Tuesday, May 5, 2009

An Eschatological Obsession Understood

For years now, I have felt a vague desire for the world to end. Although I do look forward to the Second Coming of Christ, this is not because I think that any day now the Green Mountain Boys will come and save the constitution. Nor do I think that any specific disaster, whether natural or economic, foretells the general apocalyptic state. I am not so naive as to believe that because I could be affected by difficulties that these must be the specific difficulties foretold in the scriptures. That all being said, I do count myself as a firm eschatologist, or one who is concerned with eschatology, which is a super fancy Greek way of saying the beliefs surrounding the end of the world, or rather the Second Coming, since the world will not actually end. Perhaps this is why the announcement last October of the temple in Clay County, Missouri, only sixteen miles from the center of the foretold Temple in Independence Missouri, or Zion, excited me so much - yet another sign to myself of the filling of foretold signs.

I have often wondered why I look forward to any Apocalypse with such interest. I don't actually want anyone I know to die, not even large groups of anyone in the world to die or suffer, whether from disease, or tsunamis or wars and rumors of wars. I don't enjoy hardship, or pain, and despite my sometimes wishes, am not, nor ever will be I presume, ready to walk "back" to Missouri with my faithful family. A sizable chunk of my Patriarchal Blessing talks about the last days and myself (I think it says that although the world will suffer, I will be blessed both temporally and spiritually, and become a millionaire with perfect children, and an awesome blog. Really.), to the point that when I got it I went home discouraged, because it seemed so dark. Because of this, I've always had the pet belief that the Second Coming could happen during my natural lifetime. Notice I said natural. And people have been known to live to over a hundred and twenty, so this could be a hundred years from hence. And I could still be wrong. After all, Paul was convinced that the last days were upon him then - and that was almost two thousand years ago.

Excepting my Patriarchal Blessing then, and my apparent subconscious wish for pain and hardship and lots of general deaths, instead of peace and prosperity and a book deal involving my memoirs (I've got millions of memories, and if Luisa May Alcott and Laura Ingalls Wilder can fictionalize their childhoods, why can't I?), why should I be so anxious for the end of the world?

I have thought long and hard on this subject, and just over the last couple of days, a glimmer of enlightenment has glowed softly in my mind. I'll expound all in a long story, but it will all be worth it, because it has a heading in bold type.

The Eternal Quest for Meaning and Valour and the Chance to Prove All

All my life I have read and loved fantasy books and stories. I love many stories, but one of my favorite (besides the kind of true life plucky girl stories, and also anything well written and character driven) kinds often involve normal people who rise or are plucked up into greatness. Who leave their homes, families, occupations, whining teenage selves, and become someone who stands up to evil, to crazy uncles, who take quests risking life and limb to save their loved ones, nations, worlds, or even all good anywhere. And sometimes they even get to learn cool magic and have romances along the way. The real draw to me in them is the aspect of larger than life, of pulling the eternal battle of good versus evil, right versus wrong.

The way for us to choose is made plain, as Moroni tells us, and the choices are black and white. I know this is true, but when every day the only choices I make are so minuscule as how to discipline Lydia when she rips a newspaper into twenty seven pieces (I counted, because every rip meant a minute in time out. Yes, Lydia spent twenty seven minutes in time out on a chair today, for willful disobedience, complete with smirks. I think it was the right method.),, or what portion of my house I should once again attempt to clean, that none of them seem black or white, or any color at all. None of my choices seem to make much impact one way or the other. Sure, if I never got dressed, and when Avram came home from work he found me sitting in the living room eating bon-bons with the kids squalling in dirty diapers, with a messy house and no dinner even thought of, let alone groceries in the house, then that could be considered a black and white choice in the aggregate. But when I sort of muddle along, and get dressed every morning, cook and clean up three meals a day, change three sets of bottoms (counting my babysat charge James), and continue with the rest of my day in the same happy, yet monotonous way, I feel that I'll never be someone who makes large over-arching decisions again.

I know that a lot of fantasy is written about the period of coming to age. That many of our life choices are made in a few choice years, and after that we live out the remainder of our life fulfilling these choices. We go to college. We pick careers. We marry. We have our young children. And then for the next twenty to forty years we simply live.

