How do “sinners” seeking spiritual guidance nail down the right religion?
My conversion started with a bottle of whiskey, loneliness and miracle seagulls.
We lived in Canada and each spring my mother and I took a three-day train journey to her hometown to visit her parents in South Dakota.
In early fall my father would drive to Lake Andes, a small town in the middle of a Sioux Indian Reservation, pick up Mother and me, and we’d all drive back to Canada.
On one of his 1,500-mile treks to retrieve us my father, Jack Summers, stopped in Salt Lake City for the night. He was lonely and killed off a bottle of whiskey in a motel room near Temple Square, an icon of the Mormon church, officially known as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Don’t forget the hyphen after Latter.
I had heard Dad and Mom talking about finding a religion to provide me with some kind of anchor or moral compass. I suspect my parents feared their seven-year-old was headed for a life of crime and deprivation.
There in Salt Lake City, Dad, tipsy, stumbled toward Temple Square in the center of the LDS community. It was a glorious evening with a cool desert breeze. Dad said it made him feel at ease with the world.
Hundreds of curious visitors were listening to fascinating stories from all sorts of interesting Mormons in Temple Square.
My father was in time to hear about the Miracle of the Seagulls. The story was told by a Mormon elder of about 30 dressed in suit and tie. Dad said the man glistened with confidence and compassion.
This fellow explained that in 1848, when 4,000 Mormon pioneers had been in the Salt Lake Valley for a few years, hoards of insects devoured their crops. The pioneers called the insects Mormon Crickets and it looked like the little devils would eat everything that was growing.
With no food for the coming winter, the Mormons would starve to death.
The insects were not crickets but belonged to the katydid family. They could not fly but they sure could gobble up the crops. Nothing stopping them. Millions of them. Wave upon wave.
You could not drown them. You could not set them on fire. You could not poison them. You could not stomp them to death.
It looked like curtains for the early Mormons.
Luckily they possessed a powerful last resort.
The 4,000 Mormons fell to their knees and beseeched Heavenly Father for His help.
Moments later California Seagulls arrived in such numbers as to blot out the sun.
They pounced upon the Mormon Crickets and ate them all up–then flew to nearby ponds, drank water, regurgitated the evil crickets and flew back to consume their chirping brothers and sisters.
God had answered the prayers of the Saints and saved their lives. Their crops were saved.
That night Dad phoned my mother to tell her that he had discovered the perfect religion for me. Maybe for our entire family of three.
My mother asked if the Mormons were Christians. My father said yes. For sure.
What is the basis of their beliefs asked Mother.
“Vomiting Seagulls,” said my father.
I was baptized a Mormon eight months later on my 8th birthday.
Many have asked me what’s the guy doing
in the water to the left of the monument
to the seagulls. I think he’s looking
for a grain of truth —
The longer between the event and the telling of it, the greater the miracle when it comes to religion. I suspect what happened with the Miracle of the Seagulls was that around 1848 a cricket or maybe a large ant stole a crumb from a Mormon elder’s plate. A few minutes later a sparrow ate the cricket.
The elder told the story to his friends and over the years the cricket became a million and the sparrow became a flock of seagulls that blotted out the sun.
This was the beginning of yet another miracle in the LDS theology. I suspect that by the end of this decade the crickets will become space ships and the seagulls will become angels with laser eyes. Acting on divine direction the angels will save the saints.
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