Yesterday, following church services, my family gathered in northeast Texas for Easter dinner. It was one of the few times my wife and kids have been in Texas for Easter, so it was a rare experience for the California Wallace’s. My family (along with my Texan sisters and brothers) attended church in the morning, and then gathered at my brother’s house for a meal. We did not, however, attend church together. We are divided between atheists, Christians and Mormons. While the Christians picked a church we could all attend together, the Mormons gathered at a local LDS ward. I found it interesting that none of the Christians chose to attend a ward, and none of the Mormons chose to attend a church. Easter reveals what we really believe about each other’s faith systems.
I bet most (if not all) of my Mormon family members would readily say, “We are Christians just like you.” But at Easter, the holiest of Christian holidays, Mormons and Christians are not united in religious identity or practice. While our family from California has been comfortable over the years attending church with our Methodist, Lutheran or Baptist relatives here in Texas, we’ve never chosen to attend a Mormon service. Similarly, our Mormon relatives never regularly choose to attend the church services of any of their Christian family members. Why are Christians comfortable crossing denominational lines on holidays, yet uncomfortable entering Mormon wards? Why are Mormons comfortable entering any available ward on a holiday, yet never think to enter into a Christian church (regardless of denomination)?
Despite what anyone may say about the similarities between Mormonism and Christianity, Mormons and Christians instinctively know the differences are insurmountable. We believe in two different kinds of Jesus, two different forms of salvation, two different versions of heaven and two different Gods. These differences define us in a way that is seen most clearly on important religious holidays like Easter. It’s not simply that our forms of religious expression are different (like the liturgical differences between denominations), it’s that we are worshipping a different God altogether. So while Christians of all denominations come together this Easter (in spite of our differing forms of worship or views on non-essential issues), our Mormon friends, neighbors and family members will most likely choose to worship apart from us. This was certainly true again for my family.
We still love each other. We still respect each other. We still want to be together for a meal on Easter afternoon. But when we come together for dinner, we leave our religious differences at the door. We recognize these irreconcilable dissimilarities, despite what anyone might same about being a Christian. Easter reminds us of our distinct identities and insurmountable differences, whether we like to admit it or not.