I got another book review over at Mind-Muffins blog. Hooray!
You can read it here:
This is a thoughtful review for sure, but it made me feel a tinge of guilt for not being more direct with one thought in particular.
The author mentions a few subjects which, I agree, could have been better explored, but my biggest surprise was this comment because it shows that I did not hit the intended nail on the head:
"In the epilogue to the book Harrington writes: 'I don’t think too many
conversions hinge on how accurate the Book of Mormon may or may not be.
People want a place to be accepted, a place to hear about God, a place
where they feel God hears them. Simply put, most people aren’t
theologians. Neither am I. That’s what we have in common.' That, for
me, was the most telling passage of the entire book
...So ultimately this book tells us a lot about Dan
Harrington’s view and experiences in exploring the Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, but offers very little that can be
generalized to investigators as a group."
Maybe I wasn't forceful enough, but the thought I was trying to drive home is that people are usually more taken by the "idea or place of being accepted" than by doctrine.
I did spend some time with other investigators, but I did not mention this in the book. This mostly came about when the elders needed a third party to visit a single female and ward members were not available. (Their rules dictate that they must have a third party present when alone with a woman.) I was often their go-to guy for rides, food, or help in general. A role I happily accepted.
Perhaps I should have written about what I witnessed from those investigators. I just didn't feel like it was my place to spill other people's beans.
But as an observer who--admittedly--wasn't privy to the entire experience of others, it seemed that some people were joining because they wanted to be accepted, and quite frankly, liked it when speakers talked about them at sacrament meeting.
The conversations I heard from other investigators were less of "I believe Joseph Smith is a prophet" and more of "Do you think the Church will give me a Christmas tree if I wait until after the holidays to join?" (I'm obviously recalling one incident in particular)
Another man testified to knowing the LDS Church was true because of the Holy Spirit, but he would also go out to smoke after sacrament meeting, knowing full well that was against Church teaching. He was also rude to my elders in general, challenging them in the Gospel Principles class and even calling them "stupid" in his home. That irked me quite a bit. Yet he somehow, passed a baptismal interview in another area of the state a few weeks before moving to my hometown.
Other investigators agreed with the missionaries in declaring the Book of Mormon is true, but they hadn't read more than a page or two of it.
These incidents did worry me, and my worry is that this particular aspect of the missionary program happens more often than I expect. From this review, I see that I should have been more forthright with this thought because the hint I gave clearly didn't do the job.
I also realize that the elders are in between a rock and a hard place. No one should be a doctrinal expert to join the Church, but how can you really know what a person's motivations are? I've even seen this discussion on message boards between LDS members who wonder the same thing.
As to my personal experience, which is the focus of the book, I think one reason the elders and I spent so much time together is because we accepted each other, despite our differences. That's what causes heated arguments, really, because people refuse to accept each other.
In the end, I accepted the elders for who they were--warts and all--, and they, despite my hesitation about joining the church, accepted me into their lives as well..warts and all.
(Not that we have warts. That's just a metaphor)