Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Removing the Masks We Wear to Church

In Mormon Masks (Mormon Matters), Hawkgrrrl describes social masks and discusses how that concept is applicable at church. She then asks:

"Is this a particular problem in the Church?"

The following is my response:

Absolutely, but it’s a problem in any organization or society. It is the “natural (wo)man” - a self-protection mechanism that is as ingrained into humanity as any other natural inclination. Our particular challenge in church, I believe, is to recognize it as such and rise above it - to change it (repent) by an active exercise of will. (to act and not to be acted upon)

The “fault” is two-edged: 1) those in the majority who actively reject the minority for believing things differently; 2) those in the minority who hide themselves and passively reject the majority for believing things differently. In the end, it really is the same action - and the justification on each side is also the same. Each type tends to blame the other, and neither type tends to take the initiative to change the natural situation.

In “Concern for the One”, Elder Wirthlin articulated clearly that some leave active participation and lose faith because they act, think or feel different than others - and he told the majority that it was their responsibility to love and accept the minority for who they are, NOT for who the majority might naturally want them to be. He said that every voice (every instrument) needs to be heard, NOT that every member should learn to play the piccolo (or piano - *grin*).

I believe we will become Zion only as we let go of the need to wear masks - and I believe the primary responsibility for this lies not with those who feel different but with those from whom they feel different. Yes, the "one" needs to be engaged actively, but the "ninety and nine" need to love and accept the "one" for that to happen. The biggest problem in this regard within the Church is NOT the gay member, or the illegal immigrant member, or the politically different member, or the bearded member, or the colored-shirt and no tie member, ad infinitum. The biggest problem is the fact that those distinctions are drawn in a way that excludes those members from the fellowship of oneness with the saints. Although those who are excluded might share a portion of responsibility for being excluded, as often as not the primary responsibility lies with those who do the excluding.

I believe ALL of us wear a mask of some kind that covers varying degrees of our true selves from others. Before we condemn or even judge others in any way, we need to remove our own masks, become vulnerable and experience the fear others feel on a regular basis. I think if we do that the tendency to judge and condemn and drive others away will disappear - and we will have a chance at truly building Zion.


adamf said...

Fantastic post. You are a true asset to the church Ray.

Nora Ray said...

I sure wish you were in our branch. Wonderful post!

Paul said...

Here's a distinction that needs recognizing by the majority.

Tolerance is not a temporary condition. When people I know discuss this issue they they imply that unique members should be welcomed in order to give them time to conform. It is viewed as a missionary obligation--show the freaks and doubters we accept them as they are, and eventually they'll give up their freakish doubting. Yeah, well that sounds pretty freakin' doubtful to me!

Papa D said...

I agree with the sentiment, Paul, completely, but I would phrase it a bit differently.

I think there is a difference between "tolerance" and "acceptance" - and I said the majority needs to "love and accept" those who are different somehow, NOT "tolerate" them. Tolerating does include connotations of expectations and conditions; acceptance carries no such connotations.

I'm not saying we need to tolerate others who are different; I'm saying we need to recognize that ALL OF US are different in some way, so all of us need to accept those differences - even if they never change.

Elder Wirthlin's message was not one of tolerance; it was one of acceptance and unconditional love.

adamf said...

To put it in a different way Paul, Carl Rogers said that people can only change once they have been accepted as they are. Perhaps "change" and "conforming" aren't necessarily the same thing, but I do think if our meetings were generally more accepting of diversity, more people would come, and experience positive change.

I think it was originally from GenCon a few years ago, but my SP reiterated it as well, that if our chapel doesn't smell like cigarette smoke, we aren't doing our job. Obviously he's not asking for more smokers, but that has been helpful to keep in mind when someone comes in without a tie, or tattoos, etc. etc.

Christy said...

"If our chapel does not smell like cigarette smoke, we are not doing our job" Boy, I like that. I learn so much from you and your readers, Ray.

Stephen said...

We need to realize that we can be loved even though ALL OF US are different in some way.

That is when we will stop wearing masks.