November 25, 2008

"Hi folks. My name is Peter." (A missionary approach)

From the "backburner never got around to posting" department:

The recent introduction of Preach My Gospel as the fundamental missionary approach for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was an exciting development for me. Still, despite its strengths,1 undoubtedly some will still notice its apparent weaknesses.

For example, some critics assert Mormons, and especially missionaries, need to provide a fuller picture of their history. (Strangely, some who claim the Church spends too much time on Joseph Smith at the expense of Jesus Christ also appear to want more discussion of Smith.) Daniel C. Peterson's fundamental nature seems to render him incapable of avoiding this opportunity for satire. He offered the following as a possible rewrite of an early Christian missionary approach, providing a more full account of the controversies surrounding the apostolic witness:

"Hi folks. My name is Peter. I am an eyewitness of the resurrection of Jesus. I saw him alive, after I had seen him killed. However, as mandated by the rules of full disclosure and in accordance with best historiographical practices, I need to point out that my credibility as a witness has been questioned. I may be entirely insane. (Who am I to say?) Worse, I have serious character issues. I assaulted a young temple servant in the Garden of Gethsemane, for instance, intending to kill him with my sword. I lied about knowing Jesus in order to protect myself from possible harm. (Even friendly sources admit these things.) I was really, really upset by the death of Jesus and the disappointment of our messianic hopes -- we had given up our lucrative fish business in Capernaum and devoted three full years to following Jesus around as vagrant religious fanatics without productive jobs (Jesus promised me and my brothers a rich pay-off if we did, so you shouldn't forget the self-interest angle here), and you can imagine the psychic shock we experienced when he was suddenly killed -- so it's possible that I merely imagined Jesus' postmortem appearances. Wish-fulfillment, and all that. (I've read my Freud!) And, to cap it all, I'm a primitive ancient person, absolutely awash in pre-scientific superstitions, from a provincial backwater town in a provincial backwater country, with virtually no education. Would you buy a used car from me? Anyway, though, as I was saying: I'm an eyewitness. I saw, or claim I saw, or think I saw, Jesus, in some form, alive, in some sense, after he was possibly dead. (What am I? A doctor? [You and my Jewish mother!] You think we maybe had electroencephalographs or even scientifically rigorous definitions of death in 33 AD?) If you believe what I'm telling you, the Roman authorities aren't gonna like it. Well, that's all for now, folks. It's hard to talk, upside down on a cross like this. Fortunately, some rabbinic anti-Christian tracts have fallen out of my pockets. Feel free to read them. And if you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask them: I've probably only got an hour or two of consciousness left."2

For example, I believe Preach My Gospel emphasizes more flexibility and more responsibility for the missionary to not only better understand the scriptures, but focus on allowing the Spirit to dictate the discussions.

Daniel C. Peterson, posted to the Mormon Apologetics and Discussion Board, July 20, 2006.