I’m a Mormon and I don’t bite

By: Rebbie Groesbeck //

The other day I went to lunch with a woman who is writing a TV show that involves a Mormon character. She reached out to me because through some basic Googling, she had found this blog and figured I would be a good resource in figuring out how to realistically frame her character.

She asked me all sorts of questions, from basic things like, “what was it like growing up Mormon?” to hilarious things like, “can Mormons swim?”(p.s. the answer is YES)

After a while she told me that one of her friends growing up was Mormon. I asked why she hadn’t asked her friend all these questions before and she said, “Well…I guess I was scared to.”

It made me laugh, and immediately took me to a moment I have become quite familiar with. It’s the moment after someone asks me a question about being Mormon, and as I begin to answer, I start to see panic in their eyes. Partly it may just be that they are nervous about bringing up what might be a sensitive topic. But I think another part of it is a very real fear that I’m about to start preaching.

I want to provide some comfort for those who have felt that panic by first, letting you know that unless you can see a black nametag somewhere on our person we are not out to convert you during your lunch break. And second, if we do start getting a bit preachy, I want you to know WHY we do so.

Think about how you felt when you saw this:

Or this.


Or more recently, this.

It made you feel something. It made you laugh, it made you cry, and in PSYs case it made you a little weirded out. But it made you feel something so great that you wanted to share it. And that’s probably what you did.

You proclaimed through your social media of choice that this was a message everyone should see. It might have made you a little nervous to share it, because you didn’t know if people would like it or not. But you stuck your neck out and put it out there, and the rest of us benefitted from seeing, it just like you did.

That experience, the engine behind things going “viral,” is in my mind the only reason Mormons care about sharing their religion.

We have seen or felt something that has made us laugh, or made us cry, or in some way affected us so deeply that our natural reaction is to share it. While it might make us feel nervous or awkward, we do it because there isn’t really another way to explain what we’ve felt—it just has to be experienced.

Our affinity for sharing our religion is not some master plan to take over the world. It’s simply a reaction to a feeling so wonderful that its natural effect is this.

Smiling MissionariesThe SMILIEST MISSIONARIES, as seen on Mormon Missionary Mom

So now, because I am a Mormon, and I for some reason have an over-developed affinity for sharing this stuff, I’m going to tell you that General Conference is happening this weekend, and that I think you’d enjoy its message.

You can watch it here this Saturday and Sunday or we’ll post a highlight reel next week for you to check back on.

So if you see your Mormon friends sharing messages about General Conference this week, don’t feel frightened or unnerved.

All they really want is for you to feel like this. 



Add yours
  1. 3

    I’m Mormon and I bite if you ask nicely.

    I think we’re getting better at just talking about how we feel and what we do rather than “Sharing The Gospel ™.” When someone says, “Do Mormons swim?” one correct response might be “Not all of us, but I do. Why do you ask?”

    I know the incorrect response is “Why, yes we do, and if you’d like, I have two young representatives tell you why we love water so much. Because we believe in baptism for the dead as mentioned by Paul in 1st Corinthians 15:29.”

  2. 4

    Excellently put, and I have always figured that was the case. There is genuine enthusiasm behind the “preaching.” Then again, I’m from Utah so maybe I’m just use to it. Hah. 🙂

    Slight nit-pick, though.

    I don’t think this woman you talked to should be writing a TV show about being Mormon. One of the first rules of writing is to write what you know. It’s clear that she’s clueless and doesn’t have any perspective on what it’s like to be raised in the church. That would be like me, a woman raised by jack Mormons in suburban Utah, deciding to write about what it’s like to a Jewish boy growing up in New Jersey. I’ve never even been to New Jersey…nor do I know any Jewish people!

    I don’t think it will work out. No amount of research and interviews will make up for her lack of real life perspective.

  3. 6

    I will say this, despite my many foundational theological differences with LDS teachings, the Mormons I have dealt with in almost 20 years of ministry have been, with one exception, unfailingly polite. It doesn’t mean they are right, it just means they were polite about it.
    “My crowd” I believe are correct, but we aren’t particularly polite about it unfortunately.

  4. 9
    Kasey Tross

    Love this! I said something very similar in my last blog post on Mormon Mommy Writers. I mentioned the comparison one of the General Authorities once made comparing the gospel to fresh-squeezed orange juice, and how ridiculous it would be to not offer any to your friend because you weren’t sure if they liked orange juice.

  5. 10

    Insightful article. I am a convert to the church, and when I wasn’t Mormon, I remember feeling that hesitation in asking questions. I was so grateful for the members that made it clear that I could ask them anything, and then gave me straight answers. I am a firm believer that anyone who likes to be inspired or uplifted will like General Conference. I attended two sessions when I wasn’t Mormon just because there were so many insightful comments and quotable moments.

  6. 11
    Jane Doe

    It’s great that you want to share; however, the execution is incredibly self centered and an imposition to the cultures involved.

    • 12
      Bekah Jo

      Your comment could be considered incredibly self centered and an imposition to the cultures involved, too. That doesn’t stop you (or us, for that matter) from wanting to share what you (or we) believe to be true.

  7. 14
    Raymond Takashi Swenson

    Given all the junk that gets shared via Twitter, Facebook, etc. these days, what “cultural” barriers entitle you to suppress the non-coercive expression of thoughts by someone else?

    Frankly, I have the sense that atheists, for example, have very fragile belief systems, since they seem to be paranoid about the possibility that simply hearing that another person believes in God is enough to shake their atheism to the core. They feel the need to suppress ALL reference to God, lest they lose their atheist convictions.

    • 15

      That’s definitely not all atheists, most I know don’t even mention it or make a big deal about it. Agnostics tend to be less concerned about having references to god out in the open. I think that the way of thinking you are referring to has more to do with having an open secular place that anyone of any belief system can feel comfortable and welcomed in and not to favor any one religion. I know some people are more comfortable with God being ingrained into more parts of daily life, but for example those same people might feel uncomfortable about references to Wiccan spirituality. It is more about equality than trying to favor or suppress any one belief or lack of belief. Personally I think efforts to remove Christian references are pointless, there are much better ways to use time and money.

  8. 16
    Ron Litton

    I have often used what I call the “chocolate cake” scenario to explain why we want to share — If you don’t like chocolate cake, that’s okay. I won’t force it on you, but this is fantastic! It’s the best cake I’ve ever had in my life! Not only will I give you a piece to try, but I would be glad to share the recipe with you, too, so you can share it with all of your family and friends. If you don’t want a piece, I’m not offended… and hopefully you aren’t offended that I want to share some with you.

    • 17

      Exactly. I do pretty much the same thing…except for me it is cheesecake. I LOOOOOOVVEEEE cheesecake!! …and I want to share with the WHOLE world! Wait…no, I want it all to myself. ;p

      But that is the nice thing about the gospel. Sharing it doesn’t mean less for us, but MORE for everyone!

  9. 20
    Jenny Evans

    I loved this. Also, Elder Bednar must have read it before giving his General Conference talk!

    I once had a friend ask me, “So… it’s your job to like, make other people Mormons, too, right?” I love using the viral video analogy to explain why we share the gospel.

  10. 21

    I hate to rain on everybody’s “Mormons Don’t Bite” parade, but do we know whether Charlie and his brother (he of the bitten finger in the above “Charlie Bit My Finger” video clip) are Mormon? If they are, then at least SOME Mormons DO bite! (Just sayin’!)

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