I’m currently at a seminar run by the Institute for Humane Studies, which is basically a libertarian think-tank designed to shepherd classical liberal thinkers into schools and positions of influence. I just had a conversation with a non-religious libertarian who discovered that I was Mormon. Here’s how the conversation went:
Him: “You’re Mormon? Awesome! I have a question for you: What do you think about the Book of Mormon?”
Me: “I believe it is scripture, and the word of God.”
Him: “No, I mean the musical!”
Me: “Oh, that… I’m kind of ambivalent on that. I doesn’t affect me, my life, or my faith. Some argue that it’s disrepectful of our religion, and that’s probably true, but I don’t take personal offense. They can say and do what they want, and it doesn’t change my personal relationship with God or others.”
Him: “That’s exactly the attitude I love about Mormons. I absolutely loved the church’s response: ‘The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people’s lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ.’ Seriously, that’s classy. No attacks, no resentment, no attempts to refute or to rebut. I have no intention of ever being Mormon, but I love the non-defensive posture that Mormons take. It shows confidence in their position, complete sincerity, and a completely lack of insecurity. That’s impressive.”
Wow. This man was impressed enough by the church’s response to perceived attacks on our faith that he memorized the church’s response. I think one lesson to learn is that not getting defensive when attacked or ridiculed gives people reason to pause. And not attacking in return gives us the moral high ground. Danielle Elizabeth Tumminio recently wrote an editorial about her experience at the Hill Cumorah pageant. She explains that in the midst of protestors who were yelling obscenities at attenders, Latter-day Saints welcomed her simply with, “[We] feel the spirit so deeply here; I hope you’ll feel it too.” She continues:
Ironically, while we worried about hostility from the Mormons, the only aggression we experienced was from those who, like us, identified as “Christian.” The Mormons were kind and welcomed us not seven times but 70 times, so that even if we disagreed with their theology, we could not help but be moved by their authenticity.
I hope that we can all maintain that kind of serenity in the face of opposition, ridicule, and attack. Experiences such as my conversation today certainly helps remind me to pause before responding dogmatically to the sometimes outrageous claims that others make, and to consider carefully if the approach I should take is one of argument, or simply one of example and testimony.
Keep it up, folks. We’re doing something right.