Do We Let the Church Get in the Way of the Gospel?

August 25, 2009
By

orange_peelAny church is like an orange: it has sweet, juicy, nourishing fruit (i.e., truths that help people live better lives); and it has a tough, bitter peel that protects the fruit and holds it together (i.e. an organizational structure, prescribed forms of worship, and claims to divine authority). Were it not for its protective institutional peel, a church’s nourishing spiritual teachings would become damaged and lost; were it not for its fruitful truths, a church’s institutional peel would be hollow and purposeless.

For me, the sweet, juicy, nourishing fruit of Christianity is best exemplified by the timeless truths for daily living that we read in the Sermon on the Mount: be generous, help people because you love them, don’t be a religious “show off”, don’t get angry with people or insult them, worry about improving yourself instead of pointing out others’ faults, be a doer and not just a hearer of Christ’s word, etc. Meditating on these thoughts and truths feeds my soul.

This nourishing spiritual fruit has been preserved and promoted by numerous ecclesiastical institutions for millennia: the Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Lutheran Church, the LDS Church, etc. These and many other protective “peels” hold together communities that feed on Christ’s spiritually-nourishing messages.

One of the ongoing challenges of any organized religion is to ensure the ecclesiastical institution that is meant to protect and preserve the nourishing spiritual truths does not itself become the object of its members’ focus and devotion. Like an orange whose peel becomes too thick, drying the fruit and sapping its sweetness, the church that unduly centers its members’ attention on itself rather than on the nourishing fruit of Christ’s message will leave its members spiritually malnourished and feeling “burnt out.” This general concept can be found in the Book of Mormon’s Allegory of the Olive Tree, where the showy branches of the tree outgrow its roots, the unseen source of its nourishment, resulting in bad fruit.

The Book of Mormon warns us not to take an “All is well in Zion” approach to religion, taking false comfort in Zion’s seeming prosperity. Accordingly, it seems Mormons might do well to critically examine ourselves by taking an honest look at whether we unduly dwell on “the peel” of the Church (i.e., its institutional structure and forms of worship, its hierarchy and claims to exclusive divine authority, its leaders past and present) at the expense of savoring to a greater degree the nourishing spiritual fruit of Christ’s teachings.

But how exactly can we gauge whether “the peel” is overtaking “the fruit”? How can we determine whether our focus on the Church gets in the way of the Gospel? What aspects of our Church experience can we survey for warning signs that we’re dwelling on the institution, leadership, and authority of our Church rather than on Christ’s message of love and service? Perhaps we can begin by asking:

  • Do the mantras of our testimony meetings relate more often to “the peel” or “the fruit” of our religion?
  • What is the “peel-to-fruit ratio” of the topics covered in our Church lesson manuals?
  • To what degree do General Conference talks focus on “the peel” versus “the fruit”?
  • What is the “peel-to-fruit” ratio of speaking topics assigned by our stake presidencies and bishoprics?
  • To what extent are the various activities of our wards and stakes centered on putting “the fruit” of Christ’s message into action (i.e., serving “the least of these” in our communities)?

Over the past several years, I’ve been increasingly concerned by the number of my friends who have become deeply dissatisfied with their weekly attendance at Church meetings. For the most part, I’m talking about people who grew up active in the Church, served honorable full-time missions, married in the temple, magnified leadership callings, and hit all the major milestones of Mormon activity. In such situations, it is tempting to become defensive and write off their dissatisfaction to some sin, faulty perspective, or lack of effort on their part. But when one of our number chooses to leave the fold, it seems Christ’s message compels us to take an honest look at ourselves and ask, “Lord, is it I?”; to see the beam in our own eye rather than attributing it all to some mote in our brother or sister’s eye.

To be honest, I often wonder whether a seemingly increasing number are dissatisfied with Church meetings because they don’t find them spiritually nourishing; because they come to Church seeking to feast on the fruit of Christ’s teachings but instead find the talks and lessons focused far too often and far too much on instilling confidence, loyalty, and devotion to the peel of the Church and its leaders past and present. And we can respond to their dissatisfaction by trotting out familiar phrases about how you get out of Church what you put into it, and how you should preach yourself a sermon if you don’t like the one being preached. But that seems like faulting the restaurant patron who doesn’t like his meal by saying he should chew his food better, or that he hasn’t developed a refined enough palate yet — pretending as if the chef, the ingredients he selects, and his preparation bear no responsibility for the patron’s dissatisfaction.

Although we may be tempted to disclaim responsibility when one of our fold is dissatisfied with his or her Church experience, I think we need to recognize that the mode of worship and instruction laid out in the Doctrine and Covenants vests us with the responsibility to edify one another. Not only does this require thoughtful preparation of our talks and lessons, but perhaps most importantly, requires us to focus on “the fruit” of the Gospel by approaching every discussion topic from a Christ-centered perspective that inspires participants with ways to better live the humble, graceful life exemplified by the Savior. And hopefully, if we each do our part to edify one another by focusing on the nourishing fruit of Christ’s Gospel rather than unduly focusing on the protective peel of the Church, the claim that “we talk of Christ, we rejoice in Christ, we preach of Christ, we prophesy of Christ” will indisputably deserve an exclamation point, not a question mark.

  • hawkgrrrl

    I love the analogy. This really speaks to me. I do see a real effort in my own ward to increase the fruit to peel ratio. In wards where this is not the case, it can be rather frustrating. And yet, the peel is where we get the zest for cooking! Not sure exactly how that ties in, except to say that the social and fun aspects of our relationships with other church members can have their own appeal.

  • melodrama

    The analogy is great, but the assumption that someone leaves it is “our” fault assumes that there is a problem with someone leaving. Some people prefer fruit they don’t need to peel, or fruit that is easier to peel, or fruit with a different color or texture of peel. And if they leave our orchard to find it, we need not take it personally or assume they won’t find it somewhere else. Tastes, even spiritual, change with time. Hawkgrrrl is right, there is zest in the peel, for some it is enough to make them return to the fruit again and again, or maybe it’s the beauty and smell and protective nature of the peel that makes the fruit appetizing. Why shouldn’t their tastes matter as much as those of us (like me) who prefer the fruit?

  • Mike S

    A concrete example: For the past few years, my home teaching families have luckily also been very good friends. I have seen and talked to them at least several times per weeks. I have gone on trips with them. I know about their kids and help when they have issues. I probably know them as well as anyone else in my ward.

