I've read plenty of tweets, blog posts, facebook statuses, etc. regarding "Utah Mormons." I can't help but feel annoyed at the term because it's used in such a negative way. I understand that the Mormon culture is magnified so much in Utah but unlike other people, I don't think it's a bad thing at all. I feel very blessed that I was raised here, and I can't imagine growing up in a place without a strong LDS background. I still have missionary experiences and associate myself with people who aren't Mormon - I think it's good to learn of other religions and beliefs. I find it fascinating! Being up in Logan isn't all that different than living in Utah County - the majority of students here, about 70%, are LDS - but there are still plenty of people who aren't Mormon, and people who don't live up to the standards of the church (like anywhere else). The thing that bothers me the most, though, are the people who automatically make assumptions of "Utah Mormons." Anytime you make an assumption about a group of people, you have to understand that not everyone in that group acts the way you think they do.
// 1 // There is this girl in my ward who teaches Sunday school and everytime she teaches the lesson, without a doubt, says something about growing up outside of Utah and how difficult it was. She mentions that the people who grew up in Utah are "sooooo lucky" and eludes to the fact that our lives are "so much easier". I am not disregarding her opinion at all, because I can definitely see her point, and I do consider myself very lucky, but I feel degraded because it's not like growing up in Utah was a piece of cake // easy // hunky-dory. Just because "we had seminary during school instead of waking up at 5:30 every morning to go" doesn't mean that it was an easy thing to do. In my opinion, because it was during school and it was just right across the street it didn't seem like a big deal, and it was easier to sluff and go to Del Taco instead. There were plenty of days where I dreaded going to seminary, and sometimes I even snuck into my dad's classroom while he was at baseball practice and raided his stash of nutty bars. But most other days seminary saved me and helped me feel the Spirit so much. Again, I am not saying that waking up at 5:30 is easier, because that's obviously very hard, (I think I would die) but I just wish that people could see it from both sides.
// 2 // "People in Utah are so judgmental" is probably the phrase I heard every single day in High School. People are going to judge you no matter where you live or what you believe in. I can see where they're coming from when they say that, because a lot of people take it to the extreme, but it's still frustrating. Also, aren't you judging someone by calling them judgmental? Judging is a natural process that absolutely everyone does. One of my non-LDS professors even said "You have to judge people in order to survive in the world." You have to judge whether or not hanging out with so-and-so will have a negative impact on you, whether or not taking this job will be beneficial in the long run, etc. To be honest, the people who say that the most are the ones who I wouldn't necessarily want my children hanging out with. Parents want what's best for their children, and something that I'm learning the older I get is that my mom is always, always right. Parents just know things. I'm very blessed that I was raised in a family who taught me what's right from wrong, but allowed me to make my own decisions. My parents taught me at a very young age that just because someone smokes, drinks, has tattoos, aren't Mormon, etc. doesn't mean that they're a bad person. I know of and have plenty of friends and family who do drugs, drink, have tattoos, practice homosexuality, whatever - but they're still my friends and family and I love them a lot because they are great people. Another thing - "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you" is one of my favorite quotes, but it doesn't give permission or make it okay for people to sin freely. It just means that everyone sins because no one is perfect.
// 3 // Because everyone has their agency and makes their own decisions, I saw a lot of people who would party on the weekends, then show up to church the next Sunday and act like everything was fine. I can't help but feel sorry for them, but if they thought that was okay then that was their decision, not mine. "You're so lucky to have gone to a high school where everyone was Mormon". Yes, I was very lucky - but it's not like people were faithful 100% of the time and we were singing primary songs during passing period as we walked to our next class. For me, it's easier to watch "bad" people make good decisions than to watch "good" people make bad decisions. Because so many people share the same beliefs, it's "not that big of a deal" and it's not (for lack of a better word) special. Even though I was surrounded by Mormon kids, sometimes I still had to stand up for what I thought was right because maybe they weren't making the best decisions. Some stories I've heard, there are LDS kids living somewhere other than Utah and people automatically know that they don't do bad things, so they don't offer/tempt them. Here, it's not like that. It's a lot easier to cave and do these things because people who believe the same things you do are doing them. (Make sense?) In fact, I know of someone whose older siblings grew up outside of Utah and ended up being perfectly fine, but had 2 younger siblings who grew up in Utah and ended up in rehab. I'm not saying that Utah is a terrible place, but it's not like people think it is. There are bad influences wherever you go. Just like anywhere else. If you're looking for something, you'll find it - even in Utah.
Awhile ago, Busy Bee Lauren posted a very heartfelt message about being Mormon and she received a lot of negative feedback, so she took it down in respect to her viewers. I was very touched by her testimony and felt like I could relate a lot to what she said, so I emailed her and she sent me a link to her Tumblr where the post was put up again......
"I can honestly say that being raised Mormon, and believing and living the teachings of the church has been a great blessing in my life. Yes, I was raised Mormon, but in my teens I was able to find out for myself if what I was taught as a child was true. I gained my own testimony, and have relied on what I know, instead of what my parents know, for many years now. It’s with my strong testimony, that I am able to recognize that while I believe the teachings are perfect, that the members of the church certainly are not. Because what person is perfect other than Jesus? No one...."
"Something that I often pray for help with is that I will be more kind hearted towards others, and that maybe people will see me as kind and approachable person. I pray that my heart can continually be softened towards people that don’t share the same beliefs at me. I don’t pray that other people will convert to the LDS faith. I pray that they will find a guidance in their life that will make them happy. That when things are hard, they can have something to be comforted by. While I believe in my church, I don’t expect for everyone to believe in it as well. I don’t expect them to live their life the way I do. My only hope is that everyone can find happiness somewhere, and that the happiness they feel will keep them from wanting to ever feel like they need to judge others."
Pictures from: Al Fox <--- Click the link - you won't regret it :)
What I'm trying to say is that life is hard no matter where you grow up, whether it be in or outside of Utah. Mormons are considered "peculiar people" and the standards of the church are mocked everywhere. There will be people rooting for you and against you no matter where you are. You have to stand up for what you think is right or wrong. Although I will not judge you based on what your religion is, or what beliefs you have, I do wish that everyone could feel the love and the happiness that I have felt somehow. Being a member of the church and having the knowledge that I do has literally saved me. I honestly don't know what I would do if I didn't have a testimony of this gospel. Nothing will compare to the feeling of God's warmth and guidance. I am nowhere near perfect, and I know that I will never be - but it's a goal I will do my best to reach. Even though I have this great aspiration, I have never EVER felt like I needed to be perfect in order to be a member of the church. I just needed to be me - the girl who makes mistakes, but has the knowledge and ability to fix them. The ideas and concepts of the church might seem crazy and cult-ish to some people, but they makes perfect sense to me. Whenever I have doubts, I just remember the happiness that it has brought me and my family and people throughout the world. I'm grateful to know what I know and that I have learned for myself - straight up. Without God, I am nothing.