Well. I’ve been trying to write the same post since April 2015, and it might (just) be about to be writ… or not… so a little preamble might be in order.
I was at work. The phone rang. It was the wife. She immediately went on a rambling explanation about two clean-cut young men standing on the doorstep. When would I be home to meet them?
Well, it made sense. They were offering something that I badly needed. The comparative religion / cult shelf was missing “The Book of Mormon”. Ironically, I’d seen them sitting in a car on the street the night before. Since they must have noticed me diving through a handily open window in order to avoid them, it couldn’t possibly be awkward when we would finally meet.
Nice pair of misguided lads, with an intensity and fervour which would no doubt serve them well in other parts of their lives; one a lapsed Catholic from Germany, the other a failed Presbyterian from Pennsylvania, both disowned by their families. We had an interesting enough discussion, largely encompassing issues of faith and living a faith centred life. We tried to make it clear enough that we were in no way interested in “joining”, but they were pretty insistent on returning a few days later, “once you have had time to read a set of passages in the book”.
Well, three days later, the Book of Mormon devoured, discarded, and in its rightful place on the shelf, who could be bothered with the follow-up? When they arrived they came with a third, who just sat observing, and we thought little of it. The discussion was more focussed, and very much driven by their insistence on the need to be baptised. Not just any baptism would do, of course; only baptism in the form of the Church of Latter Day Saints would suffice. Obviously.
So we talked of the greater mystery of the sacrament of baptism, the touch of the Spirit, and how that feels. The lapsed Catholic sat in slacked jawed awe for most of the hour, whilst his two companions, lost in the philosophical hoops through which we whipped them, had recourse only to fall back on the official line “but, you need to be baptised”.
I was having too much fun. The following Sunday we attended Temple. Mistake. It became blatantly clear that they had managed to corral the most needy, socially outcast and disenfranchised of the community. But it wasn’t that, so much, which caused the ruckus. It was the no alcohol Communion.
The following Tuesday, a goggle of five Mormons came knocking at the door. One, most surprisingly, the local LDS bishop. When the bishop himself was unable to understand the alchemical significance of the ritual elements of the sacrament, it became pretty clear that, even he, hadn’t given the greater mysteries much thought at all. He seemed oblivious to the completion represented by the Last Supper, and was more than a little offended by the assertion that the LDS service amounted to a denial of the Mission of Christ. (Did I mention I was having too much fun?)
Our young lapsed Catholic friend, on the other hand, had a new brightness in his eyes. Something had gelled in him regarding his previous faith, which suddenly made sense in a way that it hadn’t before. Most of the rites of the Catholic service retain deep symbolic truths, even if those officiating and celebrating the Mass merely go through the motions without considering the significance of any of the individual elements. In the discovery of this, something had opened within him that threatened to set him free.
An unexpected visit on the Thursday from the initial pair. “We’re sorry. We’re not allowed to associate with you anymore.” What? Wow! To go from zero to hero to persona non-grata within a week? Mad, bad and dangerous to know! I could get used to this notoriety.
Our new German friend thanked us more deeply than was appropriate, given the reason for the visit. His time among the heathens was coming to an end, and he was returning to Germany in the next couple of weeks. The wife rustled up a small, appropriate gift and that was the last we would be bothered by the Mormons. (We both revel too much in telling new Mormon visitors that they need to get the Bishop’s permission to enter our house…) Whether we succeeded in “turning” him, we may never know. Faith is a double-edged blessing which has the power to either free or enchain.
Anyway – what rambling? And what has this all to do with April 2015, some ten months off at the time of these events?
It was the baptism. For months prior, I had the feeling that a baptismal enactment had to be completed. Confusing? Very much. So when “you need to be baptised” was accompanied by the laying on of a thorny crown, you find yourself attending Temple and annoying cultic Bishops…
It wouldn’t be until April 2015 that any of it would make sense.
(To be continued… the fabled “next post”)