What Do We Do with the Angry Voice of God? (Doctrine & Covenants 18-19)

Monday, February 22, 2021


Channing: Hi! I'm Channing

Elise: and I am Elise,

Channing: and this is The Faithful Feminists podcast,

Elise: 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 are 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 18 through 19 for the dates February 22nd through the 28th. We're so glad you're here.

Elise: Welcome back everyone. In this episode, we've got two sections. They're a little bit longer, like 40 ish versus . And I think some of the themes we'll focus on this week will be repentance, trying to make out the voice of God, because there's an angry God that shows up in a lot of these verses. And then finally we'll talk about sacrifice because for section 19, it really was a revelation given to Martin Harris, asking Martin Harris to finance his farm and his property to help the printing process of the book of Mormon take place.

Channing: We're excited to get into these topics. But before we do, we wanted to talk about one of the iconic verses that shows up in this section of text and it is the worth of souls. And Elise, I know you have a couple of thoughts you wanted to share on this.

Elise: So this verse comes in section 18, verses 10 through 11, and it says, "Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. For behold, the Lord, your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh. Wherefore. He suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come on to him."

So I have two thoughts here. The first comes from that kind of like scripture mastery verse about the worst, the worth of souls being great in the sight of God. And I think that we really like to say this, we really like to make Instagram posts about this. We really like to focus on kind of the surface level, like, Oh, we're all God's children. We should all get along. Like. We all love each other. And I just think that when we make those surface level type of interpretations, we miss the entire, like we miss the entirety and the depth of the verse, because I think that it's saying something more like, yes, of course we are all children of God, but this also means that God's sides with those who are the most oppressed or the most marginalized, always because those souls are of great worth.

And I think this pairs really nicely with like Black Lives Matter. Black lives are great in the sight of God. They are worthy and worth something and not just worthy of our, kind of like black tiles on Instagram or our kind of hollow we all need to get along, why can't we love each other. This really also shows us that because the worth of souls is great, I think this says that yes, we are all children of God, but that also means that all of God's children deserve justice deserve to be valued and deserve to have resources to flourish and live a full life.

Channing: Right. And I think too kind of going along with that instead of just being like, we're all children of God and like the worth of souls is great in the sight of God, later on in the section of text, it talks about the individual soul and like how, how great is the worth of one individual soul? And I think that, you know, especially if we're talking about Black Lives Matter vs. all lives matter. I think that there's a distinct difference that can be hashed out way better than I can do it here.

But I think that the difference there between like saying like we're all children of God, like let's all get along and we're all worth something. And that like very individualized and personalized, like the worth of this soul is great. The worth of Black souls is great. Black Lives Matter. There's a big difference there because it's a distinction and it showcases like you're not just important to me because... as if this was God speaking, like you're not just important to me because all children are important to me. You're important to me because I love this particular thing about you. I love your Blackness. I love the way that you show up in the world and like the world needs you in this identity. And I think that that's an important distinction that we can kind of tease out of the text that has like real life implications that ripple outward from like individual to a larger scale, but you can't have unity without embracing the individual.

Elise: There you go. Yeah. I think that was really nicely said. And the verse that follows it, verse 11, that talks about "God suffered death in the flesh, wherefore, he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come into him."

I think this is just a good reminder that when we have these generic terms that are explicitly masculine or male centered. And they're meant to include everyone, but they literally only say men, right? Like Jesus died for men that men might repent.

I think this is a good reminder to like, stop yourself,see what pronouns or terms feel more relevant and inclusive here, and then change up the verse so that you can see yourself in the verse too. Um, and it just reveals that bit of like sexism that is even built into our everyday language about who gets to be the stand in for all people. And I think verse 11 says, well, it's men, but I don't think that verse 11 is only speaking to men exclusively. Right.

Channing: Well, and we've talked about this on the podcast before that even just switching out the pronouns in a text can be really powerful. And so maybe practice that today, not today, but like maybe practice that as you're reading this week and just switching out pronouns: she/her, they/them and I mean, he/him is already in there, but just see how it changes for you. If you're better able to relate to it or not, or if it offers you an increased understanding, I found that it can, especially when I changed pronouns out for God. It's one of my favorite practices and it's so simple.

Elise: Then we see in section 18, verse 14, it reads, "Wherefore you are called to cry repentance unto this people." And this is directed at Oliver Cowdrey and David Whitmer. This is like God's call to have them cry repentance unto this people. But of course, this call to repentance applies to all of us.

