Years and years ago, when I was in grad school, there was an important play that took the theatre world by storm. Some of the characters were members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aka Mormons. I read the play and was unimpressed. They were not real to me. That it is, they didn't talk or act like any Mormons I had ever known. It seemed clear to me that the playwright had been making choices based on limited knowledge and exposure.
I've had similar feelings during this whole interminable presidential primary season. I read pieces written by various press outlets about the church and it's members and just roll my eyes. Sometimes it's not that they are even inaccurate--although they often are--it's just that they don't get the entire picture.
I'm not talking here about the people who are openly hostile or mocking. I just ignore them. I'm talking about the sense of hearing people just not get it. Focusing in one a few strange or controversial folk-beliefs or doctrines that really have very little to do (if anything) with the day-to-day lived experience of those who belong to my faith.
Of course, I can't necessarily fault the media for being incomplete. I understand that they may be on short deadlines and it's difficult to shrink everything about a particular faith into the limitations imposed by column space or air time.
Still, I have yet to recognize myself, or the Mormons I know, in most of the coverage. I've heard very smart people telling me what I believe--and then discussing whether or not I ought to believe it--but have never really had the sense that they totally understand what they are talking about.
Because of this, I was excited to hear about a project developed by one of my friends. Sixteen bloggers and writers who are all Mormons contributed essays to an anthology. This is not a theological work necessarily--although it does touch on theology sometimes. It's a book about the day to day life lived by members of my church. It talks about love and loss and laughter and families and how Mormons see themselves and what their lived experience is like.
As I read it, I recognized these people. I recognized myself. Not because we are all homogeneous and do everything exactly alike. That's not true. But rather, because we are all dancing to the same music, so to speak. That is: our shared history and beliefs allow us to hear the same song. We each dance in our own unique ways, of course. But as I read this book, I could at least hear the music they were dancing to.
Some chapters made me laugh, some made me cry. Some made me think. I disagreed with some of what I read. But it was all real and honest, words that flowed from the depths of a lived experience I recognized. And I felt that finally, someone got it right.
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