    According to the “fruit” of the gospel, I am doing wonderful. I feel like I am my “brother’s keeper”. I feel love for the families and would do anything for them.

    However, according to the “peel” of the Church, I am a terrible home teacher. I think presenting a message for 10-15 minutes is trite and “forced”. I’ve probably actually gone and “taught” a formal lesson a handful of times in years. And that’s what I report for the “official” numbers. My home teaching percentage is probably less than 5% because, to be honest, I don’t care about all of the statistics that the Church likes to keep.

    And at this point, I don’t really care. I love God. I love Christ. I love my fellow man. I am honest. I feel stewardship for my home teaching families. But in an interview, I am fine stating that I don’t care about numbers. When we get the lecture/lesson every so often about our need to increase our home teaching percentages, I turn off my brain.

    I am the person you talked about. I was BIC. I served a mission (and was AP). I went to BYU. I was married in the temple. I was YM president, etc. But all of the “peel” gets in the way of the “fruit”, so I’m losing interest in the institution of the Church and am focusing my life more and more on the actual gospel, and taking what pieces fit me. And I’m a better and happier person for it, to be honest.

  • hout

    “But how exactly can we gauge whether “the peel” is overtaking “the fruit”?” – when polarizing politics are shoved down your throat from the pulpit as the will of God – that seemed to be the point for many…

  • el greco

    Thank you for your analogy. I’ve had a thought much like this back on my mission. Although instead of an orange analogy, I thought of a rock analogy:

    D&C 11:24 tells us to build upon the Lord’s rock, which is defined to be the gospel. D&C 18:5 tells us that the Church is built upon the rock (the Gospel). Compare also what Jesus told Peter about building on rocks.

    Building on rocks is good. We learn this in Primary complete with hand-motions. However, houses aren’t the only things that go on rocks. Moss also grows on rocks. Moss is pretty and green but very slippery if you step on it or try to build anything on it. However, I feel that sometimes we build upon the moss that grows on the rock rather than the rock. If the rock is the gospel, then we could define moss as the stuff that collects to the gospel but isn’t necessarily part of it, such as missionary farewells, anti-caffeinated drinks, and all of the traditions of our fathers. Building our testimonies upon the mossy LDS culture makes them liable to slip. Building our testimonies upon the rock of the gospel will keep them firm.

    The peel and the fruit in your analogy is related to the moss and the rock in mine.

  • Rigel Hawthorne

    Quoting lyrics from a Pat Benatar song:

    Life is sweet, sweet as strawberry wine
    And bitter too, like the seeds on the vine
    And you are that, you are more than sublime
    And bitter too, lovin’ you, has been an experience

    Bitterness does not always mean bad fruit. Sometimes the discovery of a beam in your eye is made known to you by a loving source who is concerned about your happiness. Sometimes the weekly church experience is more like Tofu than fruit…tasteless, but nourishing. When you cook with tofu, however, it picks up flavors and enhances the flavors with textures. Eventually when you leave the tofu out of a recipe…i.e. mabodofu for all you RMs of Japan out there, you miss its contribution.

    Sometimes the toughest peel, i.e. pomegranite, hides the most rewarding fruit. Those who have perservered through the requirements to get to the fruit will see the fruit in a different perspective.

  • SW Clark

    This has certainly been a concern of mine, particularly as a ward missionary. The Church’s missionary program focuses heavily on the Church and authority in its teachings. Even though Christ is “the way”, we very much put “the Church is the way” in the forefront. The goal of the first missionary lesson is to establish this point: from discussing the cycles of prophetic authority to using the First Vision story to establish Joseph Smith as an authority and differentiate our church as the only true and authorized one.

    But yet, drilling priesthood authority into people has produced few strong converts in my experience. More effective is the Christlike example they see in the Church. While I think I have a very good ward with smart, dedicated people and a fair number of converts, most are not “recent” and thus have a lot of experience in the Church. My very good ward mission leader and his wife want to defect to the neighboring “inner-city” ward that is majority recent converts who are young in the Church but rich in faith. I don’t blame them. That ward has meetings that are animated, their activities are very service-focused and while the ward seems much less polished or refined, it’s very united and Christ-centered.

    Visiting them is a refreshing experience because they don’t know enough of the peel to focus excessively on it. While there’s some valuable function to the peel that could help boost their effectiveness in ministering, there’s no doubt they’re rejoicing in the fruit.

  • Javelin

    It’s important to remember that the leaders of the church focus on the rule instead of the exception. They focus on the institution instead of the individual. We are told to get married young, and have kids right away. No one wants to talk about how hard it is to comfort a screaming baby at two in the morning.

    I tend to focus on the Christ, and not worry if the leaders are proud of me.

  • http://findingpeaceamidsorrow.blogspot.com/ Carol

    I remember reading that Elder Bednar asked every speaker in his ward to focus on the Savior, especially his atonement, when they spoke. I wish more wards and stakes focusing on helping us come unto Christ and not participate in hero worship of Church leaders.

  • Mike S

    #9: Carol: Re: Elder Bednar
    Yet didn’t he also tell a story about a boy who broke off an engagement with a girl who had 2 earrings because President Hinckley didn’t like that? Or did someone else tell that story?

  • Rigel Hawthorne

    “However, according to the “peel” of the Church, I am a terrible home teacher.”

    My Bishop would be thrilled to hear the report of your interactions with those families and would be more than comfortable counting it for the monthly visit. He is actually our home teacher and totally adapts the monthly visit to the needs of our kids. For some reason, a visit from the home teachers makes them unusually hyperactive, a totally different picture than what the Bishop sees at church. Teaching them tricks is often a greater part of the visit than is the message. This month, the “formal” message was merely showing them the two pictures that came with the Ensign article and asking them to look long enough to see what the people in the pictures were doing. The visit was probably no longer than 20 minutes, maybe 30 counting the time we chatted outside as he was getting ready to leave.

    I understand if you have a negative feeling about statistics, then “crediting” yourself for going isn’t necessary. I think what the stake would hope to get from those numbers, ironically, is the percentage of families in the stake that have caring neighbors in the way that you’ve described.

  • Jay

    Well I have to say that just a couple of years ago I never thought I’d find myself in this position, but I line up with Mike S here, and can also say (with a few changes): “I am the person you talked about. I was BIC. I served a mission (and was ZL). I went to BYU. I was married in the temple. I was bishop’s counselor, on the high council, served in the temple, etc. But all of the “peel” gets in the way of the “fruit”, so I’m losing interest in the institution of the Church and am focusing my life more and more on the actual gospel, and taking what pieces fit me. And I’m a better and happier person for it, to be honest.”

