In the face of violence

God, and Enoch, and I all weep:

“And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; and Enoch bore record of it, saying: How is it that the heavens weep, and shed forth their tears as the rain upon the mountains?… How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? … and also thou art just; thou art merciful and kind forever; And thou hast taken Zion to thine own bosom, from all thy creations; and naught but peace, justice, and truth is the habitation of thy throne; and mercy shall go before thy face and have no end; how is it thou canst weep?


The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these they brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood…the whole heavens shall weep over them, even all the workmanship of mine hands; wherefore should not the heavens weep, seeing these shall suffer?


…And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook…And as Enoch saw this, he had bitterness of soul, and wept over his brethren, and said unto the heavens: I will refuse to be comforted; but the Lord said unto Enoch: Lift up your heart, and be glad; and look… and behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced.

This morning there was another shooting in America, but this time it was not at a movie theater or mall (which instances are tragic enough), it was at an elementary school. It is reported that a majority of the 26 victims were from a kindergarten class. My mind cannot even comprehend this violence, the grief and pain of it.

I am reminded not only of The Pearl of Great Price’s book of Moses, but also of the French philosopher, Derrida, and his words on trembling, and on tears.

As different as dread, fear, anxiety, terror, panic, or anguish remain from one another, they have already begun in the trembling, and what has provoked them continues, or threatens to continue to make us tremble…We are afraid of the fear, we anguish over the anguish, and we tremble. We tremble in the strange repetition that ties an irrefutable past (a shock has been felt, some trauma has already affected us) to a future that cannot be anticipated; anticipated but unpredictable…


Hence I tremble because I am still afraid of what already makes me afraid and which I can neither see nor foresee. I tremble before what exceeds my seeing and my knowing although it concerns the innermost parts of me, right down to my soul, down to the bone, as we say…


Why does the irrepressible take this form? Why does terror make us tremble, since one can also tremble with cold, and such analogous physiological manifestations translate experiences and sentiments that appear, at least, not to have anything in common? This symptomology is as enigmatic as that of tears. Even if one knows why one weeps, in what situation and what it signifies (I weep because I have lost one of my nearest and dearest, the child cries because he has been beaten or because she is not loved: she causes herself grief…), but that still doesn’t explain why the lachrymal glands come to secrete these drops of water which are brought to the eyes rather than elsewhere, the mouth or the ears.

I think tears flow from our eyes specifically, because it is also from our eyes that we see, including the sorrow and horror that sometimes happens in our otherwise beautiful world, the sorrow and horror that ofttimes happens for reasons that cannot be comprehended (just as our mouths speak out of the same place that signifies our hunger, our need). I will never understand why women wearing pants can cause statements of cruelty, or why a young male would choose to hurt children, to kill children. And so I cry instead. Without thinking.

I also reflect on what else Enoch’s eyes saw, and how he was able to go from ‘refusing to be comforted’ to rejoicing–the change when he saw Christ. It may be because that babe born in an uncomfortable setting, and who later had nowhere to put his head, is not only the most welcoming one, and the most hospitable to all, but He is also the one who overcame death, who made it so death has no sting. It does not mean that sad things are not sad, and that we should not mourn with those who mourn, because we very much should (especially if we desire to keep our baptism covenants in tact), but it does mean that there is still hope, and sometimes even joy.


Rachel is a PhD student in Philosophy of Religion and Theology at Claremont Graduate University. She co-edited _Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings_ with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright. She is also a lover of all things books and bikes.

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12 Responses

  1. Michael H. says:

    Perhaps, also, Enoch saw the changes that the atonement of Jesus Christ could bring about in humankind’s natures.

  2. EmilyCC says:

    In the wake of such a tragedy, these words are a balm. Thank you, Rachel.

    And, Michael H., I love your interpretation of that passage.

  3. Maxine H. says:

    Beautiful. Perfect. Rachel.

  4. April says:

    I want to comment on this beautiful post, but I have no idea what to say. This is so hard.

  5. namakemono says:

    27 children were also stabbed in China today, although none have died

  6. Caroline says:

    Beautiful, Rachel. Thank you.

  7. Suzette Smith says:

    Thank you for posting this. The latest shooting has weighed on my soul and I feel heavy indeed. Sometimes this weary old world is just too much to bare. We are all weighed down with trouble – and then a tragedy like this seems to overflow the cup.

    Where can we turn for peace? Where is our solace?

    As LDS women, we turn to Christ whose burden is light. We choose to believe that nothing is too big for the Atonement of our Savior.

    It is Christmas and this is where I find my joy.

  8. angie says:

    Such beautiful, balm-filled words at a time when so many are weeping over what they are seeing. Thank you!

  1. April 15, 2013

    […] what is ragged.’ I believe God would too, because the scriptures tell me about times when God can’t say anything, but can only cry. One of these times is witnessed by Enoch. But another (as pointed out in one of the very best […]

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