Utah is utterly dominated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons). Here, you’re either Mormon, ex-Mormon, or a missionary opportunity. What? You don’t want to be a missionary opportunity? Yeah, good luck with that.
Technically I’m still a Mormon–until I officially resign or get kicked out for all this atheist blogging, they’ll count me as a member–but for most purposes I count as an ex-Mormon. The good news is that Mormons don’t shun you for leaving the way Scientologists and Jehovah’s Witnesses do. The bad news is that, like the mob, they keep trying to pull you back in.
Most of my neighbors are Mormon, and to be fair, most of them have been pretty respectful. No one crosses the street to get away from me or refuses to let their kids play with mine. I get notes, though, expressing concern and declaring that people miss me. These people can walk down the block and see me any time, but it doesn’t count unless I’m at church. One neighbor shows up with baked goods on a regular basis–I’m allergic to nuts and she’s into German baking, so I can’t actually eat these baked goods, but Jesus insists that she make them anyway.
I sympathize, I really do. I used to be at those meetings, I felt (and mostly resisted) that pressure to convert the world and reclaim the lost. But holy crap, people, stop worrying about my damn(ed) soul! And while you’re at it, leave my kids alone.
My oldest kid got a lovely present from a friend at school, all book-shaped and in shiny paper. It wasn’t her birthday, it wasn’t any holiday. Have you guessed what was in it yet? If you have Mormon experience, you know . . . that’s right! It was Mormon scriptures! Illustrated especially for young readers, only $9.25 from Deseret Book (and really, isn’t your eternal exaltation worth ten bucks?).
I bit my tongue, mostly. If I pitched a fit every time Mormons made us a missionary project, I’d never stop screaming. Instead, I mostly shake my head with that “bless their little hearts for trying so hard” look on my face. Tiger Lily is the staunchest atheist in the family, and once I told her it was “Jesus visiting America” stories she lost interest. Tiger Lily has mad social skills, so she’s popular in spite of her heathen status, but it’s only a matter of time. Around here, it’s not “what do you believe,” it’s “why don’t I see you at (the only true) church?” She’s not shy with her opinions, and as much as I admire that, I worry she’ll go from a “wonderful missionary opportunity” to a demonized atheist as she grows up.
Such is our life.
My son asked why we don’t just go back to church so people will stop bugging us about it. I told him the truth–some Mormons will never stop bugging you. If you visit church they’ll want you to teach a class, if you teach a class they’ll want you to pay tithing, if you pay tithing they’ll want you to send your kids out to convert the world . . . they’re like very polite vampires who offer you cookies while they suck you dry.