Fitting In or Not Fitting In? Living in Utah

Recently our local newspaper did an article about those who aren’t LDS and how difficult it is to fit in when you aren’t part of the predominate religion. Today while my daughter Jessica and her kids were here and my home health nurse which is also a friend were discussing the article. Since we aren’t LDS and my home health nurse Heather is, it was an interesting conversation.

vacations-to-st-george-utah-1030x634The title of the article is “Does LDS culture ostracize those who are not part of it?” Basically, the article is talking about how those who aren’t Latter Day Saints or a part of “The Church” or the Mormon Church, that they have a harder time fitting in and making friends.  There are many things mentioned in the article that was true for us.

This is Warren Jeffs wifes. They are from my area. But, I found out after moving to Utah that it is the FLDS that are Polygamists, not the Mormons. Who in their right mind would want this many wives anyhow, lol. My husband says 1 is bad enough lol. 

When we first moved to Utah it was very difficult. Not really for me, but for my daughters. We moved to St. George in 1995. When my husband was offered a job as a truck driver, they asked us to come check out St. George. There was NO WAY I would ever move to Utah. My reasoning was because everyone that lived here was Mormon and they were all Polygamist. I have to say that I was proven wrong pretty fast. My husbands work wanted us to come check it out since he had to be in town for orientation.

After a week here, I could see why this was the perfect place for us, minus the religion. We knew absolutely nothing about what Mormons believed and didn’t believe in. While we were checking out this city that we now call home, we were able to find a place to live and little church and a new life. We moved here from Phoenix and I have never regretted moving here. But, it wasn’t really easy fitting in. It was a whole other world. If you have never lived in Utah, you may not understand it. But, almost everything about my city is based around the LDS/Mormon Church.

missionariesThe first week we lived here, we had many knocks on our door inviting us to church.  All of the knocks included a free gift of the “Book of Mormon”.  I think it was only a couple of hours before my daughters were invited to go to activities with the children from the area/ward we lived in. We had no clue even what a ward was. All I could think about was that it was a psych ward. We were clueless. They tried for a few weeks and stopped coming around all together.

While I didn’t have a hard time fitting in, my daughters did. Since we weren’t LDS, the parents wouldn’t allow their kids to play with mine. They couldn’t talk to them or have anything to do with them. My daughter told me today that the only kids that were LDS that would have anything to do with her was those that are labeled “Jack Mormons”. Basically it is those kids or people who don’t follow the teachings but are technically still Mormons. Jessica and Beckiah did have a few LDS friends, but those were far and few in-between.

The everyday questions we got was, “what ward are you in?” “do you want to take seminary?” That was asked by the school counselor. Then there was, “would you like to go to the ward party” and so many more.  For a while, I was feeling like a horrible mom because I moved them from one world to another world. They were struggling in so many ways. I would have teachers call me all the time about how my daughters were problem children. They were talking or rebelling about the Mormon Church’s conversations were a big part of the classroom and how they felt like they were being judged. Eventually things did get better for them.

After they made some less than desirable friends they were happier. They were seeing Utah in a better way. We lived in Utah for about 6 months and then we went to go visit my parents in Phoenix. It was an eye opener for them. They always thought of Phoenix as their home. Now, they were talking about how dirty the streets were and what was that smell aka pollution. They were talking about how rude people were and so on. When one of them said that they were glad we no longer live in Phoenix, I almost had to pull over the car because I was shocked.

From reading the article I think a lot of living here is in the attitude. I don’t understand why people who move here to Utah to have a better life and for us it is a better life. We love it. But, if people who move here complain about the predominate religion, why move here to begin with. I have never had a problem with those who are LDS/Mormon.

