Monday, April 8, 2013

Different People Need Different Messages Delivered in Different Ways

If there is one part of our Mormon "culture" I would smash to pieces in a heartbeat if I could, it is the idea that we have to be "perfect" (meaning mistake free) or constantly focused on our mistakes.  I believe in repentance deeply, but, as I've said elsewhere, there are two aspects of repentance: the redeeming one that covers our sins and the enabling one that covers our weaknesses and unconscious transgressions and so much that causes so many such grief. 

The idea that we really are good enough but simply need to try to do a little better as we go through life was one of Pres. Hinckley's central messages. Unfortunately, for those who naturally have a perfection complex (which is a fairly good-sized percent of all groups) - and for those who had a distorted version of perfection pounded into them (which includes many members of the Church) . . . it can be hard to believe the magnitude of what Christ has done for us already.

It really is a balance, however - and it's really easy for many people to overlook that. People collectively tend to gravitate to the extremes ("The Church is a soulless cult" vs. "All is well in Zion" - or "I am fine just the way I am, thank you, so quit telling me I need to try to be better" vs. "I'm a horrible person and never will be good enough" - etc.) - so teaching a message that works to motivate people at both extremes and everywhere in between them is really hard.

Frankly, I think that's one reason why different apostles and Prophets have different personalities and perspectives - so everyone can hear someone "speak to them personally". For example, in General Conference this weekend, there were multiple talks about obedience and keeping the commandments - but each person addressed that principle in different ways.  I really loved one of them, was somewhat ambivalent about another one and just didn't "feel" a third one much at all.  I know that bothers some people, but I appreciate it - even when I hear something that just doesn't move me in any real way or even grates to some degree.  There also were multiple statements in General Conference that stressed the importance of accepting others who are different than we are, and it was applied to people both inside and outside the LDS Church.  What moves us through "the spoken word" is part of that. 

It makes it hard for people to listen to someone preaching to "the others" - but, at least, the others do get to hear their message, as well. It's when someone is in the group that hears "the other message" more often than "my message" that it gets most difficult.

Recognizing that both messages are being taught, conflicting though they might be, helps.


Anonymous said...

and yet we are told this cafeteria mormon approach is wrong.

Papa D said...

No, the message of this post wasn't addressed at all in General Conference - and I wouldn't expect it to be. This post isn't about "cafeteria Mormonism" at all; it's about people needing to hear the same things addressed in different ways. Those are two very different things.

What was said in General Conference is that we shouldn't pick and choose which of God's commandments to obey - and I agree with that, with the caveat that I need to obey whatever I believe personally is a commandment from God and not everything that I believe is a man-made rule. That's a tricky, scary thing, and I approach it with a bit of fear and trembling - but it's an important principle for me.

Also, we heard over and over again this weekend that we need to stop equating differences with sin and that we need to be tolerant and accepting of and loving toward those who make our membership diverse. It was said explicitly and clearly in at least three talks (Pres. Uchtdorf's being the most obvious, but also Pre. Monson's closing remarks). I absolutely LOVED that message.