Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Missionary Visit

Last night some Mormon missionaries visited my home. I had ordered a Book of Mormon and it took a while, so they finally brought me a movie too (haven't watched it yet).

It was actually funny because Caitlin and I had left my house a few minutes before and then returned to find our visitors in my living room. My dad was talking to them which was great. He never tells them he's a pastor and he just whips out Bible reference after Bible reference. It's hilarious. I would imagine being quite impressed if I didn't know that he had gone to seminary.

Anyway, I thought I would share some of the conversation here.

For the first twenty minutes or so, I didn't say anything. My dad just bantered back and forth with Elder McGrew and Elder Salinas. I listened. Actually, Elder Salinas did most of the talking too. He was from Chile. Mason and Caitlin even sat in for a minute.

They discussed heaven a little bit, and essentially, my dad was trying to show that Mormonism and Christianity were very different and had very different views. Eventually though, Elder McGrew stepped in and began sharing the view of Jesus and Lucifer having different views originally and then a war breaking out. I knew a little about this, thanks to Amanda, so I stepped in.

"So... was there anybody in this war that didn't take a side?"

Both elders just kind of looked at me. Uncomfortably, I might add.

I clarified: "Well, the way I've been taught, there was a third group that remained neutral. And they were cursed with black skin."

"I don't know anything about that," Elder McGrew responded. Rather quickly too.

"Really?" I kept going. "Because Joseph Smith and Brigham Young both taught this belief."

"Wow. That's horrible," my dad said kind of quietly - but you knew what point he was making.

Slowly, the elders began sharing a little. Slowly. It was almost as if they were reluctant to admitting it was true.

Elder Salinas kept saying that Joseph Smith was very concerned about this issue. He said that Joseph Smith prayed about it, and that God never answered that prayer until 1979. There were a lot of other things that could have been discussed on that issue, but eventually the subject changed.

We also discussed historical and archaeological evidence. And I spent about 5 minutes prefacing my question which was really still never answered.

"Don't you think it's at least a little coincidental, or ironic, that Christianity has two thousand years of history and Mormonism doesn't? Archaeologists have confirmed that a man named Jesus existed. They've recovered fishing boats from the first century. Linguistic experts have confirmed that the languages the Bible references were actually used. Mormonism has none of that. The Book of Mormon doesn't even have maps."

Elder Salinas refused. "That doesn't affect me. I have faith. I've prayed about it."

I kept going. "I know it doesn't affect your faith. In fact, I wish I had the kind of faith you had. But that's not what I'm asking. I'm asking you this: doesn't seem at least interesting that atheists will confirm some truths from the Bible, but none from the Book of Mormon?"

He held to his answer: "I've prayed about it. I have faith."

I resigned. "I know you have faith. And I respect that. All I'm saying is that man, it feels awfully good to have faith and believe in something, and then to have my faith confirmed by people who don't even believe the same things I believe."

Nothing. And I really meant it when I said I respect and admire their faith.

The last interesting thing (and I might remember more later) is that when they got up to leave, I asked them for their email addresses because I had some stuff I wanted to send them. But they weren't allowed to give them out because they were LDS emails or something. Very hesitantly, Elder Salinas gave me the address that he wouldn't be checking until he got home. In a month. I told them I was sorry, but I didn't know their names. So they introduced themselves as Elder McGrew and Salinas. I didn't bother specifying for their first names.

But I got a Book of Mormon. I got a movie. And now my research begins. For myself at least. There's still a lot to learn. And I really feel passionate about this subject. It's personal (for reasons I won't go into here). And I need all the help I can get to talk about this subject lovingly with people that I know personally. It's not about arguing to be right - which is always tempting. It's about having a conversation that is open and honest, and loving the person you're talking to for who they are and not what they believe.

1 comment:

Kacie said...

stumbled on your blog and this post and it's fascinating. I'm reading John Krakaur's book Under the Banner of Heaven, which is about fundamentalist Mormons, and his history of mormonism is really interesting.

What I didn't really know before is how much Mormons rely on personal revelation - from Joseph Smith on down to the missionaries in your living room - if God has given them assurance, it DOESN'T MATTER what evidence, history, logic, or anything else says.

Is Christianity different? I'd say yes, but a lot of people wouldn't. I guess it has made me less eager to say things like "God told me" or "God gave me peace" about things, because we are all too easily self-influenced.