There is a certain sublimity in the succinctness of “that voice” that makes it readily identifiable. Rarely has it come with an imperative.
Comprehension usually distills over time. Nevertheless, my knee jerk response was to ask, effectively, “what does that mean?”
“I gave you a country, own it.” Immediately the mind begins to fill in the blessings of having been raised at this time in the U.S. (many) and the implications of correlated responsibilities. After a time I wondered if this answer was a type, a metaphor, and asked about that.
“I gave you a church, own it.” Well, that twists reality a bit. I rebelled, it’s Your Church! Lord. King. Hierarchy. The prior imperatives simply echoed in my then fully conscious mind and have continued so these last four weeks. I won’t take you through the subsequent study, pondering, prayer, and other steps, nor can I fully elaborate on the nexus. Here are a couple of hot spots.
“All That The Father Hath”
It is a pretty overwhelming concept and promise. Stunning in its implication when placed in the context of the above imperatives. So, yes, I fully misunderstood the very foundation of this “plan of happiness.” We “Mormons” mock the idea of an eternity on a cloud with a harp. Our eternity is more of a Garden of Eden were we can lay down all our cares and lie down under a tree watching the clouds drift by, put our hand out and have a nectarine drop into it.”
Consider just two of the fundamental problems with this. 1) There is nothing in scripture that indicates (you’ve seen variations on this theme, here, before) that we are saved, pass into the celestial sphere and receive a little white stone that gives access to all the best buffet lines. 2) This is in contemptible conflict with “dress[ing] and keep[ing]” the garden. That imperative instills the idea of guarding and protecting (Hebrew sense of the word keep or שָׁמְר — Genesis 2:15,11).
There are so many ways to spin this, but let’s keep it simple. Parents have the responsibility of dressing, guarding and protecting their children, whether natural born or adopted. The problem with the destruction of the family? Well, among other things, it goes to the very root and foundation, and the very purpose of The University of Mortality. You want a family, then own it. Too narcissistic to own that responsibility? There is another plan just perfect for you…. We could write a book.
Now, in juxtaposition, consider the implications of Christ’s* willingness to be a Father* to all of this creation [* thinking of both]. The implication of His* receiving “all that the Father* hath” carried/carries incomprehensible ownership responsibilities, not the least of which is an infinite atonement. Does it additionally imply an infinite amount of “dressing and keeping,” which we might presume continues for at least this eternity?
As types, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Lehi, etc. also accept enormous responsibility. Perhaps the busiest place in creation is in the “rest of the Lord.”
At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.
All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.Matthew 11:25–30
So much more implied, but we must go on.
After sharing some of this with my fellowship (haha) a couple of weeks ago, many individuals immediately grasped the idea. For example:
- [Who was this?] The parable of the ten talents.
- John: the Lord measures our output rather than our input.
- Kay: reflected on the story about Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5) and holding back vs giving our all.
- Sarah: reflected on the organization of The Church and The World as compared to Zion (hierarchical vs flat).
- Heidi: all body parts fulfilling their role: the heart (always beating) vs the toenail.
Perhaps the bottom line here is understanding how a priestly hierarchy can impede (and always has) the spiritual growth and responsibility of the individual. After all, it is “His Church” so it is up to Him, it is His responsibility. I can do my part to help Him as my leaders instruct me and their leaders instruct them and ultimately the Savior instructs those others. His Church, I am just a member (an office in the church), a guest, a wanna-be son. Can you see how inherently limiting this is?
Now some might object that we are all to receive inspiration and direction in our callings and His house is a house of order. Okay. Agree. Granted. But we may not agree on what order should look like (I shy away from anything that looks or smells like a dictatorship, in spite of these providing order). Also, this misses the point: My Church. If Mom and Dad give me a puppy, I have to take care of the puppy. In point of fact, they probably have to help more than they should. Nevertheless, my puppy, my responsibility. Mom and Dad want me to take ownership, they want me to “dress and keep” the puppy. If I do that, I learn far more than if they care for it and it simply plays and sleeps with me. If I do the responsibility part well, then perhaps I will grow grace by grace and from grace to grace.
If we comprehend the idea of receiving “all that the Father hath” as more of a process than an event, then we comprehend that where we are right now is already a gift that is part and parcel. If we can’t see that blessing, if we can’t be grateful for what we are learning now, if we can’t own that portion of the gift already provided…. Well, we have probably already buried the talent and rejected the rest.
…they shall return again to their own place, to enjoy that which they are willing to receive, because they were not willing to enjoy that which they might have received. For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.Doctrine and Covenants 88:32–33
Like with The Church, I have presumed that my responsibility is to get out and vote, to love my neighbor, sweep my doorstep, obey the laws, and the like. You know, play by the rules. Rules set out by others who are more worthy and capable.
Like many, I watch the world pessimistically. I hear all those who “long for Zion.” You probably get the problem. Taken in the aforementioned framework, I might not get to help to build Zion and partake of all the blessings that puppy would present if I can’t take ownership here and now.
But, if this is my world, what am I supposed to do with that?
Overwhelming. All components of this are overwhelming. We have discussed but a few. Big ones, yes, but few.
Who am I? What can I do? When I begged for this puppy, I had no idea!
I wonder to what degree I might be more like one who would follow Lucifer in hopes of obtaining all things without the concomitant responsibility. More like one who would beseech God for blessings, but not one who is focused on blessing God (and His works and adding to His glory) or blessing his neighbor or his church or his world. After all, who am I? What can I do?
[I note that this is not the same as the not-infrequent criticism that Mormons think that they earn their way to heaven through their works. That is an altogether different kind of heaven. The master gives the talents to the servant. Exercising faith, the servant does something good with it. The talents return to the master. Then come greater “gifts” with presumably greater responsibilities.]
So, do I want to be a source or a sink? In many ways, I behave more like the latter. If we presume that “getting sealed in the temple” is not the same as being “united in an everlasting covenant” [which we should presume has an exceedingly broader and deeper meaning than we tend to apply to it?], and if owning that marriage and thus entering into that order of like-minded individuals is a prerequisite to receiving the gift (hint) of obtaining the highest degree of heaven, then I’d better get to work. Otherwise, my celestial glory — and that is being very optimistic — will probably be one of the “other” degrees.
From William Clayton’s journal entry 16 May 1843 (highlights mine):
…Addressing Benjamin [F. Johnson] says he [President Joseph Smith] “nothing but the unpardonable sin can prevent him [William Clayton] from inheriting eternal glory for he is sealed up by the power of the priesthood unto eternal life having taken the step which is necessary for that purpose. [clearly implying that the Claytons had already received this sealing]” He said that except a man and his wife enter into an everlasting covenant and be married for eternity while in this probation by the power and authority of the Holy priesthood they will cease to increase when they die (i e) they will not have any children in the resurrection, but those who are married by the power & authority of the priesthood in this life & continue without committing the sin against the Holy Ghost will continue to increase & have children in the celestial glory. *** I feel desirous to be united in an everlasting covenant to my wife and pray that it may soon be [is Joseph implying that he has not received this sealing or that this unity is something obtained thereafter?]. *** He also said that in the celestial glory there was three heavens or degrees, and in order to obtain the highest a man must enter into this order of the priesthood and if he dont he cant obtain it. He may enter into the other but that is the end of his kingdom he cannot have an increase.
Maybe God just threw me a bone. While I was finishing up this post, I received this text message from a friend / AME Pastor: “You need to write a book ‘Changing the Black and White landscape One dinner at a time Southern style.’ ” This has reference to regular dinners we recently initiated in our home.