Monday, September 27, 2010

Confessing Other People's Sins

Yesterday, I felt troubled while sitting in Gospel Doctrine Class.  For a while I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was that had me unsettled.  Then I realized that everyone who commented was busy confessing someone else's sins.

We were discussing Isaiah and the teacher had listed several scriptures on the board.  As we examined each one we tried to interpret what that ancient prophet witnessed and then recorded about us.  Much of it had to do with the sinful way in which we of the Latter-days were predicted to behave.  A person would be asked to read a verse and then imagine how it was fulfilled in our day.  Many of those interpretations included examples of how someone they knew or had seen, had actually done the "disgusting" thing Isaiah was describing.  It seemed to me that many of the comments were offered in a tone of thankfulness "that I am not like other men."  (See Luke 18:10-14)  

It is possible that I am judging a bit harshly.  I think I was most sensitive to the situation though, because for the past six years I have been worshiping at the Detention Center.  There, when we speak of transgression and sin, we speak openly of our own weakness and our personal need for repentance, improvement and understanding.  By contrast the Gospel Doctrine Class seemed to be quite certain that they were on firm ground and that someone else was in need of repentance, improvement and understanding; but most certainly not themselves.  I am not naive enough to think that in a congregation of 80 souls no one was personally in need of Isaiah's warning, including myself.

Quite frankly, if I were to have recorded the comments and let you listen objectively, you might have thought you were listening to a group of Zoramites.  Listen to Alma's description of them from chapter 31 of the Book of Alma.
 27 Behold, O God, they cry unto thee, and yet their hearts are swallowed up in their pride. Behold, O God, they cry unto thee with their mouths, while they are puffed up, even to greatness, with the vain things of the world.
  28 Behold, O my God, their costly apparel, and their ringlets, and their bracelets, and their ornaments of gold, and all their precious things which they are ornamented with; and behold, their hearts are set upon them, and yet they cry unto thee and say—We thank thee, O God, for we are a chosen people unto thee, while others shall perish.  
Sounds an awful lot like the scriptures we were discussing in Isaiah.  Now I'm not in the business of condemning anybody.  I'm the weakest of the saints.  I look around my ward and find that I love and admire each of my fellow worshipers.  What disappoints me is that we go to church and pretend we are not the ones the scriptures were written for.  We speak in class as if we have already made it and that the lesson is surely for some one else. Oh, and heaven forbid that our 9th Ward brothers and sisters might be led to discover that we have problems like everyone else!

It seems to me that a big part of the problem is the admonition that we all take so seriously - to be a good example.  We take that to mean that we are expected to present ourselves as perfect Latter-day Saints and breathe a sigh of relief because doing so enables us to "justifiably"cover our sins.  I personally don't think that is what the Lord had in mind.  Alma was a good example!  A good example of a flawed and rebellious person humbling himself, repenting of his sins and receiving the blessings of the Atonement in his life.  When he sat in Gospel Doctrine class it is likely that he repeatedly told the story of his redemption and reminded his fellows that it was not until he cried out, "O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me..."  (Alma 17:16)  that he received a remission of his sins.  Now that's a good example!

I wish that my Gospel Doctrine Class or High Priest's Group meeting were more like an LDS ARP (Addiction Recovery Program) Meeting.  How close we become as we share our experience, faith and hope in an atmosphere of honesty, testimony, humility and kindness.  We speak of our weakness.  We weep as we share our experiences of recovery, repentance and redemption.  We find hope because we see example after example of real people who have real problems and get real forgiveness and find real happiness.  We plead for mercy and feel the gracious companionship of the Spirit in each of our meetings.  How is it that with our fellow Saints we are so reluctant to be that honest with one another.  How much closer to Zion would we be if we were.

Now lets revisit Luke, Chapter 18:

  10 Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
  11 The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
  12 I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
  13 And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
  14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one  that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.

Sound familiar?  It should.  I am going to work a lot harder at confessing my own sins and not those of another.  I have enjoyed the blessed privilege of being allowed to sing the song of redeeming love.  Why?  Because I, in great weakness needed to be redeemed.  Part of the reason it took me so long to enjoy that blessing is because I actually thought that my fellow travelers in the Kingdom were doing so well all on their own.  Hardly anybody bothered to show me how redemption was obtained.  Surely they weren't all pretending to be righteous out of a duty to be a good example were they?  Surely some among us have actually humbled themselves and received Christ's infinite mercy in their otherwise broken lives.  If you are one such, please share your story with us?  We all need to be shown how it is done.  We're tired of pretending.  We really want to change and to be able to rejoice in that newness of life that we hear so much about.

After Alma described the Zoramites he prayed these words:
 35 Behold, O Lord, their souls are precious, and many of them are our brethren; therefore, give unto us, O Lord, power and wisdom that we may bring these, our brethren, again unto thee. 
This is also my prayer.  The members of my ward are indeed precious to me.  I need them and I hope they need me.  I pray that together we will be humble, open and willing to share our stories of weakness and need and how the Lord in His mercy has allowed us to stand on His merits when our own were so pathetic.  Let us confess (no gory details necessary) our sin and weakness and acknowledge the means of our rescue so that we might be like Paul, "an example of the believers." (1 Tim. 4:12).

1 comment:

Utah Mom said...

I think this is why I enjoyed our ward's Relief Society Retreat so much. Instead of what you are describing (and I think we've ALL been in a meeting like this and probably even been guilty of it too), during testimony meeting the women let down their guards, admitted to their fears and insecurities and weaknesses. We became closer because we all understand and we can help to bouy each other up in the rough times when we struggle. I don't think it is helpful to be overly critical of ourselves but being more honest with ourselves can only help us become better saints.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...