How a Pepperidge Farms cake revealed that everyone is obedient to something, if they realize it or not

My friend “Sally” has a brother who openly belittles her for being “blindly obedient” to her religion. Privately, Sally struggles to think more charitably of “John” who she thinks is a jerk.

One summer their parents invited Sally’s family and John’s family to share their condo at the beach. They agreed until they found out—too late—that each other’s family would be there. So Sally, her husband, and three kids decided to try to be cordial to Jon, his wife and two kids.

But things started off rocky, because while John and his family arrived at the condo on Saturday, Sally and her husband has responsibilities at their church and didn’t want to miss it. Normally they avoided travel on Sundays, but to keep the family peace, they left after church and arrived at the condo that evening.

It wasn’t good enough. John greeted them with, “You and that stupid church of yours. I swear, you’re so blindly obedient to it that you fear to miss even one day? Check-in to the condo was yesterday, you know. You were supposed to be here then.”

Sally was determined to be kind, even though it was silently eating her gut. She had called the condo earlier and they told her check-in started on Saturday, but they could check in at any time that week.

However, Sally gritted her teeth and said, “Thank you for getting the place for us.” She decided not to further ruin her Sabbath by getting in an argument about her “blind obedience.” Jon had quit religion when he was a teenager, and thought Sally was ridiculous for giving up her Sundays.

The next morning, Sally got up to make her kids their favorite muffins. She dumped the mixes in the bowl and proceeded to whip the contents into a froth.

“Whoa!” John exclaimed as he came in the kitchen. “That’s not how you make muffins!” He snatched the bowl out of her hands, picked up the box with instructions, and said, “Look—it clearly says, ‘Mix gently until just moistened.’ Can’t you follow directions?”

She grabbed the bowl back, trying not to feel like a twelve-year-old again. “I know what the box says, but some months ago one of my kids made muffins, overmixed the batter, and we discovered that we much prefer that texture. Whipping improves the recipe, and this is how we like it!” She purposely whipped the batter even more, just to shock her brother who stormed out of the kitchen mumbling, “She can’t ever get things right . . .”

The muffins turned out exactly how Sally and her family liked them.

That day the weather was rough, so instead of spending it at the beach, the families hit the shops. Sally and John took their kids in different directions. One store on the boardwalk was particularly aggressive in trying to get parents to buy their children an overpriced stuffed animal they “made” themselves, then paying an extra $10 for that animal to wear a t-shirt from the beach. They advertised loudly that the bears were the item to have that year, and the employees went so far as to herd families into the store.

Sally and her husband purposely steered their kids away. They had a budget for the trip, and told each of the kids how much they could spend on them. “That bear, all by itself,” Sally’s husband told their kids, “would take all of your souvenir money. One toy for all of you? But instead of a bear that wears a t-shirt, how about each of you get a t-shirt for school? The shop over there has a deal, and you could each get three shirts and still have money left over for churros.”

The decision was easily made, because churros are the best, and when they went back to the condo at dinner time they had a dozen t-shirts for the whole family. They’d stopped at the grocery store to buy supplies for dinner—grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots with dip, and a favorite cake for dessert.

Sally wasn’t surprised when they entered the condo and found John and his family already there, each of his kids with one of those bears, each with the extra $10 t-shirt.

One of Sally’s kids said to her cousins, “My parents said those were too expensive. We bought us t-shirts instead.”

As the cousins examined each other’s purchases, John smirked at Sally. “Too cheap to buy them stuffed animals?”

“Not at $50 each,” Sally scoffed. “Our kids would stick them on a shelf then never play with them. I thought it was a useless purchase for us.”

John scoffed back. “But it’s what you do at the beach! You buy them expensive souvenirs. That’s what credit cards are for.” Sally and her husband didn’t believe in using credit cards.

John also predictably made fun of their grilled cheese sandwich dinner, (“But it’s our favorite!” Sally defended) and when someone knocked at the door, John announced, “There’s our dinner from the ‘Happy Harbor’.”

John’s kids frowned as his wife paid the delivery boy. “But we hate seafood,” they complained.

“Seafood is what you eat at the beach,” John told them, and set out their elaborate dinner of shellfish on the table on the back porch, so that any passers-by at the condo could see the bags advertising the most expensive restaurant in the area.

Sally quietly made two more grilled cheese sandwiches and slipped them to John’s kids who wolfed them down before their parents announced that their seafood feast was laid out and ready.

