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Commentary: To Mormons - Is shunning something we still do in 2012?

Chrisy Ross - LDS Living - March 14, 2012

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Chrisy Ross, author of LDS Living's popular "To Mormons, with Love" article, shares more insights on living as a non-Mormon among Mormons. This time she talks about a sensitive subject in relations between Mormons and non-Mormons: avoidance of "different."

"Shun" is a four-letter word that continues to rear its head. 

I was recently at a Barnes & Noble book-signing event with several other authors. After hearing my book pitch, one woman said, “We’ve lived in Draper for almost two years. We had a babysitter we liked but as soon as her parents found out we weren’t members, they wouldn’t let her sit for us anymore.”

Her attitude was along the lines of, “I hope your book tells those mean Mormons a thing or two,” while shaking a fist.

Another woman lingered in front of my table with her preteen and teenage daughters, sharing in detail how she had moved to Utah from the East Coast, and while her Sandy neighborhood was “very nice,” she claimed the Mormon kids were not allowed to play with her kids. She said her daughters weren’t treated well at school by LDS kids and struggled with loneliness.

I questioned both women. Were they certain that their nonmember status alone deemed them socially unworthy? Each woman felt strongly that her situation was clear. Members only want to associate with members. Period.

The authors who I was grouped with at the book signing happened to be LDS. When there was a lull in customer traffic by our tables, I asked the other authors about what we’d all just heard.

“Do you know any LDS person who wouldn’t allow their kids to play with nonmember kids? Or who would forbid their teenage daughter to babysit for a nonmember family? Do you think people still shun?”

The short answer to all of my questions was no…and maybe. My fellow authors didn’t personally know someone who was religiously bigoted. They confirmed that the Church encourages strengthening relationships, and we agreed that all human beings, regardless of belief system, are susceptible to biases and environmental baggage.

As a nonmember, I don’t believe an LDS person has ever made a conscious decision to disassociate with me simply because I’m not a member of the Church. 

When we arrived in Utah in 2002, the nonmember grapevine was alive with examples of member/nonmember segregation. After considering the source, I came to the conclusion that the disunion was likely a two-way street, a personality conflict, or the result of an individual’s personal character failings or biases—both the member’s and the nonmember’s. Not a result of pure religious discrimination.

Admittedly, my husband and I felt like a few families had a “there goes the neighborhood” look on their faces when they discovered we weren’t members. And I’ll also cop to the fact that I was worried a visible coffee maker and a countertop wine rack would be a friendship deal breaker for some people. But in my experience, relationships that have taken root have done so because of an authentic connection and those that haven’t have nothing to do with religion.

But I continue to hear stories that make me think we all need to do a better job of . . . something.

Last fall, a nonmember friend of mine in another state was assisted and befriended by Relief Society in her area. A long-distance, long-time LDS friend of hers recognized a need and knew whom to contact. My friend was thrilled to receive help when she was sick, meet new friends, and looked forward to participating in Book Club and other activities for mothers of small children. I recently asked her how things were going with her new friends.

She said she’d been embarrassed to tell me, but she and her husband were convinced invitations ceased because they had made it clear they weren’t interested in converting. I challenged her.

“Have you called the woman who reached out to you? Maybe they were trying to be considerate and not smother you? Did someone actually say that?”

I find it difficult to believe that in this day and age, relationships dissolve due to religious shunning. Hard to buy.
However, since mulling this topic over, I’ve discussed it with several LDS friends and acquaintances. When I share the examples (now third hand) and ask someone, “Do you know anyone that would shun?” I’ve heard replies ranging from the matter of fact, “Yes,” to an uncomfortable, almost panicked, passionate defense of the Church as a whole “Of course not!” with lots of discussion surrounding the answers.

Again, I haven’t experienced or witnessed firsthand a person not associating with someone purely because they’re not Mormon. I haven’t witnessed the opposite either, but I recognize that there are members who call the same foul—a nonmember disqualifying a friendship simply because someone is LDS. As ridiculous as all of this sounds in 2012…doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Notwithstanding, discernment is real when choosing the relationships we want to nourish.

I have to believe the majority of nonmembers who feel they or their kids are being shunned or excluded from social groups because they’re not members of the LDS Church aren’t taking into account schedules, interests, established friendships, and perhaps a sensitivity to overbearance. People underestimate one another and direct communication is often non-existent. Everyone I spoke with had relied on his or her feelings and perceptions. Not once was a question asked politely or directly, “Is there a problem we need to talk about?” The worst was assumed.

Nuanced, but present. Is that what modern-day shunning looks like? I’m just asking the question. If so, we can all—nonmembers and members—do a better job of identifying the root of the problem. We know S-H-U-N is a four-letter word — turns out so is L-O-V-E.


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Chrisy Ross is the author of To Mormons, With Love (A Little Something from the New Girl in Utah), available at deseretbook.com. To learn more about her, visit chrisyross.com. You can also meet her this Saturday at her book signing in Sugar House, Salt Lake City on March 24th.

