I recently had to take a trip to Long Island, NY for a few days and so we decided to make a family vacation of it. As part of the trip we decided to visit the aquarium. The girls loved the sting ray touch tank, but my son was a bit nervous about it. He sat back and watched, but refused to pet the sting rays. I kept asking him why he was so nervous, but he wouldn’t tell me. So instead he just watched while we all had a great time petting the sting rays. Luckily the sting ray tank was right in the middle of the aquarium, so we passed it a few times as we went to all the exhibits. Finally he decided to test it out and tried petting one of the sting rays. Although he was nervous, he loved it and spent the next five or ten minutes petting as many as possible.
Given that he is normally rather adventurous, I was confused at his nervousness. It wasn’t until we came to the exhibit with the electric eel that things started to make sense. As we watched the electric eel he said, “Wait, this is the one that shocks you? I thought the sting rays did that.” During the ensuing conversation I found out that he had thought that sting rays had the ability to electro-shock their prey. He was convinced that if he put his hands into the touch tank that they would shock him. Once his fears were put to rest he loved the sting rays even more. On a side note, I never did figure why he was so willing to let the rest of his family run the risk of getting electrocuted by the “electric sting rays”…
I saw this same type of fear and misinformation many times while serving as a full-time missionary for the LDS Church. We would start chatting with someone only to have them suddenly become very nervous and ask us to leave. Most of the time they never told us why they were so upset, but every now and then someone would tell us that they had heard that Mormons [insert random rumor here]. It could be anything from concerns that we have horns or that we believe that women will be eternally pregnant after this life.
I was always very happy when someone would tell us why they afraid. It gave us a chance to talk about truth – and that’s what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. He was no stranger to rumors – people often criticized him or claimed he was possessed. But he welcomed the chance to talk to anyone and everyone and then invited them to find out if what he taught was true – “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.”
I invite you to do the same. Bring your concerns and questions and find out for yourself. As I told my son at the aquarium, don’t stand on the sidelines watching when you could be so happy with us.