R U LDS 2?

By By Matt Homer

By Matt Homer

Have you seen these bumper stickers? You can spot them on the backside of minivans, SUVs and even an occasional baby stroller. These people all want to know: “What is YOUR religion?”

Despite the brazen tone and extreme cheesiness, these stickers provide a glimpse into human nature and Utah culture. People want to know your business. Or, to put more precisely, people want to know whether or not you are LDS.

As of 2005, Utah’s religious composition was estimated at 62 percent LDS and 38 percent non-LDS. At a more local level, 53 percent of Salt Lake County residents are LDS and 47 percent are not.

Having a dominant religion is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does create some interesting tensions.

One outcome of this situation is a game I’ll call “Mormon or Non-Mormon.” Nearly everyone plays it-regardless of religious background-and the purpose is to decipher the religion of a teacher, co-worker, neighbor, fellow student or anyone else you may run across. I don’t believe it’s a game that is played with intent of malice or hurt, but more of curiosity. Unfortunately, that benign curiosity can lead to unintended consequences, such as exclusion and even discrimination of other people.

I don’t know why we play this game. I only know that we do.

It’s easy to figure out the religion of some people. Just think of CTR rings, cross necklaces, fish bumper stickers and even the head coverings that are worn by some religions. These individuals want others to know they belong to a particular group.

Deciphering the religion of others requires a subtle game of observation and inquiry. Most people are not blatant enough to ask you directly about your religion, but will instead ask a series of (seemingly) clever questions.

Here are a few examples:

If you mention to someone that you speak a foreign language, he or she may follow up with a question like, “Where did you learn to speak that?” or “Have you spent much time outside of the country?” I have even overheard someone ask: “Have you spent two years living in a foreign country?” He probably thought his question was rather clever, but anybody familiar with this game knows that question is tantamount to asking, “Did you go on a mission?”

Another subtle tactic is to look at dietary restrictions. Someone may ask you: “Do you want to go for a cup of coffee?” Although this is an invitation, it is also a litmus test. How you respond may induce the questioner into thinking he or she has figured you out.

An additional ploy is to find out a person’s age. If a male student is older than 23 and isn’t on a set career path yet, many will assume he is either incredibly indecisive or a returned missionary.

Or what about this question: “So, what did you do after high school?” This is very clever because it’s open-ended and basically requires the respondent to divulge whether he or she went on a mission. Two years is simply too long to ignore.

There is also Mormon jargon to consider. If you hear some using words like “ward,” “calling” or “quorum,” you may be led to think that person is LDS.

Why are we so obsessed with knowing whether or not someone else is LDS? Why do we even care?

Like the Sneetches in Dr. Seuss’ book, we seem divided without taking a look. Within us, without us, we’re all the same; it’s only religion that perpetuates the game. So instead of looking and snooping and asking about, let’s remember what we’re really about.