And there's a quote that I found from elder Neil L Anderson that says "Crying repentance simply means helping people return to God." And I love, love, love that. And I think that we kind of hit on that in last week's episode about repentance being a change of heart and a returning towards God or reorienting ourselves towards God in ways that we haven't been doing currently.

Channing: Yeah, I love that perspective on repentance and that's something, that's a concept that you and I talk about pretty frequently, both like together, privately and on the podcast.

And I think that, you know, the foundation of repentance is personal, like, I think when we come across sections of texts that talk about crying, repentance or preaching or repentance, it kind of sounds like this like externalized action that we imagine, like Samuel the Lamanite standing on top of the wall and crying repentance to people.

But really, I think before that can happen, we need to have a personal and like visceral relationship with what the process of repentance actually looks like. So when I come across sections of texts like this, I, I often think, I often wonder what type of reading does the section of text need? And we've talked about doing an internalized reading before on the podcast, which is where you read a section of text and instead of turning it outward on the world and looking out, looking at how the supplies to other people instead turning it inward and looking at how does this apply to myself? And so looking at a section of text and saying, does this need an internalized reading or does this need an externalized reading?

And I think for this one for crying repentance, I think it actually requires both. And the order of the steps matters. And I think the text reaffirms this really nicely later in the same section in verse 19, it says, and "If you have not faith hope and charity, you can do nothing." And I think that that really highlights the need for repentance to happen as an internalized process. First, that we need to have our own personal experience with what the process of repentance looks like, because without accessing like the power of the atonement and you know, which underneath all of that is really the love of God... without experiencing that for ourselves first, it would be really hard to move outward into the world and cry repentance from a place of love. And I think that that love element is absolutely essential in the repentance process.

Something that you and I have kind of been teasing out of the text over the last couple of days, as we've prepared for the podcast is the difference between like a loving God and an angry God and what that inspires in us as we approach the text and like what the difference would be in crying, repentance from a place of love versus crying repentance from a place of fear or dominance.

So I don't know. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Elise: Like we'll talk about in a bit, there is this kind of angry voice of God that shows up, especially in section 19, that basically says, 'repent or else,' and it's not just like, or else things are going to be bad; it's like, or else, and the list punishment and endless damnation.

And so there is this like really fearful threat that if we don't repent, then these things will happen to us. And we had kind of thought about, is that the best, not, maybe not the best is that a really life-changing way to understand repentance? And does it reach our full depth of our core if we are simply repenting because we don't want eternal damnation? And what might the difference be if we are repenting because we feel God's love through it all and feel that God is merciful and like God's grace is sufficient? And so how does that change the repentance process for me, if I feel called by a loving God to return to that God versus being called by an angry God of punishment and threat?

Channing: Right. Well, and I think I love that perspective too, and it kind of reinforces what I know just in my own experience with parenting and a lot of studies have shown, like, not just in parenting, but in general, that like a fear motivated change does not... is not effective. It's not an effective approach because it doesn't last. And I always find, I find that so interesting because you know, this isn't the first time and it's definitely not the last time that we'll come across sections where it's like this very loving and kind and calm voice of God that I feel like is relatable.

And then we come to anothersection immediately after, and it's like massive whiplash and it's like all of a sudden there's an angry God that's like 'do this or else.' And that's always really difficult for me to reconcile. I know later we're going to do a practice of like potentially looking for ways that we can learn from this type of voice, but I think for me, the most accessible and relatable reading when it comes to crying repentance always comes from a place of love, because it's most comfortable and most accessible, most easy for me to imagine a God who is continually welcoming, continually open and accepting of everyone because that's the kind of God that I would want to approach.

And that's the kind of God who I feel like I would show up with like a broken heart and a contract spirit. It wouldn't be like, Oh good. Now you can finally avoid endless damnation because you're here now. Congratulations. That is not... that definitely would not appeal to me. And it would feel really condescending for that experience would just be really hurtful, I think.

But to imagine repenting and continually coming closer and closer to a God who always has their arms open to me, I feel like as a much more accessible way to approach a repentance. And especially if we think about, you know, then the externalized reading of what it means to cry repentance.

