A Letter to Mormons

Dear Mormon Neighbors,

Having lived in Gilbert for most of my life, we have been visited by many young, passionate, Mormon missionaries throughout the years. Recently they have been offering their help with anything we may need assistance with. These exchanges always include the typical pleasantries where I thank them for their generous offer, and add that, “no, we don’t need help with anything at this time.” After their last visit however, as the young men pedaled away, I realized that I do have a request. A request that has been bubbling beneath the surface, unspoken for quite some time now. A desire that began formulating in my grade school years and has been refined since having children of my own. The next time a Mormon missionary asks if there’s anything they can do for me, I’m going to humbly and vulnerably reply as follows:

  • Please teach your children to be inclusive of my non-mormon children and please guide them to carry that inclusion past grade school, into middle school, and throughout high school.
  • Please encourage your children to sit with mine in the lunchroom.
  • Please permit your kids to invite my kids to their slumber parties, birthday parties, and weekend get togethers even AFTER my child has made it clear that he or she is not interested in attending fireside, seminary, or church with your family.
  • Please allow your teen to go with mine to school dances, athletic events, and group dinners trusting that just like you, my husband and I have done the best we know how to raise a teenager who knows right from wrong.
  • Please welcome my children into your homes and permit your children to visit ours.
  • Please ask your kids to consider how isolating it must be on “Seminary (extra credit) Days” for those kids who do NOT come to school dressed for church.
  • Please reflect on the fact that adolescents spend the majority of their waking hours comparing themselves to their peers, so when they recognize that it would never be “acceptable” to date your son or daughter or be your son or daughter’s best friend, it is, at best, damaging to their delicate self-esteem.
  • Please call to mind your younger years when your primary objective was to be loved and accepted for who you were without having to pretend you were someone else.
  • Please understand that my families faith also emphasizes the importance of loving others, giving of ourselves, forgiving those who have wronged us and seeking forgiveness when we wrong others, doing what is right and turning from evil, seeking a relationship with God, spending time in prayer, and living a life inspired by Jesus.
  • Please support your children in having open, vulnerable, honest, transparent, loving, kind, accepting conversations with my children about what they believe and why. In fact, while our kids are having that “grown-up” conversation, I also hope to enter into this depth of sharing with you…the Mormon parent.
  • Please know that I hold your child in the same regard as any other child who shares my family’s faith or who prescribes to no religion at all. Your child is special, and beautiful, and worthy of my love and caring regardless of doctrine or theology.
  • Please believe that I see our differences as an opportunity for us to grow together in loving-acceptance. God did not call us to tolerate our neighbors. I love and welcome you, your family, and your faith because we are all children of God made in His image. Your faith is a sizable component of who you are, and you are God’s creation with gifts and beauty and a soul that has the ability to positively transform my life with each encounter.

As these hopes for my children spill out, I realize that these are the same yearnings I had when I was too young to express them and they remain yearnings for me now. I would like to know my Mormon neighbors. I would like for us to share our celebrations and mourn our losses together. I would like to enter into deep relationships with you that allow us to celebrate our differences and lift each other up versus silently judging one another from across the street or the backyard fence. I would like us to hug and share dinners, and text jokes, and go to movies, and have pool parties, and discuss politics, and cry and laugh, and live life together. These desires have never been expressed because I never felt important enough to express them, but now that I have children there is nothing more vital than ensuring they have a deep sense of belonging to this village we chose to raise them in.

For decades now I have felt an invisible yet palpable partition between my family and our mormon neighbors…a silent criterion that has said, “we can’t be that close…we can’t walk this life together too often, we can’t be intimate friends unless we share the same faith.” I want to tear down this barricade and abolish this silent destroyer of fellowship. I fear we are forfeiting valuable friendships and life-changing communion with one another as we allow religion to segregate our lives.

