None, not even the lumbering dolts, shall offend them

| 9 comments

My family was present at the burial of President Hinckley. Along the with rest of the extended family, we stood across the cemetery road, looking on as the Quorum of the Twelve and the children of the 15th LDS president paid their very final respects. Then, before the grandchildren all laid a single flower on the casket, the Apostles left. Their cars were parked on the street we lined up along. As they drove past, some of us waved to them and most waved back. Elder Bednar did not, but kept his face straight ahead, looking very serious. His lack of acknowledgement for people all but eighteen inches from his car offended my aunt. Of course, if we are to believe Elder Bednar, it's all my aunt's fault for taking umbrage at his actions.

Surely, there's some truth to the idea that we choose how to react to the stupid, bumbling, inaccurate, and rude things people around us say and do. But, am I the only one who is worried that the general conference talk was not on the subject of minimizing those actions but rather, sucking it up and accepting them? The unstated implication seems to be that we, as Church members, don't really need to consider our actions, as we can't really do anything offensive. Nor do we really need to minister to the needs of individuals, just get them back into activity. It becomes an excuse for us to blame those who have chosen, sometimes for valid reasons, usually after devastating emotional battles, to disengage from Mormonism.

This talk ends with a call for fellowshipping, but, as usual, Mormons are missing the boat. For some reason, there's this sense that only when someone's in trouble or weak or new do they need the comfort of feeling ministered to, accepted and needed by the kingdom. When we approach community building from this angle, it makes every act of fellowshipping look like a reactivation or retention project. Instead, shouldn't we focus on helping all of God's children feel comfortable, respected and useful?

However, I've run away from my initial intention for this post. Yesterday, in sacrament, this talk was referenced, specifically the aspect that when we are offended we are being petty, small-minded, un-godlike creatures. Then, later in the same talk, the speaker mentioned that we need to be careful to avoid those works which offend the spirit. Wait a minute, is the spirit becoming something to be acted upon here? Surely, if he's a member of the Godhead, he can get past these minor things we might do.

Once again, I'm only asking that we try to be consistent. I mean, in an ideal world, we'd recongize that offense is possible and that addressing the root causes is critical. But, I fear what will really happen is that we'll just revamp the phrase "offend the spirit". Since, after all, whatever is said in General Conference is scripture and supercedes logic, history or good sense. And that, to be honest, really bruises me.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Your life, and this blog, would be very boring indeed if you didn't allow yourself to be offended by the teachings of the church. Instead you've allowed your perspective on life to become so skewed that you find fault and offense in a talk like this, yet sugar coat other questionable topics.

Inactivity in the church due to offense is a common problem and one that Elder Bednar wisely chose to address. I am not worried at all that he chose to focus on how to deal with potentially offensive actions. He did this because a person can only be offended if he chooses to be and if he chooses, he can be offended by anything. The list of ways to offend is infinite, and we receive lessons and talks aplenty on how to treat our fellow man with love and charity, but there is only one way to not be offended. Many people need to hear that it is their choice to act instead of being acted upon.

Making the unsubstantiated leap that Elder Bednar's "unstated implication" is that we don't have to worry about offending people is ridiculous. Teaching a self-defense class doesn't mean I condone violent crime. Learning to forgive and not be offended is one of the key principles of the gospel, the point of which is to change ourselves to become more like God and this principle is just as valid as not offending, which in the guise of love and charity receives more attention.

"Only when someone's in trouble or weak or new do they need the comfort of feeling ministered to, accepted and needed by the kingdom." Right. So I guess home teaching is just a fluke. Callings in the ward don't count. And nobody makes long-time friends that help each other out in the Church. What do you want, your own personal (church) life coach? I don't think the church focuses more on the troubled, weak, or new, and even if they did, wouldn't that just echo the message of Jesus that the sick need the physician, not the healthy? I think as a member of that category, you have become hypersensitive to those references.

And finally, I will "revamp" the definition of "offend the spirit", since there are two definitions of the word (look it up). There's a difference between being offended and finding something offensive. Being offended involves feelings of anger, pride, and lack of forgiveness. Finding something offensive means it goes against what you find good, clean and holy. When the spirit finds what you do offensive, it will not remain, just like I would not remain around an offensive smell. (I'd like to see you get offended at an odor.)

