Editor’s note: This article is a transcript of a presentation given by Ross Baron at the 2001 FAIR Conference. The article has been edited to remove some artifacts present in an extemporaneous oral presentation, but not edited so much that the meaning or flavor of what was said was lost. We invite you to not only read these words, but listen to Ross’ presentation. You can hear it by clicking on this link.
It’s great to be with you. Let me tell you about what I’m speaking on, give you a narrative approach. And I’m going to tell you in kind of a narrative form what I did and what happened and then distill some principles from that that might be of help to you in your particular areas.
I’d first like to say that the word Elder, in the office of the Melchizedek Priesthood–and this isn’t a Hebrew derivation, Latin, or Greek–but Harold B. Lee, in Conference Report of 1970, page 54, said that Elder means “a defender of the faith.” And I think that’s interesting. Elder, according to Harold B. Lee, is a defender of the faith. That’s what it means. I think that’s a pretty interesting thing in the context of FAIR and FARMS and what we’re about and kind of an answer to that one sister who asked, you know, “Should we be afraid of scholarship?”
And I’ve been heavily involved, in terms of defending the faith, if you will, and doing my small part. I was on KRLA, a radio station in L.A., on Sunday nights called “The Spiritual Seeker,” and it was an opportunity to answer phone calls, kind of the Book of Mormon Answer Man, for those of you familiar with the Bible Answer Man. It was a Sunday night broadcast, and it was fabulous. It was fun. Dick Baer–for those of you who know Dick–he called in, of course, and we had an interesting discussion on the phone. And it was a great program. I was on the History Channel. The Church asked me to speak about the history of the Church on the History Channel. I did that, had a great experience there.
In my little bedroom community of Los Angeles, those of you who are familiar with Claremont, where Claremont College is, I’m the Institute Director at the Claremont Colleges and at the Glendora Institute. There was a pretty rabid, really virile and anti-Mormon presentation being put on by the Lighthouse Baptist Church, down there at Southern California in Lavern. It was interesting because I hadn’t seen anything quite so organized and quite so, you know, offensive. In other words, in the papers they were taking out half-page, quarter-page ads denigrating the Church, inviting people to their lecture series.
A member of the High Council and another member of our ward went to this lecture series, came back and reported to me how bad it was, and asked, “What are we going to do?” I was the bishop at the time, and I said, “Well, generally, we don’t respond to these things directly.” But they were incensed about it, and other people in the ward called me and said, “What are we going to do?” So I said, “Well, let’s talk to the stake president.” So we talked to the stake president, and he said he wanted to think about it a little bit, and then he asked me if I would put together something to present to his stake presidency in terms of how we could respond. So I thought about that.
Now, somebody–I think Scott Gordon–was introducing me, saying that I put on missionary firesides, and I cringed at that because I don’t know what your stakes are like, but in our stakes in the past, missionary firesides are these things where, you know, about a 150 people show up, two non-members, and kind of this…table cloths with linen, you know, a couple pictures of the Savior. It’s kind of an embarrassing thing. I told the stake presidency that I didn’t want to do that, that I wanted to have something that was going to be different.
This is what I had in mind: That we would take a frontal attack in terms of advertising; that we would take quarter-page ads out in all the local newspapers; that we would personally invite every pastor and minister in Lavern, Claremont, San Dimas, Covina, and Glendora; that we would invite the city council of every city, and the mayors of every city and put pressure on them to be there as a result of this anti-Mormon situation that occurred. And that I would speak for 45 minutes on Are Mormons Christian? And that would be the topic. And following that, we were going to have an open question-and-answer period, literally. In other words, it would be any question–historical, theological, or doctrinal–that you wanted to bring up, you could ask. And so he and the stake presidency looked at each other and said, “Go with it. Assign some committees, form the committees, do it.”
And so we did it. We took out these quarter-page ads: “Are Mormons Christian? Come hear what Latter-day Saints have to say about what Latter-day Saints believe. Question and answer following and, of course, refreshments served,” which is the key. (You can’t have a Latter-day Saint meeting without plenty of punch and sugar cookies.) And so we got together and we did these things. We invited the pastors; we invited the mayor and city council. Now you’ve got to understand, we had never done this. We had no idea how or who was going to show up. I mean, I didn’t know if there was going to be about 87 people that would show up; I just didn’t know. No one else did, either. But we decided to take precautions and we decided to have security, because of some of the virulent anti-Mormonism in Southern California, that we would have everyone come through one door, that security could watch. It was kind of an interesting thing. We didn’t know how many people were going to show up.
