Two Vegan Feminists Go Panning For Gold (Doctrine and Covenants 45)

Monday, April 26, 2021

 







Channing: [00:00:00] This is The Faithful Feminists podcast 

 Elise: [00:00:13] 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 faith and feminism work together to illuminate and deepen the gospel experience.

Channing: [00:00:37] We've saved you a seat on the soft chairs. So join us today for a conversation about Doctrine and Covenants, section 45 for the dates April 26th through May 2nd. We're so glad you're here. 

Elise: [00:01:00] Welcome back everyone. We have just one section to work through today. It's a longer section, but it's been particularly challenging and eye opening, I think for us. 

Channing and I have gone back and forth on different ideas that we wanted to talk about. And then we scrapped them and then we started something new and we scrapped it again. And we were really in this wrestle with the section 

Channing: [00:01:25] Yeah. It was really interesting to experience that this week. It's been a while since we've kind of had to look at the text, go over it again and again, and again, to really like squeeze out what we felt was going to be most authentic and, um, most true to what our experience of the text was. And it was really funny as we were preparing for this week's episode, I was kind of thinking and talking to Elise, I was like, you know what? I feel like being a feminist, interpreting the scriptures is a lot like being a vegan, going to a party, which is something that you Elise and I both have had experience with. And for anyone who hasn't had this experience, what it feels like is oftentimes you'll get an invite to the party and you'll be excited to come. The invite says, come hungry. And if you've been vegan for a while, you'll know that unless the party is hosted by another vegan, not only will you come hungry, but you'll most likely leave hungry too, which is a major bummer. No one wants to leave the party hungry. So oftentimes you just end up bringing your own food. And it's really funny because when you arrive, people are pretty curious about why you brought your own food.

Why are you vegan? And they end up asking you a ton of questions. Like, why did you bring your own food? What's wrong with the food that we have here? Just try it. It's just a little chicken. It's just a little cheese or milk or ice cream or egg or whatever, just try it. It's good for you. And they'll say weird things and weird voices, like, but protein and bacon. And then you'll just like, keep politely turning it down and giving like excuse after excuse or reason after reason. And eventually this always happens. They don't listen. And so they end up getting offended. They're like, so what you think you're better than us? And I hate it when this happens, because all you wanted to do was go to the party and hang out with your friends and all around you is food, yes, but there's not anything that you can eat. There's not anything there that can nourish you or feed you.

And additionally on top of this, it feels like everyone around you can't see the problem. And so you do end up leaving hungry. And the other thing I've been thinking too, is all of the other times that I've experienced this with a little bit of a twist. Because what a difference it makes when the host provides a dish that is vegan and makes space for you, what a difference it makes to have a friend who acknowledges that this is important to you. And so they make it important to them too. And so. As I've been thinking about this metaphor and thinking about interpreting scripture through a feminist lens and being a vegan, going to a party, I kept thinking, this is what we try to do on the podcast. We don't want anyone coming to the scriptures to this podcast party and leaving hungry. And so that's what we're going to try and do today. We're going to try and pull out some goodness, some nourishment, some little pieces here and there and carve out a space for people who are maybe also experiencing some frustration with the text who maybe are also experiencing a hunger for nourishment in a way that speaks to them and feeds them. 

Elise: [00:04:55] The other thing I love about this metaphor is that it's not, like you said, it's not that there's not other food around, right. It's not that there aren't other verses in the section that we've worked through. There were, I don't know 70 versus, but what happens and how do we walk away from the weeks of come follow me when there are plenty of verses to work with or plenty of sections to work with when there's not a lot that feels nourishing or there's not a lot that feeds us. And what do we do when we come to the texts, looking for the loving, tender, but from voice of the Lord. And there's not a whole lot to hold onto here. So these were some of the questions that we were grappling with and we're going to try our best to bring food. Earlier we said earlier, before we got to the vegan metaphor, we were talking about loaves and fishes, but maybe if we're in the vegan metaphor, we will bring loaves and fruit. We're going to bring loaves and fruit to the podcast. And we're trying to encourage you also to do the same. It's okay for you to work through and build and pick out a meal that feels nourishing for you.

