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Confessions of a Cynical Catholic: My son and the Book of Mormon

Mormons       Most people who know me, know that I am an Olympic junkie. I love everything about the games and will watch sports I have never heard of if it means that the US might bring home the gold medal. I’m even worse if the games are actually held on US soil as they were in 2002. The Salt Lake City games were a big deal for the country and an even bigger deal for the state of Utah, which is known for its large Mormon/Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints population.

I willingly admit that I do not know much about the LDS. I have watched documentaries about their history on PBS and I was a big fan of Donny and Marie back in the day, but beyond that…my scope is limited. I can say with some certainty that they seem like really nice people who work hard and live good Christian lives. They build beautiful temples. They believe in big families, and they are constantly doing good works for others. As far as I am concerned, the mormons are fine by me.

I don’t know what my son thought, though. As it happened, the Salt Lake Games coincided with a unit on other religions in his theology class and after reading a Time Magazine article about their penchant for overseas missions and door-to-door evangelism, my ever curious child had a LOT of questions about the tenants of the LDS movement and why the governor of Utah encouraged them to quell their “enthusiasm” during the Olympic season.

“Did you know that these people have a different Bible?” he asked me.

“It’s not a ‘different’ Bible…they have the same thing we do, but they also have The Book of Mormon,” I informed him.

“Well, whatever it is, they give it away for FREE…all you have to do is call the toll-free number and they’ll send one to you!” He was giddy with excitement over getting a free book in the mail.

I shook my head. “Yeah, no…I am not calling that number. Do you have any idea what comes WITH that free book?”

“What?”

“The MORMONS!” I shot back. “I’m here to tell you, they are wonderful people, but they are harder to chase away than a Jehovah’s Witness. They’ll show up on their bikes looking like Steak & Shake servers and talking about God-only-knows-what and I am not in the mood for that conversation! No thank you. No ‘free’ book is worth all of that.”

He was so disappointed. After his success with the Jewish temple, I think he was under the impression that I would actually encourage his curiosity and have him call them right up. However, a few months later, while he was volunteering for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, he happened to work alongside a group of mormons and didn’t even know it.

“Hey, are you guys LDS?” I confirmed as we sat in the break room eating ice cream.

Their eyes lit up and big smiles spread across their faces. “Yes, we are,” one of them answered. “What can we do for you?”

I explained that we were Catholics and that my son had recently finished a unit on other religions and wanted to know a little more about the LDS faith. “If you have a couple of minutes, would you mind talking to him? He’s not going to convert or anything, but I think he would get a lot out of the conversation.” The pair readily agreed and told me to send him over.

“OK here’s the deal, see those two guys over there?” I indicated to them with a nod of my head.

“Yeah,” he replied. “What about them?”

I smiled. “They are Mormons.”

To explain the child’s reaction would make no sense in the English language. His jaw dropped open. His eyes became huge and he stared across the room as if he’d just discovered the one-eyed, one-horned, flying purple people eater. “Oh for heaven’s sake, they are Latter Day Saints, not zoo animals! They agreed to talk to you for a couple of minutes and want you to come over.” I hesitated for a second before adding, “Just do me a favor, whatever they say, just listen. Don’t argue with them, don’t tell them they are wrong, and don’t get into some kind of theological debate. Remember, we asked them not the other way around so be respectful.”

“OK,” he said, and went off to introduce himself.

A few minutes he returned with a strange look on his face. His smile seemed frozen in place and he spoke through gritted teeth. “You are never going to believe this one,” he informed me. “Do you know these people think Jesus lived in America with the Indians and that when they die they can become gods?”

“Well, it seems I may have heard some of that along the line,” I told him, impressed by how much they were able to convey in such a short period of time. “I’m sure there is a bit more to it than that, though.”

He narrowed his eyes in suspicion. “Maybe, but I don’t know. They seem to think that they are the only people who are going to go to heaven too.”

Not being privy to the official list, I jokingly pointed out that perhaps they were right. The important thing was to hear what they had to say and not to judge them. After all, we as Catholics have our beliefs, and they have theirs. My son unfortunately had no intention of giving them the benefit of the doubt, especially where the hereafter was concerned.

