I love converts to Mormonism. Unlike hereditary members, converts do not enclose themselves within a tight circle to shield their testimonies from non-Mormon beliefs and practices. Converts have been exposed to other religious views and chose Mormonism as the most spiritually satisfying for themselves.
Two of my favorite neighbors hail from outside Utah. Indira, a firm believer who loves the family values of her chosen religion, remains an outsider in our ward. She owns and operates a yoga studio and finds the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga practice complement her Mormon beliefs. Yoga is not popular in Mormon circles, although it fits well with Mormon concern for health. Since yoga stems from Hinduism and some poses include forming the hands in prayer position and bowing the head, is their fear that it violates the commandment not to worship false gods?
Joe, an immigrant from Singapore, is a high priest in our ward who practices the healing meditation of Qi Gong in order to relieve chronic back pain suffered in a work-related accident last year. I’m glad Joe feels comfortable incorporating beneficial aspects of his culture into his current religion. Both appear to enrich his life.
Our oldest son once dated a convert from Catholicism. Michelle, who was working on a Ph.D. in religious studies, had no problem with the warts of Mormonism. Having no expectations that her new faith and its leaders would be perfect in every way, she handled learning that some aspects of official Church history differ from verifiable facts. Michelle taught me how to distinguish actual growth of Church membership from official statistics. Compare the numbers of stakes and wards from one year to the next. Stakes and ward are not created unless bodies show up to occupy them.
Converts are great. They know good people exist beyond the boundaries of Mormonism. Their circles include rather than exclude.