Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Commanding God

I spent many a long morning and afternoon hiking up stairwells in the city of Falun, Sweden, for the better part of my three month assignment there.  My trainer was a no nonsense Elder who believed the only method to missionary work was "tracting", going out and knocking randomly on doors and making our pitch, that we knew something about Jesus Christ that the average citizen of Falun, Sweden did not.  Surprisingly to us, the vast majority of the citizens of Falun did not take our claim very seriously.  So for the most part, the only thing we got out of hiking up these huge stairwells for hours on end was the exercise. 
    But one afternoon, a grizzled middle aged man let us in.  He had a white, wild beard that had not been shaved for years, perhaps.  His pants were ripped on the left knee, because his beneath his knee was grossly swollen, perhaps with elephantitus or some other horrible disease, but he still managed to limp on it.  He led us into his kitchen area, and on his table were dozens of packages of cookies, filling the whole table, all of them opened and partially consumed.  He seemed to be quite intelligent, very interested in Mormonism, and even accepting of Joseph Smith as a visionary.  He explained that he was a member of some sort of Universalist Church that I had never heard of...and that one of the tenants of his belief was that it was possible to attain, through the most righteous of living of course, the ability to command God.  He mentioned that he believed that he himself had manifested this ability.
       It made me wonder, of course, how is it a man who could command an omnipotent God was content with the savage ailment of his foot.  I wanted so badly to explore this idea more--for instance, just what had he gotten God to do in his spare time.  But my companion was disgusted, and quickly made our farewells.

Here was a man who believed he could control God. Maybe he believed the cookies were being transformed into vegetables, at his own command, as they entered his stomach.    How his leg ailment wasn't instantly curable would be a most fascinating question, but I'm sure he had some explanation that still allowed his system of belief to flourish. 

Our beliefs systems will perpetuate, regardless of the presence of our own metaphorical swollen feet.  For Mormons, we may very well see that Lamanites aren't lining up their DNA as one would expect, or that Zarahemla and cities of millions of inhabitants complete with metal, Egyptian writing on tablets and loads and loads of human refuse are nowhere to be found, but we find our ways to explain it away.  The heart overrides the mind every time, and we end up eating the cookies and drinking the kool-aid till either Jesus really does show up or we die happily in our sugar addiction, feeling vindicated nonetheless.