Anthony made fun of me for having plans Friday afternoon to meet with the Mormons at our house. He said why are you doing it, so you can blog about it? That was part-true.
They were supposed to be here at 2, and I planned my day around them. I got back from walking the dog and thought about offering them some ice water with lemon, we’d sit in the den.
But 2 o’clock came, and they were late. I sat in my lawn chair reading Brave New World, tried to nap, read some more, got in the car at 3 for the grocery store and that’s when they appeared: the same two from earlier in the week with a third one driving.
I said I had to get my kids in 45 minutes because I was expecting you at 2. Was there still enough time?
They took off their shoes and we sat in the den; the dog sniffed them and settled in her donut cushion by the fireplace.
They were about 20 years old, each of them. While subtle, there was a vying for attention, a kind of positioning as each of them spoke. Two spoke better than the third, Elder Savage. I wanted Elder Savage to have a chance though and let him stand when he spoke, and I paid attention and thanked him for his comments.
We started with a prayer and then they asked what my level of religious experience was, in so many words. I said I liked the idea of religion in general, at least the part about people being kind and loving to one another, but had a lot of cynical barriers from all the hate and violence around religion, all the divisions it formed between people.
I knew some of the same Mormons they knew, knew them pretty well, really liked them, but never talked “Mormon” with them so I was open to listening, to hear them talk about their faith.
I asked what their intention was, and it was basically to invite me in for an option to be baptized, if that were true, after they talked to me and after I talked to God. I don’t want to be baptized though, or join a church. I tried to be clear about that and not be an ass or waste their time or do all this just so I could blog about it, honest.
One of them had a phone he was balancing on his knee and an illustration of Jesus on the other, held upright facing me. He was diddling the phone, which I found distracting and odd, considering he had a picture of Jesus right there in the other hand. He later explained he was referring to passages of the Bible, that’s why he was diddling, preparing it for reference, which he did a few times, but kept dropping the phone and looking apologetic, allowing an awkwardness to fill the space between us.
They talked about being perfect and that we’re all imperfect, and that I could agree with. So I mentioned the Fibonacci sequence, the uncanniness of those numbers and how they recur in nature, since I just learned about that on a NOVA program about how math permeates our world, and appears in the number of flower petals and the distance between the spirals in sea shells, just like the crab nebula. Like, there’s this perfection in nature but nature is also imperfect, like us.
And they introduced the Book of Mormon then, and sure, my mind went to parody with the illustrations of Jesus descending on the Americas, but I didn’t want to go there, I resisted: I said I believe if you believe it, it’s true. I believe we all create our own realities by what we focus on for ourselves. But I don’t believe we have to go through someone to talk to God, that was a key point I wanted to make.
We prayed before they left and I teared up, saying goodbye. They asked if there was a good time they could come back and one of them, who was playing with his phone, looked me in the eye and asked, will I read it, the book? I said I’ll read some of it because I’m a writer, I read all kinds of things. I believe stories can change the world.
I told them I’m leaving for Germany to take my pets there so it would be best for us to meet again toward the end of June, and then we can talk about the parts in the book they emphasized. Elder McBeth (that’s his real name) asked what I write and I said memoir, trying to make sense of the last 20 years.
There are times in life you come across things that, were you to write them down, sound contrived. I couldn’t remember Elder Savage’s name, but was glad to see it’s the same as the one character in Brave New World, a character named John, also called the Savage — a human that hasn’t been conditioned like the others.
And I’ve never met anyone named McBeth (he spells it differently than Shakespeare’s), though my daughter Lily is reading that now, and Brave New World is a line from The Tempest.
The Mormons pulled up as I was cueing a song on my CD player in the car called Blessed State, the song Wire closed with in Seattle earlier this week:
To the fatal gift
Of a well timed lie
Loved in the flesh
But butchered in the mind
Oh what a pearl
What a well made world
So glad I’m here
Oh what a pearl
What a well made world
— “Blessed State,” Wire 1979