Faith’s Fear Factor

July 6, 2009 | 42 comments
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I recently had a co-worker ask me how many wives my husband had. “Just one,” I answered. Red-faced, I hurried to explain that Mormons don’t practice polygamy. By the end of our conversation, he looked unconvinced and I felt uncomfortable because I belong to a church outside the mainstream. The innocuous encounter gave rise to one of my least favorite emotions—feeling guilty for feeling embarrassed about the most important thing in my life. Religiosity, I often worry, isn’t chic.

 

I know my beliefs aren’t cool. It’s why I don’t often tell people that my great-grandfather did practice polygamy. Growing up my siblings and I would look through old family albums, pleased that we came from the prettiest of the wives. Amongst ourselves, our history is not a point of shame. But it’s easy to see the way outsiders view it and suddenly my adolescent yearnings to “belong” rear their pimply head and I find myself trying to shrink off to the sidelines. It’s the same way I felt when a Rasmussen Reports survey said that 43% of American voters would never even consider voting for a Mormon candidate. A jovial colleague put the newspaper clipping on my desk–and I pretended I never saw it.

 

We always laugh (nervously) when my cousin Emily tells about the time she was sitting in a diversity class as a graduate student at Columbia University. In a discussion where students were admitting their prejudices so they could debunk them, the boy next to my cousin leaned over and whispered, “Mormons scare the crap out of me.” It was another instance where my suspicions were confirmed: this big, important thing in my life makes me look nutty.

 

I can see why others think we’re weird. Because really, no alcohol ever? No premarital sex? Except for my junior year of high school when I was too naïve to know that people could put marijuana in brownies, no drugs. No coffee, or R-rated films. Not even tank tops or the occasional well-placed swear. I’m like 30 Rock’s Kenneth the Page, gawkily entertaining because I am just so darn righteous

 

On top of which, it’s not exactly hot these days to claim you do things because a higher power told you to. No one would think twice if I said I didn’t drink coffee because I don’t like the way it tastes. But the reason I’m caffeine-free is because I believe it was revealed to a modern Moses that it’s bad for me. I can understand how anyone who didn’t get that same revelation might be frightened by someone who so fervently believes God speaks.  

 

Any time I feel self-conscious because of my beliefs, my thoughts land on Paul, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” and I feel lousy for being such a worldly disciple. “Maybe if I had more faith,” I reason.

 

For years I’ve piddled around with different ways of handling my discomfit. I used to try keeping my religion a secret until friends knew me well enough. Once they did know, I’d downplay it. When I explained the tactic to a friend she said I sounded like I was gay. “It’s like you’re trying decide when to come out of the closet.” Seeing as we’re a people who actively proselyte, the evasion tactic left me feeling guilty and false.

 

When I moved to Manhattan five years ago, I considered taking advantage of all those open minds in an effort to appear normal. I’d make conservatism the new liberal. “Tripping acid induces hallucinations? I think people have transcendent visions when they’re stone-cold sober.” Not surprisingly, my views were off-putting. “Sexual revolution? Here’s one to blow your mind: abstinence before marriage, monogamy after.”

 

While it was easier to find acceptance for my views in New York than it had been growing up in Colorado Springs, once nicknamed “the Evangelical Vatican,” playing on others’ professed tolerance felt forced.

 

I called my oldest brother the other day to see if he ever feels the way I do. “Yeah, I do,” he answered. “But awhile ago,” he said, “I decided just to get over it.”

 

Talk about a revelation. It made me think back to my favorite take-away from the PBS documentary on the Mormons. I watched it with some level of anxiety. “Please don’t let us look weird,” I prayed. I was especially worried about how the First Vision would be explained—and at first, I focused on how weird that story must sound. But then the documentary cut to a clip of President Hinckley speaking. “We declare without equivocation,” he said, “that God the Father and His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, appeared in person to the boy Joseph Smith.”  When President Hinckley spoke—without equivocation—there was no trace of that familiar embarrassment in me.

