3/08/2006

Non-converts need not apply

I had a very interesting discussion about Mormons today with one of my non Mormon mommy friends. Jacob is practically obsessed with her son, so we spend a lot of time together. She has, in turn, spent a lot of time around Mormons, and has a surprisingly sophisticated knowledge of our religion. We've talked about Mormonism before, but today's discussion was particularly enlightening. "You're not a typical Mormon, Heather," she said. What? Me, not typical? Hardly. Sometimes I feel like I scream Molly Mormon. I’ve got the blond hair, the pale skin, the pioneer heritage, everything. OK, so I don't bake bread on a regular basis, and I'm really not the best homemaker in the world, but otherwise, I tend to think of myself as pretty dang typical. (See? Who else but a typical Mormon would use the word 'dang'? I also like fetch, freakin', and yes, I've even been known to utter an 'Oh my heck!' once or twice.) She went on to describe what she felt was the typical Mormon, and the ways I defied the stereotype. Keep in mind that this is a woman who has known lots of Mormons in her life, and is probably not generalizing from one encounter. First off, she said I'm educated. Not typical. Ouch. Also, she said that she feels like I have more of an open mind than other Mormons she has met. Again, ouch. Then the kicker. She said that every Mormon she has met is very nice, but she has felt that the niceness fades when they discover that she is not interested in becoming a Mormon. They are still nice, of course (nobody can't say we aren't nice!), but, as she put it, there is a "cooling", and a change in the niceness. Big ouch. Frankly, I found this person's portrait of Mormons very sad. Uneducated, close minded women who are only interested in you because of your potential conversion status? Wow. Sad. Are we that transparent? Are we that closed-rank? Can we not see past somebody's potential as a convert to their often more powerful potential as a friend? My friend was not deliberately being offensive to Mormons. I think (I hope!) that in a lot of ways, she likes Mormons. After all, we ARE nice, we do share her basic Christian value system, and we are, for the most part, productive, motivated people who care about our families. Those are all good things, and she recognizes them as such. But maybe in our zeal to spread the gospel, we forget that there are women out there who may just need to be our friends as much as they need the gospel. And they will for sure be more receptive to things if they feel that the message is coming from a friend who will still love them even if they decide they're just not interested. We Mormon women are very good at a lot of things, and I give us all the credit in the world for being a powerful source of good. But I think we could expand that circle of influence a little bit to include just being a friend, to the golden investigator and non mormon mommy alike. After all, she’s probably covered in poop, too.

24 Comments:

Blogger FrogLegs said...

I found this very interesting. Moving from Texas to Idaho has been crazy hard for me. Because of the "Mormon persona" I suppose. I'm told all the time that I'm weird/different/not normal. And from what I've observed- it's also very true (work outside & inside the home, higher level education, very openminded, yadda, yadda). My ex0husband told me back at thanksgiving that he always thought I was a "good mormon" till he moved to Utah. ;) Anyhow- I'm rambling-- and I smell dinner so I gotta check on it.

3/08/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Em said...

Oh very very good thoughts to be thinking. I made one of my very best friends at BYU because she felt like I was one of the few friends she had that was more interested in being her friend than in getting her converted. I even remember commenting to a mutual acquaintance once how much I liked this friend and the acquaintance said, "Yeah, I like her a lot too, if we could just get her "under the water".... I was offended by that and I can only imagine how offended my friend would have been.

Some of my friends who did ultimately join the church said it took them a really long time to develop an interest. I think we need to allow for the fact that developing an interest in the gospel, or a "desire to believe" is the very first step in developing faith, and that no amount of our being pushy is going to speed that process up. Sure, I'd like to share my religion with you, but if you're not interested now (or ever) I'm certainly not going to like you any less. The idea that Mormons are eager to "inflict" their religion on others is a stereotype I've come across every single place I've lived so far. Sad, sigh.

3/08/2006 06:50:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

I don't know many "typical Mormons" who would hang out with a "friend or neighbor" (trying to shed that "nonmember" label), to the point that said "friend or neighbor" would feel comfortable being as honest as your friend was with you, Heather. I think that's great. It makes me wonder how many friendships I'm missing out on. We do have that unfortunate stereotype of "they only like you till they find out you don't want to join their church" and I hope I don't live up to it.

