Former Mormons Catechize their Kids

By Dayna Patterson


In the beginning was—

Chaos. Cyclone. Sky.

In the beginning was—

Death. Hunger. The Void.

A thought. A Word. Matter unorganized.

A Big Bang. An expanding universe.
Heavy elements formed in supernovan heat.

A lotus on a lake of milk. A mass of water
humming Nun. Fire of Muspell and ice of Niflheim
and emptiness of Ginnungagap.

A baobab tree. An egg-shaped cloud.
Sea slime emergent land.

A white-blossomed tree that gives corn and light.
A black-and-white deer.


In the beginning was—

The Creator, who made his nephew Sotuknang.
Rangi and Papa, Heaven and Earth. Olorun,
neither male nor female, transcending both.

There was Gaia, Mother Earth; Eros, desire;
and Tartarus, the Underworld.

There was Brahma, splitting self into matching selves,
like cell mitosis, in order to mate himself to herself.
There was Ymir the frost giant sweating children
from his armpits.

The Spirit Master of the Center of Heaven,
The August Wondrously Producing Spirit, and
The Divine Wondrously Producing Ancestor.

There was the Spirit World, Heavenly Mother and Father,
and their billions of spirit children. Elohim, the powerful ones. Mashé Manido, the Great Spirit.

The Kingdom of Everlasting Truth
ruled by the Naba Zid-Wendé.


A pantheon of Gods—

Sa, God of Death, and his eloper son-in-law,
Alantangana. Buri, licked free from an ice block
by the good cow Audhumla. Izanagi and Izanami,
descended from the Floating Bridge of Heaven
to birth Japan’s islands.

The Hero twins, Xbalanque and Hunahpu, ballplayers
and bird demon slayers. There was Manabush,
the Great Rabbit, thieving tobacco and first fire
for his people. The giant Pan Gu, whose voice was thunder and whose breath was wind.

Jesus, unscrolling the skin of his chest to reveal
his sacred heart, sword-skewered and aflame.
Obatala with his snail shell of sand and long golden
chain and sacred egg near his heart.

There was Odin Allfather, Thor, thunder god,
and Loki, trickster, who turned mare and bore
the eight-legged colt Sleipnir.


A pantheon of Goddesses—

With her lioness head, Tefnut, goddess of moisture, greening the Nile River valley. Aset of the cow horns and golden disk. Hut Heru, goddess of delights
rattling her sistrum. Nebet Hut, goddess of service,
in her hands a mummy’s linen.

Spider Woman, spinner of Life. Tiamat, goddess
of salt seas, whose tear tracks are the Tigris
and Euphrates. Nü Wa, the lonely goddess, who melted river rocks to patch the breaking sky.
Bright-Shining-Woman, who says when a baby
will come or when a woman will bleed.

Athena, grey-eyed goddess of wisdom, bursting
from her father’s frontal lobe fully armored.
Aphrodite, born of her castrated father’s spilled seed in a frothy foam of fecundity. Demeter with her
wheat sheaf. Artemis with her silver arrows
and bow. Hera of the peacock.

Skadi on her frozen skis. The Valkyries whisking
the wounded away, bearing the battle-fallen
to Valhalla. Frigg the foreknowing. Hel,
daughter of Loki, gathering in the sickened
and elderly. Freya and her falcon-feather cloak.
Idunn and her juvenescent apples.


And they made humans—

They made them from spittle mixed with yellow,
red, white, and black earth. They made them from
driftwood they found on shore. They sprang whole
from Ra’s tears.

They transformed them from bear, eagle, beaver,
sturgeon, wolf, and crane. They made them from
turquoise, Mexican opal, red ochre, white clay,
abalone, pollen, iron ore, white rock, jet, and water
scum. From the blood of slain enemy gods
they made them.

They made them black, a strong color, different
from the red sun and the white moon.
The Earthmaker baked them in a hearth: half-baked
white, overbaked black, and just-right red.
Moon made love to Eveningstar, and on the third day
girls and boys were born.


And the humans were named—

Eve and Adam. Selu and Kanáti. Ancestral Woman and Ancestral Man.

La’ila’i and Ki’i and Kane. Pyrrha and Deucalion.


And the purpose of humans?

They were shaped to be slaves, to free lesser gods
from labor. They were made to assuage the ache
of loneliness. They were made in the image of Elohim,
male and female.

They were made by accident, spilled to earth in Ra’s
sorrow. They were made like little clay pets,
baked or breathed on to give them life. They were made
to be tried and tested. Would they obey their Gods?

They were made to worship and remember
their Creator.


And did they remember?

On the made world, they forgot the Creator
again and again.

Yaweh greened a garden paradise called Eden,
and the humans were expelled for eating forbidden fruit.
The gods regretted their human creations.
Earth was purged.

Some people were saved by burrowing down to live
with ants, sharing their food, the ants tightening
and tightening their tiny belts.

Some humans were saved in an ark, a floating zoo,
while the Creator erased the slate. First by fire,
then ice, then flood. Glaciers melted, ice caps
shrank, polar bears went hungry. A great flood.

And that multihue ribbon arcing across the blue?

God’s promise he’s done with the flooding.
And the elite path to Midgaard.
And our sun prismed by airborne droplets.


And the future of humankind and the earth?

The four horsemen of the apocalypse will bring death,
famine, war, and conquest. Christ will come again
in robes of red. Gog and Magog will drink all the water
of Tiberius.

The great wolf Fenrir will swallow the sun
and Yggdrasil the world tree will burn. Sa, God of Death,
will come to claim Alantangana’s descendants.
Fire and ice. Flood and desolation.

The world will grow hotter and hotter, like a giant
greenhouse smothered in sunheat, unless—


Wherein lies redemption?

In the prophets who spin stories for their people:
Abraham and his seed numerous as stars;
Moses with his brazen serpents on a staff;
Jesus guiding the doubter’s hand to his perpetual
wounds; Mohammed dictating the Angel Gabriel’s
words; Buddha meditating in a lotus; Elijah’s empty
chair; Joseph Smith peering into a dark hat at the
peep stone, words floating up to his eyes in
phosphorescing light.

Wherein lies redemption?

In the prophetesses who lead: Miriam helping to
guide her people through the desert; Deborah
deliberating under a date tree; Anna pronouncing
the child good. Eliza R. Snow penning poems about
Heavenly Mother. Emily Dickinson sewing her
fascicles by candlelight. Mother Teresa lifting scraps
of bodies from the streets. Jane Goodall learning the
language of chimpanzees. Malala in sunset headscarf
telling her story on stage.

Wherein lies redemption?

In parents turning their hearts to their children,
children turning their hearts to their parents.

In shorter showers and flicking off the unused lamp,
hybrid buses and solar power.

In sharing poems, songs, stories by lovelight,
this web of wondrous narratives.