7—Reflections on some anniversaries
1—Passover has always been my favourite biblical holiday. It means Freedom. Even during a full Covid-19 lockdown! Is this a new plague? This too will pass us over.
Working from home has been more intense than I anticipated. Yet I’m worried I’m enjoying this lockdown more than I should. Two co-workers were in full melt down last week: one cried during our video-conference and another cut off her hair. For them it’s “a nightmare” to be so isolated. For me it’s a fantastic and those who make fun of being for being “anti-social” are now jealous of me.
I’m one of these people who need their own space. I never get bored: I have a nice apartment I keep clean, Netflix, lots of books and this blog. And I don’t get lonely: I’ve had a few ‘digital drinks’ on Zoom with friends—to the point that I almost have more of a social life now that we’re on lockdown! My colleagues ought to remember we are the lucky ones. The ‘nightmare’ is for people who have lost their job, some front-line workers who put themselves at risk and all those who have lost a loved one.
Our Prime Minister’s landslide victory and great plans after getting Brexit done seem like a dream now that he’s in Intensive Care and the market has crashed. Going outside has become eerie and sad. Customers must queue to the supermarkets. Past the guards, marks on the floor keep us at a 6-feet distance from one another. Last time I bought Matzos, lamb and celery for Passover.
I hate the cold and I hate winter. Passover makes me welcome light and new life. It’s also a celebration of Freedom—the most precious gift (after life). To me, Passover is when Judaism meets the Christian faith: the last supper that inspired the Communion was a Passover ‘seder’ and then the Lamb of God gave his life so we could be saved.
When I got excommunicated from the LDS Church and moved to the U.K. I went back to what I knew before becoming a member. I worshipped alone. I focussed on the Old Testament for my daily reading. I also bought this thorough Biblical Commentary to study on Sundays. I couldn’t be a member of the Church—I didn’t want to anyway—but I couldn’t let go of what I believed either. That big Biblical Commentary was a good substitute. It shed light on each verse I read and gave me new hindsight.
His silence and His manifestations are incredibly inspiring and moving. So is Passover.
That book impressed on me that the hebraic religion was the bloodline of Mormonism. It was remote enough to be distinct from all the pain and frustration I now associated with the LDS Church, but close enough to find solace in it. I was in a spiritual wilderness, heading back to the roots of revealed religion—my own Exodus.
It was in 2006 that I adapted the Passover command found in Exodus. I cleaned the flat for two days—a cathartic and therapeutic spiritual spring cleaning—and I smeared (a little) blood on the door lintels. At sundown I lit candles. After my guests arrived I washed my hands, broke the Matzo/unleavened bread, partook of it and we raised a glass of wine. It was like the Sacrament (Communion) to me. Then I hid the other piece of Matzo under a white napkin—like the Saviour’s broken body in the grave.
We had the lamb leg—oven-roasted as it’s hard to have an open fire in a flat—with a salad with dill and other ‘bitter’ herbs, like in the book of Exodus. I asked, “Why is this night any different from every other night?” And someone gave the answer: “Because we were slaves and tonight we are free.” The well-known plagues were told over our simple meal, in which everything was symbolic.
Could this Coronavirus be a new plague? A politician in Northern Ireland said it was a sign of God’s displeasure for legalising abortion and gay marriage in the province. Mormons tend to have a more global view: the drought in Australia, the swarms of locusts in Africa, and the pandemic, remind them of 2 Chronicles 7:13-14: “If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.”
Whether this pandemic is a plague or not, we can make it an invitation to turn to the Lord. I saw a picture of the ransacked Bible shelf in an American Walmart. Some good news for a change—no pun intended. This lockdown can be a positive experience for all: some like the fact that “clinics are no longer doing abortions or gender reassignment and no school is pushing the LGBT agenda in all lessons,” and others can use this break, slow down and take the time for the things that really matter to them. Brigham Young said, “Cast from you the love of the world, and let it have no dominion over you.” ³ Easier while on lockdown!
I personally make the most of it! I watched a mini-series called Unorthodox. I love Yiddish and the storyline would be quite similar if it was about a plural wife escaping one of those strict compounds. I’ve started to read Jerusalem: The Biography ² and discovered a TV series in Hebrew, set in Jerusalem, to go with it. I’ve also started reading the Scriptures from Genesis again (which felt special after completing the Pearl of Great Price). As I’m progressing through the Old Testament, I never fail to be captivated by the so many examples of God’s love or displeasure. His silence and His manifestations are incredibly inspiring and moving. So is Passover.
