Here are some musings on the culture of Mormonism. I have nothing to say on the doctrine, as that is not my place.
“Any man, will go considerably out of his way to pick up a silver dollar; but here are golden words, which the wisest men of antiquity have uttered, and whose worth the wise of every succeeding age have assured us of;—and yet we learn to read only as far as Easy Reading…and our reading, our conversation and thinking, are all on a very low level, worthy only of pygmies…” — Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I like the idea of Easy Reading. It lends itself well to an analogy I’d like to make about walking.
“We boast that we belong to the Nineteenth Century and are making the most rapid strides of any nation. But consider how little this village does for its own culture. […] We need to be provoked—goaded like oxen, as we are, into a trot.”
Also for the purpose of my narrative in this analogy: Thoreau’s townsmen are the members of my community: Mormons.
And now, the main event.
The request to lengthen your stride (1) insists that you both become more kind or charitable while also becoming more disciplined. Flexible, and strong. Often the two tasks confound one another. So it’s easier to just pick one and stick to it. Lately Mormons are stuck on obedience—discipline. Easy Walking: good pace keeping.
But the confounding of charity is not necessary. There is room if we are willing to re-examine our gait. The command to lengthen is not to operate beyond your capacity but to operate within the fulness of your capacity, not unlike this commandment from the New Testament, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The command resides within the confines of “all,” the command makes no request for beyond. And within that all is both compassion, and strength.
“It is time that villages were universities…”
Mormonism is the village whereby we learn and grow socially, and culturally. It is our relationships, and the major sum of them are of one mind. Thoreau is not asking that our village gain the bureaucracy, or fraternities, of universities. But that the culture take on the innate, individual, mutability of academia. The fearless longing for truth. Like Oxen, we will push along until the trot changes—collectively, not individually.
“…let us have noble villages of men. If it is necessary, omit one bridge over the river, go round a little there, and throw one arch at least over the darker gulf of ignorance which surrounds us.”
Fear is a dark shadow, drawing a confrontational line that insists we take sides. In fear there is no moderation, there is no grey area. And in ignorance there is no room for compassion.
Because of these looming threats, many of us have not prepared well for mixing personal ideology with lifestyle. So we walk confidently but misguidedly into life, lacking empathy, and treating our personal community with love but those outside (general humanity) with misunderstanding and disrespect. We’re stuck in bomb shelters, having a cold war against intellectuals, feminists, and the state of Colorado.
The guise of better form and longer strides has become a sure way toward social damnation.
Let us have noble villages of men. Let us be proud of a stride which has within it a sense of duty for bettering the world around us. Let our stride not just be disciplined in trot, but open to change of pace and willing to break form for charity, education, and social betterment. Change must become a part of our gait, and understanding manifested within our form.