Sunday, February 26, 2012
Lindsey Stirling: Beautiful Mormon
The LDS Church doesn't churn out many great artists, but if it did, they would be the greatest artists in the world.
I argued in my last post that Mitt Romney represents the quintessential Mormon. No, it wasn't a compliment; it was an insult. What I meant is that Mitt Romney represents the end product of all the perversion and corruption that exists--or has ever existed--in the Church. I argued that the Church--the supposed bride of Christ--was engaged in an illicit love affair with Babylon. Mitt Romney is their love-child.
But I also wrote briefly about the ideal Mormonism. I didn't think I would be inspired to write another blog article so soon, but I feel compelled to write about what makes Mormonism beautiful--or what could be beautiful about it if we allowed it to grow in its own way, unabated.
Enter Lindsey Stirling. I don't know how popular she is (I guess I'm too old to know anything about that anymore), so I'll offer a brief introduction in case you haven't heard of her. Lindsey is a violinist and dancer. That is, she plays violin while she dances...to modern dance music. For reasons I will be wholly unable to explain, this woman inspires me...in a very mystical sense...in that God speaks to me through her. I'm worried that my wife will think I have a crush on her, but I don't have a crush on her. I'm merely in love with her beautiful Mormonism. She is truly--in a good way--the quintessential Mormon.
That's gonna take some 'splainin'.
I want us all to forget for a moment that Mormonism is a religion. First Vision...whatever. Golden Plates...doesn't matter. Lets strip that away and ask ourselves what Mormonism is really trying to tell us. Who was Joseph Smith? He was just a poor, uneducated farmboy. He was nobody. Who was Lehi? Just some merchant. Did anybody really notice when he left Jerusalem behind? Again...nobody. Yet God saw fit to communicate with these two men, to establish covenants with them. Mormonism teaches us that the worth of souls is great in the eyes of God. Joseph Smith was a modern-day Prometheus. He democratized religion. He said everyone was a Priest and prophet. God appeared to Joseph Smith, and if it could happen to him, it could happen to anybody. Not only that, but we are all the literal sons an daughters of God. If we will but fulfil the measure of our creation, we can have all the light, glory, truth, and knowledge that God has. Mormonism teaches us that we are royalty, heirs to the Kingdom of God. Mormonism teaches us that we are special, unique, wonderful, and loved.
Mormonism, as a philosophy, teaches us that people matter. King Benjamin along with Moses remind us that we are really nothing, but even this sense of nothing inspires us. It only serves to remind us that the possibilities are endless, and Almighty God has only one object in mind--to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of humankind. He did it for the City of Enoch, and he's gonna do it for us!
People are amazing. Their value is innate and their potential unlimited. Alone, they are nothing, but with God, they are everything. You are in God, and God is in you. That is the good news...the best news ever really.
Because the worth of souls is great and our potential limitless, the Church teaches us to be the best that we can be. To be the best we can be takes self-discipline. If we have self-discipline, we can make the most of our agency. The glory of God is intelligence. With our agency we can gain intelligence. There are many different kinds of intelligence. Lindsey Stirling is very intelligent, artistically speaking. She understands music, colors, movement--and that's just what I know from watching her Youtube videos. For some reason, I am convinced that Lindsey Stirling embodies everything that is good about Mormonism. And she does it with such grace. She is confident without being 'prideful'. She does what she loves, loves what she does, and she shares it with others...unabashedly, and without compromise. I really don't think she wants to be famous; I think she just wants to share. I think she wants to inspire and uplift and bring out the best in people. She is the purest expression of the gospel imaginable, and it transcends words.
Alas, Mormonism as we know it produces far too few Lindsey Stirlings. She may have all the zeal in the world for her religion, but I believe Lindsey is who she is despite her religion just as much as she is because of it.
