The Life of Bon: Utah + Mormons = 24th of July

Friday, July 24, 2015

Utah + Mormons = 24th of July

Today is the 24th of July.  That is a holiday in Utah.  July 24th was the day that the Mormon pioneers arrived in Utah, Brigham Young lifted his sick head from his covered wagon and, overlooking the Salt Lake Valley declared, "This is the place."  The Mormons settled, the crickets came and about dang near ate every crop that was planted, and the rest is history.  Now we celebrate in similar fashion as the 4th of July- we spend long days at the pool, eat popsicles, and watch fireworks at night.

It wasn't an easy path that led the Mormons here.  Before arriving in Utah, they were kicked out of Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois.  In Missouri, an "extermination order" was released, authorizing the killing of all  Mormons.  And this was only 160 years ago.  Isn't it amazing how much our country has progressed?  I am grateful to live in a time and a place where I can live my religion freely.  The Mormons "trekked" across the country to isolated Utah, and here they set up camp for the long haul.

I am really grateful that the Mormons settled in Utah.  For a while I felt like it was really cool to live in Utah, but complain about Utah all the time.  I probably joined in for some of that.  Utah drivers are the worst!  Utah culture makes me crazy!  Everyone in Utah is so cheap!  But now I have grown to really love this state.  I teach at a great Utah school with lots of diversity and where I feel both challenged and accepted, a great combination.  I live in a great Utah neighborhood where the kids from one house freely run next door to ask if kids can play, and where future entrepreneurs try to get me to buy an otter pop for $.50 on the corner.  We have hot summers and cold winters and falls and springs that are absolutely stunning.  There are gorgeous hikes and camping and fishing at every corner, as we are surrounded my mountains.  I am happy to live in Utah and would be happy to raise my family here.

I am also really grateful to be Mormon and for what those pioneers endured.  One of Greg's theater professors, Chris Clark, wrote this blog post three years ago that I often think about.  He is a great example to Greg and me, and we have always really looked up to him.  (He is also the one who inspired me four years ago to start a blog.  He casually mentioned that his sisters Nie Nie and C. Jane do quite well in the blogging field.)  I love this what he says about being Mormon:

I'm still in this church. I have many friends who have left the church. I understand their reasons why and I would never judge them or stop being friends with them over faith. I love them too much. And as long as they respect my decision to stay, we remain close, great friends. I also have many friends who are not, and have never been, members of the church. I would never push my faith on them. It's not my style. Because of this my mission was a challenge for me, though I gave it my best shot. I guess I just believe in this quote from Madeleine L'Engle (a great writer, and not a Mormon)

"We do not draw people to Christ by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all their hearts to know the source of it.”

I don't have plans to leave the church. Ever. I've been told that I'm "too smart" for the church, or that I "don't fit" the culture of it. Maybe I don't. I am not the perfect Mormon by any stretch. And I'm not that smart. But I love what this organization teaches me about Christlike love and service, and I appreciate how it teaches my kids that there is a world of need out there that they can fill. My kids are learning to live beyond themselves, and I love that. I have a great life; not flawless, and not immune from problems. But I would be a liar if I didn't confess that so much of this happiness is derived from my membership in the Church of Jesus of Latter Days, from my pioneer heritage, and from being, against all odds, a Mormon boy.

Chris's words really resonate with me.  I don't think it's a particularly easy time to be Mormon.  There is controversy and confusion.  I know and love many people who have chosen to leave the Mormon church, and like Chris, I can understand their reasons for leaving.  I respect their decision to leave and they respect mine to stay, which I really appreciate.  I don't think it's easy to leave the church, and to be honest, I don't think it's always easy to stay either.

But at the end of the day, I feel I am a better and happier person by being a part of the Mormon church, and I feel my children will be, too.  The church teaches service, kindness, a life beyond our teeny tiny world.  (Just yesterday I spent my afternoon with a dozen eight year olds who cleaned top to bottom the house of a man who has cancer.)  The church teaches forgiveness, redemption, second (and third and fourth) chances.  The church teaches family and love.  The church teaches patience and humility.  The church has taught me how to have a relationship with Christ, how to pray to a Heavenly Father who loves me and wants to help me.  I recognize that the church is full of imperfect people who aren't always doing the things they know they should be doing, but I am immeasurably grateful for a place where we can heal, love, and try to be better together.

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