Getting to 3rd Level Heaven

My neighbors two blocks south kept on wanting me to go visit their temple with them. My resolve to dodge their relentless invitations was finally eroded and I caved in. Off to the Mormon temple we went. It was all my fault. I caused it during casual conversation when I said, having just discovered they were Mormons, “Oh, I always wondered what that magnificent structure looks like up close.” I say to myself- Self, leave these passing curiosities alone. Now look, you have Mormonization on your schedule.

We arrive. I get a “tour” of the model of the temple, a miniature structure that sits inside a glass box in the lobby of the office building across from the real thing. I say to the guide with the finger pointed at the miniature model- I’m getting a raw deal here, could I get a tour of the real thing? She says- No, but you can go in there once you’ve become one of us. Do you have any questions? I say yes, plenty. I can’t help myself. I’m a question-asker.

For almost two hours, my neighbors – quite a sweet elderly couple really – and two missionaries assigned to this question-asker take me to a room, show me a mediocre movie on family values, and get the proselytization process going. The movie had all the tricks for pulling at your heartstrings – a dying parent who makes it to heaven and heartbroken family oh-so-syrupy with perfect emotion who later live out a perfect Mormon life and join the departed parents in the highest heaven. My neighbor, the lady, cried her little eyes out. I was sure she had watched this short piece of religious propaganda a thousand times. She believed. It’s beautiful really, believing so completely in a good thing. One dies happy, with a nice smile on their face. Me? I tried not to laugh at the cheap tactics. I’m a storyteller and I wasn’t impressed. That script needed some work. The missionaries proceeded to giving me their testimonies. I listened with deep appreciation for anyone who makes a sacrifice of their life stories. Stories are sacred to me. They gently pushed the Mormon agenda at me. I welcomed the challenge and asked my questions. It was pure fun. All that Mormon testimony and all my counter-punches against absurd beliefs. They took it in good stride.

I say to them- All religions are irrational, except they have rational goals such as the earthly accumulation of power and wealth through membership recruitment, which evangelical Christians call “winning souls.” Your church, I say, which you of course believe is the real deal, is no different. All that you believe is in the realm of faith, and I cannot argue with it using logic. So I’ll just entertain it like I entertain the rest of other folk’s absurdities. As long as it does not cause harm to another human being or living thing, I don’t care what you believe. I say this gently. My neighbors had brought home-made cookies on our trip, the best I ever, and I did not want to be denied a cookie on the way back.

They make a last-ditch effort to shift my hard-heartedness towards their faith. I engage third gear. I say- I can see that at the core of Mormonism is the beauty of shared values that makes us all better people. I also recognize that your Mormon values are universal and one doesn’t need a conversion to a Mormon Jesus, Catholic Jesus, Evangelical Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Lord Krishna or whoever to find them. Miss Missionary smiles kindly. I do not return the smile.

From out of the clear blues, I think to rescue the moment, the other missionary tells me that God is a flesh and blood male living among us. Jesus too! That he goes shopping and passes gas. Ok, she didn’t exactly say that last part, but by all indications, if a Mormon eats like me, he passes flatulence too. I’m not engaging on this level of faith. I say- But does it have to be a man? It would have been so functional if it was a woman walking about. With massive tits towering above her head and curving out like the horns of a Matador’s bull, aimed straight at evil-doors so there’s no bullshitting with wars and all that hurtful stuff humans do to each other. People would just see the big tit horns coming from a distance and sound a warning to each other- hey, guys, She-God is coming! Quickly, throw Trump in a cave! Stop hunting down black me for a bit! And can y’all bastards stop bombing Aleppo, just hold your fire! God Mama is coming! But I didn’t say all that out loud like that.

I didn’t want my neighbors feeling too bad about their hard work bearing no fruit, being such nice folk and all. So I ask them about the benefits of signing up to these beliefs. Ms. Missionary says- After this physical life, you get to go to the sun heaven. There are three levels, you see: star, moon and sun heavens… I interrupt her- Wait a minute, there’s no hell for the unbeliever? No hell, they all assure me. Said straight up- we Mormons don’t do that hell bullshit. O, I love your after-life much better than those fire-and-brimstone guys, I say. Such terrorism. So if I don’t get Mormonized, my after-life punishment will be getting thrown to the lowest level heaven where I get to float around among the stars. How cool is that. I love these guys. Mormons rule!

I’m given a card, in case I still want to join the no-hell church. I say- I’m not worried about my after-life. When I’m gone, I think I’ll be sap in the trees. I’d love that. Or the wind in the forest. Or one of the little butterflies that flutter about and land on your nose. I don’t think I’ll need a mansion in heaven- all that maintenance and property tax, no. I also don’t care too much for streets of gold, because then I’ll have to wear shoes with suction pumps so I don’t slide, and dark glasses to keep off the glare. And I hear there’s a choir of angels singing endlessly, no no. I’d like some quiet in my after-life, some Stevie Wonder, Richard Bona and Miriam Makeba. Maroon Commandos too. And that Mormon Tabernacle Choir, I love that choir. Most of all, my grandma’s soft singing, “Andu iruwa jabuka, hata na andu jiswagha…” 

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