Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Adetola Hassan, December 16, 2001. Interview R-0160. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Experiences as a Mormon at a Presbyterian school in Missouri

Hassan discusses what it was like to attend a Presbyterian school as a Mormon while living with her uncle in Missouri in the mid-1990s. Having moved to the United States after living in Great Britain, Nigeria, and Saudi Arabia, Hassan argues that it was in Missouri that she first experienced "intense hatred of the church." Ultimately, however, it was not Presbyterians as a group that expressed such hatred of Mormonism, but rather a select few at the school she attended. Regardless, Hassan's comments reveal burgeoning tensions between the growing Mormon Church and other Christian denominations in the South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Adetola Hassan, December 16, 2001. Interview R-0160. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BARBARA COPELAND:
Now the six years that you've been here in the United States and the time that you were living with an uncle. Is he also a member of the Latter Day Saints?
ADETOLA HASSAN:
No. He's not.
BARBARA COPELAND:
He's not. Which faith is he from?
ADETOLA HASSAN:
He's Presbyterian I believe.
BARBARA COPELAND:
So how easy or how difficult then was it for you to continue to practice your Mormon faith while living with him?
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Well, we had people from the church would pick us up every Sunday to take us to church. My sister went to seminary, which was something every morning that high school students go to just to review scriptures. I know she got picked up for that by members of the church. If but I know my uncle wasn't not supportive of the church, but he wasn't, he didn't want anything to do with it. So they weren't involved in that. I went to a Presbyterian school for middle school for seventh and eighth grade, and that was probably the first time that I experienced intense hatred of the church.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Oh no.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Yeah. Do you want me to talk about that?
BARBARA COPELAND:
Yeah sure. Talk about that.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Well, I know Mormon's had experienced a lot of persecutions in the earlier times in Missouri. So I had never really experienced any negativity towards the church. I know we'd have Bible classes. People would say really bad things about the church, and I would just sit there completely shocked and nobody really knew I was Mormon. So when I told my closest friend they were, it was interesting to see how people reacted to that. They'd say things like you're going to hell and the temple was also going up. So that was a big issue. People it was not pretty. So I ended up, the school pretty much told my mom that my eighth grade year that my sister and I had to leave the school unless we said, unless we signed something that said we believed we didn't have a credible Christian testimony. Since I believed that, because I believe in Christ. So I believed that I did have a credible Christian testimony and my sister did as well. So we ended up having to leave the school. So I mean that was definitly a very negative experience, but I think just as far as knowing what I believe and deciding what I believe that was good for me.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Right. Right. And very, yes, yes. I can imagine very enriching for you to be able to look back and say yes this what I did. I stood for this. It would just make you a stronger person as you got older being able to reflect back on that. That's interesting. So now you've come all the way from Saudi Arabia and London and just to come back to the United States where the Mormon church is an American church, and here it is that in the United States you received the most hatred for your religious beliefs. Wanted to know also how did your uncle feel about the school's decision on their mandate that you had to make such a pronouncement that you believed that you didn't have a credible religious belief or Christian belief.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Well by the time that that happened we had actually bought a house. So I was living with my mom and my brother and sister. So we weren't really living with them. But I mean he didn't obviously support what they did just because it was religious discrimination and that's just wrong no matter what you believe. So he wasn't particularly thrilled with that school. I think he was going to send his kids, but he ended up not sending them to the school even though they were Presbyterian and it is a Presbyterian school.
BARBARA COPELAND:
Because that was going to be my next question. With him being of practicing and just saying or claiming to be a Presbyterian and knowing that you've experienced this kind of hatred within a Presbyterian school was just really curious as to whether or not it had the impact on him that caused him to rethink about the religious tradition that he was in and to maybe even consider the Mormon faith or some other faith after seeing that that had happened.
ADETOLA HASSAN:
Well, it didn't change his faith because it wasn't so much Presbyterian people that did it, it's just a select few because I had one friend that really stuck with me throughout the whole thing, and I mean we, I think our friendship grew a lot from that. We could talk about anything. We'd talk about God and our beliefs and our faith and promises that we made with ourselves and God and just because it was God. It wasn't so much what you believed. So I believed that was the same as him. He saw what the school did, but that didn't make, it wasn't his religion that was saying you're bad because you're Mormon. It was just people.