Gathered Under the Wings of My Gospel (Doctrine & Covenants 10-11)

Monday, February 1, 2021


Channing: Hi, I'm Channing.

And this is the faithful feminist podcast,

Elise: And I'm Elise and this is The Faithful Feminists Podcast. But this is not just any Come Follow Me podcast. We do things a little differently here. We offer approachable feminist interpretations of the Come Follow Me manual for those who want to study and understand the scriptures in a framework of equality, social justice, and sisterhood. We're here to show you all the really good ways that faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience.

Channing: We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs so join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants sections 10 - 11 for the dates February 1-7. We're so glad you're here today.

Elise: Welcome back everyone. Thanks for joining us on another episode. Just a little bit of context before we dive in, section 10 is all about Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdrey kind of wondering and questioning what they're supposed to do about the 116 pages of the book of Mormon translation that went missing. Should they go back and retranslate it? And in this section we learned that God says, no, don't go, don't go retranslate it. There are some wicked evil people out there who are plotting to alter the translation to try and disprove Joseph Smith's work. And then in section 11, this is a revelation from Joseph Smith to his brother Hyrum.

And I want to just start by taking a look at the first four verses in section 10. And I'm struck with some bittersweet medicine that God serves to Joseph Smith. A few episodes ago, we had talked about how it's the work of humans that is frustrated, not necessarily the work of God. And this section seems to say that look, even when you make mistakes and you frustrate the work, you're often still, we often still we'll have a responsibility to learn from our mistakes and continue to do the work, even when we don't want to. Even when we feel embarrassed.

 In verses one through four kind of a summary says, look, Joseph, you lost 116 pages. And that means that you had to face the consequences, which is something no one ever wants to do. And just as a side note, I think sometimes I can notice in myself the ways that when other people make mistakes, I want like judgment and punishment for them. But when I make mistakes, I want like mercy and empathy and second chances for me. And I think though in a really beautiful way, God is able to do both things for Joseph Smith here. And for us, of course, Joseph has judged and punished and has to face the consequences of losing the pages.

And that means losing his gift of translation for a bit. I'm sure that that time was a time when he was ridden with guilt and it was... he just felt really disappointed. I can only imagine, but God's love for Joseph Smith never changes. And in the end, God has still called Joseph to  "finish the remainder of the work of translation as you have begun."

And this can be really difficult because if you're like me or maybe like Joseph Smith, one of my strengths is responsibility. And so sometimes I can become so focused on getting things right and doing things the right way that when I inevitably make mistakes, I can judge myself super harshly and I can think, wow, how could I have done this? I knew I shouldn't have even tried yada yada yada. And I might feel so ashamed that I don't even want to show my face again in the completion of that project.

And yet I think the majesty of God. Is that I am still called and I'm still qualified to complete the work, even though I've made mistakes. Maybe not even though, but because I've made mistakes, it doesn't disqualify me. God still wants me there. And here's a bit of temperance that I think God offers us in verse four. It says, do not run faster or labor more than you have strengthened means provided to enable you to translate, but be diligent until the end. I don't think God has unrealistic expectations of us, but we often put those unrealistic expectations on ourselves.

Sometimes it's us who stands in our own way because of our shame or embarrassment or our pride. Like, we'll talk about a little bit later, but I think the, the sweetness here is that God continually calls us back to the work and makes accommodations for us to be able to be successful.

Channing: I really like this point that you bring up Elise, I think it's especially important when we consider a lens of social justice work.

And I think that this is a good outline and a good reminder for us too, because it's true that even the most well-intentioned, um, kindest, gentlest person is still going to make mistakes. In the social justice realm, like at least from my experience, I could check and double check my work and do it from a place of love and kindness and still not do it right. And I think sometimes it's easy to be discouraged by that, but I think that these few verses are a good reminder, that just because you are not perfect, or if you make mistakes that you're not automatically like, Oh one and done, you made a mistake. You obviously you're not good enough to be here, so get out. One that doesn't  really resonate with my understanding of God. And two, it makes sense especially when we think about Joseph Smith's gift of translation being taken away, maybe this was a time for him that he needed to learn or relearn how to listen instead of speak or translate.