Elise: Forgive me for jumping in, but it seems like we would cry repentance to others, less from a place of judgment because we've already done and are currently undergoing the repentance process ourselves and we can see the depth of change. We can feel the mercy, we can feel the peace and the joy that comes from returning to God. And then the call, the cry for repentance doesn't sound like, wow, all of you sinners, you better step up your game because I have it all in check. And my only job here is to tell you what you're doing wrong, right? And I think it's more of, yeah, like, Hey, I am being changed through love. And I think maybe you might enjoy that too, or something like that. Yeah.

Channing: That's a really effective way to look at it. And it's more of an act of sharing, like sharing the love of God, rather than demanding that people like act or be a certain way in the world.

And I think that sharing is always going to be a more effective practice than saying like, you better do this or else. And so I appreciated section 18 for the way that it highlights crying repentance as an internalized act, moving external over time and with experience and love and care and concern for the other.

And one more thing that I wanted to bring up, especially because we talked about the worth of souls at the beginning of the episode is there's another set of verses that I wanted to focus on. And this is again in, in section 18 and it's the verses 15 through 16. And those say, "If it so be that you shall labor all your days and crying repentance unto this people and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of God? And now if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought into me, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me!"

And this first always sticks out to me, especially because you know how like missionaries can always choose a quote that they include on their like missionary plaque. It always strikes me as this is one of the ones that they choose to put on there. And so it's often thought about in the context of missionary work.

But I wonder as I was reading it this week, what implications could this have when we consider our own self as the one soul brought unto God. And I think that we underestimate not just the power of one person to enact change in a community, but I also wonder if we just underestimate the worth of our own self, again, that like individual, the importance of being recognized as an individual, as like a very personal experience with God. And I think that pairs in nicely too, with our conversation about repentance and like having our own personal experience with it, if we are the one person that is brought unto God by our own process of repentance. Not only are we changing ourselves, but we change our community too, just simply by being an example. I really do believe that one person, their sphere of influence is obviously going to be changed by one person becoming softer and kinder and like embodying more of the love of God.

And so I'm really excited about the implications of this verse of us bringing ourselves on to God through a continual process of repentance. I think it's really powerful.

Elise: Yeah. I think it speaks really nicely to the verses that we talked about last week, too, about calling people to repentance so that we can rest with them in the kingdom of God.

And I think it can be both at the same time we can have this like individual worth and individual value and influence in the community. But I, I also think that there's an important communal aspect, and I think I even said this last week, like heaven is not going to be heaven without others to share it with.

And I think we just can't miss that as well. I think we do have our individual spheres of influence, but we are nothing without the other people around us. And like, I think there is something about being in a group of people who have been changed by the love of God and who are now trying to return to God. And I think we need other people too, to get there.

Channing: Yeah, I agree. I think that's really lovely.

Elise: We do want to talk about what that voice of God sounds like because in section 18, like verses 34 through 36, there's a verse that says, "These words are not of men nor of man, but of me wherefore, you shall testify they are of me and not of man."

 And I just get a little worried because there is a slippery slope that we can go down when these verses show up in any scripture, because  it makes it like a one-to-one correlation that whatever Joseph Smith wrote, or whatever the book of Mormon prophets wrote, or whatever New Testament or Old Testament prophets or people wrote, that therefore, whatever they write is literally the word-for-word exact thing that God would say themselves.

And so, I don't know. I just wanted to maybe talk about what that slippery slope is. What dangers could come from it? And then maybe how can we read this verse with a little bit more temperance? Because I don't know about you, but I don't. There are definitely verses that I come across that I'm like, God, everything I think I know about you, this doesn't match up.

So either, I don't know. I just think that prophets can be inspired, but I also think that God's words are always filtered through a messy, biased, prejudice, human experience.

Channing: Yeah, I agree. And I think that that's the problem. That's something that you and I rub up against all the time when we read the scriptures and I think that that's something that we hear from our listeners really frequently, too. A lot of people say, I feel like I can't find God in the Doctrine and Covenants, or I feel like God can't find me in the Doctrine and Covenants, and that can be a really difficult space to navigate. I think the reason why is exactly what you're pointing out here, that slippery slope between a human experience of God being translated as God's own experience without giving due process to, you're right, the bias, the prejudice, and the experience of the person doing the translation.

I even went through after reading the section in section 19, I was like, wow. I do not know what's happening in Joseph Smith's life right now, but I need to do some history, some research and see like what happened in 1829 that's  all of the sudden inspiring this section of text. And after a little bit of research, I didn't really come up with anything. I was like, okay. It was just like a normal summer day, apparently in 1829 in New York. Like it's not really anything out of the norm.

