Saturday, June 9, 2007

Notes on Joseph Smith

One of my favorite quotes is found on page 129 of Joseph Smith, Rough Stone Rolling. It is in a section titled, "Revelation", talking about how Joseph's revelations became accepted so quickly as religious canon. The author partially credits the voice in them, saying, "One rhetorical feature may partly account for their authority: the voice in them is purely God's. Joseph as a speaker is absent from the revelations, just as he is from the Book of Mormon." The author notes that, "When reprimands are handed out, he [Joseph] is likely to receive one."

The part I really enjoyed refers to a fallacy that we as humans forget is that God is God. The author says, "God pronounces what is and what will be without giving evidence. Hearers must decide to believe or not without reference to outside authority---common sense, science, the Bible, tradition, anything. The hearer faces the personage who speaks, free to hearken or turn away." The footnote to this statement said, "The voice is reminiscent of the distinction Soren Kierkegaard made in his essay on the difference between an apostle and a genius. 'An apostle has no other evidence than his own statement, and at most his willingness to suffer everything joyfully for the sake of that statement.' Kierkegaard, "Difference," 105."

Having recently read a former Mormon, now anti-Mormon and aetheist, pretend at a scholarly treatise demanding proof and Socratic reasoning for the Book of Mormon and even of Jesus Christ, this quotation was refreshing and reflected my feeling on the subject. God will never inflict his will upon us. Perhaps we would be more forced to accept Him if he did invoke Socratic reasoning. (Imagine---demanding that the Lord do things our way. :-) We in all our wisdom? Mankind {including women} have yet to go 20 years without war and intrigue in the world or our own neighborhoods! Laughable!) I don't believe he wants unthinking slaves, and he has promised to confirm his word to us.

Another quote that comes to mind is, "By their fruits, ye shall know them." That is a guiding light to me. Testimony is like that. (So is life.) Recently I heard someone refute claims by someone (they didn't say who) by saying, "Because of this, and this, and this, the Book of Mormon has to be true." Yes, but in spite of those proofs, "they" still didn't believe it. I don't think anyone ever built a lasting testimony on physical "proofs". Not because it can't be done, but because it isn't enough. There just has to be more. The Lord requires too much of someone who only holds physical "proofs". There must be a spiritual confirmation, which sometimes takes time to come, and often comes only after a "trial of faith" which allows the person time to see if the fruit is good.

Okay, there's my "rational", reasoned treatise. There is a reason I got my BS but went no further. I enjoy and appreciate others' work, but I hate thinking over and analyzing every word and trying to prove my objectivity. I am now going to debunk that hope of objectivity.

I was privileged to be born to a family with secure religious ties. I was taught in the "learning of my father," as Nephi says, and knew something of the "tender mercies of the Lord." I had the blessing of wonderful friends and an extended "ward" family in my church that was very important because of our distance to blood relatives. I had the opportunity to learn from knowledgeable and experienced ecclesiastic leaders who touched my life. Conversely, I was given obstacles and persecutions, the like of which I hope others do not have to endure. However, I have lived long enough now to know that others have endured like persecutions. (I am not equating them with being driven out of my home, although I was most grateful to leave Maryland. They were the kind calculated to make someone even slightly weak in their convictions conform to the world.) Most of those will never see print or oral stories from me. They were from a dark period that I care not to rehash. My previous post is not excepted. Since then, the darkness had gone. The only remnant was the memory of those days and the strength of character I had gained from them and the gratitude for every moment of light and joy that I had during that time.

Once all that was in the past, I remember vividly wondering if I really "knew" for myself that the things I believed and practiced were true. If it was worth it or if that was a "foolish imagination" as Laman and Lemuel put it. Now that the dark times were done, it was fearfully important to positively, unmistakably *know* that it had been worth the pain. I pled with the Lord for an unquestionable answer. I asked for something that I could not doubt myself on. I have the habit of making decisions and then doubting them. Commitment comes very hard to me. Just ask my husband!

Although I was struggling with this, I talked to no one. I did not want to be swayed by "reason" or sympathy either. I quietly pled with the Lord in my prayers about it. It wasn't that my life was lacking; it wasn't. In fact, it was rich. I wasn't rebelling or testing. It was just time for definite confirmation. I don't think I would have changed my life anyway; my way of life brought me happiness and peace. Then the miracle happened, and the Lord answered my prayer exactly. And I knew it was good. So I'm here as "proof" that sometimes we just have to say, "Lord, I don't understand, but I know you love me and want the best for me," just as Nephi did. I guess if that was good enough for a prophet, it is good enough for me. After all the reasoned arguments, He is God; I am not.

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