 

It’s like the NY Times reviewer noted, “The tenets of the Mormon church may not be to everyone’s tastes, but the church members and leaders who speak in this program are admirably forthright about the religion’s history, strengths and challenges. It’s great to hear people who believe in something and can articulate it without sounding crazy or defensive.”

 

And all this time I thought people wanted me to sound apologetic…

42 Responses to Faith’s Fear Factor

  1. Mike on July 6, 2009 at 8:18 am

    I just take the opposite approach. I have rarely met a person who was not interested in polygamy, massacres, gunfighters, salamanders or swearing “apostles”. I am proud of my colorful heritage, even the parts that some people in Salt Lake probably wish would be forgotten. When I get through with them, it makes the typical missionary message seem pretty normal and mainstream.

    Also, I see a difference between things like R-rated movies, tank tops and coffee in contrast to premarital sex and getting drunk. Not advocating the former, but many pretty good Mormons are not in complete compliance with things like the former, but manage to avoid things like the later. Many good Christians agree with us on most of the more weightier matters.

  2. Dan on July 6, 2009 at 8:40 am

    I don’t think I’ve really experienced the “fear factor” of my faith. The only thing I’ve had to deal with, when it came to uncomfortability, was when I lived in Utah, or had just moved away from Utah. I had a horrible time there and felt totally uncomfortable explaining to people that I lived, or had lived there. But when it came to explaining I was Mormon, or declining a drink, that was easy.

    It has to do, for me, with two factors.

    1. As a society, many of the principles we believe in are now far more socially acceptable. Don’t drink? Okay, no prob. Don’t smoke? Sounds good. There’s even scientific proof (like you ever needed scientific proof to show that inhaling the fumes of flaming leaves was bad for you!).

    2. Growing up in California, most of my friends were non-Mormon. A good friend of mine, a co-worker constantly challenged my religious views, in a very respectful way. He didn’t like the church at all, but he never showed me disrespect because that’s what I believed. Our discussions prodded me to learn more and become even more comfortable with my religion.

    Near the beginning of my mission, I was beaten badly by a Jehovah’s Witness, whose knowledge of the Bible was far superior to my own (I hadn’t ever heard of the title “Elohim” at that time, for example). I vowed at that point that that would never happen to me again. I studied the gospel immensely during my mission. Several months later, I “bible-bashed” with another JW, who I made cry. Then I realized I went too far. :) But that knowledge that I had gained proved very useful to at least one convert family, who had numerous doctrinal questions, for each of which I had a scriptural answer that came to me easily.

    My only fear right now is that I would get so disgusted with some of the cultural and political aspects of today’s Mormonism that I would want to refuse to associate myself anymore with them. That’s my fear factor with this, the true religion.

  3. Dave Banack on July 6, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I’m afraid that in the 21st century, a good offense (in politics and religion) is the best defense. So maybe as a reply you should ask your colleague (and you can switch genders as needed): “So, how many gals did you husband sleep with before you married him? How many is he sleeping with now?” I mean, if they’re going to get personal about your moral commitments, get personal about theirs. You get uptight for a commitment to abstinence and monogamy, maybe you should let them get a little uptight about hooking up and sleeping around. Or if they, in fact, secretly think abstinence and monogamy aren’t such a bad idea, make them confess publicly. You’ll feel better.

