Monday, March 29, 2010

The Transition: Man of God to Fraud

Although the title makes it sound like I've lost my marbles and gone apostate, I've not, rather I thought I'd publish something that's been weighing on my mind for the last little while.

There's a person in my life who is very dear to me. Not unusual. This person had an experience with their Priesthood leaders, and instead of viewing that experience as one from which they could grow and improve, they have turned it into a catalyst from which bitterness, anger and self-pity have festered. I won't identify this person in any way more than I already have.

Often in someone's life when they experience something that draws them into some form of depression, their progression stops. What tends to happen is they end up holing away, shying away from situations where they have be social. This isn't uncommon for people, even those who don't experience clinical depression, who just have a bad day. Some people seek out others who are equally miserable, and others simply become a recluse.

While I'm on the point, not only do miserable people group together to bolster the reasons for which they're upset, but people who share a common belief or hobby do the same thing. A simple example of this is a club. We do this for the same reason above, to bolster each other, and encourage one another. If you're doing something that is "wrong," on the basic, non-religious levels, you'll tend to spend your time with others who are doing that same thing. Why? It's much easier to justify your wrong behaviour if you're around others who are also looking to justify themselves.

I'm going to use an example to illustrate the point of this post. Often in the Church, when someone finds fault with their leaders, it's because the leader has asked the member to do something they don't want to do, or because the leader told the member something they didn't want to hear. People don't like being wrong - that's a basic fact of humanity. When a member receives chastisement, they can take it one of two ways: they can either listen to the advice they're given and humbly submit to the will of the Lord as revealed through that leader, or they can convince themselves that the leader is wrong, that they don't need to listen to their advice, that they're flawed, that for some reason that leader got it wrong.

Which is easier? To change, or to manufacture some excuse that saves you from having to change? Personally, I try to embrace change. As a writer I have the opportunity to create any kind of characters I want. Certain characters are frowned upon, and these are known as static characters. These characters are the ones that never change, there is no character arc for them, they are the same on the last page of the book as they are on the first. To live such a life, I couldn't imagine.

But anyway, tangent aside, let's get some illustration in here. This will be specific and vague all at once, you'll see (and be impressed).

A member goes to their Priesthood leader and tells that leader of the problems they're having. They tell their leader (Bishop, Stake President, etc.) of their abilities and their weaknesses, and then asks for advice, they ask for counsel and direction. The leader thinks about it a moment, and then tells the member that they're loved and appreciated, that they're doing well enough in all areas of their life but one. This one area is known to the member as one of their major weaknesses, and is therefore a sensitive topic, but because the member asked, the leader directs them and tells them that to better serve the Lord (in this example), they need to improve their life in that area. Once the member has improved themselves to a certain point, they're to return to the leader and receive more council.

Now, like I said, this member can either humbly submit themselves to the counsel that was given, or they can come up with some reason to excuse themselves from having to listen to the direction they were given. Let's say that this member chooses the latter. They decide that their leader hasn't got the right to say what they did about their very personal weakness.

This is where I draw my illustration into the story of that very dear person I know. At the beginning of the story I just went through, the member went to their leader. The Bishop or Stake President didn't show up at the member's house and start chastising them, the member went to the leader. By doing so, and by asking for direction, they showed a confidence in that leader's abilities, they demonstrated a trust in that leader, a trust that he was a man of God.

So here's my quandary: At what point did that man cease to be a man of God?

A member goes to their leader, showing humility and a desire to listen to the counsel they would receive (why else would they bother asking?), but after their meeting, it's been decided by that member that the man they went to advice for is no longer called of God. So at what point did this leader who had formerly been considered a man of God cease being so? It never actually happened, save in the mind of the member, and it occurred when that member decided they knew more than him.

Although I love this individual with all my heart, I cannot understand why they would be, at one moment, completely willing to listen and to follow whatever Church leaders told them, whether is was to give a talk, receive a calling in Primary, or to serve a foreign-speaking mission to Japan for 1.5-2 years; and later have decided that those same leaders they trusted, literally with their life, were wrong.

I don't understand it, but I know the underlying answer to my "why" questions. Pride. This individual couldn't stand having someone tell them they couldn't do something because they wouldn't be able to handle it. It boggles my mind. If a prophet of God, or someone I revered as a man of God as called by the prophet, told me I needed to do X in order to be able to do Y, I would do it. Why? Personally, because I've learned through hard experiences that my leaders tend to have the gift of foresight; when I think I see the big picture, I'm often seeing it head-on and not from their perspective, which is often a birds-eye view.

So, has that leader really gone from being a man of God to being a fraud? Only in the mind of that one individual. And what will that individual do? They'll flock to others who think the exact same so they can pat themselves on the shoulder and tell each other how justified they are in condemning that leader. Truly, a separation of the wheat from the chaff.

"They were once a delightsome people, and they had Christ for their shepherd; yea, they were led even by God the Father... But now, behold, they are led about by Satan, even as chaff is driven before the wind, or as a vessel is tossed about upon the waves, without sail or anchor, or without anything wherewith to steer her; and even as she is, so are they." Mormon 5:16,18

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