Channing: [00:06:03] So we'll start out by setting a little bit of context and background for this chapter. Doctrine and Covenants section 45 was received during a time when the saints were experiencing increasing opposition. Joseph Smith later recorded in his history saying “at this age of the church, many false reports, lies and foolish stories were published in the newspapers and circulated in every direction to prevent people from investigating the work or embracing the faith.” During this time, Joseph was also deeply engaged in his project to produce a new translation of the Bible. He was working on translating the Old Testament, but within this section, he received some new revelation with directions to stop and then begin translating the New Testament. This makes sense because parts of section 45 closely follow or are similar to the sermon the Savior gave to his disciples on the Mount of Olives shortly before he died and references for this can be found in Matthew 24.

Elise: [00:07:06] Before we even get into the body content of section 45, it's the section header that introduces these false reports and these lies and these foolish stories that were being published about the Mormons. It also continues to say, “but the joy of the saints, I received the following,” like the following revelation or the following section. And so that's what happens in section 45. It's not necessarily a responsive to what's happening, but it is responsive to the events that are being published. And one of the main characters here is Ezra Booth. I'm not sure if we've talked about Ezra Booth in a past episode, but here's a bit of a refresher. Ezra Booth was a Methodist preacher who converted to Mormonism and was called to serve a mission to Missouri in June of 1831. I'm also going to just give a really quick overview of his like church-related life. And this is all from the Revelations in Context book.

And it says after Ezra Booth joined the church, he began to doubt and also began to be really dissatisfied or disappointed in what he expected from the church when those expectations weren't met. For example, he was upset that Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon left for Missouri on this mission in a wagon while Ezra Booth and Isaac Morley had to walk the entire distance in the summer and they were expected to preach along the way. I would also be upset if that happened to me. Then when they were on their mission, it seems like there were lots of promises made about lots of people to teach and lots of people will be converted and that wasn't accurate for their experience. So there are lots of things going on in Ezra Booth’s life concerning his conversion to Mormonism. And by the time that he returns home from the mission and they get back to Ohio, Ezra Booth ends up leaving the church in a really public fashion. In fact, Ezra Booth wrote nine letters that were printed in the Ohio Star newspaper, explaining his reasons for leaving the church. In these letters, he also accused Joseph of false prophecy and inconsistencies within the doctrine. He also complained about Joseph Smith's lack of sobriety, prudence, and stability. Now we can read all of these letters they're available online, but I just wanted to read some sections from the first letter so that we can get a taste for the pain and the hurt and the disappointment that Ezra Booth feels. Channing, would you mind reading just like a portion of the letter?

Channing: [00:09:37] Yeah, of course. This letter is dated October 13th, 1831. And he starts off by saying “Dear sir,” which is always a great way to start a letter later on. He says: “You are not, it is probable, ignorant of the designs of my most singular and romantic undertaking: sufficient to say, it was for the purpose of exploring the promised land -- laying the foundation of the City of Zion, and placing the corner-stone of the Temple of God. A journey of 1000 miles to the west, has taught me far more abundantly, than I should probably have learned from any other source. It has taught me quite beyond my former knowledge, the imbecility of human nature, and especially my own weakness. It has unfolded in its proper character, a delusion to which I had fallen a victim, and taught me the humiliating truth -- that I was exerting the powers of both my mind and body, and sacrificing my time and property to build up a system of delusion, almost unparalleled in the annals of the world. If God be a God of consistency and wisdom, I now know Mormonism to be a delusion; and this knowledge is built upon the testimony of my senses. In proclaiming it, I am aware I proclaim my own misfortune -- but in doing it, I remove a burden from my mind, and discharge a duty as humbling to myself, as it may be profitable to others...

When I embraced Mormonism, I conscientiously believed it to be of God. The impressions of my mind were deep and powerful, and my feelings were exerted to a degree to which I had been a stranger. Like a ghost, it haunted me by night and by day, until I was mysteriously hurried, as it were by a kind of necessity, into the vortex of delusion. At times I was much elated; but generally, things in prospect were the greatest stimulants to action.... It is not my design at this time, to enter into particulars relative to the evidence, upon which my renunciation of Mormonism is founded. This evidence is derived from various sources, and is clear and full, and the conviction which it produces, at least on my mind, is irresistible. You are not aware of the nature of this deception, and the spirit that uniformly attends it; nor can you ever know it, unless you yield to its influence, and by experience learn what it is to fall under its power: "from which my earnest prayer is, that you may ever, ever escape”….