3/08/2006 07:02:00 PM  
Anonymous Susan M said...

It blows my mind that there are Mormons who are only friends with other Mormons. Is that really true? How do you manage that?

3/08/2006 08:26:00 PM  
Blogger Tracy M said...

Yeah, it's true. As a relative newcomer, I knew there were people who were only interested in me as an Investigator. It was a yucky feeling, and did kind of creep me out and turn me off for a while. Obviously, I chose to join anyway, and I'm happy with that.

In the place we live now, there is a large LDS population, and I know many women who ONLY have friends who are members. It's wierd. The frame of reference for relating to people is only in the context of the Church. I wish that wasn't true, but it is.

ALmost none of my friends are members, and none of my family is.

Heather, you make a very good, timely and salient point. Maybe you pointing it out, in a kind way, will motivate more Old School members to broaden their horizons.

A friend told me a joke the other day:

St. Peter meets a man at the gates of heaven, and begins to take him on a tour. There are rooms and gardens and terraces, everything is very beautiful. As they walk around, St Peter points out different groups meeting in different areas. There are some groups praising and singing, which Peter points out are Baptists, there are some groups studying and debating, which Peter points out as Jews, and as they walk by many other rooms, Peter continues to explain who is meeting in them. When they approach one particular room, St Peter asks the man to be very quiet as they pass. When they are by, the man asks Peter, in a whisper, why they had to be quiet. St Peter says: "Oh, that was the Mormons. They think they're the only ones here."

A little crude, perhaps, but not so off the mark as to how we are greatly perceived.

3/08/2006 11:43:00 PM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

My excommunicated MIL and my atheist step-FIL have a really hard time with the whole "missionary" concept. How dare the Mormons assume that their religion is the only correct one?

Hey, I get what you guys are saying. Mormons need to be careful because they can really come off as offensive. That said, how in the world are we supposed to spread the gospel if we don't try? I believe with my entire soul that we ARE the correct religion. Why is it wrong to want to share that with people?

I know the answer to that, I really do. It's wrong when the line of "would you like to know more about my religion?" is crossed over into "you aren't good enough if you don't want to know about my religion".

I whole-heartedly believe that this issue is ultra-sensitive becaue we DO want everyone to find the gospel, while at the same time we should love everyone for who they are regardless of their religious affiliation.

I still get riled up when I hear about Mormon moms not letting their kids play with non-Mormon kids. Goes against everything Christ taught.

But with that ALSO said, living here in Provo Mormon world, it's really hard to find friends that ARE NOT Mormon. I think I might know 2. Maybe 3. No, just 2. Wait...3?
Yeah, it may be pathetic, but what do you do? I'm friends with my neighbors and people I meet in my everyday life. They just happen to all be Mormon. Go figure.

3/09/2006 12:23:00 AM  
Blogger fMhLisa said...

People never think I'm Mormon. So I suppose I must not "seem" typical myself, though I mostly am (other than the politics, but it's not like I wear "feminist" a sign).

I don't know what non-Mormon vibes I give out,(I don't swear, smoke, or spit myself) but I once had a boss (back before the babies) who's jaw literally dropped open when I mentioned it. And it's not unusual for me to be amoung general aquantances and have them start complaining about Mormons and be in the awkward prediciment of wondering if I'm supposed to 'out' myself. I usually do.

I made a new friend about a year ago (who was also shocked when I didn't drink coffee and turned out to be Mormon) who flat-out asked me if I was trying to convert her. I said no. She went on to tell me about all these women who'd warned her not to be friends with me because (she'd just moved to Idaho, never been around Mormons) Mormons will only be your friend until they figure out you're not going to convert. They all even told her stories about being dropped like hot potatoes.

I think part of it is (and I've been guilty of this myself for most of my life) that it's just so much more comfortable to be friends with people who share the same value structures and systems and speak the same language. You know. It's just human nature. Then add a dash of missionary zeal, a bit too much niceness at the outset, and we Mormon women are leaving behind a bunch of hurt hot potatoes in our wake.

