It turns out, the lesson of pity that Nienna teaches in The Silmarillion applies remarkably well to God’s tears in Joseph Smith’s Enoch revelations. I’m not suggesting that Tolkien was secretly a devotee of Joseph Smith, or that he was intentionally hiding encrypted keys to understanding the visions of Enoch as Easter eggs in The Silmarillion. Rather, I am suggesting that seeing what lessons The Silmarillion draws out of the image of a weeping goddess can open us up to seeing the image of the weeping God in Enoch’s visions in new ways that might not be obvious given the history of how we have read those revelations.
This is the last in a series of posts about the visions of Enoch in Joseph Smith’s New Translation of the Bible. Part I discusses the historical context of the New Translation and the narrative context of the visions of Enoch. Part II discusses the importance of the visions of Enoch to early Mormonism. Part III reviews the debate about God’s omnipotence that Enoch’s vision of the weeping god has inspired. Part IV introduced Nienna, the weeping goddess of Tolkien’s Silmarillion. Part V explored the comparison between Nienna and Enoch’s weeping god. This one brings it all to a conclusion.
In light of the lessons of Nienna, perhaps the image of the weeping God has at least as much to do with teaching us to hearken to God’s tears and thus learn “pity and endurance in hope,” The Silmarillion 28 (Christopher Tolkien ed., Houghton Mifflin 2d ed. 2001) (1977), and “pity and patience” id. at 31, from them in real, immediate, and practical ways, as it does with the sometimes highly abstract theological debate about God’s sovereignty. Perhaps the image of Enoch weeping with his God–not for himself, but for the misery of his fellow-creatures–with hands outstretched, his “heart swell[ing] wide as eternity,” “his bowels yearn[ing],” and “all eternity sh[aking]” (Moses 7:41), is meant primarily to teach us something about the process that we must go through in order to receive a “fulness of joy” (v. 67) as Enoch did. Perhaps this vision of Enoch’s, as revealed by Joseph Smith, is the greatest example in scripture of what it means to “mourn with those that mourn.” (Mosiah 18:9). Because the precious pearl of truth locked within that vision is the truth that the chiefest of “those that mourn” is God himself, and that when we mourn with those that mourn, we mourn with, (and thus begin to become one with) the God of heaven himself.
We know that Isaiah described Jesus as a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) and we know that “Jesus wept” (John 11:35) but do we think Jesus only endured sorrow in mortality, or do we think of him as “acquainted with grief” even before the incarnation, and even after the resurrection? Perhaps part of the purpose of Enoch’s vision is to teach us that we can’t draw such bright lines between God’s character during mortality and God’s character in the eternities (or between his divine nature and his human nature). Perhaps it is another facet of Jesus’ saying that the son can do nothing but what he has seen the father do: that Jesus learned pity from his father (John 5:19). In any case, it teaches us vividly that pity is one of God’s chiefest characteristics.
With this in mind, perhaps learning the lesson of pity is one of the ways that we become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4). Perhaps Alma’s invitation to bear one another’s burdens and mourn with those that mourn is an invitation to become one with God. In this light, it is not just an invitation to condescend to lower ourselves to the level our fellow-creatures, but, by so doing, to ascend to the mountaintop where we may be “clothed with glory” and converse with God (Moses 7:4). He that abases himself will be exalted (Matthew 23:12). Maybe the lesson of the weeping God is not to tell us about the infinity or the finity of his power after all, but to tell us of our own power to be like him, if we will hearken to his tears, and like Enoch, learn to weep with our God for the misery of our brothers and sisters, and for the filthiness of the earth.
That truth, to me anyway, is a deeper truth, and one that has far more immediate meaning for my own life, than does the sovereignty debate. Whoever is to blame, evil exists, and Enoch’s vision cuts through that debate and demands that we see that God does not sit unmoved by it, but weeps at the suffering and misery that it brings to both its victims and it perpetrators. And just as profound is the message of Enoch’s progression from bewilderment at God’s tears to emulation of God’s tears, joining God in weeping and becoming one with him. For me, this is the truth of the visions of Enoch: if we hearken to God’s tears, as Enoch did, we will begin to be like he is, we will learn pity, patience, and endurance in hope, The Silmarillion at 28, 31, we will obtain “strength to the spirit” id. at 28, and the ability to “turn sorrow into wisdom,” id., and will ultimately obtain “a fullness of joy” (Moses 7:67).
And that’s what Nienna taught me.