Delusions of the Nazi Amish
by rock oakeson
Let me be clear: I am a Jew. My parents made it to Utah from the Ukraine via Russia, Switzerland and New York—but they made it. Just in time for me to be born in Murray, Utah. Yippee.
More clarity: My friend Nelson Yellowfeather is a Navajo Native American. His parents made it to New Mexico via their ancestors who made it to this continent from East Asia via the Bering Straits. Got it? Nelson and I are close, but ethnically and genetically unrelated. That is all you need to know in order to see through the kind of misinformation one might receive when attending a BYU “Sacrament Meeting” on a Sunday.
Why I said “Yes” when a strange man from this BYU ward phoned me out of the blue and asked me to play a piano solo for this meeting—I’ll never know. What a mistake. But my friend Nelson, who now studies medicine at the University of Utah, said he would be glad to come with me to give me moral support. (Besides, I think he likes to listen to me perform)
Sunday comes, and we drive to Provo. Nelson tells me that the entire Utah County looks to him like a computer-generated graphic. I agree. But even Luke Skywalker’s home planet of Tattooine, with its Mos Eisley cantina, had a more realistic-looking population. We eventually exit the freeway and head toward the campus. “Welcome to BYU,” I tell Nelson. “The headquarters of the Nazi Amish.”
Trying to find the Eyring Science Building is not easy. It is one of the older buildings toward the south end of campus, and seems completely inappropriate for a church service. When we finally find it, we walk in and look for the man who called me on the phone. I don’t know what he looks like, but his name is LaMonte. Nelson, trying to be funny in this absurd situation, says he knows the only way to find him. Loudly, he shouts “LaMonte” into the foyer crowd. Embarrassed, I motion to him to shush up. But when nine guys and three girls walk toward us from different parts of the foyer and ask if we had called, we sorted out the LaMonte we were looking for.
“Hi! LaMonte DeeWayne Christensen here. You must be Rock?” I nod at him. “Thank you for joining with us this day to share your talents and partake of our fine spirit. The Lard will be pleased.” The Lard? Yep, you betcha. This is prime Utahspeak. I ask him if there is a restroom and a drinking fountain somewhere. “The restrooms are over in yon corner, but I can’t let you imbibe liquid and break your fast. The entire church membership world-wide is fasting today in honor of President Sum Dum Fuk, remember? He is our first General Authority from Southeast Asia, and he has a brain disease—just as it was announced last night on KSL.” I tell him that I don’t belong to his yon church and say that I only want water. “Well, you have journeyed all the way from the Great Salt Lake Valley to partake with us today. I suppose Father will forgive you a very small swallow, Brother. Imbibe with caution.” Before journeying to the restroom I turn and look at Nelson, who is holding his mouth and sweating from attempts to suppress his unrighteous chokes of laughter.
Eventually, after feeling obligated to shake hands with people with names like LaMoyne, LaFawn, LaDawn, and LaNetta, Nelson and I are herded with about 200 twenty-somethings into one of the stadium-like lecture halls. This one seems to contain a chemistry lab of some sort. The tiny wooden spinet piano at the bottom of the stadium seats seems out of place here—kind of like this entire socio-religious delusion. I play a few quick chords on the piano to see what I am in for, and it is severely out of tune. The F# above middle-C doesn’t work at all. I smell LaMonte’s sour breath as he comes from behind me and says, “Might not be the best pee-aner on campus, but it makes the Lard happy.” I indicate that an F# might make Him even happier. (How would anybody here know?)
Eventually I play my Debussy Sarabande. Finished, I stand and get ready to acknowledge the applause. But there is none. No eye contact, no smiles, no acknowledgment of any kind on any of the 200 faces. Would they have been more responsive if that damned F# had not been missing? I return to my seat next to Nelson, and he tilts his head toward me and whispers quietly, “The F# isn’t the only thing missing in this group.”
The main speaker was next. Some ultra-tall, ultra-thin blond-haired blue-eyed young man with a sketchpad steps up to the old, wobbling wooden podium. He looked about 6-foot 10-inches and 140 pounds. No doubt the result of polygamous inbreeding. Nelson leans toward me again and points out that he and I are the only people in the room without blond hair and blue eyes. The truth of this hits me and feels creepy. The speaker begins.
