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For I am not ashamed...

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As you know, Passover began at sundown last night. Our dining hall serves dishes that are kosher for Passover all through the holiday, but you have to go to the head of the line and ask for it specifically: "Can I have the Passover dish, please?" Then you have to wait there until they bring it out -- usually a 5 minute wait.

And during that wait, people keep asking if they can help you, or if you're waiting in line, and you have to kinda shift to the side and say, "No, I'm just waiting for...mumble...mumble..."

Or so it was explained to me.

Moreover, because our school is so small (1700 students or so), and because we (that is, my group of friends) eat at the same dining hall and the same time every night, the dining staff knows us all by name, and we know most of the students who are getting food at the same time.

So I decided to try it. There wasn't much I could eat last night -- I have a slew of allergies that kept me from the main courses -- and ended up with just a salad when I noticed that the kosher dish was kosher for me as well. My friends all laughed as I, the Mormon kid, hesitated to go up and ask for the Passover dish -- I didn't want to deprive some Jewish kid of dinner, you know.

"How are they supposed to know you're Mormon, not Jewish?" That's a good question. They won't. But I will. And everyone will think I'm Jewish if I'm asking for this dish.

So I go to the head of the line. I stand there, waiting. I grin and say to Sue*, "Can I have the Passover dish?" And Sue smiles indulgently and replies in a tone that indicates we've got a secret between us two -- with everyone else watching, "Yes, dear -- it'll be just a moment."

And I stand there. I put my hands in my pockets. I rock back and forth. I wait. I feel people watching me. I shake my head and mumble "No, I'm waiting for...mumble..mumble..." when another of the staff asks if he can help me. Finally, the dish comes out, and is passed where everyone can see to where I'm standing. I grin: "Thank you," and proceed triumphant back to my seat.

Darn it, and I'm not even Jewish! So why do I feel that way? Why do the Jewish guys I was eating dinner with feel that way?

And to translate it over to Mormonism: why do I kinda mumble when people ask me what I'm doing on a Saturday -- and I could just tell them, "Oh, I'm driving down to Boston to visit the temple." Why do I put my hands in my pockets and reply kind of shyly when people ask if I want to go somewhere on Sunday morning and I have to reply, "Would love to, but I've got church in the morning."

Am I ashamed of the Gospel of Christ? Could it be a lack of self-confidence in my ability to explain why I go to the temple sometimes on Saturdays, or why I got to church on Sunday mornings -- or why I want the Passover dish when I'm not even observing Passover?

Or is it just some natural reaction that comes with being part of a minority and not wanting to be singled out as such?

Either way, the chicken was delicious -- and far better than just a salad, any day.

*Name changed to protect the super-cool dining hall staff who give me yummy food every day.

11 Responses to “For I am not ashamed...”

  1. Blogger Mike 

    Very good questions. I do try to share the gospel but probably don't do all I should- especially lately.

    With the being uncomfortable with questions- I think it is a combination of being singled out and identified as different and worry of messing it up.

  2. Blogger D-Train 

    Here's something that both confirms my prideful nature and explains why I feel the same way you do, although probably for different reasons.

    First, I don't trust other people in a lot of things, simply because I think I can do a better job in the things I'm involved in. For example, I never wanted anyone other than me to pitch a big game for my various baseball teams, both because I felt an obligation to win for my team and because I didn't want anyone else to screw things up for me. But I always had confidence in my arm and figured that I'd find a way to win.

    With the gospel, I'm just not confident. For example, I feel that I've failed my family in sharing the word with them --- even though I know that it's at least not all my fault that they haven't found what I have. With the loss of confidence comes two things. I'm willing to "let others share the gospel" because I don't think I can succeed. Also, I don't want to be a failure, so by not trying, I come as close to success as I can. I don't take responsibility for missionary work the way I did for baseball because I don't see the results that I used to get.

    Another thing that troubles me is the fact that I don't want to stick out. I don't want to be harrassed or have people take a deep interest in me, so I just want to not be called out. I've been fighting this lately by randomly working the fact that I'm Mormon into conversation. That helps me to be out there whether I want to be or not.

