04 October 2015

Imperfection, hypocrisy

When is imperfection acceptable, understandable, justifiable, tolerable?
 Sometimes we see a bug and are not aware of the flaws. Then we look at another perspective and we see that we are looking at a rather unique insect. In this case, instead of six legs that are typical of an insect, this one has only five.

But I suspect that this bug did not choose to have five legs! Our choices are what make us what we are.

I have heard that there are people that refuse to go to hospitals because hospitals are supposed to make people well, but are of no value because they are full of unwell people. The very reason for going to a hospital is to become well, and it is foolish to condemn a hospital for having unwell people in it! If it is helping to improve the state of well-being of patients then it is achieving its purpose. There will be no shortage of people who are unwell, and hospitals will always be occupied by people who are unwell.

Indeed, it is very possible for one patient to infect a fellow patient, health care professional, or an innocent visitor. One can easily go away from a hospital with a bug that he or she did not have when entering the hospital. But I laud the efforts of people who care for unwell people and wish them well in their efforts. On the whole, people leave hospitals better for having been there.

I was told recently about someone who found some imperfection in an individual - a hypocrite - and feels that the entire Church is to be condemned as being imperfect because it has one member who is a hypocrite. 

I have often thought of our perceptions. 

Today we sustained three new Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ. Elders Ronald A. Rasband, Gary E. Stevenson and Dale G. Renlund. I have no hesitation in saying that each of them is imperfect. Two of them inferred it themselves!

So - do we condemn the entire Church because three, or fifteen, or 100, or 500, or 5 million of them, or each and every one of them is imperfect?

In 1973 I received a personal witness from the Lord Jesus Christ Himself declaring that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living church upon the face of the Earth 'with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;'

I leave that ending with the semi-colon because the reader would benefit from reading the context of the extract from Doctrine and Covenants 1.

I suppose it is reasonable that people would judge a church by its leaders. One prominent church leader criticized his leaders. He boldly declared them to be hypocrites! He also drove people out of the temple! He also spoke judgmental words of his close associates and others. He was strongly criticized for many of his actions, most particularly because he was accused of blasphemy. Jesus Christ is that leader. The Jewish faith was the only true and living faith. He was devout in His faith. But He did criticize the leaders, the Scribes and Pharisees, telling them that they were hypocrites. He did drive people out of the Temple with a whip. He did reprove Peter and others for their lack of faith and other weaknesses. He, who declared that we must love our enemies, do good to them that despitefully use us, He it was who did these things. If a person is looking for faults, I daresay he will very easily interpret these actions as failings and hypocritical!

Peter denied Christ three times before the cock crowed on the morning of the Christ's last day of mortality. He went fishing rather than leading the saints following the crucifixion. His state of conversion was challenged when he was told 'when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren'. Would we refuse to accept that church because Peter was quite apparently a hypocrite?

Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ - now is that not extreme! Do we deny the entire church because it had one of its top leaders who was such an extremely bad person - a hypocrite?

Ananias and his wife Sapphira lied to the apostles about freewill offerings that they had made. Hypocrisy!

Yes - if one is looking for faults, he or she will find them!

But equally, if one is looking for good, there is abundant good to be found. 

My father once said that he was so glad that he did not have to judge someone who had erred, but could leave that to the bishop. He did not have to be burdened with being a Judge in Israel. Sometimes we look at things that people do and assess them in one way without knowing what is in the heart. We may condemn them for gross imperfection - for hypocrisy. And we are probably absolutely right! They probably are imperfect. And so am I. And so is the reader, and every person, especially those who condemn the conduct of anyone else.

The true Church of God is likely to always have less than perfect people in it - it is the hospital for sick souls. It is there to make bad men good, and good men better. It will always have an abundance of spiritually unwell people to help to improve.

But the challenge to the reader is to judge where we can affect some change. I cannot bring about change in anyone else. But I can bring about change in myself. My responsibility is to assess my own performance relative to divinely appointed standards of performance and work to improve myself. I need to strive to be better each day than I was the day before. I can be so busy working on myself that I really do not have time to judge and condemn others because I will be all too conscious of the beam in my eye that is causing me to not see clearly the mote in the other person's eye.

The Lord Jesus Christ did declare that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is the only true and living church upon the face of the Earth 'with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;' He made it very clear that He cannot look upon my weaknesses with the least degree of allowance. 

I must clean up my act! My act! Not someone else's imperfections. My act. I have so far to go before I think I'll be worthy of hearing those blessed affirming words 'Well done, thou good and faithful servant'. I am trying! But I know all too well that I am not at that stage as yet. 

Please clean up your own act. But, in the meantime, ask God the Eternal Father, with a sincere heart and real intent if the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints is the only true and living Church on the face of the Earth, and if He is indeed well pleased with it. And if He says that it is, then do something about making and keeping covenants with Him by being baptised by His authorized ministers, and pressing forward toward Temple covenants, then enduring faithfully to the end, even receiving the greatest of all gifts of God, Eternal life.

So, to answer my question. Imperfections are a part of Mortality. They have always been, and will always be. That does not make them alright, acceptable, justifiable. 

The Lord cannot look upon sin with the last degree of allowance. We all have imperfections. But if we choose to act in imperfect ways, then we sin. Ignorance is not sin. Little children are innocent doing things in ignorance. But I suggest that anyone able to read this blog is likely to be able to discern between good and evil. If we choose evil, we sin. That is never acceptable, understandable, tolerable, excusable, justifiable, allowable. We are in Mortality to learn to choose good and to not choose evil. That was what Adam and Eve learned in the Garden of Eden. That is what we learned early in life. We have to continually refine our ability to make right choices. To think as God thinks, choose as He chooses, act as he acts. Then we will be continually refined and redeemed by the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, enabling us to more effectively refine our ways to become more god-like.

I bear my solemn witness that Jesus Christ does live, and has declared this to be His only true and living Church.