I recently had the pleasure of meeting some members of my wife's family. I say “pleasure” because there are some characters amongst this group. This comes in handy for someone who enjoys listening to others' conversations in the hopes of acquiring some future writing material. However, it can be quite cumbersome when there is an onslaught of good quotes coming at me, and I don't want to be rude. To start writing them down in my memo pad while they are still talking would be downright disrespectful. So, I listen and try to take as many mental notes as I can without overloading my mental memo pad.
One evening last week at a cookout in Riverview, FL, I was in such a predicament when I was surrounded by a barrage of comments just as I described above (and in previous D3P blog posts). Under normal circumstances, I am able to hone in on the interesting conversations and obsess about them until the story solidifies in my mind and comes out through my fingers onto my Toshiba Netbook's keyboard. This time was different. There were stories of Russian mail-order brides, world politics, family histories, and religious conundrums. I was enamored by the Russian mail-order bride conversation and lost focus on any other (can you blame me?). Only later did I realize that I had backed the wrong dog in this fight for my attention.
My father-in-law and his brother George were discussing their previous marriages with one another. There were seven total marriages between the two of them to discuss, so I assumed this conversation would be a marathon rather than a sprint. I was wrong. I was focusing in on the “matchmaker's” tactics and success rates, while they were just getting started on comparing their respective first wives. It was a deep sigh from George that initially called my attention over to their conversation from the one I was currently examining for future use in my writings. A deep sigh is almost always followed by a statement of significance. This one was no different. My wife's uncle said plainly, “The Mormons told me I would meet up with my first wife in the afterlife, so I threatened them with my 44 Magnum.”
What seemed like a groundbreaking and ever so interesting remark to me, was met with little fan fair and was quickly countered with another story. I had indeed joined the wrong conversation, so I turned my chair toward them and looked for an open window to ask some probing questions. The opportunity never arose, and my curiosity for details was left unquenched. I had a personal relationship with one member of this conversation. Yet, when I pressed him for further information, the subject was changed and nothing was revealed.
I asked my wife later that evening if she had heard anything I might have missed, or knew anything about this Uncle's first marriage that might shed some light on such an intriguing comment. There was nothing she could provide either. Her family had only recently reconciled in some circles and the details were not as readily available as I wanted.
Was he a Mormon? Was his first wife a Mormon? Where was this 44 Magnum produced, and under what circumstances? I needed answers, and my mind was ready and willing to make them up just for sake of the story. So I went with it.
I pictured Uncle George walking around Salt Lake City (hereto referred hiply as SLC). He was a young man in his late twenties. He was smiling from ear to ear as he was in love and ready to take the life-long plunge into matrimony with his beautiful fiancee (we'll call her Aunt Mormon). He had a full head of brown hair back then that was most definitely slicked back with a greasy pomade. She was plain-looking, yet she had an air of understated beauty about her. She had blond hair and blue eyes that would make Joseph Smith do a double take if he saw her. George would be walking around the streets of SLC in his white Navy Class A uniform, while she would be clad in a simple white Mormon-esque ensemble that implied for her “I'm here, I'm pious, get used to it.”
Their wedding was a thing of beauty, but their marriage was anything but. Uncle George was a worldly gentleman that had experienced the war in Vietnam as well as a 1950's childhood in the outskirts of North Florida pecan farming community. Aunt Mormon on the other hand lived a sheltered Mormon life in SLC that consisted of numerous Missionary trips throughout the country, but none of which would allow her to absorb the cultures around her. The Mormons aren't known for their ability to take in new ideas, but rather, they take pride in indoctrinating those they come across in their lives. George was her next target. Her aim was to convert him into a life long member of the Church of Latter Day Saints (or LDS), she wasn't as good of a marksmen as she initially thought. Unfortunately for her brethren, George was.
Once their love fizzled and the divorce was imminent, Uncle George and Aunt Mormon tried one last thing before they called it quits. They went to a marriage counselor. It wasn't George's idea, it was Aunt Mormon's. She chose the counselor, and it was someone from the Tabernacle at which she had attended her entire life. The counselor tried everything. He explained that their vows were “until death do they part.” That fell on George's deaf ears. He pleaded to both of them to share what originally drew them to one another. Aunt Mormon talked about his strong will and genuine love for humanity, George made something up about her being a fun companion in deep philosophical discussions (the real reason he married her was less appropriate to share in church and more fitting for an article in Penthouse Forum). After many attempts to find some common ground from which to build a bridge to reconciliation, the counselor found himself with very little substance with which to work.
He changed his method and went directly to the core of what he thought they might react to. Pressure from family and friends. He collected as many of Aunt Mormon's family as he could, and attempted to reach out to George's as well. After much toil and trouble, there was a far better success rate on the bride's side than on the groom's. George's family is strewn across the country and were unavailable when it came time for them to meet to try and work this out. Aunt Mormon's corner was filled with pious folks, while George's had a population of one.
Aunt Mormon's family would take turns explaining the successful methods they use to preserve their matrimonial bonds. George counter-pointed each one of them with snide comments and dismissive remarks. He may have been outnumbered, but his mind was sharp and his mettle was intact. This went on for hours as each Mormon representative wanted their voice to be heard.
Finally, the counselor would make all their arguments pale in comparison to his when he threw out the ultimate motive for staying together. He said, “George, it doesn't matter what you decide today, tomorrow, or any day for the rest of your life. You were married in a Mormon Tabernacle, and that means your marriage falls under the laws of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Do you know what that means? I'll tell you what that means. It means that it doesn't matter if you seek a divorce from her in the state of Utah, you will still be married in the eyes of the Church and in the eyes of God.”
George would respond simply, “I don't care.” His mind was made up.
The LDS Bishop would quickly chime in, “No, I'm not sure you understand. That means that when you die, you will meet up with her in the afterlife. Whether you want to or not, once you pledge your life to a woman, it is God's decision when and if you can divorce. According to the Gospel, 'When men and women marry, they make solemn covenants with each other and with God. Every effort should be made to keep these covenants and preserve marriage' and the kicker is that even if you deny His word you will still find yourselves meeting again in the afterlife to live together for eternity. So basically, you have no choice in the matter George.”
George had enough of this preaching and produced the one thing he could always count on. It would not be The Book of Mormon or even a Bible. It was his trusty 44 Magnum. The LDS followers fleed from the room faster than Brigham Young himself (or even his great-great-great Grandson, Steve Young). George would be left by himself to ponder his recent life choices, and would make a quick exit himself. His eight year stint with the Navy was complete, and his three year marriage was now ready for the history books. From there, he would get that divorce he so wanted and the LDS would be rid of the crazy gun-toting Christian forever.
George would only be left with a life to live and share with his next three wives, and a story to tell at a cookout in Riverview, FL some 40 years later. He would be surrounded by his family that loved him for who he is and what he has become. His marriage to Aunt Mormon and subsequent divorce was a most unfortunate series of events for him. But on the bright side, it turned out to be one hell of a story. I'm sorry he had to live through such a tiring experience, but I'm even more sorry that I chose to listen to the Russian bride discussion instead of hearing the actual details of this sordid Mormon affair. But as they say, When in Salt Lake City...