You Can't Bash Mormons Just Because You Live in Utah

When I was still investigating the LDS church, I was given tickets to go to General Conference. It was a beautiful spring day, I got all dressed up, woke up early, and drove to Salt Lake. Where I parked, you could see the morning sun shining on the temple. It felt like the pinnacle of all this searching I had been doing: to go see and hear prophets and apostles speak was pretty cool, even for a nonmember.
But as we got closer I realized not all the crowds outside the conference center were members waiting to be let in the building. They were hecklers. 
Tons of them. At least a hundred, all with varying degrees of showmanship. Some were passing out brochures with anxious looks on their faces like they were out saving souls. Others were shouting cruel things while everyone tried to ignore them. One group I remember very vividly- there were 3 men- 2 were dressed like Mormon missionaries, and the other was in a bright red Halloween costume of the devil, complete with horns, tail, and pitchfork.
Their message was pretty clear.
I almost laughed. My first thought was, they really have nothing better to to today?
My next thought was is this really effective for them? It seemed pretty obvious that their goal was to humiliate, not to convert anyone to their own beliefs. Nothing about what they were doing made me want to go up and say, "hey you know you're right. What was I thinking going in there? Could you tell me more about your beliefs?"
But the really crazy thing is how unfazed most people were about it. I was completely shocked that it was happening, but it seemed like everyone else had either expected it, or they were just really good at tuning it out.
And it shouldn't have been new to me. My mom was raised LDS, but married my dad at 19, and he was not a member. Not wanting to go to church alone, my mom was inactive most of her married life. (But we'll get to that.) So my brothers and I were raised in that weird limbo in between: being a nonmormon in Brigham City, Utah is not always an easy thing. But I've discussed that before. Now I want to look at the other side of it.
I was always going to go to church someday. I had a book of bible stories my mom always read me as a kid. I knew about God, and I think my Mom did a good job of letting me see things from all sides. She would answer my questions about the Mormons, but she also let me go to Vacation Bible School with my grandmas church. I feel very lucky that I can say from a young age, I was able to choose.
When I was older I started going to all sorts of different churches. I visited almost every non-LDS faith I could find. I found some wonderful churches and some very welcoming people.
The only problem was: of all the churches in Brigham that I went to, there was only one who did not once mention the Mormons.
Some would be off on a great sermon, then veer off with, "now the Mormons believe..."
Others spoke of nothing but the Mormons the entire time.
My favorite was a very sweet sermon that ended with, "Now our convert the Mormons dinner is Saturday night, everyone make sure you bring a Mormon..." (Ok that's probably not an exact quote but you get the general idea!)
It was frustrating because that was the problem I always seemed to bump into inside of Utah. No matter the faith, everyone was talking about the Mormons!
Even in vacation bible school. I was probably 10 or so, and I remember we were having a lesson on how one thing can not be something else, like it would be a sin to say an apple is an orange. (I wish I could find my teacher now because I didn't understand it then and I don't understand it now.) One kid, who was probably 6 or 7, raised his hand and said, 
"Like how Mormons believe that popcorn pops on apricot trees!"
The teacher, dead-serious, nodded her head and said,
Even at 10 I remember thinking are these people serious? 
But that's the problem: in Utah, it's ok. As long as you're the minority, and you are if you're not LDS, you can say or think what you want about the majority.
But what I don't get is what happened to basic human respect? More than that, what happened to freedom of religion, and respecting someone else's religion?
Think of The Book of Mormon musical. I don't care what you believe in, how anyone can watch that and not feel rotten for our faith is beyond me. You couldn't perform a musical like that about the Jewish faith. But the LDS are openly persecuted and because your Mormon neighbor offended you once, because you are outnumbered in your own hometown, you feel like it's ok to just sit by and watch.
My mother has been bashed for her faith more than anyone I know. She seems to encounter it everywhere she goes. And if you've ever met my mother, she's the hardest person in the world to argue with. But they always find a way!
There was one night when she had been going through a hard time that had dragged on for years. It wasn't easy to go back to her church, so she went to a bible study of another faith. They started, of course, talking about the Mormons. They knew she was LDS, and they started telling her what she believed.
Now put yourself in her shoes for a second: you were raised LDS, but you haven't been active for a long time. You sought out solace from another religion: you're there! You're on their turf, ready to hear what they believe. But all they want to do is attack the LDS faith.
She told them she didn't want to talk about that, that she was going through a hard time and could really use this class. But they told her they wouldn't stop talking about it, they couldn't, because it was their duty.
I am not asking for a social revolution. All I am asking for is a little basic respect.
I visited all those different churches with an open mind. I can still say wonderful things about those faiths who were so open and welcoming to me, but I joined the LDS church because I believe it.
Even after my baptism, I took a religious studies course in college and loved it. I learned so much about so many religions. Do you realize how many are out there? And here we are battling it out among the Christians.
This is a battle that's been fought since the dawn of time. It's not a shock to anyone. But it is a little shocking that we aren't more civilized about it these days.
The lady I was a nanny for moved here from Idaho and is not LDS. But of course, you move here and it's a different culture, so she had a lot of questions. I felt like we had a good friendship, and I felt comfortable talking about my faith with her. She didn't have to agree with my points of view, because I wasn't trying to convert her. I just appreciated that instead of making assumptions or attacking me for my beliefs, she asked.
Everyone gets to live their own life. Whatever your problem with the Mormons is, I beg you: get over it. One person who wronged you does not make up our whole faith. (Neither does a dozen!) I don't care if you think what we believe in is completely wrong, the fact you can't argue is that it's my right to believe it! I will do my best to respect and value what you believe in (even if you believe in nothing) if you will do the same in return.

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