And so it's, it's hard for me to parse out, like, where's this coming from? This seems really out of the blue. It's the last revelation that's given or written down by Joseph Smith in the remainder of 1829. Nothing comes again until the next year. And so it just seems like really out of place, really out of the blue and it is hard to relate to. So I think I hope that as we go through and talk about it today, that we can kind of do what you said here and kind of parse out what might be a more human experience of God through Joseph Smith, and what is actually God's voice. Or maybe it can be both, right?

Elise: I think this where, for me, this is where personal revelation, like swoops in and kind of saves the day because there's a passage that I found from M. Russell Ballard  that said,"When we read and study the revelations and the Doctrine and Covenants, the spirit can confirm in our hearts the truth of what we are learning in this way, the voice of the Lord speaks to each one of us."

And instead of understanding this passage as being like, pray about the Doctrine and Covenants and you'll know that everything in here is true. I think this is saying use your personal revelation, rely on your personal relationship with God. And when you come up against verses that don't feel or sound like the God you think, you know, the God that you've been in relationship with, like study and pray so that you can hear the Lord speak to you. And it's okay if that voice of the Lord sounds different than the voice of the Lord through Joseph Smith's filter. But I would really love to know, in your experience, what does the voice of God sound like or feel like to you

Channing:  I got to surprise Elise with a visit to Phoenix this weekend. And so we're here together recording, which is kind of funny. We're in like separate rooms, but we're still like talking to each other from the same house. And it's really awesome. Yeah. But Elise took me to a place here in Phoenix that is called The Renewal Center. It's a Franciscan retreat center that has a chapel and really beautiful art and amazing landscaping, just like embracing the desert and, Oh, it's so beautiful.

But anyway, there they have a labyrinth and if you've never been to, or seen or heard of a labyrinth, a labyrinth is a well thought out... it's not a maze. It's like a well thought out meditative path that you can walk and contemplate like your life or a given set of experiences or themes that you can think about as well.

You're walking the path and eventually the path comes to a center. And so you walk, you walk this like swirling, curving path to the center, and then you walk back out the path again, and it is a really beautiful meditative experience. And for me, when I was walking the labyrinth yesterday, I like got to the entrance of the labyrinth and it's just a rock path lined with big rocks and then it's sand in the middle of it. So I took my shoes off before I entered the labyrinth and I started walking and I was like, all right, here I am. I'm walking. I'm like ready to have this amazing experience. And of course that never happens that way. Right. But it's just how my brain works. And as I'm walking and I'm listening to the sound that my feet make, as I'm walking on the sand, just a few words pop up into my mind and they are:

I am beautiful. I am wonderful. I am pure.

And I just kept repeating those words as I was walking this labyrinth. And then I got to the center, and I was like, all right, God, here I am. I made it to the middle and I'm awaiting for this amazing experience. And God was like, Hey, I'm here too. Cause you're here. And I'm like, cool.

And then I leave, like I walked back out of the center. Well, still repeating those same like repetitive words. I am beautiful. I am wonderful. I am pure, until I get back all the way out of the labyrinth. And then I put my shoes on and we walked around the renewal center a little bit more in than we left.

And for me like that, that experience kind of wraps up what my experience of God is. It's so every day at this point, that I'm no longer surprised by it. Like, there are times where I'm like excited, like, Ooh, I get to experience God in this like ritualized, like set apart moment, but I'm no longer surprised by the voice of God being like, Hey, how are you today? Or like, Hey, here's this weird thought that you should think about? Or like, Hey, here you are. And it's wonderful. And the way that the light is reflecting off of the water, into the trees, like here I am and I'm like, Oh, Hey guys, nice to see you again. And it's just this very casual experience for me. And so I really resonate with like, voices in the scriptures that like, especially the Psalms, um, especially like anything that is like poetic or praising the beauty and majesty of God. Those are things that I really relate to because that's how I experienced God, that I experienced God through nature and through those contemplative experiences.

Another thought that I'm having is that just like in the way that we have our individual understandings of the voice of God, I also think that's what Joseph Smith was having in these sections too. So in no way, am I saying like, Joseph, your understanding of God is wrong because it's not like mine.  But I, I think I am saying that we have the power and ability to sift out, like, like we said, the first episode that talks about it in the introduction to the Doctrine and Covenants, like we can look for the tender but firm voice of God. And that voice will resonate and speak to us differently because we are all different. But I do think that there are some kind of like unchanging elements of God. And for me, one of those things is like everlasting, all expansive, love and welcome.

