Prophetic Forms

Five called it, you know. Again.

I went in to tuck him in last night, and he told me that Heavenly Father told him a new boy was coming to sleep in his bunk bed.  So he asked me to be sure and let the boy sleep in the bottom bunk, so that he wouldn’t fall out of bed from the top bunk.  I promised, kissed his red head, and tucked him in before sneaking out to the hallway.

We laughed about it.

Nervously, because four different times before this, he has called it before a new child came.

Sure enough, we got a call today for a three year old boy.


And he was here long enough just for a nap.


Then a kinship home – which is when someone who knows the child already, even if they are not family – opened up, and he was moved on that quickly.

That was child number 31.

This is back to our normal, that a worker could just drop of a random child while I am in the middle of treatment plans, and I can gather clothes for them from our stockpile of foster supplies, give the child a bath, de-louse his hair, get him in clean clothes, fed, and down for a nap, and then he is just gone by the time my paperwork gets done.

It was good to be helping again, especially after this season when so many have helped us.

That’s forms, I was thinking, as I pushed the toddler’s stroller as we walked home from taking Five to school this morning.  I have been listening to one of those free university classes, a whole semester on Socrates, which is really a whole semester on Plato since we don’t have any surviving original writings of Socrates himself, just Plato’s writings about him.

You have to remember that Socrates was a math man, after Pythagoras. This means everything could really have meaning, because it had to equate to something.  All his fancy dialogues were all about making words equal one, really.  This was different than his student Plato‘s student, Aristotle, who was all about science instead of math – which meant, for him, that if everything meant something, then the next question is how do you organize those things into categories?  Happy science.

So forms, really, for Socrates, ultimately meant patterns.  The chair I am sitting on is made after the form, or the pattern, of the overall design of what chairs are.  That’s my version, not the version of Socrates.  People usually substitute “ideas” for forms, because there is no way to translate it exactly, but it wasn’t just an idea.  It was more than an idea.  The point, though, is that we learn more from the pattern itself – the design of a perfect chair, for example – than from our meager efforts at reproducing it.  Even if I am really good at making very nice chairs, it will not be as exact or as perfect or as complete or as lovely as the best design of a chair could imply is possible.

It was a theory that had lots of problems, and even mostly falls apart in Plato’s writings.

But there is some truth that rings in forms, about there being patterns after which all things are made.

Socrates, via his student Plato, also said:

I decided that it was not wisdom that enabled poets
to write their poetry,
but a kind of instinct or inspiration,

such as you find in seers and prophets…

That’s what got me thinking about seers and prophets five years ago.

Because in the original theory, Forms don’t change.  They are the pattern after which other things exist, and they are unchanging.  So if even Socrates knew about seers and prophets, then there must still be prophets.

The idea of that stopped me in my tracks, years ago.

Neitzsche was still a young pup then.  Maybe not a puppy, but still running with me every day.  It was the last of his running years, and when this thought came, I stopped, yanking him back with me.  He was fine, and wandered toward the river to smell some thistle.  But I stopped to replay what I had just realized, via dialectic logic, must be true.

Even if the theory upon which my thoughts were based had holes, as I continued to process favorite ancient texts that to me taste like the smell of old books in my mother’s libraries, with their words that feel like warm quilts made by grandmothers.

It stands true in the Bible, I knew, that God had always used prophets.  And if he had used prophets then, it made sense – quite suddenly – that he still used prophets.  That was a scary thought to me at the time, because I knew the revelatory warnings about false prophets that meant danger or even condemnation.  I could not risk my soul on fallacy, but what happens if the traditions in which I grew up were the false ones?

If God does not change, then God still works as He always has.

If God used to use prophets, then it makes sense He still uses them today.

And a true prophet, I knew, would testify of the Savior.

And a true prophet would not oppress or tell me what to do, so much as guide me and teach me how to know what to do.  I would be taught to ask for myself, study for myself, and know for myself.

And if God still called prophets, just like in the Old Testament, then God would call the kind of prophets He has always called: the simple, the humble, the grateful.  He called those who struggled to speak, so they would speak His words. He called those willing to serve, so that they would do what He asked.  He called those willing to sacrifice their very lives, so that people who know the Savior gave His.  He called those brave enough to ask bold questions, humble enough to pray, and crazy enough to pull off miraculous works of God.

