Mark Twain & ”those reticent Mormons.’
You know you have good friends when you get sent an excited message about how catty Mark Twain’s travel writing is during his time in Salt Lake. Mr Twain has some interesting things to say about his reading the Book Of Mormon. It is only recently that I considered just how badly written the Book Of Mormon is. I think that if it really was written with the help of God and the spirit. It should had been written better and had a better flowing narrative. My friend who was raised by a Lutheran preacher father, would love for Mr Twain to ”Do a take down of The Lutherans!” I am sent four excerpts and read them with wicked glee as I sit on the train. I actually laugh out loud and gasp. The musings of Mark Twain in regards to the time at which the Mormons were new and fledgeling, bring back a few memories of my own Mormon upbringing.
The Book of Mormon is terribly written. I remember being dutiful in trying to read a few pages every night before bed. ”Don’t forget to read your scriptures.” My mother would call. It is tradition that on your 8th birthday you get a set of your own scriptures which includes the book of mormon and the bible ( new testament and the old testament). The Book Of Mormon was never touted as the only written cornerstone of the church, it was merely an addition. The Book Of Mormon was what made the church different and special. You would get the two books contained in a case that zipped up and had a handle so you could carry it easily. It was heavy, like the burden of being told how much was expected of you because you were born ‘under the covenant.’
Because I was a coke bottle glasses wearing little freak, my own set of scriptures was double the size of the average persons. It was the large print version and my loving and thoughtful parents had gotten them for me. No amount of pesky congenital cataracts, was going to stop me being able to read the blessed words. I hated the big heavy set of scriptures. I had wanted the average sized ones like everyone else had. I was the only kid with a set of scriptures that weighed more than I did. I did enjoy the special red pencil that came with the books. The pencil was for colouring important passages. My parents were so excited about giving that giant tomb of lord words that I did not want to seem ungrateful.
That was not my only gift. It was not even the main gift. My parents knew me well. I will never forget waking up in my top bunk and my mum and dad putting my presents on top of my Strawberry Short Cake doona cover. I got Shopping Barbie, a packet of granita biscuits ( my fav) and a book. A proper book. A novel. It was Roald Dahl’s Matilda. Inside the cover was written.
To our own exceptional daughter
Happy 8th Birthday
Love Mum and Dad.
Is it any wonder I turned out so confident? Or, at least able to maintain the allusion when in the company of others. It is a bit like that scripture verse my mum had my younger siblings and I all memorise, ”Train up a child in they they shall go and when they are older they shall not depart from it.” My parents may not have raised me to be as good a mormon girl as they may have hoped, but, I think they managed something better.
I did not google or look up that verse. Right off the top of my heathen little head. That is what indoctrination can achieve! I may have rebelled against all the church teachings Is it any wonder that I became so well read that the awkward and terrible prose of The Book Of Mormon seems unreadable?
It was her bedroom as well. The bedroom that had only half the floor covered with thin green carpet. The other half was badly secured lino that was already peeling. My little sister’s bed helped cover up some of the ugly lino. My bed was nearest the sliding bedroom door. There was a latch that locked the door and did not allow little people to open it. If you were a bit taller and smarter, you just flipped the latch with a thin picture book or a butter knife. It was late morning and the dust covered slat windows were open to let in the fresh country breeze and the distant sound of Dad’s motor bike. I was happily sitting on my bed with my cousin Ella. We were hanging out and singing that song MOUTH by Merril Bainbridge. I was 12 and Ella was 10. My poor little sister was 5 and just wanted to play with us. I was having none of it. My little sister’s tears did nothing to move me or my cousin. My Mum was trying to get a hundred things done at once. It would have made sense for my cousin and I to simply let my little sister into a bedroom that was hers as much as it was mine, so Mum could be left alone to get stuff done. I am pretty sure she was pregnant at this time as well. My little sister kept trying to slide the door open and failing. Her little voice calling my name in a sad whinge. My cousin and i kept on ignoring her. Things escalated as they do in a household such as this. Being made to go to church every Sunday does not make children any less sociopathic than children who do not go to church. My cousin and her family also went to church every Sunday. That was when we got to see each other. Her family lived in the same town as the church building. No two hour round trips for her every Sunday.
After a while, my mother got fed up with my and my cousin’s social isolation of my little sister. We hear her storm up the hall way and take my little sister by the hand. ”Don’t worry.” My mother says angrily. ”Those two are going to HELL!!”
My sister has three kids now and my cousin has 5. I have none and We all feel that my cousin and i were selfish little so and sos.
There were many times growing up in rural Northern Victoria, where my parents tried very hard to bring us up the right way according to the Church. Living an hour away with the dairy farming life style. It was far removed from all the other people who went to church, who lived in town and had normal jobs that gave Sunday as a day of rest. My parents did not have a restful Sunday. In fact I am pretty sure that Sunday was the most stressful and exhausting day of the week. My Dad was the best dressed Dad out of all of them. He did not wear a boring suit. He wore his moleskin pants, a check shirt and a tweed suit jacket. He looked like a tall and handsome young hipster, who had no idea what a hipster was. No one els had a Dad who carried a pocket knife in a little case connected to thier belt. Only mine. I could never figure out how other families did anything without a pocket knife at hand. My Dad used it for the ham and cheese and tomatoe rolls we would make and eat in the car on long trips. Cemented in all our memory is the memory of my Dad’s Ren And Stimpy Tie, that my mother found in an opp shop. Or, was that tie a present from a friend at church?
My parents would get up at the crack of dawn, milk the cows, come home and get ready. I would be in charge of getting myself and my siblings breakfasted and dressed in their Sunday best. I got so much reading done on those Sunday drives. So much non church related reading.
Church went for three hours at least. First was sacrament where you would sit in a pew with your family and try to pay attention to the talks and sing along to the hymns. My poor tired Dad would often be fighting to stay awake and sometimes loosing. I think one of the funniest things to happen during sacrament meeting was the time my little sister Libs stuck a plastic bead so far up her nose it got stuck and Dad had to take her outside and help get it out and calm my 3 year old sister down.
After the sacrament meeting, everyone would disperse into the respective second part. My mother would go Relief Society with all the other wives. kids would go to Primary and teens would go to Young Mens or Young Womans. As soon as it was all over my siblings and I would go straight to my Dad for the keys to the car. We would change out of our sunday best and sit in the car listening to the radio, while our parents had some much needed adult conversation. Other kids would come and tell us how dirty our car was. How dusty and dirty it was. One smart ass wrote WASH ME in the thick brown dust that covered the rear window. There were quite a few times that my father would as my mother to take over the driving because he could barely stay awake.
When we would finally got home after church, my parents would (if time allowed) have a little afternoon sleep, before going out and doing the evening milking.
I think if I had a dollar for every person who ever asked me if I grew up with multiple mothers, because of my Mormon childhood, I would have approximately 31 dollars.
It is actually really nice to have something so very concrete to intellectually and emotionally cause such inner conflict. I am constantly swinging from marvelling to maddening. It is pretty cool to have had such a kooky childhood. The more I write, the more memories that unfurl and open in every corner of my brain. My siblings and I were rough and independent. Some would say ”Feral” those people had no imagination.