There was a baptism of one Aldo Fornigani by Elder Will. He had stayed a few days after his transfer to do it. Then Priesthood meeting. I directed the music all day. At Sunday School I gave a 2 1/2 minute talk. A President Jergins was here today from Milano. He is 2nd Councilor to President Downey. Then off to lunch and Maria Bergesio went with us as well as the zone leaders and President and Sister Jergins. Then we had a district meeting that was good with all the new elders. We reorganized study class and talked...We had a Fireside meeting in which we had a film strip on The Book of Mormon. A new teaching aid. Then we accompanied Al Will to the train. We had an excellent pizza on the way home then bed late.
The "2 1/2 minute talk" is a cultural tradition in the Mormon Church. It is an opportunity for many different church members, especially young people, to gain experience as public speakers. Each Sunday there are supposed to be at least two speakers with members rotating the responsibility among themselves. This happens as a tradition all over the world wherever the Mormons meet for Sunday School.
The "Fireside" meeting is another tradition that occurs on a less regular basis. The name is associated with less formal, home style meetings. The Fireside is the name given to a Sunday evening social event where, typically, Mormon young people mingle to share some interesting Gospel experience or lesson. The Mormons have many different meetings which all reinforce the ethnic nature of this religion and keep people engrossed, presumably.
The first regularly scheduled study class for the new group of elders and sisters included a Catholic religious orientation lesson presented by no less an expert than Elder Jack Lincoln.
I gave the lesson on Catholic communion, `Eucaristia.' Then we tried to contact the Basketball Federation, which took some doing...Jack was the only one among the group who had bothered to study the doctrines of the Catholic Church in any depth. He regarded the "mystery" of transubstantiation as an interesting principle.
The sacrament wafer was believed to be converted into the real blood and flesh of Christ rather than being a mere symbol. The Catholics preached this mysterious transformation as reality. They experienced a miracle each time they performed Mass. If one didn't believe, it was easy to ridicule. If you were into the belief, it created a strong and compelling attachment to the ritual of the Eucharist. Neither Jack nor the others appreciated the beauty of such a belief system. Jack had enough trouble with his own; the others were too thoroughly indoctrinated to be concerned.
Jack began in earnest to promote the basketball game. Apparently the Mormon team was having success racking up a winning record as a traveling team. He was still eager to see them play.
Stopped in at Stampa (newspaper) and talked to them about the basketball tournament...Then at 10:00 PM we had an appointment with the Federation of Basketball and we discussed plans. Got home late again, midnight.
Jack followed other leads for publicity and was inspired at the same time to put an ad in the paper for a new church building. He had never gone to that expense before but thought it was worth a try.
Had an appointment at the church with a Journalist. We discussed the coming events... Then stopped by a couple other newspapers and gave each a press notice.They counted all this as tracting time on their report. During the next week Jack was busy including 83 hours of activity, not all proselyting. He failed to keep daily entries in his diary but managed to summarize the important events.
Wednesday we met the basketball players at the station. We had arranged accommodations at the Youth Hostel for them. We checked on the basketball stadium.There was an excitement and enthusiasm in the air because of the pending sports event.
Thursday, up at 6:00 AM. We are having a getting up contest between the sisters and elders. We had breakfast at 8:30 with the players and sisters...
After breakfast we went to a street meeting. I did some interviewing along with Elder Seaburg. We even had a few appointments... After dinner we talked to a newspaper. We had to continue to arrange publicity. We got a couple of articles included. Then the basketball tournament started at 9:00 PM. The first game Faema di Casalis vs. Crocetta-Don Bosco. Faema won. Then us. While the team was warming up, Elder Milton broke the backboard. The glass shattered all over. We had to move everybody to another Gym. We lost to Ginastico Di Torino 51-48 in an exciting close game...Home to bed at 1:30.There wasn't a large crowd. In fact, Jack was a little disappointed considering all the publicity efforts he had made. But, this wasn't exactly the National Championship playoffs.
Elder Milton was one of those rowdy missionaries playing cards in Verona. He had practiced with Jack occasionally in Padova ten months earlier. All that seemed three years ago. He was the center, about 6' 3" tall. During warm-ups he went in for a dunk and caught his fingers on the end of the rim. This was just enough to set off a vibration through the tempered glass and shattered the backboard into two million pieces. He was visibly nonchalant about the event and was secretly a little proud of having challenged the facility and won. He was a hard case and Jack had never made friends with him.