© LDS Living, 2012.
Comments 31 comments

vagirlie said...

06:10 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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What an interesting article. I'm a non-member with many life-long LDS friends. I am sure my friends would allow their older children to babysit my young'ens! (sp?!). And I've always felt included by them...that being said, I have felt 'shunned' by other LDS members that I have met much later in life - in my 30s. They originally were warm and welcoming to me and my family...but the invitations ceased when I made it clear we weren't interested in converting. Reading this article has made me re-think things. Perhaps I should reach out to them again? Maybe it wasn't shunning per say, just busy lives. Regardless, I really enjoyed this piece. Keep 'em coming!

hsm said...

07:26 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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It is sad that this kind of thing happens. I grew up in the eastern US, so I know it certainly isn't an LDS-only phenomenon; it happens wherever there is a large majority of one particular faith or culture. There are so many church-sponsored activities that fill up my time (relief society meetings, ward activities, service projects, book groups, play groups) that it is sometimes difficult to do other things that don't involve only church members. I personally find this suffocatingly boring, so I search out activities and groups to join in my non-lds community and opt out of many non-essential lds activities. I would MUCH prefer to associate with a diverse group of women on a play date or in a book club. Different ideas, perspectives, life experiences and beliefs are so much more interesting, imo.

kandy said...

07:35 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I lived in Utah for serveral years. Having grown up in Idaho as a minority being mormon I was unprepared for the way people interacted with each other. I NEVER met anyone that did not ask if I "was a member" before they would interact with me. Member and non-member alike. I would answer. "what? you won't be my friend if I don't give the correct answer?" I had a co-workers family go back to AZ because noone on their block would pay with his kids as they were non members. I had people tell me that they did not beleive I was an active member as I was their friend and they had never had a mormon friend before as they were always judged on their actions. I never thought of it as shunning but it is. I have lived in "the mission field" for the past 23 years and would never move back to Utah. LOVE to visit but my 4 years there was a trial of my faith.

spedteacher said...

08:33 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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In California we would never not interact with someone just because someone is not LDS. It's definitely a Utah thing. Thus the reason we don't live there!

rapenzel said...

08:46 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I'm saddened but not surprised to read people's experiences of being shunned by their neighbours because they are not members. I'm a life long member and live in the UK where there is only one ward in the whole of my city. All of my friends at school/ college/ university were non members, so it's not even an issue now that I have non member friends. I would never discriminate a babysitter on grounds they were not a member, as long as they are trustworthy and reliable would satisfy me. As for the shunning, I really don't think that in my particular ward now that that happens, as the majority of people have non member family so again, it's not an issue. A friend of an extended family member moved out to Utah some time ago (life long member) with her hubby and kids slap bang in the middle of Mormonville, and found she was very very lonely. She found that she was shunned quite badly from the sisters in her ward and street despite her being one of the friendliest people I know. She went to every activity/ social going to get to know people, invited people over etc with very little success. She did ask someone why she wasn't invited to a social and the reply was "this is for women who directly descend from the pioneers. You aren't one of them." Clearly the sister who said that was clairvoyant because how would she know?? I think it boils down to this- in many places in Utah were the minorty are non-members, there is something that in the UK we call Mormon Culture. It is very closed doors/ members only, and it has NOTHING at ALL to do with being a Latter Day Saint. This culture of shunning is also extended to members who do not fit the ideal family background. There are many members of the church I consider to be Mormons, but not Latter Day Saints! I'm very glad that I don't live in the Mormon Bubble, because I want my kids to be able to function around everyone, not just church members. (No offence intended).

tarheel_b said...

10:04 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I was born and have lived most of my life in Charlotte NC. Back in my High School days there were people that avoided me because I am LDS. For a few years when I was younger we lived in a small town in the mountains here in NC. It was a tight knit mostly Baptist community. The Branch of the Church there was very small. My parents made the effort to be involved in everything that impacted us kids. They lead the PTA and school activities. We were involved in Football, Basketball, Baseball and Swim Team every year and my dad coached the first three. My mom went on every field trip. The people they interacted with were nice and friendly. They often praised my parents for their hard work and leadership. But none of them became real, personal friends. We were at most every school and sports related activity but were not invited to any personal social events. Had my parents not made the efforts they did we could easily have felt shunned as well. But this was not really based on religious bias, although we could have pointed to that if we wanted to find reasons to be offended. There may have been some element of that for some people but the fact is that active Southern Baptists spend a lot of time at Church or in church related activities (sound familiar?). In addition to Sunday services, which can include pre meeting coffee and usually included after meeting lunch. They go to services on Wednesday night, and there are often activities on Saturdays and other weeknights. When you put that with the fact that we had a 45 minute drive to our building which was an abandoned dress shop/hunting store that we had to spend months renovating by hand before we could use. Then regular meetings and activities. My dad having Home Teaching families that were a two hour drive each way and serving as Branch President. The lack of social interaction was based much more on scheduling and who you spend your time with than any conscious decisions to exclude anyone. There are definitely some weird mind sets that happen to people in the Church in Utah though. Most everyone one that moves here from there thinks they are going to teach all of us dumb southern hick members how things are supposed to be done. Most of them try to be caring and patient with our lack of acceptance of their cultural changes. But some are openly disdainful. And they never seem to realize how condescending it sounds when they speak in Church and tell us how great it is to be "in the missionfield" (is there no missionary work going on in Utah?). I think that this issues is much more complicated than people tend to see on the surface. Growing up in North Carolina avoiding other people because of their beliefs never entered into my mind. And to think anyone calling themselves Christian especially someone LDS who should be holding themselves to an even higher standard of following Christ, would "shun" anyone is very disheartening. For me the bottom line is that When I realized that I was being avoided by some people in high school because I was LDS I also realized that those were the very last people I would want to hang out. So they were doing me a favor.

