Saturday, August 5

Surreal experience at the Cafe Brazil

After church last Sunday, my husband and I went to Cafe Brazil on Cedar Springs for some tasty migas. (There's still a little Mormon part of me that feels guilty eating out on Sunday. Is that keeping the Sabbath day holy? I've never heard anything about that on the pulpit since being Catholic, nor have I read about it. I'm not sure.)

Anyway, so my husband and I were sitting there, and started hearing the words Mormon over our shoulder. In our little area of the restaurant, we could hear the two people sitting next to us having a "get to know each other" type of conversation over their breakfast. The gentleman started slowly divulging his past. He was born in Salt Lake City, BIC ("born in the covenant", meaning his parents were sealed in the temple before he was born - basically a "cradle Mormon"), married in the Temple, divorced, married multiple times, and now he was gay. It was interesting hearing his stories about how his family would not let him see his children after he came out and the struggles he has had since coming out. (He was kind of loud, and verbose. I'm really not that nosey).

It made me think of how my life has journeyed since leaving the Mormon church. When I first left I was passionately anti-Mormon. Most ex-Mormons who left because of doctrinal differences get this way for a while. It's a good way to vent the feelings of anger and betrayal that most exMo's have. I then was agnostic for years, but still trying to find a "center" in all of it. I learned about wicca for a while, and went through a wild phase. In my mid-20's, I came back to the church for a bit, and felt more hollowed and betrayed after I left again than before I came back in.

It's odd how my Mormon past comes back to haunt me in odd ways and in the weirdest times. Like the breakfast thing earlier. Is it a sin to eat out? I don't know. I feel mischievous sometimes when I drink a Coke. I've never had guilt drinking tea since leaving the church, but I still get a thrill every time I drink a Coke. I don't do it often, but when I do I feel like the kid who swiped a cookie when their mom wasn't looking. I still am very reserved about cussing in public and have an overdeveloped sense of public dignity. I can spot a missionary a mile away, and my husband has gotten where he spots them too. On random occasions and with no provocation, I get "Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree" stuck in my head.

It's odd hearing how much hurt ex-Mormons have about the betrayal that they feel when they leave the church. I could hear the obvious hurt in that diner's voice, about how he could not visit his children because of the Bishop, and how his family had shunned him. One of my favorite blogs is Joseph's Left One, an exMo whose family is still strongly entrenched in the Mormon church. Other than talking to my best friend (whose family is still all Mormon but him), and my mom, I don't have anyone talking about Mormonism to me. It's pretty much behind me. But he's dealing with it on a daily basis. His wife is feeling pain because of his loss of testimony.

It's so confusing being an exMormon. I've been getting a lot of random out-of-the-blue comments about my blog from what I assume are God-Fearing active Mormons. Most of the comments are like, "If you'd just feel the spirit, you'd still be Mormon" and "why do you criticize the church, you don't know what you're talking about!" Things like that. What is the point of criticism like this? Do they think they're going to guilt me back into the church? "Oh my Gosh, I was lost, but then this person said I was making false assumptions about the church and all I need to do is pray and I'll come back. Why didn't I think of that?? I'll go pray right now!" What good do they think that negativity is going to do me? Or them? Does it make them feel better to put down people with differing opinions than them? It's one thing to share personal feelings about something in one's blog or in one's circle of friends. It's a totally different thing to go into someone else's home or blog uninvited and attack them for their beliefs.

I was asked by someone whose opinion I greatly respect if I brought anything good out of Mormonism. I thought about it for quite a bit. And you know, I did. Some of my best memories from my tween and teen years were with my Mormon friends. I met my best friend at a Mormon church, and my life wouldn't be the same without him. I learned lots of homemaking skills, like how to iron a shirt and how to cook. I learned how to study, and I learned how to defend my beliefs by learning everything I could about a subject. Much of my family is still Mormon and they have not had the kind of amazingly hurtful things happen to them that I have read about on the RFM boards (well, that's not totally true, but they were able to move past the hurtful things and remain faithful members).

But doing this evaluation made me realize something else - I learned nothing about God while Mormon. Everything I learned was false, based on the claims of someone whom I have come to believe is a liar, and the things I did learn didn't move me with passion. The temple was boring (and heartbreaking - it kept getting thrown in my face how single people were less worthy than married people and I hated that), sacrament meeting was amateur hour. Fellowshipping for me simply didn't exist. Doing endowment sessions didn't move me nearly as much as attending Mass and receiving the Eucharist does now. Every single Sunday I look forward to communing with God in the most intimate way possible. I looked forward to the Temple because I liked dressing up, and feeling like I was doing what God wanted me to do. But I never felt close to God. I always walked out of there feeling lonely. Every time. I often cried in the Celestial Room because I couldn't understand that if I was supposed to be doing God's work, why did I feel so alone? When I'm in Mass, praying in front of the Tabernacle, I never feel alone, even though sometimes I'm there by myself.

