Sunday, June 17, 2007

What to do with a shovel

Yesterday in another forum I posted a reply to an individual who was expressing concern about the narrow worldview that some LDS people have with regard to religion. I shared an experience that my brother, who is not a member of the Mormon church, related to me a long time ago. This actually happened to him, and I think he was sharing it with me to make a point about my own religious observance. My brother's story and its subtle implications quietly bothered me for years.

My brother worked in a gravel pit, running a rock crusher. At the time he was less than 20 years old, and he was head over heals with a nice girl that was devoutly Southern Baptist. Although my family was never religious, my brother was actually considering going into the Ministry, just to please her. Well, there was a crusty old foreman that was running the operation, and one day after listening to my brother's aspirations, he offered his advice with an object lesson.

The foreman took his shovel and put the spade-end of it right up into my brother's face. "Okay Bob, tell me what you see." My brother's reply was simple, "A shovel." Then the foreman stepped back about ten feet and said, "Now, what do you see?" My brother's answer was more revealing: "Well, I see you and the shovel. I see the gravel pit, the crusher and the front-end loader. I see the river, the trees and the sky. The old foreman replied, "Exactly. Do you get my point?"

My brother said he got the point, and after some consideration he decided the Ministry was not for him. More than that, he decided he had been a little crazy about this girl, and that he'd momentarily lost sight of the real world, and that religion in general was not for him either. He has since lived his adult life fairly void of any religion.

And so I've sometimes asked myself, "Do I have a shovel in my face? Is there more to life than this shovel?"

Here's the answer that I've worked out for myself. Jesus never intended for us to have a shovel in our face. A shovel is a tool that is designed to accomplish work, not obstruct vision. The shovel of religion is best used with a strong arm, a strong back, and a sharp mind that has a purpose in using it. We need to have balance in our lives, and the perspective of others is vital, even enriching. There are lots of ways to use a shovel; in fact, there are many kinds of shovels that do different things. And so it is with religion. The good Lord and Foreman of us all appreciates all his workers, whether or not they own genuine Craftsman® brand shovels.

I believe the 'restored gospel' is all-encompassing of human diversity as well as our individual needs, if we allow it to be by being faithful to the rather simple requests of the commandments the Lord has given us. The fact that our LDS religion actually requires us to walk the talk is indeed one of the key attributes that some in the world are critical of. In the final analysis, if we choose a life of faith, we need to also make the choice to be obedient to the Lord's standards, as described in the scriptures, whether or not we put the shovel to our face or use it at arm's length.

1 comment:

J G-W said...

Interesting analogy. I think that many in the LDS community do have a narrow approach to religion, but not all nor even most. Certainly LDS teachings and tradition don't encourage us to look only at the shovel to the exclusion of everything else. One of the things that drew me back to the LDS Church was digging into our history, and learning more about what an all-encompassing approach the prophet Joseph had to life and faith. Everything was a potential source of truth, and faithful LDS were encouraged to seek far and wide for it, from all the best sources.

Personally, I have discovered that good religion, true religion, is actually about taking the shovel out of our faces and seeing everything around us with eyes unclouded by hate.