Non-Mormon Kids Cut Out of Fitting In

Maria Facelli, 13, and her friends share a disdain for LDS culture.



These eighth-graders at Clayton Middle School in Salt Lake City roll their eyes when the choir teacher mentions "the big choir downtown." They mock girls who go on about LDS Young Women's activities. They note which kids blame their tardiness on early morning visits to the temple.

"I'm guilty of this and a lot of people are. We use that as a bonding for us," Maria says. "Even if we're not totally against it, we form this angry little shield to protect us."

How did it come to this? Bit by insensitive bit.

From a young age, some Utah children who are not Mormon are told they are different. Many take it to mean inferior when neighbor kids refuse invitations to play. Classmates and some teachers mention church activities so often that even 7-year-olds know they are outside the circle.

Occasionally, Mormon children are mean, sometimes unwittingly. Jennifer Overby, a Lutheran 8-year-old, went home from elementary school in tears after a friend said classmates hated and shunned her because she was a Christian. Her father, Eric, was so angry he wrote to LDS President Gordon B. Hinckley, who used the letter to admonish Mormon parents to teach their children respect.

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As a little girl, Maria, a Catholic, longed to join the Mormon circle. She saw it as a ticket to popularity. At school, classmates chattered about the games they played at the ward house. "They'd play hide-and-go-seek. It was so appealing."

But over time, her fascination with the LDS culture turned to irritation. Now, she and her friends poke fun.

 

If elementary and middle school is the time when Utah's religious/cultural divide becomes noticeable, high school is when it gets fixed in the minds of many non-Mormons. They feel left out as LDS students swap seminary stories. They feel targeted when missionaries show up already knowing their names. They know certain Mormon children will never date them because parents advise against it.

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Kristen Moulton
The Salt Lake Tribune
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