As most know, Utah was "originally" settled by mormons (Church of Jesus Christ of Ladder Day Saints) and is now a stonghold state for the religion. I didn't know this fact upon considering a move to Utah and only heard rumblings prior to the move. I never felt bothered by the control the "church" held over local media, politics and alchohol when we initially moved to Salt Lake. It seemed the more I paid attention to the church influence, the more I got aggravated by the situation. So instead of getting angry at local news headlines providing details of a missionary lost in Peru, I decided it best to ignore all things church. This approach went smoothly until we moved into hour house and instantly became the newest project for the local mormon ward.
If I focus hard enough, I can imagine the neighborhood mormons meeting in a dark church backroom discussing their next approach to converting the Armstrongs. We were barraged with invites to join nerdy couples for game night, parties at the ward and opportunities to volunteer as a Boy Scout Leader. Game night and ward parties were definitely out but I was sucked into the Boy Scouts due to my background and willingness to get involved in the community. This may have been a big mistake since the Boy Scout program in Utah is intertwined with the mormon church. Before I knew it, I was at the ward with even more of the neighborhood eyeing me as new income.
Long story short, I fought off the invitations to join the church and most all the neighborhood has accepted the fact that I will never join their club. Unfortunately, an older member of the local ward is yet to get the memo and continues his duty; trying to recruit the Armstrongs as new members to pump up church coffers. His latest attempt is in italics below, a long read but some great points are made.
Dear Matt and Sarah, 2-14-2009
I have been thinking of you a lot the last two or three months but have been unable to make contact with you. I think I owe you an apology! I could not find your telephone number when I first looked for it--in the safe place I thought I had kept it--so I went over to your house a couple of times just before Christmas. Since you were not home at that time, I kept searching for that telephone number for what I thought was your cell phone, Matt, and left a message for you to call me when it was convenient. You may have been out of town or some way did not get the message.
One of the reasons I wanted to visit with you was to share something with you that is precious to me and I believe that it is also precious to both of you. Quite some time ago I handed you a cheap copy of the Book of Mormon--it was the only extra copy I had. I thought I would have time to tell you a little about that book and the reason I wanted to share it with you. However, I had not made an appointment with you for doing so and consequently couldn't stay and tell you anything about it because of commitments you had at the time. As it turned out all I did was hand it to you without any explanation.
Our full-time missionaries came by our house one day and asked if I knew anyone who may want to hear a little more about our church and how it came to be. I told them about two families, one of them being my good friends Matt and Sarah Armstrong. However, I told them that I would not feel comfortable about them going to knock on your door or call upon you or speak to you about these things without my first touching base with you to see if that would meet with your approval. I let them know that I had not spoken to either of you on things related to the book I gave you and that our association has primarily been focused on things related to scouting and the environmental science merit badge. I hope they did not violate my request--which they do not go to see you without checking back with me.
As you already know, some of the Christian churches in the world blatantly accuse members of our church of not being Christian. Inasmuch as I know that you are both actively involved in the Catholic Church, you would both have feelings of respect and faith related to the
Savior's teachings and example and the infinite power of his mission in the Plan of Salvation, including his Atoning Sacrifice. About one year ago in March , the monthly magazine called the Ensign contained a special feature primarily focused on helping people to understand how members of our church feel about the Lord Jesus Christ, including things pertaining to his helping to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of mankind. I believe that both of you will find these principles of truth to be very enlightening, especially in light of the fact that you have many friends all around you in this community who think highly of you and would love to share with you any common ground on which we stand.
Each one of these articles given in this magazine will help magnify your understanding and feelings of faith and hope related to the Savior's mission. As you get near the end of this magazine, starting on page 68, you will find what is referred to as plain and precious truths. In one column is doctrine. The second column contains scriptures from the Bible related to that doctrine. The third column contains teachings related to that doctrine that is expanded upon by modern prophets and apostles, some of which are considered as modern scripture. As you probably already know, we believe the Bible and the book of Mormon to be the Word of God as far as they are translated correctly.
With your permission I will get a better copy of the Book of Mormon and give it to you as a gift. I would hate for you to feel pressure from me to investigate these things but I would love to take a few minutes of your time and help answer questions you may have or help explain to you some of the things I have felt in the past that has urged me and almost pushed me out the door to share some of this with you. Ever sense you moved into the home where you now live, and I became acquainted with you, I have had these feelings that perhaps you were led to this place for a very special reason--reasons related to your divine destiny and to receiving additional understanding of the meaning and purpose of life.
I know you are already doing meaningful things with your family, work, and volunteer service. I have felt for some time that there are many different experiences for you to have in the kingdom of the Lord-- significant spiritual experiences where your influence for good will be felt by many other people. In some cases that which you say and do to help others will, actually, help accomplish the Lord's purposes in their lives. While doing so, you will certainly help accomplish His purposes in your own personal lives.
If it is possible for the two of you, with your busy schedules the way they are, to allow me to come into your home, where we can discuss some of these things, or help answer questions you have related to any of this, please give me a call. Another alternative would, of course, be to let me know you would like me to just get lost and leave you alone.
Since I am retired from the everyday time schedule of going to work to earn a living on a specific job, I would be able to meet your time schedule--if you would like to get together and discuss some of these things. I guess what I'm saying is that if I don't quite finish what I plan to do today, it is okay because tomorrow is just another Saturday for those of us who are retired from the full-time work force. Most of what I do now is volunteer service in the community, in the Church, and of course in the family--1 don't know how I ever had time to go to work! Two weeks ago two great grandsons were born--our 17th and our 18th great-grandchildren. Three of our grandchildren are now serving full-time missions for our Church. As you likely know, they pay their own way performing those 24 months of full-time service. Veva and I do give some financial help to them. One is in Frankfurt Germany, one is in San Jose, California, and one is in Chicago, Illinois.
I didn't get to see you at the Eagle Court of Honor we had a few months back where six of our young men received their Eagle Scout award. I didn't call you and ask you to come because at that time I could not find your phone number. I didn't continue to worry about it much because I figured some of those young men would have called you and let you know about it.
Inasmuch as I have not been successful in finding you home when I visit your house, I will just send this in a snail mail package.
Respectfully yours, Dell Harmon
While I still have respect for my old friend Dell, I still cannot understand why mormon church members believe so strongly that everyone should want to join their club. I have many mormon friends who have never brought their religion up during conversation and wouldn't think of trying to "recruit" me. Unfortunately, some just don't get it. I will try to let Dell down soflty and hope he may finally get the message that you can be good friends/neighbors with someone of a different religion.