09 May 2007

The Grapes of Wrath

"And blessed are they who shall seek to bring forth my Zion at that day, for they shall have the gift and the power of the Holy Ghost; and if they endure unto the end they shall be lifted up at the last day, and shall be saved in the everlasting kingdom of the Lamb; and whoso shall publish peace, yea, tidings of great joy, how beautiful upon the mountains shall they be." 1 Nephi 13:37
Everyone reads the scriptures for their own reasons, and reaps their own specific rewards when they do. I've recently committed myself to reading the Book of Mormon, and I've just finished the First Book of Nephi. I've come to appreciate the Book of Mormon as my own personal source of aphorisms. If I have a problem, chances are, there's a scripture in The Book of Mormon that talks about it. I've questioned lately what kind of author I would like to be, and what my purpose for writing would include. Orson Scott Card and Stephenie Meyer have been just about the only examples of popular Mormon authors that write for more than just an LDS demographic. Part of their appeal, I know, is that they established their line between obedient Latter-day Saint and Artist. As a prospective author, I need to decide where that line is for me, and how much my values will be reflected in my work. Then I found this scripture, and found my purpose for writing, the means by which to do it, AND the blessings I'll receive for my efforts. Never assume that the scriptures are just a book, because I testify that they are the User's Manual to this life.
"Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust." 2 Nephi 1:23

At the end of July, I will have been training in the martial arts for 7 years. At the end of August, I will have been teaching my own classes for 2 or 3 years. I've not only studied the science of confrontation, but the art of self respect. From both, the most important lesson I've ever learned is the one of discipline, of controlling myself at all times, even when challenges seem to be too much to handle. But my Heavenly Father sees the strength that is in me--and in all of us. He knows I may be down, but I'm not out. He knows that all of us are capable of feats even beyond our own understanding, and He wants to take us there. He wants us to achieve our potential, and will provide us with opportunities to do so. All we have to do is put on that armor. And the armor of righteousness may be heavy, but the satisfaction of success is a blessing in itself, let alone the blessings we receive, in due time, for our obedience.

"And everything's holy-- everything, even me." John Steinbeck, The Grapes of
Wrath
Another question that has weighed heavily on my mind is what to do about the fact that some of the books I've read for my AP Language and Composition class are not exactly Mormon friendly. The language often reverts back to the more colorful words of the English language, and the subject matters are not always ideal. The worst was probably The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien. However, it was a great book and I learned a lot about writing from it. Where, then, do I draw the line on what I read? What do you do when your Prophet tells you only to expose yourself to the PG13 when life is rated R?

Which brings me to this statement from The Grapes of Wrath. The second half appealed to my appreciation of the gospel, as have other parts of the book. But is everything holy? I'm not so transcendental that I will say yes, but I'm also Christian enough to know that Jesus wouldn't judge those who make mistakes, so neither should I. At the end of the day, we are all still children of our Heavenly Father, and therefore, I don't think anyone is truly evil. In that sense, everything is holy; rather, everyone. And while there is evil in the world, I don't think it's an inherent part of our nature. If that was so, and we are our Father's children, what does that say about him? I'd like to go on thinking that God is perfect, which means that, at the very core of things, we must be too because we were made in His image. How's THAT for self esteem?

"If the step were not being taken, if the stumbling-forward ache were not alive, the bombs would not fall, the throats would not be cut. Fear the time when the bombs stop falling while the bombers live--for every bomb is proof that the spirit has not died." John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath

Also comes back to how much a soul, a life, is really worth. So instead of meeting opposition with groans of protest like I do, perhaps I ought to remember that "enduring to the end" is more than just a statement, and not for the Sunshine Mormons. It's a promise; a covenant I made at my baptism, and something I've been teaching for 7 years. How, then can I gripe about trials when they're proof I'm still alive?

So that settles it. No more whining from now until after SAT's.

(I give myself a day. Tops. LOL)

04 May 2007

Responding to "The Mormons"

My comment at Conner's Conundrums:

"The more I think about it, the more I realize I didn’t like the documentary as a whole. There were highlights throughout that were well-done. Polygamy had a lot of articulate points raised about it. The black sister’s testimony was enjoyable, as others have already stated. But it missed the point entirely when it attempted to talk about Joseph Smith, excommunication, the leaders of our Church, and women’s roles within the Church and the family.

Joseph Smith came off as an enigma instead of a person. And that may be what Joseph Smith is to people on the outside. To those who are a part of the LDS Church, you cannot help but love and cherish him, for all his faults, for what his obedience cultivated for us all. Whitney, as a non-member, cannot fully appreciate who Joseph Smith is to us.

Excommunication came across as something that constantly hovers over the heads of the Saints, and that’s just not true. How many of us go through our lives thinking about excommunication? The documentary captured the gravity the punishment, but not the rarity. The Church isn’t like some kind of Inquisition that goes around excommunicating people just because it can. I personally never thought about excommunication until I watched the documentary, and I found myself thinking, 'Wow. I wonder if I’m next.' And then I remembered I haven’t don’t anything that bad and felt kind of stupid. LOL.

Did anyone else get the feeling that, in the context of that one Sister’s excommunication (the one who now teaches Classics at U of Utah), the Church leaders came across as intolerant and cruel? Elder Jensen countered that well by asserting the Church’s role in protecting faithful Saints from faithless rhetoric. I felt as if the professor was glorified as a victim, and the Church was condemned for making her suffer, when in actuality, she brought her suffering upon herself. The whole point of being an intellectual is to seek knowledge. Just because knowledge isn’t made public in a paper doesn’t mean it wasn’t learned. Publicly parading diluted doctrine is of course going to invoke consequences from the Church. I thought the whole perspective of that segment was warped and unbalanced.

And, to be honest, I don’t think the documentary made a sufficient effort to really portray the roles of women in the Church. Not once did it mention the Relief Society. Not once did it talk about, in depth, the women of the early Church. AT LEAST go into more detail about Emma Smith. But no, she was mentioned in passing twice, if that. And only as a wife. Before the documentary portrays us Sisters as pill-poppers waiting to happen because we just can’t handle the pressure (or whatever it was they were getting at by the anti-depressant statement there at the end.) Women have their own special place in the Church. We aren’t just wives and daughters that 'bake cookies' and try to be the perfect Mormon mothers. We have our own responsibilities to the Church itself, and to ourselves as Saints. Where were the working mothers to counterbalance the 'baking cookies' comment? And what’s so wrong about cookies anyway?"

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