Appropriate Appropriation

May 20, 2015
3 min read

Just to be clear here, I’m not talking about the adjective, “He was wearing appropriate attire for the occasion, but the transitive verb where one might say, “Christians appropriated the cross symbol to represent the faith.”

Here are some definitions to consider:

APPRO’PRIATEverb transitive [Latin ad and proprius, private, peculiar.]

1. To set apart for, or assign to a particular use, in exclusion of all other uses; as, a spot of ground is appropriated for a garden.

2. To take to one’s self in exclusion of others; to claim or use as by an exclusive right.

3. To make peculiar; as, to appropriate names to ideas.

Mormonism is a philosophy rooted in appropriation.

I think one of the most illustrative quotes that can be used to support this idea is from Brigham Young:

“I want to say to my friends that we believe in all good. If you can find a truth in heaven, earth or hell, it belongs to our doctrine. We believe it; it is ours; we claim it.” (DBY, 2)

Too often do we neglect individual appropriation of knowledge, choosing instead to wait for institutional appropriation? In other words, do we rarely venture outside the corpus of LDS theology in search of truth, waiting for it to be filtered for us through talks or ‘official’ sources?

Certainly there is some wisdom in this, in seeking counsel from inspired leaders as a principle, but it shouldn’t exclude the individual for seeking and claiming truths on their own.

For me, I see Latter-day Saint theology as a context into which I can bring any subject. Of course, it is valuable to examine something outside of that context, but it is also of interest to bring it in and see what happens. I find these truths to be quite liberating and empowering and if that is Mormonism, then there are many more Mormons than there are Latter-day Saints. Joseph Smith taught:

Mormonism is truth; and every man who embraces it feels himself at liberty to embrace every truth: consequently the shackles of superstition, bigotry, ignorance, and priestcraft, fall at once from his neck; and his eyes are opened to see the truth, and truth greatly prevails over priestcraft… Mormonism is truth, in other words the doctrine of the Latter-day Saints, is truth. … The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or without being circumscribed or prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men, or by the dominations of one another, when that truth is clearly demonstrated to our minds, and we have the highest degree of evidence of the same.” (Letter from Joseph Smith to Isaac Galland, Mar. 22, 1839, Liberty Jail, Liberty, Missouri, published in Times and Seasons, Feb. 1840, pp. 53–54; spelling and grammar modernized.)

I see this as doing what Alma suggested in his sermon in Alma 32-33 where we are instructed to take the word represented by a seed and plant it in our hearts to see what becomes of it, to discern it. Truth seems to become apparent to us through natural processes that are comparable to the growth of a plant.

Jesus’ parable of the sower speaks similarly of the different types of grounds that are representative of our own hearts.

How can we ever claim something, if it has not been given the chance to grown in our hearts? This process opens us to vulnerability, but we cannot progress without making ourselves vulnerable. Isn’t that the lesson of Eden and the fall? We must leave the garden or the womb, the safety, security and innocence and be presented with opposition.

Then we must choose.

We must choose and own our choices. We must appropriate the good and truth out there in the world into a worthy life that fulfills the measure of its creation.

We will undoubtedly err in this process, but this life is a probationary time and there is a repentance granted.

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