  3. Anonymous Susan M 

    Well you guys can be semi-proud of me. I just started a new job at a good size company, and the two owners took me and another new hire out for lunch today. One of the owners started talking about the book Under the Banner of Heaven, so I mentioned I have a book club through my women's group at church. He said, "You're not Mormon, are you?" I said, "I am." He was kinda embarrassed, like, "Oh great, and I mention this book!" So we ended up talking about religion and Mormons for awhile. Last thing I ever expected.

    I wasn't going to mention being Mormon when he first brought up the book, but I didn't shy away from mentioning that my book club was through my church, which I could've done if I wanted to avoid it.

  4. Blogger Arwyn 

    Good job, Susan!

    When it comes down to it in such situations, I always end up saying -- but not nearly as proudly as I might have, when I was a child (and wanted to reply to every "Are you Mormon" query with "True-blue, through and through, born in Utah and proud of it!").

    I think, for me, a lot of it has to do with what D-Train suggested -- wanting someone to tell it right, and not being confident in myself to do the best job.

    Especially now, when I tend to be more self-critical -- and more thoughtful of my beliefs -- I have a hard time sharing the Gospel without also sharing those doubts, or wanting to appear like a thinking member of society instead of a religious fanatic. I know the two aren't mutually exclusive...

    ...but in the end, it all boils down to what people will think. Huh. Maybe I need to care less about that.

  5. Blogger Pris 

    Oddly enough, I don't have a problem sharing the gospel. It usually comes up when someone asks me what I do/study or why I have all these books on Mormons.

    Perhaps it's scary, but there are quite a few people out there that know about the church (or know things about the church) because they know me. I try and be fair about it, attempting to explain the complexity, things that are (imo) good and things that are (imo) bad.

    Perhaps I have no problem doing this because there's no gain or loss in it for me. Part of it, also, is that I'm relatively confident about my position and ability to share. But that's probably just pride, arrogance, and/or hubris.

  6. Blogger Arwyn 

    Or possibly it's the ability to disassociate yourself from the bad. You can look at it objectively, and say, "Well, this is good, this is bad, and these are the things I think about it," but not feel like it's something you are and therefore have to justify in order to justify your very being.

  7. Blogger Pris 

    True, but there is the flipside as well: how do I adequately explain that there's all this good in the Church, but that I'm not a member? Since it would seem that I don't buy my own (positive) arguments, it lessens their strength.

  8. Blogger Arwyn 

    That's a good question, Pris -- I'm rather curious to know the answer. ;)

  9. Anonymous Susan M 

    But Pris, you *aren't* Mormon. Why should it matter to you? Are you trying to convert people to the gospel?

  10. Blogger Pris 

    Regardless of the veracity of the LDS truth-claims, the social structure and way-of-living that the Church provides are good for some people. Indeed, with the exception of how it effects my own choices and lifestyle, I'm generally all for people converting. Though there are, in my opinion, serious flaws with some of the Church's social doctrine, the world would be a better place if more people converted.

    So, yes, I do have an interest in it. Whether or not I've actively tried to convert people is a matter of definitions. I'd like to believe that I played a(n admittedly small) role in the conversion of a friend of a friend. He came to the church on his own; when I talked to him about it and told him what I thought, he thanked me for my third-party, measured, mostly neutral thoughts. And I voiced my support for his baptism.

    Arywn: your smiley there belies the question. H.L. Mencken is quoted as saying, "For every complex problem, there is an answer that is clear, simple--and wrong." Unfortunately, there is no easy answer; in fact, an answer at all would require a few hours of intense discussion, which will have to wait for another time, perhaps over coffee.

  11. Blogger Arwyn 

    My smiley was intended to convey the fact that I was smiling as I asked the question -- because it's one that interests me.

    Some people ask me, "Well, for all that you have issues with the Church (small but complicated to me though they be), why don't you leave it?" And I find it intensely interesting to know someone who's got the opposite question being posed.

    I do think a longer post on it from you would make a valuable contribution to discussion here -- because I think it's a question that a lot of people ask. My step-father thinks Mormonism is probably the best organized religion, but keeps kicking the missionaries out for his own reasons, and I'm always interested (not judgemental -- which the smiley was also supposed to help convey) to hear what those are.

    But coffee works too. Give me a ring next time you're in Seattle and we'll party.

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