Reorganized Mormons

I was raised a Mormon. Okay, technically, I was raised a reorganized Mormon in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS).

Like the Utah Mormons, we in the RLDS church, or Community of Christ as some call it now, believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet who was visited by an angel named Moroni. That’s right. The angel was called Moroni.

We believe Moroni buried gold plates on Cumorah Hill in New York and told Joseph Smith to dig up them up, which he did.

We believe the plates contained the long-lost Book of Mormon inscribed in a made-up language called “reformed Egyptian.” Fortunately, Joseph Smith could read that pretend language. We believe that, too.

I learned about Moroni and the gold plates and Zion in Lamoni, Iowa. You know Lamoni, right? Home of Graceland University, the only RLDS-affiliated university in the world. Home of the only Pizza Hut in Decatur county.

2,500 people lived in Lamoni when I was there. Most of them were reorganized Mormons. Many held advanced degrees, and plenty were straight-up strange.

But it was home to me till I was 16. It was all I knew.

My parents, who loathed Lamoni, moved us to El Paso in 1987. I hated being relocated. El Paso was scorched and polluted and nobody spoke English worth a shit. I despised the El Paso sun. It became my enemy.

At night, I dreamed of cornfields and playing basketball and Amy Bunch, polite and pretty and devout back in Lamoni. But soon I made friends in El Paso and discovered other pretty girls. I stopped missing Amy and the reorganized Mormons in Iowa. And when my thoughts drifted their way, I felt lousy for them, living in that drippy town, slogging through the snow, planning shopping trips to Merle Hay mall.

Twenty one years have now passed, and my reorganized Mormon childhood fades and fades. I’ve got diapers to change and presentations to pull together and dogs to bathe and a triathlon to train for. There isn’t much room for reorganized Mormons.

But last night on Facebook, I chanced upon a handful of my old reorganized Mormon friends. I peeked at photos of them all grown up. I saw pictures of their kids.

I considered contacting them. But what would I say to them after all this time? Would we talk about the time we drove around town backwards? Would I share what really went down that winter night when I was arrested on Main Street? Would we discuss Moroni and his gold plates?

I decided not to get in touch. I’m glad my old friends are out there, washing their dishes in their suburban houses, wearing their black socks to work, planning their summer vacations to Orlando.

I’m sure their lives are rich and full.

But I think I’ll keep them in the past, locked away in 1987, cruising the streets of Lamoni on Friday night, their heads unclouded, their dreams deep rivers.

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10 Responses to “Reorganized Mormons”


  1. 1 Duncan January 20, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Aw, the past IS a funny thing. Not sure what kind of funny. Laugh at us funny or funny like we thought we knew everything. Some days I miss it, most days I’m happy it’s in the past. Onward and upward.

  2. 2 Tabor Nowlin January 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm

    I crossed your blog in a Google Alert. I’m sure a number your old class mates still live Lamoni. I married Bryan Nowlin and we have moved back to Lamoni to raise our 3 children. Bryan is now a chiropractor and coaches the high school football team.

    His sister Ruth also lives here. She eventually married Ted Smith, yes he was your high school math teacher.

    The Amish started moving in about a decade ago so it is not uncommon to see horse and buggies running through town.

    The Community of Christ Church and the University still dominate town life but it’s not as prudish as it use to be. There’s still only 1 bar in town and its not where it used to be. The old Rimfire’s building, next to the only Pizza Hut in Decatur County, is now a Subway Sandwich shop. Orville Hiles ran an antique store downtown, that used to be the old HyVee, but now is the bar:)

    Anyway, if you should ever decide to make a trip and bring the family back a great time is over the 4th of July. It’s a real experience of small town, still 2500 on the optimistic side, life.

    I remember your father but haven’t heard a thing about your family since you left. I think I live 2 houses down from the brick ranch you lived in. Yep, it’s still there.

    Anyway,

    Peace

    Tabor Nowlin

  3. 3 Ges January 20, 2009 at 8:20 pm

    A triathlon this year really? Me too. It will be my first. You?
    Any tips would be appreciated.
    I run a 13.30 mile. Hell Yeah!

  4. 4 Ges January 20, 2009 at 9:29 pm

    p.s. Andrew swears you were a Methodist

  5. 5 lesleyfamily January 20, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Hey, Tabor. Thanks for the update on Lamoni. That’s wacky about the Amish. I’m glad there’s still a bar in town. Every town needs at least one.

    Gesi. I’ve completed several triathlons, all with poor results. As to advice, if you’re doing a big one, you might enlist friends to kick you in the shins and slap you on the back of your head. That ought to get you well acclimated for the mass swim start.

    Andrew claims I’m a Methodist? Sweet Jesus, how much paint has that guy huffed? (I kid. Mainly. My parents and I started attending a Methodist Church when we moved to El Paso. I met your future husband there.)

  6. 6 Leon Danceking January 21, 2009 at 3:11 pm

    Only thing that ever come out of Lamoni was dope smokers.

  7. 7 Captain Lamoni January 21, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    Suck it Leon Danceking. You heard me. You and youre tap water that tastes like dog puke can suck it. Lamoni rulez!!!

  8. 8 Leon Danceking January 21, 2009 at 5:02 pm

    keep suckin your maryjuwanna captain pothead

  9. 9 Leon Danceking January 21, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Our community welcomes you to Leon, a small but progressive town centrally located near the border of Southern Iowa. Many denominations of faith are available to meet spiritual needs, with 16 churches located in Leon. The first residence log cabin in Leon was located on the lot now occupied by the city garage. A computer for patron use was recently added, including Internet access courtesy of Grand River Mutual Telephone Company. Leon offers a dedicated work force, profitable business climate and a quality life style. There is a cherished feeling of security here, re-enforced by honest rural values. In 1880 the population 1,367; in l900, 1620; and in 1920, 2009. The celebration is capped off with a large fire works display. We invite you to come and catch the excitement as we share what it’s like to live, work, and play in our community. In l905 the City Council approved the donation of $6,000 offered by Andrew Carnegie for the purpose of erecting the Leon Library. O’Bryan Brothers, Inc., manufacturer of Lorraine Lingerie provides employment for about 200 people in a large modern and clean sewing and warehousing facility. Survivor Technologies, Inc., manufacturers of vinyl windows and doors, is another major employer of this area. Both are conveniently located on Highway 2. Beef cow/calf production is the major enterprise utilizing the excellent grazing in the local countryside. Decatur County ranks among the top in beef cow numbers. Hogs, sheep, corn, soybeans, and hay make up the balance of a diverse agricultural mix. Sounds like heaven? Ready to make your next move? Contact Leon City Hall 641-446-6221. In downtown Leon you will find craft and antique shops as well as the Decatur County Historical Museum. There were many people in the county who claimed that the selection of the county seat had been illegal. Leon is the place to be!

  10. 10 Mel. January 23, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Who is Leon Danceking and Captain Lamoni?


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