Some of my best friends are Mormon. My friend Jennifer Harris is a Mormon and she has never tried to convert me and she has never looked down on me or my family. She and I can freely talk to each other about what we believe. I have also gone to special things with her and she has with me. We don’t let our differences get in the way of our friendship. If nothing else, it has made it stronger. I do feel bad for her at times though. The reason why I do is that she doesn’t fit the normal mold of a Mormon. She is divorced and I think she has been judged to harshly on some things. I have a great deal of respect for her. Jennifer lives her faith. I have known some LDS people who don’t walk the walk and they talk all day long and then do the opposite. But, I’m not judge and jury. When it comes to Jennifer though. I have a great deal of respect for her.

Then there is a good friend of ours that was my husbands dispatcher at Andrus Transportation. He is retired now, but Jim Black is LDS and I have the utmost respect for him. We can have conversations about whatever it is and about faith. Jim isn’t the kind of person that many that have been interviewed for the Spectrum Article. I don’t think I have ever heard Jim say anything out-of-the-way to people. He is very honest and if he has to say something, he does. I have really enjoyed the conversations he and I have when it comes to faith. I never really had many of those conversations when he was working as my husbands dispatcher. But, now I have found that he and I can talk about our faiths and they are always respectful.

I’m not one of those people who would let a Mormon Missionary into my home. I figure I have many friends that will honestly answer questions if I have them. For me to get into these discussions, I have to respect someone. There are many I respect and that is because they have earned my respect. Jennifer and Jim are just two of the best examples I have when it comes to the idea that not everyone is the same. They both have respect for me and they have no difficulties in allowing me to share my thoughts and faith. For me, my faith is the most important thing about me. And I think it is the same with Jim and Jennifer. Not all people are that way, but they are.

Today while I was having this conversation, I did make one observation, which I think is kind of sad and in a sense well, it is sad. But, I have lived in the house we are in for over 5 years. And in that 5 years, I only know one family on the entire street. I am sure it is because everyone is LDS and they get to know people who goes to church with them. But, the only person I know is Polly and Pauls family across the street. We lived here a couple of weeks and Polly came over with a plate of cookies. They were the only ones to actually make an effort. I have never lived somewhere when the neighbors didn’t make an effort to say hi, not even in Phoenix. Polly invited me to a few Relief Society things and I went with her.

During one of the activities she introduced me to the ladies. It was for a garden tour. These ladies obviously live in my area since the wards/congregations are split up depending on where you live. I still wouldn’t know any of them if I seen them, well, maybe the lady that walks the dog. But, I don’t know her name. Polly and Paul are awesome people and I have had some good conversations with her also. I just find it interesting how they are the only ones I know of my street. Normally I am very outgoing and I talk to anyone. My daughters and husband always comments on how I talk to strangers in lines at the store and we exchange telephone numbers.

I have been invited to go to the services on Sundays and I have always declined those. I love to learn about other faiths, but I know with the LDS that you have to wear dresses to church. It is a given. Many have said that you don’t have to, but I know that every woman does and knowing that is so, it would be disrespectful to them. I would feel like everyone is staring at me because I can guarantee you that if I went into the LDS Church how I go into mine, everyone would have all eyes on me.  And, I do NOT like that. In my church which is a non-denominational one, it is a come as you are kind of place.

I absolutely love St. George and for the most part the people. No place is perfect. I have told people over and over again that you can’t judge everyone by what one person does. Also, sometimes you have to look at yourself if there is a problem. If you are having the same issue with everyone, faith or not, then it probably isn’t them, it is you.

My last thing I want to say and I said it earlier is this. If all you are going to do is complain about the place where you moved to, then why move there? It’s like a person from the city moving to the country where there is cows which they stink and then all they want to do is get rid of the cows that was there before they were. When it comes to things such as faith, you can agree to disagree. My friendships aren’t based on where they go to church. Well, let me rephrase that. I do have a huge issue when it comes to those who practice witchcraft. I stay clear of that stuff. Christianity and Paganism is a HUGE GIGANTIC NO NO!

P.S. Since my husband is a truck driver my daughters and I had to do all the loading and I drove to St. George. We got into town around 10pm and the first thing we noticed was that they had a really huge city hall or court house. We found out the next day it was the St. George Temple, lol .