Saturday, January 01, 2005

Mormon New Year

New Years Day 7:42 a.m.

There’s no need to cough, I’ve discovered. Not most of the time anyhow. I have found I am able to breathe through the sensation and experience first the tickle at the back of my throat and then the pain, the watering of the eyes, the sort of overwhelming readjustment that to me feels most like bursting into tears, but silently. It means coming to grips with - facing up to – a deep pain. And experience it in its full. To cough it off is to discount it, to scare it away with an act of destruction. I just coughed. I couldn’t find the pain.

I passed New Year’s Eve with my wife and son at a party hosted by some Mormon friends of ours from Canada. Many of the members of the Budapest international branch of the Mormon Church were there. Unlike at other New Year’s parties I’ve been to, there was no alcohol, no weed, and no coffee. There was also little in the way of music and no dancing. There was a TV on in a side room where a group of teenage girls sat watching old musicals the whole night.

It could have been interesting to have turned up earlier and played more of a role in setting the tone for the event. To have shook hands with everyone who showed up “on time” and greet the later arrivals. To have joined in the early discussions. But there weren’t many discussions that I came across. I got involved in one with a Norwegian medical student who’d joined the Church at age 19. He told me of his earlier interest in Hinduism and how he’d learned about the Church from a college roommate from Turkey who’d become a Mormon some time after coming to Norway. That discussion could have gone somewhere interesting, I think. But it was derailed by an older man who’d recently returned from Cambodia where he’d been mission president for a number of Southeast Asian countries. He related some interesting experiences. But I would have preferred to talk with the medical student about his journey from Hinduism to Mormonism.

I have long thought that the doctrines and teachings of the Church play less of a role in members’ lives than does the institution. “The Word of Wisdom” forbids the consumption of alcohol, tobacco, coffee and tea; does define them as a separate group, to an extent. It needn’t in the sense that any Mormon is free to join the company of drinkers and smokers while abstaining from ruinous acts. But most I suspect avoid the company of non-members. Except of course for the missionaries. They seek out the company of non-members everyday and engage in discussions about faith and righteous living. I noticed no missionaries at the party.

There were several young children running around and that also was a constant distraction and interruption. I don’t want to begrudge these folks at the party for being boring. But I suppose if I can isolate any one element that was missing at this party when I compare it to the New Year’s Eve parties I’ve attended in previous years, there was no sense waiting for the unexpected. No chance of a drunken brawl. No possibility of French kissing with someone else’s wife in the coatroom. And no drug-induced changes of character on anyone’s part. Too much best behavior for even a lively discussion.

But I am thankful that my family and I are alive and well and that we have a New Year to look forward to and that these sweet and decent Mormoms are our friends.


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