Passover and telling the story of the Exodus

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Brian Johnston
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Passover and telling the story of the Exodus

Post by Brian Johnston » 03 Apr 2009, 06:27

I was listening to a Speaking of Faith episode with Krista Tippet interviewing a Midrash/Talmud scholar about passover and the story of the Exodus this morning on the way to work. Something in the interview stuck me as profound.

A key part of the observance of Passover is a commandment to tell the story of the Exodus (Israel escaping bondage in Egypt). This scholar discussed an interesting perspective. She said (paraphrasing):

"We are commanded to tell the story of the Exodus at Passover. The point is not to read it right out of the Torah. We know the story. We are supposed to tell the story, and in telling see ourselves in the story in our life. The Exodus happened so that we have a story to tell (for hundreds or thousands of years, and each generation tells their story). We don't just tell the story because it is history that happened."

I have wondered sometimes at our own epic stories in Mormonism. The Jews have the luxury of thousands of years distance between them and whatever history is "real" in the Exodus. I sometimes think we haven't had enough time to de-literalize (if that is a word) and digest our epic stories enough. They are still too much like TV news reports, and less like epic tales.

Is one way of looking at the strange elements of Mormon "story," like polygamy or persecution (just a couple examples), that the history, paradoxes and problems are there so we have a story to tell? We can react and interpret meaning from stories.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

Gabe P
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Re: Passover and telling the story of the Exodus

Post by Gabe P » 03 Apr 2009, 07:29

Very interesting, Valoel. I'll have to comment on this when I get to class ;)

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Brian Johnston
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Re: Passover and telling the story of the Exodus

Post by Brian Johnston » 03 Apr 2009, 08:53

To rephrase my point (I am making this more clear for myself as I think through it):

Mormons have stories to tell. The factual "truth" of the history is of less importance than the tale WE tell about the history. One way to look at all the stange stories is to see them as a tale, and we have a "story" in which to find a position relative to the story.

Polygamy existed in the early Church (a single example), but each generation has told this story in a new way that is a commentary of our relationship to that history. Some generations made this the penultimate expression of exaltation, and preached it proudly and openly. Much later generations are embarassed to admit this was ever practiced. See what I mean? The story is different and morphs as we position ourselves in relationship to the story. There is something to learn from the story we tell, and how we tell it.
"It's strange to be here. The mystery never leaves you alone." -John O'Donohue, Anam Cara, speaking of experiencing life.

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hawkgrrrl
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Re: Passover and telling the story of the Exodus

Post by hawkgrrrl » 03 Apr 2009, 10:42

It's also interesting to see how we individually characterize the players in these stories, which can reveal more about us as narrators than it does about them as historical people. Do we see them as earnest seekers of truth? As self-deluded buffoons? As narcissistic sex fiends?

Polygamy is an interesting one, too. What motivation would be sufficient for you to engage?
- to have more emotional privacy in marriage (ease the burden of intimacy)?
- to care for widows and the fatherless?
- sexual variety?
- wanting to build a dynasty to yourself? (e.g. not be forgotten by time)
- to allow better sharing of the motherhood workload? (e.g. many polygamous women had careers outside the home because other wives cared for the children)
- an extreme devotion to homeschooling?

How we interpret the stories of others really does tell us more about ourselves.

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Re: Passover and telling the story of the Exodus

Post by Curt Sunshine » 03 Apr 2009, 13:19

I have been struck by Moroni 10:3 - where we are told to "read, ponder and pray" only AFTER we "remember" God's mercy throughout history. I think there is an important element of that in what you are saying, valoel, about the Exodus - that if we remember God's mercy to others we are more likely to believe He will be merciful to us, as well. This belief will open our hearts to the possibility that if we ask He will answer, which is a great definition of faith-producing hope.

I also think this same concept is a HUGE part of the reason why our hearts must be turned to our ancestors - that, in a very real and practical way, they can "bring us to Christ" by sharing how they were brought to Christ. Again, if they experienced it, and if we are partly connected to them (if they live on in us in some real way), then we can experience it, as well.
I see through my glass, darkly - as I play my saxophone in harmony with the other instruments in God's orchestra. (h/t Elder Joseph Wirthlin)

Even if people view many things differently, the core Gospel principles (LOVE; belief in the unseen but hoped; self-reflective change; symbolic cleansing; striving to recognize the will of the divine; never giving up) are universal.

"For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong." H. L. Mencken

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