GenCon14: The Power of the Text Itself

The power of the text itself
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By GA Joey

 

Any-child, after a few short years being on Earth, hopefully, in the responsible hands of parents who have helped him through much sacrifice to feed, bathe, sleep, teach and nurture their nature from day to day, one day begins to be aware of the fact that everything he is involved in, has up to this point, never been questioned as to its origin of existence and purpose. 

The inner eye begins to open…the spirit within begins to stir! Up until that moment, the questions of Common-child were plentiful about any and everything no doubt, taking for granted in his or her childlike lack of discrimination, that ‘that’s just the way things are’. The questions that come of these maturing moments- ‘But, what if…?’, ‘How come…?’ and ‘Why?’ begin to open the imagination to further interrogation, and further questions of deepening complexity. Every-child of course has his or her choice to take on these questions and search for them, or simply just shrug and move on to kick the waiting ball on the field. Some-child takes the que and pursues these things as part of their intellectual, spiritual psyche whilst Another-child takes the spark for what it seems to him- just a spark, not the beginning of a massive fire that never ceases to burn.

Questions are asked to no one in particular- though many gurus abound, at the drop of a hat, to convince the novice sojourner that the answers are in their guru-domain exclusively. These may come in forms of teachers, family, professionals and, in the case of the religiously inclined- priestcraft…umm, priesthood ‘holders’. But in reality, if reality does in fact exist, each one of these supposed authorities are still Any-child & Every-child themselves, either assuring themselves that after their interrogations they have sincerely come to the right and only conclusion, or, that their opinions can be used to sucker the gullible, those who are a hop, skip and a step behind them. 

In this inaugural speech of mine, I would like to take a different approach from the others who have, very successfully, preceded my pedestrian offering. Of course, I might get roundly boo-ed and banned from ever returning, as has been done in some high places due to unorthodox swagger towards authority and tradition, and possibly because of turning up my amp up all the way to eleven (the handbook says so. So there. Ask your My-Way-or-the High-Way-Council-man, if you don’t believe me…) And so, I present here a sketch of This-child (very similar to myself, and every bit as handsome) and some key moments from a journey as to why this author has taken the Book of Mormon to be THE document, the standard to which all other documents regarding the truth of things about God are to be measured. In other words, this is how I groove- my interpretation of the notes, rhythms and harmonizations of the song I have chosen to play. 

When you consider the breadth of cultures, myths, legends, written documents from ancient times and archeological structures that have over-clocked themselves and left us bewildered as to their origins and purpose- Puma Punku or Mohenjo Daro, anyone?- it isn’t an easy task to convince oneself that THIS –> (.) or perhaps THAT –>(‘) is the starting point in the ridiculously complex maze we humans have before us to unravel. The depth is simply astounding. And this is limiting ourselves to just this one world or planet, amongst the uncountable.  

We haven’t the slightest clue as to the true, unending, creative power and magnificence of He who condescended below all things, below His very creations. We are barely scratching the surface of the scratch on the surface’s scratch. Who am I, or any of us, whether layman or lawyer, school dropout or scholar, pew-dweller or university religion proph-essor, to say with absolute certainty that everything outside of our OWN immediate sacred texts, are anything but. The Catholic gave the world its Bible, compresses an incomprehensible limitless God down to the strict equivilent of a tiny collection of surviving manuscripts the Romans and co-conspirators didn’t burn. And, heaven forbid, not a single manuscript more, you heretics! The Protestants hate the Catholics and their conspiring ways- who can blame them when the Vatican guards their secret combinations like a KFC recipe- but also never question the limited validity of its canonisation- even though some dudes in silks gave a decree of such, sometime in the last couple of thousand years, along with a head of a church who cut off the heads of his wives in rebellion to the authority of the silks fashioned by the best Italian tailors. The Protestants barely questioned the Bible they hold as infallible. No witnesses. No original manuscripts. No matter. Orson Pratt’s comparison of the Bible to the Book of Mormon, found here on this website somewhere, puts that picture in perspective way better than I could do, obviously…although he didn’t cut off the heads of his wives (though Brigham could provide a loophole for such in D&C 132, if he had). 

Of course, these attitudes aren’t just exclusive to the Christian world. The Muslim world, as one example amongst many, has the same decree- believe this and only this, or else! You dare question and we’ll treat your head like an English queen’s head, circa 16 Century CE.

After sounding critical of the above, what if they all do happen to have some truth in them? As slaves to the traditions of our fathers, it seems to be exactly what may define a stiff-necked people- our inability to break the chains that bind us. Said James Brown:

Alone…you’ll find me
Too weak to break the chains that bind me
I need no shackles to remind me
I’m just a prisoner, don’t let me be a prisoner

For one command I stand and wait now
From one who’s master of my fate now
I can’t escape for it’s too late now
I’m just a prisoner, don’t let be a prisoner…

As Daymon has shown thoroughly, even the miraculous Book of Mormon is read almost exclusively, through the lens of the Biblical traditions, shoving the Book of Mormon to rhythm guitar in the background instead of the one out the front playing the screaming solos. Hence, even if the Vedas of India, the Qu’ran, the Nordic texts, the Aboriginal legends of Everywhere, the mythology of ancient Greece, the Sumerian and Etruscan tablets…and the new-found connections between the Japanese-Hebrew religion, feasts and alphabet, to name a tiny fraction of the available ‘truth’ amongst hundreds and thousands of cultures, where one begins to find the pure truth is purely incidental. However, a willingness to break these chains of tradition and conveniences, where one might end up is monumental. And, when finally face to face with the pure truth, then perhaps, shoulder to shoulder with those to whom the same sacred truth is elemental.

