A Small Epiphany about the Church

(painting by Sue Orchant)

I had a minor epiphany a few weeks ago. It’s not like I hadn’t known it before, but this idea rang home anew after a conversation with a friend.

The epiphany? That the Church, at its heart, and at its best, really is all about trying to help people. A friend had been telling me about a university faculty meeting he had been in. He had left feeling discouraged, because he felt like some senior faculty members were not willing to give certain junior faculty members a fair chance. He was saddened by the cutthroat, arbitrary attitude of certain professors towards their younger colleagues.

He compared that experience with what he saw happening every Sunday in leadership meetings at church. He said, “We spend hours talking about how we can help people who are struggling. There’s no sense of people trying to tear others down. All we want to do is help.”

This core, basic truth about how the Church (optimally) works on a local level was good for me to hear.

Yes, in my ideal world, women would be in all those leadership meetings. Yes, in my ideal world, certain Church rhetoric would be softened (e.g. ‘us vs. the world’). In my ideal world, several things would change.

I don’t forget my hopes and dreams for those changes. But I also will try to not forget the altruistic, Christian objectives that quietly drive so many Church meetings and activities.


Caroline has a PhD in religion and studies Mormon women.

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  1. amelia says:

    thanks for this, caroline. i had a similar epiphany a few years ago, although in a very different context.

    i think it’s so important that even as we attempt to identify and understand and change the things that are problematic about the church, we remain charitable. which in my mind means we do everything we can to understand the perspective of others–even those others who we think do harm. that we attempt to view the church and its structure and organizations with as much charity as we can, trying to understand the good they’re intended to achieve as well as any problems they may create. it’s only when we can look with some balance that we’ll actually be able to effect change.

  2. danithew says:

    I love the painting that is shown …

  3. Deborah says:

    My favorite exchange in primary last year:

    The missionaries are running sharing time. “Pretend you are the missionary and we are the investigators. We ask you, ‘What is your church all about?’ What’s your response?”

    The first response from a nine-year-old young boy: “We’re altruistic — we believe in helping people.”

    He gets the gospel, what it should be, could be and — so often — is.

  4. Mary B says:

    Caroline, you wrote:
    “The epiphany? That the Church, at its heart, and at its best, really is all about trying to help people.”

    You’ve got it!

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