Please forgive me for the long post.....
I've posted peridoically here and some of you know my background. I was raised mormon in California, left the church in my early teens, went catholic, rastafarian and then atheist and eventually met a girl from Utah (non-LDS) a couple years ago and eventually moved to SLC and got married.
Needless to say, it has been quite an adjustment culturally, socially and politically for a liberal atheist left wing radical like myself (for god's sake, I minored in college in classical marxism!). It has been hard to make friends here, and even harder to simply deal with some of the things I see and hear around me. I have never considered myself a bigot in any sense, have always detested racist/bigoted ideas and have actively oppossed such ideas openly. In my dealings with mormons in SLC through work, daily life, the media etc, however, there has been anger, frustration, and confusion on my part, often leading me to wondering what hidden bigotries I may harbor against members of the church. I am starting to realise though that each of those emotions may be part of a wider awakening on my part, a step to a new enlightenment for lack of a better term, that hopefully will make me a better person.
A friend of mine locally is having serious marital problems amongst other issues, and as we had a rather indepth conversation yesterday, we started discussing people and what makes someone respectable and honorable. He, like I, is a non-mormon living in Utah who is also running headfirst into some of the same opposition we encounter on a daily basis. On my drive home from work tonight, I was thinking about the people here whom I respect the most -the ones I would trust and would ask their opinons on serious issues (I just made a major career change). I then realised that of the 5 whom I could name, three are co-workers and friends, each of whom is a returned missionary and devoutly LDS. The other two are the friend I mentioned previously and my father-in-law.
I think that what I am trying to say is this: The mormons are reflective of larger society. There are good, there are bad and there are the indifferent. Those who are good people, honorable, decent, caring, honest and trustworthy beyond question. There are also those who are corrupt, condescending, immoral and hypocritical. When confronted, I have always had the excuse that I, "do not hate mormons, I disagree with the church." For the first time in my life, I am no longer simply saying it, but honestly can say that I believe it. It has taken a long time to let go of the anger, even longer to realise that I had erroneoulsy manifested it towards a contempt for individual memebers of the church. I was nice to the missionaries who came by the other day. I never thought I was capable of such a thing -i'd had daydreams of sicking the dog on them, or maybe the garden hose, or perhaps attacking their beliefs to the point of making them cry. Now though, I can look back and say that believe or not, they are probably just good kids trying to do what they honestly believe is a good thing for other people. No harm done, agree to disagree, shake their hands like a man showing honor and respect and wish them a good day.
It's been a long road, and I am sure that I will probably shake in anger the next time I hear a not-so-subtle Mitt Romney endoresement (the guy ranks 2nd in free publicity here only to god). But I now realise that it is because I disagree with his politics that I would never vote for him, not his personal religious beliefs. Hopefully I have overcome such simplisitic obstacles as petty religous bigotry. I can only wish and desire that others may find the same comfort.