Archive for August, 2010


“Illusion has more to do with what we act out than it does with what others do.

In overcoming illusion, we will be the ones who have changed.” —  Po Tai

Disclaimer:  I am posting this without permission.  This is the work of someone else, whose name I do not know, but whose writings I have appreciated.  I found it some year(s) ago in a few of my searchings and was reminded of it this evening.  I’m posting this in response to something asked of me.  You may find this article, as well as others by the same author, by following this link.  I do think what is put forth in this write-up is compelling enough to merit a wider audience and readership.  Whether or not you think so is entirely up to you.  😉  I reached out to the author some many months ago, and only briefly maintained contact with him.

His response to my email inquiry stated the following:

“I’m not participating in any blogs, nor do I have a facebook, twitter, or other social networking site.   These days, I am trying to find what I desire by simplifying my life rather than running with the herd.  Sometimes I feel an obligation to network more than I do.  I wonder if it has to do with my own growth or possibly helping others.

You might have already realized that when we try to get out of the box, there is a lot of pull from others on the inside of the box to keep us there.  So, why isn’t there some helping hand to help a struggling being to get out of the box?  It might be because we wouldn’t survive on the outside unless we struggle greatly in the process of hatching out.  So, those on the inside pull on us to keep us in while those on the outside let us struggle for our own good.  It’s a tough process.  Try to take courage if that is where you are.  The struggle brings strength which one needs at the next step and there is always a helping hand that emerges before we succumb in despair.  If you don’t already know, the hand will come out of nowhere when you least expect it.”

If anyone is interested in contacting him, please email me and I’ll pass along his email address.
Read on and enjoy:

==========================


The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil in the LDS Endowment

By Eleazar, 2004

This narrative is written to those who are struggling to understand meanings behind the LDS temple endowment. The endowment ritual is a highly symbolic act about which patrons generally admit they have little understanding.  This narrative will focus on the symbolic meaning of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  The intention is to stimulate further thought by presenting possible ways that the symbols of the endowment might be understood.  Other parts of the endowment ceremony will not be discussed, except where they are relevant to understanding the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge symbol.

As in other narratives written by this author, what follows comes with no claims of completeness, correctness, or authority.  Readers are free to disregard any or all of the ideas that follow and there is no expectation by the author that any of it be accepted as wisdom.  The author does not belong to any religion and the ideas presented in this narrative are not meant to be part of a belief system of any church, philosophical group, organization, or dogma.

In the simplest of terms, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolizes illusion. Partaking of the fruit of the Tree represents losing oneself in the illusion.  Man consumes the illusion and is, in turn, consumed by it, so to speak, becoming carnal, sensual, and devilish.  Partaking of the fruit brings us under an illusion of knowledge.  This knowledge includes an illusionary belief in the opposition of all things that, in turn, brings about an experience of opposition, an unreal journey into the world of disharmony, bitterness, sorrow, and death.

As a result of carnal man’s (Adam’s) belief in the reality of opposites, illusions of death and hell become as real to him as does the illusion itself.  This illusory knowledge brings Adam under the curse (given for his sake) of the Fall of having to sweat (work) for his bread (bread symbolizing love of God) and he (as Eve) brings forth children (symbolizing his creations) in sorrow.  He continues in this bitter existence as one who is oblivious to what is truly going on, though he thinks he knows.  The illusion is as a veil that covers the mind of Adam. It prevents him from seeing things as they truly are.

The LDS endowment tells patrons what is really happening through its symbols.  These symbols tell patrons that they are the ones spoken of in the characters of the endowment.  The story of the Fall brought about by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is about the present time.  Moreover, the creation parable is meaningfully symbolic of a process that is ongoing rather than part of our past.

Ultimately, carnal man is destined to pass from the curses of the Fall. In doing so, he will have achieved nothing because it was never about achievement. It was always about being. Adam was always doing that perfectly, notwithstanding having partaken of an illusion that had him thinking otherwise.  Adam chooses, rightly.  Notice the comma before rightly.  Adam will come to realize that what he has been doing underlies the very purpose for his existence, to re-create himself and then discover by experience what that means.  He will understand that his journey was not about achievement at all, but that it was about living, despite the experience of suffering, fear, and spiritual death that he has brought upon himself by choosing to partake of the illusion.

Meaning and symbolism. Although the subject of symbolism is covered in other narratives by this author, it may be helpful to make a brief statement on symbolism before proceeding with a discussion of what is symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Few people notice the profound symbolic meanings in the world surrounding them and this is also true in regard to the symbolism in the LDS endowment ceremony.  To come to understand the meanings, one must first come to notice that the symbols exist.  Next, one comes to ask what the symbols mean.  Looking at the meaning of symbols is where we presently are with this narrative.  Discovering the meaning of symbols is important because the endowment is filled with symbolic meaning.

Later, one will need to look beyond symbols and their meaning and begin to ask whence the symbols come.  When one begins to comprehend the answer to this last question, one finds the doorway that leads to understanding the mystery of all of creation.  Only then will carnal man come to discover himself and why he exists in the first place, notwithstanding he has been unknowingly discovering himself all along.  In his understanding of whence the symbols come, he will finally be able to comprehend what it means to believe all things.  As this occurs, such a person will no longer be bound by the illusion because he will be able to see beyond the lie to know what it is really about.

All is happening now. One of the barriers to comprehending the deeper meaning of symbols is misleading ourselves into believing symbols are about other times and places rather than here and now.  During the enactment of the LDS temple endowment ceremony, patrons are explicitly told that they are to ‘consider themselves as Adam and Eve.’ This is an important key to unlocking what the endowment parable means and it may be helpful to consider it further

Among endowment patrons there seems to be a tendency to perceive Adam and Eve as other people who lived in another time rather than see the endowment story being about them, the patrons.  Moreover, when patrons take time to consider the notion that they are Adam and Eve, there is a tendency for male patrons to identify themselves with Adam and female patrons with Eve rather than each patron seeing the meaning of both Adam and Eve in themselves.  A fuller meaning of the endowment will emerge when patrons begin to see the entire ceremony and all of the characters therein as meaningfully symbolic and relevant to themselves as individuals or, more specifically, individual temples.  It is all happening now, ‘in the temple this day’.  Ye are the temple spoken of.

There are several places in the endowment ceremony where the phrase ‘this day’ is used. Each use of this phrase is important.  Patrons may want to take time to notice each of them on their next time through the endowment.  The phrase ‘this day’ is meant to signify (symbolize) the present time and what is happening in the (true) temple by representing it in parallel symbolic names, tokens, signs, and names (all of which constitute parables).

However, the endowment message is not one that is flattering to the ego and it shouldn’t be.  There is a profound reason for this that few come to see until they let go of that which blinds them.  This is part of what the endowment message is about.

In perfect symbolism, the endowment tells patrons what is happening right now in a layer upon layer parallel.  What is going on in the temple this day is perfectly symbolic of what is going on in the temple this day.  That statement may sound foolish at first, but one might take time to notice that there are two temples being spoken of in parallel and one bespeaks the other.  That is, the temple as a symbol bespeaks the meaning of the true temple.  Ultimately, there is only one true temple and ye are the temple (being) spoken of.  What is happening in the temple endowment this day is symbolic of what is happening in you (the true temple) this day or, rather, the present moment of time.  It is a perfect parallel.

This is not without a lot of irony.  Moreover, the irony is profoundly symbolic of itself in what might be called an inside-out manner.  Patrons are truly meant to be ‘in the temple this day’, but few are, notwithstanding they are in a temple (the wrong one).  The entire point of it is missed.  Again, there are two temples and we should remember that we are the true temple, those that are built without hands.

Because we as endowment patrons miss the (true) meaning of temple, the symbolism of the endowment points out our failure and plays us as hypocrites and (spiritually) dead in glorious fashion.  Until the patrons come to understand what is going on and why it is this way, they will be rightly counseled to return to the temple often in to do the work for the dead.  The dead refers correctly to those who are spiritually dead that includes those who are present in the (false) temple this day.  The spiritually dead also includes many who are physically dead.  It should be noticed that the spiritually dead are the ones who are in a position to benefit most from the endowment.  It is all perfect in its symbolism and entirely appropriate, notwithstanding few will understand it at first and others may take offense at such a thought that it is meant for them, the patrons, as opposed to others not present.  For many, such an idea is damaging to the ego.  But, that is part of the problem.  The ego of carnal man keeps him blinded to truth that is right in front of him, or more importantly, in him.

Ultimately, temple patrons will come to see the profound meaning in acting out of the endowment ritual and see that it is much more.  Eventually, there is a realization that it is about them, here and now.  They may also come to realize that is something that has been going on about them in their everyday lives which not only includes the time in the temple (this day), but the ever present continuance of their existence in the (lone and dreary) world. In regard to this, one might take time to notice that the endowment begins with a presentation of the creation parable that includes the Fall of Adam and Eve and being cast into the lone and dreary world that is rightly said to be the one in which we live now.  Adam remains in this fallen condition throughout the ceremony and is said to enter the presence of the Lord only at the end of it, when Adam pierces the veil (of his own misunderstanding; illusion).  Although all patrons take part in this veil ceremony, few ever make it that far in their personal lives outside of the temple.

In a profound sense, patrons enter the temple for their endowment, but return home afterwards in the same state of self-delusion as when they entered, sometimes worse.  This is represented by how the ceremony ends as well as in the new clothing being worn (eg. the garment; a symbolic veil).  The endowment ceremony rightly ends at the veil because of the failure by patrons to pierce the real veil (ie. what it represents: illusion).  As a result, what is merely symbolized by passing the veil in the temple will not occur for them in their personal lives until such a time when they, as individuals, are ready to proceed.  When that occurs in reality, there will not be a need for them to return and do the work for the dead nor will they need to concern themselves with the symbols of the endowment.  They will then be living temples, those made without hands, and the buildings called temples will be seen as for what they truly are: symbols, tokens, names, signs, images, and illusions. In truth, all symbols, tokens, names, and signs are counterfeits.  They are not real, but only symbolize something that is real.

Lying, Lucifer, and illusions. Prior to moving onto a discussion of the meaning of the Tree of Knowledge as illusion, it may be helpful to discuss the idea of the character of Lucifer and lying.  There seems to be a lot of confusion in LDS doctrine about Lucifer being a liar as opposed to Lucifer as a teller of great truth and a being of great insight.  This latter idea is embodied to some extent in a popular LDS aphorism that ‘Lucifer can tell nine truths and one lie’.  One might consider the possibility that this aphorism embodies a lie, especially since it presupposes that Lucifer is a being of great intelligence (glory).  The truth is that Lucifer is just another spiritually dead being who doesn’t understand himself (doesn’t know himself) and is imprisoned by the same illusion that he merchandizes to Adam and Eve.

Adopting the idea that Lucifer tells truth in the temple keeps many from discovering the simplest secrets of the endowment.  It may be helpful to realize that everything that Lucifer says in the temple is a lie.  Another name for Lucifer is devil. It should be noted that in the New Testament, Jesus says of the devil that he “…abode not in the truth because THERE IS NO TRUTH IN HIM …he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar…” (John 8:44) (capitals added for emphasis).

