I haven’t really dug in to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints all that much yet, though there’s certainly more to come. I don’t view the Church is being particularly evil or anything of that sort, but some of the resentment and frustration I do have is summed up pretty well in this article from the Washington Monthly:

Until I attended one, I didn’t fully realize that [the] public schools are essentially an extension of the LDS church. All junior high and high schools in the state […] are arranged so that there is a Mormon seminary building either right next door or across the street. Grade-school kids don’t go to seminary, but they do go to “primary,” a similar after-school program. Mormon students are allowed to take religious classes as part of their public education in these buildings.

There’s been a great deal of litigation over this school set-up, dating as far back as the 1930s, but so long as the seminaries are on private land, there’s nothing illegal about it. Allowing kids out for religious education during the school day has a pernicious effect on public-school life. So many kids leave for these classes that it automatically singles out the few non-Mormons who don’t participate. For one year, I attended a public high school and frequently found myself abandoned in class along with a few Hispanic kids while everyone else trekked over to seminary.

The church stretched into public school life in other ways, too. In high school, I had Mormon bishops as teachers who never missed an opportunity to bring the church into class lectures. Prayers before every event were common and coaches often blessed athletes before sporting events. My swim team would collapse into a crisis if we were expected to compete in meets in [bordering states] on a Sunday. Many of the Mormon kids on my team honestly believed that if they swam on Sunday, the devil would create an undertow that would drown them. Graduation ceremonies were held in Mormon tabernacles, and school choirs sang Mormon religious songs.

Until fairly recently, many public schools annually celebrated “Missionary Week,” when Mormon kids were supposed to come to school dressed up in the uniform of the LDS missionary—which they were all aspiring to be. Non-Mormons might as well have put big signs on their heads that read, “Convert Me.”

The author accurately describes the area as “Unspeakably beautiful.” Driving around today reminded me of that. Clancy is a real nature lover and it’s not hard to see why she fell in love with this place (if not its people). It’s also, by all accounts, an outstanding place to raise a family… if you’re LDS.

When residency is up, we won’t be staying in Deseret. It’s not because we dislike the Mormons or even because of some of the states policies (some of which do an extraordinary job of helping folks walk the straight-and-narrow). We don’t have access to a number of “public” parks because they’re private parks for public use and we’re not the public they have in mind. I we have kids here, they won’t be able to play little league. They’ll be on the team, but they won’t play. Once it becomes obvious that they aren’t going to convert (assuming they wouldn’t), they’ll also disappear from social circles. There was a “super-Christian” social circle back in Delosa, but out here it’s so much more far reaching.

It’s not cause they’re jerks. Almost all of my coworkers are LDS to one degree or another and we get along fine. So are our landlords. But their social life is built around a club that we’re not a part of. The social norms and laws are set up for believers of a faith that is not ours. This state was founded by Mormons and for Mormons. We’re just tourists.

We knew that, of course, before we came here. And we’re happy here. But maybe you just have to see the snowcapped mountains and green fields to understand what a tragedy it is that we’ve no stake to claim here personally, culturally, or religiously.


Category: Church

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