There is a lot more to this story. I did a one pager to see if there is interest. We haven't had many posts on this site lately. What do you think?
Seventeen-year-old Kim Price lived in Duttonvile, the slum area of Idaho Falls, Idaho, when he was called to be the first assistant in the priest’s quorum in his LDS ward.
Duttonville wasn’t really a slum. How could a town like Idaho Falls have a slum? But everyone knew where Duttonville was, and what it was, even though the name had no official designation. There was no pavement, no curbs and gutters, not even any gravel—just houses and yards, a few marked by fences, with open areas of dirt surface for the streets.
Armed with a mandate from the bishop, Kim set out to insure that every priest in the ward boundary was accounted for and properly fellowshipped.
That’s when Kim met Ritmo. His real name was Richard Simpson, but somehow, through the twisted maze of Richard’s mind, his name came out of his mouth as Ritmo. In fact, all the words that Richard spoke came out twisted. When his mother had tried to enroll him in the first grade the principal had sent them both home, saying Richard was unteachable. So Richard remained at home, uneducated and for the most part unnoticed. Until Kim came along.
Kim liked Richard immediately. Ritmo had an easy smile and once Kim got used to the strange language, he began to understand it. As Kim included Ritmo in an increasing number of ward social events others learned to understand and speak the strange language too. Simpsonese, they called it. It seemed, all the kids, in a very friendly way, wanted to speak Simpsonese. Ritmo really didn’t mind. He knew they weren’t making fun of him. Speaking his language became the cool thing at High School. Ritmo never did go to High School but his language made it there.
Ritmo especially liked being taught to read by Sister Frandsen, Kim’s mom. She was a school teacher, and a good one.
After a while Ritmo decided that what he really wanted was to say the sacrament prayer like Kim and the other priests. How could he get all the tangling between his mind and tongue untangled?
The priests’ quorum spent hours helping to build the new church. One of their favorite jobs was shingling the huge roof. It took days of sweaty work in the glaring sun. Soon the boys were swinging hammers and throwing shingles in a soft rhythm. And soon Richard and Kim were repeating over and over and over the words to the sacrament prayer in the same rhythm. O God, tap-bam, O God the Eternal… tap-bam, tap-bam. O God the eternal Father. tap-bam, tap-bam, tap-bam. Hour after hour after grinding hour…. sliding shingles into place, holding them, holding nails, swinging the stubby roofing hatchets; tap-bam, tap-bam, tap-bam, tap-bam as the four nails for each shingle went into place.
More than a little apprehension filled the congregation the day Richard finally sat at the sacrament table. With superman concentration and probably the aid of unseen angels, Ritmo began carefully, “O God the Eternal Father, we ask thee….”
It’s unlikely that there has ever been a sacrament prayer in all Mormondom listened to more carefully than was that sacrament prayer that day. Each syllable had the right sound and exactly the right emphasis. Crystal clear, the words echoed into the halls of heaven, piercing every heart that heard them.
Two years later, Kim stood in front of the same congregation—his family and friends, Ritmo’s family and friends— and explained to them that he had received his mission call.
Ritmo had wanted a mission call too. After saying the sacrament prayer correctly, he wanted more than anything to go on a mission—to do everything that Kim did—to be like Kim. But untangling Richard’s mental maze enough to memorize six entire discussions seemed insurmountable to church leaders.
But Kim wasn’t standing in front of the congregation to talk about leaving on his mission to Atlanta, GA.
This was not a farewell for the newly-called missionary, but a funeral for a close friend. Shortly after Kim received his mission call, Ritmo had died in a horrific car accident. Kim explained, his words hesitating with emotion, that Ritmo had also received a mission call and both of them would be enterting the MTC on Wednesday. But on different sides of the veil.
©2009 Lyle Mortimer