Okay. It’s been months since last made an entry. I’m wondering if the title of the blog is hindering me, as much of what I do experience as a counsellor is obviously confidential and cannot be shared here at all – even if names were changed, clients could still feel betrayed if I started outlining anything of a session we had shared. So, today I share a sacrament talk I gave recently. Some people have commented that it should be shared more widely. Am I feeding my ego in posting it here? In seeking further validation? Yes, probably I am. But, does that mean I should not post the talk? No, I don’t think it does.
Why, though, post it? Perhaps, to give an opportunity to look at how we do (sometimes inadvertently) judge others, that it can initially take great effort not to judge other people and ourselves. Judging ourselves is subject for another talk or post. Would I change anything? I would add things, probably quite a few things. Don’t think I’d take anything anyway. As a sacrament talk I spoke for 30 minutes. It would have taken another 10 minutes to complete, so bits were left out, that I hope did not lose the meaning. Posting it here also gives everyone a chance to read the complete talk.
Will it be misunderstood? Potentially. Unless you are familiar with the LDS Church (culture and doctrine) there will be some parts that make little or no sense. Or will at least be confusing. If you are familiar with the LDS Church much, it not all, should make sense, even if you don’t agree with everything.
I’ve still put a “counselling” tag on this post. Why? As people come to me for counselling I see the damage that has been/is done when judgement has been received from others. Whether it’s deliberate or inadvertent judgement, doesn’t seem to matter. In particular, coming from significant others, like family, close friends, work colleagues or other Church members, it can be hurtful in the short and long-term. Empathy is a key quality or trait that helps us to avoid judging. Maybe more on that in a future post.
The Talk Itself:
Like many talks, I’ve written this talk in my head several times over the past couple of months. I’ve researched extensively on the subject. I’ve talked to people face to face, posted on Facebook forums, plus of course prayed, all from which I’ve gained a deeper insight into what on the surface seems a simple injunction. You may be thinking, why don’t we ever get that much time to prepare a talk? Well, if anyone has a talk on a particular subject they’d like to give, please let a member of the bishopric know. I’m sure we can work out a time for you to speak.
It’ll soon be Christmas day!! So I’d better say something about Christ’s birth!! Even though it wasn’t at this time of year, we celebrate with other Christians around the world. Most of us know the history – born of the the virgin Mary, visited by the shepherds in the manager, then a couple of years later by the wise men. The question is what does His life mean to us individually? Not just now, but each day?
What was His main teaching? When asked: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said …, 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 neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” If we want to honour Christ at Christmas time, that is what we do. We love each other. Yet, that is something not limited to the Christmas period. I still remember Wizard singing “I wish it could be Christmas everyday”. Whilst the lights and the trees and the decorations and the presents we may or may not give and receive would probably become less special over the years, love does not become or feel any less.
Today, I want to talk about a particular aspect of Christ’s command to love.
First, an interjection. At 7pm this evening (15th December), 37 years ago, I was baptised into this Church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at Epsom chapel, as part of the Kingston Ward, as then there was no chapel building in Kingston. I’ll come back to this later.
A few weeks ago I had the opportunity of attending a Union training course. On the journey, there is a one way bridge where cars stop at traffic lights. As I slowed down to stop at the lights, I noticed what was obviously a pornographic magazine lying in the middle of the road. By the time I stopped it was between me and the car behind me. The lights changed green and I started to drive off. I noticed when checking my rear view mirror that the driver behind me, moved forward a little, stopped, opened his car door and picked up the magazine. My immediate thought was he’ll be having an interesting read later. Straightaway, though, a strong rebuke, coupled with a really uncomfortable feeling, from the Spirit came.
The words from the Spirit were: “Do not judge another of my sons or daughters. How do you know that he was not just picking the magazine off
the road, to throw it away, so pedestrians will not have to view the magazine. You do not know, so do not judge“. As I said, coupled with the words was a strong feeling, a feeling of “How dare you!!”. “How dare you judge one of my sons or daughters”. Did it really matter if the person was going to read the magazine? Surely the command to not judge is not conditional. Whether or not the magazine was read, it was not my place to judge.