  4. Marc Bohn on July 6, 2009 at 9:40 am

    For some reason I’ve been lucky enough to avoid these sorts of situations. Sure, on my mission I encountered some who openly scorned my faith, but since, whether working in Las Vegas, attending law school in D.C., or in my professional life at my firm, people have typically been nothing but respectful of my beliefs. I’ve always been very open about my religious affiliation and, while in law school, actively put on events like an LDS Law Student Conference and a Religious Freedom Moot Court (both sponsored by the JRCLS chapter I was a part of). I even got our school to shell out money for these events. We also paired with the Islamic and Jewish law societies for an interfaith iftar my third year. I often had classmates ask me about my beliefs, etc. I never took their shock at learning that I was a virgin when I got married as mockery though. It’s made me wonder at times whether perhaps I’m just thick-skinned and am just not picking up on their prejudices. But, then I’ve maintained long-term friendships with a lot of these people (including gay classmates, professors and co-workers, who often asked me regarding the Church’s position on homosexuality and, in recent years, about its political involvement on things such as Prop 8). While perhaps some of this lies in my approach to discussing these sorts of issues, in talking with friends who’ve encountered significant instances of discrimination for their beliefs, I’ve decided that a lot of it is most likely happenstance.

  5. Marc Bohn on July 6, 2009 at 9:44 am

    I like Dave’s approach to shifting the paradigm by the way… while I’d probably couch it in softer terms, I think pointing out the hypocrisy of our modern culture is usually pretty effective (e.g., Hollywood and the media glorifying Hugh Hefner and his many live in “girlfriends” while reacting in horror at polygamists who would incorporate commitment, morality, and religiosity into their “non-traditional” relationships).

  6. rameumptom on July 6, 2009 at 9:45 am

    I find having a sense of humor goes a long way. I laugh about my religion with my friends and coworkers. I work with several part-time ministers (some are anti-Mormon), who have learned to respect me. And we joke about our religions.

    When discussions come up, I’m not embarrassed, because I know enough about their religions to show that they have many skeletons in their closets. Southern Baptists? They broke off because they supported slavery. Catholics went through that Inquisition phase. Calvin burned a man at the stake for heresy. See how easy it is to make us look “normal” simply by realizing they are not as normal as they claim?

    Yes, we believe in modern prophets. How is that any different than believing that a guy, 2000 years ago, died and resurrected? Or believing the words of a bunch of very illiterate people who believed the world was flat, or that Joshua made the sun stand still, etc?

    For those who do not believe us, that is THEIR problem, not mine. I know I’m a Christian. If they don’t believe it, it is their problem, not mine. We haven’t done polygamy in over a century, and I would probably offer a link to some website to show the unbelieving coworker.

    I’ve been in groups, where someone said something about Mormons, and I would smile and tell them I am Mormon. Then I would joke about it, asking if there were any misconceptions I could clear up. That lightens the sudden tension the other person feels, and allows me to offer information they wouldn’t have otherwise, as I’ve kept the conversation from going awkward.

  7. Paradox on July 6, 2009 at 10:19 am

    One of the biggest mistakes I’ve made with my family in regards to the gospel is the fervent attempt to shield them from any part of it for the sake of their (my) comfort, and to respect their feelings (avoid an awkward conversation.)

    The fact that we’re supposed to own our history and our testimonies is no secret. But this tactful tolerance that many of us try to pursue for the sake of our own comfort does not serve anyone. While it will never disappoint us (oh wait…) it will also never bring us the fullness of joy of bringing even one soul into the fold.

    One of the most chilling statements I ever read was given by Henry B Eyring in the January 09 Ensign when he suggested that one day, the people that we knew will come to us and ask “Why didn’t you tell me?”

    Talk about an awkward conversation.

  8. TStevens on July 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

    I tend to open up whenever I can. Most people are more curious than anything and I have found most really want to know more in a non-converting way. A lot of people make the mistake that every conversation, right from the first, needs to be a missionary minded one. That usually (but not always) turn out well. Typically they are seeking just information, and I use those opportunities to hopefully fill the universe with a little truth. Over time that may become a missionary opportunity.
    That said, I do like replying to women when they ask the do I practice polygamy question by saying “Why, are you making me an offer?”

  9. Steve on July 6, 2009 at 10:57 am

    When asked how many wives I have, I usually reply that I’m only married to two, but I’m engaged to a third and dating a fourth. I try to say it all with a straight face. I often “confide” in whoever’s asking that I’m concerned that there seems to be some tension between the new fiancee’ and my wives, and I express concern that it might not work out.