I love that perspective of realizing that we are all going to resonate at different frequencies or with a different kind of voice of God and still validating each individual experience with God and not necessarily saying, like you said, like, Oh, Joseph Smith,  section 19 is not good. Like that was not the voice of God. You can't say that because obviously he can and obviously he did. But to be able to look for ourselves. God, I'm looking for you. Where can I find you in the section of text?

And sometimes it will be easy and sometimes it will be difficult, but I'm curious how, maybe not how do you personally, which you're more than welcome to answer that too, but how do we, when we come across versus like for, I am God and my punishment is endless and endless punishment is mine. How do we reconcile, when we're looking for the loving but firm voice of God? How do we reconcile that with what seems to show up in chapter 19 as a very angry vindictive destructive kind of figure.

Elise: Yeah, this really has been the question that we've been grappling with through while trying to put together this episode, because in section 19 versus, I mean, I just pulled out a few verses like five through 12.

We hear, I revoked not the judgments, which, which I shall pass, but woes shall go forth weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth. Yay. To those who are found on my left hand. Nevertheless, it is not written that there shall be no. And to this torment, but it is written endless torment. Again, it is written eternal damnation for behold, I am endless and the punishment which shall be given from my hand is endless punishment for endless is my name.

Wherefore eternal punishment is God's punishment and less punishment is God's punishment. And it's like, what? In the world? One in the world. So I don't know, like, I think at first I'm tempted to be like, that's not the God that I know. So these verses, like, I give myself permission to say no, like, yes, I think we need to do an internal reading about being called to repentance.

But I also think that. God is endless love, endless forgiveness, endless mercy. And so then when I see literally the exact opposite here, I'm like that doesn't sound like very God-like to me.

Channing: But one of the things that you and I have also been talking about with this section of text is, is there a perspective that perhaps does find this voice of God incredibly loving and accessible and necessary?

Elise: think if we think about liberation theology, one thing that we learned from kind of the father of liberation theology, Gustavo Gutierrez, is that God is always a God of justice first over peace. And so I think for groups that are experiencing oppression, this voice of God that says that calls out their oppressor and says repent or else repent, or else there will be endless punishment, I really do think that for the oppressed groups of people and for those who are marginalized, that  feels really like, wow, God is showing up for me. God is standing by me. God is taking my side against my oppressor against my abuser. What do you think?

Channing: Yeah, I think that that's absolutely accurate. And especially if I place myself in a perspective where I have felt oppressed or I have felt abused, like someone who is powerful and in a position of privilege saying to them, you need to change your behavior or bad things are gonna happen to you... I'd be there from behind them, jumping up and down, like, yeah, you, you better do what he says. Yeah, because now I have the power. I can totally get behind that and I can totally get excited about that and feel like very cared for very seen and very vindicated as someone who has experienced abuse and oppression.

But then also, because I find myself as a white woman at the intersection of both oppression and privilege. On the other side of that, I don't like these verses. I don't want to experience endless punishment and damnation. So it's easy for me to just say, like, it's not really God saying that. And so I do find myself almost split down the middle between these two identities of like, I do experience some form of oppression and I do experience some form of privilege. And so I find myself feeling like at one time, this is the voice of God. And at the other time it's not. And so I do find myself like at that weird meeting place of 'Ask me tomorrow and my opinion will change.'

Elise: Yeah, you bring up a good point too, because like, as white women, we like have stock in white supremacy. We have stock even in patriarchy at the intersection of patriarchy and white supremacy. And so I can also imagine that there are women who are differently marginalized or differently oppressed and find us to be their oppressors. Right. And so this call of endless torment, endless punishment... what if it is calling us out?

And I think that's the hard spot that we have to have to grapple with. How can I find that tender but firm voice of God calling me to repentance? I don't think God says, "You did something bad. Boom, hell. Like straight to hell." There's a passage that I was reading through and just some of the main ideas were kind of saying that like, look, there's an entrance and an exit to hell. And God is yes, endlessly merciful and endlessly loving and that also means that the minute that... I don't even know this is like, so such a big idea... but the moment that the people in hell are ready to have a change of heart, or the moment  that hellias no longer necessary for the punishment, God is standing at the gates, saying okay. Like get out of there! Like welcome, welcome, welcome to a  different part of eternity where it's not this endless punishment.  And I like that idea of God being the one who wants to love and be merciful all the time.

