Culture

February 11 2013
9

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I remember seeing them cringe with hurt faces.

Whispers would come from around the corner of the high school hallway as the outspoken Baptist girls would mumble hurt-words like “cult” and “brainwashed.” The girls didn’t think they were heard, but the eyes said it all & gave away their guilt.

The hurt faces told me the choice words were heard.

Their Bibles were bigger than ours. The words sounded funny with lots of thee’s and thou’s written out. They didn’t wear crosses around their necks like we did and they always wore those rings that said “CTR.” They could never go to games on Monday nights because it was Family Night.

They talked about missions and learning different languages.

I filled out my college applications.

We all wore caps and gowns on a hot summer day, then they disappeared for two years. One of them went to Siberia. I had only heard of Siberia in movies with bad Russian villains… but he went there on a mission. I did some asking around and learned that he could only write home on pen and paper. Phone calls were limited to two times a year. He probably walked everywhere, unless he could get a bike.

I can’t imagine bikes being very useful in Siberia.

………………

I’m older now and we’re all in college.

I get invited to a wedding during my freshman year, my friend as young as me. She wears the white dress with sleeves and we all show up at the towering white Temple, with the gold statue on top. She and her fiancé vanish behind the big wood doors with their parents and we’re told to wait outside.

Another guest I know turns to me and whispers mumbled hurt-words I’ve heard before like “cult” and “magic underwear.”

Bride and Groom emerge as Husband and Wife and we cheer. Their parents follow with tear-stained cheeks and wide smiles.

I try to catch a glimpse of the inside of the Temple as the door slowly closes. It’s hard to see anything past the ethereal look of my friend, the bride. We hug and I ask her how it was. She can’t tell me much, but she explains that it was the most incredible, spiritual, God-honoring moment she’s experienced.

Her husband nods and thanks me for coming.

She looks at him with a holy longing.

………………

I’m married now, at home one afternoon, sick with a cold and a day away from work.

Sipping my hot drink by the window, I see two young men, clad in white button-ups with black ties, make their way to my neighbor’s door. I sink back behind the wall, but steal a couple glances. I see my neighbor open the door and not ten seconds later, wave her hand in their faces and shut the door quick with a thud.

The young men take deep breaths, put their chins up and step down from the stoop.

I think of my classmate who went to Siberia.

I wonder how often those young men are invited into living rooms and offered something to eat and drink. I wonder if anyone asks them how they’re doing, so far away from home. I wonder about their parents and how much it must ache to not speak to your child.

………………

I’m at home this weekend and I’ve got my own child down for a nap. I start thinking of our move to Utah, now only two weeks away. Our new house is a quick walk from the Temple. I tune in to their church’s General Conference, where leaders and presidents speak about belief and testimony.

If I’m going to live so close to this, I want to learn, to understand.

They use words I’ve never heard, like “holy priesthood.” The choir is huge. They sing hymns and the camera pans back and shows a picture of the auditorium. Every seat filled. All 21,200 seats.

Twitter lights up. I learn that millions are listening in and watching from home.

The Elders speak about family and unity. One Elder says motherhood is a great calling. I find myself nodding now. A woman speaks to men and says “The greatest thing you can do for your daughter is love her mother.” Family is central. Raising children in the faith is not the work or responsibility of the church or flashy programs. The responsibility rests on mom and dad.

Millions of people come together for two weekends a year. All in different shades of doctrine, but they choose to edify and build up commonality instead of focus on the differences.

I am convicted of my own finger-pointing.

………………

I’m starting to wonder what we’ve been so afraid of.

The Latter-Day Saints are people, just like you and me. They’re single moms and college kids. Stay-at-home mothers and business owners. They’re missionaries and servants. They’re neighbors and co-workers.

They speak of a Jesus that is quite different than mine. I know who I worship. I know the Scriptures that proclaim the Truth I believe. I will stand firm and speak to it when I’m asked.

But…

…maybe instead of shutting the door quick with a thud, or arguing theology until we’re blue in the face, we could open the door of our homes and offer a home-cooked meal. Goodness knows, it’s probably been a while since those guys have had one.

…maybe instead of using hurt-words like “cult” and “brainwashed” we ask our neighbors & classmates about their family, their story, their faith, their hopes, their dreams.

