Paved With Good Intentions â€“ Part IV
Arrived in Tucson, July 1983 – hotter than hell and – unknown to us at the time – our last stop on the path of Mormonism.
Larry was still in the military and our first residence was in a local rental. We settled into our ward and it quickly became a business-as-usual routine. Our son was baptized in September and, for some reason, it’s become a completely forgettable occasion.
Only one thing that stands out in our time in this ward was Larry again getting saddled with the scouts. Heâ€™s always been a task-focused, get things done kind of guy and the other LDS types in the scouting organization drove him nuts with their need to engage in endless self-promoting oratory. For some, three hours on Sunday was obviously not enough.
For a variety of reasons, it became easier for us to live on-base so six months later we moved into what would be our last ward.
It was here that the weirdness of the Mormon culture became even more apparent than our experience in Idaho.
Larry was called to be the ward clerk and, looking back on things, we guess this was a “test” to assess his suitability for the path to the bishopric and maybe more. At least he dodged scouting. Things came to a grinding halt when he sat in on a small court of love in regards to a returned missionary who confessed to having sex with his then non-Mormon fiancÃ© before they married. At the time of the hearing, the young woman was yet to convert.
While the matter of “guilt” wasn’t in question, the level of punishment was. The bishop, a 30-something RM, Eagle scout, etc. was inclined towards one year of disfellowship. Larry’s two cents was to give the kid a simple verbal admonishment.
Then there was the first councilor – a sixty-plus crank who had no tolerance for such shenanigans. He wanted one year excommunication.
Larry pointed out that such a punishment would very likely damage if not destroy any chance of converting the wife. However, he was informed that, under the circumstances, more than a verbal reprimand was in order.
The final decision was one year’s disfellowship and Larry’s being called to another position shortly thereafter.
The off ramp to exit the LDS church wasn’t far in the distance.
Miki served in the Relief Society and one of her more unpleasant tasks was conducting a household inventory of someone who was being considered for donations from the bishopâ€™s warehouse. Probably the most unpleasant task she had during our time as converts.
While clerk duties kept Larry out of many of the adult sessions, Miki got her share of the weirdness, culminating in one particular gospel doctrine session.
Seems the claim on this specific sabbath was that, before “the fall” in the garden of eden (we just can’t bring ourselves to capitalize this codswallop), none of the living creatures had blood in their bodies but rather some other kind of ‘eternal fluid’. And then, according to the teacher, when Adam and Eve ate of the apple, presto! â€“ the ‘eternal fluid’ magically turned into blood.
Maybe it was embalmer’s fluid?
Anyway, the instructor presented that it was in genesis (see Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I) but the woman half of the Pratt ward troublemakers challenged the presentation by asking for chapter and verse.
Miki was informed that the lesson was inspired dogma and she became the target of the “have faith, don’t question” mantra from everyone else in the class.
Needless to say, that made a lasting impression.
As far as the church went, the ensuing months dragged by with a decreasing level of interest in the faith and its culture. In the summer of 1984, we decided to give things one last try by becoming foster parents in the Indian Placement Program – THE pet project of then-president Kimball.
The parents of these children gave their kids to the ward members who participated in this program so that, at least for the school year, the children would be clothed, fed and educated. The children (and the parents) really had no experience with the Mormon church, certainly no burning testimonies of the truth of the gospel â€“ just a desire for a better life. The kids had, at a minimum, been baptized, but that was the extent of their experience in the church.
The ward members who participated in the program were instructed to treat these Indian children as they would their own, i.e., if your children had bikes, the foster child received a bike. If your children took music lessons, so did the foster child. And so on. And on. It really became a tit-for-tat match-up between our children and Bryan, our Indian foster child.
While not an unmitigated disaster, the experience was an unpleasant experience for all concerned and the best Christmas present we got that year was when “Bryan” didn’t return from the holiday break. And what was he most concerned with when he was ready to go home at Christmas? He wanted to know if he got to keep everything we had bought for him!
Should anyone be interested in further details about those joyous three months, catch us at conference in October. There’s not enough room to tell all here.
Just before Christmas we went through the obligation (yeah, we’re really out of steam by now) of having our daughter baptized. Took three dunkings to get it done. As the comedian Bill Engvall says “There’s your sign!”
In January we informed the bishop that we would take a hiatus from all church activities while we assessed our relationship with the faith. Let the love bombing begin! After about a month of more attention that we could handle, we informed the bishop that we wanted to be removed from the membership rolls.
We were told that this would involve voluntary excommunication and a church court (this was 1985 after all, before easy letter writing resignations). We agreed and opted not to attend. A few weeks later we were informed that we were no longer members of the LDS church but would be welcomed back . . . well, you know.
Surprisingly â€“ or may not when you really think about it â€“ we all adjusted very well to our excommunication as well as the shunning. The latter was disappointing but not unexpected â€“ it definitely confirmed some of the most negative impressions we had of the church. Just a few days after our excommunication, a neighbor on base held a housewarming party, inviting on-base neighbors and ward members alike. It was like the parting of the Red Sea when we walked in. There was an immediate move to the far corner of the room, and as one, the members turned their backs on us. Such a loving and all encompassing gesture by the Saints!
It was nice to have Sundays back and not having to run around like crazy on Saturday. We needed the extra time to spend the 10-plus percent raise we got in our household income.
That was almost 30 years ago and all we can say is it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Cheers – Miki & Larry
Lawrence & Mikayla Pratt Copyright 2013