Love One Another
After moving to Utah, I made my living as a photographer. During that time, I was given a glimpse into the lives of many different types of people. Many of which, were Mormons. I’m going to post a story every now and then about my experiences.
Living in Zion is what pushed me over the edge and eventually led me to resign my membership.
Love One Another…
It was nearing Halloween and on this particular morning, I had two photo shoots scheduled; one right after the other. When I arrived at the studio both parties were there, both very early. I excused myself, ran into my studio and began to set up my equipment.
When I came back into the lobby, I called the first family back for their sitting. It was a family of around 12 members; not uncommon in Utah.
When the group stood up, I could see they were all blond, blue eyed, wearing jeans and denim shirts. Each of the children were perfect clones of their Mormon parents. I pointed them towards my studio. As they walked in, I greeted each of them as they passed me. Out of the corner of my eye I saw him.
He had long black hair, black fingernails and was sporting a long, back robe and jeans. The silver cross around his neck glittered. I smiled at him and asked, “Can I help you with something?” I assumed he was with the other party; they were waiting to have Halloween portraits taken. The Mormon mother’s face flushed and she quietly said, “He’s with us.”
Someone, presumably his brother, made a snide remark about him not looking like the rest of the family; they understood why I thought he “doesn’t belong”. They all laughed, but not him. He hung his head and his long black hair fell across his blue eyes. He said nothing, but followed them into the studio.
My heart went out to this young man. I was an inactive member at this time and I knew how cruel families, especially Mormon families, could be. It was apparent that his differences were not tolerated or accepted by anyone in his family.
As I arranged the family for their portraits he stood off to the side. The other members of the family joked and talked amongst themselves, but it was clear that this young man was an outcast. Whether this was by choice or not, was unclear; what was very clear to me was the pain this man was in. When I placed him beside his mother for the portrait, she sort of turned her nose up and whispered, “You smell like cigarette smoke, it’s a disgusting habit.” He didn’t say anything, he just scooted a little farther away from her. A few of his siblings nodded in agreement and snorted with laughter at Mormon mother’s comment. The room was quiet and I felt the tension growing. In order to lighten the mood, I assured the uptight Mormon mother that it was fine that he smoked, as they would not be able to smell anyone in the final portrait. They laughed and the young man gave me a small appreciative smile.
As a joke and just being that I’m a cheesy photographer, I had everyone smile and yell, “We love each other!”
That’s when I snapped the picture.
cross-posted from my blog, The Sacred Sister
I have to admit that I would have made fun of him too. Thanks for posting this, Sacred Sister.
In my TBM days I don’t think I would have made fun of him, but I would have been afraid of him for being different.
Losing the LDS mentality, also released me of many fears.
I might have stared a little – I think it’s natural to stare at something that stands out. But then, that kid and I probably would have been friends when I was younger, so I wouldn’t have judged him. I wish his family wouldn’t have been so obvious in their rejection and mocking of him. One of the things I liked most about Little Miss Sunshine was the way the family totally just let their slightly different kids just be who they were.
Had Jesus come to stand in the picture, I imagine he’d have stood nearest the young man in the black robe to help him feel genuinely loved. What do black fingernails and clothing, or even smoking have to do with the worth of a human being, especially a family member?
CWC — Same here: When I was younger, either I would have been friends with him or I would have assumed he was too cool to be friends with me. 😉
I think this sort of problem isn’t so much a Mormon thing as it is a consequence of having really big families. Parents may have enough love for all of their children, but they have only a finite amount of time and energy. It’s really, really hard to give all of the kids enough positive, individual attention if you have more than you can handle.
Some people have the particular talents to raise a big family well, but not everyone. In that sense this problem is a bit of a Mormon thing because the LDS church encourages everyone to have a big family, not just those people who have the talents to do it right.
That’s interesting, Chanson. Looking at my greatgrandparents and their families, they all had help with the children. The wealthy people would hire governesses and maids. The poor folk had a childless aunt move in.
Dathon, you hit it on the head. I can sympathize with the parents though. It’s not that easy to remain detached when our family members act out.