Mormon family camping boating

~by Rachael McKinnon

A few years ago, my husband attended a Yankees game in New York City with several coworkers. As the evening progressed and the Yankees took the lead, my husband’s vice president passed around large glasses of beer for all the firm’s employees. When it came to my husband, he very politely replied, “No thank you. I don’t drink.”

A bit taken back, the Vice President suddenly remembered that my husband had been recruited from the Marriott School program at Brigham Young University and was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often known by the term, Mormon). Even more critical at that moment, the Vice President recalled the rumors he’d heard that members of the LDS faith do not drink alcohol. The man was very gracious to my husband and offered to get him something else. Ten minutes later, an overflowing platter of pretzels were passed around to go with the beer. This time the Vice President carefully turned to my husband and delicately asked, “Are you allowed to eat pretzels?”

My husband told me later how difficult it was to keep from laughing. He knew the Vice President was sincere in his question. He wanted to help my husband feel comfortable at the game while also being respectful to his personal, religious beliefs. My husband went on to reassure his superior that he was a huge fan of pretzels and would happily eat a few.

This experience was not the first of its kind for either me or my husband. But it perfectly illustrated several misconceptions about Latter-day Saints. While Mormons rightfully carry a reputation for abstaining from alcohol, coffee, tobacco, foul language, dishonest conduct, and immoral behavior, it also tends to spill over into other categories of activity and daily living where people assume every facet of our behavior is strictly controlled. The reality is quite the opposite.

It is interesting to note that as members of the LDS faith, we are almost commanded to “have fun” with our families. In A Proclamation To The World regarding the family, LDS leaders counseled, “Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work and wholesome recreational activities.” (1995, emphasis added). So in actuality, members of the LDS faith would be acting in opposition to church doctrine if we did not seek out physical, joyful, bonding activities with our families and each other.

LDS church members celebrate every mainstream holiday; in fact they are extremely patriotic and devoted to their countries. We enjoy sporting events, competitions, attending concerts, ballets, operas, and plays. Members participate and volunteer on local and national levels. We write best-selling books, direct movies, serve in the military, build companies, become doctors, uphold the law and run for office. LDS members run in marathons, compete in triathlons, go camping, take vacations and attend amusement parks. In short, Latter-day Saints take part in nearly every activity/recreation opportunity available, but they do it without alcohol, tobacco and coffee. And for some reason, we tend to get a lot of attention over this – both good and bad.

Several weeks ago, my husband and I had the chance to get away with two other couples and spend the day kayaking and mountain biking in the mountains. We had planned this event for months and since all three of our families have several children, it was nice to have a break from the demands of little ones and enjoy the company of adult friends. The day was brilliant, with lots of sunshine and calm waves. We paddled hard and laughed together over stuffed turkey sandwiches, chocolate chip cookies and cold lemonades. Though we were sore from the physical demands of the day’s activities, my husband and I returned home with renewed ambition and strengthened ties between us. What a wonderful way to build our marriage, enjoy the outdoors and get some much needed exercise.

It reminds me of what the Apostle Paul has counseled, “Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and it there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8). As a member of the LDS faith, I have never seen my life as restrictive. My days are full of freedom, joy and opportunity. What a treasured, blessed life to lead.