Whenever I tell people I’m Mormon, I wait for the inevitable response. I wait for a misconception, an allusion to Mitt Romney, a comment about underwear and/or polygamy or an insinuation to the absolute undeniable fact that I must be anti-gay.
You know what I say to all of that? That’s okay that you think those things now. Why don’t we get to know each other? Let’s chat. Let’s talk through what you’ve heard and clear up some things. Also, do you want to know how I became a Mormon?
I have always been a spiritual being. From a young age I remember feeling something extraordinary when I was praying to my Heavenly Father. He was very real to me. As my mom knelt beside my bed and taught me how to talk to my Father in Heaven, I imagined Him. He had a body. He was full of warmth and love for me. He also had a Son (a separate, very real being) who knew and loved me. When I was 8 years old I was baptized into the church. It was my own decision to become a member, because I loved my Heavenly parents and my earthly parents. I wanted to make them proud.
Later my testimony of truth was tried to its limits. In high school I was constantly bullied for my beliefs. Other students criticized me for the amount of time I dedicated to church, my extra modest clothes, my “prudish nature” and accused me of not being a Christian. There were times I felt I couldn’t go on. I remember falling to my knees and praying to God to tell me if my beliefs were true, if all of my choices were right. It seemed then easier to let everything go and fall into an easier pattern of the world. But I didn’t.
I will not pretend that my beliefs have not been tested, and that I have never had any doubts. To say that I haven’t would be dishonest and belittle what I feel now. Today I hold strong to what I believe, and attacks to my very personal faith cut me deep to the core.
I’m 26 years old and I’ve never been married. Many of my closest friends are gay. I surround myself with those of different religions and belief systems and I love learning from each of them. I am not perfect. I have made what I consider to be mistakes throughout my life. Whenever I did, I half expected church members to shun me for what I had done – feeling certain that the world was right, religion can be oppressive and guilt-inducing. What I found was the exact opposite. What I found was an outpouring of love and acceptance from all corners.
Here’s what I think we need to do. We all need to take a step back. Let’s not approach others with any preconceived notions of who they are or what they believe. Let’s not belittle their experiences or their faith. I think the most wonderful thing about this world is that we’re all different! Be a little kinder. Be a little more patient. Approach all those you meet with an attitude of love and tolerance. I know the world will be infinitely better from just these small efforts.
Guest post by Whitney, who blogs at “Writing on a Whim“.