The Salt Lake City temple for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons)I’d like to share some thoughts about the Mormon religion. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
I’ve thought about this blog post a lot.  And I’ve been meaning to post it for a while.  But there are so many different things I want to say on so many different levels. So I just keep waiting and thinking, and waiting and thinking some more.
So rather than wait for the perfect post, I’m going to throw out what I have. I hope that despite the fact that there’s still a lot to mull over, what I say will plant positive seeds for thought on a topic that I feel should be discussed.

A Question about my “insular” religion from a blog reader

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:

I wonder if you would ever consider doing a post about the community (insular?) nature of your church. Your kids have had amazing opportunities to travel- but not necessarily with a diverse group of people. It seems that most of your travel is attached in some way to your church. And your children (and most of your family members) have chosen to attend church run schools. And every single member of your family and extended group (at least as it appears from the outside) are also members of the same church.
This is in no way a bad thing- I find it fascinating! I just wonder if its purposeful to have almost every single aspect of your life be tangentially related to your church? Do you prefer it that way? How do you get diversity integrated into your lives?
I responded back there in that post, but I’m repeating here with some additions to lead to the next question.

My thoughts in answer to that question

Much of what we do is related to our church life. I think it’s the same with any religion, or even any “club” or group. When you are engrained and fully involved you are bound to find numerous opportunities and friends. You’ll find much of what speaks to you right in that circle.
But, in answer to the question as to whether I prefer it that way, the answer is no.
While I am incredibly grateful for the connections and friendships my religion gives me, it’s difficult to get a big-picture perspective when you’re surrounded by so many who think and do like you do.
Comfortable, yes.
But it makes it easy to close off from so many other good things. Because being where you are is an easy place to be.

I wanted to raise my family away from the “Mormon Bubble”

Growing up I always had a desire to raise my future family in a place that was removed from Mormon culture. This was not because I didn’t like it, (I love my religion!). But because I felt like it would be good to branch out and learn more from others. There is so much goodness in the world!  I also wanted to SHARE the goodness and light that my religion brings to me.

But here we are in the middle of quite a strong Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints culture. It just so happened this way. We love to be close to Dave’s family and so many good friends. This is where Dave’s business is so we are blooming where we’re planted. We are so grateful for the incredibly wonderful influences that surround our children as we try to raise them (in and out of the church).

Pulling outside of our circles

But I do always feel a pull to branch out from our church circle. And we do in multiple ways. Sometimes we’re better than other times, and I always know we could do more.

I think that’s one of the reasons I love blogging so much. I love to hear perspectives from all kinds of backgrounds. It means a lot that so many come here to this blog offering their insight and opinions that differ from mine. I’m so grateful for those around me who don’t share my same religion. They offer so many great insights and strengthen me in so many ways whether here in cyberspace or around me in social circles.

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.)  

We need to work on inclusion

That article 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. It’s difficult 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.

Teens tend to drive away from those who don’t share the same faith

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. That’s when kids start to experiment more with alcohol, drugs, and sex.  And LDS 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 LDS 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 LDS 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.

We need to reach out more

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.

There are so many misconceptions about the LDS faith

I think there are so many different misconceptions about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.  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 LDS 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, 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, people of my faith aren’t really what they had misconceptions that we were.

Keep asking questions.  I love them!

A Challenge to members of the LDS Faith:

I want to leave with a challenge to members of the LDS faith (including myself):

Reach out.

Make an effort to invite others into our 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!  We can learn from other religions that have so much beauty.  There are so many different perspectives to make us think.  We need to learn from those who are just doing their best to live beautiful and good lives just like we are.  People who just may not be interested in our faith but who we have so many common bonds with. If we look.

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.

A challenge to those not of my faith:

Give us the benefit of the doubt.

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 members of my church 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 :).

There is a desire to be inclusive

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. I hope we without ruffling feathers and with all the unconditional love we can gather.

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  1. I love your openess and your honesty in sharing your experience. I have been LDS my whole life, and often have been very saddened at how Mormons get painted with the brush of being naive, insular, limited in their exposure to life, robots etc. So much has to do with where you live, and not the Mormon religion. We are taught to embrace all, love your neighbor, share the Gospel, respect other people's beliefs! I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada; one of the world's most diverse cities. Our LDS congregation represents the diversity of the world! So many languages, cultures and colours all come together to share the Gospel! My whole life I have had very few LDS friends, and most of my dearest, bestest friends are non LDS and while I share my faith as it is part of my very core, I don't think any of them would feel that my motive for love and friendship was to convert. Ever. My teens are the only Mormons in their high school of 1500. And while they wish they did have more LDS friends (we travel far for many activities!) , they have a wonderful group of "non LDS friends" who support and respect them (and really, we don't go around labeling people as LDS or non LDS friends – just using this term for the sake of differentiating in this comment). So as much as Mormons need to spread their wings in different areas to reach out and extend their circles, non Mormons who judge "us" need to also spread their wings and not base all their comments on our religion and it's followers based on a certain part of the USA. Trust me, Gilbert, Arizona, or Provo, Utah, may have huge Mormon populations, but they are not representative of the LDS church worldwide! Thank you Shawni for sharing about your experience in your part of the world, and allowing me to share about the amazing diversity in my part of the world. If you want to see diversity, then come to Toronto and you will find it:)

    Leah (not Rob – although he would agree with me!)

    1. Thank you Leah for your perspective from a not-so-concentrated Mormon area, love it. I think the church culture changes quite a bit from area to area and there are certainly pros and cons wherever you live, but I love that the gospel is always the same. Whether you're in Germany or India or Salt Lake City. I love that.

  2. Shawni, I love this post. I have been reading your blog for over five years, and this is the first time I've commented. I am a non-Mormon (a Protestant Christian who happens to be very devoted to my faith), but I am so drawn to Mormon culture and have many Mormon friends. My husband and I often say that if we could be "social members" of the Mormon church (akin to being social members of a country club) we would! Obviously our doctrinal differences make this impossible, but I love the positivity we see in our Mormon friends, the commitment to service, as well as the beautiful example they show us of dedication to family. As a stay-at-home mother of four children, I feel that I have much more in common with my Mormon mom friends than with many women of my own faith. They are parenting role models to me (as are you and your parents!). And yes, I have been invited to church quite a few times, but haven't felt these friendships have suffered when I have respectfully declined. I don't live in a highly-Mormon populated area, so perhaps my story of friendship and inclusion is more unique, but regardless, I KNOW it is possible to share deep friendships and deep respect for another person's beliefs, even when you park your cars in different lots on Sunday mornings. Thank you for helping to share that ideal with your readers.

  3. "even AFTER my child has made it clear that he or she is not interested in attending fireside, seminary, or church with your family." This is the line from the letter that explains it.

    Kids are encouraged to a mission from very young. You mentioned a while ago that all the kids have decided to a mission, not that they will when the time comes of course. I mean Lucy was 8 or even younger at the time. All religious ed centers around a mission. Especially seminary and there are now extra pre mission classes to take before mission age. It only makes sense kids should make their nonLDS classmate or neighbor a project for missionary work. Once they hit young women's there are too many church activites and seminary classes a few years later. There just isn't time. The set up is to contain them. Most kids from other religions don't go to the museum and wave pool with church, but with friends or family. There might be an outing once a year connected to a church but your young women's posts seem more regular for recreational outings. Even summers are full of extra things to keep kids occupied.

    1. All the kids activities for LDS remind me of our youth group. My kids are still too young for youth group at our church, but the group does stuff together all the time. Things very similar to what LDS seem (based on my small experience with LDS families and this blog) to do. I believe from previous posts you are Catholic? Do y'all have youth groups? My only Catholic friend from High School didn't, but he went with a lot of us who did. Maybe it's just your experience that other groups don't do this?

      Which is why I feel like the letter Renee wrote could have been about any religion. She lives in that area, so there is a high mormon population. Where I'm from its Southern Bapist. 😊 Don't we all, regardless of our beliefs, need to be more inclusive? I think so. My daughters best friend's family are bot religious at all. We do invite them to things sometimes, and they come sometimes. I think we all need to just be respectful and not get offended if our friends of different faiths don't want to come to our church events. We often cause the conflict ourselves because we get offended or push to hard, etc.

