One of the really appealing things about the Mormon worldview is the way that it handles wrongdoing so adeptly. Our ideas about agency, transgression, redemption, and eternal progress combine to help us see things we do wrong as learning opportunities. We don’t think about cardinal sins or venial sins; we think about improving, and form Mutual Improvement Associations. We see bad choices and failure as necessary parts of mortality. Our restoration scriptures make it clear that the Fall was not an impediment to our salvation, but an important part of it. We must taste the bitter so that we may learn to prize the good. We are presented with a challenge and when we master it, all previous failures are forgotten. Christ’s grace is sufficient, and a loss becomes irrecoverable only when we make a fully conscious, fully informed, deliberate turning away from that grace. We believe we will be judged according to the true desires of our hearts, so it’s hard for Mormons to blunder their way into hell.
Those are some of the deep thoughts I have had while I’ve watched the replays (again and again) of Eric Bruntlett’s unassisted triple play. Two weeks ago in the Phillies/Mets game, history was made. For only the second time in over a hundred years, a player made an unassisted triple play to end a major league baseball game. With no outs in the ninth inning, and with runners on first and second, the batter hit a screaming line drive up the middle. Bruntlett made a good play by catching the ball (out # 1), then stepping on the base to throw out the runner who had failed to tag for out # 2. He then ran down the runner coming from first base and applied the tag for out # 3. All this happened, as you can see, in a matter of 2 or 3 seconds. This is an outstanding display of some great defensive baseball.
But here’s the thing. The only reason there were runners on base in the first place was because Bruntlett had misplayed the ball on both previous plays. His mistakes earlier in the inning had allowed runners to reach base safely. The odds say that when a team has runners on first and second with no outs, it is about 70% likely that at least one runner will come home safely, and in a sport where batting averages figured out to the third decimal are meaningful, the odds are what you go with. Bruntlett’s errors had him set up to be the scapegoat for a loss, but they also made his triple play heroics possible. He was very likely discouraged, but he persisted and put himself in a position to succeed. His play is a perfect illustration of the plan of salvation.
Sometimes I like to read 2nd Nephi chapter 2. But when I want a visual representation of the ideas in that chapter, I like to crack open a cold one and watch Eric Bruntlett go from goat to hero in the twinkling of an eye. May we all prepare ourselves to do the same.