And here's another thing - I love being Catholic. I love going to Mass, I love hearing the homilies, I love receiving the Eucharist. I love wearing my St. Benedict medal, and I love praying the Rosary before Mass. I love blessing my food before I eat, and I love learning about saints. I love the feeling I have when I pray to God in gratefulness for the sacrifice that Christ made for me. I love the calm, centered feeling that I have now, whether I'm in church or whether I'm sitting at work. Sometimes it washes over me in waves and makes me just genuinely happy about life. I love feeling my prayers, if that makes sense. It's all so good. It's like being raised on fast food, and then being introduced to Vietnamese Pho, and Enchiladas, and Spaghetti, and Chinese Stir-fry. There's a world of good things out there that exist outside of the circle of Mormonism, and I'm experiencing all of them that I can.


At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very solid, quiet, deeply good post. Thank you. And Sunday is the feast day of the Resurrection: worship, family, friends, eating out, good deeds--all these are appropriate. Feast!

Jim McCullough
Dir. of Religious Ed.
Our Lady of Grace Church
Greensboro, NC

At 7:27 PM, Blogger Petra said...

Thank you very much for this beautiful reflection!

I was asked by someone whose opinion I greatly respect if I brought anything good out of Mormonism.
As the Church says, everything that is good and holy in other religions is to be valued and may lead one to the true God and His Church. I for myself also appreciate very much the values my secular, lifelong-agnostic parents have taught me (though they may have been influenced by Christian values to a great extent, especially my mother who comes from a Catholic familiy and whose own mother was a practising Catholic in her youth and at the end of her life).

And no, eating out on Sundays is definitely not a sin. Quite the contrary. Sunday is a day of joy because of the Resurrection. During Lent, fasting does not apply on Sundays, because it's a feast. So yes, honoring God's Creation by going out and eating a good meal is certainly a way of keeping Sunday holy. (I always wonder by the way why in the Protestant tradition - from which Mormonism derives, after all - Sunday and the Sabbath are collapsed into each other. Because Sunday is not the Sabbath. It may have some of its characteristics, but the reason for its existence as the Christian feast day of the week is definitely of New Testament origin.)

At 1:07 AM, Blogger Vajra said...

Thank you for this post. I'm having a hard time right now: I'm pissed off at God, big time. But reading your post made me remember what it's like when I'm not angry.

At 1:36 AM, Blogger glorybe said...

Thank you, Cynthia, for a very beautiful and inspiring post.

At 7:01 PM, Blogger Joseph's Left One said...

I'm clearly not in the same place you are, but I thoroughly enjoyed this post. Very well done and thoughtful. And thanks for the kind words. Life goes on, and I'm surviving.


At 8:57 AM, Blogger Laura H. said...

Excuse my ignorance, but why do you feel guilty drinking a coke?

I like this post, btw. I love the enthusiasm for the Church - it's so refreshing!

At 9:58 AM, Blogger Cynthia said...

@ Laura H.

Mormons have a health code that is followed called the Word of Wisdom. This guideline gives rules such as no cigarettes, no alcohol, and no "hot drinks" (defined as tea and coffee). While these are the letter of the law, the spirit of the law, taught and practiced, also includes illegal drugs as well as cola and other caffeinated drinks.

Growing up, I was not allowed to drink coffee, tea, or caffeinated soda like Coke and Dr. Pepper. I could occassionally get away with a Mountain Dew or something, but it was frowned upon. Even when I left the church and drank coffee and tea on a regular basis, I couldn't get over my indoctrination of how Coke was evil and my overdeveloped sense of guilt would kick in.

So now, when I deviate and have a Coke, I feel a touch naughty.

The reason the Mormon church taught that eating out was not keeping the Sabbath Day holy was because forcing people to work on Sunday so that you could eat out was forcing other people to not be able to keep the Sabbath day holy. I've heard that "purchasing unnecessary items" is breaking the rule against the Sabbath, but nothing specifically about eating out.

At 1:24 PM, Blogger Laura H. said...

Interesting. What were the reasons behind the Word of Wisdom? It sounds a lot like Jewish traditions (in an odd way)...

At 5:09 PM, Blogger Arizona Expositor said...