tarheel_b said...

10:05 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I actually did format that last post so that it wasn't a giant wall of text, but I guess this posting doesn't allow for that.

carriemae said...

10:25 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I'm coming the view of a member who grew up in Utah, but have never lived there since being married. Growing up, I never felt like I actively shunned someone for not being LDS. I had several non-member friends in high school who were wonderful people, but I also turned down dates with non-members who I knew had different morals than me. I think it's about finding people with the same values as you do. All people do that no matter their belief system because we're just comfortable with people who have our same values. However, since living in different areas of the US where the church is not the affluent religious group, I can definitely see how non-members, in Utah especially, may feel the way they feel. In Utah, where the LDS faith is the majority, the members are compact. They see each other every day because they are neighbors as well. With that kind of support group so close, it makes a person feel less of a need to reach out and meet others (and this includes new lds members who have moved into an area). That's how I felt. Outside of Utah, you aren't as surrounded by that group and so I think the LDS members are a bit better at meeting and befriending others. Personally I currently live in an area where Christianity itself is the minority. I love my neighbors, but I have to admit that I only have good acquaintance ships with a few of them. It's not that I'm shunning them. I'm shy generally and since I grew up in Utah, I'm not as practiced in finding that connection outside of religion that creates great friendships. Besides, let's face it, I'm living in a community that is compact in another belief system and ethnic culture so I'm the "non-member". They are friendly, but it's just easier for them to associate with those who get excited about the same holidays are from the same places, etc. I'm sorry to hear about those who've had bad experiences. We DO need to do better, we need to be braver addressing the situations as they happen. I'm sorry that Utah has the reputation of the mormon culture bubble. I loved growing up there, and I HATE feeling I have to defend myself because I'm the "UTAH Mormon".

grannieannie said...

10:41 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I appreciated the comment from the member from NC. I have lived outside Utah most of my life, though I was born there. I was raised in Montana, and for most of my elementary school days my brothers and I were the only LDS students. More members moved in when I was in High School, including the one I married! To hear that Utah members "shun" anyone is shameful. We are told to act always as the Savior would act and that would mean to treat everyone as He would. I have worked in the medical field for many years and know there are some people it is hard to like. However, when I found myself feeling like that, I just made myself see them as my brother or sister and that made all the difference in my attitude. They didn't change, but I did. This should be the way we look at all our non-member acquaintances,no matter what religion they are. We should be the "leaven in the lump" to bring other to Christ, not put them down to where they won't want to associate with anyone LDS. Some of my family live in Utah, and I know they work with non-members and appreciate their contributions to the community and schools they help with. We should all work together for good, and if we love all men it is for our benefit!

blacksheep said...

10:45 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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My wife and I have been active members for over thirty years. We have both observed that friendly relationships as desired by those whe report being "let down" in this blog can very difficult to establish in today's insular culture. We have lived in wards around the world, and have never personally observed cases of intentional anti-non-member shunning, but of course it does occur. For years in a small ward in England, we heard other members say, "If you want to lose your testimony, go live in Salt Lake for a while". They observed the cultural bias in action. Also: even though my wife and I have been fully active members all our adult lives, and are not part of any noticeable minority group, we are both "different" in many small, personal ways. With no children (for medical reasons), we have no easy basis for getting to know families who are overburdened with their own family lives, no time for others. We could help, but our overtures are ignored. Although we have always been treated well at church meetings, we have generally felt "shunned" on the other days of the week (not disrespected or mistreated, just ignored), and at church social activities we have never felt we were a part of the group. What you might call "a sin of omission". This could have happened in any religious or other group. The years have been very lonely for us, but nevertheless, "We know the Church is true!", and we understand their trials and love them all anyway.

gdc92508 said...