I do in sincerity, and I trust in deep humility, return unfeigned gratitude to the God of infinite mercy, who, in condescension to my weakness, by a peculiar train of providences, brought me to the light, enabled me to see the hidden things of darkness, and delivered me from the snare of the fowler, and from the contagious pestilence which threatened my entire destruction. The scenes of the past few months, are so different from all others in my life, that they are in truth to me "as a dream when one awaketh." Had my fall affected only myself, my reflections would be far less painful than they now are. But to know -- that whatever influence I may have possessed, has been exerted to draw others into a delusion, from which they may not soon be extricated, is to me a source of sorrow and deep regret. They are at this moment the object of my greatest anxiety and commiseration. I crave their forgiveness, and assure them, that they will ever have an interest in my addresses to the throne of grace. It shall be my endeavor to undo as far as possible, what I have done in this case, and also to prevent the spread of a delusion, pernicious in its influence, and destructive in its consequences to the body and soul -- to the present and eternal interests of men. I am through restoring mercy and grace, as in former years, though unworthily, yet affectionately your's in Christ. Ezra Booth

Elise: [00:12:36] This is the first letter in Ezra Booth’s series of nine letters that get published in the newspaper. And I think that the excerpts we've pulled from this letter showcase how committed Ezra Booth was. I think there are moments when he writes really beautifully and passionately about feeling the spirit, move him and feeling called. But then there's this tension and there's this deep, deep pain when he starts to what he says, like, Oh, awake from this dream, awake from this delusion. And now he carries with him what he feels is like a responsibility to himself and to the other people he has preached to or taught to. And even to future converts, to Mormonism, to really lay things bare including his experience, some of the accusations or mistreatments around the main leaders in the church, and that's what these letters are all trying to unpack.

Channing: [00:13:37] I find it fascinating that a lot of what I hear Ezra Booth saying in this letter is also what I've heard from people who have left the church. Um, Elise and I have a mutual friend who left the church a few years ago, who also went on a mission. And I remember, um, sitting across the table from her, as she talked about her, um, faith journey and her faith transition and expressing a lot of grief about having gone on a mission and shared the gospel with people that she now in hindsight felt like a tremendous guilt and a tremendous, like sense of betrayal in that she had made promises that she didn't even feel were kept to her. So I do find it fascinating to see, um, what I'm hearing even today, mirrored in a letter that's almost 200 years old.

Elise: [00:14:32] Yeah, absolutely. And it makes me think about how does the church treat these people who are these like public loud, vocal “others” that have transitioned out of Mormonism and I think a lot of post Mormons have a lot of pain, have a lot of well-placed anger and they're not afraid to speak openly and speak publicly and criticize the church. And I just want to see, like, what are your thoughts about how the church deals with, or treats these vocal “others” today?

Channing: [00:15:09] Well, I think we're seeing that really acutely, I mean, two days, date is April 23rd, 2021. And we found out just a couple of days ago that Natasha Helfer, who we talked about in last week's episode is an LDS, um, sex therapist was ex-communicated, held on trial that she wasn't even permitted to be present for and like pushed out of the church because she was following best practices for her like profession. And so I think that, you know, just in not even talking about this one specific case, which is definitely a part of how we treat members who are speaking out against like harmful practices within the church, but I think that there's just, you know, the rhetoric that you and I are not unfamiliar with like, I hate pulling from this recent talk. I hate it so much, but like “lax disciples” and “lazy learners” and like anti-Mormon, and you're just like that, it's the same stuff we hear all the time. You're just bitter. If only you would like try and look for the good, I mean, even, and like piggybacking off of one of our other favorite podcasts, which is the, At Last She Said It podcast, they did a bingo card for their birthday that had all of the phrases that they've heard, um, critiquing their feminist viewpoints around the church and like you and I almost had a blackout completing the bingo card.

