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Sunday, June 9, 2019

The Gift of Charity, Part 5: A Parable of Ward Members -- Which Are You?

There once was a church ward with about 440 members. It was a considered a typical ward, with typical quorums, auxiliaries and programs. The names you’ll hear are made up; the scenarios are real.


One of the ward members, Marshall, is very respected within the ward. This is because he had served in very significant church leadership callings since he was a full-time missionary 40 years earlier. His church resume is impressive: He had served as mission Assistant to the President, Elders Quorum President, Bishopric Counselor and Bishop. It goes without saying that Marshall attends all Sunday church meetings, pays a full tithe and fast offering and attends the temple regularly.

He wears very nice suits and watches, and is very successful in his business.

Yet under the veneer of success and church activity is something far more concerning: He ignores beggars on street corners, believing they are frauds and fakes. He ignores requests to help someone move into the ward. He places success above friendship, and breaks contracts with small business owners because he wants to, leaving them to financially struggle while he enjoys Caribbean cruises and European vacations.


Dave is well respected in various Facebook gospel-related groups. He is tremendously knowledgeable about doctrines. Combined with his nice, extrovert personality, what’s not to like about him! One of Dave’s best qualities is his loyalty to friends. Once you’re Dave’s friend, you’re assured he’ll support you anytime, anywhere.

This becomes a problem, though, when Dave likes and shares posts by those who espouse false and even destructive doctrines. So, online, here is what he has clicked “Like” and/or “Share” to:

  • We should seek out darkness so we can eventually rise above it.
  • It’s OK to ignore certain passages of scripture that make us feel uncomfortable.
  • Light is to be feared (so Jesus, being the light of the world, should be feared?).
  • Mystical designs can be a substitute to true spiritual experiences.
  • Polygamy is something a church member should believe in.
  • Someday, we should have the opportunity to hug Satan and offer him forgiveness for all his evil, vile, violent and abhorrent crimes against humanity.

Not only has he publicly liked these posts by others, but because people know and respect Dave’s gospel knowledge, many follow his lead and like these false doctrines as well. Thus, Dave’s eagerness to be a true friend has also led to his other friends being deceived. And because they trust Dave’s gospel perspectives, they, too, share what he has liked, thus deceiving others as well.


Natalie has constant, severe migraines which often interfere with her ability to go to church every Sunday. But because Natalie doesn't have 100% attendance at church, members judge her. They question her faithfulness, her righteousness and more. When her 14 year-old daughter invited a non-member boy to church, they didn’t praise her for her missionary spirit; instead, the Bishop fired up a special lesson on dating.

“She must be sinning. She must be an apostate” are prevalent beliefs which actually hurt, not help, the situation. She has yet to receive a simple phone call or a quick visit from a ward member. A friend? A hug? A smile? A piece of chocolate cake? Ummmm, nope. Instead, other ward members speak in hushed tones around her and her daughter. If they have any communication with ward members, they’re emails with links to conference talks and quotes from church leaders.

Yet what these ward members with 100% attendance, awesome church callings, “righteous judgment” and GA quotes galore don’t know is that Natalie spends much of her time with others across the globe. She prays for them and encourages hundreds more to pray for people, by name, who are suffering or in distress. She doesn’t judge others. She looks for ways to show she cares about others. She sees the hurt in others, and they see Jesus in the light of her eyes, the warmth of her touch and the peace of her words.

Mike (and Doofus)

Mike recently moved into the ward. He was baptized in his previous ward. Yet despite his status as a new, tender church member, ward members just can’t get past the tattoos which predominate his body. I don’t think Mike knows this, but the Relief Society Presidency recently met and discussed Mike’s tattoos. They were “concerned” about the safety and security of Relief Society meetings with a “tattooed man with a beard and moustache” in the ward. Thus, an informal consensus developed within the ward council that Mike isn’t temple worthy and, thus, should not be called upon to make comments in classes, let alone teach.

These ward members’ erroneous judgment clouds their ability to get to know Mike. Although he’s a pretty busy guy, Mike and his dog, Doofus, spend a lot of their time at local hospitals and senior centers. Together, they transform tears to laughs, frowns to smiles among the young and sick, the old and dying. I can’t tell you how many hundreds of lives have been brightened because this tattooed guy and his dog spend their hours together just doing what Christ would have done. That’s Mike’s simple faith for you.

Please help my scripture mastery!