Sally’s family sat at the table indoors, not needing to show off their sandwiches, and perfectly satisfied to not have to dig their dinner out of shells like their cousins, whose complaints could be heard from outside.

When it was time for dessert, Sally pulled out of the freezer their favorite: two frozen Pepperidge Farms cakes. John came in from the porch and frowned at the cakes she was removing from the boxes. “You’re not cutting those up frozen, are you?”

“Of course I am,” Sally said. “They taste like ice-cream cake like this.”

He grabbed the box and pointed at the words. “Look, right here. You’re supposed to defrost it in the fridge, first. Man, you can’t get anything right, can you? I’m taking my family out to the Ice Cream Shack for a proper dessert.”

“But that place is pricey!” Sally exclaimed. “One scoop of ice-cream costs more than an entire cake.”

“It’s supposed to be pricey. It’s the beach and it’s supposed to be the best! And don’t cut that cake while it’s frozen!” Enraged, he took his family—and his credit card—out for the evening.

That’s when it hit Sally, and she told me later, “I realized at that moment that John belittled me not for my ‘blind obedience’ but because I wasn’t obedient to what he thought was important. His fury at my cutting a frozen cake was only a hint at a much bigger problem:

He, too, was exceptionally obedient—to what the world expects of him.
His insistence that I follow the directions on the boxes?
Obey the boxes.
His buying those expensive bears because everyone else was?
Obey the crowds.
The ice-cream?
Obey the marketing.

“The trip became easier after that, because I finally understood my brother; he was scared of what people would think of him if it found out his sister wasn’t obedient to the world he worshiped, and he was terrified to not be seen what he thought it demanded he be doing.

“I realized that all of us are obedient—wholly devoted—to something: maybe it’s a team, or a political party, or a religious organization, or a movement, or even ourselves that we set on a pedestal and worship.

cake

That’s not necessarily wrong or bad. But it is if we don’t realize it, or if we didn’t make that choice consciously.

“John didn’t recognize how blindly he followed the trends of the world, and worried that everyone was watching to make sure he did everything he was ‘supposed’ to do at the beach. But I doubt anyone even noticed him and his family’s ‘obedience.’

“Yes, I’m obedient to my church, because I’ve researched and lived by its teachings, and have discovered for myself that it’s the best way for me to live my life. That’s how we’ve done everything, from muffin mixes to how we spend our Sundays.  There’s nothing blind about my obedience. Nothing blind at all. I’ve chosen what I’m obedient to, and it’s brought meaning and peace to my life.

“Unfortunately, I’m not sure my brother can say the same thing.”

But Jaytsy knew what she did love, and it was glorious to no longer worry about the world’s opinions. ~Book 4, The Falcon in the Barn

Book 5 Teaser–I take comfort in my delusions!

An acquaintance once accused me of being “delusional” because of my religious convictions. They didn’t mesh with his beliefs, therefore I was wrong.

But as I thought about all that I believed, I realized it gave me immense comfort and hope. Without that, I’d crumble and die.

So here’s my philosophy: Perhaps what I believe is delusional (and when you get right down to it, all of us are delusional at some level and in some way, such as hoping everyone thinks that is your natural hair color). But so what? If my delusions don’t harm you in any way, then don’t worry about them.

My acquaintance insisted that my beliefs in an afterlife were spurious, and that when I died I’d “be surprised there wasn’t anything there.” (I won’t deal with that illogical logic right now.)

I countered with, “My belief of what lies ahead make me happy, today. If I gave that up, I’d be despondent for the rest of my life. I’d rather be delusional and happy, than be ‘right’ and miserable.

He rolled his eyes at me, but I grinned back. I never wanted to live as self-righteously as he did. The poor man’s confidence only in himself and his brilliance made him absolutely wretched.

 

High Polish Tatra mountains

Why I choose to be a Mormon

I haven’t been haven’t been coerced or brainwashed, nor am I stupid and delusional to believe what The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) teaches, despite what commenters on social media and articles about Mormons like to claim.

Instead, I’ve chosen to believe, and here are my six reasons why:

  1. Mormonism makes sense to me.

Straight off, I like what the LDS Church teaches.

Mormonism rings true in my mind and heart, more than any other philosophy, religion, or belief system I’ve researched. And yes—I’ve researched a lot of them, starting when I was a teenager. Even then I agreed with Socrates when he said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” 

While I was born into a family that was Mormon, I took it upon myself to make sure I wasn’t duped into believing all of this stuff. At the age of 16 I started a serious, focused study of the Bible. I didn’t tell anyone what I was doing, but I read every single word—even the entire Old Testament, and boy was I happy to get to the New Testament—to make sure I knew what was in there.

