An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Non-Mormons tend to love or hate Mormons—kind of the way most people think of licorice—either the pungent flavor adds zest to life or it’s the most revolting substance on the face of the earth. Nothing in-between. The Romney presidential bid perplexed devout Mormons who learned for the first time that many Americans harbor negative opinions about the Church and its members. We’re such nice people and we try so hard to keep God’s commandments and to share our faith with others—how can they not like us? Must be lack of information.  A post from the Mormon bloggernacle encourages LDS college students to submit entries to a short film contest about students’ religious beliefs and practices. We need to get our message out.

 Although I’m not a college student and I have no wish to convert anyone to anything, I like the idea of evaluating my own religious beliefs and the way they affect my life.  I have no plans for making a film, but visualizing some scenes I might include in the saga of my religious practice intrigues me. My film would be unique. I’m not a believing Mormon, but neither am I an angry ex-Mormon.

I’d start my film about the challenges of trying to live in two different cultures with a scene showing me and non-LDS companions at a restaurant. “Do you mind if I have a glass of wine with dinner?” is a question often asked of me. I don’t drink—but not for religious reasons. It’s just that I’ve seen people past college age take up drinking and they generally make fools of themselves. Drinking, like skiing, is apparently a skill best learned at an early age. But people who enjoy an alcoholic drink appear ill at ease when indulging in the presence of a teetotaler. The flip scene is me ordering green tea at a meal with Mormon friends. That beverage clearly sets me on Satan’s side.

Other film scenes would show my social isolation. Until they get to know me, non-LDS acquaintances and colleagues see me as a stereotypical Mormon. The first year I taught in the English Dept. at SUU, I was not invited to a party the women faculty gave. A friend later told me I wasn’t included because they thought I would be uncomfortable with the Lesbian couples there. 

I would enjoy shooting a scene of me discussing politics with non-LDS friends where I feel free to use “damned” to describe politicians.  I’d probably be embarrassed to shoot a scene of me with Mormon friends or relatives who bring up politics. I struggle, not always successfully, to keep the “How can you be so stupid?” look from my face when people I truly like quote Glenn Beck’s wisdom.

I should include a scene of myself attending Sacrament Meeting to keep in touch with my neighbors. You’d see my brow furrow as I mentally debate taking the sacrament when sitting beside a devout member. Will partaking mark me as a cowardly hypocrite? I prefer thinking of myself as a paragon of virtue.  If I don’t partake, my neighbor’s spirituality may suffer as she spends the rest of the service pondering my possible transgressions.

 I guess a fence straddler can’t expect human acceptance when even God prefers hot or cold to lukewarm. If the author of Revelation got it right, I can look forward to being spewed from God’s mouth. (Rev. 3:16) Now that would be a fine climatic scene to my film.

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Comments on: "Straddling Two Cultures–Rejected by Both" (2)

  1. I find black licorice revolting. I cross the street when I see two Mormon missionaries coming my way. I would not answer the door to them; I don’t want to hear their message beyond what I already know, or, is that, think I know? The basis for this is first hand experience. Also, I would no sooner try to convert someone to my church, that’s church, not faith, than I would want them to try to convert me. However, I’m always open to a good movie with a relative message. Speaking of relatives – I have serveral Mormon relatives, 2 half-sisters, a sister-in-law, but we can’t relate. PS: Was I invited to that party? I don’t remember. I do remember how I longed to be accepted by that faculty and always felt the outsider.
    Goes to show it’s not just religion that divides us, but also cliques of any kind.

    • You make a great point–there is a difference between coverting to your church and converting to your faith. People within the same church often have differing faiths. You second point is also great–we humans allow more things than religion to divide us.

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