Feb 23 2015
When I was freshly graduated from Brigham Young University, I got my first real job as a reporter for the Salt Lake City Deseret News, the city’s Mormon newspaper. Because we were the newspaper that represented the Latter-day Saint viewpoint, everybody who worked there had a Mormon association to one degree or another.
We had new Mormons like me. But there were also old Mormons, lapsed Mormons, non-Mormons and even anti-Mormons. You see, we all had “Mormon” of some sort in our description, whether we wanted it or not (and I assure you, the anti-Mormons assuredly did not). And because we were a Mormon newspaper, one of the things we talked about the most was the Mormon religion.
As a newly-minted Mormon, I was still stupid enough to think I could convince people to see the beauty in the new truths I had discovered, if I could only get them to listen to it. So I helpfully would try to tell “Joe” or “Nick” some of the truths I had learned, and was puzzled when they laughed me down.
The reason they laughed at me was what puzzled me. They liked what I said, you see. But they were not going to accept it for one reason, and for one reason alone. It was tainted because it was found inside the Mormon religion.
If they had found the same nuggets of wisdom in Catholicism or Zoroastrianism or Buddhism, they would have embraced them. Hey — this was during the Age of Aquarius. Even the hippies were zoning out to whatever crazy ideas they tuned into. But if it had the word “Mormon” attached, my co-workers wanted none of it. “Mormon” was the ultimate crazy. It was truth in an inconvenient place.
Later on, after Fluffy and I got married and had our own home, we saw a different instance of that sort of thing. We planted raspberries and asparagus in our own little garden plot. They occasionally produced a tiny asparagus or a raspberry or two — never enough for a meal, mind you, but enough for one of us to have a bite from the garden on a rare delightful occasion.
But occasionally, way out in the yard, fifteen or even twenty feet from the bed where the raspberries and the asparagus were planted, a raspberry cane or a volunteer asparagus would spring up, unbidden, in the middle of the lawn. Nobody had asked for it to be there. Nobody wanted it to be there. When he found one of these interlopers, Fluffy mowed it down relentlessly with the rest of the overgrown grass.
If the raspberry cane or the asparagus stalk had grown in our garden it would have been prized, but it didn’t. We didn’t want it out in the grass. We couldn’t accept it there. It was in an inconvenient place.
Brigham Young was a man who was two hundred years ahead of his time. He used to counsel Mormons — men and women alike — to seek learning “out of the best books.” Indeed, for the non-Mormons who are reading this, we Mormons have an actual scripture that counsels us to do that:
And as all have not faith, seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118).
But Brigham Young took it to heart. He didn’t care whether the books were written by Latter-day Saints. In fact, the Church was new enough at the time that there were precious few books written by Latter-day Saints anyway. So he encouraged Mormons to look outside the Church for their enlightenment, gleaning knowledge wherever they could find it.
Thus, it should not surprise a Mormon to find kernels of truth in any church, or wisdom in the mouth of any babe. Of course, sometimes we’re so surprised to find it that we may not recognize it until it hits us over the head with a mallet. But then, we’re human just like everyone else. Sometimes it takes a whop with a mallet to convince us to see things that are plainly in front of us to see.
One example occurred about a year ago, when Fluffy and I were just about to go on a road trip. I was checking the computer one last time when I clicked on Facebook and was stunned to see a little snippet my Facebook friend Catherine Keddington Arveseth had posted. She casually mentioned the Three Stages of Marriage as though everyone had heard about it.
She said that couples in a marriage traditionally go through three stages:
- Loving but not knowing.
- Knowing but not loving.
- Knowing but choosing to love anyway.
I had never heard anything about the Three Stages of Marriage, and it hit me like a bombshell. Fluffy hadn’t heard it either. How we wished we had known it all along! It would have saved us years of heartache. Like millions of other couples, we had spent years mired in the quicksand of Stage 2.
Once we learned this bit of information, Fluffy and I have told many couples about it. Some of them were extremely grateful. They were men or women who were in Stage 2, and this was a lifeline for them. It was more than good news for them to know there was a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel; it was something that allowed them to go on when they otherwise believed their marriage was stuck in a hopeless rut.
But other people — people whose marriages were equally troubled — did not take hold of the lifeline. The reason stunned me. They thought the concept was worthwhile until they asked where we got it. When they learned I had read it on Facebook they sniffed, “Oh. I don’t go there. Facebook is a waste of time.”
I don’t doubt for a minute that Facebook can be a huge waste of time. I have been spending less and less time myself there for the past few months, as life has demanded more of me. There isn’t time for me to squander hours on Facebook, the way I used to do. But to discount something solely because it came from Facebook, or from the Mormons, or from reality TV, is premature.
Sometimes truth can be found in inconvenient places.
I’m not smart enough to wake up every morning with the knowledge I’ll need for that day. I have to go looking for it. God has to teach me lessons. He does it through the scriptures. He does it through Fluffy. He does it through my mistakes. He does it through friends.
Sometimes that truth is found in inconvenient places. When it is, I hope I have the wisdom to pluck it up, dust it off and use it. I want to be smart enough to recognize gems of truth and embrace them. I’m just a regular person. We regular people, still in the learning stage of eternity, need all the help we can get.