Friday, September 22, 2006

Singing the Song of Songs

I was disappointed when we skipped the Song of Solomon last week in Gospel Doctrine. Of course, I wasn’t surprised. As we study the Old Testament every four years, if the book is even mentioned, it is to summarily dismiss it with the notation in the Joseph Smith Translation that the Songs of Solomon are not inspired writings, and thus do not belong in the Biblical canon. Nonetheless, the Song seems to me to have some commonality with the D&C and deserves a closer look.

I first noticed a similarity in language between Solomon’s Song and the D&C when I came across these words, “Who is she that looketh forth as the morning, fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners?” This verse comes from Song 6:10 and describes Solomon’s Shulamite princess to whom his song of love is directed. To D&C scholars these words call to mind Section 5:14 and 109:73 where the Church comes forth from the wilderness of darkness “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners.” I’m not the first to blog about this similarity. But to me, the appearance of these verses in the D&C gives credence to the view held by some Christian theologians that Solomon’s love song to the Shulamite is an allegory or type of Christ’s relationship to the Church. Solomon is not the only one to use this poetic form. Jeremiah tells his readers, “I have likened the daughter of Zion to a comely and delicate woman.” (Jer. 6:2) In Isaiah and Jeremiah the “daughter of Zion” is a figure meaning “the covenant people.” Thus Jeremiah, Isaiah, Solomon, and others liken the Church to a beautiful woman.

In my view, the Latter-day Saints, with the interpretation of this allegory plainly stated in the D&C, are uniquely placed to understand and appreciate the Song of Solomon. Many images which appear within the verses seem fruitful for further study. For example, a familiarity with the Old Testament Temple calls this edifice to mind while reading these verses from the Song:

King Solomon made himself a chariot of the wood of Lebanon. He made the pillars thereof of silver, the bottom thereof of gold, the covering of it purple, the midst thereof being paved with love, for the daughters of Jerusalem. (Song 3:9-10)

Here we see the Temple as a chariot, built to bring the covenant people into the presence of Deity. Other interesting images found in the Song include fruit that is sweet to the taste, the adornment of the bride, the banquet, the fig tree, the vineyard, frankincense and myrrh, seeking, washing of the feet, the entreaty to “return,” and the “sealing” of love. These themes are repeated often enough in other, more acceptable scriptural passages that it is difficult to understand why they have been neglected and rejected by Latter-day Saints.

Mormons seem to find it uncomfortable to uncover a celebration of sexuality in the scriptures. They hesitate to compare these images of love to their chaste conception of Christ’s love for his Bride. This may have as much to do with our dismissal of this unusual book as the note in the JST. But to me the Song is a spiritual enticement. It seems to call to me with the voice of an ardent suitor. I place the Savior in the role of the beloved lover in the Song and thrill to these words: “I sleep, but my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh, saying, Open to me…”

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Modesty--For Boys

This post debuted at BCC. Go there to read tons of comments, and see how everyone missed my point.

Of my eight children, I only have one boy—“the little prince.” He’s grown up with quite a knowledge of the female psyche, but has his own way of looking at life. Now that he is close to turning 12, I’m starting to reevaluate adolescence.

One of the big issues for the girls was modesty. Preached long and loud in Young Women’s, it sometimes looms larger than having a testimony of Christ. We’ve had to come to terms with modesty in our home. With their 100% Church, YW, and Seminary attendance, I feel that my daughters understand the principle. I support it, but let them govern themselves. I’ve learned to let them choose their clothing, and say nothing except when asked. Usually then I will tell them they look beautiful and stunning. I’ve helped put sleeves on prom dresses. I’ve listened to them agonize over unfair Standards Nights, where only the girls are targeted, and agreed with them that impure thoughts are the boys’ problem.

But now…along comes this young man of my own.

YM is generally neat and well-dressed. He wears swim trunks without a shirt while swimming, but otherwise wears a shirt in the summer. I’ve discovered, though, that boys have different “modesty” issues.

Do boys realize it is offensive to burp and fart loudly and without apology? Why isn’t this receiving any emphasis in Youth programs? Why don’t they drill into the boys how much this bothers girls and women? Why don’t they send the boys home from stake dances for burping along to the tune of the alphabet? Why don’t they get into trouble for lighting farts at Scout Camp?

I hope the Church will help me teach my boy modesty.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Singing A Capella

This was originally posted at BCC.

Last Sunday my daughter had her missionary farewell—oops, I mean, she gave a talk in her singles ward, along with another young man who was going on a mission. The two sang an arrangement of “A Marvelous Work.” The boy’s father, an accomplished musician, accompanied them on the piano. I, the proud mother, thought they did a fabulous job. Except, in the middle of the song, the piano stopped playing. At first, I and the rest of the congregation simply thought they were singing a cappella. Their voices blended wonderfully. But then the boy cast a glance at his father, and I realized the pianist was frantically searching for a missing page. He finally found his place, came in on the last page, and all had stayed on key. My daughter told me later she was shaking and clinging to the podium during the “a cappella” section.

This incident made me ponder the times when we are singing a cappella through life. Sometimes it feels as if the Lord has deserted us; left us without accompaniment in this lone and dreary world.

Is he really right there with us all the time, totally involved in our lives, and due to lack of spiritual sensitivity we just can’t tell? (a la “Footsteps in the Sand?”) Does he withdraw for a time so that we can learn and grow? Or has he placed us here to make our own way through life by faith, with little or no personal contact? At times in my journey, I’ve subscribed to each of the three positions.