One must be able to see how everything spoken by Lucifer in the temple is a lie in order to begin unraveling what the endowment symbols mean.  With this idea fresh in mind, we might now examine an interesting conversation that occurs between Eve and Lucifer in regard to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil:

“LUCIFER:  Eve, here is some of the fruit of that tree.  It will make you wise.  It is delicious to the taste and very desirable.

EVE:  Who are you?

LUCIFER:  I am your brother.

EVE:  You, my brother, and come here to persuade me to disobey Father?

LUCIFER:  I have said nothing about Father.  I want you to eat of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that your eyes may be opened, for that is the way Father gained his knowledge.  You must eat of this fruit so as to comprehend that everything has its opposite:  good and evil, virtue and vice, light and darkness, health and sickness, pleasure and pain–thus your eyes will be opened and you will have knowledge.

EVE:  Is there no other way?

LUCIFER:  There is no other way.”

Since everything that Lucifer speaks is a lie, then:  (i) The fruit of the Tree is not delicious to the taste, nor is it desirable;  (ii) Lucifer is not Eve’s brother;  (iii) Lucifer did say something about Father;   (iv) Eating from the Tree will not open Eve’s eyes; (v) Eating the fruit is not how Father gained his knowledge;  (vi) There is no such thing as opposition in all things;  (vii) Eve will not have real knowledge (or wisdom) after eating the fruit; and  (viii) There is another way.

Since an examination of each of these in detail is too unwieldy for the purpose of this narrative, only brief comments will be offered.  However, even brief comments should suffice for those who are having difficulty seeing how all things claimed above by Lucifer are lies.

First, there is the promise (by Lucifer) that the fruit is ‘delicious to the taste and very desirable’.  One might inquire how good fruit would come from a corrupt tree, since corrupt trees should only produce corrupt fruit (see 3Nephi 14:17-18).  Maybe it is not good fruit at all.  Moreover, the  fruits (results) of eating the fruit seem to suggest that it is corrupt fruit.  Eating the fruit brings about the Fall, a sojourn in the lone and dreary world, and curses from God (eg. earning bread by sweat of face; bringing forth children in sorrow).  The true fruits of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge are ignorance, loneliness, fear, sorrow, suffering, nakedness, and death.  These are a part of the experience of the Lone and Dreary World which is characterized by bitterness and misery.  Thus, the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge is not delicious to the taste, but far from it.

The rewards of eating the fruit can hardly be called desirable, despite the fact that Eve later proclaims it to be so in her statement that “It is better for us to pass through sorrow that we might know the good from the evil.” Readers might want to take time to consider what is really going on in this drama.  It should be noticed that Eve is making this statement after she has already partaken of the fruit and is therefore laboring under illusion.  Eve appears to be sincere in her belief that the fruit is desirable (ie. she believes the lie), but that doesn’t make the lie true.  Moreover, it should be noticed that Eve, because of her belief that the fruit is desirable, offers it to Adam in the similar way that Lucifer tempts Eve.  After eating the fruit, Eve, in effect, becomes Lucifer.  But, she is more effective too because she gets Adam to do what Lucifer could not.  In becoming fallen, Eve becomes a liar, so her claim that it is better to eat the fruit should also be taken as a lie.

Eve is not Lucifer’s brother.  Eve was created from the side of Adam, but Lucifer was not, meaning that he cannot be her brother in this regard.  In symbol, Eve represents the tabernacle for the Spirit or, rather, the body creation (as well as creation itself).  This is in contrast to Lucifer who, as a formerly great Spirit cast from heaven, represents the Fallen Spirit, the deceiver, or one who believes in illusion.

But, there’s more.  In LDS doctrine, Lucifer is portrayed as the brother of  Jesus.  The symbol of Jesus and Lucifer as brothers is intricately linked to creation itself, more specifically, the origin of duality (opposition; an illusion) and its subsequent war(s) between good and evil, agency and enslavement, yielding and force, life and death, Christ and anti-Christ.  This is reminiscent of the same in regard to the creation of Adam and Eve and the Fall of man per the creation parable.  In this case, Eve symbolizes the proto-typical Lucifer rather than his sibling.  This is precisely why the representative color for Eve and Lucifer is red, the color of sensual passion and conflict.  It is also why Eve tempts Adam with the fruit in a parallel to Lucifer tempting Eve.

After Eve partakes of the fruit, she looks at Lucifer in apparent recognition and proclaims: “I know thee now. Thou art Lucifer, he who was cast out from Father’s presence for rebellion!” Again, it should be remembered that Eve is speaking after eating the fruit of the Tree, so this accusation she makes towards Lucifer is illusionary.  In truth, Eve hasn’t a clue as to who is Lucifer.  If she did, she might first come to see Lucifer in herself.  There is little question that is the role she was playing in offering the fruit of Knowledge to Adam.  But she is oblivious to that, having been blinded by partaking of the fruit of Knowledge herself.

In telling Eve that he is her brother, Lucifer communicated that they siblings from common parents.  Since Lucifer did not say he was ‘half brother’, Eve could have rightly responded using the phrase ‘our Father’ rather than how she did.  It is interesting that in the statement immediately after Lucifer’s denial of Father, he invokes the name of Father to add credibility to his claims.

Eve is promised that eating the fruit will open her eyes, she will have knowledge, and it will make her wise, but none of these occur.  Rather than find the peace and joy of true knowledge and understanding, Adam and Eve become fearful.  In their fear and lack of understanding, they hide themselves and make aprons to cover their nakedness.  Nakedness is a lie that Adam and Eve are conned into believing and the aprons they create are symbolic veils to use as a covering.  It may be helpful to notice parallels in what happens in the endowment.  Appropriately, endowment patrons are conned into believing that they too are naked.  They return from their work in the temple wearing garments that are meant to cover their nakedness.  This is despite nakedness being a con in the first place.

Lucifer tells Eve that eating the fruit is how Father gained his knowledge and also tells her that there is no other way.  This last statement is interesting in regard to passages in the scriptural cannon that Christ is the only true way to wisdom, understanding, and life eternal.  This stands in direct contrast to the way of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge that Lucifer uses to supplant it.  Thus, eating the fruit of that Tree is not the way to knowledge, but the way to illusion.  The (true) Father could not have gotten his knowledge by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge because it is the wrong way.

The illusion of opposites. The Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil represents illusion.  This illusion includes an illusory knowledge (a belief) in opposites.  Despite this idea seeming obvious, there seems to be a universal acceptance by temple patrons that a reality of opposition in all things is one of the great and noble truths of the Mormon religion.  To the contrary, believing in the reality of opposition is succumbing to the lies.

Here, it may be helpful to briefly examine the idea of opposition in all things.  In examining proposed opposites, one might notice that opposition to truth can’t be anything except a creation of the mind.  This, in turn, can only manifest itself as more illusion, since what is unreal can never give rise to that which is.

It may be helpful to consider how opposition is an illusion.  One might first accept that truth embodies that which truly exists and always has existed (ie. it is eternal).  That is, truth (reality) comprises ‘everything which is’.  Next one might inquire whether or not there can be an opposite to that.  The answer is (really) no, but (apparently) yes.  That is, there cannot (really) be an opposite to reality (what is), although there can indeed be an apparent (illusory) opposite to reality (what isn’t).  However, opposition in this case (‘that which isn’t’) is illusion (not real) by definition.  Thus, an opposite to truth cannot really exist in reality (since the opposite is illusion).  However, there can be an appearance of opposites.  Moreover, one can become bound (imprisoned) by illusion when one believes it is real.

At a risk of being too redundant, it may be helpful to state this again in another way.  The opposite of truth is falsehood and the opposite of ‘that which is’ is ‘that which isn’t’. However, ‘that which isn’t’ doesn’t really exist, except as an illusion.  ‘That which isn’t’ is nothing.  ‘That which isn’t’ doesn’t exist in reality except as an abstraction created in mind and believed.  When ‘that which isn’t’ becomes belief then a lie is born.  Lies are illusions by definition and illusions are lies.  They are not real, but they can be believed, making them appear real.  Thus, there is not really opposition to ‘that which is’, but there can be a belief that there is. Believing in illusion is be-living a lie, which is what the symbol of Lucifer (false light-bearer) is all about.  (Be)-Living in illusion is what is symbolized by partaking of the fruit of Knowledge.

In one sense, Lucifer is symbolically synonymous with the Tree of Knowledge.  Metaphorically, the tree produces (creates) corrupt fruit (lies; illusion) of which others can partake (believe).  If we partake of the corrupt fruit (illusion), then we in turn become corrupt trees bearing our own corrupt fruit.  It is rightly said that we reap the fruits of our labor.  Thus the fruits of eating corrupt (bitter) fruit is more corruption (bitterness) that returns to us as all things return to the creator.  This is why the Lone and Dreary World (in which we live now) is one of bitterness.  When we come to know ourselves, we will see why.  But there is more to this because we will come to know ourselves by our fruits.  Ultimately, we will come to know the world in which we live as our own creation.  Eventually, we will come to see why.

The ideas presented in the above paragraph have everything to do with why illusion exists in the first place.  It has a great purpose and that purpose is a continuing one, despite the appearance of it being divided (opposition).  Belief in illusion can never change reality, notwithstanding it can change the appearance of it.  This may be a difficult concept to fully grasp because one needs to get out of the illusion in order to see (perceive) it (the truth) clearly.  That is, the idea of how illusion fills its purpose will be fully grasped only after one fully emerges from it.  The illusion is not destroyed.  Nor need it be, since it is unreal (illusion) in the first place.  The illusion will continue to fill a purpose after Adam has emerged from it, but it will be a different one because opposition is not what it is really about.  Moreover, what Adam has been doing after becoming lost in the illusion is the same thing that he will do after he emerges from the Fall: Re-creating himself.  The illusion will not change, but Adam’s knowledge of himself will.

One of the great truths to be discovered when emerging from illusion is that things eternal are not obtained by great effort or as a result of achievement.  Anything eternal already exists right now, otherwise it would not be eternal.  This is why (eternal) life is said to be found and also why it is said to be free.  It’s (a) present (ie. a gift) now, notwithstanding few believe it to be so because of the illusion brought about by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge which results in a belief in death.  One might notice the interesting symbolism in the word ‘evil’ which is ‘live’ spelled backwards, signifying death. ‘Devil’ is ‘lived’ spelled in reverse.  These refer to spiritual death as a (Fallen) state of mind that has one not living now.

The illusion of death. An important concept symbolized in the creation parable is the entrance of death into the world.  Death comes as a result of eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Since death comes from eating the fruit of Knowledge, it is an illusion.  But how so?  Death is something that people sincerely believe in.  But why?  Where does the idea of death come?

We might rightly consider (the illusion of) death to be something that we have created ourselves.   Carnal man has eaten the bitter fruit and produced bitter fruit of his own.  In a sense, death is a bitter fruit of eating bitter fruit.  But, the good news is that corrupt (bitter) fruit is exactly what it is.  That is, it’s just another illusion (lie) believed by the mind of carnal and fallen man.  Despite the sincere belief in death, it remains an illusion in reality, notwithstanding death takes on all of the pretense of reality in the carnal and Fallen mind which lives the illusion.

