Thursday, February 20, 2014

on living in utah //

tonight between olympic ceremonies and my emotional break from flappy bird i found myself scrolling endlessly on the homepage of facebook. i don't really do this often, but lately there's been contention on mormons and the movie Frozen. i have seen status's and have friends on both sides of the issues. some saying "i will never let my children watch Frozen again and will never buy any paraphernalia associated" and others "this is why i hate Utah and all the judgmental, unwelcoming crazy people." i'm all for preaching how you feel (i mean, if i didn't this blog would be a mantle for hypocrisy) but as naive as it sounds, i wish more people would think before they speak. 

i have been born and raised in Utah and i've grown up with a very open mentality. i remember in junior high i had this computer class with the creepiest teacher ever haha he was way sketch but it was one of my favorite periods. i had a polynesian kid and a mexican kid sitting on both sides of me. by the end of the first week of school, these hommies became my closest friends! i look back on that time and remember laughing my head off and all the inside jokes we had and oh man, just everything was so great. it didn't matter that i was this skinny white mormon blonde girl. we would call each other everyday. after a while, things got more serious. i remember the times when i would cry while the foster parents yelled at my friend, or when the other would tell me that his brother was forcing him to sell drugs. but most of all, i remember the day when my friend didn't show up for school ever again, without saying a word and without knowing what had happened to him.

several adults expressed their concern to my parents and me about the "company" i had chosen. 
after the school year ended, both had gone. i was alone. i went back to my other friends but to be honest it had been a real long time since i had a friendship like the one i had with those kids. 

after that, i started to resent those people who had "expressed concerns" about my friendships. i also resented those who were judgmental and made accusations based on appearances. i started to resent the people who made fun of those who were different. 

in turn, i became the girl who hated Utah, who would accuse all Mormons of being judgemental, conservative and close minded. i became the girl who swore often, who made fun of shade-shirts, who wore a bikini at BYU apartment hot-tubs (especially the ones with the modesty warning). i just didn't care. i liked being different. i liked being accepting and open-minded and easy to talk to. for some reason i felt like it was my job to advocate those who weren't the typical Utah mormon. 

but then something changed. 

i found out that someone extremely close to me, who was very young, had a pornography addiction. they were fighting so hard to avoid it but the temptation was everywhere for them. the worst was being at a pool, when girls would wear bikinis. it would make it so much harder for that person to focus on the progress he made. that same week, i found out that the apartment i was living in during my junior year of college had an anonymous internet analysis. the findings showed that in just one floor of the mens section, over 50,000 hits of pornography had been made in a single week. this apartment was in the center of Provo with over 80% of residents attending BYU. 

after finding all this out, i threw away all of my two-pieces. every single one. i just couldn't justify wearing one when i knew that the struggle of pornography was real, and closer than i thought it ever would be. i didn't want to be the reason why some boy would be tempted to fall back into that darkness. and because i didn't know the certain people who were struggling, i wouldn't risk it at all. that person could be someones future husband, a best friend, a father, or baby brother. either way i spun it , it just wasn't worth it.

since then, i slowly changed my mentality. i was still open, of course. i didn't resent my friends who wore two-pieces! it was my personal choice. they have theirs. i still love them. 

when vaughan and i were first married, and attended my palangi (white) ward, we would always run into people who had taught me throughout my youth. one of the days that i wasn't there, my favorite-ever-sunday-school teacher in the whole world made a comment to vaughan saying "how nice is it that rylee married a colored man!"..... i seriously died. i was SO embarrassed and so offended for vaughan. how did vaughan handle it? like a saint. he laughed, agreed and moved on. then it got me thinking, did she say that to hurt him? no. of course not. could she have re-phrased it? probably. but she most likely didn't have a second thought about it. i then found out that she had been raised in southern Georgia her whole life. her father was very racist and she grew up with terms like "colored". that's just what she knew. she is not a racist by any means, she didn't agree with her father. but because of that up-bringing, she saw the world differently. i love that woman, so much. we both do. she is very kind and funny and happy and vaughan could've chose to take it offensively and to swear off white Mormon wards. but he didn't. he chose to love her instead. 

i guess that's where my point lies. i've been on both sides of the argument. i understand where both hard-core mormons and anti-mormons are coming from. not on all issues, no. but i think both extremes are waisting energy on being right and putting down "other" people. i think it's off to say that "all Mormons in Utah are judgmental" 'cause you don't know every single Mormon in Utah. you don't know why they have such strong feelings about not wearing a two piece. but the same goes to Mormons. we shouldn't put down a LDS feminist because she is doing something we wouldn't do or something we don't agree with. 

i think, bottom line it just comes down to really loving people. loving the crazy mormon mom lady, loving the polynesian and mexican friend who made junior high SO MUCH better, loving the concerned adults who speculate, loving the gay couple who are pushing equality, loving the girl who is struggling with modesty and loving the people who are just trying to figure out what they believe in. 

you choose if people offend you.
you don't have to be either strongly-for or strongly-against something.
you really can just love. 



