Sunday, June 24, 2012

What IS in a Name: Countless Caravans for a Mormon Boy

This is the final chapter in a three part series. For the previous sections, I suggest you click on the links provided for Part 1 and Part 2.

When I think about how I can harmonize these various versions of Allan—my grandfather’s kindness and his cruelty; my grandfather and me; my zealous missionary self and my uncorrelated, intellectual spirit—I am left with an understanding that this is the kind of story that has already been written and, at the same time, it is the story no one has written at all. I’m not the first person this has happened to, but it is new because it is involves me. I am reminded of one of the final lines from Tony Kushner’s remarkable epic Angels in America. The character Harper, a possibly-recovering valium addict who never made for a very good Mormon, reflects, “Nothing’s lost forever. In this world there’s a type of painful progress—longing for what we’ve left behind and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.”

So I look back. I turn to the faith of my fathers, the faith that took Davis-es across foreign lands on trains. I look to the legacy of pioneers who did not know what it meant to be Mormon but created for themselves what it meant in their move. I look to the faith of prophets who proclaimed that this faith is both an inheritance we are given and a gift extended that we claim. Allan Nathan Davis is a name that comes with honor and sin, an inspiring history and mistakes in need of repentance.

I hear a voice from the dust made of the bones of my ancestors. The words of a prophet-king reverberate in my ear and settle in my heart: “I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you [. . .] I say unto you , I would that ye should remember to retain the name written in your heart [. . .] that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called.” Allan Nathan Davis is a name complete on its own but given unto me. It is thick in legacy but mine to shape and command. Like a master gardener employed by nobility, I craft and sculpt knowing such art never fully belongs to me. The art of my name belongs to others. But it is my responsibility, my inheritance. It is my talent to add surplus to. I look back to take my step forwards.

For an unknown future, it is nice to possess a prophecy received personally for me that might guide my path and aspirations. There is one sentence that has always stood out to me in my patriarchal blessing. It speaks with poetry, as it declares, “My dear brother, if you could only see the countless caravans of believers who will enter the waters of baptism and who will, at the last day, count your name blessed because of your faithfulness and good work upon the earth.” Others will count my name; it will belong to them. It is mine to make theirs.

I am Allan Nathan Davis. I am a Mormon boy. I have inherited so much. And there are times I long for the relationship I had with it all. For the special world I shared with Allan Mervin Davis. For the times when people respected my testimony, my intelligence, and my convictions because it bolstered their faith. I long for a lot that a type of painful progress has prompted me to leave behind at times.

But, oh how I keep longing and dreaming ahead. I look for those caravans. I dream of the miracles that might be wrought by my faithfulness and good works on this earth. I hope to bring Tom Zanes into my home and nourish them with unrestrained charity. I wish to contribute to efforts to build bridges and facilitate communication between the LDS Church—the institution and its people—and the many souls impacted by its actions. I no longer wait for the decrees of prophets to explain the world but work for a world where prophets might reveal what has never yet been revealed. I am Allan as much as my grandfather. I am a Mormon as much as any church leader. My name is not my own; but I will take responsibility for what it accomplishes and represents as it is mine to use. And I know, this is all a type of painful progress, but that nothing is lost forever.

A Mormon boy. A Mormon boy. I am a Mormon boy. I might be envied by a king, for I am a Mormon boy.

At least I think that’s so.

2 comments:

  1. Hey Allan, thanks for posting this series about grandpa. My mom has told me who I'm named after, but I don't believe I've really thought about it perhaps as much as I should have, and I definitely haven't acted on it as much as I should have.

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  2. Really good series Allan. Well written, great insights that gave me lots to think about with regards to my own heritage, life, beliefs, choices, etc. The cruelty/kindness paradigm was particularly good. I loved the insight into you as well. I can see why Brooke and Casey love you like they do. You are a fascinating man.

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