Monday, June 12, 2006

Dateline 06/12/2006 –
Sometimes this blog functions as an essay repository, and other times it functions more as a journal to record what I’m thinking on a given day. Today I guess it’s a blog.

I was on the “five hour block” schedule yesterday as a result of my stake calling. I attended sacrament and Sunday school in my own ward and then drove across the county to attend ward conference for another ward. The preaching and teaching in both wards was nothing less than inspired and inspiring. The thing I continue to love about the church is the commitment of the leaders and members to the “restored” gospel. I just can’t help but be moved by it. The second talk in my ward and the bishop and stake president’s message at ward conference were very moving and Christ-centered. The concluding speaker in my ward pled with us to reach out to those who see themselves as second-class citizens in the church, due to marital status or other things. The SP in particular reminded us that the purpose of the church organization is to bring souls to Christ, rather than to have nice facilities for us to congratulate ourselves on how well we’re doing.

However . . .

I thought one talk in my ward was quite indicative. The second speaker gave a twenty minute talk reprising Elder Holland’s Sunday message from last conference on Jesus Christ. Unfortunately she gave a twenty minute talk in about fifteen minutes, reading it so fast it was hard to process. It was especially hard to tell when she was quoting Elder Holland and when she was speaking for herself.

The indicative thing was her testimony at the end.

After speaking for fifteen minutes on Jesus Christ, she expressed her thanks for the church, the ward, her calling, her family, and the temple. The temple was the thing she was most thankful for. The temple. The temple? Nothing further about Christ, his sacrifice, the atonement, his example, the resurrection, the second coming, or anything else. She was willing to speak about Jesus Christ by assignment, but the things she was truly thankful for came from the institutional church and its claims to authority. Jesus Christ didn’t make the list.

Fast-forward to the youth meetings of ward conference, and again the youth of the church are tremendously inspiring. Their testimonies and their devotion to what they have been taught are truly remarkable, given the things going on around them.

Our stake theme for the year comes from D&C 115:5 – “Verily I say unto you all: Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations;”

Four youth were invited in advance to testify about the ways in which they have let their light shine forth. Following their testimonies the stake YM and YW presidents were asked to come up, and a member of the stake presidency closed the meeting with his own testimony. All spoke eloquently and from the heart about their commitment to the gospel. I was thinking about their comments as I walked out to the car.

And then it hit me.

All but one of the youth and all of the adults talked mainly about the Word of Wisdom, with some comments about personal standards.

The way they let their light shine forth was by not drinking alcohol or smoking, by not using profanity or looking at pornography. All they talked about was their personal standards. Nothing about service, love, tolerance of others, charity, relieving the wants of the poor, or any of the myriad of things Jesus actually taught. Nothing about exemplifying the life of Jesus Christ in any way. Primarily about following the Word of Wisdom, and secondarily about exemplifying standards of morality.

I keep coming back to John 13:35 – “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

We should be known as followers of Jesus Christ, not for our superior morality, but for our sacrificial love for others. I have trouble believing that Jesus Christ suffered and died on the cross to pay the price for me drinking a cup of coffee or smoking a cigarette. The Word of Wisdom wasn’t even strictly observed in the church until the early 20th century, yet it and our standards of morality and dress is the centerpiece of who we are for most people, in and out of the church.

I have to wonder if I want to continue to be a part of a church that encourages people to focus on such a skewed version of the gospel.


Darque said...

Interesting observations.

I know on my mission 4 of us Elders went to an evangelical church one sunday afternoon to witness a baptism, having been invited by their 'ward mission leader'.

We heard more about Christ in a 20 minutes sermon at the baptism than in 3 hours at our own church that morning. And we all commented on it when we left, but none of us made that logical next step (that maybe we were in the wrong religion) at the time. Great post.


Beth said...

I am not Mormon and never have been. I did grow up in a very Mormon community and have read alot about the Mormon faith. I am Christian and tend to be dispensational. An old co-worker (friend) of mine was a devout Mormon and we had many discussions about tithing and obedience. I believe that my sins are forgiven because of what Christ did on the cross and not because of anything that I need to do. My friend had such a hard time with this. I explained to him that because I am a believer there are things that I ought to do or that I should want to do, but that there is nothing that I have to do as Christ has already done everything. To me, if there were things that I had to do, then why did Christ have to die? I tried to explain that I believe it's all about your heart. I do things because I love Christ not because I have to or because I will be judged by my peers if I don't. I give to the church because I want to not because I have to. It's all about attitude. I think many Mormons focus on themselves and all that they do. They don't smoke, they don't drink,they give 10% - they're morally superior to others of other religions. Notice the focus - it's all about them. The focus needs to be Christ and what he has done for us. Are attitude should be one of gratefullness.

ChristFollower said...

Not sure if Beth will ever see this, but I agree completely. The self-centered nature of much of our doctrine is becoming really unsettling.

Anonymous said...

Interesting observations indeed. However...I find it far more interesting that you would go straight to her testimony being about the temple and not Christ. First of all Christ is the central theme of the temple. No Christ=no temple. Whether it be instigated by the church or not the temple is believed by LDS members to be essential in understanding Christ's role in humanity, atonement, etc. The woman bore her testimony of Christ by bearing her testimony of the temple. Second, whether it be the SP, Bishop, or a member of the church holding whatever calling, they're human!!! Which means they're not perfect. Sometimes they say what they say, even when it's not what you want to hear. The church isn't perfect, the gospel is. If we follow it's teachings, we're on the straight and narrow. Members and nonmembers can only better themselves by following the taught gospel. I find it interesting when people confuse this. Especially when they get offended over trivial things like a woman bearing testimony of the temple and not Christ.

ChristFollower said...

I would comment on what you said, Anonymous, but you didn't bother to leave your name. If you don't have the courage to stand behind your comments, there's not much point in me responding.

Anonymous said...

That's an interesting thing to say. Does courage have anything to do with it, really? Why would 'anonymous' need to leave a name for there to be a point in responding?

ChristFollower said...

. . because typically anonymous commenters on this blog are "hit and run". They make some snide comment and then never come back to continue engaging the discussion. There's no point in writing a reply to someone who is not likely to come back and read it. Especially on an entry like this that's a couple of years old.

If you're interested in continuing the discussion, assuming you're the same "anonymous", I'll reply.