How White U.S. Mormons Talk about the Rest of the World

US flag waving

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.


Nicole is an adult convert, a mixed-race woman, and a professional diplomat. She blogs at and writes microfiction @nsbitani on Twitter. The content of this post does not represent the views of the U.S. Department of State or any other U.S. Government agency, department, or entity. The thoughts and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and in no way should be associated with the U.S. Government.

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8 Responses

  1. Miriam says:

    Nailed it!

  2. Katie Ludlow Rich says:

    Amazing. Dying at the names of the fish. The grass cutting ritual. The deep knowledge of “circling back.”

  3. Bailey says:

    Truth! I laughed out loud at the grass cutting ritual. I live in a neighborhood where my next-door neighbor takes this very seriously, including passing this skill on to the next generation (only to the sons, of course. Mom and daughter stay safely indoors).

    • Lizzie says:

      I unfortunately/ fortunately grew up the oldest of five girls. And my interpretation of feminism as an adolescent included taking on typically male tasks. Which means that, much to the delight of my parents, I insisted on learning the lawn mowing ritual “so that I never have to depend on a man to do it for me.” My younger sisters never learned the ritual after observing that I was then required to forego sleep on Saturday morning throughout the summer to mow our lawn, which had a steep hill on one side. Fun ritual. Ironically, I am now raising my family in a townhome with no lawn.

  4. Adam F. says:

    FWIW, in my part of the world I mow the grass in an effort to keep a particular type of biting insect at bay. If it wasn’t done, every foray outside would result in dozens of VERY uncomfortable welts that last for weeks and itch like the dickens. Wish there was a better way that I could trust, but have not found it yet.

    Recognizing, of course, the satirical nature of the post to criticize those who serve missions “abroad” …

    • nicolesbitani says:

      Ooh, I hope it doesn’t come across as a criticism of those who serve missions abroad! I have a career involving international public service on behalf of the United States and am deeply impressed by many missionaries I’ve met around the world. Through my post, I intended only to poke fun at some of those who serve abroad and maintain a very stereotypical exotifying/othering perspective on wherever they served.

      • Adam F. says:

        I think I understood the target of the satire, so no worries there. We’ve all heard those attitudes. And having lived several years in a ward in Virginia that housed many Foreign Service Officers for language training, I almost took the exam myself – but decided that lifestyle would not be best for the particular needs of one of my kids.

  5. nicolesbitani says:

    Thank you to all the commenters who laughed at my cheesy jokes… This may not be my last satire for the blog. 😁

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