Sunday, October 11, 2015

Four Blessings and Justice

Posted: 11 October 2015
Updated: 19 Oct 17

A Mormon Priesthood Blessing
All four of my most memorable Mormon priesthood blessings came before the ABYSS event of July 1965, described in the previous post. "But that is so long ago", one might ask. "Why post it now?"

It is for my family
It is for institutional justice. 
It is for future reconciliation between the young people of my culture now in a personal faith crisis for which the institution is largely responsible, but still tragically blind to.
It is my legacy for my children and their children who have already faced their own crises and those who have yet to face more.
It is my hope that leaders of the institution, who now dismiss and are willfully blind to their role as offender, will awaken enough to transform the institution into an actual "Ensign to the Nations", which they once boasted was uniquely so, but who are now unaware of having forfeited that claim.

One of many clear indicators of this forfeiture is the institution's inability to include and welcome the emergence 50 years ago of a responsible, rigorous, truth-seeking and culture-valuing publication called Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon ThoughtThese days, as the Journal has matured and gained international stature over the decades since, faculty and students alike at BYU, the institution's flagship university, are marginalized and penalized for even being associated with the journal, thus jeopardizing their academic and professional careers.

Today (Sunday, 10/11) I received a note from wife, Birgitta, which seemed so appropriate:
Robert Jeffries on TV this morning said that:

Unconditional Forgiveness takes only one person.
Reconciliation takes two persons and has four requirements:
1.  Repentance. The offender needs to admit the offense and both parties need to be in agreement about the offense;
2.  Restitution (not revenge);
3.  Rehabilitation; the offender needs to be sorry enough to change future behavior;
4.  Rebuilding of trust; takes time. The offender needs to realize this and needs to work on it and be patient
On Tuesday (10/14), Birgitta wrote: 
Interesting post! But, I feel I want to know the contents of those four priesthood blessings to better understand your journey. (Your non-Mormon wife).
I replied: 
My love, I am so glad you want to know these things! Most Mormons and family members would care less. But that is OK. These posts are for the record. I will post the contents and back stories of all those blessings to the best of my recollection.  

Below, again, is a synopsis of those four blessings, which will be followed by disclosure of their content and a discussion from today's perspective: 
First blessing. "Patriarchal Blessing" [PB] at age 9 in May 1943 by Phoenix stake patriarch Orlando C. Williams.
(click on image to enlarge)
Patriarchal Blessing of Eugene N. Kovalenko (aka Eugene Nicholas Kregg)
The more complete back story to this blessing can be found here, some of which I will now repeat.

My mother was the stake patriarch's transcribing secretary, who obviously had ecclesiastical ambitions for her two sons, which accounts for the unusual early age for that once-in-a-lifetime official Mormon blessing which the patriarch pronounced on my younger brother and me at different times.

I was to meet Orlando C. Williams 'by chance' only once again years later, this time in early 1966 on a public sidewalk near UCLA. At that time I was homeless and wandering. Williams, of course, did not recognize me, since I was now in my early 30s, but I recognized him, even though it was more than 20 years later. So, when I realized who he was, I stopped him long enough to say that his long-ago prophetic blessing was coming true, but that no one believed me. He looked at me with incredulity, wondering, I suppose, if I were deranged. But when I told him my mother's name (Ruth Clawson Kregg), he remembered her and his days as patriarch and indignantly asked: "Who are these unbelievers?" 

I don't recall answering him or even taking his contact information before moving on. That serendipitous meeting seemed then like an ordinary everyday event.

Why wasn't it more interesting?! Why weren't we able to pause after so many years to wonder why we would 'just happen' to meet so casually on a sidewalk in California when the last we knew each other was 20+ years earlier in Phoenix, Arizona, when I was just a boy? Incredibly, come to think of it only now, there was no human-to-human interaction between us on that Westwood sidewalk. I didn't even think to ask O. C. Williams what he was doing there or why. Nor did he think to ask the same questions. It seems clear to me now that we were then in a magical, Mormon eternal now.

Shortly after that sidewalk meeting, I wrote a letter to one of my best friends, one of less than a handful, who had not abandoned me because of my disaffection from the Church four months earlier. Eugene England, who had just published the first edition of Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought, was trying to coax me into reconsidering and to return to the Church. The letter, which I made into a poem, reflects the content of above-mentioned official patriarchal blessing. Here is that poem:

Letter to Eugene England

Gene: re-entry?
Closing scenes,
The work's begun.
Wanting everything to know;
Knowing too much to tell.
Listening inside
For what will one day
Come outside.

