Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

It All Began with a Book of Mormon in a Bag: A Favorite Missionary Experience In Switzerland

I was just reflecting on one of my experiences in Switzerland as a young missionary, and thought I'd share it. It was the last month of my mission in the wonderful St. Gallen area. My companion, Elder Angerhofer, and I were having a great week. Though it's rarely wise to do so, we ended up scheduling a couple appointments on the afternoon of our preparation day to be able get some more teaching opportunities in with promising investigators. But we were soon disappointed. One investigator had left the Book of Mormon in a bag on her door with a note that she didn't want to talk anymore. Naturally, we refused to honor her wishes and kicked in the door -- wait, wrong cult! No, we left, disappointed, and went to the next investigator, who also told us that she wasn't interested.

I remember how we went outside and stood on a sidewalk, feeling a bit forlorn but hopeful that our little sacrifice of time this day might still be worthwhile. We looked over the city below us and prayerfully pondered what to do. Do we go home for a few more hours of a normal preparation day or keep working? We felt that we should work. After further reflection, we felt that we should head toward some tall buildings near a hospital. We went there and picked a street that seemed good, and then tried our luck tracting. We couldn't get into those newer apartment buildings, but tried a couple of buzzers and spoke into the speaker to see if anyone wanted to let in a couple of strange American religious fanatics that they couldn't see. For some reason, they weren't interested. Go figure.

As we left the entryway of the first building and started back toward the street, we ran into a couple of men who looked like something out of the drug culture. In fact, one was completely stoned and the other seemed largely drunk. I was anxious to move on but my faithful companion struck up a conversation and asked if they had time to talk about religion. My body language may have conveyed the message of "Let's get out of here!" but my outstanding junior companion pressed on, and soon we were inside and walking up the stairs to their apartment.

The completely stoned guy was shaking (mostly rocking his torso back and forth) and I was afraid I'd have to carry him up the stairs, but he made it. The department was a filthy little hovel with a tall pile of ashes in the middle of the floor, apparently from whatever they had been smoking over the past few weeks. Clothes, pots, pans, and other items were strewn around the place. The stoned guy lay down and just shook. The other guy said not to worry and told us to go ahead and talk. But first he had to turn on his boombox or radio to provide some helpful rock and roll as loud background music. It might have been the Rolling Stones. I was quite ready to leave when the phone rang. After a few words, the man said he had a couple of American preachers with him and then handed me the phone. Strange.

A Swiss woman, Sonja Schweizer, was on the other end. She was excited that we were from America. "American? Wonderful! Oh, I just love John Wayne!" I'll never forget that - it was hilarious. She asked me if the two guys were on drugs again and told me that she had been working with them to get them clean. She said that God was behind it because she had reached them originally by dialing a wrong number, had recognized that someone had drugs had answered, and had begun pestering them to free them from drugs. Then she asked about us, what kind of missionaries we were. "Mormons? Oh no, anything but that! That's horrible - you have all those wives!" My quick response: "Really, I don't even have one wife. And we don't do polygamy anymore. It's been banned for a long time." She was OK with that, and told us that we needed to bring the men over to her apartment and preach to them there. We agreed, gave the phone back to the somewhat drunk man, and soon we were walking with him to her apartment a few blocks away. The completely stoned guy stayed where he was.

It was a poor attitude on my part, but I felt a little embarrassed to be walking along the busy street with our somewhat drunk friend as he staggered occasionally. Such a petty concern.

We got to Sonja's apartment, where we met that amazing Yugoslavian woman (Schweizer was her name from a failed marriage to a Swiss man) and her two kids. She was in a wheelchair, having suffered many afflictions in her life. She was probably 35, I think. Very dynamic and strong willed. She scolded our drunk friend as we sat on her couch and she talked about how awful it was that he and his friend were abusing drugs and alcohol. She pointed to him and said, "Preach to him!" We decided to talk about the Plan of Salvation, which was the second discussion then, as I recall. Within five minutes, he had passed out completely, but she was all ears. "Yes! Of course - that makes so much sense! Why didn't my ministers ever tell me this? They are such worthless fools!" We got a lot of that as she reveled in the beautiful power of Gospel basics and marveled at how well it fit the Bible and how far modern Christianity had come from what struck her as obvious truth. She said she somehow had already believed that there must have been a premortal existence and so forth. When we finished, she said, "Gentlemen, you've got yourself a convert!"

I am disappointed to report that with her difficult situation in life and other factors, she never did manage to be baptized. Tragically, facing the pain of great physical afflictions, she became a victim to a professionally assisted suicide in 2000, just three weeks before I was planning to visit her on a trip to Europe. How pained I am by that, but I trust I will rejoice to meet her again one day - and pray that the Savior's Atonement will remove her grief and make her fully His.

But during those few weeks I had remaining in Switzerland, Sonja became a powerful missionary for our cause, in spite of her difficulty in accepting baptism. She introduced her nurse to us, a person we could never have reached otherwise because of her remote location and difficult schedule. We were able to teach this busy nurse in Sonja's home and had wonderful spiritual experiences (and the non-spiritual experience of making American root beer for them: "Ugh. It tastes like medicine."). She developed a profound personal testimony of the Gospel, and was baptized shortly after I returned to the states. Sister Sigrist would later go on a mission to Hamburg and marry in the temple. She continues to be a faithful and active member in Switzerland (with a different last name now).