Like we've heard all of the same phrases before. Like you're, you're looking for something that's not there. You're making a bigger deal than what it needs to be. Um, you're deceived, like Satan's deceiving you all, you know, just. Give me a top hat. And let me pull out a phrase out of it. Like there's so many that we can pull from, and it's, it's heartbreaking because we can see here in Ezra Booth’s letter, he is heartfelt in seeking forgiveness and his want to help those who he might have unintentionally, he feels, led into a community that may not actually be as healthy as promised. So, uh, it just like, it makes me feel a little nauseous, honestly, thinking about it, but right. There's that?

Elise: [00:17:32] No, I think you're spot on. I also. One of the questions I wrote down on the outline was what purpose or power is there in people sharing openly, publicly and loudly about the ways that they have been left out, hurt by or let down by the church, people doctrines and gospels? And I said, isn't this too, a way of standing for truth and righteousness at all times and in all things and in all places? So it's just interesting to see how the rhetoric around people speaking out against the church, moves away from, you know, standing for truth and righteousness and it starts turning into they're attacking us. They're anti-Mormon, they're trying to lead people astray. They're trying to tear down the church. And I think, I don't know where the line is if there even has to be a line between like sharing your experience, honestly, courageously and vocally and speaking out, or like attacking and bullying.

I don't know what that line is, but from what I've seen and heard, and this is just my experience, it seems that a lot of these, the critique seem to be two fold and at the forefront, tell me what you think Channing, seems to be attacks on the institution, but it always seems to come from a place of like, this was my experience. I don't ever want anyone to feel this way again. And so that's, I don't know. It seems like it's an attack on, not an attack, it seems like it is pointed at the institution. And also honestly pointed at the people of the church, which includes us. Absolutely. But it seems to come, and maybe this is a really generous reading, it seems to come from a place of I'm going to do everything that I can to make sure that this pain is not experienced by anyone else. And that often looks like standing up and speaking out.

Channing: [00:19:27]Yeah, I would agree. And I think that that's showcased here in this letter. I'm also thinking back to Elizabeth and Thomas Marsha's story. Um, I think that that's pretty accurate, that a lot of times the critique is about the institution. It is about the way that people are being treated at large. It is about like the whole, and it's a whole lot less about like any particular person. Though I'm sure that, you know, those accompanied as well. And so, yeah, I would say your analysis is accurate.

Elise: [00:20:04] And then maybe one step further, how do we respond? Or what do we do when we like individually get called out, get called, like someone calls our bluff or someone like tries to hold us accountable and tries to hold us responsible for the things that we say that we value, but the actions that we're actually not taking. Are we like fragile and really quick to anger and defensiveness? Are we quick to call upon institutional power to swoop in and save us? Do we think of ourselves as the victim instead of the perpetrators, when we are being called out? And this has so many applications, right? Being called out for racism, for ableism, for sexism, for homophobia, for transphobia. And when I feel called out, I might feel embarrassed or angry or upset or threatened. And I might feel the urge to get mean and defensive. I might say things like, why are you calling me out? I thought we were friends. Oh, you're just being too emotional. You know, I didn't mean it that way, or I love insert marginalized group here. I would never do that. Uh, I, we might find ourselves making excuses and shifting the blame to make it seem like it's really you, not me who is wrong.

And I think we saw this really acutely with Natasha’s experience, right? The church seemed to say, surely it can't be us who have gotten something wrong. It must be you who is wrong and because you are wrong and because you are speaking out, we don't have, um, we don't have room for you here. One of the passages that I really liked from an article about being called out and how to respond written by Sam Dylan Finch says “Being called out can be a gift as it calls us to rise up and do better, to tap into our empathy and do the serious and critical work of interrogating our own beliefs and biases. This is how we align our values with our actions.” And this really hits home for me because I think a lot of people have been harmed by the church. So how can we say that we love one another, that we want all to be united together, but then not live up to those values in our actions, right? I'm not saying that this is going to be easy, but I am saying that we can make a greater, honest effort to make it happen in our everyday lives. Like how different would or could things have been if the church had listened to the pains hurts and grievances of current and past members?

I wonder if there's a reframing that can happen, like Finch suggests, where we can say I'm being called out, but I'm being called out to rise up and do better. And that I think turns it, uh, away from being a defensive interaction and more of an empathetic response that says, you know what, no, I do value everyone's voices. I do value loving one another. And so because of that, I'm going to take what I've heard and listen to it and then change, rise up and do better.

