I just listened to a recent episode of the Mormon FAIR-Cast podcast. As the host and his guest talked about some of the issues they’ve had with the Church throughout their lives and the spirit of the law versus the letter of the law, the host mentioned a great nonmember-oriented fireside that he had helped put on when he was a bishop. Here’s an excerpt that has been slightly edited for readability (it starts at about 53:38 in the audio link above):
“I was serving as a bishop at the time. I did a fireside about the Church and there were members of the Church there. One of them was a leader higher up than me. After the fireside was over, the person walked up to me, and I said, ‘Hey, what did you think about that?’ And he goes, ‘You didn’t have a white shirt on.’ Here I had just put on a fireside for nonmembers that several nonmembers of our community attended. I taught them the basics of the gospel. It was a very rich meeting with lots of questions afterward. … It was well received. And yet the only thing this person could think about was the fact that here I was, a bishop, with a blue shirt and a tie rather than a white shirt and a tie. When we want to be so stringent to the rules that that’s the most important thing to us, we kind of lose the humanity…, something that Christ never lost.”
Isn’t that heartbreaking? That phrase we kind of lose the humanity really stuck out to me because it rings so true to me and gels with what many of my own experiences in the Church have been. I’ve even had those white shirt conversations with Church leaders.
Losing the humanity is something I think my Boy Scout leaders did when it seemed like all they cared about was making sure our uniforms were ironed and our patches had no stray threads on them.
It’s something I think happened on my mission when we were all blanketly told to increase all of our numbers and just work harder (not to mention the fact that we were all supposed to read the same things, dress the same, style our hair the same way, talk about the same things, and act the same).
It’s something that happens when we are given so much responsibility in the Church that we have no time for our families, even while we proclaim that no success can compensate for failure in the home.
It’s something that happens every month when we fail to do our home and visiting teaching because we are too busy or lazy.
It’s something that happens as we focus so intently on rightness or wrongness of doctrine (or perceived doctrine) that we stray away from what all of God’s doctrine is meant to do—bring us closer to Him through bettering ourselves and helping others.
Never lose the humanity. That was essentially the core of Christ’s teachings as he shifted the focus of the religious law from formulaic, abstract rigidity to voluntary personal altruism. When we should be praising God when someone has metaphorically healed on the Sabbath, we instead indignantly reach for verbal stones. And when we think of our fellow men and women only as numbers, projects, underlings, and meat sacks that either binarily do or do not follow what we prescribe to be right, we deserve every bit of the very same condemnation that Jesus hurled at the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Image source: Flickr user geezaweezer