She also introduced her social worker to us, a wonderful man who is one of my favorite people in the world, a real hero who now works diligently in Switzerland to help poor refugees, and who has also worked to help refugees in Sudan. My wife, my two oldest sons and I had the privilege of spending some time with him and his family in Switzerland during our trip in 2000, and I continue to cherish our friendship. He's not a member of the Church, but he's very much like a diligent bishop in the work of ministering to others. An amazing and loving man.

Cherished experiences, precious relationships, and instructive encounters with pains and tragedies of life, all stemmed from that one frustrating moment, standing on a sidewalk in Switzerland holding a bag with a rejected Book of Mormon, prayerfully wondering what to do next. How grateful I am to the Lord for such experiences.

53 comments:

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Hmmm. Do you ever feel guilty about wandering around Switzerland telling lies to people, passing off Joseph Smith egotistical fantasy as legitimate scripture? How on earth can you believe such nonsense?

Daniel Peterson said...

Gotta love substantive and well-reasoned posts like the one above.

I served in Switzerland, too. In Burgdorf, Interlaken, Kloten, Ostermundigen bei Bern, Zug/Luzern, Baden, and, finally, in the mission home in Zürich.

I'd visited Switzerland once before my mission, and fallen in love with it. I was astonished beyond measure to be called to serve there, and have loved it ever since. Fortunately, I've had the chance to visit numerous times in the intervening years (often en route to or from the Near East, which provides the most complete conceivable contrast).

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Good heavens, is "reasoning" permitted among Mormons? It's supposed to be all subjective feeling-- "I know the Bk of Mormon's right [despite its complete lack of concordance with American archaeology, and the fact that there's no such thing as 'Reformed Egyptian']"

To Europeans, the idea that Jesus would waste his time visiting America is particularly laughable. The nonsensical pseudo-KJV diction of J Smith's ravings, of course, also has no resonance with those who didn't grow up with a mawkish reverence for the Authorised Version (and since most educated Europeans can read English, they will note this peculiarity with bemusement).

I've met numerous pairs of pimply-faced, undereducated Mormon "missionaries" when I used to live in the northeast US. What I always found more interesting than their naive presumption that anyone with more than half a brain would be taken in by such nonsense is this: how on earth can they believe it themselves? Granted they're from Utah or some other such benighted place, but still--surely even in those culturally backward Red States there must be some semblance of reason? Mormonism may be the 19th century equivalentof Scientology, but even Tom Cruise doesn't pretend that Injuns rode horses before the white man brought them.

The bottom line is this: if it is wrong to delude oneself (a necessary prerequisite to being a Mormon), is it not more wrong to try and delude other people (which is the aim of Mormon "missionaries")?

Anonymous said...

I've met numerous pairs of pimply-faced, undereducated Mormon "missionaries" when I used to live in the northeast US. What I always found more interesting than their naive presumption that anyone with more than half a brain would be taken in by such nonsense is this: how on earth can they believe it themselves?

You don't get it, they believe it cause they can get others to believe it. They say to themselves, "Wow, they actually believe this gold book in the secret stone box story. Gotta be true if they are swallowing it." The church is converting its own. Those pimply faced undereducated kids will grow to be the life long tithe paying members the church needs. And of course, they will have about 10 offspring that will be readied to go out to the world and do like daddy done.

Granted they're from Utah or some other such benighted place, but still--surely even in those culturally backward Red States there must be some semblance of reason?

Sure there is reason. But they make it up as they go along. Makes life more interesting for them that way.

me said...

To the non-mormons: If guys are so sure that the BofM and JS are a farce, then why do you waste your time coming to this blog and reading the stories? And don't give me some typical sarcastic liberal answer that comes from the fact that you haven't anything intelligent to say.

OK everyone - brace yourself - here comes the typical sarcasm.... or should we just call it religious intolerance?

Anonymous said...

I just love reading the stories. I like LOTR and Harry Potter too.
Can you give me an example of a "typical sarcastic liberal answer that comes from the fact that you haven't anything intelligent to say." I would love to hear one.

me said...

Anon @ 7:02- An example would be " I just love reading the stories. I like LOTR and Harry Potter too." Instead of giving us a real, intelligent answer, you just come back with sarcasm.

Now try again to answer my question. Why do you keep coming back? I challenge you to answer without using sarcasm.

Ian said...

That's a great experience Jeff. They say that the Lord works in mysterious ways, I beleive it. Sometimes when you think that all is lost you realize that just around the corner is what you have been looking for.

Daniel Peterson said...

There's a wonderful passage in the ancient pseudo-Clementine literature -- it occurs in both the Recognitions and the Homilies, if I recall correctly -- where Clement, a philosophy student in Rome, wanders by an early Christian "street meeting" in which the apostle Barnabas is testifying of the resurrection of Christ.

Clement, who has been disappointed by the shallow cleverness of his teachers at the school of philosophy, is interested enough to stop. And it turns out that some of his teachers and fellow students have also stopped -- but only because they want to poke fun at a hayseed religious fanatic from some insignificant foreign cult, not because of any genuine interest in the truth.

"You talk with a funny accent!" these sophisticated grad students and faculty in the capital of the world scream at the relatively uneducated, provincial, and possibly pimply-faced apostle. "Why don't you go back to live among the scorpions in Palestine?" they cry out to the ridiculous bumpkin. "Hey! Do gnats get resurrected, too?"

