Last weekend, my family went out to dinner and my sons received an unexpected gift.
As we were shuffling towards our table, an elderly man at the next table was getting up to leave. He used a walker, but it was stuck against a table leg and he was having some trouble getting it aligned to help him up.
My oldest son, 17, saw what was happening and stopped to help. He wiggled the walker until it was un-stuck and helped the man get up.
He thanked my son, and they made brief small talk about having a nice meal. The man sheepishly joked about needing more help than he used to.
“But I’ve got something for you,” he said. “And you, too,” he added, handing small, rectangular booklets to each of my boys.
They wished him well and he left.
My sons studied the booklets.
“I was hoping it was actually a comic book,” my oldest said. “Turns out it’s some religious thing.”
We passed the booklets, which were tracts for the man’s church congregation, around the table and read through them. It was a rather grim comic strip about a proud and wicked man who died and was sent to Hell. All the angels who directed him were stern. The man grew increasingly desperate, and finally called upon Christ to save him from his doom.
“Sheesh,” my second son said. “That’s pretty intense stuff.”
“But there’s not much there I’d disagree with,” I pointed out. “I mean, I don’t believe real angels have wings or are always so grumpy, but the idea of relying on the Savior is right on.”
We had a good chat about how we, as practicing members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, may have some distinct doctrinal differences with Christians of other faiths, but it would be a mistake to assume we disagree on everything.
In fact, it would even be un-Christian, since we are called to be kind and love others. Rejoicing in other people finding a way to appreciate the Savior — or even, in the case of non-Christian faiths, in ethical behavior and noble service to humanity — seems imperative for anyone hoping to become more like Christ. Good people with loving hearts are everywhere.
Just because we’re used to the soft-focus photos of loving families often used in LDS tracts doesn’t mean a comic book format with a more urgent tone is inappropriate. And just because we might think we don’t need to be proselytized doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate the friendly intentions of a grandpa who wanted to connect with my sons.
Because there are so many Mormons in Utah, I’ve noticed many don’t have close relationships with people of other faiths. They’re missing out.
Meanwhile, people of other faiths are surrounded by Mormons and the cultural influence of the church and its members. While that can be neighborly and family-friendly, it can also feel clannish and suffocating.
I propose members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints take a tip from that religious comic book, and rely more on Christ. Instead of imagining anyone else’s religion is inadequate and attempting to change it, simply trust the Savior. Rejoice with genuine friends in any goodness that reflects God’s love. Even with family members, drop the pressure surrounding a religious checklist of approved or necessary behaviors, and just love people.
It was a gift to be reminded Jesus has everything handled