A year or two ago, I was at a high-profile industry conference. It was the end of the day and, as is common, there was a reception with drinks. Being Mormon, I wasn’t drinking alcohol, but it wasn’t a big deal – I’ve been to dozens of such events, and I’m not sure if anyone has ever even noticed.
A colleague and I somehow got talking to the wife of one of the attendees, who had clearly had a drink or two and somehow it came out that I was LDS – maybe because I didn’t have anything in my hand except soda, maybe we were talking about our undergraduates (I went to BYU), I don’t recall. This was an educated woman at a conference for attorneys – she came across as perfectly social – and the first thing out of her mouth when she found out was “Oh, where are your wives?”
I didn’t find this offensive and started to explain that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints stopped practicing polygamy over 100 years ago, but my colleague (who is Jewish) quickly shut the conversation down and moved us along. He said something to the effect of “you shouldn’t ever have to listen to that.” I probably would have stayed myself, because whenever I’m around slightly drunk people they always seems to ask me about being Mormon and I’m always happy to talk about it. But it was sort of an odd thing for her to say in a professional setting.
This, in a nutshell, is the sort of reaction I often get from others when they find out I’m Mormon. They either think I’m really strange (as opposed to maybe just a little peculiar) or to treat me with a respect that seems more than what I’ve earned personally. It’s fairly rare for me to meet someone that has not already formed an opinion. And I’ve read hundreds of think-pieces on the LDS Church, and the vast majority of them fall into those two categories as well. It’s just the way it is. I guess you have to get comfortable with the fact that you’re in the spotlight and embrace it.
As for why I feel able to embrace that spotlight, I personally absolutely love being Mormon, for two reasons. First, I feel a deep, abiding connection to God. On a moment to moment basis, whatever I am dealing with in my life, I know that if I reach out to Him, He will be there. Sometimes I feel His influence in my life in different ways, but the older I get, the often more it feels as though there is a fire that has settled permanently in my chest.
Second, the LDS Church teaches me to care as deeply as I can about every single person I meet, neighbor, colleague, Church member, commentator, family member, friend. It also provides me with opportunities to serve these people that I would not otherwise have, temporarily and spiritually. I am not doing all that I can, by any means, but I am trying to love every soul I come in contact with. This can be deeply exhilarating experience, and it’s probably the reason why I feel the presence of God so closely in my life. I’m not sure what I would have been without the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but I don’t think I would have been nearly as good of a person.
Producer’s note: Someone on Quora asked: What is it like to be Mormon? Here is one of the best answers that’s been pulled from the thread.