Thursday, March 1, 2012

Thoughts while watching other people's children

I've been thinking a lot about something lately.  Recently I was standing in line at the library, watching a handful of small children squirm with impatience.  I was at the library to pick up a book by Jodi Piccoult called Nineteen Minutes.  I had pulled it off the shelf at my brother's house and started reading, but had to leave before I could finish it.  It's about a seventeen-year-old boy who has been bullied relentlessly his entire school career, and who ultimately brings a gun to school, killing ten and wounding several others. I stood in line at the library thinking about this disturbing plot (which is a relevant bestseller because it's been a reality too many times), and I thought that raising these squirmy children is all of our responsibility.

These recent thoughts of mine have to do with "us vs. them" mentality.  They have to do with Joanna Brooks' "sparkling difference" described in her recently published memoir--that supposed deep-down, soul-difference between members of the LDS church and non-members.  And they have to do with the idea of ecumenism that I've only recently been learning about.

Of course, they also have to do with some of the major weirdness, human-ness, the massive and often embarrassing flaws I've been learning about in Mormon history, the roots of some things that are still difficult in Mormonism today: polygamy, racism, blood atonement, the audacity of the power structure put in place by Brigham Young, which, as it turns out, has its roots in the audacity of Joseph Smith himself.

What I'm getting at is that, while my faith in Mormonism as The One True Religion has diminished, my faith in Christ, and in the goodness of humanity generally has strengthened.  My faith in the power of people to address and solve social problems--racism, gender inequity, poverty, hunger, domestic violence--has dramatically increased. My faith in the power of all people to call on and effectively use the grace of Christ--even if they call it something different--has blossomed like a desert rose, so to speak.

I remember reading this fantastic essay on the second coming (I found it through this Mormon Matters podcast on the same subject--I highly recommend it), and having a moment of epiphany.  The last sentence in the essay:

"My coming is this--when all of you see me in each other, I will already have come." the voice of Christ, as heard and interpreted by the author.  It had a powerful effect on me.  It made me think thoughts I'd never thought before.  Thoughts like: We can choose to become people to whom Christ's coming is a daily event.  We can choose to be people who see the fundamental inter-connectedness of all people.  We can choose to transcend the "us vs. them" that pervades and divides all of society--along such lines as politics, religion, nationality, race, gender--and arrive at the realization, the fundamental truth, that when one of us hurts, we all hurt.  The child who is relentlessly bullied, to the point of lashing out in unthinkable violence, is my child.  He is our child.  We all raise him.  

Our world arrives at a state of grace, transcendence, not when everyone sees the truth of Mormonism and Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon (as I thought long ago as an LDS missionary).  But when we, one at a time, learn to love each other.    

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