Finding language to describe Mormonism at work

Those who follow @motleyvision on Twitter know that, in addition, to posting links and bon mots, I occasionally go on mini-rants that attempt to carve out a way of speaking about Mormonism, especially in relation to the larger culture and other socio-cultural paradigms. These are often gnomic and sometimes silly and often stretch language as I try to express ideas and experiences that I haven’t fully processed. They often come out in the form of tortured metaphor.

I wanted to record here a particular instance of this that took place on July 17 (original line breaks):

We must operate within neoliberalism/capitalism effectively, but also
let the metaphysics of Mormonism deposit a core inside of us.

Christ is the irritant; the pearl builds its titanium layers through
exercising acts of faith, charity, hope, patience.

We emanate when we magnify, but in so doing we also accrete to
our secret core. That thing which man, which the man-made, cannot
touch

Yes, we get tangled up in the multitudinous notions of gender,
materialism, authority, class (in short: power). That’s all part of the
risk.

So many stories; so many explanations; so many special pleadings;
so much back and forth. It’s easy to get distracted.

It’s also easy to want to create a gestalt out of it all. c.f. the
Republican Mormon, the Progressive Mormon, the Not-of-the World
Mormon.

Or to focus on what one can control: the Hobbyhorse Mormon; the
Local Mormon.

All those impulses are understandable, albeit doomed in the end.

And none of the layers we build are wholly pure and refined. Our
pearls are gray–not white. Our titanium plates unevenly.

The important thing is to build and preserve the core.

Or as I wrote in Gentle Persuasions III: “And yes, beneath the
swirling clouds of doctrine, doubts, duties, history, troubling things,…

…things put on a shelf, things amalgamated with the theories of the
world, the core gently hummed, quiet with power.”

/end maudlin philosophizing.

It’s gauche to quote yourself. But seeing this laid out in it’s entirety, I realize that found in that rant are many of the major concerns of my fiction and criticism as well as the types of metaphors that I tend to fall back on (layering and secret cores come up a lot). Metaphor is tortured. But when part of your worldview includes things that operate outside the observable world as well as beyond all the various discourses, sometimes you have to resort to it.

Samuel the Metaphor

The American religious experience has a long tradition of using scriptural metaphors and few were as adept at using these metaphors as Martin Luther King Jr. His speeches are awash in applications of scriptural language and events to the needs of his day. His people were chosen Israel being brought to the promised land. Stripped of the misconceptions that overwhelmed the hearing of my parents and grandparents and of Mormon culture in his time, to me, who has only heard his words in years following his death, King’s metaphors, message and his delivery of that message are communicated in an awesome grandeur that make it almost impossible to not be caught in his message, in his movement and in his justice.

Unfortunately, they may be a tad dramatic for General Conference, at least in our current Mormon culture.

Continue reading “Samuel the Metaphor”