Oct 01 2007

story time – religion and little girls

Published by at 1:53 pm under amy's head,daily

I grew up in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, otherwise known as the mormon church. My parents are mormon, my grandparents are mormon, my great grand parents are mormon. In fact, I come from a seventh generation mormon family. I have ancestors who lived in England and Ireland who were going about living their lives when they heard about this new religion from some missionaries, picked up their lives and moved to the United States. I have ancestors who trekked across the plains pushing handcarts to go to Utah. My roots run deep, and I am proud of them. I come from strong people. While my parents now live in Utah, along with my sister and brother, I grew up in Colorado (very young) and then Washington state (young through high school.) I just want to let you know, that I did not grow up in Utah. That may mean nothing to some of you, and the world to others :)

As a teen, most of my best friends were mormon, but I had plenty of other friends too. I was always encouraged to question and explore, and I used to love to discuss religion with friends of other faiths. It was always interesting to me to hear what others believed and why, and examine those principles and see how they fit together. It almost always was a rewarding experience, but there were times when I would run into people who, on hearing what church I belonged to, would try to preach at me, or would all out shun me.

I still remember the first time I was “shunned.” I was in the 2nd or 3rd grade, and I met a sweet new girl in my class named Cassandra. We became quick friends and often rode our bikes over to the other’s house. She had a lot of animals at her house, rabbits, and a passel of dogs, and I remember being a bit awed about that. We always had to go to her house first after school so she could do her chores, which consisting of feeding the various pets. We only had 1 cat in our house, and I remember wishing we were more like her and had every animal under the sun.

We would play, ride bikes, talk, etc. One day, I asked her if she wanted to sleep over. Friday night turned up unavailable for some reason, so the option of Saturday night was thrown in there. My folks were fine with it, but I would have to come home in time for church. Church was at 1pm, so that was plenty of time. In discussing the plans with Cassandra, the subject of church came up and I told her which church we attended, she said she’d talk to her mom, and we parted for the day.

The next day in school, she told me she wasn’t allowed to be friends with me anymore because I was a mormon. I was totally flabbergasted. I asked her why, and she told me because we didn’t believe in Jesus Christ. I was especially flabbergasted then, because hello! We do! I go to the mormon church, and shouldn’t I know better what we believe than someone who doesn’t go? The first article of faith CLEARLY even says that we DO. I recited it to her, but she was unimpressed, and I remember she didn’t actually seem to be sad or anything that the beautiful friendship we had seemed to be ending, and for a reason that seemed silly. I think that that bothered me even more – she didn’t seem to mind not seeing me, whereas I had already invested my whole little heart in our friendship. Also, I think I would have enjoyed the drama of a “forbidden friendship.” Very Anne of Green Gables, after she got Diana drunk on Marilla’s elderberry wine on accident. (Except I didn’t read that until I was 12 or so, but you get the point. I was a dramatic child.) Part of that hurt was being robbed of that drama by Cassandra’s indifference.

I don’t remember that I really told anyone about it. I may have told my mom, but it was something that I held with me for a long time. I was fairly young, and I think I turned it over in my mind a lot, trying to figure it out. I thought about Cassandra’s mom. I had met her and she seemed like a perfectly nice lady, I wondered and wondered why exactly she didn’t like me? She didn’t like mormons, but surely she liked ME enough to overlook that, right?

I don’t think I dwelled on it that much. My best friend Heidi lived next door, and she was always fun, always ready to play. She and her family belonged to the Lutheran church, and we often would do sleepovers. Her family was always accepting to me and my family. I remember once after a Saturday night sleepover, I went to church with her family. It was fun, and exciting, until I realized that church was church, and whether it’s mormon or lutheran, it’s always a bit on the boring side, until you get to the kid’s classes. Sunday school / primary.