10:56 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I was baptized into the Church when I was 18 years old in 1978. I had all LDS friends. They were the kids who were scholastically achieving, had morals similar to mine, and respected their parents, for the most part. As time went on, I met and married my husband, raised a family in So. CA. As a kid, I did see hyprocisy amongst my LDS neighbors. As soon as they realized that my folks just wanted to be friends and not have the missionary discussions, they pulled back and were not as friendly anymore to my parents, which was hard to experience. My parents were and are good Christian people who were not and are not interested in changing religions. My father experienced the worst cursing at the workplace was from staunch, garment-wearing bishops, elders quorom presidents, and stake presidents. My father never swore so for him to see this every day and see these same people drink most of the coffee brewed at the work site, it made a significant impression...and not a good one. After experiencing that, and the lack of friendliness and warmth from their LDS neighbors, my folks warned me about my LDS friends possibly rejecting me. And yes, some did. A boy I had a crush on, dated me a few times, only to have his mom meet with me to tell me that I was "not good for him" and I would "never fit into his world inside the Church". Even after I was baptized, I had incidents where it was clear that I was being singled out. More of this, unfortunately, came after I married my husband with our kids. Our kids would go to the stake center for seminary, only to be refused a ride to school afterwards. Many times I got a phone call, telling me to run and get them because none of the adult members would give them a lift to church and my kids were born INTO the church! This ridiculous behavior definitely colored my children's points of view of church members and the truthfulness of the Gospel itself. Too many other little incidents affected me as well. One Sunday walking into RS, there was some sisters talking. As I approached them, I heard them discussing their sons and being an Eagle Scout. A couple of these sisters turned to me, a mom with several sons, and told me that I might not be able to relate to what they were saying because none of my sons were Eagle Scouts. Really?! Why did they have to "shun" me that way? There was active discussions in RS and in just conversation at functions where sisters said it was really difficult for them to allow their kids to socialize with non-LDS kids, and how forbidden it was to allow their kids to date a non-member or have a sleep-over w/an non-member. I realize several who posted here deny experiencing a form of "shunning" but it happens MUCH more than anyone here is letting on. Whenever I have mentioned this subject to my Visiting Teacher, or the RS President, it is always the same answer...We DO need to do better" or "we must strive to be more Christ-like and we are doing the best we can"...Er, no...we are not. I do NOT consider myself an LDS member anymore. I have been inactive for about 4 years now. When my husband had his heart attack about 4 years ago, I had well-meaning members and bishopic asking me what we--my husband and I--were doing or not doing that led to him having this happen. Excuse me???!! He almost DIED...How dare these people to suggest that we did something to bring this on! Did they ask about his genetic predisposition from family members w/heart disease? No. They jumped right in and as they said to me that they hoped he would be okay, in the next breath, they asked me if we kept the Word of Wisdom! This shattered me and tore at my sweet husband. I love so many of my LDS friends, but I choose to be Christ-like every day and to not be gossipy or judgmental as they clearly were to me, my husband and our kids. It tears me up more than anyone will ever know because I met my husband by being a member of the Church and for that, I am eternally grateful, but to live as a member is just too much and I cannot be a hypocrite anymore...=(

sallygirl said...

10:58 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I have the most shameful thing to say... I know we have preferred LDS babysitters because of their affordability. We've never been able to pay top dollar or minimum wage to a babysitter, but we know that LDS girls will accept whatever we can pay (usually $2-$5/hr for up to 3 kids during the last 12 years) and consider the babysitting an act of service if it isn't the going rate. It's been my experience that this is the way it works since I was in YW 25 years ago. We live in CA and the few nonmembers I've inquired of (friends of friends daughters) ask $7-$10 per hour/PER KID! With no family nearby to help out, we'd never leave the house if we had to pay those rates. So in the case of babysitters, maybe this should be considered as the reason rather than shunning.

pborogal said...

11:51 AM
on Mar 14, 2012

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A wise family pays attention to those with whom their children associate, both member and non-member. That said, while a non-member may think nothing of having a liquor cabinet that is available in the home, for instance, for LDS families, it would be unwise to place a teenager in a situation where there is something of that nature that makes them uncomfortable. Non-members may not understand these decisions, and may indeed experience them as "shunning", but they are good decisions being made by good parents. When my children were young, growing up in the Northeast with few kindred spirits, I made our standards clear to other families with whom we interacted. Most people were happy to help us uphold those standards. But if there were those who would not or could not do so, we did stop interacting with them. That was my duty as a parent, no apologies. But they knew it was the standards, not their religion or lack thereof, that caused me to make that decision.

petragalazio said...

02:23 PM
on Mar 14, 2012

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This is a very interesting article - I have often heard (just follow some comments on SLTrib.com boards for awhile) that LDS "shun" non-members but I have never actually seen it first-hand. But then I did experience it, personally, and as an active LDS moving into a very small mostly LDS town - and I saw this "shunning" for what I think it really is. LDS are busy people. Most people in Utah have extended families who live here too and there is simply not much time for those outside their families, those outside their callings, those outside their children's immediate activities. I think it's less that LDS "won't let their kids play" with non-LDS neighbor kids than the LDS kids are super involved in school and church activities and don't have much extra time to play with the non-LDS kids who are not also involved in those same activities. The baby-sitting thing? Maybe there are simply kids within the ward who need a job, and these parents feel more obligated to help out those kids first. For us, it was being very patient and finding other people who, like us, did not have extended family in Utah, who also had a bit more of the necessary time it always takes to make and nurture friendships. But, even being LDS, we did indeed have to make the first move. And we're glad we did.

latterdaypioneer said...