The thing started at seven. It was on a Sunday night. And the first topic was Are Mormons Christian? And I got there at 6:30, and when I got there, there was no parking– there was no available parking in the entire Stake Center. And I thought, “Gosh, what meeting is going on?” I thought, “Maybe there’s some kind of conflict with our event.” Not only was there no parking in the Stake Center, there was no parking on any street. And I really didn’t clue in what was going on, and I walked in, and Van Mosely (he was on the High Council, in charge of security) said, “This is bigger than we thought.” The count ended up being around 1,300. There were probably 35 pastors from the different churches that showed up. Mayors were there, city council members were there, and so it was exciting. There was electricity in the air, people all the way back to the stage. And so my stake president says, “You better be good,” and, “This is going to be something else.”
We had a hymn, a prayer, the stake president got up, we had a special musical number, I spoke, closing hymn, prayer. I spoke for 45 minutes on Are Mormons Christian? I was bold, but I hope I was not overbearing. And I think sister Reynolds was there. She’s here, and I think she was at that Are Mormons Christian? fireside. And there was an incredible spirit there. It was phenomenal. I think it came off fabulous.
To kind of keep control, we initially decided to do the question-and-answer period in the form of people sending up 3 x 5 cards, and there would be ushers to collect them. But that’s not my style. It felt very stilted and difficult, and I thought that maybe they could accuse us of just taking the questions that we could answer. So instead I said to the stake president right there, “Let’s just do this press-conference style. Let’s do it where, you know, people just raise their hands.” He said, “Okay, but let’s do it in the Relief Society room,” thinking that only a few people would really want to ask questions.
That was an erroneous assumption. The Relief Society room was absolutely packed with people hanging out the door. Only non-members could be in there and pastors. That went on for about an hour and a half–question and answer.
One of the interesting things about anti-Mormons is a very low sense of humor; they don’t think things are funny. My style is kind of light, and I’ll answer any question, and I don’t get riled, and I don’t get embroiled with them. Seven pastors from Lighthouse Baptist church were there, by the way–that was the church–their head pastor and six of his cronies. They were there, and they were very, very uptight. They had their laptops, by the way, with the entire GospeLink on their laptops, because these guys were going to pull it up: Journal of Discourses quotes, they were pulling up Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith quotes, etc. They had it right at their fingertips, okay? So they didn’t have to bring in stuff. They had their laptops all plugged in ready to roll.
It was fun, you know? So this guy says to me–we were talking about the grace-works thing. And I said, “Well, let me give you the definition, or how I see it. I was in Houston as the Ward Mission Leader after I got back from my mission, and I went to this Lutheran church, and we were talking, and the Lutheran minister said to me that he’d been saved by Jesus 2,000 years ago and there was nothing he could do about it, and if he could kill me right then and go to heaven and be saved.” And then I said to these guys, “I had faith in his faith, and so I got the heck out of there.” But to them that’s not funny; they didn’t think that was funny. There was dead silence, so, “Okay, all right!” So, that’s kind of how– how it went. It was very interesting.
That was the first fireside: Are Mormons Christian? The second fireside we did, it was so successful. It was on Book of Mormon: Fact or Fiction? Same approach. Again, overflow all the way on to the stage, overflow in the Relief Society room. You had the TV set up in the other room so that people could see them, and this time we did the question and answer just right there. We just took a five-minute break, just microphone, and then right there we had the question-answer. And, again, we thought, “We’ll probably have about 300 people that want to do the question-answer.” Everybody stayed. That’s where the fireworks are, you know?
During the question-and-answer I had a colleague of mine, brother Ron Hellings. Brother Hellings is a member of the Lavern First Ward, and he’s a close friend of mine. He’s an astrophysicist. He works for JPL, and he teaches physics at Harvy Mudd. And so he kind of played off each other. It’s a good thing to do–just play off each other. He and I would lighten things up a little. And sometimes you have a different take from a different person. It’s a good way to answer questions. So during the question-answer session, I ended up answering about 70% of things, and Brother Hellings would answer about 30%. But he’s a brilliant man, and it was, I think, a phenomenal way of doing it.
The third one we did was Where is the Church of Christ? The Apostasy and the Restoration of the Ancient Church. We just did that one. And the fourth one, which is October 21st, is going to be–and I don’t exactly have the title–but it’s The Top Ten Hardest Questions for Latter-day Saints to Answer. And I think that’s the next one. Because, you know, it frustrates me that they’re not asking me hard questions. No, seriously, you know, you think, “Oh, gee, man, these guys with laptops are going to kill you.” They ended up asking me the stupid kind of rehashed questions. So, since they’re not asking me the hard questions, I’m going to give them the hard questions they should be asking me. “Okay, let me tell you the top ten questions you should be asking me, all right? These are the hard ones. All right, and then when we get done you’re going to ask me all your easy ones.”
