A guest submission by B. Bowen, a good friend of BCC.
Dear Brother Joseph,
Like many of my fellow wanderers, I celebrate you this week. Yesterday was “Joseph” day at church, and I think you would have liked it: a youth talk with all the typical mythological worship-speak (You could do no wrong! Miracles and power! Boy genius!); a nice summary drawn from your mother’s memoir; and the coup de grace, a thorough, trembling tribute, not to the myth, but to the deconstruction of the myth, the kind of which we see far too little these days.
After church, our home teacher came over to talk about you. He asked if I had any experiences “sharing” you with others. I told him I have them all the time, but not in the way he was asking about. I told him that I “share” you with the Saints, because as poorly as I know you, others often know you far less well, and this failure to know is choking the life out of our people. You are not a man; you are an icon, who, we are told, cannot and must not be smeared, lest the curtain be drawn and their arms, turning wheels and pulling levers, be revealed for the flesh they are.
But that curtain is wearing thin. It splits at the seams. In spots it is threadbare enough to see through, and bright lights are gathering, gathering, gathering. In a coming day, only the most willfully ignorant will fail at least to see that something is not as it has seemed.
Draw the curtains! Let the levers sit idle! Replace awe with vision; fear with wisdom, theatrics with revelation!
Familiarity only partially breeds contempt; more so, it breeds compassion. When I dream of Zion, I dream of the understanding that surpasses myth, surpasses kitsch, surpasses platitudes. I dream of the messiness that IS and will be forever. I dream, dear brother, of you. And I celebrate. I celebrate you and all of you. I raise my glass to witching rods, to money digging, to circles carved in stone, to faces in hats, to undisturbed linen. I toast Zelph, funerary vessels, mummies and Kinderhook. I toast hubris and failure, Missouri, Kirtland, the Flag of the Kingdom, secret councils, scattered type, dreams of Texas, white papers, and error born of desperation. To the night in Iowa, I raise my glass, to banners and uniforms I take a sip. For you, today, I will even nod to–though I will not toast–the Great Mistake. For you, tomorrow, I will walk the riverbed searching for my stone. I will look for my brethren among strangers, flashing signs. I will eschew all damnation and see the face of God.
I toast these–and more–not because you said or did them, but because you dared to. Oh, how you dared, and oh, how you showed us to do likewise. To this my cup will stay aloft, never to drop.
Godspeed, friend. Godspeed.