Thora Spends A Moment Tooting Her Own Prowess, But Don't Worry, She Was Only Amazing in Junior High

In junior high, at the age of thirteen, I felt destined for great things. I went to Brighton, a camp for Beehives in the mountains above Salt Lake City, and we went on a blind-folded, silence-only hike, led only by a rope attached to trees. At one point the slowly groping line of girls stopped, and I waited in my turn, waited for the line to start again. But nothing happened. Finally I felt my way over and around girl after girl until I came to head of the line, where the head girl had encountered a particularly large tree wrapped in rope, and in confusion of some sort had stopped. I felt my way around her, and continued on, and thus the whole line began moving again. At the time, I thought little more than interior impatience, but after the hike was over, my counselor took me aside and commended me for having foresight and independence of thought. Are these not the marks of a great future?

Then, also in Junior High, in seventh grade, I had a beloved History teacher, Mr. Gordon. He was the shining academic light of that year. He was young and vibrant, and had brand new darling twin children, and knew how to make History come alive for us all. In a neighborhood beset by poverty, immigration, second languages, and very hard working parents to make ends meet, Mr. Gordon could integrate everyone, at every level.

One day on entering the class, he had us pull out a piece of paper and a pen or pencil, and copy down every thing he said. As an innovator of difference, yet effective, teaching methods, we were used to following whatever various announcements he made, so we all quickly did as he told us. Mr. Gordan began with a couple of obvious platitudes; "Mr. Gordan is my teacher. My principal guides this school. The Teachers of Glendale want me to learn." This went on for a while, with every student carefully copying each pronouncement Mr. Gordan made. I thought this was some exercise in reminding us to have good behavior, as problematic behavior was ever an issue at Glendale, and perhaps there had been some flareups, and so he was helping us remember that our teachers only wanted us to get a good education, and were here to help us do so.

As he went on, the content of the sentences changed. "Mr. Gordan knows what's best for me. Mr. Gordan knows better than I do what I need." I looked around in concern, at the classroom carefully copying down these sentences that I no longer agreed with. "I will do anything that Mr. Gordan tells me to do."

At this, I put down my pencil, and refused to write anymore. I looked at one student, who was helping another student copy what he had said, word for word, repeating it to make sure. I listened to them, and I could not believe that they so calmly gave up all their agency to Mr. Gordan. I could not in good conscience say that I would do anything Mr. Gordan would have me do, and I would not continue the lesson, although I have never been a person of rebellion.

Mr. Gordan came to me when he saw that I had stopped, and I don't remember if I objected verbally to the whole classroom or just to himself, but his usual cheerful self was stern as he told me to go wait in the hall, and that I would soon go to the Principal's office for disobedience, and he quickly bundled me out into the hallway to wait. I had never in my life been to the principle's office. Once in second grade I was chewing gum in class, and another student told on me (although they were chewing gum when they told! The unfairness of it all), and I was issued a green slip as a warning. My mother kept the green slip in memento, and it was the only time of punishment from that year to this one. I waited in fear in the empty hallway, until Mr. Gordan came out after a while and calmed my fears. He told me that he had been showing the class how a whole country could be taken in by Hitler, how among even good, ordinary people, step by step, can come to say and believe other's persuasive leadership. We had been doing a unit on World War Two, but none of this had come to mind of any of us students that class period.

Mr. Gordan expressed that he was proud of me that I stood up for what I believed in, and did not blindly follow. And, of course, he had never intended to send me to the principle's office.

I still remember that day. Why? Because it was probably one of the last times I stood up publicly for what I believed in against oppression, and it was all a set-up in a Junior High School.

Which brings us back to fantasy. In fantasy, people are called upon to prove their mettle. I often feel that I should like to prove my mettle, and not by seeing how many diapers I can change before my brain leaks out my ears. Nor do I think that outside the home has too much charm in this area, either. Every day Avram goes to and from school, he attends classes, studies, and takes tests. Although the nature of his minutiae differs from my own, the essential smallness remains the same.

When have I ever been called to make long, probably deadly, treks through the snow to save my country? When have I been forced to hide others to save their lives? When did I get really cool magic (oh, wait, that's not part of this discussion...)

