Sunday, October 16, 2011
Missing the Point: The Long-Toe'd Saints
I left church today a little frustrated. Anyone who has been a bishop before understands that one of the "perks" of serving in that calling is that you tend to know what is going on with most of your ward members - for good - or ill. And after a few years, you get used to knowing. Then, after you get released, you are in an informational vacuum, which can be a great relief, but also a little disconcerting. Today it was disconcerting.
In HP group meeting, we were informed that one of the brethren's parents had passed away, and the funeral had already been held, another brother had been in the hospital for a week, and would soon be coming home, and another had an ill wife. In each case the information was either released belatedly, very vague, or accompanied with the caveat that they didn't want any visitors or need any help.
As we were trying to figure out what we could do as a quorum, a distinct phrase came up: "we don't want to step on anyone's toes." Repeatedly.
Do you want to know what I think? Not really? I'm gonna tell you anyway: There are too many members of the church who need shorter toes. Apparently their toes are so long, and so sensitive, that the rest of the ward members have to be very careful to avoid stepping on them.
Yes we are all entitled to our privacy.
No, we don't need to know every personal detail that is going on in each other's lives.
No, we don't need to be nosy or gossipy.
But... indulge me while I tell you a story.
When I was a missionary, my mom was the one that wrote to me. Faithfully. Then, with no explanation, I went three weeks without a letter from home. I figured it was just the mail service, until I got a letter that I immediately recognized as my father's handwriting. This was probably the second time he had ever written to me. It made me nervous.
He began the letter with basic chit-chat, then casually mentioned that 'mom was doing much better', and that 'she is home now' and that 'we almost lost her'. By this point I was losing it. He then went on to detail the medical condition that almost took her life. He concluded by telling me that he wanted to wait until things were "resolved" so as to not distract me from my service. In his pure, honest view, he was sparing me the worry.
I was furious. In my next letter home I simply said "it would have been nice to be able to pray and fast, and exercise faith in my own mother's behalf - but I couldn't because nobody told me what was going on!"
What's my point?
I'll let Alma make it for me:
When he was baptizing at the waters of Mormon, he explained that part of the obligation put upon those who covenant to be baptized is that we "are willing to bear one another's burdens. that they may be made light. Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort..." (Mosiah 18:8-9)
So please explain to me how are we supposed to do that if everybody is so busy keeping things quiet? It seems to me that it is a two way street - to be able to fulfill this covenant we need to be willing to bear one another's burdens, and also let other's help bear our burdens. How am I supposed to help comfort the afflicted if I don't hear about it until after the affliction is resolved?
How can I pray for you? Fast for you? Exercise faith for you? Serve you?
It seems that there are two conflicting messages that are part of our teachings: 1) Be self-sufficient, 2) Bear one another's burdens. The problem is, people are often so good at #1, they don't open the door to let #2 happen in their lives. Also, we are often great at helping other people in need, but refuse to let people aid us - and then people have to tip-toe around worrying about stepping on our toes. That's only living half the gospel.
If you dig down deep enough, I think it all comes down to pride. Pride stands in the way of our letting our brothers and sisters see us at our worst - effectively denying them - and us - the opportunity to practice the gospel the way the Savior, and Alma taught. Those who would serve us are not blessed, and we reject the blessings of their service.
It takes two to tango... so watch your toes...