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.
…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?