Thursday, December 22, 2011
On The Plains Of Utah
Theres Benjamin Elliot (after Jim Elliot), Jeremiah Taylor (after Hudson Taylor) , Elijah Carey (after William Carey), Isaiah Judson (after Adoniram Judson Samuel Paton (after John Paton)
Lydia Grace Carmichael (after Amy Carmichael)
These are my friends Matt and Karlene and their big ol' brood. 5 boys and 1 girl to be exact. The girl is the new one that they finally got - not that they were necessarily trying. All of the kids have middle names that come from missionaries from all over the world. Its kind of a cool little project that they undertook with the names.... :)
Matt and Karlene were working at a school down in Clearwater, FL and felt called back to the west (Matt is from Wyoming) specifically to work with the Mormons in Utah. They came back originally and were helping lead a camp up in the mountains but Matt ended up taking over a really small little church in a town called Salina (pronounced Sah-lena). I want to say the town has like maybe 5000 residents, might be less, probably isn't more. There's absolutely nothing there except people and I give them credit for being willing to go to a place like this because they care about those people. The nearest Wal-Mart is about a 35 minute drive away and we had the wonderful opportunity to dine at the finest establishment (and pretty much only) in town, El Mexicano.
I learned some stuff about Mormons and about the great state of Utah which was originally vying, not for statehood, but to be its own country - which is pretty gutsy considering its a land-locked country in the middle of a bigger country. But, we were able to claim the mountains and ski slopes of Utah as US territory in and now we have a very unique place in our great country - its a self-contained mission field to speak of.
So - what I learned about Mormons is that there are actually two kinds - theres mainline, which are Mormons that look like you and me in every way. They wear the same kind of clothes, drive the same cars, have one wife or husband and kids. Pretty much normal to look at. Then there are the conservative (I believe this is their term) Mormons which are the ones they make reality tv shows about :). They have the multiple wives and the 35 kids and the 900 grandchildren and they all live "happily" together. The mainline Mormons are the true Mormons - they're the ones that their church has said are the normal ones.
The Mormon church does not support or condone the polygymists and, in fact, are pretty anti these people. From what I was told, the Mormon church tries to shut down the polygymists. So - the thing that makes a mainline Mormon a real Mormon is their membership in the temple. They have to keep their tithes paid up, in fact, they send men from the church to houses to collect the tithes so the people don't even have to go to "church". When a members tithes are paid up, they're given an active temple card where they can have access to the temple which I think they have to go a couple times a year or something like that.
Oh - here's another interesting thing I learned. For a Mormon to go to heaven, there are certain things they have to do. One of the things they have to do is be married. No matter the case, they have to be married. For instance - theres a story of a woman who was engaged to be married, but before the wedding, her fiance was killed. They went through with the wedding anyways - I don't think he was actually there, someone stood in for him, but she married the dead guy. So - thats one of the works you can do. Take me for instance - I really should be married, and there is some dead guy out there who should have been married but wasn't - so one of the works I can do is to go to the temple and offer myself to be married to the dead guy so that he can go to heaven and then its like double good because now I'm married so I go to heaven, and I've just done a good work, so bam - I get double points. I kind of like the marry a dead guy thing.... no fighting there and I still get to squeeze my toothpaste from the top like every civilized human being does, but most men don't. Hmmmm - I'm not sure if I get his money or if its just a paper thing - I'll have to check that out....
Lets see - oh - here's something about Utah. Apparently Joseph Smith was a little OCD because when he moved everyone to Utah and started forming towns, they all had to follow the same blueprint which was that from town center out, all the streets are numbered, 100 and up. So, whenever you're driving in a town, you know when you're getting close to the center as the streets are 400, 500, 600 and when you get to 100 you know its center. They go west, east, north and south from the center so either way is 100 and up, its just a matter of east or west. I must have drove through about 30 towns from Salt Lake to Saline and they ALL were "exit 22 100 West St", etc. When I got into the bigger cities like Provo and Springville, the streets were like up to 3000 and higher. At each city center is the Mormon church - most of them look the same, but there are ones that are older. They all have a steeple with a tall pole on it that looks like a church cross without the horizontal bar to make the cross - it actually looks kind of like a lightning rod.
Most of the towns out by Salina and such where Matt and Karlene are are original towns founded by the Mormons settlers in the 1850s and 1870s. There are a lot of the original churches and houses there that are made of this hand made brick that they made from the dirt there. Karlene said that some of the walls of these houses are like 3 feet thick because they thought it would help with the insulation, but it actually makes the house hard to heat and cool. Karlene also said that a lot of the people in town still have wagons on their property that was the original wagon their relatives moved there with. Not that they've intentionally kept the wagons or anything they're just still there. Its pretty typical for a family to build a house and never have it out of the family. Lets see - oh, ok, the polygimists. There are a lot of them, but they aren't really that out in the open or on every corner in Utah. You can, apparently, usually tell their houses as they're kind of townhouse looking where they have several entrance doors and they're really big.
Thats one of the big ministrys in Utah because when a polygimist "escapes" they have nothing and they're literally in danger. There was a big billboard I passed going from Salina to SLC - it said Holding Out Help to Polygamists and it had a website of holdingouthelp.org - you can check it out. Its an agency for helping polygamists escape. Their website says there are 37,000 polygamists living in western US. Kar said that she knows a lady who was a polygamist, she was like one of 6 wives. She ended up escaping at some point when she had 9 kids. She got away and she ended up meeting a guy and they got married - they're believers now. They never had their own kids, but from those original 9 kids, they now have 95 grandkids! Try getting the all presents for Christmas! :)
Kar also told me about another girl that they know who was going to be married but tried to escape and they locked her up in a room the was like the size of a linen closet - she was in there for like a month and one day someone forgot to lock the door and she escaped. A lot of times, these "families" will live by borders and so, if they're in Utah, the Utah police come for them and they step across the state line to AZ. And the same the other way. There was one story where both the Utah and AZ police came so they didn't have anywhere to go and they arrested all the husbands and so the wives and kids "got back" at them by all applying for WIC and government aid and after about a month they let the men out because the state couldn't afford to pay all the money for these women and kids.
Apparently in the Mormon church there are unforgivable sins that, once you do them, you're screwed. Theres nothing you can do to go to heaven. Thats when good Mormons go bad. They said that once they hit that plain of not going to heaven they go all out with tattoos and piercings and drugs and drinking - theres apparently a lot of prostitution in Utah because of this. Kar said that this is where they're trying to be because if, when a Mormon falls, theres nothing there, they'll kill themselves with all the bad stuff. Its when theres a church there that they actually "get it". She said that usually the story is that most Mormons literally don't know theres anything out there besides Mormonism - but they always have this feeling that there is something more outside of what they're taught. When they find a church and when they find God, it clicks that this is real. This is what they're missing.
I'll end with a few last family picts - they did a Christmas play with their little church. The Mormons actually get involved in things with their church, except on Sundays. SO, they have a chance to do things like the Christmas story and talk about what life is really about..... Her boys were some of the most well-versed in scripture so they got to be two of the kings who had lines that they recited...
And so I end on a practical note - we're out west - and when you're out west, there should always be a gun-totin', pistol packing cowboy --- right????? :)