It is rightly said that there are two forms of death, physical and spiritual.  Physical death is defined as the separation of the spirit from the physical body (a vehicle) and spiritual death is being separate from God.  True to form, carnal man appears to obsess himself with the wrong form of death by thinking that physical death is his real enemy.  However, this is entirely appropriate because carnal man is lost in the illusion and he thereby gets everything inverted.  Carnal man obsesses himself with his physical body because he lives by the carnal senses that come through the body.  Carnal man tends to judge his entire existence by that which he believes. But the reality of it is that carnal man believes in carnality so he is entrapped by the carnal senses.  He believes in the body and identifies himself with it.  This is the very definition of carnal, sensual, devilish, symbolizing an obsession with the world of the outer (carnal) senses.

The illusionary world of the senses is the only reality that carnal man knows.  It might be noticed that this obsession with the sense-body is redundantly symbolized at many places in the scriptural cannon and is part of the message behind the symbols of man and woman.  Eve symbolizes the flesh (body) which tempts Adam (symbolizing the Spirit) to eat the fruit (of creation).  This entrapment of the Spirit by the material world of the carnal senses is symbolized by Eve enticing Adam to partake of the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge . In the creation parable, she resorts to worldly reason as well as enticement.

However, there is something else that might be important to notice.  Eve is fooled into partaking of the fruit, but Adam appears to do it knowing it will bring about a Fall (Spiritual death; illusion).  Here it may be helpful to remember that Adam (Michael) symbolizes the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit cannot be deceived so it must make the choice to partake of illusion willingly.  In looking at parallels in the symbolism, one might notice that the ‘forgetting’ of Michael (ie. forgetting of who he really is) is accompanied by Adam’s entrance into the Terrestrial world and his subsequent uniting with Eve (symbolizing the creation) in marriage.  Here, Eve is Adam’s companion and helpmeet (that he might not be alone).  This coming of Michael to the Terrestrial world is in parallel to Adam willingly eating the fruit of Knowledge and subsequently being cast out into the Lone and Dreary (Telestial) world where he is imprisoned by the senses (carnality; represented by the symbol of the enticing of Eve).

At one level of meaning, there is only one Fall, at another there are two.  But, what is important here is understanding that partaking of the Fall at both levels is an event that is done willingly.  This has more to do with what is going on now than it has to do with what went on in the past.  The point of this story is how it applies to us.  It tells us who we are, where we are at the moment, and what we are doing.  Our obsession with physical death has everything to do with our entrapment in the sense-world of carnality, an illusionary world in the first place.  Physical death releases the Spirit from the tabernacle of the senses, but not necessarily from their bondage because the problem is really in his mind.  One must get out of the carnal mind to see that physical death is illusionary.  Adam will understand it when he starts to remember who he really is (Spirit).  In rising from carnality, Adam will see death as something he willingly buys into.

To the immortal Spirit, physical death is meaningless.  It merely separates from the body and lives on, being immortal.  The only death that can threaten the Spirit is Spiritual death that is brought about by having forgotten who it is.  Again, this is what the Fall is all about, buying into the illusion.  In partaking of the illusion (having forgotten who it is), the Spirit I-dentifies with the body and believes in the reality of (physical) death, oblivious to the Spiritual death that has just been created.  Spiritual death, unlike physical death, is something that is happening to Adam right now, notwithstanding it too is an illusion.

Spiritual death is separation from the Spirit, but is that something that really happens?  No.  It is just imagined to happen and it is Adam’s own (illusionary) creation.  There are two reasons Spiritual death cannot be real:   (i) God is unconditional love and unconditional love never abandons, and  (ii) It is impossible for Adam to not be who he is, despite his pretending.

It might first be noticed that Spiritual death is a one sided event.  That is, Adam cuts himself off from the Spirit, but it is not the other way around.  God continues to speak to Adam in (the symbols of) all of creation.  In reality, everything in creation is meaningfully about him (Adam).    Adam is really Michael who has forgotten that he is the Holy Spirit.  The Spirit cannot cut itself off from itself, notwithstanding it can believe so.

A profound idea that emerges from the endowment parable is that death, although illusionary, is a happening event.  Patrons are told in several different ways that they are dead, which of course, refers to the state of spiritual death (living under illusion).  That is a fundamental message of the endowment ceremony, but is almost universally missed by the patrons who return day after day to do the work for the dead, not realizing who’s work they really do.  The irony is that while the Eternal Spirit is speaking (from beyond the symbols of the endowment), few (patrons; Adam and Eve) appear to be listening.  That by itself is the textbook definition of spiritual death.  Again, it is a one sided event.  Adam cuts himself off from the Spirit when he becomes fallen and carnal.  Because of the illusion, he fails to hear what is really being said to him.  It is as profound as it can be.

Moreover, these same ideas are redundantly found all through LDS teachings for anyone who will take time to notice.  Here one might notice that LDS teachings say  “the Church is for the perfection of the Saints.” Yes, of course it is.   And that is why the church  is perfect;    It is because it fulfills its purpose and the measure of its creation.  But one might see a little more and ask if the Saints were perfect, then why is there a need for the church?   No, there wouldn’t be a need.   This statement about the purpose of the church is, in effect, an admission of spiritual death about those whom it serves.    It should be noted that it is because of (spiritual) death and its concomitant (dead) works that the church is given.  As stated in D&C 22:  “For it is because of your dead works that I have caused this last covenant and this church to be built up unto me, even as in days of old.”

Illusion and veils. In trying to understand the meaning of the fruit of Knowledge, it may help to notice other symbols with similar meanings.  The illusion symbolized by the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge is closely tied to the meaning of the veil of the temple.  It might be noticed that there is a redundancy that pervades this symbolism.  In the scriptural record there are a variety of names for the veil, all of which are synonymous in meaning:    the veil of unbelief, the veil of forgetfulness, the veil of darkness, the veil of death, and the veil of the temple.  These symbolize the separation of the bridegroom (Spirit) from the bride (creation), the Spirit from the Temple (which temple ye are), and spiritual death.

When passing through the endowment ceremony, one encounters several veils.  Women (symbolizing the creation) wear a veil to cover their faces (representing a separation from the Spirit; their husbands; Adam), patrons wear aprons and garments (to cover their nakedness), and a curtain (veil) separates the patrons from the Celestial Room.  These are tied together in meaning via symbolic parallel and redundancy.  Although several veils are presented, their meaning is directly relevant to individuals as temples and what is occurring in the present time and place.  Veils represent illusion by symbolizing barriers, coverings, and separation.  Creation of veils, wearing them, or standing at them, are symbolic of the same illusion symbolized by the Tree of Knowledge.

Endowment patrons first become aware of the veil of the temple that covers the Celestial room, despite that not being the first veil to which they are introduced.  The veil of the temple separates the outer court from the Holy of Holies (Celestial Room) as a symbol of the veil over the heart of the temple.  Since ye are the temple spoken of, it is symbolic of the state of spiritual death and illusion of those in attendance and is meaningfully synonymous with a familiar statement that patrons are prone to apply to others rather than themselves:  “… their hearts are far from me.”

More symbolism of veils is represented by the apron and the garment.  In these, there are some interesting parallels.  Adam and Eve make aprons for themselves after being conned into believing they are naked.  Endowment patrons readily don these aprons upon themselves without question when they are told to do so.  Adam and Eve sincerely believe that they are doing right by being obedient.  This takes another turn when Adam and Eve accept garments of skins that are meant to cover their nakedness, never once questioning the idea that the need for these coverings are founded upon a lie (fear; of being naked).  After all, God gave them the garment, so there is no reason to question that!  In living fully under the illusion, Adam doesn’t appear to have a clue as to what is really happening.

All of this is powerfully symbolic and perfectly appropriate.  To those who might not yet fully comprehend this idea, an important question might be posed:  Who is the God who gave you garments?  The question might be phrased another way:  “Who told you that you are naked?”

It may be helpful to notice that patrons obtain garments in a ceremony that is separate from the main presentation of the endowment.  Patrons afterwards proceed with the main endowment to don aprons that they wear over the top of everything they are given.  These are all profoundly symbolic, but the meaning of these things will not be discussed here because it digresses too far from the topic at hand.  In trying to understand these things, it is important to notice the ties to other parts of the presentation, more specifically, partaking of the fruit of Knowledge and the bondage it brings about.  One might especially notice that the symbols of the endowment are redundantly stacked inside one another in a fashion that is reminiscent of Russian dolls that have one doll stacked inside the other.  There is a lot of repetition by parallels.  As one considers the meanings of the endowment, one might take time to notice these repetitions, parallels, and redundancies.

In looking at the symbolism of the veil, it may help to notice that the many veils are relatively thin or constitute very poor coverings.  This is part of the profound symbolism of the temple . In emerging from his fallen and carnal state of being, Adam is destined to part all veils.  These veils will then fall back where they belong.  When that happens, veils will become as meaningless as all symbols.  It is not the symbols themselves that are meaningful, but what they represent.  What will have changed is Adam, not the veil.  Ultimately, Adam will lift the veil and recognize his own face looking back.  This is part of the symbolic meaning of the veil over the face of the woman (his bride).

The illusion of good versus evil. As previously discussed, the Tree is called Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolizes an illusion of opposition, a lie that is believed.   Carnal man lives under an illusion of having knowledge of good and evil so he doesn’t understand what is going on in the world in which he lives.  As a result of his belief in opposition, carnal man perceives the world about him in a context of conflict between good and evil.

To carnal man, the war between good and evil on earth is but a continuation of a War started long ago in Heaven.  Carnal man needs to consider that he is wrong and that he doesn’t understand the metaphor of a War in Heaven.  Good doesn’t need to war against evil because evil is an illusion in the first place believed to be real by evil.  The wars of carnal man are his own creation;  He made them in heaven.  In reality, these wars are evil versus evil.  The dead always do the work for the dead.

It may be helpful to first notice the premises that one must adopt in order to accept the popular interpretation of a War in Heaven.  A popular view is that good and evil are two opposing forces of near-equal strength meeting in battle.  But what is this premise really saying?  Many who consider themselves true followers of God will proclaim that God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent (ie. all powerful, all knowing, ever present).  The problem is that few will take time to consider that such a God can never be threatened by anything.  In thinking that there is an equal opposing force (evil) to God, then what is one really saying about evil?

Part of the problem lies within carnal man himself.  The blindness that comes from eating the fruit prevents us from seeing what IS in the first place.  Carnal man thinks that since there is a conflict, there must be opposites at work.  One side must be evil, so the other must be good;  Good versus Evil, opposites.  Carnal man has knowledge of opposites at work, or so he thinks.  The truth is that he gets things inverted, putting first for last and last for first.  He really doesn’t have knowledge, as he believes he does, but un-belief (isn’t-belief).