In other words, were clicky and complacent I'm sure it's accidental and unintentional and it's also a bit shallow and a lot thoughtless. But it's also just human.

3/09/2006 03:40:00 AM  
Blogger Tri Mama said...

I joined the church while attending a singles ward and have to say that I had so much support...that is until they found out I was dating someone in Provo and then when I got engaged all the "outreach" stopped. I no longer even had home teachers...I never even received my new member discussions and was no longer invited to ward functions (mind you we had a long engagement and I liked hanging out with everyone in our ward). As soon as we moved to a family ward I requested the new member discussions and learned how important a genuine missionary attitude is in all things.

3/09/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Nature said...

Now that I have a kid in school, I find that I am finally out of my little Mommy world enough that I even have the opportunity to meet non-Mormon moms. But even still, there really aren't many times in my normal day-to-day life that I would even run across a non-Mo mom. I stay home most of the day. If I go out, I go to the store (like I'm really going to meet a friend chatting once over the produce), to church, on errands, or to the park with my friends, all of whom I've met at church -- it being my one social outlet at this point in my life. Church is the one place that I spend time at outside of my home where I see the same women over and over.

Gradually, as my kids get older and are in school and involved in things in the community, I am actually meeting 'other' moms. But, even still the contact with them is few and rarely repeated, so there's still not much chance of building a relationship with them.

The idea of me breaking out of my regular routine, solely so I *can* say I have a/some non-Mormon friend is as fake as seeking out friends just so I can convert them. It is all just a means to a (shallow) end and not the makings of a natural, real friendship.

Food for thought, this thread.

3/09/2006 12:11:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

Nature-

You've hit upon a good point--the isolation of the SAHM. Our lives revolve so much around our children at home, and so it can be hard to even see another woman during the week, let alone make friends with them. I certainly had almost no non Mormon friends when my son was an infant, mostly because my world suddenly became very small, and the only people who were invovled were other moms, and the only other moms I knew were at church.

My world is a little bigger now, as my son gets more invovled with school, other activities, our neighborhood, etc, so I have more social outlets that allow me to meet a wider range of people. The activities are still mostly about my son, though. It's a difficult thing to remember, this life of mild isolation.

It makes me wonder about other women who don't have a church family ready made. How could they possibly overcome their isolation? Is that why so many moms in our neighborhood volunteer for PTA and every stinkin' neighborhood block party there is?

3/09/2006 12:45:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

CC-

don't worry, everybody who gets engaged in a single's ward to somebody who isn't in the ward gets completely stonewalled. It happened to me when I got engaged to DH, too. It was like I dropped off the face of the earth, and nobody wanted to talk to me anymore. It's like once you're off the market, nobody is interested in you. That's true for Mormon and Non-mormon alike!

3/09/2006 12:47:00 PM  
Blogger Mo Mommy said...

I am totally boggled by this. Perhaps it's because I wasn't really in the Mormon 'culture' until fairly recently, but I have rarely seen this type of attitude. I did recently have someone tell me what a good job I've been doing reactivating one of my best friends, when all I am really doing is hanging out with someone I think is cool. I did feel a bit offended, like I'm just hanging out with someone to make sure they go to church. So I can only imagine what it feels like to be the one people are attempting to convert/reactivate.
The best missionary tools I have are my purple hair and my "I can't, I'm Mormon" t-shirt. It helps people realize that "we" have all different personalities and interests.It's usually a big shock to people who have the usual stereotype in their mind about Mo's. I often mention that I am a member, but I never push someone to come to church with me. I have great happiness and love in my life, and everyone is entitled to feel that, even if they aren't getting dunked .

3/09/2006 02:16:00 PM  
Anonymous Nichole said...

I honestly feel so lucky to have a built-in support system wherever I move (just moved last week so I'm especially glad right now). I know I'll always have at least one person in my area that I click with. I do have the same beef as Cheryl, though. I think that monitering who your children play with and date is a very wise practice. Telling them to stay away from non-members is, in my mind, un-Christianlike conduct. I have friends that tell their children that dating non-members is off limits. First, I would hope that by the time my children are 16 they would have good enough judgement to not date anyone who would make them stray from their values, Mormon or not. Second, if I hadn't had LDS friends and a couple of LDS boyfriends I'd never have been blessed with the wonderful life I get to live now.

