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.
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