What Mormon Missionaries Taught Me About Faith
It's a sunny and cool October day on Temple Square in Salt Lake City when two young women, missionaries from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, interrupt my lunchtime reading to chat.
I'm caught off guard because, as a Mormon -- and especially as a Church employee -- I'm used to Temple Square missionaries focusing on visitors instead of me (why try to convert the converted?). I'm initially annoyed at their interruption of my peaceful lunch hour, and I worry they will pester me with requests to give them the name of somebody they can help convert.
But these missionaries never go there.
In sweet innocence and humility Sister Brooks from Oceanside, California and Sister Fernandez from Quezon City, Philippines ask about me, my work, my family, my conversion story, what I do to keep my faith fresh, and how I help my children learn about Jesus. They tell me my home is a spiritual training ground for my two (soon-to-be three) daughters, and they encourage me to continue my efforts to pass on the tradition of faith to my children.
When our 20-minute conversation concludes, I leave unexpectedly uplifted, with a desire to be better than I was before we met.
I ponder on this random encounter for the rest of the day. As a Mormon, I have implicit faith that these missionaries were inspired to speak with me because I myself was once a missionary (in Ukraine), and prayerfully seeking ways to help and uplift others was my daily meat and drink for two years.
But why reach out to me? I was born into a Mormon family, I believe in Jesus Christ and I continue to actively participate in my local congregation. Am I really in need of more spiritual help? Don't I know enough already?
The answer soon comes in two parts -- first from a humbling New Testament verse, then in a poem from a favorite author.
Paul teaches "if any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know" (1 Corinthians 8:2). And in Slight Deception, Carol Lynn Pearson writes:
An adjustable lens is best
For seeing sin:
To soften the view when looking out,
To sharpen it when looking in.
The wisdom emanating from the words of Paul and this poem are rich and their message clear: Faith should be the journey of a lifetime, a constant quest of discovering truth through questioning whether I really know something, challenging assumptions and confronting the inner self about personal desires, devotion and righteousness.
How well am I doing? How strong is my faith? I'll never know without first allowing the possibility of holes in my current understanding. And it's through those holes that the light of God shines as the prompt to reassess my spiritual knowledge and strengthen my faith.