Thursday, April 21, 2005

Bloom Encounter

I ran into Harold Bloom the other day on the street and randomly invited him to come with me to the Joseph Smith Conference. He turned me down saying "I don't travel well these days." A brief conversation ensued in which I thanked him for his work on the Prophet. He responded that he was somewhat troubled with the direction that the church had moved in since "the death of that remarkable, visionary human being," then stated with an odd, piercing certainty, "And I imagine you share my sentiments, don't you?" Odd experience.

I told him I'd love to come by his office sometime and discuss his writings on Joseph Smith more at length, and he said that would be fine. I know that at least two of you (Jason and Chris P.) are avid Bloom fans. Do you have any particular questions you'd like me to ask him?


At 4/21/2005 02:49:00 PM,

Where to start! Fine work, JD, I wish I had been on a scambio with you when that happened. One thing: remember that Bloom has a testimony not only of Joseph Smith, but also of President Thomas S. Monson. He calls him the strongest and (in the traditional religious sense of this word) the most charismatic figure to arise in Mormonism since (I think he said) Brigham Young! (I will double check that and post a confirmation here).

The important thing about this is that he knows, or should know, we have not lost our charisma as a people. We each should know that perfectly. That, I think, is where the church is truly gnostic in the sense of secret knowledge kept from the world. Bloom seems like he has problems with some things in the church. He doesn't like to see a gnosis expand within the reach of 12 million people. That is not secretively gnostic enough. However, the individual healings, prophesies, visions, gifts, and visitations (to paraphrase Elder Packer from this most recent Conference) are *still* in the church. And, thankfully, there is no manual on how to receive them, and no correlated archive of the officially accepted works of the Lord. They simply require faith "like the ancients." This is where we respectfully diverge from Pentecostal congregations that make manifest their manifestations to proselytize and convert. We, instead, hold them sacred and are commanded to share them firsthand only with divine approval. They are individual signs given to individuals, and bring the charisma of Jesus and his prophet Joseph Smith into remote individual lives. Remember good old D&C 50:26-29. Your experience in the church is probably different than Bloom's experience with the church.

Further, did he read (or misread . . .) the Book of Mormon? I think he admitted in _The American Religion_ that he did not. That is really interesting to me; especially from a man that has seen and devoted himself to studying the power of written word.

At 4/22/2005 01:02:00 AM,

Maybe you could ask him what he thinks we could do, both individually and institutionally, to recapture some what he feels Joseph had but we don't.

What, exactly, is it that he sees in Monson?

At 4/22/2005 03:04:00 AM,

Alright I looked up the references to President Monson: pages 82-83 & 122 for those of you reading along.

In _The American Relgion_ (now around 14 years old, Bloom predicts, "The new Mormon Prophet, Seer, and Revelator probably will be the very capable Thomas S. Monson, potentially the strongest figure in the Church since Smith and Young. What dreams he dreams one cannot know, but a considerable part of our national future is incarnated in him."

Jeffrey, this leaves the actual cause for his admiration vague to say the least. In the earlier selection, Bloom lists the ages of Mormonism's top three (then Benson, Hunter, Hinckley)--and follows up dramatically with the youthful Thomas S. Monson at age 62. So he seems to imply some kind of a youthful vigor.

If I were to guess about the true cause, I would say (kind of like I said above) that Monson's personal and sometimes miraculous ministry, the accounts of which famously form the basis of most of his talks, are probably what attracts Bloom. He loved the charisma of Joseph Smith; to see it these days in the hierarchy probably pleases him.

Good point about asking Bloom how to get back to Joseph.




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