Linda & Richard Eyre: The difference between ‘interested’ and ‘curious’

Published: Friday, Oct. 19 2012 5:00 a.m. MDT

Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney waves to a passes helicopter as he speaks during a campaign event at Ida Lee Park Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012, in Leesburg, Va.

Alex Brandon, ASSOCIATED PRESS

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In this so-called “Mormon moment,” when everything from Mitt Romney’s candidacy to Broadway’s “The Book of Mormon” seem to be combining to make everyone curious about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we all need to remind ourselves that “curious” is not always the same as “interested.” And we need to teach this distinction to our children.

If you're not a Mormon, and you occasionally wonder or have a question about something in the church, you may not be comfortable with a couple of badge-wearing missionaries to come over to your house and tell you all about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon.

And if you are a Mormon and someone asks you a question about Romney, you probably ought not to automatically send the missionaries over to see them.

It is true that curiosity sometimes turns into real interest. And when it does, no one is better — or more welcomed — to come and share his or her well-organized and fascinating presentation than the missionaries.

But until it gets to that point, we would all do well to have simple, mutually respectful discussions in which questions are answered candidly and conversationally where there is no hidden agenda.

Nothing used to bother us more than some neighbor or friend who would invite us over to their home, and only after arriving did we discover that it was a Tupperware party. It would be equally annoying if the “surprise” were the missionaries.

Because there are more questions and curiosity now than ever before about Mormons, we got together with some friends and created a new website called MormonBriefing.com, which attempts to answer the most common questions and state the direct facts about the church.

Most curious people would rather get their answers privately, online, where they can take it or leave it, avoiding a Google-search, wading through too much to get to their answers.

There are clicks on the site for "facts" and for "common questions." There is also a click for "defining the church" where regular, every-day Mormons take their own crack at defining what the church is to them and how the church has helped define them and their families.

Most Mormons, we have found, would rather define their church themselves than have journalists or antagonists define it for them. And most curious people would also rather get their answers from real church members.

Available on the site is an online version of our book “The Wrappings and the Gifts,” which digs a little deeper. Years ago in London, a great friend of ours, a member of the British Parliament named Rhodes Boyson, we call him “Graham” in the book, asked us the most interesting question we had ever heard about our church.

“I know all about Joseph Smith and the golden plates and the angel,” he said, “But to me those are just the wrappings and the bows. What I want to know is what is inside the box — what are the gifts and doctrines that were actually restored? How are the teachings of your church different than those of other Christian churches?”

Our friend Rhodes, you see, had gone beyond curious — he was interested, and the book is our attempt to answer his amazing question.

You can help all of us understand this “Mormon moment” and the difference between interest and curiosity by taking the short readers poll here. We will do a random drawing from those who comment on the story and choose 10 to whom we will send a signed copy of the “Wrappings” book.

Perhaps, with or without websites, if we all put our minds to it, we can become a little more united and respectful in this great community we share. Those curious about Mormonism can get straightforward, non-threatening answers, and Mormons who are curious about others can get the same. If we all try, we can all understand each other better and be a stronger, more open community — one that is a better place for all of our kids.

Richard and Linda are best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit the Eyres anytime at www.TheEyres.com or www.joyschools.com. Several of their books are now available for free on www.EyresFreeBooks.com.

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