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The other day a viewer of my YouTube Mom videos posted a nasty comment about the church. I’d said something on the video that alerted him as to my faith—horrors!—and he couldn’t resist taking a swipe at the church. Yes, I deleted his comment.
I find this alternately sad and amusing. It’s sad because he’s missing so much and wallowing in bitterness. But it’s amusing because most of us would never consider belittling someone else’s faith—it seems so ironic and un-Christian, yet many of our detractors describe themselves as absolutely Christian.
You’ve seen it firsthand, our forefathers experienced it, and those yet unborn will confront it as well: People love to mock the LDS church. In high school one of my teachers threw a copy of the Book of Mormon into the trash, right in front of me. A classmate told me to “go back to Utah where you belong.” And a woman in my neighborhood gave me almost verbatim accusations from anti-Mormon literature, expecting me to defend myself. A church just a few miles from where I live today presents anti-Mormon classes from time to time. I could give dozens of similar examples.
And you’ve traveled this same road, encountering detractors and accusers who find nothing rude or disrespectful about the rumors and lies they freely swing at us. Someone who will pause to formulate a politically correct question to a Muslim, a Jew, or a Buddhist, will think nothing of cackling in our faces as they challenge our beliefs. They would never attend an anti-Semitic Broadway play, but an anti-Mormon one presents no ethical dilemma to them.
Sometimes it’s presented as a sincere desire to get to the bottom of things and decipher the truth. “Do you mean you actually believe a boy saw God in a vision?” “Do you honestly think God talks to your prophet now?” “So you agree with the rule that you can’t drink or wear bikinis?” But their wording reveals their opinion, their shock at our naïveté. It’s as if all their sentences end with, “Seriously?”
We try to summon more courtesy than we’ve been shown. We explain. We smile. We show good humor as we recently saw, when TV host Lou Dobbs uttered the phrase, “Mormon Mafia” and elicited a hailstorm of hilarious tweets—from us. When the offensive Book of Mormon musical hit Broadway, smiling LDS missionaries greeted audience members afterwards, inviting them to try the real Book of Mormon.
And, of course, we invite them to get information at the source, at lds.org. Still, sometimes they simply respond, “But how can you believe that?”
One time an acquaintance kept trying to argue with me, pointing out what he felt were flaws in our faith. And all I could think was, “Except that it’s true.” And therein lies the bottom line, for me. Once you’ve paid the price, prayed humbly and sincerely, and received a sure witness from the Holy Ghost, all the rhetoric doesn’t matter. The fact is, it’s true. Period.
This doesn’t mean that we have no answers, no explanations. We have more than the detractors think. But they’re sort of secondary in importance. You can’t really argue someone into the gospel; they have to pray with real intent. So meeting their questions point for point might feel satisfying intellectually, but it doesn’t accomplish much. Nobody gets baptized because they got beaten in a quarrel.
Perhaps we can compare this to believing in God. An atheist may demand proof, but a believer simply knows, and doesn’t need to rely upon scientific evidence. When the atheist demands proof, the believer thinks about how firmly he feels this truth in his heart. It may not be easy to explain, but he feels certainty nonetheless.
When members stumble upon positions or doctrines that trouble them, they need to “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith,” as President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has counseled. In this last October Conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard said, “Some disciples struggle to understand a specific Church policy or teaching. Others find concerns in our history or in the imperfections of some members and leaders, past and present. Still others find it difficult to live a religion that requires so much. Finally, some have become “weary in well-doing.”5 (To Whom Shall We Go?)
They need to pray that unflinching, open-hearted prayer when they’re honestly ready to listen to God’s answer. It requires a posture of love, humility, and sincerity. And we need to exert patience and love in supporting these brothers and sisters on their journey. Rather than neglect them, we should minister to them and try to understand their anguish. You can’t pump your beliefs through an I.V. and into the bloodstream of another. They must get the answer for themselves. But loving friends can provide the scaffolding for them, and be there to help however we can.
God has never given us all the answers, or all the reasons for all the commandments. He knows that a people leaning on explanations will never be as strong as a people leaning on faith. So he sometimes lets us struggle, maybe even battle with the natural man as we strive for light and knowledge.
Notice we don’t ask others to believe us. I have never heard an LDS member say, “Just trust me, this is true.” Instead, we invite all to earnestly ask God and let Him reveal truth to their hearts. Think how confident this invitation is. We are so certain that God will grant them the same knowledge we have, that we don’t even try to sway them; we leave it to God. We know what the answer will be.
And then, no matter how many arguments someone can stack up, hoping you’ll try to topple them and fail, you won’t take the bait. Yes, it may be hard to live the commandments. It may be hard to serve without pay, to keep the Sabbath, to serve a mission, to sacrifice for family. Except that it’s true. And that ends the debate.