Recently, my daughter and I had lunch out together discussing how we might better allow ourselves to be “acquired by” Godhood as opposed to striving to “obtain” Godhood. That perspective was still turning over in my mind later that afternoon when I read Hawkgrrrl’s post noting the similarity between early Mormonism and the Millerite movement. Both movements came out of a “Great Awakening” in which the consciousness of a major sub-culture (at least) turns to religious ideas en masse as if they were a tinderbox waiting to ignite. It is less as if God speaks to a prophet than as if a whole environment becomes ripe for prophets and evangelists before people start looking for God. In other words, it is as if God moves to reacquire His children before they seek him, and the flow of the Spirit doesn’t just seem to strike one individual.
In first year physics (maybe high school physics by now) you learn to analyze electric circuits using two simple ideas known as Kirchoff”s Laws. The first law says that the current flowing into a node is going to equal the current flowing out of the node. Otherwise, charge would have to accumulate and sparks, quite literally, would fly. The second Kirchoff Law says that any time a circuit forms a closed loop the energy gains and losses must sum to zero around the loop; the same point in the circuit can’t have two contradictory energies (voltages). From those two principles, you can write and solve enough simple equations to determine how the current is flowing in every part of the circuit, no matter how complex the interconnections.
The feature of Kirchoff’s Laws that I want to highlight here is that the current going through any resistor in the circuit depends not only on the size of that resistor, but on every other resistor in the circuit.
Mormons talk frequently about principles of inspiration like “if any man lack wisdom…”, so the idea of laws governing the process of inspiration isn’t new. But have you ever considered whether those laws of inspiration might have the same property as Kirchoff’s Laws? What if the “current” of the Spirit through each one of us depends on the “resistance” to the Spirit of every one to whom we are connected, not just our own resistance? Then it would seem that finding a region (a community) where there are lots of pathways of low resistance might be more important to the flow of the Spirit than even the presence of one person especially sensitive to the Spirit. This doesn’t minimize that individual, but perhaps explains why such prophets are far more common in some cultures (e.g., ancient Israel, the Nephites, the “burned-out districts” of early America) than in others.
I don’t want to make too much of this analogy. Perhaps we could extend the analogy to the idea that there are different kinds of Spiritual “charges” so that some cultures are more sensitive to some spiritual messages than others. But I’m not going there, because then I’d have to start talking about color charges and quantum chromodynamics and you’d all hate me for boring you to death.
However, I think we would like our churches to be places of low resistance to the Spirit, but that doesn’t always seem to be the case. And our history of “Great Awakenings” shows that the low-resistance zones can even form outside (and in opposition to) the established churches. Consider what has been happening in Africa and Asia within Christianity, or other great religious movements in non-Christian faiths.
Do you think another Great Awakening is possible within your church? Somewhere else? Are you finding places of low resistance to the Spirit in your personal life? Who are the people whose low resistance to the Spirit brings more spiritual current flowing through you?