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.