SHE SENT THIS TO HER FRIENDS ON FACEBOOK, AND I APPRECIATE HER LETTING ME SHARE IT WITH YOU:
My spiritual background is a mystery to a lot of you, and sometimes I get inklings that you have questions for me but don’t dare to ask for fear that you might break our friendship or get tricked into something you didn’t want. Well, don’t worry because I actually don’t care at all if you want it. But what kind of friend would I be if I didn’t tell you it’s here, and that it matters to me?
I very, and I mean VERY rarely post anything about my religion on social media. Some people love to do it, and I think that’s great. Sometimes you’ll see little parts my spiritual beliefs peeking out of my illustrations. But my religion is sacred to me, so I protect it.
My reservations about sharing my testimony with others (who assumed they knew who I was) were quickly enhanced by my experience at art school. Usually people assume that I’m a Mormon as soon as they find out where I’m from. Prior to applying I went to a portfolio review in Denver which represented the best schools around the country. While standing in line to be reviewed by a prestigious East Coast school, the reviewer asked me where I was from, looked me up and down, opened my portfolio and said:
“Okay, I was expecting drawings of unicorns and fairies.”
My first week of school in Portland was about the same. After a critique I got into a conversation with a girl sitting next to me about something in the news. After we finished talking about it she said:
“Wow. I have to say, when I first met you this week in class, I thought you were going to be the biggest dumb ass I ever met. But you’re actually pretty sharp.”
I usually laugh at these interactions because I love to surprise people. Many people who’ve seen my work without hearing my name have said that they thought I was a male artist, and I seriously love when that happens. But as relaxed as I try to be about it, it still bothers me from time to time that because I’m a white, blonde, middle-class girl from Utah who dresses pretty traditionally and doesn’t take smoke breaks, that I am assumed by some to not have any interesting/valid opinions, goals, or talents, and that I must think I’m better than everyone else because I MUST be a Mormon. I’m absolutely not reserved about my membership in the Church because I’m ashamed of it. I’m reserved about it because there are 8 billion things about me, and if people base their entire judgment of my character or abilities on this one aspect of who I am, and what they THINK my religion and testimony is all about, then they will probably never get to see that I’m not really any different from them, and that I really actually don’t care that they don’t do or believe everything the same way I do. I can’t stand the victim role, but how is this any different than assuming because someone wears a headscarf they hate Americans and are plotting our demise any day now? That is inexcusably ignorant and sad, and it happens ALL THE TIME to people of ALL religions. Since when do we have to like, understand, or cheer-lead for everything about another person in order to coexist, work together, or even enjoy each other? Sorry, world but humans are a lot more interesting than the little boxes we like to conveniently squish them into.
Guess what? I’m a mom, a wife, an illustrator, an opinion-haver, a good friend, AND I’m a Mormon (and I’m really proud of it). I have a strong testimony of the basic nature of Christ’s life, mission, and relationship to us, why we are here, where we came from, and what is going to happen when we die.
If you fancy yourself an intelligent individual open to reading something from it’s primary source, and have REAL, honest curiosity about what the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints actually stands for, then read the Book of Mormon, and read the Bible. It’s not war propaganda and your eyes won’t have little spirals spinning in them. Don’t base your ideas on the people you’ve met, the weird discussions you’ve had, or the nasty articles you’ve found online. People look to those sources as an excuse to hate something they know nothing about. And if you don’t want to know, then please, be willing to assume the best in others, and treat them as complex individuals who make mistakes. You are capable of that because you make mistakes too.
If you want access to the scriptures, they are freely available in on lds.organd the Gospel Library app for smart phones (also in print, of course). If you ever want to ask me about my testimony or my experience with the Church, I am open to answering your questions, and you can reach out to me privately if you intend a respectful, honest conversation.
I’m grateful that I can usually laugh at people’s silly assumptions. I love ALL my friends whether they are Mormons or not. In fact, I have the deepest eternal gratitude for my non-Mormon friends for their love and support in several other areas of my life. All of my friends make me want to be my best self. I simply don’t have time for anything less. I’m grateful for the diversity I encounter on a daily basis in my field of work. I’m grateful for this kind of experience because it’s taught me how much it sucks to be labeled. I’m grateful to live in a place where we all get to choose how we live. I’m really, really grateful for all of you. Sorry for all the run-on sentences, guys. I ain’t the best writer.
THANKS ADDIE, FOR LETTING ME SHARE YOUR FROM-THE-HEART THOUGHTS.
To see her work, go to adrianavawdrey.blogspot.com