We are not that different. Our children are not that different. We are all living in a beautiful yet broken world doing the best we can with what we have. With inclusion and acceptance we can lighten each other’s burdens and love each other through the brokenness. We are all damaged humans, so let’s be damaged together. As our fractured pieces are assembled together, we will transform into a magnificent and vast tapestry of vibrant hues and unity…we can weave our hearts into a community of “us”…dynamic threads of surviving souls stretching out to reach each other, love each other, understand each other….staying true to ourselves while supporting one another. Loved and loving! Fully belonging!

Sincerely,

Renee’ (your hopeful neighbor)

P.S. I am not proposing that Mormons are the only religious group that could receive a request comparable to this one, or that this applies to every Mormon. I’m also not assuming that I wouldn’t, myself, benefit from reading the same words and applying them to my life with regards to another group or an “other,” an “outsider.” I believe every religion and every denomination could benefit from being more inclusive, but I write this letter in relation to my own experiences and memories and the concerns I have for my children. My Jewish/Agnostic husband could write an identical letter, based on his history, and just change the greeting to Dear Christians or Dear Italian Catholics. We can all admit that it feels good to belong to a group, but too often it’s at the expense of living a life void of those who are different from us, and I believe this is a tragedy. It is exhausting to correctly locate and consistently remain in the good graces of the right “club” these days. Race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, gender, political affiliation, socio-economic status, neighborhood, state, coast, country, profession, and the list of ways we etch the invisible line goes on and on. I find that when I try too hard to belong to a particular group I lose sight of God’s vision for my life, which starts with loving “others” the way He loves me. We are created for community, and I believe our lives will always be richer if we truly follow God’s commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. I pray that God will give us the courage to knock down walls, the strength to build bridges, and the grace to love with out qualifiers. I pray that my children will grow up loved and loving! Fully belonging!

529 thoughts on “A Letter to Mormons

  1. As a Mormon, reading this makes me feel very sad that others of my faith treat people like this. Growing up in New Jersey, I was the only Mormon in my school my entire life. And I’ve gotten excluded so many times and been discriminated against because of certain things I do and don’t do. All the while I still always tried to fit in as any other kid does. It was so hard for me to not be accepted just because of a few differences between me and the people I tried so hard to be friends with. Why they thought we couldn’t be friends because I didn’t go out and party every weekend made no sense to me. I could see the potential for great friendships but instead I was ignored. Your words resonate so much with my own experiences. And to think that people of my faith, people just like me, could do the same things that have hurt me so much is quite appalling. We’re taught to love one another and accept each other’s differences. Not force our religion on others or exclude them just because they don’t accept our religion. Everyone is a child of god and we should all embrace each other as brothers and sisters. I’m sincerely sorry that you and your kids have felt so excluded for being just a little different than everyone else. They should’ve accepted you and tried to be friends with you. As I wish the people I grew up with could’ve done with me. I guess people who don’t understand the differences of others find it’s easier to just ignore than try to understand and accept. I’m glad you shared your message. To try and help people understand how hurtful exclusion can be. And to help open the minds of the people of my faith that there’s a lot more to the world than just our church community. Thank you ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am French, living in France and I am LDS. I served my mission in Az and actually I did serve not too far from you.
    I was just shocked to see how mormons behaved there. Then when I came back I realized that even if in France we are a minority we are longing to be able to be like the other mormons in Utah (for example). This is where I got really horrified by what we are going after.
    Thank you so much for this post. I will keep this as a treasure to remind me what is important :
    Someday we will all be together. Muslims, christians, atheists and so on….and in the end what will mater will be if we have learned to live together and love each other. I wish I could hug you, I wish I could be your friend, right now. I am too far but please know that your post means a lot to me. I hope I can hug you on the other side.

