Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Trouble With Should

The trouble with should is sometimes we shouldn't.  We have a tendency in LDS Culture to list for each other the things we should be doing.  Most Sacrament Meeting talks and Gospel Doctrine lessons develop into lists of things we should do and often even into litanies of where, when and how often.

Recently in Priesthood meeting we were all apprised of how often we each should attend the Temple.  As if each of our lives was the same and that no excuse would do for not meeting the requirement.  Now, this zealous advocate of temple attendance did not cite his source for such a schedule, but presented it as though our very Eternal Salvation depended upon compliance.  You must realize that we old High Priests are about worn out when it comes to such demands.  I could see it run off our backs like water off a duck.  This only increased the pitch and intensity of our fellow's demand, for he too could see our reaction.

Now, don't get me wrong.  I too am an advocate of Temple attendance.  I too believe that most of us fail to attend as often as the Lord would like.  But, I also realize that a few of us attend too often, driven there by guilt and shame, rather than drawn there by love and devotion.  Can you see how different Temple worship might be if you were attracted there by love rather than driven there by guilt?  Couple that with the very real possibility that you or I might occasionally have something more important to attend to than even the Temple.

I am not about setting us up for excuses to neglect our duty.  No, I am actually advocating for doing our duty. I just hope we will learn to discern between the manipulative demands of a fellow Saint and the kindly invitation of a loving Father.  Sometimes the gulf between the two is alarmingly broad.  Our duty is to God, not to folks who presume to know what God wants for us individually.  These are folks who assume that the prescription for their glasses will also allow everyone else to see with equal clarity.  For some reason, these seem to be the most zealous.  They seem to say, "You obviously don't read as well as I.  I'm sure it is because you're not wearing my glasses."  When we tell them we see just fine, or that their glasses blur our vision, or that their glasses give us migraines, they seem to say, "Nonsense!  They work just fine for me, how could they not work for you as well!"

Trouble is, I see many in the Kingdom, who are going about wearing someone else's glasses much of the time.  They seem exhausted, burned out, and of course some have just taken the glasses off and gone home having abandoned hope that they can get it right.  Had they been taught to seek the optometrist who could prescribe lenses especially for them and their particular needs, many, if not all might be joyfully serving with light and hopeful hearts instead of trudging along with a strain much more devastating than eye strain.

We believe in revelation in the Church.  We believe that God will guide our steps and direct our paths.  But we, all too often, go about treating one another like we're the only one who gets revelation and that we are somehow authorized to receive revelation for one another.  True testimony, true trust in our Father in Heaven is an individual thing.  How dare we presume to know what is best for another.  That is, speaking of fellow Saints.  It is one thing to follow the Prophet, who is authorized to receive revelation for us.  It is quite another to follow Brother So-and-So, who is not.

When Saints write Salt Lake City and ask for specific direction in their lives, the Brethren always refer us to our local leaders or directly to the Lord.  Why is it that so many ordinary members presume to give specific direction that even the prophets and apostles are loath to provide.

I once had a spiritual emergency transpire at home.  It occurred just prior to our Quarterly Stake Priesthood meeting.  It had been my intention to attend the meeting.  In fact I was so set upon attendance that I quite curtly put the problem aside, dressed for the meeting and headed out the door.  The Spirit whispered a number of times that I must stay at home and attend to a priority the Lord had set for me.  I, however, was insistent upon compliance with a priority someone else had set for me.  The Spirit persisted and half way out the driveway, I shifted gears, parked the car and went back into my home.  Later, I was approached by a rather unhappy leader, who, pointing out my absence at the meeting exclaimed with disdain that I, "should have been there."  Not wanting to seem rebellious, I quietly pointed out that, "No, I shouldn't have been, the Lord had another, more pressing errand for me."  My answer was inconceivable to him.  He considered it his duty to make me feel guilty for my transgression and still, after many years, seeks to ride herd on my behavior.

I love that man.  I know his intentions are good.  I admire his service in the Kingdom.  But, I also have observed that he seems increasingly frustrated at the response he gets from his fellow Saints and how isolated he has become in his sense of righteousness.

When we are called upon to "stand a little taller," to "lengthen our stride," by prophets we love, we are also expected to take the implied latitude and personal initiative those statements allow and seek personal, spiritual direction in how to do that.

When you have 4.85 children and your husband has been out of town all week on business and the fridge is empty and the Relief Society calls for a pan of funeral potatoes, maybe the Spirit will whisper, "You should."  But please don't feel guilty if He whispers, "You shouldn't."

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