Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dealing With Hypocrisy in Church

I have met many people who have lost faith - either completely or partially - due to hypocrisy in church. These have included friends who are Latter-day Saints (Mormons) and who belong or belonged to other churches. The viewpoint, as near as I can understand, is that they see people who are in good standing and viewed positively by the congregation, but they have seen disregard one church principle or another. It becomes more and more uncomfortable to hear this person's viewpoints, to deal with them in church, etc. and eventually this gets upsetting enough that one no longer feels happy in church and decides to pursue spirituality through some other means.

This might not perfectly describe everyone's situation, but this is how its been for most of the people I've known.

This is something I've thought about a lot; I admit I'm also bothered by situations like this. Its tough to hear someone go on about a principle when you have seen that they do not live it. I won't go into specific examples, but I'm pretty sure we've all seen this before.

The first question I try to ask myself is: how do I know that he or she doesn't live that principle? If I believe in the Atonement, then living a Gospel principle means doing your honest best and having faith in the Lord's sacrifice to make up the difference between how well you can live it and how well it should be lived. I will admit that my personal best can vary greatly at times in my life; I'm grateful that God doesn't hold me to my absolute best at all times. I believe that He judges based on every situation.

If I accept that, should I say that I know that someone is a hypocrite? Or could it be my evidence is based on an idea of a best effort that didn't match them that day or doesn't match them ever?

Another question I try to ask is why do I go to Church? Why do I consider myself a Mormon? Certainly, I would like to be completely comfortable and happy at Church. I would like to be surrounded by exemplary people who make me better by association, but that really isn't the reason. I want to know my Father in Heaven. I feel a deep need to know Him and to learn truth. If I have issues with others in the congregation, does it change the truth? Does it change the experiences I've had? For me, it doesn't. I think President Uchtdorf said it correctly: I should "hold fast to the words of eternal life."

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Importance Of Difference

My understanding of God's plan for us on earth is that we are each sent to have experiences that will prepare us to return to live with Him. Here we can learn the necessary lessons to prepare us to receive everything that He wishes to give us, and that without this learning we would be unable to enjoy these blessings even if we had them.

No two people live the same life; everyone appears to suffer and prosper differently. It is extremely common to wish for a different situation in life. Some people wonder why they had to be born in the country they were born in; others wonder why their career isn't what they wanted, why they get sick so often, so severely, younger than they thought, or wish to change any number of things that can't be controlled.

I think perhaps one of the greatest challenges of this life is accepting God's will when we wish it were different. It is one of the largest acts of faith that He asks of us, and in the times where I have actually managed to accept His will over mine I've learned that His plan is better than my plan. The Lord knows what we need more than we do, and how to shape us into what we need to become better than we do.

This is what makes me the most uncomfortable with the idea behind I can understand the idea behind the organization, but I do not understand where it is anyone's place to demand that Church doctrine be changed, or that the Church receive a revelation to match their will.

I think that asking questions and having dialogue are infinitely valuable. In my experience, doubts and serious questions do not vanish if you ignore them. However, my faith is that God leads this Church through Thomas S. Monson, His ordained prophet. I don't believe that everything in the Church is perfect, but I believe constant revelation is far superior to public opinion.

Finally, I think that all of the worst trials in life will be things we wish didn't happen to us. In the moment we are going through them nothing will be more valuable than the faith to accept God's will and the confidence to wait on the Lord. I pray that those eagle wings may come to us, and that we may work now to develop such faith.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Having Compassion One Of Another

The title for this post is from 1 Peter 3:8 and is what Elder Holland cited as the inspiration for his talk in this past general conference. Elder Holland chose to speak about those who suffer from mental illnesses or emotional disorders.

Personally, I was moved by his speech. This talk to me is a tremendous testimony of God's love for us and His awareness of all of His children. I picture the loneliness of someone who suffers of any of these illnesses; imagine the loneliness from knowing that no one else in the world experiences the same reality that you do! Perhaps equally lonely are the spouses, parents, and siblings, friends, or others who long to fully connect to their loved one again but cannot.

It is a bitter and terrible loneliness, but for me this talk was a powerful reminder that none of us are ever completely alone. There is One who bought us with His own blood. He paid, as Elder Holland put it, an unfathomable price to be able to reach and to help each of us. When and how the healing may come is something I do not know specifically; it will probably vary greatly, but we can know that it is in our Lord Jesus Christ's power to save, even from this.

After having listened to conference I feel strengthened in my faith in the Lord. I feel reassured that He knows us and loves us. And He does.

Your Worth

Many things try to tell us what we are worth. For some, they feel that they are measured by a grade point average, their skill in sports, whether or not they have acne, a date to the dance, what college they are accepted into, their SAT/ACT scores, or how popular they happen to be.

As you get older, the metrics change but their validity doesn't. It could be what car you drive, the clothes you can afford, how much your job pays, what career you have, how many friends you have on facebook, how many views your blog gets, or how big your house is. Others feel its more about what crafts you do with your children and how often you share them on pintrest or instagram. Still others might view it as whether or not you have money to lend to your adult children or how much is saved away in retirement accounts.

No matter who you are, there are many in the world who would like to tell you how to measure how valuable you are. For the right price, they can make you more valuable. Whether your weak point is that you need the right creams, more exercise, a diet, a new financial plan, etc. they can fix it and make you valuable.

The short-coming is that none of these things can measure you. You are a daughter or son of God, the Most High, the Ruler of creation. You come from a noble birthright and your value is in your potential to be like your Heavenly Father. We all have a divine destiny and inheritance, but we have to accept it.

Obviously, it is important to become better versions of ourselves. I do not think any responsible person would advocate doing poorly in school or intentionally becoming unhealthy. The distinction is that we can't let any of this define us. We are more than test scores, numbers on a scale, likes on social media, or any other rank or measurement known to man.

I pray that when the temptation comes to accept a metric as an assignment of personal value that we can think or say what Moses said in the face of temptation:
...Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his Only Begotten; and where is thy glory, that I should worship thee? (Moses 1:13)
Even things that are important in this life pale in comparison to our relationship with our Father. As I have worked to improve myself, it has helped me to start from the point of view that I am a child of God with the potential to accomplish my goals. We are not inadequate beings that needs these metrics to value ourselves.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Thought on Modern Day Prophets

While listening to Elder Hale's talk in General Conference this morning I got an insight into how modern day prophets function. Elder Hale was pointing out that we received The Family: A Proclamation to the World long before people were trying to legally re-define what a family is. In fact, it was revealed in September of 1995; in September of 1996 the Defense of Marriage Act was passed without much controversy. I don't think that many if any expected that within 20 years the law would become unpopular and the Supreme Court would rule it unconstitutional.

This made me think of another thing: President Gordon B. Hinckley was the prophet of the Church from the time I was young until I was partway done with college. I never heard President Hinckley say he knew the real estate market would collapse due to inflated home prices and foreclosures, but my entire life I heard him teach the Saints to buy a modest home that and live within their means. I have often reflected on how much better off the entire United States economy would be if the country as a whole had listened.

Modern prophets seldom stand up and say: "Behold! I have seen a vision..." Instead, they teach us correct principles that will protect us from things they know will shortly come to pass. So often we think of visions when we think of prophets, but primarily they will teach us how to live so that we can return to our Father in Heaven. I know that I have found protection in following prophetic counsel and I'm grateful that we have these leaders to guide and direct us.