Saturday, March 30, 2013

More About My Dad

During a recent conversation with my father, I learned a shocking detail about his past.

Are you sitting down?

The shocking detail is that my dad dropped out of seminary when he was a kid.  Okay, so it's not that earth-shattering.  But it was pretty surprising.  My dad, at least as far as I'd known, is as close to the Mormon ideal as you can get.  He's a BYU graduate.  He served a foreign mission.  He was married in the temple and had four well-behaved children.  He was a young men's president, a high councilor, a bishop and a stake president.  But he never finished seminary.  It's appalling to have such an unfortunate mar on an otherwise sparkling record.

He had a reason, though.  When he was in high school, he attended an early morning seminary class.  But he didn't grow up on the Wasatch Front, so the LDS population in his area was relatively sparse.  This meant that he had to attend seminary half an hour away from home.  His aging father, who worked long hours at a physically demanding job, would get up early every school day to drive my dad to seminary.  Then he'd sit out in the car and wait so that he could drive my dad to school as soon as seminary was over.  My dad told me that he eventually stopped attending because of the toll it took on my grandfather.  

I think that's a decent reason.  Rather than deprive his dad of his much-needed rest, he stopped going to early morning seminary.  I don't see a problem with that.  My dad, however, clearly regrets his decision.  He seemed embarrassed to admit to me that he didn't finish seminary, despite the fact that he was justified.  

But what happened to that kind of practical thinking?  At what point did my dad stop making decisions about the church based on what made sense?  Why did he pay tithing as he struggled to raise his kids?  Why, once he was a little more financially established, did he continue to pay tithing even as the company he worked for inevitably spiraled toward bankruptcy, eventually putting him out of a job for almost a year?  Why did he serve so tirelessly in his church leadership positions even though it decimated the time he could spend with his family?  A lot of Sundays, he'd leave for church before I woke up and he wouldn't be home until I was already in bed--or he'd make a brief appearance around dinner time before heading off to do more church stuff.  Somewhere along the line, he started doing whatever the church needed him to do and the justifiable, reasonable decision he made in his youth became an embarrassment to him.
That doesn't seem right to me.

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