I know you think your logic, good sense, and masterful grasp of history allow you to rise above the zombified masses, to become the one automaton who acquires sentience, but if you can't objectively see both sides of an argument and accept truth for what it is, your pride dwarfs your intellect.

There's a reason your blog posts are full of angst, sadness and confusion. As for me, I prefer to give Elder Bednar the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps he didn't feel it was appropriate to wave cheerily on such a somber occasion, or perhaps he was simply deep in thought.

Hildegarde Cloverleaf said...

Wow, I am definitely not as eloquent as the anonymous commenter but I do want to point out that if you are referring to the last speaker in that meeting, that maybe you should consider the source. If you don't remember, this is the same person you spoke of on Oct 8, 2007.

Anonymous said...

Alea-

May I direct your attention to the most powerful talk I have ever heard in conference.

http://lds.org/conference/talk/display/0,5232,23-1-690-24,00.html

alea said...

anon-

Do I know you? Because if not, I'm a little intrigued how you seem to have figured me out so easily. I mean, it's not as if I have thoughts, feelings and happenings that never make it to my public blog.

The story about Bednar was really just a rhetorical device to get me into the issue, not a criticism.

Those aside, though, here's a response. I have nothing strongly against a talk that tries to teach us how to face up to potentially hurtful things. I do, however, have a problem with that talk when there is not even a single nod that those doing the offended are in the wrong. To use your own example, this is like trying to teach a self-defense class without ever admitting that violent crimes happen. Sure, you don't want to get distracted and bogged down, but without that key element, you look reactionary and do damage to your message as a whole.

I do not, as it turns out, want a life coach. Home teachers who show up would be nice, though. Being friendly outside of callings would be even better. Going to a new ward and having folks come up and talk to you would be great. Since these things have rarely happened for me, despite my active involvement in them myself, I feel my complaint is justified.

The antecedent of your "member of that category" is unclear, so I can't tell if you're saying I'm weak or I'm healthy. Therefore, I'm a loss to respond.

I don't see how Elder Bednar's quote "it is ultimately is impossible for another person to offend you" doesn't fail to grasp both sides of the issue that you and I both agree are essential.

I should hope I'm confused. The gospel, as the reservoir of all knowledge, is a big thing indeed, and not getting something makes me, you know, not God. Mormons aren't too comfortable with doubt, but I see it as crucial to faith. And if you see nothing about the Church and its current policy over which to get angsty, I'm concerned. The Church has failings. It's our duty as Saints to try and either push for their solution or struggle to accept them. But, there's definitely some frustration either way.

Hildegarde Cloverleaf said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
alea said...

hc-

did you ever consider those interactions had something to do with you and not just me? I leave that to your discernment.

librarianite said...

I think you have over shot the mark with this post my friend.

Your attitude clouds your perspective I think, "...as usual, Mormons are missing the boat." Come now let us reason together. I've been both active and strong in the church and unfortunately weak beyond belief and in dire need of help. The times I've felt most fellowshipped,supported and ministered to have been during my most active periods, when I was contributing the most. Yes, during weaker periods people went the extra mile for me. Naturally they should.

I hate to say it but you tend to think the worst of people. You have a way of disecting words and actions and reading meaning where there is none. Not everyone is as smart as you cut them some slack.

As for Bednar's talk - I think he hit the nail on the head. we get many talks about being charitable and loving etc etc... The fact is people say and do stupid things - even the best among us. Do not read too deeply into them.

[kɹeɪ̯g̊] said...

Well, unlike everyone else who has commented, I agree with Alea.

Making the unsubstantiated leap that Elder Bednar's "unstated implication" is that we don't have to worry about offending people is ridiculous.

If only it were. Since that talk was given, I have often heard the repercussions of that talk in the church. They are: if something happens and someone is offended, they are 100% in the wrong, regardless of what was done by the person or persons to offended them. This is simply ludicrous. If someone offends someone they need to rectify the situation, accept fault, apologise, etc. Not purposefully misuse an apostle's words to make themselves feel like the victim. And whether you want to admit it or not, so many Mormons are masters at playing the poor, innocent victim.

Anonymous said...

straight beefin'

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