Picture it â€“ Sicily â€“ 1922. Sorry, that’s Estelle Getty’s line. FYI for the younger crowd â€“ Estelle played Sophia Petrillo on the Golden Girls sitcom. But, we digress.
Actually, it was Mt. Home, Idaho â€“ summer 1981.
The turmoil of the past eighteen months was behind us and we found ourselves in a small, quintessential American “hometown” very similar to what Larry had grown up in during the ’50s and ’60s.
It would be a great place to raise the kids over the next two years. Also, nice to get out of Dodge in 1983 before they became restless teenagers who would find meth to be better than facing each day in a real-life version of the movie “Ground Hog Day.”
We quickly settled into a house of our own on an acre of land just outside of town (a joyous change from a series of rentals over the past year and a half of a near-gypsy existence), met several of the neighbors, and checked in with the local ward.
Folks across the street and two houses down were active LDS with five kids. At the far end of our semi-rural housing area there was also another active church family as well as a “Jack Mormon” family. The man of the house in the latter would become Larry’s home teaching companion for the Mt. Home duration. Turned out the town was about twenty percent LDS so seeing a familiar Mormon face on a regular basis would become pretty routine.
As is the norm, it wasn’t long before we were each assigned callings that varied during our tenure in our “mother earth” ward.
Miki’s claim to fame during our two years came in the way of becoming the area expert in home food preservation. Actually quite interesting and useful. Offered locally through the university in somewhat nearby Boise and â€“ as best we remember â€“ the county Co-op office, Miki and one or two other women in our stake of three wards learned everything from food dehydration through canning.
In exchange for the free training, the women presented food preservations classes with a focus on the various ward Relief Societies. By and large, everything went fine except for one sister who we can describe as leaning towards the Darwin Theory. Seems her idea of canning consisted of putting stuff â€“ fruits, vegetables, meats â€“ in the old Mason jar, filling it with water, and sealing the lid with a house iron.
When Miki pointed out that this was a clear path to botulism, illness, and possible death, our dear “sister” replied that would be nature’s way of weeding out the weak. Not really sure how things turned out for this woman and her family.
Larry big ticket item in the ward was being called to be a Boy Scout leader for the 10 â€“ 12 year olds, a role he relished right up there with eating liver or Spam. It actually went better than he anticipated it would as, at that time, he still enjoyed camping and dealing with youngsters out of doors was a lot easier than dealing with them in primary.
When all was said and done, like most of us, we muddled through our obligations and no one was really worse for wear.
However, one aspect of LDS culture became apparent during our stint in Idaho â€“ no matter what one did, it was never enough or made you a good enough person. There was a constant undertone of social criticism where you were judged by everyone else and the verdict always came up short. This seemed to apply most intensely to the women.
Then there was matter of our being converts. Residing in one of the big three LDS states, we were constantly reminded in was small and not-so small that, as converts with less than five years in the church, we weren’t yet real Mormons.
Add to this a stake president who was born and raised in this little ‘burg and it showed. The level of small-mindedness on the part of this petty dictator was something I never would have expected of a church leader. At one point he denied the singing of “Puff the Magic Dragon” at a talent function because the song referred to and encourage the use of drugs by youngsters. I guess we were lucky to have dodged this level of idiocy for as long as we did.
For a variety of reasons, our time in Mt. Home was when we gravitated towards becoming “buffet” believers. Hmm, maybe the preceding paragraphs have something to do with that. There was a lot on the LDS plate of things you should do and we began to select those things that suited our personal style. It worked pretty well.
These two years also made us more aware of the socio-economic stratification that defines the LDS culture as many members of the non-military portion of the local population were lower-middle class or below, and local church membership reflected those demographics. The few relatively wealthy in the ward made sure everyone was aware of their status and the callings to which they were entitled.
Hence, another lesson learned about LDS culture â€“ Christian egalitarianism was not a well-practiced value in the church and economic standing was just another way of judging people. The less money you had, the less worthy you were considered and the more harshly you were judged. For the politically inclined, fast forward to 2012 and Mitt Romney.
Our stint here also exposed us to the practice of small-town gossip as perfected in an LDS ward. Let’s just say it wasn’t a pretty sight and became an element in what would grow to be a number of collective social traits that revealed Mormons to be no different than anyone else.
The question we were yet to ask ourselves â€“ why belong to an organization that takes your money, time, and personal agency, and is no different from any other group of people â€“ had not materialized.
As has been the case since before our baptism, the issue of our daughter’s health was a constant. Early on in our time in the state of great potatoes, we dispensed with the sham of health blessings. Our contemporary conclusion is when a health blessing can restore what an amputee has lost, give us a call.
Erica’s condition ebbed and flowed until near the end of our tour when, for no apparent reason, she went into remission. She would remain free of major medical problems for about two years before a new set of issues would set in, some after we left the LDS church.
Regarding our daughter’s condition, we would like to give a major “shout out” of thanks to Dr. Devon Cornish â€“ her military pediatrician at the time. Dr. Cornish was â€“ and likely still is â€“ a devout Latter Day Saint who went so far as to make house calls as the need arose. We just couldn’t say he did or he’d get a bit of a talking to â€“ no way the military was going to can someone of his talent.
Summer of 1983 was soon upon us and we would leave behind us some positive experiences although, in retrospect, most of these experiences had little or nothing to do with church membership.
While we didn’t realize it at the time, our buffet believer approach was being slowly replaced by a growing feeling that we were giving more to an institution than we received in kind and LDS peculiarities were beginning to move into the realm of the bizarre.
In eighteen months it would be over except the last bits of paperwork.
Copyright 2013 Lawrence and Mikayla Pratt