It has been said, “love the sinner, hate the sin”. These words even have a kind of scriptural tone to them. But, they are not from the scriptures. They are from St. Augustine. His Letter 211 (c. 424) contains a phrase that translates roughly to “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.” This phrase became more well known as “love the sinner but hate the sin” or “hate the sin and not the sinner” (this latter form appearing in Gandhi’s 1929 autobiography). Ghandi, though, later retracted the saying.
Unfortunately, it has become prevalent across many parts of society, in particular amoung Christian religious groups. As I mentioned in Sunday
School, a while back, I don’t feel comfortable with the statement. I think there are many other such short statements or quotes, that give the mistaken idea that everything in life is very cut and dried, black and white or right and wrong, good and evil. Nothing, however, is as clear as we’d like it to be.
On Facebook, pinterest and other social networking sites, images with quotes on, known as memes, are often overused, taken out of context, so
they do not convey the fullness of what the original writer or author meant. Words are often placed over a poignant image, so the whole thing
elicits an emotional response. One problem with such memes is that they can also be used to justify oneself. For example, from one of my favourite talks from the recent general conference, comes the phrase “doubt your doubts, don’t doubt your faith” that has been turned into a meme, as if that was President Uchtdorf’s main message. It was certainly part of his message. Though, if that was all you got from his talk, you missed a whole lot.
I have found a rewrite of the “love the sinner, hate the sin” phrase that I’m much more comfortable with. Mark Lowry wrote the following:
“Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin and let’s just love each other!”
In, what is known as, the Sermon on the Mount, the Saviour taught us to “judge not, that ye be not judged“. In the Joseph Smith translation it is
expanded slightly to say “judge not unrighteously, that ye be not judged; but judge righteous judgement“. But what does “judge righteously” actually mean? Sometimes I wonder if it’s used as an excuse, or used, to put another person down, as in “look at what brother or sister so and so is doing! A member of the church shouldn’t do that!!” Well, of course, none of us are perfect. Are we not all far from where we would like to be?
In Moroni 7:18, Mormon, being quoted by his son, states: “And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged.” This gives the impression it is okay to judge, if we don’t do so wrongfully. I’d still suggest that attempting any judgement is a minefield we all best keep well away from. A few verses earlier Mormon teaches: “Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” We need to be very careful in judging and in my reading of Moroni 7, it is interesting that when there is discussion of judging, it is things, never people that judgement is being talked about.
The next few verses of the Sermon on the Mount are clearer for me, as to where we should be with judging. Before I read that, it has been said that if we are really comfortable with ourselves – who we are, where we are, where we are heading and being, then there would be little impetus to find fault, either with others or with situations we may find ourselves in. An example from the writing of Brene Brown: “Have you seen what’s he’s wearing? His backside looks huge in those trousers!!” Why would anyone make or, perhaps more often, think such a thought?
Research shows that if we’re happy and content with our own backside, we’re a lot less likely to make judgements about other people’s backsides.
Research shows, we often judge others, because we are unhappy, we are not content, with something about ourselves. Judgement often comes from within us. Sometimes referred to as transference.
This is what I feel the Saviour is alluding to in the Sermon on the Mount, about not judging, but particularly:
“And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
Are we familiar with the reference to the beam and the mote? When I first came across these verses, I knew they were about judging, but had no idea that the beam was referring to a beam of wood and the mote was a spec of dust. In other words, we can’t see clearly to judge another’s issues or concerns, because of the size of our own issues.
Is this not really what Mark Lowry was saying, though, in language we use today? “Love the sinner, hate the sin? How about: Love the sinner, hate your own sin! I don’t have time to hate your sin. There are too many of you! Hating my sin is a full-time job. How about you hate your sin, I’ll hate my sin and let’s just love each other!”
There will always be things others do or think or feel that we may disagree with. There can be a tendency to justify our position, often with scripture, which can then, if only inadvertently, lead to judging the other as wrong. We can end up thinking we have the truth all sorted.
At a CES Devotional in Jan 2013, President Uchtdorf stated:
“The “truths” we cling to shape the quality of our societies as well as our individual characters. All too often these “truths” are based on incomplete and inaccurate evidence, and at times they serve very selfish motives.