Channing: [00:23:08] Absolutely. And I think that, um, if the church had done that at any point and I'm hopeful like that, there was a point that I'm just not aware of um, had done that at any point we would be part of a different church today. I don't, I don't know. I think I'm afraid to imagine the possibility, cause it might just be too painful to look at what could have or what might have been if the church had been responsive instead of defensive to some of these critiques and, um, to see, uh, that a lot of the critiques haven't changed in 200 years, that's also particularly painful. Um, I think especially knowing that as members, we pride ourselves on being part of a latter day or modern church that relies on modern revelation, continuing revelation, and yet see that we're still stuck in 1830. That's a bummer.

Elise: [00:24:09] You could have used a stronger word there.

Channing: [00:24:14] We'll talk about this a little later too, but I also think it's interesting to note, you know, when we're talking about how do we respond when we're being called out? What is our, um, like reaction to critique or criticism. And I, I, one of the thoughts that I've been having, reading this chapter is I feel like I've read this before. Right? I feel like I've read chapter headings before where, um, it has said, like this section has come in response to the saints experiencing, um, persecution. And I feel like that's happened a lot over the last month and every time one of those chapters come up, it's like this knee jerk response. And it goes like straight to apocalypticism. Like all of a sudden we're coming into like the end of times and like destruction and, you know, second coming language. And so I find it really interesting when we talk about how do we respond when we're being called out? Well, do we just like paint with a wide stroke and just say like, okay, well everyone who opposes us, like here's, what's coming for you. I think it's going to suck. I think it's going to be really interesting to look at that, um, later on in the episode, but before we get there, but before we get into that, I wanted to bring our attention to some interesting things that are happening within the actual writing of the text. And one of the things that I found the most interesting is scattered throughout this section are multiple parables or references to other stories, um, in other sections of the scriptures.

So we have some from the Old Testament, we have some from the New Testament, we have some from the Book of Mormon. And so it was fun to read this chapter and see all of the, um, different books that we consider to be sacred texts kind of pulled into this one section. Some of the references that we see from the Book of Mormon are Enoch and his city of perfection that was eventually brought into God. There is some language and verses in there, like stand in holy places and be not moved that are very resonant of language that we hear in the Book of Mormon. From the Old Testament, we see a reference to the story of Job, which we'll talk about very soon. And from the New Testament, we see references to the parable of the fig tree and also the parable of the 10 virgins. And I really appreciated this because one of the things that Elise and I do when we're taking a feminist lens to the text is we look for women who are explicitly mentioned, but we also look for women who, um, are what we call hidden, hidden within the text. And this was one of those times where we found them.

We found them in the parable of the 10 virgins. We found femininity in the parable of the fig tree. And interestingly enough, we found Job's wife. And whenever there's a reference to the story of Job in the Old Testament, I get really excited because it's one of my favorite stories in all of the scriptures. And so I wanted to talk a little bit about Job's wife, about Job's story and what it possibly means to offer us a new interpretation of section 45. To provide the reference that we find for this story in section 45, it's in verse 32, it reads, “but my disciples shall stand in holy places and shall not be moved. But among the wicked men shall lift up their voices and curse God and die.” And the reference provided for this first is to Job chapter two verse nine that says, “Then said his wife unto him, didst thou still retain the integrity, curse God and die.” So the language is pretty strongly mirrored here. And for those who need a refresher, the story of Job is found in the Old Testament and it begins with a faithful man named Job who had many children, a beautiful home productive fields, and good standing in the community. Pretty soon in his story were taken to a scene in heaven where God and Satan essentially make a bet about Job. It's really weird. It happens like this God and say, and have the following conversation. God says, “Hey Satan, whyare you even here? Where did you come from?”

Elise: [00:28:41] “Oh I’ve been wandering the earth to and fro, like you told me to.”

Channing: [00:28:44] “Well in your travels, have you seen Job? He's basically like the best ever.”

Elise: [00:28:49] “Yeah, I've seen that guy. I've seen his house and his sheep and his family too. Of course he's the best, best ever. You gave him everything he could ever want. I bet if all of that disappeared, Job would actually hate you.”