And I decided that I wanted to believe in it. Belief is a choice, after all. While I think that some of the Bible is figurative, I believe that most of it is literal as far as it’s translated correctly, and I believe in Jesus Christ as my Savior, making me firmly a Christian.

But still I wanted to know what else was out there.

So beginning in high school when I had to read Siddhartha, I’ve researched over the years the main tenants and theories of the major belief systems, from Atheism to Zen Buddhism, and just about everything in between.  In each sect and philosophy I found elements that rang my inner “truth bell.”
(Except for Karl Marx and Christopher Hitchins; they barely clanked my brain.)

But my inner truth bells rang constantly when I read The Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, and when I studied the ideology of Mormonism. All the truths I found in the other religions and philosophies were represented in the LDS Church along with so, so much more. It’s that depth that won me over, because . . .

  1. Mormonism is the kind of life I want to live.

I’m baffled when others who don’t even know me, or any other Mormons for that fact, take it upon themselves to mock and deride our decision to follow this way of life: to be morally clean, provide charity to our friends and neighbors, pay tithing, actively worship Jesus Christ, observe the Sabbath Day, and make covenants in temples in order to perhaps in some distant epoch of time eventually grow, develop, and mature to become even like God himself.

I would never, ever make fun of the way another person lives their life—it’s their life; why would I be so arrogant as to criticize their decisions?—so I’m not sure why it’s always open season on Mormons.
(By the way, “The Book of Mormon” musical is not written or endorsed by Mormons. Trust me.)

But I’m a Mormon because I want to live a deliberate and purposeful life, and the teachings of the LDS Church provide me with the most logical and inspired guidelines to do so.  

The way I see life is that I have such a short time to be here, and I want to do as much and as best as I can.

I look it at this way: I’ve always wanted to visit London, England. In my mind I’ve fantasized and romanticized about what London would be like and secretly wished I were British. (I’m German, may the Brits forgive me.)

Now, if someone came to me and said, “You will have 24 hours to spend in London next week,” I assure you I wouldn’t just step off the plane in Heathrow, buy a six-pack, and sit on the banks of the Thames watching the boats go up and down for the day.

No, I’d start planning now for the best 24 hours ever. What would be the best and most important places to visit? Once I got there I’d ask the locals, where should I eat? What tourist traps should I avoid? Is Shakespeare playing in the park? Where’s the park? I wouldn’t want to waste any of my time idly.
(As you can imagine, my idea of a vacation isn’t the same as everyone else’s. We once vacationed at the beach, and by lunchtime on the second day I was bored out of my mind. “Isn’t there a museum or national park anywhere?!”)

I see my entire life in the same way. I get the feeling that my soul is very, very old, and that I waited for thousands of years to come to this earth. My existence after this life will also extend for thousands of more years, and beyond.

The line, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience, but spiritual beings having a human experience,” by the Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, also rings true to me, as does C. S. Lewis’s statement that “You have never talked to a mere mortal.”

Because this is my ONE shot at life (I couldn’t get behind the idea of reincarnation, unfortunately), and I’m sure I’ve been waiting for this chance for several millennia. I don’t want to waste it.

I’ve also decided (a choice, again) that Jesus Christ was the best example of how to live fully, and no other religion or ideology I’ve explored follows His example closer than the LDS Church.

Follow the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the way I want to spend my life.

  1. The LDS Church doesn’t require blind obedience.

This is another trite, overused cliché leveled against those who are Mormons: we’re non-thinking and gullible.

One man, trying to point out how stupid I was for following Mormonism, claimed that if the prophet said to jump, I’d ask how high.

I shrugged and said, “I thought that was only true in the armed forces.”

Silly me, I’d forgotten he was career military. What ensued next was a brief but lively conversation about the difference between commanders expecting absolute obedience to commands, versus people obeying prophets of God.

When I pointed out that the LDS Church never requires blind obedience as the armed forced did, the gentleman changed the subject because he really didn’t know that much about Mormons, which is my experience with most detractors.
They know hearsay, and little else. 

The truth is that the LDS Church emphasizes, again and again, the importance of individuals discovering truths for themselves; “gaining a testimony” is how it’s frequently phrased.

Here are some of the most often quoted scriptures in the church:

“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right . . .”

“And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true . . .”

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God . . .”

It’s a church that encourages its members, and those investigating it, to ask, ask, ask; to find out, find out, find out for themselves.

