Friday, March 13, 2009

Degrees of Belief

Quite a few Michiganders have interrogated me about life in Utah when they learned we lived for 30 years in the Beehive State. None have asked directly so far, but sooner or later most get around to finding out if we are Mormons.

I tell them there were many good, and a few not so good, things about living for years as a minority in a society dominated by a single religion. One of the wonderful things was how LDS (stands for Latter-day Saints) believers support and nurture members of their families. Incidentally, LDS people refer to all others as “nonmembers” or “gentiles.” Even Jews become gentiles in Utah, which probably surprises quite a few of them.

Like “backsliding Baptists” in the South, who are known to get much closer to bourbon bottles and other sorts of sinful behavior than their pastors recommend, some Mormons don’t follow the letter of the law. “Jack Mormons” covertly or overtly guzzle alcohol on occasion and even smoke. Both practices are banned by the “Word of Wisdom," which is supposed to be observed by all true believers. The Jacks often refer contemptuously to the hardliners as “Churchy” people. Polygamists, who officially were excluded from LDS membership more than 100 years ago, are known by both groups as “Pligs.” Thousands of Pligs live in Utah and nearby.

Just for fun, I like to build suspense by letting the conversations about our Utah past go a while before making it known that we are none of the above. Back in the days when my work required a fair amount of airline travel, I often astonished fellow passengers by musing about which of my wives would be there to greet me when my flight landed at the Salt Lake airport.

Oh well, I also for years have introduced Sandy as my “first wife.” She is not always altogether happy about that.

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