Friday, June 04, 2010

Flashback Friday: Joseph Smith in Syria

There are some weird things about being Mormon in the Middle East. I wrote at length about the experience here.

In addition to all that, you've got the little things that you don't necessarily think about ahead of time, like how your garments are going to be drying on a line, flapping in the breeze four stories up for all to see, just like everybody else's laundry.

There's the joy of trying to explain to a veiled woman that hey, we have dress standards, too! And then back-tracking when you realize that it's not really the same since Mormon women can wear regular swimsuits and short sleeves and even shorts. (But at least the same principle is there.) (But STILL.)

If a Mormon simply must find something in common with the Muslims in the Middle East, there's always the great crowd-pleaser: polygamy. Though I confess that the reactions I get from Muslims upon hearing that Mormons once practiced polygamy is often quite rational and genuinely interested, instead of completely scandalized. Still, really mixed feelings on this one. It's great to find mutual understanding but did it really have to be about polygamy?

The single weirdest moment I experienced as a Mormon in the Middle East was fortunately very amusing. And I'm not talking about the time an American we know was in an antique shop in the Damascus Old City and found a very old, tiny silver spoon engraved with an image of the Salt Lake Temple. Though this did happen to us in the Old City.

Jeremy and I were walking down an alleyway en route to somewhere or other, passing the shopkeepers who were sitting outside of their shops and enjoying tea and conversation at little tables. Suddenly, right after we passed, one of the shopkeepers called out at us in a loud voice, "JOSEPH SMITH!!!!"

I'm sure his intent was to get our attention, and boy, did it work. We both turned around, completely puzzled as to a number of things. How did this Syrian guy know we were Mormon? How did he know enough about Mormons to bring up Joseph Smith? Seriously, what the heck?

Of course we talked with him to figure out what was going on. It turns out that Jeremy was wearing a BYU shirt at the time, and this guy had once been friends with a BYU student studying in Damascus. They had talked about Mormons enough for him to be familiar with basic tenets of our faith, including Joseph Smith. And when he saw us walking by with a BYU shirt, he just couldn't resist.

Nothing like that has ever happened since. Maybe getting called out as a Mormon in the Old City of Damascus is the kind of thing that only happens once. I can see how that would be the case.

1 comment:

Susanne said...

Very cute story! I didn't know Mormons had dress standards too. You seem to dress quite appropriate to the American culture though not as immodestly as say the Britney Spears types. That's interesting.

And, yeah, polygyny. Ha! :-D

Hope all is going well in Egypt!

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