Imagine Lehi preaching Sunday School to the youth in your ward. Do you think he'd be able to get their attention away from their phones?
Awake! Awake from a deep sleep, yea, even from the sleep of hell, and shake off the awful chains by which ye are bound.
(2 Nephi 1:13)
The "sleep of hell" doesn't sound very restful, does it? What is he referring to? What Ambien has placed us in this stupor?
In the next verse, Lehi cries with the passion of a loving parent trying to perform spiritual C.P.R. on his sons:
(1) Awake! and (2) Arise.
(2 Nephi 1:14)
Well, I am happy to report a lot of people are "awakening." I have witnessed it. Some of us are rubbing the sleep from our eyes like babes, yawning. Others have kept vigil for many years, waiting for the rest of us to wake up (my thanks to you).
So now we're awake, what does it mean to "arise"? What does the Lord intend for us to do?
(1) Awake, and (2) Arise from the dust, O Jerusalem . . .
When we get out of bed in the morning, what's the first thing we do? We get dressed! . . . and (3) put on thy beautiful garments O daughter of Zion . . .
Zion doesn't have a closet full of clothes to choose from; she's not a clothes horse. She has a single garment.
It's not a t-shirt or a toga; she is going to be draped in something altogether different than cotton or twill.
Zion will be clothed in the covenants "woven" by her Eternal Father from the foundation of the world, arrayed as a Bride on her wedding day.
that the covenants of the Eternal Father which he hath made unto thee, O house of Israel, may be fulfilled.
So its time to 'Say Yes to the Dress!'
An New Garment
Make no mistake: Zion's wedding garment looks nothing like the fancy ballroom dresses we typically see on a bride's special day. Zion prefers to dress-against-type lest she be mistaken for a Lord-and-Lady of the Gentiles (Luke 22:25).
Her wedding gown is not sewn from satin but is made from sackcloth (Mosiah 11:25). It bears no frills; in fact, it is surprisingly martial in appearance ― like she's about to go to battle (D&C 109:73-74).
And her accessories? No Armani scarves or Gucci white gloves (she's not afraid to get her hands dirty). There is nothing Victorian about her. We'll find her sporting two-edged swords (Psalms 149:6), sickles (D&C 4:4) and rods (Exodus 4:2).
The fact she rides upon a winged horse? That's a nice touch, if I may say so (Habakkuk 1:8).
You see, Zion is a huntress.
In case we missed the symbolism, the Bride Zion doesn't sit down to the Lamb's feast, waiting to be served by servants.
No, Zion chased, caught, and cleaned the food herself.
- Zion awakens - Zion arises - Zion arrays herself - Zion goes hunting
And what, precisely, is she hoping to fetch before her nuptials? Wild boar? Game hens?
Let's ask Enos.
"I went to hunt . . . "
I often approach gospel principles sideways, as one would a wild animal ― slowly and with an outstretched hand (Alma 13:21).
Maybe that's how Enos tracked his dinner when he "went to hunt beasts in the forests" (Enos 1:3).
Like a skittish deer, some things in life are difficult to capture, like "the joy of the saints" (Enos 1:3).
I've heard people say to never shop at the grocery store on an empty stomach; I think the opposite advice applies to going to Church. "My soul hungered" (Enos 1:4).
For if there is one thing that draws Faith out of the underbrush, it is a growling stomach; she can smell a healthy appetite a mile away (Matt. 5:6).
In the 21st Century we've become far-removed from the raising and processing of meat. It's so much easier to buy our pork at the market cleanly-butchered, wrapped in cellophane packaging and labeled "FDA inspected and approved."
But Faith is old-fashioned. She requires the shedding of blood. She is, above all else, a living sacrifice.
We must each obtain her with a handcrafted arrow.
And I said: Lord, how is it done?
And he said unto me: Because of thy faith in Christ, whom thou hast never before heard nor seen.
Wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole.
So we see, Enos found faith in the wild, and dressed her.
A Living Faith
But does anyone want a wild animal in their home?
Imagine the pandemonium of a racoon racing across our living room, rummaging through our porcelain Precious Moments dolls with its creepy hands. Get the gun!
No, the only wild animals that are welcome in our homes are dead ones: shot, stuffed, and placed by the fireplace as a trophy.
Here's the point: Ironically, a dead faith is quite often chosen over a living one. Think of raising horses (even domesticated ones). There is so much feeding and watering and getting a hoof-to-the-head once in a while. A living faith is a headache.
Better a nice, brag-worthy rack of antlers mounted on my wall.
When I was growing up, one of my chores was to clean out the chicken coop in the barn. Do you know what that smells like? How awful it was when the woodchips covered in chicken droppings flew into my face as I shoveled the floor and cleared out the nests?
Give me a nice chicken cordon bleu on my dinner plate, slathered in sauce, any day of the week.
So it is with faith: it brings all the messiness of a living thing. She creates quite a stink.
Which is why, I think, it is quite practical for churches to want a neater (stuffed) (dead) faith.
And that is precisely what I was taught as a youth to be: to behave myself as a stuffed teddy bear, as it were. A pleasant-looking, orderly, dead-thing; a good member of the Church who (as I've heard it said of children) should "be seen and not heard."
If Zion is a huntress, then Faith is the wild animal she seeks.
I assume you've been to the zoo. I've taken my children many times to Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake; on my honeymoon we stopped at the San Diego Zoo. I love zoos!
And here's the thing: at the zoo I can wander among the wild animals fearlessly. They don't frighten me at all! Why is that?
Whereas, Faith really puts the fear of God in you.
Ask yourself: What difference is there between admiring a captive tiger at the zoo ― trapped behind glass windows ― and encountering a hungry, wild tiger out in the jungle, face-to-face?
I think you see where I am going with this analogy. Religion "makes it safe" for us to walk among the hungry lions, right? Instead of joining Daniel in the lion's den, we watch from the comfort of air-conditioned corridors in the Feline Exhibit.
Our churches thus serve as a zoo for faith, offering a domesticated, sedated version that won't bite or get too close.
We stand behind a silk curtain (by which I mean, priesthood), so we won't get eaten and consumed. I'm talking Pillars of Smoke, Veils, Liturgies, Rites, Conferences, Interviews . . . lots of ways to not get blinded by the light (Exodus 20:18-19).
In a way, Owl of the Desert has been my attempt to take us on a safari. To seek Faith in her natural habitat. For years I've tried to lead us away from the "tame" Faith of "carnal security."
I've sounded my shofar, hoping we would free Faith from her captivity.
Because we all sense something is not quite natural, or right: which is why, I think, movies like Chicken Run and Madagascar and Finding Nemo and Free Willy are so popular. We instinctively know (down to our toenails) that freedom is better than captivity.
Because Faith is a wild creature of the formless, unseen realm; a spiritual unicorn ― the Pegasus upon which Zion flies to greet her Bridegroom in the Clouds.