Awakening from Our Cocoon – Part II
This is the 2nd portion of the Awakening from Our Cocoon article I wrote a little while back. In that article I discussed some possible interpretations that I’d give Isaiah, chapter 58. Mostly, I felt that Isaiah 58 was talking about our emerging from a cocoon of shallow worship, self-serving thoughts, actions and an otherwise hollow existence.
Much could be written about our individual and collective shallowness as a church and as church members, given to platitudes and clichés about how special, chosen and peculiar we are, when all we are really trying to be is “mainstream.” Much could be written about how ritualized our worship has become, how meaningless our fasts, prayers and service truly are. We do things for the praise of men, highlighting how much we give (both at an individual and collective level) to the fast offering fund, to humanitarian assistance worldwide (both at an individual and collective level), how “our” church is the first on the ground when disaster strikes, and how “we will always strive to be the first on the scene of disasters.” In other words, “All Is Well.” The Deseret News even opened their Sunday paper, following this past Saturday’s general conference, with an all-too-humble headline that read and described the previous day’s talks as a mere “Tapestry of Wisdom: LDS officials offer Mormon Faithful Instruction and Encouragement.” Really? Apparently the addictions to sweetness are, and will always be, very, very tasty.
This article is neither to discuss this shallowness or our half-hearted attempts at self-salvation, as we misread and misunderstand Nephi’s words on grace. Either you see the shallowness for what it is, or you see it for what it isn’t. It doesn’t really matter at the end of the day if you can or cannot see it. It is, after all, a very individual journey.
With that in mind, as the title of this series of articles suggest, there is something I’d like to discuss in regards to cocoons. My interest in cocoons is likely ephemeral, fleeting at best. It began a couple of weeks back as I read a couple of interesting articles on Monarch butterflies and their migration patterns. Many of these articles noted, and are still noting, some of the changes currently affecting the Monarch butterflies. Extreme winter conditions are wreaking havoc on their migration to/from Mexico to other parts in North America (all the way up to Canada). It is not my attempt to discuss the devastation they are currently experiencing, as apparently suffering is no respecter of creatures either, and mostly because I have no information I can offer towards that end. If you have the patience, and can stomach my ineptness at synthesizing information, I think there is something we can learn from these butterflies.
In starting this discussion, I found enlightenment in reading a discussion on two central, and simple, questions: (1) how long does a monarch live?, and (2) Why do monarchs migrate? The answer to the first is much shorter than I thought. The Monarchs typically live anywhere from 2 weeks to 6 weeks. The total lifecycle is between 6 to 8 weeks (from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to butterfly). The details of the second question are much more interesting, at least to me. Below we find a brief pattern we can relate to our spiritual predicament, in relation to the lifecycle of Monarch butterflies:
(1) February/March: hibernating Monarchs (in Mexico and southern California) reawaken, become active, find a mate, and begin their flight northward and lay their eggs. Eventually they die. These monarchs are what I call the “seeding” or “foundational” generation. They have lived, in totality, 4 to 5 months through the long winter. They awaken from the long winter and are the catalysts for a “new” society of Monarchs. They give their all for the new generation.
(2) March/April: the 1st generation, the eggs of the “foundational” Monarchs, are born and continue the migration northward, away from the home of the “foundational” generation. They migrate as far as they can, lay eggs, then die.
(3) May/June: the 2nd generation is born. They continue the journey northward, getting as far as they can until they, too, lay eggs and die. They continue the migration further northward.
(4) July/August: the 3rd generation is born. They continue the journey northward, getting as far as they can until they, too, lay eggs and die. Further still away from where the “foundational” generation started, and all other generations.
(5) September/October: the 4th generation is born. Here is where the difference occurs. This generation does not die in the same way the previous generations have – along the way of their migration northward. They turn the migration pattern around and head south, for reasons wholly related to the changing seasons. They live, in totality, for 6 to 8 months, migrating southward and returning to the place where the “foundational” generation commenced the journey, or near thereto. They then hibernate through the winter and begin awakening and mating in March/April of the next spring, where they then lay their eggs. Withered and tattered from their migration and hibernation, they finally die. Theirs was the work of a restoration, only to have the migration pattern return the following spring. 