No blind faith. Put God to the test. Try it and see.

Back to my military friend; one thing he did admit was that the reason the soldiers obeyed their commanders was because they trusted them implicitly.

I likewise trust the leaders of my church. Their admonitions and suggestions have been correct again and again, and I’ve decided (choice, again) that they are prophets who receive revelation from God.

Here’s one example of thousands I could give. A president and prophet named Gordon B. Hickley said these words in a general conference of the church: Hinckley 2

“I am suggesting that the time has come to get our houses in order.

“So many of our people are living on the very edge of their incomes. In fact, some are living on borrowings.

“We have witnessed in recent weeks wide and fearsome swings in the markets of the world. The economy is a fragile thing. A stumble in the economy in Jakarta or Moscow can immediately affect the entire world. It can eventually reach down to each of us as individuals. There is a portent of stormy weather ahead to which we had better give heed.”

He said this in 1998.
He was right.
It’s been storming for 17 years now, with little relief in sight.

You can see what Mormon leaders have been saying for decades by clicking here and doing a search. Try it for yourself.

So yes, if the prophets of the LDS church says jump, I will, because I already trust their judgment.

And not blindly, but with my eyes and ears wide open.

  1. The LDS Church gives me great comfort.

No other religious organization or philosophical ideal I’ve encountered can provide the depth and breadth of explanations about life and death than the LDS Church. They literally have the meaning of life.

This understanding—that life is a brief but a very important point in our eternal existence—helps me understand why I’m here, what I’m supposed to be doing, and where I want to go afterwards.

This life is a test—a critical, calculated examination—of the nature of our hearts. What do we really, really want? Placed in this mortal state, with problems and struggles, we can truly see what we’re made out of based on how we treat our brothers and sisters.

We’re here to be tried, not to be partying. 

Years ago I worked with a woman who asked me, with the obligatory sneer, why I wanted to be a “good girl” to go to heaven where it undoubtedly would be boring because all anyone ever does is sit around strumming harps and singing. She was planning on going to hell, where all the “cool” people would be.

Befuddled by her overly simplistic ideas of heaven and hell, I hemmed and hawed for a minute before explaining that I believed heaven is a extension of this life where, with our friends and family, we continue to grow and are given greater responsibilities and abilities, whereas hell was a place where all of our regrets and failings torment us with what could have been.

She blinked at that, never having given any real thought to heaven and hell beyond what she saw in Saturday morning cartoons, and never again disparaged my beliefs. In fact, she asked about a few more details over the next few months, and I sensed she was looking for comfort for a pain she couldn’t yet admit feeling.

I recall the song by Eric Clapton called “Tears in Heaven” about the loss of his 4-year-old son. The lyrics are heartbreaking: “Would you know my name/if I saw you in Heaven,” as if the relationships we have on earth would somehow be lost in the next world.

Mormons know that not only will we recognize each other when we die, we’ll know far more about those we love because we’ll remember our relationships we had before we came to this earth.

And additionally, Mormons know that all pain in this life is temporary. 

All frustrations, all troubles, all disappointments will be rectified in the life to come. 

I can’t imagine how I’d live without that understanding. I think I’d be constantly depressed, like the older woman I met at her mother’s funeral.  She knew—knew—that everything about her beloved mother was gone forever. The Mormon bishop conducting the service for the family (because they weren’t affiliated with any religion) tried to assure her that her mother’s spirit was alive and well, and they could be together again someday.

But this woman shook her head and said, “That’s just too good to believe. I can’t accept it.”

Heartbreaking.

She didn’t dare take the comfort, too broken down by this life to imagine any other. I couldn’t live like that.

I need comfort to survive.

  1. What I “sacrifice” to be a Mormon is no sacrifice at all.

You’ve heard it all: Mormons don’t drink, don’t smoke, believe in chastity, fidelity, modesty, charity, and are focused on keep families strong.

Boooorrrring.

When I was 19 I worked in a mall on the east coast where I was the only Mormon among a lot of college students. Frequently they came to work with hangovers, slipped outside to smoke, and complained and fretted about their one-night stands.

I listened to the conversations but never said anything because it wasn’t a world I was part of. Dutifully I’d fold shirts, help customers, and just do my job.

One day a huge shipment came into the store, which meant pizza and beer as we unloaded. After a couple of hours most of the staff was impaired, and when customers rushed the store for the new products, I was the only one sober to deal with them.

