Monday, May 22, 2006
A couple Sundays ago, I attended the study class of a local Provo Lutheran congregation. The pastor invited me because he likes the book I coauthored, Mormonism For Dummies, and the small group has been studying the book.
He told me I could plan a presentation or just do Q&A, and I opted for the latter. I just showed up and let the small group throw out questions, and for the most part they were quite respectful and complimentary about how much they appreciated the book. One former Mormon did most of the talking, and he managed to gently mention quite a few rough areas, such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre and polygamy and the Church's handling of the Hofmann affair.
Although I deeply believe in Mormonism and personally consider it to be the truest religion on the earth, I don't feel the missionary-minded compulsion to try to convert others. I was really laid back and low key, and I did more admitting of the religion's weaknesses than testifying of its strengths. That's just my style. I don't ever feel the need to bear down in testimony.
Anyway, here's part of a nice note I got from the pastor after the meeting:
I want to tell you how much I appreciated the time you took to be with us for Tree of Life Lutheran Church’s ‘Adult Forum’ discussion of your book, Mormonism for Dummies. I have heard several comments since then from those who were there about how much they appreciated your candor, humor, relaxed style, and willingness to address their questions.
I think the book has helped people in our congregation, already fairly familiar with LDS beliefs (by virtue of living among so many LDS neighbors, if by nothing else), to understand their neighbors’ beliefs better. I think I mentioned to you during your visit that I found it an easily approachable, ready source of straight answers, which I found aren’t always that easy to tease out of people deeply committed to their faith who want to portray it as positively as possible. You and Dr. Reiss are obviously and understandably just as committed to your faith, but nonetheless manage to address the many nuances of LDS thought honestly and straightforwardly.
I don’t suppose it is too surprising to learn that a Lutheran has more than a few differences with LDS beliefs. Still, I expect to be using Mormonism for Dummies again with members of my congregations.
One of my shortcomings as a person is that I'm not very interested in learning about other Christian religions. I probably should have asked them questions about Lutheran belief, but the time was short and they had enough questions and comments to fill it. But even if they didn't, I don't really care to learn what Lutherans believe, although I am interested in what it's like to be Lutheran from a cultural, humanistic perspective. Overall, it's nice to think that our book is helping build bridges of understanding.