“Part of the reason for poor judgment comes from the tendency of mankind to blur the line between belief and truth. We too often confuse belief with truth, thinking that because something makes sense or is convenient, it must be true. Conversely, we sometimes don’t believe truth or reject it—because it would require us to change or admit that we were wrong. Often, truth is rejected because it doesn’t appear to be consistent with previous experiences.
“When the opinions or “truths” of others contradict our own, instead of considering the possibility that there could be information that might be
helpful and augment or complement what we know, we often jump to conclusions or make assumptions that the other person is misinformed,
mentally challenged, or even intentionally trying to deceive.
“Unfortunately, this tendency can spread to all areas of our lives—from sports to family relationships and from religion to politics.”
In regard to politics – some people have, what are termed, left wing views, some right wing, some are somewhere in the middle. I can find many
scriptures supporting a right wing political view. I can also find an equal number supporting a left wing political view. This is not the time to discuss them. I mention this to suggest caution in using scripture as a way of defending one point of view against another. I’m not just talking politics here either.
There are many areas where people may disagree, in or out of the Church. For example:
- Some are feminists, some are chauvinists, some are in the somewhere in the middle. Are those words really opposites though?
- Some support same-sex marriage. Some venomously oppose same-sex marriage. Some haven’t made their mind up.
- Some people live the Word of Wisdom. Some don’t. Some people think as part of the Word of Wisdom we shouldn’t drink coke. Some do drink coke. Some haven’t made their mind up.
- Some are vegetarians or vegans. Some eat meat.
- Some people wear crucifixes. Some don’t. Some don’t really worry about them.
- Some think women should be ordained to the priesthood. Some are completely opposed to such a thought. Again, some are somewhere in the middle. I separate this thought from the earlier one concerning feminists, as one does not necessarily follow the other.
- Some believe without question all that is said at general conference by the Brethren. They feel anything else leads to apostasy. Some question, study and pray, to get a conviction about what has been said. Some are somewhere in the middle.
And this is where the problems of determining “truth” that President Uchtdorf mentioned can occur. There can be a feeling that because the Brethren said something at one time or another about something, that that thing should always be that way. Well, I think we only have to look at the history of the church and we can realise that policies, programs and even doctrine can and do change over time and circumstances. Isn’t that why, the Lord, in section one of the Doctrine and Covenants, described the church as a “living church“, because living things are not stagnant, but change, develop and grow over time?
Isn’t this also what the 9th Article of Faith is talking about: “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
If we think the restoration is complete and over and done with, we may be in for a big surprise one day. And I’m not just speaking about policy, such as we had in missionary ages changing. We had a change in doctrine and policy in 1978 and will, no doubt, have one again. I don’t know what about or when. If we’re not open hearted enough to accept further change, we may be in for a struggle when it does come.
In the same talked just quoted, President Uchtdorf continued: “But how can we know that this “truth” is different from any other? How can
we trust this “truth”?
“The invitation to trust the Lord does not relieve us from the responsibility to know for ourselves. This is more than an opportunity; it is an obligation—and it is one of the reasons we were sent to this earth.
“Latter-day Saints are not asked to blindly accept everything they hear. We are encouraged to think and discover truth for ourselves. We are expected to ponder, to search, to evaluate, and thereby to come to a personal knowledge of the truth.
“Brigham Young said: I am . . . afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self-security. . . . Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves, whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates.
“We seek for truth wherever we may find it. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that:
“Mormonism is truth. . . . The first and fundamental principle of our holy religion is, that we believe that we have a right to embrace all, and every item of truth, without limitation or . . . being . . . prohibited by the creeds or superstitious notions of men.”
So, we have to discover what is right for ourselves. This, of course, can be scary.
What if someone discovers something different for themselves from us? It is not up to us to judge or become intolerant of someone’s differing views or differing revelation that they may have experienced. We are all learning and developing. We each do so at different paces. Perhaps one of the biggest areas of development is loving each other unconditionally.
Why did I mention those areas of difference earlier? Because there are so, so many other differences, these are some obvious differences people have to consider. Are they important? Yes. Absolutely. All differences are important and to be respected. You may not agree with me. I may not agree with you.
