Defending the Faith

[ 18 ] Comments

by RI Editors

Recently there was a great pants protest. Some people didn’t like something so they wore pants to protest. Then other people didn’t like those people wearing pants, or even talking about wearing pants so they said some not nice things. Both sides were intense in their reactions, neither of which seemed very compatible with solving any problem.

Why is it that we care so much what another person in the church thinks, does, or wears on their body to the point of exemplifying exactly the opposite of what we hold dear? (Assuming that we all hold our relationship with Christ dear to us.)

Do we have an obligation to defend the truth, as we see it? And how far should we go in defending it?

18 Responses to Defending the Faith

  1. Paul says:

    Seems like President Packer’s counsel to teach doctrine rather than behavior holds here. Less focus on what people do. More focus on what we can become.

    The first great commandment is to love God. The second is to love one another. Not sure where defending my version of the truth fits into that list, but I’m pretty sure it’s below #2.

  2. Bonnie says:

    Hmm. Interesting thought, defending the faith. I wonder if the faith needs our defense sometimes. Seems to me Jesus slipped into the crowd when there was either too much adulation or acrimony. The first thing he did when returning to the Lehites, after assuring them that he would stand there as long as they wanted to let them come to him, was to clarify doctrine so they could release their contention. I wonder what would happen if we just proactively released our contention? I have a genuinely hard time with taking people on who disagree. It seems such a waste of time. What is gained by winning the argument? The truth is never affected by our attitudes about it. I am genuinely annoyed when my choices are co-opted by this movement or that. In a heartbeat I would wear pants to Church to help someone feel more comfortable. I am genuinely annoyed that that behavior which had its loving meaning for me would then be loaded with all the cultural baggage of those who want to make a point. It’s all about people. Everything in this life is about overcoming the world and helping people. It is not now, nor has it ever been about being right. God is right. Bah.

  3. Cheryl says:

    Bonnie, I think that’s the confusion all the time. I fall into that trap constantly –thinking that God needs me to defend Him, as if without my loud voice declaring doctrine, He’ll somehow lose or change.

    Reminds me about most things people get riled up over in “defense of the faith.” TV shows and Broadway plays, articles in the WP and protests outside of the conference center –and how do the Apostles react? They teach/preach doctrine to the world, but they ignore those that would draw away attention from that doctrine. I think we (ahem –I ) need to take a page out of their playbook and apply it better. What do we defend and how do we defend it? Knee-jerk reactions usually always fall short of truth.

  4. I’ve just been listening to the Gospels on CD. Christ always speaks to the universal truth when the Pharisees are trying to trick him. He doesn’t involve himself in their plan to foil him–ever. He just gives an overarching principle of the Gospel that can’t be argued with. I love this idea and will try to follow it myself.

  5. Angie says:

    As an attorney, I can see how easy it is to get locked in battle mode. It can often happen when we feel attacked or beaten down. People will ask me if it is “worth it” to sue this person or that entity. I always tell them that any money they could conceivably win must be weighed against the psychic costs of entering battle mode for an indeterminate period of time. It eats at you, it can poison your relationships and it is devilishly addictive and difficult to emerge unscathed. I see battle mode gone awry in these kinds of situations involving pants and other protests. It is so easy to think we are being altruistic, crusading for truth and righteousness and that feeling is intoxicating. But the minute we begin to fight something, anything, we risk losing the Spirit we need ever so much more than ever being “right.” It is natural to want to fight when we are hurt, when someone we love is hurt. But isn’t “natural” what we’re really supposed to be fighting against?

  6. Laura says:

    When what others do grates on me, I often feel guilty because I feel like I’m judging. But when I really think about it, I am sad for them because I love them and I know that there is something they are not understanding correctly. You’ve probably heard that anger is a secondary response, and that is what I see when people say not-so-nice things. Deep down, I think they are sad for the very people they are reproving, and when they do it in an unkind way, that makes me sad for them. So in a way, it is really all about love, but in our human way we have messed it all up.
    Another possible reason people get angry is because they feel defensive, as if what others do is questioning their beliefs. Sometimes it is the ones with the shakiest faith that are troubled the most, and suddenly their small testimony becomes a tool of the Devil when they lash out in fear and self-righteousness.
    So when people do something that shows a lack of understanding, first, I like to give them the benefit of the doubt, that perhaps there’s been something in their life that I am unaware of that is behind the actions. I feel sad for their misunderstanding, but I try being an example, by continuing to live as well as I know how according to what the prophets have taught, and only offering (hopefully doctrinally sound) advice if and when it is solicited. As much as I would love to teach and testify to them, I don’t think it would do any good until they are ready to hear it, and ultimately I think it should be left up to those who have stewardship over them –namely, the leaders of the Church, not some faceless joe on a comment thread. Those that I know personally, I hope they can feel my love for them regardless of their choices, and pray that they will eventually come to a better understanding.
    If I feel it questions my faith, then I get to work studying and praying to strengthen my own understanding and testimony of the truth.