Clement, impressed with the apostle's direct and unadorned testimony and disgusted by the obnoxiouness and superficiality that he sees in those who were mocking the man, eventually becomes a Christian.

The story is probably fictional, but, since Christianity did in fact spread from remote provincial Palestine, via backwoodsy working class apostles and missionaries, to the most prosperous, cultured, and advanced cities of the empire (e.g., Athens, Corinth, Antioch, Alexandria, Thessalonica, and Rome itself) and beyond, surely something very like it must have played out many, many times.

There's a lesson to be learned from it. Barnabas and his companions, when they found an eager listener in Clement, no longer paid any attention to the noisy and absurd buffoons in the crowd who wanted only to ridicule. To do so would have been to waste their time. They were interested in those willing to seriously consider the claims of Christ. That was and is a wise course.

me said...

Daniel Peterson, point taken. And a very good point, at that. I need to learn to look past the posts of rad girl and those like it.

Jeff, great story. I've heard many, many just like it. Just when you think a door has closed, three more open in its place.

Walker said...

Agreed. The story is a tremendous example of how us benighted fools (many of whom have advanced degrees from such holes of backwardness as UCLA and Yale) can actually help people's lives become more meaningful. A ridiculous thought, I know--but Einstein once noted that "science without religion is lame." I suppose I'm in good company.

I had the opportunity to serve among the Hmong people in San Diego. Jeff has a whole section devoted to them, so I want belabor the point here. Despite their struggles in fully living the gospel, they are a tremendous people. Their examples mirror that of the Latter Saints in some significant ways (persecution, exodus under extreme hardship to what many Hmong people view as a better land).

Radicalfeministpoet:
Remarkable. Your post smacks of derision for not just Mormonism, but the entire Native American people. It's alright I suppose cuz (oh, blast--that's my "backward" dialect flaring up again) we all know that Jesus only loves the Europeans anyway (rolling eyes). Also, before you write us off a pathetic blind sheep wandering around a wasteland of reason, I would recommend that you actually KNOW who we are. My future career depends on my ability to think independtly (I plan to be pursuing graduate studies in history, no less, at Cornell--not exactly your bastion of Mormonism). And my acne has been gone since high school prom, thank you very much.

And to Anon@6:02, your view of Mormon conversions is simplistic. I can clip off a myriad of individuals I know who have, of their own volition, chosen not to go on a mission or be active in Church, despite tremendous family pressure to do so (and of course, they're the only folks who can think for themselves). Never mind that these same individuals chose voluntarily to come back after several years (I should know, since we have more than a couple in my family).

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Great galloping gallumphuzzles! Not Clement the third (or fourth) bishop of Rome? But he was a child of the Great Apostasy!

It is a bit rich to be chided for showing contempt to Injuns by a member of a sect that taught that black people bore "the mark of Cain" for years, right up until the time God changed his mind on the subject.

As for those "individuals who chose voluntarily to come back [to Mormonism]", there is something about a dog returning to its own vomit.

One shudders to think that even in Red States there are people who think UCLA, Cornell or Yale are presitigious. (OK, OK, so in comparison to BYU, anything's prestigous, but I'm talking about the real world.) I recall the time when Thurston Howell III was explaining to Gilligan how to tell whether a certain savage was a cannibal, by simply observing whether he ate with this left or his right hand. When he plunged his entire face into the rude wooden bowl, Mr Howell recoiled in horror and cried, "Oh no! A Yale man!"

Anonymous said...

radicalfeminist:
Do you visit the blogs of Jewish people, or blogs of Islamic people, or blogs of Catholic people and spout your words of distaste about their beliefs, or is it just the Mormons for which you show your intolerance?

Red States? A dog and his own vomit? A quote from Gilligan?? Wow, you must be one of them educated folk.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Hmm. I don’t see the point of pestering Jews or Catholics, but challenging Mohammedans—now there’s an idea. After all, like Mormonism, Mohammedanism was started by a megalomaniac polygamous paedophile who invented his own scripture and, turning Christian ethics on their head, preached violence and “blood atonement”/jihad.

On the other hands, Mohammedans don’t send ignorant kids in white shirts and silly black ties to bother people. Nor did they ever teach black people were accursed.

Getting back on topic...I don't doubt that even in Switzerland there is an occassional numbskull who might swallow Mormon "history". There's a sucker born every minute; sooner or later one of them will be delivered in the Alps. But most Europeans, quite frankly, are much smarter than Americans, mainly because here we are surrounded by real evidence of real history. Case in point: just a couple miles from me is St Martin's church, the oldest continuously used church in England (dating back to the 5th century). It's difficult to fall for fantastic fictional history when there's real antiquities all around you. In other words, apostasy-shmostasy.

Joseph Antley said...

wow...if I was Jeff I would set comments for registered users only. His blog is being abused by the ignorant.

Daniel Peterson said...

There's no point in responding to this alleged radical feminist poet -- s/he offers nothing of substance and, I'm guessing, is only playing a silly game to try to get a rise out of his or her targets -- and much good would come from paying no attention to what s/he has written. You can't have a rational conversation with someone whose conversational range is exhausted by pointless sneering.

Walker said...

