** I want to add a disclaimer that I am in no way shape or form saying that we should not fight for freedom and liberty. Freedom is what Heavenly Father wants for us and it is what we should be willing to risk safety for. I am also in no way saying we should act like the threat is not there. We must be vigilant. **
I was lucky when I went to high school, I wasn’t the only Mormon. There were quite a few of us considering it was Colorado and not Utah. Despite the number of members attending my school, I still faced opposition.
In my Faith, when you reach high school age an additional religion class becomes available called Seminary. In most low Mormon populations this class usually occurs early in the morning (like at six in the morning). Most parents require that their teenagers attend this class while other teens choose to go. My freshman and most of my sophomore year we were lucky and the class took place at my high school before school started. A little more than halfway through my sophomore year, an administrator of our school got her way. She was anti-Mormon. Because of her feelings towards us, she changed policy to make it so we could not have the class at the school anymore. Instead we had class at church building up the street.
Besides the hiccup of our early morning seminary class being changed, I met with the occasional comment from my peers. One day my sophomore year a kid I had never talked to before passed me in the hallway and asked “How many moms do you have?” I glared at him and said “How many moms do you have?” and headed to my biology class. I entered the room frustrated because of the constant perception of my Faith. I was a hormonal teenager and wasn’t always in control of my emotions.
Friends of mine in my class noticed my upset and asked what was bothering. I (unintentionally) said it loudly. I repeated what the kid in the hallway had said. My biology teacher over heard the conversation and tried to process the comment on a science level. She questioned over and over how anyone could have more than one mom, it was physically impossible. I told her that it was a mocking reference to my religion. This then spurred more comments about incorrect beliefs about my religion. “It’s against your religion to dance” “No, we have dances every month” “You have so many children because you sacrifice them to a demonic god.” “Yeah, I had a little brother.” “Really?” “No.”
It was only the beginning. I remember coming home one day and my mom watching Dr. Phil as he counseled girls who ran away from a polygamist group. It was sad to hear the hardships these poor girls endured. Their life was full of struggle, even outside of the group.
Here are the facts: There was a time when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (AKA the Mormons) practiced polygamy. If you want to learn more as to why, read more here. Anyway, when the United States Government passed a law in 1862 banning polygamy, then found them to be constitutional in 1879. Our Faith believes in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the laws and the practice of Polygamy ended.
There are many other things that people say about our Faith: We’re racist, we’re sexist, we’re hateful, and so on. I personally find it very frustrating when people lump us in with the FLDS. The FLDS is the group that Warren Jeffs leads. It is the polygamist group that has been under investigation by the government for various things such as child abuse, abuse of food stamps and many other horrible things. The other members, the LDS church have no associations with those people. Sure we both read the Book of Mormon, sure we both believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet, but we are not the same people, we are not the same Faith.
When you read the Old Testament, there are several laws outlined in Leviticus that are not currently in practice. Why? Because we don’t really stone people anymore, we don’t sacrifice doves, goats, sheep, and other animals. We don’t do a lot of that stuff. Why? Because we believe that Jesus fulfilled the Law of Moses and instituted a higher law. Does that mean we don’t believe in other teachings in the Old Testament? No way, man! There are many things in the Old Testament that we can still use and learn (like Joseph running away from Potiphar’s wife).
In our current situation I feel conflicted about things that are going on in our nation and in the world. There is a group of people who desire to harm us. They not only want to hurt us, but to kill us. It can be scary to think that many of them have already infiltrated our country. Thinking about it too much can make you paranoid and fearful. These people that want to hurt us are an off shoot of another group: The Muslim Faith. These people are taking things from their book of scripture and using them to fuel the fire and justify their choices. Their choices are telling a story that all Muslims are bad people.
I personally struggle with condemning all people of the Muslim Faith. I feel it is hardly different from when people lump my community with that of Warren Jeffs. I know you could follow up with countless examples of the Qu’ran and it’s teachings that prove the darkness of those people, but I’m sure you can also find teachings that say good things as well. Just like the Bible has the Old and New Testaments.
In the Book of Mormon there are two main groups of people, the Nephites and the Lamanites. The Lamanites hate the Nephites and are constantly starting wars with the Nephites. The Lamanites do all that they can to steal and plunder from the Nephites. The Nephites send missionaries to teach them, but the Lamanites kill the missionaries. The Nephites realize that there’s no point, the Lamanites are hateful angry people who only want to destroy them. There is this part in the book of Jacob where Jacob talks to the Nephites and calls them out on some sinful behaviors that they are choosing. During this speech, he tells them that they might hate the Lamanites and view them as sinful, horrible people, but they love their wives and their children, they love their families.
I always loved this speech because of that part. No matter how we view our enemies, no matter what sins we accuse them of, they have something redeeming about them. They are children of God. They are valued by Him, even if they are making wrong choices.
I believe we are counseled many times in the scriptures to love everyone, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to pray for our enemies. The fastest way to resolve the issue between anyone is to pray for the person you are struggling with. Through prayer, love, and desire, we can see others how they should be seen, we can love our enemies, we can overcome our hardships, and we can grow together.
What preconceived notions or stereotypes do you battle daily?