Jen Hardy contacted the Project to offer her story, and I’m glad she did because it was a very different perspective than any we’d shared before. She joined the National Guard as a senior in high school, and when all of her friends were serving missions for the LDS Church, she was on her way to Afghanistan with the U.S. military.
I appreciated that she called out this cultural problem Mormons have – we are so kind to people outside our church and faith who are different, but someone INSIDE the church who is unique? Not so much. Mormons do NOT like it when other Mormons do not fit neatly into our stereotype, to the point that the “foreigner” is treated quite poorly and openly told that they are wrong for how they live their life. It’s really pathetic.
“Something I’ve noticed within the Church culture – when we meet somebody who breaks the mold or doesn’t fit in, a lot of times, we just don’t know how to find common ground. Working with someone from another country and another culture is almost easier than meeting someone who is different within our own culture or our own society. In our mind, we have a category to put them in. If they’re from a foreign country, we can dismiss anything that might not align with our personal thoughts and feelings because it’s different, it’s foreign. But when you have somebody who is different within your own ward or social group that may challenge your thoughts and feelings, we haven’t quite figured out how to compute that.
“Finding common ground and creating understanding – I think that’s what has really helped me speak with people who are outside my own culture. I’ll be honest, I don’t think I even have a culture – I live in both the military culture and the LDS culture. My feet are in two different cultures and I bounce back and forth. Common ground and understanding are how you find a way to communicate your feelings effectively, because while different, I’m a sister just like you.“