The first word I’d use to describe Salt Lake City is “divided.” Though 55% of Salt Lake County is Mormon (with much higher percentages in more suburban Utah), much of the rest of the city is unaffiliated with any religion. In actuality, much of the culture of SLC is what I’d considered ‘anti-Mormon.’ Even with the Mormon Salt Lake Temple in the dead center of the city, the coffee roasting industry is thriving, there’s a growing collection of local breweries, and SLC was named the most LGBT-friendly city in 2010. As you could probably guess, there’s an incredible tension felt here.
And as you could also probably guess, I love this city even more because of it.
It fills my heart with complete joy to stand in the gap between the LDS church and people who hate the church--being neither, but loving both. I love going to coffee shops and chatting with tatt’d baristas and then driving to Provo (where BYU, the Mormon university, is) to hang with my LDS friends. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to love two very different people groups that the Christian church has very much neglected and even outwardly hated.
I chose to move 2200 miles away from my home, community, and family because I’ve come to recognize a very valid need in this city. A need that can be summed up by one sentence that broke my heart.
My best friend of the past 15 years, one Julia Larsen, is LDS. Despite our religious differences, we’ve stuck through a move across the country, going to different colleges, many many boy issues, her mission to Melbourne, Australia, my completion of a college degree, and her wedding this past May (in which I had the honor of being a big part of!). We’ve fought and had long discussions about religion and came to the conclusion that we just love each other no matter what. But when recounting her tales of her mission, she said one thing that killed me inside. She said, “The cruelest people toward me on my mission were Christians.” And that, breaks my heart more than anything I perceive as false doctrine.
Additionally, my sister, Katie, has been ostracized from and neglected by the Christian church due to her LGBT background. If we as Christians cannot love the most marginalized, be it Mormons or lesbians, how are we to love anyone?
I love being where the tension lies. I love extending grace through the work of the Holy Spirit in me. I desire to see a city united under the reign of King Jesus, but in the meantime, I will stand in the gap.
Salt Lake Fellow
Class of 2016-17