I’m on a roll! *knocks on wood*
Today’s #scintilla project prompt:
Prompt B: Talk about an experience with faith, your own or someone else’s.
Please note: this post is not in any way meant to tear down the Mormon religion, or bring offense to any of my LDS friends/readers. It’s just my experience. Also, this post is really long, just warning you. I talk about a lot of things I’ve never really discussed with anyone before now. Thanks for understanding.
When my family and I moved from New Jersey to Las Vegas in 1996, I had no real knowledge of the Mormon religion or its practices. I knew of the Latter Day Saints, thanks to their television commercials, but I didn’t know any Mormons, so I had no experience with it first hand.
So when we moved to the area of Las Vegas, we were unaware of the stigma that the Sunrise Mountain area (where we moved to) had, which was Little Salt Lake. We had young gentlemen coming to our door on a regular basis with pamphlets and video tapes, attempting to tell us that our mixed household of Judaism and Catholicism was not normal and needed to be “fixed,” in the nicest ways possible. We also lived about two miles away from the main temple in Las Vegas. My father had grown accustomed to “nicely” informing them that we were very happy the way we were and “gently” slamming the door in their faces.
I was in the fifth grade, and the population of Jewish kids was slim to none. I may or may not have been the only Jewish kid in my class, possibly even in my school. Previously, while living in New Jersey, the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur were widely recognized and generally not considered unexcused absences in the eyes of the school. However, in Vegas, when the time came that I needed to be excused on those days, they were not excused, because they were not considered religious holidays by the standards of the school. That later changed, as I set precedence for the changing of the rules.
The holidays began to roll around, and we had befriended most of the people on our street with the aide of some homemade banana walnut bread. This included a nice large family (two parents and four or five kids, I can’t remember to be sure) down the street, whose mother had become pretty good friends with my mother while waiting with us kids at the bus stop. My parents decided to host a holiday party and invited friends and lots of people from the neighborhood. All was great. We had Hanukkah and Christmas and it was fun. However, the aforementioned family down the street couldn’t make it on the night we had the party, and they wanted to come over another weekend, just them, and have another party.
My mom, being the generous person she is, reluctantly agreed to this second holiday party. The family came, all 6 or 7 of them. The kids and I played Spin the Driedel and some other games, and munched on Hanukkah gelt and Christmas cookies. Little did I know that my little friends parents had brought a big basket of pamphlets and video tapes and several copies of The Book of Mormon, in order to try and convert my family to Mormonism. That’s why they had wanted the separate party. It wasn’t because they couldn’t make it to the first one, it was because they didn’t want to do what they were doing in front of everyone else.
From that point on, I developed a slight hatred towards the Mormon religion. I am not sure if they were my own beliefs or if they were being absorbed from my parents (who, by the way, do not have those hateful feelings anymore, just so you know). All I knew is that, I couldn’t be friends with them, or else they’d try and convert me. So we moved away from that area to another part of town, joined a synagogue and all was right in our little world (aside from the fact that we now lived next door to a guy who was an architect for the LDS church). We eventually left Las Vegas for Indiana, in 2000.
Which brings me to my next encounter with Mormonism, and a deeper understanding of its beliefs.
In 2001, I met a boy named Jason. He and I worked together at Meijer (for those unfamiliar, it’s a big box store similar to Walmart, but indigenous to the Midwest). We started dating during the summer before my sophomore year of high school, and fell in love shortly after we became a couple. Happy story, right? Not so much. As it would turn out, he was (and still is) Mormon. My parents weren’t happy about this, but they wanted me to be happy, so it became a non-issue with them. However, after meeting my family and I, Jason’s father was not at all happy with the fact that his son was dating a Jewish girl. Which is when it sort of went downhill (though it didn’t finally come to a grinding halt until 2005).
Six months into our relationship, Jason’s father started trying to intervene, first by inviting nice-looking eligible Mormon females to his house to try and sway him away from me, then by getting the bishop of their ward to come and “talk some sense” into him. Both of these attempts in sabotage ended in failure, but they were also the last straw for Jason. We were in love, and that was IT. He ran away from his father’s house and moved in with us, mostly because he had no where else to go (the rest of his family lived in Australia). His “room” was the floor behind the couch. I was sworn to secrecy, that I couldn’t tell *anyone* that my boyfriend of a mere 6 months was now taking up residence with us.
We didn’t really start butting heads about religious beliefs until after we moved from Philly to Phoenix in 2004. That’s correct – Jason moved with us from Indiana to Philly, and then from Philly to Arizona. Up until then, we both respected each others beliefs. It wasn’t until we started talking about moving out of my parents house into our own place that things started to go awry. I was 18, about to turn 19, and I was already thinking about my 21st birthday and being able to drink. I told Jason that I wanted to have a coffee pot in our kitchen for when guests came over, and that I wanted to have liquor in the house for guests as well. It was pretty clear that he wasn’t having these things. Of course, there were other factors that contributed to our failing relationship (and subsequent failed marriage, as he was ex husband #1), but these just kinda added to them.
My rebellion came one night when Jason and I (married for a couple months now) attended a party at a friends house. It wasn’t your typical party, because we were all total geeks who loved anime and video games, and thought that playing DDR and Super Monkey Ball for Gamecube was a super fun time. I digress. There was alcohol at this party, and some underage drinking. I decided right then and there that I was going to have my very first alcoholic beverage. Jason was playing DDR, and I sat behind the couch, flirting with a couple of our guy friends, drinking a Smirnoff Ice. He didn’t know (that I know of) that I was drinking, and that was fine. But I tasted the sweet nectar of freedom, and it was good. It was then that I decided I didn’t want to be with someone whose religious beliefs told them they couldn’t have alcohol or coffee, or whose dad hated the fact that his Mormon son married a Jew.
We started divorce proceedings a couple months later.
From 1997 to 2006, I had some skewed understanding of the LDS church. I lumped everyone into a stereotype that a lot of these people didn’t deserve. Sure, I may not agree with a lot of their beliefs, and they won’t agree with mine. But we’re all individuals who’re entitled to those beliefs. After that debacle, I decided to be a little bit more understanding of people’s religions (with the exception of some deep-routed hatred to priests that hurt little boys, and those God-fearing church-goers who use the Bible and all that it represents for their own personal gain, i.e. “I can get away with anything and everything and it’ll be okay because I’ll just confess and God will absolve me of all my wrong-doings”) and try not to stereotype. I may have my moments of indiscretion, but only towards those who don’t get their facts straight about Judaism.
Well. That was a really long post. If you’re reading this line, I thank you for sticking out the tl;dr (too long, don’t read). And if I offended anyone, I am deeply sorry. I just needed to get this all off my chest.