The Basketball players were to teach as much as possible working with the local elders and expanding their numbers while in any particular city. Jack worked with Elder Seaburg again, but they did not have any serious discussion.
The tournament continued the next night. They played even better than the night before and the Mormons won easily against the Crocetta-Don Bosco; 72-57. This was the consolation match, so they ended the tournament with a third place finish. The Ginastico team won first place.
A curious thing happened in the evening. One of the sisters left her companion, Sister Perez, with the elders and went as a baby sitter to help a family. Sister Perez was upset. Since she had only recently come to Italy from her home in Spain, this separation confused her. She was a sensitive girl and wouldn't have complained to the district leader on her own, so she spoke to Jack. She only spoke a few words of Italian, no English and she only managed to speak to Jack because they both spoke a little French. She reminded Jack a little of Julie, short and completely feminine.
The next day before Sunday School Jack confronted her companion, Sister Smith, with the error of her ways.
"You know what you did last night was wrong. You're not supposed to leave your companion under any circumstances."
"I didn't go anywhere else. I was at the house of my investigators babysitting and she was with you. I didn't want to watch the game, I think that's a ridiculous way to do missionary work."
"It doesn't matter what you think. You really upset Sister Perez, she's just too shy to complain."
"No harm was done. Besides it's none of your business." She wasn't happy and talked back angrily.
"You're right about that, I'll let Elder Sherwood talk to you." Jack figured it was just the kind of problem for a new district leader, Elder Sherwood, who had also been one of the "twelve apostles."
"Here you go, Elder Sherwood, she's all yours."
"Well Sister Smith, if you want a transfer just ask for it. You don't have to go running off by yourself to communicate a problem to me. What do you want me to tell the president? What can I tell you to keep you from doing that again?" He was a decent guy and a little confused about what to do.
"Don't worry, nothing's wrong. I won't need to do that again. The next time the basketball team is here I'll find something else to do."
When she had gone, Jack just laughed. "It's your problem man. I'm glad it's you who has to deal with that strong headed woman."
Monday, November 13, came with more stormy weather. The study class was held in the afternoon.
I presented a lesson on Confession and Peter and the Rock. It went pretty good. Had three appointments during the day, one at 9:00 PM. Gave a Screening Discussion to a young girl who was interested but her brother was a real bum.
For Catholics, Confession is an important sacrament. They have the capability of going frequently and confessing to the Priest. Mormons are taught to do this in their own private prayers on a daily basis. But, the connection between Confession and Peter and the Rock is subtle and important. The foundation of the Restored Gospel is the "Rock" or Peter, who is considered to have been the first Bishop. The Bishop in the Mormon Church has the power to forgive sins and occasionally hears the confessions of members. This is treated more as a counseling session for extreme cases than a frequent, repeated ritual. The essence is the same.
The Bishop of a Ward, the next larger division of members after a Branch, has authority over the faith and welfare of the members in his charge. This hierarchy is closely parallel to the Catholic Church. Jack made the point that it was reasonable some traditions might remain in tack after nearly 2,000 years. Therefore the Mormon Church, representing the restored Gospel, might reasonably have some similarities to the Catholic Church. These similarities, thus, were not coincidental but had historical precedents. Confession was one of the more comforting, compelling and pragmatic rituals of the Catholic faith.
Wednesday, Jack had another appointment with the investigator, Maria Bergesio, which serves to illustrate the attractive nature of the myth of the Catholic religion.
She still has a problem with her connection with the Catholic Church...I went with the Zone Leader to Rivoli to call on Maria. It was a little disappointing. She had estranged herself already from the lessons and doesn't seem at all positive, and won't be baptized. I don't expect to go back to see her.
She was honest enough to confess an interest in the Catholic Church as well as making a connection with the Mormons. Jack suggested, as any self-respecting Mormon would certainly agree, membership in the Mormon Church was mutually exclusive of the Catholic Church. The Mormon Doctrine contradicted much of what was in the Catholic liturgy and religion, so she couldn't have both.
