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The Ties that Bind

By Shari Crall

As my co-workers raved about the potatoes our intern brought to our employee Thanksgiving feast, eaten before I got there, one co-worker said, “Stephanie (who brought the potatoes) is going up to Utah for Thanksgiving.” As they described the potatoes, I looked at her, and said, “Wait, are you Mormon?” She smiled and said, “Well, I was raised Mormon.” I sighed and said, “Ah, that’s what my children say too,” and we both started laughing. “Funeral potatoes?” I asked. Yep – of course. Bond made, tribal card shown, community secured. 

Reader’s Digest (found in Mormon homes everywhere) has a feature – tell a story in 100 words. My daughter says I could easily do my life in 100 words. Grew up Mormon, went to BYU, got married in the temple to a returned missionary at 19, had babies, the end. That was 21 words. That sentence belies so much richness and complexity, yet is recognizable across our culture. It means scriptures and prayer and the temple have been anchors in adversity, the word of wisdom allowed the destroying angel of addiction to pass me by, and I have always had a large safety net to catch me when I fall. 

I consider all the best things about me to have been shaped by this wonderful culture. It gave me opportunities to love my neighbor, who maybe I didn’t really like, but I visit taught them or they visit (or home) taught — or ministered — to me, or served in an auxiliary or presidency with me, so I would do anything to help them, and then came around to the challenge of actually loving them. It constantly created opportunities to serve, making it easy to donate to a food drive, a clothing drive, help someone at the holidays, and reach out to the lonely, the sick, or the afflicted. My wedding and baby shower budget rivals my Christmas budget. 

I have an LDS friend experiencing addiction. When she recently said, “I grew up Mormon,” at a 12-step meeting, a man approached her and said he had too. They immediately connected, she said, having gone on missions, gone to BYU-I, and had so many other experiences in common. Like so many cultures, we share a shorthand, a common language and background that connects us across in or out, past or present. This is such a gift and luxury. 

As problematic as this culture has been for me, in some pretty devastating ways, such as with my LGBTQ family members, it continues to bind me. It has been my path to Christ. It was created through great sacrifice. I pray every day for a better vision, for change, but I also honor it, every day, for the community it gives me. A blessed connection of love. 

photo credit: mike-erskine@unsplash.jpg

About Shari Crall

Shari Crall is a native of the Chicago suburbs. She has lived her adult life in Southern California where she raised four children with her husband Chris. She recently retired from a career in social work. She holds a BA in political science from BYU and an MSW from SDSU. She spent over a decade writing a column for her local newspaper, titled The Crall Space. She has blogged for Segullah for several years and been published in LDS outlets like Exponent II, a BYU Women's Conference collection, and most recently in Living on the Inside of the Edge by author Christian Kimball.

3 thoughts on “The Ties that Bind”

  1. My daughter no longer attends church, but she's coming home for Thanksgiving and making funeral potatoes because it's her favorite side dish at Thanksgiving and Easter. She's named after two pioneer women who were nonconformists, and she retells stories about how they pushed back from pressures to practice the faith in ways that didn't work for them. I don't ask her a lot of questions about how she's negotiating her path, but I do see little signs that she's retaining elements of family, culture and faith. I keep thinking a lot about Anne Tyler's 1975 novel _Searching for Caleb_ which is about (among other things) how people rebel against how they are raised yet still retain elements of home, family and culture deep in the marrow of our bones. Your post taps into these same themes. Thanks for taking the time to describe how the generations are connected despite a lot of internal and external pressures to unravel these ties.

  2. I grew up Mormon too. I never know how to say it, it seems like such a big part of me but also no part of me at the same time, having left. It's so confusing. But I love the way that you say it. Hearts to you Shari, have always admired and loved you so much. Love having you in my community.


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