  • Chelsea

    I really like this analogy, I’ll be thinking about this for a while. Thank you.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    I like the peel and fruit approach. Taste good. This subject goes by many titles. The one I’ve become accustomed to over the years is: Active in the church, but not the gospel? Of course, church = peel, fruit = gospel.

    Based on experience and observation, I’ve concluded that being active in the gospel leads to activity in the church, while being active in the church is like being active in a country club–it’s not satisfying spiritually; but is fun socially.

    This post, like many, contains an “unsaid sermon”. The unsaid sermon may not have been intended, but I came away with the message that it’s OK to move away from church activity-the peel(the brethren, tithing, service, and etc) if one lives a Christian life-the fruit (the gospel).

    This thought process could evolve into online church activity replacing ward activity. In my opinion, the enemy of our souls would approve.

    The Lord’s message to those would follow Him is: Wherefore, be not weary in well–doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.

  • Mike S

    #14: Jared

    (Just as a background – I would be considered active in the church. I hold and have always held a TR. My thoughts are much more inclusive)

    I would argue that the opposite is true, and that being active in the “gospel” is much more important than but doesn’t necessarily lead to being active in the “church”. To me, being active in the gospel means believing in God, believing in Christ, following what Christ would have us do, taking care of our fellowman, having compassion and honesty and everything else Christ taught. This is contained in the Church, but it also includes a rind of cultural and other things that have nothing to do with the gospel.

    It is also a much more inclusive approach. If you look at the world today, I would include many, many people as being active in the “gospel”. I would include people like Mother Theresa, Gandhi, the Sufi Muslim who drove my shuttle on vacation. These are all people working to be better people and make the world a better place. They are all striving to get back to God. Ultimately, I feel God will “save” everyone who is active in the “gospel”.

    And ward activity is a very poor metric of gospel dedication anyway

  • Matt Thurston

    I think the problem for most True Believers is that they don’t differentiate between the peel and the fruit — it’s just one true-and-living orange. While I clearly see the difference today, it probably took me a few, often painful, years to completely untangle the gospel from the church.

  • Jen

    Mike S-

    “And ward activity is a very poor metric of gospel dedication anyway”

    I wouldn’t go as far as saying it is a very poor metric of gospel dedication. There are a whole lot of other things that people could do on Sunday besides go to church, for instance, boating, shopping, or just relaxing at home with family and friends. There are also a lot better things that I am sure people could do with their time besides being a YM or YW’s leader, etc. Some people really are at church because they love the Lord and want to serve Him and others.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    Mike S–

    We might be defining terms a little differently.

    I’m using the word “gospel” as recorded in this verse:

    “And this is my gospel—repentance and baptism by water, and then cometh the baptism of fire and the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom.” D&C 39:6

    The LDS church is the only church (peel) that can provide this priesthood ordinance. This is one reason the Lord declared the LDS church, His church, “the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth”. D&C 1:30
    _______________________
    Unrelated thought: Have you heard “Baker Street” by Jerry Rafferty? I’m listening to it as I write this. Here is a link if you’re interested.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IY2yyKX69NM

  • Hawkgrrrl

    “I think the problem for most True Believers is that they don’t differentiate between the peel and the fruit — it’s just one true-and-living orange. While I clearly see the difference today, it probably took me a few, often painful, years to completely untangle the gospel from the church.” I agree with this sentiment, Matt T. Although I also think this is a phase of life thing. It’s hard to recognize until you reach a certain stage of life.

  • hout

    18 – So baptisms performed by other churches are invalid? Do you actually believe that only LDS priesthood holders can perform baptism? What about those that are only baptized catholic? how about Hindus? What is their fate? Where did Jesus say that baptism by an LDS priesthood holder was a requirement for anything?

  • sxark

    It was in the late 1970′s when I heard that the 2 greatest problems the LDS Church faces is:
    [1]. Its growth.
    [2]. The socio/psychological problems that come with growth.

    Since the rate of growth is now considered to be significant on this continent, at least, then all members should continually prepare to aid and assist those new members “how to live” in this new environment.
    Although “Church is made for man, and not, man is made for Church” – one cannot grow without the other.

    It was said that John the Baptist was taught the Gospel by Angels in the desert, but we can’t really learn that way – we need to attend Church. Just like the past LDS generations did and continually learn and grow and teach others to do the same.

  • pinkpatent

    Matthew 22:35-40

    35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,
    36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
    37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
    38 This is the first and great commandment.
    39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
    40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

  • Mike S

    #17: Jen

    When I mentioned that “ward activity” was a poor metric of gospel dedication, I am reminded of a lesson I taught in Elder’s Quorum. I related a story of how a prominent LDS businessman basically screwed over someone I knew, very much calculated and on purpose. Around 1/2 of the people replied that that’s just how things are in business, and that’s what you need to do to “play the game”. In my opinion, these people were “active in the ward”, serving in callings, etc., but they were missing sight of the “gospel”. Sure, they looked the role of member, but I wouldn’t count on them for anything. I contrast this with numerous other people I have encountered who aren’t LDS, but magnify Christ in their lives.

    I agree with that there are always sincere and devoted people who dedicate their lives and talents to the gospel and to the Church. However, I don’t correlate “ward activity” with true gospel conversion.

  • Mike S

    #18: Jared

    You actually touched on one of the main issues I am struggling with when you stated “The LDS church is the only church (peel) that can provide this priesthood ordinance” as I don’t know how to reconcile it with my feelings that there is more. There are around 13 million members, only about 50% of which are active. This means that 5-6 million out of 5-6 billion people are “saved”, or around 0.1%. While I am technically in that 0.1%, I don’t really like the exclusivity of that. I have met so many good and sincere people in this world of so many different faiths that I have a hard time believing that they will all be excluded from all God has to offer. I have read the Qu’ran, the Gita, Buddhist teachings, the Bible, etc. There is truth in all of these, and they have all provided me insights into God and my relationship to others on this world that, to be honest, I haven’t found in the LDS faith. I believe that I am a better person by adding these insights into what I have learned growing up Mormon.

    The standard Sunday School answer is that these 99.9% of people will have the chance to accept the “Mormon” church in the next life. If that is the case, where the vast majority of people are never going to be LDS during mortality, what does it mean to say that our way is the only way to live in mortality. Why not focus instead on the “gospel” of being a good person and not on the “peel” of membership in this specific church.