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  3. Hi, I have just moved to Gilbert a month ago. We have mostly been on the other side of the fence, where my kids were know as ‘the mormons’. I believe however they made the best of it all. Our best friends have always been non Mormon friends. And now I so thank you for this eye opening expression of yours, so we can be alert , and not fall into the mistake that it is so easy to make Mormon friends here, that they will be comfortable with the many church friends, and stop looking for more opportunities to make more friends outside church circle. My oldest daughter best friend in UK (our most recent home) was Christian of another denomination, and my youngest best friend was Jewish. In our goodbyes, their parents came to us crying, even before their children, and thanking them for the wonderful friendship they shared. This is absolutely priceless. I wish I could meet you, and we could become friends, since I just moved here, and am really in need of some friendship 😊😊

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    • Cris thank you so much for reaching out!! If you would like, friend me in FaceBook (renee little tumolo) and let’s make a lunch date!! I would love to meet you and get to know you better!

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    • Sadly I recall the bullying inflicted on me by the Mormon boys. I was an only child and their families were large. I couldn’t walk past their homes without abuse. Not a good memory.

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  4. Also, please tell all the cheerleaders, football players, band members, rich kids, and all the other children in other various cliques (including race cliques) to be inclusive. This problem is not to religion. It is normal to be drawn to those that have similarities. It takes a valient effort to get out of one’s comfort zone to befriend those not in the clique and take that chance that those “friends” will start excluding you. Children are taught to stick with “their kind”, date and marry “their kind”. This is not about religion. We all need to be more kind and loving to those who we may not feel are “like us”.

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  5. This issue is a good reminder for everyone. It is sad that this author does not see the bigger picture…all people tend to feel more comfortable with “their kind”. Not many children have the self-confedence it requires to waiver from what their particular clique is doing. Various cliques are at every school, church, and community. And, unless someone is very egotistical, we all will feel isolated or regected at some point in our lives. We cannot control how others treat us, we can only control how we react to it…this is an equally important lesson that needs to be taught to children, as well as inclusivness. Jesus was a great example of both.

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    • Hi Sarah! Thank you for sharing your thoughts! I believe I do see the bigger picture. I agree with you that people tend to stick with their own cliques and to take that a step further some parents/adults encourage their kids to intentionally exclude people who are different, which is why I wrote this letter. I believe we can all do better at showing God’s love and being more inclusive. This is my prayer 🙏 God bless!

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  6. Just saw a link to this on FB. Thank you!!! Love your message. Love your honesty. Love your graciousness while expressing your honesty. I am LDS, but grew up in Wisconsin and was one of the only Mormons in my high school. I’ve seen both sides. At the end of the day, I appreciate anyone who lives there values and also chooses to respect mine. This is the way I live my life and have encouraged my children to live theirs. I think open communication and respect are so tremendously important. I love that you have used your voice (and blog) in such a positive way. Thank you, your Gilbert Mormon neighbor.

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    • Thank you for your kindness and understanding Tara! And thank you for taking the time to read my post and send me your sweet message! God bless!

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  7. I totally agree with you. But (unfortunately) I have to point out the underlying reason WHY some of these religions put up a wall between themselves and outsiders, and I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do to eradicate it.

    (I’m not Mormon, btw, but I was raised in a similar religion.)

    It all has to do with the Old Testament, and how God’s Chosen People were supposed to remain clean and separate from the “Pagan” people of the lands they occupied. The scriptures are filled with examples of people who mingled with outsiders, and how their faith was then “tainted” or some such thing.

    Now, while I personally have rejected the concept, or at least I believe that Christ came to wipe the slate clean and equalize all people, these religions still believe in a Chosen Group, and they believe that they are both protecting their tender young ones from confusing and corrupting influences, as well as Looking Good to their community and their God. (That’s my cynical outside view.)

    So when the “pagans” ask to get closer, it’s only evidence that Satan is trying to infiltrate and lead people of faith astray.

    Sad. Christ came to teach love, yet people still cling to Pharasaic teachings.

    This isn’t meant to offend anyone who doesn’t feel this way, it is meant to explain why some people do.

