On Saturday mornings the Mormons and Koreans play soccer. The field is two miles from DFW Airport. You can almost feel the loud stream of planes landing.
I have played for the Mormon team for the past year. Only half the team is actually LDS. It’s all guys from the community, mostly in their twenties and thirties. But the Mormons send the evite, arrange for the field, and bring the goals, so I think of it as their team. It’s more structured than any old pick up game. And more consistent.
The Koreans have blue uniforms. They may be as American as any of us, but most are affiliated with a local Korean Christian church, and many speak Korean on the field. They also have a few ringers from Central America. (I am pretty sure I saw one enter with the El Salvadorian delegation during the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics). The Koreans won’t play on Sundays, so the local adult league didn’t work for them. Same for the Mormons. Most of us have kids too. Weekends are busy.
So the same two teams play each other every Saturday at 7 a.m. near the airport. We all know each other now. We are friends.
When I was younger I played a lot of soccer. I also played on my mission in Chile. Back then I was more Mormon than I am now.
Even though there are bishopric counselors and elders quorum presidents on the field, it is not an Official Church Thing. It is nobody’s assignment. It is not announced at Church. We are there for fun. And there is zero proselytizing. About the closest I have seen is a few Mormons teasing one of the Koreans for smoking during half time.
It all feels organic and authentic in a way Church no longer does. Yet something about the early morning routine, the weekly exercise and exhaustion, the socializing with people I otherwise wouldn’t—it somehow feels like Mormon soccer to me. Like the planes landing, there is this familiar rhythm to it. If I am honest, it is a rhythm I occasionally miss. Mormon soccer has much of what the Church used to mean for me.
For the past few years, I have been renegotiating what it means for me to be Mormon. I no longer believe, at least not literally. I have all kinds of objections to Official Church Things. I worry about whether I can maintain a sense of integrity and any kind of Mormon identity. I don’t know.
But I can say this: I know that playing soccer for the Mormon team on Saturday mornings is a joy. I fit right in. It makes me feel healthy and local, and maybe even spiritual, whatever that means.