How does this apply to us, today? Well, the application is likely going to be individual to everyone. I will choose one such application, as I see it apply to us, in this the 4th generation. How, you may ask, are we the 4th generation? One article on Ancestry.com suggests generations can be measured in approximately 33 years for males, and 29 years for females. This doesn’t really work for my 4th generational model, but let’s run with it. J Using a slightly different model, if we run with strict generational lines (i.e. me, my father, my grandfather, my great-grandfather) then you may see what I’m working towards
Me: born in 1978
My father: born in 1949
My grandfather: born in 1917
My great-grandfather: born in 1893
My great-great-grandfather: born in 1864
Me: born in 1978
My father: born in 1949
My grandfather: born in 1909
My great-grandfather: born in 1873
My great-great-grandfather: born in 1849
I struggle with the definition of a “generation,” but it would seem that this generational line method yields some favorable results. What I mostly see, though, is that I, personally, am slightly removed from the fourth generation. If we go all the way back to the restoration, in 1830, then I’m likely the 5th generation by the above lines. If we go back to 1844, then I’m a lot closer to this integral 4th generation. Not that I think there’s anything special in that, other than to note the wording the scriptures use to describe the 3rd and 4th generations – a lynchpin of sorts is how I would look at it.
The term “fourth generation” in the scriptures is often used in a negative sense, as in the fourth generation being when apostasy is running full speed ahead with no hope of turning it around absent divine intervention (and a new restoration). The term “fourth generation” is mentioned twenty-one times throughout the scriptures. Without exception, it is used either in connection with a warning or a blessing and is usually phrased in terms as follows: “if thou wilt spare him, thou shalt be rewarded for thy arighteousness; and also thy children and thy children’s children unto the third and fourth generation.” After the third and fourth generations’ pass, either the blessings or cursings end, but most definitely the cup is full of something.
These scriptures, coupled with the lessons of the Monarch butterfly, have led me to come up with a different view of the 4th Generation. Most often, at least it has been my experience, the 4th generation is typically linked linguistically with negative connotations. This view is largely supported by various scriptural examples, such as 4th Nephi’s account of a time and people where a peace and a Zion-like society reigned into the 4th generation. The 4th generation was the turning point…some held on to the good, while some sought for an upper hand and re-introduced wickedness into the world.
Turning back to the scriptures, twenty one verses speak of the “third” and “fourth” generations. Of these twenty one verses, seven speak positively of the fourth generation (i.e., blessings flowing to the 4th generation because of a righteous foundation) whereas fourteen verses speak negatively (i.e., cursings carrying forth through the fourth generation). Even with these examples, very little of what is spoken of has to do with the 4th generation itself, but rather the 4th generation being the product of something. The 4th generation, it would seem, is stuck knee deep in a position where change is either difficult, or nearly impossible – picture turning around a cruise ship with a row boat. Those wanting to change the course they see the cruise ship on are merely kicking against unnecessary pricks.
Though the course may indeed need divine intervention in order to save it from imminent disaster, I wonder what of the row boats sitting in the sea? Are they destined for the same imminent disaster? Or, like the 4th generation of butterflies – the “remnant” generation – are they destined for a restoration of sorts?
What we have before us, then, is a real-life example of one a 4th generation taking the positive road, seeking to inject goodness back into the decay that highlights its past. Looking back on 3+ generations of degenerate behavior, the 4th generation seeks to go back to its roots, to sacrifice everything it can to restore the foundational teachings of the foundational generation. The question remains, are we, as a people, ready to do that? Are we going to be the 4th generation which restores lost truths, or are we going to be the 4th generation which propels the degenerate behavior we witness in looking back over our brief history?
True, we may indeed be mere pilots of individual lifeboats in an ocean full of cruise ships heading for the same waterfall, but with lifeboats comes a small remnant which can change the course of history. Even with all that being said, the very lifeboats seeking out a different destination, far away from the waterfall, even they are in need of divine intervention. For, without divine intervention, are we not all cruise ships destined for a waterfall?
Will we, as Isaiah implores, rid ourselves of shallow worship, shallow service, shallow self-serving attitudes, or will we end the daily, ritual hypocrisy which currently defines us? Will we “draw [out] our souls to the hungry,” those who need the light of a restorative generation? Or, will we draw inward and continue the degenerate behavior?
As always…the application is individual. Make it consciously.
 Monson, Thomas. April 2010, LDS General Conference. Opening Address. 04/03/2010.
 Devine, Don. “How Long is a Generation?” http://www.ancestry.com/learn/library/article.aspx?article=11152. Retrieved 04/06/2010.
 See D&C 98:28,29,30,37, 46; among many others.