Me, Myself, as Mommy: The real urban myth is that religion must be top priority
The urban legends I heard during my time in the Latter-day Saint faith are some of my favorite souvenirs. I’m sure every religion has some form of the same stories. What I call urban legends or folklore, others may call miracles. These events always happened to someone’s best friend’s cousin’s sister’s boyfriend.
A favorite was told to me by the boy across the street growing up: A young missionary serving in a dangerous place was attacked and stabbed, but the knife bent because of the garments he was wearing. Comparing notes with others involved with the LDS faith, I learned similar tales with various weapons are being shared.
Another classic piece of Mormon folklore is a favorite scary story for my children around the campfire — Bigfoot is actually Cain forced to roam the earth forever. I was told a variation at a sleepover: The Boy Scouts were out hiking when they came across him. Bigfoot/Cain even begged to be killed so he would no longer have to live in the woods. By now, if Cain is still out there, he must be aware of the amazing things dermatologists are doing with lasers now; even Nair could help the guy out.
While my children are not being raised with any religion, they are more than aware of the tenets of the faith I was brought up to know. Every now and again, I give a rousing rendition of the 13th Article of Faith since it is my favorite, not necessarily for content but rhythm. It was the hardest one to memorize for my Gospel in Action award so it’s cemented in my head. My kids don’t say they’re impressed, but how could one not be?
Because my husband and I made the choice to be a religion-free household, our kids understand how important it is they be kind, honest and hardworking — believers will be watching, taking note. A slip-up will invariably come with the comment that it’s because of the lack of faith in our household. In reality, it’s Santa who keeps my kids honest.
The choice to be organized religion-less has led to some complications in Scouting since a cornerstone of the program is called Duty to God. Instead of earning a faith’s age-appropriate award or attending a religious service, we called it Duty to Community. The kids do a service project, they attend a city council meeting and discuss why it’s important to make community connections. We make do without religion.
The Sanders family’s beliefs are actually becoming more common practice in other households around the nation, even the world. When folks shake their heads blaming the lack of faith for the world’s ills, they often blame the faith crisis. I would of course contend the world’s ills are caused by folks pushing their beliefs on everyone else instead of embracing differences.
While it may not be the case in Utah, the rest of the country is seeing empty pews. Some churches are even closing due to poor attendance post-COVID. It’s as if people started enjoying a full Sunday outdoors with family or in their underpants in front of the boob tube alone. The Public Religion Research Institute is a group that studies the way religion fits into our society from a facet of standpoints like law, education and politics. Recently, they found the number of homes that list religion as their most important value has dropped by 16%. It doesn’t mean that homes are losing faith, but instead choosing to disaffiliate with religious institutions.
That being said, it’s not as if churches are sitting empty. Still 36% of those surveyed say religion is one of the most important things in their life. My family falls in the 29% category that says religion isn’t important to them.
While faith and religion aren’t a top priority in our home, relationships are. We value people, so in turn we try to respect their beliefs. This wasn’t always the case for me. I had a deep slash-and-burn attitude when it came to the religion of my youth but I fully recognize this doesn’t do my children any favors. I need them to be loved and accepted by those we are surrounded by, so it’s just easier to be respectful — within reason. To those who espouse anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, we won’t tolerate their intolerance.
Being in the religious minority in Utah teaches my kids the acceptance of others needed to live elsewhere in the world. Daily tolerance of differing opinions is a life skill many need to harness if they want to see what the world has to offer. Most of my friends are LDS faithful. Many co-workers I adore and, of course, family subscribe to the faith, and I respect it. I enjoy hearing their stories from Relief Society or from the recent community service activity. It reminds me of the mostly joyous times I spent in the Clinton 6th Ward. The history of this state is perched upon the sacrifice and bravery of the Mormon pioneers, my ancestors, who crossed the plains, died in Martin’s Cove and settled the state. That being said, our Pioneer Day is certainly mixed with Pie and Beer Day.
When I ask my kids if it was important for them to learn about the LDS faith because so many of their friends were members, my middle son, Benson, said something I thought was both astute and heartwarming. He told me, “My friends, the ones who like me, don’t care what I believe.” It’s nice to know that despite the rhetoric in the news or on social media, our children still reap what’s best in society. Hopefully us adults don’t taint this innocence too soon by pushing our agendas and beliefs. Instead, I will choose to believe the urban legend where religion and politics didn’t get in the way and we can all just follow our Duty to Community.
Meg Sanders worked in broadcast journalism for over a decade but has since turned her life around to stay closer to home in Ogden. Her three children keep her indentured as a taxi driver, stylist and sanitation worker. In her free time, she likes to read, write, lift weights and go to concerts with her husband of 17 years.