Ultimately, it was this kind of thinking that led me to getting baptized.  I knew I loved my Father-in-Heaven, and had always prayed, even through my worst messes in life.  I grew up with many things taught to me about God and Jesus and the disciples of old, and my skin tingled with lightning power to realize this had all been restored in these last days.  It was not just learning something, or drinking kool-aid.  It was a remembering.  It was a remembering of something that I already knew was true, somewhere deep inside me that I could almost see.  I knew it was true.

That’s what I was thinking about when I was walking with the toddler this morning, and remembering the forms.  It was because she did something, just in how she moved, that looked just like how Five does it, and then she turned around and laughed, just like me.

It stopped me in my tracks, just like I did that day with Neitzsche.

She is becoming her, after the form of me, who is becoming a mother, after the form of a Mother.

She is becoming herself after the pattern I set, who is becoming a mother after the pattern of a Mother.

It made me cry, right there in the hot morning sunshine in my not-best workout clothes, right there on the part of the corner where there is no sidewalk for a moment.

Somehow the gesture she made meant she had become mine.

Not mine in a possessive way, but in a this-is-my-child way.

In a she-is-one-of-me way.

And I realized, like that day five years ago, that there is truth, somehow, in this pattern of forms, and if I have any hope of becoming fully me, then it must come by following after a pattern greater than me – a pattern of my true design.

And if I am after the pattern of God, then I am made in His image.

And back on that day at the river, I knew it was true.

And this morning on the corner, I knew it was true.

I thought of the words from the Family Proclamation:

All human beings—male and female—are created in the image of God. Each is a beloved spirit son or daughter of heavenly parents, and, as such, each has a divine nature and destiny.

Even me, it says.

Even this toddler, it says.

And even that surprise three year old that only came to our house to get cleaned up and have a nap.

And I realized, that’s one of the reasons I do what I do for my job: because I believe people can change, and I believe people are amazing, and I believe that people who want help are people who are trying to become.

Even when they are a mess, like me five years ago.

Or like the toddler, when she first came to our house, and every day was like wrestling with Helen Keller.

And now, a year later, she is this precious child who is happy and smiley and playful and silly.

And it made me cry.

This was my moment of pondering forms, which I needed very much later in the day.  This moment fed me courage and strength when we got a call, after the three year old was already gone, that we were getting a new six year old because she is deaf and know one else knows how to help her.

Do you know what happens to a deaf child that doesn’t learn language?

They just sit there, or act out, or disappear inside themselves.

They don’t learn to read.  They don’t learn to express themselves well.  They don’t know how to ask for what they need or want or prefer.  They copy what everyone else does, whether it is good for them or not.  They endure abuse, pain, suffering, and grief, without anyone telling them life could be different.  They wait years to know the names of things, to describe how things are different, or to learn how to say their name.

This one was at least taken for hearing aids this week, though I will be taking her to my own audiologist and doctor because I want to be sure she has all the help she can get.

It knocked the breath out of me to see such brown ears, so silent and pure, on the same body as hands so still and quiet.  There were no words on her hands, not even simple ones, and it made me cry.  Rough gestures and harsh sounds that felt like a hundred years ago, as if she had fallen through time and landed here begging for letters on her hands.

Five and the toddler loved teaching her some signs, and we got as far as we could tonight.  Mostly we showed her around, and they were silly, and we ate pizza because it was easy and quick while I check hair, wash clothes, and dig through our supplies (we need more winter things: size 7, shoe size 1).  We got through baths, some serious ethnic hair combing, into pajamas, and ready for bed.

When we went to the green couch for family prayers, she knew to kneel down.  I wonder who taught her to pray, and whether she does on her own.  She folded her hands together and closed her eyes, and just stayed there.  The prayer ended and she didn’t know to get up, because she can’t hear the Amen and didn’t know she could keep her eyes open and see the prayers at our house.

It was heart breaking.

She held my hand as I walked her to her new bed.  It was limp.  Her hand was in mine, but she didn’t hold my hand back.

She let me hug her goodnight, but didn’t hug back.

She picked the top bunk, and crawled up and as far away from us as she could, and just laid there.

It reminded me of when Five first came, and he slept for three whole days.

I went in to kiss him good night, and he was still giggling.  He is always excited for new kids, as if they are pets.  It gets harder when he realizes they don’t leave, and he has to share time and toys.  He cried, though, when he heard he missed his little boy, and doesn’t understand why I can’t just go to the pet shop and get him one.