The Lutheran church that Heidi attended was on the same street that the LDS church was, not more than 100 yards away, in fact. Heidi and I sat in her sunday school class, with about 6 other kids, and the teacher was giving a lesson that I wasn’t really listening to very much, when all of a sudden I realized she was talking about me, and my church. She mentioned the church’s “neighbors” (meaning the LDS church) and how they didn’t beleive in Christ. I felt like I was going to die. It was one thing to be told by Cassandra that my church didn’t believe in Christ, but here I was, attending church with a friend where the class was being TAUGHT the same thing, with me right there witnessing it. Was this why Cassandra’s mom thought LDS didn’t beleive in Christ? How many churches were out there teaching this to people?

I was not indignant. I was probably 9 years old, and I was embarrassed. I sat there silently, wishing the floor would open up and swallow me whole. Did she know I was mormon? Would she be saying all this if she knew? I remember looking over at Heidi, and she was beet red embarrassed too. Neither of us said anything, but after the class was over, she told her mom, who told the pastor, who took me aside and apologized profusely. He said that they don’t teach that sort of thing in their church normally, and he was going to talk to the teacher. Later, Heidi told me that the lady had had a bad experience with someone who was mormon and didn’t like any mormons as a result. Heidi’s mom even talked to me and apologized for what had happened, and spoke to my parents as well. The entire incident passed, and Heidi and I didn’t mention it again. We resumed our sojourns pretending to be unicorns in search of the secret rainbow mermaids with no other issues.

What I really took away from both these experiences, is it’s the person that matters. The sunday school teacher was wrong to hate all mormons because of the actions of one person. Cassandra’s mom was ridiculous to censor her daughter’s friendships on the basis of faith (oh lord when I think of this now it just makes me boil). My young brain decided that every person should be judged on themselves. You can be a good person no matter what church you belong to. You can be a good person even if your beliefs don’t line up with someone else’s. Cassandra’s mom didn’t know me and didn’t even care to know me. She was close-minded enough to believe what she had heard or had been taught, and passed that prejudice on to her daughter, not even bothering to discover if I was a good person. I wonder if she would have also forbidden friendships with girls from (actual) non-christian beliefs. No jews allowed, perhaps? Heidi’s mom knew me, and my family, and she knew that we were good people, and just because we believed different things, doesn’t mean that we’re bad people.

I guess what I’m saying is, it doesn’t matter. Lutheran, Mormon, Baptist, Christian, Jewish, Muslim.. There are close-minded people in any group, any religion. It doesn’t make that religion close-minded. It’s a lesson I learned early, but one that the teacher in Heidi’s Sunday School class never learned. Moral to the story: Don’t be an asshole :) Especially to little girls.

I no longer attend the LDS church, but that’s a post for another day. I think I’m closer to telling that story though, than I was when I started this blog. Someday.

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “story time – religion and little girls”

  1. Annon 01 Oct 2007 at 3:35 pm

    Thanks for sharing those stories, I know they couldn’t have been easy to rehash in your mind let alone typing it out.

  2. annaon 01 Oct 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Gah. The only thing I can think is, “What idiots!”

  3. raineon 01 Oct 2007 at 8:19 pm

    Actually, it wasn’t hard to rehash. They’ve long ago lost any sting.. I’ve been turning these (and other) things over in my head, and it was nice to get it out there, turn it over and over and name it for what it was.

  4. Caitlinon 01 Oct 2007 at 11:13 pm

    I didn’t even know anything about Mormons until I was almost in high school, since pretty much everyone in my hometown was either plain old Baptist or Southern Baptist. I found out when a cute new guy moved a few streets away from me and we ended up walking home together after school. There was something going on at the skating rink one weekend, and since we were both 12 at the time, I asked if he wanted to bike over there with me. I had no idea that Mormon kids got teased for riding bikes and was really confused when he got mad at me.

    I just think it’s sad that members of certain churches can sing “Jesus loves the little children” and not see anything wrong with how they treat children who don’t belong to their faith.

  5. Tamaraon 02 Oct 2007 at 11:28 am

    Good post! *Hugs little Amy* It is sad that people and children are judged in this world based on their beliefs or even the way they have done things. I would have been one of those kids who would have questioned you to no end. because really how are you going to understand a person or their beliefs if you dont ask questions? It should be about understanding not judging. This is the main reason I’m not involved with religion its a little to two faced for me.

    Sorry you had to go through this but glad you have come to except it for what it is.