Any place I bring my scripture case is home, or The Sanremo Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

All my life I have had good friends around me who are members of my church. Not anymore. I am absolutely the only Mormon of the 36 (soon to be 3) coworkers/good friends who currently make up my social circle.

In many ways this has been really cool. I have had some in-depth and spontaneous discussions about faith, religion, temples, family history, The Book of Mormon with several of my new friends. On the whole they are pretty unbiased about the church, and religion in general, and also full of questions. Yet, there is a sense of spiritual isolation.

It’s not that I feel tempted to drink or smoke with my new mates, who do so, liberally.

(Note the number of empty glasses)

It’s not that I am forgetting to say my prayers, or read my scriptures more than usual. It’s not that I feel my testimony weakening in any area, in fact the opposite on that count. But I miss having someone around me who has a deep understanding of the fundamental structure of my world view, paradigms, and thought processes. I’ve missed the automatic acceptance and understanding that exists in the church.

That’s why I have felt so blessed to be part, however briefly, of the Sanremo branch. They are adorable. I was welcomed with kisses on the cheek and hugs from everyone. They are just the branch you hope to find when you travel to a far out limb on the kingdom’s tree.

(Elders and Branch President)

There was someone there to translate for me in every hour I attended, but I found that the spirit carried me far beyond the spoken word as I listened to these good members. The language of the gospel is so unique, in any case, that I was frequently able to help my translators along.

(My faithful translators, Francesca and Antonia, and Francesca’s silly husband.)

The branch is smallish, but strong as branches go. The missionaries told me that it has nearly been made a ward numerous times, but each time it gets close to having enough priesthood, a large family, or two, have moved out of the area for work reasons. So they plug along. The same 60 people rotating talks, lessons, hymns, and presidencies with a smile year after year in their little converted chapel above the local super market.

The lessons were lively, the sacrament talks were personal and moving, and the prayers—well, I didn’t understand them very well, but they went on long enough to ask a blessing for each member and their dog.

I am going to miss them. They all invited me to come back again whenever I can, and to be sure to visit their cousins, and former hair dressers. who live in Milan and Rome.

(The Relief Society Presidency, maybe.)

Sadly, I don’t think I will have the opportunity to attended meetings in any other congregation more than two Sundays in a row the rest of the time I am here, and even going each week will be pushing it if I am traveling and working as many Sundays as I think I will be. I think the fellowship of my fellow saints will be the thing I’ll be the most homesick for. But being among these beautiful brothers and sisters who live so far from ‘Zion’ reminds me of the truth of this little church. The fire of faith burns as just as brightly, and in many ways casts a stronger light here, where it is surrounded by darkness, as it does anywhere in Provo or Holladay.

It is a comfort to remember that I am home, wherever I go, when I go to church.


8 thoughts on “Any place I bring my scripture case is home, or The Sanremo Branch of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints

  1. Bless those people! It truly makes people rise to greatness when there is a lot of work to be done and no one else to do it. I often think of what an elder in my mission (one of Jill’s friends from Tomball, TX) said about Mormons being like manure. “When they’re all in one place it’s just one big pile of sh**, but if you spread them out a little they can actually do some good.” This is the same elder who used to see me at mission conference in my very strict, Spanish-only mission and yell “Sister Sally!” and try to hug me. Texans! Gotta love ’em.

  2. hahah to you all! THATS FUNNY! Rand that is sweet to see their faces is more real! Agree with Kate, Lots to do here even whith lots of members they seem to just keep steppin it up! I love it its helpin me be better! Love ya Rand, and all of you too

  3. No offense to those of us who live in highly concentrated Mormon areas. I include myself right now because I have 4 Mormon neighbors within 300 yards of my house. All I’m sayin’ is that when you see how desperate some areas are for members, with people holding 3 or 4 callings (or like my mission where we had ward mission leaders who were still in high school, and YW presidents at 19), you realize that we have SO much potential around us. I can guarantee that the Sanremo branch does not have a compassionate service committee member who is just in charge of the quarterly birthday party. But props to Gilbert because even out here we are always hearing reports of how your home and visiting teaching percentages are amazing, and other such wonderful things!

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