And so I think, um, in some way we could do that for ourselves too, where maybe if we've lost or are still learning how to engage in the work that listening is always and appropriate way to... I don't want to say like step back, but maybe. I want to say step back from the work, but still engage. But I don't like the idea of stepping back from the work.

Elise: I think that in a couple of later verses it talks, or I think maybe in section 11, it talks about like, listening and studying the word before you declare it. And so maybe it's not stepping back from the work, but it's repositioning where you place yourself in the work. So maybe you're not the one at the like head of the whole group, but you are kind of taking up the backend watching and listening and observing. Yeah.

Channing: Yeah. I like that. So I think you found some really important verses and the reading that you offer here is really loving and insightful. So I'm excited about that.

Elise:  After these four verses we have kind of a whole section that talks about these wicked and evil people and how Satan has grabbed their hearts and how Satan has tried to destroy God's work. And this kind of goes all the way up until almost like verse 40. And I know that Channing, you had some thoughts about maybe how to offer a more personal reading here.

Channing: Yeah, I do. And I'm excited about exploring these verses because I'm wondering if there's a way to read them in a way that helps us use these verses constructively rather than in a fearful way. I think oftentimes in the church we give Satan a lot of power. And I think this can sometimes be a big problem because we convolute the concept of Satan or "evil" with things that we're not familiar with or that we disagree with. And so, because Satan is the biggest enemy to the church and to righteousness, anything that is not the church or doesn't fit into our traditional understanding of righteousness then becomes an enemy; it becomes like Satan, or it becomes evil.

I think we can see the impact of this illustrated really well in the way that the church culturally and institutionally paints people who have left the church. A lot of times we hear from friends or  listeners who have left the church where their family will say to them, like they're "in Satan's grasp" or "they've been deceived by Satan" when the truth is that people often leave the church for a myriad of valid reasons like the November policy, excommunication of intellectual and scholars whose work disagrees with church rhetoric, and betrayal by church history or poor treatment by ecclesiastical leaders.

I think that a lens that I have found helpful when I come across Satan in the text is to do something that we've talked about on the podcast before, and this is a practice of internalizing. When I come across texts that talk about the power of Satan, I often change the word Satan to the word Ego or Pride and see how that shifts the meaning in the text.

And the reason why I do this is because the ego is the part of ourselves that embodies what we call the church "pride" or the "natural man" that we hear about in Mosiah 3:19. And I just want to read through that verse because I think it gives us a good example of what the opposite of ego or pride is.

So just as a quick reminder, that verse says, "for the natural man is an enemy to God and has been from the fall of Adam and will be forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing sings of the Holy spirit and put us off the natural man and become at the Saint through the atonement of Christ, the Lord, and becometh as a child submissive patient full of love."

What this verse does is describe the process of enlightenment or righteousness through our continual choice to align ourselves with the best parts of ourselves instead of our social conditioning or fear or selfishness, greed, and pride. So I'd like to practice the substitution of ego or pride for the word Satan in some of the verses in this week's reading and see if it changes anything for us.

So let's look at verse 10 and in this verse, the Lord is talking to Joseph Smith about the last pages of the Book of Mormon. And verse 10 reads, this has God speaking, "and behold pride has put it into their hearts to alter the words, which you have caused to be written, which you have translated. And because they have altered the words they read contrary from that, which you translated."

If we go on to verse 12, it says, "and on this wise, pride has sought to lay a cunning plan to destroy this work for it has put into their hearts to do this, that by lying they may say they have caught you in the words which you have pretended to translate." And in verse 20, God says "Verily, verily. I say unto you, that pride has great hold upon their hearts. It's stirring them up to iniquity against that which is good. And their hearts are corrupt and full of wickedness and abominations, pride stirring them up that it may lead their souls to destruction."

What I like about switching the words, pride or ego for the word "Satan" is that pride and ego both are perfectly and inherently human. We cannot distance ourselves from the aspects of pride at play in ourselves in the way that we like to distance or try to distance ourselves from the word Satan. There's a lot of fear associated with Satan and that fear plays out in real ways in our real world. I think if we confuse these very human aspects present within each of us with something scary and evil outside of us, then we begin to "other" people and ideas who are different and therefore scary because they threaten us or because we don't understand them.

