The Big Presumption


“So if I asked you about art, you could give me the skinny on every art book ever written about Michelangelo? You know a lot about him I bet. Life’s work, criticisms, political aspirations. But you couldn’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling… You’re an orphan, right? Do you think I would presume to know the first thing about who you are because I read “Oliver Twist?” (Movie, “Good Will Hunting”)

These lines were said from a psychologist, Sean, to the main character of the movie, a young man named Will. Will is a prodigy, extremely intelligent, but young. Will takes great pride in his intelligence, so much so that he feels superior to everyone else. This scene reminds me a lot of some people I have met over the years. They pride themselves in their intellect, and there is no doubt that they have it. They think that by reading the history of my church, and studying its scriptures, that they know what its all about.

Many years ago I was at a business conference. One of the managers, who was not a member of my church, had done his “thesis” on the history of my faith. He prided himself in thinking that he knew so much about it. Somehow this subject came up while I was walking with him and his wife to a meeting. The wife said proudly to me, “He probably knows more about your religion than you do?” I later pondered over her statement and came to the conclusion that she was “dead wrong.” Like Will the prodigy, from the movie, “Good Will Hunting,” that man may have been able to regurgitate more facts about my church than I, but he had never spent time serving in the priesthood, sacrificing time, money, and talents in behalf of others. He had never felt the power of the Holy Ghost surge through his body when giving a blessing, a talk, or bearing testimony of the gospel. Yes, he had read all the books on our temples, but he had never been in it and felt of its beauty. Nor had he shed tears with the saints while in their deepest trials! Nor had his eyes ever filled with tears while watching someone whose life was in complete shambles, enter the waters of baptism and come forth rejoicing! No, like Will, this manager studying about my religion was not the same as living it.

Perhaps we should all examine how we judge the faith of others. Reading about a religion is a far cry from actually practicing it. If we keep our minds and hearts open we may find that there is so much good in what others believe. We may not always agree, but by being more Christ-like in our attitudes, we can glean the best parts of their teachings that can add to the virtues we hold dear.

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