There is a new convert in our ward who has not been at church for about a month. He is single, in his mid 30’s and teaches school at our local middle school. He is a nice guy. We are having a stake golf tournament this weekend and I invited him to play in it as part of a foursome from our ward. I have been looking for excuses to fellowship with this good brother, and I am glad that he has accepted the invitation.
The Elder’s Quorum President talked with me about him at church yesterday, and he is concerned that this man has been given some anti-Mormon literature. He believes this is the reason he has not been attending church lately. I am not sure why he thinks this, but it could make for an interesting day. I will be giving him a ride to the course which is about an hour drive away.
For the most part, I do not get bent out of shape by anti-Mormon literature. I often view those who stop attending, or leave the church, claiming that it was the anti-Mormon literature that made them do it are just looking for an excuse. I did learn recently that often it is who gives you the literature, more than the content of it, that can cause the biggest problem. This man is very close to his family, and if it was a family member that gave it to him, that could be a big factor.
So how should I handle this?
I plan on enjoying a nice game of golf, and will hope for good weather. I probably will not bring anything up at all unless he does. I am more interested in establishing a friendship than anything else. But this has caused me to review my usual approach to being confronted with anti-Mormon claims. My approach has two fundamental characteristics which are:
– Do not get defensive or loose your composure. No matter what is said don’t let anything get under your skin.
– Ask yourself if this person is humbly seeking the truth. If not, relax. What you say won’t matter anyway.
There are also some standard things which we Mormons do when confronted with this stuff. This is not complete, feel free to add to it if you like.
– Play the infallibility card. We do not claim that our church leaders are perfect. Perhaps they have said or done things which are wrong. The imperfections of a few leaders are not necessarily a reason to dump the whole restoration. There is no end to claims of this nature, some may be true, others not. No reason to panic if you hear something new along these lines.
– Some of the anti-Mormon claims are true, and are just explained in a bad way to those who do not have the background to understand it. Sometimes these things may lead to productive discussions. We don’t need to be embarrassed by our beliefs, but may need to take the time to explain them well.
– Tie things back to basics. Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. Discussions about polygamy or other such things can often come down to whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet. And the Book of Mormon is the evidence of his work. Bring things back to this foundation. If one has a testimony of the foundation, then many details make sense, or are at least easier to take.
I think this is a good general approach. It will be interesting to see if anything comes up, or if we just enjoy the day. I’m hoping for the latter.
How do you handle this stuff?