I got an email today from a friend and fellow Mormon. He's been grappling with some of the quaint and quirky things about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
At a time when outside journalists are digging beyond the Articles of Faith, regular members can find themselves being asked about everything from Egyptian papyrus to the earth becoming a sea of glass.
I'm glad my friend wrote me.
His note forced me to gather my own thoughts.
And my thoughts are these:
I've come to look at the peculiar parts of our church the way others look at opera.
For example, in the opera "Nixon in China," three beds are set on stage. Richard and Pat Nixon lie in one bed, Chairman and Madame Mao fill the second and Chou En-lai and his wife share the third.
The couples sing to each other about the day's events, ask each other questions — all those husband and wife things. But then they look to the future.
Suddenly, six people lying in bed burst into full-throated song.
For those not into opera, the scene looks pretty silly.
But for those who love opera, those who let themselves get inside it feel transported. The moment is filled with power and grandeur. It rescues them from the dreary world and gives them a feeling of transcendence, a release from the drudgery of daily life.
So with the LDS Church.
If you look at it from a cool, detached perspective, parts of the church appear a bit eccentric.
But let yourself sink into it — let yourself get inside and "go with it" — and something amazing happens.
It will deliver you from the world and give you wings.
When others only see the trappings and props of our faith — the scenery and the sets — we should cut them some slack. They don't feel the élan.
We must be patient.
But more than that, we — as Mormons — need to avoid judging others who appear quaint and quirky to us.
Those Hindu gods with elephant heads or a dozen legs? They help people rise above the world.
On the surface, such things may appear bizarre.
But they don't look odd to those who go beyond the surface.
Mormons don't like being mocked. We wish people would try harder to see the faith as we do.
And if there's a lesson in that, it may be this.
Mock not if you don't like to be mocked.
That opera singer who sings phrases like "Where did the maid put my slippers?" in grand, passionate tones isn't being ridiculous to those in the know.
He's opening up some space in a grim world, a space where someone's soul can soar.
Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org