    It’s all I can do to keep from laughing when I’m offered friendly advice on how to resolve these issues.

    At some point I can’t keep myself from laughing, and I then have an opportunity to set the record straight. It’s helpful for people to see that for all our peculiarities we Mormons are, in many ways, “ordinary people.” Some people view us–and other religious groups–as an alien species. It’s hard for some people to imagine a Mormon enjoying a ball game, watching TV, or having a sense of humor (especially a sick one like mine.) I’ve found that the “fear of the unknown” with which many people approach Mormons often evaporates upon discovering that we are, in fact, human.

  10. TStevens on July 6, 2009 at 10:58 am

    “does not” turn out well – bloody typing!

  11. Rebecca Smylie on July 6, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Steve–I think you’ve nailed it. And I know all of these things–talk candidly, don’t think I’m having conversations to convert people, etc. Is it possible that four years at BYU and I lost all social skills? That if I couldn’t start a conversation by asking someone “where they served?” I didn’t know where to start and just got itchy and awkward?

  12. manaen on July 6, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    Something that (usually) helps me is remembering why I disagree with the comment, I felt uncomfortable because I belong to a church outside the mainstream.
    .
    Because the Church to which we belong truly is:
    * Christ’s restored Church,
    * lead by living prophets
    * what will be the refuge for those during the last days who don’t want to take up arms against their neighbor and “the only people that shall not be at war one with another” (D&C 45:68,69 ),
    * “the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah.” (last phrase of BoM’s Introduction),
    we are the mainstream and the others will come to realizer sooner or later that they are on the outside, looking in, many/most of whom do so from the comforts of the great and spacious building of their self-pride.
    .
    Once I accepted that realization, I began to look at our gainsayers not as opponents but as my querulous sibilings who need a patient, gentle, resolute, good-humored and good-hearted hand to help them find our firm foundation. Sometimes they become petulant at our refusal to climb into their stereotype’s box, but I’d rather leave the puzzle to be solved in their lap than in mine.

  13. Kevin Barney on July 6, 2009 at 1:15 pm

    I can relate to the OP. This is something I’ve struggled with off and on. For an embarrassing example: near the end of my senior year of high school I had been accepted to BYU and knew I was going there, but when people who weren’t close to me asked me where I was going, I lied and said I was going to the University of Illinois (which I would attend later, but it was still a lie). As a high school kid in particular, I really didn’t want to have to deal with all the weirdnesses of the Church.

  14. Vader on July 6, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    “Near the beginning of my mission, I was beaten badly by a Jehovah’s Witness, whose knowledge of the Bible was far superior to my own (I hadn’t ever heard of the title “Elohim” at that time, for example)”

    I’m having a little trouble with this. Didn’t you receive your endowments before going on your mission?

  15. Mehrsa on July 6, 2009 at 1:58 pm

    It’s always interesting to run into the limits of professed tolerance or maybe its blind-spot. You are right on. Sexual exploits, whatever they may be, awesome. Abstinence? there is something wrong with you.

  16. Dennis on July 6, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    Great post. (Hi Rebecca, I was a writing fellow with you.)

    I’ve thought a lot about this.

    My very tentative conclusions at this point:

    1. How you say something is almost always more important than what you say.

    2. “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words” (St. Francis of Assisi). Who we are speaks much more loudly than propositions we assert.

    3. Try not to let quirky behavioral facts (no drinking, no smoking) predominate over more substantive and relational faith commitments (family focused, serviceable, caring), in terms of how others see you.

    4. “Once while walking through the mall a guy came up to me and said, ‘Hey, how’s it going?’ So I grabbed his arm and twisted it up behind his head and said ‘Now who’s asking the questions?’” (Jack Handey). Joking aside, I think Mormons should avoid being the novelty. We probably should be more curious about others’ beliefs and asking more questions ourselves.

