Jeffrey is just becoming aware that there are other belief systems in the world besides ours. Which is great, even if it leaves me rubbing my white liberal Mormon hands together in nervousness.
“Mom, my friend’s mom says that she believes in God even though they don’t go to church,” he told me one evening. Whoa. Had Jeffrey been asking questions at his friend’s house? What did he say?!? Are our neighbors thinking that we are friendly solely on the potential of converting them?!?
Such are the ways that religion complicates social relations in Utah.
Then, just a few days ago, the kids saw a color photo in the newspaper that accompanied a story about the Swine Flu outbreak. It showed a picture of nuns in Mexico wearing surgical masks.
“Mom, who are they? What are they doing?” Jeffrey and Eleanor were both curious to know.
I explained: they were nuns, they were Catholic, they served God, etc.
“But where do they live?” asked Jeffrey — who kept forgetting what I had said and referred to them as “nins.”
“Tell me more about the nins!”
“Well, some of them live right here in Salt Lake City,” I said.
“Are they very scary?” Eleanor asked, and made a show of cowering.
“No, the nins like Jesus,” said Jeffrey.
“The nuns are nice people,” I corrected.
“Are there boy nuns?”
I explained about monks.
“Why are they wearing masks?” asked Ella, pointing to the picture. “Do the nuns wear them so they don’t talk so loud?”
“No no no no no,” Jeffrey interrupted. “They are called nins.”
And so on. I didn’t bother explaining about the masks; religion is complicated enough without bringing microbiology into the mix.