The dream that I had

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

At the time I left the church*, I had the following dream. It guided my behavior on returning to the church, and is something I still recall regularly.

I am sitting in a large Mormon chapel. The colors are woody and rich, and the light warm. The feeling is of security. There are a number of others sitting in the chapel, all listening to a man who is at the pulpit. I am listening, too, but the man is speaking gibberish – at least I can’t make out what he is saying.

I look over and see that a gaping hole has been blown in the wall of the church. I seem to be the only one who notices it. Outside, there is a wild storm. Animals and bits of houses are being carried by in the wind. The storm is shades of blue and gray and in motion, there is a great energy in it. I know that I am going to go out into the storm, and I feel excited,- enlivened by the thought.

As I am watching, my grandpa – my father’s father – walks through the breach in the wall and into the chapel. He is naked and is painfully thin. His body is bruised and frostbitten. I feel a surge of shame for him, but no one else seems to notice him, at all. As he approaches the pew where I am, an uncle comes with a blanket and offers to cover him. He refuses the blanket, however. He sits in front of me and turns and gives me a long and deep look.

* “Left the church” may be too dramatic. I did make a conscious, knowing decision to not attend church for some period of time. That turned out to be about eleven years. About the time I begin to feel that I likely would never return, things began to happen that changed my mind.


El Sol and the end of conservative and liberal Mormons

Posted in BCC guest posts on November 26, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

(version also posted as guest at BCC) Consider the images of the sun included here. The first is, of course, a Sunstone that has survived from the original Nauvoo Temple. In an unusually explicit nod to the past, the design of the new Nauvoo Temple replicated the old temple’s exterior, including this kind of sunstone. The second sun is from the exterior of the Albuquerque Temple. Finally, an even better example of what I’d like to say, look at the lovely, understated sun that sits above the organ pipes in the Conference Center. I think I see, as I observe these early and recent suns, a movement from something baroque to something classical. The personality of the early church expressed in the Nauvoo sunstone: colorful, ornate, contradictory, unabashed, and oddly expressed. Contra Harold Bloom, and speaking generally, the same basic doctrine still exists and can be seen in the recent temple and Conference Center suns. Now, though, they are tempered, not only by a concern for their reception by a Protestant nation, but also with a concern for harmony, unity, consistency. The metaphysic is still present and potent, but is somewhat tamed, in these recent symbols, by the modern church’s concern for decorum and simple cheerfulness. They are sunstones for a people concerned with smiling and keeping lawns mowed – but are suns all the same, with flame. This kind of Classicism almost certainly presages a Romantic period. A breaking out period. We may be starting to see that shift with the “I’m a Mormon” campaign. The Mormon cheerfulness is still the face of that campaign – but it is almost possible to imagine someone saying “I love gathering tempests, and thunder, even gun fire, and my own idiosyncrasy and am gentle with the imperfections of my friends, and I’m a Mormon”, without a hint of that smile. Continue reading

The brass serpent; or, towards an end of conservative and liberal Mormons

Posted in BCC guest posts, Uncategorized on November 8, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

When last we left our hero, meaning ourselves, he was standing in the middle of a field, sun shining overhead, holding his box of crayons. I like to call this field the field of tensions. As we look up and around we are captured in various kinds of tensions by the things that we see. We see other people holding and working with their various boxes of crayons, and groups of people, and ideas, and things. The strength of these tensions is partly determined by our proximity to what we are observing, and partly determined by our individual sensibilities. For purpose of fleshing out this metaphor to its breaking point, I want to identify three kinds of tensions. I understand that these don’t speak to all the ways life goes. For instance, I’m leaving out the part biological necessity plays in the creation of these tensions. I’m also drawing in broad strokes where, in reality, these images would blend and be more difficult to sort though. I mean to draw a picture on which we can picture and assess ourselves.

Continue reading

The field of tensions; or, towards an end of conservative and liberal Mormons

Posted in BCC guest posts, Uncategorized on October 30, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

In our last episode, I painted a picture of the soul as a crayon box. I also talked a little about the tensions that exist in life. You can read that bit here (self-promotion). In this episode, I’d like to begin to paint another metaphor around the idea of tension, and then move on to begin bringing an end to liberal and conservative Mormons. Continue reading

The crayon box; or, towards an end of conservative and liberal Mormons

Posted in BCC guest posts, Uncategorized on October 18, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

(posted as a Guest at By Common Consent)

I really like the word ‘tension.’ I use it frequently. I often look at my life in terms of the various tensions that present themselves for negotiation. Here is an example. Steve has invited me to guest post a few times over the last few years. Each time I’ve said, ‘I’d really love to but not right now’. I have really wanted to do it. A big part of me loves being out there, feels that I have something to say, and even feels a need to be heard. At the same time, I have really, truly, deeply not wanted to do it. Not out of a lack of confidence. There is a tired part of me that doesn’t want to engage any of it. If it weren’t that I mistrusted the tiredness, it might be the deciding factor. But I do mistrust it.

There are very few important things in life  with which I don’t experience this kind of conflict. My relationship with Katie is one. As far as I’m aware, there is no part of me that doesn’t want to be doing it. The same holds true of my decision to get some degrees, reasonably late in life. I am consecrated to these things, in a manner of speaking. I’m all-in. That is a real gift, since consecration is not something one wakes up to on a regular basis.

Here is another tension. Continue reading

Biographical blurb

Posted in Introduction on October 14, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

Thomas Parkin is, for better or worse, a man of our times; but given his druthers, he’d have been a man of 1930s Los Angeles, 1920s Buenos Aires, or the English Lake Country of the 1810s. The first half of his life was an adventure. To commence the second half of his life, he went to college, where he is studying history. He views his classmates with a paternal regard. He hopes to do post-grad work in Latin American History, or Latin American Studies. This is because he likes Hispanic people better than he likes you, and because even he can see the writing on the wall. He has little hope of ever getting another job, but the thought of being called “Doctor Parkin” for the last few decades of his life charms him. He never has taken seriously the instruction to ‘write what you know.’ He prefers to write what he is just about to know. Actually, he never taken all that much thought about it, but now finds that he must, like a very drab, unpack his heart with words. Someone has said that you shouldn’t write unless it is life or death to you. He disagrees, but is beginning to understand the sentiment. He considers “dithering” a moral virtue. He has a deep fear of being misunderstood which he compensates for by being unintelligible. He wishes you’d get your mind out of the gutter. He finds the mystery of grammar more impenetrable than the mystery of God. He has been in love for a long time, and is still in love. The first three principles that he walks by are, first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third Baptism by immersion (preferably in the ocean, but a lake or a river of the right depth and will do in a pinch). He believes that everything else is contained in the Gift of the Holy Ghost, worlds without end.

Personal Statement on Gay Marriage

Posted in Introduction on October 11, 2011 by Thomas Parkin

This is coming late, by a couple years, at least. I have never really addressed this issue in public. My preference has been to stay out of a discussion where anything that is said is potentially hurtful, and due to the powerful feelings involved, easily misunderstood. I wouldn’t address it now, but I know that it remains out there as an issue for Mormons and about us. I simply want a statement I can refer people to, as needed. I’m not going to leave comments open; I’m not looking for discussion.  I doubt I will take part in future discussions on the issue. This is not the kind of thing I want to do on this blog. Continue reading