Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fried Chicken and Page Numbers

In October 2011 General Conference, J. Devn Cornish gave a talk about finding a quarter when he wanted to buy some fried chicken, and the Blogernacle flipped its lid. "People get cancer and DIE, and God can't be bothered to help, but one dude on a bicycle wants to eat some fried chicken (which probably isn't even in keeping with the Word of Wisdom!), and God's on the scene?!?" Because some Mormons are reasonable like that.

Anyway, here's a little experience I had recently.

I keep track of the number of pages I read, because I'm an idiot. Here in China, I have used PDFs and e-books much more than I did in the U.S. Sometimes these files have pagination, but sometimes they don't. For my "morning scriptures" I've been reading non-scriptural lesson manuals, so I guess I've been reading "morning devotionals" instead, but something about that terminology makes me uncomfortable, because I'm an idiot. Anyway, I've been working through the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series (in historical order, not publication order) in the Gospel Library app. The newer manuals have page numbers in the margins, but the older manuals don't have that.

I was approaching the end of the Joseph Smith manual and I didn't have a way of knowing how many pages I had read. I could find general publication information, but often that only reflects the number of pieces of paper in the book, not how many had words for reading. I was thinking I could e-mail my parents, who could look it up in their copy, but my parents are getting to the point where fairly simple instructions are surprisingly baffling. I checked the church library, but they didn't have a copy of that particular manual.

The day I was supposed to finish the manual was a Sunday. We went to church and there on the "free" table, where people place all the crap they don't want to cart back to the U.S. when they move, was a copy of the manual. I could look through the book and see how many actual pages it contained.

The next day I started the Brigham Young manual. It also does not have page numbers in the digital version. I checked the church library and found no copies. One Sunday I was completing an aspect of my calling as branch clerk where I count the number of people at the meeting. I counted in the chapel, then went out to count stragglers in the hallways and classrooms. We have one family with particularly high-spirited children (yesterday at the end of district conference, one of these kids screamed in the unguarded microphone), and they spend a lot of sacrament meetings in the nursery. We have two nursery rooms, but only one ever gets used during sacrament meeting because the other one is just a table and some chairs. Anyway, I looked around and counted everyone. On my way back into the chapel, I noticed that the unused nursery room door was open. I thought, "I should look in there for people." I didn't expect to find anyone, but I looked anyway. I looked through the door and I found...no one. And then I stuck my head all the way in and looked around the corner, and sitting on a table inside the door was a physical copy of the Brigham Young manual. I was able to look through it and see how many pages it had.

There are two ways I can respond to these events: one is the faithful way and one is the non-faithful way. (I didn't use the word "unfaithful" because to me that means something entirely different.) I know about both of these ways because I've had both of these responses, in oscillation, since having these experiences.

The non-faithful way would be to think this: "Seriously, God? All the things I really need in my life and what You come through with is two random books?" The faithful way would be to think this: "Wow, so if God is going to come through for me with two random books that I don't even really need, then I totally don't have to worry about the things that actually matter. He's got it all covered."

I'd expect a completely unhinged response from Internet Mormons, except none of them read my blog, anyway.

1 comment:

Alanna said...

I don't count as an internet Mormon????

Actually, that's probably a good thing...

This post makes me think of the movie Signs. There are two kinds of people: those who choose to see signs and those who choose not to. Which kind are you?

I mean, if we can't relate the gospel to M. Night Shyamalan movies, then what's the point of anything?