04:17 PM
on Mar 14, 2012

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As a convert and member for over 30 years, I have experienced first-hand many incidents of shunning not between members and non-members, but right within our ward or branch! I wondered why it is that the true church would be so flawed in their ability to make others who may be "fringe" or new feel loved and welcome at church and within social settings among other members. This has happened a lot to us over the years and also happened to our children when they were teens, and feeling vulnerable and unsure of their self worth. Kids who could have been such good friends and helped them through, simply avoided them and eventually they stopped wanting to go to mutual or seminary because they didn't feel they "belonged". We raised our family in the Northeast and in the wards we were in there were definitely two camps~ the Utah Mormons and the mainstream members, and the "fringe" - those who were converts or not the perfect Molly and Mark Mormon types... That would be us, and our few friends - single moms, struggling families, and "real" people with real issues. We weren't perfect, but tried our best to live the Gospel, and love our neighbor unconditionally. But this wasn't reciprocated except very rarely. I have to say that overall, our epeeience with other members has been somewhat of a disappointment. Those few who returned our friendship became lifelong, close friends. But the many who did not want to associate with us really hurt us, and especially hurt our teens. Several of our children became inactive and left the church. All but one have come back but it breaks my heart when I think of what could have been if there were more love expressed in the church. I recently heard a quote in our gospel doctrine class that if we truly loved our neighbor the growth in the church would literally explode! So why is it so hard to reach out to our neighbor with a hand of fellowship?? If we fail to do so we are not living the Gospel. No matter how busy we are, we must uplift the feeble knees and love our neighbor, whether LDS or not! Make the time and effort to feed the Savior's lambs... That is the first and greatest commandment next only to loving and serving the Lord God. If we fail to get out of our comfort zone and do so we can not rightfully call ourselves true Followers of Christ.

handyman said...

08:08 PM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I don't believe many members do it, but there are a few that take it to extremes. It's unfortunate because all it takes is one out of small community to make the others look bad. When they offend one person. Then that person relates a bad experience to their friends, and then friends relate on and so forth. It becomes another leak to fill. Then the church is spending time on fixing leaks by having to defend itself. Like a restaurant whose employee gives a customer a bad time, and then it erodes its reputation as that one bad employee does it over and over again. It then takes effort of gaining several new customers to come in to make up for one lost loyal customer. Members have to sensitive to the spirit, and in relation to each individual. Most people offended may not have the philosophy of forgiveness. Thus the animosity that might build up. I have seen new converts not comeback as some member unknowingly makes a comment that offends the new member. Like when a new member blesses the sacrament, and is nervous, and makes a mistake. Then some long timer, though joking in his eyes, makes a comment about screwing it up. Seen and heard that situation before.

1-4freedom said...

09:49 PM
on Mar 14, 2012

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I was raised in the "mission field" in New Mexico. I joined the Church in my 21st year and have been completely active since (and always will be). I have had 3 experiences with "Utah Mormons" related to this article. The first was while I was completing my education at BYU in the 1970s. I moved with my wife and 2 young children into a small house in south Orem. The first Sunday we went to Church, we opened the churchhouse doors, and it was like Moses parting the Red Sea. All the good members parted to let us through, no one said a word to us. For about 2 months we attended that ward before anyone even acknowledged we were there. Of course, I had not gone out of my way to introduce myself and family to them. But, it was not a good experience, and when I graduated, we we not unhappy to see Utah in our rearview mirror. The second was when we showed up at Church in southeast New Mexico (I had never been there, grew up in the NE corner) where I had accepted employment after graduation. We did not have the churchhouse door fully open before a sister across the foyer saw that we were new, and she practically ran a beeline to welcome us and introduce herself. She was followed by most everyone in the foyer. We had never before felt so welcome. It was like coming home. We lived in the mission field for over 30 years. The 3rd experience occurred when we recently relocated to Utah. We rented a home in NW Springville, and our welcome here has been similar to that we experienced in SE NM. It is wonderfull to be here. Now, I think the difference is that in Orem, it was a more established ward, the members had their cliques, and as newcomers, we did not fit into any of them. I am sure that had we lived there long enough, we would eventually have developed some friends. The ward in SE NM was in an area with a sparse LDS population, and they were greatful to see anyone that would strengthen the small ward. The ward here in Springville is a relatively new ward in a developing area (the oldest homes here are about 6 - 8 years) with a diverse membership, older empty-nesters mixed with middle aged families with teenagers, and a lot of young professionals with young families. None of them were deliberately trying to "shun" anyone, it was simply the demographics of the areas. I make every effort to greet anyone I recognize as new to an area with the same welcome as I was shown by that sister in SE NM. The fact is, the Church is true. Anyone of us can find an excuse to disassociate with the Church if we want to. Its our choice.

bzmomo6 said...

