(Image: FLDS Women Writing to Polygamist Prophet Samuel Bateman, currently incarcerated after 3 girls were found in his locked cargo trailer; published in Salt Lake Tribune, December 6, 2022)
Eat Your Wheat-ies
I think the most common way for us to judge whether someone is a Wheat or Tare is to look at their affiliations and decide whether they coincide with our own (yes, you're right: that's the worst possible way to judge).
- Do they "follow" the right authority figures? - Do they "belong" to the right Church? - Do they profess belief in the "proper" doctrines? - Do they obey the "correct" commandments?
These questions encapsulate the Spirit of Sectarianism, but not-so-much the spirit of Christ's gospel:
He numbereth his sheep, and they know him; and there shall be one fold and one Shepherd; and he shall feed his sheep, and in him they shall find pasture.
(1 Nephi 22:25)
We see from this verse that there are only (1) Christ and (2) his sheep; all other distinctions are not terribly important.
But when we seek to root out the "weeds" among us, like blood hounds defending the faith, we begin to see this whole endeavor is doomed to fail because our judgments are subjective: what we're really doing is seeing whether a person fits within "our" definition of "Wheat."
(Chances are, "Wheat" will resemble what what we see in the mirror.)
The so-called "culture wars" are a by-product of religious sensibilities competing in the marketplace of ideas; we reduce the good news to a battleground of toilets and urinals and which are appropriate for transgendered folk, whilst Satan laughs himself sick.
Look, if we're going to be blunt about it and skin the skunk for what it is, we need to ask ourselves: Are we using the idea of "Tares" to create a false dichotomy of "us vs. them"; to discriminate against those who are different; as an excuse to be unloving ― and all the while feel good doing it?
Pride is the ultimate dopamine; the cherry-on-top of feeling justified, being infused with the spiritual serotonin of self-righteousness, as though we're pleasing God; such is an addiction we have to our delicious Wheatie-ness.
I have actually heard conversations in my ward about who is "safe" for our children to play with ("not them, they are inactive; no, not them either, they are Unibaptists").
I recently sat in Elder's Quorum and endured an hour of people describing the characteristics of "Tares" (meaning the reasons others leave the Church) while discussing Elder Pearson's last General Conference talk "Are You Still Willing" (a great read for Tare-minded folk).
We have only to look at our zeal for missionary work: isn't it to knock some sense into all the Tares out there, who need to 'get with the program' and start living as we do?
Won't You Be My Neighbor?
But then we're faced with Jesus's preaching, which flies in the face of spiritual segregation.
Christ was born with huge scissor-hands to cut all the red tape blocking access to heaven, to burst the bands that divide us from Father, and to break every bond. His scissor-hands slice through the chains of hell as if they were butter.
While we're clumsily counting mint and anise and cummin, Jesus was out there delivering the Parable of the Good Samaritan, telling us in graphic terms how the Levite's sense of duty, and the ritualistic purity of the Priest, prevented them from loving their fellowmen (!).
Their pious actions, they felt, I'm sure, were justified; they were in the service of their small-hearted Grinch-God.
And Jesus just torpedoed their religious worldview straight to the pit. People, even today in liberal 2022, talk about Christ's "radical love" and I want to say to them, "What do you mean, 'radical'? It's just LOVE!"
How sorely we must lack charity when the appearance of divine love shocks us by its radicalness.
To those who rejected Christ's ministry and message of love, He said (and He was not speaking to homosexuals, no sir):
But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable in that day for Sodom, than for that city.
If you think I'm making too big a deal about this, and hope some General-Authority-quotes are coming to the rescue, to stick God's love into a neat, conditional square box where it can't do any damage, then read on! Because after the Savior invoked Sodom, He is challenged:
And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, [why is it always the lawyers?] and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?
Surely the Lord will explain the Covenant Path to this poor, hapless attorney; for isn't that what is required for eternal life? Now we'll hear the Savior spell-it-all-out, at last: baptism, temple work, meetings, and follow-the-prophet:
And Jesus answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.
Well, THAT went sideways fast.
"Forget that hipee, new-agey, mushy love-talk, Lord, because we want you to bring the fire!"
With that simple declaration of love, the Savior introduced His Parable of the Good Samaritan.
