Tuesday, August 27, 2019

The Holes in the Stone

"Whoso pulleth out this sword of this stone and anvil, is rightwise king born of all England."

The Sword in the Stone is a great story. A sword, the classic symbol of kingship, is stuck tight and immovable within a stone, and only the chosen one, a young, inexperienced, but pure-hearted Arthur can remove it.

All who aspire to be king, to fulfill their own interests, no matter how hard they try, cannot "stir the sword nor move it." According to Sir Thomas Mallory, the right one "is not here that shall achieve the sword, but doubt not God will make him known."

Well, He did.

It is useful to compare the Arthurian legend to the Restoration. The sword, the authority and power of Christ, was sealed away in stone for many centuries until Joseph Smith was called to restore the kingdom again on the earth. The stone is obviously Christ, the source of all priesthood authority. He is a "stone of stumbling and a rock of offense" to those who would very much like to wield that authority and establish their own kingdoms here on earth, but they will never be able to wield the sword of Christ's priesthood for their own personal gain.

But the story of the Restoration is not really about Joseph Smith. It is not even about the sword, the authority of the priesthood.

The story of the Restoration is a story about the Stone.

When I was young, I was scrawny and not very smart, and looked a lot like "Wart" in Disney's The Sword in the Stone. (One could even argue that I haven't changed much.) I wore hand-me-down clothes that were too big and a tie that was too long. Like Arthur, I had my Merlins in my life, primary teachers and parents and the words of prophets to teach me my spiritual ABCs. They helped prepare me to one day receive my sword.

I was introduced to the Stone early. As a family, we went to visit it often in the churchyard. I recognized its importance, but sitting in the pews and staring at it, I can't say that I really understood my relationship to that Stone.

Then when I was 12, I was presented with the sword of priesthood power. They placed hands on my head and authorized me to use it. But the power was still wedged tightly inside the stone to me, and the idea of removing it seemed impossible at that time, and I was not particularly interested in removing it anyway. "Maybe someday when I am stronger, or when I am more grown up," I thought.

However, as I grew, going through the motions, I began to pay more attention to that Stone. I noticed that the Stone was not just a container for the sword, but that it was actually wounded by it. The primary reason I noticed this was because at about that time, I started to realize that I was wounded and full of holes. Maybe I was projecting, but the rock became more relatable to me as I realized my own wounded condition was reflected by the Stone. For me it was the wounds of being an insecure teenager, isolated and afraid and uncertain about my future. But it was a myriad of other things as well. I realized that on my own, no matter how I measured myself, I always came out wrong.

My interest in the stone grew slowly. I wondered what would happen if I tried to actually pull out that sword. I started to feel bad to think that the Stone was eternally pierced by that sword for me, and I hadn't even tried to remove it yet and use it. There was nothing I could do to undo what had happened to that Stone. The Stone was already pierced by it, and He did it for me, that I might be armed against the things I was up against.

Taking that sword out was somewhat anticlimactic. There was no heavenly choir, at least not to my ears. In fact, I felt even more clumsy and weak as I realized that the sword was far too heavy for my scrawny little arms, and it probably always would be.

But this story is not really about me, anyway.

Again, this story is about the Stone. The Stone did not just pass me the sword and then sit there, inert and glistening in the faraway churchyard. The Stone became an active part of my life, the main character in my Arthurian legend, because my sword will always be His. It is Him that gives me strength to perform my own role, however small, in the Kingdom Joseph Smith helped to restore. And he wasn't perfect wielding that sword, either.

All members of the church, male and female, have been authorized to wield the sword in the stone, the power of Christ. As has been clarified by apostles, priesthood power is available to all in this church, both men and women. But first, we must get to know the Stone. We have to see and feel of the Stone's woundedness, and recognize how He reflects and fills in for our own mortal gaps, our holes and our wounds. We have to reach for the gift He offers us, to pull out of Him his grace and His power, and wield His sword the way He showed.