One important breakthrough came when Jack and Elder Simons received a response to their newspaper ad. They went to look and found a perfect, modern, one-story building with a meeting room, extra rooms for elders and adequate parking. Maybe that was another answer to Jack's prayers but he was quite willing to let Elder Sherwood take credit. As the new District Leader, it was his job to make such arrangements.
Jack was still giving a special lesson to the new member, Aldo Griffa, from the Doctrine and Covenants. He reviewed chapters 57-65 on this day. Much of this is historical and easy reading but it always raised new questions in Jack's mind about the authenticity of this "scripture" being a revelation from God rather than a fabrication of the genius of Joseph Smith.
This is the flint of Jack's mind striking the steel of the scriptures and religious myths. Why should anyone be surprised if sparks fly. So much for concentrating his effort on reading the scriptures since these were the source of most of his doubts. The presence of these doubts must to be caused more by his nature or personality, since the scriptures did not seem to cause the same reaction in the other missionaries.
As usual Jack liked to hit two birds with the same stone. He used Chapter 59 dealing with the Sabbath day as a text for a talk during the Sacrament meeting the succeeding day.
During Sunday School, I directed the music and blessed the Sacrament. Our investigator Signore Pesce and his wife came thus keeping his promise. We went to see the new church location with President Jergins who was visiting again.
The next day Jack and Elder Simons taught Signore Pesce again, this time taking the new member Aldo Fornigani with them. Their serious contacts were expanding. They even had an appointment with the basketball coach against whom the Mormon team had played (and lost). Jack left a copy of The Book of Mormon with him, and taught most of a First Lesson.
The elders and sisters continued their study classes.
I stayed home to work on a couple of lessons, it was terribly cold outside. Then lunch, I had squid, Calamari, haven't had that for a long time. Then Study Class. I presented a lesson on the nature of God. It wasn't much good.Again his lesson is on the very issue that plagued him the most. He was trying to teach and convince himself.
Sunday, November 26, was significant for a particular problem Jack had to confront.
On the way home from Sacrament meeting I lost a pedal from my bike. I was forced to ride with only one, all the way to Alberganti's and back.[about five miles] Some effort. We discussed the possibility of establishing a Home Teaching program at length...The Mormons have an elaborate program that seeks to keep each member actively in contact with The Church. Each member of the Priesthood is assigned a partner and they divide up all the members among these pairs and visit and teach each at least once a month. This is a proactive program of outreach, no one is to be lost or forgotten. They expected to start such a program in Torino.
Jack had an appointment with a new family, Davese.
Held a good discussion about philosophy, God Head and such.The Mormon concept of God is reasonably specific. God the Father for Mormons is an anthropomorphic figure, who had revealed Himself to Joseph Smith. Jesus Christ also appeared in His resurrected body. The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Deity group, but they are not referred to as a Trinity as in the Catholic Church. They are not considered One and separate in some mystical way. They each have their own essence and are only joined in purpose. Signore Davese found all this very interesting and accepted a copy of The Book of Mormon.
Jack continued going through the motions during the first half of December. He and his companion left their old apartment and moved into one of the rooms of the new church building at Via Golliari 4. It proved to be an exceptionally good facility.
Finding the church building was a significant success for Jack who achieved all his major goals. Even with all this success, Jack's emotions were going down hill again. Without being aware, he was entering the low part of a serious long term cycle. To avoid thinking seriously about his attachment to religion he was spending a good deal of time hiding in books and chasing special projects. He enjoyed the history by Will Durant, Story of Philosophy, from the American Consulate, like following a bad drug habit. He never seriously consider avoiding extraneous reading material as the president had commanded. He had this stubborn ideal that if the Church is true, his testimony should withstand any scrutiny he could give it. That pride and naivete' was an unusual cocktail, most likely the source of his dwindling faith, notwithstanding any defect of the doctrine.
It wasn't long after he and Elder Simons arrived in their new accommodations when Jack began to suffer from a chronic and serious headache. He couldn't explain what the cause was; otherwise he didn't have any particular symptoms. He took aspirin and it didn't help. He rested and that only helped as long as he was perfectly still or asleep which was also difficult. His subconscious mind was churning profound ideas and confusing questions so rigorously that it kept him away from work without his knowing the reason.
He didn't know what was happening now. He was looking at himself and saying, "Why can't I believe? Why can't this religious life be simpler? Why can't I get answers to my repeated prayers?" He was being defeated by mental confusion and deep searching. The headaches continued for three days.