  17. hawkgrrrl on July 6, 2009 at 2:01 pm

    I was one of two LDS in my high school in rural PA, and I did get tired of people not knowing anything about the church or joking about how many husbands I would have. One day when I went to school, all my friends were asking me questions about the church – do you really believe this and that? Apparently, the other sects had gotten together for a showing of The Godmakers the night before. Because my friends knew me and knew that their churches normally never saw eye to eye, they were very skeptical of the portrayal of Mormons in the Godmakers. As a result, people were much more sympathetic to the church after that, and I felt teased a lot less.

  18. m&m on July 6, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    I really like how you brought this post around.

    While I have had those awkward conversations before, I am convinced that the more comfortable we are with ourselves, the more comfortable others will be with us. That, imo, includes the ‘hard’ parts of our history. I think of a line from The Incredibles: “Yes, it happened, but this…is what is happening now.” And there’s an awful lot of good going on — family, values, service, education, humanitarian aid…but especially millions of people trying to come to Christ and be better people. Really, what’s so scary about that? :)

  19. warner on July 6, 2009 at 4:19 pm

    Recently someone in my office announced, “I could never be a mormon. My brother is gay and I believe in gay marriage.” She looked right at me as she said this in front of 3 other people. It felt like a warning shot across my bow. We had never discussed my being a mormon or gay marriage before – though I’d had numerous conversations with the others about the Church on other occasions. There was nothing to say in response to her comment that would have seemed appropriate in the moment – so I didn’t say anything. But it has made me wonder about the thoughts she may harbor about me. I don’t feel threatened or embarrassed about my beliefs, nor do I feel a paternalistic pity towards my coworker, I do however feel a genuine longing for her to understand just how good it is to be mormon.

  20. Dan on July 6, 2009 at 4:40 pm

    Vader,

    #14,

    heh, touche. In my defense, much of what I learned in the temple the first times through before my mission were over my head.

  21. Kaylana on July 6, 2009 at 8:52 pm

    #7 One of the most chilling statements I ever read was given by Henry B Eyring in the January 09 Ensign when he suggested that one day, the people that we knew will come to us and ask “Why didn’t you tell me?”

    Wow…I remember that article and I remember getting harangued about how all the people I passed by on my mission will haunt me in the next life how that was the only chance to hear the gospel in this life…I felt guilty my whole mission for all the people who wouldn’t hear the gospel because I’m human and have human problems and frailties!

    We should talk about the gospel and let others know how we feel, I completely agree, but it’s not completely black and white. Like it says in the Doctrine and Covenants we’re to the know the Lord’s gospel before we preach it. I for one and in my humble opinion we can’t judge others for how many or how few missionary experiences they have. We all have different situations and some experiences…just don’t allow for the constant target of converting and conversing with everyone we meet about the gospel. The most important work we do in this life will be within the walls of our home…ourselves, our spouses, our children. So I have enough crazy things to worry about in life without having to feel guilty about not talking to everyone I know and meet about the gospel…IMHO.

  22. Jonovitch on July 6, 2009 at 9:53 pm

    The best response I can think of for abstinence, coffee, R-rated movies, etc., is simply “it’s a personal choice based on religious beliefs.” Short, simple, accurate, and covers all the bases. As an added bonus, it’s much less zealous/brainwashed than the trite “I can’t, I’m a Mormon” excuse.

    A related tangent to this post and comments — I met my wife on my mission. I knew early on that I would forever be harassed about this by every pious yuckster in every ward we’d ever go to, so I started having fun with it.

    Any time anyone asks about it (and promptly follows up with an odd look, or an “oh, you were one of those”) I come right back with, “Sure, we sat next to each other in Sunday School every week, and my mission president even let us go out together on P-days.” I have a straight face when I say this; their faces are usually shocked, with a tinge of curiosity.

