The junior companion frowned over his deep dish apple pie. The gospel discussion was off-script. George and I had been asked to invite the missionaries for dinner, probably as an activation ploy. Before their arrival, we vowed not to share our religious views with the elders. Serving a mission is tough enough without members casting doubts. As Elder Jr. Comp shared his testimony, we made polite comments but couldn’t mirror his enthusiasm. From the missionaries’ point-of-view, our dinner table dialogue was a dud.
Elder Sr. Comp moved the conversation to a personal level. “What has the Church meant in your lives?”
George spoke of his spiritual experiences while serving in callings and as a temple ordinance worker. When asked why he no longer attends meetings, George recited some of the more inane table-pounding comments heard on his two visits to the High Priests’ Group in our ward: “Women will never hold the priesthood” and “They are trying to take ‘In God we trust’ off our money.”
Thinking I was home free—home teachers and other male church visitors to our home generally assume George speaks for us both—I was caught off guard when the elder turned to me: “And what has the Church meant in your life?”
“Well, the Church has given me my basic values—honesty, hard work, helping others, a thirst for knowledge.”
“Is that it?”
With a few more minutes of thought, I could have added growth opportunities such as speaking in public, teaching, and leadership roles. Instead I answered, “That’s basically it. My values.”
Clearly disappointed that I hadn’t included my hopes for salvation and reunion with family in the next life, Elder Senior turned his attention to his dessert. They left, probably disappointed that the possibility of finding a less-active couple to shepherd back into the fold hadn’t materialized.
But I’m still pondering that final question: What has the Church meant in my life? Although I no longer believe much of the history and doctrine learned at church, the values still hold. My only regret is insisting that the Church was the only way for our two younger children—the non-conformists.