The next morning we had to clean up the mess left behind the night before (the manager was as undisciplined as the kids he managed), and as one employee threw up in a trashcan and on a woolen sweater, and another sobbed uncontrollably in the corner because she and another worker had become “too involved” in the back room, someone asked me if I regretted being a Mormon and missing out on all of the fun.

I laughed until I realized he wasn’t being sarcastic.

I glanced around at the chaos and the employees still quite impaired, and said, “I have yet to see any of you have any fun.”

There was a full minute of silence in the store as they contemplated my statement, and since that day I’ve realized that what the world considers a sacrifice to be a Mormon isn’t any sacrifice at all. 

While I may have given up what the world considers “fun,” what I’ve gained instead is peace of mind.
Purpose.
Joy.

If you’re considering investigating the LDS Church, but worry about how difficult transitioning to that life may be, consider this weak but parallel example.

Over a year ago I was tired; bone-weary, deadly tired every single day and needing a two-hour nap just to get by. My brain was also fogged so much that I couldn’t think. I was forgetting important things, such as my 6-year-old out at a friend’s house until they sent her home at 9pm. Plagued also with constant bowel issues, I began to search for some solution to this daily misery that was robbing me of life. I was growing desperate and deeply worried.

I discovered that I was gluten intolerant, and I willingly gave up—for just a week—all the bread that I so dearly loved. In only two days I noticed everything in my life improving, and I made the change permanently. No, it wasn’t easy at first, but it was definitely worth it.

Fast forward to a dinner I had with some friends last month. One of them, enjoying a fluffy roll, apologized to me and said, “I don’t know how you gave up bread.”

“Because once I gave away bread,” I told her, “I got back my brain and my energy. Whenever I’m tempted to eat something I shouldn’t, I think ‘Do I want bread or my brain?’ Even though I’m not a zombie, it’s an easy answer: brains! And while I occasionally miss all things containing gluten, I’d give it up again in a heartbeat.”

Then it hit me: What I gave up at the time seemed like a sacrifice—I still struggle to find worthy equivalents to the food I loved, and would kill for a slice of thick, chewy pizza. But what I got in return was much, much more. I literally got my life back, and I feel 15 years younger (and have even lost weight to boot).

I invite you to find someone who joined the Church, and ask them if they miss what they gave up. Like my mother, they’ll likely say they had to give up alcohol, smoking, or something else, but what they received in return more than made up for what they lost.

In fact, they’ll wished they had “sacrificed” earlier to enjoy sooner what they have now.

  1. I love what I believe.

Some will still think that I’m delusional, that choosing (choice, again) to believe in golden plates and additional scriptures and visiting angels and temple worship and the notion that God still speaks to people is all absurd.

But you know what?

I love all of that.

And this is why Mormons want to tell you all about their religion: we want you to love it as well. 

Think about this: if you find a fantastic restaurant, or watch a movie that blows you away, or read a book that rocks your world, you tell everyone you know about it, right? You want them to share in what you’ve discovered.

So do Mormons. That’s why we send out missionaries (my third one is getting ready to leave at the end of the month for two years), make videos, extend to you invitations, and write blog posts about what we believe.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to embrace what we do. Maybe you don’t like that restaurant your friend recommended because you aren’t keen on curry, and that chick-flick doesn’t have enough car chases, nor do you like to read long books without pictures. No problem. Appreciate that your friend wanted to share with you something they love, then move on.

Same with those trying to share Mormonism with you. Just tell us you’re not interested, and we’ll still be your friend. 

But I’m warning you now–we may try to wave that curry bowl under your nose again every now and then, not because we don’t respect your decisions, but because we have hope you might change your mind someday.

Forgive us. We’re just too darn enthusiastic sometimes.

All people are free to choose what they want to believe—how, where, or what they may. We don’t want to infringe upon your right to believe what you want, nor do we want you to infringe upon our rights. We’re a “live and let live” kind of folk. Works best that way, we think. Let’s just all do what we think is best, and let God sort us out later.

Yet deep in my soul, I feel—scratch that, I know that being a Mormon is the best way to go, at least for me.

Call me delusional, I don’t care. 

But if—if— I wake up dead some day and discover that all of what the Mormons teach was pure nonsense, I still would have believed, because this “nonsense” gives me great joy, and I’d rather eke out my meager existence in delusional joy rather than in the quiet desperation I see ruling the lives of so many that I know and love.

That’s why I choose (choice, again) to be a Mormon. There’s simply nothing better in the world for me.

(7. Bonus reason: The LDS Church makes cool memes; I got all of these from lds.org.)