So if you’re Mormon and have ever surfed on the net, you’ve no doubt come across Mormon sites with lively discussions about Mormonism and lots of whining about Mormon culture. Usually those discussions annoy me because of lot of the complaining is petty and mean-spirited.
Sure, the LDS church isn’t perfect (that 3-hour meeting block on Sunday is killing me), but when I think where I would be without the church, I shudder.
I believe in the doctrines of the LDS faith with my whole heart. But this isn’t the post where I discuss that. I want to talk about community and belonging.
We moved to Sweden 9 years ago. We were poor students with two small children. My husband had been a missionary there, but I was a bit lost. I couldn’t speak more than three words of Swedish. My travels were limited to the Intermountain West and one jaunt to Cancun, Mexico. But I have an adventurous mindset and was prepared to jump in with enthusiasm.
When we arrived in Sweden we were greeted by people from our ward. Groceries filled our refrigerator and the offers to help were geniune and frequent. In time, our lovely Swedish friends-fellow ward members-became like family. Leaving Sweden 5 1/2 years later was like leaving my own family. I still feel intense homesickness even though we’ve lived in the U.S. for 3 1/2 years.
We experienced a similar outpouring of friendship when we lived in Israel for a short time. We made friends and enjoyed outings together. The kindness of the branch members in Tel Aviv eased the foreigness of Israel. It took the sting of isolation away and allowed us to truly enjoy our stay.
I’ve since learned that my experience was unique. Ex-pat women talk of loneliness and isolation, especially if they can’t find a community where they are accepted and welcomed. I had my community from the beginning.
Moving to New York felt like moving to another country. But once again, the unfailing generosity and kindness of ward members made us feel welcome and part of a community. Leaving our friends, even for a short period, is going to be hard.
But I have the promise of new friendships and the community of new ward members to look forward to. Already I’ve been contacted by members in Saudi Arabia, offering advice and extending friendship. There are a number of things I wonder and worry about moving to Saudi Arabia, but making friends is not even on the list.
Say what you like about the LDS church, but the community that can be found within the church is wonderful. It has made the difference for us in our moves and travels.