Part of my story that I’d be crazy not to mention is the influence of Han Fei in warming up my critical thinking skills before my dive into the specifics of LDS history and doctrine.
Han Fei came to stay with us at the beginning of the school year in 2010 from Dahlin, China to teach English at our local high school and to help out with the Chinese Immersion program at the local elementary school that my youngest two children were a part of. We hosted her from late July until the following June- and she was a part of our family. She lived with us through my initial faith transition- but she was also a catalyst for several different points of critical thinking.
Disclaimer- these stories- like all other stories are purely from my point of view. Other people involved may remember things differently. But as far as my memory goes they are as best I remember them.
Story One: A View from the outside
We invited Han Fei to come to church with us her first Sunday in our home. We made it very clear that it wasn’t expected and that we wouldn’t be offended if she didn’t come. She declined, saying she was Buddhist and uninterested. I offered to help her find a Buddhist temple to attend- she declined that as well.
We had some missionaries at this time who were hanging around our house a lot and they were very excited for our Chinese guest to arrive. I told them that if she was interested I’d let them talk to her- but I wasn’t pushing to converting her.
About a month after Han Fei was with our family and knew us a little better she brought up church again- I invited her to come with us and see what it was about- purely as a cultural experience. She asked if she came if the missionaries were going to try to baptize her. I reassured her that we wouldn’t allow anyone into our home to talk about religion with her unless it was something she was interested in.
She told me then that she had been warned in their cultural classes that Americans were very aggressive about religion and that they were better off pretending to be Buddhist than to come without an attached religion. She said that they had all come with Buddha statues and some of her fellow teachers had found it best to set up a shrine to Buddha- regardless of their beliefs. She was surprised that we’d not been pushy about religion or tried to convert her- and that this wasn’t the case with a lot of the other teachers host families (not just in Utah- but around the country).
We assured her that she was a guest in our home and we would have considered that rude. After this assurance she came to church with us for the cultural experience. She thought it was interesting from a cultural standpoint- but boring from a content perspective. I don’t remember her ever coming again- although she did come with me to several other denominations in the area for the cultural experience as well.
But here was Han Fei- and atheist- and she seemed to be one of the happiest, most genuine, kindest people I’d ever met. She loved her family- deeply. Not just her husband and child- but also her mother and sisters. She was loved by every person who met her because of her open heart.
I had been taught my entire life that people were watching us and that by being good examples we would be the best missionaries ever. That people would see our happiness and wonder how to achieve that. Yet she was defying all those teachings. She was already happy. REALLY HAPPY. She wasn’t interested in, nor did she need, religion to be happy, love her family or be a good person. She didn’t notice our happiness and “glow” from the outside and want to be like us- she was happy just like she was- as was most of the world.
It shook my perspective up a bit.
Stay tuned for part two.