Wednesday, June 26, 2013

This Church is All About Love

The Mormon church found itself under the harsh spotlight of national scrutiny during the 2012 presidential campaign. Most of the scrutiny involved people who were curious and, for the first time in their lives, wanted to know what Mormons believed, why they believed, how they lived, and so on.

Some of the scrutiny came from people who had already made up their minds about the Mormons, and were looking for evidence to support their preconceptions. One of these false notions is the idea that Mormon men hold onto power in the church by keeping the priesthood for themselves and by maintaining a strict hierarchy.

Because the church doesn't have a paid clergy, members serve voluntarily and without pay in leadership positions. Members do not campaign or lobby for positions; rather, they are asked, or "called," to serve in these positions after considerable prayer and meditation by their leaders. They are expected to serve for only a few months or a few years in any given position.

I have served for three years in the leadership councils of our local stake - a collection of congregations, similar to a Catholic diocese. In all the stake councils and meetings that I have attended, I have been constantly impressed at how the focus is always on the individuals in the stake, how the leaders of the stake know them all by name, and how much they love them.

They love these people with the pure love that Christ had for the Samaritan woman at the well, for the woman taken in adultery, for the woman who touched the hem of his robe as he walked by, and for his beloved friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The leaders of the Mormon church, all these men in their business suits, white shirts and ties, wielding the priesthood of God, are motivated by only one thing: love.

Power has nothing to do with it. Here is an illustration of the love that motivates these men.

In a recent meeting of the local stake, over 1200 people gathered to see a new stake president installed. The night before the meeting, a woman in the stake had her feelings deeply hurt by some other women in the stake.

I'm certain that the offenders did not mean to offend. In fact, I'm certain that they didn't even know that they had hurt this woman. Nobody is to blame; they did not know her situation, and had they known, I'm sure that they would have held their tongues. There is no need to confront them or hold them accountable.

However it happened, this poor sister went home on Saturday night so hurt that she could not bring herself to attend the meeting the next day. She had wanted to participate in the program, to show her honor and love for the outgoing stake president; but instead, she stayed home.

She did not make a big deal out of it. But her absence was noted, a friend made inquiries, and word of her hurt made its way quietly - and confidentially - and swiftly - to the very top of  the stake. The leaders made arrangements to quietly visit this woman in her home, and to make sure that she knew firsthand of their love for her.

Do you remember what Jesus said to the woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe as he walked by? "Daughter, be of good comfort." And do you remember what Jesus said about giving alms to the poor? "Let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." Without fanfare or publicity, these leaders simply "[go] about doing good," following the example of their Master, Him for whom the church is named.

You see, "Mormon" is just a nickname. The true name of the Mormon church is "The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints."

Stay tuned.

No comments: