Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Vanity of vanities

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity. -- Ecclesiastes 1:2
I don't regret much about the time I spent as a believer in the Mormon church. I don't feel deceived or betrayed like so many other former believers. I suppose that's largely because I was a convert. No one taught me to believe; I taught myself. Who but myself, then, can I blame for having believed?

And the church was good for me, for a long time. I was in a dismal place when I joined, one that could easily have led eventually to homelessness and/or suicide. The church rescued me from that. There are other ways I might have been rescued, but the church was the one that happened to do it. I feel grateful for that.

But there are a couple of things that do I regret.

Regarding this post at Latter-day Main Street, Holly said,
In the 70s and 80s, my friends and family despised Mormons (frequently but not exclusively relatives from Utah) who were foolish enough to imagine that caffeinated sodas were against the Word of Wisdom. We felt sorry for them, that they had so little perspective on what really mattered, that they would let some remark by some crappy low-level GA change their habits of beverage consumption. And we got very indignant when people judged us over it, because it was never official, it was never part of the temple recommend interview, and and it was very obvious to anyone who ever investigated the matter–and we did, because we got tired of the flak over it–that you could always drink what you wanted.

I was one of those Mormons Holly despised. Not personally, because we didn't know each other, but I certainly believed that caffeinated sodas were against the Word of Wisdom, and I wasn't shy about saying so. Of course, I despised her type right back. I sneered at Mormons (usually but not necessarily the descendants of generations of Mormons) foolish enough to not understand that the Word of Wisdom implicitly but obviously forbid caffeinated sodas, who ignored what prophets and apostles like President Kimball and Elder McConkie said about the matter, who it seemed to me often relied on their heritage rather than the Spirit to tell them what to do, who were blessed with knowledge and resources and seemed to apply them mainly to explaining why they didn't need to keep inconvenient commandments, and so on and so forth. I felt condescendingly sorry for them too.

Back in the day, Holly and I, had we known each other, would have judged and looked down on each other, at least as far as caffeinated drinks were concerned. Yet now neither of us is a believer. Neither of us cares anymore who drinks what. The idea of caring is absurd to both of us. What a waste of time and energy it all was. As the New International Version puts the verse I started this post with, "'Meaningless! Meaningless!' says the Teacher. 'Utterly meaningless!'"

So here's two things I do regret about my time in the church. I regret the time I wasted thinking and talking about trivial matters like whether drinking 7-Up can be morally superior to drinking Coke. (How silly I feel even writing that now.) And I regret that I was the kind of person who actually judged people over things like that. I outgrew judging people that way well before I stopped believing in the church, but I'm still sorry that I was ever that big of a self-righteous ass.

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