As I read the scriptures, I’m perplexed by the lack of verses which say you’re unrighteous and unworthy if you’ve missed a church meeting here and there. I do see plenty saying “Judge not, lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1) or some variant of it.

I’m baffled as to where we are told that outward appearances are indicative of inner commitments. I did read 1 Samuel 16:7,
“But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I’m still looking for scriptures saying we should embrace darkness and/or sustain those who do. I do see that Proverbs 4:19 says,
“The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble.”
Ditto for those scriptures informing us that beggars on street corners are all frauds and fakes, we should pick and choose when we should be charitable. But I do recall King Benjamin saying
“And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish. Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just— But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 4:16-18
And I just can’t seem to find that scripture saying we can and should break promises when it suits us. If you find it, let me know.

Is it all about obedience?

A little over four years ago, I blogged about "Why Obedience Is Not The First Law of Heaven" (here).

In it, I presented some research regarding the origins of this teaching:

And while obedience -- the voluntary adherence to God's laws -- is essential for eternal salvation (Abraham 3:25–26; Helaman 14:30–31), the notion that it is "the first law of heaven, the cornerstone upon which all righteousness and progression rest" is problematic:

  1. I've known many who were flawlessly obedient (attended all church meetings, paid full tithes/fast offerings, 100% home/visiting teaching, worked in the cannery, went to the temple every week, did family history) but were full of pride -- They prided themselves on their wealth, their gospel knowledge, ignoring beggars and more. Do you mean to tell me that church members who perform all the outward appearances of righteousness, yet inwardly are darkness, get to the front of the line in heaven?
  2. If you tried to count how many commandments we are to obey -- including instructions to grow a garden, visit the sick, do your family history, learn the signs of the times as well as all the written commandments – you'd find thousands. And what do you think the chances are that you'll obey them all. Zero, right? There are just too many "commandments" to keep them all perfectly. With that being the case, then technically, none of us should make it into heaven.
  3. "Obedience" itself is never declared a "law". The Ten Commandments? The Law of Moses? Now, those are are laws! But obedience, as I understand it, denotes a voluntary compliance to laws (see D&C 130:20-21).
  4. Logically, even if obedience were a law, it would be impossible for it to be the first law of heaven. After all, unless another law existed first, there would be nothing for obedient souls to obey.

Just four little letters

If obedience isn’t the true cornerstone of salvation, then what is?

"But when the Pharisees had heard that he had put the Sadducees to silence, they were gathered together. Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second [is] like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets." (Matthew 22:34-40)

In other words, all the revelations which God has made to man in every age, all the utterances of the prophets, all the voices of history, lead us to one common denominator: we must FIRST love God. Then, immediately after that, we must love our fellowman.

These are the two grand links that unite God to man, man to his fellows, and men again to God.

Paul expounded on this fact:
"Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." (Romans 13:10; emphasis mine)
Thus, if we love God, and we love others, then we will naturally be obedient. These acts of obe­di­ence then become outward indica­tions of an inward change…
"For the nat­ural man is an enemy to God, and has been since the fall of Adam and will be for­ever and ever, unless he yields to the entic­ings of the Holy Spirit and putteth of the nat­ural man and becometh a saint through the atone­ment of Christ the Lord. And becometh as a child, sub­mis­sive, humble, meek, full of love, will­ing to sub­mit unto all things whatso­ever the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth sub­mit to his father." (Mosiah 3:19; emphasis mine).
...and eventually elevate us to a discipleship level:
"By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another." (John 13:35

What about you?

Are you judgmental of others because they aren’t what you think they should be, or don’t do things as you believe?

Do you self-justify liking thoughts which are incongruent with gospel truths because, after all, it’s a friend who’s saying them?

Is church attendance and church activity an accurate method to determine worthiness? Should we be contemplating others’ worthiness in the first place?

If you find yourself relating to Marshall, Dave or any of the members mentioned by Natalie or Mike, then repent. Change your heart. Be the example of love Christ created you to be.

I’ll make this real simple: Love is the answer.

1 comment:

  1. I like your comparisons but sorta feel like ,what are talking about ! I teach and have taught for decades and it always comes back to "If ye love me keep my commandments" aka - obedience. Love is the answer and I it's always been taught where I go. I teach it to my primary kids, to my family and try hard to show it thru service and love, because charity never faileth. We don't judge like that, maybe its because I live in the south ?? there's always going to be hypocrits but we can change them too, by loving not judging. Let the Savior save, let us just love.