Jared: You may have seen The Zealot carrying this sign in Colonial Williamsburg. He likes to stand outside the William & Mary bookstore and preach about women who are going to hell because they give their flower away. I'm sure he talks about other things too, but it all relates to people (pretty much everyone except him) going to hell. I had never seen him before (in fact, I haven't seen something like this since Guadalajara), and he caught my attention for two reasons: 1) he wasn't preaching repentance, like most preachers; he was preaching "if you've done it, then hell awaits". 2) His right to free speech wasn't curbed by Colonial Williamsburg, which is a private corporation--the spot outside Barnes & Noble must be public space. We stopped to listen for a minute and read his sign. Check out the last group of people headed straight to hell:
Stacy, Luke, and I (and probably most of you reading this) are doomed!
I was absolutely fascinated. As we walked along, I wondered what the guy's rationale was. Why are Mormons going to hell? What's wrong with us? What was his doctrinal background for saying that we're damned? And that led to other questions, the most poignant being: Why do people hate us so violently? I was dying to find out about this guy's reasoning. So we turned around and walked back so I could question or confront him. Stacy only had one condition: that if she stood and let me argue with the guy, she got to take a few pictures to blog about our adventure.
It wasn't quite as exciting as Stacy was hoping and expecting. I didn't get right up in his face for one thing. I stood to the side so the whole crowd could hear the conversation. I shouted that he had a question and asked why mormons were going to hell. It took the guy a little while to get to his answer. He started out by yelling about idols and that people who worshipped anything made by their own hands were going to hell. I kept calling out, "What does that have to do with the mormons?" and Mr. Zealot finally got to his point. His claim was that mormons (Joseph Smith in particular) created revelation, the Book of Mormon, etc. with their own hands and so were not worshiping the true god.
Stacy: When Jared would try to reply or ask a question, he would just keep on talking. There were a lot of points that he refused to comment on. For example, one thing he said that proved mormons were wrong was that we believe in temple worship. He claimed that God didn't condone temple worship, that temple worship doesn't exist in the Bible, and that we are just commanded to be a temple ourselves. Jared said, "Didn't Christ call the temple his Father's house?" but the guy wouldn't answer. Jared also said, "What about Solomon's temple?" but again, he wouldn't answer.
Some people around us started murmuring against Crazy Man's arguments; probably mostly about him in general. But one man next to us especially got into it. He was encouraging Jared's questions until his cell phone rang. We kind of wondered if he was mormon too.
The guy didn't stay on the topics of Mormons for very long. He moved on to other religions pretty fast, and once he stopped talking about Mormons we left.
It was as we knew it would be: that he wasn't really interested in a conversation. But it opened up a lot of discussion for us on the way home. We talked about several things such as:
1. We don't worship any of the things he talked about. We don't worship the prophet, the scriptures, angels, or even revelation. We only worship God and Jesus. And since he referred to the Bible (incorrectly, but still), didn't that mean that he felt we needed tools to help us worship? These things he condemned are tools and gifts that help us to worship the true god. And in addition, if reading the Book of Mormon was worshiping a false idol, then reading the Bible is too. Because they're basically the same kind of record. (When Jared had brought up the similarities between the BoM and the Bible, Mr. Zealot had just ignored him)
2. Did this guy believe in hope or love or forgiveness? All he talked about was doom and destruction. But if there was no hope for someone who had made a mistake, or (heaven forbid!) loved ESPN too much (After all, sport nuts are going to hell), then why try? And more importantly, how could anyone love a God who was just waiting above to doom them for any mistake they made?
3. What would it be like to be that guy's wife/ daughter/ anyone in his family? We decided that it would undoubtedly be bogus.