“I’m LaDean Sorenson, and as you know, I am an art major. I’d like to talk about how the Lamanites came from Israel originally. They are descendants of the Jews. The Book of Mormon says so.” Nelson informs me that “Lamanites” is a term that refers to Native American Indians. LaDean continues: “If you were to ask the National Geographic Society or the Smithsonian Institute, they would probably laugh at this. But this is only further evidence that Satan has gained control of the so-called research institutions of the world!”
He opens his sketchpad and continues. “I have made quite a study, myself, of how similar the Lamanites are to the Jews, both physically and facially. Using the talents our Heavenly Father has bestowed upon me, I have sketched what a typical Native American’s face looks like.” He holds up a pencil drawing of what looks like the face of a gorilla. “Notice the high cheekbones, the very round, large face, and the eyes set wide apart. And also notice that he is wearing the traditional feather headpiece. Quite amazing, isn’t it!” I am embarrassed for the lack of artistic skill in this post-pubescent boy, and quietly assure Nelson that he is better looking than a gorilla.
Nelson leans toward me again and very seriously whispers that, if LaDean stuck out his tongue, he would look like a zipper. Then the medical doctor side of him emerges. “He is so thin! How messed up is that? His heart must have to work overtime to pump any blood that high up his narrow frame.” I assure Nelson that LaDean’s heart is fine, even if he has to jump around in the shower to get wet.
LaDean continues, turning a page in his sketchbook. “Now, let me show you my next sketch. It is what a typical Jew’s face looks like.” He holds up a caricature of Woody Allen—the kind you can have drawn at the Utah State Fair for $35, which is the cost of a Pepsi there as well. “Notice how similar to the Lamanite’s face this looks, even though the Jew’s eyes are quite close together, there are virtually no cheek bones, and the face is very small, oval and narrow. But Ohmyheck! Look at the Jew’s headpiece. He, too, is wearing something on his head. They call it a yawrmulkeh, but it is still a headpiece. The similarity to Lamanites who wear stuff on their heads is uncanny!” Nelson and I flash each other an “it is uncanny indeed” kind of look. We are having one of those a-ha! experiences together. We just want to flabbergast all over the floor.
“So, I bear you my testimony that, whenever you see a Jew or a Native American, you will see how similar they are in stature and face. And you will know why! The Lamanites came from Israel. They are the same race, separated in 600 B.C.!” LaDean closes and sits down behind the podium. I momentarily wonder just how many Jews these Provolonians would see here in Happy Valley. The meeting closes with a hymn with words I didn’t get. Yoohoo unto Jesus…, or something like that.
Nelson and I stand up, anxious to get our Israeli asses out of the building and away from this man-made mythology nightmare. “So, how you doin’, Cousin?” asks Nelson in a Joey Tribbiani impersonation as we desperately attempt to dodge the 200 saltine bodies quickly exiting into the foyer. I am afraid that LaMonte might try to find me to thank me for partaking in yon service this day. But just our luck: not LaMonte, but LaDean spots us and grabs my arm. He has quite a grip for a zipper.
“That was a mighty fine treat you played for us there on that pee-aner.”
Doesn’t anybody in Utah County know how to pronounce that word correctly?
“I was just wondering what you thought of my wonderful talk and sketches,”
he asked with eyebrows raised higher than his hairline. I tell him that they
were probably faith promoting for that particular audience and that one can
have faith in anything unless he is well informed. LaDean appeared not to
understand the sentence. So he looks at Nelson, and asks me, “Is this your
friend?” I say yes and introduce him to Nelson. They shake hands. Now for
the irony of ironies:
LaDean asks, “Nelson is an interesting name for a Chinese guy. How did your parents come up with it?” Nelson looks quickly at me, and I almost choke on LaDean’s revealing ignorance. Nelson starts to tell him that he isn’t Chinese, but then stops abruptly mid-sentence. I know what he is up to, and I smile broadly at Nelson.
“Yep, I am Chinese. You betcha I am. Ohbygolly, how did you know that, LaDean?”
“I can tell by your face, silly!” answered the artist and academician.
I step in quickly and ask, “So you don’t think Nelson and I look alike? What if I told you we were distant relatives? His family left my village many years ago and settled elsewhere overseas, so we are related. Or don’t you think so, LaDean?”
He chuckles loudly and says, “C’mon, get serious!” Then, bewildered, he quickly turns and finds another scholar to chat with.
When out of the building, we run like hell for the car.