This is my third attempt at writing this blog post.
Why? Because my previous attempts were too gloom-and-doom.
The gospel is about glad tidings, right?
I don't want to be just another "Debbie Downer."
(For those of you who don't know who Debbie Downer is, she was a fictional character played by Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live, who always made negative and depressing comments at social gatherings, bringing down everyone's mood.)
But the topic of this Series does not lend itself to levity. Even so, I knew I needed to lighten up when I began writing things like:
. . . I am afraid we have cast out so many of the beautiful voices sent by God to share glad tidings of great joy to us; I am afraid that our chapel halls ring with the reverence of boredom rather than the joyful shouts of the faithful; I am afraid we are dwindling in unbelief, being taught a God who performs no miracles greater than coincidences; I fear for our youth and children who are taught obedience instead of discernment, who are told not to question leaders even if they practice unrighteous dominion; I worry that we have sold our birthright for a seat at the sectarian table, choosing hierarchy over equality; I worry that we treat criticism as apostasy rather than as God-sent correction; I weep that we have wounded so many humble followers of Christ with our thorns of pride and exclusion; I sorrow that a Church which preaches repentance is unable to apologize for its past transgressions; I tremble at the truths found in scripture we trample over with our correlated orthodoxy that promotes carnal security; I cringe when we take the Lord's name in vain, puffed up in the shroud of our own authority and thinking it's a mantle; I thirst for the day when we will finally proclaim with Peter, “Gold and silver have I none, but such as I have give I unto thee,” instead of hoarding wealth and robbing the poor; I hunger for the day when Zion shall come down out of heaven and embrace its children who did not seek for power but to tear it down . . .
Yup. You get the idea.
Time I take my chill-pill.
Let's Have Some Fun in 3rd Nephi
If you're wondering where the title of this Series comes from ("The Church Began to Be Broken Up"), it comes from 3rd Nephi where things got dicey for the Nephites prior to their destruction and the Savior's ministry.
The church began to be broken up; yea, insomuch that in the thirtieth year the church was broken up in all the land (save it were among a few of the Lamanites who were converted unto the true faith).
(3 Nephi 6:14)
Whoa, wait a minute. You mean the church can just burst apart at the seams? Kablooie?
(Well, for everyone except a few of those "Lamanites." But who is interested in them, right?)
Question: If it can happen to the Nephites, could it also happen to us?
Answer: Well, it already has, hasn't it?
We don't need to go back to Nicaea, or the Great Schism, or the Reformation, or 1844 . . . we can just go back to last year.
What happened when the pandemic hit in March 2020?
We stopped gathering(which, by the way, is what "church" means when translated from the Greek word "Ekklēsia").
No "Gathering" = No "Church"
So the decision of the leaders to shut down church (however good their intentions were) incidentally showed all of us that the Church is . . . non-essential.
(I mean, who needs Nero and hungry lions and tar and feathers and extermination orders . . . when we've got a virus?)
Where's Nostradamus When We Need Him?
What if the Book of Mormon was edited and curated so that its writings would be relevant to us today?
In other words, what if the Book of Mormon was not just a history about ancient peoples, but was a book of history that would repeat itself in the last days?
Does the Book of Mormon contain prophetic patterns, types and shadows, destined to repeat themselves in the future?
What a horrifying thought!
Why? Ummm. Have we read the Book of Mormon lately? Remember how it ended for the Nephites and Jaredites?
And here we are, Latter-day Gentiles, up at the plate.
We're next. Batter up!
Don't Take My Word For It
The fact that the church is going to be broken up (again) should not be a surprise to anyone. This is not a curveball. (Don't we always talk about the wheat being separated from the tares?)
Anyone who has read the tea leaves, the wind, the writing on the wall, the Book of Mormon . . . knows what's to come.
But don't take my word for it. I'm a nobody (just a random dude with a keyboard and a set of scriptures).
Luckily for us, God always sends "many prophets" to warn us before things get dicey.
Always plural prophets. Many, many mouths in God's chorus calling the people to repentance before things go sideways.
And they're here.
Here are some historical examples from what it was like before doomsday:
1.Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem:
"[T]here came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city of Jerusalem must be destroyed" (1 Nephi 1:4).
So why did the Jews cast out Lehi?
2.Prior to the destruction of the Jaredites:
"And there came also in the days of Com many prophets, and prophesied of the destruction of that great people except they should repent, and turn unto the Lord" (Ether 11:1).
So why did the Jaredites cast out Ether?
3. Prior to the destruction of Jerusalem (70 A.D.)
"For when the city was about to be taken and destroyed by the Romans, it was revealed in advance to all the disciples by an angel of God that they should remove from the city, as it was going to be completely destroyed." (Epiphanius, On Weights and Measures 15)
So why did the people cast out and crucify Jesus?
Brother Ether prophesied "great and marvelous" things (Ether 13:13).
And how was he received by the people?
They esteemed him as naught.
Doesn't this break your heart? It reminds me of when Paul lamented how the Jews ignored the glad tidings of the gospel he brought to them (and I wonder if this applies to us, too):
For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.
How Are We Measuring Up?
Well, I'd say we're right on track, following in the tradition of ancient Israel and the Nephites.
How many prophets have we cast out for their messages?
(I should add that there must have been many prophetesses, too. Because today there are many female voices in God's chorus that deserve our attention.)