3/09/2006 02:40:00 PM  
Blogger Thoroughly Mormon Millie said...

Heather O. - I've wondered about non-LDS mom isolation myself. I feel particularly blessed to be a member of this church just for this aspect.

At a recent school function, I wandered around with my camera, taking snapshots of friends and their kids (LDS and others). I think it surprised many of the parents, who obviously knew no one else but the teachers, to see another parent moving around so comfortably, having so many people to take pictures of. I felt conspicuous, and then I felt blessed, and then I felt sad for them. What kind of friendship base would I have without the church? How do moms go through nursing, post-partum depression, wayward teenagers, and the happy stuff too, without a cushion of other moms they know as well as we know each other?

I've been very impressed with the parents of the kids on my kids' community sports teams. These people (once you get past the occasional screaming control freak) are caring, funny, happy, functioning, understanding of your strict beliefs because they have quite a few of their own. We've become quite close to a couple of the families. No, we're not as close to them as some of our ward friends, but that's only natural, in light of all the other things we have in common with Mos.

3/09/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Elizabeth-W said...

Some varied thoughts--As a Mormon who is married to a no-Mo, I would say that my husband is a good person to ask what a typical Mormon is. He would say that his view has changed drastically over the years, mostly for the better, and that he has found that there is some variety, but basically it is variation on a theme.
Does he feel like there is an ulterior motive for home teachers and missionaries to stop by? Yes. How could he not? I certainly feel it. For example, last Sunday I was set apart for teaching RS, and the blessing included a phrase about "may your husband take an active interest in the topics you are studying" or something like that.Any time I meet someone new and they find out he isn't lds, one of the first five questions I'm asked is about his interest in the Church--it does feel a bit intrusive, and I do feel this pressure from people sometimes to get him 'involved'. But, he would say that it comes from a good place, that he understands the person's drive to missionary work, rather than people seeing him as "not saved" or flawed, etc.

I've been trying to make friends with this woman who is in my neighborhood. She isn't LDS and I have zero interest in 'converting' her, or anyone for that matter. She knows I am lds, so I worry that if I don't maintain the friendship she'll think I've 'dropped' her--it's not that I don't want to be her friend, but that my life seems to have gotten busier--I honestly feel like I need to tell her that I haven't called lately b/c I've just been busy and not that I think she's not dunk-able.

I am flagrantly embarrassed to say that I prefer my kids to play with LDS kids. I am mortified that I have even put this in print because I know that for the most part it is irrational. I never played with lds kids as a child b/c there weren't any around, and while I may not be the best example since I'm married to a heathen, I think I turned out okay. Because my oldest is in kindergarten I'm still pretty anxious about her making good friends, and it is only going to get more nerve-wracking as she ages. This goes back to the whole variation on a theme idea--we as a culture have some pretty similar ideas about what is is appropriate, etc. and knowing that someone is lds gives us a baseline, or at least we think it is there until we find it isn't.

3/09/2006 06:05:00 PM  
Blogger Tri Mama said...

Heather:
Thanks for the comment. I think it is important for people to remember that fellowshipping is not about getting what we want (a possible mate, a quick conversion, or an easier/convenient friendship), but about sharing who we are regardless of what we get in return.

3/09/2006 06:56:00 PM  
Blogger Heather O. said...

I let my kids play with non-mos, but it's interesting to note that the people who have clicked with us the most are the people who are really, really, Christian. One of our neighbors has the license plate "STP4GOD" (Stop for God), and is constantly talking about God. Jacob's others best friends have crucifix in their living room, and even though they aren't particulary active Catholics, they definitely talk about God a lot. Another neighbor Jacob really likes goes to a private Catholic school, with some sort of Christian activity group after school. So again, it's just seeking out people who are the same as you. I certainly didn't plan it that way, but that seems to be what has happened.

And there are non-mos that I don't let Jacob play with, not because they aren't nice, only because they seem like they have different moral values, and I don't trust them to protect my child. If I didn't trust a mormon, I probably wouldn't let them watch Jacob, either.

