Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Early Christian Prayer Circle--and the Ring Dance

A classic old article by that unpredictable and delightful scholar, Hugh Nibley, is "The Early Christian Prayer Circle." For those wishing to better appreciate the ancient roots of the LDS temple experience, it's a great place to start.

Nibley sees the ancient chorus and ancient ring dances as having temple-related roots. "Ring Dance" is also one of my favorite sculptures, a landmark of Appleton, Wisconsin where I live. The beautiful sculpture is a water fountain in Appleton's downtown City Park. It depicts children in swimsuits joyously playing as they interlock their ankles (not something from the Temple) and do a ring dance around the fountain. It's a monument to the joy of being young and the fun of human friendship and play. A couple of my photos of it are below.

Interestingly, the artist, Dallas Anderson, was a Danish convert to the Church who taught art at BYU for a while before coming out to the Midwest. He lived and recently died here in Appleton. I had a chance to speak with him briefly before he passed away. He was a kind old man, an intellectual, and a tremendous artists who had left the Church after running into some anti-Mormon literature that took the wind out of his spiritual sails. His story, what little I know of it from our brief conversation, reminds me of the need to be patient and understanding of good people who leave the Church for reasons that seem valid and hard to refute. It also reminds me of the need to make answers to anti-Mormon attacks easier to find. There are good, kindly people who have been led away unnecessarily. Some say they are better off, but they are missed, and I fear they are missing something of great worth.

All these thoughts--Nibley, the Temple, good people who leave the Church, and the joy of human friendship--are stirred when I see our famous Ring Dance fountain in Appleton.


24 comments:

Regina said...

What an impressing post and beautiful photos - never imagined that circle- and ringdance might be so old. Sounds absolutely logic.

So do your thoughts on people who leave the church.

I´m not a Mormon and I hope my English is good enough to express my thoughts (I´m German):

You are right when you write that the church has got responsibility to take care of the doubts of believers that have problems.

I lost my believe in Jesus and even in God (which was worst) and struggle hard, extremely hard, to find my way back to Him.

The interesting thing with my struggle is, that I know, that there is nothing "on the other side": I did almost every esoteric thing one can do and believe (believe me: everything!). First you are thrilled with such ideas (e.g. Tarot). But they don´t really help you. So one looks for the next idea (e.g. Advaita). But you stay "hungry" in the sense of the Bible.

(Wow, it´s amazing: By writing this I suddenly understand what happened to me and my body in the last 12 years. I always was so hungy and thirsty. But it absolutely obvious that it wasn´t my body that was hungry and thirsty but my mind.)

Now that I literally "climb" back my way to God I encounter step by step (and only one of these steps sometimes take about three weeks)an "inner stability" an "inner knowledge" I never knew before in all those years.

I´d much like to encourage you to write on about struggle and problems believers have. Living without a strenghthening belief makes life empty and sad.

Openminded said...

I feel like some of the answers to the anti-Mormons lead to a less TBM position, or maybe aren't enough all together.

Sure, it's easy to take on a lot of the stupid ones without changing how you look at things. And from there on, you'll have a higher resistance to their harder arguments. But people who hold views that certain things are infallible (maybe the BoA, maybe a certain variation of the history of the church) are going to run into trouble whether response material is easy-access or not.

I also feel like I'm nit-picking an otherwise good post.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Open-Minded, you make a good point. I think we all need a little more flexibility--e.g., recognizing that anything involving mortals is going to have fallible and even ugly elements and unresolved questions. Issues like how the earth was created, for example, or what happened in the Flood, aren't going to be resolved by finding two or three verses and stretching them to the max to make untenable statements. Sometimes we just have to say we don't know and there may be other explanations. Ditto for many incidents in Church history. Complex, gritty, sometimes unpleasant. But that's life.

The big issue for all of us, and for Regina--danke fuer deinen Besuch!--is what is at the core. Is religion a galaxy of random dust with a black hole of nothingness in the center, or is it a solar system with a glorious sun rich in energy and light tugging at us as we try to spiral away into darkness? I believe it's the latter, and feel that as we adjust our orbit and draw in closer to the core, we'll find more light and joy, in spite of the man-made debris floating around that can knock a few ugly holes in our cosmic sails.

Whoa, way too geeky of an answer. Sorry!

Virginia Brown said...

No, not too geeky an answer. It touched me, and reminded me of a very spiritual experience I had recently.

We had visited an exhibit of Hubble photos with scripture references at the Idaho Falls Temple visitors' center. We decided to make our annual family calendar featuring something similar. Each of the photos I got from the Hubble website was spectacular and showed the glory and magnitude of the cosmos.

