(first published as Pastoral Post, March, 2018; revised and re-visited now)
By Scott Taylor
Sometimes I go to my home early on Thursday afternoons to rest a moment before our evening choir rehearsals get started. Such was the case a couple of weeks ago. I had just started to close my eyes when I heard a knock at the door. Seeing as I live at the top of steep hill on a dead-end street, I don’t receive many mid-day visitors. I dragged myself to the door to discover, with some annoyance, that I was the recipient of some Mormon evangelism. Two young “Elders” had come to “witness” to me. I opened the door and explained all the reasons why I couldn’t talk: I was very tired and needed my rest; I have to be back to work soon; I work at a Methodist church, am highly suspicious of fundamentalism, and am pretty much a lost cause to your cause. The Elders indicated that they understood and turned to go across the street to my neighbor’s home – they had clearly been brushed off like this before.
As I closed the door, I immediately felt guilty. I walked outside and invited them back over and we sat in my front yard and talked about Godly things. They asked all about me and about FUMC and other things. And I asked about them and their motivation to move across the country to be missionaries in Haywood County. I was impressed by their resolve. More than anything else, I tried to look past all my presumptions of Mormonism and discover some common ground: some shared faith.
Right away I understood that these two missionaries felt their church was largely misunderstood and wanted the opportunity to set the record straight. They spoke of the Great Apostasy and Joseph Smith and Seeing Stones and other things. I tried to be honest. We all kept our cool and showed grace to each other. In the end as the sun was setting, I wanted to ask them a closing question. I had noticed them use the phrase “the Gospel of Christ” many times as they spoke. I genuinely asked, “What is the Gospel of Christ?” A smile stretched across their faces as the one on the right quickly opened his backpack and removed a small pamphlet with those exact words, “The Gospel of Jesus Christ,” written across the top. He handed it to me with the kind of joy that students experience when they know the right answer in class.
And so they began to speak to me about sin and repentance and how faith is knowing things without any shred of doubt. They spoke about a “true” believers’ baptism and of the power of the Holy Ghost bestowed upon those who receive that baptism. It was that very power that gave them the fervent conviction required to move across the country/world to share their faith with a dying world. When they finished they looked at me with what I can only describe as evangelistic expectation. What was I to say? What was I to do? After all, they had a pamphlet!
“Friends!” I said, “I’m going to do the Mormon Church and you a favor. Listen closely. The next time someone asks you what the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, I want you to leave the pamphlet in the book bag. No one believes in pamphlets! When someone asks you that all important question, look them in the eye and in faith say, ‘God loves you, no matter what.’”
It seems that we lose touch with our core faith at times. After all, my first inclination was to dismiss these two Elders from my door – these two people who wanted to talk with me about an invisible and loving God. By the end of our time with each other I was left with the conviction that somewhere deep beneath the things that make me Methodist, and the things that make them Mormons, and the things that make some Baptists, and the things that make some Roman Catholic, and the things that make you vote this way and me vote that way, and the things that make it easy for some to believe and harder for others and impossible for some, is the whisper of a loving God. Oh that we would hear that whisper! Oh, that our lives were hearing aids for a deaf world.