What *is* the appeal of Mormonism’s Weeping God?
In the midst of tragedy like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, I hear a lot of people trying to reconcile where God was or how he could allow this. Is he even there?
As we try to work through all of our emotions, some of the same explanations and arguments and hypotheses are brought up that are brought up any time tragedy happens. For some people, their faith is broken. For others, they gain a new-found faith or their existing faith is bolstered and matured through challenge.
The one thing that I’ve seen this time around that is new (at least to me) from an LDS context is wholesale application of the Givens’ The God Who Weeps to the entire debacle.
(I first alluded to this work in my post on Terryl Givens’ Letter to a Doubter, which had not impressed me. I have to admit I haven’t gotten around to buying The God Who Weeps, yet.)
There have been a few blog posts responding with some sort of allusion to it, and I’ll link to the posts I have seen, but for now, I’m only going to quote Jacob’s By Comment Consent post: All Eternity Shakes: Mormonism’s Weeping God.
- Bonnie alluded to the book in her post The Gift of Weeping.
- Dan Peterson refers not to the book, but straight to scripture, but I never saw references to these scriptures posted as direct responses to specific tragedies like the Connecticut shooting *before* the Givens’ book. (To Dan’s credit, he wrote on the motif of the Weeping God earlier.
I had seen a few others, but those are the ones I can find again now.
As I mentioned, though, in this post, I’ll be referring only to Jacob’s post at By Common Consent. His is a lengthy post, but I’ll quote a couple of paragraphs that capture the sentiment that I want to respond to:
“What, then, of our God? We read that he weeps over the suffering of his children, that Enoch, who witnesses it, is astonished. After everything he had just seen, and been granted power to do by God, he saw God as the all-powerful sovereign, able to do anything he willed, the God of traditional Judaism and Christianity. But this is troubling for Enoch. Doesn’t God already live in that painless realm of beauty and joy, that very place where we yearn to go and have been promised if we are righteous and law-abiding? When God explains that the heavens weep over suffering due to the sins of humankind he then shows Enoch all of it, all of the wickedness and suffering that God witnesses with ghastly regularity, and now Enoch weeps, and his heart swells wide as eternity, and his bowels yearn and eternity shakes. Enoch experiences, as perhaps no one really had or no one really would in scripture, not Nephi with his vision of the end of his people, not John with his Revelation of the Apocalypse, what it was like to live God’s life, to live and move as he lived and moved, as one who is intensely connected to all the happenings and events and lives of the universe. And oh what joy he did not feel from this experience. He weeps bitterly and refuses to be comforted. This could not be it. This could not be all there was for all eternity, worlds without end. Enoch realizes that the essence of what it would mean become a divine being, to become like God, the heart and core of the the gift of the Good News for humanity, was not to escape to another realm where pain and suffering cannot touch you. It was to develop into a being who would and could endure the present of all moments, in wave after infinite wave of pain, suffering, and wickedness, because this would be, despite the good that humanity would also do and be capable of, the terrible gift of humanity to God.
“…This doesn’t seem comforting in the least. What kind of vision of God is this? Can such a God really save us? And do we really want him to? What kind of salvation is this, to never escape being a being who suffers, whose suffering, in some ways, only intensifies, as he or she is exalted?”
When I read this and all the other posts about it, I get to the questions asked in the second paragraph that I quoted…but to me, there never appears to be a resolution or an answer.
In other words, Mormonism’s weeping God raises the question of whether he can save us, but it doesn’t seem like he can answer that. Mormonism’s weeping God raises the question of what salvation really is, and whether we even want it. What exaltation really is, and whether we even want it. But it seems, from these posts and these events, that there is never anything that suggests we would actually want these things.