There. I said it. I would like to say that I'm not, but I am. This post is not an attempt to justify it, but rather, an attempt to understand this shortcoming better, and solicit thoughts from my wise and attractive readers as to how I can solve it -It is also not a discussion of cliquishness within the church - so put on your thinking caps...
Back in High School, I learned an important lesson. Depending on the school, or the timing, sometimes I was in a clique, other times I was on the outside looking in. The lesson I learned is this:
We usually don't recognize a clique from the inside.
So I looked up the word "clique" on LDS.org to see what the brethren have said about it in conference talks. Imagine my surprise to find that the word "clique" has never been used in a General Conference talk. So I widened my search, and found a wonderful discussion about "Why Mormons are so cliquish"... on... a Catholic website. And a Christian blog. And an ex/anti-Mormon blog.
Apparently there are plenty of people on the outside that easily recognize the cliquishness.
A few years ago, I was participating took part in a Relief Society class and asked the following some questions to look at our lives from the outside. (So these were directed at the sisters - brethren can insert their own similar questions.) Be warned: I am using the term "non-member".)
• The last time you went to lunch with friends, how many non-members were included?
• What is the ratio of LDS to Non-LDS kids in your car pool?
• When is the last time you double-dated with a non-member couple?
• What percentage of the telephone numbers on your phone belong to LDS people?
• When was the last time you took dinner, or a plate of cookies, to someone who was not a member of the Church?
• Who was the last person that you did service for who was not a member of your ward or family?
• When was the last time you invited a non-member to church?
• Have you ever gone camping or on vacation with members of a different religion?
• When was the last time you invited a non-member family to dinner?
...You get the point. Sure, I can ask the questions - but I can also fail the quiz. Spectacularly.
That is the problem - I recognize that I am cliquish. And remarkably so. And I shouldn't be. I also should point out that the smaller the LDS population density is where you live, the better you probably did on the quiz.
I asked my EC the other day the question I heard that prompted this: "Why are Mormons so cliquish." She instantly admitted it was true, then rattled off a list of reasons why. And they were all real reasons. I have added a few of my own. If you are not a member of the LDS church, and you wonder why we are cliquish, here's a few ideas. I am not claiming the are correct reasons, but they are real. When I speak as "we", I am speaking of my EC and me - not my readers - I'm sure you are beyond this in your lives.
1) We hang around with the people we hang around with in the natural course of church activity. There are weeks where we are involved with these same members of the church 3-4-5 days a week. Add in Monday night, and we have precious little time - or desire - to expand our social lives.
2) I really like the people in my ward. The people I worship and serve with are my friends, and I enjoy their company. We share common beliefs, goals, schedules, and attitudes towards many things. I am comfortable around them because they reenforce the things that I am about. For example: If I have an extra ticket to a game, and I can choose to take Dean from my ward, or my non-member neighbor, it is easy for me to choose: Dean. I don't have to worry about who is going to drive, and what Dean will talk about after he has had a few too many beers. It is more comfortable.
3) We are trying to raise our children with certain standards. When my son spends a Saturday playing with a neighbor who only wants to play M-rated video games, and says OMG every thirty seconds, it makes it a lot easy to send him off to play with his LDS friends. (Man, even I can't believe how snobbish I sound!)
4) Our neighbors have been warned about the Mormons. True story: FOML4 and FOML5 are natural missionaries and friendly kids. They succeeded in bringing four of their friends into our ward's Cub Scout pack. After while, they all dropped out. Later, we find out that the pastor at the church they belong to specifically counseled them to not let their kids participate in things like Scouting in the Mormon units, because they might pull you in. How much time do I want to invest in a relationship that is built on paranoia? (Deserved or not!) But the parents of these ex-Cubs are really, really nice, friendly people.
5) We are not only "cliquish", we are "clannish" as well. I want my kids to marry one of us. I desire that the FOMLs marry within the faith, and have numerous offspring - all raised in the faith. That is far beyond a "clique". I don't even want my teenagers to have girlfriends - let alone a non-member girlfriend - even if her standards are HIGHER than my son's. But this is tough, because even lots of people inside the Church don't understand this. (Read about it here.)
I told you I was cliquish, and a bit snobbish, and now I've shared with you why. But it kind of makes sense, doesn't it? Am I alone, or does anyone else fail this test with me?
The problem is that we are supposed to be in the world, befriending and serving others, and sharing our testimonies. That gets hard to do when we are so busy in our Mormon-centric lifestyles. For some of us, the majority of our lives roll on with few opportunities to make really close friends with people outside the church. Even friendships built within the church can fade as quickly as a boundary is redrawn.
In our experience, most of our non-member friends are people we meet through our kids. We've met some really great people through our kid's youth sports teams, school activities and such functions. To further that type of association, I imagine that I could join some type of a group like Rotary, but I would know that I was doing it to assuage my guilt for not being a better missionary.
Guilt? Yes there is guilt there. I was a good missionary in the field, and have been a good missionary when assigned, but my flashes of missionary-ness are less frequent than they should be. Sure, I have baptized coworkers and friends, but not lately. But I know better. My efforts do not align with my knowledge.
I know the essential nature of missionary work.
I know God wants me to do more.
I know that the church I belong to is wonderful, and would bless the lives of anyone and everyone.
Maybe I don't love people as much as I should, or it would spring more naturally. (Enos 1:11)
I shouldn't need to be assigned to "Love my Neighbor."
How do we get out, and get busy?
How do we get past our comfortable, friendly world and extend our cliques to include others?
How do we do it without it feeling like a task?
How do we increase our love for others so this desire to share flows naturally?
Please share your thoughts, and you don't need to call me a snob - 'cause I already did!