So, the story goes that there was a big, tall, full willow tree atop a small rise, surrounded by a grassy meadow. It had been there for years. Many who traveled the roads by the meadow would stop and rest in its shade before moving on. They used the great tree as a landmark to know where to travel and how far they had come. It seemed like it had always been there and always would. It was fixed in place, immovable. The idea that it had once been a weak little sapling was long forgotten.
Below it the grass also grew tall, but not so much as the tree, obviously. As the breezes and winds blew the grass would sway and swing, bending to the slightest shift and motion in the air.
Not the tree, of course. Oh, the leaves might swish a little, but the tree was strong against even harsher winds. It stayed, sturdy and tall.
Until one night a storm arose like no other before it. The winds and the rains hammered the hilltop, whipping the grass and the tree in its frenzy. Wave after wave of harsh force smashed against them. The tree strained to hold together as branches snapped and tumbled. The tree held on with all its might, but finally, its shallow roots were unable to stand against the force of the wind, and with a loud crackling, it toppled over, smashing to the ground.
In the morning, the winds were again calm and the sun rose, drying the raindrops off the dying tree and the grassy meadow. The grasses rose up and again danced and swayed in the breeze. Their roots were deep and intertwined, and their blades flexible to move with the winds but still remain in place, still growing, still alive.
So, I was reading yesterday an old response to Jerald and Sandra Tanner’s many anti-Mormon and anti-Joseph Smith books, and I started to see a trend. The more I read, the more I realized that the reason many good, faithful church members fall to anti-mormon propaganda is, in fact, our own fault, culturally. We cling so rigidly, dogmatically to details that we think are facts, when those “facts” are, in fact, not certain. Then, when those “facts” are challenged, our roots don’t go deep enough and so, aren’t strong enough to adapt and flow with those winds, and we fall. Maybe our roots aren’t intertwined enough with others, strengthening each other, and so, we fall.
For example: Detail Dogma might say that the Book of Abraham was the literal translation of the exact writing on the scrolls that Joseph Smith acquired. Some experts, cited by the Tanners, claim that the writings translate differently, and are not at all what Joseph wrote as the Book of Abraham. But do we REALLY know what happened? Do we REALLY know how it happened? Is it not possible that Joseph Smith saw the texts and had a visionary experience that brought about the revelation of the Book of Abraham? Is it possible that Joseph, with God’s eyes and inspiration, saw more in the drawings and text than others have? What is the difference between “translation” and “revelation”. There is so much that we don’t know. So, should we rigidly cling to the superficial dogma, or should we sink our roots deeper to the underlying belief that the Book of Abraham is sacred scripture, however it arrived?
Another example: For years and years, we were told that the native american tribes were descendants of the Lamanites. Some scientists did some studying and claimed that DNA testing disproved that theory, saying that the DNA of native americans was more asian. We took a look at our beliefs and we said, essentially, that maybe there were other groups here, too, and they mixed. Then, further DNA studies showed that it's not so cut and dried, scientifically, anyway.
We often want our histories and our stories to be clear, to be black and white, but life isn’t that way. It’s often messy and our heroes aren’t always so heroic. That doesn’t mean we stop believing in them, though. We just have to be flexible.
Mark has a lifelong testimony of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormon Church). Mark also has other sites and blogs, including MarkHansenMusic.com and his Dutch Oven blog.