    2. Not when I went to school. There was an occasional retreat. When I was 8 I went to a Lutheran friend's (from public school) Kiwanas type activity. I changed to parochial school and wanted to see an old friend I knew since kdg. My mother called our rectory and asked if she should be worried. They told her to let me go. Wouldn't you know the minute we got there my friend got her paper signed for bringing me, a catholic there, and then ditched me to play with the other kids and was given a craft to do and a lecture about faith alone or some such pitch. I'm not positive it was kiwanas, it was some Christian activity program. I was 8 for pity sakes. I felt used. We actually had never had a religious conversation until the phone call before the invite. My local catholic parish does have monthly activity and a mission trip where families go to for junior high/high school in the summer and maybe 6 nights where they do something fun. We are a sacramental church, not entertainment focused. We had service projects junior high through high school. Altar servers got to go to the amusement park once a year. But that was a boy thing. I would never invite a nonmember to church or the few activities we have. But we aren't trying to convert. We have time away from church to do ordinary things like the wave pool and art museum. We are happy with you just the way you are.

      So for nonmembers to be around LDS kids they need to do it at LDS youth activities. Got it. That bubble will continue until the 18-24 month mission where non members are sought out.

    3. That is awful that your friend and the group she was a part of did that to you. That makes me so mad. I agree, you were used. How awful. I never had a paper to be signed or got some kind of credit for bringing non-members to stuff. And we definitely didn't get into any doctrinal issues. You are right…that was totally inappropriate for them to do to an 8 year old.

    4. She was a kid too.

      Between that and various relatives leaving Ireland in different points in history due to pressure to convert I just do not understand one Christian relgion trying to make other Christians their particular denomination.

    5. Just to clarify, kms, you're not talking about a mormon function you were invited to, right? Either way, I'm so sorry that happened. I think Mormon or not, so many people get so excited to share their religion. And sometimes, somehow, that excitement and encouragement gets misconstrued into a "checkmark" to invite someone to something which makes me sad. The point is to reach out and love our neighbor.

      I'm sorry if it came across that if kids want to hang out with LDS kids they'd have to do it at a youth activities. Yes, those activities keep Mormon youth busy, and yes, anyone is invited, but there's so much else going on as well. We all just need to be aware and work to expand our circles any way we can.

      Not sure what you were saying about missions and Lucy deciding to go. Dave and I decided long ago that we want to prepare all of our kids to serve missions. This means we want to raise them to be strong and to have a strong relationship with God. We figure if we help them build that connection with Heaven they will be able to make decisions that will be the best for their own lives whether it's a mission or a job or parenthood or life in general. We think it would be great if all of them serve missions because we know what missions can do for kids…and for those they interact with there, but the decision is ultimately up to them.

    6. She was Lutheran and it was at a Christian school, they would have tried to convert the catholic or LDS kid. We both have Christ. Jesus must be scratching his head.

      Before max was old enough to serve you mentioned all the kids had said to you that they would. You didn't single out Lucy. She is just the youngest. I know your parents books mention making decision in advance.

      This reminds me of past generations in my catholic family. Encouragement was so constant that many joined religious orders but then left their orders. The encouragement was expectation and pressure. I'm sure you want them to do one, you both did one and liked it. It's natural. At least there is a time limit on a mission. Before max left was there a single week the kids didn't hear about missions because you were praying for a relative on one, listening to a farewell or homecoming in church, they kids hearing about it in their religious ed class on Sunday or in seminary or youth activity or during the Sunday meeting? I would think people in the community are asking around 17 and 18 from the ward. I hope they only go if they want to. There seem to be other opportunities to do a mission later in life as well.

  4. I've experienced the opposite. I get up with hardly any members around me. Only my immediate family were members. I was the only member of my high school and as a teen oh how I wanted to move to Utah. The thought of being around people who didn't think I was weird, or was made fun of every day for going to church. It was hard. Really hard.
    Now I'm married and live Vin a different country, the area I live in half lds and half Mennonite. And I love that. My kids have what i never did. They have friends who they go to youth with, fireside with and they have friends that are not associated to our religion too such I think is awesome.

  5. Shawni, I appreciate this post. I wonder though, if you (or other Mormon parents) worry about their children associating with children of other faiths, or particularly children/families with no faith.

    Sometimes their lifestyle is way more permissive than yours, especially the alcohol, drugs, sex, even coffee…. and maybe your teens might be a little curious… maybe try things they might not try if associating with other Mormons. Maybe even decide, hey, these things are not so bad, these are "good people" so why should I be so restricted?

    I know you can't keep them sheltered forever but tweens and teens have so much peer pressure to do things that your religion doesn't approve of. What if Grace or Claire came home and said, "so and so drinks coffee and makes out with her boyfriend (normal things for non-Mormons) and it looks like fun….I want to do it too…"

    I'm truly not being critical and I really appreciate you and admire you for this blog post. I just wonder how you feel about this aspect of associating with non-LDS.

    1. Good question and one I think about a lot. I think the key is to encourage kids to hang out with kids with high moral standards, LDS or not. There is certainly a lot of curiosity going on in teenagers, I think that's why LDS youth programs are so powerful as are Family Home Evenings, scripture study and church attendance, etc. All things to help them make wise choices as they maneuver their way through life. Mormons are definitely not the only ones concerned with trying to help their kids make good choices. I know so many parents not of the same faith who go out of their way to help their kids choose good friends and surround them with positive influences.

      In answer to your specific question though, if Grace or Claire came home with that question, I would be so grateful they trusted me enough to bring it up and talk it through, and I think it would be the seed for lots of good conversation trying to help them negotiate this crazy world of teenagerhood.

  6. I have never been a 'member' of ANY religion, so I don't have that experience with sticking in your (religious) comfort zone. I went to school with a few LDS kids (in a very non-LDS area), and they were THE NICEST people in school. I distinctly remember moving into a new high school in the 10th grade, sat by myself in the library before class started, and (what I now know as) an LDS student sat with me. Never mentioned his religion (I figured it out on my own – since all LDS students at my school were somehow related), but always made a point to sit with me because I was always alone. I will never forget how that made me feel – a new kid in a new school and I knew NOBODY.

    I think most people, who have common thoughts, find it natural to stick more closely with those who share the same thoughts – whether that's religious, political, extra-curricular, or otherwise. We are ALL creatures of habit, so with that, we can all do better to reach out, branch out, etc.

    I, personally, have always admired members of the LDS church – as in my experience, they have been nicer, and more inclusive than a lot of people I've met. I've even officially investigated the church at a pivotal time in my life (about to get married, move to a new country etc… a bit of an identity crisis), and while I have yet to be baptized OR continue my investigation, I still draw a lot of inspiration from the Church. Like reading your blog, Shawni, or that of your family (Charity)… even reading the Ensign online, listening to talks etc. You don't have to be a member of any religion or belief system in order to 'get' the message, or learn something new 🙂

    1. Oh Sabrina I love this. Thank you for sharing. I love that that kid was such a light in your life and I sure hope we can all try to be a little more like that as we maneuver our ways through all the different people we come across each day. I'm so glad that you have been able to find parts of the church that have given you inspiration and happiness.

