Sunday, February 14, 2010

Why Are You So Afraid? --

  Jesus asks the disciples this question in Matt 8:23 - 27.  After reading the January 2010 First Presidency Message, (5MB PDF of magazine , illustration on p4) I think he might ask modern day LDS apostles this same question. 

  So much to cover.

  Even the picture associated with the article is shrouded in fear.  It shows the appearance of Christ to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, which was certainly the highlight of the Kirtland Temple dedication.  Except the actual appearance wasn't out in the open.  It happened behind a curtain, so that only they were witnesses to it.  The picture in the article only hints at this.  Richard Bushman points out in Rough Stone Rolling that there are only 3d person journal accounts of this, Joseph Smith never wrote of it, and few saints at the time were even aware it happened.  So, why an illustration that implies it happened in plain view?

  It refers to the apostasy in Kirtland following the bank collapses without mentioning Joseph Smith's involvement in it.  It moralizes this apostasy as though people just didn't do enough to sustain their faith after all these marvelous experiences, while totally ignoring the flaws in the church leaders that was such a huge factor.

  The article itself references D&C Section 88, known as the "Olive Leaf".

  What a marvelous section.  Fundamentally it recaps a lot of the doctrine on the three kingdoms of glory and gives specific details about the millenium, the Second Coming, the battle of Armageddon, and finishes with some instructions about the operation of the School of the Prophets.  It's vast in scope and visionary, turning the mind towards the ultimate victory of Christ and the transformation of the earth into its ultimate paradaisical glory.  I'm honestly not sure I've ever read it from that perspective before.

  So, where is the fear in this?

  I think it points out that the apostles are scared of the gospel.

  Rather than using Joseph Smith's vision of Christ and revelations like the Olive Leaf to point to the cataclysmic events of the Second Coming, these are the quotes we are most familar with:

"And I give unto you a commandment that you shall teach one another the doctrine of the kingdom." (v77)
"Behold, I sent you out to testify and warn the people, and it becometh every man who hath been warned to warn his neighbor.
 Therefore, they are left without excuse, and their sins are upon their own heads." (v81 - 82)
  And of course our perennial favorite:
"Organize yourselves; prepare every needful thing; and establish a house, even a house of prayer, a house of fasting, a house of faith, a house of learning, a house of glory, a house of order, a house of God;" (v119)

 So, we take a miraculous vision to Joseph Smith that was surrounded in mystery and boil out all the nuances surrounding it.  We take a fascinating, thought-provoking vision of the millenium and the Second Coming and reduce it to simple pithy aphorisms about behavior improvement.  The youth and Primary suggestions at the end of the article (viewable in the PDF version above) solemnly invite the youth to fast, pray, read their scriptures, keep the commandments, follow the Holy Ghost, and remind them that we draw near to the Lord by following Thomas S Monson.

We take a complex period of history in the LDS church from which much can be learned about the flaws of men and the importance of basing our testimony on Christ, and instead imply that if only people had been more faithful their testimonies would have survived?
Why are we so afraid of our history?  Why are we so afraid of the majesty of our doctrine?  Why are we so afraid?