Sunday, August 23, 2009

"You Mormons did it again!" (We have to do better!)

Yesterday, we went with some friends to a mountain resort close to our home. For an amazingly reasonable fee, we enjoyed our fill of fun activities in the glorious beauty of the Wasatch Mountains. I couldn't get John Denver out of my head (tweaked, of course): "Almost heaven, Utah mountains...."

We had a conversation with these friends that disturbed me, however. They are not LDS, and they recently moved here from a place they loved. I see them observing our culture with a measure of interest, curiosity -- and sometimes annoyance.

"What's up with the drivers around here?" they asked. "No one follows the speed limit."

When our friend actually tries to drive at 65, she feels like she's a hazard on the road. She talked also of people driving too fast in neighborhoods where there are small children. "Don't these people have children of their own? Don't they understand?"

I realized that isn't the only indication of a dismissive attitude about the law.

I came out of the services for the Oquirrh Mountain temple dedication, disheartened to find, yet again, numerous cars parked illegally. Like blocking the fire lane illegally. This happens ALL the time, even sometimes during regular Sunday meetings. I see the same behavior anytime there is a big activity at the schools -- cars parked in fire zones, in bus zones, in pickup zones. I saw something similar at the mall the other day.

My husband recalled an experience when living in England years ago. An irate man came into Sunday meetings one week, saying, "You Mormons did it again! You parked in front of my house!" Clearly this was not ok with him, and it was not doing a good thing for building a relationship of trust and mutual respect. Someone had the gall to accuse the man of false accusation. "How do you know it was us?" (It happened every week on Sunday at the same time. It doesn't take much to see these kinds of patterns.) Not cool.

President Monson spoke today about how part of the reason we have a temple in Frieberg, Germany, is because the government had been watching the Church for a long time, and felt that the Church was a trustworthy institution, thus granting the wishes presented.

I thought about our friends, watching us as Mormons here, seeing an obvious disconnect between what we believe and what we do. I think about that man, watching Mormons each week showing blatant disregard and disrespect.

And I wondered...how many people are watching us and not liking what they see?

I'm the first to want to jump to our defense with sweeping generalizations and stereotypical slurs against Mormons. That said, this pattern is something that shows some evidence of something amiss. Is is arrogance? A sense of entitlement? Thinking that little things don't matter?

I imagine someone not of our faith who sees such "little things" as being evidence of something bigger. I imagine that someone coming into our parking lot today, when most people know that we are attending the dedication of a building we consider most sacred. And I imagine that person driving away, perhaps never to come back, seeing such a blatant and obvious and repeated disregard for the law.

Yes, I know I'm getting preachy here. But I believe people ARE watching. And I believe integrity demands that even in the little things, we strive to truly be honest in all we do. It's what we covenant to do.

"At all times, and in all things, and in all places," friends. Even in parking lots. Even when we are in a hurry. (Note to self, as one who tends to have a lead foot.) We can do better. We need to do better.

------

"When members don’t live the teachings, it can be a stumbling block to those who do not belong to the Church."

-Elder Quentin L. Cook, "Our Father's Plan -- Big Enough for All of His Children"

12 comments:

Bookslinger said...

It hit me again the other day at the laundromat. "Treat every one is an investigator."

Annette Lyon said...

I wonder if, in Utah, we tend to think we're all Mormon here and that no one is watching. We get complacent.

Because elsewhere, people are much more aware--their schoolmates, their neighbors ARE watching, and they must live up to that standard. So they DO. Here? We're all in the same boat--at least, we think we are. So who cares? Maybe that's it--I don't know. Just spit-balling here.

My brother is a cop, and he can't count how many times he's pulled people over who defend their speeding WAY over limit by saying they're rushing to a farewell or trying to make it to a temple session or whatever.

Wait . . . what?

So he'll purposely drag out the traffic stop to make sure they're late--which I think is hysterical.

Kristin said...

Nice reminder!

Karen said...

M&M I have read your comments and posts on other blogs and some of your post here for sometime now. (just my way of saying I'm not a first time reader. :) I don't live in Utah, but in Idaho which is close enough. I agree with you. I think I do usually obey the parking and speed laws, but it wouldn't hurt me to pay good attention to them and make sure I always do.
Definitely something for me to remember and continue to work on.

Ian said...

Amen!

Angie said...