  7. Thank you for posting this. I have to tell you, I have many friends from all different religions, but it's very hard to make friends with Mormons… So I'm excited to see this post. I love your blog because it's clear that you're trying to be open minded. I'm grateful to you for that. I try very hard to be as well and know a great deal about your religion (I've lived in Idaho my whole life, so I know and seek a lot about it). (Readings, talking with missionaries (I always give them cookies and tell them to write to their momma's before they leave), touring temples before they're blessed, etc) I find your religion just like I find any other… Fascinating and thought provoking. I work at a huge Global company with many many many religions, so I do get to know quite a variety of faiths. While I certainly do not think it applies to you or your family, I will share with you that you can almost see some Mormon men and women (and sadly their children often) judging you before you even get a chance to get to know them. It's like as soon as they realize that you're not Mormon they have no need for you anymore,almost like an on and off switch when you're talking with a Mormon person and they realize that you are not one. I would just encourage everyone of all faiths to think that just because someone is not of your faith, that does not mean that they are dangerous or trying to cause them sin.
    One last thing, which might be less on the religion side and more on the lifestyle side, but it is incredibly difficult to be a working mother among Mormon women. It is so hard to go home feeling like you are a terrible mother because a Mormon mom told you you were. I have truly had more tears over this than I ever expected because Mormon women have no problem telling me how wrong they think I am. I have a very very fulfilling and fascinating career that I worked very hard at. And I gained a lot from it, but I am also an amazing mother, and I hate having that questions just because I choose to work outside of the home. I would say in addition to having your children stop playing with our children, I would encourage your mom's to stop judging those of us that do work.
    I off and defend the Mormon religion too many other folks, because there is so much positive to it, and it has such a wonderful impact on our neighborhoods, schools, and communities. It really does, I appreciate so many wonderful things about your religion. I also learn a lot at There is so much that is misunderstood about your religion, but all people have to do is go and ask and they can usually get an answer. So I promise you, I am with you and I do agree that we all need to work a little harder and understand each other a little better. But I did feel the need to point out to you that it is pretty heartbreaking to have someone tell you that you're not a good mom because you choose to have a career, or leave your kids out because they don't go to church with them, when they don't cause any other sin either. I certainly don't want my children going in with alcohol sex or drugs when they're teenagers, but I know that they have had their hearts and friendships broken just because they weren't at Seminary.

    All in all, I love your blog, I learned a great deal from you, I have every confidence that you are one that tries very hard to Branch out, and it is clear through your blog that your husband and children do as well., even your parents! Thank you for posting this, I am grateful for it and would love to talk further or see future posts about this. But you, you are doing great! Know that! Thank you again for calling us all to think! I love that we are all together in this great big world, and many of us have so many things in common, and I love that you are courageous enough to bring up the things that make us different.

    1. Thank you for these candid thoughts, Elizabeth. That judgement is not what the gospel is all about and it does make me sad that sometimes we are so insular. That's why I love this discussion, I think sometimes we don't even realize we're doing it and your thoughts are so helpful to come to grips with the work we need to do.

      As far as working mothers go, I'm so sorry you have felt that way. I agree with Makayla that it may be more about women feeling strongly about staying home rather than just religious beliefs. But there is so much teaching in the Mormon church encouraging mothers to be the best nurturers they can (and I love that), I can see how human nature sometimes takes that to judgement of others because they're not doing the nurturing the same way they are. Nurturing our children is the most important thing we can do as mothers, but there are so many women who are able to balance work into their lives so beautifully (some of my family members are great examples of this). I think there are many instances where that's just what works best for the whole family and I hope we can all appreciate the work and strength it takes to be able to do that.

    2. Thank you both Makayla and Shawn for the input and discussion. Very good points, and I appreciate the insight. We should all support and encourage one another and Shawni you've created a nice space for that here in your little corner of the internet.

  8. In response to Tabby’s comment, I’ve also wondered this but feel with the continuous reminders and lessons not to do these things (coffee, alcohol, etc.) that these kids must have a pretty strong conviction that Shawni trusts. After all, it’s not coming from just peer pressure but also cultural pressure with advertisements, seeing it on TV and in movies, and seeing people in public partaking in these things- whether it’s drinking from a Starbucks cup, having a cocktail at a restaurant or smoking a cigarette.

    I also don’t think it’s that unusual to pick your friends based on similar interests and values. I am sure non-LDS and non-religious people have a social circle that primarily (not saying wholly) consists of people that are in a lot of ways similar to them. I think Mormon people tend to surround themselves with mainly Mormon people because that is such a huge part of their life and there is little time/space/room outside of it to form deep friendships.

    Shawni, I like how you said that your worry if you become too friendly with non-LDS people they will think you're trying to convert them. It definitely made you seem a bit more normal for lack of a better word. I think that feeling does go both ways- i.e. Is she trying to convert me? Will she judge me if we run into each other and I’m drinking a cup of coffee or having a glass of wine? I am sure that’s what these others Mother’s think! I know I would.

    I think I fall into the category many of your blog readers do. I am not LDS nor do I ever intend to be one (nothing against the religion but it’s just not for me and I have my own religion). BUT I try to be a good person who wants to live life to the fullest and cares about being a deliberate mother to my growing family. So I come and I’m inspired by a lot of the parenting methods, traditions, and optimistic viewpoints. I’ve come to realize that many do come from the LDS church which is interesting. I sort of thought you had the idea to do the yearly “theme” until I started exploring other mormon mommy blogs and realized everyone has a yearly theme, ha!

    1. haha, yes we got that idea from others, but I don't think it's just a Mormon thing…or maybe it is…but it's a good one! Thanks for your thoughts, love them all.

  9. I was raised in a home with a father who was not of any religious background. My mother was a "Mormon" and I attended Church with her each week. The experiences I had with my father's side of the family was quite negative. The Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Church was my saving grace growing up. The people in the church were not always examples of what the church teaches, but I knew to focus on the teachings of Christ, and his example of what he did and how he loved and helped others.
    Religion is not just something you do one day a week at church. It is what you believe in your core, and who you are (honest, loyal to spouse, kind, family oriented, serve others, etc.)
    I do not live in an area with a lot of members of the Church. My children have all had non-Mormon friends and the majority of them are really good kids. Yes, they drink coffee, and use language sometimes that I personally wouldn't use (I was verbally abused and cussed at quite often in my childhood and I absolutely cringe at EVERY cuss word I hear)–and yes, sometimes my kids have wondered what's so wrong with these things…and they have had to use their agency to learn for themselves sometimes. As a Mormon, I love my religion and I know the Gospel of Jesus Christ is GOOD when it is lived. If we would simply be kind to others–look for the best in everyone, and give the benefit of the doubt–and simply LOVE others, the world would be better. We can't control what others say and do, but we can control what WE do. We can each be a light, no matter what our religion. We can each choose kindness and love.
    I was at the ER yesterday, and it was a packed waiting room. A mother who had overdosed on drugs was lying on the floor, waiting for a room–a sweet older couple walking by, pointed out a bench seat towards the back of the room, and helped her up onto the bench so she could be more comfortable. Then the older gentlemen folded up a blanket and put it under her head, as a pillow. This is Christlike love. This is compassion and kindness. This is what makes the world a better place.

  10. I agree with Unknown. I do however, feel that it is easier said than done, as far as doing what you know is right, in your core – vs. what all your friends are doing with no obvious bad consequences. Especially for teens and young adults. It's hard enough for adults, but young folks are especially vulnerable.

    I also believe in agency and free will. But for some things, it's not safe for your kids to "use their agency and find out for themselves". I mean for something like drugs or sex. It may result in an STD or unwanted pregnancy, and that's life changing.

    1. I have taught my children to live the commandments of God. As a Mormon, I believe those commandments include moral standards, such as abstinence before marriage, the Word of Wisdom (law of health, in which we do not consume things harmful or addictive), etc. I have taught my children this and I have taught them the reasons WHY I believe in these commandments.
      I believe God has given us commandments to provide us with the greatest happiness possible. But the reality is, my children will have to exercise their own agency around their friends. We teach them to make good choices and trust that they will. But inevitably, we all make mistakes at times. It's why we've been given a Savior, to atone for our sins and allow us the chance to repent and continue to try to be better. But everyone has to learn that for themselves. We can teach others, share our testimonies with others, but really, we each have to learn for ourselves. We each have to ask God what is right. He will answer us as we sincerely pray to know. I do think it's important that our kids know we love them always.
      The only way to truly protect our children is to provide them with an internal filter. Provide them with values and understanding that when the dangerous things come up (sex, drugs, alcohol) they will know from within– their internal filter– what choices to make.
      Like you said, easier said than done– but we have to try. At least that's my opinion. It is kind of scary what our kids face today.

    2. Unknown is right, we can talk and talk to our kids until we're blue in the face about the do's and don'ts of life, but ultimately kids need to make their own decisions and be able to stand on their own.

