Something’s Working

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.

13 thoughts on “Something’s Working

  1. Jeff T, great reminder. I was talking about our church to a high school friend the other day and had a similar experience.

  2. When I was in high school, I had a very diverse set of friends. One of my schoolmates who happened to be punk saw me crossing the street for release time and later asked me mockingly, “You’re a Mormon?!” and I responded, “Yes, and you see those holes in the ground in our sidewalk?” (They were for volleyball poles.) “Well, that’s where we mount our altars for the chicken sacrifices.”

    We were good after that.

    I think that it also helps sometimes to laugh at ourselves a little. Both for our own benefit and for others. Sometimes, we take ourselves a little too seriously with the persecution. Ironically, one of the things I miss about living away from Utah is the freedom to be accepted as a faithful and yet non-bigoted LDS.

  3. Adam, yes we are seriously weird. But it is in a good way.

    That the Church can deal with critics and bawdy musicals in such a way shows that we’ve moved forward from the times when we thought any criticism was just another attack at Carthage. While we shouldn’t forget the deaths of Missouri, Nauvoo or the trek west, we should also not hold modern people guilty of what was done more than a century ago.

    It shows that we are now arriving and are ready to take the important stance the Church is now taking here and in the world. Imagine if anytime someone attacked Mitt Romney, he were to lament the Willie and Martin handcart companies! It is nice that we can be nice, even when others are not, and more, to not take it so personally.

  4. I guess its partly progress, but partly its just that cultural mores have changed. We (Americans, westerners, what have ye) put a higher value on the above-the-fray response to criticism than we once did. IMHO.

  5. So you’re saying we’ve become more Christ-like in our reactions to insults/mockery? I think that’s a good thing.

  6. I like the reaction of the church. But Christ also defended himself against accusers when appropriate as well (not saying we don’t do that).

    Still, it would be pretty sweet to hear/read someone saying to whatever vile group… “Silence ye fiends of the infernal pit! I rebuke you and command you to be silent…!”

  7. Well, to my knowledge, Parker and Stone are not talking about their personal exploits in raping Mormon women and girls, so there’s that.

  8. What’s your point? No one suggested it applied to this group, but some hypothetical group. Although your reply is kind of strange, because they apparently have made a player where people find entertainment at squeeming while they watch others talk about raping babies.

  9. Our leaders give us an excellent example of how to handle criticism. With love and understanding, not hatred or offense.

    I remember watching the Daily Show when he had the South Park boys on talking about the musical and he asked them if they were worried about the “Mormon response”. And they also quoted the official response and said, “See, this is what we’re telling everyone. They are just nice people.”

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