Interesting PBS Interview with Daniel Peterson

If you missed this back when PBS was publishing some stories about the Mormons,, you might enjoy reading an interview with Daniel C. Peterson, one of the leading intellects at BYU and a tremendous defender of the LDS faith.

He makes several interesting points, but the part I’d like to share here is from his missionary experience in Switzerland, where I also served:

I remember when I was serving in Switzerland, we tracted out a Pakistani banker. Now, the Swiss were not always very receptive, which is putting it mildly, to our going door to door. The Swiss home was the Swiss castle, so you just didn’t get in. On this particular occasion, this Pakistani banker came to the door and said: “Mormons. Oh, wonderful. I’ve always wanted to talk to Mormons. Please come in.” Well, this just didn’t happen to us. We were as thrilled as could be. He explained that he was a Muslim, and I remember thinking to myself in what was I guess 20-year-old arrogance at the time, “Ah, what a lucky man this is, because I’m the only missionary in Switzerland who knows anything about Islam” — which was a joke. I didn’t know anything about Islam. I’ve since gone on to get a Ph.D. in the subject; I know a little more about it now than I did then.

But I thought that I was pretty much a hotshot at the time, so my mind was immediately going around the avenue of, what would be the best avenue of approach to this guy? So I thought: Post-biblical prophets — that’ll do it. Common ground. Muhammad and Joseph Smith. I said, “We have great news; there’s a modern prophet.” And he said, “After Muhammad?” And I said, “Yes!” And he said: “Oh. Well, I’m sorry. I can’t have you in my apartment talking about something like that. That’s blasphemy.”

He was very polite about it, very civil. But we had just barely sat down. I mean, we had been sitting in that apartment for 30 seconds, I think, and he ushered us right out and apologized, but we were gone. And I remember thinking, boy, was that a failure of inspiration. That was the worst possible opening line. I could have chosen anything else, except possibly a defense of Israel or something like that, if I had launched into something like that. …

I remember tracting out a fellow fairly late one night. We were about to go home, and his wife came to the door, and she was nice enough. We were having a conversation. It was pretty clear that they probably weren’t interested; that was fine. And suddenly her husband showed up with a pistol and held it about 4 inches from my nose, and he said, “Do you see that, boys?” And I said, “Yes.” And he said, “We don’t want you here.” And I remember his wife said in German, “Mein Mann ist nicht so begeistert“: “My husband isn’t all that enthused.” I thought, that’s putting it mildly. I mean, what a strange comment to make. Of course he’s not; he’s holding a gun to my face. …

The story of the Pakistani banker is particularly instructive. We must better understand the Islam world, as Daniel Peterson has done throughout his life. And with many peoples and cultures, things we might think are common ground may really be uncrossable chasms.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

14 thoughts on “Interesting PBS Interview with Daniel Peterson

  1. Great way to build on common belief: There is no god but God and Muhammad is his prophet–and Joseph Smith, Brigham Young,…

  2. Sharing your faith with Muslims can be very dangerous.

    In countries that practice Sharia Law, any display or practice of religion other than Islam is punishable by death.

    I spent a lot of time in Saudi Arabia and Turkey while in the military, and we couldn't do or say anything that indicated we were Christians.

  3. i think Jason is quoting the opening sura or prayer of muslim which states that " there is no god but God (Allah) and Muhammad is his prophet and messenger" look it up! :]ca

  4. @Creek "punishable by death"

    See, I think that's part of the misunderstanding. My understanding is that it's not punishment. Some families practice it like this–as it is a family stewardship. The father–or uncle or older brother– will allow the potential apostate 3 days is seclusion with the Koran to rediscover the faith.

    If they will not reconsider, then to preserve their soul from apostasy, they are executed.

    Which actually goes to proving the point. If we don't approach it from a point of understanding, how can we engage.

    Have you ever heard the expression that Mormons would rather have their missionaries come home in a box than in dishonor? Both are wrong but the underlying sentiment is similar in its error.

  5. Quandmeme,

    I have never heard the expression "Mormons would rather have their missionaries come home in a box than in dishonor" and I grew up in Utah and all of my siblings served missions. I think that it is a horrible expression. To those Mormons who embrace that expression, I say have you ever heard of the title "The Miracle of Forgiveness?"