07:25 AM
on Mar 15, 2012

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My husband and I attended BYU, joined the US Army and have bounced around the US for the last 23 years. 3 of those years we spent in Utah. We moved into an established ward in Sandy and while people were certainly friendly, the fact of the matter was that they didn't need us as friends. They had parents, sisters, best friends from high school, cousins.... It was a hard adjustment coming from "the mission field" (a term that I despise by the way - Utah is also a mission field!) where members of a ward/branch babysit for each other, do play dates, have dinner together... and truly become like family. Over time, we made friends, but I was happy to move and go back to the the type of church units we had grown to love. While in Utah, I made a dear friend across the street who was not a member of the church and she most certainly felt that her children were left out of things because they were not members of the church. I honestly think it happens more than any member of the church would like to admit. I have also experienced descrimination the other way around, although not in Utah. I joined a Christian homeschooling support group and as soon as they found out that I was Mormon, they quickly created a contract one had to sign in order to be a part of the group that stated that you believe that the Bible is the ONLY word of God. Of course I didn't sign, but I did go to the meeting where they were having everyone sign the document and bore testimony of Christ.

latterdaypioneer said...

08:40 AM
on Mar 15, 2012

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The bottom line is, everyone wants and needs to feel loved and wanted in any group. This is most important in church, with those who share our own core beliefs! Yet we find excuses to divide ourselves rather than be a "family". We form cliques that exclude newcomers. We consider ourselves "too good" to be tainted by anyone different than us. Why do we label one another? Put one another in a category that doesn't include us? Discriminate based on one's station in life? Fear exposing ourselves or family members to anyone who does not share our lifestyle or values? Jesus Christ is our example ~ He led the way for us to follow. Yet look who he spent his days with... He had his disciples around him, but spent his time ministering to those in need. Many were "from the wrong side of the tracks" - The Lepers, the rough, the poor, unkempt and out of the mainstream people who were not so full of themselves as to reject him outright! Sometimes I think there are those in the LDS church who would walk right past the Savior if he showed up at their ward... Different, unshaven and new. As members we have covenanted to serve and follow Christ. Let's not be so caught up in our own life and concerns that we unknowingly reject and hurt others. Work to change that! The Gospel is about changing lives... One life at a time. Too many converts and new members have fallen away because they don't feel welcome or wanted. Changing one's life and group of friends is very difficult- be there to help them through it!! We have a great responsibility to feed Christ's Lambs, no matter what they look like or seem like. It is not our place to judge, that is up to the Lord. If they are new, welcome them!! Make them feel comfortable and show them around! If they need a friend, be one!! If they're in a tough spot, help them out or get a group together to assist them... See to it that not a single soul is left to feel desolate once they make the step to come unto Christ!

mspam said...

09:23 AM
on Mar 15, 2012

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I am a convert and have never lived in a Mormon enclave. Some reasons I may not be friends with some non-members and even some members is that I do not like being with them. They may do things that I do not enjoy. Ok, smoking, both my parents smoked and so did everybody in my life including work I never liked it. I always avoided people like that. I do not like to go to bars, the people are crazy. I worked as a cocktail waitress at a resort they were ok they had their children with them but to go to a bar and just drink and tell weird stories no thanks. Swearing. I just do not like being around people like that. Sex talk. I don't like that either. People who only talk about how religion is just a crutch and does you no good. I don't need that when I want to relax I did it plenty on my mission. My life is very much church. I don't go to the casinos (gambling is legal here) because I don't want to. I do want to go to firesides and be uplifted. I enjoy conference. I want to talk to others about that and its hard if they can only talk of American Idol etc. Yes I do have friends who are not members plus my and my husbands whole families are not members. But not all members are my friend and all non members are not necessarily someone whom I would like to be friends with.

mama_al said...

12:48 PM
on Mar 15, 2012

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I am a convert (baptized at 27) of 23+ years and the only member in my family. I joined in SoCal after growing up back east. Lived in UT for a short time in 1990 and found it very difficult to be a divorced female convert, for the reasons stated by other commenters (people have their high school friends, mission friends, college friends, family - not much room for "new" friends), but also a little bit because I was older (more competition for the few worthy older single guys) and because I was obviously not a virgin (this applied more to the dating pool than the friend pool). My sister (not LDS) lived in W Jordan a few years ago and complained about being shunned. However, she and her husband and step kids swore like sailors, smoked and drank and had loud bbqs in their back yard, and were big into Harleys. Flaunting your clearly non-LDS standards isn't exactly the way to get people to embrace you. But she didn't really want to hear anything I had to say about it. I do think shunning and cliques happen within the membership - have personally witnessed it. Also if you have any kind of non-conformity it can happen (e.g. wife older than husband, wife bearing children later in life and being older than the moms of her kids' peers). I find this type of shunning to be more unfortunate though both types are wrong. What hasn't been mentioned is that if you are friends with a non-member and they come out and say "we aren't interested in being converted," then... what do you say next? I would hazard a guess that the LDS person(s) on the receiving end of such a sentiment/statement are receiving the message as "not only do I not want to take the discussions, I don't think I want to be friends any more." So if a non-member says they aren't interested, I would think that if they pondered the impact of the statement, they would understand that the member is going to shrink away from contact, and be fearful that they are going to say or do something "wrong" that violates the non-member's boundaries. This is NOT shunning - this is normal human behavior when we've experienced a form of rejection. I support any non-member in their right to state that they have no desire to be converted - but if you say it, you need to be clear in communicating the boundaries of the friendship going forward if you do not want to be "shunned." In other words, you need to open the door to a continued friendship because the member is (understandably) going to take it as a rejection on some level. Food for thought.

