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Us V Them

One of the things I've noticed, since being here in my new home, is that there is an incredible amount of talk about converting non-Mormons.

It rankles me. It itches at my offended bone. It makes me wrinkle my nose in disdain.

I'm not sure exactly what it is but I think that part of it is because:

1) Every lesson at church eventually turns into 'and you can use this as a way to convert non-Mormons.'

2) I secretly HATE the term Mormon.

3) There seems to be very little discussion on helping current members of the church who are struggling or who aren't even coming.

4) There is more to my faith than just converting the world.

So on Sunday's when inevitably someone says those fateful words, ("And when you are being kind to those around you... especially the non-Mormons... you'll see more people coming to church.") I think about living in South Dakota.

I think about how our small, tiny little congregation was in such a different position than here in Utah. We were, by far, the minority in religions and yet we lived in a large Christian community. At church we talked about how our actions influenced the way people thought of us. We pursued the theme of 'Happiness in Oneness' and focused on making our congregation and community stronger. We had faith that our examples would bring people closer to understanding us and finding the truth we possessed.

That isn't to say that missionary work wasn't emphasized, it was just done so in a very different way. I'm not sure I ever heard the term 'non-Mormons' while I lived in SD, because it was as derogatory there as it would be to say 'Those Mormons.'

We were all part of a greater purpose, all part of bringing the gospel of Christ to those around us.

Here it seems as if everyone wants to make everyone else Mormon, instead of bringing them to the truth of Christ.

Does that make sense?

Yesterday, at church, my teacher talked about how we are a people, separate and distinguishable from others. I really struggled with this idea. Culturally, I would agree. Genetically I have to disagree. To be Jewish doesn't mean, necessarily, that you practice Judaism. It means that there are certain genetic traits that make you part of that 'people.' Being Mormon doesn't mean the same thing and I think that viewing ourselves as a separate people is a dangerous place to be. It allows us to circle the wagons and look upon the outside world with barely veiled contempt. Yet when we accept that the our distinguishing feature is the way that we embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ, we instinctively want to share that with others.

When we focus on making our congregations stronger it stands to reason that we would become better people and would then draw in those around us with our kindness and generosity.

Viewing the world as Mormon v Non-Mormon (Us v. Them) only creates animosity when there could be love. It creates division where there could be unity. Embracing the differences around us does not mean that we have to condone immoral behavior. It means you keep your mouth shut and see the person beneath that behavior.

So, yesterday at church I felt like saying all of that, but no one knows me there. I've been there for two months and yesterday I was introduced as a new move-in (again). Maybe if there was more focus on those within the congregation they'd notice I existed.

Comments

Great post - I SO agree! : )
Polly Blevins said…
I wasn't at your meeting but I feel like they may have expressed themselves in a way that didn't get their point across how it was intended. Our leaders want us to be a "a peculiar people" it is quoted all the time. I think that is what the person teaching was trying to get at...someone that stands out, shines. I have always been a member and surrounded by great people but most of the members of my ward were converted in early adulthood. Many of them will say that the people who they knew (but didn't know their religion) who were LDS did stand out. "There was something different about them". I hear that every testimony meeting. How they were attracted to certain people and turns out they were LDS and that is how they found the church. I think that is probably what your teachers were trying to say.
Ashy said…
I greatly agree with this post. EVERYTHING you said is so inspirational. It's awful that you've been there for so long and they still don't know you. Wish we were closer...
heather said…
AMEN. A big fat, AMEN. This is why I love living away from "The Bubble."
This is why my East Coast friends insisted that everyone who is from/ lives in Utah should be required to live outside of Utah for at least a year. ;)
Morgan -Ing said…
I despise the term "Mormon" and I feel like it's coming back into popularity among members since President Hinckley's death (since he's the one who asked us to NOT call ourselves "Mormons" in the first place.)

And I agree. Utah can be a hard place to live!
Cannwin said…
The problem with the term "Mormon" is that everyone knows it. If you say I'm LDS than you'll eventually still have to say... "Some people call us Mormons"

Also, online, you see all these people with little icons that say "I belong" Those kill me. It's like saying-- You don't belong.

So, what's the in between? I could say 'I believe' but again, what are you suggesting? That they don't? On the internet it just seems easier to say "I'm a Mormon" than anything else, because it's like BAM! there I am... take it or leave it.

Still, in person, I'll say I'm a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints or for Utah I just say I'm LDS.

It totally irks me when they use the term at church though.
Jessica Bair said…
This is why I like living in the Midwest and out of the bubble of Utah. I love being in a small ward or branch where you can get to know everyone and where they remember you. The member missionary work in areas of low LDS population is so different than just trying to convert, It's really about making friends, fellowshiping and being a good example to those around you. It's not us vs. them. Many of the people that converted in Vermillion was because of the good friends and examples they had and they wanted to learn more about who we were and what was different about our church. When we moved to Rexburg I learned quickly about the us and them attitude. I'd never felt that while growing up in South Dakota. I think I'll stay in the midwest with it's low LDS population and try to be the best member missionary that I can.

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