  6. "Mormons would rather have their missionaries come home in a box than in dishonor"
    I have heard that and more. What was the one about losing your virtue? It is worse than death. Then there is the one about it is worse to have a child leave the faith than die. I guess us California Mormons are more dedicated than you Utah folk.

  7. I've lived in Utah over 4 years, but I've never heard the phrases about coming home in a box or children leaving the faith.

    I'm not LDS but the huge majority of my neighbors, coworkers, and students (I'm a HS teacher) are Mormon and I've never heard any of those phrases.

  8. Isn't that a States of Grace quote? The whole dead before dishonor thing? And then the missionary who's father said it goes to kill himself?

    I'm just bringing it up because it might be one of those "populated by media" things that everyone thinks is said, but really isn't. I've never heard this sentiment before, personally.

    Of course, the reason it was in the movie was because people say it, soooo…full circle?


  9. there's something to think about here–

    I don't think LDS have a corner on ethnocentricity, but we are ethnocentric people–

    When I think about Muslims versus "all others"–

    I think about the Lamanites during the time of Jacob–

    and even before and after–

    WHY was Nephi told that his descendants would be destroyed, but the Lamanites would not be?

    I think that most LDS believe it is because Nephites, somehow, had more light–

    but Jacob admits that the Lamanites were more family-friendly than the Nephites; the husbands loved their wives, and the husbands and wives loved their children–

    whereas the Nephites were more materialistic and not as 'moral'–

    though more 'civilized'–

    sound familiar?

    the extreme stories about Muslims being allowed to execute their own for lack of religious faith aside,
    in Islam there is no abortion, and, again, extreme stories about lewd polygamists aside, they are also more family-centered.

    They have more children–

    than mainstream Americans.

    As LDS follow mainstream America, *we*, too, are in danger of the same thing–

    we blink/wink at abortion and at multiple divorces, etc.–

    and our families are getting smaller–

    so . . .

    though I don't accept the standard "Muslims are going to take over the world" argument–

    while the Lamanites endured, and the Nephites were destroyed–

    the Lord made it quite clear to Nephi in 1 Nephi that God only prospers those who are righteous.

    Having had Catholic friends grow up in Utah and be taunted for their beliefs, I don't feel terribly sorry for Christians in mostly Muslim countries–

    some countries are worse than others, of course, but there are more practicing, traditional Jews in Iran than anywhere besides Jerusalem–

    and they are happy there.

    I think that being informed and trying not to be ethnocentric are both very important.

  10. There was an apostle or a member of the 1st presidency on record with the "come home in a box" quote. But like most other things of that nature, it has been taken out of context by critics of the church. And probably repeated often without proper context within the church.

    He was referring to a missionary who intentionly committed sexual sin while on a mission.

    Critics have often twisted it to try to apply it to a woman who is raped, or to those who aren't on a mission, which it definitely does _not_ apply to.

    Granted, it's a little hyperbolic, and even a little Klingon-ish, but "Death before Dishonor" has been used as a motto elsewhere, before and after, such as the Marines.

    Mormons were not the first or the last to use (or imply) the phrase.

    In the 1980's, my mission president emphasized the importance of chastity when he talked about sending elders home _before_ they transgressed IF they were headed down that path, saying (or implying) that it's better to be sent home for just plain rule-breaking, than being sent home (and possibly excommunicated) for sexual transgression. (IE, he would send an elder home for dating girls so that he wouldn't have to send him home for having sex.)

    That, plus the damage to the mission effort that is caused when a missionary transgresses in that manner.

  11. "To those Mormons who embrace that expression, I say have you ever heard of the title "The Miracle of Forgiveness?""

    I don't get the connection. The expression is about sin ex ante. Forgiveness is about sin post ante.

  12. Greenwood: The critics are trying to (erroneously) twist the "come home in a box" quote into "If you commit sexual sin on a mission, you might as well die before coming home."

    Interpreting things in the worst possible light is nothing new. Those who don't like the church have been playing that game here for years.

    I think it comes under the heading of "making someone an offender for a word."

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