Until Proven Otherwise

“I’d have a better chance of finding a boyfriend in church than a bar, but we both know that’s not happening.”

“Well, then, good luck!”

As I stood in line at the grocery story tonight I caught the tail end of a conversation between the checker and the young man bagging my groceries. I finished setting  the last 2-liter of Diet Coke on the counter and pushed my card through the check stand.

When I told the checker I did not have a rewards card she asked if I was from out-of-town. When mentioned I’d recently moved from the Seattle area she began nodding her head and pulled two more tellers into the conversation.

“I’ll bet nobody in Seattle cares about religion, right? I mean, isn’t that how it should be?”

All I could do was smile, collect my receipt, and head for the door as everyone within a 15 foot radius was chiming in with their opinions on the difficulty of finding love in Utah as a non-Mormon.

Although I spent the first 26 years of my life in Utah, I’d forgotten how much Mormon influence is woven into the fabric of everyday life here. When I met my daughter’s middle school counselor for the first time, he asked, “So your daughter must be a beehive?”  And less than two minutes into my haircut, my barber asked, “What ward are you in?”

“What ward are you in?” in Utah is the same as “How are you doing?” anywhere else.

You’re a Mormon until proven otherwise.

Kim and I both understood this well before we decided to move to St. George. Our children made many friends in Seattle, and few of them were Mormon, yet we seldom thought much about it. Sure, there was the occasional birthday party on Sunday that would bring our beliefs to the forefront when our kids explained to their friends that Sundays were time to spend at church and with family.

As Luca would say, “That’s not fair.”

One of our reasons for returning to Utah was to be closer to friends and family. Our children are able to spend a lot of their days with cousins and grandparents and friends who have similar beliefs. I doubt we’ll have to decline many birthday parties or youth sports because they were scheduled on Sunday.

The kids have already made friends who belong to other religions and we’ll continue to encourage them to that end. I don’t know how it will all turn out. The diversity of Seattle was a major reason we decided to stay there for 16 years. It almost feels like the polar opposite of Utah in terms of religious influence on the culture.

Maybe next time I’m at the grocery store I’ll seek out the same checker I had tonight and tell her about the college wards.

Then again, that might guarantee she remains single or flees the state.  

One thought on “Until Proven Otherwise

  1. Well, I think as in most things, that are advantages and disadvantages to your situation. One of the great advantages about being in a community with others who come from the same cultural background that you do is the ability to really be a part of that group, to understand all of the nuances and to fit in. Not much can replace the grounding that a child feels in growing up in a loving and safe community.

    The disadvantage, particularly for those who have not been elsewhere, is not knowing the richness of the rest of the world and perhaps being afraid of someone who is different or not part of your group. And interestingly enough, experiences elsewhere can make you appreciate your origins more. I think our beliefs/lifestyle can often strengthened when they are seen in comparison to others. We might recognize assets that we never knew were there. When John and I lived in Kuwait and we would come home for the summers, I would always be how astonished at how efficiently everything worked here. Within an hour, you could go to the bank, the post office, the gas station. Streetlights were never out and trash was always picked up. This was something I had never noticed before since I had never seen it in comparison with another way of doing things.

    But I also saw Arab hospitality and the difference in how guests were treated. Elegant and generous amounts of food were served. The potluck concept would have been an insult to both the host and the guest. Children and young people did not segregate themselves in the computer room, they were part of the gathering. They interacted very well with adults of many ages and had much more sophisticated and fluid social skills than our young people do.

    It will be interesting for you to see how your children, particularly the older ones, integrate into their new life in St. George and what they remember and recall of Seattle and how that experience in the outside world impacts them as they grow and develop.


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