Today at church, one of the speakers let us know that the recent New York City media blitz was bringing its show to Omaha. We’ll get more details next week at church, but today’s speaker said two things that bothered me.
First, he said that Jon Huntsman’s and Mitt Romney’s presidential campaigns had nothing to do with the ad campaign coming to Omaha. This is where my education gets in the way of my faith. While I do believe that my church leaders are inspired, I also believe they have brains and that they use them. The members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles include surgeons, lawyers, businessmen–and they are all writers. So I have a hard time believing that our proximity to Iowa was not at least an initial seed of thought in bringing this ad campaign to Omaha.
But what the speaker said next bothered me more. He said the purpose of the ad campaign was to show the world that Mormons are just like everybody else.
I understand the sentiment behind what he was saying, but in truth, I was offended. I spent my entire youth being told by teachers at church that we, as Mormons, were different. We had different lifestyle standards. We have a few different beliefs. And just this past week I was reminded many times that I am not “just like everybody else.”
In one class, my students teased me about my “rowdy college life.” I reminded them that I don’t drink. Never have. That’s not like everybody else.
You know what else isn’t like everybody else? Fun for me, in college, was choreographing dances and performing them for the neighboring boys dorm. That’s right–at BYU, there are no co-ed dorms for single folk.
I’m not like everybody else and I’m reminded of it every time I go out with my friends. They are all of legal age, and therefore at times will relax with an adult beverage. The strongest thing I ever drink is a diet Coke. (This actually makes me different from some Mormons, but I’m not gonna go into that right now.)
So to that dear speaker at church today, I respectfully disagree. The point of the ad campaign isn’t to show we are “just like everybody else.” It’s to show that Mormons are not cloistered congregations, encouraged to only associate with their own kind. We have a variety of interests, occupations, even varied political beliefs, and we have plenty of room for all kinds. Yes, it requires some changes in lifestyle and belief, but we’d love to have you.
That is, if you can handle not being like everybody else.