01 March 2011

THT: I Am Not Ashamed...

I am sincerely sorry for slacking in the blog and video departments. I have been very busy with lots of unexpected things happening. On President's Day weekend I totaled my car out-of-state and was stuck without my computer for several days. So right now I am driving a rental while insurance figures things out. Oh, and no worries... no one was injured... except a large rock and my car. I also started a regular full-time job this week. I am doing that as well as free-lance filmmaking, so it keeps me very busy.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about something I was thinking about today that actually has to do with work. I work in Salt Lake. In the past two days I have met probably 25 or so people. Many of them report to me, others are my equals. Some are white others are Asian or black. Some have degrees, others are going to school, and some haven't taken a single course after high school. They are from different states and some are even from another country. I love getting to know people no matter what color their skin is or where they are from.

Most of my co-workers are between the 19-26 range... so naturally, when you are getting to know someone, school comes up. This is the first time that I have been in an environment in Utah where BYU students are a minority. I wish it could just be a name of some school, but it is so much more than that. Immediately, people sum up in their head who you are. You are Mormon. And being Mormon means a whole lot of things. In places outside of Utah (and Idaho) I feel like it isn't such an issue. Growing up in California, telling someone I was Mormon didn't cause someone to bring all these pre-conceived notions to the forefront of their minds. I mean, many people had heard of Mormons... but in California it was generally limited to "they marry lots of women at a young age and they hate gay people." That wasn't so bad. Here though... I am ASHAMED to say I am Mormon.

Please don't get me wrong. That scripture mastery in the bible reads, "I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ," and I am not- truly. I will never be ashamed of my beliefs in Christ and his teachings. Why? Because I know they are good and true and that there would never be any reason to be ashamed. I don't give anyone much thought it they say, "oh my gosh... you are such a good neighbor- EWW!" or, "Why don't you just be more mean to people? You are too nice. It's stupid."

So then why am I feeling so much shame and guilt when I realize the moment people I meet make the connection between me, BYU, and Mormonism? Because these people have not had good experiences with Mormons. I know because I've talked to some of them about it. I am not ashamed of the gospel, but I am ashamed of telling people I am Mormon (at least here) because the name has been muddled. When I say I am Mormon, people associate the hurt and pain they have experienced from other Mormons with me. I become that person who looked down upon them. I become that person who told them they were bad. I become that person who wouldn't allow their kids to play with mine. I become THAT person to them.

It makes me really sad to hear the experiences people have had with "Mormons." And if in the minds of these people, a Mormon is someone who makes them feel less than, or unworthy of, or dirty, or unwanted... I am NOT a Mormon. However, I will always strive to be a disciple of Christ with the hope that one day he will call me his and I will know his voice.


Anonymous said...

I totally have this same issue pop up in my life all the time. I'm a teacher in Oregon, and when someone asks me where I went to school, I hesitate. When I do mention BYU, I feel like I owe them an explanation of sorts. It's not that fun. Don't get me wrong, my education was great, but like you, I do not enjoy people assuming I act the same way as a specific group of people just because of the university I attended. Great blog, btw.

Levi said...

Wow that is so sad to hear. I am new to the church and I live in Tx but the members seem to be nice out here. So, I have never been to Utah nor Idaho, but I do hear if someone out there askes for tea everyone just looks at you like you are mad. I have a friend that that happened two once when he was in utah. I am sad to hear that the members act like that out there.

Sean said...

It sounds like you hate the stereotype they place on you. It's much like the typical gay stereotype that is usually in placed on people. Personally, I hate stereotyping and being stereotyped. I felt the exact same way as you in Utah and I grew up there. I'm in MD now and the stereotype isn't as prevalent. People out here know a few things about Mormonism and that's it. It is much easier to be myself.

Anonymous said...

This is a very interesting post and not at all what I expected from the title. I don't live anywhere near Utah, so maybe I'm missing something. When you say Salt Lake you mean Salt Lake City, yes? I've been to SLC and I just assumed nearly everyone there was Mormon. So I'm surprised that you get negative reactions of any kind. My impressions of BYU and Mormons are so different from what's written above that it's humorous. When I worked at a computer company years ago, we had a very important application that was written at BYU. So I still think of BYU as "that powerhouse computer graphics place." When I lived in Minnesota, I occasionally saw Mormon missionaries. I was always impressed with their politeness, clean-cut looks, and white shirts. When I think of a Mormon, I think of Dustin Lance Black fighting for what's right. Eloquent, smart, well educated, nicely dressed, handsome ... what's not to like?

Jonathan Adamson said...

@ldsecret- Thanks! Yeah, it is an interesting feeling.

@Levi- Don't get me wrong... there are a LOT of really great members. I think it is more common for people to feel negatively toward members in in areas where non-members are the minority. It isn't simply being the minority... but being treated like a minority. As if they do not deserve the same level of friendship and inclusion as members do.

@Sean- I think stereotypes have there place. They aren't 100% negative. It is only when people don't look beyond what they have found is typical or common that it becomes negative.

@Anonymous- I think it is so great that you think of all those positive things. I don't think people thing the stereotypical "image" of what a Mormon looks like is bad by any means. But notice that Dustin Black is a FORMER Mormon. When it comes to heavily populated Mormon areas... the ideas of what Mormons are like and how they treat people don't seem to be positive very often. Those ideas don't come from nowhere. You'd think that the more Mormons there were, the more positive other people's opinions of them would be.

Anonymous said...

Oops, sorry. I didn't realize that Dustin Black had left the Mormon Church. I went to see him speak about a year ago when he came to Washington, DC. I was so excited to see him that I shelled out extra bucks for the VIP reception. It was worth every penny. I see a lot of similarities between you and Dustin--talented, eloquent, passionate, thoughtful, and with depth of character. I think the two of you are destined to meet!

Rob said...

I'm the same. I don't like telling people that I went to BYU, especially here in CA. The Church has such a negative image here now, and deservedly so. I'm just glad I'm not serving a mission here; I think there have been one or two convert baptisms in my ward in all the years we've attended.

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