You all know by now I like painting bullseyes on sacred cows. But I am (1) an amateur, (2) a nobody, and (3) lucky enough to have a wife who tries to keep me in line.
So when I came across something as eloquent as Robert Rees's latest article in Dialogue ("Tikkun K'nessiah: Repairing the Church," Dialogue 53, no. 4, Winter 2020, 109 - 122), I shouted Halleluiah because Brother Rees is far better-spoken than I am, and he says some really important things that I wish could be shouted from the rooftops.
So for those of you who have not read his incredible article, you're in luck. I have excerpted it here.
Bio for Robert Rees
ROBERT A. (“BOB”) REES is Director of Mormon Studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. He is the author or editor of numerous studies, including the forthcoming second volume of Why I Stay: The Challenges of Discipleship for Contemporary Latter-day Saints and A New Witness to the World. He is the co-founder and vice president of the Bountiful Children’s Foundation, which addresses children’s malnutrition in the developing world.
Robert Rees, Tikkun k’nessiah
"I have coined the term “Tikkun k’nessiah”—meaning repairing or healing the Church. In this essay, I hope to explore the dimensions of what “Tikkun k’nessiah” may mean to those of us who are members of the restored Church at this critical juncture in its history...."
"When I spoke at the Berkeley Institute of Religion several years ago, I asked the students, “Whose church is this?” They responded, “It’s the Church of Jesus Christ.” I replied, “There are two possessives in the name of the Church: it is the Church of Jesus Christ, certainly, but it is also the Church of the Latter-day Saints. It isn’t the Church of the First Presidency or the Quorum of the Twelve or the General Authorities, it isn’t the Church of conservatives or liberals or of any particular group, but rather the Church of all those who are or can be called saints. Thus, the Church is our joint stewardship. Ultimately, it will be no better or no worse than we ourselves choose to make it, than we ourselves choose to be."
"It is in this sense of joint stewardship that I want to say a few words about repairing and healing the Church. At the outset, I want to make it clear that I don’t consider myself a member of the Ark Steadier’s Society (whose initials are A.S.S.!) or in any way presume to have an elevated or enlightened position or to have any special calling in relation to the Church. Like other Latter-day Saints, I am simply a member, a disciple, a follower of Christ, one of the workers in his vineyard. But as such, I feel I am called to try and help the Church more perfectly to reflect the truths, glories, and beauties of Christ’s gospel, to help set right, first, those things that I need to repair and heal within myself, and then, along with everyone else who feels so called, to do the same in the Church."
"Reading Church history, that brokenness is apparent; but it is also apparent in our own time as the Church has grown into a worldwide faith and faces the challenge of adapting to an increasingly secular society and an increasingly complex and diverse membership. While some might consider it disloyal to speak of the brokenness of the contemporary Church, anyone who has an authentic engagement with the Church knows that invariably it is in some ways less than its promise. Saying so is to state a reality, not voice a criticism."
"Throughout scriptural history, we read of God pleading, persuading, cajoling, at times even bribing his children to take ownership of the Church (however it was defined in different dispensations), to build and magnify it, to expand its borders of thought, imagination, and action. I think it is safe to say that at times we have broken God’s heart over our reluctance to better shape ourselves and therefore the Church to the ideal and standard to which he has called us."
"There is immense pain in the Church today. Addressing that pain depends on our individual acts of courage, of sacrifice, and especially of love. It is in that realm where much of the most important work of repairing is to be done."
"In practical terms, how do we go about repairing the Church? As I said at the outset, it should begin by each of us doing (and maintaining) a thorough inventory of our intentions, motives, and integrity. Next, we should carefully consider how and under what conditions to participate in the work of repairing. Most Latter-day Saints I know would immediately shift their attention to the leaders of the Church, but before focusing on them, we should consider reform and repair in our individual lives and among the membership. Where to begin? For me, the following suggests brokenness among the body of the Saints and represents opportunities and challenges for grassroots repair."
"[T]he question for individual Latter-day Saints, especially the vast majority without any significant power or position, is when, by whom, and by what means it should be done. This is a critical question, if for no other reason than that many would consider it presumptuous for any individual to feel that he or she could help repair the Church when the consensus is that such work is “best left to the brethren.” But, as I have tried to argue, this is the work of all who have covenanted to build and expand Christ’s kingdom. It is also the charge the Lord gives us in the Doctrine and Covenants where, speaking to all members (tenderly calling us his “little flock”), he says, “The kingdom is yours until I come" (D&C 35:27). In other words, he is entrusting the Church to the collective care of the Saints and, I believe, will hold us accountable for whatever condition the Church is in, not only when he comes but each step along the way."
"I’m aware that to want, out of love, to repair the Church, to hope for change is not easy. Nevertheless, if we don’t do this work, who will?"
"To illustrate the concept of repairing the Church, I would like to use the metaphor of repairing or renovating a house. Having owned several houses in my lifetime, all of which needed continuous repair and sometimes major renovation, I know something of what it takes to make a house work for those who live in it. I’m not very skilled as a carpenter, electrician, or plumber, although I have done such repairs on my homes. Mainly I am a handyman, one who is continually solving small problems and calling on more skilled craftspeople for major, more complicated tasks. I have always felt a sense of satisfaction when I have been able to fix a leaky toilet, a broken window, a jammed garbage disposal, or a faulty electrical junction. I also work on the outside when necessary, but I do so with a familiarity and knowledge of what’s on the inside."
"What I have learned is that almost all repairs have to be made from inside the house. Most of the time, one has to climb into the attic or crawl under the sink, raise floorboards or replace light switches. The same is true for the house of my faith: to have any chance of repairing this house, I have to live in it."
"As I said at the outset, I have no authority beyond the authority of my own conscience or power beyond that of my own mind, voice, and spirit; I have no knowledge beyond that of an ordinary person who has lived long enough to have learned a few lessons, including, especially, from his own mistakes and misdeeds; I have no calling beyond that which Christ calls all of his followers to fulfill—to love him and the Father with all our heart, might, mind, and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves. Embedded in those two “great” commandments, I believe, is another commandment that involves both deity and humanity—to love the Church enough to try and change it, even if that means risking the displeasure of the Church."