I normally try to give most folks the respect of engaging their discussion w/evidence, however wrong I may feel them to be. Too bad that our feminist friend does not wish to reciprocate the niceties with anything more than a sputtering rage.

If one must appeal to Gilligan, as incisive his opinion is (?), to prove that Yale is less-than-prestigious...well, nuff said.

Sneer away, my feminist friend. It's actually quite amusing. As a good friend once said (who happens to be a friendly critic of the church at that), if you can't do something, criticize it well.

ltbugaf said...

Jeff: I want to give you my personal thanks for sharing this experience. It reminds me of some of my own, serving in Quebec. I briefly taught a man from India who had to wait months for a copy of the Book of Mormon in Hindi to arrive. He wept with joy when it came, even before reading it. On our next visit, he was enthusiastically sharing his favorite passages from the wisdom of Lehi.

Thanks for giving me a lift. And sorry about the cruel mockers who are trying to hijack the thread.

Granny said...

Quoting Walker

"...if you can't do something, criticize it well..."

It would appear that "feminist" can't even criticize well; these puerile babblings hardly qualify.

Poor baby.

me said...

Sorry, Jeff. I think I encouraged the hijackers. Didn't mean to. My apologies.

Granny said...

Me said Sorry, Jeff. I think I encouraged the hijackers. Didn't mean to. My apologies.

I'm afraid I did too and I'm very sorry.

Here's a thought: how about whenever someone posts something sarcastic, hateful, etc., maybe if we just replied something like "Thank you for your input. We love you," or words to that effect, it would be of value. Could we try that? I've decided it would be much better for me, at least, before I post something to ask myself if Jesus would post it?

signed
Granny, repenting and determined to try to be more Christlike

Walker said...

Jeff,

Your story is indeed an excellent one, and here I am engaging his/her royal trollness (radicalfeministpoet) on peripheral matters. I'm in favor of Granny's response--all in favor say Aye.

Anonymous said...

Jeff, great story. I have many like that from my mission as well. I wonder what seeds I sowed have now become.
On a side note, do you ever dream that you are called out on another mission? It is reacuring for me.
Go Cougars!

Bookslinger said...

Anon at 9:24 PM:
Every member is a missionary at all times and at all places. (Elder Bednar)

Keep those pass-along cards handy!

Mormanity said...

Hey, Radicalfeministpoet, thanks for dropping buy. Sorry you're feeling threatened by diverse religious beliefs. There are some great diversity workshops I can recommend - I'd be happy to do one for you and your friends at the competitive corporate rate (about three truckfuls of cash).

And before you go calling us racist, you should recognize that we are a little more diverse than you might think. While I'm only 1/512 Mohawk, I'm sure you'll agree that I'm at least 90% Naive American.

Anonymous said...

On the other hands, Mohammedans don’t send ignorant kids in white shirts and silly black ties to bother people. Nor did they ever teach black people were accursed.

Now that's just absurd. Black ties are hardly silly.

Daniel Peterson said...

Incidentally, the now dying habit of calling Muslims "Mohammedans" is offensive to them and misrepresents their faith (by suggesting that they worship Muhammad just as most Christians worship Christ). That might not matter to sophisticated and highly educated types, of course, but ignorant rustics such as we are should probably be careful about it.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I had forgotten about the silly political correctness that infests America. Except perhaps to ignorant rustics (ie, ordinary Americans), “Mohammedans” does not imply worship of Mohammed any more that “Lutherans” implies worship of Luther, or “Puerto Ricans” of Puerto Rico. Nor is pointing out that someone’s deeply held personal beliefs are utterly stupid to be equated with “religious intolerance.” Prohibiting exercise of such beliefs—eg, by burning such people at the stake or cutting of their heads—would be intolerant. So far, I do not recall having (publicly) recommended this treatment for anyone, even homophobes.

There seems to be a misapprehension among some poster here that I have quoted Gilligan in my evaluation of the state of American so-called higher education. Even a casual reader should be able to see that Mr Howell was my source. I doubt very much that Gilligan matriculated at any university whatsoever; or, if he did, it must have been one of those public institutions that blight the US landscape and contribute to the shortage of useful tradesmen such as plumbers and electricians. Lest I be accused of mean-spiritedness (if anything, I have been too kind—a deep-rooted personal shortcoming that I am working on), let me hasten to add that in exceptional reasons there may be very good reason for someone to attend Yale; for instance, such an one might have an elderly, ill grandmother who through no fault of her own lives in New Haven. Such circumstances occur, and deserve our pity, not our contempt.

But if I might return to the subject of Jeff’s original post, which so many commentators here choose to ignore in their zeal to hurl invective at me, the question remains as to whether there is any moral culpability, once one has successfully deluded oneself with a preposterous pseudo-gospel, in trying to foist the same delusion onto others. To wit, if we accept, for the sake of argument, that a person may become delusional through no fault of his own (by being born in Utah, say), does that confer her/him with a moral carte blanche to delude other people as well? By way of analogy, I refer you to the legal concept of “criminal insanity.”

Now the people of Switzerland are a hard-working, honest and industrious, if humourless, people, as anyone familiar with the works of Johanna Spyri will know. Is it not more than misguided, but morally reprehensible--whatever the state of one’s own mental health—to try and convince them that Injuns are really Hebrews and that Jesus ever bothered to visit America, even by mistake?

AlexG said...