latterdaypioneer said...

04:32 PM
on Mar 15, 2012

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I totally agree! yes, of course we don't need to go out of our way to spend time at a place or with people we are uncomfortable with. But we should still be friendly and pleasant towards them. I once had a friend who was a loud and obnoxious biker's wife. Because she was my next door neighbor, we often had lunch together and hung out together. As we became friends, and I got to know her and her situation I saw a side of her I never would have know if I had just brushed her off and never let her in. She came to my daughter's baptism. The next day she told me she had never experienced anything like that in her life and started crying. We became so close. Friendship can bloom in some very unexpected places, and with people you'd never expect. I just wish members of the LDS church would venture out of their Mormon bubble more often and just be friendly and a good example to those around us. Let your light shine... Others do notice it!

ricklt said...

09:42 AM
on Mar 17, 2012

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The stories of shunning I hear usually take place in an older, highly dense mormon area. Utah is usually the subject, but in the past, Snowflake AZ and Laveen AZ were mentioned to me. Where there are fewer members, or in an older areas where there has been a huge influx of new people, members and non-members, it doesn't seem to happen. Now the Jehovah's Witnesses do it as a matter of church doctrine and policy. We're nowhere near that level of shunning in the the Church.

kennie said...

05:45 PM
on Mar 18, 2012

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What a great article! I really appreciate the suggestion that we need more direct communication. My husband and I just moved our children back to Utah and we've been meeting people in the neighborhood. I'm not a very confrontational person...a little introverted and shy...but my daughter was making several new friends, so I made an effort to get to know their parents so that I could determine if she would be safe playing in their homes without my supervision. She's only six. She made friends with a boy a few houses down from us and there was some initial trouble because my daughter told me that the boy wanted to play kissing games with her and hold her hand at school. Which might seem perfectly innocent, but we personally felt she was a little young for that. So we discussed with her the best way to tell the boy that she didn't want to play those games, but she still wanted to play with him and be his friend. A few weeks later, I went to pick my daughter up from his house and they were playing music in the home that was extremely explicit. Several swear words, lots of sexual content. I mean...a lot of sexual content. I was very upset to find my six year old exposed to that language. I'm sure it would have been a lot better for me to just approach this mom and let her know that I felt like that music was inappropriate for my kids to listen to when she was over, but I didn't want to make her feel bad. So instead, I started suggesting that my daughter play with her friend, not at their house, but outside at the park. It's become obvious since then that we've given the impression that we don't want our daughter to play with non-member kids, when I possibly could have avoided that by merely talking to this mom about the music. And I would feel the same way if she was playing with LDS kids whose parents were playing this music for her. I guess I just wonder how you broach a topic like that without it coming across as being judgmental?

nel76 said...

04:37 PM
on Mar 21, 2012

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tarheel_b: LOVED your comments. I live in Winston Salem, NC and we love it here. I only lived in Utah during my college years and it really bothers me when people refer to other places as "the mission field". I've lived all over this country and have found strong, faithful members everywhere. I too have felt that people here of other religions may not want to be friends with me or my children because of our religion. However, like you, I also find that those are people I could really live without!! The majority of my childrens' friends are not LDS and that is totally okay with me. I think it builds stronger faith. Can't we all just get along?!

noemchen said...

08:09 AM
on Mar 22, 2012

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I grew up in Germany and in our city we only had one ward. So, most of my friends were non-LDS. But my parents never told us not to be friends with them - on the contrary. They encouraged us to have them at our house after school or go to different sports clubs for exercise with them. Of course I also had friends in the Church, but we all lived far apart and did not meet as often as we wanted. I still have a lot of friends who are not LDS and I love them as much as I love my friends in Church. We may not share the same goals and values, but we respect each other and learn from each other. We share many interests and those non-members have helped me built up my testimony and knowledge of the Church by their questions. Because they asked, I had to answer some of those questions for myself and strengthened my testimony. Sometimes I brought some of them to activities or even to church on Sunday. None of them got baptized yet, but one girl asked me to have her husbands temple work get done after he died! She said she feels that he needs it, even though she does not know what we do in temples and what it really means. And during high school the mother of one of my non LDS friends died suddenly and my family felt we should do something. We had her over a lot and included her in our activities. Decades later (we are still friends!), she thanked me for including her in our family when she needed it the most. We never told her to get baptized etc, we just loved her and gave her a second family. She is still catholic, but she and my family still have a special bond. I am grateful for my friends inside and outside of the Church and would have my children be friends with non members as well. I would like to have my childrens friends at our home to get to know them better. But I also have to admit that I heart some mother say to another that she would not want her children to spend time with non member kids and avoids contact with the family. That is so sad and definitely not Christlike behavior.

rmc1866 said...

