Tuesday, January 8, 2008

How I Became a Mormon--Part 5

Word of Wisdom?

The 1980s was a time of wandering and searching for me. I can’t say I was searching for God or the gospel or anything religious. I can’t recall for sure if I ever set foot in a church in that decade, and certainly not a Mormon church. I’d like to believe that there were people who were praying that I find the light of the gospel and find my way to church, and their prayers were answered, but not until many years had passed.

Meanwhile, I continued my sojourn in apostasy. From 1980 to 1989, I coached football at Kamehameha and did well enough that I was eventually asked to move up to coach the offensive line on the varsity team. During that decade, I also coached basketball, both junior varsity and varsity, also at Kamehameha. A big part of the coaching culture back then, particularly for football, was drinking. And we drank a lot. I can even recall attending a postseason recognition banquet for the Kamehameha football team where my job that night was to introduce the dozen players I had coached and give a brief spiel about each one. I gave what I thought was an outstanding speech and I was drunk while I gave it. Perhaps some of those Mormon young men that I coached said a prayer for me that night. I’d like to think that they did.

In addition to drinking, I was also a big consumer of tobacco. No, I didn’t smoke cigarettes. Never have. But I was big time into chewing tobacco—dipping, as it is called. It was a habit I picked up during my year in Boise while playing college football there. And dipping was a nasty habit that I was unable to break until much later.

In addition to coaching, I also was involved with Hawaiian outrigger canoe paddling. I was drawn to this sport not just for the physical workout that it provided, but for the drinking. And we drank a lot back then, seemingly every day. Like I’ve heard Marines say, “We train hard and we drink hard.” Like good Marines, my canoe paddling teammates and I adhered to the same philosophy. And we felt justified in what we did because we experienced some success, winning races now and then.

In the 1980s, I also continued to go to school at the University of Hawaii. In 1988, twelve years after I graduated from high school at Kamehameha, I finally had pieced enough college credits together to earn a BA degree from UH. The degree was in English. What I was going to do with that degree I wasn’t sure, but at least I had it.

Then in 1989, something happened that started me on my turnaround in life.

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