All’s Not Well in Zion
This week I had a chance to meet with my friend Melissa for lunch. Melissa stopped attending church 10 years ago. She thought her family was finally adapted to her different feelings about church, and recognized that she was living a good moral life. She shared with me that she had recently supported the “Protect LDS Children” movement on Facebook; and subsequently, the heartache she felt due to the reaction of her family. She decided to come out publicly in support of the movement after following recent events in the media and reflecting on various experiences she knows about. Most of her family continues to be actively engaged in the church and she wants to see healthy policies established that protect young people in the church such as her nieces and nephews. However, when her family saw that she had posted about the movement on facebook they took personal offense. Rather than hearing her voice as one in support of children (as she intended), they felt she was attacking the church and its good name. She felt her family wasn’t hearing what she was saying, and was assuming malintent.
In our church cultures, activism has become so taboo, it is fraught with misunderstanding. In an attempt to avoid evil-speaking, church members are wary to speak up against church leaders and even policies put in place by leadership. We are so sure our church is right and that those who choose to leave are wrong, that we jump to conclusions about their motivations. We forget that although Jesus was obedient to the Father, he was not obedient to the church hierarchy of his day, in fact he often spoke out against it and criticized the church leaders of his day (e.g. In the parable of the good Samaritan, the priest and Levite pass by on the other side of the road in order to keep from becoming ritually ‘unclean’ from the injured man’s blood. He is criticizing protecting the image of cleanliness when it keeps people from doing what is actually good).
Orthodoxy wants to protect the institution of the church from dissenting voices, rather than hear out those voices and consider whether the criticisms may be valid. I find it dangerous for the general population of the church to plug their ears or suppress their consciences and keep silent. This is not a righteous silence. Scriptures warn of the mindset “All is is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well” (2 Nephi 28:21). We would do well to remember church leaders do not always get it right, and policies that protect predators, rather than the innocent, must be changed. Is it not righteous to speak out against injustice and protect the vulnerable?
In the New Testament, we read that Saul was confident that he was in the right. He knew his place and knew the rules. He was hunting heretics. Then Saul hears the voice of God, becomes blinded, and his complete world view is shattered. Instead of leading the fight against heretics, he must be led in a new path. He has no idea what is coming next. He is told to go and wait. Once stripped of certainty, God can work with him. The illusion of orthodoxy is not what makes him a tool of God, but his broken heart. He let go of everything he knew and waited to be taught his new mission and how to use his voice. His new mission alienated him from the structure he used to support.
Our outward performances to fulfil the law are not bringing us to God. Protecting the church’s reputation rather than protecting individual members of the church, is misguided. If we are so sure our church is getting everything right, we may be missing the very thing God is giving us to show us the error of our ways and correct our path. Humility lets life turn things upside down and lets us loosen our hold on certainty, so God can finally work with us, just like Saul.