"As a General Authority, I have the responsibility to preach general principles. When I do, I don’t try to define all the exceptions. There are exceptions to some rules. … I only teach the general rules. Whether an exception applies to you is your responsibility. You must work that out individually between you and the Lord.”
- Elder Dallin H. Oaks, Dating Versus Hanging Out 2006
I have to take a moment to say I might offend a few people with this one, but it's something I've thought of for a while and I think merits some discussion.
We like to talk about how our church is perfect. I don't consider the Church perfect. I don't think it's right for everyone. Does that make it less true? No, but for them it's not right, it's not true, and their truth is elsewhere. The truth of our gospel does not negate the truth of other gospels, nor theirs ours.
It does bother me when we so graciously allow other churches/faiths to have a "bit" of the truth within them. That sounds rather prideful to me, and there seem to be much pride in the way we speak about ourselves and our beliefs - especially regarding to the outside world.
I do think that God allows for more wiggle room than most of us are willing to admit. And even if this is not true, you will not see me telling a sincere member of either our church or another that they are wrong when they tell me they've prayed and anguished and have come to a decision that does not fall within certain accepted criteria.
God allows for exceptions.
I understand that truth is truth is truth. You can't change ultimate truth. You can't change the fact that I exist (or, if I died, existed), that we'll all die, that there is a God, a moon, etc.
But is truth sometimes, even most times, relative? Yeah.
I believe the Spirit can reside with everyone. We like to talk about it as a touch and go deal, but I don't think that's it at all. We've plenty of wonderful, amazing people who haven't been baptized into our Church who absolutely have consistent interaction with the Spirit of God. God will not ignore them or allow bad things to happen to them because they haven't had the Spirit conferred upon them by Priesthood authority. We like to say we were spared because of the Spirit, and yet when we are not spared we say it was the will of God. Well, I happen to believe that everything is the will of God, and he has his reasons. Sometimes we are given the ability to discern (some have more ability than others), but sometimes we are not. We listen or don't listen. God is no respecter of persons. He loves all of us equally.
I've heard too many faith promoting stories from those of other faiths to think we've got some monopoly over the Spirit - and yes, I do mean something different from the Light of Christ.
I'll never forget - for some reason - a story my stepmom told me. She said she and my dad were struggling financially at some point in their lives, and out of nowhere after Church (they attend the Assemblies of God), a woman comes up and says "I just felt impressed to give this to you." It was money.
Or the conversion story I read the other day of a newbie Catholic. Just replace "Catholic" and its like words with "Mormon" or "LDS" and you've got a pretty standard LDS conversion story. I should know. It mirrored mine almost exactly.
God leads people all the time to do things we wouldn't think were right.
We like to talk about mercy, but I don't see too often our acting on that. We like justice. We like to "teach" people. But mercy...especially when someone is doing we think we know is wrong, we don't have much room for mercy. We like to preach free agency and how, while we can choose what we want to do, we cannot choose our consequences. We like consequences. They bring us back to Christ, right?
We don't offer mercy too often - not as a general membership.
If someone is struggling with the gospel, how often do we decide to take the "tough love" route? While I understand the rationale behind "tough love," sometimes we are, in our righteous zeal, too tough. Why not be a friend and talk with them, understand that you don't know everything despite what you might feel, and support them. I'll tell you, doing this will only help. Not "can" only help. Will.
Seriously. We think we "know" everything.
We know nothing.
*Yes, I know I changed the title of the entry and some of the more bold statements within it. You can take that as you will. I'm still struggling with a few things - with what's appropriate and what's not. I have some views that would be considered rather radical concerning the Church and its culture/doctrine, and I'm not entirely certain I'm comfortable airing some of those out just yet... or ever. Maybe with time.