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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mormonism for Drunks

Last weekend I went to Vegas to see my friend Kelly from Cleveland.
We went cooler places than the airport,
but we forgot to take pictures at those places.
It was one of the few bright spots at the end of a hard year. And, let me tell you, Kelly from Cleveland knows how to do Vegas. There's no hanging out in her mother-in-law's basement like yours truly. Nope. There's shopping, and eating good food, and winning money, and staying at nice hotels.

This is not how I do Vegas.

But Kelly from Cleveland let me live vicariously through her, asking me be her personal shopper and buying me a delicious steak at a restaurant with singing frogs and waterfalls that was not Rainforest CafĂ©.* I did, however, miss out on the club with the ladies taking waterless baths and the man wearing the bear head who may or may not have worked there.

Again, this was not my typical Vegas visit to the in-laws.

Kelly's husband Chris and her friend Kathleen also ate delicious steak  with us and later her friend--I'll call him Drunk Larry (mostly because his name is Larry and because he was, in fact, drunk)--showed up to drink some wine and eat our delicious leftovers. We had a very fine time and Larry--as he himself pointed out--was hiLARRYous.

During our lively conversation there were some questions asked/statements made about Mormons. I did an okay job of answering them, but now that I've had a few days to think them over and Larry's had a few days to sober up, I think I'd like to give it another go. I'll leave it to anyone who wasn't at that dinner who may read this blog to guess which questions asked/statements made were from the one among us who was not entirely sober.

You're a Mormon? Where did you park your horse and buggy?
At Brigham Young's house...back in 1858.

The typical form of transportation used by Mormons now looks like this:**
Based on this picture, 2 out of 9 Mormon children will have broken arms at any given time.
Is there such a thing as a Mormon high school?
Yes, in some parts of Utah and Idaho. Except it's called public school and isn't actually owned by the Church.
In many parts of the world though, high school age kids attend what we call seminary which is usually held in our church buildings. This is religious instruction that generally happens before school where there isn't a high concentration of Mormons. In Utah, Southern Idaho and parts of Arizona this instruction takes place during the school day in seminary buildings located near high schools and is officially known as released time. It's part of a student's class schedule, but no credit is given for the course. Except in Heaven.

Are there black Mormons?
Yes. Here's one right here:
There are more, but I'm not gonna lie. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints--just like most other predominately white Christian churches--has a difficult history when it comes to Black Americans and because of that we don't have nearly the number of black members I would like to see us have. I found this cool site though, if you want to know more about black Latter Day Saints.

Are there gay Mormons?
Yes there are members of the Church who struggle with same-sex attraction. This one is hard because of our belief that gender is eternal and that marriage is between a man and a woman (as a side-note, not all faithful members agree with this). Sex outside of marriage is also considered a sin, thereby resigning someone attracted to another of the same sex to a life of celibacy if he/she wants to remain a fully practicing Mormon.
It's a difficult subject and one that the Church has not always been sensitive to or open about. I think this website is a huge step in the right direction toward a more compassionate approach to same-sex attraction.

Do Mormons get Botox?
At least one of us does:

Have you seen Book of Mormon, the musical? Is the history in it right?
I haven't seen it so I don't know for sure. But if it's about a fourteen year old boy named Joseph Smith who, in 1820, read in James 1:5  If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him, decided to put that scripture to the test by asking God which church to join and was answered over a number of years with visions of God, Jesus, and angels and actual gold plates from which we get our Book of Mormon that does not include any dancing, singing, or stages; then yes, the history is correct.
Even telling you about it makes me think, this must sound crazy to someone who hasn't heard it before.
But no crazier than a virgin giving birth to the son of God and that same son coming back to life after three days and a lot more people (including me) believe those stories.
You can read Joseph Smith's experience in his own words here. It's kind of long and doesn't have the same humor as Matt Stone and Trey Parker's version, but I'd venture to say it's better.
Does your Mormon God (fill in the blank):
My Mormon God does the same thing as your Jewish/Catholic/Muslim/Christian/whatever God. They're all the same guy, we just recognize and worship Him in different ways. Mormons are different than other Christians in that we don't believe in the doctrine of the trinity. We believe God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are three separate beings and that God and Jesus have bodies of flesh and bone.
There's a lot of people who don't like that about us, but I'm okay with that.
If I were a Mormon I wouldn't have lost my phone.
It's true if you were Mormon you probably wouldn't have been drunk, making it easier for you to not lose your phone. But Mormons lose things too.
We even lose things bigger than cells phones. Like jobs or homes or spouses. Sometimes we even lose children. Bad things happen to Mormons just like they happen to other good people. And life can be hard and sometimes we're sad.
But we have this scripture from the Book of Mormon (not the musical) that helps: 2 Nephi 2:25 aAdam bfell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.
And we have our belief that there has to be opposition in all things. In order to know joy, we have to know misery, in order to feel pleasure we have to feel pain, in order to love we have to grieve.
It doesn't necessarily make things easier when we have hard times, but it brings some peace knowing God isn't mean and basically just wants us to be as happy as He is.
There were more questions, but I can't remember all of them and some of them weren't entirely appropriate. Basically it comes down to this: Mormons look a lot like you. Except without the alcohol or coffee. Or the cursing (at least not as much). And maybe a few other things--like more kids--but not always. (For the record, Drunk Larry has one more of those than me).
So there you go. A little slice of Mormonism in a nutshell.
A very small slice in a very small nutshell.
There's really a lot more and you could probably find a lot better answers in some other places, like But feel free to ask me any questions you may have. I will be happy to answer them if they're asked in a way that doesn't hurt my feelings.*** (Hard questions I'm okay with. Mean questions I'm not--I'm funny that way).
* Also there was fry sauce to go with our magically delicious French fries which gives me hope that the fry sauce phenomenon has crossed the Utah border and is finally making it's way West toward me.
** Most Mormons do not actually drive red Econo-vans. That was a joke... they're usually white.
*** To be clear, my Cleveland friends' questions did not hurt my feelings. Drunk Larry's surprise at finding himself dining with a Mormon was an entertainment highlight of the summer. And my summers are pretty entertaining.