Saturday, May 30, 2009

At tea with the Mormans

Even though it probably hasn't yet hit 80 degrees out there, I'm boiling hot after coming home from my second successful track workout in preparation for a marathon that is four weeks from today. Thoughts of recent occurrences helped the laps slide by easier:

Last night I met with the Mormons for the second time. They keep assigning me reading: 2 Nephi 11, Alma 32, etc... and I gobble it up, an ex-aspiring-Bible scholar hungry for a new task. But, four years of training has taught me to read around the words. I want context; I know more than to let the source-less passages plow into my heart without the responsible categorization of the When, the Where, (and possibly from these) the Why. I don't deal with questions like: "What does this mean to me?" That's the last thing; that's where I've spent way too much time before. So, last night I asked them if there is any textual criticism I could get my hands on. "No," they said, not offended, but still stern, "there is no disagreement regarding direct revelation from God." None? I know better- 'no disagreement' just means that someone doesn't have a voice.

In the end, I still had to have more, so I picked up the gargantuan volume by Richard Lyman Bushman, a believers account of the life and times of Joseph Smith. And I am just eating it up.

Did you know that little Joe had his first vision at the blooming age of 14? His family was poor, everyone worked to finance the farm, his mother was in and out of spiritual and physical illness with the wild voices of the Great Awakening all around them. His father occilated between alcoholism and born-again methodism (at which time his father, Asael Smith would appear to lob a coppy of Thomas Paine's Age of Reason at their door). The kids, Joseph's 7 or 8 brothers and sisters, were divided as to where they might attend church, though Joseph himself stayed home. The townspeople, Bushman reports, knew him as quiet, maybe a little slow-witted, certainly not prone to religious thought or visions. And then one Sunday morning the moody teenager yelled at his mother, "Oh yeah, well your Religion is wrong!" (She was presbyterian.) When she asked why, Joseph replied, "I can't even tell you!" (A paraphrase.) Joseph has had his conversion; his vision (that would alter slightly with each publication). But even then he knew in his heart that there was something entirely new just ahead. And that's it. That's the beginning.

This is not to say that Mormanism is defunct for me or should be for you. Just that I absolutely did not know it was like that. You always think of Joseph Smith as some great patriarch, perhaps with a long white, beard, in manner of Moses. But he was 14. I love my Mormon friends, and I don't begrudge them their craziness. I- on most days- identify with some kind of Christian, and they have done much, much, much stranger things.

Anyway, its already been a 32 mile week. Six today, none yesterday (yikes!), three the day before, but that was recovering from 18 the day before that! and Tuesday off, Monday 5.

And I apologize for any of the errors in this information, too...