Guest Post: Embracing a Broken History

by  Kajsa Berlin-Kaufusi

As we look at our recent history (and by recent I mean within the last 25 years or so), we see the words of President Nelson well illustrated when he said, “We are witnesses to a process of restoration—if you think the Church has been fully restored, you are just seeing the beginning. There is much more to come.” The reality that the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is indeed a process rather than event that originated and concluded with Joseph Smith is something we would all do well to keep in mind. Careful study of church history reflects the often difficult reality that things are rarely revealed in their entirety, but rather, line upon line, as both the leadership and members of the church petition God for further light and truth.

When policies are reversed, relaxed, or expanded to reflect inclusivity and continuing revelation, church members sometimes feel frustrated, confused, unstable, etc. When we find ourselves in these scenarios, the words of Kenton Sparks in regards to scripture seem particularly helpful and can also be applied to religious traditions, sacred texts, and clergy—“Scripture’s natural meaning sometimes runs contrary to the Gospel and, where it does, begs for a hermeneutical explanation…I attribute these theological tensions to the fact that the Bible is both sacred and broken, human voices of Scripture as his divine word.” Sparks goes on the clarify that by saying scripture is “broken,” he is not claiming that it cannot serve its purpose, but rather, “scripture, like everything created by God but touched by the Fall, is at the same time beautiful and in need of repair.”

While many within the LDS faith may find the idea of the “restored church” being “broken” a difficult concept to reconcile, I suggest that this paradigm is both correct and functional. If we take scripture at its word and believe that we as fallible individuals make up the body of Christ, how can it be anything but broken? Our theology is full of history and analogy of God using imperfect things to bring about his purposes. The very nature of scripture is in itself a story of redemption, both literal and figurative. As we accept the reality that aspects of our church structure are perhaps broken, we engage the virtue of humility which acts as a catalyst for change and betterment—indeed, perhaps this is how we best approach Zion.

I have heard it said that we would do well to“leave the beehive and return to the grove”—the truths that came out of Joseph’s sacred grove experience are rooted in sincere and heartfelt pleading and asking of questions, followed by intimate interaction and revelation from God on high. In understanding that the restoration is ongoing, as President Nelson well said, as well as embracing that our church history is broken and in need of redemption, we prepare ourselves as individuals and as a church to do exactly that—return to the grove to seek further truth and knowledge on pressing matters that affect the contemporary church.

Kajsa Berlin-Kaufusi  is an educator and academic whose research includes Biblical studies, mystic philosophy and traditions, orthodoxy vs. lived experience (particularly women’s’ lived experience), liberation theology, post colonial studies, and global religious history. Previously, she worked as faculty in Ancient Scripture for Brigham Young University for a period of five years. She holds an MA in Biblical Studies and is currently working on a PhD in Humanities with a focus on religious philosophy. She and her husband have 3 lively children and one very stinky dog. Her blog can be found here. 

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3 Responses

  1. James Berlin says:

    Wonderful article!

    It reminds me of Elder Renlund’s comment from his and Sister Renlund’s talk, “Doubt Not, but Be Believing.” Using an old boat with an old fisherman to represent the Church and its leaders, he said:

    “What we consider dents and peeling paint on the well-used boat may turn out to be divinely sanctioned and divinely directed from an eternal perspective. The Lord has either had a hand in the dents and the peeling paint or He uses them for His own purposes. I know of myself that the Lord, Jesus Christ, directs His work on the earth today. His servants today know Him well.”

    Anyone who has carefully read the record of the Lord’s ancient Church—the scriptures, certainly knows that is it a record of broken people and things. Would, or could, we expect anything less in the modern Church?

    As Elder Maxwell said, “We are each other’s clinical material, and we make a mistake when we disregard that sober fact.”

    Thankfully, His grace is sufficient!

    Thank you Kajsa for reminding us of this. May we all participate with you, and the Lord, in this restoration, and redemption.

    • Elisa says:

      Things I am quite convinced God has had *no* hand in: exclusion of blacks from the priesthood and temple ordinances. Marginalization of women. Extreme homophobia and exclusive policies and teachings. 100B stockpile of tithing when our neighbors go hungry.

      These things harmed and continue to harm real people every day.

      I can get behind a continuing restoration and mistakes. But current leaders seem unable to admit to such things other than occasional nods to “sure some (unidentified) mistakes have been made by (unidentified) leaders, but it’s all fine! Stay in the dented boat!” But this reads more like an excuse to just ignore all that and hope a God fixes things someday without looking at what dents we can and should fix now.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    Sparks’ quote and your words are just beautiful. I particularly love what you wrote here, “Our theology is full of history and analogy of God using imperfect things to bring about his purposes.” Thank you for sharing this here.

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