Saturday, September 8, 2012

Me and the Mormons

Lifting the front of her brown peasant-style skirt, Gaye began filling it with stones, rounded by rolling to and fro in the constant ebb and flow of tides. Wedged between brown, gray and white stones, bits of sea glass sparkled in the sun.

As I watched her collect her treasures, my mind flew back to the first time we met a decade ago.

I was the new religion editor at the newspaper, and I received a call from Mormon missionaries requesting an interview. In college I had learned all about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “The Book of Mormon” and the Prophet Joseph Smith, but I had never spoken to a Mormon face to face.

When I was a little girl, I had a brief encounter with Mormon missionaries. I remember my mother’s anguish as she told me and my brother that there were two men in suits knocking on the doors of our neighbors’ homes. She told us that if we were very quiet, they would go away. The men came to the door, then turned around and left before even ringing the bell; and my mother was astounded. She later noticed the sign in the window I had written in large, childish scrawl that said: “WE ARE NOT HOME.”

Needless to say, it was with some trepidation that I anticipated the interview. I asked a minister about Mormonism, and she told me that it was a cult. I had grown up watching Donnie and Marie Osmond and they seemed so nice, I responded.

A few minutes into the interview, I threw out every misconception I held about Mormons. Senior missionaries Max and Gaye would become the dearest of friends.

Eighteen months later, I met with them for what I thought would be the last time. There were tears in our eyes as we hugged goodbye. They were returning to Utah, but we vowed to stay in touch.

In 2006, I went to the Religion Newswriters Association Conference in Salt Lake City, and I spent four days with Max and Gaye. I visited Temple Square with them, and they accompanied me to the nearby cathedral.

Two years ago, they informed me that they were going on a second mission. While they longed to return to the Boston area, their placement was uncertain.

In the spring of 2011, they were reassigned here. In my professional capacity, I continued to write their faith stories; but on Christmas and Easter, they sat around our table.

Last weekend I invited Max and Gaye for our annual Labor Day bash at the Tiverton summer house, and Fogland was at its best. Sunshine streamed through the clouds bathing the seashore in an ethereal light.

Many years ago Gaye send me a prayer card that read: “As a lighthouse sends its sure, steady beam to guide the ships at sea, the Lord gives His light to guide you … There is no fog too dense, no mariner too lost to feel His love and light. He loves you.”

For my landlocked Utah friends, the beach was a whole new world. They were enthralled by its beauty.

“I am a pioneer,” Gaye said laughing, as she placed shells and stones in her uplifted skirt.

Her ancestors crossed this country in covered wagons, while mine sailed the seas.

We couldn’t be more different and more alike.
Gaye and Max


  1. What a sweet post and tribute to my parents. Thank you for being such a wonderful friend to them and other L.D.S. missionaries you have met over the years. God Bless. Marla Palmer

  2. Thanks so much, Marla. "The apple doesn't fall far from the tree." Blessings, Linda