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Project Conversion

The slander began about two weeks into June once people found out I would be an LDS member in July.

  • “You know Mormon is only one letter away from ‘moron’?”
  • “So you’re going to be a Mor-man…does that mean your wife will be a Mor-maid?”
  • “Plan to get a few more wives?”
  • “Why would you give those heretics the time of day?”

There are more, trust me, I just tuned them out after a certain point. On the other hand, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints community tells me:

  • “We are normal people just like them. Why can’t they see that?”
  • “LDS believe in Jesus Christ and the Atonement just as other Christians do.”
  • “I’m so glad that you [Andrew] are willing to see for yourself what we are about.”
  • “Thank you for all you’re doing.”

On one side, I have popular culture and mainstream Christianity spewing judgement and casting jokes at my interaction with the LDS church. The other side is full of LDS members who eagerly (and some, desperately) want me to see their faith on their terms and without bias.

Courtesy of an artist friend who wishes to stay anonymous.

Looks like I’m stuck between a rock and a hard place all month. No other month thus far has demanded so much of me. I’ve defended the LDS church on several occasions against Christian and secular friends alike and, while uncomfortable, it is almost instinctual.

But why? Why among all the other Christian sects does the LDS church get a bad wrap?

One of my best Christian pals gave me three reasons:

  1. The early leaders of the LDS church have a less-than-admirable record and questionable motives.
  2. The Christology of the faith is a far cry from any orthodoxy.
  3. Heavy proselytization makes them a great target for ridicule.

I will explore some of these areas in more detail later.

Joseph Smith himself foreshadowed the outside view of the Church after sharing his revelation with those around him:

I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase; and though I was an obscure boy, only between fourteen and fifteen years of age, and my circumstances in life such as to make a boy of no consequence in the world, yet men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution; and this was common among all the sects—all united to persecute me.” Joseph Smith–History 1: 22

I admit that I struggle with some of LDS doctrine, but is it because these ideals do not mesh with me personally, or because of my past with Christianity? As the Buddha taught, we are beings conditioned by our past and only when we relinquish this conditioning do we free ourselves to see reality in its purity. I don’t want a month where I must constantly react to both internal and external criticism. Every time I jot down an idea for a post I think to myself “Am I writing this as a religious explorer, or as an apologist for the faith?”

Sports philosophy dictates that a good offense is the best defence, but why do I feel as if I need to defend the LDS church? Perhaps that early judgement slipped in and reset my subconsciousness for defense mode. The truth is, I feel like a veritable Paul of Tarsus: once a persecutor of the LDS church, now I am a representative for 31 days.

But this is what Project Conversion is all about! I am now in the shoes of those Elders I chased down and chastised in high school. I am now on the receiving end of the Mormon jokes. And now I must face my own reservations, my own inner critic, and shut the voices down for the sake of everyone entrusting me with their religion these 31 days. No, there is nothing wrong with constructive debate in religion, but I’m not here for the comparative religion debate. I am here to listen, to show, and to tell.

Now this was a great trial to those that did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God, and they bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.” Alma, from the Book of Mormon, 1: 25

So I can claim my abode between a rock and a hard place with pride. It’s not too cozy, but home is where the heart is, after all.

Jesus taught that we should judge not, lest we be judged (Matthew 7: 1). He also taught us not to cast stones in glass houses. For those who criticize the LDS church, when was the last time your church was perfect? Funny how a religion persecuted for so long for their own heterodoxy against Judaism and the Roman theology is so quick to treat others so coldly. We are all the underdog at some point. We are all carriers of heresy at some point. LDS members are just like you in that, they do not claim perfection, they simply claim belief.

 

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