I spent Memorial Day weekend in Las Vegas, also known as Sin City. Talk about temptation. Every corner you turn, lights are blazing in your face, people are walking aimlessly around the strip, greed and what if I win thoughts pushes everyone to try Lady Luck, alcohol is free flowing and sluttiness and "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" attitude are over-abundant. And in the midst of all of this, was lil ol' me who has already set a baptism date.
I planned the trip before I started investigating the Church. It was technically going to be a birthday weekend of debauchery and insanity. As the date approached, I hesitated to remind anyone of my birthday or invite more people on the grounds of it being a birthday celebration because I knew what that would entail.
So with that, the trip was only with three girlfriends. Off we went on our mini road-trip to the City of Sin!
"So..." they asked me, "since you're technically not baptised yet, why don't we treat this like your bachelorette party?!" "Yeah!" another chirped in. "Daisy's last time drinking and partying in Vegas before she turns Mormon."
"Umm... I don't think that's really how it works," I replied. "Oh who cares! Nobody will know! We won't tell your Mormon friends."
"God will know," I responded before even realizing the rebuttal that would come with that.
"Okay Captain Mormon, let's talk about this." Crap. I got a nickname and we've only been driving for an hour. Seriously?!
So with that and a series of other questions, came the journey of knowledge. They asked me all sorts of questions, beginning with the initial interest and investigation to the Words of Wisdom, what substances were considered addictive and why it wasn't just caffeine, the law of chastity and how that was even sane in today's world and what if I fell for a non-member who was perfect but not Mormon, why I wanted to be a baby making machine and if I really knew what I was getting myself into.
Like so many young, strong, independent and working women, the conversation turned to sex. We missed the next freeway change and the conversation turned to the Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints. Upon missing the freeway and simultaneously changing conversations, I said maybe that's God's hand in advising us to stop talking about sex, start talking about religion and get on our way! They loved this one. "You just said God gives you agency so by that logic, how can God make us miss our freeway entrance?!" In a frenzy to clarify the difference between what God gave us - the power to do whatever we want and what God blesses us with - unconditional support and love and guidance through our prophets - I was then challenged with why the Church follows the teachings of a prophet. Again, I tried to explain, with no success, and eventually just invited everyone to Church.
We continued to talk abut religion, and then I had this epiphany while we were conversing.
"You guys all believe in karma right?" I asked. Nobody denied it, everyone believed it and anybody who did otherwise was asking for it.
"So this concept of karma... it's not proven." I said. "There's no scientific evidence that karma works nor is there a guarantee that if you do something good, you receive good in return or that if you do something bad, you receive something bad in return." I continued. "Yet you all follow it and live according to that theory, knowing anyday if you should do otherwise, you will get screwed. And whether or not that is the case, you do so and when something bad happens - whether or not it's karma, you say, oh crap, it's karma! And you do something good, in anticipation of good karma later, without knowing when. And when it comes, you say, yeah darn straight! There's my good karma!"
"Of course!" they all agreed, not knowing where I was taking this.
"So, that is how I feel about God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and the prophets!"
Without even giving me a chance to continue, I was told, "that's not the same Daisy!"
"Yes it is!" I screamed. "Listen! You have NO EVIDENCE that karma works, yet you live your life, maybe not entirely according to it, but you let it guide you and for someone who doesn't believe in karma, your ideology is flawed and not considered adequate. You know I'm right! I believe in what the Church teaches because I've felt this insane emotional confirmation of everything the Church teaches - and I do truly believe that is God telling me this is it! And so, because of that, I do what I do and have changed my lifestyle in ways I never thought possible."
"That's not the same Daisy. Karma is not religion," they told me.
"I didn't say it was! I'm simply providing you with an analogy for what you deem as crazy but I deem as reasonable, using an example of what you all believe and follow."
There was a bit of silence and instead of letting it sit and waiting for their acceptance, I quickly changed the subject to put everyone at ease. Captain Mormon to the rescue.
5 hours later.. we arrived in Vegas.
Modest dress. Modest dress. I brought a dress that was a bit shorter than knee-length but had sleaves and was not low cut. Manipulatively, I put on jeans and a cute plaid blouse first.
"You can't wear jeans in Vegas!" they told me.
"Wear a slutty dress!"
Luckily, another girl was wearing a turtle neck dress that also came slightly above her knee. Probably not Church appropriate, but certainly more appropriate than the other options. With that, I said, okay - I'll wear the dress I brought!
"Yay!" they responded.
I put on the slightly more conservative dress and no objections were heard. After all, I had already changed into a dress to fit in. Score!
The first night we went out, Kate wanted to go back early. "Let's go Captain Mormon, I know you don't want to stay late either." True statement. Maybe this Captain Mormon thing ain't so bad after all.
Throughout the entire weekend... the Mormon thing never ceased to disappear. Over and over again, we discussed religion and they all learned about the religion - probably more than they ever imagined and Kate (she's a Unitarian) even agreed to come to Church with me one day, some day, maybe not the summer (Unitarians have a vacation from Church during the summer), but sometime eventually.
On Sunday, I went to a nearby ward which started off horrifically. First, none of the cab drivers knew where it was and I had not performed my own due diligence in mapquesting the location from the hotel. Armed with nothing more than an address, I encountered the rudest, most obnoxious and impatient cab driver. As I struggled to obtain assistance from a friend on the phone with access to internet and mapquest, he constantly corrected me with spellings of street names and reminded me that he spoke English. I welcomed his intolerance and jokingly responded. It must have been the adversary angry that I was leaving such a fun City of Sin for Church and time with God, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit. Once I was in the Church, I felt the Holy Spirit with me repeatedly. It was spectacular! Daisy, the non-crier, got teary eyed during Sacrament and Relief Society and met so many amazing people that once again, her faith was reinforced and she went back to the Hotel, reinvigorated for rejecting the temptations that would approach her for the next two days. (Yes, I just spoke in third person)
That afternoon, we watched the Eastern Conference NBA game and during the commercial break, a Captain Morgan commercial came out. The laughter erupted and they turned to me, citing "Captain Momo!" (the phrase turns to Momo when they are inebriated when I told them a LDS friend used the term).
In spite of all the temptation and plethora of sin surrounding me this weekend, I was able to see clearly, for the first time, what Vegas was all about. Yes, it's fun. Yes, it's insane. Yes, it's hot. Yes, it's slutty. Yes, it's relaxing. Yes, it's opportunity. Yes, it's crazy! But no, it's not normal. Everyone knows that, even those who partake in all the insanity that it provides. It's an escape from reality, a retreat from simplicity and an excuse for anything goes. I counted the number of times I had been to Vegas since 2000. 13 times. Of the 13 times, I have never been sober the entire weekend. 14th time... completely sober... the entire weekend. I'm a bit shocked that I did it.. but I did! And He helped me! Trust me, I could not have done that alone.