Wednesday, March 05, 2014

The Grass and The Willow

A Fable For Our Times

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 and his Dutch Oven blog.


  1. For some, once educated on the discrepancies, it is just too difficult to plow through and try to find reason... so they leave, now exposed to the "facts" that seem to disprove truth. Is this a case of immature Spirit or testimony? For some, a solid yes. An investigator who isn't fully on board, even someone baptized for years, but who has relied on others testimonies -inadvertently or otherwise, and then becomes challenged. I know several "born in the covenant" members who still haven't read and or studied the standard works. They are active, hold callings of responsibility, have their own families, and yet they rely fully on what they receive as a student in auxiliary classes, conferences, music, whatever; just not their own personal study.

    In *my* observance, I have seen that pride is the more loaded factor in leaving the church over any other factor as many educated have stayed even after researching the "deceits" and "truths". For some, especially those who are Spiritually mature, pride triggered by humbling or truly painful experiences develop into a path that rationalizes a road away from having to accept things that challenge one's personal challenges and or faith based beliefs.

    I remain truly *faith-full* and force myself to humility until I can fully accept the things that seem weird, off, or downright wrong. (case in point, Blacks and the PH, I lived through those doubts and they were eventually resolved) I have -if nothing else- a true knowledge that those who remain in the faith, still have trials and challenges, but those who remain active seem to manage life with a peace and ease that those who have left cannot. Staying active works for *me* and for those I have observed in my family. Leaving makes like challenges more difficult to handle. (examples of both ends of the spectrum to prove this theory) That is a truth I cannot disprove, so I stay until it all makes sense; and someday it will, as my Gramma said, "work itself out in the wash".

    My apologies for a long and rambling opinion.

  2. Hey, S'Mee -

    So glad to see you still reading, even after my years of sporadic posting! I love your insights, this one in particular. I think that humility (whatever that really is) truly is the key to a long-lasting testimony. Thanks for posting!

  3. Dude! Great analogy. I think it was spot on. As a side note, what little I know about the supposed scrolls the Tanners (whoever they are) are referring to about the book of Abraham is kind of funny. I saw only a few moments of a TV program talking about them and they said that they talked about the funeral of an Egyptian Priest named Sheol. I just had to laugh, as I changed the channel. "Sheol" is the Hebrew word for the spirit world, more commonly translated as hell. So, this was about a priest of hell. Didn't some evil priest try to sacrifice Abraham? Hmmmm ... :-)

  4. Hey, John!

    Interesting thought, too! If my name was Sheol, I'd probably go evil, too... :-)



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