And I also think that this plays way too easily into the war rhetoric that is so very present in our hymns and in our scripture, it even shows up in this section too, in verse five it says, "Pray always that you may come off conquer yea, that you may conquer Satan." And conquer is war language. It's the language of annihilation. It's the language of domination at all costs. So suddenly because we conflate Satan with that which causes us fear and discomfort, we seek to dehumanize and eliminate something so incredibly human instead of attempting to understand and empathize with it.

And anytime I think about this idea of ego or pride and trying to distance ourselves from that which we think is so evil or so unrighteous that it's completely beyond our comprehension or understanding, I always come back to this quote that I heard from Maya Angelou, and it's just so perfect. And I shared it once on the podcast, but I'm sharing again because it's amazing. So she says,

"I'd like everyone to think of a statement by Terrence. The statement is "I am a human being; nothing human can be alien to me." If you can internalize the least portion of that, you'll never be able to say of an act, a criminal act, 'oh, I couldn't do that.' No matter how heinous the crime, if a human being did it, you have to say, 'I have in me, all the components that are in her or in him, and I intend to use my energies constructively, as opposed to destructively.'"

Elise: I love that you shared this quote here and it's also incredibly humbling, I think in all of the positive ways that we talk about coming together and gathering and building community and focusing on the really like vibrant, good and positive aspects of humanity, that also means that just like this passage says, that there are also the pieces of us that we learn and we share harmfully with one another that cause us to treat one another and incredibly violent and poor ways. And it's hard for us to take that, look in the mirror and see those things too. Even amongst all of the goodness that that we are human.

Channing: I agree. And I think that leads us into some questions that I wanted to ask about the section of text, because I think that rather than allowing these verses to kind of tempt us to judge and other people who are choosing to act in pride or ego, I wonder if we can internalize these and ask ourselves questions like:

In what ways do I recognize my own prideful behavior past or present in these verses? Am I willing to be challenged by God in ways that I don't understand? How do I react when I'm met with new information that contradicts my deeply held beliefs? And am I willing to extend empathy and understanding to myself and others when pride drives choices and actions?

And for me, like, this is kind of a condemning question that I wrote for my own self, because there have been times this week where I have shown up, even in our podcast community that I'm kind of like, yeah, I might've acted in pride just a little bit there. And am I willing to admit that, identify my own behavior, extend empathy to myself, but also realize when it's my opportunity to extend empathy and understanding to others. And so. That all to say that even though we offer these questions on the podcast does not mean that we're exempt from answering them for ourselves.

Elise: After the talk about Satan, towards the end of this section in verses 62 and 63, I wanted to take a look at what God means or what it means to kind of bring the gospel to all people because in verse 62, The Lord says that "the gospel should be brought to all people that there may be not so much contention."

As we often contend or fight over points of doctrine. And then God says, "In these things, do they   wrest the scriptures and do not understand them?" And I actually really like the word wrest. It makes me think of the story of Jacob wrestling with an angel or wrestling with God all night long until he gets a blessing. And he's also left with a limp. So it's a bit puzzling to me because there are people who wrest the scriptures, but do not understand them. That's kind of what God is saying here. And God is kind of condemning that or saying that that's an error to wrest or wrestle with the scriptures, but also not understand them.

And I think that I assumed arresting or wrestling with the scriptures was an act that we engaged in for deeper understanding, but now it makes me think, wait, how do I wrest the scriptures but also not understand them? Like, what am I doing wrong?

Perhaps I wrestle with them in maybe like a surface level way and I miss the relevance to my individual intimate life. Maybe I become so focused on knowing all of the history and all of the etymology and all of the references that I end up over intellectualizing the scriptures. Perhaps I rest with the scriptures because I want to use them as like weapons or fighting pieces to show off how much I know.

And even though this may require work and effort and study and wrestle at the end of the day, I still might not understand them. And I think that's what God is trying to point out in this verse. So for me here, the word understand really means to experience them. I might know about the scriptures, but I don't really understand the scriptures until I can feel their implications in my life until I can understand how they speak to me in both an everyday way and a larger, eternal way.

