A Non-Mormon teen in a Mormon world
Has anyone ever wondered what it might be like to belong to your community for your entire life, and still feel like you don't really belong?
I lived in Utah for nearly 18 years and there's always been something missing as I search for a niche in my environment. As I entered high school I realized the problem lay in the fact that I was excluded from probably the biggest establishment in this state- the LDS Church.
Now I realized that, many times, even the hint of challenging the church brings looks of disapproval from everyone around me. The mention of what I see as a problem with the church spurs heated arguments about the truth of the church and "not everyone is like that you know." But, being the strong person I am (or maybe stubborn is a better word), I keep mentioning it in the perhaps vain attempts to try to change at least a few attitudes around here.
As I grew up, I would always be asked to go to church with my friends and my father never allowed it.
"If you still want to go when you're older, you can, but just wait and make up your mind on your own" as I had my temper tantrum. But as a senior in high school, I look back and thank him for forcing me to decide for myself if I wanted to get involved in the LDS Church. I know that I had I been allowed to go to church with my friends, I would have been pressured to join the church, and I probably would have done it just to fit in.
I know that to most people out there that may not sound so bad, but now I know that probably would have been the worst thing for me. Had I joined the church, I would have probably acquired most of the attitudes I now abhor in people I meet. My general all-encompassing nickname for those attitudes is the "holier-than-thou" outlook on life- the incessant need for Mormons to make sure everyone knows exactly what they believe and what they disapprove of, be it their business or not.
It is this attitude that makes me look upon the church with suspicion and disbelief.
Moliere, a French playwright who live during the Renaissance era, once wrote, "There is a vast difference I see, between true piety and hypocrisy." I will never understand how people dare to criticize for not believing exactly what they believe. Is it truly Christian to look down on others merely because their views on what is right and wrong may be different from your own? It seems as If I can't drink a Coke at Weber High School without someone pointing out to me, "I don't drink caffeine, it's against the teachings of the church"
I have heard its not as bad as other schools, and yet the fact remains that people are looked down upon in this state if they don't belong to the majority.
What I think is so sad is that people in Utah rarely realize what they do when they speak of Relief Society or Mutual, always just assuming everyone around them is LDS.
I always get told I look Mormon and I act Mormon. I understand these people say this to me not as an insult, but as a compliment, and yet they never understand that by saying I act Morning because I have high values and strong morals which I uphold for myself, they insinuate that any person outside of the church is an atheistic, drunken, horrible fool.
I believe on reason most members of the church never see how close-minded their views are is because they can never see good examples of successful people outside of the church. The kids they see are kids who have been outcast because of their religion, and they have turned to rebellion for acceptance. These kids may not be really bad kids, but when faced with disapproval because of their choice of faith, they can do nothing but turn to people who will accept them for who they are.
The sad result is that those who seemingly accept them for who they are want to harm them, dragging them down with drugs and other hazardous escape routes.
The LDS Church would like their members to believe it's the other churches that can't save their members' souls, but they don't realize that by teaching their members to exclude and segregate people like me, all they do is fail at their jobs.
The purpose of the church as I see it is not bad in any sense - it teaches morals, family values and faith; it is the practices in which I see a problem.
The hardest thing for me to understand about the LDS Church is the tendency to discount any other doctrine as untrue merely because they say so. Never does the Church encourage its members to study the other doctrines before deciding to live by the "Book of Mormon."
Everyone I talk to shares their experience of "praying" and having the answer to the true church "just come to them."
My question, then, is how can a person, who knows nothing of other teachings, pray to the only God, they've been taught to believe in, and come to an objective conclusion based on purely subjective "proof?"
As I see it, the only way to true faith is through education. How can one ever be sure of their beliefs if they only see one side? Furthermore, by teaching members only the Mormon Church is true, the LDS Church gives its permission to look down upon and disrespect all other faiths and philosophies.
Many people will read this column and picture me as a horrible person who hates everything about and everyone within the LDS religion.
I would like to stress I have many, many close friends who are Mormon, who respect my beliefs as I respect theirs. It is not the church and the teachings which I disagree with - it is the fact that these teachings are being filtered into every aspect of Utah life, weather they belong their or not - including the school systems, TV programming and even the government.
A religion is just that - an institution people can turn to for spiritual guidance, not a governing body that has the authority to dictate how people should act and what people should hear. If we allow the church's influence in this state to become more powerful that what it already is, we will be setting back the hands of time to the middle Ages, when censorship was decided by and rulers were the puppets of the Catholic Church.
Are Utahns ready to face the type of government if the church tells them it is what's right?
What's scary for me to think of is that so many of the members of the church would follow willing right back into theocracy if President Gordon Hinkley felt it was God's will.