Channing: [00:29:04] “Hmm. Interesting theory. Let's try it out.” So after this conversation, which obviously we took some creative license, with a ton of really horrible things happen to Job. So all the sheeps are stolen. His house falls down and all of his children die. And if that wasn't bad enough, this is all topped off with an affliction of boils all over Job's body. And while all of this is happening right, everyone likes to hate on his wife who said Job curse God and die because they all interpret it to mean that she was asking Job to give up on God and abandon it. But I'm always suspicious. If you've listened to the podcast long enough you'll know this, I'm always very suspicious about the way women's stories are told in sacred texts. So I went looking for a feminist interpretation of, um, the story of Job's wife. And I'm so grateful. I found this one, it's a gem. I've been sitting on it for the last couple of years. It's an essay titled “I had heard of you, but now I see you: a revisioning of Job's wife” by Roger Schultz.

Elise: [00:30:17] In the essay, Schultz writes “A compelling case can be made for the direct influence of his wife, [Job's wife,] and her words in this necessary shift that occurred in Job. Some compellingly suggest Job's wife is challenging him to abandon an inadequate worldview. The first words we hear from the mouth of Job's wife are these, do you still persist in your integrity? This first half of her speech has not received the same kind of critical attention as the contentious words that follow curse God and die yet. This is the key to understanding her intention in challenging Job's persistence and holding onto his integrity. She is questioning the entire religious worldview upon which he has based his life. That has been the foundation of his sense of security. How has his worldview served him and how is it serving him in this crisis? It is a religious worldview with a need for a certitude and control and an insistence on the dualisms of right and wrong that, that Job's wife recognizes as inadequate and challenges him accordingly.”

Channing: [00:31:26] I love this essay because Schultz does a really good job of breaking down the story, illustrating what her life might've been like and her experience of this story might've been like and why her seemingly harsh words toward Job are actually an encouragement and a catalyst to a necessary change that brings him into a new, deeper, and more loving understanding of the divine. And I think it's so interesting to see these two stories, the story of Ezra Booth and the early saints, and then the story of Job and his wife to see these side by side. And it's not even that these stories really mirror each other. It's tempting to say, oh, Ezra Booth was bad and the church was good or on the other hand, church was good and Ezra Booth was bad. Just like we want to do a Job and his wife, but both of these stories are nuanced and I enjoy weaving them together and kind of pulling out the threads to see what I can and do. And in some ways I can see Ezra Booth’s side, he's saying, hey, you made these promises and they're unfulfilled. And now I feel unfulfilled and I will curse this God, or at least the God you gave me because that God did not keep their promises. And I can see in the language and Ezra’s letters that he does do that. And he kind of does act as a catalyst for this chapter, for the section 45. I also kind of hope too, that Ezra got to have his own end of the story of Job experience. In the final chapters of Job's story, he gets to experience the wonder and the awe of God and his creation. And so I hope that Ezra gets to experience that because it's the best part of the whole story. And on the flip side, I can also see how the church is playing the role of Job. The church says, hey, we're keeping our integrity, our devotion, our fear that we call love within the bounds that we feel God has given.

And our God is a God who keeps promises. Ezra you just haven't waited long enough. And I can see in sort of a way that the church plays the role of Job's friends later in the chapters who essentially condemn his questions in grief. And again, it's not that there is a clear, bad and good here. I think the entire story of Job makes that binary a moot point anyway. I think ultimately the story of Job is about the relationship between mortal and divine. It's about awe, it's about death and rebirth. It's about love and living a life of wholeness, not empty perfection. And so I think the question asked in the Schultz article is compelling. When we look at the context of this chapter, Schultz asks, how has this worldview served Job? And is it serving him in this crisis? And I think we can ask the same question about the early church. How has this worldview served the early church and is it serving them in this crisis? And so I do want to ask the same question. How has this view of God, of the world, of good versus evil served these early saints and how is it serving us now? And I think, I think that relates really well to the conversation that we were having earlier Elise about how do we react when we're being called out. And I think we see that play out here in section 45. There's a lot of apocalyptic language. There's a lot of death and destruction. There's a lot of promise for life for those who are seen to be on God's side and a lot of violence in sickness and desolation for those who aren't. And I'm, I'm just wondering what your perspective is on that.

