Non-Mormon Kids Cut Out of Fitting In
BY: Kristen Moulton
The Salt Lake Tribune
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.
Though the divide often is less obvious to LDS young people, many feel the strain. Jessica Christensen, whose family moved from California to Utah when she was in the eighth grade, often feels caught in the middle. A 19-year-old sophomore at the University of Utah and a Mormon, she is annoyed when LDS friends talk as if everyone is a member of the faith. But she also has to listen to her non-Mormon friends bad-mouth the church and culture.
Many non-Mormon teen-agers are of two minds. They have plenty of Mormon friends and yet have these long lists of irritations. Take Cortnee Lucero, 17, a senior at Woods Cross High and a member of the Abundant Life Assembly of God Church in Bountiful. She is one of the "preppies," often mistaken for LDS since that is the standard assumption about popular kids in Utah high schools.
She is annoyed when Mormon friends express surprise that members of her church practice acts of neighborly compassion, as if that is an exclusively LDS virtue.
Caryn Larrinaga, another Woods Cross senior, has learned to skirt the topic of religion with her many LDS friends. One former friend has not spoken to her since ninth grade, when Larrinaga refused to hear a missionary lesson so the friend could earn seminary credit.
Her mother, Christine Larrinaga, says Utah probably is the only place where kids are defined by religion, not race or social class.
The youth minister for St. Olaf Catholic Church in Bountiful, Larrinaga worries about kids who cope with Utah's divide by becoming vehemently anti-Mormon or delinquent just to make clear which side they are on.
"Those are the byproducts of the wall."