Mariah Proctor is currently a student at the BYU Jerusalem for Near Eastern Studies
You’d think that after spending almost two months within walking distance of the old city of Jerusalem, I’d already have a pretty good idea of the sites and what there is to see here, but I’ve barely scratched the surface.
This continued ignorance to all the nooks and crannies of this place make days of just wandering around as much fun or even more fun than days of structured sightseeing and activities. One such day last week brought my group to a Biblical gift shop. Why we chose to enter this particular shop when practically every shop in the upper city bears a similar label is beyond me, but it happened.
We walked in and were immediately greeted by the smiling face and boisterous gesticulation of a Jewish man thrilled to see the Mormons coming to his shop. Before we could really say anything he said “I know you aren’t allowed to say anything about your church, but over the years I’ve figured out the three most important tenets of your religion…”
We all kind of glanced at each other nervously because we were all eager to hear what he’d gleaned from the silent Latter-day Saints that had come through his shop in the past, but he was absolutely right; the Church’s agreement with the Israeli government left us unable to give rebuttal to any misconceptions he might spit out at us in the next few seconds.
“One:” (cue our baited breath) “all Mormons own trampolines.
“Two: all Mormons eat Jell-O with vegetables floating in it; and,
“Three: all Mormons either own Suburbans or eat excessive amounts of ice cream” (and I might add or both’).
I giggled openly, but was secretly bowled over by the fact that the notorious Utah Mormon culture had penetrated as far as the old city of Jerusalem.
On my last Sunday in my student ward in Provo, everyone got up and bore their testimonies about how great an environment BYU was, but how excited they were to be going back to their homes where they would get to share the gospel with their friends again. Knowing I was coming to Jerusalem, where I’d have to stay silent on all things LDS, I was getting very jealous of the people who would have the chance to go home and discuss the church openly and freely with their summer associations.
But Moshe, the Jewish shopkeeper, changed my mind that day. After the joking (and my weirdly-excessive giggling) died down, he said “I respect you guys though, your silence to me is a greater testimony of your commitment to your religion than anything you could possibly say to me would be.” Seconds later some guy walked in and said “Oh the Mormons, you can tell by the light in their eyes.”
The second guy was being facetious, he could tell we were Mormons because of the blaring Jerusalem Center logos on our backpacks, but it meant a lot to me that Moshe not only perceived our devotion, but felt that he should let us know. Sometimes a land or a person isn’t ready to hear the gospel, and respecting the Lord’s timetable shows the world that we care about God more than who’s right and who’s wrong.
So when a friend or neighbor isn’t receptive or open to your message, sometimes the best testimony is silence and unconditional love for that person. Sometimes we have the responsibility to commune spiritually with others and lift them up bearing only a silent testimony. In time the words that your silence communicated will find their way into the hearts of those people and your patience and diligence will be rewarded tenfold.