My friend Stephen Cranney wrote a guest post for Times & Seasons about Church growth in the United States. I especially want to echo his third point at the very end of the article. Expecting unending growth seems like one of those flawed assumptions that inevitably lead to disappointment and disaffection.
Last night Esther Hi’ilani Candari posted The Body of Christ, a good article about race in our religious art. Hear, hear. (Disclaimer: I’m included in the long list of artists at the bottom, but I would recommend the article regardless.)
Our stake has thankfully decided that given Utah’s current COVID-19 numbers, it’s too early to start church meetings up again. Which seems wise to me. Prudence and patience are what we need here.
Over the past week or so, by the way, I’ve come to realize that we as a family are probably going to need to self-isolate for another year or so while we wait for a vaccine. It’s a long time, but also not that long. Someday this will all be safely tucked in the past. (I should add that I don’t for one second think that COVID-19 isn’t going to leave a permanent mark on the world. The pre-COVID world is surely dead; the world in its wake can’t possibly look the same. But I feel confident that the need to self-isolate will eventually end, at least until the next pandemic.)
This may not comfort others the way it comforts me, but I occasionally think about World War II (I was reading Anne Frank’s diary before the pandemic), more particularly how people wanted the war to end but had no idea in the moment how long it was going to last. It took six years and so many lives, but it did end. As did the 1918 pandemic. This too shall pass.
Lately I’ve been reading a history of the Borgias, taking place in the late 1400s. In reading about some of the people who died young back then, I got to thinking about death (which if I’m honest is something I think about often — memento mori and all).
Separation of spirit and body aside, the main sting of death seems to be the separation from loved ones. For me, anyway, that’s what would hurt most. Sure, there are a lot of things I still want to do and a lot of books I still want to read, but I wouldn’t be devastated if I had to give that up. But not being there to help my wife raise our children? Utterly awful. (And the same goes for losing my wife or any of our kids.) I know there would be some measure of divine peace given, but I also know there would also be a deep, unavoidable flood of sorrow.
A mildly comforting thought I had while reading the Borgia book, though, was this: that particular sting only lasts up to roughly a hundred years. Past that point, everyone I knew and cared about in life will have also died. No more separation (at least not based on living vs. dead). Less devastation. Lots of happy reunions on the other side.
A hundred years is a long time, of course, but it’s also finite. And hopefully the Second Coming happens long before then. (That said, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if it’s still more than a hundred years off.)
I just read James Goldberg’s post Why I Hate White Jesus. It’s a good piece, well worth reading. Over the last few years I’ve become much more aware of the rampant racism and tribalism and sexism still alive in America, and it breaks my heart. I fear we may never stamp it out in mortality, but we certainly need to try.
Since I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here before: The reason I usually use red for the humans in my art is to reference the mortal blood we all share, with the goal of avoiding any specific skin tones. I tend to use the color white as a symbol for holiness — going off of Isaiah’s “white as snow” — and I hope nobody misreads it as being about skin. (Especially because seeing the colors as skin instead of symbols means my work is full of naked albino and severely sunburned people. Nothing against either category, of course.)
On Muslims at BYU, from The Christian Science Monitor:
Like Islam, the LDS Church has at times been one of the most popularly reviled religions in America—with early criticisms of founder Joseph Smith, in fact, comparing him to Muhammad, and not as a compliment. Today, that legacy has informed a quiet but firm defense of religious freedom, particularly for Muslims in the United States.
From The Varieties of Religious Experience by William James:
By their fruits ye shall know them, not by their roots…. The ROOTS of a man’s virtue are inaccessible to us. No appearances whatever are infallible proofs of grace. Our practice is the only sure evidence, even to ourselves, that we are genuinely Christians.