Tuesday, 11 September 2007

President Hinckley Makes his mark - Again

Whether its being picked for the team, winning prizes at school or getting the promotion we feel is long overdue, we love to be noticed. You might say it is in our nature and that kudos is something we understand instinctively even if we can’t quite define the word.

Lamech, fifth from the star-crossed Cain, boasted to his no doubt long-suffering wives Adah and Zillah:

Listen to me; wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
A young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
Then Lamech seventy times
(Genesis 4:23-24)

I am sure that when they married Mr Right they had no idea his first name was “Always”, but Lamech made his mark and they probably never heard the end of it. I can just see him leaning against the bar at his local inn telling those good old boys all about it. We all love a good story, especially when its us telling it.

At the Tower of Babel we discover that working together in a common cause can have its own rewards. Enlightened self-interest is what some call it:

Come let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves… (Genesis 11:4)

The urge to be noticed, considered, thought well of, celebrated, renowned, honoured, acclaimed, esteemed has been strong since those days. And when others take centre stage where we once knew celebrity it doesn’t go down well:

When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with tambourines and lutes. As they danced, they sang:

‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands.’

Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him
(1 Samuel 18:6-8)

When it comes to reputation the green-eyed monster is never far away.

Which does make me wonder about the way Mormons are so expert at celebrating themselves. Of course they may, like the citizens of Babel, feel they have much to celebrate at the moment. On 3 November 2006 Gordon B Hinckley became the oldest man ever to lead the Mormon Church. On that day he was 96 years and 133 days old, beating the previous record holder, David O McKay, by one day – and counting. This on top of his being the first career Mormon, the most travelled Mormon president in history, and being responsible for the largest temple building programme since Joseph Smith first took a walk in the woods to think things through.

It is interesting to note, as an aside, that a church that was started by a young man in the full flush of youth and subsequently continued under the watchful eyes of a middle-aged man of vigour and ambition is being led increasingly by nonagenarians. It seems that the god who could only make his will known through a ‘simple farm boy’ free of the heavy baggage that accumulates with experience can now only speak to old men who appear to know the ways of this world all-too-well.

From the much publicised and photographed meeting between Hinckley and George W Bush in Salt Lake City recently, to the occasional cosy chats with Larry King. From a stream of self-promotional press releases, to the tabards worn by official Mormon ‘helpers’ in litter-picks and relief aid projects around the world, emblazoned with the legend “LDS Helping Hands”, the Mormon Church seems quite comfortable with the idea of making a name for itself. Their right hand could not be accused of not knowing what their left hand is doing (Matthew 6:3).

In the words of another prominent religious leader of whom it was said:

He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
Nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
A man of sorrows and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
He was despised, and we esteemed him not

In the words he used on a mountain somewhere in Galilee:

I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full (Matthew 6:2)

So congratulations Mr Hinckley on your longevity, your achievements, and your reputation, kudos to you. Enjoy your reward.

Ephesians 2:9

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