Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Proactive Approach to Lent

Last year during Ash Wednesday, I attended the Garden Grove Community of Christ congregation and walked the labyrinth with a question in mind: what shall I fast? This was my first time participating in the Catholic tradition of Lent. I grew up in the Community of Christ and never heard much talk about fasting during Lent. It seems to be a new thing that is being promoted in church, or maybe its a regional thing.

By the end of my walk in and out of the labyrinth, I received my answer. I would fast the drinking of soda for 40 days. It proved harder than I thought (but that's what a fast is meant to be: difficult). I actually got intense headaches because of the lack of caffeine. By the 40th calendar day, I broke my fast, which some might think of as "cheating." As I learned, for the tradition of Lent, Sundays are not counted for some reason. The fast is meant to be broken on Easter Sunday. Oh well.

This year, a church member of Facebook challenged church members to read the Book of Mormon. I haven't read it since 1998 for my Book of Mormon class at BYU (all students are required to take two semesters of it, and one semester of New Testament, and several semesters of elective religious courses). I've been feeling an urge to read it again. When I went to BYU in 1997 for my college years, I believed the Book of Mormon was true, but after learning things in those Book of Mormon classes as well as in the LDS History class, I came away from BYU with a view that Joseph Smith, Jr. likely plagiarized most of the Book of Mormon, from the King James Version of the Bible and other sources. There are too many questions surrounding its authenticity and the writing style, particularly the Book of Mosiah, which in parts is word-for-word plagiarism of the Book of Isaiah in the Old Testament. So, I'm excited to take up that challenge to read the Book of Mormon for this period of Lent. Not sure I'll finish reading it in 40 days, but hopefully in 4 months! I'm continuing my other various reading, so this will be my bedtime reading.

Below is a photo of a mock-up of what the Golden Plates or the Brass Plates (Joseph Smith claimed that the records he unearthed in a hillside in upper New York, near Palmyra were made of both gold and brass) look like. The actual artifact has never been found and I believe that the LDS view is that the Angel Moroni took them away from Joseph after the translation was completed. When you read Joseph's account of unearthing the plates and carrying it from the hill back to his family cabin in the middle of the night so as not to be seen by anyone is a tad suspicious. For one thing, it would be a heavy, cumbersome thing to carry. Another aspect that casts doubt on Joseph's story is that he had a reputation as a "treasure seeker" and told fantastical stories that entertained his family.

There are more interesting bits of information regarding this sacred text of Mormonism. But, I won't be writing about them on my blog because that's not really interesting to me. I am simply making a commitment to read the Book of Mormon again to see if I have new insight to gain from the reading of it. During my BYU experience, questions naturally cropped up during my reading of it (for class) and I would always have my questions answered, sometimes in unusual ways (once, I had a question about how early African Americans were treated in the LDS Church and one day, I happened to be in the huge library on campus and on the shelf in front of me in a room the book wasn't supposed to be in sat a book about African Americans in the early LDS Church! I didn't have to search a card catalog for a book title and then take the info to the right room and the right shelves, it was there waiting for me to notice it and check it out!).

So, here's to a great Lent. No fasting, but that's okay. I might alternate every other year. Fast in odd numbered years, do something proactive in even number years. Its a good way to motivate me to read religious texts, which I generally find too boring to read. One of my goals is to rewrite the entire Bible to my writing standards and spiritual beliefs, just for my own personal use. Not that anyone should think it blasphemous. My favourite President Thomas Jefferson has his own Bible, so why couldn't I?

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