Pageants, they is a-changin’

Facebook informed me that the Church is stepping away from some of the pageants that Church members and their friends have attended over the past decades.

According to the Deseret News, 2020 will be the last year the Hill Cumorah Pageant will be held with direct support from the Church. The Mormon Miracle Pageant in Manti will no longer benefit from direct Church support after 2019.

On the other hand, the two pageants that are held in Nauvoo will continue.

I haven’t attended the Hill Cumorah pageant in decades. I hear in the past few years attendance has dwindled. Apparently the local mission decided this summer it was no longer appropriate for full-time missionaries to attend the pageant, attendance which involved long miles of travel and very late nights (even when missionaries ostensibly were accompanying those seeking to learn more about the Church).

I haven’t attended the Manti pageant. I’m not sure what I’ve heard about that pageant is accurate, or if what I remember of comments is actually what people told me.

I am happy to hear the Nauvoo pageants will continue. These pageants were written recently, reflecting history that is relatively accurate.

This news is interesting in light of what I did yesterday. I and several family members traveled 7-8 hours each way and spent $45 apiece to spend the day at Hart Square Village, a privately assembled collection of over 100 pioneer structures. Hundreds of docents and artisans assemble on the fourth Saturday of October each year to explain and recreate quotidian activities of 1800s life. We shucked corn, sampled sweet sorghum, sang hymns in the log chapel next to the lake, and watched as re-enactors fought a Civil War-era skirmish (in this North Carolina setting, the Confederate soldiers won the day). It is not that crowds won’t assemble for such gatherings, but the zeitgeist of our age is not the same as the 1937 sensibility that gave birth to the original Hill Cumorah pageant.

An era is coming to a close. But for me and my household, we look forward to the future and the new opportunities that wait in store.

Can’t we all just get along?

Have you heard of Rodney King? He was brutally beaten by the LA Police Department in 1991, and the acquittal of the police officers the next year led to six days of rioting in LA. Sixty-three people were killed and more than 2000 injured because of the riots. Rodney King appeared on TV during the riots and gave an oft-quoted, impassioned speech in which he said,

“I just want to say – you know – can we all get along? Can we, can we get along? Can we stop making it horrible for the older people and the kids?… it’s just not right – it’s not right. And it’s not going to change anything. …And, just, uh, I love – I’m neutral, I love every – I love people of color. I’m not like they’re making me out to be. We’ve got to quit – we’ve got to quit; I mean after-all, I could understand the first – upset for the first two hours after the verdict, but to go on, to keep going on like this and to see the security guard shot on the ground – it’s just not right; it’s just not right, because those people will never go home to their families again. And uh, I mean please, we can, we can get along here. We all can get along – we just gotta, we gotta.”

King’s speech, which you can watch in part here, was very touching for me the first time I watched it. It is — dare I say it — almost Christ-like in its deep desire for people to love rather than hate.

I’ve been thinking about that phrase — “can we all get along” (which popular culture has often expressed as “can’t we all just get along?”) — a lot lately. This is the message that modern-day prophets express in almost every talk they give. This is the message that all Christians should impart, especially in these very tense times of national tumult over politics.

So, in that spirit, I would like to try in this post to help people on both sides understand the position of the other side a bit. Perhaps if we stop seeing one “side” (ie, Democrats/liberals/progressives/democratic socialists vs Republicans/right-leaning libertarians/conservatives) as evil, we can turn down the political temperature just a bit.
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Saints Book Club Ch. 4

Chapter 4 of Saints has it all: buried treasure and golden plates, action and romance.

Joseph’s work in assisting with treasure seeking has been the subject of much controversy. This chapter smartly positions that employment in the context of Joseph meeting and courting Emma Hale. Whether Joseph was right to use his talents in pursuit of treasure seeking or not, God used his experience to put him where he needed to be to meet Emma.

I like how the chapter describes the romance between Emma and Joseph. You can see what each found so attractive in the other. Emma had grown up in relative wealth and privilege and I suspect that Joseph seemed so different. He was rugged and rough. He had a natural charm and was gregarious and humorous. Emma likely offered Joseph a sense of refinement and class that attracted him.

It was no surprise that Issac Hale did not approve of their relationship and marriage. Joseph was a poor hired laborer whose family had little property and little standing. Joseph must have appeared uneducated and superstitious. And the rumors of gold plates and angels would frighten any would be father in law.

Amidst this courtship, Joseph is charged with fraud for his work with Josiah Stowell. The charges are dismissed after Josiah testifies on his behalf. But I can’t imagine that those charges helped Joseph’s relationship with Isaac Hale.

