Are you a Mormon Snob?
No! Of course not! How dare you suggest such a thing!
Ask yourself these questions and give really, honest, true answers. (If you aren't a Mormon, just replace "Mormon" with whatever you are.)
1. How many friends do you have who are not members of the church? (When I say "friends" I don't mean people you smile at in the pick-up lane at school. I mean people you actually speak to and go places with... not the bagger at the grocery store either!)
a) I guess you could count the one lady who talks my ear off every time I see her.
b) A few, but I don't really hang out with them because we have nothing in common.
c) I have several non-member friends who are reliable and true.
d) Why would I have non-member friends?
2. If you were looking to join some kind of social group which would you choose:
a) A group that is completely secular with no connections to religion at all
b) A group that is non-denominational but has religious connections
c) You go to Relief Society and have a huge family. Why do you need to join a group?
3. Your daughter wants to have a play date with a friend from school. The friend is not a Mormon. Do you:
a) Give her the usual lecture about remembering who she is and choosing the right and let her go.
b) Suggest the girl come to your house where you can keep an eye on them. Non-members can't be trusted.
c) Find out how religious they are first. They might fill your child with false doctrines and caffeine. Or worse, feed her food that hasn't been blessed!
d) She has siblings and a Primary class. Why does she need any more friends?
4. Your neighbors invite you to their Barbecue. Do you:
a) Go to be polite but leave as soon as the first beer is opened.
b) Go to the Barbecue, have a good time, and realize that they are nice people.
c) Go to the Barbecue but sit in the corner sipping Sprite and praying that none of those drunkards speak to you.
d) Decline because you have plans, then spend that day wandering through Walmart until the party is over so they don't know you lied.
5. You are invited to church with a relative of another faith. Do you:
a) Tell them their church is the whore of all the earth and you aren't setting foot in that house of Satan.
b) Tell them sorry, but you can't miss church; it's against your religion.
c) Go with them but roll your eyes and snicker the whole time.
d) Go with them, look for inspiration, and maybe even learn a little more about what your relatives believe.
I admit I have been guilty of this self-imposed segregation. In the past, I had a tendency to choose non-religious friends because I didn't want to argue. I don't like being told that there is something wrong with my beliefs. It's like being told told you have an ugly baby.
Of course, choosing friends who have no religious background often means they have a very skewed sense of right and wrong. They tend to do things that I don't approve of and I end up not wanting to be around them. Then I am back to where I started.
Don't get me wrong. I have made wonderful, life-changing friendships with members of the LDS faith. I have a genuine love for them and feel that they truly are my brothers and sisters. It is an amazing feeling to have such a large and loyal extended family.
We Latter-Day Saints are encouraged to reach out to others. We are told to be involved in our communities and become friends with our neighbors. That sounds easy enough...in theory.
The reality is that life is demanding. We have children to teach and care for, husbands to support, church callings to fulfill, not to mention "personal time" (ROFLOL!!!!) Like I said, it is a nice idea but when do we have the time?
One major problem with this counsel is that many members of the church reach out to others out of duty.
"Hey, neighbor! Can I help you rake those leaves? How about coming over for dinner? By the way, how would you like to come to church with us Sunday? Not interested? Okay, never mind. I have my own leaves to rake."
This kind of behavior supports the gossip non-members hear about Mormons. You know, that we are obsessed with converting everyone we meet. Or that we are big phonies. How about the one that we are a secret society and outsiders are not welcome? And who will they turn to whenthey have questions if they don't know any Mormons to ask? Can you see how isolating ourselves is a bad thing?
Our last duty station was a great place for me to start overcoming some of my own fears and excuses about making non-member friends. We were in a small, overseas community. Our social group was limited to those who spoke our language, mostly military personnel and their families. The doctor was also the Tee-ball coach. The checker at the PX is married to a Sergeant who works with your friends husband. There were dozens of connections. It was comforting and sometimes disconcerting. It was a wonderful experience.
We now live in a much larger community. We are not isolated by language so we find ourselves in a variety of social circles; church, school, neighborhood, community, occupation, and any other we choose. We could be involved in sports, academics, playgroups, support groups, arts, museums...the opportunities are vast. It is a little daunting.
I have chosen to join a group sponsored by the military Chaplin's office called MOPS (Mothers Of Pre-Schoolers). I was reluctant to join this group because of the religious associations. I still have some reservations because of this. But I have learned a very valuable lesson from attending those meetings. I have learned that Mormons are not the only people with values. We are not alone in our quest for spiritual growth. We do not have a monopoly when it comes to sincere love of the Lord. And we have a lot to offer.
I have been humbled by the depth of understanding some of my non-member friends have with only the Bible for a source. I feel like I have been spoon-fed while they have worked for every morsel. I also feel ashamed that I have not appreciated how blessed I am.
If you think I have joined this group because I have an agenda, you would be right. I joined MOPS to feel connected to the military community again. I spent so many years engulfed in it, I felt a little lost. I have also learned that I like being around women who have a moral compass. I like getting perspectives from women who are striving to live righteously in a wicked world. It is very comforting.
I also joined MOPS to be an example. I hope that the women I have met there will make a connection when they here the word "Mormon". I hope they will say "That doesn't seem right. Amy doesn't do that." Or maybe they will ask me for confirmation when they hear something about the church. I have found that my fears and insecurities have almost disappeared. Our imagiations are always more elaberate than the real thing.
When I was in college, I rented a room from a family with 2 young sons. Once the mother felt she could trust me, she asked me to babysit for short periods of time. (Apparently I wasn't that trustworthy!) Her strictest rule was that her kids not go down a certain street in the neighborhood. "A non-member family lives there and I don't trust them. They might be bad influences on my boys."
I never met the family she was talking about. I do know that the approved friend who came from a "good Mormon family" taught her boys how to pee in their water guns and shoot each other with urine.
My point is, you can't judge people based on their religion, nationality, financial situation, family dynamics, education level. There is no set of criteria that will give you 100% satisfaction. Members can let you down and non-members can be your greatest allies. I think I have finally learned this lesson...maybe, sort of.