There’s a Lady in Our Midst

There’s a Lady in Our Midst

From Chicken Soup for the Latter-day Saint Soul

There’s a Lady in Our Midst

Dare to be a Mormon,
Dare to stand alone,
Dare to have a purpose strong,
Dare to make it known.

Richard L. Evans

While growing up in the mission field, I always carried the above saying on a small card in my wallet. It reminded me that often I stood alone in my actions and choices, for I was a Mormon girl and proud of it.

Because my father was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Air Force, we moved often, and I soon realized that it didn’t take long for my friends to become aware of my high standards. But my first introduction to the students in the high school I would be attending outside of Washington, D.C., was more humorous than religious.

I attended an after-school activity so I could get acquainted. When the students asked me where I was from, I replied, “A little bit of everywhere,” since we had moved frequently around the eastern part of the United States. Somehow the topic of religion came up, and I said I was a Mormon. Immediately one of the boys asked, “How many wives does your father have?” I was surprised. This was the late 1950s, and I couldn’t believe that the only thing this new friend knew about the Mormons had to do with the long outdated practice of polygamy.

Instead of trying to explain that this practice had been done away with many years earlier, I decided to joke back with, “Oh, my dad has a wife in every closet in our house.”

The boy got a funny look on his face, and I hoped I hadn’t embarrassed him—but I also hoped he realized his question was as silly to me as my answer was to him.

It didn’t take long for these same classmates to become aware of what Mormons did believe. Soon I found myself answering questions about our standards: No, we don’t drink beer and we don’t smoke—but yes, I can wear lipstick and I can dance. I realized I was being watched, and sometimes watched out for. My friends knew the standards I lived by and they expected me to live up to them—at all times.

One semester I took a backstage drama class where we learned about and helped with the behind-the-scenes activities during our school plays. After a lunch break one day, I walked into the classroom and heard several people laughing. Suddenly one of my male friends said, “Quiet! There’s a lady in our midst.” Looking around, I saw several boys and girls nervously giggling. I realized I had been paid both a compliment and a mark of respect—a respect that had not been shown to the other girls in the room, who were embarrassed that they had been laughing at the off-color jokes. I felt both pleased and challenged, for I knew my friends not only admired me for my Mormon standards, but they also expected me to live up to them as I “dare[d] to make it known.”

Nancy Reynard Gunn

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