Thursday, September 27, 2012

You (or I) may be the sample of one

The following letter appeared in my local paper’s printing of the syndicated Ask Amy column this week:

Dear Amy: My 26-year old daughter waitresses in an upscale eatery in a liberal college town. She has numerous tattoos visible on her arms and legs, which get a lot of attention. I don’t like tattoos, but she is my child, and I love her regardless.

A coworker’s mom, who is Mormon and visiting from out of state, sat in my daughter’s section and proceeded to tell her that she was disgusting. She said she could not believe my daughter was allowed to work there, told her not to spit in her food and said that she is going to hell.

I am seething. My religious beliefs teach love and acceptance to all, and I firmly believe that I should not judge others. My daughter treated the offender with kindness, but she was stunned by this spewing. What a perfect way to turn others against religion!

Was there a tactful response my daughter could have given to make the offender realize her behavior was wrong? – Sad Mom (emphasis added).


My first response was to wonder why this offending woman identified herself as LDS, and worse, why she claimed the young tattooed waitress would be going to hell?

This dear sister obviously missed all those admonitions of the Savior to love one another and not to judge one another.

I’ve spent more time thinking about this than I should, probably, but I’ve come up with some scenarios:

1. Sad Mom was aware of the visiting woman’s religion because the co-worker had mentioned it, not because the visitor had mentioned it. Sad Mom then attributed the awful behavior to the visitor’s Mormon-ness rather than to her being a crabby old lady. (This is the best case scenario.)

2. The visitor actually mentioned her Mormon-ness why chastising the young waitress about her tattoos. (Can you imagine that discussion? What do you know about the Mormons? Do you know we hate tattoos, and people who wear them? Yikes!!)

3. The young waitress embellished the story for her mother. (Can you believe what happened to me today? This woman sits in my station and goes off on my tattoos….)

The lesson that lept to mind is that whether we like it or not, we are missionaries. We are seen by others as representatives of our faith and our church. For some people, we are the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Well, of course we know there are stupid people everywhere. And the church is not immune to that condition. How sad that this LDS woman would treat a waitress the way she did and make claims she has no right in the world to make. (I have to chuckle as I think about a professor I had in college who wore long sleeves every day of the year to hide tattoos he’d gotten as young sailor. This tattooed professor was also a sealer in the temple when I knew him.)

I hope that if I’m someone’s sample of the church that I do a better job representing.

(BTW, Amy’s response was spot on: “Dear Sad: This isn’t about religion, but about rudeness….” She goes on to point out that the waitress did the right thing trying to be polite, and suggested that she could have offered to re-seat the upset woman in a different section of the restaurant.)


  1. I tend to take stories like this with a grain of salt. Do I know of anyone in my ward who would do something like that to a waitress? Honestly, no. At least I certainly hope not. But, we have crazy and rude people just like any other major religion, so who knows. I just find it odd that if someone murders someone or commits some kind of crime in my area, his/her religion is never mentioned. Unless he/she is LDS. Then, the neighbors shout it from the roof tops "He shot her --- and he's a Mormon!" And for some reason, when the story appears on the 10:00 pm news, about the only sound bite you'll hear is "And he was supposedly a Mormon.." Go figure.

  2. I appreciate your point of view, and I even thought about not posting it for that reason. But the fact is, everyone I work with knows I'm LDS; they will judge the church based on my behavior. So I think there is something for us to learn. Our neighbors know we're LDS. They'll judge our church by the way they see us live. We may wish they wouldn't, but they will.

  3. When people compliment me based on my "Mormon-ness" (Mormons are so sweet/honest/reliable/etc) I like to remind them that we are all imperfect, and there are crazy Mormons just like there are sweet/honest/reliable ones.

    Sometimes I feel bad - because I want them to have a good impression of Mormons, but honestly I grew up in a place where most of my NON member friends were more faithful Christians (both in word and deed) than my LDS friends (that is - I found that my non-member friends shared my values more often than my member friends did... unfortunately).

    But that doesn't stop me from trying to be a good ambassador for the Church.