    Please don’t interpret this wrong. I am still active LDS. I have read the BofM 15-20 times. I read it nearly every day still. I understand all of the teachings. Mormonism works for me, maybe because it’s what I’m more comfortable with, but I’m not entirely convinced that everyone needs to accept our particular institution to return to God.

  • pinkpatent

    My brother used to live in a remote area in Asia. There was no branch there, only a study group of a few saints. They met together to take the sacrament and gain strength from one another. They would help each other and their non mormon collegues and friends. They would give each other blessings when needed. No GD class, no RS, just a few Christians meeting together to commune with the Lord. My brother did not try to compare it to a regular ward in the U.S.. He loved it for the pure religion that it was.

  • Jay

    @Pinkpatient #25:

    I once served as a high counselor in a military stake that covered an entire Asian country. One Sunday I was assigned to visit a tiny branch at a small US Army outpost in an undeveloped and relatively backwater area, far from the capital. It was like going back 50 years in time. The branch president was a young African-American convert of about 4 years’ membership, and there were maybe four other members there. They were thrilled to have someone who could actually play the hymns live. No long string of announcements, no noisy gossiping during the prelude by all the adults who should know better, no topic du jour, just a handful of Saints gathered to talk about the gospel and take the sacrament. The singing was heartfelt. Everyone spoke. The room was filled with love and unity. It was simple and profound and if ever I’ve been in a meeting that fulfilled the Savior’s promise to be wherever two or three were gathered in His name, that was it. It warms my heart still, and I will never forget it.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    hout, don’t confuse our view of baptism with the standard Protestant view.

    We are VERY inclusive, since we believe that everyone who has ever lived will have a chance to accept baptism and receive eternal glory of some sort – and that even the vilest of sinners (with few exceptions) will be rewarded for their lives on earth. Protestants, generally, are WAY more exclusionary in their view – since many of them consign the vast majority of God’s children who have lived to Hell.

    Frankly, the Mormon theology is far more grace-based (when viewed universally) than most of the Protestant world – so please don’t confuse us with them. It’s one of the most misunderstood aspects of Christian theology – and deliciously ironic, given the misinformed attacks we take in regard to that specific topic.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Excellent post, Andrew.

    Hedging about the law only ends up codifying Satan’s plan – but I don’t think institutionally we are anywhere close to that. I am totally in favor of jettisoning much of the layering that has existed and still exists, but I think the global leadership actually has done a pretty good job of pruning that particular tree according to the strength of the roots for a while. I just wish the water got to the end of each row better than it does, since local leaders who ignore the counsel that is given repeatedly to simplify and eliminate can effectively keep the peel thicker than it needs to be.

    Also, what too many members in a forum like this fail to credit adequately is the absolute need for a peel to exist – and the delicate balancing act it really is to maintain the proper thickness of the peel.

  • pinkpatent

    26- Jay, what a beautiful sentiment. Thank you for posting that! Those feelings are exactly what my brother expressed.

    When I was a young child our family lived in “the mission field”. We only had branches and we met in rented spaces and members’ homes. It was not always easy on my parents. My mother was the RS President for an area that covered about 400 square miles. Yikes. But when my parents talk about those years, it is always with such fond memories.

    I can see the benefits of each different type of worship group. I have lived in large wards and tiny branches. I found things to love about each.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    #24 Mike S said: You actually touched on one of the main issues I am struggling with when you stated “The LDS church is the only church (peel) that can provide this priesthood ordinance” as I don’t know how to reconcile it with my feelings that there is more.
    ————————————————————————–
    First, I agree with much of what you said in your comment. Other Christian churches and other faiths have truth, and they do indeed have the Lord’s Spirit. However, they lack many things we have for them.

    Speaking of the importance of getting the message out of the restoration the Lord said:

    12 For there are many yet on the earth among all sects, parties, and denominations, who are blinded by the subtle craftiness of men, whereby they lie in wait to deceive, and who are only kept from the truth because they know not where to find it—
    13 Therefore, that we should waste and wear out our lives in bringing to light all the hidden things of darkness, wherein we know them; and they are truly manifest from heaven— D&C 123:12 – 13

    In our day, the greatest need is for church members to realize what we’ve been given. As a church we failed to establish Zion, and we’re under condemnation for treating the Book of Mormon lightly (D&C 84). The Lord has warned us that judgment is at the door and it will begin, “First among those among you, saith the Lord, who have professed to know my name and have not known me, and have blasphemed against me in the midst of my house, saith the Lord.” D&C 112:26

    What does it mean: professed to know my name and have not known me?

    If the LDS are the best qualified premortal spirits to restore the gospel through, and we’re struggling, what does that say about the question you bring up about why such a small percentage of the world know about the restoration?

    Could it be the Lord gives each nation and people what they are able to receive and not more.

    Missionary work is designed to bring out the few who are in each nation who hear the Lord’s voice and are His “sheep”.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Andrew, the following is something I wrote in a post on my own blog a couple of weeks ago:

    “My biggest concern whenever people discuss culture is that it is almost impossible to have a dispassionate discussion of the central issues that cause contention in the first place – because culture is so tied up in individual perceptions of value and self-worth and community. I really like the “culture as a coat” metaphor, but it is very hard for most people to shed a coat when they feel cold or in need of protection. In other words, people feel naked (or even not themselves) when you remove them from their culture (take away their covering/protecting coat), so they cling to that culture passionately – and often irrationally.”

    I think the Church can get in the way of the Gospel, but I think culture gets in the way of both much more often – and that culture often is the root of the issues that get categorized as church or gospel, specifically because it’s so hard for many people to differentiate among the three. For example, that is why, imo, “The Church” can ask leaders and members to simplify and focus, but at the local level the results can vary so radically. It’s really hard to change a culture, even with directions from higher up the organizational chain, if the leader buys into the culture that others are trying to change. Obviously, that has implications at the top of the organization, but it has more numerous practical applications at the local level, imo.

    I know personally that the global leadership is very concerned that the water doesn’t always get to the end of all the rows.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    If the LDS are the best qualified premortal spirits to restore the gospel

    That, dear brother, is the heart of where our opinions diverge. I simply disagree with that sentiment.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    #32 Hi Ray–

    I know that isn’t your favorite doctrine.

    Just a thought, not trying to persuade you, but just doing a little thinking on this subject, I’m at a point in my understanding, where I think as follows:

    1. The Savior was the first born. Taking that scripture to heart tells me that some Spirit are older, and therefore more experienced, more “intelligent” Abraham 3:18-19.

