Friday, December 18, 2009

When the Means Becomes the End


Elder Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve has likened the fullness of the gospel to a piano keyboard. He has told us that a person could be “attracted by a single key,” such as a doctrine he or she wants to hear “played over and over again. … Some members of the Church who should know better pick out a hobby key or two and tap them incessantly, to the irritation of those around them. They can dull their own spiritual sensitivities. They lose track that there is a fullness of the gospel … [which they reject] in preference to a favorite note. This becomes exaggerated and distorted, leading them away into apostasy” (Ensign, December 1971, pages 41–42).  ...Beware of a hobby key. If you tap one key to the exclusion or serious detriment of the full harmony of the gospel keyboard, Satan can use your strength to bring you down.  (Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall, Elder Dallin H. Oaks, BYU 18 Stake Fireside, June 1992)
Now, I'm going to get some flack for this, but I'm going to say it anyway.  I think Elder Packer and Elder Oaks, quoted above are right on in their assessment of a tendency that is quite common in the Kingdom.

My first real exposure to is was as a Scout Leader.  Typically, men go into Scouting reluctantly, if not kicking and screaming.  Getting them trained is like pulling teeth.  Still a goodly number do get trained, go to Wood Badge and catch the fire of the program.  It gets in their blood.  Round Table Meetings and return trips to leadership training as trainers add fuel to the fire.  For some Scouting becomes everything.  I was called to various Scouting positions much of my adult life.  What I've described happened to me to a large degree.  I still love Scouting, it is a good program, good for boys and good for men.  The problem becomes when Scouters play only that key on the gospel keyboard.  It is not only annoying to others it is spiritually dangerous to the person.  I knew one man who was seriously struggling over whether to be buried in his Temple clothes or his Scout uniform.  A clear case of the means becoming the end in one confused mind.  These brethren were often heard criticizing the Church for corrupting Scouting or not allowing it to function as it was designed.  They seem to have forgotten that the Church selected Scouting as a means to their own ends, not to become the end in and of itself.

When I was called away from Scouting, I was treated, by this type of Scouter, as traitor to the cause.  They repeatedly approached me with attempts at "guilt tripping" me back into the program.  "You're a Silver Beaver*, for crying out loud, how can you turn your back on Scouting?"  They never seemed to understand my explanation that while I gave 100% to Scouting when I was there, I am now giving 100% to my new calling, which is also an important facet of the true church.  It has been ten years now, since I last served in a Scouting position and I still detect bitterness among some of my brethren for abandoning my post.  I did not abandon it, I was called away from it.

What I learned in Scouting has enhanced my performance as a husband, father, grandfather and in my current church service.  I'm thankful for that experience.

Now, I've seen this same sort of single keyed focus among people who serve in other corners of the Kingdom.  Genealogy, Temple Work, Missionary Work, food storage, and Word of Wisdom, to name a few.

Last night I discovered it again at my LDS Addiction Recovery Meeting.  My regular group has become more and more disconcerting to me.  I couldn't put my finger on the problem.  I just have become uncomfortable there.  I haven't attended for a couple of months.  Not that I think I'm cured or anything.  I expect to need support in my recovery, for the balance of my life and perhaps beyond.  I've just been traveling and had other obligations so I haven't been as faithful as I ought to be in my attendance.  Anyway, I think my long absence made the changes more obvious and last night it became apparent to me why my heart has been unsettled at the meetings. For too many, especially the leaders, the program seems to have become the end rather than the means.  I can see why this might happen.  Anything that has made such a big difference in someone's life attracts a great deal of loyalty, even adoration.  Perhaps this is what blinds us to the danger of singling out that one thing and ignoring the rest of life.

Like too many Scouters became more loyal to BSA than to the Church, many at ARP appear to be more loyal to AA than to the Church.  Like the Scouters who concerned me; too often I hear ARP participants, complaining and criticizing the way the Church operates the program while praising Alcoholics Anonymous.  They too, seem to have forgotten that the Church chose the 12 Steps as a means, not as an end.  More and more meetings quote from the Big Book and less and less from the Scriptures.  It was not always thus.  Last night, for the first time in my recollection, the leaders didn't even get the scriptures out of the library.  For some, the program is becoming more important than recovery.  I can't help but wonder if they're not just switching addictions.

I said before that I expect to need support from a 12 Step group for the remainder of my life.  But, I don't expect to be defined by it.  I am an addict.  But, I am also a husband, father, grandfather, servant of the Lord, friend, employee, lover of life.  I am not about to let my addiction define my life.  I'm getting flack for this.  Warnings that bordered on threats were issued at last night's meeting.  That's only going to make me more reluctant to attend.  But worse, it makes me worry about my friends who've been doing so well.  With Elder Oaks, I pray our strengths don't become our downfall.

Now, let me say, that while these things worry and concern me.  I'm talking about people I love and admire, who've overcome enormous affliction.  I don't want to seem critical of them, just concerned for the direction they seem to be going.  I wish I knew how to call it to their attention without causing more harm than good.  Any advice?

*An award that was premature, undeserved and unsought

5 comments:

KateWeber said...

I'm sorry you've had this experience. Just try to remember that the people aren't perfect, but the church is. You need to look past the imperfections of the people and see the goodness that is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Take a break, take a breath, and maybe try the program again in a few weeks. Try a different day, mix things up. But most of all, pray to Heavenly Father for peace of mind and for the gospel to come back into the program.

Love you!

Candleman said...

Thank you Kate for that comforting and wise counsel.

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