We have the same selective obedience to traffic laws here in Nevada, so it isn't just a Utah thing. I think it may be somewhat of a generational/culture thing--the idea that MY time and MY to-do list trumps yours or the rules in general is appalling to me, but apparent wherever I go. It is a problem with parents and schools nationwide; it is inherent in our financial/ credit crisis. The sad thing in any place where one group is the majority is that the warts are pinned as a fault of the majority and not on the individuals where it belongs.

I do agree though that it can be far easier to let things slide when we feel like we're "among friends" when really, there is ALWAYS someone watching, even if it is merely our own children taking their cues from our behavior, for good or ill.

I love bookslinger's line--treat everyone like an investigator--love it!

thanks for the thoughts!

Sue said...

I may be sticking my neck out here, but whenever we visit Utah the main thing we notice is that no one ever lets us into their lane if we are foolish enough to forecast the move with a turn signal. It's like you have to try to sneak in or they'll try to stop you.

Sorry, but it's really true.

"/

m_and_m said...

Thanks, all, for the thoughts.

Bookslinger, great thought. A bishop recently talked about how missionary work is helping ANYONE endure to the end, so we can either be helps or hindrances to that for anyone, regardless of if they are LDS.

Annette, I think that sometimes may be the case in Utah, although part of the reason I shared the England story (and Angie's comment validates this) is that there can be disregard for law, etc. all over.

That said, the reason I pointed out the parking lot situation in particular is that it CAN be pinned on us...the choices of several individuals, imo, reflect on the group. Sure, on the freeway, you never really know if the person cutting you off is LDS, but in an LDS church parking lot on temple dedication Sunday, you are pretty safe assuming that those who parked illegally are LDS.

BTW, Annette, the story of your brother is funny.

I think it also illustrates part of the concern...are we so busy that we think that the ends (doing good stuff like going to the temple) justify the means (speeding or parking illegally because it would take too long to keep the law)? It's given me pause.

Ian, Kristin, Karen, thanks for your comments. (Karen, glad you shared your thoughts. :) )

Angie, this is a good point: "The sad thing in any place where one group is the majority is that the warts are pinned as a fault of the majority and not on the individuals where it belongs." FWIW, I didn't want to come across as making broad, sweeping generalizations, and I realize that is a problem. Still, where there are things we can do as members of the Church, when our behavior CAN be pinned back to us, I think it behooves us each as individuals to reflect and be sure that we are each doing our part to stand as witnesses. To me, that is part of striving to be a Zion people.

backandthen said...

"At all times, and in all things, and in all places,"

When I was in junior high we were in a branch. A tiny one.
Things were really rough for me at school. These are times I really don't want to go back to.

Once the missionnaries brought a girl from MY SCHOOL! I did not know her but I had noticed her due to her darker complexion (among many things this school was highly racist so darker complexions were few).
I was extremly surprised and I asked her how come she was here. the answer she gave me was just unbelievable to me back then and actually still because I really wonder what motivated such an answer.
She said "I saw you at school and you are different"

She had come only to sacrament meeting and no surprise she never came back. Maybe to take her to young women would have been smarter but the it was probably too early for her.

Yes, they are watching us. I did not know her name and I still don't. She knew I was a member (like all the school since they really enjoyed bullying me about my cult) and I must have done something good because it did motivated her to come to church. What freaks me out though is that I don't know what it was.
Yes they are watching us as soon as they know we are "different"

Anonymous said...

I live outside Utah but spent the past weekend in the Salt Lake City area. For what it's worth, I found the drivers there no better nor worse than those I'm used to.

Jen said...

I think this is a great topic you bring up. While it's certainly extremely important to be aware of the influence we have on others around us, one item that I feel supercedes that was perhaps touched on briefly but not explicitly.

When we break a law, to any degree, especially when we have covenanted to obey the laws, the Holy Ghost cannot be our constant companion as we are not demonstrating integrity. Specifically with regard to the driving as you mentioned, I can't think of a more important time to have the spirit with me than driving down a highway with other peoples' lives affected by my choices. Is it our right to "tweak" the rules to fit our desires and needs if we have agreed to abide by them? So, as "nerdy" as it sounds, I think there is importance in following the speed limit (and other rules). If we can't obey that simple law, what makes us think we can progress to more difficult ones?

Besides, driving the speed limit has a tendency to keep me calmer and less "emotional" with driving and more in control.

I think it's a great opportunity to teach our children the importance of obedience and keeping within the bounds that have been set.

m_and_m said...

Great points. Thanks for bringing them up.