Freea and Burn
Salt Lake City, Utah. The mechanical problems I encountered in Sulfur Springs in addition to some other differences of opinion precipitated my resignation from my former company, and I was now working for another. I had moved into a newer and more spacious and comfortable truck, enjoying also a more leisurely driving experience due to the paper logging system of this new company rather than the more thoroughgoing (from the point of view of its demands on the driver) electronic system of the former. Salt Lake City was therefore the location of my first, leisurely time off duty with this company. Having some two days to relax, I rented a car and did some sight seeing.
Utah proved to be a most stunningly beautiful place, even more so than Sulfur Springs. On the first day I drove to a variety of state parks, taking in sights from mountains to valleys to beautiful, deep blue lakes. Since I’m not an appellative person I cannot now recall the various names of the places I visited—I just recalled a day of lung filling splendor!
I had a most peculiar experience the next day, however. Being in Salt Lake City, I naturally had to see Temple Square, the center of the Mormon faith. So after my first day in nature I planned on spending the next one seeing the sites of downtown Salt Lake City, and if lucky, snag an interview with a Mormon. It only seemed natural that I should desire a Mormon’s perspective, having found myself in this particular place, so I assumed the hunt.
The prey was most illusive, however. When I strolled through Temple Square, I was greeted by a number of missionaries to the Mormon faith, pretty young women of all ethnicities, who warmly greeted the tourists and encouraged them to give audience to the perspectives of the faith. “What a great opportunity for an interview,” I thought to myself. “It would certainly be quite of interest if I were to manage a conversation with one of these missionaries in particular.” So I approached a young lady missionary and asked her whether she might grant me a conversation touching upon her personal quest in life for meaning and significance, given that she so clearly demonstrated a mature concern for eternal things, having taken such a serious step within her chosen faith.
She did not immediately understand my aim, however, her mind being so geared toward her evangelical purpose. She kept interpreting my interest in its lens, as my desiring merely to learn about the Mormon faith—so she would repeatedly begin proselytizing, even after I tried a number of times to clarify my purpose in seeking her audience. Finally, after stopping her a few times, she began to get the gist of my intent. Seeing, however, that I was interested in her perspective not merely within the confines of her Mormon faith, but, more widely, from the point of view of her own human struggle, she hesitated somewhat, and advised me of her needing to consult with her superiors to ascertain whether such a thing would be allowed in her case. As a young missionary, being yet formed in her faith, she was closely overseen by the more experienced.
The day had by then been half gone, so I had to make a decision whether I should try to get through a possible religious red tape in seeking official approval. Since the poissibility of an interview with a fellow American, finding it in herself while so young not only to choose a somewhat disparaged faith among Christians, but to become a missionary and proselytizer of said faith, was in itself so tempting a prospect, I decided to assume the challenge after all. Even if she was merely responding to her tradition and obligations as a Mormon, such an act must needs nevertheless involve some manner of personal, existential option, I reasoned. According to premonition, however, this was a battle I could not in the end win. For my effort to get the official ok—even after having gone so far as participating in a sit-down with the director of missionaries—eventually ended in disapproval.
Within the course of my courtship, he found me a prettier (in my eyes) and “more mature [in the faith]” young woman, in his words, to first take me through an introductory tour of the Mormon Temple and faith, dangling her before me (it seemed) as the one with whom I might have my conversation, if after having first heard about their faith, I had further questions. But after the tour was done, he reneged. “Sorry I couldn’t give you what you’re looking for,” the young woman apologized, “but I have to stay within the confines of my role as a missionary here.” The irony did not fail to impress upon me, however, that should she have shared her human saga (which indeed must have at some point precipitated her embodiment in this faith), she might have had an even more superb opportunity to proselytize—inasmuch as, speaking from the common perspective of the human heart, she might have validated Mormonism’s caliber as a genuine option within the grander human question. Whereas she might yet have been too immature to see this opportunity, however, the very director of the faith, in my opinion, had no excuse. So I like Christ (after having been rebuffed by those whom I invited to the banquet table) did instead have to urgently turn to those on the streets—a homeless couple in particular—Freea and Burn—with whom, that evening, I finally managed my interview.