One of the hallmarks of LDS general conference (happening this weekend in Salt Lake City) is the protesters. I am sure they are full of conviction, sincere and hopeful. Occasionally they engage someone in meaningful conversation, but not often from what I’ve seen. One year, in front of the conference center, I actually saw a street preacher speaking kindly and invitingly to passersby. I am sure there is good in their hearts, in spite of their methods of delivery.
Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. —2 Timothy 3:12
I do not wish to denigrate any human being or the purposes and motives of others. I do not wish to return “railing for railing” (1 Peter 3:9). But I would like to share my perspective.
When I first started learning about what is commonly called Mormonism, parents, family, and friends heaped piles of anti-Mormon literature on me. (This was before the Internet; it was all printed on paper.) A large pile. I believe, and I am being honest, that the stack of books, booklets, and pamphlets reached two feet high.
It was at that time in my young life that I made a discovery.
One voice was unanimously, decidedly if disparately, against Mormonism, its doctrines, its leaders, its history, of all it represented. It was a harsh, unkind voice.
And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness. —D&C 50:23
Another voice I heard at that time was one that encouraged learning and growth, understanding and openness; it said build bridges, don’t burn them; it taught the value of engaging in careful study and withholding judgment; it showed me the purpose behind genuine and continuous prayer; it evinced soul searching, sincere repentance, the setting aside of differences, and the importance of forgiving others; it led me to have patience in suffering and with myself and others, to treat everyone with respect no matter how they acted or what they believed; it showed me how to look to God for direction in daily life and how to bring mortal appetites into subjection.
And now, verily, verily, I say unto thee, put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit. Verily, verily, I say unto you, I will impart unto you of my Spirit, which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy. —D&C 11:12–13
Please do not mistake my meaning. It is not that I did not see faults and troubles in the lives of my new friends, the Latter-day Saints. It was just that I never did see and never have seen evidence of the claims so commonly leveled against them. Yes, I have seen and do see weaknesses and mistakes and human error and sin. Every single day. I just have never seen what others claimed to see.
To me, the whole situation is a little like this:
Let’s say you like college basketball. In fact, your favorite team is Michigan. You love them and believe in them with all your soul. Then someone comes up to you and says, “You’re not a Michigan fan. You’re lying. You really want Louisville to win. You can’t fool me. You’re rooting for the other side.”
Can you understand how I felt? Do you see what I am saying?
What I am not saying is that there is no flaw on one side and only beauty on the other.
People see the world in different ways. We need to allow for that. I do. I try hard to, anyway—and to judge no one, to condemn no one.
But, at age 17, I was looking for a light in my wilderness, for a Spirit in which to put my trust.
And I found it.
I turn my face toward the light, my back to darkness.
It was not a harsh, unkind voice then. It is not now. I am still here.