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    • I think you are correct in that some people may feel that way, be they Mormon (LDS) or some other group, but I don’t believe that most people are that way. I am LDS, living in NY, where I am among the minority, so my view is likely very different from those living in an area like UT or AZ. Here, most Mormons are more likely to spend time together due to sharing common interests and do not intentionally exclude others, even then, most of the Mormons I know have a pretty varied group of friends. Most would never feel the need to purposefully exclude others to keep them from infiltrating their group. Most are confident in how they are raising their families so that they do not need to hide them away from others who are different. I am sorry that there are Mormons, and others, that do treat people this way. Like you, I believe Christ taught us to love everyone, not just those who are like us.

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  8. I think one thing that also affects this situation (mostly addressing the youth-age topic) is that in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints one of THE most important things we are taught is eternal marriage. We believe marriage sealed for eternity, and not ‘until death do us part’, can only happen in an LDS temple. I remember being taught to “date who I would marry” and that the leap of reasoning was that who I associate with will be who I date. I think that in the corner of many LDS youth’s minds is the concept of what if: what if I fall in love with someone who is not willing to consider being part of my faith? what if the person I fall in love with affects what I view as my eternal potential? That being said, there is no reason to not be friends and associate with those of all faiths or non faiths, being friendly and respectful is a human issue, not a religious one. I myself grew up in a suburb of Salt Lake City, and, when in high school, I asked a not-LDS boy to a dance and he told me no because he didn’t date those outside of his religion. This didn’t bother me at all! I respected him for his firm commitment to his beliefs and he still remained one of my friends.
    So we all need to keep in mind that part of being friends is also respecting that someone’s religion can be a very central part of their life and that carries over into their personal relationships and that we not always take things so personally. We are all just trying to do the best we can in this life!

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    • Thank you for taking the time to share this Sara. I wasn’t aware of that belief and it really helps put things in perspective for me. These are the conversations I hope to have more of so that we can understand each other and each other’s faiths better. God bless!

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  9. Hi there Renee,
    Thank you so much for your post and amen to everything you have said.
    I am LDS, living in France and was raised Catholic.
    Your message points out everything I truly detest about Western American LDS culture. The ever dominant Pharisee mentality. The Holier than Thou attitude embedded in the desire to only befriend people with ‘high standards’.
    The definition of a Pharisee in our LDS Bible dictionary states “The name denotes separatists. They prided themselves on their strict observance of the law, and on the care with which they avoided contact with things gentile.” Need I say more??
    I mean I am LDS because of the doctrine but the culture is divisive and these US Western Mormons have such a hard time admitting it yet recognizing it.
    But Gwenaelle from France who posted previously is so right, too many French LDS feel that they must emulate everything and anything with the Western US LDS stamp and that includes culture and politics.
    Wish LDS people everywhere would look up more to the doctrine of Christ rather than Western American LDS culture.
    To the LDS haters out there yes I am active, yes I hold and seek to magnify my church calling, yes I hold a valid Temple recommend which I am delighted to use very regularly in the newly dedicated Paris Temple.
    That Pharisee mentality is the gangrene of the LDS Church. And I’m afraid many LDS folks will never look to the obvious cure. Love your Neighbor as Thyself.

    Liked by 1 person

    • #TheResistance,
      I am also active LDS (I have been my whole life) and I 100% agree with you! I spent most of my growing up years as a military brat. I attended 14 schools from K-12, all outside of Utah. Most of my friends were not LDS, including my oldest two friendships.
      I’ve spent 6 years of my adult life in Utah, and it’s one of my least favorite places I’ve lived! A huge reason for that is the culture of the LDS church. It’s extremely hard to make friends and “break in” to the friendship scene in an area where people are so close knit that they can’t allow anyone new into the group. I never thought of it as a Pharasee thing, but you’re right!
      And to Renee, thank you for your heartfelt letter. I sincerely hope it will open some eyes to the issue and that we can all live a little more by the Golden Rule.