…maybe instead of drawing lines in the sand, we take a cue from our Mormon friends and choose to unify instead of divide.

 

I wonder what we can learn from each other if we choose to let go of fear & anger? What could we learn if we choose to listen?

 

 

[my heart is heavy for my LDS friends this morning, so I felt the need to republish this from the archives]

9 comments

  1. Jorden

    As someone who lived and worked in SLC for six years this post really hit home. Especially thinking back to conversations my wife and I have had on the subject of the LDS faith.

    Thank you.

    Reply
  2. This is a fabulous article, Nish. Definitely challenging, and a great second view into a religion that is often misunderstood and mocked.

    Reply
  3. A few years ago we became close with an LDS family through Little League. I learned we has so much in common and my respect for them as a family is high. I’m compelled as I read this to change the way I view people as they walk downy street and at the same time convicted because I’m usually “too busy” to even want to have the conversation. So thanks for the food for thought. I feel like I need to pray and ask for a prepared heart to receive next time there is an opportunity because what you’re pointing out is that in receiving people, we would actually be giving Jesus.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Good thoughts Suzie!

      Reply
  4. Lisa

    Thanks for the post. I am struggling a bit because I am former LDS and though it looks all pretty on the outside and well…simple, it is not! It is a deceptive theology with good people in it. I have since learned the Truth and will never go back to that life.

    BUT…I will tell you that the ONLY way to win hearts is to listen and love. In the Bible, it says to be “wise as serpents but gentle as doves” and that is what we need to be to all people who think and practice differently than we do. God wins with LOVE and not hate.

    So, the next time you see a couple of LDS neighbors/missionaries walking up to you door, invite them in for a drink(no caffeine please)and listen to what they have to say. Then you will have earned to right to tell them the Truth. Jesus built relationships and invested in others so that they could EXPERIENCE his love! We need to do the same.

    Reply
  5. SaraK

    We lived in Utah for 2.5 years and while it was culturally very hard (seriously…we had lived in Germany and found it more like our home of Wisconsin than Utah), we know we learned a lot about how to love neighbors and especially those of LDS faith. After UT, we moved to Texas, and I made it a point to seek out our local missionaries who would visit our neighborhood, always offering them something to drink and baked goods. They loved it because it reminded them of home (and loved that I knew enough about their religion and Utah to make them feel comfortable). Our pastor in Texas gave a sermon about listening to Mormons and then constantly setting them straight, and it just drove me nuts. Sometimes, showing people the love of Christ just by loving them back is enough.

    Reply
  6. Debbie in Colorado

    I am simple in my beliefs and do not have the gift (or desire the ability) to get out the Bible and argue line by line as to why any faith might be wrong but I have the ability to love people. I pray for those young missionary men on their bikes when I see them – that they will be kept safe and that God will reveal himself to them.

    When these young men show up at my door, I thank them for coming and tell them I pray for the missionaries on bikes because I worry about them, and provide a few minutes of motherly love and concern in asking how they are and where they are from. I have even asked them to pray for me when they asked if they could. If the conversation moves towards faith, I explain that I love the Lord and I am secure in my beliefs – always with a smile, always with love.

    I would want my children treated with this kindness. How can we be rude to anyone who is coming to us in the name of the Lord – even if their beliefs are different from ours? He will work things out with them. That is His job not mine – my job is to love them where they are.

    Reply
  7. Gary Ware

    Interesting thoughts and comments from everyone. I used to stop on a street where two were canvassing and wait for them. We would greet n meet n begin trading “scriptures” with comments.

    I enjoyed these encounters while learning their strategy. Once, at home, two stopped by and we invited them in for conversation and refreshments. What I gained from this event was, like our Pentecostal folks do, they are on a mission with every move to “convert” not to visit. With the first two and each new meet, I learned to explain, I am devoted to my faith and with that they never returned.

    Your post and the comments cause me to wonder what LDS neighbors would be like and how would I act toward them. Great post.

    Reply
  8. Gerry

    Great post. We were lovd by a Savior when we were of a very evil nature. He loved us and died for us. Can we be willing to do any less for those that may believe differently? I think not. We must love everyone. Thanks for the insight!

    Reply

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