  1. I absolutely love this! You are such a great writer and I always love reading your thoughts!
    - xoxo

  2. Lol I was that girl too. My psychology teacher was actually talking about this the other day. Here's what he said. Everyone can have their opinion. Everyone can voice their opinion. But, are some opinions better than others? Yes. Because some opinions are educated and coherent. So, it doesn't matter what your opinion is, but make sure it is educated and backed up, so it can hold ground.
    I really liked how he said that, because with Frozen for example, you have the people saying it represents gay marriage and how they hate that, and you have the people who think it's just a Disney movie. And each opinion is fine, but the opinion that is most educated will hold more ground than "I saw this thing on Facebook". So, whatever our opinions are we need to back them up with research!
    He also said that being able to see perspective is a big deal, and I think people in utah are bad at that, because they think if they see from another perspective then they are somehow denying their opinion, but really they're not! I understand where utahns who oppose gay marriage are coming from, but I still think it should be legal here.
    But anyways, so, there's that. The majority of people have opinions, but they aren't backed up. They are just air, so I just let them float by like that. I love when someone has done research on how having gay parents is bad, or how wearing bikinis is bad. Because to me that shows that they have a well formed solid opinion. Oh my gosh, I just need to mention this. That video about the lady talking about bikinis lighting up the tool side of a man's head? Those pictures were just of the woman's body, they didn't show their head or face. But of course no one knows that because no one bothered to actually READ the study that was done, haha.
    But ya. I get where you're coming from. Usually when people offer me their opinion I ask where it comes from, and if they have research I try to understand their position. But on this frozen thing... I feel like it's a movie about a girl choosing family over boys! I thought it was a relief that she cared about her sister. I think with art forms like that you can interpret it however you want, but id rather take the happy interpretation about family being important :)

  3. thanks for sharing! this is a good reminder of just how alike everyone really is. we all want to be understood and heard. i can relate to how you use to be and how you are now cause i've gone through somewhat of the same transition. i remember judging "Utah Mormons" so harshly growing up here, then feeling soooo judged by other Mormons when I moved to Chicago just because they saw me as a "Utah Mormon." funny how even in such a unifying culture there can be so much disconnect. but i have to have faith that everyone is doing what they feel is best and we should respect that.

  4. I can totally relate to all of what you're saying here. It is sad that we cant all "agree to disagree" on some topics. I don't think any opinion deserves hateful comments. If you disagree, that's all you need to say. Some people are so hateful and its sad.

    Side note: I have two half siblings who are half black, and in our home ward (in Holladay, Utah) when my brother was maybe 13, the bishop's son (!!!!!!!!!!!) wrote the "N" word on the blackboard, intentionally aiming it at my brother (there was only 2 mixed kids in our ward.... my brother and sister). The teacher came into class and laughed and thought it was hilarious, clearly seeing how it offended my brother (and put him on the spot). That moment turned my brother away from the church- forever. And when I got married in the temple it was really hard for him to understand. I like to think of myself as an open minded Mormon, and it really hurts my heart when I see anyone (Mormon, Catholic, Baptist) being hurtful toward other people because they are different, or have a different opinion. Sorry for my tangent. haha


  5. I love your discussion on pornography and being modest. I have some men near and dear to me with pornography addictions and no one really understands how hard it is for them. People always say that wearing bikinis shouldn't affect them, that they should be able to control themselves but these addictions start at a young age when they can't control themselves and once they are addictions, it is so hard to stop.

    It makes me so sad to see people I love going through this and trying so hard. I'm glad when I can do something to help them out a little and appreciate your stance on it. I don't hate those who do wear bikini's just wish there was less temptation in that area for the ones I love.

    Thanks Rylee!

  6. Such a beautiful post! I couldn't have put it better myself!

  7. So perfect, thank you for sharing this Rylee! I can totally empathize with everything you had to say.

  8. Seriously, you're the kind of girl who makes girls like me want to be a better person. I love God. I have a testimony. But I have a tough time sticking to the kind of life He intended for me. You're a wonderful role model. That's all :-)

  9. Wait there's seriously controversy about the movie Frozen?? Wow I had no idea, I honestly can't think of one think controversial about that movie. Craziness! People are so funny. haha

    This was a great post Rylee, it was actually kind of exactly what I needed to hear right now because I've been going through a bit of a Utah rebellion myself. (More because my mom is in the "crazy one-sided Molly Mormon or die" campaign.. haha) But this post was really spot on. I love how you say that we can just love. I love that. So profound and so simple.

  10. I love what you said :) come and live in New Zealand!

  11. YES. Thank you! I live in AZ but we have much of the same down here. And I feel like facebook in general has turned into a battle of who can start the biggest argument. I love that quote, "Always love, hate will get you every time." It's so true. This is wonderful!

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  13. this is my favorite post so far <3
    i found myself nodding my head the whole time!
    you da best.


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  15. so talented. such a gift you have. you can do much good and are.


  16. Well put!

  17. I really enjoyed your blog...stumbled on it by accident! How wise and mature you are to realize that people do the best they can. Some are inhibited by vocabulary, others by exposure to life. The Savior has taught us to be examples...shining lights...teachers of the word of God. Thank you for caring so much about others by caring so much about yourself! K

  18. I totally agree. be a friend to all, and love as Christ would love. Your friendships in middle school remind me of some of my own! some of the funnest friends were the ones you wouldn't necessarily expect.

  19. Man! I am sincerely thankful you wrote this!