I was striding by Temple Square the other day when two young women made a bid for my attention. They were missionaries not LDS missionaries, evangelical missionaries. And they must have been all of 15 years old.
I stopped to say hello.
They were en route to Manti to proselyte at the Miracle Pageant but had decided to stop in Salt Lake City and bravely step into the lion's den Temple Square, Mormonism's "ground zero." When I stopped, they must have feared I let out a roar because they got all blushed and flustered. One of them had never preached in the street before and couldn't utter a word. The other young woman seemed terrified to stop talking. To push the animal analogy, they were like young eaglets whose parents had sent from the nest to learn how to hunt. They were modestly dressed with clean faces and had that fixed, pressing gaze that young people get when they feel fully alive in their faith a gaze that worldly boys often misread as an invitation to intimacy. They were also a little too free with personal information. I considered giving them some fatherly advice but let it pass. Their parents would likely keep them from drifting too close to danger.
They gave me a couple of pamphlets, answered one of my questions by quoting a verse from Hebrews that almost seemed to apply and sent me on my way with a sunny altar call, asking me to come to Jesus. I was charmed. They were as fresh and pleasant as the Temple Square flowers behind them.
I returned to the office, my head full of thoughts.
I thought of all the teens I knew who had never spent more than 20 seconds contemplating life or grappling with serious issues. But these young women were spending their summer vacation doing both. I remembered a line from Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "We may decide merely to play at life, but that will not affect the seriousness of the immutable realities, the ordering principles, laws and truths that are at work in the universe."
Those two young women were not playing at life. They were living it. And in that sense, they were really not much different from devout young Catholic women, young Jewish women or the faithful young women of the LDS faith.
And I thought how so many of us tend to think there is a great wall between ourselves and other faiths, when the truth is there's just the thinnest of lines. Religious people, I'm convinced, share 92 percent of the same spiritual DNA. The problem is, as human beings, we simply can't make ourselves stop focusing on that 8 percent.
Some people even obsess about it.
In the end, I wish those two young women and their parents well in Manti. I hope they don't measure their lives by the amount of success they have there but by the faithfulness they show. Missionaries of all stripes must learn that lesson.
In fact, with luck, perhaps they'll be able to see beyond the differences between Mormons and themselves and be pleasantly surprised by the similarities.And, with luck, perhaps a few Mormons will be able to do the same.