That is fine. So long as we don’t classify each other as a sinner for feeling and even acting differently. as was mentioned in a comment in Sunday school last week, my sin is between me and my God. Your sin is between you and your God. As President Uchtdorf said, quoting the words on a car bumper sticker: “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.”
I would paraphrase: “Don’t judge me because I believe differently than you.”
I use the word “believe” deliberately. Sometimes I think the impression is given that we all must “know” or there is something not quite right with our testimony. Some of us do only believe certain things. And that is okay. Isn’t that why in the Doctrine and Covenants in section 46:13-14, the Lord said:
“To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.”
As Elder Ballard has said: “… sometimes we … disagree …, but we can do so without being disagreeable.”
We all need open hearts and minds, to learn from each other, to discover new things. I’m so grateful for promptings to learn more about life, as it is not made up of simple yes and no choices. A few years back, in 2007, Elder Dallin H. Oaks talked of choosing between “good, better and best“. What is good for me, may be best for you. What is good for you, may be better or best for me. Or visa versa. Or any other combination of those.
Elder Russell M Ballard, in October 2001 general conference, gave a talk titled “Doctrine of Inclusion“. Whilst Elder Ballard was speaking about
members of the church’s relationship to those who are not members, surely his message is equally, if not more, relevant to us all here today towards each other. He said: “Perceptions and assumptions can be very dangerous and unfair. There are some of our members who may fail to reach out with friendly smiles, warm handshakes, and loving service to all … At the same time, there may be those who move into our neighborhoods who are not of our faith who come with negative preconceptions about the Church and its members. Surely good neighbors should put forth every effort to understand each other and to be kind to one another regardless of religion, nationality, race, or culture.
Occasionally I hear of members offending … others by overlooking them and leaving them out. This can occur especially in communities where our members are the majority. I have heard about narrow-minded parents who tell children that they cannot play with a particular child in the neighborhood simply because his or her family does not belong to our Church. This kind of behavior is not in keeping with the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. I cannot comprehend why any member of our Church would allow these kinds of things to happen. I have never taught—nor have I ever heard taught—a doctrine of exclusion. I have never heard the members of this Church urged to be anything but loving, kind, tolerant, and benevolent to our friends and neighbors of other faiths. The Lord expects a great deal from us. Parents, please teach your children and practice yourselves the principle of inclusion of others and not exclusion because of religious, political, or cultural differences.
“Each of us is an individual. Each of us is different. There must be respect for those differences. …”
I particularly feel relevant the paragraph where President Hinckley is quoted:
“… We must work harder to build mutual respect, an attitude of forbearance, with tolerance one for another regardless of the doctrines and philosophies which we may espouse. Concerning these you and I may disagree. But we can do so with respect and civility” “(Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley , 661, 665)
As I said, whilst Elder Ballard was talking about members of the church’s relationship to those who are not members, surely his message is equally, if not more, relevant to us all here today towards each other, toward those of our family, towards others we know, as members of our Ward, Stake and Church at large.
Did the Saviour judge others during His ministry? On occasion he did, describing the Pharisees and others, in not particularly pleasant language.
However, most of us do not have the discernment the Saviour had and He has told us not to judge. I particularly like His response when the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Him. Not only did He not judge the woman, but neither did He judge or condemn the Pharisees. After the woman was pushed in front of Him, he was quiet for some time. He paused. He didn’t react, as we might when confronted with an angry person or group of people. He sat down and wrote on the ground. Then he responded. He didn’t tell them they were wrong. He didn’t condemn them. He simply asked them a question:
“who amoungst you is without sin, let him cast the first stone.”
He didn’t condemn the woman either. Waiting until the crowd had dispersed, He simply said “go and sin no more.” As the Son of God, he was entitled to use the words “sin no more“. Are we? I’m not sure we are regarding others.
In October 2003 General Conference, Elder Holland quoted Joseph Smith:
“Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive. … God does not look on sin with [the least degree of] allowance, but … the nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs.”
Let us all, as far as we are able, be merciful to each other, to all we meet.Some will not like what I’m saying today. Some will absolutely like what I’m saying. Again, some will be in the middle somewhere. Perhaps the majority will be somewhere in the middle. Some may think I’m advocating a policy that anything goes. That is not the case. The Lord has laid out the plan of salvation and happiness for us. It is up to each of us to follow that as best we each can. It is not up to us to point out where we may think another person may be lacking. If we are not sure about something we must feel able to approach others to ask questions and not to feel judged, condemned or put down.
