Just down the road from where I live they've been building a new bookstore, and the other night as I was driving home, I noticed that it was open. It looked like a big Borders which was really exciting because Borders is one of my favourite places on earth, and our closest Borders is a good 20 minutes away. I was excited as I parked my car and walked in the door, but it didn't take me long to realize that I was actually in a Christian bookstore! It looked exactly like a Desert Books! It had a music section with CDs and DVDs, there were sections for teenagers, women, men and kids (with colour in books, storybooks, toys and boardgames about bible stories etc.). They had a big artwork section with paintings and pictures, and those wooden 'love at home' type plaques. They even had a giant section for bibles, with nice leather or fabric bible cases (didn't realize other churches had those!). There was a little children's playground, and a cafe up the back, and as I walked around browsing through the different sections, I felt happy.
It reminded me of Utah, and being surrounded by people who feel like I do. I looked around at all the people in store (I was surprised really, at how many people were there), and felt excited to think that there are this many Christians in my neighbourhood! As Australians we're not known for our religious fervor and I don't have any non-mormon friends who go to any church at all, so it was exciting to me to think there was more of us Christians around than I'd realized.
As I was wandering, all warm and fuzzy, through the store, I noticed that their books were a little different, and written mostly by men and women who I recognize as television evangelists, but I figured there was probably a lot of good stuff in the store. I was keeping an eye out for any mormon-type literature, because it looked like it would fit nicely in the store,but I couldn't see any. I passed their 'world religion' section, and saw a book called 'World Religions 101', and I picked it up - curious to see if mormonism was listed...
Well, did I learn a few things! Turns out I'm not Christian after all - I'm actually a brainwashed and disillusioned cult worshiper. According to the chapter on mormons (which came first, and was apparently seen by the author as the most dangerous of them all), I believe that Christ was just a man, and not divine at all. Apparently I think that God is flawed and finite, and that - well, I think I'll just stop there. It went on and on, and I really should have just stopped reading - but i was too shocked and stunned at first. Some fellow named 'Dr. Hazam' wrote little boxed in commentaries on the 'facts' as they were revealed, sounding a warning voice to all so they couldn't be led astray by our terrible falsehoods, and I confess that I was ready to punch Dr. Hazam in the nose after about 5 minutes - especially since he claimed to be giving an 'unbiased presentation of the facts so that all could decide on the truth for themselves'. The thing was, it wasn't even based on facts.
The book really upset me. Not because it made me doubt my faith at all, but just because they were such lies! I felt like my eyes were suddenly opened, and found myself looking at the store through new eyes. I'm not saying that there wasn't some good found in the store, or that people can't feel uplifted or learn good things there, but isn't that how Satan often works? He's the master of taking 'some' good, or 'some' truth, and then slyly mixing it all in with some terribly destructive ideas or teachings. He'd rather give people 'some good' if that's the best way to keep them from 'all of the good' they could have. Here was an entire store that apparently existed to help bring people to Christ, and yet here in the book, they made a mockery out of His church and it's restoration on the earth. They refused to accept doctrine and scriptures that Christ himself has re-established in this dispensation. Most of all, it just upset me because it was hiding a truth so wonderful it should be being shouted from the rooftops.
It also upset me because I hold my Saviour and his teachings really close to my heart - my testimony and my relationship with my Heavenly Father are really personal, and I was hurt to have it ridiculed and mocked. I realize that the battle was only between me and the illusive Dr. Hazam, and that it took place entirely in my head, but it was still hurtful.
I've thought a lot about that incident over the last few days, and I've realized just how important it is to respect and honor other people's faith. I thought about the experience Emily and Chris had when they went to a friends church several months ago, and had to leave when the minister started 'railing on the mormons'. I'm so glad that as Mormons we're taught from primary to respect everyone's right to worship according to the dictates of their own heart. Spiritual stirrings are so personal, and while I think it's wonderful to share with each other, and teach those who would like to learn, I'd never belittle someone's personal and sincere feelings.
Anyway, I was just thinking about that. It's wonderful to live in a country and in a society where I have true religious freedom, and I feel a little more grateful for that freedom this weekend.