He might get his chance, though, because not only did we have a crazy day that ended with a little deaf girl, but the toddler’s mother is pregnant.

Yes, I said that.  That’s what I said.  Due in Spring.

We don’t know yet what that means for the toddler, or for us, but we have already been given three scenarios, two of which include that baby coming here.

They said, this is part of fostering and especially adoption: committing not just to the children, but also to young mothers.  Five’s mother is older and will not have more children.  But the toddler’s mother is not much older than our 18 year old daughter, and already there is another child on the way.  Don’t fill your home with all these mothers’ children, the worker told us, because not all the children have been born yet.

That’s when we remembered how two months ago we felt that a child was coming, or was being born, or something.  It was like feeling pregnant, except not in my body.  It was the all-but-seeing that little spirit, and knowing it was here.  It was feeling that spirit come, and knowing it would be here, in this house.

Now we know that timing: the same time she got pregnant.

We will see.  We don’t know if that’s the same little one we knew was coming, or if or when that one will come here.  We just know it was a day full of surprises and challenges and coming full circle, right back to Helen Keller land… without the hitting or biting or kicking or screaming (so far).

Welcome home, Six.  It’s nice to meet you.


About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


Prophetic Forms — 6 Comments

  1. Touched my heart again with the voice and you will reach hers also. You are blessed among women for that. And what a form to pass on. I’m using this in my mentoring of forms for the teens next homeschool meeting. A beautiful link.

  2. Emily,

    Love this post! I am Liz Covington’s dad; she put me on to your blog. I, too, have been thinking a lot about patterns and what they reveal about the past and the future. Our thoughts are pretty much in synch.

    I have studied and prayed to know more about the nature of our beginning, and who we truly are. I found it interesting that Abraham referred to pre-mortal beings as “intelligences,” and wondered if there was a distinction between an “intelligence” and a “spirit.” In the Abraham passages it appears that they are possibly synonymous concepts. Focussing on the word “intelligence” led me to D&C 93:36, “The glory of God is intelligence, or, in other words, light and truth.” Being a bit of a math nerd, this jumped out at me as an equation: A=B=C=D, where A = glory of god, B = intelligence, C = light and D = truth. If this relationship is true, then you can define intelligence by defining any of the other three elements. Probably not coincidental, Section 93 also presents a definition of truth. In verse 23 truth is defined as “knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come;…” This suggests that this element we call “intelligence” is the omniscience of God, and may be what is combined with spirit matter to form a spirit being (similar to the mortal body being animated by the “breath of life” – Gen. 2:7). This could explain the “remembering” experience you descibe in the paragraph below the “Seeker of Truth” video panel. It is something missionaries encounter frequently as they teach the truths of the restored gospel: invesigators commenting on how they know these things are true, even when they cannot remember ever hearing them before. It could also be the foundation for Galileo’s quote: “You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him to find it within himself.”

    Prescient behavior/utterance, especially in those not long away from their premortal state, may be showing us that the same intelligence/truth that God possesses is also a part of every being, to be discoved “line upon line and precept upon precept.” What we call “learning” may just be the gradual pulling back of the veil that clouds our omnicience. This would also explain the concept of “testimony,” where one can gain a knowledge that is beyond earthly processes, a knowledge facilitated not by the brain, but through the Spirit.

    So many interesting things to ponder! Have to get back to work now, and hope to read more of your touching, inspirational posts. – Jim Riley

    • Smokey macaroni!

      1.) Up until now, I thought Liz Covington was imaginary, so I am not sure how to process this new evidence.

      2.) I. Love. Your. Brain.

      3.) Totally having an Anne-of-Green-Gables-sends-morse-code-by-candlelight moment, even if you are a guy (the father of an imaginary friend I met for lunch once).

      4.) PLEASE. MORE.

      5.) Check out this blog from ages ago:

      6.) And also this one:

      7.) AHHHH!!!!

      8.) 8=complete

    • Okay, I have already read this comment a hundred times at least.

      It makes me want to write about my recent ponderings about “transgression” and “concession”, which I quite accidentally and unexpectedly discovered to be opposites and equals, all at once.

      Silly sophists.

  3. so much in this post, i need to read it over and over! What jumped out at me? “our eighteen year old daughter” that makes me smile and feel happy … I don’t really understand why but I think its because I feel your children will do such wonderful things for our world.