    It’s wonderful to play with peoples’ misconceptions like this. :)

    Jon

  23. queuno on July 7, 2009 at 2:20 am

    One of my coworkers is a bishop, a fact I’ve let slip to our coworkers (he doesn’t advertise, but he’s also open about it when asked). Unfairly or not, he catches the flak.

  24. manaen on July 7, 2009 at 3:08 am

    22. I do not like the “I Can’t, I’m Mormon” line because it falsely confirms the brainwashed stereotype.
    .
    I prefer to be assertive with, ” I Won’t, I’m Mormon.”

  25. klh on July 7, 2009 at 7:49 am

    When my husband attends business dinners and everyone finds out he is originally from Utah, he is always asked how many wives he has. His line is always “I have two, but they are sisters, so I only have to deal with one mother-in-law.” They realize he is kidding, it breaks the ice and sometimes leads to other conversation or questions.

  26. j on July 7, 2009 at 8:59 am

    #24, I like that.

  27. Sara on July 7, 2009 at 11:35 am

    I must say, I’m somewhat dumbfounded by this post, as I am with LDS who are equally apologetic about what they believe. Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a region of the U.S. where mormons are deemed lower than the absolute low.

    With false ideas about LDS everywhere, though, I think I had to stand up for what I believe even more. People in Georgia ask straightforward questions, and you have to learn to give straightforward answers. After enough opposition, you learn to really believe what you’re supposed to believe. You figure out why revelations have been revealed. I don’t follow the Word of Wisdom, for example, purely because I think it’s modern-day revelation, and if you give your own reasons—readily and roundly—for believing in something, I think people will take you seriously.

  28. margy on July 7, 2009 at 11:55 am

    I love this. I too forget that I am not to be ashamed, and to be in but not of the world. Too often I care what people think – on any side of the conversation.

    #27 – I think it is fine to provide your own, personal reasoning for not doing something, but at the end of the day as members of the church, shouldn’t it be enough to simply follow the prophet? I had to come to grips with this during Prop 8 in California and realize that it is by faith we are strengthened, not by rationalization.

    Rebecca- Thanks for reminding us that these feelings are normal, and that we can take strength and comfort in the words of the prophet and pray for the ability to stand.

  29. Rebecca Smylie on July 7, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    I just came across a scripture that I thought was pertinent. “be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15)

  30. Sara on July 7, 2009 at 12:31 pm

    #28, I see what you mean here, but I think that more often than not, revelation is given for reasons that we can understand. If we work through a revelation and try to get at the purpose for it, our answers can be that much stronger when we’re explaining the gospel to someone else.

    Also, LDS were never told to follow the prophets just because they said something. I don’t think that’s a good reason for anything. It IS a good reason, however, if you believe what a prophet is saying is true. So, for example, I wouldn’t say, “I believe in not watching rated R movies because the leaders of the church said not to.” Instead, I might say, “I believe in not watching rated R movies because the leaders of the church counsel against it, and I believe them because . . .”

    I personally think that makes a world of difference when talking about beliefs — so you’re standing behind prophetic revelation, but also your own personal revelation and conviction — a much stronger testimony, in my book.

  31. Dennis on July 7, 2009 at 1:21 pm

    Re #28 and #30,

    One way of thinking about it is the need to “own” your beliefs, focusing on what “I” believe, rather than what “we” believe. This is not to say there is not a place for the “we believe” (there is).

    However, focusing on the “I” does not automatically remove certain problems. When Sara (30) says, for example, “I believe in not watching R rated movies because the leaders of the church counsel against it, and I believe them because . . .” it can create the false impression that there is a commandment against watching R-rated movies, and there is not. (See here and here.) Moreover, it can create the false impression of an arbitrary boundary in terms of entertainment. “It’s OK, Sara, it’s PG-13!”

    In terms of entertainment, I say, “Much entertainment, R-rated or otherwise, is simply worthless. I do occasionally watch R movies, and I feel this is consistent with my Church beliefs.”

