Friday, September 26, 2014

It Is Important to Admit the Frailties and Faults of Our Leaders

I believe passionately in being able to look at issues, even those that involve leaders, as honestly and openly as we can without it leading to wallowing in criticism or condemnation - to still remain actively involved in the LDS Church (and even be "faithful" in every meaningful way, in some cases) while not seeing lots of things in black-and-white terms or like lots of other members. I also believe I can recognize, admit and discuss what appear to me to be real weaknesses and even mistakes without it making me reject / dismiss others because of what amounts to them being fully human. That can be done easily with regard to how others see me, so I try to grant that same charity to others as view them. 

I'm going to use an extreme example to make my point, and it might be a little shocking at first, but please understand why I'm using it:

Jesus of Nazareth is believed to be the only perfect man who ever lived, specifically because he is believed to have been "a partaker of the divine nature" in a way that nobody else has been. He is believed to have been the son of God and a God in and of himself. He is believed to have never sinned - meaning, according to the definition of James, that he never acted in opposition to his understanding.

Does that mean that I am "criticizing" him if I point out that I think he lost his temper on at least one occasion - or use that incident to say that he might have had a bad temper if he allowed himself to show it? Is it criticizing him if I hate the idea that "little Lord Jesus no crying he makes" - since I believe he cried just like any other baby, and soiled his diaper, and perhaps even punched a friend who cheated in a game when he was a child, or even cheated while he was playing a game when he was a child?

I don't see it that way. First, I don't see those things as sins, but I also don't see pointing out those things as criticism. I see it simply as talking about the idea that he really was human even while he really was divine. We say he was human in a very real way that matters deeply, but, if that is the case, we do him a grave disservice if we can't talk openly about what that means - about the implications of believing in a God who also was human. If we ignore and never speak of that dichotomy, if we ignore it in the name of not appearing to be speaking evil of the Lord's anointed, we are castrating him in a very real, though figurative, way.

I think the same applies to every person - and I think it applies to Moses, Peter, Paul, (and Mary - sorry, couldn't resist), Joseph Smith, Brigham Young or any other prophet or even historically extraordinary figure even more so that to you and me. I deserve to be seen and understood just as much for my imperfections as I am for my strengths. I deserve to be treated like a fully human being - meaning my callings over the years should be discussed simultaneous to my difficulty with formal, kneeling prayer all my life. My inclination toward charity should be considered along with my warped and risque sense of humor. I am a saint in some ways, but I'm a sinner in others - and admitting that about our prophets and other leaders isn't the type of "criticism" I try to avoid.

It's just an admission of human frailties even within our greatest leaders - and that admission is extremely important to me.


Stephen said...

Worth remembering.

Justin said...

Really great Ray! Love this viewpoint.

Also love that particular viewpoint of "sin." I recognize more and more that when I act contrary to what others expect of me I feel shame. But when I act contrary to my own understanding I feel guilt. Repenting of sin leads to a feeling of cleanliness, but I find it near impossible to "repent" when shame is the culprit.

Papa D said...

That is an important distinction, Justin - and it needs to be understood better by all of us.


ji said...

It's better to admit our own frailties and faults, than to point out those of others.

When an old man thinks of his children, he is hopeful that they will remember him -- hopeful that they will remember the good and forgive (and maybe even forget) the bad. Same for an old woman.

I think it is important to acknowledge our common humanity, but I see no need to dwell on the frailties and faults of others. Cold, brutal honesty is admitting facts in others is not what we're called to -- we're called to love and forgive and honor and sustain -- and sometimes, that means willingly and happily overlooking some facts. That's not dishonest.

I understand and appreciate your words and the opportunity to add my reflection. We must not let the frailties or faults of others become a stumbling block for our own growth. I just don't want others to take your words too far, towards cold, brutal honesty in dwelling on "facts" in others. If God can forgive and forget something about a past or present person, even a church leader, why must we insist on remembering?

Papa D said...

I agree, ji - but your point and my point simply MUST be combined to be good and valuable.