But I also appreciate the God that says, but there are consequences. And when I call you and I call you and I call you to repentance, and at some point you do have to face the consequences. And it doesn't mean that I won't jump at any given moment to be merciful and lend you a hand out. Like I will do all of those things, but it's justice before peace.

Channing: Right. Yeah. I love those passages that you found. And just to give credit for those ideas, Elise found those quotes from James E Talmage and J. Ruben Clark on the church's website. So we were really excited to find those cause we were like, Oh, this is the most loving interpretation of hell that we've found so far. And I'm really excited about it. So I'm really grateful that you took the time to track those down.

And I agree, it's important to know that God really will hold us accountable and that we are responsible for our actions, but that God can also be merciful and loving and welcoming. To me, it goes  back to boundaries and minimum requirements of being in relationship. Heaven can't be an all-loving and all-welcoming place if there's racist people living there. Heaven can't be an all-loving and welcoming place if transphobic people live there. It can't be those things if we haven't unlearned some of our human conditioning or unlearned some of our sin so that we can truly be participating in this heavenly community of welcoming and acceptance. So I like this idea of holding space for people to unlearn while simultaneously ensuring that heaven really is all inclusive and loving as the scriptures promise.

Elise: As we get to the end of section 19, we hear a clear call from God to Martin Harris to finance his property to help bring forth the printing and publication of the Book of Mormon for a bit of context.

In June of 1829, Joseph Smith had hired a printer to print 5,000 copies of the Book of Mormon for $3,000 total. But the printer wouldn't even start the project until he knew that there was money to actually pay him. And so in section 19, the Lord commanded Martin Harris to "impart a portion of the property and pay the debt thou has contracted with the printer." And the text and some bits of church history, make it clear that Martin Harris was one of the only people in Joseph Smith's immediate group that had the means and the privilege of putting up this much money and financing his property to bring to pass the  printing of the Book of Mormon.

But one of the sad parts of this story is that they end up not selling as many copies of the Book of Mormon as they would have liked. And so there's a big loss that Martin Harris takes and the sole financial responsibility fell on him by himself and he ends up losing his property.

And I think we just want to spend a bit of time here talking about what it means to sacrifice and how much? Or when does God call us to sacrifice and then what can the consequences be? Or what are the blessings that might follow?

I like to think of sacrifice, and this comes from the etymology of the word as an offering. Like we're offering something as an act of devotion or of homage. And I like this kind of willfulness that comes into sacrifice because I think it moves us away from straightforward obedience, like very black and white thinking, like God asks me and I don't even question it. And I just sacrifice my whole property. Or even one step further sacrifice as an act of giving up one thing for another something given up for the sake of another.

And with this language, some of the thoughts Channing and I were having were how does sacrifice relate to our privilege? And in what ways are we called to sacrifice our privilege or to give it up for another?

Channing:  I think a good example of this, for me, even just in my own personal, recent life... my husband and I have very differing and opposing political views. And so when Biden was inaugurated, my husband and I had a conversation that went  okay, ish. But one of the questions he asked me regarding one of Biden's policies on climate change was, "I'm sure that you think climate change policy is good, but what's going to happen when all of the gas prices go up?" Please don't DM me any of your opinions on Biden's climate change policy. I don't want to know. So regardless of all of the background fact for me, my experience that I want to focus on here right now was like this moment of like, Oh, well, shoot.

I don't want gas prices to go up. I have a strict budget that I'm trying to keep too. I don't want to have to readjust. So of course I don't want gas prices to go up. But then I thought about it a little bit further. And I was like, Oh wait, of course! I have always said, I am willing to sacrifice something in order to preserve the earth and contribute to sustainability. And I believe in making sacrifices to  my current way of living in my modern day life to ensure that future generations have a safe and beautiful place to live on earth. And so if that requires then a sacrifice of gas prices rising, then okay. I'm willing to make it.

And it was kind of this moment for me of realizing like, I am still so very human. And of course, I'm going to have that immediate jerk reaction of like, no, I don't want that to happen after all. And I think the danger is getting stuck there. Right? Getting stuck in the fear of like, what do you mean I have to give something up? What do you mean something has to change?