    • Nancy says:

      Thanks to all of you. I also did not participate in the debate as I have visited many poor areas with faithful members who wear their “best” to church what ever that may be. I can not be a judge.
      I do wish there would be more understanding all over the Church of those who are different. Give them the benefit of the doubt. You do not know what is hidden in their hearts.

  7. Lisa says:

    I did not participate in either side of this debate. However, I believe people have the right to express their feelings and thoughts and sometimes objections, but I believe Sacrament Meeting is not the place for a protest.

    As far as defending the Faith, the only times I feel it necessary to defend the Faith is to set peoples misconceptions straight….Always defenders of Truth.

  8. Ramona Gordy says:

    Is defending the “Faith” representative of defending a perceived misconception concerning the Church? Or is the defense of the faith/truth on a personal level? What would Jesus do?

    What is the perspective of this “defense”?. When we “stand” for the Savior, at all times and in all places…, does this constitute a “defense”, or does it represent our firm foundation of the truth of Jesus Christ? In this, shall we stand “immovable”? Is this “stand” an aggressive stand or a passive stand, and in standing are we defending?

    If a group decides to “fall away” from the faith, but continue to attend meetings; they have an agenda and like “those who have gone among us, as wolves in sheep’s clothing”, how do we stop them, how do we protect those who may be weak in the faith from “falling away” with them?

    What do the scriptures say, at the most simple and basic level? Galatians 6:1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a trespass; you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.

    What happens if the situation becomes more complex? Or in that really simple verse in Galatians we follow those guidelines in a spirit of meekness, will the need to “defend” resolve itself?

    This is hard, our natural man’s tendency is to “fight” the good fight, to take out our swords and like Peter, cut off the ear of the guard of the Pharisee’s because he was the perceived enemy. What did Jesus do? He picked up the ear of that man, maybe blew off the dust and placed it back on his head, and restored him, hearing and all. Maybe he said, your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.

    Good counsel: Romans 12:19 Beloved do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord.
    Maybe we don’t need to “defend” the Faith/Truth, but stand on it, rooted and grounded with our hearts filled with love.

  9. MSKeller says:

    I have no problem with others speaking their mind, or doing what their heart dictates, until it trods on my ability to worship in the way I’ve covenanted to do so. When people decide that the most sacred meeting of the our church-life (Sacrament meeting) is the place to bring in their own disquiet, it will trod on my ability to worship. That is where I draw the line. I don’t use unkind words, but I will not hesitate to share my feelings. Let others decide what they will, but I also have the right to share what the unintended consequences of chosen actions may be and let them consider that.

    If I want to do wxy, but never think that Z will naturally follow, it would be a blessing for someone to point that out to me and allow me to consider if I still wish to follow through. I may, or I may not, but at least now I have that choice.

    If discussion is carried out in the spirit of love and respect, we can still disagree. I don’t have to be agreed with, but I do wish to be understood in a conversation. I expect that is what many want at their core.

  10. Jettboy says:

    As a person who is known for fighting in defending, its not that I care to win the argument. My concern is for those who might think there is only one side to an argument because no one is defending. It goes back to the saying “evil wins when good men (and women) do (or say) nothing.” People hating me doesn’t bother me. Seeing nothing done when something should be does.

    • Bonnie says:

      How do you feel about others who defend the faith differently than you do? I can imagine that almost everyone who speaks up does so because he/she believes his/her perspective is not represented in the range of ideas. That’s a good thing, I’m sure, having a whole spectrum of ideas to choose from. The problem with -ites of opinion (IMO) is that they’re unnecessarily polarizing and distract from larger ideals and more important efforts. I don’t challenge the need for the spectrum; I often feel that we share our perspectives in ways that are piggybacked with Satan’s influence (our own “philosophies of men mingled with scripture.”) I don’t think the faith needs defended if we have to shed the tone of our faith to do it.