RfP Your tone is quite derogatory against a religion you find 'laughable'. I would very much like to understand why is that you find Mormonism to be a 'pseudo gospel' driven by the 'ravings of Joseph Smith? There has been quite a lot of evidences of plausibility for the Book of Mormon. Jeff has discussed them through out his pages, maybe you would like to examine them, yet I highly doubt that anything would convince you that there the Book of Mormon is quite plausible as an American record.

You state that for someone "has to be deluded" to become a Mormon. May I enquire on what basis you say this? Would you be deluded for accepting the parting of the Red Sea, for which there is NO archaelogical evidence? The Resurrection (even existence) of one Jesus Christ? How about proving that the Jews were in Egypt, because there is NO record of them, or a massive migration out of the Pharaon's lands? Are Christians deluded? How about someone that had a vision on a road and preached about this dubious character? Was he a master deluder?

You claim that America is swamped in the so called 'political correctness'. How about a look on Europe (from which you allegedly post): Christmas is banned in some counties of the United Kingdom. Visible religious symbols banned from French public schools. The European constitution has faced major hurdles in trying to not offend anyone, even with disregard to Europe's own traditions. How is that for so called 'political correctnes'?

Thank you Jeff for this amazing post. Ah, the junior companions, their zeal and their freshness can certainly open many doors. Possitive experiences such as this certainly uplift our spirits. Just the perfect tonic for an otherwise smut laden world.

Walker said...

RfP--

I hope you do not speak for the Swiss people as a whole, for your opinions of religious diversity are not exactly encouraging to be a tourist in Switzerland.

Just as a side note: Americans largely view Gilligan's island as silly, anitquated (if mildly humorous) TV show. If you think that any citation of the show is an authoritative social commentary on America, you have been seriously misinformed.

But as you said, back to Jeff's post. You do not seem terribly interested in rational inquiry, choosing to make an assumption about the moral reprehensibility of Mormonism without seriously testing it out (or if you have done so, you have failed to demonstrate that process here w/evidence of any kind). If the Reformation taught us anything at all, it taught us that religions should be tested out and subjected to scrutiny. While such rational inquiry might be foolish to the educated, it is something that we ignorant fools from the Wyoming backwoods find quite helpful.

As AlexG noted, you have yet to demonstrate w/evidence how we have deluded ourselves. You simply lay out accusations as though they were self-evident. While some people might believe ravings like this, I choose to be critical of all claims, spiritual and secular. Sorry, but the Mormons are beating you in the critical inquiry arena right now.

ltbugaf said...

Let's see if I understand...

A person whose intellectual qualifications vastly outweigh the qualifications of all the other posters put together (which just HAS to be true if he/she attended Harvard, right?), and who finds no value or worth in anything those puny-brained Mormons has to say, nevertheless feels compelled to spend hours in hurling epithets and demeaning their faith? I'm surprised. I would have thought such a person would simply want to do something else. If everything we undereducated, pimply-faced idiots say and do is so unworthy of note, why spend so much energy noting it?

It reminds me of those who say they have left the Church and yet never seem able to leave the Church alone. They devote the rest of their lives to trying to make themselves feel good about leaving, by tearing down and mocking.

On the other hand, I don't know why I'm commenting on this at all. As a Mormon, I obviously fall into the camp of the ignorant and unlearned, unworthy of engaging in such high-minded discourse.

Since radicalfeministpoet is so far above the rest of us, and we are so unworthy of addressing his/her points, perhaps we'd better leave it at that.

Daniel Peterson said...

Why is anybody at all still responding to this person, who may or may not be female, may or may not be European, may or may not be radical, feminist, or a poet, but who is certainly trying to disrupt and to provoke a response by means of imbecilic broadbrush condemnations not only of Mormonism but of all things American?

This individual's mockery of Yale provides a very useful diagnostic test, and the verdict is obvious: It cannot possibly be serious -- there isn't a reputable scholar in the world, surely, who shares his/her absurd dismissal of that eminent university -- unless it indicates a perverse disconnect from reality. My guess is that we're dealing here not with insanity but with an unfunny joke. However, in either case, the silly put-downs of Yale (and, by implication, of Berkeley, UCLA, Princeton, Chicago, etc.) suggest that there is no point in engaging this individual, whose shtick has long since gone from bizarre and mildly irritating to merely boring and repetitious.

Please stop gratifying this individual's obvious craving for an audience to provoke. I don't know whether Mormanity ever shuts down threads or bans specific posters, but this deliberate caricature of an ugly and chauvinistic European -- offering no substance, no evidence, no rational argument, merely insults designed to offend -- certainly cries out for one response or the other.

Incidentally, this person is, of course, simply wrong with regard to the term Mohammedan. I've accurately reproduced some of the complaints that actual Muslims make about the term. I say this not in a hope to affect the grandstanding disrupter of this thread, but as a point of general information for my fellow rubes.

Daniel Peterson said...

Oh yes. I forgot to tell you, Mormanity, that I appreciated your story. I guess that I, too, was distracted by the idiocy that invaded the thread. Which, I suppose, was its principal point, if it had a point.

John said...

Jeff,

I enjoyed your story. It brought back many memories. Being a missionary provides the most fascinating experiences-- one minute you feel like you've just wasted so much time, the next you're standing amazed at the doors that were just miraculously opened. The old phrase, "God works in mysterious ways" --I'm pretty sure must have been coined by a missionary.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I really have tried to focus on Switzerland here, but at the same time I do not wish to be rude and ignore the posters who prefer to talk about other things.