    2. Individual initiative is another factor that comes into play as discussed in Alma 13. Some spirits, advanced in intelligence because of their diligence.

    These two factors don’t address worthiness, so in my mind it doesn’t touch on the concern you have with the idea about the priesthood band resulting from premortal worthiness.

    So when I say, LDS are the best qualified premortal spirits to restore the gospel, I am not referring to any thing other than “intelligence” that allowed some to receive the opportunity in this life to be born into situations where they would have access to the restored gospel–as well as the responsibility.

  • SW Clark

    Amen, Ray.

    In my experience, there is nothing particularly remarkable about a Latter-Day Saint spirit when compared with those outside the Church. Too much about how people find and accept (or don’t accept) the Church is circumstantial to claim any innate superiority in those who join.

    There is very true faith, devotion and goodness throughout the world, and seeing that I can’t believe a condescending rationale that the reason they’re not all members of the Church is because the Lord has only given them “what they’re able to receive and not more.”

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    #34 SW Clark–

    I don’t think it has anything to do with a condescending rationale.

    If a person obtains a PhD in their academic discipline should we conclude, as you suggest, that our system of education is advancing an condescending rationale?

  • Mike S

    Semantics aside, I agree with the sentiment expressed with SW Clark and Ray more than Jared. Just my opinion.

  • sxark

    To All:

    “The members of the Church, most of us of the tribe of Ephraim, are of the remnant of Jacob. We know it to be a fact that the Lord called upon the descendants of Ephraim to commence His work in the earth in these last days. We know further that He has said that He set Ephraim, according to the promise of his birthright, at the head. Ephraim receives the ‘richer blessings’, these blessings being those of presidency or direction. The keys are with Ephraim. It is Ephraim who is endowed with power to bless and give to the other tribes…their blessings. All the other tribes of Jacob…are to be crowned with glory in Zion by the hands of Ephraim.” Pres. Joseph Fielding Smith, ‘Of the House of Israel’ Ensign Jan. 1991, by Daniel Ludlow.

    Considering the importance of the status of the majority of current members of the LDS Church, is it not our duty to build up and support “strong” Churches as well as strengthening our testimonies of the Gospel and anything else that may be asked of us by our Leaders? Please consider #21 in relation to this.

  • Jen

    Mike S-

    “I agree with that there are always sincere and devoted people who dedicate their lives and talents to the gospel and to the Church. However, I don’t correlate “ward activity” with true gospel conversion.”

    I understand what you are saying, but there will always be some “bad apples” in every bunch, in and out of the church. Truly only God sees the heart and knows the true intentions of a man or woman, so isn’t it wonderful that He will be our judge and set everything right. I know that is a great comfort to me.

  • Jen

    SW Clark-

    “In my experience, there is nothing particularly remarkable about a Latter-Day Saint spirit when compared with those outside the Church. Too much about how people find and accept (or don’t accept) the Church is circumstantial to claim any innate superiority in those who join.”

    I think God is very involved in our lives from the very beginning of our existence, through this earth life and onto the next. I believe we aren’t just thrown down here in some random order, we each have an individual plan and we each have a purpose for being where the Lord put us. I know the Lord loves all of His children and wants every single one to return to Him. I also know that some children are more willing to serve Him and seek Him, whether they are members of the LDS, Catholic, Protestant, etc. church or no church at all. Also, some people are much more interested in seeking knowledge than others. I am curious how you think the Lord decided where to send people to earth? Do you think it is based on some of these factors or do you think it was just like a lottery and we ended up where we are because we were the next number called and a spot was open where you landed?

  • Matt Thurston

    Hawkgirl (#19): “I agree with this sentiment, Matt T. Although I also think this is a phase of life thing. It’s hard to recognize until you reach a certain stage of life.”

    Yes, in a sense it is a stage-of-life thing. I remember as a kid going through the process of detangling Disney and Star Wars mythology from LDS scripture/story, and I see my kids doing the same thing today. At some stage of development (i.e. 4, 5, 6 years old) it is all just “story”, the lines that separate reality from fantasy are blurred. At some point kids start to delineate between myth and fact. My older kids (7 and 8) now constantly ask me, “Is X, Y, or Z real or make-believe?” They trust that I know everything (another myth they will have to overcome during their teen years). So crocodiles are real, but dragons are make-believe.

    But what if parents and teachers put up roadblocks in front of children during this stage of development, essentially telling them — insisting — that both crocodiles and dragons are real. What if dragons were part of the school curriculum? What if questioning the difference was frowned upon by the community?

    In a sense this is what happens at church. There are huge roadblocks that discourage members from delineating between the orange and the peel. The church and the gospel are literally inextricable. We even use the terms interchangeably. When we say “I know this church is true,” we’re talking about the gospel, the prophet, the scriptures, the Ensign, food storage, the pinewood derby, the whole ball of wax. Sarcasm aside, I would still maintain that if we can tease out the difference between the orange and the peel it is despite the church, not because of it.

  • Jen

    Matt T.-

    “They trust that I know everything (another myth they will have to overcome during their teen years)”

    Don’t worry, it is VERY EASY for them to overcome this myth on their own when they hit the teen years. In fact, it is amazing, all of the sudden they now know everything and you are just old fashioned, out of it and plain stupid! Enjoy it while you can cause it won’t last! :)

  • Nylon Mesh Scoopneck

    I don’t want to threadjack, but it’s like fingernails scraping across a chalk board when I hear statements like this: “I think God is very involved in our lives from the very beginning of our existence, through this earth life and onto the next. I believe we aren’t just thrown down here in some random order, we each have an individual plan and we each have a purpose for being where the Lord put us.” (Jen, 39)

    Can you please explain to me God’s “purpose” for putting millions of children in situations where they have abusive parents, or parents who abandon them, or parents who sexually exploit them, or parents who sell them off to become slave-prostitutes in a brothel? Could you explain to me why a loving God would ever develop such an “individualized plan” for the mortal existence of any of his children?

    It’s real easy to feel like your life has “purpose” and divinely-authored “individual plan” and that the Lord is showering “tender mercies” upon you when you’re living in a first world country with relative health, wealth, and safety. But if the placement of hundreds of thousands of God’s children in horrific circumstances is not the result of something “random” as Jen says, but rather, is a carefully devised “individual plan” by God for each of these innocent, suffering souls, it’s difficult not to think of such a God as being a terribly abusive parent who is the worst of the worst in not just allowing BUT INTENTIONALLY PLANNING GRATUITOUS HUMAN SUFFERING AND DISPLAYING FAVORITISM, INEQUALITY, AND SADISM THROUGH HIS “INDIVIDUAL PLANS” of abandonment, abuse, neglect, starvation, disease, rape, torture, and murder for millions of his children. And yet people like Jen (39) tell us “we each have an individual plan and we each have a purpose for being where the Lord put us.”

