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Thursday, March 30, 2006 


The world of Mormonism is so small, and the descendants of polygamy are so numerous, that you, reader, know a cousin of just about any Mormon on Earth. That is, if they actually knew all the names of their 80 or so cousins.

My family is not like that. My mother was a convert and my father's family converted when he was a kid. I have a few cousins, but not that many. I've never discovered a secret connection between myself and another Mormon. One of the things I worried about/secretly hoped for when I started blogging was to run into someone I knew in real life. I shouldn't have worried; so far, I haven't met a soul.

I somehow avoided attending BYU through a stroke of sheer luck (and the good folks at [censored]'s scholarship office), so I don't have that hub of connections. I served in a large mission, but my fellow RMs seem to be singularly incurious about the bloggernacle. My father served as a mission president, and I must have known hundreds of missionaries who filed through that mission, too. Apparently, they can't read. I grew up in suburban Salt Lake, for heaven's sake! And there's nobody I know online? Well, we did have a terrible student/teacher ratio, but I refuse to believe that no one from my childhood has a computer and an interest in Mormonism.

The closest I've ever come to a Mormon coincidence happened during my (very) brief re-activation last spring. At the time, I was working in a very large law firm. If you'll remember, I would show up at the chapel just as Sacrament Meeting started and then leave immediately after the closing prayer, to avoid having to talk to anyone. As the ward was overflowing, no one ever paid me any attention.

The second Sunday I was attending, I noticed a blond man who looked very familiar entering the chapel just ahead of me. He had his wife and several kids with him and he held the door for me. There weren't a lot of spaces left in the chapel, so I ended up sitting in the pew right in front of his family. I couldn't place the man, and I thought that maybe I knew him from the mission or from growing up in Utah.

The Sacrament meeting passed without incident (except for the always embarrassing refusal of sacrament that makes you feel like you're in a white-hot spotlight) and I left without approaching or being approached by the man. By now I was certain I'd met him before, but I had absolutely no idea where.

Imagine my surprise when I saw him in the bathroom at work on Monday. Not only did he work at my firm, he worked on my floor, about ten feet from my office. He was a lawyer and I was support staff, so we never had any interaction. He must have been so familiar to me solely from passing him in the floor's only bathroom.

Even though I recognized him, I didn't say anything to him, and he didn't say anything to me. And even though we ran into each other a couple times a week coming or going from the bathroom or elevator for the next six months (until I finally moved away), we never exchanged words.

I still don't know if he just never recognized me, or if he recognized me at church the first time, and since I didn't approach him there, assumed that I didn't want to talk about it (I didn't, really). Or maybe he is just extremely introverted, like me.

At any rate, it was the only time I experienced the very small world of Mormonism. And, odds are, he is somebody's cousin. Probably yours.

Posted by Ned Flanders.

Well, I wish I had known you , Ned.

I run into two fellow missionaries. One of them identified himself. The other one keeps hiding behind his cover. Part of the reason is probably that I am annoying him.

That's OK. It's my fault. :)

(I'ld still like to know who you are).

Thanks, Hellmut. I wish I'd known you too. I think your situation of having someone recognize you, but not reveal who they are, would be the most annoying.

I was a convert, but I married into a very old family. Cousins everywhere, even in West Texas. It's kind of cool.

Also, because of the vagaries of plural marriage, one of these cousins was both a 4th cousin and a third half-cousin.

Totally off-topic, Ned, every time I see your avatar, I start humming an old Elvis song.

In my ward, there are certain people that make it known that they're of pioneer stock. Here in Massachusetts, you see the same tendency with Mayflower descendants.

Though there are a few visible, vocal snobs about church genealogical heritage, most Mormons are converts or at least belong to 1st generation Mormon families. In our Elder's quorum last year, the Elder's quorum instructor asked for a show of hands to see who was a convert. More than 3/4 of the quorum raised their hands.

But I can understand why you didn't want any exchange of acknowledgments with this man. There's something comforting in knowing that someone doesn't feel obligated to pretend that they care.

Hey Ned,

There's something about the tone of this post that I really enjoy. Your genuine seperatness, yet curious attachment as an observer that wants to belong on your own terms. I identify with this.

I'm one of those Mormons you talk of...but I moved away from Utah and hide as much as possible to avoid those relationships. And on the 'nacle I get to be someone that most of my religious kin don't want to know anyway. It's definitely a trip, like living another life.

Then there are people like you and a few others who I really enjoy and who I feel comfortable around...even not knowing your other name. In fact, I like it this way.

If we ever meet, I'll always appreciate the fact that I first knew you as Ned, and didn't need to know any more to enjoy your company.

Thanks for your sympathy, Ned. On the other hand, I can't well expect people to reveal their identity just because I am posting open.

if you want them to come out of the woodwork, use your real name. and include your name, your father's name, your mission name, and your high school name in the tags of this or another blog where you post.

I guarantee people will find you. I somehow doubt that's what you want.

Now that I've said that--I'll say--I wish I had remained hidden in comfortable complete anonymity at my blog. I'm trying get back into that hiding place.

I always speak to people if they seem familiar to me; because as I get older, I don't remember people as well and I don't want to seem stuck up.

So I say, "Hi! do I look familiar to you?" And they tell me who they are and we have a nice conversation.

I have done it rarely to people who we are on the outs with. Then we just always speak.

Ann-- It's usually a bad sign when someone is related to you in two different ways (wink wink). Fortunately for you, these are your cousins via marriage only. Viva Las Vegas!

DKL-- I guess I never thought about it like that. But I did appreciate that he gave me my space.

Watt-- Thanks, Watt. That's a really nice sentiment. It's nice that we can retain some sort of anonymity yet still connect.

Hellmut-- I never thought about it before, but I am a hypocrite because I wanted to recognize people without them recognizing me. But I wouldn't drop them an anonymous email saying, "hey, I know you."

Machu Pichu-- You're right. If I revealed everything about myself, I would probably discover a connection to at least half a dozen people, but that's really not what I want. I will take your example as a cautionary one.

annegb-- That's funny. I usually just try to keep eye contact with them so they can say something.

The down-side is that I often "recognize" complete strangers, and they probably think I'm stalking them.

I've been posting on some really active XLDS interest sites for years -- giving a fair amount of identifying details -- and I still haven't accidentally encountered a relative or actual acquaintence.

The closest I've come have been some second-degree connections -- a guy who remembered my brother from the dorms at BYU, an acquaintence of a guy I dated, a guy who was friends with someone I worked with on the Student Review, a couple of people who remembered my contributions to that venerable publication ;^) -- but no direct connections.

Fabulous blog, guys!!!

And just to make my first comment here extra-snobby, I'll have you all know that not only am I from polygamous pioneer stock, I'm also a Mayflower descendant. :D

(Descended from Charlemagne, too, BTW, in case anybody cares. :D)

Since my friends keep leaving the LDS Church, I run into them all of the time! They just don't happen to get involved in the blogosphere or the XLDS boards.

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This Week's Topic:

  • The Sabbath Day

Various Authors

  • Monday:
    Kaycee opted out of Mormondom 4 years ago. She calls herself agnostic.
  • Tuesday:
    Sarah is not your average Gospel Doctrine Teacher.
  • Wednesday:
    Carrie Ann comes from pioneer stock, and lives in Provo, but is open minded and fair.
  • Thursday:
    Ned Flanders hasn't been to church in a while, but maintains an interest in all things Mormon.
  • Friday:
    John C. is an academic with a sense of humor and a testimony.
  • Saturday:
    JP's not going to church and feeling okay about it.

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