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  10. I love and appreciate this post I think more than I could verbally explain. I was born into and baptised a Mormon, but I never really practiced. I was considered a “jack mormon”. I connect with so much of what you’re writing and am saddened that it has to be explained and spelled out for some. I’ve never been able to express it quite like you did and I feel that a LOT treat you as unworthy of anything if you do not practice what they do. I’ve been shut out by them in the Gilbert community when I reached out for help, but they have no problem bothering me through texts and calls like we’ve been friends for years when they want me to come join their church. It is a terrible mentality and affects my opinion on Mormons and I categorize them all together, which is unfair. I would LOVE to repost this in blog, if that is ok with you. You spoke the words I couldn’t find.

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  11. This is an answer to my prayers! Truly inspired! A discussion with some of my youth leaders on friendships left my mind uneasy and full of questions. This post has helped me better understand the phrase “love your neighbor” and the importance of seeing those of a different faith (or of no faith) not as part of a separate category but, rather, unified as children of God. Thank you!

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  12. We live in a beautiful world, one of God’s greatest creations. He made it for ALL of his children. We come from different cultures, beliefs, ideas, races, so forth. That isn’t an accident. Thanks for sharing. I’ve lived most of my life in areas where I was in the minority as an LDS. My children spent most of their lives in the minority, and had friends of other faiths. We recently moved to Evanston, WY and I know my children continue to have friends of other faiths. We actually struggle somewhat being in a predominantly LDS community. Some attitudes are not religious, but cultural and perpetuated by well meaning but ill-informed parents. Like SaraC said, many of us do embrace the desire to have an eternal family and strive to live the principles that allow that possibility. Missionaries, of which I was once, teach those principles because we believe God wants this for all of his Children. But in the here and now, He wants us to love, embrace, serve, and treat EVERYONE as Jesus taught. God Bless you and best wishes raising your precious ones!

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  13. I love this, and as a Mormon who had lived her entire life in Texas, in the Bible Belt, I could have written it myself to reach out to my Baptist & other evangelical neighbors who think Mormons have horns! LOL.

    Seriously though, I & others have experienced the same thing outside of the Mormon bubble of the West, and it makes me so angry to know that any of my faith have the audacity to treat others in such a manner.

    A majority of my friends have always been non-LDS; ditto for my daughter whose best friend is Buddhist. I would love to be your neighbor, to enjoy our similarities, to cerebrate with you, to discuss our differences with mutual love and respect. What a wonderful thing that would be!

    Love to you,

    D

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  14. You are amazing. As an lds mother I have struggled with the culture of our church. There is such a social emphasis that faith and purpose is almost lost. I recently moved from a larger mormon population to the middle of phoenix where there is a very small youth group. I want my children branching out to meet diverse kinds of people. I dont want their church attendance to be why they have a social life. I want them to see the church as a place to renew faith and their social life to be from community. As mormons we love all kinds of people but when we get in large clusters where we feel comfortable we dont try as hard to reach out. Its easy to fit in. Its not so easy to put yourself out there. The road I have laid for my children wont be as easy as living in a mormon cluster but I hope Im instilling the correct prioritiesand principles. Xoxo.