      I personally think the key, Tabby, comes down to conversations. Over and over and over again in a loving way. I love discussing the "why's" of all the things we do as part of our religion, and going through scenarios to help it all make sense. This is one of my favorite parts of motherhood. Of course, there is no sure-fire way to keep them from harm, but Unknown is right, the best thing we can do is help them build their own internal filters so that they can sort things out with all the information and love we can give them.

  11. Thank you so much for this blog post. I have been LDS my whole life. I grew up in area where there wasn't a concentration of church members at all, and I grew up with almost all non-LDS friends and neighbors. So when I started my college career at BYU (lasted 2 years before transferring to a school with a better program for my major), it was a MAJOR culture shock for me in so many ways. I really love the church and keep it so close to me, but over the years, I have found one thing that really is very concerning to me. I have found that people, both members and non-members, have a very hard time separating the Gospel (core beliefs and doctrinal teachings) from the Culture (societal expectations and norms placed by other members of the church). There is a massive difference in the two and sometimes it can be very hard to find the line that divides them. One really simple example is the caffeine consumption beliefs, the gospel says nothing about church members not being allowed to drink caffeinated drinks, but culturally it is frowned upon and one of the most common "mormon" questions I get is why we aren't allowed to drink caffeine, but we are "allowed"!! That is just one silly example, but there are so many others. I think that it is so so easy for us as members of the church to get swept up in cultural expectations that just are so unnecessary and damaging. I have found that when it comes to people being judge-y or exclusive or rude, it very often comes from the culture and not the gospel. (I should note that so much of the church culture is amazing, inclusive, and brings so much good into the world.) The gospel has so much good to offer and it is so easily clouded over by the culture. None of this is to say that I am not victim to this too, everyone of every religion or non-religion is part of a culture that comes along with their beliefs and that is part of what makes religion so beautiful. It gives us a place to belong and a place to feel at home. It just seems as though the Mormon culture is often the focus when the church is talked about and not the gospel. There are a million things that feed into this discussion and I'm so glad that you wrote a blog post that opens up a positive and inclusive place to talk about it! One of my favorite things that I've ever heard was "The gospel is perfect, the people are not" and it's both so true and kind of funny… I love the challenge you gave people and I really hope they embrace it! There is sooooooo much to be learned form people outside your own faith, if we weren't supposed to learn from each other, then why would there be so many different beliefs!?

  12. You are right, Kalli, as a non-member, I really don't understand what is a doctrine vs. what is cultural.

    As far as the coffee, I thought (perhaps incorrectly?) that it was the hot drink thing that was frowned on. Coffee, tea, or any other hot drink.

    So is that doctrine? Or culture? How about smoking? It may not be doctrine, per se… maybe an agency thing… (?)

    But I still can't picture one of the kids or grandkids firing up a hot pot of coffee and lighting up a Marlboro at Bear Lake…

    Are some things just not enforced (or enforceable)?

    Again, not being nasty here, just extremely curious, especially after your comment about the difference between doctrine and culture.


    1. Thanks Tabby! As far as I understand, the basis of church doctrine advises that we stay away from addictive substances. More specifically, it is advised that we stay away from 'strong drink' (meaning alcohol), and church leaders have said that this also includes drugs and cigarettes. This is where our over-arching belief of free agency comes in. All of the rules or advisory's that have been set forth by the church are for our own personal benefit and well-being and we can each choose how we enforce them in our own lives. For me personally, and for a lot of the members that I know, when it comes to this particular rule, I choose to stay away from substances that are mind or personality altering or have been proven to be very harmful to your body. So I stay away from alcohol and drugs of all kinds, but caffeine doesn't seem like a bad thing for me, it could easily to some people. I personally don't like to think of any rules or advisories that the church has as something that limits me or makes me not allowed to do anything. I choose to learn about the advisory or rule and understand why it is there and apply it to my own life in a way that I see fit. This is personally how I understand it and how I was raised, but as with everything, people have differing opinions and ideals. Thanks for asking!!

    2. I should also say that just because someone does choose to partake in those things doesn't make them a bad person or that I shouldn't associate with them. It just means that they make different choices than I do.

    3. Is this why so many LDS bloggers are always publicly trying to give up sugar and Diet Coke and claim it's an addiction? Do you think they really think they are addicted or realize they are making light of actual life altering addictions?

    4. I never thought of it as making light of life altering addictions, but I can totally see it now. Wow!

      I do personally believe my husband is addicted to diet soda (the caffeine). He has strong cravings every mid morning. If he grabs a drink, his day goes smoothly. If he doesn't, he has serious withdrawals that do alter his ability to function.

      However, I can see that it is nowhere near the scale of drug abuse or alcoholism. I wonder what a more appropriate way of identifying it would be?

    5. That he really likes diet soda? Or maybe obsessed with it? Why does it need to be on the same level as alcoholism or drug addiction? Does it feel more real that way?

      I just ask this because so many people claim to be addicted to sugar, chronicle their attempts at quitting sugar, and I don't think people are experiencing real withdrawal, because they would certainly mention that part! No one would be blogging through actual withdrawal.

    6. You are right. People wouldn't be blogging through actual withdrawals. I can't really speak for everyone, but I don't think people use the term "addicted" to try and make it seem more real. I think they probably just recognize the cycle of strong cravings and withdrawals and assume the word addiction fits best.

      A more appropriate phrasing would probably be to call it a negative habit that is hard to break.

  13. I was raised Presbyterian and married a Catholic. All 4 of our parents and all 3 of our living grandparents were perfectly happy with this "mixed-Christian" marriage and all 7 were invited to attend and participate in the religious ceremony we had to celebrate our wedding. I do realize that there are some Presbyterians and Catholics that might find our marriage less than correct or righteous but we honestly haven't encountered any…yet!
    On the other hand, it appears that Mormons specifically and distinctly want their children to marry only other Mormons. I think this might have a lot to do with why LDS teenagers consciously (or subconsciously) segregate themselves.
    Do you consider Lutherans, Episcopalians, Baptists, etc to be Christians? Would you be okay with your child marrying a non-Mormon Christian? If not do they know this?

    1. I love this question! As a LDS member who grew up in North Dakota and currently lives in sourthern Florida and sends my kids to United Methodists schools–I have thought about this. I think any community with a larger religious population generally feels a bit inclusive/exclusive. I get invited to Christian moms groups frequently at the beginning of the school year and sometimes wish I could fit it all in my life because I know all the women would be wonderful friends! I love that I can raise my kids and let them know that all religions are beautiful and that wonderful people attend all sorts of different religions! The marriage question is significant for the LDS religion though because we have very strong beliefs on what happens after death. We believe we continue to live as families. When we marry, we get married in the temple and we do so because it is an additional promise beyond being married for time. We believe we are married for eternity. I have known many people who married an incredible spouse that were not LDS. They had great marriages and families. But having the beliefs that we do, there seems to be an inner yearning to have that peace that you will be together for eternity. Would I hate it if my son/daughter married someone of a different faith? Of course not-I would love them just like anyone else! But I'm sure I couldn't help but hope that that person might someday join our faith so that they could receive eternal blessings in our temple. I know that sounds very exclusive to others, but our temples and those blessings are very sacred to us. So we aren't pushing people away from them, just keeping them sacred. Hope that helps!

    2. The Haws Family, can you help me understand this a little? It's something that has puzzled me many times as a non-Mormon, even when (especially when?) I was investigating a few years ago.

      The concept of Eternal Marriage – while I suppose it isn't doctrinally spelled out in other religions, I think we all (at least Abrahamic religions; I can't speak for other world religions) believe in the concept of eternal bonds. That we will be reunited again with our families, spouses, friends in Heaven. (And while there are a few boorish uncles I wouldn't mind NOT spending eternity with, I assume they'll be there too. 😉 I mean, God loves us, He wants us to be happy and any place that doesn't have our family with us wouldn't be so happy!

      So I've always just wondered if the LDS faith believes that the concept of Eternal Marriage is particular to them or if you really can't have an eternal bond unless you are sealed, etc.