As I typed the scripture references (from the D&C and the books of Moses and Abraham), I was impressed that the Creator of such magnificence cares for each one of us. Particularly one scripture from Abraham stood out. In part it says "And He said unto me: My son, My son (and His hand was stretched out) . . ." Somewhere in the vastness of space, amid all of those spectacular creations, I have a Father, whose work and glory it is to bring to pass my eternal progress, and He is reaching out to me.

Openminded said...

I think that's a wonderful way to explain it. Even being a non-theist, I wouldn't mind being back in my religion, black hole in the center or not.

Living in the South, though, I'm reminded a lot about why I'm glad to not be in a religion anymore. Yes, I understand a lot of people don't represent their religion very well.

But then again, anyone claiming that a certain way is a better representation is making just as much of a human/interprative claim as, say, the Westboro church.

So, black hole for some (considering the center of their universe could be considerably unethical); and shiny galaxy for others that follow a religion centered more around love than discriminatory doctrine.

But that's just my personal view on it.

Anonymous said...

That was a nice post Jeff, but so out of character with how you treat people who disagree with you in the comments area. You seem to label anyone who brings up problems with the LDS church or its history as being ANTI MORMONS!! I understand you hold your beliefs close to you but you should not take it personally when someone questions your interpretation of LDS history or the Church in general. The easiest thing to do when confronted with someone who does not share your views is demonize them, which is what you do by stating they are just ANTIS!! When in fact, they could just be less active members of the Church looking for answers.

I find it hard to interact with you or your more fervent commenters as it seems everything you or they say passes through the LDS filter, meaning, anything that is brought up that is negative about the church is labeled, not true, Anti! an exaggeration or a misinterpretation of the facts. Such biased thinking does not lead to much learning or a better understanding of the other person's position. Which I think would be a big Fail.

Papa D said...

Great post, Jeff - and beautiful pictures.

NathanS said...

Anonymous, you start out realy sweet, then change. It's like saying "I really love you Jeff, but I wouldn't want to be you." As long as you start sweet, you know that you can get away with saying whatever you want? (I haven't developed that type defense yet. I have to congradulate you on that one!)

You complain about being labelled an "Anti" rather than being understood as one who seeks to understand? "Anti" refers to literature and to individuals who actively target and oppose the religion. If you were merely trying to understand, would you make snide comments elsewhere and complaint here about those who defend LDS beliefs on other threads? - and on this thread more or less accuse Jeff of abusing you on other threads?

I know that to new readers, I am making myself look hard here, but you very well know what I am about to say: You have been the abuser here. As is so often the case, you make mention of the post and go from there to do something other than understand.

You write here of being wronged strictly elsewhere. Why? Because there is no evidence of it anywhere. If you have been wronged, make the clain on the thread on which you have been wronged. Here, you claim being wronged elsewhere because there is no way Jeff can prove in this thread that he has not abused you in former ones. Making the claim here is unflattering to you. It makes you look like you are into taking cheap shots, only because taking cheap shots is what you do.

"Anti" is not a slur. "Anti" is an observation. LDS such as Jeff and I are not anti those who are "Anti's." We're just pro truth. And I'm probably not the only one who doesn't like your snaky accusations against Jeff because they don't reflect his behavior and new readers have no immediate way to know.

NathanS said...

oops! lots of spelling errors. an easy cheap shot for anyone who just can't resist.

want at me? let's see what you got.

Anonymous said...

Yes, taking the wind from his sails is a perfect metaphor. I wish abusive church leadership would understand the permanent damage they do.

Anonymous said...

I will just post a response every hour. No skin off my nose.

NathanS said...

after a while, lol

Papa D said...

Nathan, it's not worth it, especially since any responses only further detract from the point of the post - and it really is a wonderful post.

I've made the same mistake, but it really isn't worth it. (Jeff, whenever you get around to cleaning up this thread, feel free to delete this comment. I understand that this comment isn't in compliance totally with my own advice.)

Anonymous said...

1.Anonymous, you start out realy sweet, then change. It's like saying "I really love you Jeff, but I wouldn't want to be you." As long as you start sweet, you know that you can get away with saying whatever you want? (I haven't developed that type defense yet. I have to congradulate you on that one!)
( this is called a straw man argument, silly to try to defend myself against something you made up)
2.You complain about being labelled an "Anti" rather than being understood as one who seeks to understand? "Anti" refers to literature and to individuals who actively target and oppose the religion. If you were merely trying to understand, would you make snide comments elsewhere and complaint here about those who defend LDS beliefs on other threads? - and on this thread more or less accuse Jeff of abusing you on other threads?
(I never said anyone labelled me an Anti. And I have no idea what snide comments you are talking about. Why don't you list them so I can defend myself against your untested assumptions? I never said Jeff abused anyone, not sure what straw man you are building here.)
3.I know that to new readers, I am making myself look hard here, but you very well know what I am about to say: You have been the abuser here. As is so often the case, you make mention of the post and go from there to do something other than understand.
( I do not know you and have no idea what you are about to say. LOL Where do you come up with these ideas? Now you Accuse me of abusing? List them here..... or stop with your untested and unwarranted accusations.)
4.You write here of being wronged strictly elsewhere.
( Again, I did not say that. I did not allude to that. You just make things up.)
5.And I'm probably not the only one who doesn't like your snaky accusations against Jeff because they don't reflect his behavior and new readers have no immediate way to know.
( Now you are trying to say you know what others think? )
Have at you? I don't even know you nor would I want to by the way you make things up and hurdle accusations.
I have no interest in talking to someone who has to make things up.

