Oh, That Was The Whole Idea?Friday, September 05, 2008
SO. Okay, remember the LDS missionaries that came over? Then they came back, I invited them over for supper, and we did our little cultural exchange?
Well, they invited us over to their church - not for services, but just so we could see their building and how they worship, etc.
I had never been to a LDS church before so I was all "of course we will come!" plus it is pretty rude to tell people 'no' when they show you their hospitality by wanting you to show you something as important as where they pray.
It is just *so interesting* to see how and where different people worship - I've been inside a church that didn't look like much more than a shotgun house, and I've been inside magnificent cathedrals too.
Especially in Europe. Ohmystars, those people knew how to build.
My friend Melinda from college was from Sand Mountain, and she told me that the only time she ever turned anybody down to go to church was when she was invited to a snake-handling church. Yes. Turns out it was that one that Dennis Covington wrote about later and made famous.
I told her that she was crazy and should have gone, just for the experience! She could have sat close to the back door in case it got too intense or heaven forbid, something got loose.
Um, she thought I was crazy for thinking she was crazy.
Anyway, we had the LDS boys over to our house for supper, they had talked & talked & talked with Av, "Mr. My Degree from UVA is Religious Studies" and I had thought - sincerely, really I had - that we had made it clear with them that in no way were we the least bit interested in converting to LDS but if they wanted to talk comparitive religion and cultural differences / similarities that would be fine. I mean, Av goes and talks to churches and school groups a few times each year when he is asked to speak about Judaism or some special Jewish-interest subject. This is old hat to him.
We met them at their church on Monday, we were dressed nice as if we were going to attend services anywhere, and I had in my mind that we would do some kind of thirty minute walk-through. You know, here's this...here's that...this is where this happens.
One of the missionaries that we knew was there along with one other young man we had never met before, along with an older gentleman. They showed us their sanctuary (that's the pic above) and said that before they started showing us around that they would appreciate it if we would allow them to say a prayer (well, of course it was okay!). The prayer was - okay I am *so* going to just shorthand it all here - all the rest of the tour, etc. too - but the prayer was more or less "thank You for bringing Av & Ginger & Shug here and we hope that You will be able to show them that our church is where they should really be".
Then they sang a hymn for us. Then it went back to us just going back and forth with friendly questions, etc.
So we left the chapel and I was thinking that maybe they needed to do that prayer because it made them feel better, you know, they obviously think that their church is where everybody needs to be. They explained to us later that one of the whole things with their prophet Joseph Smith was that he was looking for the "true" church back when he was a teenager in the 1800s in New York state, and that the way it all turned out was that all other churches were "corrupt".
Which I thought was pretty harsh. But we were there to hear their beliefs. So.
They showed us some of the artwork and that went on for a long while because every bit of it had a long, long explanation. When we got to one of the ones of Joseph Smith, we were told that what they believe is otherwise pretty fantastical, but either you believe he was a true prophet or a false prophet. And if you believe he is/was a true prophet, then of course it's all true and so on. I almost felt like we just almost asked if he was true or false, so I said "well I think it's wonderful that y'all believe this" - I sure wasn't going to say that I would find it hard/impossible to accept, but it was sure enough for me to believe that they thought he was "true". Who am I to judge?
Well, we wound up in the room where the baptisms take place. Shug was getting a little weary by then - you know babies his age like to see new things all the time and not just sit in one place for too long, so I said that we needed to be going. They asked us to read the Book of Mormon and to see if it felt "true" and to meet back and discuss it, and...gosh...it just felt like here it all was - the whole idea of this field trip, they were closing with us by asking us to promise to read their book and then we could talk about whatever and you know where this is going...
So I said, "um, when we first met, I told y'all that we are Jewish and that we aren't interested in converting. We have enjoyed your company and talking about similarities and differences but we never asked you to convert to our religion and I don't understand why all of a sudden it is going this other way." Well they really backed off then, the older gentleman asked to say one last prayer and it was about understanding between religions and it was very nice.
When we got to the car, I asked Av why he didn't end it earlier and he said that he was fascinated to hear what they were doing and wanted to see exactly how far they were taking it. He said that he expected that they would "try" when we accepted the invitation. I have to agree. If you think that someone is going to the fiery pits because they don't share your beliefs, the best thing you can do in your whole life I guess is to save them from it. They were just doing what they feel is...well...what they feel is in our best interest even if we obviously don't "get it" like they do.
In our tradition, there are multiple paths to the truth and they differ for different people. I suppose that's what makes it difficult when trying to share with other people who have a belief system that theirs is the "one true way" and all others are false. For instance, we believe that the righteous of all nations - whatever you believe, if you are Christian or Muslim or Hindu or whatever - have a share in the world to come.
And that Judaism is the correct path for Jews, and that Christianity is right for Christians. And you don't have to convert to Judaism if you're not already Jewish. Unless you really-really want to. Even then it's like "are you crazy"? hahahaha!!
You just need to be a good person no matter what "flavor" you are.
Ah, now we can all sing "Kumbaya".