Jesus Speaks at the Mountaintop



I went to Salt Lake City and heard Jesus speak. To get up to where He is you go around a spiral building festooned with murals depicting the lives of boy prophets important to the Mormon Church. The boy prophets hold forth among groups of blue-eyed blond Hebrews. When you get to the rotunda, there he is, nine foot tall in sandals and dejelabi.

A young Mormon sister introduces him: ''This is Jesus, the son of God.'' She then sits down, and in a booming voice worthy of His father, Charlton Heston, He says: ''I am Jesus, the Son of God. I've gone ahead to prepare your mansions in Heaven.'' And he goes on in this vein for about maybe three long minutes during which you try to think what might happen if you got up in the middle and walked out on Jesus. You stay put instead thinking of the talent agency that had to hire the voice of Jesus and what exactly they were looking for. ''Not him, Christ, he sounds like one of Pontius' eunuchs!''

You do get up, when Jesus is done, and follow the throng outside to the temple grounds reserved for visitors. Through the steel bars you glimpse the other side, reserved for the faithful: There is what looks like a snowstorm in there but it's actually several dozen brides getting ready to perpetuate the tribes. They'll have no trouble doing that in Utah which has pending the strictest anti-abortion law in the United States. Any woman caught eliminating a potential Utahn could be jailed, and so would her doctor, her adviser and probably her next of kin and everyone listed in her address book. Even prayer may not save her, though prayer is big in Utah too, especially in the schools where everyone's made to pray about three times a day.

The Mormon Church is very generous about sharing power with the United States: many of its members are in the FBI and the CIA. The church is generous to its members as well, many of whom are bishops, saints and gods as easily and as naturally as some of us are sinners, drunkards and laggards. And the mountains are beautiful.

Poet Andrei Codrescu teaches English at Louisiana State University.

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