Elise: [00:35:21] I think I had said earlier to you today, just something about how, and this is not my own line, I'm pretty sure I heard it somewhere, but I can't remember where it's just something about how people's understanding of God shows or tells us more about that person than it does about God. And so if that's the approach that we take here, if the early saints and our scriptures right now are filled with a God who is quick to fear and trembling for anyone who doesn't get on board with the gospel, what does that say about us? Like what does that say about the way we treat and understand people who are different from us, people that have different worldviews or ways of seeing the world? What does that say about the ways that we are quick to want punishment and consequences for the wicked, but the ways that we are also so very quick to want mercy and love for ourselves.

Channing: [00:36:29] Yeah, I think you picked up on a really important piece there that quickness to want mercy and goodness for ourselves in the come follow me manual this week one of the section headlines reads “the Lord's promises will be fulfilled.” It continues to say “war inequity and desolation will proceed the Savior's second coming, but be not troubled. The Lord said for when all these things shall come to pass, you may know that the promises which have been made unto you shall be fulfilled.” And that's from section 45, verse 35, the manual continue saying, “as you study, consider focusing, not just on the troubling events that are prophesied, but also on the blessings the Lord promises. What do you find that helps you be not troubled about the last days?” And after I read this, I really felt strongly that it just didn't sit right with me. And I, it took me a little while to figure out why, but when I did, I was like, oh, that's what this is. This practice of focusing on the good, over the bad has a name it's called spiritual bypassing. And one of my favorite Instagrammers, her name is Sarah Hanks and you can find her @cottonwoodtarot. She did an excellent post that kind of breaks down and describes what spiritual bypassing is. She says “spiritual bypassing is a tendency to use spiritual ideas and practices to sidestep or avoid facing unresolved emotional issues, psychological wounds, and unfinished developmental tasks.” In other words, spiritual bypassing uses spiritual concepts to help you avoid uncomfortable responsibilities and feelings. And I think that this technique, this ignoring of the scary parts of the chapter is a form of spiritual bypassing. Because if we look at the promises in the text, the majority of them are not positive. I feel like trying to do this exercise of looking for the good, among the bad is a lot like panning for gold.

If you've ever done that before, it's not that fun. Like I grew up in Las Vegas where. Like pretty much every elementary school student has to try panning for gold because it's part of the state history. And mostly what you end up with is just a lot of dirt. And so if you're trying to do this with this section of the text, you have to sift through all of these promises of sickness and scourges and wars and earthquakes and blood moons and black suns to find something worth holding onto. And I think that this approach is harmful for two reasons. The first one is that it bypasses the present and immediate pain and suffering of our fellow women by asking us to become numb to war and death and suffering. It bypasses our own human experience of fear, dread, worry, concern, anxiety by asking us to console ourselves with a kind of love that would sooner cut us off and see us quote, “hewn down and cast into the fire” than to tolerate any measure of doubt. And secondly, it bypasses our responsibility to read the text and internalize it because it makes us afraid. What if the verse quote, “the love of women wax cold and iniquity shall abound” is talking about our lax and lazy approach to reuniting families separated at the United States Mexican border? What if quote, “we received not the light of the gospel” because we turn our hearts and our lands and our love from refugees, fleeing war torn countries?

What if we are the ones who have quote, “hardened their hearts against me and take up the sword against one another,” by finding reasons to justify the death of 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant and by continuing to remain ignorant and indifferent to police brutality and murders against BIPOC communities? I argue that we should be troubled. We should be troubled by these apocalyptic chapters. We should be troubled by a God that promises to come with swift desolation, with scourges and earthquakes and sickness. We should be suspicious of a God that promises peace only after the destruction of all that opposes us. We should question the motives of a God who uses language like what we see in verses 74 and 75. Those read for “when the Lord shall appear, he shall be terrible unto them. That fear may seize upon them. And they shall stand a far off in tremble and all nations shall be afraid because of the terror of the Lord and the power of his might.” And I think what's especially heartbreaking about this section is that we started out this year with the intro to the doctrine and covenants encouraging us to look for the tender, but firm voice of God. And I think that this chapter hurts because this is a case where I question what God is this? Whose God is this? What does this God ask me to do? What inequity, what loyalty and integrity does God ask me to curse and abandon? The first commandment tells us that thou shalt love thy God with all thy heart, and now shall have no other gods before me.

