Sunday, 19 August 2007

Entry 8 - Decisions

It was fast approaching 7.00pm Tuesday evening, Elders Crane and Finchley were due for a visit. My Dad was out bowling and my brother Pete was doing homework in his bedroom, at least that was what he was supposed to be doing. My Mum was tidying up and didn't seem to mind the fact the Elders would be visiting. I had had a rubbish day at school, more and more I was starting to dislike it. The whole mentality of the place, the ridiculous rules and regulations as I saw them, the whole culture of playing rugby being a passage to greatness. It was the total opposite of how I felt about the Mormons.

The elders arrived, my Mum answering the door and showing them through. She offered them chicory and had a brief chat with them before leaving us in the front room . We were fortunate in that we had a front room and a sort of games room at the back of the house where my Mum went to leave the three of us to begin, The elders wanted to know how I was feeling about my visits to church and things in general. I told them I was feeling good and still very interested. They seemed pleased enough and so we began. It was less of a lesson and more of an informal discussion this evening - which I appreciated.

Finchley wanted to know if I would be attending Thursdays' fireside at Sister Meirings', which I was planning to. I wasn't however going to the youth meeting in East London. I had wanted to but I thought a little break in the company of Craig Hindley might be a good thing. The events of Sunday were still in the back of my mind to a degree and in truth, I didn't want to have to look at that arrogant smarmy face twice in the same week. However, missing the youth meeting aside, I wasn't going to let him ruin what I still considered as good. I told the elders about the Howard family and how I felt like they were making me feel welcome on a Sunday. The elders had only good things to say about them too, it was clear they were a popular family within the church. Crane added that they were equally fond of me too and that I had made a good impression.

In the midst of our discussion, Elder Crane threw a total surprise. He asked if I had given any thought on the subject of baptism. It was the first time this had been directly mentioned. I was a bit taken back, although I'm not sure why. The thought had crossed my mind however I had felt it too soon to make a decision about it, added to which, I knew my parents would have something to say about that too. I responded by saying that I hadn't really given it too much thought, which I suppose was not technically true. Finchley continued by saying that there was no rush and that he appreciated the fact that at present, I was attending church with the blessing of my parents and that should I decide to be baptised within the church, the same blessing would have to be given. Crane talked a little about how a baptism is performed within the church. The church believe in a full immersion baptism, where you are lowered into the water by another person. This immediately caused me to pull a slight frown. I wasn't the most keen swimmer, having only learnt about a year or so ago.and I hated being underwater...period. Crane explained that the person kneels in the water as the person performing the baptism holds them and lowers them back into the water until they are fully immersed. Finchley could see I didn't look to impressed with this, and added that I could hold my nose if I wanted too. That would be a given.

They went onto to explain baptisms are not performed on children under the age of 8 as you can only be baptised once you understand and accept the difference between right and wrong. It seemed the age of 8 was deemed as grown up enough to know this difference. The belief of the church is that once you repent for prior sins and then are baptised, all previous sins are remitted. The service itself is performed in a font within the church, which I had seen on a previous visit. The elders did not push me on the subject, they left it with me to think about and discuss with my parents. It was an important step and one that was necessary should I want to become a part of the church. The elders left and I would see them again on Thursday for the fireside

Shortly after I had a chat with my Mum about the visit, I mentioned the topic of baptism. my Mum was concerned. She replied that I had only been going to this church a month and she felt it was too soon to be thinking about that. I explained that I was intent on continuing going to the church and at some point I would have to be baptised. She said I needed to think about it...and so did she and my Dad. I told her they were good people, she didn't seem to doubt that part of it. I told her I was enjoying it, she accepted that too, what she had a problem with was if I was serious about it all. Was I really prepared to live my life as a Mormon? I replied by saying that I had quit drinking coffee, attended church, attended their firesides, was I not showing my seriousness? My Mum acknowledged my point, but wanted to know how long I was going to keep it up and what about what was next? I asked her what she meant by " next". She replied that would I prepared to go on a mission, marry a Mormon girl, raise kids in a Mormon church, give 10% of my salary to the church every single month? She was getting too far ahead even for me. I laughed and told her that was still years away, but that I wasn't going on any mission and I didn't want to get married anyway. She relented, asking me to think long and hard about it, but the impression I got was that she didn't seem keen. I was surprised at this, I knew she had stopped going because it wasn't right for her, but it didn't seem fair at the time that should impact on me. As for my Dad, well, I suspected he would be even less keen on the idea, so I decided not to mention it to him, my Mum agreed.