I love that perspective of giving up one thing to gain something else and. For me, I'm totally willing to exchange higher gas prices for a beautiful earth. And so keeping that exchange in mind and in perspective, when we're talking about sacrifice, I think is really important because it will require us to give up something familiar, something that feels safe to us, but the promise is. Greater the promise is something more beautiful? Or at least equally beautiful but different.

Elise: Yeah. And I just think of the song "Because I Have Been Given Much," I too must give. I do think that if we have  been given much or because we hold a lot of privilege we are called to make offerings and sacrifice and give up willingly so that everyone can experience some of this goodness together. That as opposed to me experiencing all of the goodness for myself and my neighbor and the stranger experiencing less or even none of that privilege and goodness. I'm called to sacrifice that so that we can all have some together.

But I do think that there's a little bit of kickback that can come when we stopped seeing sacrifice as a willful offering  and start to see it as something that's like being taken away from us. I think people, myself included, I think when I feel like something's being taken away from me or that I'm going to lose something, I can often grip that thing even more tightly. And then I miss all of the people around me who could really benefit from my willful offering my willful sacrifice.

Another question that's been running through my mind is okay. Well, are we, if we feel called to sacrifice some of our privilege, all of our privilege, are we willing then to accept the consequences and give a full and complete sacrifice? And one of the things that comes to mind is I benefit from white supremacy. And so in order to unlearn and sacrifice the privilege that I hold in the system of white supremacy, am I willing to see that sacrifice through to the end, even if that means that as I stand up for and call out and try and teach the people around me, my family and my friends about white supremacy and privilege, can I see that sacrifice through to the end as I try and stand in solidarity with those who are most effected and most depressed, even if that means that the consequence is losing people that I once called friends?

Channing: Well, I think again, that perspective of exchanging one thing for another comes into play again, and also the act of devotion. If I really am devoted to the idea of God being present in the other, then I would be devoted to liberation. I would be devoting myself to an act of freeing myself and freeing all of those around me from the harms of white supremacy. And if that means having to exchange, hopefully temporarily, right, a relationship with someone who doesn't embody that same value for a relationship of integrity, both with myself and to my community with hopes of being an example of repentance, of being an example of sacrifice and forgiveness and crying repentance. Then hopefully that act of devotion that offering will be rewarded in kind with new relationships and a new belonging to a new community.

And so I think that in that way, sacrifice requires our faith. Kind of a leap of hope that someone will catch us on the other side, even though it might look different. I don't think that the exchanges in equal and again, like holding the loss and the gain in both hands and saying like, maybe they are more equal than I think they just look different.

Elise: The other thing that keeps coming to mind when we say like, am I willing to exchange or sacrifice something for another., I'm hearing like, not just so that I get another thing in return, but am I willing to give up what I have for another person? Even if that means that I get nothing in return.

And in that way it starts to sound incredibly like Christ, like willfully saying, I'm going to give up the things that I have so that like with nothing so that I get nothing in return, but I'm really doing it wholeheartedly for another person.

Channing: I don't know. I would even say then that you're still exchanging it for something else.

I think that you would be exchanging that for an experience of deeper love for someone. So I still like, hopefully that doesn't sound like super selfish, but I think like, I think it's pretty human to say, like, if I'm going to give up something, then I want to have something else. What has greater value to me? A hundred thousand dollars in the bank account or a greater love and appreciation for my neighbor?

Elise: Right? Yeah. That's really beautiful. And I think we've talked in great detail about like the fantastic sides of sacrifice and why we should continue to do it. But I think that, especially for in Martin Harris's situation, we can really start to bypass or really jump over all of the heartache that came from the sacrifice simply to fast forward hundreds of years and say, but look, Martin, you losing your property and your farm and your marriage dissolving, that was worth it! Because look, how many people get to read the Book of Mormon today!

 But I feel like that's a sense, that's a bit of spiritual bypassing because we dismiss all of the ways that this was incredibly lonely and sorrowful and difficult for Martin Harris and not just for him.

Channing: And one of the conversations that we've been having specifically about Martin Harris' experience of his sacrifice is also including Lucy Harris, who we talked about a couple episodes ago.

And knowing what happens that Martin Harris loses his family's farm, his family's form of gaining income and providing for them... this causes a huge rift in his marriage. And eventually, just like we talked about in the episode, Lucy Harris essentially goes in front of a judge and claims that Joseph Smith defrauded her husband and her family and Martin and Lucy ended up separating over this.

