There was a man with tongue of wood
Who essayed to sing,
And in truth it was lamentable.
But there was one who heard
The clip-clapper of this tongue of wood
And knew what the man
Wished to sing,
And with that the singer was content.
I was intrigued by the fact that you read my "High
School Poetry" page. That is why I published so much of it
on my website. I wrote those verses at the age of fifteen and
sixteen, during my personal quest of spiritual discovery. I was
allowed to seek this knowledge freely, with no undue institutional
coercion (regardless of what the nuns might have thought).
You noted my reference to "the savior disappeared" in Poem#4
but then took my thought entirely out of context. It is a poem,
written at age sixteen, about my loss of faith in man's
institution of politics and government.
I Had No Prior Knowledge
A tune of gaiety exists.
It travels through the wilderness.
And though its course has many twists.
It offers peace through its caress.
An end to conflict and the strife
It brings with it is just a dream.
For hate has taken on a wife,
and both throw murk into the stream.
As scandal spreads throughout the land
And oral messages are speared,
All hope the government has banned --
Alas, our savior's disappeared.
As a child, I naively projected upon government leaders the gift of
divine guidance and paternal love for the masses (including me). I
realized that the Watergate scandal, and its revelation of how these
elected officials had secretly acted, had left me feeling
institutionally abandoned and crestfallen. As a child, I had naively
believed these leaders to be more than just "ordinary men".
They were, after all, elected leaders of large powerful institutions,
called to their positions by the masses. As a child I had assumed
that those facts must have logically meant that these political
leaders were somehow "chosen", like the "divine right
That particular scandal, and the many predecessors and successors I
have learned of since then (leading up to the most recent white house
shame), let me grow up to understand that it is mere mortals,
"decent men" with "decent motives", that lead
these great earthly institutions. Neither a "saint" nor a
divinely inspired shaman. Now, more than ever, I am aware of the
corrupting influence of power. Whether the corruption comes from the
right wing (with the rollback of workplace rights or destruction of
irreplaceable natural resources) or from the left wing (with
political payoffs and political correctness), these mere mortals can
only hope to muster all of their limited human strengths to face down
these challenges and stay true to their own moral compass.
I was sad back then (and even sadder now), that the evolution of the
institution of politics and government had not changed since Tammary
Hall or the fiefdoms of ancient England or even Socrates drinking
hemlock. The very process of weeding out from the masses to select a
few leaders creates great incentive to manipulate the process, a
manipulation that nearly guarantees the selection of corrupt
individuals through Darwinian survival. Jesus did not run for Roman
prelate, he spoke simply of loving thy neighbor. He asked Peter to
found a church, but He had to know that man was doomed to be
corrupted by the very institution that He asked him to create.
"The savior's disappeared" was the loss of my childlike
naiveté, the first admission of disillusionment, my
"growing up" if you will. These institutions can either do
good works for the downtrodden or cynically reroute wealth and riches
("spoils" if you will) from the masses to the few. And it
will always fall upon the very human people at the top to achieve the
first without succumbing to pressure (both external and of
self-corruption) to do the latter.
But if, at the age of sixteen, I lost my childlike innocence,
realizing that political institutions are run by corruptible men;
what about the religious institutions? I was raised Roman Catholic,
and there are many uncomfortable parallels between that organization
and the LDS church. Both are headed by a "living prophet"
whose word, when so decreed, is not considered just pontification or
even law; it is actually held as the earthly interpretation of
"God's Will". Such power must be very corrupting to all but
the most strongly willed servant.
Am I saying the Pope is corrupt? Am I making that accusation against
the current or previous LDS prophets? I shall make no such
accusations here. But what I will say is that they each sit atop
institutions that have granted to them easily corrupting personal
power. It is easy for such a human being, such a man, to "fall
away" from God's grace. To give into human wishes and frailties.
The ordinary followers of such men must be very careful, I would say
doubly-careful, to review each action and decree of their spiritual
leader against any hint of base human motive.
But how shall we judge? Shall we sit alone in the woods or stare at
the stars until we feel a "burning in our bosom"? Some
would say so. I would say that such a test is no less temporal, no
less influenced by the distractions of this world, no less mindless
than its opposite: blind unquestioning obedience.
I left the Catholic church, after undergoing eight full years of
Catechism training and performing all of the major rites between
birth and adulthood, and could never ever, with clear conscience, go
back. That is why it is so ridiculous for an LDS missionary to
beseech me to "look into" his institution and the sacred
texts of his religion in hopes of my finding conversion. It would be
like a slave, freed from bondage, walking across the street to
willingly reenter the servitude of a new "Massa". It is I
that am offering freedom to you and all followers of Joseph Smith,
freedom to accept and worship God and use your heart to serve His world.
If I will not say that the Pope and his church are
"corrupt", then why will I not rejoin them? It is their
requirement of blind obedience. Catholics threaten you with eternal
damnation for any of a variety of offenses. High on that list is
intellectually disagreeing with the decrees of the "living
prophet". Of course, Mormons will tell you they do no such
thing. In the LDS world, they will tell you that there is no
damnation, only the denial of eternal exaltation unless you perform
certain rites, all of which eventually come down to professing blind
obedience to the "living prophet" and his personal
interpretation of biblical and extra-biblical texts. Do they mention
that the opposite of exaltation is damnation? I don't believe so,
they have a pretty good PR department. The difference between LDS
servitude to a living prophet and Roman Catholic servitude to a
living prophet is like the old joke about the difference between
capitalism and communism. Under capitalism, man exploits man, but
under communism its the other way around. But this is no joking matter.
So is the current Pope corrupt? For once I can personally shout
"not at all"! I have been thrilled to read his recent
treatises on the value of mankind, against abortion, the immorality
of any economic
servitude imposed upon another. John Paul II has been a
spiritual breath of fresh air for me. He is a man of great conscience
pointing out the hypocrisy in both the socialist and capitalist
business model. I respect him deeply, but do not and will not grant
him the title of "living prophet" in my life.
Have you read much of JP2's writings? I rather doubt it. Most Mormons
are very content to keep their eyes averted from the outer world,
except to try to convert its "misguided" residents to join
their own secret society. Do you personally read other doctrines,
except for the purpose of finding and pointing out minuscule
contradictions with your own or with other biblical references? I
rather doubt that, too. While Mormons are nominally ecumenical, part
of the so-called "brotherhood of churches", (giving a
"further testimony to the same Jesus" as their heartwarming
TV ads remind us); I certainly learned a great deal about how those
TV slogans manifest in daily life during the three years I lived in
Utah. And the lesson was no more flattering to Mormons than the one I
am learning from intolerant southern Baptists in Florida.
Intolerance, exclusion, and derision is the same, regardless of race,
color, or creed. And it is the antithesis of the message that Jesus
died delivering to us.