1. The most scriptural support comes down on the side of the first option. “and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.” (Matt 28:20) In fact, D&C 59:21 warns us that God’s anger is kindled against those who do not acknowledge his hand in all things. I would like to think that the Lord himself is continually taking a very personal interest in the details of my small life. But the only people I know who really live this philosophy are just a bit kooky. My friend TJ, a born-again Christian, believes much as Corrie Ten-Boom that any little flea that comes along is there for a cosmic purpose. Whenever TJ so much as drops an egg on the floor, she will loudly proclaim, “Praise the Lord!”

2. When mankind turned to wickedness in the days of Noah, Jehovah told them, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man.” (Gen. 6:3; see also 2 Ne. 26:11 and D&C 1:33)
Perhaps this is true not only for the wicked, but for all. In the temple, where Adam and Eve stand as representatives of the human race, the Lord tells them that he will go away, but he will return and give them instructions from time to time. Many mainstream Latter-day Saints seem to hold this view.

3. You need not run the risk of being branded an apostate if you hold the third view. It is a comfortable place for Latter-day Saints who believe that “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets.” (Amos 3:7) We have the scriptures and the revealed word of the Lord to direct us through life. This is enough to guide us and bring us back into the Father’s presence without the necessity of his personal intervention in the affairs of the common person.

How are we to know if the Lord is carrying us through the sand when it feels as if we are singing alone into the wind? Does a strong faith necessitate a belief in his ongoing presence? Should we strive to assimilate one of these paradigms, or is it OK to just follow what we’ve been told, cling to the podium, and wait for the accompanist to come back in?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Visual, Auditory, and Kinesthetic Revelation

Visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners are so named because they respond to learning in different ways. Visual learners are responsive to stimuli they can see. Auditory learners do well in traditional classrooms because they learn by hearing. Kinesthetic learners grasp concepts better when they can feel and handle models of the material being taught. I believe that revelation is given to people in a similar way, according to how the individual can best process the information.

Lehi’s vision was given to him in images. When he described the vision to his family, he told them all the things he saw. “I saw in my dream a dark and dreary wilderness,” he states. “I saw a man…I beheld a large and spacious field…I beheld a tree…I beheld that the fruit thereof was white...I cast my eyes round about…I beheld a river of water…I beheld your mother Sariah, and Sam, and Nephi…I cast mine eyes toward the head of the river, that perhaps I might see [Laman and Lemuel]…I saw them, but they would not come unto me…I beheld a rod of iron…I also beheld a straight and narrow path…I saw numberless concourses of people…I also cast my eyes round about, and beheld, on the other side of the river of water, a great and spacious building…” Because of the things which Lehi saw, he made conclusions about what the Lord wanted to communicate to him. Lehi began to fear for Laman and Lemuel. He preached to them and exhorted them to keep the commandments of the Lord. This dream was given to Lehi in a visual manner. Other visual revelations recorded in scripture include Moses’ vision and Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the redemption of the dead.

Enos had an experience with God that was no less immediate than that of Lehi. His revelation, however, came in an auditory form. Enos carried on a conversation with his Maker. “I did raise my voice high that it reached the heavens…there came a voice unto me…and I said, Lord, how is it done…and he said unto me, because of thy faith…when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire…I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them…the voice of the Lord came into my mind…after I, Enos, had heard these words…I prayed unto him with many long strugglings…after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me…I did cry unto God…and the Lord said unto me…” Because of the things which he heard, Enos went about among the people prophesying and testifying. His auditory experience with the Lord had a great effect upon him. Other auditory forms of revelation in the scriptures include Samuel’s call and instructions to Elijah.

Alma’s revelation came in a kinesthetic form. As he went about with the sons of Mosiah persecuting the people of the Church, an angel appeared to them and spoke, saying, “seek no more to destroy the Church of God.” Immediately Alma fell to the earth. Although he had seen (visual) and heard (auditory) the angel, the revelation came to Alma kinesthetically. For three days and nights he could not open his mouth. He states that the angel spake more things, which were heard by his brethren, but he could not hear them. “I was struck…I fell to the earth…I did hear no more…I was racked with eternal torment…my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins…I was tormented with the pains of hell…for three days and three nighs was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul…I could remember my pains no more…oh, what joy and what marvelous light…my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain…my limbs did receive their strength…I stood upon my feet and did manifest unto the people that I had been born of God.” Alma’s experience, which came kinesthetically, had such an effect as to completely change the course of his life. Other examples of kinesthetic revelation are the shocking of Laman and Lemuel and the lightening of the burdens of Alma and his people.

Often a revelation will employ two or even all three of these methods in order to bring the word of the Lord to the listener. In Joseph Smith’s vision, he felt the power of the adversary, saw God and Jesus Christ, and heard their voices.

In cases when I feel that I have received revelation, it has come to me in a rather auditory form. I compare it to what Joseph Smith described as “sudden strokes of ideas,” which I recognize as pure intelligence. These ideas come as words, and I am often able to write down exactly what is being communicated. My husband, on the other hand, experiences revelation very visually. It is usually in the form of dreams, in which he sees images that he recognizes as having symbolic meaning. Many members of the Church have felt kinesthetic revelation in the form of “a burning in the bosom,” or a warm, peaceful feeling.

Do you experience revelation in any of these three forms? Does it come in one way more often than others? Do you feel that the revelation is being sent to you in the manner in which you are best able to receive and learn from it?

Friday, September 8, 2006

Wherein You Tell Me Who I Am

Who am I?
I do not know
My heart beats fast,
Your heart beats slow--
You tell me that it isn't so
I nod my head, away I go.

Who am I?
You tell me then.
You tell me what,
You tell me when--
Though knowing is beyond your ken
That's why I've gone away again.

It is a strange anomaly
I keep your words inside of me
Although they only cause me hurt
And keep that true self in the dirt

That must be me, all veiled in black.
I wish that I could call me back.