Great posting, as someone trying to get over my hurtful phase of leaving the Church I am searching for God in my own ways. I have considered agnostic but I value a personal relationship with Him and I started on that search outside of Mormonism. My wife is still a TBM and she is scared where I am going with this, but we agree to respect each other and love each other no matter what. The good news is that I have time on my side and I will not be pushed into another religion without studying more about it, pro/con. No more "milk before the meat"...

I am working with my wife on getting over the Sunday guilt trip as well. Sundays are about family and time together no matter if it's eating out or BBQ at home. Good thing none of our immediate families are Mormon, we were converts.

Great reading and keep the faith and your relationship with God.

At 11:18 AM, Blogger The Sinister Porpoise said...

Well, the real reason behind the Word of Wisdom is that Emma was fed up with cleaning tobacco juice and cigar butts.

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Cynthia said...

This is true. Emma (Joseph Smith's wife) was griping about the mess from the tobacco juice and the smoking, and that night Joseph Smith had a revelation.

With the revivals that were going on in New England during that period, temeperance was preached as a viture and was incorporated into many religions that developed during that time, such as the Seventh Day Adventists.

Here's an interesting web page with information about the development of the Word of Wisdom:

It states:

The development of the Word of Wisdom as LDS Doctrine is certainly interesting from my perspective.

I recall learning about Emma's complaint of tobacco smoke and chewing tobacco that prompted the Word of Wisdom revelation. While reading "Mormon Enigma; Emma Hale Smith", by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery I learned some additional information.

Here is an extract from the book (page 47):

Thus Emma, faced almost daily with "having to clean so filthy a floor" as was left by the men chewing tobacco, spoke to Joseph about the matter. David Whitmer's account supports Brigham Young's description. "Some of the men were excessive chewers of the filthy weed, and their disgusting slobbering and spitting cursed Mrs. Smith ... to make the ironical remark that 'It would be a good thing if a revelation could be had declaring the use of tobacco a sin, and commanding its suppression.'" Emma had support among the women...

I think we are probably all familiar with the above account. But the following passage was a surprise to me.

Whitmer further reports, "The matter was taken up and joked about one of the brethren suggested that the revelation should also provide for a total abstinence from tea and coffee drinking, intending this as a counter dig at the sisters." Joseph made the issue the subject of prayer, and the "Word of Wisdom" was a result.

[A discussion of the events of this period is found in Paul H. Peterson, "An Historical Analysis of the Word of Wisdom" (Master's thesis). The quotations from David Whitmer are from the Des Moines Daily News, 16 October 1886, p. 20]

At 2:17 AM, Blogger Jane said...

I enjoy reading about your experiences. I appreciate your decision to explain your views with reason rather than anger. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

At 6:57 AM, Blogger Milton Stanley said...

The Sabbath as a day of the week is pretty much an Old Testament thing. Anyway, the Sabbath is Saturday, not Sunday. Ask any Jew. Ask any priest, for that matter.

I've never been a Morman, but I've had the guilty thoughts about making someone work on Sunday morning to prepare my lunch at a restaurant. That, by the way, is a big part of the reason many churches have Sunday evening services: to let those who had to work in the morning worship, too.

Whether or not it's OK to eat out on Sunday is very much a Romans 14 kind of issue--up to the conscience of each believer. If your conscience really bothers you, then don't. If you decide that it is OK, then do it with all your heart and praise God for the food and fellowship. And for your Coke.

At 10:55 PM, Blogger Laura H. said...

Thanks for the explanation.

So basically it was a 'teaching' that stemmed from annoyance?

I really should read more about Mormonism. I'm ignorant as it concerns the faith and its principles. I began to study it once but quickly stopped. I don't recall the reason.

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

Good for you, Cynthia!! Even as an above-average-devout Catholic, I struggled with my faith while dating a Mormon and feeling the daily pressures to convert. I heard all the "if you'd only open your heart and listen..." lines and you know what - I did open my heart more to God; and you know what else - it led me stronger into my Catholic beliefs!! I, too, love being Catholic (even the cruddy guilt stuff) and I welcome you to the true Church!!

At 3:42 PM, Blogger Nicole said...

Good for you, Cynthia!! Even as an above-average-devout Catholic, I struggled with my faith while dating a Mormon and feeling the daily pressures to convert. I heard all the "if you'd only open your heart and listen..." lines and you know what - I did open my heart more to God; and you know what else - it led me stronger into my Catholic beliefs!! I, too, love being Catholic (even the cruddy guilt stuff) and I welcome you to the true Church!!