Just as suddenly as the pain began, it ended, and late at night on the third day he had what amounted to a revelation or realization. It didn't appear to come from any particular source. The answer was just there and the headaches were gone. It had to do with the recognition that the Universe is eternal and infinite; that there is no end or beginning. Man cannot comprehend infinity in the same way we comprehend a long stretch of highway when we can't see the end, or even the imperceptible distance across the ocean. In these cases we know there is an end.
No matter how hard we try there is no way to conceptualize infinity; no definition, because definition presumed some ending. Mathematics could deal with generalizations and manipulate symbols but there was no acceptable answer to the question: "What is infinity?" It isn't something that corresponds to the interrogative pronoun "what." It's a fallacy of logic and language to attempt to give an explanation. Like dividing by zero, it leads to nonsense. Jack was not struggling with same idea that plagued Rinaldo, about what it means to know, really. Jack's confusion is ended by this new realization that nullified religion.
It may sound inconsequential, even simple, but it leads to other more important conclusions. For example, if we have this nagging question yet we still manage to live, then we can live without knowing other answers, such as: "What does God look like?" or "Did Joseph Smith really have visions and restore the Gospel?" "How was God created?" If we can live without the fundamental answer about infinity then we can live just fine without a whole sequence of answers. Just because we can't explain something, some mystery, it doesn't mean we should make up an answer or accept an answer that just happens to satisfy our psychic needs.
One of Jack's sisters had said after her oldest son had a nearly fatal auto accident: "God protected him, and protects us every day. It just doesn't make sense any other way. It just makes me believe that the Church is true, because that's the only way it all makes sense." Well, Jane was right of course, for herself. Many Mormons rely on such events and similar interpretations as the basis for their acceptance of religion. Members share these stories when they "bare their testimonies" the first Sunday each month in "Fast and Testimony Meeting." These emotional responses are based on dependent sentimentality and create superstitions. When Elders Milton and Baldwin expounded the theory that man was perpetually sad, therefore needed the comfort of religion, they followed a similar logic except their ideas were blatantly emotional blackmail.
"It doesn't have to make sense!" This is Jack's most recent conclusion in a nutshell.
Jane's conclusion didn't even make sense to him when he first read it in her letter but it didn't need to make sense now. It was just another of those questions you can't answer. "Why?" No religion can answer all the mysterious questions, because there would always be this huge failure to understand infinity. There is always another prior or subsequent question, so why contrive answers and explanations for all the rest?
Jack had been a doubter, not a cynic. He had wanted to believe, only his doubts were based on more than just a personality type, as suggested by his old friend, Bill Logan. His doubts had been legitimate questions about the logic and soundness of all the rationalizations and myths of their religion. President Downey made no attempt to deal with these doubts as legitimate concerns. He neither had the time nor the ability to defuse Jack's confusion.
There were many aspects of religion that just didn't make sense. People had repeatedly constructed elaborate hierarchies and complicated morals and dressed these in sanctity. It kept order in society, most of the time. These fairy stories were little more than elaborate rouses. This wasn't about the Mormon religion in particular, but all religions, Mormons included.
Living is simpler than religions claimed. Jack looked around his own environment and saw many simple examples of how best to live. The roads had lines down the middle and nature provided similar guidelines that could be deciphered. Nature exists, the universe exists and people make mythical answers, and Jack now grouped religion into the category of myth, thus irrelevant.
Yes, the universe was there, but it didn't need a creator. The most important answers to life were in front of our eyes. Animals lived by their natures and with their feeble intelligences organized complicated societies, maintained families and exercised sophisticated communication skills. They didn't need to understand or be subservient to a Supreme God.
Belief in a god is irrelevant to the lives of animals, no Higher Intelligence needs to instruct them, show them how to live or produce offspring. The basic instincts they needed were all there and man had similar constructive instincts. "Where did these instincts come from?" There was always this kind of prior question. Man could go further than animals and embellish his instincts with culture. Man could create (and destroy) complex societies, economies, morality, ethics, cities, nations, United Nations.
It seemed empirically obvious that each man should participate in a functioning society according to the talents he had. Talents were dispersed throughout mankind in a manner to satisfy all the requirements of society. It was up to the ingenuity of man to create structures and institutions to satisfy his basic and higher needs: because it made society work: because that was what man the animal did: because it was there.
