I was sealed to my sweetheart in the Salt Lake Temple on a beautiful spring morning a number of years ago. I was 27 at the time (which felt ancient in BYU's culture). But the wait made it all the sweeter.
It had rained earlier in the morning but by the time we exited the temple for our wedding pictures the skies had cleared and the sun shone happily upon our wedding party.
I love the temple. Partly because I love religious rituals; there's something I find attractive in symbolic clothing, brass door knobs and stained glass windows, soft carpets and crystal chandeliers.
Maybe that's why I love attending Catholic Mass with all the symbolism, Latin and pageantry (in a former life I must have been a monk).
But it's also the reason, I think, that it breaks my heart whenever I read Jesus's lament over Jerusalem and over the people he loved. They were blinded by their "religion" in the shadow of the physical temple ― to the point they failed to see the Living Temple of God standing right in front of them!
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
How ironic they cast stones at the Chief Cornerstone.
It was a rough weekend (but at least my football team won).
I went to Church and spoke too plainly, perhaps, for my audience.
I forget sometimes that the members of my ward family don't have the same context as I do for my comments. I am apt to deliver too many punch lines without warming them up sufficiently first.
And so it was I found myself in Elders Quorum putting my foot in my mouth again, sharing some of my heart-felt feelings.
As we left Church, my wife turned to me and said, "Oh no. What did you do now?"
Nothing, really. I just made a few observations about the Church and Babylon, that's all, and how Christ is enough and why do we bury Him under the law (which we are currently calling "the covenant path")? I think at one point I may have exclaimed something about being uncircumcised (figuratively, of course).
Well, for those of you who read this blog, you would have found it old-hat.
"Are you allowing God to flow as much light through you as he can? You are behind enemy lines. . . . Are you shining the light God has given you, or are you letting them inject their darkness into you?
"Say and do what you imagine Jesus would say and do if he were in your place. . . . You need to speak these things into being, and then he will give you more.
"You see, the problem is not that you are still going to church or that you still have churchy friends. The problem is you are only still allowed to go to church, and still only have church friends, because you haven't said what you know Jesus would say in your place with these people. You have kept your mouth shut, because you were afraid of losing friends or getting kicked out of the synagogue.
"Don't hold back. Share the ideas. Post the quotes. Share what the Holy Ghost tells you to say. Do what the Holy Ghost tells you to do. Do not be ashamed of God, or he will be ashamed of you (Mark 8:38). Do not fear them cutting you off. When light is revealed, there are only two reactions: to move closer to God or further away. You cannot move closer to God without moving further away from those who do not do the same.
"Consider what it means to be 'valiant in the testimony of Christ' and why it is necessary (D&C 76:79). Consider what it means 'to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death' (Mosiah 18:9). You have been given what to say. What will you do about it?"
After Elders Quorum as we were putting up chairs in the Cultural Hall, I remarked to my friend, "I don't know. Maybe I'm just too Christian to fit in at Church?"
It's ironic, I know. But in my experience our meetings place greater emphasis on following the Prophet than on following Christ.
Let's see: on the one hand we have Christ who literally redeemed us from hell, and on the other hand we have the Prophet telling us to:
(1) pray using only "thee and thou" language;
(2) don't say "atonement" alone but refer to it as Christ's atonement;
(3) don't use the term "free will";
(4) don't use the term "unconditional love" because there's no such thing; and
(4) be "passionate" about censoring the nickname "Mormon."
See any difference between them?
So why is our gaze fixed on the Prophet instead of being single to the glory of God? I cannot explain it. I do not understand it.
What's funny is the quote the EQ instructor was sharing that elicited my comments was from Elder Jorg Klebingat, who said:
"Messengers of God who teach 'inconvenient' truths are often dismissed. Even the Savior Himself was called 'a man gluttonous, and a winebibber,' accused of disturbing public sentiment and being divisive."
I like that quote. I like it so much I actually tried putting into practice yesterday, modeling it in front of my quorum, by speaking "inconvenient truths" about ourselves rather than applying it to all the other "sinners" out there.
Well, guess what? They didn't want to hear any inconvenient truths spoken about ourselves or the Church from some Joe-Shmoe in the back row.
Instead, their comments about this quote involved (1) gays; (2) transgendered people; and the (3) "woke agenda."