So let me give you what I think are ten principles to have this. For example, if you’re sitting there thinking, “Oh, we could do this in our Stake!” Well, I’m going to give you what I think ten principles are, or ten ideas that have flowed from our things.
1. Priesthood Driven
Not only did I put this as number one, but on a scale of one to ten, it’s a ten. And that is, it has to be priesthood driven. If your stake presidency is not 100% behind it, you don’t do it. Don’t do it as a sideline little thing or your own pet project. Don’t do it because you think it’s a great idea. If it is not priesthood driven, do not do it. I can’t emphasize that enough. I don’t know what else to say about that. And I just feel so confident with that because when it’s priesthood driven, the Spirit’s there, you have the support of the whole stake, and you get– you get the authority, especially if you’re under the assignments to do what you need to do. So that is number one, and that is probably the most important one.
2. Clear and Exciting Subject
Number two, you need a clear and exciting subject. In other words, Are Mormons Christian? Come hear what Latter-day Saints say about what Latter-day Saints believe. Book of Mormon: Fact or Fiction? Where is the church of Christ? You see these, to me, are crisp, exciting, clear subjects. And I think if you have some kind of ambiguous subject, or if, you know, you don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, so we’re not going to have Book of Mormon: Fact or Fiction? That’s not going to draw, okay? So I believe that you have to have a clear and exciting subject that would draw people in.
3. Advertise Properly
This is something that we (as a people) haven’t done in the past because when we’ve advertised these things, we generally go through the members. You know, “Give this flier to your neighbor,” and so we forget, and then at five minutes till, we run across the street, give it to our neighbor and say, “Oh, there’s a thing at our church.” And then they come up with an excuse, and then no one shows up. So, we have to advertise this properly.
As a subheading to that, I would say–and this is a hard one–it should be a response to a need. In other words, if you live in an area where there really isn’t any kind of anti-Mormon problem, then maybe these kind of firesides aren’t for you. In Southern California right now, it’s pretty interesting; it’s kind of intense. Maybe it ebbs and flows, but you’ve got Ex-Mormons for Jesus that are pretty heavy; you’ve got Christian Research Institute, which is constantly, constantly trashing the Church; you’ve got the Lighthouse Baptist Church, which is in my community, who are putting out tapes, and series, and lectures against the Church. So, in our sense, we are responding to a need. If you live in Milford, Utah, or Tropic, and everybody’s Mormon, and everybody loves the Church, maybe you shouldn’t do it. So you’ve got to respond to a need.
Number B under this subheading is: advertise in your local newspapers. There’s something powerful in that. These quarter-page ads–we had people, non-members, come in droves. All these non-members are pulling in. You know, it’s just amazing, because they read the advertisements. They read their papers. So you’ve got to advertise in your papers. I’d also do fliers, I’d also talk to members, and I’d also make sure that you always tell people that there are going to be refreshments.
4. Keep It Local
Number four: Keep it local. When I prepared all this, I thought, “You know, I’m going to offend some people.” Don’t call me and ask me to come to your stake. Don’t call Dan Peterson and ask him to come to your stake. Don’t call Ara Norwood and ask him to come and speak at your stake. Don’t do that. Keep it local. Find someone in your stake that has the capacity, the ability, the moxie, the chutzpah–whatever you want to call it–to be able to do this kind of thing. I think when we cross stake boundaries and do these kind of things, we run into problems. Remember: Priesthood driven; keep it local. I believe that the Lord can raise anybody up in your stake, if this is done right, that can do this. So don’t e-mail me and say, “Well, we have a special circumstance.” Please don’t bother with any of the other representatives here. You know, “John Tvedtnes, come and give us–talk about Hebrew etymology.” Don’t do that, because I believe that that will violate the principles that will make it successful and be a blessing for your area. Keep it local.
