Enos Envy and Psychospiritual Development

The Book of Mormon’s first-person story of Enos, the inheritor of the prophetic mantle who lacked a testimony until his spiritual experience in the wilderness, contains within it a powerful narrative about spiritual development. It is an account of the libidinal drive for testimony after emerging from a latency period, which constitutes his prophetic subjectivity (leaving aside the particularly masculine elements of the narrative).

In the course of one’s spiritual development, the Enos narrative is present. In his account, Enos cites his overwhelming libidinous experience for an encounter with God. He explains,

And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens. (4)

The Lord speaks to him, after which his desire is transfered from a direct encounter with God to those of his own people the Nephites. The Lord speaks to him again, and again his desire is transferred to the Other, to the Lamanites.

This turn to the Lamanites comes as he contemplates the loss of his most prized possession, the scriptures. He worries that if he cannot have the scriptures, someone else will have them and his desire turns to them.

This spiritual account bears striking resemblance to Freud’s account of the little girl’s psychosexual development through the concept of penisnied. The little girl’s desire is originally for her mother. Realizing that she cannot give the mother what she wants, she attempts to obtain the object of her mother’s desire. Finally, assuming that she has been castrated and can in no way satisfy her mother’s desires, she herself transfers her desire to her father, seeking to replace her mother.

Here, the shift from desiring the encounter with the Parent, the desire to satisfy the Parent, and finally the hetero-shift to desire for the Other, with the presumed possession and loss of the logos-phallus as the driving force of the narrative is intriguing.

By no means is this a perfect analogy, not least because of the immense feminist critique of Freud on this point. There are several areas in which it breaks down, or appears to break down, especially in that the Father satisfies Enos’ desire, whereas the unsatified desire is the key to the development of sexual subjectivity in Freud. But it is precisely here where the story gets interesting for us. That Enos’ desire is sated, (as also Oedipus and Electra), leaves open the possibility of this encounter for us, and constitutes our desire for that same encounter. We seek to repeat the steps of Enos so that we too might replicate his experience, that we too might “see his face with pleasure” (27). In this way, Enos constitutes a typology for spiritual development.

In the end, I am not sure that I have fully worked out the implications of this, if there are any. If anyone has any ideas, I’m open!

6 Replies to “Enos Envy and Psychospiritual Development”

  1. When I first saw “enos envy” I thought it might refer to Enos praying really hard and having his sins forgiven and moving on with his life, all in the space of a few days. I always envied that about Enos. My sins, on the other hand, seem to be taking years (if not a lifetime!) to work out.

  2. Admit it TT — this entire post was written just so you could use “Enos Envy” in the title.

    Anyhow, I don’t think the text actually says Enos lacked a testimony as you claim. I think it says Enos just wanted forgiveness for his sins.

    And on a final note, I think the whole Freud comparison you are pushing in this post is somewhere between strained and retarded. (And of course I mean that in the nicest possible way).

  3. So, ok, this post was kind of a joke, but I was surprised at how nicely it came together! Still, I am interested in the significance of typological stories like that of Enos.

  4. Reading “the libidinal drive for testimony” cracked me up. I’m not entirely sure what “libidinal” means, but I have certainly never seen it in that phrase before.

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