Can individual diversity and a sense of humor help enrich our gospel experience?
It was a congenial Sabbath morning as the adult Sunday School class assembled themselves for the discussion. Some had come prepared. Most were eager. In addition, some were just hungry. It was Fast Sunday.
The subject of the day was the well-known account in Genesis of Jacob and Esau. The teacher, being optimistic, was hopeful that this this might be an undemanding discussion, as many adult classes tended to be.
The exchange focused predominantly around Isaac, his wife Rebekah, and Jacob, the son, who was the younger of twin brothers. Esau, the elder son, who by custom was expected to receive the blessing of birthright, was purposefully absent from this event. That was Rebekah’s plan since she felt that she was destined to carry out God’s wish (Genesis25:23).
As the account in Genesis states, the elderly father‘s vision was severely impaired and as such he relied on the senses of touch and smell. Esau had a distinct smell to his raiment, and had very hairy arms. Jacob, on the other hand, was less hairy and had clothing with a different fragrance.
The mother conspired to entice Isaac to bestow the birthright blessing upon Jacob. To take care of the odor problem, the mother dressed Jacob in Esau’s clothing. She then wrapped a piece of goatskin around Jacob’s hands and neck so Isaac, feeling it, might perceive him to be Esau, and hence bestow the blessing on Jacob. It worked.
To begin the class, the teacher invited someone to read the story from Genesis, chapter 27. Sister Ready quickly volunteered to read it and did.
Immediately Brother Blunt shifted in his seat and said to Mable, his wife, “You’ve got to be kidding me!” [He was a sheep and goat rancher himself]. “Do you really think another goat herder, no matter how old he was, couldn’t figure that out?” As he started to raise his hand, Mable grabbed it and whispered, “Honey, please be quiet,” just as Sister Serene uttered, “This chapter really helps me with a family problem I am trying to deal with right now.”
Sister Marvel then queried, “How could it be that a prophet of God is deceived? Surely, he must have known?” Whereupon Brother Candid interjected, “I doubt that God could have had the wool pulled over His eyes.” [He had been daydreaming and missed the part about Rebekah’s revelation]. Just then Sister Elder [who was hard of hearing], raised her head and commented, “I just love these Book of Mormon stories.”
After a long pause, Brother Smart, a professor of religious studies at the local university made an observation. He used the words absolutism, anthropomorphic, elucidation, and historicity, all in the same sentence.
The teacher shifted uneasily from foot to foot and finally said quietly, “I think you are absolutely right.” And so, on it went.
Quietly pondering at home
Later, after arriving home, I sat for a few moments in quiet reflection trying to process the day.
I recalled that it was also relatively interesting the week before. The brothers had proceeded to their Elders Quorum class and the sisters to Relief Society. They were each discussing the same topic on that particular day. It was, “How to Raise Children.”
In the Elders Quorum, the younger fellows, all raising children themselves, actively participated. The older folks, being empty nesters, remained stoically silent. They were just happy to listen.
The class had ended twenty minutes early and Brother Blunt wandered off to find Mable. He was hungry. Approaching the door, he quietly cracked it open a notch to see if he could catch Mable’s eye. The teacher up front was wiping tears from her eyes, and he could hear other sniffles throughout the room.
Knowing the class could possibly go few minutes overtime, Brother Blunt proceeded to find a chair and wait.
Then, more thoughts came
It was then that a thought came to me regarding a movie I had recently seen. It was entitled “Amazing Grace.” In it, one main character, John Newton, was ruminating quietly and says the following. “God sometimes does His work with gentle drizzle, not storms. Drip… drip… drip.” The movie was speaking of how God speaks to His children.
Being from a farming community, I then thought of how that makes perfect sense. If God were to pour all the rain a field required in one place, all at once, it would cause severe erosion, runoff, damage, seed loss, and none of the crop would grow properly. Conversely, slow, gentle rain nourishes the whole field equally, producing sustained growth.
We are all nourished in this way. As His children, we receive His love and knowledge just one gentle drop at a time. The cumulative effect of all those individual enlightenments, which come to us in different ways, provides flavor and blessings to all as we worship together. The sum is always greater than the individual parts. Each comment can bring a smile and a moment of introspection. Perhaps we can even empathize.
I then thought about dogs. I have had many dogs in my life, and I loved each of them. They were all different. Some were loud, some were docile, some loved to retrieve, and some just wanted to run. And so on and so on. They were all uniquely wonderful.
One thing I trained them all to do, and it was quite easy, was to come when I whistled. With three consecutive whistles, they would all respond. They knew my call, and they came, every time, because they loved me.
God’s children are also interestingly different. However, we all have one thing in common. When He calls, we can recognize His voice and come because we know He loves us. Moreover, we love Him. We can all share the unique perspectives we have gained through distinctive life experiences, and together nourish all parts of the field.
It is a beautiful thing.