bunker said...

Damned if you do, damned if you don't. Are you feeling a little like that Jeff? Feel like it doesn't matter what you post? Some anon poster is going to find a way to give you a hard time.

Yes anon you are an anti. Sorry to break it to you.

I even looked up the meaning in one of the many online dictionaries.
–noun, plural -tis.
a person who is opposed to a particular practice, party, policy, action, etc.

You said " You seem to label anyone who brings up problems with the LDS church or its history as being ANTI MORMONS!!"

Problem is we don't call members or even non members asking HONEST questions about church history or practice anti. It is the ones that are deceitful and bitter and claim to love us while mocking us behind our backs and showing up to general conference just off temple grounds while we strive to worship and hear from inspired leaders that we call anti.

The ones we call anti lurk on pages such as this to pounce on any topic changing the subject just to inject snide remarks. In my eyes you are an anti Mormon.

Sorry Jeff . Great post!

Anonymous said...

wow, all 3 stooges posting here.

Zerabp said...

@Anon
Amazingly enough you have only proven to anyone who reads the entire thread that you are properly labeled an Anti-Mormon and I'd even go so far to extend it to Anti-Jeff Lindsay as anyone who actually reads Jeff and his responses knows that the vast majority of the time he is very patient and understanding towards all commentators here on his site.

Good thing you can hide behind you anonymity rather then give anyone a name to go by so that we can check for these so called wrongs.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

What, Anon is actually three people? How can you tell?

Oops, there I go again, applying that darn LDS filter.

To the Anon who said they will repost every hour, I noticed that Blogger's automatic spam filter has captured numerous replications of some lengthy post you've been trying to enter. I'll go in a second a free up one of the cloned posts. You apparently think I'm sitting there snagging each one just to frustrate you in the spirit of anti-anti hostility. No, actually my life is more interesting than that.

Man versus machine: man always looses when the machine is owned by Google. Posting very lengthy comments or comments filled with links or associated with other behavior identified as spammish causes comments to be exiled automatically. If you post something and it disappears after a few seconds, it's usually not because of me.

NathanS said...

Anon, I thought you had great humor here when you first replied to my first remark but FYI, your remark,

"wow, all 3 stooges posting here."

and your doubting about you using snide remarks, are a tad bit ironic when placed so close together on the same thread.

Want to try again?

NathanS said...

Thanks, all, for showing up and for doing it so nicely that you take the wind out of Anon's criticism against Jeff and his commenters.

Papa D, I hear ya. You are one of those I'm thanking for showing up.

Anonymous said...

I really think that those of you being hard on anon are overdoing it. Let's try to be more Christian here.

And Jeff, let's also remember those driven from the Church by abuse and ignorance.

Jeff Lindsay: said...

Fair point, Anon. I guess being patient and kind isn't such a bad idea after all. But there are times when a pointed reply is called for. Like 3 a.m. especially.

NathanS said...

"I really think that those of you being hard on anon are overdoing it. Let's try to be more Christian here."

Can you point out someone being hard on anon? Can you quote a hard statement? Have you read anon's rude instructions to another commenter on a slightly earlier thread? Are you either completely new to anon's comments or anon himself?

Only a new reader or one with a double standard could write the comment quoted.

"And Jeff, let's also remember those driven from the Church by abuse and ignorance."

Because the abuse and ignorance is by Anon, are you suggesting that Jeff bar Anon from further comments? Check the comments by Anonymous in the few threads that came before this one before responding to this comment. If you still stand by these quotes, all regular readers will suspect you of being the same Anonymous that has long been high jacking Jeff's threads and has recently turned overtly abusive toward Jeff's LDS-believing commenters.

Nice work, Jeff, but really! Anon's point has the potential of being a nice one only if it's made about what Anon implies. When nice people take points like that, it always leads to men and women turning to jello. Jello may be good but there is no power in it to bring to pass much righteousness. Whether or not the latter Anon is the same as the former, the former knows all that.

Anonymous said...

Prayer circle. There is a local church with their prayer circle build with five sides.