The Anvil Of Mormonism
Another Latter-Day Parable
In his Politics and the English Language, George Orwell references the hammer and the anvil. His point was in 1946 that, many metaphors had been distorted over time, and the original idea had been lost. The hammer does not, in fact, win; the anvil always wins. It may be big and cumbersome, never moving and slow, with seemingly no power, and the hammers seem full of energy and fast. That is an illusion. The hammers seem to bestow the final blows when used correctly. The hammers even have an ally, the big strong people who swing them.
Ally or not, however, the anvil permanently attached in one spot never loses the battle between itself and the hammer because it is unmovable and not pliable. The hammers may be many, but the single anvil has been created and forged, so it would appear the only way to take away its unyielding power is to unbolt it and change its use to that of the server, not as one who is served.
Churches Serve People; Cults Are Served by People.
People have attempted, sometimes successfully and often not so successfully, to destroy the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly known as the Mormons, since its inception in 1830. This continual hammering has seen outside forces, for example, the Federal Government and the US Military, attempt to destroy this behemoth. At the same time, there has been a myriad of internal forces attempting to do the same thing, for example, sub-sects and breakaway groups as well as many disillusioned members. And yet, since the publication of the infamous “Manifesto” in 1890 and statehood in 1896, the church has continued to “blossom as a rose.” At least financially and numerically, that is. While the “Manifesto” story is for another day, it should be pointed out; however, the US Supreme Court upheld the Edmund-Tucker Act, which secured the US government's right to seize all Mormon church property; the response to such seizure led to Prophet Wilford Woodruff stating the church would renounce the practice of polygamy or plural marriage.
That announcement would halt the seizures and lead to statehood in 1896. The practice, however, would continue in secret for many more years. Interestingly enough, the practice was not abolished by the mainstream church but “suspended” until such a time when it would be necessary to cancel such suspension. I mention this as an example of how the church has ridden the tides of controversy for nearly 200 years. No matter how often and how many small and large hammers beat away at the Anvil, it stays static and strong.
It is true that many dents can be seen on the outer parts of the anvil, and at times, it needs cleaning and shining up on the outside, but the inner parts of the anvil remain just as forged in 1830. When necessary, the church has sometimes added or taken away part of the anvil to ease the masses of hammers coming their way, for example, making the Mormon Priesthood available to all worthy males, including, since 1978, men that are African-American or black in color. Civil rights took a little longer in Utah, but almost everything takes a little longer in Utah.
And yet, whether the Equal Rights for Women, Birth control, Abortion, and LGBTQA+ issues hammers keep hammering the anvil. The Anvil is as it's always been. Even in 2021, when it appears that church growth is declining in a major way for the first time, the Anvil stands strong and suggests that the mass temple building program is not tax manipulation but preparation for the arrival of Jesus Christ. Even for the faithful, it begs why a new temple would be needed in the middle of nowhere, in Sanpete County, only 7 miles from Manti. Unlike other parts of Utah, where massive population growth can be seen, I assure you no one runs to Sanpete County to live. In fact, without Snow College in Ephraim, no one would be visiting at all.
Jesus Did Not Save Money; He Gave it Away.
And so it is; the single anvil has been created and forged in such a way to be served and not to serve. Therein lies the problem. No matter its view of itself, a church should, by my understanding, be there for the people, in a way just like a type of Jesus. The church should be the server to ALL those that need to be served by Jesus himself. There is too much expected of the church membership in their role as servers to the Anvil, in my experience. As mentioned previously, it would appear the only way to take away its power is to unbolt it and change its use to that of the server, not as one who is served.
Elder David Bednar taught years ago that if he desires to change, each person has to just turn around and head in the right direction. I have always considered that to be great advice, simple but productive. My suggestion, for what it's worth, would be for the Anvil to do likewise. Stop, turn around, and head in the right direction. Serving and not being served. Giving and not hoarding while people are hungry and homeless.
The Anvil, if used correctly, can significantly assist in producing fine and beautiful hammers. Any church should not be unmovable and non-pliable. No matter what ancient dogma it spouts, any church should care for people, ALL people, because if it doesn’t, it’s not really a church. It’s an Anvil. What good is an anvil without hammers? Likewise, what good is a church without people? Just like the metaphor, maybe the original idea has been lost. Or maybe it was never there in the first place?
© Stephen G. Arrowsmith 2021
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