An Insider's Look at Mormon Culture

Of Little Faith?

Yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune ran a piece about Utahns, primarily Mormons, who enroll their children in parochial schools of various faiths. According to the article, about 20% of students at Juan Diego Catholic High School in Draper are Mormon. Since many—sometimes a majority—of students in Utah parochial schools are not members of the sponsoring faith, religious and values education at these schools is inclusive. “Our goal is to help a family make a student more faith-filled in whatever faith they happen to practice,” the principal of Juan Diego stated.

Interviewed parents offer traditional reasons for choosing parochial schools for their children, academics, values—and diversity. Diversity puzzled me. Most Mormons find diversity about as appealing as root canal work. Non-Mormon Utahns often complain that Mormon children in the neighborhood aren’t allowed to play with their children. A chief reason I’ve heard from home-schooling parents is that they want to protect their children from “false” ideas. It was refreshing to read the statement of a Presbyterian father with children enrolled in a Lutheran school. He said, “I basically just wanted to have my kids hear and see something other than what I spew at them every day.”

It’s great that some Mormon parents see the need to prepare their children for real life by making them acquainted with people of other religions. Too many Mormons consider “the world” so evil and frightening, that they prefer to limit their circle of friendship to members of their own faith. When Mormons do reach out to those of other faiths, it’s usually with the idea of conversion. Non-Mormons are invited to enroll their sons in the Church Scouting program, but it’s seldom with the idea of making the troop more diverse. The hope is generally that the boy and his family will become “Golden Contacts” and accept baptism.

I realize that the Catholic Church and most Protestant churches have not always been inclusive, either. Maybe in a few hundred more years, Mormonism will have the maturity and confidence to embrace those of other faiths without fearing they may weaken the institution.

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