Warren, Cabeza and I, for some unknown reason, are moving back into Y-Front, the two-story house we shared in college with five other roommates. We walk into the old place, and the sense of nostalgia is overwhelming. I excitedly turn to the white board that served to keep our messages to each other, divided 8 ways to give each of us our own little section. I'm really looking forward to staking my claim back on the lower right hand corner, and begin reaching for cleaning supplies to wipe off the old content and reestablish myself as an official denizen. I find a sheet of paper folded in half, taped to the board with my name written on it, and I set it aside as I begin scrubbing the board. However, I soon find that I've scrubbed so hard that the white layer of board has worn down to the brown backing!
Frustrated at having ruined a priceless artifact that has brought so much personality to Y-Front's front room, I decide to open the paper that had been addressed to me. Removing the tape, I find that it is a letter, addressed by Bishop Walker (the leader of the local church congregation), extending a calling to me. Apparently the news that we were moving back into the ward had spread, and he was ready with a responsibility for me right away. Impressed by his proactiveness in getting callings filled, I searched the rest of the letter to find in what capactiy I was being asked to serve: "The Deep Sorrows, Wailing & Moaning, Remorse, Confession of Sins and Lying Prostrate on the Earth Committee" (I actually don't remember the exact wording/order of the name for the committee, but it included at least some of these words and was very long).
The committee was essentially in charge of what the long name describes: ensuring that the ward members were reminded of their constant miserable state as mortals and were driven to repentance and salvation through fear and exploitation of the spiritual distance in their relationships with God. Jared and I had apparently heard that the ward had made a committee like this, and although we didn't want anything to do with it, we felt it wasn't a big enough deterrent to keep us from moving back in.
But now I was being asked to officially be a part of it, and I'm not sure at first how exactly I am going to respond. I've never turned down a calling before, and it feels awkward contemplating the act of looking my bishop in the eyes and telling him to find someone else. However, I can't support a movement to drive fear and guilt into the hearts of my friends and tear them down!
I glance again at the letter and notice that the bishop has included a schedule of regular extracurricular Sunday meetings the committee hosts. Each of them lasts about an hour, and each revolves around a different set of scriptures that serve to frighten sinners. Some sessions are labeled as being more intense than others, and there are also sessions in multiple languages, including Spanish, Italian, German and Japanese.
As I read through the descriptions of these meetings, flashing visions are shown to me of what they are like. I have an aerial view of people surrounding an outside platform/stage, an individual addressing them all with a microphone, pointing a finger at the crowd and vigorously calling everyone to sink into the depths of despair in order to better know God. Some individuals do as the committee's name suggests and begin to literally lie prostrate on the ground, many individuals are moaning and screaming. Some people are making their way up to the stage so they can borrow the microphone and proclaim their sins to everyone present. A lot of crying, and a really depressing bunch of kids.
When I snap out of it, still staring at the letter, I become determined to confront Bishop Walker and tell him that I won't do it, and I explain to Cabeza the dilemma while Warren sits on the front porch reading a book, his feet kicked up on the old, dusty couch we keep out there.
Shortly after this I wake up, though there are other vague details I can't clearly recall, one of which involved going to church with Cabeza, where we stood on a tower made of logs and looked down at the sacrament meeting taking place on the same stage that my visions had taken me to.
- Right before going to bed last night I finished reading the first chapter of Rough Stone Rolling, a biography of Joseph Smith. This chapter detailed the background of his parents and grandparents, and discussed the dramatic religious reawakening that was sweeping the States at the time. A part that really stood out to me discussed the Calvinist influence, specifically when one preacher attempted to take advantage of Lucy Mack Smith during a serious illness she had, when she was very susceptible to recognizing the "great chasm" between herself and the Lord. The preacher wanted to exploit that in order to preach salvation to her (which is somewhat ironic as Lucy Mack was already very proactive in seeking the best way to come unto God). The Calvinist expressions detailed in this chapter surely affected my dream.
- Y-Front was the house I lived in for the longest stretch of my college career. Warren and Cabeza are both old roommates who I see regularly because they live with or near me in the DC area now.
- Bishop Walker was my ward's high counselor when I was still there, and we worked pretty closely together do to another calling I had at the time. Shortly after I left the ward he was asked to be the bishop.
- I think I might have some subconscious feelings that the ward was going to pot around the time I left. I don't really think less of the people who are there now, but I probably would feel like it wasn't as cool as it used to be if I ever tried to move back.
- While there certainly haven't been any committees like this one in any ward I've ever been in, I certainly have seen my fair share of committees that I didn't support whole-heartedly. For example, one ward I was in at BYU decided to have a committee devoted to setting people up on dates and get married. I wasn't a fan.
While it's important to recognize one's weaknesses and become humble before God, endorsing public displays of spiritual fear and misery are totally against the Gospel that I know. And Bishop Walker may be an apostate. Read More......