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News » Deep End

Olympic Salvation

Mormons in berets aim to spread the word, one Olympic sport at a time.



“Most Utahns would have preferred it to be Rio than Chicago,” said an exuberant Gary Neeleman, who has a longtime connection to the exotic South American destination.” —The Salt Lake Tribune, Oct. 9, 2009.

Speak for yourself, Brother Neeleman. Unlike the exuberant former missionary, I wouldn’t be so presumptuous as to speak for most Utahns. It’s a reasonable guess, however, that most Utahns, at least those exuberant souls who, for some reason, still give a lukewarm hoot about the Olympics, probably would prefer to have the Olympics somewhere in these United States, even if they were held in a place like Chicago, the adopted hometown of the Antichrist Barack Obama.

But let’s cut Brother Neeleman some slack. I’m sure he is a patriotic American, who believes with his fellow Latter-day Saints that the U.S. Constitution is divinely inspired. (One thing I am sure of: the Lord God was pulling for Chicago to get the Olympics.) I bet once Brother Neeleman sobered up and was no longer under the influence of exuberance, he would make a more modest estimate of the number of Utahns rooting for Rio over Chicago to host the 2016 games. Or at least he might not be quite so quick to equate Utahns with Mormons.

Nevertheless, Brother Neeleman is on to something in making his exuberant assertion. To quote the article in The Salt Lake Tribune (headlined “Mormons Are Game for Rio Olympics”): “Few communities boast as many Olympic boosters as Salt Lake City and few countries have more Mormons than Brazil.” The rest of the article goes on to lay out the degree to which Mormons are positively giddy about the prospects of spreading the Gospel via the Olympic games in Rio.

Already, 100,000 Mormon Brazilians, clad in yellow t-shirts, are planning to hit the streets of Rio to pick up trash, scrub the sidewalks and give free sponge baths to investigators of the faith. (Yellow is a favorite Olympic color: Mitt Romney, you will recall, designed the popular yellow berets worn by Olympic volunteers during our 2002 Winter Games. Souvenir berets now go for several hundred dollars on eBay, and berets worn by Mitt himself, authenticated by traces of hair gel, sometimes fetch a thousand dollars or more.)

Clouding the sunny exuberance of Mormon Olympaphiles is concern over a traditionally popular Olympic venue, namely, beach volleyball. It’s bad enough in normal countries, but in a debauched land like Brazil, beach volleyball promises new levels and more acreage of exposed flesh, especially of female hindquarters. The church has strict regulations about missionaries trawling for investigators along the infamous beaches of Rio, insisting that they stay 300 yards from those beaches, hence the affectionate term given to Mormon missionaries by the locals, which translates as “boys with binoculars.”

Missionary authorities are developing procedures to deal with beach-type distractions, including magical spectacles that convert semi-naked humans of the female variety to fully clothed matrons.

Despite the beach-volleyball dangers presented by Rio as an Olympic venue, church authorities are almost unanimously exuberant about the opportunities for bringing the Gospel to the gathered nations of the Earth. For one thing, Rio de Janeiro is the latest candidate for the lost city of Zarahemla, which everyone knows as the great Nephite capital in the Book of Mormon. (Among several previously posited locations were Tucson, Ariz.; Bismarck, N.D.; and Orlando, Fla.)

The most persuasive evidence for Rio Zarahemla being the ancient site of Zarahemla is linguistic: both Rio de Janeiro and Zarahemla can be translated as “beloved by Mosiah,” Mosiah being the illustrious Nephite ruler, often compared to Brigham Young. Also, there are tantalizing hints that the last great battle between the Nephites and the Lamanites occurred on the beaches of modern-day Rio. Archeologists and beachcombers alike have found implements of war as well as articles of bloodstained clothing worn by fallen warriors. The most valuable piece of evidence is a well-preserved hoodie with the name Coriantumr (slayer of Shiz) sewn into the collar. (Coriantumr, missing “e” and all, is a cognate to the Portuguese word “coriantomer,” meaning “bloody idiot.”)

In conclusion, people around the world have scratched their heads for a long time about the continued exuberance of Mormons in regard to all things Olympic. Those people would be well-advised to read the latest edition of the Book of Mormon, which includes a lost chapter describing how the ancient Mulekites brought the original Olympic Games with them from Lebanon to ancient city of Mulek, which is today the thriving village of Wasilla, Alaska.