In 2006 I commemorated the liberation of the Israelites and their quest for the Promised Land (with its ups and downs). I was also commemorating my own erring after being kicked out of the Church but still chasing God’s presence. Passover was about the end of my Church membership. It was about new spiritual beginnings too. I was beginning to explore Mormon Fundamentalism.
We all have things we need to leave behind for our own good—whether it’s an actual place, a job or a toxic relationship. Liberation can be intoxicating (and lead us to make our own golden calf) but it can also lead to what’s best for us. My non-religious guests in 2006 could relate to that. And so we had a nice, open discussion. Far from being put off by the religious aspect of the dinner, some of them come back every year.
Of course no one is at the table tonight. I’m alone on one of the few rare times when I wish I wasn’t. Like Judaism, Mormonism is more than a religion. It is a culture (with some food recipes) and a people with its own identity. But one difference is that Mormons don’t have a liturgical calendar—so, like other Mormon Fundamentalists who observe it with their own twist, I made Passover my favourite holiday.
Mormonism has often tried to emulate the Old Testament in its theology and in the epic episodes of its history. Joseph Smith’s interest in the Hebrew language reflected the strong influence the Old Testament had from the start. Then think of Brigham Young—”the American Moses”—leading Israel (as Mormons then called themselves) out the United States to their own Promised Land, far from the Gentiles (as non-Mormons used to be referred). Tonight takes me back to when I was crawling my way back to Mormonism through my personal studies of ancient Israel.
If modern Mormons are far from being the millennialists their ancestors were, this remains the last dispensation to us—and we have ‘latter-day’ in our name. The earthquake that knocked out the trumpet from the hands of the statue of Moroni on top of the Salt Lake temple was a sign of the end of days for some Mormons. It made me wonder too. One friend also showed me a passage that “Heber C. Kimball and Brigham Young taught that the calling home of the missionaries was a literal event and one of the signs of the times.” ¹ Missionaries are coming home.
Liberation can be intoxicating (and lead us to make our own golden calf) but it can also lead to what’s best for us.
However, this past Sunday’s General Conference made it clear that the Church’s Presidency are not expecting Jesus to come back so soon. It doesn’t mean it won’t happen. Joseph Smith and Brigham got lots of things wrong, including the imminent return of the Son of God. I remember a scene in HBO’s Big Love in which one of the prophet’s wives said, “We all have huge debts! We were told to spend like there was no tomorrow—which we were told there wouldn’t be on a few occasions…” and then added, “Your father’s revelations have been unreliable lately.”
Some ex-Mormons make fun of the LDS President: “If he was a real prophet he’d have known this pandemic was coming!” As a Fundamentalist who doesn’t follow the LDS leadership, there was a time when I’d have jumped on that bandwagon. But I’m not interested. Besides, it’s no different from our experts in the U.K. who kept announcing horrible snowstorms were coming all winter long. And what if God didn’t want the President (or anyone) to know?
Whether the Church Presidency are inspired or not, my advice would be: Don’t max out your credit cards—but it never hurts to repent! Those who are scared of the end of days should definitely repent while those who can’t wait for the winding up scene and the Second Coming of our Lord might want to join in—just in case!
As for me, I repent while I’m scared of the lasting effects on the the economy and society this crisis will have. I worry about devious politicians getting ideas, like the devolved Scottish government that last week plotted to dispense of jury trials—and change centuries-old rights. It turned out to be too bold a move, and hopefully none of those ‘exceptional measures’ will usher in insidious changes.
With the last glass of wine of the Passover ‘seder’ Jewish people say, “Next year in Jerusalem!” When this is over I will stop putting my plan to go to Israel on hold. I now take the Matzo that I hid under the white napkin—the Lord Jesus Christ resurrected. There’s no dessert tonight. This will be the last thing I’ll eat with that last glass of wine—another Sacrament/Communion.
On this night the angel of death passed over those who complied with the regulations that God gave them. Tonight, stay in. Stay safe, everyone. This darkness will pass, the spring sun will rise in the morning.
¹ The Coming of the Lord, Gerald Lund, Deseret Book Company, page 42