Along with many of you, I’ve been thinking a great deal about John Hatch’s post on what Church members really think. Like John, I thought about the kinds of daydreams and ideas we’d hear in the minds of the brothers and sisters around us in Sacrament. It would be fun, and perhaps frightening, to peek into the minds of those around us, even if we assume that everyone thinks the same way we do. Mostly, though, I wonder what makes John (and the rest of us) want to be mind readers.
I imagine that there is a perfectly rational psychological explanation for this desire (though Tom Cruise would disagree). Maybe we are just inherently curious creatures, or maybe we subconsciously feel that knowledge is power, or that hidden knowledge of others makes us more powerful in the tribe. I don’t know.
This much is clear from John’s thought experiment: no one is perfectly happy, even in Zion. We all have secret pain and hidden failings — "in the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see." When you look around you at Church, each person you see is struggling, hurting, and wounded, and we’re all desperate for Christ. To quote REM on the subject, everybody hurts, everybody doubts, and we all have horrors that we never would reveal to anyone, including Heavenly Father (which is IMHO the chief stumbling block to our repentance).
So far all this is an awful scene; in essence I’m arguing that we’re a sad, sorry lot. But I believe that this knowledge should be a source of hope and strength for each of us.
You may recognize this painting; it’s Poussin’s famous work, Et in Arcadia Ego or Les Bergers d’Arcadie. A group of shepherds in a bucolic setting discover a tomb, to their wonderment. The title, a latin phrase coined by Virgil, means Even in Arcadia I (i.e. Death) am to be found. That is to say, even the wonderful, escapist world of Arcady is no refuge from death. The tomb is a memento mori, a reminder that death and corruption are inevitable, even in paradise. Remembrance of our own death keeps us in a constant state of repentance and contrition, as we seek to prepare ourselves to meet God.
Thinking back to our unhappy comrades in Sacrament Meeting, what can we take from a knowledge that all have sinned, and all come short of the glory of God? I believe that this understanding exists to humble us, to bring us to repentance, and to cause us to have compassion for others without knowing their thoughts. The Lord has told us that we all have problems, we all have doubts, and like God, we should cause our compassion to fall on the evil and the just. Even more, it is a reminder that even in Zion all is not yet right; corruption and spiritual death are part of this world, and we must not let our wealth and health deceive us. John’s post was a wonderful way of breaking out of our self-obsessed mindsets to see the pain and need of those around us, even when we don’t know all that is going on in the secret lives of others. Even in Zion such things exist.