Monday, October 19, 2009

I began to reflect

The account of the First Vision found in the Wentworth Letter opens:

"When about fourteen years of age I began to reflect upon the importance of being prepared for a future state."

I began to reflect, Joseph writes, I began to reflect.

In formulating the Wentworth letter the Prophet followed, to a degree (but, where followed, with much modification), Orson Pratt's published account of the First Vision. That account opens:

"When somewhere about fourteen or fifteen years old, he began seriously to reflect upon the necessity of being prepared for a future state of existence."

The choice of the word reflect then seems to trace back to Orson Pratt, but note how the Prophet, after lopping the redundant adverb seriously, keeps the phrase I began to reflect as a concise expression of his quest for truth.

Still, both the verb reflect and its corresponding noun do appear in Brother Joseph's retellings of his story:

"During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness" (1838 History).

Of the scripture that led him to the grove: "I reflected on it again and again" (1838)

And reflection finds its reflection in perplexities: "being thus perplexed in mind I retired to the silent grove" (Journal, 9 Nov. 1835).

After leaving that silent grove Joseph immediately entered the noisome world of persecution, which contrast "has often caused me serious reflection both then and since, how very strange it was" (1838).

So the phrase I began to reflect (or he began seriously to reflect) matches Joseph as well as Orson. But then again, both minds ran in the same channel. Indeed Orson wasn't the only Pratt whose mind resonated with that of the Prophet. Joseph's reflection on "a future state" matches young Parley Pratt's "longing desire and an inexpressible anxiety to secure to myself a part" in the first resurrection. "While still an infant," says Maimonides, Abraham's "mind began to reflect." Yet children, all thirsted for salvation.

So why do I like the phrase I began to reflect?

To reflect means to bend or to turn backward, whether the referent is light through a prism or a bow bent for battle. If we turn to word origins, we find Latin re-flectere, which accords with the Greek plekto, a verb of weaving, embraces, clasps, and knots. Reflection on God is therefore a means of drawing God to man, of linking their eternal relation in a fast embrace.

Joseph began to reflect.

So may we all.