Carnal man’s un-belief is compounded by thinking that he is the one representing good, standing up against evil.  He may even perceive himself as the only thing that prevents evil from overcoming good.  He believes that to win in a conflict, good must overcome evil by meeting it headlong in battle.  Thus good must play the same game as evil to beat it.  The perspective of carnal man might be summed up in the popular saying attributed to Edmond Burke that “All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Carnal man’s failure to understand what is going on keeps him in a perpetual state of conflict (which he himself has created).  This state of being is symbolized in the curse upon Eve that she will bring forth children (creations) in sorrow.  The carnal mind is at work and it is under illusion.  Adam is creating the world in which he lives, but he can’t seem to understand what is really happening.  Yes, Adam always chooses, rightly.  Again, be sure to notice the comma before rightly.

As carnal man emerges from his illusion, he will remember the meaning of eternal.  He will realize that whatever is eternal must be a part of him right now.   If life is eternal, then how can it be taken?    The real truth is that eternal life can’t be given up, but it can appear to be.  Adam has nothing to lose, except illusion.  He was never naked in the first place.

The illusion of victim-hood. One of the truths that emerge from the story of eating the fruit is in regard to victim-hood.  The descent of Adam and Eve into the Lone and Dreary World is popularly perceived as being victims of a greater mind (Lucifer) and a con that originates outside of themselves.  Carnal man is always blaming others from what he has done himself.  However, other symbols in the endowment proclaim that the veil which blinds Adam’s mind is his own creation.  This is symbolized at least in three places,  (i) Michael as a creator of the earth,  (ii) Adam and Eve making themselves aprons (veils), and  (iii) Adam knowingly partaking of the fruit.  Endowment patrons are prone to see these events as part of a Divine Plan, a foreordained path that is traveled by those who are destined to meet all they are required to achieve salvation.  Patrons might consider these notions to be a product of the carnal mind that interprets everything in worldly terms.  Adam’s own misconceptions lead him to a feeling of betrayal when he finally comes to realize that the church and its leaders have played the role of Lucifer and his hirelings in the worldly drama erroneously called life (which is really spiritual death).  Adam will eventually stop playing the blame game because he will see that he himself is the originator of the illusion that binds him.

As carnal man begins to tire of the illusion he created, he will begin to remember. What is remembered is not so much as something that has gone on in the past as it is what is going on presently.  Remembering means to put it back together (re-member), re-create, and heal.  The meaning of re-membering has everything to do with the symbol of resurrection and overcoming (the illusion of) death.

As carnal man emerges from illusion, he begins to realize that what he was doing is what he is meant to be doing, notwithstanding his (former) sorrow (suffering).  He will begin to understand the purpose of the illusionary nature of creation and that it is perfect.  Fallen man will emerge from his suffering to find life.  Moreover, he finds that eternal life is not earned as a reward for his great effort, but that it has always been there waiting for him.  Eternal life has always been a present (gift) in the ever-present (now).  Carnal man never needed to descend into illusion.  He chose to.

The face in the mirror. The LDS endowment is a highly symbolic act filled with deep and profound meaning.  In coming to understand the endowment, there is a great truth awaiting:   The endowment is all about you. When patrons fathom the deep meaning of that simple statement, they will come to find true knowledge rather than be bound by an illusion of having knowledge.  As Adam comes to know himself, the creation parable will no longer be viewed as a past event of forgotten history.  It will be seen as a process that is happening right now.

Ultimately, Adam will learn that true knowledge comes from knowing himself.  Moreover, knowing ourselves is not an event as much is it is an ongoing process in which we are continually discovering ourselves.  This is what eternal life is truly about.  Michael, an individualized part of the Eternal Spirit, discovers who he really is through a process of re-creation.  The true glory of the creation (illusion) is that it provides a means by which he can do this.

Metaphorically, creation is as a mirror in which Michael, as Adam, peers so that he can see himself.  What Adam sees in the mirror is a reflection of his own face, which face he cannot see otherwise.  The purpose of the mirror is that Adam may find (see; discover) himself.  Discovering oneself anew doesn’t require getting lost in the mirror’s image, although some may choose to do that to experience what it means.  Eternal life is meant to be an ongoing event of re-creation and discovery.   Michael (God; Spirit) forgets who he is so that he may re-create himself anew and then discover by experience what that means.  It is not about what ‘was’ at all, but about what ‘is’.  Eternal life is not something that is bestowed upon Adam at some future date, but it is something he, as Michael, already had.   It is an ongoing  process of discovery.  Eternal life is happening to you (Adam/Eve) right now, even if it is disbelieved.

As Michael/Adam re-creates himself, the world around him changes.  It is in  similitude of the image in the mirror that moves when we do.  We are faced with what we have created which is a reflection of what we are.  It is not so much about others as it is about us.  When Adam tires of what he has created, he changes (recreates) himself.   There is a surprise in the process that can only be discovered by experiencing it.   In recreating himself anew, Adam always discovers more than he imagines.  This is the life more abundant.


“Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.  And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall ahear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s aheart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their beyes they have cclosed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should dheal them.”

– Matthew 13:13-15

The web is supposedly abuzz about the new Mormon.org site.  Supposedly.  Today, for the first time, I visited the site.  I only went there because I read an interesting article on the church’s new advertising campaign and thought I might as well go and see what the fuss was all about.

I went there to check out a few of the “profiles.”  The “meet Mormons” drop down menu allowed me to pre-select what I was looking for, so I trolled around to see if I could meet someone who might as well be me.  A male, age 25-34.  The first guy I met was named “David Rex” who just happens to be a Mormon “because it’s true.”  He also lives his faith “like [he] mean[s] it.”  The next dude I found was Brandon, who “loves cities” and is “a Mormon.”  He’s also a Mormon because “[his] membership in the church makes [him] happy.”  Another guy is a Mormon because “as [he] makes a correct decision, [he] feels good inside and feel[s] that [he has] made God proud.”  Lastly, I met someone named Michael who had a beaming smile.  I’m a sucker for big, cheesy grins.  He believed in the Word of Wisdom because, according to him, the Lord stated in Section 89 of the D&C that “hot drinks (meaning tea and coffee), tobacco, and alcohol are not good for the human body.”  Go ahead.  Read Section 89 and see if it says all that.  A mix of the favor line rational, questionable understandings about what Section 89 does and does not say, and happy feelings.  Ah, the world is happy this morning.  And, I might joyfully add that it didn’t take much searching to come up with these examples.  Less than 5 minutes provided me with more than enough reading for today.

Though it might be amusing to peruse a few more, that really wasn’t the point of this write-up.  This was mostly in response to a Deseret News article on this new ad campaign.  That campaign is what brought about the new Mormon.org profile pages, trying to connect individual members with individual non-members.  The new Hyde Park, town square, as it were.  The campaign includes billboards, TV, radio, bus platforms and other ways to entice strangers to find their way to Mormon.org and hopefully peruse more than a few of these profiles to see just what makes mormons tick.  While that may or may not be noteworthy, I found the process that brought about this campaign rather insightful.

Just how did the church arrive at this decision to “advertise” itself across a few handfuls of markets in the united states?  Surely it was revelation from heaven, you jest?!  No, not revelation.  There’s a better way to find a way to “advertise” the church:  public perception.  Nice, right!?

Yes, the Deseret News article mentions that this ad campaign “evolved solely from public reaction.”  Scott Swofford, the director of media for the church, likewise used similar wording to describe from whence came this campaign:  “the evolution has been interesting …  for 25 years (the church) has been doing advertising … out of that research evaluating whether the advertising was effective came [the new campaign.”  So, from both the Deseret News and Swofford we find out that this new advertising was an evolution that was 25 years in the making and is based “solely” off of public reaction.  The only comment to the article summed it up succinctly, “Now WE are getting there … ‘Every Member a Missionary’.”  Yes, every member a marketing, advertising missionary that takes 25 years to evolve his or her message to a point where they can bring out a new advertising campaign.  And, no doubt the church correlation department would be rather excited to report that “you will find [the profiles] are very unified in the understanding of what they believe.”  And though it might be fun to celebrate how well correlation has been received, the reasons behind this campaign should get a little more press.

In order to gauge the effectiveness of this campaign, which has increased site traffic to Mormon.org some 300%, one might (like Swofford did) rightfully ask how it might be gauged.  Because, like the Little Prince stated those many years ago, “Grown-ups like numbers.  When you tell them about a new friend, they never ask questions about what really matters.  They never ask:  “What does his voice sound like?” “What games does he like best?” “Does he collect butterflies?”  They ask:  “How old is he?” “How many brothers does he have?” ” How much does he weigh?” “How much money does his father make?”  Only then do they think they know him.”  That Little Prince may have been on to something with that reasoning, and certainly the church can’t gauge the financial success of this advertising campaign for a few years or so.  Maybe 25.

Swofford interjects with his reasoning that it’s “too early to project” how useful the advertising will be – and truly it is too early for us to see when “seeing, we see not.”  Though I may not be someone who believes in animal cruelty, and though this issue may be a dead horse here in the blogosphere, it nevertheless begs to be discussed.  Whereas biblical and book of mormon prophets came from obscure places, and quite often resisted giving the message the audience needed to hear, now we have opinion polls, focus groups and the like which shapes the very message others see.  As some have mentioned elsewhere, now is indeed the great day of opinion polling and focus group directed marketing.  Image management is everything in this day of deceit and as a result the vision suffers and we’re left to years and years of research to figure out what’s right and how to go about our business.

I’m almost appalled that the vision is so guided by the public that we craft, gear towards and manage “advertising” campaigns based on an evolutionary process that takes 25 years to come to fruition and only then is based solely off the public.  And, yes, the church is even calling it an “advertising campaign.”

Though I have more than a few personal misgivings about Helen Keller, the following quote sums this article up nicely:

“The most pathetic person in the world is someone who has sight, but has no vision.” – Helen Keller

Finishing up that scripture noted above, in Matthew 13:

“But blessed are your aeyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear.  For verily I say unto you, That many aprophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them”. – Matthew 13:16-17

May mine eyes see, and my ears hear.  While others may rely on the research and focus groups to show them how to proceed, perhaps we as individuals should take a slightly different approach and seek to have our eyes opened that they might see.


Quite by accident I came across this Hugh Nibley article, entitled Promised Lands.  I distinctly remember listening to an mp3 of portions of this chapter/article, but it took on new light as I re-read it a couple of days ago.  The new light, as it so happens, is the discussion on Mormons, Hopi and Mother Earth, which was discussed/written about here a little over a month ago.  I almost feel ashamed that I hadn’t originally thought to see if Nibley had ever discussed what happened between the Mormons and the Hopi, but alas I did not think of it.  So, in re-stumbling upon this article, I was both excited and surprised to read what Nibley had to say on the matter.

I would encourage all to trudge on and read it, as there is a grave message included therein.  The details Nibley provides on Ernest Wilkinson, Peabody Coal, the Hopi and the Momona (Mormons) is well worth reading.

