I took a trip this summer to The Big Apple; I was there for eight days. I love going to New York City, in part because I love to people-watch. On the subway, on the bus, on the sidewalk, in the park – I find it entertaining to try to guess a portion of each person’s story: where they’re from, what they’re doing, what’s going on in their life, where they’ve been, and on and on. More than that, I’m floored by even the idea that Heavenly Father knows – actually knows – each person I see, and beyond. He knows them – knows us – on a level that we can’t even comprehend. That’s deep stuff for a vacation.
Something I found myself doing while watching people is looking for Mormons. When I realized I was doing it, I felt a little embarrassed, or at least curious as to why I would even do that. Knowing someone is or isn’t a Mormon doesn’t change too much about what I think about them; I’m mainly just wondering. I figure it comes from my days as a teenager, feeling like (and, let’s be honest, being) the only Mormon my age for miles. Back then I wanted to find a connection, someone who would understand me; I wanted to have a conversation where I didn’t have to define ‘ward’ or ‘youth conference,’ or even explain that we have a prophet on the earth today just like Moses or Noah (which is exactly the kind of things teenagers talk about, right?). Now, even though I live in a hub of Mormon-dom, apparently I still have the need to connect with people when it comes to religion.
It’s so superficial, but maybe the most obvious way to recognize a Mormon is from the way they dress. You know, like pioneers. Just kidding! The ones who dress like pioneers aren’t really Mormons! Short of wearing a nametag, Mormons might be identified by long shorts or what looks to be an undershirt; of course, Mormons aren’t the only ones dressing this way, but it’s a start. If a woman is wearing a tank top, I’m not going to guess that she’s a Mormon. If a man is wearing a tank top, I get kind of grossed out. This isn’t to say that Mormons can’t wear tank tops (but it is to say that men shouldn’t); but I did meet a woman once who told me, “I was raised LDS but I’m not anymore, and now I wear sleeveless things on purpose so that people will know that I don’t have anything to do with the church.” For her, what she wears is how she Sends The Message.
Another way to find a Mormon might be through hints in a conversation (so, not as easy to do in a big city filled with strangers). Earlier this year, at a non-religious conference I attended, a speaker made mention of the fact that he spends some personal time reading scripture. He held up a quad and said, “I like to take time daily to read from the Bible and consider my relationship with my Higher Power.” Using the Bible and the words Higher Power are more inclusive, so I was impressed that he said those things. After his speech, I handed him my card, which specifies that I live in Provo, and he looked at me and said, “I was just in your city! And I’ll be back in October for Homecoming.” A mormon-ish connection had been made without the phrase, “Are you LDS?” having to be uttered.
I didn’t find many Mormons in New York City. I mean, I don’t think I did. Except when I attended church. Oh, and Rulon Gardner was outside the Fox News studio wrestling with one of their anchorpeople, or something. He’s Mormon-ish, right?
Do you find yourself wondering if people around you are Mormons? Do you think this is a peculiar thing to do?