You … choos[e] to make an assumption about the moral reprehensibility of Mormonism without seriously testing it out …

I don’t believe I commented on the moral value, or lack thereof, of Mormonism. Rather, I posed the question: given that once someone has accpeted the tenets of Mormonism s/he is operating under a delusion, is that person morally culpable when s/he pesters people door to door in Switzerland? Is such a person guilty despite her/his mental state (“criminally insane”, so to speak), or does her/his mental state excuse her/him from following acceptable norms of human behaviour?

It is possible that some people object to my premise that subscription to Mormon docrine is delusional. To me this axiom is indeed self-evident, but this is hardly the place to debate it. I would therefore encourage such individuals to accept it for the sake of argument, and address the question I pose, which was triggered by Jeff’s curious story—curious, because (among other things) he seems to attribute random events to interference from God.

If the Reformation taught us anything at all, it taught us that religions should be tested out and subjected to scrutiny.

Americans really do not know their history, do they? How on earth does the Reformation teach any such thing? Here are some lessons from the Reformation:
Schism begets schism.
Reading translations of the Bible in the vernacular results in some pretty bizarre theological opinions.
The Bible provides an unreliable manual for church polity.


Undoubteldy there are more. But “religions should be tested out and subjected to scrutiny”? Such a view belongs to the Aufklärung, not the Reformation Had you performed such an exercise in Calvin’s Geneva (to maintain our Swiss theme), you would hve ended up in a very hot place.

Now, I’m not against subjecting religions to scrutiny. There certainly is enough evidence which should be more than conclusive to anyone of at least average intelligence, even in America, that Mormonism is a fraud. So too are many other institutions. My own personal interest is not to convince any particular adherents that that is the case—why should I care what you or anyone believes?—but rather, to examine the intellectual props such people construct to support a logically unstable artifice. Jeff Lindsay is a fascinating example of this, and I for one—unlike some here, I’m sorry to say—am grateful to him for allowing us a peep into the tangled catacombs of his mind, which can’t always be a pleasant task, for either of us.

It reminds me of those who say they have left the Church and yet never seem able to leave the Church alone. They devote the rest of their lives to trying to make themselves feel good about leaving, by tearing down and mocking.
I have never met an ex-Mormon, as they don’t seem to come round to my house in pairs at inconvenient times. But I don’t think the behaviour you describe is unique to ex-Mormons.

I hope I’ve addressed everyone’s concerns. Now I’d be interested in your views of the moral culpability of Mormon “missionaries”.

Walker said...

You have not addressed my concerns; you have avoided them altogether. Your sleight-of-hand on the lessons of the Reformation is hardly persuasive, especially when you use such to caricaturize an entire nationality's intellectual heritage. And considering you ignored my appeal to scrutinize Mormonism on this forum (conversations with yourself don't count, I'm afraid), I have little reason to believe your evidence against Mormonism consists of anything more than smoke and mirrors.

Also, it appears that you misunderstand the very nature of the Aufklärung by blending it far too closely with Reformation thought (rather pretentious of me, I know, to debate Swiss history with a Swiss, but then again, history is owned by no one, so I feel that I'm within my rights). The Aufklärung was hardly an affirmation of religious freedom as it was a anti-Christian secularism. Its interest was not to examine/scrutinize Church authority but to repudiate it. The Reformation, on the other hand, MIGHT be considered the theological equivalent of the Aufklärung; however, their differences in approach are significant enough to divorce them one from another.

Like so many significant events, the Reformation holds different lessons for later generations than former (the Vietnam War works similarly for American History). Any protestant who knows anything about Christian history will, at the very least, credit the Reformation for allowing their very existence. Indeed, as you noted, the ultimate effect of "schisms begetting schims" is not "a hot place" (as was the unfortunate lot of Calvin's folks under the hand of the Consistory), but rather the dissolution of Christianity. We're talking about long-term legacies rather than short term contingencies.

As far as "moral culpability" and "moral reprehensibility" of missionaries (which you clearly implied, contrary to your denial, in your very first post-- "Do you ever feel guilty about wandering around Switzerland telling lies to people..."), I would disagree with your word choice of culpability, because the connotation ultimately poisons the water hole of discourse. If I say they are culpable, the implication is that Mormonism is "deserving of blame or censure." However, if I say that missionaries are not culpable, then we suddenly have an army of 60,000 naive dupes and idiots on our hands who don't know even know whereof they speak. I do not believe myself to be either, and I think I know myself a little better than you do.

Mormon missionaries, in spite of your baseless accusations, are not bumbling sheep you pretend them to be. Granted, it does not help their case that missionaries in Switzerland probably have less than eloquent French/German/Italian, but this does not preclude their intellect. They come in all brands--the intellectually inferior and the up and coming scholars (and yes, these scholars are trained in all the intricacies of the humanities/history that you blindly claim superiority in). Laugh if you will at this, but you will be laughing at the truth. At this point, due to your failure to examine evidence, we have no choice but to believe that you have none.

John said...

radicalfeministpoet,

Your arrogance and mockery are not welcome here. If you tone it down, perhaps something of mild interest can come from interacting with you. Until then, expect to be ignored.

