One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get back in touch with old friends. One of my oldest friends is quite literally very old—well over two thousand years, as a matter of fact. He was born in Zarahemla in the year 4 A.D. (or 2978 B.C., if you use the Jaredite calendar) and was fortunate enough to be in the vicinity of an outdoor rally in which Jesus, who had just been crucified over in Jerusalem, was speaking to a gathering of Nephites.
Aha (or AAKALHUPNGEA in Reformed Egyptian) gives various accounts of what happened, but most scholars agree that it was a total coincidence that Jesus picked him out of the crowd, along with Zeezrom and Curly, to be the Three Nephites who wouldn’t die until Jesus returned in paradisiacal glory to rule the Earth in the Last Days. (“At first, I was really stoked with the idea of living forever, but there have been times in the last couple of centuries when I say to myself, ‘Man, this immortality shit is a real bummer.’”)
Given Aha’s long and intermittently productive life, he is a man to consult whenever you want to get the big picture on current events. He is uniquely qualified to put things in perspective. What, I wondered, would he make of the latest controversy involving the present day Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, namely its purchase of 14 acres of prime real estate in downtown Salt Lake City?
I did a quick Google search and was able to track down Aha at his latest abode, a basement apartment in the Avenues. (“I like to fly under the radar,” Aha confided when I reached him on his cell phone while he was shopping for organic vegetables at Whole Foods on 400 South.) We agreed to meet for coffee at Sam Weller’s bookstore, where I found him deeply engrossed in the City Weekly classifieds.
Deep End: It looks like you’ve lost a bit of weight since the last time I saw you.
Aha: I was letting myself go, eating too much fast food. Then I realized, I’m not in any hurry. So, I’ve been eating right, exercising regularly, and getting at least eight hours shut-eye every night.
DE: You hear about the church buying the city block over by Earl Holding’s hotels, Little and Grand America?
Aha: Doesn’t surprise me. Incidentally, I used to hang out with Earl’s greatgreat grandfather. I could tell you stories. Anyway, I think it’s a smart move.
DE: A lot of folks think the church is trying to take over the town.
Aha: Big deal. They already have. But all the speculation about what they’re going to do is way off-base. They’re not going to build another temple, or put in a theme park or move BYU up to Salt Lake City.
DE: Presiding Bishop H. David Burton was quoted a few years ago saying the church wanted to stay put, up by their sacred buildings. Why is the faith leaping to the south end of town? I heard a militant Mormon basher say that it looked like the Brethren were making a pincer movement on central downtown, surrounding it rather than spreading over it from the center.
Aha: No way, Jose. I know Bishop Burton. Bishop Burton is a friend of mine, and he has a much-more-benign plan of salvation for downtown Salt Lake City, as befits his benign nature.
DE: Can you perhaps provide us with a hint of what we might expect to sprout at the site?
Aha: Here’s the genesis: Years ago Bishop Burton and I traveled with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir to the land Down Under, or what the gentiles call Australia. Elder Burton and I hit it off and spent many happy hours wandering around when the choir was practicing. Well, I think it was in Brisbane where we h a p p e n e d upon a bowls club, or what you might call lawn bowling. He’s a man of vision, is my friend H. David Burton, and he turned to me and vowed that some day he would build a bowls club in Zion, or Salt Lake City, as it is known to the gentiles. It’s not well known, but the principal form of exercise in the Celestial Kingdom is lawn bowling.
DE: You don’t say.
Aha: I say. Hey, by the way, what’s the deal with Orrin Hatch? Last time I saw him, he asked me if I were Jewish.