01:45 PM
on Mar 27, 2012

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As an LDS woman who has lived both in and out of Utah, in places where the Church is strong, and where it is still experiencing growing pains I have found that humans are humans. There are good and not so good both in and out of the Church. I have an inactive LDS girlfriend from high school who was surprised I talk to her because "the members where I live don't...and they did not want anything to do with my daughter either ". Hearing that broke my heart and unfortunately it does happen. There are those who are so afraid of what it might mean to be inclusive in a loving charitable sense, what someone else might think, what the neighbors will say, what questions their children might ask... the list goes on and on. However, my personal experience is that as an adult, I am responsible for my choices toward others who are not LDS. I can neither blame the Church, the members or anyone else. If I am acting poorly, I am the one who is responsible for that problem. It is unfortunate that the entire Church gets put through the wringer upon the actions of a small percentage. Does this happen in other religions? Absolutely! I have seen in my own family that we were ostracized for being LDS. And at work ( in the entertainment industry) with a LDS member running for President, you can image the shunning that happens. What I would offer is that we look to the life of the Savior as a model of how to treat others, regardless of their situation, religion and love people for simply BEING. I cannot make someone befriend me, but if I do not extend the hand of friendship because they don't fit into my narrow mold, then it is I who has the "mote in my eye". I appreciate this article as it gave me an opportunity for self reflection. Now I have to put action behind my words to do better.

followinghim said...

12:56 PM
on Sep 29, 2012

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It doesn't matter where I live, I am a member of the Church of Jess Christ of Latter-day Saints. I will follow Him and love my neighbors regardless of their religous beliefs. I will not dwell on how I have been hurt in the past, I will open myself up to new opportunities by serving others. I will become the change I want to see.

mariley said...

01:40 PM
on Oct 15, 2012

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I am a 34 year old LDS member. Born and raised in Utah and moved only 5 miles away from where I grew up. I find it sad that people have had these issues, but I guess I'm not 100% surprised. I'm sure it happens as members are not perfect. I agree that having a huge difference in values, interests, etc could be a reason for not becoming friends with a non-LDS (or LDS for that matter). My 8 year old recently started hanging out with a neighborhood girl that lives down the street. I'm assuming by the beer bottle I saw outside the house that that her family is not LDS. So what? My kid likes hanging out with their daughter, so I let him hang out with her. Yes, we'll have the talk about they might think differently than us, her parents might drink beer, and that although they do those things, it doesn't mean they aren't nice good people. Of course, I grew up with many aunts and uncles (about 18 between both parents, including some step family). About 1/3 of them are Baptist, about 1/3 of them are inactive Mormons, and about 1/3 of them are active LDS members. My uncle is a Baptist preacher and gave a sermon at my grandma's funeral. He did a great uplifting and comforting talk. I even told him so. I look forward to family reunions even if coffee and tea is also served (but they always offer lemon-aid too.) Hopefully even though many people feel there is a "Mormon bubble" in Utah, they will see that not everyone is that way. I personally live living in Utah, but I also don't worry about what others think of me and try to find into some perfect Mormon mold. I'm me and I hope I'm doing my best.

mariley said...

01:42 PM
on Oct 15, 2012

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That is "but I also don't worry about what others think of me and try to FIT into some perfect Mormon mold. I'm me and I hope I'm doing my best."

selah777 said...

04:56 PM
on Jun 08, 2013

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I am a Christian, non-denomination. I live in an area where there are a lot of Mormons. I have had different experiences with different Mormons but for the most part they've always been pleasant. There are times when you feel that awkwardness. I remember one year I had a young Mormon girl in her early twenties give my daughter swimming lessons. I hadn't met her in person as she was referred by an LDS friend of mine. When we arrived at her house, she had just finished giving lessons to an (LDS) child and was doing some very friendly chatting with the child's mother. Upon seeing us crossing the yard, (the pagans I suppose..a joke amongst Christians about how the LDS view us) the smile cleared from her face, she got into the pool and sank down until the water was just below her nose. I wanted to laugh and run at the same time. I don't know what the LDS church is teaching their young about Christians, but that was perplexing to say the least. The impression I get however, is that there are the LDS and then there's everyone else. So in other words, if you are not LDS, you are therefore, a pagan. So sad and soooooo misinformed. I've met many people of many faiths but those that have had the strongest and closest relationships to God, were Christians. Get out of your box and find the truth.
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