Today I took my car in for repairs. As their shuttle service would not take me beyond a ten mile radius of their shop I walked around the strip mall and did some browsing while the mechanics took apart my vehicle. I walked into a bookstore, Desert Books, and found something truly amazing.
I strolled in to see a store not unlike most that sell literature, but I noticed it had statues of angels and paintings of a Christian nature. A religious bookstore? Hmm. Nothing out of the ordinary really. I've been to many a store that targeted various faiths whether they be Pagan, New Age, Christian, or Eastern philosophies, but something told me that this place was different. Unbeknowst to me at that moment I had treaded upon new waters.
A guy in a white button down shirt approached me and asked if I needed help. I was curious about their bible section and what different versions of it they had in stock. About then I noticed another employee there in a similar shirt. Hmm.
I then glanced to the new releases section to find books about the Prophet Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. Ye Gods I'm in a Mormon book store!
I stopped for a second to ponder this. I've never seen a book store, nor any store for that matter, that dedicated themselves strictly to the faith of the LDS church. I then remembered that a LDS Temple, which is supposed to be a big deal to people in the religion, was located behind the strip mall so really the location was brilliant.
Now most people would back away, thank the staff politely for their interest in their Mormon needs, and walk calmly, if not in full sprint, out the store. Me; however, made no such dash into the great abyss of secularism. I figured if anything this experience would be good fodder for this blog.
Don't say I don't suffer for my art.
Now if you're wanting to hear me to bash the principles of the faith then read no further. While I agree Mormons can be great targets of parody (Orgazmo) or out right ridicule their concepts of faith really aren't that much more strange than many religions that span our shrinking planet. What I will point out is their choice in entertainment.
I first opened up a Bible which had notes by Joseph Smith. Most of it was in the Old Testament, or Five Books of Moses if you will, and cited many stories and related them to the Nephites who, according to Smith, was a civilization that rivaled the Egyptians and Incans and inhabited the Americas. According to the Book of Mormon they even predate the American Indians.
Now this was more interesting than entertaining. Time to move onto another shelf. Oooohhh. Mormon games!
Yes they had a small board game section, which had various games such as Monopoly and religious trivia. What struck me was the Book of Mormon Chess. Yes you read that right. They have a Book of Mormon Chess.
Now they make chess games after many themes such as Civil War, King Aurthur, Looney Tunes, and Star Trek, but never have I seen it used with religious figures. This set apparently takes the heroes and villains during the Nephite era and correspond them with various pieces.
I was holding the box trying to picture men in black ties playing the great strategy game when out of the corner of my eye was the DVD section. Oh comedy gold.
They did have a load of mainstream films such as Napoleon Dynamite (which I hear was created by a Mormon), Phantom of the Opera, and Pride and Prejudice. They also had various non-fiction titles ranging from the history of the church to the 'lies' of porn. One documentary called American Mormon: People say the Darnedest Things about Mormons was about two guys who traversed the landscape of the US finding people uneducated about the LDS faith and asking them questions that they feel everyone should know.
There were many other low budget fiction titles centered around Mormon themes, but one stood out like a burly man at Lilith Fair. Yes it caught my eye immediately and for a few moments I was transfixed upon it.
The title was Mobsters and Mormons. From reading the jacket it seemed almost a companion piece to that bad Bruce Willis movie 'The Whole Nine Yards". The plot is about a mob family that goes into the witness protection program and is sent to Utah to live. As most fish out of water stories they have trouble blending in with the LDS community. I've never seen the film, but I expect the plot to be about as thick as the Matthew Perry film. Hell the dialogue may be better, but it didn't have Amanda Peet, which is key.
As I stood there holding the DVD in disbelief an employee asked me if I needed more help. He showed me the history section which contained some impressive titles such as 1776. I found a good book actually, 1942, and picked it up along with a copy of Rear Window, one of my favorite Hitchcock films.
The Mormon clerk and I struck up a conversation about history books and old films and while I bet the man did indeed escort a relative to the prom I found myself liking him. Sure he may believe in things you and I think are odd, maybe even insane, but as other practicing Mormons I know he seemed like a genuine chap. I felt I could ask him about anything and I would get an honest, convicted, and unapologetic answer. To his credit he seemed aware that I'm indeed not Mormon, but he made no attempt to convert me to his faith. If only so many of us in the secular world would act accordingly.
"In your hands or that of any other person, so much power would, no doubt, be dangerous. I am the only man in the world whom it would be safe to trust with it. Remember, I am a prophet!" - Joseph Smith