We all of us humans seem to want to know where we come from. The earliest religious stories, to the extent that we have been able to track them down, told their cultures whence they arose, how they began. To a superficial view, these are cosmic Just So stories. But they are more than idle speculation about why elephants have long noses. These ideas help to define us, help us to orient ourselves in the immensity of space and time. As far as I’m concerned, mr f (Herr Professor Freud) has taken this realization and warped it into a wriggling mass of dysfunctional relationships and sexual paraphilias. Still, we oughtn’t let mr f distract us from the fact that foundation narratives matter greatly. Perhaps this is part of why evolution has proved such a lightning rod for angry debate–it threatens to demolish all other foundation narratives.
Mormonism has defined, over its many decades of existence, a set of foundation narratives, both proximate (the First Vision, the Martyrdom, Brigham’s assumption of Joseph’s mantle, the seagull miracle) and remote (the Council of the Gods and theomachy, the First Family in Eden, Enoch’s ascension, the flood of Noah, Jesus in the Garden). I’m well aware of historical criticism of all of these, but this is not to the point. I’m interested in how we understand where we’ve come from, and the kibbitzing of revisionist historians and formons is not particularly relevant here.
My daughter has recently begun to explain what happened at her birth, in her first attempts at creating a narrative of origin. “I caught a fish and ate it when I was born,” “I had a manger in my hand when I was born,” “I saw baby Jesus when I was born.” Today she informed me that she was present (with her close friend Hazel) at my first date with her mother. My foundation narratives involve Gilgamesh, a 2-stroke Yamaha motorcycle, a theophany at a sacrament table, and The Oxford History of the United States.
What are your foundation narratives? How do your stories of origin correlate with those of Mormonism or your nationality? How important are they, and how much latitude should they be allowed in terms of historicity?