=====

Another World

When I first came to Provo shortly after World War II, I was approached by Brother Virgil Bushman, who had been called to revive the mission to the Hopi Indians after it had languished during the War. He urged me to go with him and promised me that I would see an ancient world probably much like the kind I would like to have found in the ancient Near East. I eagerly complied, and on a cold bleak morning in March we approached the Third Mesa from the west. The landscape was utterly desolate, nothing in sight but sand and rock. Brother Bushman assured me that these were the fields of the Hopi. The men would come down every morning afoot or on their donkeys to walk out into the sand for a few miles. There with a stick they pushed down five kernels of corn twenty inches into the sand, hoping that it would strike the underground moisture from the Denebito Wash.

Each stalk of corn would grow only two feet or so and never bear more than a single ear of corn. This was their staff of life, their security, their capital. And yet they had survived all the rigors of nature and the fierce pressure of white intruders since the sixteenth century. Later I learned that Sister Theresa Harvey’s house in Walpi on the First Mesa had been the first one measured by the new tree-ring dating method and was found to be over 800 years old.

I was stunned by what I saw as we came through a low arch at dawn out onto the spectacle of a splendid drama in progress. Here, on a high, bleak rock, surrounded by nothing but what we would call total desolation in all directions, was a full-scale drama in progress in the grand manner of the Ancients. The only witnesses were a few shivering little kids and some hunched up old people on stone benches. Everything was being carried out with meticulous care; all the costumes were fresh and new; there was nothing that could be bought in a store, nothing artificial—all the dyes, woven stuff, and properties were taken from nature.

What an immense effort and dedication this represented! And for what? These were the only people in the world that still took the trouble to do what the human race had been doing for many millennia—celebrating the great life-cycle of the year, the creation, the dispensations. I told Brother Bushman that there should be fifty-two dancers, and that is exactly what there were. Fifty-two was not only the sacred number of the Asiatics and the Aztecs, but it was also the set number of dancers in the archaic Greek chorus. The dancing place was the bare plot which the Greeks called the konistra, the sand patch where this world came in contact with the other, at the crucial periods of the year. That was the time when the orcus mundi was open—mundus patet; that is, when the mouth of the other world was open and the spirits of the ancestors attended the rites. By the altar, of course, was the sipapuni, the mouth of the lower world, the orcus mundi, at which the spirits from above and below could meet with their relatives upon the earth.  This was the essential year-rite, found throughout the world from the earliest times. On either side of the altar was a small evergreen, adorned like a Christmas tree with prayer feathers, for as in countless ancient societies these dramas were sacred. I have written extensively on this theme, which is called “Patternism,”1 but we can’t go into it now. Suffice it to say, it was a miracle of survival, commonly recognized as the only surviving instance of the fully celebrated year-cycle.

Almost the first house one comes to in mounting up the climb to Hotevila where this was taking place was the dwelling of Tom and Belle Kuyushva. Tom was a Kikmongui, an honored elder, the nearest thing to a chief among these egalitarian and independent people, who have always eschewed any type of power structure. He wore all the splendid regalia—the silver and turquoise of an honored person—and was present in the seat of honor several years before Brother Bushman gave his first sermon. Brother Bushman spoke only about twenty minutes, and at the end, old Tom, who knew not a word of English, came up and asked to be baptized. Brother Bushman explained, “But you have only just barely heard me speak!” “But I know it’s true,” said Tom, who was ninety years old (incidentally, all his life he had been thoroughly immersed in the doctrines and customs of his people). He pointed to his breast and said, “I know it’s true in here.”

He was soon baptized and became an elder, and we should note that he and Brother Bushman had to go clear to Gallup to find enough water for baptizing. That’s how desolate the land was; there was what they called Jacob’s Well in Oraibi, but the water was poisonous. There was indeed a spring in Hotevila, which gave the place its name. The WPA wanted, by installing a pump, to relieve the women of Polacca from the trouble of going down the long trail to the water and fetching it up again on their heads. This was vigorously opposed by all. Were these people insane to reject such a convenience? Not at all. It was a way of life that your ancestors and mine had practiced for thousands of years since the days of Rebecca at the well. When the U.S. government wanted to install electric lines in Hotevila, the people repeatedly took down the poles. The government officials would put them up again, and the people would take them down again—they actually rejected the blessings of electricity and a ready water supply. I talk about these things to show how different their ways were from ours.

Since this is Homecoming Week, I may suggest a parallel. All the time my children were growing up, it was a special thrill for all of us to go out in front of the house during Homecoming Week to watch the lighting of the “Y”—the long, zigzag trail of flickering torches creeping up the mountain (a good 1000 feet), dividing and slowly enclosing the giant emblem with mysterious flickering orange flames, until the final glory. It was exciting, strenuous, thoroughly unnecessary, and everybody loved it. How silly, how wasteful, how impractical! Now we just throw a light switch and it’s all done—as convenient and inspiring as lighting a billboard. That is the difference between our cultures. The torches on the mountainside served no practical purpose whatever, but the water trail up the mountain had been an absolute necessity for many centuries; what greater imperative than to preserve the operation just as it is, where an act of drudgery becomes an act of devotion and even fun? Pumps can and do break down.

The day after that first dance was Easter Sunday. I was met in New Oraibi by a delegation of Hopi men who announced that they had just been in a session with the Mennonite, Baptist, and Methodist missionaries who had explained to them exactly why our Book of Mormon tells very much the same story as their own traditions. The explanation was this: When the great chief Tuba (for whom Tuba City was named) became a Mormon, he went to Salt Lake City to marry his wives in the temple there. While he was there, Joseph Smith got hold of him and pumped him for all the secrets of the Hopi. Then he sat down and wrote it all down in what became the Book of Mormon. It was not hard for me to set them straight simply by throwing out a few dates. The point of this story is the promise of common ground that we have with this strange people—the Book of Mormon is their story.

There is considerable general knowledge about certain salient traits of the Hopi which are not peculiar to them but characteristic of almost all Indians. The first of these is the way they see all things together. “I was seeing in a sacred manner the shapes of all things in the spirit,” says Black Elk, “and the shape of all shapes as they must live together like one being. And I saw that the hoop of my people was one of the many hoops that made one circle, wide as daylight and as starlight, and in the center grew one mighty flowering tree to shelter all the children of one mother and one father. And I saw that it was holy.”2 Here we have that peculiar idiom which makes the Indian a total alien to our own culture. The culture is completely religious and therefore completely consistent. If you wrote an essay on Hopi farming, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; on Hopi hunting, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; an essay on Hopi family life, it would be an essay on Hopi religion; on Hopi games the same—on everything they do and think is their religion. As they see all things as a whole, all joined in a single divine pattern, like a great sand painting, so they feel that all who share a common life should act together. I have often heard them say that when they join the Church, it will be all together—as soon as we set them the example. This mysterious but very real oneness is beautifully expressed in our scriptures, which might have been written by Black Elk: “And now behold, all things have their likeness, and all things are created and made to bear record of me, both things which are temporal and things which are spiritual; things which are in the heavens above, and things which are on the earth, and things which are in the earth, and things which are under the earth, both above and beneath: all things bear record of me” (Moses 6:63). The Hopis have not only survived but prospered on their desolate mesas, the last place on earth anyone would covet. We find it foolish that they constantly protest the slightest change in the way of doing things—but it all hangs together, just as our projects continually fall apart as we insist on sanctifying growth and change.

From the beginning there was conflict between those who in their willingness to be ingratiating and comply to pressure from the U.S. government and those who rigidly opposed it. The one party was labeled “progressive,” of course, and the other who called themselves the “traditionals” were called the “Hostiles.” The leader of the traditional party in Oraibi was Tewaqueptewa, about whom many stories were told. I have talked with him often and bought many Kachina dolls, which he made of strictly native materials and sold for a dollar and a half apiece, never more or less. The anthropologists were fighting among themselves for these dolls, for which they could get high prices, and yet the great chief was practically giving them away. We just can’t understand a thing like that. In 1906 there was a showdown between the traditionalists and Tewaqueptewa’s party. They settled in a sensible fashion by a tug-of-war, the losing party going off to Moenkopi. Tewaqueptewa’s daughter, Mina Lansa, was entrusted with the national treasures, always kept by a woman. Her husband, John Lansa, was the leader of the traditionalists.

One evening as it was getting dark I was passing by their house, the northernmost house in Old Oraibi, when Mina came out and beckoned me vigorously to come in. I wondered what I had done wrong, because new infringements of the whites were causing considerable tension. In the house the chief elders were seated all around the room. A small kitchen table and chair were in the middle of the room and a coal oil lamp was on the table. Mina told me to sit on the chair; then she went out of the room and soon returned with a bundle, something heavy wrapped in a blanket. She put it on the table and then unwrapped it. It was the holy tablet, the Hopi Stone, no less, the most sacred possession of the people. I knew what I was expected to do and started talking.

By an interesting coincidence I had spent the previous week in Cedar City with President William Palmer, a patriarch as well as stake president, who taught anthropology in the college there. He had been initiated into the Paiute tribe, and took me out to their sacred place in the plain southwest of Parowan. The building of the highway had put an end to the rites of initiation that once took place there, but President Palmer described the teachings and ordinances as far as was permitted. In particular he told the story of the descent of the Lord from heaven as if at that place, an event much like that described in 3 Nephi.

Tobats was the God of all Creation; his son Shinob was the peacemaker full of love and eternally young. One day the Evil One Un-nu-pit killed Shinob. At once a great darkness fell upon “Tu-weap,” the whole earth. It was absolute blackness for three days. In this chaos and confusion everyone was groping around in howling and lamentation. Finally, a voice from the top of the mountain spoke; it was Tobats the Father. He told them to move about with outstretched arms, calling out to each other, and joining hands with whoever one touched. Thus they formed lines, and the lines were instructed to join with each other; people in the lines were to cry out for husbands and wives and children until all families had reformed. Then the noise ceased, and a voice told them to climb the mountain or mesa where Tobats was. They worked their way up the mountain, toiling in human chains and finally forming a huge circular formation on the top, with Tobats in the middle. Well, Tobats said he would shoot an arrow straight up (this is the well-known Indian and world-wide theme of the arrow chain to heaven). His arrow produced a tiny spark of light; but the second arrow brought light, which grew like an explosion until it flooded all the land. The blackbird and the flicker have been honored ever since because their feathers were used for the arrows—they are perpetual reminders of the great event.3 And thus the Indians typically reedit, according to the tribe and the land, those stories whose origin is lost in a distant past.

There were many things on the Hopi Stone that are never shown in the sketchy reproductions of it, but the main items were the wanderings of the people and upheavals of nature, the arrow-chain to heaven and the light descending from the clouds. I started to explain things in terms of what I had learned from President Palmer a few days before. As I talked the elders began whispering among themselves with some animation. Suddenly Mina snatched the stone from the table, clutched it tightly, and said excitedly, “You are a smart man—but you don’t know everything!” Was I on the right track? I suspect so, because some years later, in 1965, when I was wandering in the sad desolation of Oraibi, now emptier than ever, I was approached again with an invitation to come to the house and see the Hopi Stone again. When I got there, there was confusion and excitement; something had happened. We would have to call it off. Everyone was going to where the meeting of the Tribal Council had just been held. The Tribal Council was a creation of the BIA, compliant to the will of the powers of the East, whose authority the traditionalists had never recognized. They had just that day leased a tract of the sacred Black Mesa to the Peabody Coal Company. The company had generously offered to provide trailer houses for the entire tribe if they would move to Los Angeles. A more colossal culture gap could not be imagined.