I believe that herein lies the appeal of Eschatology. In the normal routine of my life, between childcare, reading lots of books, blogging, church attendance and other daily religious rituals, I may never have large, stark, life changing moments when I must let my home be burned to show my testimony. But, at the end of the world, where diseases rampage, anti-Christs spread ruin and destruction, and seas boil. Then, then will I be somebody. Then will I be able to go the head of a blind folded line, and blaze the trail of faith forth. Then will I stand up to an unjust government, and speak out for the freedom of Moral Agency. Then I will probably die the first death, in ignominy, and laid under an unmarked grave of scorn. But at least I will not have died of piles of dirty laundry. I will not have read so many books and done so little action that I am ashamed of my blog's sidebar (I'm a quick reader....) Then I will not feel that, like Anne of Green Gables when she stays home to teach school in Avonlea instead of going to college that her path narrows down to a small one, lined with small flowers and grass, but will rather have walked the cliffs and ravines, sailed the ocean, and at last found my berth through valiant-ness, though my life I have lost. Plus then I will be able to get away with all of the over-worked metaphors I want to, I can feel it.

I know that life as a young homemaker with young children is a "times and seasons" thing. I repeat this to myself daily, I think. And I also know that making small, infinitesimal decisions day to day now will help shape myself and my children to be women of temperance, with bridled passions (it's that 27 minute time out I can account to this), and women of Charity. I know that being good, doing good, day in and day out for my whole natural span of life is in many ways more important than just being able to make a large good decision once. I know that in this life we shape our characters and persons to become God-like, and that I am being tempered through out my life for this, as slow as the process is.

But sometimes, I want to chuck it all, and find a good wagon and become a pioneer. Then you know you're making the right choices every day by keeping on moving west. Or I want a large, preferably impossible, task laid upon me by wise, mysterious and arcane beings, that involves going over mountains and under rivers and could even involve golden rings.

I'm sure that if tomorrow we found out that Avram has cancer, Elisheva is developing into a deaf/mute, I'm barren, and Lydia has to go out at the tender age of three to sell match-sticks to support us all, that I will take this whole post back, and beg for the easy days, where my largest concern is; 'to blog, or not to blog?' I don't actually think that underneath all this soft exterior I have the makings for a greater heroine than any that surround me. I'm sure everyone reading this post have moments of pride deep within, and that, unlike mine, involved something from real life that happened after puberty. But within my bonds of mediocrity of normal life, I know that somewhere, I could be a heroine. Even just to myself.

So bring on the last days. I'm building food storage, and keeping tabs on the eventual building of a temple in Jerusalem, when a spring will flow down from the temple mount and heal the Dead Sea. Because when the constitution hangs by a thread, watch out, you'll be hearing about me.


  1. A very good read. Please do fictionalize your childhood. You'll be a millionare so fast it'll make your head spin.

    Oh, and thanks for the parenthetical clarification of the third messy bottom. It helped rid my mind of the image of a Depend-clad Avram.

  2. wait.. back up... did you say you start every single moring by getting dressed?? really? oh i am so shamed! am i the only mom that at least half the time wears pajamas around the house until noon and some days until 4 pm when cory comes home so i can take a shower!

    I am the same as you though with the rest of your thoughts. I do feel like my life is rather boring ( well all this moving is something i suppose) but really my one taste of pioneer hood would be buring a baby and frankly its not all that great! but now that its a few years past me i feel like hey i did that and i survived and i could do it again if i had to because i am a stong woman. and then i pray that heavenly father doesnt decide to see how stong i really am and have me bear 10 children and have them all die before reaching adulthood.

    I eagerly anticipate the last days as well.. but really i think my main reason is i want the millenium to see Taylor again. So a bit different motivation! You just never know though.. it could be hundreds of years yet! I love to talk "end of the world" we should do it sometime.

    sorry this is so disheveled in thought, its after midnight here which is the only time i could actually read such a long post at my house! those dern chillins takin up all my computer time!

  3. I am reading an end of the world series which begins by addressing something I have never thought of. The series is a born-again Christian thing by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins and the first book is called Left Behind. This deals with what Christians of this genre call The Rapture or what we think about when the righteous are caught up to meet Christ in a twinkling of the eye. What I had never thought about is the reality of that happening and immediate consequences. One of the main characters is a pilot. On the plane he is flying, numerous people just disappear leaving all of their clothing and physical effects. Other pilots in other planes disappear, crashing their planes. On land, drivers of cars disappear causing huge pile ups. The world is in chaos. There are many theories about the disappearances. All children twelve and younger disappear. Even fetuses disappear right out of their mother's womb. Those who know and believe the bible are examining their souls about why their loved ones are gone but they are not. Anyway, it is interesting to think of that biblical prophecy in actual, daily-living, practical terms.