Monday, April 25, 2011

Mormon Lent - A cross-denominational experiment...

Regular readers of this irregular blog will know that this is primarily a writing blog - I post some of my rough drafts here for input. Although I rarely receive any, it meets my need to feel as if I am doing something towards my dream of being a writer. However, today I am turning in another, far more personal direction: Faith. This is no pithy piece of fiction, it is an exploration of my feelings towards God.

While I expect to receive as little feedback as I do with any of my blog updates, be forewarned that I am not inviting debate nor do I wish to stir up controversy. I just feel the need to share.

So, here it goes...

First off, you should know that Mormons do not generally practice Lent and it is most definitely not an official rite of worship. In fact, having been raised in Utah and never having much familiarity with other religions at all, I don't remember even knowing of such a thing until well into my adulthood. Even so, until this year I never had a real understanding of what Lent even is. It was just one of those things that Catholics do at Easter time, along with the ashes and the palms and such. This year, I learned a bit more about Lent.

I have a great friend, named Bernie who is a devout Catholic. Now, I know that in this day and age, to call anyone a devout anything is to summon the Hollywood archetype of the closed-minded prude who gasps at the audacity of the much more enlightened world for their utter godlessness. I know this stereotype to be very false, and especially so in Bernie's case. He has a very sharp sense of truth and beauty, and his ability to bring an idea into a very sharp focus with a very colloquial style of writing is one of my favorite things about him. Neither is he judgmental or prudish - he is very firm in his belief and allows all others the freedom to feel the same way about theirs.

Bernie has a blog, which he updates on a regular basis. (Much more regular than this poor, neglected space!) And about a month and a half ago, he wrote an entry on his feelings towards Lent. As usual, when Bernie 'splains it, it makes perfect sense. Lent was the custom of giving up something, or committing to do something every day until Easter. The purpose was to bring us closer to God through the act of sacrifice and commitment. (Did I get that right Bern?) Us Mormons get that concept - once a month we are asked to fast for two meals, and donate the money saved to the poor. That is why the first Sunday of each month is called Fast Sunday, and the young deacons are dispatched around the ward to collect the Fast Offerings. We fast for many different reasons, not the least of which is to help the poor. Nevertheless, there are many deeper reasons for the sacrifice of food for a time, no matter how short. And these reasons are very similar to the reasons that Bernie described for Lent.

I really liked Bernie's description of Lent, and was pondering it later when I ran across a comment posted to Facebook by another friend, who also happens to be a Mormon like me. She said "Although I'm not Catholic, I've always liked the idea of giving something up for Lent."

It had never occurred to me that I could also participate in Lent. There is nothing in this observance that is contrary to the doctrine of my church. We Mormons do believe in seeking after "anything that is virtuous, lovely, or of good report" after all. And I have always had a hard time with commitments to give up something, or to begin a new regimen or discipline. Here was a ready-made timeline and plan for doing so. And I would be making my commitment to my Father in Heaven, whom I most hate to disappoint.

It wasn't hard to find something to commit to. Last fall, due in large part to my overall lack of fitness and at least thirty extra pounds (OK, I might even admit to as much as forty... but no more!) I tore the ACL and smashed the Meniscus cartilage in my knee and had to undergo re-constructive surgery. As a result of a squabble with my insurance company, my physical therapy was cut short, and I was left rehabilitating myself, but doing so very badly. When the scale tipped over to 260 pounds one morning, I knew that enough was enough. My wife had bought me a Wii Fit for my birthday, and I decided, as part of my Lenten observance, that I would work out for at least twenty minutes each workday, in the morning before I went to work.

The second part of my Lenten commitment may sound a bit kooky at first, but stick with me... I promise I can explain.

Working out in the morning was great, but it left me in a very... ummm... perspirational(?) state. (I did mention being fifty pounds overweight, didn't I?) When I went upstairs, I would jump in the shower, and the hot water would wash the sweat off, and then make me sweat even more. It got to where I was sweatier after getting dressed than I had been after working out! So I decided, that along with my commitment to exercise every day, I would also give up warm showers for the duration of Lent. (See? I told you it was a bit kooky...)

Finally, I asked my dearest Emily to put me back on the diet that she tried to put me on a couple of years ago, which she eventually gave up because I would just eat more at work to make up for the calories she was trimming at home. (Cursed candy machines...)

So, to sum up: Diet, Exercise, and Cold Showers. This was my Lenten sacrifice.

I learned a lot about myself, and the strength that we can receive when we hand our weakness over to the Lord.

But it's late tonight. I will have to tell you more about that later.


  1. Cool, my friend. Well, 'sweaty,' actually, but intriguing. I hope you will continue with your thoughts.

  2. I think "when Bernie 'splains it, it makes perfect sense" should be the new tag line for his blog.

    Looking forward to reading Part 2!

  3. That was an interesting combination of Lent sacrafices. Need to let us know how it all worked out?

  4. Indeed, I am most interested to hear the rest of the story. Sand made me promise not to share with you one of the medieval penitential forms -- spending the night in a grave with a dead body. Those guys back then took Lent a little too serious perhaps.

  5. Ty? After all that... did it do any good... other than that spiritual goodness we both know you felt?

    Your friend... PL... :)