There are two ways of looking at flowers.
You can see their differences — differences in color, shape, size and smell.
Or you can see their similarities — how they all have stems, leaves, petals and roots.
The Evangelical leaders who are speaking at Brigham Young University this year have the courage and kindness to do the latter.
They see the things Mormons and Protestants have in common.
And that’s especially needed in a society intent on exploiting the differences between people.
There’s an old saying: If you want to draw a crowd, start a fight. And we see a dozen fights a day in our movies, news stories, video games and businesses. There’s money to be made by creating interest. And interest comes by creating dramatic conflict.
And our lives now reflect our entertainment.
In court, people fight like honey badgers.
Politicians find fame and fortune by attacking each other.
Local newscasts are little more than the police blotter read aloud; who killed who, who abducted who, who challenged who?
It takes a generous soul to see common ground in all the confrontation. But that’s what Evangelical leaders and BYU have done.
Needless to say, there will be backlash. Especially for the visitors. I once wrote a column listing some positive things Christian singer Michael Card had to say about Mormons. The column caused Michael more grief than a kidney stone.
But for those willing to brave the storm, there are serene seas to be found.
For example, buoyed by such thoughts, I attended the Joel Osteen sermon at the Maverick Center last month. And for an old, stoic, understated Western boy like me, it was quite a ride. Piles of souvenir shirts and backpacks were being sold, people were eating popcorn and downing soft drinks. There was a rock band and a trio of gospel singers. The special effects and lighting were dazzling.
In short, I knew I wasn’t at LDS general conference.
But I hung in there. And here’s what I got for my trouble.
Osteen said two kinds of faith were part of my life — a saving faith and a sustaining faith. Saving faith could be a source of miracles. But sustaining faith is what got me through the fiery furnace.
“The hardship you feel didn’t come to stay,” Osteen told me. “As the Bible says, ‘It came to pass.’ ”
He said God wanted me to take the “test” he’d given me and turn it into “testimony.”
He said my struggles weren’t open-ended, that good things awaited me if I would stay the course.
It was exactly what I needed to hear.
Osteen and I shared similar leaves, petals and roots that night.
But I had to look beyond an array of differences in our "blooms" to find them.
I’m glad I made the effort.
And I’m glad BYU, Evangelical leaders and others are trying to do the same.