Eloise came home from school one day very upset. A girl in school had asked her ‘what she was’ and by ‘what are you’ the girl meant ‘what religion’ – because as the girl made quite clear to Eloise ‘you have to be something – you can’t be just nothing’ and when Eloise responded again that ‘she was nothing’ – the girl made her feel bad because ‘everybody’s something!’
So I told Eloise she is ‘something’ – she belongs to the religion of being kind, considerate, accepting, loving, charitable, peace-loving, being a good friend, and an all around good person.
She told me that maybe those things didn’t count if she doesn’t have ‘a religion name’ as her friend pointed out.
So I sat there with her and we talked about people we know.
“What about our neighbor Karen – what religion is she, Eloise?”
Well I don’t know. I never asked her
“Does it matter to you?”
No, I love Karen and she’s a great neighbor.
“And what about Kristi..what religion is she?”
I don’t know. I never thought about it before.
“And you still like her and don’t feel differently about her because you don’t know her religion?”
I love Kristi and she is super fun and always thinks about us and does nice things. I don’t care about her religion.
“What about Grammy and Papa. What religion are they?”
I don’t know. I guess I never asked them.
“Do you think you need to ask them?”
No, it really doesn’t matter to me. I love them no matter what.
“If one day you feel you need a religion I hope that you find that…and if you need a religion to define you..I hope you can find that…but honestly Eloise…I’m not sure I would want to wear a religion as a label as much as I would want my character to speak for itself because of who I am.”
I just spent the weekend in Utah with dear friends. With Mormons. I know. The beautiful people. Why is that. Why are Mormons so dang gorgeous? And talented? And nice?
And because I know you are all wanting the dirt on Mormons – here is what I found out:
1. Mormons can kick some serious butt on the running trails and also look better in tight hot running pants than I do.
2. Mormons will stop and let you buy a double venti latte at Starbucks when you spot the Starbucks from the vehicle. You may also be yelling “OMG STARBUCKS STOP NOW” and they won’t use you as the ‘face of addiction’ to their children – even though they rightly should.
3. Mormons like Sprite. Hey – so does my nine year old!
4. Mormons wear nylons. (female Mormons only) This is truly an unforgivable sin. I didn’t even know stores still sold nylons. This is probably the deal-breaker of joining up for me.
5. Mormons play CandyLand. I know. I thought the NoMo’s had a monopoly on this ridiculous game.
6. Mormons tell really funny jokes. (The retired volunteer tour guides at the General Conference Center were awesomely funny!)
7. The men in the Book of Mormon were extremely stacked. Buff. Well built. Muscular. HOT! (well according the paintings I saw)
8. Mormons did not try to convert me, ask if I wanted to hear more, or even mention my religion really at all. They also did not mention my tattoos.(Okay one sweet lady asked me if I was LDS and when I said ‘no’ she said she was surprised as I dressed LDS..and I totally took that as a compliment because I did feel like I was ‘with my people’ because my word the gorgeous dresses and skirts the ladies wore..swoon!)
9. Mormons let me attend church with them for three hours and I did not wear nylons AND I even got a cookie!
10. Mormons are well…nice. And just like me. Except more beautiful.
**Disclosure: These Mormon truths are only based upon the small sampling size of the Mormons I encountered during my four day trip to Salt Lake City. I was not able to meet all 14 million Mormons. Individual results may vary.
So here is the thing. I am kind of ‘nothing’ when it comes to religion. Do I believe in something bigger than the both of us. Yes. Do I have a general faith in something. Yes.
I have spent time in Catholic Mass, Methodist and many other Protestant services, a Jewish synagogue, the Call to Prayer in a Muslim Mosque, to a Buddhist Temple, a Shinto Shrine, and I have hiked Mt Sinai and have toured the great churches of Europe. And now I have attended a service at a Mormon ward.
I’ve left all of these experiences with a sense of peace and beauty and community.
Because mainly I want to just have a general faith that people are good and just and kind to each other no matter what they believe.
And that it is usually (always?) the outliers that ruin it for the rest of us. Whether they take it through war or politics or protests or unkind words – none of it is nice. None of it is just and none of it is anything that Jesus would truly do if he were walking with us here on Earth – whether or not you(nor I) believe he is who maybe he is.
So sometimes I go back to what I try to teach my kids. About just being good neighbors and friends – and I wonder how so many of us have lost this very simple message. Whether it’s the politicians of today polarizing our country with religion pontifications, or why Prop 8 even exists, or why a group that actually calls themselves mothers can embarrass our motherly name with their ugly hatred towards a person and a department store, or why two people can’t just be legally married even though they love each other and have for 22 years and have a family.
And I hope that no matter what religion you are. Or aren’t. That you will just teach your children about peace, love, kindness, equality and acceptance. Because I think they need a little bit more of that these days so that maybe their futures will shine a little brighter.