I don't think I really understand the scriptures until I start letting them influence my life, but also let my life influence them. For me, understanding the scriptures means experiencing them in a personal way. And in this way, I think I would be less concerned about wresting them for show and tell purposes for like proof or to try and get everything right, and I would be more concerned about letting the scriptures move me, letting God's word work in me, and then letting me work in the world. And so those are just a few thoughts that I had about this really interesting verse about the difference between resting the scriptures, but not understanding them.

Channing: Ellie, that was so beautifully said, thank you for sharing that. And that's something that you and I talk about a lot is if we're going to read the text, but not allow it to challenge us and ultimately change us, and shape and then reshape our understanding of the world, our understanding of ourselves, our understanding of God, then what is the point? Why, why are you here?

Elise: Yeah. That's so good. And maybe in that way, like wresting isn't about coming to the text so that I can flip through and know exactly what versus reinforced what I already want them to say, but understanding them means that I am open to be changed by them. That was such a good line.

Channing: That was good. Yeah. And I, I loved that verse too, and I love this intuitive and loving interpretation of what it means to wrest or wrestle with the text. It means engaging with it with not just our mind, but all our mind, all our heart, all our might, so that we can truly  take the text out of the black and white on the page and into the world rather than just saying, Oh, yep. I've read first Nephi, I know it, I can recite it word for word and it's great and fantastic, and I can give you all the references! Like that's an empty way of reading scripture, but being able to translate...

Maybe that's the gift of translation, to take the text from the black and white letters on a page and move it into action into the world. So maybe in a way we all have the potential for the gift of translation. That's frickin... now I'm understanding! I'm literally understanding in real time on the clock. My gosh.

Elise: That is genius because I just looked up the etymology of translate. And one of the definitions is like to turn from one language to another. And I think that's what it is like to turn it from the written, static language of the scriptures to a live language, a lived experience of, of the word.

Channing: Words lead to action and inspired word leads to inspired action. And I'm just always going to believe that because that is what it means to be a disciple.

Elise: Yes, Jesus. Yes, it is all we have. Language is all we have.

Channing: Language might seem mundane or every day and easily looked over, but it's a gift and it's not just the starting point. It is the point and it's our gift. And without it, there would be no action in the world. If we look at the verse following in verse 64, this is what God says about the act of wrestling, but not understanding God says, "Therefore I will unfold unto them this great mystery for behold.

And there's like a comma here, so God's basically saying like, here it is. Here's the great mystery. I'm about to reveal it to you. "I will gather them as a hen gathering with her chickens under her wings, if they will not harden their hearts. Yea, if they will come, they may, and partake of the waters freely. Behold-- imagine me like reading that in all caps-- behold, this is my doctrine, whosoever repented and cometh unto me. The same is my church. Whosoever declares more or less than this, the same is not of me, but as against me; therefore, he is not of my church.

And so God basically says here, my church is open to everyone. You want it? Come get it. Knock on the stained glass door. And I will open my feast and my table and my heart and my very wounded hands and feet to embrace you.

I will run to you, kiss your feet and call you wholly and bless it. And good for finally, finally, here you are with me. Together and look at all who have joined us for they too are bless it. Look upon all. I have gathered under the wings of my gospel who have entered willingly with nothing to offer, but a broken heart and a contract spirit: the widow. The poor, the orphan, the leper, the prostitute, the thief, the blind, the sick, the oppressed, the lion, and the lamb look who is here. Rahab. Hagar. Abish the Lamanite. Here is my bread and my water, even my body. Partake freely. All I ask is love for you, for me, for all. Amen.

Elise: Amen. That is church for me.

Like I want you to always read that to me and say that to me, because that is what that type of relentless love is what I think the gospel is all about. And you put it into words that take it from something I read in the scriptures to something that I experience.

Friends. Thank you. So, so much for joining us on today's episode, we didn't plan to talk about all of these things, but this is where the episode went. We started by talking about how we're supposed to continue in the work even when we make mistakes, we talked about seeing some of the really bitter and egotistical and prideful parts of ourself and how we can move through that, and we got to talk about what it means to wrest with verses understand the scriptures and also talk about how all are welcome in God's love.

Honestly, this has been an amazing episode for us to record such an absolute pleasure, and we can't wait to share it with you and hear your thoughts on it. So until next week we love you. Bye.

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