5. Massive Preparation
Number five. And this goes to the presenters. This was me–massive preparation. With the Internet, we have this incredible thing. Basically, Ron Hellings and I downloaded every single anti-Mormon site and printed them out. And then he and I would spend evenings–it was so fun! We’d get our glasses of ice water, and we’d spend evenings going through anti-Mormon material and respond to each other: back and forth, back and forth. And then you can read, of course, Michael Griffith books, Steven Ricks and Dan Peterson wrote the book Offenders for a Word, where they’ve covered–you know, you’ve got so many books that respond to these things–the SHIELDS and the FAIR Web sites. But we would just go back and forth and sometimes vocally articulating it back, sometimes it’s weak. So Brother Helling would say, “Nah, nah, that didn’t sound good.” And so we’d go back and forth, back and forth, and hone these things. By the time we were at a Q and A, I was ready for bear. “Ask me a hard question.” You know, I mean, I was just ready.
For example, this one lady, I think she thought she had us. She’s the first question: [RAISING HAND] Whssst! “Yes?” “Um, there are 3,900+ changes in the Book of Mormon, so therefore it’s not true.” “Thank you.” And I’m like– I have my critical text of The Book of Mormon, you know, and I have The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture book, and I have 700 facts about the Ki– I said, “Are you a ‘King James only’ person?” “Yes, the King James version is inerrant.” “Okay, great, so, okay, let’s talk about which King James version.”
I was so excited when she asked me that question; I was falling over myself. The only problem I might have is the anxiety. I was so excited about talking about it. She sat down after that, and didn’t get any more questions on that, and so it was good. I had everybody in the congregation open up their King James Bible. So I said, “Now, find an italicized word, and when you find the italicized word, raise your hand. Okay, that’s not in any manuscript. Is that okay? Okay, thanks.” And then we moved on. See, I can be feisty like Brother Midgley.
So, massive preparation; you have to have massive preparation. Whoever’s going to do it really needs, when you get there, to feel confident.
6. Controlled Environment
This is also interesting. I think you have to have a controlled environment. One of the beautiful things about what we did, was we did it on our turf. One of the suggestions early on was that I go to Lighthouse Baptist Church and speak there. And I don’t really have a problem with that, except–it was interesting. We had it in the chapel, of course, partition open, all the way back because it’s in our church. It was a controlled environment. We had security there, opening hymn, a prayer, musical number. It sets the tone. And like somebody said earlier, we were pleasant, we tried not to create any kind of antagonism, we were very welcoming.
Also, hold it to one hour. This is under the subheading of controlling your environment. You know, I don’t really want to sit there for too much longer than that. And so it was “start at 7:00, end at 8:00, take a five-minute break, have the Q and A.” Those people that want to stay for the Q and A can, those that don’t, they can go eat, they can mingle, whatever wants to happen. It’s crisp, it’s short, it’s exciting; and those that want to stay, can. That way the non-members who come don’t feel like they’ve been victims of a “bait-and-switch.” They don’t feel like we’ve got it down there and that we’re somehow shoving it down their throats, but that it is what we initially called “Mormon Doctrine Firesides.” Then we changed them to Community Firesides; that was from the Stake Presidency. And I think that’s kind of interesting. He wanted the community to feel part of being in our church and having that opportunity. So Controlled Environment is number six.
I talked about this a little earlier. Spice things with light humor and self-deprecation. If you’re going to do this in your stake, you need to be light about this, and I think most of us are. I feel comfortable with that. I am, Brother Hellings is, our Stake Presidency is. They’re not, generally, I’ve found, but, you know, I just–no contention. We had some pretty intense kind of back-and-forths, but I always tried to keep it very light and to not denigrate them. I’m an aggressive question answerer, though. What I mean by that, is that I will answer the question and then ask a question.
For example, we were getting near the end of Book of Mormon one. The head pastor of Lighthouse Baptist Church had been wanting to ask a question for a while. My stake president had given me the “Okay, we’re done; it’s gone on for an hour and a half.” And so I said, “Well, can we just take that one?” And he said, “Yeah, I’ll let that guy have it.” And he stood up, and he said this. He prefaced it by saying, “Well, I have the quote here that will definitively tell all of you here”–this is what he’s saying, kind of his opening statement–“about Mormonism and about how it’s false.” And he pulls out the quote from Brigham Young where he said that unless we accept Joseph Smith, that we cannot gain salvation. And he said, “That’s utter blasphemy, and they claim to be Christians, but we know that that is absolutely false. How do you respond to that, Mr. Baron?”
