Alma's poetic genius (from Meridian Magazine)

I just noticed this: The Poetic Genius of Alma the Younger.

I'm a sucker for information about Alma the Younger, so I was pretty jazzed. This article is a nice introduction, and it really whetted my appetite for more.

Thanks for writing it Br. Talley. When is the next articles due out?

Retrenchment and Reaching out

Over on his blog, grasshopper recently posted about Church Activity (a topic near and dear to my heart). He pointed out that latter-day saints tend to have higher levels of public activity than other christian denominations, but that those publicly active members are less likely to be privately active. (Something that I view as a measure of conversion -- a topic for a later post.)

I pointed out that you could combine these statistics to get a rough measure of private activity among all memebers. Doing so indicates that general LDS and non-LDS private activity rates are about the same.

Dave then pointed out that there are two possible explanations: 1) the church encourages public acts over private ones, or 2) the church is able to encourage public acts even among those who are not privately active. While I don't have any real evidence, I lean to the second view Dave mentioned. While it's dangerous to speculate from an unsupported base, I wonder if there are lessons to be learned here.

Last night I attended a meeting about Home Teaching, inactivity, and missionary work. In our stake we're home teaching about 40%, inactivity levels are pretty high (we have over 450 propective elders), and convert baptisms have dropped to less that 50% of last year's rates. We've obviously got some work to do. The question is: Where do we apply our limited resources?

One school of thought would be that we should focus on those who are not publicly active, encouraging them to attend church meetings and fellowship with their fellow saints. Hopefully as some of them respond to this invitation and become publicly active, some of those will become more privately active as well.

Another tack would be to focus on the publicly active but privately inactive members first, encouraging them to become more devoted, more deeply converted. As these members begin to exercise greater faith, they will be better able to reach out to those that are not publicly active. I think this was the idea behind the 'retrenchment' movements of the 19th century.

Do we need to retrench before we can reach out?


Feelings, imagination, and promptings of the Spirit

Is my testimony of the restored gospel just some wistful imagining?

In his essay "Is Theology Poetry", C.S. Lewis refactors the title into "Does Christian Theology owe its attraction to its power of arousing and satisfying our imaginations?" which reminded me of Jeff Lindsay's recent post The Anti-Mormon Plea: PLEASE Don't Pray about the Book of Mormon. We are often accused of letting our feelings or our imaginations take the place of "real inspiration" when we ask people to pray about the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon or when we bear testimony of our experiences after having done so ourselves.

In another essay, "Transposition", Lewis gives a good model for dealing with this. He describes transposition as the representation of a richer reality in a poorer medium. Believing that it is better to blame ignorance than malice, I believe that this concept applies very well to spiritual experiences like praying about the Book of Mormon. Those who have not experienced spiritual promtings (viewing the transposition from beneath in Lewis' words) have no basis for knowing that the Spirit does testify in repsonse to prayerful seeking, and will deride our testimony as the effects of imagination. Those who have had this experience (seeing the transposition from above), can see and respond to the fuller picture.

In answer to his reworked question, Lewis answers that true Christianity does not appeal to our imaginations, but to something higher. It makes unpleasant (from a natural perspective) demands on us which only make sense after we have undertaken to answer them. When we are able to view the transposition of our faith from above, then we find that it appeals to our Spirit. When we act on the word, we find that we are drawn closer to God. When we pray in faith to know that the gospel has been restored in these latter days, we hear the Spirit's whispered response.

Let us pray

After I started thinking about this, but before I posted it, I saw a pair of posts related to this grouping of ideas over on Ebenezer Orthodoxy — A Second Witness and On the Authentication of Scripture.