    I’m sorry, but that’s just male bovine excrement. At the risk of stating the obvious, people are born when and where they are born because their mother got pregnant, and God had nothing to do with their mother’s pregnancy — in fact, I’m sure most of the time God cries when he sees where his next child is going. He may allow it, but to say that God has a “purpose” and “individual “plan” behind sending a little girl to a set of parents who sell her into slave-prostitution is lunacy.

  • Hawkgrrrl

    Matt T. – “In a sense this is what happens at church. There are huge roadblocks that discourage members from delineating between the orange and the peel. The church and the gospel are literally inextricable. We even use the terms interchangeably. When we say “I know this church is true,” we’re talking about the gospel, the prophet, the scriptures, the Ensign, food storage, the pinewood derby, the whole ball of wax. Sarcasm aside, I would still maintain that if we can tease out the difference between the orange and the peel it is despite the church, not because of it.” You are preaching to the choir. I couldn’t agree more. This has always been a sticking point for me. There are many within the church who think that Jesus is a Mormon rather than thinking that Mormonism is one group of people who follow Jesus.

  • Jen

    Nylon Mesh Scoopneck-

    “It’s real easy to feel like your life has “purpose” and divinely-authored “individual plan” and that the Lord is showering “tender mercies” upon you when you’re living in a first world country with relative health, wealth, and safety.”

    I was born into an abusive situation and lived with it for 18 years, but after I sought the Lord in relation to it, He helped me to understand my individual purpose and why I was placed there. I can’t explain any other person’s individualized plan, but I do understand mine and I know that He has one for everyone else as well. Have you ever asked Him about any of the things you are questioning me about?

    “At the risk of stating the obvious, people are born when and where they are born because their mother got pregnant, and God had nothing to do with their mother’s pregnancy — in fact, I’m sure most of the time God cries when he sees where his next child is going”

    You are welcome to your opinion just as much as I am to mine. I know that God is involved in all of our lives and even though I don’t understand why people end up where they do, I know that He loves each and everyone of us just as much as the next.

  • Nylon Mesh Scoopneck

    Jen, I completely agree that God loves his children. Where we diverge is that I think because God is loving, there is no way in Hell that he would ever intentionally plan out a life of abuse for one of his children. He may allow it to happen, and it may happen against his will, but to me the idea that God intentionally plans it is to make God the author of evil and sin.

    I think oftentimes when people get through hard times, they look back and realize how much they’ve learned. And so then they conclude that because they learned and grew from their hardship, God must have been the cause, the planner, of their hardship. For the reasons explained above, I can’t see God ever planning abuse and torture, etc. for his children. I believe God helps us overcome our challenges, and helps us learn and grow from them, but never in a million years do I believe God causes, creates, or plans them.

    I just can’t believe in the intentionally abusive God you describe. The one who stands over us kicking us in the gut while we’re down, all to teach us a lesson and all for some hidden wise purpose in the end.

  • Jen

    Nylon-

    “Where we diverge is that I think because God is loving, there is no way in Hell that he would ever intentionally plan out a life of abuse for one of his children. He may allow it to happen, and it may happen against his will, but to me the idea that God intentionally plans it is to make God the author of evil and sin”

    How do you explain the Savior’s life? Was it not the “Father’s will”?

  • GBSmith

    This is drifting into the problem of evil and suffering, a problem for which there are many opinions but no answers. And it’s a bit far afield from the original topic. Bart Ehrman’s book “God’s Problem” is a good summary of the evil and suffering question and Gene England’s essay “Why the Church is a True as the Gospel”, I think, addresses the other.

    As I read the exchange between Jen and Nylon it occurs to me the we visualize God as what we need him to be and in whatever way will help us make sense of the world but in the end, who knows? I expect it’s the same way we deal with the church and how it fit’s in our lives.

    Last point. Jared, I have to go with Ray…again

  • pinkpatent

    I think that we humans want to believe that there is a reason for everything. It makes us feel safe. Because the natural random events and occasional chaos in life is scary, we seek to find order and meaning. I believe there is a certain amount of order, but I also believe that there is much chaos and many random events that just happen to us.

    I do not believe that I was any better than anyone else in the pre-earth life. I think I got lucky to be born into my particular circumstances. That’s all, just lucky. This belief instills in my heart a desire to help those who were unlucky. I realize that, just as I did nothing to deserve my wonderful life, they did nothing to deserve their tragic situations.

    This idea of “valiance in the pre-earth life” is one of the “church” issues that, IMO, gets in the way of the “gospel”. It allows us to see others as deserving of their lots in life, while allowing us to feel comfortable with our own. As a mother, I cannot imagine one of my children being superior to the others. So, its hard for me to believe that God looks at His children in that way, either.

  • Jen

    I actually think that people want to believe things are random and chaotic because it makes them feel safe, not the other way around. If a person believes that God had nothing to do with the chaos in their life, then they feel safe because they don’t attribute it to Him. If they do attribute it to Him though, it can make them feel angry and rejected by Him.

    I don’t think that our life circumstances are about what we deserved or didn’t deserve. I know the Savior didn’t deserve any of the treatment He received here on earth. I think it is important for people to find out what the Lord wants them to do and to talk to Him about it often.

    I think that we have to accept some idea of valiance in the pre-earth life just because the Lord talks of the “great and noble ones” in the scriptures. If this wasn’t the case, He would not have said it or differentiated in that manner.

    Sorry for threadjacking…..I will stop now.

  • Holden Caulfield

    Most of us on MM are so protected from the real horrors of earth life because of being born when and where we were born. I wonder what we would “know” if we suffered the worst the earth had to offer.

  • pinkpatent

    50- Amen to that. Like I said, I am LUCKY.

  • Jen

    #50-

    I think you need to be careful not to define a person’s suffering as “not counting” because they live in America. There are plenty of people who suffer horribly in this country right here and now. And remember….your life isn’t over yet, you may come to know suffering like you have never known as well.

