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Mom, are they laughing at us?

At the close of the Book of Mormon Musical performance of “Hello” on the Tony’s last night, my 9 year old looked up at me and said “Mom, are they laughing at us or being nice to us?”

Pang. Right to the heart. As with any parent, you hope that your child will never be anything but proud of who they are.  This is certainly not the only time his faith will be the butt of a joke. Furthermore, Jr. High is creeping up on us like a thief in the night, and I’m pretty sure just about everything is the butt of a joke in Jr. High.

My answer: “Well, I think that song was actually pretty funny. We can laugh at ourselves and that’s OK.”

How do you teach that to your children? To take themselves seriously enough to stand up for themselves (because there will be times for that), and to take themselves lightly enough to laugh at the unimportant. Even more complicated, how do you teach them use those two skills TOGETHER?

I’ve had my share of entertaining conversations about my faith.

Crazies!

I was stuck in a hotel during a big snow storm in New York during the 2008 election cycle. I was hanging out in the business center of the hotel and the news was on overhead. A story about Mitt Romney came on, and the lady next to me said “Look at Mitt Romney. I hate him. Could you imaging if we had a Mormon for a president? Those people are so crazy.”

Me: “Yeah, they’re everywhere you know.”

I don’t get offended. I get excited. And I got quiet and I let her dig.

Woman: “It’s some kind of conspiracy!”

Me: “You want to know the scariest thing? I am one.”

Awkward silence . . . until I started laughing.

Morons

I was in a meeting once in the Bay Area, where a gentleman in the room said: “Oh, maybe we should ask the Moron, I mean, the Mormon in the room that question”.  There’s a quick mental process that runs through your mind “Is this one worth it?”

Maybe just a little . . .

Me: “Oh, what a smart, fun joke! What are you rolling at? Like a 77 social IQ today? Let’s have a grown up conversation now.” (follow with a wink and a smile, and maybe a bird in the elevator on the way out of the meeting).

Let’s be honest, that one made me a little bit angry.

Humor

In my experience, especially with regard to my religion, the best way to deal with it is to disarm them with humor, and then educate them about your perspective and reality and move right on. I’ve also found that a lighthearted approach actually allows people to open up and ask whatever questions they might be hesitant to ask without worrying that they are going to say it wrong.

But that all doesn’t work for everyone. And I’ve got a a son who’s a little more on the sensitive side of the spectrum.

Dad Went on a Mission

“Was Dad like those singers on his mission?”

My husband from the back of the room “No buddy! I was not like that! I was awesome.”

“OK.”

I sat there quietly thinking about all of the ones who were probably just like the Book of Mormon musical singers, and thought I’d let my son find that reality out on his own one day if he chooses to go on a mission. The overzealous missionary, the companion from the middle of nowhere that you can’t stand, the ones who became your best friends, that one time when a cobra camped out in your apartment in the middle of the jungle, that little town where you and your missionary companions kept a pet monkey named “Bruds”. Those guys in your mission who ran into the guerrilla rebel army and took pictures with their grenades and machine guns. That other time when those people threw rocks and bottles at you. That Facebook message you got out of the blue from the Philippines from a man you taught 17 years ago, when you were a 19-year-old boy, letting you know how much you changed his life . . .

The good and the bad.

It’s all a mixed bag. I just hope I can teach my kids to take the best of it, and roll with the rest.

In the meantime, at least we’ve got our own Broadway soundtrack. And hey – it’s been called “God’s Favorite Musical”. That’s legit.

And yes, let’s laugh! I’m pretty sure that God does too.

More on The Mormons:

Mormons, They Are Everywhere!

Colbert and the Mormons – Yahweh!

Mormons Have Style? What a Revelation

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Comments (9)

  1. Carol 06/11/2012 at 12:47 pm

    You’re a good mom, Rachael… I have no doubt he’ll do fine in Jr. High with a mom like you there for him when he comes through the door.

  2. Jennifer Tankersley 06/11/2012 at 9:52 am

    Thank you for this post. It is a great reminder of how jokes aimed at people who are different from ourselves or with a different perspective than our own can have an effect. . .especially on children.