She goes, I think they owned a second house or maybe her family owned another house, and she took the children and moved them far away to this other house and lived there forever, completely separated from Martin until her death. And so like at this point, Martin's life changed in so many permanent ways and it affected not just him. The sacrifice affected his wife and it affected his kids.

And this is a conversation that you and I have been having a lot. For a church that is so family centered and family focused, it's really interesting to see these two concepts come into contention with each other and saying, you know, at what point does the sacrifice require us to no longer care for our family? Is a family's  nonconsensual sacrifice of their survival equal to that of one person sacrifice for this great and marvelous work? And so the answer that I've arrived at after days of considering this... it really, for me, it comes down to consent. I think that if Lucy and Martin had been on the same page and both entered into this sacrifice willingly and consensually, then I think the sacrifice might have been more effective and might have been more blessed.

And even if it hadn't been, then they both would have been able to endure the consequences of it together. And it need not have been like so divisive and the suffering might not have needed to be so great. But because it wasn't entered into consensually, that wasn't the effect. And so I do think that there's something there. Maybe it could have been better.

But also I have the benefit of saying that 250 years later. I wasn't there and I don't know all of the circumstances, but I think what I am holding with them, this story is both a gratitude for Martin Harris and his sacrifice, and also incredible pain for what that costs him and for what that costs Lucy, because she didn't ask for it. She didn't want it. And those two things are really hard to hold together.

Elise: And when we bring more of their entire story, especially Lucy's experience into the mix, I think that's when it gets incredibly more painful because we see that it wasn't just Martin's sacrifice to make without any repercussions or consequences for anyone else.

I also think of the time that like Lucy Harris and her, I think it was her sister or her cousin, Paulie, both went to Joseph Smith and said, Hey, we would like to financially back you on this project. And he turned them down. So like, I hear that echo in the back of this story, what you said too about Lucy going in front of the magistrate in New York and accusing Joseph Smith of trying to defraud her husband out of all of his land. Like that event happened before Martin Harris even put up the money for his land to publish the book of Mormon.

So Lucy already wasn't on board. Like she already thought that Joseph was kind of weaseling his way to their money. And she already didn't want Martin contributing financially to the project or his time. And then still God's saying, do it any ways, like still sacrifice. You're the only one Martin that has the means and the privilege of being able to sponsor and finance this project, even though your wife doesn't support it. That's where it gets really murky for me. Yeah.

And you're right. Martin Harris had bought another house, like an 80 acre farm and Lucy ended up moving there with the children and there was this like irreconcilable break in their relationship. And so the consequences are heavy. Who is sacrificing, but also who gets sacrificed in the process?

Channing: Yeah. Yeah. I think that's a valuable question. And the answer is obvious. It's really  unfortunate. We can see Lucy here fighting tooth and nail and saying, please don't do this. And Martin's like, but God told me to, and then does it. And then Lucy's like, okay, seriously, can't handle this anymore. I'm done. And. Yeah. And I think that, I think that we can perhaps per approach our own sacrifices in our own relationship and in our own lives with kind of the same perspective with those same questions of who is sacrificing and who is being sacrificed.

And I think a mindful and conscious approach to that can probably save us a lot of heartache, but it's also, I would argue a more ethical approach to sacrifice as well.

Elise: And I, I don't really know if we have like a overall positive go forth call to action for the end of this episode. I think that this episode and these set of scriptures honestly calls us to get our hands  dirty.

You're going to have to read and grapple with all of this for yourself. You're going to read and grapple with Martin sacrifice here. What does that mean to you and how do you think it affects the other people in his life? And then how do you reconcile that with the great blessing of us now being able to have the book of Mormon published widely? And you'll also have to grapple with the loving voice of God and the angry voice of God.

And so I hope that in this episode, we have kind of modeled or showed you one way that you might hold both of these, all of these things, in tension. I don't really think we're saying there's only one right way to do this, or to understand this, or to read this, we always try and say, this is one way, but it's not the way. And so it really calls us all to find the way that resonates with us most deeply when moving through the text.

Channing: Elise, that was a beautiful way to wrap up the sections for this week. And friends, we're so excited that you joined us for this week's episode. We love you so much. And we hope that just like Elise said, you can engage with this week's chapters and find that place inside the tension where you can rest and grapple and come to your own conclusions through your own personal revelation for what these chapters are ready to teach you. We love you and we'll talk to you soon. Bye.

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