Those of us who are down in the muck of daily gospel living–trying to cajole a few teenagers to come pull a crippled man’s weeds, arguing with a cub scout leader about another cub scout leader who hurt her feelings, getting chewed out because your unit’s attendance numbers stink–can sometimes forget the glory that runs through it all (the same is true of marriages).
Sometimes it takes an outsider to see the glory. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see that the glory couldn’t exist without the muck. Here’s Bruce Charlton:
1. Joseph Smith.
On the one hand, it is hard to believe that such an ordinary and flawed person as Joseph Smith should have been a prophet of God; on the other hand it is hard to believe that anybody except a prophet of God could have done what he did.
2. The book of Mormon
On the one hand, the convoluted story of how the book of Mormon came to be written is bizarre, unprecedented – in a word incredible; on the other hand, it is very hard to believe that a book of such length, quality, complexity could have been dictated verbatim and unrevised in extremely difficult conditions and in just a few months.
3. The organization of the LDS church
On the one hand, the piecemeal emergence of the Mormon church, the adoption of elements from various traditions, the revisions and corrections of doctrine and so on – all seem like ad hoc improvisations and strain credibility; on the other hand, the results were incredible: a church which commanded great strength and devoutness and expanded exponentially for 180 years and successfully scaled up from a few hundreds to many millions.
4. Mormon theology
Contradicts so much of the theology of the historical Christian church, and so profoundly, that it is very hard to believe that almost all Christians could have been so wrong about so many things for such a long time; on the other hand, the Mormon theology is so simple, systematic and also Biblically coherent that it is incredible that Christians could have failed to discover it for so many centuries.
What is true of the Kingdom is true of each of us. If we weren’t actual sons of God, our sins wouldn’t be so black. If we weren’t struggling, fallible apes, our best moments wouldn’t be so awe-inducing. It is the combination of spirit and flesh that makes us who we are. The God of the universe is a little baby spitting up on his mama in Nazareth.