Monday, April 2, 2012

What if Revelation?

I confess that I love Les Miserables, especially the musical. It's such a musical that is both dramatic and meaningful. What I love about that musical is it speaks of destiny and of a failure to reach your potential. But in that failure, there is hope and eventually redemption. That, I think, is key to human existence. I think in order for us to become better than we are now, we must first accept our many, many failings. Accept the injustice we have done towards our fellow human beings and fellow animals.

General Conference happened this past weekend. Until a few years ago, I was forced to watch all ten hours of it. As a child and teenager, this meant boredom that I could not resist. I tried to listen to the talks as though they could improve my life and improve my habits. As a missionary, I would listen with such hunger. I believed that revelations would pour out upon the congregations and wisdom and understanding would at last be given. I had read the revelations of the founding prophet, Joseph Smith. I had heard and read the stories of the past. But all I saw ever at such meetings was a sort of dull, sheep-herding mentality going on there. It was the same as church meetings. It was the same as the temple ceremonies.

I have always found it found that a church that claims such divine revelation, would be one of the most boring faiths in existence. I mean, Catholics can be pretty desperately boring in their wrote and memorized masses. But even they are fun compared with Mormon meetings. My mom used to complain about how I would fall asleep through nearly every sacrament meeting where the speakers would either share talks/sermons or bear testimony of things they believed (or claimed to know) were true.

Revelation is a tricky thing, or so I've read. It is a call that seems to happen regardless of what you want. It has such force of will that you are merely the passenger in this journey. You are the mouthpiece and revelation is the speaker. I remember the claims of the Mormons: revelation would continue on and on. The heavens were not sealed up. God would speak continuously to the Mormons. But God seems silent towards the Mormons.

He seems to speak without the voice of many waters from mythical times. His power, which made the earth and broke up mountains and stayed the mouths of lions, now seems to just grant happy feelings and whispered warnings. Where once devils haunted the religious landscape, tiredness and apathy now plague our mental landscapes. Where is revelation now? I have read the accounts of other faiths. They too claimed some kind of revelation, some new story for humanity to follow. The divine had spoken to them. Whether it was enlightenment itself, the voice of God, or the awakening to the mystical realms that are around and within us, these revelations pointed to a higher calling for humanity. The revelations of Joseph Smith don't really seem all that different. Humanity was called to a higher way just as Jesus of Nazareth had done the same in the past.

But the years roll on. The message becomes obscured and even flattened and ironed out of its wrinkles and curious contradictions. The wild, intoxicating nature of the revelation becomes like a fire over time: cooled down to mere coals. Only the memory of the flame lives on. But like fire, it to fades. Passion yields to conformity. Rightness yields to apathy. And what about revelation? Hm, well revelation appears to be quietly bound and gagged and shoved somewhere dark and hidden. Revelation is replaced by bureaucratic revelation. It is a neat and tidy form. But it is nothing like its original. It's a pale form that calls its hearers to nothing higher except the empty, lofty ways of the power-hungry or well-meaning individuals that use it.

Les Miserables never claims revelation, I realize. It never claims a wild nature like that of early religions. Les Miserables does none of this. So why did I open with it? I opened with it because it speaks of fallen destinies and a chance to let go of the past. Les Miserables is about forgiveness and redemption. Mormonism is about doing and obedience. Where a story tells of a tale that invites us to do better, Mormonism reminds us to pay our tithing and heed our local leaders.

There is a boring nature that seeps deeper and deeper into Mormonism as the years go by. It comes about from a bland search for meaning that it will never find. A search for purpose and calling to bring their followers to a higher plane of existence. Yet, from all that I have seen, their members achieve a stupor of thought that they can't ever seem to escape from. But all of this is masked by the soft, persuasive whisper that "All is well in Zion. Yea, Zion prospereth." In that, I mean, that with all of society's injustices and cruelties, a religion of once social change seeks merely to impose its ways and avoid change.

It seeks to ignore revelation now.

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