacked because of my religion or beliefs. I don’t remember exactly, but I’m pretty sure the last time was in high school. There were a few instances in college where people would come to BYU campus and try to make a scene, but I didn’t feel personally attacked then. I would put that on the same level as internet comments. I don’t feel personally attacked or judged unless the person knows me personally and says the comments to my face. Otherwise, I think people are just trying to stir up controversy to get attention and share their opinions.
I really have had very few experiences where people have personally attacked my beliefs. I have actually had really positive experiences where friends and acquaintances have been very respectful and understanding of my beliefs. Especially in areas where we disagree or they think the beliefs are just too out there I have noticed people really put effort into trying to be understanding and non-judgmental. And when I say understanding and non-judgmental I don’t mean sterile. People kindly tease my husband or myself all the time about the more peculiar aspects of our religion. They do it in a way that lets us know that for them it is a little far-fetched but what we believe does not bother or threaten them. Everyone has different experiences but my experience is that the large majority of people are kind enough and understanding enough to accept me with friendship even if my beliefs are different from theirs. I try to be as kind and accepting as they are, and you know what, it makes life a lot more fun and interesting when I’m surrounded by a variety of people with a variety of view points and we can all appreciate each other for our differences.
This past week we started attending a new congregation because we moved across town. Our congregations are set up a little differently than other Christian sects. Congregations are based purely on geographical area. You attend the congregation whose boarders you live within. This is significant for a few reasons.
First, a congregation is not a source of income for anyone, including the head clergyman, the bishop. There is really no monetary incentive or need for a clergyman to try and get as many congregation members as possible. No one is trying to sell you on a certain congregation.
Second, the same thing is taught in each congregation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints worldwide. Members don’t visit different congregations and then decide which clergyman or congregation best fits their ideas because the Church is organized in such a way that all the same doctrines and principles are taught across the board. Each congregation does have its own flavor, customs, traditions, etc though as is natural for different cultures and areas. I’ve attended congregations in Jordan, Mexico, Guatemala, Virginia, Utah, Massachusetts, New York, California, South Carolina, North Carolina, Hawaii, Florida, and Arizona. Each congregation has definitely had its own style and culture but what has been taught is always the same, the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
To be honest, I was sad to leave my old congregation because of the friends I had made there and the people I had worked with. It can be a hard transition. But, everywhere we go we are needed. Each congregation has needs and roles that need to be filled and those needs and roles are dependent on the congregation members. I’m excited to get involved and contribute and I’m excited to make new friends and to get to work with new people.
The congregation I grew up with in Chicago.
The Modern Mormon Men (MMM) blog has become a guilty pleasure of mine over the past couple of months. I feel there’s a good balance of entertainment and insight albeit at times with a frustratingly male perspective. 🙂 What was I expecting, right? Point is – I think the blog is great.
Yesterday, blogger Scott Heff posted an interview with Mitch Mayne, an openly gay Mormon recently called to a church leadership position in San Francisco. As Scott mentions, there’s been quite a bit of media attention around Mitch’s calling and understandably so given the church’s historical stance on homosexuality.
I suppose I’m a “straight ally” as Mitch calls them and I was struck by the love of his Bishop in San Francisco. Mitch says:
My Bishop’s direction is this: The doors of the church in San Francisco are open to any and all, regardless of where people are in their lives; partnered, single, monogamous, dating, celibate—there’s room for everyone in our congregation. Bishop Fletcher said the other day that he wants our biggest problem to be lack of seating in the chapel on Sunday, and a challenge in keeping people from talking to one another during Sacrament Meeting because they are so darned glad to see one another. What a great goal! How could I not want to be part of a team like that?
I agree. What a great goal!
I encourage you to read the full interview over at MMM and leave a few thoughts for discussion.
I was thinking today about what I really enjoy about being Mormon. There are a lot of things but I decided to go with a pretty practical one. We just moved, not a big move, just across the city but big enough where it has been an adjustment. Since we moved we’ve been traveling a lot and as I divulged a few weeks ago I was pretty sick so getting to know people in our new neighborhood has been very slow moving. And, if you’ve ever been to the Boston area you know that when something is just a few miles away it translates into a 30 minute plus commute due to traffic and just the general layout of the city. So if I wanted to I could easily go a long time (like weeks probably) without seeing anyone I know besides my husband and son. This is where being Mormon comes in.
I’ve talked about Relief Society before, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints women’s organization. In addition to providing spiritual needs for the women in the ward there is a very practical side to the Relief Society as well. My chapter of the Relief Society has been doing park days/outings throughout the area every week as well as meeting together at church on Sunday. Because of these outings and meeting together on Sundays it gives me the extra nudge I need right now to get out of the house and get together with friends, which for stay-at-home moms is really essential to maintaining sanity. This is one thing I love about being Mormon. The Church helps us with our practical needs as well as our spiritual needs, because really they are all interconnected. I love having something to be involved in, no matter where I am currently living or what my present situation is. I will always have a congregation to be a part of, a natural way of meeting people and making friends and a natural way to serve and contribute to something other than my own home.
The gospel of Jesus Christ does not coincide with isolation and it’s not about just bettering ourselves. It’s about being a part of a community and serving each other and loving each other, no matter our current needs or situation. Have you experienced a time when being a part of an established community helped you?