Guest Post: The Next 40 Years …
I have always been fascinated with Moses and the Children of Israel. I won’t say that Yul Brenner and Charlton Heston had nothing to do with my initial fascination, but my real obsession began in seminary.
I only attended seminary for a year due to my dad’s military assignments. That year we studied the Old Testament. On more than one occasion, I made that poor volunteer teacher cry, in her own living room, as she tried to teach the six kids who showed up. I did not understand oh so many things. I mean sin offerings for giving birth? My questions were hard and unremitting. And I was a 14-year-old snot.
But when the course was over, my real bewilderment became: how on earth the Children of Israel could see miracle after miracle and not believe. Parting the Red Sea, water from a rock, manna, the brass serpent. The list is long, it is spectacular, and after every single miracle they just keep asking to go back? Back to what? Back to slavery? How could you walk away from a God that loves you? Who fought for you? Who parted the Red Seas? How could you pick Pharaoh over Jehovah, every single time? The mind just boggles, or at least mine did.
Then as Israel wanders 40 years in the wilderness for that faithlessness, in a geographic area where they really should have stumbled into the Promised Land a year into the journey, well, that in itself is a miracle. The fact that they continued missing it is another spectacular miracle. But once I saw that, I began to see this journey was meant to teach both the old and the new generations to see God, to see the miracles, to accept the gifts. Without that vision the promised land would be useless to them. Or at the very least, the journey would serve the purpose of killing the old ones off so the new ones had a chance to see what God had in store for them.
I have thought a lot about that old generation that had to wander because they could not accept what Jehovah had to offer. My first thought was, how could they be that blind? (And honestly I might have used the word stupid.) Now that I am part of the “older generation,” – a group of saints who have lived in the current church structure our whole lives – my second and subsequent thoughts have been: how very like that generation coming out of Egypt we are as a church today.
Sometimes, in our joy of the restoration of all things, I wonder if we feel like we are smarter or somehow superior to those chosen ones of ancient Israel. That we have truth, doctrine, and covenants they did not; what in fact they rejected. We made it across the plains. We listen to our leaders. We observe the covenants. Our temples have foundations. Therefore, we can’t make the same mistakes. We will never be so blind, so thankless, so stupid.
But as I really begin to see, I realize we are as bound to our culture as they were. We look to our Egypt and slave master Pharaoh just as they did–for guidance, acceptance, and orientation. We refuse to give up the old ways because they are ours and have always been, as far as we know, and will always be, as far as we know. We reverence our traditions because they are familiar, just as a man in a white shirt and tie or a woman in a dress on Sunday gives us a sense of order. We see that as virtuous. We cling to it. But as a result, we refuse to see anything else offered. Just as Israel of old, we are offered spectacular miracles to set us free, priceless gifts from Jehovah that are ours simply for the looking, and we choose not to receive them because, well, no one else ever has. It can’t work that way. No one else does it that way. We have never tried that. We don’t understand it, so it can’t work.
It is no surprise that there are some difficult challenges facing the church today as we are forced out into the open by the cultural tides of world events. Members are angry. Members are lost. Members are confused. Members are overwhelmed and scared. Some would say the church’s very continuance would be a miracle. I would say it is entirely possible, looking at the spectacular miracles in our history, the church will continue. I would also say that it is entirely possible that what we, as a church, are doing right now is wandering in the wilderness, a divinely led journey, and a miracle in and of itself, as we are being prepared to accept what Jehovah has to offer: a more excellent way. It’s not like it has not happened before.
Astell is a Navy brat and enthusiastic traveler who somehow landed in Utah. She is married with two small girls and teaches online adjunct, spins, and knits. She really likes the idea of doing Yoga and finding balance spiritually and intellectually.