I was surprised when I asked non-member friends for an
honest opinion about a story I wrote with Mormon characters. I thought I had a universal theme that would appeal to readers of any faith. When I pushed for honest responses, I found that although these friends liked individual Mormons, they had strong antipathy toward Mormons in general.
It’s hard for Mormons to understand how anyone can dislike
us. We’re nice. We’re friendly. What’s not to like?
Recently, a couple of friends related experiences that shed
some light on this mystery. Becca, a friend who is no longer a member, has
three children who were blessed but not baptized in the Mormon Church.
Becca is annoyed that ward members call and invite her children to Church activities.She has asked them to discontinue the practice,
but every time auxiliary leadership changes, the calls renew. Recently, the YW president asked Becca’s 12-year-old daughter, Ellie,
for her cell phone number. Ellie did not want to give her phone number to the woman, but a 12-year-old has difficulty telling an adult no.
Another friend, Rod, told of moving to Utah from the
Midwest. A work colleague welcomed him to Utah, asked where he lived, and what ward he was in. When Rod said he
and his family had found a home in Bountiful and attended St. Olaf’s Church, his colleague said, “Well, you’ve picked the
right town, but the wrong church. We’ll have to work on that.”
I’m sure neither the YW president nor Rod’s colleague had
any idea their actions and words were offensive—but how would the YW leader feel if someone from another church called her child,
invited him to activities in that church, and asked for his cell phone number? And would Rod’s Mormon colleague like having
someone tell him he had picked the wrong church?
The old saying about the need to put oneself in another’s shoes applies to more than judging. Before proselytizing,
members of any church need to consider how they would feel at hearing the same words from a member ofanother faith.