“I’m judging them, but they are wrong. I am totally going to heaven when I die and I don’t need an extra Bible or a crazy fairy tale to tell me that! I’ve got two sacraments and I plan to get the rest of them as well…if that doesn’t get me in, nothing will,” he said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Fabulous Fridays- My favorite Olympic moments

I admit it…I am an Olympic junkie! I will watch sports I have never heard of if they come with a gold medal and plenty of fanfare! During the London games I became enamored with Handball, water polo, skeet shooting and who knows what else. My family thought the “non-sports” girl had gone crazy, but who cares. It’s a wild world of sports out there and I can’t wait for the games in Sochi to begin!

In honor of the Olympic tradition, I decided to chronicle some of the most memorable moments of the games.

Winter Games: 

Watching the Opening Ceremonies in Lake Placid. This was the first time I ever saw the Olympic opening ceremonies and I was hooked. I was in the second grade I believe and home sick with the flu but I will never forget my mom turning the games on and telling me that I would never forget it. She was right!

The victory of the 1980 USA Men’s hockey team. Later commemorated in the movie Miracle, I remember when this happened and how excited everyone was that Team USA had taken the gold. I remember the goalie skating around with the American flag draped around his shoulders, wearing his mask and I couldn’t help thinking that he looked like Jason from Friday the 13th. It was also cool to see this same amazing team light the Olympic torch in Salt Lake City 20 years later.

The Jamaican bobsled team. Run that around in your brain a few times and tell me what’s wrong with that statement. If you’ve seen Cool Runnings, then you know the story, but yes- Jamaica has a bobsled team and managed to qualify for the Olympics in 1988, 1992 and 1994 but sadly have been unable to qualify for any of the subsequent winter games. More’s the pity…I kinda liked seeing them.

The Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan scandal. What a drama! For those of you old enough to remember it, I won’t go into all the details, but if you are too young, here’s the Cliff Notes version: not long before the Olympic trials, Nancy Kerrigan was attacked in the knee by someone who was known by fellow skater Tonya Harding’s ex-husband. What happened after that was tabloid TV at its finest. Every night we heard another “shocking” story about Ms. Harding who was ultimately banned from the US Figure Skating Association for life. Nancy took home the silver medal but was upstaged by a young Oksana Baiul for the top spot. Turns out, Nancy wasn’t the ice princess that everyone made her out to be when some snarky comments she made about Oksana were broadcast around the world.

Summer Games: 

Mary Lou Retton winning gold. I’m too young to remember Nadia’s perfect 10 but the legend of that moment was seared into my mind going into the L.A. games of 1994 that I hoped to see someone top that performance. I remember staying up late and being glued to the TV to see Retton pull off a perfect 10 not once but twice on her vault and then seeing her become the first woman (girl) to grace the Wheaties box. What a role model!

The 1992 Dream Team. There was a lot of buzz about the formation of the “ultimate” basketball team and in 1992, the US did not disappoint. It was, in fact a dream team long before fantasy leagues would allow people to put the best of the best on the same team and dominate the competition. MJ, Magic, Bird, Barkley, Pippen, Ewing, and the rest…simply took the competition by storm, lived like ordinary olympians and displayed phenomenal sportsmanship as they brought home the gold for Team USA.

Kerri Strug landing on one foot. OK Kid, team gold is within our reach, time is running out and it’s all on you, but don’t stress out…and don’t twist your ankle. When Kerri Strug took off on the first of her two vaults, it seemed like it could be a done deal for the Women’s Gymnastics team, but then she landed funny on her ankle and into the history books when she opted to make the second vault and land on one foot. Her pain was the country’s game in Atlanta and overnight, she became a superstar teen who captured the world’s hearts.

Michael Phelps breaking the gold medal record. It wasn’t enough that he took home eight gold medals in one Olympics, but then he came back four years later and claimed the all-time gold medal record. I remain convinced that this guy is part fish, but he was truly spectacular to watch. Phelps has said that 2012 was his last Olympics, but who knows what will happen in 2016? Personally, I applaud him for leaving on a high note.

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