How White U.S. Mormons Talk about the Rest of the World
I just love the American people. Sometimes I think of their universally pale, easily sunburned skin, questioning blue eyes, and soft blond hair, and I miss the time I spent among them. Despite the hardships and quirks of life among them, I wouldn’t trade my experiences in their strange and beautiful nation for the world.
I like to reflect fondly on my days of enjoying American cuisine. Of course, I felt like absolute garbage eating that stuff when I first arrived, but it’s true what they say: your body gets used to it. I even convinced my spouse to let us name our pets after some of my favorite U.S. delicacies. Our dog is called “Hamburger” after a traditional combination of breads, seasoned grilled meat, vegetables, and sauces – sometimes with a slice of coagulated milk protein wedged in between! I know it sounds gross, but don’t knock it ‘til you try it. We named our cat “Funnel Cake” after a regional dessert of fried dough covered in sugar and traditionally served at local cultural events known as “fairs” or “carnivals.” I tried making funnel cake myself once, but it was too hard to find the ingredients in my home country and the substitutes just didn’t taste the same. If I can convince my family to get a pair of fish, I already have plans to call them “Funeral Potatoes” and “Green Jell-O.” But, I digress… I have to cut myself off or I could reminisce about American food for hours!
The United States is a charming country. While there, I saw all kinds of exotic flora and fauna from bushy-tailed squirrels to perfectly manicured streets of “lawns.” (In traditional American suburban culture, it’s customary to destroy the native, biodiverse plant life and replace it with homogenous grass seed in the form of a “lawn.” They take special care to keep the grass short; it appears Americans have a superstition that tall grass brings ill fortune. As a result, American families perform regular ritual cullings of the grass, and I was even lucky enough to witness parents teach their children this important cultural practice. Unfortunately, these days intergenerational passage of this long-kept knowledge is fading away. More and more people now hire lawn cutting services, another sad example of modernization erasing cultural heritage.)
Once when I was in America on my temporary assignment, an apostle even visited! It was such an exciting and rare occasion that people traveled from far and wide to hear him speak. He reminded everyone attending to keep the commandments, including praying and reading the Scriptures. He quoted the prophet and counseled us to follow him. The talk was so special and clearly tailored to the American people in the room at that moment. He also pointed out that certain cultural practices of Church members in the area were not in line with Gospel principles. Although some people got defensive, others chose not to harden their hearts and thankfully abandoned ancestral knowledge passed down for countless generations to follow the Lord’s chosen prophets, seers, and revelators (who happened to be from my country). I was glad to see more members in a foreign land increase their understanding and change their behavior to be closer to what members in my homeland already do. It can’t be helped that there are some growing pains when the Church is still developing there.
I hope to take my future children to America and show them the place I explored in my youth. They say in American English that they’ll “circle back” – isn’t that beautiful? They somehow seem to understand better than we do that returning is akin to moving in the metaphorical shape of a perfect circle, to progressing on one eternal round, to becoming more whole. They could really teach us a thing or two. So to all my beloved brothers and sisters in America: I miss you, and I can’t wait to “circle back” someday.