Why I Love Mormons

By Jeremy Lott

It was a cold evening and I was limping home. My right hip can't swivel like it should, so I've always walked with what is technically a limp. It's been much worse lately because of a hurt foot.

So when the young men on bikes started at me, I was especially unamused. It's easy enough to knock one guy off of a bicycle if it comes down to that, but more than one was going to be a problem.

They said something to me that I couldn't make out a block and some yards away, so I ignored them. They kept hailing me, and got louder. "How's your night going?" Something like that.

I gave them a phony thumbs-up and picked up my limping pace. I hoped whoever they were, that would satisfy any mockery or faux neighborliness they were looking for and they'd peel off.

No such luck. They got closer and louder. So I turned my hoodie to face them...

...and was just about instantly relieved.

I could see that these were either Mormon missionaries or actors dressed up to play Mormon missionaries: young, clean-cut men on bikes with small backpacks and identical, dorky bike helmets.

It was at this point I heard one of them say something about wanting to tell me about his church.

Yep. Mormons.

"Come on in, guys," I said.

They dismounted and we had a conversation.

"You guys are Mormons, right?" I asked.

"Yes. How did you know?" asked one of the young men.

He introduced himself as "Elder Benedict" and his colleague as Elder I-didn't-quite-catch-it, sorry. We'll go with Elder Whatshisname.

I had recognized them "from the bikes, probably," I said politely.

Whatshisname complemented my hoodie, a souvenir from Seaside, Oregon.

"Where is Seaside?" he asked.

"Oh yeah, you guys aren't from around here," I thought out loud.

Both indicated they were from Arizona.

"Let's go with a stereotypical guess: Gilbert," the de facto Mormon capital of the state.

"How did you guess that?" Elder Benedict wanted to know.

I paused, trying to think of the best way to explain, then asked, "Either of you ever heard of RealClearReligion.org?"

They hadn't.

"Part of the RealClearPolitics family of websites. We've run or linked to a lot of Mormon content, pro and con. You guys should check it out."

Also: "I've written quite a bit about Mormons myself, from a mostly sympathetic but non-Mormon perspective."

The missionaries asked about my own religious disposition.

"Are you Christian," Benedict asked.

"Yeah, I'm Catholic."

"We'll look at your website," he said. "Can we give you a card that has our church's website?"

"Sure," I said.

They produced pieces of cardboard, the first a card for Mormon.org, the second a prayer card-like card with a very 1950s looking Jesus surrounded by four children, two girls, two boys, one of them African-American.

It had the 13 "articles of faith" for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints on it, including a lot of doctrine that my church might quibble over. And then article 13: "We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men."

Now, I can't claim to agree with Latter-day doctrine or even to understand all of it. Yet it has produced a people so earnest, intelligent and well-meaning that I can't help but like them, including these young missionaries on bikes.

But as I said, it was cold that night. I traded a few more remarks with the Mormons, wished the the very best and continued the rest of the way home. With a bit of a spring in my limp, probably.

Jeremy Lott is editor-at-large of RealClearPolitics and author, most recently, of William F. Buckley.

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