Most of us would agree that using current events to predict the future is a good way to be wrong. Yet as we are one year short of the quincentennial anniversary of the Reformation, the seismic shifts in our culture – particularly the rapidity of information dissemination and the resulting ability to tear down venerable authorities – should compel us to examine how we might be able to engage people in Western culture.
I was startled one March morning to notice a massive buttery spread of thousands of flowers along the tree-studded ridges where I had walked daily. How had I missed hints of this development? Had it occurred last spring as well? Even the carpet of green blotchy foliage which precedes the blooms and was so obvious the following years, had gone unnoticed. Further investigation revealed that this was an endangered woodland plant: yellow trout lilies (erythronium americanum), that grew in colonies and could take up to eight years to reach maturity and bloom.
Knowing the correct password—saying ‘Master, Master,’ for instance—isn’t going to get you anywhere with me. What is required is serious obedience—doing what my Father wills. I can see it now—at the Final Judgment thousands strutting up to me and saying, ‘Master, we preached the Message, we bashed the demons, our God-sponsored projects had everyone talking.’ And do you know what I am going to say? ‘You missed the boat. All you did was use me to make yourselves important. You don’t impress me one bit. You’re out of here.’ —Matthew 7:21-23 The Message
After reading Harper Lee’s recently-published novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” I wonder if many of us are feeling as Scout did when she stumbled upon piercing flaws of her much admired father, Atticus. At the 2015 General Conference Session, the capacity for instant communications and quick analysis displayed the limitations of administration within our massive church organization, perhaps for the first time. Many people have felt troubled, as they try to reconcile a long-standing love and respect for the church with displeasing procedural machinations.
The notion of fervent discipleship has become, for some, a constant effort to tweet and post about heresy within the church and then make sure that the widest audience possible is aware of the perceived danger. I know Elder Ted Wilson had the best of intentions in 2010 when he told the audience at the General Conference Session, “Hold them accountable.” I am also sure that he did not envision the path this would take. The admonition to “hold them accountable” is causing our denomination to spiral into endless public shaming of perceived variant targets.
I live on five wooded acres, which would be a vast kingdom for my dog—if my dog came when called. But she does not, so Sandy’s activities are limited to a small fenced play area with sporadic supplemental walks on a leash. When touring the renovated Birmingham zoo, my family was pleased to see the elephant space had been expanded to include several acres of tree-speckled terrain. When the zookeeper showed us the sturdy structure at one end, which could house the elephants during periods of severe weather threat.