      As a Methodist, I hope our schools are living up to the ideals we set forth! 🙂

    3. e, I love that you bring up the Abrahamic Covenant. That is exactly what we believe the temple sealing is; it is the Abrahamic Covenant!

      I am curious, how do you enter into this convenant as a Methodist? (I had a coworker kind of explain it to me once, but that was nearly a decade ago).

      I wonder if the point at where we diverge from one another lie simply in the authority used to seal the Abrahamic Covenant? We (like many reformation religions) believe God's authority was lost from the Earth when Christ's disciples were persecuted. We believe that authority had to be restored. Some reformers also came to this conclusion. We believe the authority to seal the Abrahamic Covenant was restored to Joseph Smith directly from the Prophet Elijah. We call upon that power and authority when we are sealed in the Temple.

      I hope that answers your question a bit. This article explains it in a bit more depth. Elijah and the sealing power are mentioned in the last paragraph.

    4. Oh man you guys, such great answers. So interesting to think how intertwined so many different religions are. Just to add on a non-doctrinal note, I want my children to find so much happiness in marriage. I want them to be perfectly matched with their spouses. I want there to be harmony and love in their future families. And I do think this comes more naturally when couples share the same religion. Especially Mormonism because it is so all-encompassing, and because of the reasons outlined so well above. I am so grateful that although Dave and I disagree on many points in life, we are united on [most] of our religious beliefs, and I am so grateful that we were able to get sealed forever in the temple and base how we raise our children on gospel principles.

      I want this for my children with all my heart. But marrying within your religion doesn't necessarily give you a free pass to happily ever after. There are many Mormons, even those married in the temple, who struggle, divorce, live separate lives, leave the church, and make all kinds of mistakes. There is no sure-fire way to have a perfect marriage. It takes work and effort and sometimes some pretty humbling circumstances. But I think having the gospel as a guide sure makes a difference!

    5. Thank you! Sorry I didn't come back to this but I think the other responses were great. And yes-we've loved the Methodist schools. I love that my kids get a bigger emphasis on Jesus, prayer, the Bible, etc while they are young. Thanks!

    6. Liz,

      Hmm, that's a very good question, and while I'm no expert, I guess I would say that we don't have a "ritual," per se, that emphasizes a bond or a seal, at least not the way that sealing in a temple is so ritualistic. (Ritualistic is probably not the best word, but hopefully you get me.) Which is actually kind of ironic, considering that the term "Methodist" was actually started as a bit of a slur back in Oxford University, as John Wesley (the founder of the Methodist denomination) thought there should be an affirmation or "method" for just about all aspects of one's walk with Christ. Ha!

      In our marital vows, we do use "what God has joined together, let no man put asunder," which is not only an indictment against divorce but also the idea that bonds such as marriage cannot be broken by mere mortals. This of course does not mean we are anti-divorce doctrinally (although of course everyone hopes that problems in a marriage are first addressed with the hope of staying together), just that the marriage "contract" is really a three-party contract between spouses and God. I would venture to guess that most of us are all on the same page about that!

      Shawni, you bring up a good point about how it can be easier for spouses to share a religion. I definitely think that's true. I don't share a religion with my husband, and it CAN be frustrating, but I also think that he has opened up so many joys and possibilities for me in his way of thinking, and I hope that I have done the same for him. But certainly if people are going to be actively and highly involved in a church, and only one person is going, it does often become a case of "well, gosh, if I join the Church choir/join this committee/volunteer to lead Sunday School/etc, then I'm not spending as much time with my spouse." So I think people who choose to be very active in their religion – as many Mormons are – probably would be happier with a like-minded spouse.

  14. Meh, I took it more to mean they have HUGE extended families and she probably doesn't even feel like there's enough time for them, so there just isn't time to meet new people.

  15. Thanks, Kalli. Now I need to ask – what is the Word of Wisdom?

    Apparently some of the things you talk about here are considered "violations" of it – on the LDS website. Is that as bad as it sounds? Is it ok to use your agency and live how you "see fit" even if it violates the Word of Wisdom?

    I did look on and found this:

    "The consumption of coffee or tea, whether hot or cold, is recognized by the Church as a violation of the Word of Wisdom….In addition, gastric acid disease (ulcers of the stomach and duodenum) may also be linked to consumption of both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee, lending credence to the Word of Wisdom’s advice to avoid “hot drinks.”…

    "we consider the verses teaching us to avoid alcohol, tobacco, and hot drinks to be the most important parts of the Word of Wisdom…"

    “And again, hot drinks are not for the body or belly” (D&C 89:9).

    "we should avoid any behavior that is addictive. Whatever is addictive compromises our will. Subjecting our will to the overbearing impulses imposed by any form of addiction serves Satan’s purposes and subverts our Heavenly Father’s. This applies to addictions to drugs (such as narcotics, alcohol, nicotine, or caffeine)…"

    Thank you again so much for your explanations. And I'm not picking on you, any other LDS member is free to answer.

    1. I appreciate how genuinely interested you are! Most people just assume without and research or knowledge so I really appreciate your well researched questions! And I am by no means an expert or even good at communicating these types of things over messages, so take everything I say with a large grain of salt!
      The Word of Wisdom is kind of a governing body set forth to help us keep our bodies and minds healthy and clean. And you are correct in everything you said! When I was referring to caffeine, it was more towards soda or energy drinks.
      I may be wrong, but I think you are more wondering what happens or what the result is of someone not following those guidelines. The word violation seems very harsh to me… I like to think of it more in terms of non-congruence. And the only answer I have is that it is between each individual and our Heavenly Father. It is not our job as church members to be the word of wisdom police or the enforcers. We are each subject to our own free will and our own choices. Ultimately, the word of wisdom is there to guide us and teach us our Heavenly Fathers will and wishes for each of us and it is up to us to follow them. There is no church- ordered punishment for someone “violating” the Word of Wisdom. That is why I think it is so important for us to each learn for ourselves why we have these rules and why we should follow them, that way we truely understand and appreciate them and not just blindly follow and hope we are doing it right.
      I hope I am coming across correctly! It can be hard to communicate these kind of topics in a message. It’s hard to understand sometimes when it seems so direct and enforced. I think that’s where a lot of the cultural issues come in… people tend to interperit things how they want and that’s ok! There is so much nuance that comes with these topics and I’m not very good and communicating that. Ultimately, we are each given our own free will and it is not our job as members of the church to enforce our beliefs or rules on anyone, members and non-members alike. Just to love one another and help uplift where we can!

    2. I have a question for any LDS person or whomever might know. I have wondered this and asked many Mormons this and nobody can give me an answer. Why is hot cocoa ok, if the word of wisdom says you can't have hot drinks? and it also has caffeine in it so that can't be the difference. Just always been very curious about this. Thanks

    3. Tyra, I wondered the same thing – and the answers are not consistent among members.

      The conclusion I've drawn is that anything is "ok" if the member loves Jesus and his fellow man and is a good person.

      It doesn't seem to matter what the Word of Wisdom says.. they all have the agency to do whatever, even if the Word of Wisdom says to avoid it.

      The response is usually that "nobody's perfect" – but to me – how perfect do you have to be to refuse the coffee and drink the juice instead? It's not a major struggle…

    4. hi there –

      there seems to be a lot of confusion around the word of wisdom – which totally makes sense! for what it's worth, here's my attempt at a concise explanation:

      the original revelation given to joseph smith indicated that "hot drinks" – along with "strong drink" and tobacco – should be avoided. it was later clarified by prophets/apostles that the phrase "hot drinks" refers to, and only to, coffee and tea. therefore, the four substances that are explicitly warned against consuming (in any amount) in the word of wisdom are alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea. (illegal/harmful drugs are also included as an obvious extension.)

      the clear line of these substances being completely avoided is really easy to measure and latch on to, but the word of wisdom also includes advice to eat grains, fruits, and vegetables. prophets and apostles encourage church members to take care of their bodies by exercising, avoiding excessive consumption of any food or drink that is harmful to our bodies, keeping any and all addictions in check, etc.

      i hope this helps!