So, why the Book of Mormon for me, a nobody, just like you, in the midst of this very confusing maze? Because of the promise in Helaman 5:12, that’s why. Which, by the way, though as a Catholic I had never read or heard of, applied to me directly when I finally did read it. At least, that’s the way, a rather prophetic manner, I imagine this scripture, and who’s to say I’m not right? Certainly not you, as who’s to say you are? Certainly not me.

Let’s have a look at what the text says:

 12 And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

As a Catholic, spending holidays at a Baptist summer camp, growing up in a country which spawned probably more religions than most, hence immersed in Hinduism, but surrounded by fanatics in a pre-dominant Islamic neighbourhood, where Jewish families were our neighbours…and, just around the corner from Mother Teresa’s, where I was lucky enough to watch her ply her awe-inspiring, zero-profit foundation (no corporate lawyers needed, my apologies in advance to Elder Dallin Hoax), how on earth does the unheard-of Book of Mormon come into this muddled sound of a dozen radio stations being played at once?? 

Fast-ward a few years, like Nephi I find myself on a Promised Land, and missionaries from the beautifully named ‘Church of Jesus Christ of LDS’ hand a book over, after my amp-on-eleven attracts them from three blocks down. The book gets thrown in the backyard shed, coz ‘I ain’t touchin’ that!’- Catholics, like Mormons and everyone else religious it seems, are proudly superstitious, despite common sense standing against these stupefying non-sensical beliefs, time and time again. Years pass, and the Book re-enters through a new friend- an inactive, rough and tumble soul, with all the scars to prove it. After a period of months harassing the friend for his traitor-like behaviour leaving the poor, rich Catholic church for the rich, poor LDS, the patient (though not necessarily always correct) answers have such an astonishing degree of faith in this Book’s ability to lead one to the real Jesus, that the light begins to make its appearance. This comes at a time when an unprecedented storm is brewing in this author’s life, a multitude of weaknesses manifest themselves to their fullest, and a heart is slowly breaking, a result in this case due to one’s own pride, foolishness and mortal behaviour, but which, joyfully, according to Ether 12:27 was given for the very purposes that soon followed…though the fruits would only begin to sweeten much, much later on. Maybe not even yet.

Realizing the Book’s claims were astounding- Jesus visited another people? On a continent that wasn’t even known to have existed at the meridian of time…or so they have been telling us?!…in all that religious voodoo mist, I had NEVER heard that one, but what joy if He did!- and that His words from another source, from a different part of the world, was on earth, the interest was piqued immensely. But, I still refused to read the Book. For five years it rotted away…the pearl cast before the swine, indeed.

 

Finally one night, those words in Helaman (unread as yet) took on life. After finally pondering that this may not be just a common coincidence, one Saturday night in winter, a broken heart knelt down, asking for a sign real enough to convince that the Book was real, and contained the truth of this Jesus, and had truly made its appearance to be actually be opened and read. The staff of the Shepherd seeking to rescue the one.

The dream, as real that very night in the mid-90’s as it is today, had an opening scene of tremendous tumult- a cyclone or hurricane in the immediate air. Cars sliding down the street, roofs flying off, trees uprooting themselves, a darkness everywhere. I left the house in confusion, wondering why I would brave a storm I could barely consider surviving, let alone walk upright against. The entire place was a ghost-town, not a soul existed. All symbolic, no doubt, of the state of the soul who felt alone in this strange sojourn we call life, and the storm that had brewed of late. Above the racket, and the below the mayhem, came a confounding sound of rustling pages…an unmistakeable sound of paper. It couldn’t be!! On the kerb, standing majestically, with the pages calling attention, yet the spine strong and absolutely unaffected by time and space, nor of the mighty winds, the shafts of the whirlwind all around, was a Book, it’s foundation solid as rock. 

Failing a few mystifying attempts to grab ahold of the Book- you know the nature of dreams…run! You want to, but you can’t for some reason!- frustration led to a desperate look around for a helping hand, one insane enough to be braving the storm, and of course, one most unlikely to be found in a town all but abandoned in it’s Armageddon moment of desolation. But sure enough, from a hundred yards or so in the misty darkness came a man, a smile of utter peace, also unaffected in any way, shape or form by this calamity- maybe it was just MY calamity? He walked over, picked up the Book and as I saw its front cover I jumped back with shock. 

It was- The.Book.Of.Mormon. 

