The Consumption of Corruptible Things
I’ve always been fascinated with the apocalyptic side of the Mormon Church. When I was younger I studied the book of Revelations intensely trying to make sense of it. I had such faith and hope in the time when the world would experience perfect peace. But I wallowed in fear over the destruction of the world that had to come first. Even at the age of fourteen, I would have dreams about the end of the world. Growing up in Utah, I had one non-Mormon friend for whose soul I feared greatly. In my dreams she was always consumed by the great fire that was coming to the earth. The collective consciousness in which I was immersed told me that if I was righteous I wouldn’t need to fear the fires myself because I was born into the right church. But that only made me feel guilty for my birthright. The great destruction of the world is an overwhelming concept for a young girl to have to contemplate.
The scriptures, Old Testament, New Testament, Doctrine and Covenants, are full of allusions to this great burning. The fierce God of the Old Testament permeates the images of an entire world being consumed by fire and everything being destroyed. Our sacred words create a fearful image of a God who will destroy the humans who have made Him so angry with their unrighteousness. It’s no wonder we deal with that fear by making an exception for those who are living righteously. I think it is human nature, when contemplating something so fearful, to make an exception, and then to count yourself among the righteous select.
A little while ago I was reading in D&C 101:24: “And every corruptible thing, both of man, or of the beasts of the field, or of the fowls of the heavens, or of the fish of the sea, that dwells upon all the face of the earth, shall be consumed.” Two key words caught my attention in this passage: “corruptible” and “consumed.”
This sounds very much like the wicked will be burned, but as I have thought more about the phrase “corruptible things,” I realized that corruptible is not synonymous with wicked. Everything on this earth is corruptible. Our bodies, our social structures, our homes, our families, even our religions. Corruption is the process in which something whole, healthy, and alive breaks down and degrades, sometimes to the point of death. Anything that is susceptible to death is corruptible.
Because we have an innate fear of death in us, we hold on to the corruptible things of this earth. We collect them as part of an ever-growing ego. We attach ourselves to possessions, religious dogmas, social traditions, and political ideals, and they become part of us, so much that the fear of losing them becomes fear of death itself. In the book “The Power of Now” by Ekhart Tolle, he talks about this fear of death that we have: “Death is a stripping away of all that is not you. The secret of life is to “die before you die”—and find that there is no death.” (pg. 46) This death before the physical death is death of the ego. It is the ability to let go of the corruptible things of this life, to let go of the ego which we have fed with our traditions and social conditioning. The death of our ego brings new life that is essentially incorruptible. It is the process of dying and being reborn, that we symbolically participate in when we are baptized. There is language in our religious texts to suggest that the earth itself will also go through this baptismal process of dying and being reborn. The death and destruction of the earth will bring with it renewal and an incorruptible peace.
I often hear people at church make comments that sound a little like this: “I can’t wait until we die and everyone knows that we were right.” I don’t see it working that way. I actually think that it will be completely reverse from that. When we die, we will come to our true selves. We will look at the corruptible things of this life that we held so tightly to, our religious dogmas and our beliefs about eternity, our patriarchal traditions, possessions, political ideals, all the things that are so important to us here, and they won’t matter to us anymore. But we don’t have to die a physical death to come to our true selves. I think that is the purpose of the gospel, to help us reach our true selves in this life.
I feel like my faith journey of the last five years has been that process of coming to my true self, of dying before I die. I clung so tightly to my beliefs which were a huge part of my ego. I didn’t want to let go of the corruptible philosophies of humans that had become part of me. I feared the death of my ego. But when I started to let go, it felt like coming home. As I died, I was reborn. I found a new understanding of the world and my place in it. I realized that none of the things I thought were so important even mattered. And out of the rubble of my shattered social constructs, sprung an incorruptible power in my life, the ability to love beyond the limits of my ego. Love, the power that I was taught as a young woman would light the world and bring a millennium of peace.
So maybe the burning of the earth that I feared so greatly as a young girl isn’t going to be a physical burning. Perhaps the consuming of corruptible things is already happening. Old ideas, traditions, patriarchal systems, hierarchies, and imperialist approaches to ruling the earth are breaking down. Egos are dying and people are becoming more conscious of their place in the world and their connection to everyone and everything around them. The internet has become a gathering place for people to share, to listen, and to better understand experiences that exist beyond our own egos. Whether it’s the philosophical dying before you die, or the religious death and rebirth, it has less to do with righteousness and more to do with your level of consciousness and how close you have come to your true self by stripping away the corruptible things of the earth. As we go through this process in our personal lives, we also cleanse the earth as a whole of its corruptible things.
And as our corruptible ideas and systems begin to die, we will find rebirth. We will no longer fuel our egos with political parties, patriotism that demonizes everyone else, and religious dogma that puffs us up in self-righteous. We will come to ourselves and realize our true potential as beings of light and love. We will feel our connection to the earth and our responsibility to care for it, to make it a place of life and vitality. We will realize that it is our job, not God’s, to clothe the earth in its paradisaical glory. We will make it a place of peace where people will live in equality and love one with another. It will be beautiful and wonderful, something I’ve dreamed of and had faith in since I was a fourteen-year-old girl. But for now, we experience the consumption of all corruptible things.