Mormons are scary
(I’ve got to put this to words before my memory fades. And then I’ve got to cram for the GRE)
I like the organization I am currently working for, and especially enjoy working with the great people there. Sometimes, though, I get a kick out of the funny things that happen when people realize that my opinions and beliefs are not as mainstream as they had assumed. By “mainstream” I mean, in general, (and this is not to disparage anyone in particular – I really do love my co-workers and the organization! – but just to make an observation) politically liberal-leaning and vaguely irreligious; I, myself, am relatively more conservative, (moderate, really), and passionately religious. I usually, but not always, keep a pretty low profile about politics and religion at work (although it is only very rarely that I feel my beliefs are actually somewhat under fire. Again, I work with some really great, caring people), although I deeply value those deep and sincere relationships I have been able to form so far with certain co-workers which are amenable to discussions on such subjects (even if we happen to disagree, fundamentally, even). Truly, I think politics and, more importantly, religion could be so much less taboo in public if people approached them with more open-mindedness, understanding, and restraint, and fewer preconceptions and prejudices. This is not something I have perfected yet by any means (my dear agnostic brother once characterized me as the most aggressive theist he knew, which I don’t think he meant as a compliment ) , but it is a true treat when two comparably respectful, open-minded people are able to connect and find common ground on matters of spirit, truth, and love. Really, I think that is what life is all about. Lest I equivocate, however, I must make it known that those same principles of spirit, truth, and love are found with greatest clarity and abundance in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ; they are not found there exclusively, but are found there with greatest clarity and abundance.
But back to my original topic. We had a pizza party today to celebrate the birthday of one of our co-workers. I have to admit, my opinion of lawyers has improved immensely from working where I do. I think public interest law tends to attract the kinds of lawyers that I would consider “cool” and pleasant to work with. Anyway, one of the things I enjoy about these lawyers (I’m sure this is true of most lawyers) is that they are very knowledgeable about the cogs of the great machine we call society, and I enjoy sitting back and listening to them talk about things which I have very little understanding of but recognize as being important, if not for society as a whole then at the very least for some individual somewhere.
So today, as they were talking about this and that while eating pizza, one of them mentioned John McCain, or conservatives, or something like that, which led to a “Hey, wasn’t so-and-so who worked here a conservative?”, and a “Yeah, don’t get many of those here”. Pretty soon, the topic of Mormons came up, as Mormonism and conservatism tend to be linked in people’s minds (for the record, NOT because membership in the Church requires any specific political affiliation, and certainly not because there are no liberal Mormons), someone said “Wasn’t such-and such person who worked here a Mormon?’ and finally, from a co-worker who knows me fairly well, “Yeah, and so is Bryce!”. Seeing the reaction was priceless. It was so awesome! The girl next to me, a 3L working as a part-time law clerk, was somewhat dumbfounded and, judging by her countenance, mildly appalled (an observation which I lightheartedly shared with her), and there was a brief, maybe 2-second-long pause as people mentally switched gears and adjusted their social filters. Again, I mean no disrespect in sharing this, and I don’t mean to make a bigger deal of this than it was, but it was just so interesting to see people’s reactions and to picture what they were thinking (“Shoot, Bryce is a Mormon, and therefore conservative. I must’ve offended him!”). Also, it made me think about how I must come across to people on matters of religion. Obviously, I am not shy about talking about my faith, and in fact it is one of my all-time favorite topics of conversation. However, I also recognize that faith can be a very uncomfortable topic for people, or at least a tender subject to open up about. Sometimes, I wonder if people feel self-conscious around me, knowing that I have strong convictions, almost as if I am silently judging them if they drink coffee or say a bad word here or there (as for coarse language, I do have my limits of toleration, but would always try to be pleasant, courteous, and diplomatic, or at least humorous, about addressing speech which I personally find offensive). While I cannot help it if the fact that I have convictions makes people uncomfortable, I believe I can do very much indeed to let people know that I don’t look down on them because of my beliefs – if anything, my beliefs ought to lead me to love and respect them more as beloved children of God trying to find their way in this crazy and confusing world. So, rather than feel smug and self-satisfied about this occurrence, I am using it as a way to evaluate how I am doing about developing and communicating love and esteem for the people I interact with daily (although I do want to reserve the right to chuckle about it good-naturedly – is that bad?).
Life sure is interesting, but it’s also so awesome!