3/10/2006 10:05:00 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

I'm non-Mormon, living in Utah, and I can completely relate to what your friend believed about "Mormon Moms." Growing up, many kids weren't allowed to play with me. My family is Christian, and we have an awesome values system, but many neighbors shunned us. Being the only kid in a group of friends not invited to a party is tough, and when I would inquire about it, they told me their parents said I couldn't come. I went home in tears many times. I don't know how I am going to react when/if this happens to my own children. As a new mom, I have a very hard time getting along with Mormon mommies. It makes me sad when I start a conversation and they are friendly until they very obviously spot the cross around my neck. They can't get their eyes off it as they shuttle their children away from mine as quickly as possible. Not to make it sound like these are the only people I encounter- there are also many friendly LDS moms who haven't treated me like a sinning, drinking, swearing crazy-lady. I am eternally grateful to the women I have made friends with who didn't care what I believed, and were willing to take the time to get to know me before writing me off. I'm glad this was posted, because it would be nice to spread the word and hopefully one day, all live peacefully amongst everyone else.

3/10/2006 04:06:00 PM  
Anonymous Rachel said...

I grew up in the Southwest, definitely Bible belt. I can remember in my early teens being told by friends that their youth groups prayed for us Mormons because we were all going to hell. Mormons were definitely the minority in our community. Now, living in a more LDS populated community, the tables have reversed--I mean, we don't have revivals showing anti-Protestant films, but we definitely separate ourselves consiously or unconciously into us vs them. For those of us who truly were persecuted as children for being lds, I think we become guarded and close-ranked.

3/10/2006 06:45:00 PM  
Blogger Kage said...

I think what makes me open-minded is the education I have received through college and life experience. Perhaps the non-educated create a perpetual close-minded state? Maybe education is the root and would fix the close-minded ness of some of these women your friend has met? I went to a Catholic university in Urban Chicago...only Mormon there. I live in NYC in the Muslim community. I MUST be open-minded.

Just reverse the roles for a second. If a Muslim approached me and offered their religion, I would respectfully decline, and would still want to be friends...how interesting to be friendly with people of other races, cultures and RELIGIONS! Diversity is one of God's blessings. We are NEVER ALL going to be mormon! So let's enjoy each other.

3/10/2006 11:46:00 PM  
Anonymous Heidi M said...

This is a really interesting topic. I joined the church soon after I began dating a member. I hate it when people say I joined because of him, or that he brought me in. I had known MANY mormon friends growing up (in a suburb of Dallas, TX) before he ever came along. Anyway, I remember a few times while I was still in the singles' ward hearing people (from places like UT, AZ, ID) say how much they liked it here (Lubbock, TX) because you really had to have a testimony. That shocked me at the time. I have to admit that my DH and I are actually a little fearful at the prospect of moving to a place with a mostly LDS population. I fear my children hanging out with inactive LDS kids more than hanging out with non-members. I'm sure that's probably irrational, but I've heard much of the same sentiment from those I know from UT. Just the idea that it's easier to "stay strong" when everybody's watching you 'cuz you're LDS, rather than in a place where nobody cares that you're LDS 'cuz everybody else is too. Golly, what a crazy sentence (if you could even call it that).

3/14/2006 03:23:00 PM  
Anonymous Heidi M said...

PS That's not to say there aren't plenty of faithful LDS in UT, AZ, etc., or that all the LDS outside of those places are more faithful. The above post is just something I've heard often. I've only been to UT once, so I probably don't know what I'm talking about. But I will say this, when we visited my bro-in-law's ward while we were there, not ONE person said "Hi" or introduced themselves, nothing, not even the bishop. It was the most surreal experience ever. I've been to wards all over TX, several in IL, and CA and in those places people couldn't wait to talk to you.

3/14/2006 03:33:00 PM  
Anonymous Marisa said...

So my sister-in-law is moving to Lubbock. Her husband has a job transfer there. Anyway she has a new baby and no family there... just was hoping to help her get hooked up with some nice LDS mommies there! Can anyone help?

11/25/2010 12:40:00 AM  
Anonymous Marisa said...

Sorry my blog is grafkiddos.blogspot.com

11/25/2010 12:42:00 AM  

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