Horror Stories, Fairy Tales and Scriptures
Another guest post from Starfoxy!
We’ve all heard the horror stories. The ones about Gospel Doctrine teachers telling us that the star Spica is really Kolob. The ones about the reluctant bride who was marrying the guy just because he had the Priesthood and said he had a revelation. The ones about the rude lady in Relief Society telling the young wife that sin was the reason she wasn’t getting pregnant. Some are laughable — Sunday School courses being taken over by serious arguments about Adam’s belly button or lack thereof. Some are annoying — the home teachers that address all conversation to the husband and won’t look the wife in the eye. Some are downright chilling — the bishop that demands lurid details about a young married couple’s sex life during private interviews with the woman.
We’ve also heard the Fairy Tales. The Sister missionaries kept safe from rapists and murderers by the Three Nephites they couldn’t see. The kid prevented from comitting suicide by a friendly gesture made on a whim. The old lady with a good attitude about sex. The home teacher who worked with the inactive family, teaching them on their own terms, and genuinely bringing the spirit into their home. The supportive ward that didn’t ostrasize the divorced sister, or brother. Countless tales of people being supportive, loving, ignoring the shortcomings, and helping others feel welcome.
In Sunday School recently we were discussing Jonah and the Whale. The teacher in researching his lesson, came across some online articles about the factuality of the Jonah story (I suspect they were bloggernacle posts). He was genuinely taken off-guard having never considered the idea that the Bible story might be pure fiction, and he was no longer sure how he should relate to the story. I offered the idea that the veracity of that or any bible story (save the atonement) is a moot point. The story of Jonah and the whale will always be a fiction for me. I will never be swallowed by a whale for disobeying God’s commands. I will never be a widow with just two cents that I willingly give to the bishop. I will never be told by a snake that it’s a great idea to eat that fruit over there. Because none of this will ever happen to me, whether or not it really happened to someone else shouldn’t change the lesson I take from it. What *does* matter is how I let the story alter my understanding of God, and how I let it alter the way I seek to stay close to God and follow the path He has in mind for me.
Some of the stories I referenced above are certainly urban legends far too fantastical to be true. Some of these are things I, or you may have experienced personally. Some are things we hope to (never) experience. Like the story of Jonah, I think each of these stories has value in how I let it shape my view of God, and how I let it shape my view of my role in His kingdom. I hear the horror stories and make internal promises to myself that I will never be that heartless judgemental woman in Relief Society. I promise to never let a bishop abuse me with his authority. I promise to call out, or at least do damage control on the Spica=Kolob guy. I hear the fairy tales and I promise to be nicer to that kid who dropped all his books. I promise to be flexible with my visiting teaching sisters. I promise to try and ignore the things I see as sins and shortcomings and love the person behind them. I promise to not feel threatened by, or superior to the employed mother sitting next to me.
Through their ability to illustrate our common beliefs, and their capacity to inform our behavior I’ve come to believe that these stories and legends are a form of scripture and have an important place in our discourse, we should not discount their value.