Friday, November 20, 2009

Mormons in Space

Growing up my Mom used to tell me, "Be proud of being different. It’s what makes you interesting and stand out from the crowd."

There was a time, not too long ago, when LDS leaders would regularly go out on a limb and talk about very far-reaching and speculative doctrine concerning life on other planets with gusto and conviction. The speculation didn’t always pan out, but at least it was interesting and kept young minds engaged on the possibilities. Often these days, I yearn for the return of truly unique doctrine delivered without care of how it will be viewed by non-LDS churches.

I was reminded of our bold past when I came across this article from the New Era printed in 1971:

People on Other Worlds, New Era, April 1971

This is what I’m talking about! Bring back these types of articles. Sure, most people might think we’re nuts, but many do anyway, so at least we can have some interesting and unique speculative doctrine that involves space travel and extraterrestrials. We may even use this as our primary missionary message in some parts (New Mexico comes to mind).

In a Q&A topic on the New Era from 1985, the question was asked, “Is Jesus Christ the Savior of all the worlds God created or just ours?” (You have to scroll down past the Q&A on "Petting" – and no, it's not instructional info on cat-care).

The article points out that Jesus not only died for the sins of our world, but countless worlds. I remember vividly this topic being taught to me by my parents and being discussed among the Elders in my mission. This doctrine had created awe in my young mind as I tried to understand how people on other planets could possibly believe in an alien dying for their sins on some other unknown planet. I had a hard enough time understanding what happened on my own planet. Talk about faith in extraterrestrials! How could our Earth, in all the eternities and infinite space, be the planet chosen by God for Jesus to die on? How lucky I believed we were!

So, what say ye? Do you also wish we delved into the mysteries more, at the expense of appearing odder to our neighbors? Are we better off assimilating into the common Christian masses more and more? By becoming more conforming in our doctrinal emphasis to mainstream Christianity, should our Church expect more converts?

Has Mom’s sagely advice run its course?

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Surely God Understands Modern English

Would it be too much to ask that, as a Church, we move to addressing God in common English that everyone can be comfortable with, instead of trying to sound like Englishmen of the 17th century? I've never really understood the affinity our Church has to this archaic dialect of English that everyone else happily jettisoned a couple of centuries ago along with blood-letting and witch burning (ok, someone forgot to send that memo to Salem).

Growing up, there were many times when I was in non-LDS homes where prayers would be offered before meals. Without exception, all of these prayers sounded very similar to how normal people spoke every day. They never used the fancy-pancy King James English that we, as Mormons, use in our prayers that no one else understands. Hopefully God understands this and doesn't just keep wondering if he's hearing stray prayers from the past echoing throughout the eternities.

To be honest, I've never been really comfortable speaking in King James English, even as a life-long member. It's old, awkward, and follows grammatical rules that people aren't familiar with. The more you understand the proper use of King James English, the more you notice just how few people actually get it right. It's even more strange that the only part of King James English that we use are the personal pronouns (Thee, Thou, etc).

In serving a mission on a Spanish-speaking country I quickly realized something very interesting about their prayers. In Spanish (and other languages?) members of the LDS Church pray to God in the most common, familial form, as if God was their best friend, just like my childhood neighbor Protestants in the USA. And, strangely, it's believed by members that God listens and understands these friendly, 'common language' prayers.

From the Wikipedia listing for 'Thou' we find the following information:
In a deliberately archaic style, the possessive forms are used as the genitive before words beginning with a vowel sound (for example, thine eyes) similar to how an is used instead of a in an eye. This practice is followed irregularly in the King James Bible but is more regular in earlier literature, such as the Middle English texts of Geoffrey Chaucer. Otherwise, "my" and "thy" is attributive (my/thy goods) and "mine" and "thine" are predicative (they are mine/thine). Shakespeare pokes fun at this custom with an archaic plural for eyes when the character Bottom says "mine eyen" in A Midsummer Night's Dream.

Did you get that? Right.

I feel comfortable making the general statement that when a dialect is old and archaic enough to be made fun of by Shakespeare, it's time to move on. While unkind to point out, the only people that would miss this, will themselves be missed very shortly, and the rest will just heave a big sigh of relief. If we want a personal, accessible God, let's address Him accordingly, as most of our non-US Brothers and Sisters have the pleasure of doing.

I'm going to kick this suggestion up to The Brethren. Keepest your fingers crossed.