There was a time that I would have traded my church membership for a “mess of pottage.”
In this particular case, the pottage I wanted to exchange for church was 5 pounds of high explosives. I had little use for Primary and Sunday school, but the same wasn’t true of military-grade HMX.
Pottage, of course, refers to the Old Testament story in which Esau sold his birthright to his younger brother Jacob for a bowl of lentil stew.
The lesson, I suppose, is the ease with which Esau dismissed his heavenly blessing for a bite of lunch. It could also be argued that Jacob recognized his brother was a moron and figured out a way to cheat him of what was rightfully his.
Never mind. The important question is what you would consider your own mess of pottage.
Not counting the HMX trade-off — which never came to pass — I’ve offered to swap other holy stuff for pottage.
While serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I got tired of listening to a sister missionary gripe about not being able to hold the priesthood. I offered to sell her mine for 10,000 pesos ($8.73 U.S.).
“Be serious,” she sneered. “It doesn’t work like that.”
“The hell it doesn’t,” I replied, and referred her to the Esau/Jacob deal in Genesis 25:29-34 as doctrinal proof.
I also offered her a discount plan: She could just rent my priesthood whenever she felt obliged for 500 pesos a minute. It seemed fair, but it made my district-leader companion angry.
Him • “You can’t sell your priesthood to Hermana Doyle!”
Me • “Oh, yeah? It’s my priesthood.”
Him • “No it’s not. It’s Heavenly Father’s!”
Me • “Then I’ll give the money to him. Anything to shut her up.”
Here I was willing to trade my authority to act in the name of God for what amounted to spare change. Was I serious? Given the companion I had at the time, most definitely.
So, what wonderful thing in your life are you willing to trade for a mess of pottage?
I thought about this after reading a recent Salt Lake Tribune story about an earlier Latter-day Saint feminist who deliberately severed ties with her children as she tried to live as her authentic ex-Mormon feminist self. As a result, she hasn’t heard from any of her kids in 20 years. What a load of pottage.
Then again, maybe it’s me. I can’t think of a single political/religious thing I would swap for the relationship with my family, especially the 4-year-old granddaughter with a mass of unbrushed blond hair who just stole all the M&M’s out my desk.
Pottage is a common problem in the shifting world of faith. I belong to an exclusive Facebook group populated by people who wrestle with the birthright/pottage issue. As near as I can tell, it’s because they can’t tell which is which.
What do you do when one of the pillars of your marriage — such as a shared religion — suddenly crumbles? Is it so important to rebuild that you’re willing to destroy your family over it?
My wife and I go to different churches. It was a long, frustrating process, but not once did I ever consider breaking up the marriage over something as insignificant as a religious or a political difference.
My wife is the center of my world. Can’t think of anything that I’d trade for her love. Given what she’s put up with from me over the years and is still here, I like to think she doesn’t see me as pottage.
Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.