I looked at him, and I said, “Well, can I ask you a question?” And he said, “Certainly.” And I said, “Imagine you’re living in AD 34, you’re in Jerusalem, it’s Acts chapter two, Peter is preaching about Christ, and him crucified. You feel the spirit. Can you, sir, reject Peter’s testimony and accept Christ?” And he went, “Um . . .” And I knew I had him. And I said, “That’s exactly how we feel about Joseph Smith: He’s a modern-day Peter. That’s exactly how we feel.” Now, think about that. If he had said, “Yes, we can reject Peter, and accept Christ,” then we throw the Bible out, right? If he says, “No, we can’t,” then he knows exactly the position Joseph Smith’s in. See? So we answer the questions aggressively, but I wasn’t denigrating his faith. I was simply asking a question.
Now, sometimes you’ll get some stupid questions. One of the questions was, “Can you guys define modesty?” I was a bishop, and so I said, “Cover yourself appropriately.” But he didn’t mean that. He actually meant that he felt like we were being too bold about our claims and that we needed to be more modest, but I didn’t pick up on that. I’m a bishop. Strength of the Youth pamphlet: “Modesty, that’s means we cover ourselves appropriately, don’t wear bikinis.” I was on that track, but Brother Hellings–this is one of the benefits of having two–he’s like, “Mmm, I think he means this. Is that what you mean, sir?” “Yes.” “Oh, OK.” And then he explained why we have such bold claims. I was over there going, “Oh, geez, you know. I’m dumb.”
So, spice it with light humor, you don’t have contention, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be bold, and that doesn’t mean we can’t say what we have to say.
8. Able Speaker
Some of these are tied together, but you’re going to have to find a speaker who’s able both in presentation and able in Q & A. I don’t need to talk too much more about that. I think you all intuitively know that.
9. Control the Missionaries
You have to control the missionaries. On purpose. Seriously, what we did is we had only one set of missionaries there. We had the Zone Leaders come, and they had a table with copies of The Book of Mormon, and some pamphlets and we asked them not to engage anybody and not to proselyte, but in fact to simply receive requests for copies of The Book of Mormon or requests for referrals. The purpose of that was so that they, again, would feel like we invited them into our place, not to harangue them, but so that we would be true to what we ask them to do: community fireside; come hear what Latter-day Saints have to say about what they believe and not have the full-time missionaries descend en masse on them. So we had a set of Zone Leaders who were there, and these Zone Leaders did what they have to do, every single one, and I think that they did a great job. So that wasn’t a problem. That worked out fairly well, and I would suggest that in case you were to do that, you control the full-time missionaries. I say that nicely. As full-time missionary, I was as pushy as any of them, so, I mean, I say that in a good way.
Have good refreshments. That’s my tenth principle, and I believe that.
Okay, now, let me tell you about some of the results. Because the question is, you know, “So, what happened?” Okay, let me tell you.
At heart, with regards to hard-core anti-Mormons, my personal opinion is that, in the end, our hard-core anti-Mormon friends aren’t going to convert. But there’s a thing called serendipity. And it’s interesting, Neal Postman, who’s a professor at NYU, he’s coined a phrase called columbusity. Now serendipity is, of course, when you’re looking for something and you find something else that’s great, and you know it. He defined columbusity as, you’re looking for something, you find something else that’s great, and you don’t know it. And I think sometimes Latter-day Saints, especially those of us here in FAIR, we’ve hit some columbusity with regards to anti-Mormons. They’re great for us. Do you realize the scholarship of the Church, that convert baptisms, that the strengthening of the members as a result of anti-Mormons? And, you know, we’re always, “Err,” and the hair stands up at the back of our neck, “Err, dang anti-Mormons! Ugh!” But in fact, there’s some columbusity here. They’ve been one of the greatest blessings. We would not exist. FAIR would not exist. FARMS probably would not exist. In other words, lots of these things that have been a blessing to the Church, blessing to members of the Church, and increase in convert baptisms, have specifically been a result of the activity and the “scholarship” of anti-Mormons. So, I don’t feel like they’re going to get baptized, and none of them have. I’m not going to report that to you. But, by the same token, I think they served as a fabulous platform, if you will, and a foil for us to bless the lives of others.
Members. It’s been one of the greatest blessings for the members of the church. In fact, my stake president says, “This has probably been the greatest strengthening event for members,” because isn’t it typical that non-Mormons will say stuff and we will not respond? Right? “No, you know, we’re just going to preach the gospel, we’re not going to respond.” But every now and then it’s good; like Elder Maxwell said, “We shouldn’t allow any uncontested slam-dunks.” Right? He actually did say that, so that’s a good thing. And that there are times when we do need to respond, and respond boldly. I think it’s a powerful thing for members of the Church to witness that.