  16. Non-religious person here.

    I have been friends with a Mormon I met in high school for two decades. We were closest as teens and looking back I probably felt comfortable with her and her family because there was no risk of exposure to drinking, drugs, and sex; things I wanted no part of in high school.

    I don't "hide" who I am, but I'm not going to go out of my way to tell her a raunchy or drinking story. Nor has she ever made me feel uncomfortable for doings things like living with my husband before marriage or not getting married until I was 33. We both got a kick out of it that I got married the same month as her early 20s-something sister.

    Like someone said above, non-Mormons seem to have such an obsession with the "rules" of Mormonism like the "no shoulders" or the undergarments or the caffeine. I am not sure why; I don't care about those types of preferences with non-Mormons and plenty of people adapt their behavior to please their parents, partner, or self-imposed standards. The only undergarments I talk to any friend about is when they have a visible panty line! I don't think it needs to be different for Mormons.

  17. I agree, Dayna. I'm not religious either, but I don't consider myself a raunchy heathen either LOL! Just a "normal" person… whatever that is, trying to do the right things.

    I have always been very curious about the LDS religion, probably because of reading Shawni's blog. It just seems to have so many restrictions that I don't think are necessary in order to be a good person.

    Obviously some LDS members think so too, because I see that for a lot of the restrictions, even the ones considered "violations" – they have this agency they can use to kind of skirt the ones that they don't consider all that important.

    That's what prompted my questions above. I'm not being mean. I truly am trying to understand and reconcile what I read on their website and how they actually live.

  18. Thanks, Kalli. You communicated beautifully! I appreciate what you've said here. It makes sense that it's a personal thing between someone and God. We are not here to judge each other. There do seem to be a lot of rules, though.

    1. Thanks Tabby! If you haven't already, I would highly recommend reading The Articles of Faith. You can find them on and it is a fantastic way of getting a very concise version of our core beliefs.

    2. I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the conversation you two have had. No drama or ugliness. You both made sure to try and get your "tone" across so as to be civil. Thanks! We can agree it disagree without being hateful and unkind to one another.

    3. Thanks, Courtney. I appreciate the info. However, I wish Shawni would be a little better about following up on posts like these. She knows she will get a lot of comments, and questions (like mine) – and while I love to hear from everyone, I would really like for Shawni to answer my questions – detailed answers – rather than just do a great, heartfelt post like this then go away.

    4. Hi Tabby! I'm here to apologize I've been unable to come comment here and also to thank you for your beautifully articulated and sincere comments and questions that (along with everyone else's) have spurred even more thoughts I want to get to asap. I agree it seems silly to post something like this and not be available to reply back to all these awesome comments, and it's kind of killing me! (Although these wonderful responses are much better than mine will be…thank you everyone!) Yesterday and this morning have been filled with family and friends I needed to give some undivided attention to (although I have been reading all these comments as they've come in). I promise I'll be back!

      Thank you for your kindness and thank you to everyone else for so many great thoughts and answers!

    5. I want to add that the best way to get answers to any specific questions you have about the Mormon church is to ask the missionaries. They can help you! You can chat with a Mormon missionary online at, or you can request an in-person visit. There's no obligation to attend church. I find it honestly funny that there's so much confusion about our religion despite our best efforts to share it with the world.

  19. I grew up Christian but nearly all of my family on my mom's side is Mormon. And that side of my family is the largest…haha. I ended up Atheist so I'm kind of the black sheep of the family. I love my family and love that they have such a big love for family. I'm just the complete opposite of the rest because they're mostly conservative and I'm about as liberal as they come. But the closeness of my family…I wouldn't take it back for anything. I love your blog. It's nice knowing that all kinds of people read it. I absolutely love your blog and read it basically as soon as I see you've posted (subscribed via Feedly). 🙂

    I have nothing groundbreaking to say. Just showing support. haha. 🙂

    1. I sometimes feel like I'm about as liberal as they come too! But I am a Mormon. We aren't as unique as we seem (especially outside of regional Mormon hubs).

      What I've said really isn't groundbreaking either, ha! Just wanted to show you have some political solidarity with a Mormon.

    2. It's good to know that though! haha. Just about every LDS person I know closely has very little in common with me. Besides wanting to be a good person, that is. I will say that almost every LDS person I've ever known seems to want to be a good person. And most are very friendly. I just have opposite political beliefs, almost every time. haha.

  20. I live in Australia and LDS church members are very much a minority in communities. So many people above have said so many good things and I love this post. I think at times it is easy for LDS to navigate to other LDS because you feel comfortable and have common ground. But in saying that I think it is important to be involved in community organisations like sports, clubs etc and be friends and know other people. My kids friends are not church members and I have no problems with that (they are 9yrs and younger). I live in a small country community and find the people are super nice and very helpful. I know I want to surround myself and family with goodness but I feel that not only includes church members but also those in our community. There is so much good out there and I feel we need to expose ourselves to it all. Thank you Shawni for this reminder and challenge 🙂

  21. Thank you so much for this post. I feel very blessed to have friends of many faiths and Christian denominations and count several LDS among them thanks the the two years I spent in graduate school in Utah. I will admit that I had may misunderstandings about the faith prior to that time. And while we can't really ever make blanket statements of any group, I can say that the Mormons I've known have been among the kindest, friendliest, most inclusive and patriotic people of any denomination I've known. There is so much other denominations can learn from the LDS church and hope to implement our own version of Family Home Evening this year! And there is something so special about the idea that teenagers would set aside two years of their own lives to spread their faith. Whenever I get a chance, I stop missionaries to let them know how amazing that sacrifice is.

    I wish it was easier to get an inner-faith moms group started. Just by happenstance, the moms group at my church has turned into that sort of community by our inviting friends in but I wish there was something more.

    In this day and age of so much discord and division we could all (regardless of faith group) stand to get out there and connect a little bit more! Thank you for the post!

  22. Hi! I work with children and I have the pleasure of having a few Mormon families in my practice. I not only love the things you write because you have given me so many wonderful pointers but I have also used your blog as a bridge for conversation for those families who I adore. I love your blog (they happen to follow it as well!) because I learn so much about Mormon functions, traditions, and missions that I'm able to ask them about their life in a meaningful way. I used your blog as a way for me, a non-Mormon, to connect meaningful in a way to show that I'm interested in them although I follow a different religion. Everyone just wants to heard and respected and your blog has given me such a better understanding of the Mormon faith to do so.

  23. What a well written, kind, transparent response. I am an evangelical Christian and if you switched the label around, many points made in the letter could apply to our faith. We pray ferverentaly for our children to marry a christians. We do spend a large amount of our time with our church family. Our children do seek out friends of fellow believers and for that I am thankful. While we are different in our religion, we are alike in so many ways. Thank you for the kind response. What a great example of grace.

  24. I have learned so much about the Mormon religion by reading your blog! I find it refreshing, the good you seek to do makes me feel good, hopeful even. I love the closeness of your families and envy it as my family is not close and I wish we were. I truly enjoy reading your blog and learning about your family and faith. Keep up the good work 🙂

  25. A little explanation on why some LDS choose to attend church colleges (BYU). I'm LDS, currently living in the midwest. There are less than a dozen LDS kids attending my son's high school, so he has always had non-LDS friends. Our families have vacationed together and my son and his friends have spent many afternoons and summers together, boating, fishing and camping. However, as the boys have gotten older and are now juniors in high school, several have started to go to high school parties where underage drinking and marijuana use is common. Since my son (thankfully) doesn't want to be a part of these activities, he's beginning to be excluded from the other activities that these friends all used to take part in together (boating, fishing etc.). He frequently spends Friday and Saturday nights home, bored because all of his former friends are at parties. I know he could try to make new friends (and he's trying) and does occasionally hang out with his LDS friends, but this is one reason why he's planning on attending BYU. He's so excited to be able to have friends to hang out with and have fun that doesn't include under-age drinking and drugs. I know that not all college students at other colleges drink alcohol and I'm sure not all BYU students refrain from alcohol, but the odds are more likely that he'll have friends with common values at a church school. Also, as an added perk, BYU is far less expensive for church members than other colleges, including state and community colleges.