Thursday evening arrived and I was looking forward to the fireside. Brother Howard was going to be attending. It was something he apparently did from time to time and with the usual attendees being the Sternburgs and Rachel Gorman, both of whom I wasn't particularly close to, I was looking forward to having someone else there. Don' t misunderstand, there was nothing wrong with either the Sternburgs or Rachel, it was just they were not the kind of people at 14 I was particularly interested in. The Sternburgs just seemed "odd". I didn't truthfully know exactly what it was, but they were just odd. Carol Sternburg at times, gave me uncomfortable looks, stares and odd glances, however she did that with a number of people not just me, but usually males! Rachel was nice enough, but it was difficult talking to her. I suppose I was a child finding myself amongst a lot of adult company a large portion of the time and I was learning a lot about adult behaviour,not just the practices of a new religion. I suppose looking back, what adult would want to talk with a 14 year old and build a relationship with them, they had other things on their minds. Take Rachel for example, it had been clear to me for weeks she had a " thing" for Elder Finchley. What I was less certain about was whether Finchley knew it and if he did, what would he do about it? I think this was another reason I didn't' really get to know Rachel particularly well, she was always occupied with Finchley at any fireside meeting, and in our Sunday school meetings on a Sunday, she was totally uninterested and very anonymous. I couldn't really weight up whether it was the church or a particular young missionary she was interested in.

Thursdays' fireside was no different, she parked herself next to him on the sofa and for a moment, if you saw them, you would have sworn they were dating. Finchley , like many of the Mormons I had met, was very "touchy-feely", it seemed natural to them. And so it was difficult for me to pin point if Finchley was interested in Rachel as more than a new recruit.
Brother Howard gave a short talk at the fireside, the subject of which escapes me, after which we had a chat. The thing I liked about Brother Howard was that he always appeared genuine in any conversation he had. I didn't detect anything "false" He was, as I have already mentioned, down to earth and very much a family man - but he too had this tendency to be a little touchy - feely amongst the female members, I didn't for a minute suspect anything untoward, it was just the way they were, hugging and holding hands and sometimes a small kiss. I wasn't certain if I would be too fond of all that, thankfully I'm of the male species and didn't have to worry I suppose. But I wouldn't be putting my arms around any female members and giving them hugs just yet. Towards the end of the fireside, Brother Howard invited the me and the elders to Sunday dinner this weekend after church , I was glad to be asked and I said I that I would like to go, the elders accepted the offer too. Brother Howard suggested I check with my parents first, but I told him I'm sure it would be fine. He went onto to add that Grant and Charles Jr would be there as well as Sarah and it would give me a chance to spend some time with them Sarah lived in her own small bungalow which was directly behind his home. Charles Jr was still at home and Grant was back there too since leaving the army. Of course he was engaged to be married, so he wouldn't be there for too long. I was looking forward to it. Brother Howard went on to say that his youngest son Marcus would be coming home in a few weeks for a visit too, so I would get to meet him. He also mentioned the trip to Port Elizabeth in April, he wanted to know if I would be coming along, I told him I wasn't sure yet, he encouraged me to go, saying that all the youth were going, Harvey and Jamie, Shane and Craig too. That somehow put a dampener on it, did I really want to spend a weekend with someone I didn't like...however on the flip side there would be a lot of people who I got on with great, so why should I let Craig Hindley ruin things. I told him I would let Grant know this weekend, which meant I had to get my parents OK on it before Sunday. I didn't see why they should mind, and anyway, it was during the school holidays.

Sister Meiring was her usual gracious self, cakes and refreshments, she was feeling better since her bug kept away from church on Sunday. Robert and Carol Sternburg talked about their ebuilding work at home and how well it was coming on. Not exactly earth breaking conversation, but nevertheless, they were excited about it. Rachel Gorman was engrossed in conversation with Finchley as per the norm and Paul Meiring was telling all about a rugby match he was going to on Saturday, one that the elders were going to also apparently. Rather them than me I thought.

However by the end of the evening I had started to really understand and see the point of these weekly firesides. It was very much supposed to be a family gathering, where people talked together, prayed together, almost bonding under the common roof of the church. I always enjoyed spending time with Finchley and Crane in particular, I viewed them as "older brothers" and I trusted them , that was important to me. They had been good to me, this evening had been another example, when Brother Howard extended his invitation to Sunday dinner, I had noticed they waited for my reply before giving theirs. Once they realised I wanted to accept, so did they. They didn't have to spend the afternoon at the Howards', but because I wanted to and they knew I had no transport there and then back home to King Williams Town, they had agreed to go.

After saying my goodbyes to the elders and arriving back home that evening, I had some homework to do. I spoke briefly to my Mum and Dad and gave them a run down of the evening, including my invitation to Sunday dinner at the Howards'. It meant I would be leaving the house at 09.00am Sunday and not back again until at least 6.00 pm that evening, but they could see no harm in me going, I was with the elders. I headed to my bedroom and tried to make a start on it, I couldn't be bothered though. There were things running through my mind, things I needed to decide. There was the small matter of the weekend away in Port Elizabeth and getting my parents OK and then there was a much larger matter . which at some point I would need to decide one way or another. Baptism. Was it too soon? Was it what I really wanted? Would my parents allow it? Should I even need their permission to do it? Although no pressure was being put on me, I knew deep down that these questions would need addressing, and in the not too distant future. It was fast approaching decision time.

NEXT TIME: Dinner for 9

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