A Rather Young Stranger in a Strange Land


No photos of my high school were satisfactory to me, so here’s a picture of Mission San Gabriel Arcángel (1771), which is essentially across the street from it.


I was an incoming freshman at San Gabriel High School in California when I discovered that my religious faith was somewhat controversial, and that some people really disliked Mormonism and, in some cases, Mormons.


There was a young woman in my ward — actually, she was (it seemed from my perspective) quite mature, since she was about to enter her junior or senior year, and she was also very attractive, which meant that I was somewhat in awe of her — who was enrolled in a summer American history class.  Her teacher, it turned out, was a member of an extremely zealous and strict evangelical Christian denomination.  (I won’t name it, because I have no particular quarrel with it and don’t blame it for this teacher’s actions.)  More than that, he absolutely hated Mormonism.  I have no idea why he was so obsessed with the subject.


Anyway, the class lasted four hours a day during the summer, and he began and ended virtually every day, if not absolutely every day, with a brief rant about Mormonism and race (remember, this was the mid-1960s, well before the 1978 revelation on priesthood), or with a joke about Brigham Young, or with a comment about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or with sarcastic remarks about the stupidity of Mormon beliefs.  Such behavior was, of course, wildly unprofessional, and it was certainly illegal for a teacher in a public, tax-supported high school.  She would come home, virtually every day, in tears, but she refused to tell her parents what the problem was.


Finally, they wheedled it out of her, and, it scarcely needs to be said, they were livid when they discovered what was happening.


They immediately marched in to see the principal, Arthur Kruger, who had been in office there since the school’s founding.  To his credit, he was equally incensed at the teacher’s antics, and instantly summoned him in.  The teacher, I’m told, didn’t even attempt to deny what he had been doing, and Mr. Kruger informed him that he would be fired if a single further report of such classroom bigotry ever reached the school administration.


The man was on good behavior ever afterward, so far as I know.  And, in fact, though I never had him for a class and though he almost certainly knew that I was a Latter-day Saint, he always treated me civilly and with respect.  (He was, as I recall, somewhat involved with student government and, once in a while, with the swim team, so I had a fair amount of contact with him.)


But it was jarring to realize that there were people in my community who really, genuinely, disliked my faith.


I’ve had innumerable opportunities to be reminded of it since, but this sticks out in my mind as, in a way, something of a loss of innocence.



"Who will stand?"
New Testament 141
"Religion poisons everything!" (8)
The trouble with reality
  • christine

    so you realized people disliked your faith so you became an apologist. ha ! which is a good thing for everyone I am sure, bearing in mind that no one in their right minds likes zealots of any denomination.Or else, anyone here please explain how zealots can be at all helpful by whatever objective standards one might choose….. it must be nice to see with one’s own eyes how a guy like that gets shut down by one single confrontational meeting at the principal’s office.

  • http://ivlg.blogspot.com Matt

    It depends on your definition of “zealot,” Christine. I’m interested to hear your definition because it sounds like it may differ from mine. An apologist doth not, necessarily, a zealot make.