Sean’s Journal: Well, my instincts told me that this day of connecting with people in meaningful ways was not over. I found a good campground with lots of nice trees. I parked, pitched my tent, and got out my Coleman stove. I fried a couple of Polish sausages with onions and heated up some Bush’s Baked Beans. Of course, I topped things off with an apple, some Oreos, and a pint of cold milk from my ice chest. As I cleaned up and began unrolling my sleeping bag, a family pulled into the camping spot next me. They got out of their van and we introduced ourselves. There was mom, dad, older sister, and a younger brother about 12 or 13. Nice family.
The dad got back in the van to reposition it and, as he nudged up close to one tree, there was a loud crunch. The van stopped. Dad got out. I walked over as he and his family looked at a dented bumper and a shattered rear window. Not happy. The young boy immediately expressed concern that the window would easily fall out. I explained the laminated nature of automobile glass. The glass was shattered and looked like an intricate spider’s web, but it would hold together. The dad reassured the family that they would get the window replaced in Lincoln in the morning. Then, he stopped himself and said, “Oops, tomorrow’s Sunday, so the repair might have to wait until Monday.” My mind clicked. I offered to get my roll of duct tape and put some ribbons of tape across the window to help it stay in place. The young boy and I worked together to patch up the window. The family thanked me and then the mom turned to me and said, “We’re going to church together tomorrow morning, would you like to join us and afterwards we can buy you lunch as a thank you?” I said, sure.” They asked me if I belonged to a church.
(Vince, you and I haven’t talked about religion. Folks might automatically think that, being from rural Utah, I am a Mormon. I could assume the same about you with your large family and all. I’d like your thoughts on religion.) Anyway, I told my new friends that I usually attended The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. They smiled and said, “Cool, a Mormon.” I smiled. They said, “We’re Lutheran. Can you attend church there?” I said, “Sure.” We all proceeded to get ready for bed. The older sister had started a campfire and the family stayed up a little longer to roast some marshmallows.
Vince, here’s my situation. My dad was born and raised as a “Mormon” in central Utah. My mom, Angelica, grew up in Mexico and was raised as a Catholic. Her father was an American who worked for the U.S. government there. Her mother was of Spanish and Native Mexican heritage. Interestingly, my mom met my dad when he was on an LDS mission in her country. She and my dad always held a mutual respect for each other’s religions. She remained Catholic after they got married. Most Sundays, we would go as a family to the LDS church meetings in Juniper. About once a month, we would support my mom and attend Catholic mass at the St. Jude Mission in Ephraim, not far from Juniper. Every few months, if the weather was good, we’d drive over the mountains to Price, Utah, and attend the Notre Dame de Lourdes Catholic Church. I consider myself to be a Christian. In a world that seems to worship mythical, comic book “super heroes,” I consider Jesus Christ to be the supreme hero. I follow Him and his teachings. What about you and your family, Vince?
Vince’s Response: Well, Sean, this conversation is growing longer, but it’s an important one. By the way, the Lutheran religion is probably the second most prominent in Nebraska, next to Catholicism. Sean, I am a Latter-day Saint. I’m quick to clarify with others that the use of the word “saint” does not imply that those formerly called “Mormons” are perfect. As you know, the term “saint” is used to designate devoted followers of Jesus Christ. We do have saintly ambitions to be more like Him. I’ve got a ways to go, but I’m headed in the right direction. My family are mostly of the LDS faith, but not all. Our lives have been blessed by the teachings of our church and our fellowship with other Latter-day Saints over many years.
Sean, as I have traveled extensively, I have gained great respect for people of many different faiths and philosophies. I believe that, while our religions may divide us, our faith should unite us. I have traveled in five countries where the people are primarily Muslim. I have studied the “Five Pillars of Islam” and find that these principles are helpful and not inconsistent with the principles I was taught as a Mormon boy. BTW: speaking of the Catholic faith, I am one who cheers on Pope Francis in his efforts to make the world a kinder and safer place for all God’s children to dwell; within what he has recently called a great “fraternity”—a brotherhood and sisterhood of which we are all a part. I do echo the proclamation of the Apostle Paul in Romans 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth….” Outside the realm of Christianity, there are many great and good souls whose ideologies are intended to enlighten and to uplift humankind. I am inspired by all those who walk by faith in concert with their own wisdom. I simply advocate that we all strive to keep God in the conversation. I’m sure you’ll report tomorrow that you enjoyed your Christian worship service with those devout Lutherans. Have a great day!
Bookends: (1) An apple helps the Polish sausages go down. (2) Always carry a roll of duct tape. (3) While our religions may divide us, our faith should unite us.