Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Gift of the Gospel

About halfway through my sixth grade year, my English teacher got married.  The other teachers organized a little party for her during the school day.  Many of the students brought small gifts for her.  I wasn't going to bring a gift.  I had no idea what a newly-married schoolteacher would want.  But my dad had a brilliant idea--I should get her a copy of the Book of Mormon.

I was pretty uncomfortable with this idea.  But it's not like I could say no to spreading the word of the gospel.  That was supposed to be one of my primary objectives as a good Mormon boy.  Besides, if I was expecting to serve a mission someday, I'd need to get comfortable with the idea of sharing the truth with the world around me.  So I dutifully wrapped up one of those cheap paperback copies of the book and brought it to school with me.

I was really nervous about giving it to her.  I put the book on the table with the other gifts and walked away.  

A few days later, after my teacher had taken all her gifts home to her husband and opened them, she thanked me for it.  But it was not sincere gratitude.  It was a forced attempt to be gracious.  It was delivered in awkward, tight-lipped speech that made me think it had pissed her off but she was struggling to be polite nonetheless.  I was embarrassed.

In the years following, I occasionally fantasized that someday when she was at a low point in her life, she'd find that Book of Mormon in some box in the attic, read it, and let it change her life for the better.  And I dreamed that she'd credit me with her membership in the church and her eventual eternal salvation.  

From my new perspective, I feel even more embarrassed about what I did.  At the time, I thought I was being selfless by sharing the source of my happiness with her.  But now I realize that I was being selfish by taking a celebration about her and turning into a marketing platform about me.  A box of chocolates would have been a much more appropriate gift.  The other small issue is that I wasn't happy but I was still trying to share the source of that not-being-happy-ness like it was something special.  Because that's what I was supposed to do.

And that doesn't seem right to me.

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