Years ago Andrew Bowen was an Evangelical Christian with very set beliefs. Anyone who didn’t share his faith were both going to hell and worthy of contempt. No one deserved his and God’s wrath more than Mormons. whenever Mormon missionaries came near he would curse and yell at them, chasing the bike riders away. It was a scene from the Mormon past made contemporary.
His wife became pregnant and they expected the start of a wonderful life with the new child. Surely God was blessing him for faithfulness to the Lord. Then tragedy struck. Not only did they lose the child, but in a way that his faith taught him should never be chosen; abortion. If they didn’t do it then both mother and child would die. There was no way around it and the experience crushed all his faith.
Grappling with personal and spiritual loss, he decided to research religion for at least one year. His method was to pick a faith for a month and completely immerse himself in the traditions and teachings. He became a self-described “honorary” member of whatever he picked for the month with the help of an inside mentor.
Having already been a Jew and Hindu, among other faiths, his next step was the biggest so far. Taking up the courage to repent of his abuses he “became” a Mormon. As it happened he picked July, although it doesn’t appear he completely realized in its entirety how important a month for Mormon culture. He understood Pioneer Day as a religious holiday, but he never mentioned July 4th with spiritual significance. There are at least a few things a Mormon can learn from what he wrote.
Missionary work isn’t and shouldn’t be about baptisms, but love. He stated that no other religion had proselytized for him to join so hard. At first he was annoyed, but then what one of the missionaries said changed that attitude. The young Elder expressed that he loved him and wanted to share the Gospel because of that love:
Congregation, at that moment it was like the entire reality of these two men opened before me. I felt a love and sincerity that I rarely experience from a teacher. At that point I understood their faith and why they are on missions. Sometimes I wondered why they devoted so much time to me even though they know I’m leaving at the end of the month . . .
That is the love of a missionary–of my Mentors–and through studying the life of Christ, it was also the love and devotion he shared while among mankind. He knew they would reject him, but he came, taught, and offered his life anyway.
Reaching out as friends, neighbors, and with an open heart is far more important than soliciting conversion. If the Lord is ready for them and they are ready for the Lord, surely it will come naturally. Be an example of a believer and less of a preacher.
The key to love is repentance and forgiveness, and that requires letting go of pride. He wondered if the Mormon community would treat him with suspicion and perhaps anger. Like Saul who became Paul, his persecution came from what he understood at the time to be a true struggle against wickedness. What he found was a people who were quick to embrace and treat him with kindness. His first day “as a Mormon” he had anger once again boiling up against his family, and quickly realized the damage:
How often do we find ourselves on a spiritual high, when the world is ripe and ready for our pleasure, only for a storm to rain on our parade? . . .
If I am a Mormon, I must surrender.
But there is hope for me, because even in his lowest and most painful moments, when Jesus begged our Heavenly Father to take the bitter cup of death from his lips, he manned up and said,
“…not by my will, but yours [God’s].”
If Jesus had the guts to do God’s will, then I better suck it up, put aside my petty reservations on the particulars, and get down to business.
According to the text, Gospel Principles, the following steps result in the removal of sin:
Recognize our sins, Feel sorrow for our sins, Forsake our sins, Confess our sins, Make restitution, Forgive others, Keep the commandments of God.
In other words, swallow your pride.
Because of the love of the Lord for all, revelation is what we need and not always what we or others want. Andrew took the missionaries, and the temporary conversion, seriously and therefore prayed for answers as directed. The answer he got was both unexpected and not exactly conducive to joining the LDS Church:
Yes, I’m ready to collapse. So I asked permission to. And just when I did, just when I finally surrendered Project Conversion to the powers that be, I got something in my spiritual inbox. It was that still, small, gentle tug on the heart and it felt exactly as the Elders said it would. It said:
“Good. Now keep going . . . only harder.”
Are you kidding me!?
Apparently not. Now, I’m not sure if that was God or just the greater good compelling me forward, but in the course of religious history, the divine has a way of ticking off/frustrating/challenging/driving nuts those he/she/it has plans for. I’m losing my mind, so I guess as long as I’m ready to pull my hair out then I’m doing okay. Let this be a comfort to all balding men. It’s not a bald spot, it’s confirmation I’m doing God’s will (not sure how that would work with the ladies).
It is sad for Mormons that he wouldn’t decide to join as a real member; he seemed the most impressed with Catholicism. That is life. Eternity is a long expanse and this is only a short time here in mortality. Joseph Smith once said that if he couldn’t persuade someone of the truth of Mormonism, then he sought to help them become a better person with what they do believe. We should rejoice in the spiritual happiness Andrew did find in the process. The whole of humanity is, after all, brothers and sisters who need to be shown love and respect from the lowest to the highest; even our enemies.
Becoming Brother Bowen, How to Fall. How to Rise, The Sabbath Day, Happy 4th of July, can be found here.
Who was Joseph Smith?, The Testimony of Sister Geddes, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, How to Restore a Gospel . . . can be found here.
Playing Chicken with the Missionaries, Interview with Arthur Hatton the Creator of Linescratchers, Chillin’ with the Family, The Word of Wisdom: An LDS Guide to Health, can be found here.
Reaching for Infinity, Headin’ to the Temple, Multiple Wives: A Divine Right?, Field Guide to Exploring Religion, can be found here.
Marriage In The Temple…Members Only, The Testimony of Sister Laura Bradbury, Wanted: U.S. President. Mormons Need Not Apply, For the Love of Missionaries, can be found here.
Pioneer Day: The Cost of Religious Freedom, Saying Goodbye to my LDS Home, Our Mother, Who Art In Heaven . . . , Latter-Day Saints: The Conclusion, can be found here.