Encounter with Mormon missionaries

    June 1998         
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Jewish Blood

by Sonia Pressman Fuentes 1996

  In the summer of 1980, when my eight-year old daughter Zia and I were alone one day in our Stamford, Connecticut, home, there was a knock at the door. I answered it to find two men, each about twenty years old, dressed in dark suits. They identified themselves as Mormons who were there to convert us. I was about to shut the door when one of them mentioned the name Sharolyn Hales.

  Six years earlier, I had hired a young Mormon woman from Utah as a mother's helper for the summer. That young woman was Sharolyn Hales, and she was a godsend. She was one of six children and, at eighteen, she knew more about cooking and taking care of a house and child than I did at fifty-two. In addition to these abilities, she played the piano and had a lovely singing voice. It was a delight to have her with us.

  When one of these two young men mentioned that they had been sent by Sharolyn, I could not refuse to let them in. It turned out they were missionaries who were devoting two years of their lives, as young Mormon men were encouraged to do, to proselytizing. They were there to teach us the Gospel, convert us from Judaism to Mormonism, and discuss our future baptism.

  They seated themselves in the living room with Zia and me and began to extol the virtues of Mormonism. They started by telling us that Mormons were probably descended from one of the ten lost tribes of Israel, so we were all of the same religion to begin with. Then, one of them said he had spoken to God. This aroused my intense interest. I began to press him for details. When was this? Was it on a Wednesday? What time of day or night was it? What was God wearing? What did God look like? Was God male, female, or some genderless spectral form? My questions were endless.

  Faced with all these queries, to my disappointment, the young man backed off. He admitted that he himself hadn't actually spoken to God; another Mormon man had, however, and had told him about it. God hadn't actually referred to Zia and me by name, but he clearly implied that He wanted people like us to become Mormons.

  The two young men stayed about half an hour, at the end of which I told them that if Zia and I decided to convert to Mormonism, we'd certainly credit them with the conversion.

  When they left, I said, "Zia, do you know what those young men wanted us to do? They wanted us to convert, to change from Judaism to Mormonism"

  Zia said, "But, Mommy, we can't change from Judaism. We have Jewish blood."

  I explained to her that the term "Jewish blood" had no grounding in reality, that it was just an expression used in connection with Jews, and that everyone had the same type of blood. "You mean everyone is A positive?" she asked.

  That did it. I went right out and bought her a book on the circulatory system. She learned that we didn't have Jewish blood. But we didn't convert to Mormonism either.

1996 Sonia Pressman Fuentes

This story was previously published in Humanistic Judaism 24.4 (Autumn 1996): 34.

This piece is an excerpt from Ms. Fuentes' memoirs, Eat First -- You Don't Know What they'll Give You. Ms. Fuentes, who can be reached at sfuentes@erols.com, does readings from her memoirs for a fee plus expenses.


from theJune 1998Edition of the Jewish Magazine

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