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October 1, 2009
In The Village
Bearing his name
by Orson Scott Card

In testimony meeting this past week, our Young Men's president told us about conversations he had with a couple of nonmember colleagues who live in other states.

His colleague from Georgia mentioned a Mormon who belonged to his hunt club. Naturally, in Georgia one hears all kinds of things about Mormons -- most especially the old canard that we aren't Christians.

But that wasn't the colleague's experience. "He's the most Christian man in the group."

Another friend told him about a Mormon young man who was one of the strongest players on his son's baseball team. "This Mormon boy announced from the start that he wasn't going to take part in any Sunday games. When we made the play-offs, sure enough, along came a Sunday game. And he didn't play.

"We lost," the friend said, "but we had great respect for this young Mormon who stuck by his principles."

Now, some Mormons might get a little sidetracked by these stories.

After all, there are good Mormons in the NFL who play ball games on Sunday -- and for pay, too. Not to mention all the employees of Church broadcasting companies who work on the Sabbath. So maybe the young ballplayer's standard isn't an actual commandment.

Likewise, there are Mormons who would never feel good about belonging to a hunt club; taking the life of innocent animals feels to them like a violation of Christ's teachings. So the Mormon in Georgia isn't living up to their version of gospel standards.

In both cases, what matters is that these men made their decisions about how to live the gospel, let others know what those standards were, and then lived up to them.

In his testimony, our Young Men's president gave thanks for all the members of the Church who, by merely living according to their beliefs, helped change people's minds about Latter-day Saints.

In Rodney Stark's book The Rise of Christianity, he reports the research that indicates that new converts to a religion are rarely converted by the doctrine itself.

Rather it's the community of believers that first make a convert want to believe. When that community is admirable and welcoming, it draws others to want to join; they learn the doctrine later.

This has been my experience with new members, as I think it is for nearly everyone. No matter how much of our doctrine the missionaries try to teach, it's an awful lot to absorb in just a few weeks.

You learn enough to have a witness from the Spirit. Then, if you like, and feel welcome in, the community of Saints, you stick around long enough to spend the rest of your life learning the doctrine.

In fact, isn't that true of lifers, too? I grew up in the Church, but I'm still coming to understand doctrines that I thought I knew my whole life, but only lately have come to see from a clearer perspective.

So when Saints behave well -- welcoming others, not condemning them for their differences, but nevertheless standing for their own principles and beliefs -- we are helping the nonmembers us to unlock the door to Church membership -- and maybe even open it just a little.

Contrast this with another encounter I had many years ago with a nonmember friend who worked in a Utah software company. He was the only person in the firm who was not LDS.

There was a computer conference in San Francisco, and most of the men came without their wives. To my friend's disgust, these Mormon priesthood holders joked about how the rules only applied in Utah where their wives were watching.

They then proceeded to drink and otherwise misbehave the whole time they were there. But when they returned home to Utah, nobody there was any the wiser.

They thought my friend wouldn't mind -- after all, he wasn't bound by all those rules of conduct that Mormons are supposed to adhere to.

My friend didn't mind, in fact -- after all, these Mormons had only behaved like a lot of men who travel for business.

But he never took them up on any invitations to take part in Church activities. What would be the point? As far as he was concerned, these men weren't believers -- so why should he bother?

Instead of opening a door to the Church, these men had, because of their own hypocrisy, closed it and locked it. What could I say to him, except, "I don't personally know any Mormons who behave that way. I'm sorry that you had to see us in that light. For what it's worth, most of us mean what we say and live by what we believe."

I'm sure he believed me. But my words did not do much, I suspect, to counteract their actions.

We may not be "missionaries" all the time, teaching or talking about the doctrine. But we have taken upon us the name of Christ, and we bear that name every moment of our lives.

We are never off duty. There is no "out of town."

*

It's General Conference weekend, and for many of us that means either herding the kids to the chapel (or some designated room for baby-tending) for as many sessions of Conference as we can handle.

For others, it means gathering around the family television and watching in the comfort of our own home.

In either case, we are usually happy if the kids just stay quiet in the room so we can listen. As to their actually listening -- come on! It's a meeting for adults, and kids can't grasp what's going on. Can they?

Jenny Young, a former student of mine has come up with something that might help engage younger kids in Conference, at least for a few minutes per talk. It's a General Conference Activity Book.

At the website www.shellenedesigns.com, you can buy the right to download coloring-book style pictures of all the General Authorities. Jenny has rendered their standard portraits as line drawings.

The price is quite reasonable -- five dollars. Once you pay, you're taken to a .pdf, which you simply print out on your own printer. No shipping charges, no waiting for the mail. You could do it on the very day of Conference.

Then your kids can play the game -- with you -- of finding the picture of each speaker, and even if they don't really understand the talk, they can color the picture of the person giving it.

They are, to some degree at least, involved.

Of course, our sole remaining offspring-at-home is old enough to listen without any extra incentives. So it will be up to you to decide whether these activity books are worth the price. After all, it's your paper and your ink!

But I think she's done a very good job, and to me, at least, the simplicity of the delivery system is an asset, not a drawback.


Copyright © 2022 by Orson Scott Card Printed from NauvooTimes.com