Jeff,

At one point on my mission, we had met and befriended Theresa, a cook at a local restaurant. She was going through a rough time and she enjoyed talking to us about some of her problems. We were having difficulty trying to discuss anything of a religious nature with her, aside from comments about God and His compassion. After about two weeks passed, it was becoming clear that she liked the company but was definitely not interested in listening to our message. Since, being in an eastern states mission, we weren't exactly overwhelmed with teaching opportunities, we continued to occasionally visit with her. I had given up on any aspirations to teach her, but she was going through a rough time and we were able to help her. Then, one day she had a cousin over helping her in the kitchen. Theresa couldn't stop raving about "the Mormons" when she was introducing us to Jessica, who then asked us to come over and talk with her. Long story short, Jessica started coming to church, fixed up her life, and introduced us to many of her friends.

This experience, along with many like it, enforced in my mind the need to do as Christ taught. We were in a position to help Theresa, so we did. The reward was not just Jessica's life change, great as it was, but the peace we were able to bring Theresa herself during her dark time. Being a missionary was the single most rewarding time I've ever had.

It seemed like those type of experiences happened as long as we were working. Of course we had little to no idea what God was doing, but we knew that as long as He was in charge that it would be worth the effort.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

you misunderstand the very nature of the Aufklärung by blending it far too closely with Reformation thought … The Reformation … MIGHT be considered the theological equivalent of the Aufklärung; however, their differences in approach are significant enough to divorce them one from another.

I hope I am not being rude if I ignore other posters for a moment and respond to Walker, who needs a little help with his history. Let me paint this as starkly as I can:
Reformation = narrow minded “reformers” establishing theocracies.
Enlightenment = critical evaluation of human behaviour and belief.
(A good way to remember this is the mnemonic RNMRET ECEOHBAB)

Any protestant who knows anything about Christian history will, at the very least, credit the Reformation for allowing their very existence.
This would go without saying, had you not said it. And now I’ve repeated it. But what does the existence of Protestants have to do with anything, and why sould any of us care if none had ever existed? Remember: most people are not Christians, and most Christians are not Protestants.

considering you ignored my appeal to scrutinize Mormonism on this forum …I have little reason to believe your evidence against Mormonism consists of anything more than smoke and mirrors…. due to your failure to examine evidence, we have no choice but to believe that you have none.
Here I am guilty as charged. As I said before, I have no more interest in disproving Mormonism than I do in disproving the cosmic forces of Mu. If Walker is lookig for such information, it is easily found with a search engine.

No, my real interest is in understanding how “missionaries” justify their behaviour. The current American agression in Iraq, for instance, makes me wonder if there’s something in the American character that makes them willing to barge into other countries uninvites and attempt to impose their beliefs on the unwilling inhabitants. Now, Walker objects to my use of the word “culpable”, but after thinking about this for quite some time it occurred to me that the reason people don’t want to think objectively about this is that it hits too close to home, so to speak, in that many people here seem to have served in the Mormon “missions.” So it may be useful to examine this moral problem with another example from which people can maintain some emotional distance.

Let’s say someone became convinced in the existence of an advanced but now vanished civilisation that flousihed somewhere in the neighbourhood of the former Garden of Eden—Mu will do nicely. This person was so convinced of the reality and the importance of this “information” that she went to Switzerland and started telling everyone who would listen, and many who wouldn’t, about this marvelous place and all its secrets, and encouraging them to join her group of Mu People. Now if she were deliberately lying, we would call her a charlatan and a con artist, but mind you, she really believed all this stuff was true. My question: is she in any way morally responsible for deceiving people, or does her own self-delusion render her innocent?

john scherer said...

A hypothetical for anyone out there. Say a person approaches you with a relgious question that is so ridiculous, that it is either posed by a sixth grader or is just a thinly veiled insult to your beliefs. Does one:
A: Espouse to her the reasoning behind your deeply held beliefs.

B: Try to show this her evidence that your beliefs are not ludicrous.

C: Ignore this person,resume fruitful conversation amongst reasonable people.

I'll take C.

Matthew 7:6 "Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.

Just a hypothetical. :)

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I've actually had experiences like that, when people knocked on the door. To be honest, there have been times when I've been in too much of a hurry to talk to them, but on other occassions I've spent quite a lot of time talking to them...usually I get a free book or something out of it. Last week some JWs (who funny enough show certain doctrinal similarities to the Mormons) came back and gave me abook on Revelation, after I'd spoken to them the week before. So I guess I'd pick A+B; I think C would be just plain rude.

Of course, it depends on what one's beliefs are. It's not polite to say so in some countries (ie, the USA), but some beliefs hold up to scrutiny a lot better than others.

John said...

Just to clarify-- Although I agree with john scherer's last comment, I didn't make it, meaning that we are not the same person.

john scherer said...

Nope, I'm a different guy.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Funny how they have the same handwriting.

Walker said...

Alright, RfP. Since you are unwilling to rationally analyze any claims here w/evidence, there is no purpose in further discourse. Your priori beliefs about historical and theological matters simply do not allow it. If you want us to make any headway here, I would suggest that you stop your uninvited barrage of discourse-poisoning assumptions.

Until then, I cast my vote with John and John. Back to reasonable discussion.

Daniel Peterson said...

