Examples of seeing the world through a poor mirror’s reflection

Stephen MarshMormon 12 Comments

When Paul writes of “through a glass, darkly” he is writing about seeing the world in a mirror, rather than seeing it through a dirty or occluded windowpane.  “The original Greek text has dia spektrou, or by means of a mirror, but Greek mirrors were made of highly polished brass which have a weak and imperfect mirror-image …

I thought I would write about how it is possible that that we fail to get very far in thinking about spiritual things because we stop at the surface much too often.

It is tempting to use Polygamy or the Book of Abraham for examples.  Instead, I am going to discuss something more personal, the Priesthood Ban.

I had the privilege of helping to teach the gospel to a young Black engineering student.  His conversion transformed the entire ward he joined.  However, in the context of the Priesthood Ban, several things struck me.

  1. My companion ended up taching Richard about the Priesthood Ban (which was in effect then).  The signal to noise ratio; well, the percentage of words he spoke that had anything to do with what the Spirit was communication; that ratio was pretty low, probably close to 1%.
  2. Later, when I was there, his brother called.  He had investigated the Church at one time, but had not joined over the Priesthood Ban issue.  Richard explained to him that the brother did not understand, it was a great blessing, not a penalty.  I realized that there was obviously more going on than I had noticed before.
  3. Finally, when I confirmed Richard a member after his baptism, much to my surprise I was given to know the general time for the end of the Priesthood Ban.  That was a shock to me, since I was somewhat informed on the subject by having read Bruce R. McConkie.  I did not say anything, but it gave me thought, then and later.  If the Ban was such a great blessing, why was it going to change?  The simple conclusion was no longer available to me.

Now, what do I know (rather than what do I guess or think) on the topic?  Well, that for one person, at one time, in one context, it was a great blessing, and one that blessed the lives of many (the interaction of Richard, the Priesthood Ban and the local ward was in great part why the ward was renewed by his joining).  Was the Ban a blessing for others?  I don’t know, though I do know that God turns things to our good.  And, yes, I realize that some blessings are hard, sometimes too hard for us.

After all, when I received my patriarchial blessing, the patriarch broke down and cried for five minutes in the middle of it, then blessed me with a blessing that he said I would find beyond my ability to appreciate as a blessing when i encountered it (without explaning to me what I was going to encounter).  I’m afraid I had more faith in my imagination and ability to appreciate a blessing in whatever guise it took, a good deal more than I have now.

I also know that much of what my companion thought was very inaccurate, but that God communicated with Richard in spite of that.  Which leads me to note that if you had only a transcript of that lesson and what he said, you would be seriously misled as to what God was communicating.

Quite frankly, that experience taught me a great deal about the limits of relying on the recorded word, regardless of how intense the Spirit that accompanied it when it was written.  Finally, I know that sometimes God reveals things to us — though I generally believe that Alma had it right (Alma 26:21), even more so when he talks of God revealing things that we are not to share out of time (Alma 12:9), joined with a belief that just about anything shared out of time is probably not of God.

Most of what I read on the Priesthood Ban does not even get close to my experiences or the possibilities one can draw from them.  Most analysis either assumes that in the past they were distorted by their own faces in the mirror (their own faces = the misconceptions they had due to cultural blindness), but that today, being so much wiser and more spiritual, we see face-to-face or that Bans of one sort or another are just the natural state of religion (cf Leviticus 10:1, et al.).

I am not so certain of my knowledge or in my superiority to the prophets of the past to let the analysis stop at the assumption that they were just misled, but I do not suppose to conclude that one experience controls the entire world of possibilities.  The Ban may well have been a great blessing in a narrow context without having to be a great blessing for everyone, regardless of context.  Which means from my experiences I find myself unable to authoritatively disagree with anyone, but only to realize that there is a good deal I do not know, and that there are pitfalls in the logic that I can apply and the conclusions I can draw.

We do indeed see the Spiritual world in a poor reflection, blocked by our own image.

Comments 12

  1. The reason you get so few comments is because you make us feel ashamed at our lack of charity and gratitude. Few of us can add anything to what you give since it is sometimes more than we can receive. Post a poll and you will have dozens of comments, but little substance. I really enjoyed the comments by your wife, by the way. I will definitely remember that with loss I can definitely lose more if I focus on my loss rather than my other relationships which still need me.

  2. Stephen, I would phrase it this way:

    I LOVE your posts; I generally learn so much from them; I often feel like I have little to contribute.

    This is a great example. That verse is one of my favorites, and I want to read the post a couple of times while everything you said sinks in more deeply – and I get more insights from doing so.

    Please don’t stop posting due to low comment totals. You are helping me, at least. 🙂

  3. Stephen,
    I love your posts but sometimes I am without words. Your life experiences exceed anything I have encountered. I can understand your patriarch crying and I am not at all surprised that blessings will follow.

    We take different paths in our journey to become one with God. The Spirit speaks to people in different ways saying different things even when they are in the same room.

    Much of the personal revelation I receive is open ended time wise. When it is time specific it is hazy on the details. Please elaborate; given to know the general time.

  4. Stephen,
    Through the years I’ve read your thoughts in fits and spurts…and not once do I recall ever NOT being enriched or edified by your words. I’m on a little feast tonight…a much needed one. I’m glad for the variety and selection your various blogs offer to the interested reader. You have a wisdom and insight that is commonly wanting in the world.

    Thank you for taking the time to share. It really lifts me up when I am down.

  5. oh, I just clicked your name on the sidebar and it said today is your birthday. Mine was this week too. Hope you’re enjoying the day with loved ones! Thanks again for the gift of your experiences recorded and shared.

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