Saturday, June 20, 2015

Mormons are Hypocrites

I mostly grew up outside of the Mormon Corridor. When I was fourteen, my family moved from Germany to a small town in Idaho. The culture shock was the greatest we had ever experienced. I went from a high school with nearly a thousand people in my graduating class to one with nearly a thousand people in the whole school. We went from being surrounded with trees and cultural activities to being stuck in a desert, with only two basic things for a teen to do on the weekend: get drunk/high or go to the Mormon dances.

It was definitely a step down.

But, over time, I made quite good friends with a girl I'll call Kelly. Her family was in the Church, but they didn't go consistently. They lived in a different housing complex across the base from us, but we still frequently hung out together. We were friends for the better part of a year before Kelly started dating.

Now, I wasn't interested in dating. I was tall, gawky, frizzy-haired and awkward. Plus I was a definite tomboy and bookworm. And boys scared me ever since I had heard them talking about girls when they thought none were listening. But that was all Kelly could talk about. Swiftly, she found a particular boy and they would make out every chance they got, often with me around. I remember playing chauffeur to them frequently as we went to and from activities. They would kiss (and other things) in the back while I drove.

Not exactly a comfortable situation.

Because of that and some other things I wasn't comfortable with, I started shifting my friendship to other people, spending more time around them and less around Kelly.

Eventually, she broke up with her boyfriend and started to notice. When her attempts to hang out with me more weren't that warmly received, she started telling everyone at church and at school that we weren't hanging out any more because I had had sex with her boyfriend, and gotten a secret abortion. Another girl in the group who disliked me mightily (probably because I wasn't impressed with her father's rank,) spread that rumor far and wide.

Since I was kind of a floater, and on casual joking basis with most of the cliques in the school, the kids there knew me well enough that her gossip didn't go very far. That was not true at Church. Rumor flew. People would whisper about me behind my back as the congregation gathered for sacrament. Young Women's lessons got even more pointedly directed to me about waiting to date until sixteen, chastity, and waiting for marriage.

One woman even called me a Jezebel in my hearing, claiming that my unashamed attendance at church, given what I was, sent a mixed message to other girls and that it was causing the YW morality to break up. Fortunately for me, I had a good bishop, who called me in, got the real story, then did his best to quash the rumors. But it wasn't until another girl actually got pregnant and moved into her parents' home with her boyfriend that the focus faded from me.

Not long after that, Kelly's mother approached my mother asking why I didn't hang out with her daughter any more. My mom, being amazing like she is and having been made aware of the situation (by necessity and by my disclosure,) merely said she'd have to ask me. Which neither of them ever did.

Needless to say, given the very different reaction from the "sinners" and the "saints," I was not favorably inclined towards the Mormon Church when I finally did turn sixteen and was looking for a college. I was good enough to get recruited by several schools, but after attending a recruiting week at BYU, I prayed about whether or not I should go. I kind of despised Mormons, and didn't really want to be surrounded by them. But as I prayed, I decided that the entire body of Church members couldn't possibly all be that bad, so I chose to go to BYU. I figured that the best way to get over my opinions of Church members was to be inundated with enough of them to provide some exceptions.

And it worked. I slipped into partial activity my first year, but met some great "borderline" Mormons, and realized that not everyone was cut from the same cloth.

That experience as a teenager was hardly the worst nor the last experience I've had with stupid, bigoted, ignorant, and hypocritical Mormons. As a people, we provide plenty of opportunity for ridicule and disdain.

But, I have also seen how the Gospel can change the hypocrites. The girl who spread rumors about me ran into me years later and apologized. And I, too, have been changed. Sometimes I make mistakes, and fail to live up to the ideal I preach. Sometimes I get too focused on doctrine and not enough on people, and people get hurt. Sometimes I let Mormon cultural attitudes and complacency anger me. (I live in Utah, so the opportunities for that are endless.)

But I also see how men and women tirelessly donate their time to serve other people. I see how they make mistakes and learn compassion. I see how they help raise each others' children, and care for each others' families. I see how they mobilize the teens to help a new single mom move-in get her neglected garden ready for winter. I see them rake and bag leaves for those who can't do it themselves. I see how the gospel takes ignorant hypocrites and turns them into the hands of the Lord.

So yes, Mormons are hypocrites. We judge people for not reaching the ideal, and we pressure them to conform. But we are also healers, reaching out to the imperfect, constantly trying to change ourselves and mold ourselves to the will of God. The question is: which sort of Mormon do you intend to be?


  1. It seems that we Mormons cannot do anything perfectly. I though that maybe at least we could be perfect hypocrites!


  2. I want to be the "sinner who keeps on trying."


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