Earlier today there was a knock on the door. I looked out through the peephole and two well dressed, conservative looking young men holding what looked to be small packets of paperwork were standing there. They looked like FBI agents. Curious, I opened the door. They both were wearing name badges with the title of Elder, and neither one of them could have been older than 25... probably closer to 18. They were Mormons, I saw from their badges, which had 'The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints' printed on them. Hmmm, thought I... didn't I just go through something like this last winter? So, they introduced themselves (I can't remember their names at all, I'm really bad with names) and said that they were conducting a poll about why there are so many diverse religions all over the planet.
A poll? Ok. I said something to this effect:
"The reason I think that there are so many diverse religions is because of various factors like climate, geography, and culture which have served to isolate various groups of people from each other over the course of the last several thousand years, which resulted in these various groups developing different ways of thinking."
One stood a little forward from the other, he was taller and had black hair and a round face. Very friendly looking. The other had strawberry blond hair and a freckled complexion. Also very pleasant seeming. The taller one seemed to be the leader of the two, and it was he with whom I exchanged the most conversation. He replied thusly:
"Do you think that it is God's will that people should be so separated from each other?"
"Yes," I replied, "I think that is God's will. I think that everything I see around me is God's will." What other answer could I give?
"But God wants us all to be united and share the same religion and to accept Jesus Christ as our savior. Isn't that God's will?" said the dark haired one. Or something very close to that. That was the gist of what he said, anyway.
I thought about that for a second and said, "Yeah, I think that's God's will, but God also gave each of us free will. Ironically, that is also His will."
"Then would you agree that it's His will that we -" refering to his partner "- have travelled almost 3000 miles to share this message with you? Isn't that a little more than just coincidence?"
I wondered vaguely what had happened to the poll. "Yes," I replied, "I do believe that is His will. I don't think that you guys have made a wasted trip down here, and I believe that we all do God's will in everything we do, even though you guys are Mormons and I'm an Orthodox Christian." That was a tiny fib, I'm not baptized yet, but these guys didn't know that.
"Then is it not the oddest coincidence..."
"No, I don't think anything is a coincidence. Or just merely coincidence. What I think has a lot of meaning for me is that I just happened to move to Denton within walking distance of the only Orthodox church in town, after almost 20 years of a nearly atheistic viewpoint. If there is meaning in conicidence, then that's what holds meaning for me."
As we were exchanging these pleasantries, the leader and I had been sharing eye contact, which neither one of us was intent upon breaking first. I began to grow somewhat nervous. His gaze didn''t seem as friendly as it first did, although I was positive that it was just my imagination. I broke first and glanced at his partner, who smiled. I looked back at the leader. I looked down and saw that they were both holding the book of Mormon. I looked back up at the leader, who said, "If you would allow us to share some things with you..."
"Hang on just a sec." I walked away from the door. My hands were shaking. I felt short of breath. What was the deal here? Why was I so suddenly and inexplicably nervous with these two people? Hadn't I dealt with this exact situation back in January? In fact, I had met up with a couple of Mormons at an ice cream shop and talked to them quite calmly back then and without any nervous tension at all. We were almost friends. They were very friendly; I was very friendly. We parted with them knowing fully that although I was thankful for their attention, that I was starting to express an interest in Orthodox Christianity due to someone I had met recently. The friendly undercurrent to the situation was one of, 'dangit, the Orthodox got to him first. Shucks!' and fingers were snapped and eyes were rolled and laughs were uttered and we all parted on great terms. They even let me keep a book of Mormon, a personal copy of theirs, with personal notes and inscriptions written here and there.
I went into my room and took a deep breath and wondered if I should invite these two people inside. They were just standing on my doorstep, waiting. I saw my wallet on my bedside table. Sudden inspiration struck. I opened my wallet and took out Fr. Justin's business card. I went back to the door.
"Here, you might actually be better off talking to this guy. He's an orthodox priest here in Denton." I handed the card to the leader. "Maybe he can answer some of your questions better for you." I felt somewhat guilty, pawning the situation off on Fr. Justin like that for him to deal with, but I didn't know how much longer I could keep talking, as it seemed as though I wasn't getting enough air.
The leader looked at me with vague disappointment. I held out my hand and he shook it. "I don't think your 3000 mile trip was wasted," I said. "God has His plans for all of us and it is up to us to live our lives as best as we know how and trust that God knows what He is doing with us." I thought about what Fr. Justin said once, about us having free will... but then how can everything be God's will if that's the case... and about how God exists outside of time so it is poinless to try to understand His methods. I wanted to explain this to these two, but words completely failed me at that point. Then the other one said something, the only thing he said during the entire conversation.
"Do you think that Jesus loves you as much as he loves your priest here?" he said, indicating Fr. Justin's card. I thought that was a decidedly odd question.
"Of course I do," I said.
"Do you mind if we give you a card too?"
"Sure, thanks." I held out my hand, into which he deposited a generic, non-personal Latter Day Saints card with mormon.org printed on it.
They smiled, we exchanged thank-you's, and they walked away.