At 3:30 AM, Blogger Pondering American said...

Enjoy your blog. I find it once and have been looking for it again. As a convert I am so overjoyed for you

At 7:54 AM, Anonymous Lori 29 said...

hi! I have a question for you from our neighborhood. I don't know if this is a general mormon thing or if its like colorado culture or something but- this mormon family won't let us come inside their house except for the odd occasion and the mom will not allow her kids inside our homes most of the time, or talks her way out of actually coming inside your house. Its just very obvious because we have such a close neighborhood where we moms visit each other and have playdates with the exception on the mormon family. So, are we not allowed in her house for religous reasons or what? thanks!

At 12:07 AM, Blogger Los said...

I just had a nice talk with two LDS missionaries yesterday. For about an hour. I did not know much about the Mormon church, and decided I would spend some time with them and ask many questions. They were pretty knowledgable in their religion, but lacked knowledge about other religions or even catholicism.

I have a thirst for knowledge at this point in my life, especially for religion. The more I learn about another religion, the more my Catholic faith is strengthened. They were adamant that Jesus took back the authority he gave the apostles, and returned it only to Joseph Smith. I find that very Hard to swallow. I asked them who started thier church, and told them who started the Catholic church, Jesus Christ, and asked them why they wouldn't want to be a part of the church that was started by Jesus Christ. Our church is 2000 years old, while the Mormon church is about 170 years old. They didnt have much of a response, except that if God told them to convert, they would.

They said they would be back in my area next week, and may stop by again. I was wondering what questions would be good to ask them, not to make controversy, but to bring certain issue to light.

Thank you,
Carlos Perez
Holy Apostles Catholic Church
Colorado Springs, CO

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Toby O said...

The word of wisdom issue should be a whole nother entry, yo. But since it's not...

I want to add my 0.02 and say I looked it up and 'hot drinks' in the D&C doesn't really refer to coffee, this was a later interpretation. The WoW as we know it today really only took hold in the early 20th century.

Also the whole alcohol thing wasn't the way it is now, Brigham Young regularly had a nightcap right up until he died.

Back to your entry I'm glad I'm not in Utah. I wonder if this sort of experience exists anywhere else in the world. Intercourse, PA, maybe?

At 7:11 PM, Anonymous Achyvi said...

I just wanted to say that your ending reflections on how you love what you do now struck me as utterly inspiring. It always gives me a wonderful warm feeling when I read about someone who's found exactly what they were looking for in life and are happy and content with themselves, no matter the subject matter, especially because it seems to happen so infrequently. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with the rest of us on the internet tubes! It definitely made my evening a little brighter. :)

At 1:42 PM, Blogger Catherine said...

I love to read your Blog dear. As a Catholic living in Utah for the past 26 years......I can relate to EVERYTHING YOU SAID! LOL! I was married to a Mormon - father of my adult children - for 10 years.......sigh.......and yes, I still had to get an annullment to marry my late husband.

Living in the SLC area is an "adventure." (EG) But I will admit it's beautiful out here.....and the area grows on fungus......(G). You do get a feeling of security.

Although I vehemently disagree with Mormon theology, in my current neighborhood here the Mormon neighbors are wonderful. (I did, however, manage to buy a house in Farmington five years ago with two other Catholic families - unbeknownst to me! Now here in Utah, what are the odds of that?!)

Old habits die hard, dear. Rather like to this day I cannot put a pair of shoes (even brand new ones still in the box) on the table or IS bad luck you know.....or so said my Missouri-born-and-bred-first-generation-American-German Grandparents....LOL!) I think the "Coke-is-evil" thing is rather like that....having observed it out here.

BTW, though......have you noticed how many devote LDS members have NO ISSUE with Coke? Hmmmmm...... Just an observation.

Good luck dear from here "Behind the Zion Curtain"

At 9:23 AM, Anonymous celticcherokee said...

Dear Milton,Our Sabboth is Sunday. From sun down on Sat, to Sunday evening. Saturday is the Jewish sabboth. Remember the resurection? The Church moved to Sunday because of that. We are still to keep it holy. The 10 commandments were not just for the people in the OT.
We go to Mass during the Sunday Sabboth.
That said, it is contraversial whether or not to eat out on Sunday. It's like this: either we work to prepare our own food, or we condone the working of others to prepare our food. Working for pay is considered the work that should be restricted-- "servile work" as the Catechism puts it. We, as a society, force people to do servile work because of our 'need' to eat out on Sunday. Just food for thought. I'd love a true expert to shed light on this.
As for me, I still struggle with this issue.


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