Matt W. has a great post over at New Cool Thang about Finland's theory of Revelation Driven Human Evolution. I highly recommend checking it out. Some of the concepts there are directly relevant to my thoughts here.
Last night, I joined the local Elders in a Missionary lesson with a great guy, with some great questions. He had been doing his due diligence, and had been studying both pro-Mormon, and Mormon critical material online. Through the course of the conversation, it was very clear he was willing to acknowledge the legitimate claims of both, although he was very clearly siding on the Pro-Mormon side.
But he still had some questions. And they were legitimate searching questions, and not posed as "Gotchas." - in other words, questions worth addressing.
For example, at one point, when talking about the Book of Mormon, he said, "Okay, I have a question. Why did Joseph stick his head in a hat when working on translating the Book of Mormon?"
But I had something to offer. That's why I was there, right?
"Because that's what worked for him," I said.
Going further, I volunteered how I understood the process of revelation to work in general: God leaves the process mainly up to us, letting us work through things, and then may either confirm our methods or conclusions in some form or another, or, for all intents and purposes, give the impression that we need to, "Keep working on that."
I invited him to imagine Joseph having these plates in front of him, and the directive coming, "Now make something out of it."
Now what would you do? How would you go about doing it?
It went into a discussion of how God makes allowances for our own culture, wisdom, and knowledge, and often "consecrates our efforts" to give old understandings and experiences new meanings or significance.
To Joseph's 19th Century New England culture, which often mixed aspects of protestant religion with folklore, the legitimacy of magic stones being a source or conduit of uncovering the hidden was not very far from many enlightenment-resisting families' minds and hearts.
God didn't require Joseph to re-invent the wheel to get the revelation/enlightenment process going in his case. He took what he knew, and went with it. It wasn't even the first way Joseph attempted to get meaning out of the plates. He used the process of trial and error until he found a method - a symbol – that worked for him. In time, Joseph stopped relying on the rocks for inspiration.
I introduced the investigator to the Book of Mormon example of the Brother of Jared trying to figure out how to light up the Jaredite boats. When he went to the Lord and asked him how the darkness problem was going to be dealt with, the Lord basically responded by turning it back over to him: "Good question. How would you do it?"
The Brother of Jared made a rather folksy recommendation, that still relied on supernatural assistance – I'll get some stones, and you touch them, and make them shine! - and the Lord went with it. "Great idea. Let's do that."
It was sort of the like the story of Dumbo's magic flying feather. The feather given to him by his mouse friend didn't make Dumbo fly, nor did it appear to have any inherent power. But it was a catalyst for giving Dumbo the courage and drive he needed to fly on his own - without the feather. So in a very real way, the feather did have power. But when it was no longer useful, that power was transferred out.
I'm positive that the process of revelation/enlightenment practically works the same way today.
We run with what we have culturally and intellectually available to us, and eventually, through a process of revelation/enlightenment, we may realize we've gone past the use of that symbol, leave it behind, or give it a new meaning. The power is either transferred from the symbol to another, or it is simply altered within the symbol.
Yet I don't feel that if I have come to a new or changed understanding of the feather through a recognition of some form of personal enlightenment that I should also feel the need to yank the feather out of others' trunks before they've gotten what they personally need out of it. Because when they have, they'll be the ones dropping the feather.
It's sometimes difficult for me to acknowledge that others may be learning different lessons than what I've learned from that same symbol, and that I'd be doing them a disservice to take that very useful and legitimately practical (and possible spirit filled?)tool away, just because it has acquired a different meaning for me.
In other words, just because the meaning of a symbol has had its power and usefulness removed or significantly altered for me, that doesn't necessarily mean that real power isn't still very present in that symbol and associated understanding of that symbol for others.
Just because "the spirit jumped to a different vessel" for my own needs, doesn't mean it doesn't still reside there for someone else.
And I don't think "who is at what symbol at what time" has anything to do with intellectual or spiritual superiority.
But that's something I think I need to keep reminding myself, to keep myself humble. And to keep myself from yanking feathers out of happily flying elephants trunks.1
- Oh, and the investigator said, "Cool. That makes sense." and then moved on. [↩]