  32. Marc Wilson on July 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm

    In the increased media coverage of the church surrounding Mitt Romney’s candidacy, there was an article that nicely summed up some of the tension at issue here. I wish I could remember where it was, but the message was that Mormons want so badly and simultaneously to be mainstream and peculiar.

    I’m reminded of the counsel I heard a university branch bishop give to anxiously aging single adults: if you obsess about finding the right spouse you’re going to have a hard time. I think it’s the (always palpable) yearning that puts people off much more than our actual beliefs–we are not, after all, the only mainstream religion with odd practices and a polarizing history. If we can remember that in our conversations, our faith will be received as more genuine.

  33. Sally on July 7, 2009 at 2:58 pm

    I really relate to this post. I think you put those feelings into words really well. And I do prefer the approach where I get to know someone well before I announce that I’m a Mormon (if possible). I do this because time after time, people have been amazed to find out I am Mormon, because I am so “normal”.

    I had an employee once tell me, her boss, that I’m “pretty cool for a Mormon”. I had to remind myself that it reflected more on her ignorance than my identity.

    Anyway, thanks for an interesting post.

  34. Bridget Jack Meyers on July 7, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    Going back to the OP, when I first began studying Mormonism as a teenager, I certainly thought it was bizarre. As I went through my evangelical anti-Mormon heyday, I remember telling myself, “This stuff is crazy. Only crazy people could believe this.”

    These days, I have to remind myself what Christianity is and that it isn’t exactly non-crazy itself. A common joke that gets passed around by atheists a lot is a graphic that declares:

    Christianity: The belief that some cosmic Jewish zombie can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force from your soul that is present in humanity because a rib-woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree. Makes perfect sense.

    It’s meant to ridicule Christianity and be as offensive as possible, but I actually think it makes a really good point. It doesn’t matter what your beliefs are, they are probably going to sound crazy to someone else. Even atheists aren’t completely immune; C. Michael Patton had an amusing post called, “I Don’t Believe a Snake Talked But I Do Believe Aliens Seeded Our Planet,” about a group of atheists who were making fun of the Genesis account, but when they themselves tried to answer where creation came from, “aliens seeded our planet” was on the table.

    Uh-oh, I just mentioned atheists in a comment. Somebody better page Andrew S of Irresistible (Dis)grace!

  35. Jeremiah J. on July 7, 2009 at 3:54 pm

    Dave Banack: “So maybe as a reply you should ask your colleague (and you can switch genders as needed): “So, how many gals did your husband sleep with before you married him? How many is he sleeping with now?””

    Yeah, assume that your married non-Mormon friends are okay with adultery. That’s not just “getting personal”, it’s upping the ante on ignorance and being judgmental.

    You might have heard recently that for the vast majority of Americans, in 2009, adultery is wrong. And sex before marriage is wrong for 2 in 5.

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2009/06/morality-polls/

  36. Dennis on July 7, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Jeremiah J,

    Yes, but I think Dave’s point is to precisely point out the ignorance and judgment (as well as personal nature) with questions about Mormons and polygamy. Now, it might be a bit tit-for-tat (rather than turning the other cheek) and would turn off a lot of people. Still, I think the fact that adultery and promiscuity are not even close to universal among non-Mormons is beside the point.

    Number of Latter-day Saints for whom polygamy is wrong? Well, let’s just say it’s MUCH MUCH higher than 2 in 5.

  37. Amy S on July 8, 2009 at 12:43 am

    I really understand and appreciate your post. I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

    Sara #27, I grew up down here as well and I’ve given many straight-forward answers but there are certain groups who do not give any respect no matter what. one of those groups consists of my so-called “tolerant” friends. Seems they are tolerant of only what they deem to merit their tolerance.

    Just a short time ago I was with a group of moms at the playground and treated like a sad, ridiculous religious freak for waiting until marraige to have sex. And they were even more dumbfounded when they found out I was teaching the same thing to my daughters.

    It is what it is. I try to stand tall in my beliefs, but occasionally I feel very weary.

