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.