Neither brutish, nor a fool

I don’t talk to people on planes. I think it is terribly rude. In the past couple of years and hundreds of hours in flight, I have spoken to only a couple of people who don’t work for the airlines. I rarely even make eye-contact. However, recently I ended out sitting next to someone and somehow a conversation emerged that I found not only interesting, but illuminating. I later learned that the person sitting next to me was something of a rising star, but I didn’t know that at the time.

Midway through the flight while discussing the relationship between different cultures and food preparation, I confessed that my favorite thing was to have a meal and talk with people I love. My interlocutor immediately turned to me as asked if I was Jewish. I smiled and responded that I was not. “You should be. You would love Shabbat.” I imagine I would.

The conversation moved along, but that declaration has stuck with me. I’ve spoken to many people, even about Mormonism. But what has haunted me is the question of what someone might say to which I would respond similarly to my new friend. What would someone say to me that I would think: “You should be Mormon. You would love the Sabbath.”? And if not the Sabbath, what might someone love?

In my recent busyness I find it easy to not consciously observe my faith. With kids and meal prep and seminary and work and travel, it seems like just not falling apart is sufficient. I’m present and I execute. But in moments when I let myself rest, I see the fraying chords that bind me together. In those moments I see places where I can change–where I should. And even if I wouldn’t think “You would love the Sabbath,” perhaps I could say, “I love it.”


  1. Genealogy work is the only thing I can think of, that we do, that others love too.

  2. I completely relate to this. And I feel inclined to repent.

  3. I’m with Rebecca.

  4. Talking to people on airplanes is rude. Thank you for saying this.

    I can’t in good conscience recommend The Church, but I can The Gospel so that’s where it gets a bit tricky. So many members and non members intrinsically link the two that it is hard to suss out in any conversation I am willing to have.

  5. Anne Chovies says:

    Remember Paul H Dunn? He gave a talk once and spoke of standing in line behind a guy with a cigar and asking him if he was a Mormon bishop. The guy, of course, said no but Dunn was then able to go on and talk about what bishops are like and what the gospel can do for people. An interesting “opener”, somewhat like your experience on the plane.

  6. Your first two sentences contain a fine ambiguity: is it your not talking to others that is “terribly rude”? The pleasant and interesting conversation that you describe later in your post makes it obvious that you couldn’t have intended a blanket condemnation of all conversation on airplanes.

  7. J. Stapley says:

    Yeah, it is ambiguous. Though generally, I think it is rude to chat people up on transportation of any sort, particularly if you are a loud talker.

  8. Jared vdH says:

    I took it to mean forcing conversation onto others, not strictly that all conversation is wrong.

    For myself it would be choral music. If someone loved choral music I would suggest to them the suite of various Mormon choral composers, (ie not just MoTab). But I’m a sucker for choral music in general and I know that it’s not many people’s preference.

  9. I might say choral music, too, except for the ginormous gap in musical quality between Temple Square and almost all sacrament meetings. Our sacred music is good only insofar as it’s a missionary tool.

    What I might say re: what someone might like about this church is visiting teaching. Ministering person-to-person, building long-term relationships with people you don’t choose but whom you come to love. Home teaching could be the same, but for no particular reason it’s never meant as much to me as visiting teaching.

  10. It might be surprising, because as insiders we mostly talk about problems and failings, but I was told by an outsider that they envied (holy envy sort) the Gospel Doctrine and Relief Society and Priesthood classes, i.e., adult to adult conversations about doctrine and practice. In some religious traditions the adult experience is almost all one way–priest or minister to congregation–with very little dialogue or conversation.

  11. A few years ago my wife and I toured Israel. Our guide was a Jew who had converted to Mormonism. During our meal conversations, we would discuss, sometimes passionately, certain doctrinal questions, he taking the more conservative approach, I the more liberal. At the end of one of our disputations he said: “You would have made a good Jew—whenever two of them argue, they always end up with three opinions.” That made me laugh.

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