Saturday, January 23, 2010

Looking Good vs. Fixing Things

One of the problems with Mormon culture is that we tend to live in a world of looking good instead of fixing problems, we tend to hide them. Now I'm not condemning "the church" what I'm saying is that we may not really understand the point here. We may not be emotionally or spiritually mature enough to put into practice what we preach, it happens. It's a by product of imperfection on the pathway to perfection.

When I was serving as the secretary of the stake young men it always amused me how much effort we put into the dress code for stake youth dances. Now I'm the first to state that yes modesty is important, but I think sometimes some adults really believe that sticking a boy in a tie and a girl in a dress that goes under her knees is going to prevent them from having sex. I often thought that trying to dress the youth up like little adults wasn't really helping. Well they looked good but were they good?

I remember also the discussion about boys and earrings and passing the sacrament. The rule stated that the boy needs to take the earring or whatever the piercing was out before he could participate. In the back of my mind I kept wondering if the boy had understood why he shouldn't have had the piercing in the first place this wouldn't have been an issue, is just taking it out so he can put it right back in really the answer? And I'm not judging the kid, I'm just judging the reasoning.

I remember going to a number of Christian rock concerts were the youth were a little less well dressed, still modest, but they didn't look like little junior executives and how much they were enjoying themselves, even more none of their parents had to force them to go. It was amazing, yes they were feeling the Spirit without a tie on.

Looking good sometimes helps us feel better when things aren't really good. Lets face it, we are striving for perfection and none of us really understands what that means. We say we believe in repentance, we say we are grateful for it in testimony meetings, we may even cry about it, but we shy away from it at times because the process may be to painful. I have a feeling that the chapel is full of lots of people in the church who want to come forward, who want to "do the right thing, make things right with God" but who don't because they feel what people will say if they do. I know because I've been there.

Some could say they are leading double lives. Yes, the church is full of two camps those who are Saints and those who are pretending. But it's not really that simple is it? I think this is only half of the story. None of us are perfect. And that's not just an excuse its more of a fact. None of us are presently complete or we'd not be here trying to learn how to be. I honestly believe that most people are good and most people want to do the right thing. We can't even begin to understand why people do things they do, the feelings that are real and that motivate others to do things we would never think of. We've all been there I think.

I fear also that it also allows us to judge others who may also be struggling. This is because we don't really know how to deal with it in person. It's like the uncomfortable awkwardness a lot of us face when we meet a handicap person. We don't want to admit it, but its true. We don't want to say the wrong thing and hurt their feelings. And yes some of us may be ignorant about that persons personal struggle or our feelings may be fueled with anger, guilt, misunderstanding or any number of things.

I've often wondered about those who have been confessed, been through the process been excommunicated never come back. I understand why some may leave the church when they no longer feel their beliefs are inline with the church, but those who have submitted to this as part of the repentance process who then don't come back breaks my heart.

I know that I've been taught that church disciple is supposed to be restorative and not punitive. But I also know that a startling number of those who have been through it don't come back. Those who have voluntarily endured it as part of the repentance process, who then stumble and fall are the most tragic because it took great faith to humble themselves to it.

This is where I hope I can be better. Maybe I need to worry less about understanding and more about loving because loving can lead to understanding. Maybe the key is that to love doesn't always mean to understand but just to love.

I think this is an area that the church needs to help teach its members to understand. This is why I think a lot of these good people don't come back, they feel alone, isolated, judged and ostracized. Pondering this I realize however that the church can only teach correct principles, its up to me to put them into practice in my own life. I need to do it myself.


Abelard Enigma said...

Should church be a refuge for saints or a hospital for sinners. In our Mormon culture, too often it's the former when it should be the latter. We are afraid to come to church as sinners - so we put on our church persona and pretend to be saints.

The truth of the matter is, in any typical ward, there is lots of stuff going on that only the bishop is privy to - and probably even more going on that even he isn't aware of - big stuff like adultery and abuse (both spousal and child). And not uncommon that it is by people whom you would least suspect of such.

I grew up in a protestant church where it seemed like a contest to out sin one another as people testified about what terrible sinners they were before they found Christ. When I joined the LDS church in college, I was impressed by how people would came to church trying to act like perfect molly Mormon / peter priesthood. But, as I've grown older and wiser (although the latter may be debatable), I wonder if we would be better off being more like our protestant brothers and sisters and be more open about our sins and shortcomings - then maybe we could do a better job at helping on another so that we don't feel so alone in our personal struggles.

Neal said...

I like your thoughts, and I like Abe's comments as well. I would add that those of us who understand should do something about it. Example:

My sister is currently going less active, and no one knows why. She isn't discussing it. This past Sunday a sister commented to me, "Where's your sister lately? I haven't seen her coming out to meetings. Is everything alright?" I told her she had stopped coming to Church, but I didn't know why; to which she said, "Well tell her I said hello and we miss her." My response back was, "Well then why don't YOU call her and tell her that yourself!!" Herein lies the rub, I think. A lot of good thoughts and well wishers, but not enough action takers.

Mark Johnson said...

Jerry, I actually really enjoyed reading this and the things you had to say..