In my last blog article I wrote, "My kind of Mormonism sets the perfect balance between individualism and collectivism. It's about helping every member of the community reach their full potential as individuals." I quoted a verse from the D&C. I didn't dwell much on it, but it is one of the most sublime verses in the Standard Works, so I'm going to quote it yet again:
"Behold, here is wisdom also in me for your good. And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God. This order I have appointed to be an everlasting order unto you, and unto your successors, inasmuch as you sin not. And the soul that sins against this covenant, and hardeneth his heart against it, shall be dealt with according to the laws of my church, and shall be delivered over to the buffetings of Satan until the day of redemption." -- D&C 82:16-21
Now, I suppose there is a right way and a wrong way to read this. The right way to read this, I suppose, is as God walking us through the mundane technical points of the now defunct United Order. But to me, it is everything...everything that Mormonism failed to be...and everything that God will accomplish in due time. First, we must be equal, because we must be equal if we are to be ONE. Second, we must be self-sufficient. To be self-sufficient we must be dynamic, multi-faceted. We must be put in charge of our own destinies. Third, we must not work so that we may eat, but eat so that we may work. And what kind of work? To do what you love, be the best that you can be, and share it with others. You see, Lindsey's got it right. Work in Zion is always for the improvement of the community AND the self. It is synonymous with serving God.
Unfortunately, Mormonism devolves into fascism when you don't share. Let us not forget--Mormons are just modern-day Nephites, and Nephites are highly vulnerable to "pride cycles". Mormons have a reputation for being rather insular, and given our extensive missionary program, I find that very curious. Nevertheless, we've earned the reputation. I've always been in awe of the Home Teaching program (everything has a "program" attached to it in Mormonism; its how corporations do religion). This isn't reverent, adoring awe...but an awe that borders on disgust. The program is a complete failure. I've never been in a ward where Home Teaching stats weren't in the toilet. People generally don't like to Home Teach, and families generally don't like to be Home Taught. I even heard of one Elders Quorum handing out chocolate bars to those who completed their Home Teaching. Well, even Christ used food as an incentive, but I still think that's missing the point. We waste time on our own--people who neither want nor need our help, but we ignore the larger community. We rarely get involved...unless it's to sell our religion or boost PR. We're an exclusive bunch, which is strange given that Christ epitomized inclusiveness.
I said at the beginning of this article that the Church doesn't churn out many great artists. What it does churn out is businessmen and lawyers. In fact, the Church is well-known, often praised, for producing great businessmen. You see, for all our focus on self-discipline, free agency, and the worth of souls, we make it all for naught with our our assembly-line approach to human excellence. You see, every Mormon has to look the same (especially the men), act the same, and think the same--with emphasis on the latter. I'm sorry, but I don't want to fit the mold. I want to grow into whatever my best self happens to be, fully and completely. I don't want to be some carbon-copy of Elder so-and-so. The Kingdom of God needs diversity. It needs Jews and gentiles, Nephites and Lamanites, Ephraimites and Manassites, and all manner of -ites. It needs a few non-white dress shirts in the congregation. Yet this goes against the Church's factory-style approach. Zion will be the most diverse nation that ever existed. Zion will house every religion, every lifestyle, and every -ism, and it will all be warmly embraced.
Conversely, Lindsey Stirling is the quintessential Mormon because she is different, innovative. "I want to prove that you don't have to conform to be accepted. The greatest Value comes from loving yourself for who you are." That sounds like as good a gospel as any. Hey, we believe in an open canon, right? Let's add it to the Standard Works. Some of you are scoffing, but she's right. Christ wants diversity. God has endowed us all with different gifts for a reason. In the Body of Christ we have the head, the arms, the hands, legs, feet. There are so many functions to perform...so many roles to fulfil...so many callings to magnify...that nobody gets left behind. Scoff all you want at her youthful naivete. She understands God's plan of salvation for us better than you do.
What's good about Mormonism (Lindsey Stirling) is better than what's bad (Mitt Romney). What saddens me about Mormonism is that it stopped being a movement and started being merely a rigid, self-congratulatory culture of spiritual mediocrity and stupidity. We resemble the Jews in Christ's day, not his faithful disciples. The Church has all but abandoned Zion, the Gathering, and reconciliation with the Native Americans--which it so desperately needs right now. It is my belief, and my hope, that as we remember not only the Restoration, but what the Restoration was for, that the spirit Ephraim will be awakened in us. Then, and only then, will we cease to be an organized religion, but rather people organized behind a common cause. Come to Zion. Come to Zion.