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Being a Religious Minority

Writer, Age 19

I don't think many people, when they think about minorities or prejudices, would think of being a religious minority.

I've lived in the same place for 10 years now. I'm a Mormon and there aren't a lot of us around in my area. However, I never really paid any attention to it until my junior year in high school.

My younger sister and I both chose to attend private high schools, but I decided to transfer to a different school just before sophomore year ended. I applied to, and was accepted into, a Christian Academy, which was a 20-minute drive away from my house. My sister was already a freshman there and my parents thought highly of the opportunity it presented.

As soon as junior year started, I was introduced into the entirely foreign atmosphere of a God-fearing student body. We had chapel every Tuesday, prayed at the start of every class, and were required to take Bible classes. Being musically involved, I joined the chorale and found that the majority of the repertoire was praise songs. I loved the God-centered environment. I have very strong religious convictions and having such surroundings was refreshing.

However, word soon got around that I was a Mormon. Since I was in everything from varsity softball to drama, I was becoming well-known. Almost immediately, the crusade began. If well-meaning friends weren't questioning me, or ignorant enemies weren't berating me, then I was surrounded by teachers and students who made it their personal duty to proselytize to me. In my volunteer work, the coordinator would play gospel music and preach doctrine to me between projects.

I became frustrated by the fact that these people refused to recognize me as what I am: a Christian. I found that even though no one was completely closed-minded, more often than not, misinformation or misconception kept me from many things.

The worst blow came at the end of my junior year. I was simultaneously running for the chorale chaplain position and auditioning for an elite choir. In both cases, my victory was almost entirely ensured. One hour before the decisions were to be announced, I was called into the principal's office and asked, on religious grounds, to withdraw from both the race for the leadership position and the choir audition. Not wanting to make matters worse, I agreed.

My more sympathetic friends insisted that I should take action, whether verbal or possibly legal, for the blatant discrimination.  I knew that such problems would arise in one form or another, and had resolved to take it in stride.

My senior year brought more of the familiar debates. One chapel speaker, when advising us on how to deal with the heathen world, asked the question, "How do you deal with the atheists, Satanists, and Mormons?" Immediately, everyone was watching my sister and me to see if we would be able to control ourselves. She remained quiet; I instead chose to approach the speaker at the break and express my objection to his reasoning. I may be a believer, but I am not an instigator.

As graduation drew near, a new conflict arose. The school awarded one senior each year with the Senior Music Award—rewarding equal amounts of musical ability and Christian character. I had been in chorale for two years, was a vocal soloist in the Christmas concert, had played in the orchestra as well as the school's private recitals, and had just taken the Advanced Placement Music Theory exam. In musical ability, I far surpassed any of my classmates and every person involved knew that. The time had come to decide whether or not my Christian character was completely offset by prejudice or whether they would admit defeat and make me the first Mormon in the school's history to receive the award.

The night of ArtsFest, when the award would be announced, was intense. I was involved in three different performances, but my mind was on little else but the award. My sister reasoned, "You may be the best, but it's undeniably going to someone they don't have to call to the foot of the cross first."

Much as I hated to think it, she was right. So I put on a cheerful expression every time a well-wisher spoke of it. I was in the midst of changing backstage from my orchestra uniform into my chorale dress when the senior awards came around. They announced the art awards and the drama award. My heart sank as I realized that the time had come to applaud someone else as they went up to receive the one thing that I wanted more than anything else.

I was about to put on my shoes when they read off my name. Frozen in shock, I barely had the composure to shove on my shoes and stumble down the aisle. I was videotaped and literally put in the spotlight until I got to the stage. My music theory teacher began listing off my accomplishments and finally came to the end, "Ms. X will be attending Brigham Young University next year."  Immediately, the room went dead silent. They were giving a MORMON the award. Then, the applause started, small at first, but growing into an ovation.

I never thought, as a Caucasian female, that I'd have to deal with being a minority, but my experience has given me new appreciation for those who have to deal with it on a regular basis.

Last Modified Date: 1/10/2001