I talked to a non-Mormon about the gospel Tuesday night. Klaus is a New York-based correspondent for a Danish magazine. He was sent to Zion to find out what's up with Utah's affinity for Republicans and tea party politics.
We met at a fast-food restaurant. I told him straight up what I thought of Utah politics and in what form some of our representative and their activist cronies might better serve us.
Klaus: "What is this Dog Chow you speak of?"
Fortunately, Klaus had already talked to other Tribune staffers about politics. He had been referred to me more for cultural background on Mormons and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Yeah, I found that odd as well.
Still, it was one of the first legitimate gospel conversations I've undertaken since my mission for the church in the '70s. It's nice to know I still have what it takes.
During my mission, a gospel conversation could take place by stopping people in the street, knocking on their doors or sitting next to them on the bus.
We referred to these gospel conversations among ourselves as "G.C.s." For example, "Let's go G.C. that guy with the cow," or "We're going to G.C. this entire bus stop."
As part of our weekly statistical reports, we kept track of the exact number of G.C.s conducted and sent them to the mission home with other missionary stats. In a box next to "Gospel Conversations for the Week," a missionary might write "221," or in a slow week "34."
Just to see if anyone was really paying attention, I started entering numbers such as "1.6 billion." "Three-quarters." "IOU 291."
The mission president finally sent one of my reports back with a note: "This was only amusing the first time. Get back to work."
On Tuesday night, I did. My first G.C. since my mission went well. Klaus had hundreds of questions about the church and Mormons. Granted, some of them were feelers to see just how nuts we might be, but most were honest inquiries for straight-up information.
He already knew some stuff about the church polygamy in the past, prophets, white shirts, temples but it was really surprising what he didn't know about us. Basic stuff.
For example, it wasn't until near the end of our conversation that Klaus discovered Mormons aren't supposed to drink alcohol, smoke or drink coffee. Right then I knew Klaus was never going to be Mormon.
We kept talking anyway. He wanted to know more about polygamy. When I told him that, depending on my wife's current mood, I was married to at least six women, he realized that he was probably a little bit of a polygamist as well.
We talked about genealogy, church services, tithing, guns, missions, priesthood and what Mormon life was like in Utah's predominant herd.
If you've never lived in such an environment, it can be a little hard to comprehend. I suggested Klaus try and imagine a state where nearly every single person in it was a slightly different version of himself.
He politely confessed that he would find that more than a little suffocating. I said that it just made my job easier.
In the end, Klaus and I agreed that the world was more interesting if I stayed what I was and he stayed whatever he was. We could meet in the middle and still be brothers.
I think that went rather well. Gospel Conversations for the Week: 1
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.