Why I Love Mormons
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.
"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?"
"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.