April 15, 1 p.m.
The OCeeker pulled into the parking lot with the alt-country stylings of Ryan Bingham
ambling out of his car stereo, taking one last drag from a lung dart and checking out the fairer sex.
Per capita, the Latter-Day saints have the hottest church chicks the OCeeker has ever seen. If white women are your thing. Only one problem. A lot of them are lactating. Young Mormon men apparently enjoy missionary, and we're not talking trips to Tierra del Fuego.
As he saw a steady stream of young women and their blonde angels in tow, the OCeeker couldn't help but think the Mormon bucks had taken their cue from that old western swing classic "Catch 'Em Young, Treat 'Em Rough, Tell 'Em Nothin'".
He strolled into the standard-issue ward building, a white-washed edifice sans a cross. LDS members say the cross is the symbol of Christ's death, and Jesus is living, so they chucked the cross as a prominent symbol of their faith. Critics have suggested the church banned the cross because it looks "too Catholic".
To his surprise, when the OCeeker got inside, he saw a hallway full of Mexi-Mormons. They were congregating around the Relief Society Room.
Nearly every man in the building sported a jacket or tie, or both, while the OCeeker rocked the Levi's as he took his place in the back row of the chapel, a bland little hall of white brick on the sides, and dark brick backing a stage filled with benches and a pulpit made of wood. Yes, there was a black person there. The OCeeker sat next to him.
Older white folks took charge of the proceedings. The service was conducted by 1st Counselor Craig Moffatt, and began with a sleepy version of the hymn "Behold! A Royal Army", led by chorist Bruce Carter and organist Georgia Urrelo, who could give Nancy Bea Hefley a run for her money. Over the din of barking babies, we sang about marching "with banner, sword and shield" to conquer on "life's great battlefield".
Lucine Fox gave the invocation, thanking Heavenly Father for the recent rain, and praying that it will "give us the moisture that we will need throughout the year."
Make it rain, Lucine!
A Sober Communion
After the invocation and some announcements about ward business, we launched into a comatose version of Isaac Watts' "He Died, the Great Redeemer Died". So did the OCeeker's soul. He never thought he would say this, but two tunes into an LDS service, the OCeeker had a hankerin' for some hipster-led praise. Mix in a guitar, Mormons. The only redeeming moments came as the mommies repeatedly had to give their young Brighams and Isabels a timeout, giving the OCeeker a peek at their comeliness. The church talks often about getting a "burning in the bosom" as a confirmation of truth. The OCeeker felt a burning, but it wasn't in his bosom. Time to wash the sacred underwear.
And oh Hell, here came communion.
A cadre of clean-cut brothers in the Aaronic Priesthood handed out the bread, which was, appropriately, white. Some of you sticklers who like to have Bible fights may want to know that the bread was leavened, which some say is symbolic of sin.
The only person inside who spoke to the OCeeker was one of the Aaronic priesters handing out the bread.
The OCeeker: "Do I pass it?"
Aaronic Priest: "Yeah."
Ah, the hospitality.
Then it was time to drink the blood. A male Mormon up front prayed partly in King James English for God to "bless and sanctify this water" and . . . what the fuck?! Water? Water?!
Now, the OCeeker gives the evangelicals a pass for drinking grape juice during communion. The 12-steppers need Jesus too. But goddammit Mormons, you've taken your teetotaling too far! Jesus said a servant is not above his master. So if, at the end of what sounded like a wild wedding party, he turned water into wine, then the least you people can do is get your Utah Jazz-lovin' asses to BevMo! and turn two bucks into a Boone's Farm blessing. (Forgive them Father, they ain't know what the fuck they was doin'.)
Getting Testy During the Testimonials
After the watered-down communion, it was time for the "Bearing of Testimonies". Emphasis on the word "bearing". Job may have cursed God if he had to sit through it. LDS folks know their church is true, simply because, well, they know it's true. That's really how they put it. During their testimonies, several saints mentioned that they know the church and its books, such as Doctrines and Covenants and The Book of Mormon, are true. Uh, true dat?
The OCeeker has heard church testimonies before. They typically involve Jesus saving people from stuff the rest of us don't want to be saved from: women, whiskey and victorious acts of violence. The LDS did it up different-like.
Moffett led off the testimonies by telling the story of how he shared his faith with two confused Jews from Israel. It was raining and he was drinking Gatorade.
"First of all they didn't know that we were Christian, and I assured them that yes, we believe that the Messiah is Jesus," he said.
He shared with them that the LDS church today has a prophet to whom God speaks. The Jews apparently didn't pull the Moses card on Moffett. The moral of the story for a teary-eyed Moffett: it took a storm to share his testimony, which caused him to wonder how many other opportunities he had missed to do so.
And so it went.
Carter talked about sharing in the LDS faith with his golf buddies, and how spiritual music can get us closer to God. He plays golf in Tustin Ranch. A little girl said she knew "this church is true" and Jesus loves us very much. Tell that to the Calvinists, pipsqueak.
An older woman compared people to bent nails that hold stronger when they are straightened out and reused. She also said LDS people have the truth more than any other person in the world, and Joseph Smith was a prophet.
A young woman mentioned that she is the only saint in her family, and said she does know that her faith and church are true, "that it all fits." Oh, and she also said people try to find character flaws with the church's prophets.
Yeah, like Joseph Smith adding himself into Scripture: "a seer will I raise up...and his name shall be called Joseph, and it shall be after the name of his father..." (Genesis. 50:30-33, Joseph Smith Translation, really, the OCeeker isn't making this up); or that he plagiarized swaths of verses from the King James Bible when the golden plates from which he received heavenly revelations in upstate New York circa 1823 weren't working; or that he had enjoyed multiple women at the same time and codified the practice in Doctrines and Covenants, 132; or that the state of Missouri ran his ass out in 1839; or that in 1844 he was thrown into an Illinois jail for treason and killed by a mob before his planned escape.
Oh well. God uses bent nails.
Another woman went on several tangents, including one about Tolstoy and tornadoes. At this point, the OCeeker saw three men sleeping, including the Asian man next to him whose limp hand rested on the thigh of his hot Latina babe.
Two young men spoke. The OCeeker couldn't see rings on their fingers, and he looked on because the men seemed to be running game on the babes in attendance. The first had 1990s floppy hair and ran Intellectual Game by talking about Aristotle's dialogues. The second was a proto-Mormon and he ran Sensitive Guy Game by crying and telling stories about his missions work.
Sandwiched between the two was a black woman who asked us if we there when our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified. Um, no?
The meeting was closed with the appropriately titled "The Time is Far Spent", and a benediction by Richard Fox, who also prayed in a modified King James English.
Even the bevy of babes couldn't save the service from the OCeeker's wrath. He gave it an F for "fuck me, I missed most of the Lakers game for this."
A final note. The saints don't drink caffeine. Naturally, the OCeeker approached a lovely brunette outside and asked, "Do you guys have a Coke machine?"
The Tustin Meadows Ward meets every Sunday at 1 p.m. at 1800 San Juan St., Tustin; 714-838-9097