When Joseph visits the Hill Cumorah again, he is warned that he is still using his skills to pursue financial gain and that he must quit working with money diggers. He is told that if he does not change his ways, he will not have another chance. This makes me wonder if there are moments in our lives where God gives us a similar warning and where we have to either step up and change of lose out on precious spiritual opportunities? Continue reading

Fasting from Modernity

For the past ten days, many of us have enjoyed a “fast” from social media “and from any other media that bring negative and impure thoughts to [the] mind.” 1

We often think of fasting as depriving ourselves. But when we talk of negative media, we were actually freeing ourselves to focus on the better things rather than the distractions provided by negative or frivolous media. Instead of filling the cornucopia of our life’s hours with negative and harmful distractions, we were able to focus on quieter and often more fulfilling things.

In the first hours/days, I would grab my cell phone, then realizing that I’d uninstalled the app(s) that previously absorbed far too many minutes (hours) of my life. After checking e-mail and finding little of interest, I’d often open the Gospel Library app and start reading the Book of Mormon. On impulse I filled a Saturday with commuting to the temple I hadn’t visited since my local temple closed for renovations. Rather than turning on the radio, I “turned on” the narration for the Book of Mormon.

I feel like a person who has left an evening city of noise and lights to enjoy the quiet nature songs in a field bathed in starlight.

I’ve had a chance to get around to things I’ve been wanting to do. Somehow my distracted self never had the time.

Feel free to share which thing you’ve done or appreciated or enjoyed that your distracted self would likely have missed had you not participated in President Nelson’s suggested media fast.

Notes:

  1. Russell M. Nelson, Sisters’ Participation in the Gather of Israel, October 6, 2018.

Saints book club, ch 3

Chapter Two of saints ended right after the immediate aftermath of First Vision. Chapter Three looks at the years that followed which contain some of the many highs and lows of the life of the fledgling Prophet.

I have always loved how Joseph Smith candidly admits in his history that in the years after the First Vision, he fell into temptations and lost sight of the vision that he had. How relateable. Here is how this is described in Saints:

“Joseph and his friends were young and lighthearted. Sometimes they made foolish mistakes, and Joseph found that being forgiven once did not mean he would never need to repent again. Nor did his glorious vision answer every question or forever end his confusion. …Joseph was still unsure if God was pleased with him. He could no longer feel the forgiveness and peace he had felt after his vision of the Father and Son. Instead, he often felt condemned for his weakness and imperfections.”

I love being able to click on the footnotes in Saints and instantly be transported to the primary sources. These paragraphs combined information from the well-known account in the Pearl of Great Price, and also from an earlier 1832 account. The 1832 account has some wonderful details such as Joseph’s description of how his transgressions and sins “brought a wound upon my soul.” Joseph’s earlier account also lays bare how difficult and painful these years were for Joseph: as “his Fathers family have suffered many persecutions and afflictions.”

This backdrop gives Moroni’s visit a much deeper resonance. Joseph once again needed personal reassurance of his standing before God. He had “full confidence in obtaining a divine manifestation,” and yet imagine the relief he must have felt when a heavenly messenger appeared before him.

And yet, despite the vision Joseph did not become transformed overnight. The first time that Joseph tries to get the gold plates does not go well to say the least. He is warned that he must not seek the plates for financial gain. “Still, Joseph could not help thinking that he now knew exactly where to find enough treasure to free his family from poverty.” (Saints).

After Joseph is rebuked for seeking the plates, Moroni appears and Joseph Smith has another remarkable vision that I had not been aware of:

“Look,” Moroni commanded. Another vision unfolded before Joseph, and he saw Satan surrounded by his numberless host. “All this is shown, the good and the evil, the holy and impure, the glory of God and the power of darkness,” the angel declared, “that you may know hereafter the two powers and never be influenced or overcome by that wicked one.”

Joseph was undoubtedly aware of Satan after the assault proceeding the First Vision, and yet here Joseph is given to fully understand the power and influence of the adversary and how forcefully Satan would oppose him. I suspect that this must have been quite a wake up call for him.

Saints does not skimp in its depiction of one of the traumatic events of Joseph’s life–the death of his Brother Alvin. Immediately after the visit of Moroni, Joseph’s home was filled with joy. “Night after night he captivated the family with talk of the gold plates and the people who wrote them.” And then suddenly, his brother Alvin dies. The event was devastating to all the members of the household, especially Joseph Sr. who is described as “furious.” Neither Joseph Sr. nor Joseph Jr. ever forgot Alvin and many later events were influenced by his passing.

The second attempt to get the plates went slightly better than the first. Joseph got the plates out of the ground. And then he realized that the other items with the plates could be valuable and so he set the plates down out of his sight. Because he was not cautious with the plates, he is denied access to them again. Joseph had grown from the first encounter with Moroni, and yet he also still had a long way to go.

What stood out to you in this chapter? What did you learn? What questions did you have?

He Called Me By Name by Liz Lemon Swindle