Imagine if Woody Allen complained about being a Jew.
Imagine if John Wayne spent his time loathing the fact that he was raised Catholic.
Imagine Steve Jobs bemoaning his own Arabic ancestry.
Do you think any of these men would become the powerful creators that they were, had they put any energy into such grievances?
Here’s what I’ve realized this week.
There’s something about arguing against MY own heritage that has made me less of a person.
As you probably know, the past several years have seen me angst-ridden over my relationship to the LDS Church. The past year has brought many fascinating people, experiences, and epiphanies to me that have brought me a new kind of peace.
A few nights ago, I was shooting the Deseret Book Women’s Conference at BYU. During the program, they showed a trailer for a film that has just been made about my Great, Great, Grandfather, Ephraim K Hanks:
I descend from some truly extraordinary people who did unbelievably heroic things in the name of Mormonism. It’s in my DNA. It’s the fabric of my family culture, and therefore, it’s part of my vocabulary. It doesn’t define me, but I’m also not immune to it.
Everyone has a different heritage. Eskimos descend from a different set of circumstances. Their ancestors dealt with and thought about different things than my ancestors did. Going back further, my ancestors, from both my mother and father’s side, are Danish. My ancestry has marinated in a Christ consciousness for hundreds, almost thousands, of years. The ethos of Christ, his teachings, his intentions, all resonate deeply with me, without any branding from any institution. It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am.
I accept who I am.
I honor it.
I give gratitude for it.
I am honored to be the offspring of a man who had such power powers of manifestation as did Ephraim K Hanks. These days, things like “The Secret” and “The Law Of Attraction” are popular buzz words. These are laws of human nature that have existed from the very beginning. Throughout the ages, and throughout phases in individual people’s lives, awareness of these powers ebbs and flows. Ephraim understood these principles and used them to manifest healing, food, and life in the lives of people who would have otherwise died.
I know that one of my prime purposes in life is to re-acquaint myself with these powers, to exercise them in my own life, and to then be an example to others so that they, too, may become saviors of men. This is nothing special to me. It’s your job, too, to align with these powers, exercise them, and then become an example to those around you. The ubiquity of this call does not diminish from it’s grandeur.
I am humbled at the size of the task at hand. It feels so much larger than me, but I also know that there are powers in the Universe that I can align myself with that will magnify me – make me larger than I really am, so long as I am in correct alignment.
I know what a lot of you are thinking. “WHAT? Is Paul going back to church?” Relax. You probably won’t see me in sacrament meeting or at the Temple.
But like Jesus said, any time two or more are gathered in his name, He is in their presence. That’s sufficient for me. And to that end, I go to “church” all the time… and I love it.
One aspect of Mormonism that has always resonated with me is the 13th Article of Faith: [quote ]We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.[/quote]
The pursuit of excellence is a part of Mormon culture. One thing I’ve learned from doing a few photography jobs for the Church is this: When it comes to giving a shit, the Mormons might just own the patent on it. When they do something, they do it RIGHT. Go walk through any building they own. Watch any film they have produced. Put your theology aside and just observe the craftsmanship – it is superb, every time. My Grandfather once said, and it stuck with me, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right”. This pursuit of excellence is a tradition that resonates deeply with me. I mess up all the time. I’m almost devastatingly aware of my shortcomings… but this is where my sights are always set, and I’m grateful to those who taught me this tradition.
I am A Mormon. It’s my ethnicity. I’m not fighting it anymore. I like myself, and if I’m going to feel that way about myself, I’ve also got to completely accept my heritage. Not just tolerate it – but honor it. For some reason it’s been easier to honor the heritage of other people more than it has been to honor my own. I believe that 2013 is a gateway year for me, as I move into this new place of honor for everything that makes me who I am. I believe that in more fully honoring my heritage, I will more fully tap into the powers of Manifestation and Creation that my Great, Great Grandfather, Ephraim K Hanks was a master of.
That’s the experiment that’s on the table right now. As always, I’ll keep you posted.
* Admittedly, one of my wish list items is to establish residency in California, get my medical marijuana card AND my Temple Recommend back. I’d like to attend the temple a couple of times HIGH AS A KITE. It’s not that I miss the Temple, it’s just that I’m curious how my mind would experience the symbols of the Temple while in a more enlightened state. This is probably already happening in California. If you know any members of the Church who attend worship services of any kind while blazed on “medical marijuana”, I’d like to hear their experiences. Imagine hot boxing in your car, in the church or temple parking lot with some friends before going in to the Temple or Elder’s Quorum…. I think that the eventual and inevitable nationwide legalization of pot may be a necessary catalyst in refining the human family (and thus, the church), and making it more Christ-like.
Go ahead, get stoned. You’ll find those commandments and beatitudes easier than ever to abide by.