I grew up in what I affectionately called a “LDS Bubble”. This is a place where the majority of the population are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. From the outside, it looked like a great place to be a member. We only heard about crime on the news, every restaurant offered decaffeinated Pepsi and Coke, and our major radio stations were owned by members so most profanity is bleeped out or not played. It’s was easy to stay on the straight and narrow when there was a Deseret Book on every corner instead of a Starbucks. It seemed to be a sanctuary for LDS members. Unfortunately, what we had in Mormon Culture, we lacked in Mormon Conviction.
I heard stories from leaders who grew up as the only members in their schools. They had to get up at five in the morning for seminary. Just getting to church took quite a drive. And all of their friends participated frequently in the worldly “Fun”. I felt such admiration for their conviction. I wondered how their testimonies made it out alive! To me it sounded like they grew up in a Mormon No Man’s Land, constantly being shot at from all sides. What was it like to have friends who didn’t share your beliefs?
Don’t think for a second we didn’t have temptations within The LDS Bubble. It’s not all green Jell-O and funeral potatoes. Many people would pass judgment upon seeing a family’s favorite pew empty on Sunday. Others cheated and envied their neighbors. But what I am most ashamed of is those in my generation who could have tried harder to strengthen their testimonies. Many honorable youth listened to the taunting of those in the Great and Spacious building after tasting the sweetness of the gospel while in the Bubble. A larger majority were lost after stepping out of the Bubble. But I’m not here to list the casualties. Many of them are my friends and family. I know with everything I am that they can come back. This is just what I wish I would have known before I stepped out of I-15 corridor. Perhaps I can give a better picture of No Man’s Land for those still inside.
THE FIRST LESSON: People are good
In the LDS Bubble, we are taught to love everyone. Of course. This is taught on the top, side, and everywhere around the LDS Bubble. Not a new concept by any means. Unfortunately, those inside the sphere often don’t know what this really involves. It means looking at someone and not seeing their outside. It’s about seeing their divine potential.
While in sacrament in my home ward, I heard a mother teaching her child that tattoos are bad. This led to the child stating, “I will never marry someone with tattoos because that means they are a bad person.” Hm…not really what the Savior teaches if you ask me. Instead of correcting the child the mother confirmed the statement.
When I stepped outside the bubble I got a job in a gas station. You can imagine the shock I felt from seeing and interacting with all the characters who came in. But again and again I learned to not judge a book by its cover. When a kid is raised in No Man’s Land, they become immune to immodesty, tattoos, and other characteristics that would have those in the LDS Bubble turn up their noses. The kid sees everyone as another human being. This is a quality those in the Bubble are taught to have, but in many ways come up short.
I have learned that those that are the most rough around the edges have the biggest hearts. By receiving so much service from those people, I have learned how to serve more genuinely.
THE SECOND LESSON: Get to know people and their stories
As I get to know people while living outside of the LDS Bubble, I fall in love over and over again with their stories. Humorous, tragic, and heartwarming stories pop up every day. Strangers and strange strangers surprise me when they open up about their lives. In No Man’s Land, life is hard. It’s even harder when you don’t know of the gospel. I’m sure everyone raised in No Man’s Land as a member can agree that they are thankful they had the gospel. This leads me to the final lesson….
THE THIRD LESSON: Share the gospel whenever you can
We, as members, are different. Holy flip! We are certainly a unique group from the world’s perspective. I didn’t realize how odd we may seem until I made friends outside of the cultural Bubble. How on earth do you not function on coffee every day? How do you give 10 percent of your money to the church? How do you not have sex until you’re married? Questions like these are fun to answer because they seem so surprised by our way of life. It’s not preachy to give them answers to these questions. Your answers become preachy when you stop speaking to them as a friend and they think you’re talking to them as if you are going to save them from the blazing fires of Hell. So don’t be afraid of being preachy if you see them for who they really are, your friend, your brother or sister, a Child of God. As you see them for who they really are, you desire to make them happy. And we all know what can bring that happiness.
Those raised in No Man’s Land get to develop their testimonies by experiencing these lessons since they were little! By being the minority, they have to be strong and be committed to the gospel. In the LDS Bubble we take the comfort and ease of the gospel at our fingertips for granted. We have to hope our testimonies are strong enough when we finally get out.