Wednesday, February 24, 2010
Late Afternoon Mormonism--Post Edit
It was late in the afternoon when The Chief and I arrived at my parent's house. I was doing a radio interview where I had to call in using a landline. Chup and I have three cell phones between us, but no landline, so I was there to borrow my parent's.
While my mom and niece Lindsay entertained The Chief with toast and apple juice, I talked with Jane Flotte of Interfaith Voices about being a Mormon blogger on the phone (the landline). Jane asked interesting questions and I found myself having to really compute to answer them. Questions about being a Mormon who is public about my faith, Mormon stereotypes, Mormon lifestyles, Mormon ideas about womanhood.
When the interview was over I thanked Jane for making me think. Then I joined my mom (Umi), Lindsay and The Chief in the family room where my curious boy was digging through his Umi's toy basket looking for cars. My mother's neighbor was also over, sitting on the couch in her black-and-white dress and pink jacket.
"I have news." She said to my mom.
"Yes?" My mom answered, sitting on the opposite couch with her legs crossed.
"Mr. Whitehouse's wife passed away this morning."
"Oh no." My mother replied.
In our very dominate Mormon neighborhood lives a quiet family who isn't Mormon, the Whitehouses. We probably wouldn't know they weren't Mormon (maybe just not active Mormons) if it weren't for the giant gray van they drive with the words "Baptist Church" on it. Just the same, we all lived our respective Christian lifestyle as friendly neighbors.
"She'd been in the hospital for a couple days, but this morning when I went to see how she was doing, Mr. Whitehouse told me she had gone to another place."
"Another place?" My mom asked.
"To another glory, he said. Anyway, he has no idea what he should do next. A funeral, a burial. I asked if our Relief Society could help feed his family. He has no idea."
"We need to call the bishop." Said my mother, who has the bishop on speed dial, because the bishop is her son. "The bishop will know what to do."
Our church is organized by wards--a defined geographical area--which in Utah means a couple blocks. Our wards are lead by a bishop who is called typically to serve for five years (more-or-less) out of the goodness of his heart. It is a big job. One of the many responsibilities of the bishop is to oversee funerals. He helps the family make arrangements for the casket, burial, and church money needed for the expenses if needed. Along with the Relief Society President, he also helps ensure the family is fed and sees to their needs. Typically the ward provides the family lunch at the chapel following the burial. It is a total collective effort for all neighbors directed by the bishop.
After calling, texting and emailing the bishop without an immediate response my mother stewed. "She was having such a hard winter. I hadn't seen her in a while. We need to help him. The bishop will know what to do."
"Even though they aren't Mormon?" I asked.
"You know," said my mom's neighbor "one time I asked Mr. Whitehouse why he wasn't a Mormon. He told me 'One day I prayed and asked God if I should be a Mormon. And He answered me, Yes . . . if you want to go to Hell.' "
We all laughed for a second. The Chief was playing with a tiny car on the floor.
"Wooshshshshshshshsh!" His sound effect.
"I'll go back over and ask if we can help contact family." Said my mother's neighbor, playing with her pearl necklace back-and-forth with her index finger, "I will check back with you later this evening."
After she left, my mother tried the bishop one more time while twiddling her hair. My mother only twiddles her hair when she is worried about someone.
I sat back on the couch thinking about the earlier interview. Here was the Mormon experience I wish I could've conveyed in that conversation. How could I ever explain being a Mormon in under fifteen minutes? Even fifteen hours couldn't do it justice.
Even on a landline.
Post Edit-thanks readers for pointing out that my first edition of this post didn't go far enough in explaining why the bishop was needed. I can count on you, can't I?
On dear c jane today:
Cute kid wearing a cute t-shirt.
On c jane's Guide to Provo:
Have you bean to Cocoa Bean Cafe?
Is your answer samosas too?