I heard Dallin Oaks’s conference talk last Saturday while waiting to take my husband’s parents to breakfast. I was interested in the way he talked about the second coming—what would you do if you knew Christ was returning tomorrow? I’ve been wondering since then how people in the church typically talk about the End now that we have lived beyond the end of the twentieth century. I still have a very vivid memory of a talk I heard in church when I was probably about ten (I grew up in a very small farming village in southeastern Idaho in the fifties). I remember the talk because it frightened me. This person was talking about the second coming and making it very clear that the End would come by the year 2000. And the events before the End wouldn’t be pleasant. Certainly it is because this apocalyptic talk was atypical that it stands out against the blur of countless mundane hours spent in church as a child. And I remember at the time that some adults thought the talk a bit extreme and inappropriate. But it did leave me with a sense that I could well live through the end of time—and before I was very old.
Being identified as the mother of Nate for the past two weeks has set me thinking about mothers—having one, being one. My own mother died several years ago. I still work at making my peace with her. It’s not been easy to admit my likeness to her. Her circle for life seemed so tiny as I was growing up in a very small village in southeastern Idaho. Nate knew my Mom. She probably had better luck teaching him to do needle work than she did me. Recently I’ve been typing my Mom’s autobiography and her journals onto the computer, so I can make them available to her extended family. And I can honestly say at this point: I do hope I’m my mother’s daughter. (And my aunt’s niece.) How unique is my experience?
Today I was talking with an editor in my group about why she wouldn’t be in the office this afternoon. She was taking her two children to see the Wiggles. Now I admit that even though I’ve watched a bit of television in the past couple of years with my grandchildren, I’ve missed the Wiggles. Robin had been telling her daughter (I think her daughter is about four) that they were going to see the Wiggles. The little girl was excited and wanted to know whether the Wiggles would be on a big screen. Robin had to explain that they would see the Wiggles in person—and perhaps the little girl would actually get to touch a real Wiggle. At this point in the conversation, I told Robin a story about my daughter Bevin and books. It’s surprising how often I find myself telling stories about Bevin to explain the meaning of life. Bevin, now in her twenties, is developmentally disabled. When asked about her mental age I often say that Bevin is like a very, very, very, very, very experienced (but, even as I mother I must admit, not particularly accomplished) one to two year old. But charming. Oh so charming.
We tend to think of theology in discursive terms—as a collection of ideas or propositions. When we talk about the development of theology we are apt to trace the history of abstractions such as faith, hope, love, priesthood. With Joseph Smith, I’ve come to believe it is much more enlightening to attend first to characters and to the plots, language, discussions that collect around them. Again and again these characters inhabit stories that preview and explore situations very like those facing Joseph and the community of faith gathering around him. Following key characters thus becomes a tool for tracing developments in early Mormon history. Viewed within this context. Moses becomes a key to Mormon theology (or at least a prime exemplar of what I’m talking about).
I’m curious about the function that blogging serves for you. The blog is such an interesting, borderland genre. (And I will candidly admit here that the bulk of my personal experience with blogs and blogging has turned on a certain motherly voyeurism of my very verbal, bright, and prolific son.) A really great blog can read, it seems, like a well-honed, mini essay. A continuing interchange can take on the shape and the heat of a spirited conversation, or an argument. I’m often impressed with the quality of the writing and thinking I see. (And sometimes, of course, blogging is far less than this.) Also there’s a continuing quality to a blog that is closer to a journal or diary, or soap opera, as it charts the ins and outs of personal and communal experiences.
Kristine’s description of her lunch with Esther Peterson got me to thinking about other women I wish I could have met. I was somewhat surprised that Louie Felt and May Anderson popped into my mind. These two women were the first two presidents of the Primary. Between them they presided over the Primary from 1880 (at its beginning) to 1940. Louie Felt was a plural wife; May Anderson never married. (May was quite a few years Louie’s junior.) Neither had children. I take my title from the title of an article about the two that appeared in the Children’s Friend, the magazine they edited together for decades.
I’ve been interested in one line of recurring discussion in all the talk about Mel Gibson’s movie. (Keep in mind I’m focusing on “talk” about the movie; I haven’t yet seen the movie.) On the one hand, the charge that the movie is anti-Jewish. On the other, the counter that it’s not; that it’s telling the gospel story of crucifixion, the atonement. My point would be that these two views may not be exactly contradictory. I recently reread The Origins of Satan (1993) by Elaine Pagels. Her argument has framed my own response to discussions about Gibson’s movie—and to my thinking recently about Joseph Smith’s “prologue” to his New Translation of the Bible (contemporary Mormons know this prologue as Moses 1).
I’ve been thinking recently of people I met in my twenties. Where we are now—that memory thing. A post a few weeks back by your own Jim Faulconer sent me on this most recent tour down memory lane. Jim was a person I met in my twenties—in the honors program reading room at BYU. At BYU I also met Mike Quinn, Lavina Fielding Anderson, Janice and David Allred. . . . . We were all idealistic, faithful, bookish Mormons, beginning our adult lives. From what I know, I believe that we’ve all “kept” the faith.
So why do I always resist the rather obvious point. The Sunstone crowd is greying, the Mormon history crowd is greying. . . . There is an easy answer, I suppose. I’m from the old Sunstone crowd. I’m greying. Maybe I don’t like facing the obvious. But I really don’t think that’s it exactly.