With approximately 62% of the people living in the state of Utah identifying as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, non-LDS Utahns find themselves in the minority. For Blake Anderson, a non-member of the LDS church, fitting in with his devout LDS family was easier said than done.
“By definition, I was Mormon, but at the same time, I always found myself struggling to have faith,” said Anderson. “I wanted to believe like my family did, but once I realized that I didn’t, I have never felt more alone. They might not admit it, but I was never truly a part of my family’s life like they were with each other.”
Anderson started to question his faith while attending a Christian-based, private elementary school where he met his soon-to-be best friend, Peter.
One morning, Peter was asked to give the opening prayer before lunch.
“I remember [Peter] beginning the prayer with, ‘Dear God,’ which really caught me off guard because it’s something I’d never heard before. I was used to hearing, ‘Dear Heavenly Father,’ instead,” Anderson said. “Later, I came to find out that Peter was actually not LDS and his family believed in a different religion. However, because he lived in Utah, his mother told him to tell everybody that he was Mormon, so he wouldn’t be discriminated against.”
Anderson could empathize with Peter’s mother. He couldn’t deny the fact that his parents were a prime example of those LDS members who would discriminate.
Even at a fairly young age, Anderson began to see the judgments and perceptions the people in his life made based merely off of one’s religious affiliation.
“My parents always tip-toed around the conversation of who I was and was not allowed to associate with, depending on their religious upbringing,” said Anderson. “They would never actually come out and say it was because they weren’t Mormon, but they would say other things like, ‘Their lifestyle is against the word of wisdom.’ Which, in my opinion, is just a subtle way of saying, it is because they’re not Mormon.”
Throughout Anderson’s childhood, he continuously felt alienated from his family and friends.
After making the decision to stop attending Church every Sunday, two of Anderson’s closest friends were no longer allowed to hang out with him.
“He was one year younger than I and his parents didn’t think I was setting a good example for him because I skipped church. I was a straight-A student who’d never been in trouble in my life,” Anderson said. “I felt like the black sheep of my neighborhood, like I had leprosy or something, all because I questioned whether or not I believed in the LDS faith.”
There is no denying that religion has done a lot of good for millions of people all around the world.
However, at the end of the day, we all have to remember that the main purpose of religion is to bring people together, rather than tear them apart.