“Once in a saintly passion”

“Once in a saintly passion” August 17, 2018


Near the Sacred Grove
On the Smith farm in Palmyra, New York (LDS.org)


For those who may have missed the obituary for Richard L. Anderson — whom I consider a friend and a faithful-academic hero — and/or for those who might be interested in attending his funeral services, here’s a link:




I paid hasty and inadequate tribute to him on this blog and on the website of the Interpreter Foundation:


“Richard Lloyd Anderson (1926-2018)”


And here’s another tribute:


“In memoriam: Richard Lloyd Anderson (1926-2018)”




Interesting items from an interesting blog:


“How Joseph Smith Translating with a Hat is Stronger Evidence Than You Might Think”


(I’ve written a bit on this topic myself.  See, for example, “Joseph, the stone and the hat: Why it all matters.”)


“LDS Church Supports FairMormon, Book of Mormon Central, Interpreter Foundation, Etc.”




And, as I go through some old posts on this blog, I found the following (which, for reasons of my own — almost inevitably perverse reasons, of course! — I thought worthy of reposting:


Apparently, somewhere on the internet, my friend Bill Hamblin has quoted the New Testament epistles of John that offer a definition of the term antichrist:


1 John 2:22 Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son.
1 John 4:3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
2 John 7   For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.


Others, including some who doubt or even reject the deity of Christ (and perhaps even some who flatly deny his existence as a real historical person), are outraged that my friend Bill seems to be suggesting that they’re antichrists.


A reaction or two:


It doesn’t seem to be Bill who’s doing this, but the author of the epistles of John.


And, yes, it’s rather harsh and unfashionable language.  Not the kind of language that we tend to use today.  (Which is fine with me.)  But it’s biblical.


Finally, I’ve been struck, in recent weeks and months, by a trend among some — always or almost always politically liberal, so far as I can tell, which seems to me no mere coincidence — to picture true Christianity as completely accepting and nonjudgmental.  (For some, indeed, tolerance is far and away the principal Christian virtue.)  To these folks, the very idea of trying to draw clear distinctions or of attempting to define who and what can be plausibly characterized as fully “Mormon,” let alone of excommunication, is intrinsically unchristian and inappropriate.


But this seems to me historically unfounded:  The Jesus of the New Testament believed in Hell (something that Bertrand Russell thought an obviously lethal moral flaw in him), preached a final judgment, called the scribes and Pharisees all sorts of unpleasant names (e.g., “whited sepulchers,” “generation of vipers,” “liars and hypocrites,” and the like), talked repeatedly of people being “cast out” for various misdeeds, and, on one notable occasion, calmly braided a whip and, with it, drove a group of enterprising businessmen from the precincts of the Temple at Jerusalem.  He was the son of a tekton (often rendered as a “carpenter,” but, I think, more likely a “stone mason”) and, therefore, probably not the little weakling Jesus who, the young budding atheist schoolboy C. S. Lewis thought, looked in too many paintings “like a consumptive schoolgirl.”


Obviously, discipline and the regulation of membership in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a matter for those who have been appointed stewards over the Church.  And, just as obviously, such matters should be treated with charity, kindness, love, and concern for the welfare of souls.  In necessariis unitas, goes the saying often though mistakenly attributed to St. Augustine (who certainly doesn’t always seem to have observed the principle!), in dubiis libertas, in omnibus caritas (“in necessary things unity, in uncertain things liberty, in all things compassion”).


And, of course, it’s one thing, in the eyes of Christian believers, for Jesus to judge others, but rather a more difficult and problematic matter for us sinful mortals to judge each other.  (Let’s just stipulate right now that my own callous and blackened soul, cankered with perpetual anger and hatred and resentment as some of my critics routinely describe it, leaves me unqualified to judge anything at all.  This isn’t about me.)


Anyway, back to my story:  One of Bill’s critics is crowing on another board that Bill has identified him as “the antichrist.”  Somehow, this reminds me of the old oily anti-Mormon Ed Decker’s recurrent boast that, despite his manifest lack of the qualifications for so exalted a status, he’s a “son of perdition.”  Which, in turn, always reminded me of James Thomson’s amusing little poem “Once in a Saintly Passion”:


Once in a saintly passion
  I cried with desperate grief,
“O Lord, my heart is black with guile,
  Of sinners I am chief.”
Then stooped my guardian angel
  And whispered from behind,
“Vanity, my little man,
  You’re nothing of the kind.”


But at least James Thomson’s sinner honestly thought he was unrighteous.  (Which he almost certainly was.)  Ed Decker doesn’t really believe that he’s a “son of perdition.”  He’s just striking a public pose.  And Bill Hamblin’s pal doesn’t really believe that he’s an antichrist, let alone the antichrist — whatever the Bible may say.



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