Not by design so much as happenstance, my posts often randomly jump between topics. This time I've tried to unify them under the same underlying theme, and I'm not sure that it entirely worked, but I suppose it's better than nothing. Before writing what I was initially planning to write, I should like to shamelessly brag by prefacing my remarks with a glowing endorsement of this blog, which in turn shall be prefaced with a little backstory of how it came to be.
As I mentioned, in a couple of my classes we're divided into little groups. The people right next to me decided we should just be in a group together and save ourselves the hassle of picking one out. I was totally okay with that because two of them are pretty girls. The other one isn't pretty, because he's a guy, but I don't hold that against him. Anyway, we were going around introducing ourselves and the girl who started mentioned that she likes to write autobiographical stuff, so I asked if she had a blog. She said no, and then the other girl interjected to say, "Blog writing seems kind of narcissistic to me. It's just like, 'Look at me. I'm awesome.'" I ignored her because I don't need that kind of negativity in my life. But then the first girl said, to me, "Do you have a blog?"
I said, "Ummm..."
She asked, "Can I read it?"
I said, "Ummm..."
This is the endorsement she gave afterward: "I loved your blog! I didn't read through all of the entries yet, but I loved it. Your humor... and your writing style is so unique." And then class started, and we had a visiting poet from Salt Lake but I had a hard time paying attention because I was busy bubbling over with warm fuzzy feelings. She's an actual writing type person, too, so this is an expert analysis and if you disagree with it you are clearly ignorant and uneducated, mmkay?
I'm glad to have a unique writing style. Writing styles, I think, are like accents; you don't think you have one. Only other people have them. Once upon a time I tried to shamelessly emulate Douglas Adams' wonderful writing style, but that just created incoherent messes, because the only person who can successfully pull off Douglas Adams' writing style is Douglas Adams, and actually not even him because he's dead. Then I tried to emulate Campbell Black a little bit after reading his marvelous novelization of "Raiders of the Lost Ark". Now I just do my own thing and apparently that works. Remember, she's an expert.
Isn't it wonderful how a person can have such a positive impact on another person with small little acts and words? With less than thirty seconds of speaking, this girl made my whole day perfect. Like, I was so happy that if I had come home to find that my house had burned down, I wouldn't have even cared. Every other good thing that happened that day was just a bonus.
For as long as I can remember I've read the scriptures right before bed, but recently I decided to try doing it in the mornings instead and see how that goes. I don't have classes until 10:30 at the earliest so I have plenty of time to walk to the temple and read on the grounds for a while. On the days when classes don't start until noon, I go to work right afterward. So a few days ago I was walking to work with a Book of Mormon in hand, and was just a couple blocks away when someone out in his front yard pointed to it and said, "What's that?"
He seemed kind of odd and had cuts all over one side of his face, as if he had been attacked by a dog. I couldn't believe he was asking about it, but I showed him and told him what it was. He asked me about it and then he asked about Mormons. Was this happening? I thought. Had I really found someone in Utah, besides the foreign college students, who didn't know about the Book of Mormon? I was about to offer it to him. It was one of those cheap missionary copies that I have like five of. (Douglas Adams' writing style included run-on sentences; mine includes ending sentences with prepositions.)
But no, he actually just wanted to tell me that I was believing in a false gospel and that I needed to throw the book away and turn my life over to Jesus Christ and be saved. I might have mentioned that Jesus Christ is mentioned, on average, every 1.7 verses in the Book of Mormon, but then he would have just countered that it was a "different Jesus". Actually, there were a lot of things I could have said, but I knew it would be pointless because he wasn't interested in a real discussion, so I just kept smiling and nodding. He asked about my sins, and I told him because whatever, and he asked if he could pray with me, and then he put one hand on my shoulder and another on my chest and started loudly casting my demons out. Then he started talking in what he called "tongues" but which I'm pretty sure was Latin. "I don't know what it meant, but it was all good," he said.
