Aside from a few "bumps" in the road, (which I will talk about later but involves the stomach flu and a traffic ticket....) we have had a really great time. My next posts will show some pictures and more detail. But, we spent yesterday at Niagara Falls- a first for everyone except me- and spent today swimming, going to a movie and then resting up for our late night tonight. Many know that I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day-Saints (aka "Mormon" see here or here for more info) Tonight we saw the Hill Cumorah Pageant (click on that title to go the official website for it). This is an outdoor drama (for Ohioans, think "Tecumseh" but bigger) that tells the story of the Book of Mormon and how our religion came to be. It has 800 actors that do this on a volunteer basis- meaning they are not paid!!! It contains scenes from the Bible and the Book of Mormon and tells basically how the Book of Mormon came to be and how the people learned of Christ along the way.
I saw this as a child. I remember even then being very struck by the stories and just the scale of the whole performance. Another thing I remember from going as a child is those we call "anti-Mormons" who hang around the perimeter of the show trying to bring everyone down. I was prepared for them and even warned the kids that there would be people there with signs and saying things and giving out papers that we didn't want. I was not prepared for the thought it would provoke and how deeply it bothered me even though I knew it was coming.
Maybe because on one hand, I don't get why they are so negative, but on the other hand I do. As soon as we pulled up, there were people with signs. As you walk to the pageant area, and get close to the entrance, there are people standing there with signs and yelling things at us and basically (no joke) calling us stupid for believing as we do and that we will go to Hell unless we repent and turn to Jesus now. Walking across that street with people shoving pamphlets at us felt like shoving our way through Hell. But then, we got across the road and entered the pageant area, we saw nothing but smiling faces of the pageant workers there to greet us and say "Hello! Thank you for coming today, we are glad you are here." It is like walking through Hell and finding yourself in heaven!
As someone with a teaching background as well as some scriptural knowledge, this all got me thinking-about many things really- but I will try not to get too wordy, which I already have kind of. Lets say y0u want to teach something to someone. What is a better way to do it- by yelling at them and bringing negativity and bad feelings, or by gentleness and meekness and love? In Galatians 5:22, a popular scripture and one of my favorites as well it says:
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith."
I think of this scripture and I think, where did I feel the love, joy and peace tonight? Certainly not while crossing the street- but rather when I reached the other side. These negative people were waving the Bible at us and shouting about turning to Christ. But, it says right there in that Bible that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace but they were not demonstrating that! How can that truly be of Christ when they are not teaching and loving as Christ would? It seems so obvious to me.
Then as we were leaving, they taunted us about how our "silly little show" should not be about our religion but about Christ because that is where salvation lies. Well....obviously, none of them watched it!!!! If I was paid for every time the name of Jesus Christ was mentioned in the show, I would be a rich woman- the show was all about Jesus Christ and how the pe0ple were taught over and over that they needed to come to the Savior for salvation. So many scenes had Christ in them- either before his birth, during his life or after his resurrection! Christ had a bigger role in it then everyone!
My other thought that I had tonight or anytime I hear about our religion being persecuted is this- what is it to them anyway? Why do we upset them so? Why do they feel the need to tear us down and be so negative? Sure, there are religions out there that I don't believe are true, but do we go to their events and stand there with signs and yell mean things to them? No! Of course not- the idea seems ridiculous. That is why we live in this country so that we can believe what we want and others can believe what they want! Our 11th Article of Faith (a list of our core beliefs) states:
We claim the priviledge of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.I do believe this gospel to be true- but I don't expect others to if they choose not to. I understand that this world is full of many different people with many different lives and belief systems. This is ours. Why is it so threatening to them? They don't have to believe it, so if it isn't part of their lives, why are they so determined to tear it down?! Why can't they just live their lives and let us believe as we wish?
Well, this much I do know. There is a never ending "battle"-if you will- for our hearts. God wants us to live eternally with Him and Satan wants to destroy us. Where God builds us up, there is Satan trying to tear us down. I believe that Satan knows where the power of God will be strong and so he does what he can to put anger into the hearts of people to bring that Spirit down. To me, it just testifies more of the Spirit of God that was there tonight because when I was within that pageant, I felt close to Christ and my family and everyone was happy and peaceful. But, on the perimeter was nothing but bad feelings and it was like being attacked by Satan. Satan must have felt very threatened by this tonight so he tried put anger into hearts of others. Those passing out those papers did not have the Spirit of God with them because they did not have love and peace but anger and discontent. "By their fruits, ye shall know them..." They did not have the fruits of Christ because they did not act as Christ would.
It did my heart good to see these thousands of people just walk by them and ignore them- not take their literature and just pretend they weren't there. Even though it would be easy to get angry and to "tell these people where to go"- well, that would bring down the Spirit, which is exactly what Satan wants, isn't it? So, we all just walk kindly by ignoring them except to say "no thank you" when handed a paper.
What those "anti's" don't realize is that most of us walked away with our testimonies strengthened because of them instead of weakened like they wanted. It had the opposite effect from what they wanted. The feeling of being among them and then being among the pageant was so strongly different that anyone could feel it. In a way, all of that negativity helped us feel the full magnitude of the peace within.
So, now as I sit in peace reflecting on this night I know that I felt close to my Savior tonight and full of gratitude for all He has done for me. I know He teaches with peace and love and I know He loves us all. I know he must of been appalled to see these people speak in his name but yet display such hatred. That goes against everything that Christ is.
Tomorrow we will go back to that same location to see some of the historic sites of the town of Palmyra- which is were Joseph Smith saw God and Jesus Christ and where the Book of Mormon was first published! So, another fun day ahead and then we drive home on Friday. I know I have had two long, thoughtful posts in a row, but I will post pictures soon!!!