  38. Sarah on July 8, 2009 at 8:33 am

    Thoughtful post – resonated with me.

    As per the argument of what to say to whom, this quote by Elder Hales gives a great summation:
    “As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord. Paul reminded the Corinthians that his preaching was “not with the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (1 Corinthians 2:4).”

    Rather than calculating out what we need to say to be most comfortable with our presentation of our beliefs, perhaps we should seek the Spirit in each unique situation with each unique person/group to know how they will best receive the truths of the Gospel. Always honest, never apologetic – sometimes bold, sometimes soft, and yes, sometimes silent.

  39. Carlos U. on July 8, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    As a convert, I chose the Church. Ever since I’ve been… well, stoked is a great word to describe it (about being a member and the church itself). That was 22 years ago at 16. I don’t go around wearing my religion in my sleves, but just by being a regular member I’m different enough for the subject to come up. That, or my BYU/Utah time. I welcome the subject. I’ve never felt ackward or defensive about it. If people have questions, I answer them. Most people are curious and respectfull. In my experiance, good people are attracted to the good they see. Many have had possitive experiances with members before. Maybe it’s because I’m in the West, but I’ve never felt as if we are viewed as weird. Square, for sure, but not weird.

    Be confortable with it, and others will be to. We have much to be proud of and much to share.

  40. Pip on July 12, 2009 at 7:05 pm

    #32 I believe the article you are referring to was in the New York Times Magazine and was written by Noah Feldman: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/06/magazine/06mormonism-t.html?_r=1

  41. Lisa on July 14, 2009 at 7:37 am

    I relate to the embarrassment you site, although I wish I didn’t. Great writing, Rebecca.

  42. Raymond Takashi Swenson on July 15, 2009 at 8:01 pm

    I am not only a Mormon, I am also (a) a Japanese American, (b) a retired military officer, (c) an attorney, and (d) a political conservative. There are people I run into who have problems relating to one or more of these categories to which I belong. But that is their problem, not mine. I don’t feel any duty to live up to their twisted expectations about lawyers, military members, Asians, or conservatives. And I especially don’t feel any duty to be embarrassed about being LDS.

    In all of these categories, the most critical people are those with the least knowledge and the most BS in their personal beliefs. Atheists tend to think Mormons are a strange kind of Southern Baptist, with the same judgmental atittudes that Baptists (their leaders admit this!) often display to those not of their faith.

    If someone told me they were scared spitless of Mormons, I would ask them if they were getting counseling for their phobia. It really is their problem, not ours. The important thing in encounters of any kind (as homosexuals have learned) is to be proud of what you are and not apologetic. Most Modern Americans have been so indoctrinated by schools and the news media to respect the sincerity of other people’s lifestyles, that if you are assertive and not apologetic, their normal reaction is to say “Oh, well, that’s OK for you.”

    On the general subject of fear of Mormons: I think a lot of people are in awe of us. They see our sincere dedication to our beliefs, our willingness to sacrifice, our organization, our knowledge of our own religion, and our personal integrity and achievement, and recognize that there is a power among the Mormons that few religions have. We know what we are about, and we get things done. Protestant missionaries in Japan were in awe of the ability of young Mormons to acquire a working fluency in Japanese within a year. When the reaction to this is fear, it is a confession of their own perceived inadequacies. Sometimes that leads to resentment, as high school students who struggle in math resent the science nerds. Just as Mitt Romney evoked resentment among some people precisely because of his success, attractive appearance, and articulateness, some anti-Mormonism is a resentment of our success as a church and people.

    There really is power within the Church. We should not be proud or boastful of it, but we should be aware of it and see it as a reminder of our opportunity and duty to share the Restored Gospel with those who will listen. We are a city set on a hill, and we are commanded to let our light shine so that ultimately others will understand that any power we have comes from the Father, and that they can have it too.

WELCOME

Times and Seasons is a place to gather and discuss ideas of interest to faithful Latter-day Saints.