I guess with all the smiling and nodding, he thought that he had persuaded me, so he told me about how I had a big responsibility and a big commission now. If I continued in Mormonism, I would be damning not just myself, but thousands of people around me. I smiled, nodded, and left. I pondered the strange encounter as I was pulling weeds at work. If I ever did decide to change religions, evangelical Christianity is actually just about the last one I would consider. But all good and sincere people are subject to some degree of inspiration, and a role in God's work, and so I felt that it was meaningful in some way. I felt that maybe it was even an answer to my prayer of the previous night, which centered around Alma 26:22;
"Yea, he that repenteth and exerciseth faith, and bringeth forth good works, and prayeth continually without ceasing—unto such it is given to know the mysteries of God; yea, unto such it shall be given to reveal things which never have been revealed; yea, and it shall be given unto such to bring thousands of souls to repentance, even as it has been given unto us to bring these our brethren to repentance."
I want to know the mysteries of God and I want to bring thousands of souls to repentance. I take the "thousands" part quite literally. There are seven billion people in the world, and via such means as the Internet I (or anyone) can reach a pretty sizable chunk of them. If/when I become a famous bestseller, I can reach even more. But it isn't easy, and so far it has usually felt like I'm broadcasting out to an empty room and having no effect on anyone. That's why it's great to see that occasionally I have impacted people. Let me be clear; when I shared the endorsement of my blog, I was bragging. In sharing the following messages, I am not bragging. I am, in fact rather humbled. But both things (though not entirely analogous, which is why I'm not sure how well the unifying theme thing worked) should hopefully illustrate the point that anyone's small acts and words can have positive impacts on people's lives.
That made me so happy. I like it when non-Mormons stick up for my religion. I think that, in general, when your own religion is insulted you should just shrug it off, but when other religions are insulted you should stick up for them. When I read someone call Mormonism a "cult" I just roll my mental eyes and form a low opinion of their intelligence. But when I read someone bashing on Jews or Muslims, I give them a piece of my mind. (Of course, if someone is spreading falsehoods or misconceptions about my faith rather than just mocking it I sometimes try to set the record straight, but in most cases it's obvious that they, like the guy I ran into, have already made up their minds.)
So anyway, I would have probably just ignored those people hating on my religion, but I appreciated her, as a non-member, sticking up for it; so much so that I was moved to tears a little bit. That's a big deal for me. I don't show a lot of emotion because then I become vulnerable and people will hurt me.
Indians don't have nearly so much of a taboo on discussing religion as many Westerners, so this guy had been full of questions, and I had been happy to answer. At the very beginning he didn't even get Joseph Smith's name right and unnecessarily apologized for that. It was fun to talk to someone from a different cultural background; to a Christian, one would compare Joseph Smith to the prophets of the Bible, but since he was actually more familiar with Islam I compared him to Muhammad instead. (Some of the other Indians asked me questions too. The weirdest one was, "Why do you believe that Jews are children of the devil?) That was about four years before he sent me this message. In the interim, he moved somewhere else and I had no idea that any of it still stuck with him or resonated with him.
Neither of these friends have joined the LDS Church, and while I would be lying if I said I don't hope they will someday, the fact that they haven't actually illustrates the point better. Being a positive influence, and even sharing the gospel itself, is not contingent on whether people accept it or not. I'm just glad and humbled to have made some difference. And there is really nothing spectacular or incredible that enabled me to do so, and therefore no reason why anyone else shouldn't be able to do the same. Now I feel like I should keep going on about this point to wrap things up to a conclusion, but that would be insulting to your intelligence, wouldn't it? You get the idea already.
Oh, but also, when someone touches your life for good, you should let them know so they can feel good too and be encouraged to keep doing stuff like that. I might tell that girl in my class how much I appreciated her compliment, but I might not need to, because she might read it here first.
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- Amelia Whitlock
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.