"But Tim!" someone shouts. "This Series is not about the Good Samaritan. It's about the Wheat and Tares."
That's right: so we should ask ourselves, what is it about our religious traditions that prevent us from loving the Tares . . . I mean, each other?
Elder Oaks on the Good Samaritan
Let's go to our Lawyer-in-Residence, President Dallin H. Oaks, to explain the Savior's legalese regarding love.
Q. President Oaks, isn't it true we are to love our neighbor?
A: "The love of neighbor — however important — does not come ahead of love of God and obedience to His commandments. If we truly love God and serve Him as He has taught us, we will love our neighbor as God loves him or her and as He would have us love and serve them" (BYU Address, "Going Forward in the Second Century," September 13, 2022).
Q. Okay, can you expound on situations where it is okay NOT to love our neighbor? Are you saying there's a time God doesn't love them? Is there ever a time when it is appropriate to shun them?
A: "I can also imagine some circumstances in which it might be possible to say [to a gay child], ‘Yes, come, but don’t expect to stay overnight. Don’t expect to be a lengthy house guest. Don’t expect us to take you out and introduce you to our friends, or to deal with you in a public situation that would imply our approval of your partnership" (Interview with Elder Dallin H. Oaks, 2006).
Q. As a follow-up, isn't treating a gay family member the way you propose like treating them as the fellow in the parable, encouraging parents to act like the Levite and the Priest who passed by on the other side? I mean, isn't the example of the Samaritan the opposite of what you're saying?
A: "We should note that the words homosexual, lesbian, and gay are adjectives to describe particular thoughts, feelings, or behaviors. We should refrain from using these words as nouns to identify particular conditions or specific persons. Our religious doctrine dictates this usage. It is wrong to use these words to denote a condition, because this implies that a person is consigned by birth to a circumstance in which he or she has no choice in respect to the critically important matter of sexual behavior." "Same-Gender Attraction,"Ensign, October 1995).
Tares, Tares . . . so many Tares
1. Mohammad, a Muslim, Looks Outside, Across the Street, at His Neighbors:
- Jill, a Methodist, eats pork - Jack, a Mormon, doesn't kneel towards Mecca to pray 5 times a day - Barb, an Evangelical, doesn't cover her 60s hair-do - Bill, a Hindu, doesn't observe Ramadan
2. Jill, a Methodist, Looks Outside:
- Jack, a Mormon, doesn't believe in the Trinity - Mohammad, a Muslim, hasn't been baptized unto Christ - Barb, an Evangelical, interprets the Bible incorrectly when it comes to the doctrine of grace - Bill, a Hindu, believes in reincarnation
3. Jack, a Mormon, Looks Outside:
- Jill, a Methodist, drinks wine with dinner - Mohammad, a Muslim, drinks the devil's drink, coffee - Barb, an Evangelical, drinks earl grey tea - Bill, a Hindu, drinks Scotch and Whiskey
(Is it just me, or are members of the Church obsessed with what others are drinking?)
You get the idea. Over time, as we meet together in our insular communities and reinforce our cultural behaviors, creating a "bubble," those who do not adhere to our faith-standards become outsiders, they start looking a lot like "Tares."
But look at how members of The Church of Jesus Christ might appear to a believing polygamist:
4. Susan, a Polygamist, Looks Outside:
- Rachel, LDS, an old high school friend, shuns her when they run into each other at Wal-mart because Rachel views Susan's lifestyle as "apostate."
- Hyrum, LDS, gives her funny looks when she orders from Arby's because of her long dress and braided ponytail.
- Gary, LDS, judges her in the line at the Post Office where she's mailing a care package to her polygamist prophet in jail, thinking her "deceived."
- Marshal, an LDS bishop, offers her financial assistance if she'll renounce her family and sever ties with the FLDS.
Ask youself: What would it feel like if everyone viewed you as a "Tare"?
"I guess it's good and all for God to send rain upon the just as well as the unjust, but He wouldn't mind if I held an umbrella over the unjust, would he? In fact, it'd probably please Him! Let's dry out those Tares so they wither away."
It reminds me of something I saw on Facebook, where someone tweeted:
"Instead of putting 'Christ' back into Christmas, I would be okay with just putting Christ back into Christians."