Less-active members. There were a lot of less-active members who have started coming back to church. I don’t have exact numbers; these things are very difficult. But I would say 50+ have been reactivated as a result of these firesides because of the idea of sitting there and hearing this, and then watching this interaction, and realizing, “We do have something to offer. This is amazing; that there are evidences for what we have; that we do believe in the Bible.” These things are very powerful.
Part-members and non-members. With part-member families we’ve had tremendous success since these things. One of the spouses drags one of the spouses to the part-member thing, sees it, is impressed, and gets baptized. We don’t have the exact numbers, but we feel like we have something close to a hundred baptisms, since the first one done last year, resulting from these firesides. That’s pretty good. That’s pretty good. And we feel pretty good about that. It’s a very difficult thing to exactly pinpoint, but we have done that.
In terms of the community environment, when you have the mayor sitting there, and the city council, and you go through these things, and they witness it. If your question-answer guys can keep their cool while these pastors are getting beet red in the face, there’s something that happens, and the city council and the mayors look at it and think, “Huh.” And they go back, and there’s something that happened in the community with regards to the respect–attitude towards and involvement with Latter-day Saints. Something happened in our communities. There’s a greater respect, more involvement, and less antagonism towards the Church from the community’s perspective. It’s a powerful thing that’s resulted from these things.
Now, those are my ten points. That’s a narrative of what happened. You know, I just wanted to say two other things. I’ll be one of those guys that’s done early, and you’ll have a bigger break or you’ll have a lot of questions for me. One of the things that I said repeatedly at this thing, and I always say I’ve never thought of anything in my life. Every thing–every single thought I’ve ever had–I’ve plagiarized. So, I’m writing my dissertation right now, and so I have massive amounts of footnotes. But, when I speak, I don’t always footnote people. And I don’t know where I got this, but I’m going to give it to you anyways. And a lot of the time, Latter-day Saints cringe a little bit about this, but I think we’ll find that this is absolutely accurate.
One of the premises that oft-times we get drawn into is exemplified by a guy from the Christian Research Institute. He stands up and he says, “The Church bases their work for the dead on John 3:5, 1 Corinthians 15:29, 1 Peter 4:6, 1 Peter 3:18-20,” blah, blah, blah, blah. He starts this way, and I said, “Excuse me; stop.” I say, “That’s incorrect.” He says, “What do you mean?” I say, “The Church doesn’t base the work for the dead on the Bible.” “What?” I said, “Now, I’m going to say something, and I want you to take very close note. The Church is not based on the Bible. The Church is based on what the Bible is based on: revelation through prophets.” And even Latter-day Saints kind of go, “Khhh! What?” But do you understand how true that is? We get drawn into this battle because we accept that premise, that the Church is– If Joseph Smith was a Hebrew expert, Egyptologist, Greek, Latin, and came up with all these things, that would not make the Church true. He did not base any of the things we do based on the Bible. He didn’t come up with– “Quorum of the Twelve, oh yeah, twelve in the Bi– Yeah, okay! Perfecting the saints: Ephesians four. Yeah, okay.” There’s nothing in that. The Church is not based on the Bible. The Church is based on what the Bible is based on. Okay, that’s hard-core. Get up in Sacrament meeting, your bishop will put his arm around you: “Now, brother…” No, I’m just kidding.
Number two is this, and I said this, too. And this is a very interesting interaction we had. In the first meeting, we were in the Relief Society room, and there were probably thirty pastors there. I said this, at the risk of maybe being too bold with them. I said, that the Bible, for Latter-day Saints, is not the object of our faith, it is one of the sources of our faith. Did you all get that? See, and so this Pastor raises his hand, and I’m thinking, “Oh, boy, here it comes,” and he goes, “Now, I’m hearing you say that we practice a form of bibliolatry.” That’s what he said. I said, “Well, you know, I don’t want to make it sound that hard.” He goes, “We do.” This is a pastor. He says, “We do. We absolutely do. And I’m learning something tonight for the first time.” He said, “I do. We practice a form of bibliolatry, and we need to change.” And I thought, “Can I preach in your congregation?” I wanted to say, “Thou art not far from the kingdom of God,” but I refrained myself from saying that. That wouldn’t have been nice.
And so we had these interactions with these pastors, and we have to be very careful not to go on to their premises and on to their grounds, but these things were, I think, fabulous successes and very powerful opportunities for our community to be a blessing to those people in their areas.
Now, I know people haven’t ended their talks with testimonies or anything, but I just want to say how blessed I felt, and how guided I felt, and what a blessing it was to be part of what we’ve done and look forward to my October 21 one, and say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.