Here it is necessary to speak of that strange passion for the land with which all Indians seem to be obsessed. This state of mind can best be explained by reference to the Book of Mormon. In his great sermon to the Nephites the Lord declares, “Behold, the covenant which I have made with my people is not all fulfilled” (3 Nephi 15:8). “And behold, this is the land of your inheritance; and the Father hath given it unto you” (3 Nephi 15:13). Again he tells them to “write these sayings after I am gone, . . . that these sayings which ye shall write shall be . . . manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in” (3 Nephi 16:4). We are to take note of what they have written, and it is this: “Verily, Verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father hath commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance” (3 Nephi 16:16). The Hopi Stone, beautifully done on highly polished porphyr, is such a writing as the Nephites were ordered to make—a deed to the land. The Lord concludes with a final repetition: “And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance. . . . And if the Gentiles do not repent . . . after they have scattered my people, . . . the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day” (3 Nephi 20:14—15, 20).

What could be clearer? This land has been given to that particular branch of Israel as an inheritance for their children in perpetuity—it is their sacred obligation to hold it for their children; they cannot possibly sell it or allow it to be taken from them. That would be unthinkable, and that we never seem to understand.

Never the Twain Shall Meet

It would be hard to imagine two cultures more opposed than our own and that of the Indians. Typical of the total misunderstanding that still prevails is a statement by Ronald Vertrees, president of the Customs Clearing House, a Denver-based drilling supply firm, in a letter to the Navajo tribal council protesting favored treatment of the council in hiring Navajos on their own reservation. ” ‘Given the historical facts, we consider ourselves to be members of the conquering and superior race and you to be members of the vanquished and inferior race. We hold your land and property to be spoils of war, ours by right of conquest. Through the generosity of our people, you have been given a reservation where you may prance and dance as you please, obeying your kings and worshipping your false gods.’ . . . Contacted Monday, Vertrees said he has no regrets about sending the letter,” which appeared conspicuously in the Salt Lake Tribune, January 17, 1986, and elicited no comment.4 As is well known and often noted, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hildago in 1848 recognized the sovereignty of the Indian Nations. Between 1876 and 1893, trading posts, missions, and schools, were established—for profit. It was the Presbyterians and not business or government that built the small hospital. One day I picked up an old Navajo woman who had just finished making a blanket at her hogan near the sacred Blue Canyon (since dismantled by Peabody); we went to the trading station at Tuba City, where the man offered her $5.00 for her beautiful blanket. I was standing by, witnessed the deal, and instantly offered to buy the blanket. The man was furious—he had to sell it to me for $10.00 instead of the $100.00 he could have got. I gave the old lady another $5.00 and we parted happily, though I have felt guilty ever since. Later I went back but found the hogan deserted—the Navajos had been driven out.

At the turn of the century, schooling was compulsory for Hopi boys, who were forced to cut their hair and forbidden to speak Hopi. Those elders who protested were labeled the Hostiles. In 1891 and 1894 the Hostiles were rounded up, arrested by U.S. troops, and imprisoned for a time. In 1906 young people were sent to Carlisle Indian School in the East, smaller children were sent to Keams Canyon, and the Kikmongui, the most influential men, were sent to the Sherman Indian School in California. When Albert B. Fall became Secretary of the Interior in 1921, a familiar plot was played out. The name of Albert Fall should still ring a bell—Teapot Dome Oil and the scandals of the Harding Administration. Standard Oil had discovered the oil on the reservations in 1921, and Fall went all out to take over. “Along with various schemes to defraud the Indians of their land, oil, and mineral rights would be injected a plan by Fall’s Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Charles H. Burke, to deny the Indian what freedom of religion he still enjoyed.”5 “Freedom of Religion, as provided for in the Bill of Rights, rarely, until recent times, was even considered as applying to religions of the Indians of the United States [and today we still deny them peyote]. In fact, . . . it was government policy to aid missionaries in converting the Indians to one or another of the Christian denominations [and, incidentally, turned them against the Mormons]. Definite stipulations curtailing Indian freedom of religion were contained in the official Bureau of Indian Affairs regulations, often referred to as its ‘Religious Crimes Code.’ “6 The suppression of the Sun Dance ceremony at the instance of missionaries and government officials “led to the enactment of a regulation which, although aimed particularly at the Sun Dance, concluded that ‘all similar dances and so-called religious ceremonies, shall be considered ‘Indian Offenses,’ punishable by ‘incarceration in the agency prison for a period not exceeding thirty days.’ “7

“In 1922 . . . the Senate . . . pass[ed] the so-called Bursum bill, taking the most valuable agricultural lands of the Pueblo Indians of New Mexico.”8 In the following year Commissioner Burke wrote to all Indians: “I feel that something must be done to stop the neglect of stock, crops, gardens, and home interests caused by these dances or by celebrations, pow wows, and gatherings of any kind that take the time of the Indians for many days. . . . No good comes from your ‘give-away’ custom at dances and it should be stopped. . . . You do yourselves and your families great injustice when at dances you give away money and other property, perhaps clothing [had he never heard of Christmas?]. . . . I could issue an order against these useless and harmful performances, but I would much rather have you give them up of your own free will. . . . I urge you . . . to hold no gatherings in the months when the seed time, cultivation, and harvest need your attention, and at other times to meet for only a short period and have no drugs, intoxicants, or gambling and no dancing that Superintendent does not approve. If at the end of one year the reports which I receive show . . . that you reject this plea then some other course will have to be taken.”9 Need we recall that God commanded Moses to lead the people in the great feasts at the seed time, cultivation, and harvest? Just as he commanded them to waste their time resting on the Sabbath?

Three hundred and seventy formal treaties with the Indians, which by the Constitution are the law of the land, have nearly all been violated as ninety percent of the land has been taken from them. The Dawes Act of 1887 was held as a liberating gesture, for it allowed individual Indians to own the land privately and, best of all, to sell it, which was the purpose of the whole thing, of course. In 1934 the Indian Reorganization Act set up the tribal councils for a democratic representation. The Indian votes No by not voting at all—after all the Yes votes are counted, it is assumed that the rest vote No, since all must vote. Oliver Lefarge explained that to the Commission, but they went ahead and installed Tribal Councils with the tiniest possible number of Indians approving—the No-votes did not count.

In 1946 the Indian Claims Act compensated Indians in money for their lands, but deprived them of all title. The government could claim to be acting in good faith, since we sincerely believed that anything could be honestly and fairly had if enough money was offered for it. The most vicious proviso of the Act allowed lawyers to receive ten percent of the fee that was paid, and an army of lawyers descended from all sides to help the Indians settle the compulsory compensation. The Utes did not want the money—they wanted the land, and they still say so. But Ernest L. Wilkinson was able to make a settlement for 30 million dollars, collected his ten percent and came to Provo trailing clouds of glory and talking loudly of Manifest Destiny.

I got to know him quite well, beginning with our clash at the very first faculty meeting. He had given a degree to a friend in Washington, and some of the faculty protested that degrees should be bestowed or at least approved by colleges, such being the immemorial practice of universities. Well, a paper was circulated to that effect, and some people signed it. Wilkinson stormed into that first faculty meeting in a towering rage: This has nothing to do with right or wrong, whether it was moral or immoral is irrelevant. The only question is, was it legal? Who would dare question him on a point of law? Who signed this protest? I had signed it, so I stood up, and I was the only one. “Come and see me in my office!” I did and we became good friends—being a lawyer, he was not at all upset by adversarial confrontation; in fact, he enjoyed it. I was his home teacher at the time, and he started out at the “Y” by familiarizing himself with the students with a fireside at his house, followed by other such firesides, some of which I attended. The theme of his discussion in all of these was, “What was the difference between being dishonest and being shrewd?” He illustrated each time by his own case. When he was in Washington fresh out of law school, he was looking for a job, and so found himself in Senator King’s office. The senator was not there, but the secretary allowed him to use the phone for what he said was an urgent call. It was urgent indeed, for he called up the office of Justice Charles Evans Hughes and said, “This is Senator King’s office speaking. I would like to recommend a certain young man, etc., of high qualifications to work for the Justice.” And so he became a clerk to the celebrated Chief-Justice Charles Evans Hughes—not dishonest, just shrewd.

At the second faculty meeting we got another shocker. The family that owned the farm on Temple Hill where President Wilkinson wanted the land for expansion refused to sell. President W. would appeal to eminent domain, but it was his introductory remark that rocked us: “I never yet saw a contract I couldn’t break,” he boasted. I mention this because this has been our ace-card in dealing with the Indians through the years—aptness in breaking and ignoring contracts.

When I got out of the army in 1946, I made a beeline for the Colorado Plateau, lived with a ranch family in Hurricane, and traveled all over the area in roads at that time marked on the maps with such inviting admonitions as “Do not enter without guides,” and “Carry water,” and “Make inquiries.” The impressive thing was the utter desolation into which the Indians had been turned out to starve, like the scapegoat in the desert. But before long the same vast area was buzzing with activity. Helicopters and specially equipped trucks were everywhere looking for uranium. Promptly a decree from Washington forbade any Hopi to go out of sight of his mesa. That was a hard one to enforce, so it was followed up by another that in order to operate, one would have to have at least ten million dollars capital. So the Hopis were out of it.

What a turnabout! For all those years they had nothing we wanted—having turned them out from any valuables they happened to be sitting on; but now even this desolate place had the very things we wanted most of all. We on the other hand always believed quite sincerely that what the Indians most wanted and needed must surely be our superior knowledge and technology. Technology was all we had to offer after all, but as we have seen, they refused that—even vital water pumps for Polacca were turned down, and attempts to electrify Hotevila in 1984 and 1986 were deliberately wrecked—we would say vandalized, which is exactly how the Indians reviewed our activities on the land. The supreme irony is that our technology will not work without their energy, locked up in the coal, the oil, the natural gas, the uranium, and the water, which we are exhausting at a record rate. You are probably familiar with the so-called Hopi-Navajo controversy. I have watched Hopi and Navajo barter in total silence, since neither understood the other’s language, and in perfect amity. They would meet and celebrate their pow-wows together, and everybody had a great time. But that has stopped since the discovery of coal and oil on the sacred Black Mesa—controversy has been stirred up between them, though the Hopis have been perfectly content to let the Navajos graze on the northern areas as they have for generations. The game has been to push the Navajos off land which the Hopis do not use and so let the Big Boys move into it. I heard Barry Goldwater declare on TV that if the Navajos did not move out of their homes, he, as commander of the Arizona National Guard, would send in his helicopter gun-ships and drive them out. Our little Vietnam. Finally, the so-called Trilateral Commission of energy and military interests has recommended that the entire Colorado Plateau be set aside as a “National Sacrifice Area,” in which the coal, oil, uranium, natural gas, timber, and water could be extracted, the power developed in huge coal-burning plants immune to EPA regulation against pollution, with power lines, railroad lines, slurry lines crossing the area to take the final product to the great cities of the coast and to animate the million light bulbs, which are the glory of Las Vegas. It was a sacrifice area because there would be no obligation whatever to observe any niceties in extracting the stuff and especially to restoring any of the landscape after it had been ruined. Naturally in this scheme the Hopis have been considered nothing but a primitive obstruction—hence the generous offer to move them all to the dire inner city of Los Angeles.