  3. Janet Thaeler 06/11/2012 at 9:28 am

    Laura,
    My husband isn’t Mormon. He moved to Utah in 7th grade. He had issues and his parents even more so. I remind him that I also moved to Utah in 7th grade and even though I’m Mormon I wasn’t treated well (because I didn’t grow up here). My husband got dinner invites that ended up being missionary lessons which he didn’t want. Then when he didn’t convert people weren’t friendly anymore.

    I explain that this happens in any place where you’re outside the majority. Try being Mormon in Eugene Oregon. People stopped talking to me once they asked where I was from. I get subtle harassment from Ex-Mormons who think I look like a prude (or don’t choose to sleep around).

    Hopefully you’ll live in Sugarhouse or somewhere it’s not as big of a deal. And not in Bountiful or a place where it will be.

    I wish I had Rachael’s sense of humor and her ability to think fast on her feet. I just got an anti-Mormon article in the mail from an uncle. I’m not sure what to say. Maybe, if you want to see me in this life, you’ll never send anything like that again. Just kidding.

    People are unkind and rude over all sorts of issues (not just religion). Showing kindness or responding with humor can be tough to do on the spot but I think it says something about what type of person we are.

    -Janet

    • Laura Pehrson Williams 06/11/2012 at 9:36 am

      I have lived outside Utah for 10 years and 8 of those years I was a Mormon and not once did I have a person not want to be my friend because they found out I was a Mormon. I don’t see the persecution that people talk about from people outside Mormonism. I guess I have been lucky in that way.

  4. Laura Pehrson Williams 06/11/2012 at 9:06 am

    I see where you are coming from and think your point as to how to take a joke about yourself by joking back is a great thing. I wish I was more like that. I am like your son and a bit more on the sensitive side. I guess now that I have left the Mormon church I almost see things in another way. I think everything goes both ways. I am scared to death about maybe moving back to Utah. How will my kids be treated by Mormons because they are not one? Will it be worse for them because their parents are ex-Mormons? I almost think they would be treated better if they had no ties ever to the church. I wonder if they will get dates, have friends, be allowed to peoples homes, if children will be allowed to sleep over at our house or even just play at our house. We all know that not all Mormons are against non-Mormons just as not all Non-Mormons are against Mormons, but when you get cut by the other side you get hurt and feel you can’t trust people to know the true you because they just see you as a Mormon, ex-Mormon, non-Mormon, democrat, liberal, republican, religious zealot, etc. I am fine with Mormons judging me (without even knowing everything about me and why I left and they have) but I can’t handle that judgement towards my children. Even people who know me now think my children are lost souls when they didn’t think that way when they didn’t know we had left the church. I guess being an apostate and on the outside of Mormonism now I can’t see how being a Mormon kid in Utah could be something that would bring on judgment very often. I worry for the non-Mormon kids in Utah. As my husband and I discuss going back to Utah I think the effects it will have on my children could be good and could be bad. It could teach my children to be stronger and to stand up for themselves. It could also be something that could make them weaker and feel less of a person. It all depends on if they can make friends, good friends, and if those friends have been taught to love all men equally. In our decision to move back I contacted the two friends I had in high school who were not Mormon. I felt both these friends would say growing up Non-Mormon in Utah wasn’t a problem at all. They both had lots of friends and seemed to get along great in high school. Both of these friends advised not to move back. Both of them now live outside Utah and both said they would never move back where they were born for fear of their children being treated the way they were. I think times are changing and Mormons are becoming more tolerant of others, but I can tell you horror stories too of kids being treated pretty meanly because they aren’t a Mormon. Now I am rambling, but I guess I just can’t see how being a Mormon in Utah is so hard. I do think having a sense of humor like yours is a definite asset to you. Wish that was something that could easily be taught to children.

  5. The One True Sue 06/11/2012 at 9:04 am

    This is terrific Rachael.

  6. Jules 06/11/2012 at 8:54 am

    As a Catholic, I know your pain. I need to respond with the same grace you have the next time someone makes a joke about…the many things people joke about when it comes to the Catholic faith.

  7. Erica Fehrman 06/11/2012 at 8:30 am

    I love the grace that you’re teaching your kids. And I mean the heart kind of grace, not the ballerina kind 😉 Mormon or any other belief, it seems there’s always someone ready to scoff and degrade faith. Somehow we have to weave devotion to God, extended grace and love of everybody, and a good laugh into our children’s upbringing.

    • Lindsey MacMuray 06/12/2012 at 1:39 am

      I miss you!! You have a way with words.