I am about half way through Man and His Symbols which is essentially an instruction manual for laymen, like me, on Jungian psychological methods and ideas. It is, to me, a strange hybrid of modern psychological theory, Eastern mysticism, and LDS church doctrine. It has opened my eyes to a bold new vision of a the shape of a fully restored church.
It was always clear to me from Joseph Smith’s revelations that the gospel must be preached to all nations, kindreds, and tongues. It was always an obvious one way street in my mind. We would go to the ignorant masses of unsaved people, give them the fullness of the gospel and then; bam! They would turn into “Mormons.” This simplistic nonsensical view is now safely in the rubbish bin where it always belonged, and it is somewhat embarrassing to admit that it ever possessed real estate in my brain.
The journey to truth is often littered with doubt, and so has my journey been. The doubts relevant to this post came early on in my teenage years as I saw my young friends enter the “mission field” to knock on doors, solicitor style, to sell people on the church. It always seemed so commercial and scripted, almost like a Kirby salesman. I pondered if it would not be a better use of these young people’s time and money to go dig wells for poor African villages, build homes at a refugee camp, or other humanitarian service. Having never actually served a mission, I failed to realize the remarkable thing that was taking place not just in the lives of the people these missionaries served, but even more in the boys and girls themselves.
Consider my husband. He grew up as a boy in rural Idaho, in a very culturally monochromatic landscape. The only churches were LDS, the only ethnicity white, the only language English. Imagine his experience when, at the age of nineteen, he was immersed in the culture of Campinas, Brazil! He spent a few dumbfounded months speaking stilted phrases of Portuguese, while spending most of his time in stunned silence, absorbing every detail like a newborn baby. By the time his two years were complete, he was speaking and writing the language fluently; was familiar with the customs, dress, and traditions of the people; and had many many dear friends of the local population. To this day, my husband has a bin full of mission memorabilia. This is significant because he is not a very sentimental person and lives a rather minimalist existence. (Especially compared to his wife who is an insufferable packrat.) At one point he worked with a few Brazilians and he hung up his Brazilian flag in his cube. He follows their soccer team every world cup. Brazil is a part of him, almost as significantly as if he were born and raised there.
Contrast that with what we are seeing in the world right now; a fracturing of mankind. Globalism, with it’s vast wealth and opportunities, is being shunned in favor of tribalism and nationalism. My husband and I are inoculated from such destructive tendencies, in part because of our connection to other cultures. That pluralism is due in part to my husband’s missionary service. I also spent a summer tutoring little “illegal immigrants” in Utah. I consider teaching those children to read English to be one of my highest achievements in life. I loved those children. To think that they could be trying to evade capture and deportation right now is unthinkable to me. We have also spent considerable time overseas. Ben has spent a lot of time in India, and I have practiced yoga for almost a decade now. We have benefited much from our connection to people from all walks of global life.
Tribalism and nationalism are the natural man. They are telestial. The urge to put oneself above another on the basis of race, birth, or culture is prideful and sinful. This sin and pride is infecting the world and has the potential to create a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. The lessons we learned after the last world war are being set aside and our global stage is being set for another great war. Could it be that the immediate humanitarian concerns of my lifetime thus far are insignificant in comparison with the importance of combating Satan’s larger goals? Could it be that in sending out missionaries to unite cultures and build bridges among the nations of the Earth was the main goal of Lord’s missionary program all along?
What is the fundamental goal of missionaries who go out from our church? It is to flood the Earth with the Book of Mormon! Why is that? Because every nation, kindred, tongue, and people need that sacred record. The missionaries don’t go out to convert people into Mormons, they do it to give an important message to them about prophets, apostles, and new scripture. The idea is pluralistic at it’s heart. We have been given, therefore we give to others. God visited a prophet in America, but we know that it wasn’t just for us. It isn’t an “American religion” because not all of God’s children are American. It is for all mankind. Missionaries offer a humble gift to the nations of the Earth that is designed by the creator not to replace, but to restore the culture of the recipient. The culture is enriched and perfected through a better understanding of the God-King Jesus Christ, known by many names and worshiped by all people everywhere.
One of the most beloved apostles of our church is Elder Deiter Utchdorf. He gives the best talks in the most charming German accent, because he is German. He has been unabashedly claimed by our church and sits on the highest counsels with some members who actually fought against Germany in World War II. Consider that! The gospel of Jesus Christ unites. The charity given to His true disciples is recognizable and distinctive. It is not judgmental, or condescending, it seeks not to exploit or dominate, it seeks only to enrich, to expand, and to give of it’s self.