  • Mike S

    While my life is certainly nowhere near as bad as many, many other people in the world, there have been times of fairly significant crises. I have prayed to God for comfort or anything, and felt much like Mother Theresa and her dark night where she felt God had abandoned her. Ironically, I have felt much more comfort from the Buddhist philosophy that life basically involves suffering, and that we can eliminate that. It brought me much peace.

  • Holden Caulfield

    #52-I think the key word to my #50 is *most*. Jen, I think you missed the part of my life that caused me to lose my faith, which faith had taken me on a mission a year and a half after joining the church over the objections of all members of my non-member family. I no longer believe in the church but I do believe that *most* of us have it easy when comparing ourselves against those who not only live elsewhere today but elsewhere thousands of years ago, although I wasn’t confining my comments to the US since I believe we have foreign posters on MM. Because of my “suffering” (as I viewed it then, not now), my faith and life changed. I know God can, and will, strike at any moment.

  • SW Clark

    -Jared (35)
    What I would view as “condescending” is an assumption that the reason certain people or nations have not received the LDS Church is because of some lack of premortal qualification. Absolutely, circumstances matter as to where the gospel can spread. However, someone born to an educated family in the US is much more likely to get a PhD than if that same spirit were born to an uneducated family in the Central African Republic.

    There are very clearly exceptional spirits across the world and just because I happen to have been born to a family in the Church, I don’t believe that is because I was in any way the best qualified premortal spirit.

    -Jen (39)
    I would certainly agree that I have a mission and purpose in life and that God has placed me where I am for some good purpose. Why he saw fit to put me where I am I can’t presume to know for sure. While I do see your point that he could have used “fit-ness” for a certain mission as the reasoning, I don’t necessarily think that was the case.

    If God ran Earth like a business where he wanted his end goal (spreading the gospel throughout the world, for example) to be achieved in the most efficient way possible, that model would make sense. But I believe that His purpose in mortal life is to provide the experience that we need in order to grow and develop personally. With that in view, I think he’s very likely to put us in situations where we use some strengths but have to overcome many weaknesses. As such, I may very well have been a super-inadequate premortal spirit to be doing God’s work, but he gave me the job anyway because I needed it.

  • pinkpatent

    55- “As such, I may very well have been a super-inadequate premortal spirit to be doing God’s work, but he gave me the job anyway because I needed it.”

    I like that so much. I see my relationship with God in much the same way. I do not believe that He blesses me BECAUSE of what I do, rather He blesses me IN DESPITE of what I do.

  • Jen

    SW Clark-

    “I think he’s very likely to put us in situations where we use some strengths but have to overcome many weaknesses. As such, I may very well have been a super-inadequate premortal spirit to be doing God’s work, but he gave me the job anyway because I needed it.”

    I agree:

    D & C 35:13

    “Wherefore, I call upon the weak things of the world, those who are unlearned and despised, to thrash the nations by the power of my Spirit”

    I want people to know that I am not saying that LDS people today were the best pre-mortal spirits in the pre-existence. I have no idea what everyone was like before they came here and I am sure we will know soon enough anyway. :) I do know that good people are everywhere and I can only say that I understand my situation better because the Lord has helped me to do so. That’s it.

    I am going to discuss the topic of this thread because I feel some responsibility in thread jacking. For me, the Lord comes first in my life and so I take the peel the way it is and expect it to be imperfect. I don’t allow the church or its members to decide my devotion to the Lord. I go to church because I love the Lord and I really have learned not to care so much about what people think of me or what they may be saying about this and that. If a lesson is boring, so what, next time the lesson is good, I have something to compare it to and say “Wow, that really was good” and I know that because I have experienced the bad (or boring). I think it does take just living life and time to understand what matters and what doesn’t. I know that my relationship with the Lord matters and is the most important thing. What others say, wear and do is much less important and won’t affect my relationship with Him. That is the fruit to me and it tastes delicious.

  • Jen

    #54-

    Holden- I am trying to help bring the topic of the post back, so I will make this short.

    “I no longer believe in the church but I do believe that *most* of us have it easy when comparing ourselves against those who not only live elsewhere today but elsewhere thousands of years ago, although I wasn’t confining my comments to the US since I believe we have foreign posters on MM.”

    I understand what you are saying, I just don’t like the idea of comparing suffering because I don’t think it can be done fairly or adequately. We don’t have enough information to assess levels of suffering and many people who suffer greatly do it in silence with no outward indications.

    Also, I am not familiar with your situation in letting go of your faith. You may have written about it in another post, but I don’t recall reading it so I am in the dark in relation to your life experience.

    Back to the topic of this thread…..

  • SW Clark

    Trying to bring things back, I think this tangent has been somewhat an example of the question in the OP: Being “in the Church” for too long can make it very easy for us to overlook those outside the Church who are also partaking of the “sweet, juicy, nourishing fruit of Christianity” (or all true moral principles for that matter).

    Now that the Church is becoming more removed from its insular origins I think we’re starting to see more interfaith activity and dialogue that recognizes this, but we do have a delicate balance in not focusing so much on our “one true Church” claims that we personally fail to internalize the value of others’ faith and contributions.

    But Jen, I do think a further look at the interplay between the “noble and great ones” and “weak things” arguments would be interesting.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    Been out on business. Just caught upon the comments.

    Those who comment on MM represent the a broad spectrum of belief and unbelief. I like that–It allows a variety of perspectives to be seen.

    As I read the various comments, I realized that there is an under laying assumption that I feel is a source of confusion.

    The assumption is that if one is born into a family that can provide material and emotional plenty then they all must be “superior” spirits compared to those who are born deprived of these blessings to one degree or another.

    This assumption is a one dimensional view of LDS doctrine. There are other aspects that need to be viewed in order to have an accurate understanding.

    For example, as I understand LDS doctrine, children who die before the age of eight inherit the celestial kingdom. This being the case, then those children who are born into the worst possible situations and die prior to age eight are heirs of the celestial kingdom. This is a huge number when looked at in thousands of years.

    With that said, we now have both ends of a continuum, those born in the best possible circumstances, and those born into the worst. LDS doctrine allows for both to be heirs of the celestial kingdom.

    What about all those who are born into circumstances in between the extremes? What about those who are born mentally handicap? They are also heirs of the celestial kingdom. What about those who never hear the “gospel” law (people of all faiths or no faith at all)? They come under the atonement because where no law is given, no punishment is given (2 Nephi 9:25). It appears that many of them will be heirs to the celestial kingdom.

    Without attempting to fill in the complete spectrum it becomes evident that the celestial kingdom is a very large kingdom, in fact it may be the largest of the three degrees of glory.

