"Before you can search for truth, you must be interested in finding it." -Miroslav Volf

Thursday, June 30, 2011

A Missed Opportunity

Upon hearing a rather friendly-sounding knock at the door the other night, I opened the door to see a nicely dressed, twenty-something young man, possessing some kind of odd combination of excitement yet hip, laid-back coolness. He tapped his chest a couple times, asking me if I “knew anything about this,” pointing to the name on his nametag—the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

I said that I did know a little bit. He asked me what I knew. At that point I realized I just wasn’t in the mood, reflected in my short answers. It was only like 8:30 or so, but I was in my PJs, watching X-Men 2 with my wife for the first time (she’s getting me caught up on the series) and about to enjoy her just-made “raspberry desert,” as she calls it.

There are times where I might relish the opportunity for religious dialogue; it’s one of those things I’m “about,” I think. I enjoy learning more about others’ faiths and helping them more clearly and truthfully understand my own, and I love what potential for good there is when enemies put down their swords, so to speak.

But now wasn’t a good time. I told him I was a Seminary graduate, and a Quaker, and had studied religion a bit and had acquired some knowledge of Mormonism throughout my life. I thought it interesting that I identified as a Quaker, since I don’t usually identify with a particular Christian tribe in that way, believing myself to be more of a denominational mutt at this point, though probably more in line with something like moderate Quakerism than anything else.

Maybe I felt like “Christian” was too vague and wanted to show him I had actually thought through my beliefs and opinions and values.

He acknowledged my words, then asked me again what I knew. Really not interested in talking at the moment, I just told him again, “oh, I know a little bit.” Then I apologetically told him I really wasn’t interested in talking right now, as I was busy.

Which was truthfully what I felt and wanted. He suggested I come check out the Mormon Church some time. I kind of smiled and lightly chuckled and told him thanks, and wished him good luck in his conversations. And I meant that.

I respect what he and his buddy I could see out in the parking lot were doing, even if I’m not sure that seeking to draw others to your religious faith in a manner similar to Amway salespeople is the best approach. At least it’s not my style and understanding of the best way to live one’s faith.

But I get it. I assume, giving him the benefit of the doubt, that he really believes in this message and sees the goodness of his faith and wants others to experience it. I can’t blame him for what he is doing. If you believe that people’s lives and futures would be better off if they adhered to your religion or worldview, and that loss or sorrow or disappointment await them should they not, then perhaps you’d do anything to spread your message.

It’s possible his role as a missionary is not that rosy, and he does it because he feels obligated to. Then again, some obligations can be for a greater good, even if we are giving up our will for a time to serve the greater community or to do what we feel God wants of us. So again, I respect what he’s doing, and I get it.

Problem is—and I hate to sound closed-minded or overconfident—I really can’t see myself becoming Mormon. I believe I could learn from Mormons, more about God, Jesus, myself, humankind, what constitutes a good and meaningful life, how to love, etc. On another night, I might have been interested in such learning.

But I guess I kind of assume he was interested in teaching and not learning, which makes true dialogue difficult, and I also assume that he wouldn’t have been all that enthused about talking about God together, had I told him at the outset that I was confident I wouldn’t be “converted.” Maybe that’s not fair, and he would have loved such dialogue.

But all of that said, I haven’t even mentioned the nature of the “missed opportunity” alluded to in the title of this post. I’m not referring to a missed chance to share my faith, or to learn more about God, or anything like that. No, I’m realizing I missed a prime opportunity to make my continually nagging dream for my life to be a musical a momentary reality.

When he asked me what I knew about Mormonism I only later realized, with the help of my wife, how I truly should have responded—in song:

“I believe that the Lord, God, created the universe

I believe that He sent His only Son to die for my sins

And I believe that ancient Jews built boats and sailed to America

I am a Mormon—and a Mormon just believes.

And more:

“I believe that God has a plan for all of us

I believe that plan involves me getting my own planet

And I believe that the current President of the Church,

Thomas Monson, speaks directly to God

I am a Mormon—and, dang it! A Mormon just believes!”

For those of you like my wife who know theater, or perhaps watched this year’s Tony awards, you probably know that those are some of the lyrics from this year’s Tony-award winning musical “The Book of Mormon.”

Oh how perfect it would have been to have broken into song; when will I have a moment like that again? Maybe the missionary would have joined me in song, and we would have gone skipping around the parking lot together, grinning from ear to ear.

A missed opportunity, indeed.

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