This post is the second in a series containing reflections on pieces I recently read in the current issue of Sunstone. Today, I consider Zombies, Mormons and whited sepulchers.
One of the pieces in the current issue of Sunstone that caused much reflection was Michael Vinson’s short essay entitled, “Jesus and Mormons and Zombies.” After pointing out that the popular media has, in recent years, been obsessed with zombies and the undead, Vinson ruminates on this phenomenon:
“Perhaps the reason we are obsessed with the eaters of the living is because so many of us are leading soulless lives. Perhaps something about having our life – our purpose – sucked from us resonates with us on a cultural level. So what does a soulless life look like? I imagine that for each person, the soulless life would be somewhat different, but it might have in common some of the following: a lack of purpose, an inability to self-direct our lives, a vague feeling of not being satisfied; and a feeling of incompleteness.”
What is a soulless life? What does it look like?
How is purpose sucked from our life? Having it sucked out implies that it was once there. What is/was it?
Why would “the soulless life” look different for each person?
Why would one not have the ability to self-direct his or her life?
If one is not satisfied or feels incomplete, what is missing?
Vinson next discusses Jesus’ reference to “whited sepulchers” and opines that “Jesus’ phrase might apply to the vanity with which we dress ourselves, diet ourselves, exercise ourselves, outfit ourselves with new cars and homes – all to appear beautiful to others, but all the while living empty – even dead – lives.”
“What does the term ‘whited sepulchers’ mean for Mormons today?” he asks, before providing a possible answer to his question:
“Could our inner spiritual life be empty, even though to outward appearances, our life appears complete? … [By spiritual,] I do not necessarily mean religious or Church practice, which is largely composed of activities easily seen by others. For example, we may have ward callings, attend church and the temple, do our home or visiting teaching and yet still might feel we have fairly empty spiritual lives. [Why?] Can Church activities become just another form of consumerism that can be used to adorn and fill up (but not truly ‘fill’) our lives?”
These questions and comments resonated with me. I thought, for example, of a time in my life, many years ago, when I knew, but did not know, that I sought purpose, that I felt incomplete. I later saw how I had tried to fill that need through a consumerism of sorts – of buying things, thinking that these things would bring me happiness. But, of course, they didn’t.
It was at this time that I was introduced to the Church. I saw the Church as providing my life with purpose. It appeared to have all the answers. It promised absolute truth. All I had to do was get on the path; the rest would come. I would never have to worry about making mistakes: the Spirit would guide me. I filled up my life with the Church. I opened myself up and poured it in.
I dedicated my life and my soul to living the Gospel and all that it entailed. I went on a mission. I got married. I continued my education. We started having children. I fulfilled church callings. In short, I did everything I was supposed to do. I filled my life with spiritual busyness.
Yet, I made one tragic mistake that turned my life, in a way, into a whited sepulcher: I tried to (and believed - for a time - that I could) asphyxiate who I really was – a gay man.
On the outside, I appeared to be a dedicated heterosexual husband, father and priesthood holder. On the inside, however, I was, metaphorically, “full of dead men’s bones.” I filled my life with spiritual and familial busyness; but this ultimately gave me little sense of soul, of purpose, of fulfillment.
What is one to do?
Vinson writes, “What your unique answer to an empty life will have in common with others will be an inner feeling of completeness, of following your destiny, of directing your own life.”
Then, after pointing out that Jesus’ metaphor of the whited sepulcher has a double meaning in that it also refers to the Jewish concept of uncleanness (a tomb would be über-unclean), Vinson poses a final question: “Is Jesus suggesting in the analogy of the dead and impure tomb that an empty life is also a sinful one.”
What do you think? Is a life spent in denial of one’s God-given true self the ultimate sin?