I am not kidding! Consider the ramifications of what I am saying. In a Christian meeting discussing "valiant discipleship," my quorum's go-to was to bash sexual minorities ― which was perhaps the most un-disciple-ish thing we could do, and thereby proving my point.
Love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples if ye have love one to another [unless the person is gay or transgendered or woke: in which case you are justified in not loving them.]
(John 13:34-35, EQ Ed.)
When did the gospel become all about, and reduced to, enforcing a sexual purity culture?
Yes, chastity is important. But do you know what is an even bigger deal?
(Is it strange how fixated we are on physical purity when we're not nearly as concerned about the spiritual infidelity of mixing the gospel with Mammon? The Church is full of spiritual STD's and yet we're going to stand here and point the finger at Mary Magdalene?)
We can either follow Jesus Christ who told Peter to "put up thy sword" (Matt. 26:52) or we can be the ones to cast the first stone (which we now call "drawing our muskets").
Of Publicans and Pharisees
After I said my spiel, the Elders and High Priests in my quorum offered several opposing viewpoints to mine (which I appreciated actually because it takes guts to speak up in Church with anything other than the usual answers).
Nobody said, "Tim, can you explain why you feel tithing is a lesser law that is being used as a tool of priestcraft and extortion, so we may better understand where you're coming from?"
Instead, they became angry and offended. The brethren rebutted my comments. "Tim, I helped a single sister move yesterday with others from this quorum," one said, "so I know we have the love of Christ and the Church is true."
I can fairly summarize their rebuttals as follows (which also happens to reflect the testimonies in Fast and Testimony Meeting I listened to during the previous hour):
God, we thank thee, that we are not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as [our poor misguided brother Tim].
We fast twice in the week, and we give tithes of all that we possess.
And Jesus said, See ye this temple? There shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down. (Matthew 24:2) You said no stone unturned each one thrown an insult I feel it the stone’s weight upon my chest disarray and destruction a sense of predation before the plunge I feel it the rejection of friends serenity crumbling granules of grief deep in my bowels a stone of stumbling the ruin of this House . . . The shattered stone I see was necessary for You to recreate from the rubble a new dwelling for your Glory
I feel it now
large enough for Us.
UPDATE: September 28, 2022
After I posted this, Clark Burt made a comment which I wanted to include here because it was very insightful, and it showed me how immature I still am (in my defense, didn't Jesus tell us to be like little children?).
My friend Mike once had a dream after an experience similar to yours. In his dream he saw people who had oil all over them and they were upset because it was messy and they couldn't wipe it off. He realized that the oil was light and truth for the virgins' lamps, but his Quorum members were not ready to receive so much light and truth. Sometimes we give them too much and it shouldn't surprise us if it gets messy. I have found also that sometimes it is better received (by one or two) if it is said by Nephi, Alma, Paul or Christ. Even Nephi was told to stop because he was saying too much. So what did he do? He let Isaiah say it. So I would not completely agree with Rob Smith. The word of God used as the Spirit dictates is much more effective in that it quiets the crowd so to speak and bears witness at the same time. And while not received by all because of ignorance, there will usually be one or two who hear it. Once from a comment by one of the quorum, I knew he heard and sent him a text with a few more scripture references. His response was all I needed.
I can feel your frustration, anger and disappointment, but with the exception of a few who do hear, will always be there. I do not agree with Smith that you be kicked out of the synagogue. Use the word of God as the sword it is. Let it judge them.
Your post moved me as you can tell from my comments and made me angry and sad that your quorum does not know what a gift God has given them. But it is no surprise either.
Clark, what a wonderful point you make about letting the Lord speak; it reminded me of Mormon, who said, "And I did endeavor to preach unto this people, but my mouth was shut, and I was forbidden that I should preach unto them . . . . But I did remain among them, but I was forbidden to preach unto them" (Mormon 1:17).
I see the wisdom in your words; the best way is to let the Lord speak through his scriptures and allow the Holy Ghost to fill in the blanks for the listeners.
This blog is therapeutic for me because it helps me to draw out my agitation and negativity on paper so I can process it and dismiss it. I'm much healthier now than I was when I used to keep it bottled in! You're a good example of achieving the "zen" I seek.
I will do better. Next time I will pause and try to think of a scripture that might convey the idea before getting carried away. Thank you! Tim