Wanting to tell,
To share,
To offer.

Refused with smiles
And frowns:
Endured by those
Whose words claim knowing.

Tired inside
But wiser out.
Streams of words
Are turning into trickles
While glances take more place
And I become a serpent
With slits for eyes
To those once close.

But were they close in heart?
I think it no,
Else they would not have
Seized the Sign
Usurped my place.

Where is the Red Man
That I should sing?
Why Columbia in dream?

She is my friend
But fears my love;
But why?
Because she fears her own?

Next in time
Are those of Rodina.
Then to Judah
And last the princely line.

Who knows these mysteries
And destinies
With certainty?
Who really knows
The face of God?
Or unseen world?

Friend, I seek you truly,

Are you inside
And tired with me?

But what is my wish?
To serve right now.

But be specific:
Get to work
And win that place and time
To build for new emerging age.

Songs will rend the air
While hearts unite
To leap ahead
Of desolation coming.

And we will walk to Zion
Through its ruins.

Santa Monica
1 Feb 66
(Op 16)

Second blessing. By Oscar McConkie, Jr. (of Kirton-McConkie) in spring 1961. A "setting-apart" blessing for a stake mission at the University of Utah stake performed in his law office in downtown Salt Lake City. Oscar was a counselor in the U of U stake presidency. The blessing contained two prophesies.
The core of the blessing was at the very beginning. With his hands on my head he spoke these emphatic words: 
The Lord is aware of you and the hopes of your heart. He will step out of His regular pattern to bless you in an especial way. You will know of a certainty what your work is before this mission is through!...
Needless to say, those words surprised me. They were not standard for such blessings and I began praying silently about whether I should listen and take them seriously. I had earlier been concerned about McConkie's overly enthusiastic expressions about my Slavic heritage and clandestine military service, which he knew about. (Remember, this was the middle of the Cold War.) I was concerned that his enthusiasm was more political than spiritual as the blessing proceeded. He had not mentioned my family, schooling or any other issues normally addressed in such blessings. BUT, as I was silently praying about each issue, he was speaking about them in the order asked! As I realized this congruence, I relaxed and accepted it as a sign that the blessing was inspired and have never forgotten those first startling words.

From today's perspective, was there anything I knew "of a certainty" before that mission was through? Yes, one thing. That story can be found here.
Third blessing. By T. Bowring Woodbury in February 1964 on the eve of my University of Utah doctoral dissertation defense the next morning. It contained one prophesy, which saved my academic career!
The core of this healing blessing came at the very end, when former British mission president Woodbury said in a powerful voice: 
A cordon of angels will surround you in your hour of need, that your mind will be released!...
The back story to this blessing and how it ties in to Oscar McConkie's 1961 setting-apart blessing prophesy can be found here.
Fourth blessing. By Bishop Reed C. Durham, Sr. on July 16, 1965, on the eve of a fateful trip, which preceded the ABYSS and then morphed into The Hill I Chose To Die On (earlier referred to)
The core of this blessing contained a promise, a prophesy and a warning. I rejoiced in the promise, was startled by the prophesy, but most unfortunately did not heed the warning.

On Thursday evening, 10/15, Birgitta wrote:
It's sort of a general blessing that all believers in Christ are promised with a Mormon twist to it. I thought of the verses in Galatians 3:10 and on to the end of the Chapter. Read the passage carefully. And then read the blessings to Abraham's seed listed in Deuteronomy 28:1-14...

The second to the fourth blessings you received are wonderful.
On Friday, 10/16, I replied to Birgitta:
Regarding my first blessing [PB] at age 9, I do not recall the event itself, but do remember reading and re-reading the text of it, wondering throughout my youth and early adulthood what my "work" would be that it refers to. Your biblical references are certainly relevant in that they refer to religious law versus faith, which, through a Mormon lens, certainly colored Patriarch O. C. William's words. I see your biblical references (and my PB to a far lesser extent) now like great paintings viewed by many over many centuries. Each viewer has his/her own experience of that painting and often finds it difficult, if not impossible, to explain that experience to others.

To be continued and amplified....

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