He smiled with incredible love and patience as I instantly declared a Mormon I’d never be! He wasn’t interested in what seemed to him to be of inconsequence, and smiled at the immaturity. He assured that all people were the same, Mormons or otherwise, and immediately moved forward to tell me what was happening, far more important than any talk of ‘Mormons’- that the Book was sent as a direct answer from the Lord to my prayer that night, and he was here- a messenger, I suppose?- to tell me about it and show me what it was about. After a great many moments of showing me various pages, he closed the Book. Still unsure, perhaps shocked, but now knowing I just had to read it, I tentatively put my hand forth and asked him for it. He gently smiled and said the Book was to remain in dreams…and I would get one when I awoke. 

And just like that I awoke. My pulse racing, heavy sweat on my cold body, electricity in the air! I had not just dreamt a dream, I lived it and as far as I was concerned, I was simply back in another dimension. The rough and tumble brought me a copy amidst his sobs on hearing the dream, assuring me he always knew the Lord had given him the call to find sheep just as lost as he himself was. Over the years, it turned out to be so.

The months that followed were more surreal than the dream. More astounding than the dream, was the power of the text itself. It broke down the heart whilst causing it to soar at the same time! Sleep was unnecessary, as was food and most other things. The text was ALIVE. It spoke with so much power, convincing every little cell that they were dancing with the dynamics that their composer intended from the foundations of the world, so to speak. Amidst the broken heart, the joy was never fuller! Strange stuff, indeed. The song was in key of C Sharp, and I did see thus! The prescription was finally here, even though it would take many years to take the medicine as directed in its own words…after another awakening. Another story for another day, though.

With the Book of Mormon, I had finally began to know about the God of my childhood in purity, He who was taught to me in so many confounding ways, revealed in clarity, as much as I needed: the MED, or Minimum Effective Dose- this is just what I had needed! In the few decades of mortal life, and the struggles to simply deal with the evil that is sufficient thereof, who had the resources to tick off a list of Pharisaical do’s and don’t? The Gospel of Jesus according to the Book of Mormon is what I longed for, and received. The Bible started to get clearer, and those things that didn’t add up was thrown in the pile of men’s conniving ways…after all, Nephi said they’d do that to the Book of the Lamb.

The Book of Mormon was it. I didn’t feel the need to embrace a church! Definitely not a culture of suit and ties, traditions of fathers…(and many mothers, all married to a few fathers over the Rockies)! 

With the Book of Mormon, He promised HE would heal me if I repented of my unbelief! And all He asked for was not to trust in the arm of flesh, but in Him alone. Jesus. The Eternal God. His mercy and grace, was and IS suffucient, for all I could do was nothing much anyway. Just live your life in charity, turn to me and I’ll make you into my very own flesh and blood. After all, He made me, He gave me those weaknesses and like a caring parent, He would clean up the mess that I was in…much like a baby relies on her parents to clean and care. All He wanted was my love for Him, to remove my unbelief and He would heal me! My healed soul would manifest His love through works and through loving His other creations who are just like me, treating them with dignity and kindness, regardless of ‘black and white, male or female’…especially the low and broken least of my brethren, instead of the high and mighty rising yeast of The Brethren in downtown SLC and their off-cuts strewn around the world of ‘authority’.

I felt strangely out of place amongst these lovely people, most seemingly loaded with temporal goodies and shiny new cars, who talked all about business and careers, real estate and being a Chosen Generation (and no doubt they are correct- having chosen themselves to be the Chosen ones), who all professed their love to a church, its American Pope and leaders, and repeatedly an unhealthy elevation of the one who brought the Book forth, placing him on a mantle as high as Jesus Himself, at times. 

Confused as ever, having hated the priestcraft authority of the Roman church, I didn’t understand the fuss about my neat and somewhat comely clothes, though they did match my 3-day-slightly unshaven mug, I guess. Nor the obligations and exact classrooms I was supposed to be in, for exactly 3 hours and no less, with no freedom to move as my spirit felt free to. The obsession with this Temple, where hushed tones almost guaranteed that all therein meet the Saviour on any given day of the week, and its stringent ‘one-year’ conditions was foreign to my sense of spiritual freedom. Just as weird was this apparent need to be, or to marry, an ‘RM’. The same ‘free-agency’ exercised by those who expounded the many ins and out of LDS-ism during those pre-baptism discussions, was seemingly exorcised in the same nano-second. A mission? All secretive about that Temple, where the uninitiated would go in without a single clue of what was going to happen? I felt like a patient going into a clinic to get a thorn-prick taken out, and suddenly finding an oxygen mask around my face, signing a disclaimer in case of death due to anaesthesia, (a high percentage it turns out to be, according to the ‘Google Apostasy’)…and costing a fortune that I couldn’t afford in the first place.  What happened to this faith, which Moroni belaboured about in 7:37…since no miracles were evident in our age, were those who were reading the Book bringing to pass his very words?

Did these folks even read the same Book I had been poring over with a whole lot of faith, (and very little works admittedly?) Was I allowing Jesus’ name to just be on the lips without Him actually healing my inner vessel? What the hell was I getting into?! 

But that’s another song, one in the key of B Sharp: An LDS Awakening…