  26. Oh my goodness thank you so much for all these wonderful, kind and respectful comments. Thank you for the discussions with such beautifully articulated questions and answers, especially since I've been away and unable to answer anything yesterday. I want to sit down and reply to each and every comment as soon as I can. For now I just want to say how grateful I am for so many good hearts. I'll be back!

  27. I love this post! My husband and I are converts to the church, we were baptists in Ireland, and moved to South Africa and I've found most of the members here very rude, they've kind of thrown us into the newbies group and refuse to even acknowledge anything we say, I've found a lot of the things they say very offensive. It's funny when we got baptist I had a strong testimony within the people of the church and now after being here my testimony has grown into the full believe that the church is the true church. I think we need experiences and different kinds of people to make us grow in our own faith.

    My husband was very hurt after going to the temple having travelled quite a bit, with a baby and having to spent time with his brother, we rushed to the temple to make our endowment only for a temple worker to go on about the fact that he has some stubble, he felt like his whole experience was ruined, but he picked himself back up and decided that he was just going to teach members instead of having feelings hurt.

    1. Thankyou for sharing this. My husband amd i have been talking quite a bit about what it means to be christ centered within the lds church and you seem to have accomplished that. I think its somethimg that lifetime members struggle with.

    2. I am sorry your husband had that negative experience. I also had a negative experience when I got married in the temple by one volunteer there– but I have learned long ago (and I'm glad your husband knows this too!) that there are always going to be imperfect, and yes, even rude or mean people in the world, and even within churches. When I was a kid, I used to expect full grown adults to "know better" and therefore, "do better." But I learned it doesn't always work that way. My husband has a beard and we attend the temple–nobody has ever said a negative word to him.
      Nobody should judge– just love! I hope we can all try harder to be kinder– one by one we can light this world with love and kindness.

  28. Any church whose members act that way to converts and whose temple drones are so rude and hurtful cannot possibly be the ONE TRUE CHURCH.

    "By their fruits you will recognize them"…the Bible says that about how to identify the TRUE CHURCH. This is not it, not judging by their "fruits" or actions.

    1. I am not so quick to judge a church by the weakness of individuals. The LDS Church actually has shown many, MANY wonderful deeds of kindness, service and love to others. The Church has been a main source of humanitarian aid to all the areas struck with natural disasters, and is hands on with that help. Yes, by their fruits you shall know them. You judge a church by the doctrine and what is taught of Christ–not by the shortcomings, mistakes and weaknesses of individuals who attend a church. EVERY church has members who do not live as examples of what their church teaches.
      It's not an excuse for wrong behavior, just a realization that nobody is perfect in this world and our focus shouldn't be on the wrongs of individuals, but rather the blessings that come from living the Gospel of Jesus Christ the best way we know how, and share that happiness with as many as we can. -L.A.

  29. Unknown, you are right. Things like this just make me really mad.

    And as far as judging their fruits by their doctrine….isn't it LDS doctrine to make young people that want to get baptized who have two same sex parents renounce their parents and their sinful lifestyle in order to qualify? That is doctrinal, and it's abhorrent.

    1. "I have also thought the policy was made to keep kids from making decisions they don't understand. " So a child same age in a heterosexual home can make decisions? Is 8 the age with parental consent or isn't it? There is also a weird process for adults of polygamists to join the church.

      A parent drinking coffee is sinning. A parent living without marriage with another is sinning. Do those kids not get to be baptized? Some sin differently from you. Should a teen living with a parent who drinks coffee or alcohol not be able even with permission to be baptized? This guilt by association is very different than churches not wanting to perform the unions in a religious setting.

      Be honest, if the church came out and changed the policy would you stick to the opinion they should not be baptized or praise the newer decision as wise? Why can't people use agency and still be a full member? This is a question of whether Christ rose from the dead or not. It's a policy about the practice of a faith that can change three times in your lifetime.

    2. If the church changed its policy of polygamy tomorrow and said all men needed to take at least one more wife, as young as 14, your faith wouldn't waver?

    3. "I don't think my faith would waver if they changed the policy."

      I asked about your opinion of the current policy if they changed it. I did not ask if you would stop believing in God I didn't ask if you would change religions. In Catholicism you have to believe Christ rose. You can have the opinion that there is not a rational reason to not eat meat on Fridays in lent. You might even abstain, but state publicly you don't get anything from it. And all is still fine with your status in the church and among other members. One is doctrine and the other is a practice. It does not seem as possible to do this in the LDS church. I think all religions have members who have some practice or custom or rule that they just don't understand or believe it should be there. Millions of people are not going to completely in tune at all times in their life on fifty different ideas.

    4. Makayla, I appreciate your explanations and comments. We also had a family in our ward with a similar situation. Interesting thing is, the family had no issue with the Church policy on baptism. I wish people could understand that the LDS/Mormon Church is not "homophobic." Mormons believe that marriage, according to God's Law
      is between a man and woman/husband and wife). It does not mean Mormons are homophobic. There's a big difference. I have 3 different family members (sister-in-law to cousins) who live with same-sex attraction, and two who live with a same-sex partner. We love these family members! They are people with good hearts. We will always defend God's laws and commandments (law of chastity, marriage between a man and woman, etc.) but that doesn't mean we are haters or mean to people. Our family members know they are loved by us. You can love people without agreeing with everything they do, or condoning what you feel goes against God's laws. Here is a link to a video of a same-sex couple who shared their story and interactions with Mormons and the Church.

    5. Many churches have the same policy on marriage. What the public does no understand, along with some members who formally quit is the policy on baptism for a child who is not violating themselves any religious law on marriage. Because a parent is living with a same sex spouse of a polygamist the child might not be able to be baptized. Imagine a family of kids ages 5-15 has a parent come out of the closet and there is a same sex union after divorce. So the youngest can't be baptized but the older siblings are full members? Why is baptism all about one parent of the youngest and not the person being baptized? Imagine the feeling when classmates are getting baptized and cousins and wanting to but not being able to because another person is sinning? Every kid has a parent who is doing something against God's laws. And this is a church that is supposed to encourage converts? I don't think this policy will last very long. When the policy is changed I'm sure those who support the policy now will find justification for its change. I'm sure there is more to the religion that this. I just don't understand why memebers can't just feel they can say I will always be LDS but I just can't personally wrap my head around this policy? It's not a doctrine issue for the kid.

    6. Makayla, the definition of homophobia is "dislike of or prejudice towards homosexual people."
      While a large number of LDS member say they do not dislike LGBTQ people, and will talk about family members or friends who are LGBTQ. Those members will often then say in the next breath, "but we believe that God has decreed that marriage is between a man and a woman." If that was simply left there, I don't know if I would take such issue with things. (And let's not get this twisted, plenty of religious groups have the same doctrine on marriage, but we are talking about the LDS church here, specifically).
      You say the church isn't homophobic, however the LDS church EXPLICITLY supported Proposition 8 in California, which banned same-sex marriage.
      How is denying a legal marriage (not a religious one) to two consenting adults constitute, based solely on your own church's doctrines anything but prejudice? Yes, it is not what your church deems a "real" marriage, but frankly, the state does not consider LDS celestial marriage to be be a "real" marriage without a marriage certificate.
      I'm not saying you are not allowed to have your belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, but to say that the LDS church's policies towards the LGBTQ community (as a whole, not just LGBTQ members) is "loving," is problematic for me at best.

    7. You could be happy or unhappy about the policy. My comment is more that if the leadership reversed the policy would you then immediately turn around and start posting now inspired it is that any 8 year old can be baptized with desire to to do and parental permission?

      I don't think you hate anyone.

      The reason multiple faiths vote against same sex marriage is that they can vote either way, that is a vote. But the reason the churches of the world do is because of fhe problems with religious objection to benefits for church employees within education and hospital primarily. The contraception issue in my state has taken away the protection for pharmicists regarding the day after pill and oral contraception whilch can lead to a miscarriage as some do get pregnant on the the pill. The little sisters of the poor case and contraception fhat has been in the news. The catholic church and others are hiring people outside their faith or those not in full agreement of their faith. This is great! Yet there is that problem of going againt faith regarding abortion, contraception, marriage benefits. Some catholics are fine with civil unions or secular marriage as long as its not required to be done in church.