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  15. One thing that bears mentioning is proximity and time spent together in an LDS congregation. Because of our callings (church assignments) and seeing people every Sunday as well as possibly multiple times in a week, including school (seminary for example), it’s easy to glom on to those people in our religious community.. especially if there’s a high LDS population making our wards (defined by geographical area, not choice) pretty compact. Those are our people: we love and serve and take care of each other. That’s the basic definition of why wards are created. (Side note.. non members living in that same area as well are also included in that stewardship. Being a good neighbor is often emphasized in church meetings and service opportunities towards people in our communities is also… which for many seems to come across as a proselyting attempt. We may put it out there.. because if we are happy with our beliefs, we want others to feel the same if they would be interested. Hopefully, we’ll still be friends if you decline. We’re just sharing who we are, and hope you will do the same, because a huge part of what we believe also involves you having the ability to believe what you do and share that with us as well. People on the outside may feel excluded to a certain extent, but if you consider the convenience of seeing those same people over and over again and not having to make a lot of effort, culturally it makes sense we stick together. A lot of outside time just isn’t available, and with so much time spent on church activities, extra relationships can often be somewhat more challenging to maintain. Once I move from a ward, I rarely see those people again, even though we may only be blocks away. I’ve transitioned into a new community essentially. And it just happens.. it’s not intentional. With the advent of social media, I may keep in touch, but it’s definitely not to the same extent it was when I was going to church with them. I recognize that some people are intentionally hurtful, and LDS culture can be exclusionary. I’ve seen that first hand within my own culture toward myself growing up. But when you see that piece of culture you might not understand from the outside, it may not feel so personal. I see so much value in being friends with people outside of my ward family, but unless we really connect, I probably won’t make an effort to nurture friendships with them, simply because my plate is already really full of a lot of other people that really do feel like family. I have some outside of my ward: at work for instance, but honestly.. it’s rare I’m going to reach out. I’m also single though.. so my perspective is a little different. I hope that helps shed some light. I’m not excusing anyone’s behavior or trying to devalue your experiences in any way. They are totally valid. Just adding to the puzzle. Thanks for sharing your experience as well and giving us the opportunity to see what we may be doing unintentionally to those around us. We can be better. ❤️

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  16. Thank you for sharing! I am Mormon and a teenager, I just moved here 2 years ago and have noticed how different the teens act here. It makes me so sad, coming from a state where anyone no matter religion or anything was included. I still struggle fitting in with the Mormon kids even tho I am one of them! I hope teens see this and be less exclusive!

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  17. Thank you Renee for your very insightful thoughts and certainly that we, as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and others, should take to heart. I grew up as LDS and in Utah when at age 42, moved my family to Georgia and the “Bible Belt”. I did witness LDS parents in Utah who would not allow their children to play with “non-members” but they were the exception – my children were never restricted and I knew few who were, but it does happen. While I don’t agree with all your points, you are correct in that Mormons are not the only ones who do this. When we moved to Georgia we experienced open hostility from Baptists including a family across the street, who, once they found out we were Mormon, would not allow their children to come to our house. This turned into cruel treatment of my 10 year old daughter by their 10 year old daughter that was so traumatic that we changed schools. More than once I considered speaking to her father and asking what kind of Christianity he practiced. That said, my daughter had many close friends who were not LDS. I have often thought that Christians (and that includes Mormons) need to stop to think what Christ would do. Are these actions those of Christ? These examples are examples of fear – we want our children to hold our values and enjoy the blessings of our beliefs and mixing with those who don’t share those exact beliefs threaten our spiritual lives. It’s a tough call to be sure- be friendly with everyone without threatening abandoning the faith. I believe that if we teach our children our beliefs and values and have open conversations with them we can address concerns they may have. Besides, we cant’ control their environment forever – we can’t keep them from encountering others with different beliefs so let them explore while you can guide them.

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  18. Just to add one more thing for members of the LDS church (aka Mormons).. a quote from our former Prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley..”We can respect other religions, and must do so. We must recognize the good that they accomplish. We must teach our children to be tolerant and FRIENDLY toward those not of our faith” (emphasis added).

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    • Thank you for sharing. I would go one step further and teach my children to love others regardless of faith. Tolerating and being friendly stops short of the love god has for his creation. I pray I can love others the way He loves us all.

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  19. Love your letter. We read and talked about it at church today and had a wonderful, enlightening conversation! I hope things get better for your family. Know that you aren’t alone in these feelings, and I’m a Mormon! We can all use the reminder to love a little more every day.

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    • Thank you so much for sharing! I’ve had such beautiful conversations with Mormon women since I wrote this. My heart has been so touched. God bless!!

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