The Two Ways

The ancient doctrine of the Two Ways is a lively one with the Hopis. A thing is either Hopi or Ka-Hopi. When I first went there they spoke of three ways, those of the Hopi, the Pahana, and the Momona—the Mormons, which in the early days were manifestly not typically Pahana, who in fact were constantly denouncing them to the Indians. But one of the best Indian men I know told me very recently that the Indians no longer consider the Mormons their friends. And it is not hard to understand why.

There is a bitter joke among the Navajo today: “What is the Peabody Corporation?” Answer, “A bunch of Mormon lawyers getting rich.”

A list of the nineteen principal corporations seeking the wealth of the Colorado Plateau in order of the money invested begins with Pacific Gas and Electric, with the controlling stock owned by the Rothschild family. We go down the list of awesome and familiar names such as the City Bank of New York controlling the Public Service Company of New Mexico; number four in the list is the Arizona Public Service Corporation with its huge coal-burning power plants selling electricity far and wide, the main investor being the Latter-day Saint Church. We go on to Standard Oil of Ohio, controlled by British Petroleum Ltd.; the Gulf Corporation, by the Mellon and Hunt families; Utah International, by General Electric; Peabody Coal Company, by Equitable Life of New York; El Paso Gas, Coal and Power, by the Latter-day Saint Church; and so on to Shell Oil, Mobile Oil (Bankers Trust of New York, Hess family, John Paul Getty, Manufacturers Hanover Bank; Citibank, J. P. Morgan).

Is all this for the Indians’ own good? When the Navajos asked for an increase in the royalties they were receiving for their coal from $.15 a ton to $1.50 a ton, they were roundly denounced, according to the New York Times, by Mormon lawyers, so specified, for jeopardizing the sanctity of a contract—had they no shame?

With increasing interest in the Indians and a considerable growing literature on the subject, the Mormons are regularly given a black eye in books and articles—a black eye which they would not deserve if they would only pay a little more attention to their scriptures. There is one common ground, one common need, between us and them, and it is the Book of Mormon. Consider how much it tells us about the present situation. First of all, we accept the Great Spirit—we do not consider the Indians heathen. King Lamoni mistook the visiting superman Ammon for the Great Spirit, a mistake which his descendants have made more than once, to their loss. To his servants he said, “I know that [this] is the Great Spirit; and he has come down at this time to preserve your lives” (Alma 18:4). But Ammon explained that he was not the Great Spirit, “Believest thou that there is a God?” (Alma 18:24). Lamoni: “I do not know what that meaneth” (Alma 18:25), or What are you talking about? Ammon: “Believest thou that there is a Great Spirit? And he said, Yea. And Ammon said This is God, . . . this Great Spirit . . . is God [who] created all things” (Alma 18:26—28). Can we not safely say that we believe on that same Great Spirit who is God, just as we believe in Allah when we understand who he is? Our missionaries in Lebanon had no other name for him.

In the second place we believe the one thing which the Indians are constantly emphasizing, that all things are spiritual; to be carnal minded, says the Book of Mormon, is death; but to be spiritually minded is eternal life. Carnal mindedness embraces those four things which both Nephis declare will destroy any society, namely seeking for power, gain, popularity, and the lusts of the flesh (1 Nephi 22:23; 3 Nephi 6:15). For particulars see your local TV guide. In the third place is their attitude to nature, which is their livelihood, beautifully summed up in Doctrine and Covenants 49: “For behold, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the air, and that which cometh of the earth, is ordained for the use of man for food and for raiment, and that he might have in abundance. But it is not given that one man should possess that which is above another, wherefore the world lieth in sin. And wo unto man that sheddeth blood or that wasteth flesh and hath no need” (D&C 49:19—21). This is the creed of the Hopi which so shocks us. If you live on a soaring rock 200 yards long and 50 yards wide with a hundred other families, you will find little room to accumulate the things of this world.

What we are speaking of is that ideal society described in the Book of Mormon as being established by the Lord in person, to succeed and fulfill the Law of Moses, that society which we should both emulate. Quoting from 4 Nephi, “And there were no contentions and disputations among them [the Hopi, as we all know, are the peaceable people and do everything to avoid violence—are we that way?], and every man did deal justly one with another [no money, no law courts]. And they had all things [in] common among them [“if one has corn we all have corn”]; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. . . . And the Lord did prosper them exceedingly in the land; Yea, insomuch that they did build cities” (4 Nephi 1:2—3, 7). But it wasn’t easy—they had to work at it exactly as the Hopis do, meticulously carrying out all the prescribed functions. These are, it is true, mere “forms and observances,” but they “point their minds forward,” as with the Nephites—did not old Tom in Hotevila instantly recognize and accept the gospel because he was the most thoroughly trained man of the village in his own religion? “And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord. . . . And . . . there was no contention among all the people, in all the land” (4 Nephi 1:12—13). To this day and against fearful cultural and economic opposition, the Hopis persist in their fasting and their prayers; they meet together unfailingly to pray each week—all the villages come together for ceremonies at one place. There the Baho-feathers are always in evidence, for they are the call to prayer. But the dances are also accompanied by sermons, teaching things of life and death, even as temple sessions of the Latter-day Saints in the early days were followed by dancing,10 and as the great celebrations of Israel as ordered by Moses always required rejoicing and dancing to the sound of the timbrel, the sackbut, and the drum. I have seen such happy ring dances of Jewish elders performed near the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem while members of our Latter-day Saint tour group expressed lively disapproval of such undignified goings-on. In the times of upheaval and destruction, the legends tell us, the Hopi have survived by coming together on the mountain tops and singing together, uniting their voices in praise, until the evil passes. Even so I can still hear my grandmother fervidly singing, “When thy judgments spread destruction, keep us safe on Zion’s hill; singing praises, singing praises, songs of glory unto thee,” etc.11 That goes back to the Jaredites and their sing-ins while they crossed the violent ocean (Ether 6:9).

After two hundred years the Nephites relaxed and reverted to the easier program of privatization: “And from that time forth they did have their goods and their substance no more common among them. And they began to be divided into classes; [business was booming] and they began to build up churches unto themselves to get gain, and began to deny the true church of Christ. . . . And yet they did deny the more parts of his gospel. . . . And this church did multiply exceedingly . . . because of the power of Satan who did get hold upon their hearts” (4 Nephi 1:25—28). This is surely an ominous statement. The people claimed to worship Christ, and they did have parts of the gospel, but Satan was their inspiration. We will consider their condition later, but first let us ask whether there is any chance at all of our two cultures merging with their present teachings intact. In the Doctrine and Covenants we read that “My gospel shall go unto the Lamanites” (D&C 28:8) and all nations through the Book of Mormon. “And this was their [the Nephites’] faith—that my gospel . . . might come unto their brethren the Lamanites, and also all that had become Lamanites because of their dissensions” (D&C 10:48). That broad and inclusive term includes a rich ethnic mix, specified in the Book of Mormon as Nephites, Zoramites, Mulekites, Jaredites, and others who may have become Lamanites; there are as well broad implications of other people, including “former inhabitants of this continent” (Joseph Smith—History 1:34), making contacts. “They did leave a blessing upon this land in their prayers [how very Indian!]. . . . And now, behold, according to their faith in their prayers [also very Indian, that obsessive faith in prayer itself] will I bring this part of my gospel to the knowledge of my people” (D&C 10:50, 52).

Would not that have a disruptive effect on their established traditions? On the contrary, it would strengthen them: “Behold, I do not bring it to destroy that which they have received, but to build it up. And for this cause have I said: If this generation [of Lamanites] harden not their hearts, I will establish my church among them” (D&C 10:52—53). But what effect will this have on the members of the restored Church—if the Indians have nothing to lose by joining the Church, do the church members stand in any danger of contamination? Not at all! “Now I do not say this to destroy my church, but I say this to build up my church; Therefore, whosoever belongeth to my Church need not fear, for such shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. But it is they who do not fear me, neither keep my commandments but build up churches unto themselves to get gain, yea, and all those that do wickedly and build up the kingdom of the devil— . . . it is they that I will disturb” (D&C 10:54—56).

We need the resources of “backward people” for raw materials as we need their markets for expansion. It is the old imperialist game, with energy as the good of first intent. But they don’t need anything we have, neither our goods nor our money; all they want is the land. For that matter, our own people are soon glutted with the products of the ever-expanding corporate giants. Nothing amazed me more in the remote backwaters of the Fayyum in Egypt, among villages unchanged for five- or six-thousand years (and looking and acting very much like Hopi villages, incidentally), in this most stable of all civilizations to see the landscape dominated by enormous American billboards, “Come to Marlboro Country!” The Americans won’t take any more of the poison stuff, so now it must be forced on the poor backward Egyptians; and so now we too must be prodded, wheedled, shamed, and beguiled into buying more stuff by enormously costly and ingenious sales campaigns; every ten minutes our absorption in the soap or sport or documentary is interrupted with a “message” demanding our instant and undivided attention. No wonder we have lost all capacity for concentration or critical thought, and, above all, reflection and meditation, preeminent Indian skills.

In 1540 when Pedro de Tovar came up to Bear Chief, who was standing to greet him on the rise at Old Oraibi, the chief reached out his hand to establish the visitor’s identity by offering him the sacred handclasp, the nachwach—was he really the promised White Brother? Naturally, the Spaniard, who had come looking for gold and nothing else, thought he was asking for money and placed a gold coin in his hand. Have you any signs or tokens? asked the chief. Yes, I have money, replied the visitor. From that moment the Hopis knew it was not the one they were looking for,12 and to this day they have never been converted to Christianity. We are most fortunate in possessing Satan’s game-plan, which he gave away in a fit of temper in the Garden of Eden. The perennial source of wealth, the treasures of the earth, are to be controlled by the convenient symbols of a money economy, gold and silver; these are used to buy up kings and presidents, armies and navies, popes and priests. They are controlled by “secret combinations, to get power and gain” (Ether 8:22; cf. 8:18—19), and the result is rule by violence. Adam rejected the plan, but Cain bought into it, and so became “master of this great secret, that I may murder and get gain” (Moses 5:31)—the great design which at last is nearing fulfillment in our day of converting all living things into marketable commodities.13

We may be puzzled about the Indian’s insistence in viewing all things, including the earth itself, as alive, though it is a doctrine clearly taught by Joseph Smith, Young, and other of our prophets. We say a human is worth more than an owl, but as Black Elk puts it, what do we care for humans? To reverence life is to reverence all life. “I could see that the Wasichus did not care for each other the way our people did before the nation’s hoop was broken. They would take everything from each other if they could, and so there were some who had more of everything than they could use, while crowds of people had nothing at all and maybe were starving.”14

The first revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants puts us into the picture which the Indian sees of us: “Every man walketh in his own way, and after the image of his own god, whose image is in the likeness of the world, and whose substance is that of an idol, which waxeth old and shall perish in Babylon, even Babylon the great, which shall fall. . . . The hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken [away] from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion” (D&C 1:16, 35).