    Another aspect of LDS doctrine is that there is agency. This means that no one is forced into a situation in mortality. Let me repeat, no one is forced into mortality. Anyone born into this world does it knowing full well what their getting into. Birth is by choice.

    Lastly, D&C 137:7-9 teaches that the Lord will judge a perfect judgment. There will be no mistakes.

    God is love, and all that He does is to bless His children to become as He is–a God. Not all of us will choose to follow Him, but we have the opportunity. In order to follow Him, we need to have experience (D&C 122), and in order to know the sweet we must experience the bitter. There is no other way.

    LDS doctrine of the degrees of gory, is a glorious doctrine. I hope this brief explanation will help those who discuss LDS doctrine, whether one believes it or not, to do it with the total perspective in mind.

  • Jen

    Jared-

    “LDS doctrine of the degrees of gory, is a glorious doctrine”

    I haven’t heard of the degrees of “gory”…..could you expound? :D

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    #61 Jen–

    Some days “gory” is just the right word. LOL :D

  • Jen

    SW Clark-

    “But Jen, I do think a further look at the interplay between the “noble and great ones” and “weak things” arguments would be interesting.”

    I agree. Maybe that is why it says the weak things “of the world”……

    Jared-

    BTW, excellent points. I think it is true that we all had a choice about coming here, but I don’t necessarily believe we knew exactly what we were getting into in the sense that we didn’t realize how hard it would be at times. I think even the Savior didn’t realize just how hard it would be.

  • sxark

    I’m surprised that no one has caught on that most members of the LDS Church are members of the tribe of Ephraim [see#37} and the impact this has on most of your concerns and the goals of the Church itself.
    I suspect that if another brought up the tribe of Ephraim, you may be discussing it now.

  • Jen

    sxark-

    Actually, I did see your comment but got sidetracked. I think the Lord has made it quite clear what He expects from us as members of the church. It is a great responsibility, yet it is also a great blessing to be able to have the gospel and to share it with those who desire it in their lives.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    #63 Jen–

    Hi Jen–

    I agree, I don’t know how we could have known “exactly”.

  • http://ldsaliveinchrist.com Jared

    #64 sxark–

    You’re right. Thanks for bringing that point up.

  • Pingback: Things that don’t bother me about the Mormon church « Irresistible (Dis)Grace

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    Do we let our own issues get in the way of the point of the post? :)

    I smile when I type that, but it is a very similar question at the most fundamental level.

  • sxark

    Ray:

    Perhaps “our own issues” is, the point of the post – which may have flawed questions to begin with.

  • shannonj

    I believe with all my heart that the gospel is true but I have a hard time believing that the church is 100% true. However this is really hard for people (my family) to understand because to many members of the church the gospel and the church are the same.

  • sxark

    shannonj:

    Sorry, I come from the viewpoint that the Gospel and Church are more one and the same. With the exception that the Church is tangible and is subject to mistakes in application etc. The Gospel is intangible and is subject to misinterpetation etc.

    What is it about the Church, specifically, that concerns you?

  • Jenkins

    Jen, you said ” I don’t necessarily believe we knew exactly what we were getting into in the sense that we didn’t realize how hard it would be at times. ”

    I disagree with this idea, if we have agency, why wouldn’t that agency extend before birth? I believe we knew our parents very well before coming and knew exactly what strengths and weaknesses we would inherit/learn from them. We put ourselves in the situations in which we felt we could most grow and progress. I think we knew the challenges we would face and the contributions we would make to humanity around us. Some have excelled and overcome the challenges they put themselves in, others have failed. I also think we will be as much a judge of that as God will.

    Without that agency, we could always blame God for the situation we grew up in and not simply take responsibility for our own decisions and the life we led.

  • http://thingsofmysoul.blogspot.com Ray

    I think we have a really myopic view of eternity, even with all that has been added through the Restoration. I think we lose sight of our own myopia far too often.

  • Jen

    Jenkins-

    I think you misunderstood what I meant, because I feel that we knew many things about coming to earth before we came here too. My point in that comment was that I think we knew as much as we could there, but we couldn’t understand the extent of this experience because our minds were not veiled there and that changes things here. In other words, I don’t think we realized how truly challenging it could be here not remembering the life before. We do agree much more than you realize on this subject, I think you just didn’t fully understand my comment.

  • Jen

    Ray-

    “Do we let our own issues get in the way of the point of the post?”

    Absolutely! Just think how dull life would be and especially here at MM if none of us had issues! :)

  • Jen

    Ray-

    “I think we lose sight of our own myopia far too often.”

    I agree. I think this is where our relationship with the Lord can really help us with our view of things. He can show us things and give us understanding in ways that no other can. So, at times where I hear things at church that I struggle with, or deal with challenging people (or just boring lessons), I remember the relationship I have with Him and that He is willing to open my mind, to help me become more compassionate, and to teach me how to love in ways that I can’t on my own. This makes dealing with all the rest worth it to me.

  • CON

    Sometimes you here people say the church is like Noahs ark if it wasn’t for the storm on the outside you couldn’t stand the smell on the inside. I think most of of us know that there’s marked difference between a mormom and a Latterday Saint. And many don’t see the difference between the too, because more there’s more social payoff from being active the church than being active in the gospel.

  • sxark

    CON:

    Your in depth analysis of #37 and #21, please.

  • Jeff Spector

    It’s a choice, really. You can focus on the fruit or focus on the peel. In the analogy, each has its purpose. The fruit is the norishment, the peel is there for protection.

    Great post, Andrew.

  • Jenkins

    Jen, I understand what you were trying to say now, thanks for the clarification! I think we do agree more than not.

  • http://www.mormonsite.org/ Allen

    About 15 years ago, I wrote an essay titled “Converted to Christ or to the Church?” in which I pointed out that the church as an organization is just a stepping stone to Christ. We must become converted to Christ not to the church. If we are converted to Christ, then the church becomes the Kingdom of God on the earth, not just an organization.

  • Anonymous

    Actually, isn’t it more like a pyramid? The broad base of obedient, tithe-paying members support a very small section of powerful men who control the money, the dictates, the politics and the branding strategies. If the peel is rotten, I always reject the fruit.

    • corajuddlover

      You are a sweety pie.

  • http://twitter.com/ChinoBlanco Chino Blanco

    For someone like myself who’s getting on in years, if I were to volunteer for an LDS service mission, what sort of things might I expect to find myself doing?

  • Spbranch

    Yes