When the seasoned, Soviet-era TV reporter received the assignment to travel to Salt Lake City and do a video report about the Church, he was not particularly pleased. He had already made up his mind about Mormons before he came: a Christian cult that stole converts from the state-sanctioned Russian Orthodox Church and had nothing of value to offer the rest of the world.
Each time he interviewed someone, he assumed they were actors, set up by Church Public Affairs to repeat the words they had been scripted to say.
Finally, he arrived at Welfare Square and watched as volunteers from all walks of life worked to help those in need. He watched as the hungry received food, those without work received help finding a job, those with disabilities were offered a place of training.
Interesting, he thought, but it looked too good to be true.
When the host offered someone for the reporter to interview he said, "No. I will choose the person."
He then looked over a group of volunteers who were packaging cheese at the Welfare Square dairy and pointed at a man who was wearing a white paper hat. "I will speak with that man."
The reporter began asking questions.
"Where do you work?" the reporter asked.
"At a hospital."
"What do you do?"
"I'm a brain surgeon," the man said. He went on to explain that he had taken the time to package cheese for the benefit of the poor.
The reporter looked stunned. It seemed as though in a moment, all his preconceptions had vanished. For the first time since he had received the assignment, he opened his eyes. He watched the poor being lifted up through opportunities to work. He witnessed the love and spirit of service in every act of kindness.
Up to that point, nothing impressed the reporter. After, he was never quite the same.
He would return to his country and air his documentary. But it would be very different from what he had supposed it would be. Neil Newell, Welfare Services