Have you ever considered that perhaps a central genius of Joseph Smith was that he was able to transplant the great figurative mythology of history into the literalness of his own time and location - to see the symbolism of an ancient world and turn it into a moving literalism in his own day? Have you ever considered that some of the things he preached might have been more a case of geographic transplantation of mythology than of literal, historical truth?
Seriously, what more grand endeavor is there than the idea of entering the presence of God on a regular basis - of taking Heaven (a symbolic location, I believe - "Home can be a heaven on earth." and "The kingdom of heaven is within you.") and locate it at the end of a symbolic journey here on earth that can be traveled over and over again in our own literal time and space?
We have temples that do that, at least symbolically.
What more grand vision is there than the idea that Zion is where we build it - and the accompanying effort to take the City of Enoch (a symbolic story, I believe) and locate it literally in our own land(s)?
We have stakes that do that, at least in theory.
What more grand concept is there than the idea that paradise is in our own backyard - and the accompanying relocation of the Garden of Eden (a symbolic story, I believe) and locate it literally where you want your people to live?
We have Independence and the surrounding area that does that, at least in theory.
What more grand hope is there than the idea that Christ will return to where his saints gather - to take Adam-Ondi-Ahman and the New Jerusalem (symbolic stories, I believe) and locate them literally at the "beginning" and "desired end" of your own community?
We have a valley and a designated location that do that, at least in theory.
Joseph was a "restorer" in his own mind - and, if you look at that role as comprehensively as possible, the "Restoration" becomes much more than just a theology or a group of ideas. It becomes the re-establishment of an entire symbolic world, moving backward AND forward in time until we literally are walking and talking with God.
"One eternal round" is a powerful concept - if it can be seen figuratively and not literally. Seen literally, it has power enough for most people; taken figuratively, it has immense power for me. I don't begrudge those who take it literally, if it works for them. It is when the literal loses significance that it has to transition to figurative or lose its power completely.
After all, the endowment ceremony itself said for a long time that the creation of Adam and Eve, as depicted, was figurative. I think that line was removed in order to benefit those who had a hard time accepting and understanding it - but that removal doesn't make it any less of a fact that Mormon leaders have spoken symbolically and figuratively a lot throughout our history, including to this very day. They just speak literally more often than figuratively, since a FAR higher percentage of people are literalists than figurativists, so to speak. Literalism is general and works fine for a community of settlers; figurativism is individualized and must be pursued and constructed outside of communal constraints by those who are explorers. Leaders can speak figuratively, but they can't lead figuratively - and that's an incredibly important distinction, imo.
The issue for subsequent leaders (those who followed and follow Joseph) is taking the "transfigured symbolic become literal" and not forgetting that it really is symbolic at its root - and that is not an easy recognition, at all, especially for those who naturally see things literally. There's no failure in continuing the literal iteration, but the real power is in recognizing the symbolic and figurative foundation for what it is - sheer visionary brilliance, imo.
I don't know if that makes any sense at all to you who will read this, since some of you surely will be literalists more naturally than I, but it's absolutely mind-blowing to me.
mormonshorts: I used to be a river…
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