And so we get to the ultimate prophecies, which we also share with the Indians.

And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone. . . . But wo . . . unto the unbelieving of the Gentiles . . . [who] have scattered my people . . . and have  . . . trodden [them underfoot]. . . . At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and . . . hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations [again consult your TV Guide]. (3 Nephi 16:4, 8—10)

Note that lying comes first in the list, a judgment that few will dispute today.15 “If they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, . . . I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them. And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people . . . and I will bring my gospel unto them. . . . The Gentiles shall not have power over you; . . . and ye shall come unto the knowledge of the fulness of my gospel. But if the Gentiles will repent and return unto me, . . . behold, they shall be numbered among my people, O house of Israel. And I will not suffer my people . . . [to] tread them down” (3 Nephi 16:10—14). There is an ominous note here which we cannot pursue.

The promise is repeated in the last speech to the Nephites: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, thus hath the Father commanded me—that I should give unto this people this land for their inheritance (3 Nephi 16:16). And it shall come to pass that all lyings, and deceivings, and envyings, and strifes, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms shall be done away. . . . But if they will repent . . . I will establish my church among them, and they shall come in unto the covenant and be numbered among this the remnant of Jacob, unto whom I have given this land for an inheritance; And they shall assist my people, the remnant of Jacob, and also as many of the house of Israel as shall come, that they may build a city, which shall be called the New Jerusalem” (3 Nephi 21:19, 22—24). Throughout these explicit prophecies it is the Gentiles who join: “the Lamanites and those who have become Lamanites,” not the other way around. If we are to be saved we must move in their direction.


1. See CWHN 4:21—22, 366—67, 383; 6:preface xv, 295—310, 506; 8:247—48, 301—2, 317—18.

2. Black Elk Speaks, as told through John G. Neihardt (Lincoln, NB: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), 43.

3. William R. Palmer, Two Pahute Indian Legends: “Why the Grand Canyon Was Made” and “The Three Days of Darkness” (Cheney, WA: Citizen Journal Press, 1987), 21—22.

4. “Racial Navaho Letter Prompts Removal of Subcontractor,” Salt Lake Tribune, 17 January 1986.

5. Harry C. James, Pages from Hopi History (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1974), 185.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid., 185—86.

8. Ibid., 186.

9. Ibid., 187—88.

10. Heber C. Kimball Journal, cited in Elden J. Watson, Brigham Young Addresses 1836—1849, vol. 1 (n.p., 1979): “Pres. Young called the attention of the whole company, and gave them a message . . . that this temple [Nauvoo] was a holy place, and that when we danced we danced unto the Lord, and that no person would be allowed to come on to this floor, and afterwards mingle with the wicked. . . . He strongly impressed upon the mind of those present the impropriety of mingling again with the wicked after having come in here, and taken upon them the covenants” (1 January 1846).

11. William Williams, “Guide Us, O Thou Great Jehovah,” in Hymns of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), no. 83, verse 3.

12. Frank Waters, Book of the Hopi (New York: Ballantine Books, 1963), 308—9.

13. Jerry Mander, In the Absence of the Sacred: The Failure of Technology and the Survival of the Indian Nations (San Francisco, CA: Sierra Club Books, 1991); regarding Hopis, see 268—86.

14. Black Elk Speaks, 217

15. Paul Gray, “Lies, Lies, Lies,” Time Magazine (5 October 1992): 32—38.


“What we all love about Mongolia is the spirit of the frontier.  I can gallop for a month here without seeing a fence.  I’m trying to protect my freedom.  Mongolia isn’t some fantasy; it’s about the art of living that we’ve forgotten.  I go back to Paris and find everyone numb.  They’ve lost their heroic aspect.  We’re all living in hell, which we try to perfume with iPhones, vacations, the next fast car.  Either you choose the path of liberation, seeking enlightenment, or of samsara, seeking happiness, which always depends on having something:  the promotion, the job, the second home, … .”

– Hamid Sandar-Afkhami

I’m on my way to Utah, but only for a brief (i.e. less than 6 hours) stay.  Then it’ll be time to turn around and drive 20+ hours back to Wisconsin.  In order to get to Utah at a semi-decent time, I had to wake up uber early and take a 6am flight.  I took the early flight in part because it was cheap, but also because it had a decent layover.  My only other option had a 40 minute layover and I didn’t want to get stuck arriving later or rushing to the next flight, so I sacrificed a little sleep in order to make sure I didn’t miss my connecting flight.  Had I missed that connecting flight, my schedule would have been really messed up, needing to get back to Wisconsin by Friday night.

Prior to leaving on my first leg of the trip I purchased a magazine, which had a number of quality articles in it.  One of these articles provided the quote above by Sandar – an article on Mongolia and a two week trek into the Tuva wilderness, a wilderness I know next to nothing about.  At the conclusion of the article we’re treated to a brief write-up on some rural Mongolian residents providing shelter and conversation for a group of some 25 people on the trek at a moment’s notice.  The group who was the subject of the article had been traveling a bit too far into the wilderness and were turned back by Mongolian rangers who patrol the borders in those hinterlands.  As the group turned back they happened upon a ger in the middle of nowhere (a yurt), and stopped in, as is the Mongolian tradition, for conversation and tea.  As the yurt seemingly ballooned to hold all 25 people, the author of the article began to feel a bit uneasy about overtaking the yurt and overcrowding the residents.  Whereas that is a relatively normal reaction for us westerners, who thrive on our privacy and solitude, these Mongolians felt the visit was something worth celebrating and wouldn’t have had it any other way.  The above quote was the trek leader’s response to a query about possibly leaving and setting up camp elsewhere, and it’s a poignant thought.

As I sat in one of the common areas awaiting the departure of the next leg of my flight to Utah, I had a chance to sit back and observe some people for a few minutes.  From the looks, actions and movements of those I observed, it seems as though we are a bizarre people, busily moving here and there, rushing to and fro, preoccupied with ourselves and our schedules.  Cell phones, iPhones, newspapers and other forms of entertainment largely take up our time.  Certainly today that was the case, and perhaps the setting had as much to do with that as anything, but I’ve seen similar stories play out elsewhere with little difference.  Specialized people of all shapes and sizes are going here and there for business reasons, hoping to satisfy this or that client, which in turn will ensure their next paycheck.    Perhaps this is the natural result of a people in search of some sort of samsara – living in hell, trying to perfume the stench of hell over with the perceived happiness that awaits us in and through our gadgets, gizmos, paychecks and rewards.  All the while, we lose both our enlightenment and the opportunities to discover something far better.

We’re simply too busy, it seems, to engage in those heroic adventures Sandar referenced in his opening quote.  No longer do we seek out adventures, instead contenting ourselves with the latest sitcom, iPad application and blog entry.  Robert Heinlein once stated that humans should be able to do most anything – repair basic goods, change diapers, work most any job and figure things out for himself in most anything he did – and yet, contrary to Heinlein’s statement, we’ve endorsed the idea that specialization is no longer just for insects.  We humans like specialization too – farming out the more mundane chores (small motor repair, cooking, cleaning, arithmetic, and everything else under the sun) to the experts, perceived or real.

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

– Robert Heinlein

I’m not sure whether this is as bad as some suggest, though I do think we lose out on a lot when we remove ourselves from the equation of things we do.  We lose the experience, the insight and the wisdom that comes with creating something by ourselves, wisdom born out of necessity.  Some say that necessity is the mother of invention, and I’m inclined to agree.  The more you do something by yourself, for yourself, even when you have no idea what you’re doing, from somewhere you gain wisdom on how to do that particular something.  The universe rewards, it seems, the active and creative soul.

As I built my brick oven this spring, and repaired it just this past week, I was constantly surprised by some of the ideas that came into my mind on how to improve this or that aspect of the oven.  Whether it was the application of the surface bonding cement, the mortar, the insulation, the trailer or some other aspect, many of those ideas were born out of necessity, trying to come up with the best idea when faced with a bizarre set of challenges.  I can rather safely say that not all of those ideas came from me, as they were far too clever to originate in my rather mundane melon.  Ironically enough, I think that is part of the path of liberation Sandara explains above – enlightenment from an outside source other than myself, a source the served to illuminate my mind.

This brick oven has, in turn, given me more lessons.  Instead of sitting at a desk, working behind a computer all day, I’m in front of people, helping to provide them with something they enjoy.  No longer am I three steps removed from public interaction, but rather am forced into the interaction.  Sometimes this leads to conversations with the elderly (or others) from which I simply can’t extract myself no matter how hard I try, sometimes this leads to burning eyes and lungs from all the smoke blown in my face, but it’s most always interesting.

So, in your searchings for samsara, don’t forget to seek out some enlightenment.  More is definitely better in this case.  One interesting, if not a bit over simplified, discussion on samsara was this:

Samsara literally means “wandering-on.” Many people think of it as the Buddhist name for the place where we currently live — the place we leave when we go to nibbana. But in the early Buddhist texts, it’s the answer, not to the question, “Where are we?” but to the question, “What are we doing?” Instead of a place, it’s a process: the tendency to keep creating worlds and then moving into them. As one world falls apart, you create another one and go there. At the same time, you bump into other people who are creating their own worlds, too.

The play and creativity in the process can sometimes be enjoyable. In fact, it would be perfectly innocuous if it didn’t entail so much suffering. The worlds we create keep caving in and killing us. Moving into a new world requires effort: not only the pains and risks of taking birth, but also the hard knocks — mental and physical — that come from going through childhood into adulthood, over and over again. The Buddha once asked his monks, “Which do you think is greater: the water in the oceans or the tears you’ve shed while wandering on?” His answer: the tears. Think of that the next time you gaze at the ocean or play in its waves.

In addition to creating suffering for ourselves, the worlds we create feed off the worlds of others, just as theirs feed off ours. In some cases the feeding may be mutually enjoyable and beneficial, but even then the arrangement has to come to an end. More typically, it causes harm to at least one side of the relationship, often to both. When you think of all the suffering that goes into keeping just one person clothed, fed, sheltered, and healthy — the suffering both for those who have to pay for these requisites, as well as those who have to labor or die in their production — you see how exploitative even the most rudimentary process of world-building can be.

This is why the Buddha tried to find the way to stop samsara-ing. Once he had found it, he encouraged others to follow it, too. Because samsara-ing is something that each of us does, each of us has to stop it him or her self alone. If samsara were a place, it might seem selfish for one person to look for an escape, leaving others behind. But when you realize that it’s a process, there’s nothing selfish about stopping it at all. It’s like giving up an addiction or an abusive habit. When you learn the skills needed to stop creating your own worlds of suffering, you can share those skills with others so that they can stop creating theirs. At the same time, you’ll never have to feed off the worlds of others, so to that extent you’re lightening their load as well.