October 8, 2009

Small World

The last article I [re]wrote for Bilerico included a reference to my friend Rance, who died this past spring. He was a small but pivotal force in my life when we met three and a half years ago. Turns out I wasn’t the only one.

It comes as no surprise at all to me that Rance had a similar impact on someone else. I’m willing to bet it runs in the hundreds.

My little post “Missionary” was forwarded by a reader to a man who was a colleague of his. That man’s name is Ken. Now out of the Mormon church and out in life, Ken asked to contact me. He knew someone named Rance long ago. Could it be the same man?

Of course it was. Ken gave me permission to print his first response to me.

In the early 1980s, I was living in Salt Lake City, and business took me to Vernal, Utah, where I stayed in a motel owned by the Searle family. I had dinner at their restaurant, and Rance played guitar and sang for his guests. To me, he was a close replica of John Denver.

Also, since I wrote to my friend James, I "googled" Rance Searle and found his obituary from April - something that deeply saddened me, in spite of the fact that I have not talked to him or had any contact at all for more than 30 years.

But when I was going to Vernal on business fairly regularly, I would stay at his hotel and meet with him. We got to know each other fairly well. I knew he was a few years older than I, but never thought he'd have died at such a young age.

The most important thing that happened when I knew Rance was how he relayed his own doubts about the LDS faith. At that time, although I had admitted I was gay, I still fervently believed in Mormonism. I can recall him telling me about a list of 10 questions he and a friend had compiled, which he (or they) had taken to a General Authority, and were not able to get clear answers for.

When Rance told me that there were multiple versions of Joseph Smith's first vision (which cast doubt on his credibility), I remember the feeling I had: "Wow! Maybe I've been feeling guilty all these years - for nothing." A weight was lifted at that moment, and I'll be forever grateful to Rance for helping me see the truth.

Other issues he had were with the Book of Mormon. I can recall his strong emotion as he said, "How can we believe in the Book of Mormon when there is not ONE SHRED of evidence supporting it?"

There was, of course, much much more we talked about during those visits.

I'm sorry to know that Rance passed on…

That day in Vernal was the beginning of a profound change in my life, and I have Rance to thank for lighting the fire. I'm pleased but not surprised to know that he touched your life as well, as I'm sure he did many many others…

This exchange has continued and led to another introduction which has Rance at its center. I wonder what Rance would say if he knew of the newly-connected network of friends he left behind. I am eager to see where it leads.

It grieves me that Ken had to leave his church to find peace. Too many are taking that path away from God, the failure of men keeping them separated from what should be a loving community of faith. Shame on us for letting it happen.

I am having to pay my own way this year to the Covenant Network of Presbyterians annual convention in November. Our church budget is being cut quite close. I’m hoping to have someone accompany me, but no one has been able to join me yet. Even so, I am excited to be going. Who knows what I’ll learn or who I’ll meet that will send me on the next step of this important journey toward an inclusive faith community. It remains a privilege to serve.


Brian R said...

"I wonder what Rance would say if he knew of the newly-connected network of friends he left behind."
I am sure he is delighted that you are continuing, in your own way, to display God's Love for all people.

Meli said...

I definitely want to hear all about this conference when you get back :-)

Greg said...

One's life touches so many others. The world is a better place for Rance's time here. May he be at peace for that.