“Surely what pops out before the man has time to put on a disguise is the truth.”
This opening quote by CS Lewis in Goddard’s book “Drawing Heaven into your Marriage” really caught my attention and my heart. I can remember a few times in my life that no matter what I said it was not going to be able to to change how I acted, or should say reacted to people in my life who I claimed to have loved.
“If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20)
The first example of this is with my brother. I have struggled to love him as in my heart for so long I have blamed him for being the main reason our family is so fractured. I know logically that this is not true, but emotionally I let it sit and let it become a “truth”. I remember one night about a year ago and I walked into my home where both he and my nephew were hanging out and playing video games or watching a movie. I hadn’t seen my brother in a year. And instead of being excited and happy I worried more about what they were doing and not who they were and my relationship to them. There was no way taking back in words the way I reacted to that situation. The impression that I left with him was that I mattered more than him, my sense of order and need for control was more important, and that I didn’t truly love him.
The second example was when I was in a relationship with someone with whom I was going to marry. We were engaged and both of us started having doubts. I remember this thought and image that came to my head. We were sitting in the Temple in the sealing room. We were to be married. I was looking across the alter into the “eternity” shown to me in those mirrors. And in that moment I realized that I could not with honesty and pure intent say “I do” to eternity with this beautiful person. I knew then that I needed to back out and end the engagement. It was one of the most difficult things I had to do in my life. Knowing in my heart that I loved this person but that I wasn’t in alignment with what God needed me to be. Ever since that day I have looked deeply (more than I already do) and sought to find the places in my heart that needed to be right with God so I could with all honesty say “I do” for eternity with someone who the Lord would allow me to be with.
“The natural man is likely coming to find that resentment and vindictiveness come more easily than charity” (Goddard pg 108) in both of the stories I shared I realized that I literally became what Goddard described in that phrase. I had let resentment and vindictiveness take over my heart. I have struggled for years to let myself forgive and be forgiven. I was a in turmoil for years.
A Contrast In Charity
Marvin J Ashton is quoted as saying, “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone else’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down.”
I did not grow up in a predominantly LDS area of he country; I grew up just outside Cleveland Ohio. We were the minority and to be honest most people didn’t know what a “Mormon” was nor did they care. The interesting thing about that is the only reason I became conscious of my “Mormonism” was when I was judged by other kids in my ward who were from out west (Utah, Arizona and Idaho). I never believed in judging people and didn’t care if someone was a Latter-Day Saint or not; yet I was being taught to be very aware of it all the time. Phrases like “we are a peculiar people” and “You are a chosen generation” I am starting to wonder if these statements were a good thing or a bad thing? I know that the intention of the prophets was not to cause us to judge each other but to strengthen us! President Gordon B Hinckley has even said, “In saying this, I do not wish to imply that all is well with all of them. There are many who have troubles, and many who live far beneath the high expectations we have concerning them. There are also those who waver in their faith and who are troubled and frustrated within themselves. There are some, I regret to say, who step over the line of acceptable behavior and suffer great tragedies in their lives. (Ensign, May 1992, 69).
I still truly believe this although I fear too many LDSaints have taken on the other attitude; one of the Sadducees and Pharisees.
Let me give you an example that is akin to the story of Jesus visiting Simon’s home and a woman burst in uninvited. She was an “embarrassment” to these men. She was judge as a “tramp” a “prostitute” and “a blight on the community”. I think there are so many layers in this story. There is for one the gender inequality and way the men of that time saw this woman. Secondly, I think there has always been this attitude of self righteousness that was in that world and unfortunately in our world as well. Let me give you an example. When I was at work, a young girl from Rexburg was in our program. She was not LDS. I pretended not to be LDS just so I could see what she experienced living in a predominately LDS culture. At first we joked about not drinking caffeinated soda and not being able to jump on trampolines on Sunday afternoon with friends. Then she hit me with this, she said, “I was told by some of my friends that they couldn’t play with me because I was not baptized” I immediately started to weep. I apologized. I told her that I was LDS and I was so sorry that people treated her that way. I was embarrassed for the church and for me. I made me think back to when I was young and the Utah/Idaho members of my ward told me that I wasn’t a good Mormon or a proper Mormon. It is something that I still struggle with to this day. I love this story so much because Jesus lovingly taught Simon and the others that they were no better than anyone else. He said, “Simon, you have treated me with coldness and disdain from the moment I set foot in your house. You have not shown even the fundamental courtesies. In contrast, this woman who has no social obligation to me has poured out every devotion of kindness. Her many sins are forgiven because she loved abundantly. Meanwhile those to who whom little is forgiven, seem to love little.” It is a lesson we can all continue to learn from.
I have been pondering this whole week what it means to be a Latter-Day Saint and if it is worth it? If this intentional act of seclusion and exclusion has been worth it or if it is the right thing? I have learned much in the Church and I have learned a lot outside of the church. I am very grateful for both experiences.
Father Richard Rohr has said, “I’m afraid as a clergy man myself, I don’t think organized christianity is fostering that kind of seeing, that kind of humility, that kind of inclusivity. We are mainly known for being an exclusionary institution … We need to love the the “crack” instead of seeking to create the so-called “normal”. That’s what is always getting us in trouble. That’s why we can’t deal with black people (or Mexican people), why we can’t deal with gay people, or anyone who isn’t so called ‘normal’. It’s just undone Christianity, it’s why we are known as an exclusionary institution, cause we are always asking “who isn’t normal”, as if we are of course, that is the false assumption.”
I know from years of experience that I cannot change the hearts of others, only God can do that. I do know that I am responsible for my heart and how I see others. On an Instagram post from Black Therapists Rock it said, “when we avoid conflict to make peace with other people you start a war within” I let myself start a war within because I wanted to avoid conflict.
I leave myself and you with this promise from the Book of Mormon “wherefore my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:47-48)
In taking on these words and living up to and in the promises made in Moroni we can truly do what is taught in this scripture, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” (1 Pet. 2:9.)