Vaguely false doctrine

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There are things that are said across the pulpit that are patently false/absurd (e.g. if you had enough faith, you wouldn't be sick ever). These ones are fairly easy to combat and mock and generally deal with. However, there are some things that brush up alongside false doctrine while not, perhaps, being it themselves. These are persistent myths (this generation is the strongest yet); possible, if offensive, rationalization for church policy (Alvin Dyer and the blacks were unworthy in the pre-existence platform); or just poorly constructed sentences that suggest something other than what the speaker implies (like the time a young woman told the entire congregation that they were spiritually dead and had no chance to change that). The problem here is that you often can't nail down what's heretical about what they've said or done, but you know there's something off.

Fortunately, this Sunday we only had straight up false doctrine from the front of the gym that serves as a chapel (which is another question I have. You build an institute, which is essentially a church building, but don't actually include a chapel? Isn't that a bit...odd?). First, a seemingly nice congregant was dealing with chastity. She went the standard routes pretty much but then informed us that the law of chastity includes not just actions or thoughts, but also feelings. So, if you're having unclean feelings you're in a state of sin. I'm pretty sure that's just not the case. In fact, Elder Oaks has used this time and again to explain same-gender attraction in a way that doesn't make all strugglers hopelessly sinbound. In the lengthy, somewhat problematic interview given at lds.org on the issue, he says:

The distinction between feelings or inclinations on the one hand, and behavior on the other hand, is very clear. It’s no sin to have inclinations that if yielded to would produce behavior that would be a transgression.

Granted, there may be some fine distinction between inclination and feeling and I'll be the first to agree that sexual feelings can be both unbidden and bidden and that latter category can certainly be split further into controlled/benign and straight-up transgression. Regardless, what she taught is not, even in a very loose sense, true.

The second piece came from my bishop, about whom I have surprisingly mixed feelings. He's very friendly and nice and he's a convert (he entered the waters in his mid/late-twenties), so those are bonuses. But, I also get a sense that he's not really sure how to fill the episcopal role. It probably doesn't help that he's got an overbearing former bishop for a first counselor (who always puts my teeth on edge). I say surprisingly mixed feelings for because I do not clearly like or dislike him as I have all my previous common judges in Israel. To put it another way, I'd probably do something he asked of me but wouldn't necessarily believe he's telling me to do the right thing.

At any rate, he's talking about what we should hold sacred. Our bodies, our language, our chapels (which he asserted should not be any less holy than the temple). He did trot out the reverence in the chapel issue, which I think misses almost the entire point of meeting together oft. We don't get to together to reflect, but to teach and be taught, to serve those around us and have general communion with the saints. But, my major stumbling block came in his discussion of our appearance. He went the route of no tattoos or piercings (which is an odd rule, because why is it appropriate for women to have one in each ear and not, say, a total of three. I chalk this up to policy of an aging generation). He then brought up the argument, "some will say, it's what's on the inside that counts." To shoot this down, he suggested that, our exterior shows the state of our interior. So a tattoo is the indication of a filthy soul. His comment could have been throwaway, but it was pointed enough to show he wasn't messing around.

Several problems here. First of all, it denies the fact that people could make bad decisions in the past and not be branded evil forever. Or, alternatively, could not be in transition from one point to another and have appearance lagging behind. Secondly, it reinforces the ridiculous over-emphasis on the outward that allows us to shun anyone who doesn't look like it. Thirdly, it falsely suggests that if you're clean on the outside, your inside is likewise spotless. It just angers me to see how easy it'd be to misuse or misunderstand what he was trying to teach. And it makes me a little sad, as it honours conformity over all else.

Sometimes, I really wonder why I'm still going to church at all.

5 comments:

Katya said...

It's also in direct opposition to 1 Samuel 16:7.

alea said...

poor, katya, don't you know the Old Testament isn't really true anymore?

librarianite said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
librarianite said...

Dang it - I just wrote the most witty response to your post. It was swallowed by the Internet. It is forever lost in the world of ones and zeros with the rest of my wit - alas.

Ryan said...

We all wonder why you're still going to church, but we're glad you're there. For what it's worth. Also for what it's worth, I really enjoy your blog. It's consistently funny/informative/insightful.

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