Whether we’re discussing which television programmes or DVDs we watch, the clothes we wear, the places we visit, the haircut or style we have, the makeup we wear or don’t, the jewellery we wear or piercings we have, these are all things we may have an opinion on. We may even base such opinions on our reading of what the Brethren have said, or our interpretation of the scriptures. Whatever we base our views on, if someone else does things differently to us, we should not judge them in any way, that is really between them and their Lord God and their Saviour.
As I mentioned earlier, 37 years ago, I was being taught by the missionaries, attending Church and was baptised on the 15th December 1976. I am
grateful that no one, not the missionaries who taught me, not my then bishop, or my elders quorum president or anyone else in the Ward told me, or asked me or even suggested, I should shave my beard off, get my hair cut or take out my one earring or wear a suit and a white shirt. I did those things, bit by bit, over time, as prompted by the Spirit and as the money was available. Did it make me a better person by doing those things? Some may think it did. I’m not really sure. The Spirit does bring the greatest and most lasting change.
We can all be made to feel guilty over something and then feel pressured into making some change in our lives. But, when the prompting for change comes from the Spirit, that change will most likely be greater and more long lasting and real.
Another talk from President Uchtdorf, from October 2009 General Conference:
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
“This is the essence of what it means to be a true disciple: those who receive Christ Jesus walk with Him.
“But this may present a problem for some because there are so many “shoulds” and “should nots” that merely keeping track of them can be a
challenge. Sometimes, well-meaning amplifications of divine principles—many coming from uninspired sources—complicate matters further, diluting the purity of divine truth with man-made addenda. One person’s good idea—something that may work for him or her—takes root and becomes an expectation. And gradually, eternal principles can get lost within the labyrinth of “good ideas.”
“This was one of the Savior’s criticisms of the religious “experts” of His day, whom He chastised for attending to the hundreds of minor details of the law while neglecting the weightier matters.
“So how do we stay aligned with these weightier matters? Is there a constant compass that can help us prioritize our lives, thoughts, and actions?
“Once again the Savior revealed the way. When asked to name the greatest commandment, He did not hesitate. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,” He said. “This is the first and great commandment.” Coupled with the second great commandment—to love our neighbor as ourselves —we have a compass that provides direction not only for our lives but also for the Lord’s Church on both sides of the veil.
“Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood. Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.
“When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden.”
I think in many ways our heavenly parents, are in the middle of most things, where we, as imperfect beings, may think in extremes. I really don’t believe God is an extremist or that He wants us to live the letter of the law. Whether we are at one extremist end of a point of view or at the other end, or somewhere in the middle let us have respect for differing points of view and behaviour. Let us love each other fully. Yes, let us have discussions about such difference in thought, behaviour and being. Let us each share our point of views. Let us, though, fully accept the other person or groups, right, and yes, I use the word “right” on purpose, for is that not what agency is about, the right to have a different view for yourself, to feel free to question things.
Is this not what the 11th Article of Faith means: “We/I claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our/my own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.”
President Uchtdorf expressed the same at the most recent general conference, October 2013, when he said:
“Some struggle with unanswered questions about things that have been done or said in the past. We openly acknowledge that in nearly 200 years of Church history—along with an uninterrupted line of inspired, honorable, and divine events—there have been some things said and done that could cause people to question.
“Sometimes questions arise because we simply don’t have all the information and we just need a bit more patience. When the entire truth is eventually known, things that didn’t make sense to us before will be resolved to our satisfaction. Sometimes there is a difference of opinion as to what the “facts” really mean. A question that creates doubt in some can, after careful investigation, build faith in others.”
There is no sin in doubting or questioning!!
President Uchtdorf in April 2012 General Conference, also said:
“This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:
“It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His
children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters.”
