Sunday, November 3, 2013

Meekness in analyzing sacred texts

Recently I noticed Moroni’s worries to the Lord about the efficacy of his writing, and I found the Lord’s response interesting.  Moroni writes:

25 Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
26 And when I had said this, the Lord spake unto me, saying: Fools mock, but they shall mourn; and my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness; (Ether 12:25-26)

Moroni was pondering the problem that just about every writer of the sacred has discovered at some point—that words are simply inadequate to capture the power and glories of spiritual experience.   He also had more problems with writing on plates – very little opportunity for editing what was already engraved, except with an added “or rather” or “I would speak in other words.”  (If he was a perfectionist at all, this writing the sacred on gold plates would have been very hard.)  Moroni was very concerned the final product would cut a poor figure in the world, and only be made fun of by Gentile readers.

When the Lord answers, “Fools mock, but they shall mourn,” we see an implicit acknowledgement that some Gentiles would mock what Moroni and his father had written.  But it also contains a reassurance that reader mockery reflects badly on the reader, not the writer.  Fools mock the sacred because they are too foolish to value the sacred as they ought.  If they mock the admonition to repent and come to Christ, then they will remain in their sins, and in the end their judgment will come upon them.  They will mourn for their sins that might have been swept away if they had been more wise to listen and obey.

The Lord also adds, “my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness,” which is an acknowledgement that at a certain level, the Lord saw that Moroni’s writing did have a certain weakness to it.  (Part of me suspects that Moroni was actually an excellent writer and that the Lord knew that writing style standards don’t translate well, so even Moroni’s skill would sound odd to us.)  Yet, meek people read the book, and the power of God they feel from it makes up for the weakness, just as the Lord promised. 

The Lord’s answer shows us that how sacred texts are received is more a measure of the reader than the writer.


Downtown Dave said...

To make sure something I am reading or hearing is sacred, I compare it to what I know is sacred...the Bible.

Michaela Stephens said...

That's helpful--to compare texts. Do you only use the Bible?