There have been a couple questions on this blog lately about my religion that have made me pretty introspective. I’ll lead off with a preface question someone asked a while back:
Which leads to another comment/question that led me to an article written by a non-LDS mom pleading with Mormon moms to encourage their children to integrate and be more inclusive. (The letter is HERE.)
It was so well-written and I think she is right-on. We are not inclusive enough.
I’d love have a discussion with that mother (Renee is her name…I’m going to get on a first-name-basis with her:) to tell her thank you for making me think. And thank you for bringing all this up because really, we have a lot of work to do. We get so busy in our own little worlds that I think sometimes we forget to branch out.
I’d also like to tell her that often times I feel the same way she does, but the other way around. We feel so lucky to have many friends who aren’t of our same faith, (one in particular is one of my very best friends), but I wish we had more. I’ll be honest, sometimes it’s hard with new neighbors or those fellow volunteers at the school or wherever we may meet up because I get so worried they are going to think we are trying to convert them if we get too friendly. Weird, right? Of course, there’s so much more to life than religion, but this religion of ours has such an integral hold on so much that we do that it’s bound to come up sooner than later. And when it does, somewhere in my mind I get all fussed up about wanting to show others that we respect whatever they believe, but also that we love our religion and would love to share it if they are interested.
One thing that really hit me in Renee’s letter is that she’s noticed LDS kids drift away from those who don’t share the same faith when they grow into their teens. I’ve noticed this too and I’ve been trying to figure out why. I do think this happens much more in heavily populated Mormon areas. Maybe it’s because teenager-hood is a pretty common time to test limits…it’s when kids start to experiment more with alcohol, drugs, and sex. And Mormon teenagers are taught every week at church, and in Family Home Evening, and in seminary at school, to stay as far away from those things as possible. (Of course, the Mormon church doesn’t have the corner on teaching high moral values. I know so many families who council their children so beautifully when it comes to things like this. And of course many Mormon kids embrace the testing-the-limits thing just as much or more than their non-LDS teenage counterparts, but I do think this does have part in the teenage separation.) Maybe the separation comes because of the church “culture” that tends to set in where there are a lot of LDS families and kids just gravitate to each other because they do so much together every week and there are just so many kids they can barely keep track of those ones they are supposed to be looking out for in their classes at church let alone those they come across in the neighborhood or at school.
And that goes for adults too.
But I digress. What I’m trying to say is that what Renee said in her letter really hits true to home: we need to change some things. We need to reach out more. And we need to teach our children to do the same.
I think there are so many different misconceptions about the Mormon faith. I have a friend who was baptized recently who told me how funny it is what some of her family, friends and neighbors have said to her. She’s heard many not-so-nice things about the Mormon church over the years that she’s found were totally wrong, both before and after she was baptized. She’s had conversations with others basically asking her “why in the world she made such a crazy decision??” when she feels it is the best decision she and her family have made. I think so many people are just misinformed.
Which is another reason I love having this blog. There are so many people who have asked so many good questions, I loved being able to send out so many Books of Mormon for those who were interested (back HERE), and to hear from so many who want to listen to missionaries and even get baptized because I think they can come here and realize that really, Mormons aren’t really what they thought we were. Keep asking questions. I love them!
I want to leave this post with a challenge:
A challenge to members of the LDS faith (including myself) to reach out better to others. To make an effort to invite others into their circles and to encourage their children to do the same. Especially when they are not interested in coming to church or reading the Book of Mormon. We have so much to learn from each other! From other religions that have so much beauty. From other perspectives that make us think. From so many people who are just doing their best to live beautiful and good lives just like we are. My parents always tell a story of a couple they knew when they lived in D.C. who made a conscious effort to branch out and ask different couples not of their faith to join them on a double date every single weekend. They learned so much and expanded their circle in such great way. What a great idea. As a whole, we need to do better. We need to love more.
And I’d like to extend a challenge to those not members of our faith to give the Mormons they come across the benefit of the doubt. If Mormons try to convert you (which undoubtedly they probably will…sorry, but when you have something you love, you do want to share it), and you’re not interested, have a frank discussion with them and let them know you respect them and want to be friends, but you’re not interested. And if you are interested and want to be invited to things, let those Mormon friends of yours know. They will be so glad to have you join them in any aspect of church, whether it’s church on Sunday or any myriad of activities, scouts, “activity days” (girls ages 8-12 meet twice a month with a fun activity), youth activities, etc. We want anyone who would like to join in! And it’s not all churchy stuff…just great, wholesome activities like learning to cook or going rock-climbing or learning about manners (that’s what we did last night :).
Bottom line is that Mormons in general want to be inclusive. That is what we are taught every week in church. Love your neighbor as yourself. Give others unconditional love. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Follow Christ’s example in all that you do.
But sometimes we just don’t know the right way to branch out. And sometimes, because we have such humongous families and we focus on parenting and family life so much, we may just simply be forgetting that there’s another world out there. All kinds of goodness to add to how we live our lives.
Thank you, Renee, for your beautiful words that have really made me think. And branch out. And love in so many more deliberate ways.
I hope we can all share the goodness we find in life without ruffling feathers and with all the unconditional love we can gather.