Sister Cetti Cherniak, in a talk entitled: “The Theology of Desire” expressed her thoughts that empathy is the solution to all such differences:
“In our well-meaning efforts to thwart evil, we have blunted our awareness of physical and emotional sensation; and yet, paradoxically, it is from this very physical-emotional awareness that all ethical behaviour springs, for only to the extent we connect with our own feelings are we able to connect with those of others. Social psychologists remind us that the roots of morality are to be found in empathy, since it is empathizing with the potential victims and so sharing their distress that moves people to act with altruism. Empathy is the essence of the mothering instinct; a mother who is bonded to her infant feels on some deep level what he feels and so can meet his needs. Empathy – not sympathy, which sets one person apart from and above another, but empathy, which dissolves ego boundaries – can also be considered the root of friendship. In its power to unite two souls, it could even be considered the essence of romantic love. In erotic love, empathy reaches its highest expression, as, ideally, our pleasure depends on one another’s pleasure. Our consciences themselves can be said to depend on a sense that not only have we hurt or helped others in some way, but that we have hurt our Father’s feelings or given him great pleasure. Only with empathy can we keep the spirit of the two greatest commandments, and of our baptismal covenant to “mourn with those who mourn.” Only with compassion, a true feeling – with, will we know how to offer felicitous comfort to those who stand in need of comfort.”
When people feel understood they are more likely to listen and understand another point of view, even though they may not actually change their view on something. An example being, those who oppose same-sex marriage often find it hard to listen to the thoughts of those who do support it. And it can be the same the other way too, that those who support same-sex marriage find it difficult to listen to those who oppose it. As each side listens to the other, with a desire to really understand, hearts will be more at one, even if there is no agreement on the subject. This applies to all of the areas of difference I mentioned earlier and many, many more. We can learn from each other. Think for a moment of someone you really like or love. You may love them for their passions, quirks, sense of humour, shared experiences, and more. If we separate our care of a person from their thoughts, beliefs and desires, is that to love a person not for him or herself, who they are, but merely to love a person for being a member of the human race? Can you imagine a more meaningless or shallow form of “love”?
Surely, we love not in spite of the other persons idiosyncrasies, quirks, differences or peculiarities, but because of them.
Let us love each other with a full unconditional Christlike love. Let us love each other here, those who are not here, those in our families, those in our nurseries, schools, colleges, universities, places of employment, neighbourhoods, let us love everyone.
Didn’t Joseph Smith say something about, overlook my sins and I’ll overlook yours???
This is a great and wonderful ward. We have much diversity here. I feel though that there is more diversity awaiting us. Let us prepare for such now. There should and can be more people here, of all types of diversity, joining with us in seeking to love as the Saviour.
In John chapter one, Philip is telling Nathanael about the Messiah. Nathanael, reflecting on the Saviour’s birthplace replies: “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Do we ever think similarly, that nothing good can come out of – substitute any part, area or community within the ward geographical boundaries. Substitute any area you may have negative thoughts about.
Do we ever similarly think no good can come out of certain individuals? Perhaps they smoke or drink or behave in other ways we may feel
inappropriate for members of the Church. Does that mean they cannot do good? Of course not. Our heavenly parents can and do work good, wonderful and amazing things through people who do all sorts of things, both in and out of the church. Let us remember the ward theme, to never suppress a generous thought. Let us avoid judging others’ circumstances, rather let us have continuous generous thoughts for and towards each other here and everyone we meet who is not here, whether in or out of the church. Let us give help to and receive help from everyone, regardless of their circumstances.
A final quote, from Thomas Merton, a Catholic mystic and monk: “The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist them to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
As I mentioned earlier Brigham Young said we should ask God if our leaders are telling us the truth, to not blindly accept what they say. I say the same to you today. I’m not expecting you to accept what I’m saying today or at any other time, just because I’ve been called as the bishop of this ward. Whether you agree or not with what I’m saying, when you get home, go and ask God, whether you should accept what I’m saying or not. I’d be interested in the answers received.
Now, of course, no one is really able to do not judge others continuously. We, including myself, will mess up in not judging others. That is part of what the Atonement is about. As we seek the Saviour’s help in not judging, in extending mercy to others, I believe, we will mess up less. And we will warrant the Saviour’s forgiveness for the times we do mess up.
May our heavenly parents strengthen us in loving unconditionally, I pray, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.