Yes, this is the third GetReligion post on coverage of Mormons in two days. But this post has nothing to do with the handsome Mitt Romney. Its purpose is to highlight an absolutely excellent human interest story that deals with a Mormon and an evangelical Christian.
I don’t know if we’ve covered St. Petersburg Times‘ religion reporter Sherri Day before. She used to report on business — and religion, I believe — for The New York Times, and she covers megachurches, religion and pop culture, Pentecostalism, the interfaith movement and the intersection of religion and business. But for this story she looked at a couple that has a very interesting marriage. The whole story is interesting but this introduction gives you a good idea of Day’s abilities:
On Sundays after church, Tom and Libit Jones head to the beach. Together, they scout for seashell treasures: cat’s paws and worms.
Hand in hand, visors slung low, arms wrapped around each other, they stop to smooch as the sun starts its slow slip down.
Their public affection camouflages a deep divide.
Tom, 63, is an evangelical Christian, raised in a Kentucky Southern Baptist church. Libit, 52, is Mormon, raised in a Texas congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Both consider themselves faithful Christians who believe in Jesus Christ and the promise of eternal life. Both want the other to convert. But Tom runs Christian Research & Counsel, a ministry designed to educate the public about what he calls “counterfeits of Christianity.”
His work focuses on Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
With a beginning like that, you know the story has to be fantastic. The New Republic published a rather opinionated piece on the couple in November, which is where I first heard their tale. The Joneses have been married for 25 years. For much of that time, they’ve had disagreements on faith — but it’s a long journey and where they started might surprise you. Before they were married, for instance, Libit was excommunicated from the Mormon church.
Day’s story is a very tender and compassionate look on a somewhat odd relationship. Tom helps Libit practice her faith and she does the same with him — even going with him and cooking meals for volunteers at his mission outreach to Mormons. They also agreed not to have children, not to debate doctrinal differences in their faiths and to try to be respectful.
Tom says he will never give up on his wife. He writes her love letters, laced with arguments on following mainline Christianity. They disagree on what it takes to gain eternal life. Tom won’t comment on Libit’s fate, leaving judgment to God. Libit believes Tom will make it to the lowest kingdom of glory.
Until then, on Earth, they remain devoted to each other.
He loves her unselfish spirit. She’s smitten by his kind heart. They play Boggle together, attend art shows and pray before meals together – though they understand that they pray to different Gods.
“I believe it’s my job to love her like the Bible says, like Jesus loved the church, and to me that means complete sacrifice of whatever interests me at the time,” Tom said.
The story ends with a sidebar explaining the differences between what Tom and Libit believe. What did you think of the story? What, if anything, would you liked to have seen addressed that wasn’t?