Now our prophet tells us that the restoration of the gospel is just beginning. I have had more dreams in the last year than I have had in my lifetime previous. Visions, dreams, and revelation are exploding in my head. I can’t help but think that others must be going through similar transformations. There is great evil in the world and the signs of the times are becoming more difficult to ignore. God is preparing to meet it with a flood of his power given to those who seek to follow him in humility. There is no more exciting period of time to be alive! I am no one important in the world or in the church, and yet my Lord has seen fit to pour out his knowledge upon my head that there is not room enough to receive it! My cup truly runneth over.
The vision of a restoration of all things, the gathering of Israel in the latter days, is so much larger than I ever saw before. It is not just a gathering of people, but of cultures and traditions. The people who read the Book of Mormon in foreign lands and are baptized do not become cultural Mormons. They are themselves, and they bring the richness of their traditions and cultures with them. A fitting metaphor might be that they are bilingual. Learning one language makes them able to benefit from the vocabulary and concepts of both cultures. This knowledge enriches the intellect. Like a person with two eyes is able to see depth and dimension, the non-cultural member of the faith can see what someone like I, cannot. At least not without great effort and study.
And what have I been studying? Jungian psychology; the study of the unconscious man/woman. I’ve learned extraordinary things about the commonalities among the people’s of the world. Even seemingly inconsequential Native American tribes, African tribes, Eastern dynasties long extinct, and obscure villages in places I’ve never heard of, have similar themes. They have a “Great Man” who symbolizes the ideal harmonious relationship between God and Man, the God-man who lives within us, whose responsibility all of us have to find within ourselves.
This “Great Man” whom I know as my Lord and Savior, whose image I am beginning to find within my own sacred center, is known to all of his children! What a glorious message! And there are records of him all over the world. The Book of Mormon is extraordinarily well written, plain to understand, and concentrated, but other cultures witness of him too. He is known by many names. Purusha in India, Gayomart in Persia, Adam in Judaism and Islam, P’an Ku in China. There are glimpses of him in Hermes, Mithras, Orpheus, and Leviathan. The God-Man who saves, who builds a bridge from the divine, who sacrifices himself to enrich and bless all mankind.
It is only as I view him through the lens of many peoples that I see him more clearly. He is not knowable to the carnal mind. The manifestation of Him to the Jewish people as recorded in the New Testament is only one manifestation. We know that he visited the Americas and we have a record of his visit. What other people have had such visitations? What do their records say? His power and influence are vast and have enriched the cultures of the children of men throughout time as they have dreamed dreams, prayed, and reached for him within the realms of their own sacred centers; as they have striven to improve the conditions of their own lives and the lives of their people, they have found him. Of course they have. He comes to all those who seek after him.
One of the most iconic characters in the Book of Mormon is that of Ammon, the great warrior missionary of the Nephites. The story goes that he is one of four brothers who live sinful lives until they are visited by an angel, Paul style, and change their course. They choose to give up the throne of their father; they are all princes and in line for the throne. They choose instead to live simple lives among their enemies, the Lamanites, in the hopes that they can somehow bless them and change them the way the angel changed them. Ammon is brought before a king of the Lamanites and questioned. Ammon asks to be made a servant. As a servant of the King, Ammon shows his value by executing all his commands and preserving his flocks from robbers with superhuman strength. The astonished King sees in Ammon the characteristics of “the Great Spirit,” and he is very afraid of Ammon. Ammon explains to him that he is not “the Great Spirit” but that he knows of Him. He imparts the teachings of his own faith to the Lamanite king, making meaningful references to the King’s own understanding of “the Great Spirit.” A powerful change is wrought upon the King. He no longer sees Ammon and his people as enemies, but as powerful friends. He embraces the new truths he is given, teaches them to his people, and they are all changed from enemies of the Nephites to their friends and allies. They do not become Nephites, as is manifest by the strange title they give themselves, the “Anti-Nephi Lehi’s,” as if determined to avoid assimilation. They keep their own distinct culture, but add the teachings of Ammon and build a bridge between the nations.
This story becomes a type and model of the missionary work in the latter days. We as servants of the Lord bare our witness of Him in the tongue and culture of the people while immersing ourselves and learning from the people we witness to. It is an exchange of information which enriches both. In the end, after the exchange, we are now no more strangers, but fellow citizens with the Saints. It is a great and powerful uniting! Never before have all people who have ever sought after the God-King had the opportunity to share with one another our own personal experiences with Him! Never before have we been able to see, in all the wonder of divine design, the ways in which God has witnessed of himself to all people!
He is the God-King to whom all men who seek will find. He is the great beneficent leader to whom all men swear allegiance. He fills the nations, the stone that is cut without hands, the power that sweeps the Earth not to dominate or destroy, but to restore, to perfect, and to save. To make all things beautiful and new in preparation for the ushering in of his reign on the Earth. He unites us, and blesses us, he protects and preserves us. He is the Great Spirit, the Great Man, the Lamb of God, the Savior of all the Earth. Blessed be his name, for in his divine refuge, we shall accomplish the mandate of our nation, E Pluribus Unum, of many we are one.