There didn't need to be any higher purpose such as an inexplicable god connected to infinite wisdom or fictitious after-life as an answer to the question "Why?" The problem of life was much simpler. All the superstitions he associated with religion were irrelevant and incomprehensible. Life could and must go on because it existed. That was reason enough. Ontological necessity, it was there so it needed to continue and Jack needed to participate in it according to his talents. He didn't need any further explanation. He didn't need to be commanded to do so by a mysterious god or a prophet. He didn't need to expect some reward in an altered existence after life. He could live comfortably knowing that there was no after life.
Living a successful, productive and healthy life could be its own reward without that supernatural afterlife. It was eminently obvious, supremely simple. The simplest answers, such as Jack had achieved, are almost always the most difficult to find. It had taken Jack more than four years of confusion, questioning, running hot and cold and intellectual struggling to arrive at this simple answer. Trading one form of infinity [mathematical] for another [god] is not instructive, its nonsense. Religion, including the Mormon religion is a charade.
His duty is now implicit in the functioning of nature and society all around him rather than in the commands of a god. He could make it explicit by counting inventory of his talents and applying himself to help humanity. He had inadvertently tried to described this to Rinaldo in Bari. Now he realized he didn't need a myth to tell him what to do. Most people do. But any religion could provide that. The Mormons had no monopoly on the perfect social structure. This glorious religion had evolved substantially since the days of the Doctrine and Covenants and it would continue to evolve.
There would always be a John the Baptist, or a quiet Antonio Lino in Padova, with a rarefied power of reasoning to rise up. They would come forth and lead people based on their refined judgement, based on truths they could discover implicit in nature and offer society the cure it needed.
As society evolved it regenerated itself and became, by trial, error and inspiration, more capable of providing the needs of all people. That seemed to be the testimony given by the American social system. There was plurality of views, countervailing power centers, mobility of excellence and democracy of culture. It was a winning combination.
Economic activity evolved as well. An economy, not of capitalism, not of communism, but of pluralism, solved the fundamental problems identified by economists in the best possible way. Wherever there was an economic need it could be filled by someone seeking a profit. If not, it would be satisfied by government intervention, non-profit organizations, co-ops, public utilities or private individuals once the need became clear enough, i.e. rural electrification.
This successful economic system could serve as an analogy for the ideal functioning of society. Not a communist system with central control, not anarchy, not a Libertarian order; society works when many enlightened people did their best to make a contribution wherever it was needed. That wasn't Communism it was an enlightened Populism. People working to help themselves, thus helping others.
It could be said just in reverse and describe the same phenomenon. People working to help others and incidentally satisfying their own needs. The result for society was identical. It did make a difference to the individual, however, as Jack would discover later. And, you didn't need a god to reward or punish by some mysterious system to make it work. If religion had initially organized society to achieve this dynamic stage of enlightenment, it had also supplied its own share of confusion, possibly as a means of self-preservation.
Religion had preserved the tradition and tamed the beast in man. Music could do that. Now a pluralistic culture could do that. Religion was a convenient tool for the organization of society in the same way that a dictatorship is an efficient way of meeting the goal of industrialization and economic growth of emerging nations. But, religion was only necessary to those who were attracted to it like the student draftsman, Antonio in Padova. His life was improved by his association with the Mormon religion.
Jack realized he could live with the question of infinity without imagining or rationalizing answers. He could live without religion and still be civilized and lead a constructive life. This conclusion had been won, however, not without cost. He had yet to pay the emotional price of distancing himself from his family and church friends.
This anti-revelation burst forth from the depths of his unconscious and ended the controversy. He would never be subject to the pressure of a compelling desire to believe. Belief was irrelevant, a mind game played by people caught up in a mental cramp, the mindless passion for professional wrestling. Understanding this doesn't mean he solved the mystery of the Universe, infinity was still there, everywhere, at the end of every trail for discovery. No, not at the end. Because there wasn't any end. You just couldn't use this limited language and say it any other way. Jack was ready to take the next step in discovering the meaning of life.
