LDS, and Christians and Jews in general, are no doubt familiar with the phrase “steadying the ark”, and the story from whence the phrase comes. Here’s how 1 Chronicles 13 tells the story:
9 ¶And when they came unto the threshing floor of Chidon, Uzza put forth his hand to hold the ark; for the oxen stumbled.
10 And the anger of the Lord was kindled against Uzza, and he smote him, because he put his hand to the ark: and there he died before God.
11 And David was displeased, because the Lord had made a breach upon Uzza: wherefore that place is called Perez-uzza to this day.
Assuming the story actually happened as reported, it’s all rather silly.
The ark isn’t God. The ark is a heavy gold chest, and apparently it was being pulled around the countryside by some oxen. The ark didn’t fly around on its own power, it didn’t have legs like a horse. It was a heavy box that people had to lift and carry, or animals had to be employed to move.
So Uzza is transporting a valuable gold chest, and the oxen stumble, apparently putting the ark at risk of falling to the ground. Are we really saying that if we were in his positition, we would stand still and watch the ark fall to the ground, spilling its contents? Was Uzza supposed to have faith that even though the Lord had allowed the oxen to stumble, he would miraculously save the ark from falling?
And since the Lord works through His followers, how was Uzza to know he hadn’t been placed in that position to act for the Lord in steadying the ark?
It’s even more silly how we try to apply some assumed lesson from Uzza’s tragic death in our day. Instead of using the principle of “ark steadying” to label those who we wish would be happier with the status quo, let me present some real-world scenarios:
- A seminary teacher arrives to the Church building early one morning and sees water running out from underneath the bathroom door, soaking the carpet in the hallway and seeping to the wood floor in the cultural hall. Since the facilities are not part of his stewardship, he decides not to “steady the ark” and shut off the water, and instead trusts in the Lord.
- While waiting for a Temple recommend interview in the foyer on a Wednesday evening, a man notices the Scout troop from another ward is meeting with only one adult leader two boys (in violation of the strict “two deep” adult leader policy). He sees some other things that make him uneasy about the situation, but since it isn’t his stewardship (or even his ward), he decides not to “steady the ark” and doesn’t mention it to anyone, trusting in the Lord.
- While visiting his brother’s ward, a man attends Gospel Doctrine class and in the course of the lesson, the teacher forcefully expresses views on the origin of the Priesthood ban that, while in harmony with teachings from 50 years ago, are out of step with current thoughts on the subject. The man’s brother later mentions that this subject comes up regularly with the teacher, and the same views are always reinforced, as well as some unusual beliefs regarding polygamy and other Church doctrines, policies or teachings. Instead of bringing the issue to someone in authority, both brothers decide it is out of their stewardship and to trust in the Lord and not steady the ark.
Those are all actual situations I have seen. Does anyone think that a person taking action outside of their stewardship in these cases is “steadying the ark”? How would it be any different than Uzza seeing the ark falling and instinctively trying to help.
It should also be noted that 1 Chronicles 13:7 says Uzza was driving the cart:
7 And they carried the ark of God in a new cart out of the house of Abinadab: and Uzza and Ahio drave the cart.
That being the case, it could be argued that the driver of the cart does have the stewardship to ensure safe transport of the cart’s contents.