A God that asks us to abandon our neighbor and abandon ourselves is not a God of love, but an idolatrous rendering. If we look forward to a war against and a promise destruction of our enemies, a label that is so easily applied to those who look, think, believe, worship, speak, and act differently from us, are we then truly working toward a Zion here and now? Or are we abandoning all hope and putting our trust and our faith and our lives and our world into the hands of a God that darkens the sun and turns the moon to blood and causes stars to fall from heaven. I cannot feel good about interpreting this chapter from a place of love. Not because my emotions cloud me. Not because I'm unwilling to do a deeper reading, but because I see the fruits of this devotion to a God of destruction, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of being curious about it. I want to abandon it. I want to curse it. This version of God, I want this version to shatter and break open into something new and bigger and better. There has to be something better waiting than a 19th century white male understanding of the divine as punitive and militaristic. I’m convinced that there has to be because I'm convinced that I've seen it in glimpses disappearing behind sheer curtains blowing in the breeze. I know a God of love, love like clothes hanging from the drying line in summer. Love like the tears of a weeping friend.

God as love, bounding and energetic, like the dinosaur stomps of my four-year-old son, as he comes in from digging for worms in the dirt, God is love, effusive and flowing over. Like when the girl at the lemonade stand on the corner, accidentally pores too much in your cup and it spills a little on your hand as you walk to your car. God is love, love, like lemon drops and freckles and star kisses, and you're skinny jean loving best friend who walks with a small limp and Pizzicletta and the perfect chai latte and love like the way you know, the sidewalk rises and falls because beneath it is a swollen pipe. That is love. And this love is better than nightmares of drowning in a second coming flood, or losing your child to fire, or falling from the sky because big bad God is mad today. This is one of those times that I feel so disappointed by the doctrine and covenants. I feel like every week for the last month and a half, we have these apocalyptic chapters in response to any critique, any opposition that early saints experience and I’m weary of offering a positive spin on the angry God.

This chapter is a challenge to me. And we talked a lot about why this chapter is so frustrating and irritating and annoying or disappointing. And I have, so I've been thinking about it and I think my answer is that it's because of the promise in the intro. It's a promise of a loving yet firm God. And I've been looking for it, especially in this section, but I've really struggled to find that. And I think what I'm holding in this section and in its reading and in its interpretation is just a lot of sadness mixed in with annoyance and irritation and grief and frustration. And so I just want to validate that too, for all of our listeners. Like if you're feeling that way about this section, you're not alone.

Elise: [00:45:28] Like you Channing, I have seen the fulfillment of the promise or of many promises of a loving God that shows up in the stranger and the wanderer and shows up in my neighbors and my friends here and now, and not in some like far away kingdom. And I think we can read this chapter a few ways. We can scrap it all and we can tell like, nope, this is not living up to the promise. And I'm not settling for anything less than a loving, hopeful, resilient kind, tender God who works with me and works alongside me, or we try and find the promise in the verses. And that reminds me of a few verses in section 45, starting in verse 13, this is talking about the people of Enoch who confess that “they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth, but they have obtained a promise that they should find it and see it in their flesh.”

And if we try and apply this language to what Channing and I are talking about, we've been promised that we can, and will see a loving, tender powerfully, just God show up and we can find it and we can feel it and see it in our lived experience today. In verse 15, it says “wherefore harken, and I will reason with you and I will speak unto you” and prophecy later, it also talks about harken and I will give you wisdom. It seems like the promise is that there is a God here that is extending their hand and inviting us to follow and be with this God. But sometimes it is so difficult to parse all of that out. When there are layers and layers of a punishing vengeful God.

Channing: [00:47:17] Yes absolutely Elise. And I'm so grateful for that perspective. We hope that as you’ve listened to us talk about our feelings about this chapter and, and talk about some of the really beautiful and good pieces of the story that you can see illustrated by our example, the way that we have kind of picked and choose our cafeteria Mormon vegan feast. We encourage you as you read section 45 to go through and find the verses that resonate with you that provide you with the nourishment and goodness that you need to be able to leave this party of section 45, feeling fed and held and loved.

Elise: [00:48:10] We love you all, so, so much. Thanks for being here. And we can't wait to talk with you next week, bye!
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