Religion was a practical solution to a problem associated with the limitations of language. Not a linguistic problem as such; but a real life problem relating to the use of language. "Does God exist?" Well, when you want to show that something exists, how do you do it? You touch it, or see it, or hit it with a rock and make it ripple, you examine a picture of it, you see it in a telescope, you hear it, you smell it, you taste it and you describe it. But, can you conjure it through some esoteric sense that resembles spirituality? Does perception of a god, an infinity, based on intuition make it reality? as it did for Descartes? Jack couldn't accept that. Many other people with greater abilities could. Most people just took life as it came.
But, it is just as likely the inspiration that sprang from intuition could be childhood conditioning or worse, arbitrary or capricious. There had to be a rational explanation for any event or how could you say it is not arbitrary, capricious or invented? The highest form of insult to an idea is to call it arbitrary or random, without reason or sense, senseless, nonsense. So how do you show that God exists? Especially if He were connected to infinity in a way that human mortals are not? That existence is not the same as ours, so the word "exist" in that question doesn't make sense in that very different context relating to infinity. We are in that instance forcing the same word to stand for two different concepts in the same context. This is a simple but too common misuse of language. To ask such a question and to make an explanation is to speak nonsense.
You can certainly talk about questions that connect inevitably to infinity with rational language. But, you have to be particularly careful that you don't simply theorize and make up nonsense. It is best to be quiet and say nothing and just try to feel; just try to calmly appreciate the mystery. Jack had begun to understand this during his hike on the Matterhorn. That's what the best religions did, celebrate the mystery in life and nature in many different ways.
That is what Eucharist is. This Sacrament is a celebration of the mystery of life and death and the movement between those two extremes. The Mormons make it a mundane event by taking the mystery out of it. They practice Sacrament but they explain it as analogy or allegory. It is not even as elegant as a metaphor. The Mormon Sacrament is a symbol for the Last Supper and a renewal of a commitment. It is too reasonable, a simile, therefore mundane and trivial.
For the Catholics, there is an explicit mystery. They celebrated and glorify the mystery of infinity as it pertains to the mystery of Christ. If you believe you are eating flesh it could make your blood chill with excitement each time you make that emotional connection. It is even better for some protestants because each member could also drink blood, as wine instead of having the priest do it for them. Mormons use white bread and water and dilute the celebration of mystery with a too practical, coarse simile. It was the difference between poetry and prose, AND THEY DIDN'T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE.
Once examined with objective dispatch, the Mormon Sacrament and Eucharist can be seen as sublimations of the prurient, cannibalistic urges in humanity. Some American Indian warriors cut out the hearts of their slain enemies. They ate the flesh and blood both to honor their victims and gain his strength. The more evolved religions, such as Buddhism, have given up on such cannibalistic rituals. The infrequent occurrence of cannibalism that occurs in society is regarded as criminal and likely insane practice. But the sublimated cannibalism, the symbolic form embodied in the Communion, is regarded as a sacred mystery. It is considered the highest form of what it means to be human. Ridiculous! We need to get beyond that.
From May to December, it took this long for the turning point to materialize as an intelligible idea. Jack's heart was aching, caught in this quandary between the expectations of his friends and family and his own intellectual processes. In fact his conclusions are more than mere intellectual constructs. They arrived from virtually nowhere to inhabit his conscious mind after months and months of repression and dismissal. These thoughts are the growth of those ideas expressed in Bari, except these are mature thoughts that give a clean perspective for a new way of living without depression or frustration. This is just the beginning or intellectual basis for constructing a new life. The details of How and Why to live are yet to come.
This conclusion is the result of a thinking process only in the sense that the answers came from a solitary mental faculty rather than from a committee. The process of arriving at these conclusions is somehow mysterious, indeed, connected to that very mystery it defended, infinity.
Jack had no pretense of greatness about his conclusions. He wasn't ready to share these ideas with those around him. He did want a release and determined to leave the mission and return to his home, school and life. His diary summarizes his mental framework:
I have been somewhat to myself lately. 1. Because I don't enjoy the company of the other missionaries. 2. Because I've been revaluating my position. I have concluded that I am not very spiritual nor do I know what it is to be such. I haven't had the strength to arrive at that position. Consequently I have concluded that the future holds no more likelihood of a spiritual breakthrough than the past has produced. So I have judged myself a failure as a missionary and am resolved to go home at the first of the year. I wrote a letter to President Downey on December 20th to that effect. I will speak to him about it at the Christmas Conference in Firenze.