In 1962 author Ken Kesey published the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (it was later made into a movie but I haven't seen it).
For those of you who have not read the book, it's about a group of patients in a hospital psychiatric wing.
The antagonist is Nurse Ratched: a no-nonsense lady who keeps her wards in check (played by Louise Fletcher in the movie who won an Oscar for her performance).
The protagonist Randle McMurphy plans to escape with the other patients in order to get away from the harmful treatment of Nurse Ratched (for example, her shock therapy treatment).
Her cruelty results in one of the characters committing suicide.
Afterwards she coolly tells the mourning inmates, "The best thing we can do is to go on with our daliy routine."
Upset, McMurphy assaults Ratched and she repays his disobedience by having him lobotomized. That's right: lobotomized.
The Nurse Will See You Now
I am no literary critic (my wife was the English major), but according to what I've read Nurse Ratched represents "the corrupting influence of instutitonal power and authority. ... Nurse Ratched's superiors turn a blind eye [to her abuses] because she maintains order, keeping the patients from acting out."
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, "The Church is more like a hospital or an aid station, provided for those who are ill and want to get well." (Elder Holland, "He Hath Filled the Hungry with Good Things," October General Conference, 1997.)
The idea that the Church is a hospital for sinners compares sin with sickness, and the Church as the place we get rehabilitated (you know, as if we were drug addicts needing somewhere to detox from the juice).
Well, is this the worst metaphor in the history of metaphors (except, perhaps, the parable of the pickle)?
An "HMO" is a Health Maintenance Organization. They bundle doctors the way cable TV bundles TV channels, trying to keep costs down.
The problem I see with the Church being compared to a hospital is that, first of all, it is more accurately an HMO, and secondly, I don't view the Church's role to be regulating and employing our treating physicians.
Because Christ is our only Physician.
Third, instead of Christ being our source of healing, this metaphor makes the Church and its priesthood leaders our "in-network" doctors.
Fourth, like in all HMO's, we sacrifice quality of care for a bureaucracy of medical billing and being placed on call-waiting when we want to dispute the bill.
Fifth, and now we're getting to my main objection: it seems like, by the way we're often treated in the Church when we consult directly with Dr. Christ M.D. for treatment (without first getting insurance preauthorization), we find that Christ is, in fact, out-of-network, and not covered by our insurance plan despite the generous premiums and deductibles we've paid.
Sixth, I am wondering what happened to Doctor-Patient Confidentiality? Maybe I don't want to undergo Chemo: that should be my decision, between me and my Doctor, and not up to the CEO of Intermountain Healthcare (IHC). Maybe I want to have calf implants even though they make me look ridiculous: that is between me and my Doctor.
Seven, when the Brethren speak about "purview," it reminds me of President Barack Obama who promised, while campaigning for the Affordable Care Act, "If you like your Doctor, you can keep your Doctor!"
Ummm, if you say so.
I'd like to see my Doctor now. You can take off the blood pressure cuff. Like the Greeks said to the apostle Philip:
Sir, we would see Jesus.
We see by this that the Lord's servants are NOT the same as the Lord Himself. Anyone who claims they stand in for the Lord In Loco Parentis is mistaken. Such a notion is the opposite of "come unto Christ." We can impart His word, but we aren't the Word.
Remember, it was Jesus, not Peter, who healed Peter's own Mother-in-Law of her illness (Luke 4:38-39).
We have a Master of the Healing Arts: what do we need hospitals for when we are being treated in-home by a Doctor who makes house calls?
So why is the Church shuffling me off on a gurney to see the physican's assistant?
Hold on. Maybe we could retool this metaphor to make it work.
I mean, there are a lot of hospital goofs, such as when they amputate the wrong leg or a patient contracts a staph infection after being admitted.
Doctors carry medical malpractice insurance for a reason! They make mistakes. They're just humans, like our leaders.
But because the Church tells us the Prophet can't lead us astray (as though the Prophet were a steady-handed surgeon who never made a mistake in the operating room), it makes it hard for the leaders to admit, "Yup, I severed a nerve on accident. I'm sorry. Let's make this right."
Instead we go through the mental gymnastics of explaining something as simple as the 2015 Exclusion Policy's reversal in which President Nelson essentially blamed God for the snafu (I was not aware 'throwing God under the bus' was in a Prophet's job description).
Instead, he could have come clean and said, "Look, we messed up. Let's make this right."
So when we have to choose whether to commit our lives and wellbeing into the hands of the Prophet or into the Hands of Christ, ask yourself: whose hands would you rather hold the scalpel?
Yes, it's great that President Nelson was a heart doctor, but we're not looking for a referral. We already have a Physician to perform our heart operation:
A new heart also will I give you.
Yes, President Nelson was a pioneering heart surgeon, but all he could do was give us a mortal heart transplant and pig parts to extend our lives a few years.
But prophets cannot give us a heart like Christ's.
That procedure has never been FDA approved for earthly interns-in-residence to perform (FDA = "Father Declares Acceptable").
Only Christ is skilled enough to perform the miracle of giving us a new, everlasting heart that will extend our life eternally.
Example of Religious Malpractice
If you think I'm making too big a deal about this, then you may have missed the recent talks by Elder Ahmand S. Corbitt and Sister Sheri Dew. The current messaging from Headquarters is alarming.
Truth 1: “Because this is the Lord’s Church and Jesus Christ is the one who chooses His prophets, the Savior will never let the prophet lead the Church astray. Period.”
Truth 2: The living prophet is the most important prophet.
Truth 3: Prophets hold priesthood keys that set them apart from any other leaders on earth.
Truth 4: “Sustaining prophets in today’s world takes faith — but not faith in them, faith in Jesus Christ, who called them.”
Truth 5: Spiritual safety comes from following the prophet.
I. Am. Literally. Aghast.
Now that I'm thinking this through, maybe the Church is a hospital — you know, one that may very well end up killing us: "Your Health Care May Kill You: Medical Errors" (by James Anderson and Kathleen Abrahamson, Stud. Health Technol. Inform., 2017).
While I am not a sociologist, I believe there is a kernel of truth in Carol Lynn Pearson's statement: "Many suicides among young Mormon homosexuals, as well as gay people in other religions, can be traced directly to a hostile social and religious environment." (Carol Lynn Pearson, No More Goodbyes: Circling the Wagons Around Our Gay Loved Ones, 2007, p. 37)
Ask yourself: how would Jesus minister to His gay son or daughter? Because they are His children.
Sometimes I wonder, when people refer to the Church as a hospital, "What sort of hospital are we in?"
And more importantly, "What sort of nurses are treating us?"
Just before Christmas in Nineteen-Forty-Two cooks at the Oregon State Sanitorium served scrambled eggs for dinner laced with sodium fluoride to the mental patients by mistake.
Forty-seven people died.
Sodium fluoride is a pesticide used to rid kitchens of cockroaches and rats. It is also added to city water supplies to prevent dental cavities. Colorless and tasteless. Between five to ten grams will kill you.
At the same psychiatric hospital thousands of cremains were neglected in corroded canisters, forgotten in the asylum's basement for decades. The Oregonian won a Pulitzer for the story.
The exterior of the building is a jewel of Salem, looking like an ivy university or steepled seminary instead of a eugenics laboratory performing lobotomies and sterilizations.
Hiding in plain sight is beauty’s parlor trick.
A hundred years ago it was not impolitic to believe insanity was caused by venereal disease or epilepsy or spirits.
What’s the point of all this information I skimmed off Wikipedia? Is a church a hospital for sinners?