      • Jettboy says:

        “How do you feel about others who defend the faith differently than you do?”
        Not sure exactly what you mean, but I will answer the way I think you mean. There is nothing wrong with others defending the faith differently than I do. Most of the time when others are doing the defending I stay out of the way. Its the times when I see little or no defending (or there is a part of the argument that I feel is missing) that I step in. The whole reason I started blogging in the first place was I saw close to zero “orthodox” on the bloggernacle. That has changed slightly.

        “I don’t think the faith needs defended if we have to shed the tone of our faith to do it.”
        First define the tone of our faith. There is a whole lot of examples and teachings that the tone can choose from. Even Jesus called people names when saying something nice wasn’t going to be of any use. Not that I am saying call people names, but its not always out of the question so long as its accurate to an intended message.

      • Bonnie says:

        A difficult line to dance, though, isn’t it? In the marketplace of ideas (and it is a marketplace, not a church, with all the pitfalls of exchanging ideas for advantage and power), it so quickly devolves. Jesus had the right, as executor of everyone’s salvation, to call people out. I think it’s one thing to present a perspective that we feel is lacking and another to criticize another’s perspective, to be sure that ours is the correct perspective. How many people during Jesus’ visit to the Lehites were sure their perspective was the correct one? I struggle with this. On one hand, I do think we need to address what we see as an absence of balance, but on the other I genuinely believe that the goal is unity. I don’t know how to do that the world’s way. I think it’s impossible to strive through debate and accomplish unity. If we adopt the values and methods of a church of ideas instead of a marketplace of ideas I think we will get there, even if we end up agreeing to disagree with some.

  11. Ali says:

    Just because we haven’t experienced the hurt or pain someone else has in the Church, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I have had some very difficult experiences in the not so recent past with priesthood leaders exercising extreme unrighteous dominion over me. I know this isn’t the Lord’s way and isn’t the gospel, and I never have gotten bitter or wanted to leave the church. But I did stop going for a while because of it.

    I know why those women wore pants. There are some cultural things in the church I really wish would change. I empathize with my sisters who wore pants (I wore my most feminine skirt that day :), I know where they are coming from. The priesthood is an honor and a tool for service. It’s not to dominate or think they are better than anyone. I don’t want the priesthood, I don’t want to be in charge, but I do want my daughter to have the same opportunities my boys do. I do want her YW medallion to be as much of an honor as my boys Eagle Scout. I do want my daughter to be taught the doctrine instead of how to write a missionary in Young Women (thankfully the new curriculum does that). I do want her to be encouraged to get an education, and serve a mission and to not be told her only worth comes in being married young and having children (although there is great worth in that too).

    • NotMolly says:

      Ali: yep! 🙂

      I do get very frustrated when I find myself in the position of needing to hold a faithful line *against* “Mormon Corridor” culture, when it’s in direct conflict with the actual gospel. Increasing legalistic trends make me very sad; it seems like the knee-jerk reaction to increasingly chaotic “wordly” society is to attempt to crack down and over-define so many tiny details within the church—and then get ugly with anyone who doesn’t toe the imaginary line Corridor Culture has decided to create.

      And I do want to defend those who are being abused; it’s a matter of living as closely tuned as possible to individual inspiration through the Spirit to decide when, where, and how to do that. Most of the time, it’s going to be quiet. Sometimes, it really can be appropriate to be more visible and vocal. Only the Spirit can help guide that.

      I find some of the manufactured drama in the Mormon Corridor very disturbing; pretty much everywhere else in the world, LDS people are too busy living the gospel to bother about fussing over how “best” someone’s Sunday Best is.

      • Ali says:

        The interesting thing is I do live outside the Mormon corridor and it is still happening. Sigh.

        The thing is I am a well educated woman. I know the doctrine, I know the difference between culture and doctrine and apparently I am intimidating. The thing I was “disciplined” for was totally cultural and I was questioning why the scouts get to fundraise in church and the YW don’t. Why do they get to do high adventure and we don’t? Why do they make a big freaking deal out of the Eagle Scout and not the YW medallion? I have 4 sons, it’s not like I don’t like scouting or eagle courts, but why the heck is it this way???? I was told my recommend was in jeopardy if I continued to question.

  12. h_nu says:

    The pants/priesthood/lactavists are all emotionally unhealthy.

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