I thought I'd check back in, but I find that a supercilious self-proclaimed "poet" is still deforming conversation here by means of shallow pseudo-sophistication, slogan-level provocation, cartoonishly simplistic partisan history, and leaden attempts at wit. So I think I'll finish re-reading Dante's Inferno tonight rather than tomorrow.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

Dan, hope you enjoyed the Inferno--glad you're not one of those who'd rather wait for the movie. Anyway, don't give away the ending, or you'll spoil it for the others here.

I'm still trying to decide whether this inability to critically examine one's own behaviour is primarily an American thing or a purely Mormon thing. (As in my view Mormonism is the American religion par excellence, the two are not unrelated.) There are Christian denominations in which the morality of proselytism has become something of an issue, but it would appear that this is not the case in Mormonism, if posters here are anything to judge by.

What I find interesting is this: a sect that puts so much energy into proselytism (to the point where--let's face it--it's considered a general nuisance) remains itself resistant and hostile to anyone who questions its basic assumptions.

Daniel Peterson said...

professedly radical possibly feminist self-acclaimed poet: "I'm still trying to decide whether this inability to critically examine one's own behaviour is primarily an American thing or a purely Mormon thing.

If you were really the unsurpassed hypersophisticated polymath that you pretend to be, and not merely a slightly clever but also humorless and tiresome prankster seeking to provoke, you wouldn't pose so provincial, historically illiterate, and anthropologically naïve a question.

But it doesn't take much learning or genuine sophistication to discover that a failure to engage in self-critical reflection upon one's own behavior is neither peculiarly American nor peculiarly Mormon: If your claimed biography is actually true, you yourself refute such a notion.

professedly radical possibly feminist self-acclaimed poet: "What I find interesting is this: a sect that puts so much energy into proselytism (to the point where--let's face it--it's considered a general nuisance) remains itself resistant and hostile to anyone who questions its basic assumptions.

You see? You're a perfect illustration. It isn't the questioning. It's the cutesy-poo preciosity, the preening, the posing, the unevidenced arrogation of superiority, the slogan-think that imagines itself deep and devastating.

The Purgatorio beckons. And then the Paradiso. And then - the mood is upon me -- I think I'll re-read either Homer, Goethe, or Milton. (Only in the original, of course.) Pale imitations of your own announced brilliance, I realize, but, for a provincial rube such as I, infinitely more attractive. You don't amuse me. You don't interest me. You bore me. Goodbye.

me said...

Dan, stop. Please. It's over. You get yourself all worked up for nothing. It is not worth it. You tell others it is not worth it to engage this person and you keep posting about her or to her. Move on. There are more important things in life.

Anonymous said...

Dan rocks! Drives the point home well.

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I wish someone would move on to the question I’ve been posing in one permutation after another: to what extent are Mormons willing, or even able, to consider the moral implications of their proselytism?

Shawn said...

RadFeministPoet:

I’ll try, I’ll try! My guess is that it is obvious to everyone else. But here goes…

(in reference to the question on your 1:02 PM, Dec 6th post – “is she in any way morally responsible for deceiving people, or does her own self-delusion render her innocent?”)

Drum roll please…


No and Yes


Tada! I don’t know much of Mu (I do dig Wikipedia, though), but doesn’t the law NOT hold the self-delusional (i.e. insane) responsible? Thus, she’s innocent but maybe should be locked up.

The bigger question is whether or not there is a God. Can I assume you have no belief in God or faith in religion? Based on that assumption, I think you will enjoy looking for your answer in Kurt Vonneguts,
Cat’s Cradle
. Only 192 pages – let me know what you think.

BUT, if you believe in God (or a God, etc) AND are basing your question on Mormonism, there is no answer. The question is illogical. Dispensing the truth is not deceiving, and those doing the work are not self-delusional. Quick, where’s the font? Ready for it to be filled up? ;)

I’m sorry, but it’s more that becoming “convinced”. We believe. A change takes place and people who are “converted” to the Church KNOW the BoM is true and real. Can that knowledge be substantiated? It’s a circular, self-feeding delusion, you say?

There is no way I can prove anything to you. I am willing to stand as a witness and say it is true. I do not think I’m delusional (fits the definition, though). Why? Hope. Back to the question of God; there’s not too much offered outside of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. As far as I am aware, every other world religion has some type of caveat that if you don’t join their faith, your going to hell. Don’t pass Go. That’s it, buh bye. Christians believe you must believe in Christ. Too bad for the other 4+ billion people in the world, right? (Well not if you’re a Christian whose religion incorporates the early Christian right of baptism for the dead.) “Mohammedans” (your word, not mine) believe infidels can’t go to Heaven, right? What if you’re not born into the “chosen people”? What if you just missed the boat?

Fact is; I can’t prove anything for you that would help you with the question you pose (that’s probably your intellectual-who-knows-everything point). I can only tell you my hope and faith lie with a God who loves all people and that there is reason, a plan, and a way back. The alternative means that not much really matters.



Obviously, I’m not up to par as an intellectual, but hopefully you’ll give me points for showing up. :)

Jeff… the Missionary experience you shared is awesome and inspiring. Thank you!

Radicalfeministpoet said...

I just linked here from the Cowdery thread, when I meant to link HERE--particularly the 17 Dec 8:43 am post. But this gives me the opportunity to respond to shawn's candid post, which I will do later today, after I return from my monthly visit to the Herne antiquarian book fair.

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