  30. Shawni, thank you for initiating a thoughtful discussion. To all those who have questions about the LDS religion: Please join with us this weekend for our semi-annual General Conference. The conference will stream live via

    From the church's website: The general sessions for individuals and families will be Saturday and Sunday, September 30 and October 1, at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. MDT.

    The general priesthood session for priesthood holders will be Saturday, September 30, at 6:00 p.m. MDT.

  31. Hi Shawni,
    Thank you for this.

    Personally, I've never understood the emphasis on mixing with so many member of the church, especially youth. Some will only share a room/house with other LDS uni students, or attend a uni/college where mainly other LDS students go to & I really don't get that.

    I've been the only member of the church for in my family just over 40 years & I find it really hard at times. I often don't see, or hear, from other members from one Sunday to the next & I actually prefer it that way, as I'm a very private person.

    I'm single & don't have children & it's often hard to fit in in the church when you're in this situation. If I tell others about I feel about not being a Mum all I get is either the millennium lecture or about teaching other people's children. Believe me, it isn't the same as having children of your own.

    Despite trying to find a place to fit in at church, I still know the gospel is true & this is what keeps me going back.

    I'm sorry if some of my comments are negative but it's how I feel.

    1. I'm so sorry this happens and that it's difficult to find a "place" but I love Unknown's comment below and you sound like you agree as well. Sending love your way.

  32. Julie- I have been a divorced, single mom. I have a sister who is almost 50 who has never married. I have another sister who has not been able to have children of her own. We each feel misunderstood in our own ways. But one thing I know for sure, and one thing that has helped me through those hard days when I hear talk of blessings I don't feel I have–is that the Savior understands me perfectly–and loves me perfectly. One thing I know for sure is that the Gospel is true. The Spirit is so strong and so clear to me- I could never deny it. Keep pressing forward with faith, knowing there are others cheering you on!We are part of a world-wide family and that is amazing! Enjoy Conference this weekend!

    1. Hi,
      Thank you for your kind comments, I really appreciate them. x

      I've watched 2 sessions of conference so far over the weekend & for once it only crashed about twice. It was great watching it on my telly while I was sitting/laying on my settee in my lounge.

      The talks were great.

  33. Great post! Reaching out is important…in both directions. Mormons are starting to open their view to accept that others do not have to follow their path.. to be happy. (Yes I know they believe it is "God's path to happiness" …I am sure it is for them.) What is wonderful is we all have our own relationship with our maker. We can decide our own life's path…we don't need a middle man. What has always been a rough one…is hearing people (of any religion) tell me my communication from God is invalid. (Mainly because it does not "fit" with what they believe God would be "telling me.") I've learned to respect Mormons that believe the way they do (I have many very active family members) and to create clear boundaries when someone decides to lecture me. I personally believe life is simple. There is Love…there is fear. Judgement is just fear…any form of judgement. Road fear the other person will run into you. Anger towards Mormons…or any religion…is fear those followers will lecture you about your freedom to live your path as you choose. My personal struggle…is to choose Love… every time..and when my irrational ego chooses judgement and fear…I have to stand back and remind myself to let go of the fear..and choose Love… which means total acceptance and respect for ALL paths. Choosing Love…raises the good feelings between us as humans….and all creatures on this world. Diversity is wonderful. This gives us the opportunity to truly live our personal beliefs….what ever they may be.

    1. Thank you for this, Marc! I didn't see it before I posted that next comment…for some reason quite a few of these weren't coming up in my feed. But just wanted to say I love what you said. Everyone is coming to life with different life experiences and different personalities, and sometimes it's so difficult to see where others are coming from! But when we choose love, like you said, we find it easier to see into hearts, to let the things that bother us fade, and to become closer to a God who loves us all, unconditionally.

    2. All good Shawni ! It really does come down to Love…authentic Love and acceptance for one another. Took me many years to truly understand what the Savior was saying about not judging one another…if judgement is fear… then we are basically run around being afraid of one another. That takes a LOT of energy to keep that going..and the energy is only generated from the human ego…and pulling from past human experiences. Interesting how with authentic Love… the energy flows from beyond us…is very present…and grows brighter as we acknowledge it. Someone once said…what has our attention…has our power. Which makes me observe, within myself, …what is generating that power?… Love…or Fear?

  34. Whoa this beautiful discussion is kind of getting derailed! This post is about expanding our circles and trying to give everyone around us the benefit of the doubt. Bottom line is that every church is going to have a certain belief system. There are all kinds of things you could pinpoint and pick at all day long in any religions, right?

    But what this post is trying to get at is that we can all learn a great deal from each other when we focus on the good and light that everyone has inside. There are going to be all kinds of things we agree on, and also things we don't and that's ok! We will all make mistakes. We all get judge-y from time to time. But when we try to soften our hearts and build there is so much wonder we can get out of life.

    General conference for the Mormon church is in full swing. The next session starts at 2:00 today if you want to tune in and learn more. Go here for all kinds of viewing options:

  35. I don't really understand (more of a lack of knowledge) the Morman religion but I always enjoy learning more. I'm a happy catholic but I wish the Mormans I did know were more interested in growing our friendship. What I do know of Mormans I really admire and think we would have a lot in common. Thanks for writing and sharing with us.

  36. I loved reading this. Thanks for such an open post Shawni. We have close family friends who are LDS and were so welcoming when we moved to a new town. We are not LDS but were included in youth and relief events and felt so included in their lives. I attended seminary and girls' camp and have such a respect for the values and culture in the LDS church.

    Have to share – I lived abroad in Australia and had missionaries come knocking. I felt led to invite them in for lemonade. In their whole day outside in the 100+ degree heat- it was the first house to offer them shade and refreshment. We can all learn a great deal from being kind to each other 🙂

  37. Great post! I have been thinking about this recently as 1- I have made progress in my depression and am becoming more social again, yay! and 2-my oldest kid is starting Grade 1.

    Thinking about mental health, sometimes just showing up at your own church, community group, whatever is most convenient or comfortable is all you can handle for a time. So there's that, which I'm not sure if it's been mentioned. You can look "ok" and even insular on the outside but be just getting by on the inside. Socialization doesn't come easy for everyone.

    But that aside, I'm much better now and I was thinking about this last night and discussing with my husband. We are both raised by Mormon parents (3 of which converted themselves as teens/young adults from other religious backgrounds). I found this gem of a quote in the Ensign which describes my feelings:

    In either the apocalyptic sense or the historical sense, individual orientation to the Church of the Lamb or to the great and abominable church is not by membership but by loyalty. Just as there Latter-day Saints who belong to the great and abominable church because of their loyalty to Satan and his life-style, so there are members of other churches who belong to the Lamb because of their loyalty to him and his life-style. Membership is based more on who has your heart than on who has your records.

    Stephen E. Robinson

    In this sense, I do my best not to base my friendships on "who has their records." But I do tend to seek out spirituality, positivity, and people who are loyal in character. I volunteer with Cub Scouts and see how spirituality manifests in individuals making and keeping personal commitments, as well as exploring the natural world with a sense of awe and wonder.

    As far as God is concerned, I believe strongly in God and I feel that he sees our future and what is in our hearts. He would never invalidate the good in someone or treat someone differently because of their denomination (even though He is obviously religious!). He appreciates everything good in every people, and graciously guides us away from our individual mistakes, and towards Him. I believe this happens with atheists just the same as with religious members.

  38. Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. As a convert, it breaks my heart when I hear my LDS friends saying that their kids are only allowed to hang out with church friends, or ignorant comments about how it’s “amazing” my parents are still married (after 50 years!) because they aren’t LDS. No religion has a monopoly on good works or good people, and I firmly believe the diversity of the world (religious beliefs absolutely included) is a part of God’s plan. Thank you for keeping your world broad instead of narrow, and for sharing it!

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