My friend Lloyd is 78 years old. He is English but has lived in the Baltic region since the early 60s, a widower since 1992. He is a complicated man with some major moral flaws, but I adore him, and he is a part of our family. We have lunch together regularly, he often comes to our home in the evening, and when I have time I join his oldtimers’ cafe newspaper reading group.
My religion has always been a bit off the table. Some years ago, we were talking about something and the Mormons came into the conversation. He was about to make some pronouncement, and I cut him off, saying, ‘Just so you know, Lloyd, I’m a Mormon.’
‘Are you? Good Lord.’ And that was the end of it.
So Saturday we had just had sauna and were talking about ice hockey while sunning ourselves on a rock near the sea. (Lloyd belongs to a posh sauna club.) Suddenly he says, ‘So what does this faith of yours do for you?’
My mind went blank. I’m not much of a member-missionary, and I didn’t have a ready answer. But I cast my mind out like a net and one image came back — singing ‘I Am a Child of God’ with my sons. I said, ‘It helps me know who I am and who I can become. It gives me direction.’
He was quiet, then said, ‘You have something tremendous.’ And after a moment, he commented on the weather.
I suppose I should have said more or followed up, but it didn’t feel right. I do wonder what has happened that has made him think in these terms after all the time we’ve known each other, but considering our age difference I’m not sure I can really ask.
I admire people who are bold enough about their faith to be more systematic in sharing the gospel, but it has never been natural for me, even as a full-time missionary. In truth, I have decade-old friends with whom I’ve never had a religious discussion. I know that the standard answer is that our tendency to ‘share the gospel’ is proportional to its importance to us, but I don’t really buy that. I do feel grateful for the chance to sincerely declare my faith, even briefly and rarely.